News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Thursday 17th April 2014

Whelan and McAteer found guilty of illegal loans in Anglo Irish trial

Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer 

Pat Whelan and William McAteer were found guilty on 10 counts

Two former Anglo Irish bank chiefs have been found guilty of making loans designed to illegally prop up the bank’s share price.

They are Pat Whelan, 52, former head of lending in Ireland and Willie McAteer, 63, the bank’s former finance director.

Both men had denied the charges at Dublin Criminal Court.

On Wednesday, the bank’s former chairman was cleared of illegally supporting the bank’s share price.

Sean FitzPatrick, 65, held the top job in 2008 when the bank made loans to 10 wealthy customers who used the money to buy the bank’s shares.

The jury found that Mr FitzPatrick’s behaviour had not been illegal. However it convicted the two other men who were more closely involved in arranging the loans.

Anglo collapsed in 2009, costing Irish taxpayers more than 30bn euros (£25bn).

The case concerned a transaction involving the country’s then richest man, Seán Quinn.

He had taken a complicated financial bet which meant he, in effect, controlled 25% of the bank’s shares.

But Mr Quinn’s bet had gone horrendously wrong.

There was the prospect that he would have to dump his huge shareholding on the market and that would cause the bank’s share price to collapse.

The bank’s response was to get 10 of its wealthiest customers to buy the Quinn shares.

The bank lent the investors the money to buy the shares – and did so on favourable terms.

Loans were also provided to other members of the Quinn family to take up some of the shares.

The jury found that the loans made to the Quinn family were not illegal. Those loans were made on less favourable terms than the deal with the 10 other investors.

Whelan, of Malahide, County Dublin, and McAteer of Rathgar, Dublin, were cleared on those counts.

At the time, the deal had the desired effect and helped stabilise the bank.

However, the deal was a breach of company law which prevents a firm lending to a customer with the intention of affecting its own share price.

The judge directed the jury that, to convict, they must be satisfied that the loans had not been made in the ordinary course of the bank’s business, that each of the defendants knew about the scheme and did not take steps to stop it.

Mr FitzPatrick’s barrister had argued that his client’s knowledge of the scheme was limited and that he was out of the country at the time the deal took place.

In court on Thursday, Whelan and McAteer were remanded on continuing bail pending a sentencing hearing on 28 April.

Irish State must grant Travellers offical ethnic status

  

The Irish state must grant Travellers official status as a recognised ethnic minority group, a parliamentary committee in Dublin has said.

The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality made the call in a new report, published on Thursday.

It calls on ministers to confirm that the state “recognises the ethnicity of the travelling community”.

Travellers’ representatives told the committee that they “feel like second class citizens on a daily basis”.

It is believed that there are about 40,000 Irish Travellers in Ireland, 15,000 in Britain and 10,000 of Irish descent living in the United States.

The committee invited several Travellers’ groups to testify before them, including the Irish Travellers Movement and Pavee Point Travellers Centre.

Brigid Quilligan, director of the Irish Travellers Movement, spoke to the committee about the impact of not being recognised in one’s own country as an ethnic group.

“No matter how many boxes we tick or how much we fulfil our requirements and responsibilities in Irish society, we still experience discrimination and prejudice in every area of life on a daily basis,” she said.

“People justify racism against us by stating we bring it on ourselves. That is what the general Irish population thinks about us and we know this.

“We feel the hate, as do our children. We see the hate in the media and displayed by people in positions of responsibility.”

Ms Quilligan said it “not good enough” for the Irish state not to offer Travellers the protection to which they were entitled.

She said “anti-Traveller sentiment” was common in newspapers, television programmes, social media, shops and on public transport.

Martin Collins, director of the Pavee Point Travellers Centre said that for his community, the “recognition of Traveller ethnicity is the human rights issue of our generation”.

“Not to recognise Traveller ethnicity has profound implications in terms of legal protection. It is questionable whether Travellers are afforded the full protection of the EU race directive,” he said.

“There are also implications concerning support for Traveller nomadism, language, culture, history and the inclusion of Travellers in intercultural and anti-racism initiatives.”

The report calls on the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) or Minister for Justice to make a statement to the Irish Parliament (Dáil), confirming that the state recognises Travellers as an ethnic group.

It also recommends that the Irish government writes to relevant international bodies, confirming that it recognises Traveller ethnicity, and says the government should examine whether any new legislation is required.

The report will be sent to the Irish minister for justice.

Irish GP’s being coerced on to new deal says the IMO

   

The doctors’ union, the IMO, says it is gravely concerned at indications that the Governments may force GPs to sign up for the new under sixes contract or else face losing their existing child medical card patients.

IMO GP Chairman Dr Ray Walley said suggestions that this might be the case would indicate that the Government had changed its policy on the under sixes deal.

“The Government seems to be reversing its previous stance that GPs would be under no obligation to sign up to the new contract,” Dr Walley said.

He said GPs were now being threatened with losing their existing under sixes medical card patients if they did not take part in the new scheme, which would provide free GP care for all children under six regardless of income.

Minister for Primary Care Alex White recently invited the IMO to talks aimed at ending the long-standing impasse between the Department and GPs over the under sixes scheme. Legislation on the new scheme was agreed by Cabinet yesterday.

The main sticking point to date is the fact that the Government says it cannot directly negotiate fees with the IMO due to competition law restrictions. The IMO says this is not the case, and says direct negotiations on all issues, including fees, must take place before it can recommend the scheme to GP members.

The IMO and GP groups also want major changes to a draft contract recently produced by management for the operation of the under sixes scheme, which GPs claim is unworkable.

The union is now seeking clarification from Minister White on whether or not GPs would face the choice of signing up to the new deal or losing medical card patients.

“This approach suggests that the Government has no interest in negotiations and is more interested in effectively coercing GPs to sign up or else.  This may constitute a breach of the constitutional rights of GPs to earn a livelihood and it runs completely against the legally binding GMS contracts already in place between GPs and the HSE.”

“If the Government proceeds on this basis, they will make a difficult situation an impossible one,” Dr Walley added.

He said the IMO wanted to see the draft legislation, which has not yet been published.

Strict new HIQA guidelines for possible Irish people hip operations

  

New HIQA guidelines have stipulated that patients with hip arthritis should first be managed by GPs and physiotherapists before being referred on for possible hip replacement operations.

The independent health safety body has stipulated that only arthritis patients meeting specific guidelines, outlined in a new report, should be considered for hip operations.

HIQA points out that the cost to the health system of providing hip replacement operations is set to rise, partly due to rising numbers of obese patients having the procedures.

The draft guidelines state that the majority of patients with hip osteoarthritis should be managed conservatively in primary care in the first instance.

Primary care treatment would include pain relief medication, weight reduction, activity programmes and physiotherapy.

HIQA says that the provision of specialist physiotherapy services for hip arthritis patients in hospitals can help cut waiting lists for outpatients appointments with consultants.

Unfortunately, access to hospital physiotherapy services is currently only available through consultant clinics, for which there can be long waiting lists, the guidelines point out.

HIQA recommends that hospital specialist physiotherapy programmes should support GPs and community physiotherapists to manage patients with arthritis who may not need operations.

It also stresses that patients should not be referred for an opinion in relation to hip surgery until there has been a discussion in relation to the pros and cons of an operation, and that they will be happy to proceed with surgery if considered suitable following assessment in primary care.

However, the guidelines state that this will require more time on the part of GPs, and means that the primary care service for managing patients with arthritis needs to be adequately resourced.

The guidelines also note that the extent to which patients must wait for their hip operations once listed for surgery is currently unclear, and it is likely that waiting lists for hip operations remain substantial.

HIQA stipulates that patients should get hip surgery only when they meet specific criteria, including:

  1. No improvement in the condition following at least three months of GP/physiotherapist treatment.
  2. These patients should have severe symptoms and/or moderate to severe movement limitation, significantly affecting their quality of life.
  3. Patients should also have x-ray evidence of hip osteoarthritis and have a body mass index of less than 40 (over 40 is classified as very severely obese). Obese patients are generally estimated to be at increased risk of complications around the time of surgery.
  4. Patients should also still want the surgery following a discussion with health professionals on its pros and cons.

HIQA says the implementation of the guidelines will depend on timely access to the full range of treatment options in primary care and to radiology services at primary care level.

The HIQA report says the current estimated annual national cost of hip replacement procedures in Ireland is €37.3 million. While the number of these operations provided in the public system has remained constant for several years, demand for this type of surgery is expected to grow.

The report adds that the cost per episode of care is also likely to increase due to rising levels of obesity, and the greater number of operative complications in obese hip replacement patients.

HIQA has also issued guidelines for carrying out shoulder and knee replacement surgery.

Director of Health Technology Assessment at HIQA Dr Mairin Ryan said the purpose of these guidelines was to ensure that the right patients receive referral and treatment at the right time and that unnecessary referrals were avoided in patients who were unlikely to get additional benefit from surgery over other treatment options.

5 common printing problems and how to solve them

 

Printer won’t print? We have got the answers.

If you are having problems with your printing, we have the solution. Here’s how to solve some of the most common difficulties.

Printers can run reliably for many years and thousands of prints, but often they do not. Why is this? Sometimes it is as simple as over or under use. Many home users simply don’t use their inkjet printers often enough and this can lead to problems with dried up ink blocking the nozzles. A two-week holiday can ruin a set of ink cartridges.

Over use is less common, but it can happen in busy offices with shared printers. Paper clips, rubbers, hair bands and other objects fall into printers and cause paper jams surprisingly often. Here are some useful problems and solutions to keep your printer running smoothly.

 The printer won’t print?

There are numerous possibilities, so start with the basics, such as checking to see whether there is an error message/warning light on the printer, making sure there is paper in the tray, the ink cartridges aren’t empty, the USB cable is plugged in or the printer is connected to the Wi-Fi network. If it is a wireless printer, try using a USB cable instead.

Sometimes old printer drivers are still installed and set as the default printer. Open the Control Panel, Devices and Printers, right click the printer to use and set it as the default. Make sure that the correct printer is selected in the program you are printing from.

Microsoft has a printing troubleshooter that can help to identify problems. Click the Fix it button, download and run the program, then follow the steps in the wizard. You can also open the Control Panel, Devices and Printers, right click the printer icon and select Troubleshoot. It doesn’t always help, but it’s worth trying. HP has a Print and Scan Doctor to identify problems, and Canon has lots of great videos on its website – click your printer model and then click the Troubleshooting videos link.

I can’t print from my tablet?

To print from an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, the printer must not only be wireless, but also support AirPrint. The list of AirPrint printers is growing (support.apple.com/kb/HT4356), but there are still a lot of printers, particularly older models, that don’t support it. If you have an Apple Mac with a printer attached, you can turn it into an AirPrint printer using HandyPrint (netputing.com/handyprint). Printer Pro (bit.ly/1jznCYX) is an app for iOS devices that enables them to print to many wireless printers or a wired one attached to a PC or Mac.

Some Samsung phones, tablets and printers are designed to work together and printing is straightforward. To print from any Android phone or tablet to any PC printer you can use Google Cloud Print. Install it on the mobile device from the Google Play store. Next, using Google Chrome on your PC, go to the menu, Settings, Advanced Settings and click Manage. You can then add the printer attached to the PC. Provided the PC and printer are switched on, you can print from the Android device.

My printer tells me to replace the cartridge?

Printers warn that the ink is running out before it actually does. In a busy office it might run dry in an hour, but a home user only printing only occasionally could find that it lasts another couple of weeks. Order new cartridges as soon as the message appears, but don’t install them until it either stops printing or the colours fade.

The web page won’t print properly?

Web pages can be any size and they aren’t limited by the width or height of the paper in your printer. They often aren’t designed to be printed, which is why problems can occur. Always choose the Print Preview option in Internet Explorer so you can see what you’ll get. You might not need all the pages, for example, if there are lots of comments or adverts, so use the option when printing to select the pages to print, such as 2-4 to print pages 2 to 4. Choose landscape mode if the web page is very wide.

Internet Explorer offers a shrink-to-fit option that helps when pages are just a bit too big to fit on the page. Some pages, such as those with coupons, have a print button within the web page. Use that and not the print menu in the browser.

The paper gets stuck in the printer?

When this continually happens, suspect a small shred of paper stuck somewhere in the paper feed mechanism. Take the paper out of the tray, open all the flaps and look inside. You might need a torch to see the paper and long tweezers to reach it, which can sometimes be small and hard to see. Look underneath the printer because there may be an access panel that can be removed to examine and clean the paper feed mechanism.

Old paper can absorb moisture, which makes it stick and then it is pulled through two or more sheets at a time. Keep it in a bag until it is needed. Check out Canon’s troubleshooting videos to see how to remove pieces of paper stuck in printers.

A blank sheet is ejected every time I print?

This is a useful feature in offices where a printer is shared among many people and it separates one print job from another. It’s irritating if you are the only user through. Open Devices and Printers in the Control Panel, right click the printer and select Printing Preferences. If you can’t see an option to enable/disable separator pages, right click the printer and select Properties or double click it. With HP, for example, you double click the icon, double click Customise your printer, and select the Advanced tab. There’s a Separator button to configure the option.

Print quality is poor?

The nozzles on inkjet printer heads can become blocked causing horizontal streaks on prints and poor or wrong colours. Cleaning the print heads can solve the problem. The procedure varies from printer to printer and there may be an option on the printer control panel or in the printer software on the computer. You might need to look this up in the manual. With an HP inkjet for example, there is a Start screen app for Windows 8 users and this has a Maintenance button. Click it and you can clean the print heads or align them. Head cleaning kits are available (amzn.to/1pcwm6p) although you should compare it to the cost of a new cartridge.

The type of paper affects the print quality and photocopier paper won’t do. It is too absorbent and inkjet ink soaks into it like blotting paper. Buy good quality paper for the best prints. It’s a similar situation with laser printers and the right paper gives the best results.

Birdwatch Ireland to turn two bird lovers into Island castaways

   

Rockabill Island, off the coasts of Skerries, in North County Dublin. Remote island job awaits bird watchers with love of the environment.

The perfect job has arisen for anyone with a penchant for bird watching – but it is not for the faint-hearted.

Birdwatch Ireland has advertised for two people to spend the summer on a tiny island off the north Dublin coast.

  The job entails the study and protection of the Roseate Tern on Rockabill Island.

The Irish Times reports that castaways will be paid just over $500 a week, but warns that the jobs are not for the faint-hearted and sleepwalkers need not apply.

The report says the wardens will be based on top of high rocky outcrops on two tiny islands named Rock and Bill where there is a lighthouse and ‘just enough room to stretch the legs.’

The three-month-long jobs involve monitoring and protecting the migrant Roseate, Common and Arctic terns during the summer breeding season.

Birdwatch Ireland development officer Niall Hatch told the paper that the job is a ‘feather in the cap’ for anyone wishing to advance their career in environmental or similar sciences.

Hatch said, “Some people absolutely thrive in that environment, but having screaming seabirds around you for 24 hours a day and being so isolated is tough and not for everyone.”

The Irish paper adds that the successful applicants will be dropped off by boat with supplies and will have two long weekends off the island – weather permitting.

Galway’s drowned forest shows climate change is nothing new

 

Prof Michael Williams of NUI Galway believes planning for an uncertain future is better than spending billions to ‘temporarily defer the inevitable’

Prof Michael Williams with some of the 7,500-year-old tree remains at a drowned forest site exposed by storms in Co Galway.

When Michael Williams, geology professor at NUI Galway, discovered evidence of a 7,500-year-old drowned forest on the northern shores of Galway Bay, he couldn’t have anticipated the huge public response.

Over the last few weeks, low tide has lured hundreds of people out to view, photograph and play around the prehistoric tree stumps with their extensive root systems, which Prof Williams knew to be there and which were exposed in dramatic fashion by this year’s storms on the west coast. A track revealed below the peatline suggests human habitation and adaptation to sea level rise up to 4,500 years ago.

Even as the debate continues as to whether the recent extreme weather is direct evidence of climate change, the transformation of such forests and lagoons into what we now recognise as Galway Bay many thousands of years ago is evidence that such change is nothing new, contends Prof Williams.

The latest UN report

The most recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, released in late March, found that the effects are already being felt on global food supplies, and contributing to the frequency of natural disasters and conflict. It has also highlighted the ill-preparedness of governments. However, Prof Williams believes we have learned to adapt to such change in the past, and such adaptation has influenced human evolution.

“That forest drowned because of weather,” he says. “It was flourishing 5,000 years ago and then the climate in the north Atlantic changed. It became cooler and wetter, and the sea level began to rise. The forest floor became carpeted in reeds, including phragmites, which we can still see traces of, and which can tolerate semi-saline conditions.”

Prof Williams estimates that sea level would have been at least five metres lower than it is now, and the forest floor eventually succumbed to rain and rising sea. And so, the Neolithic people living off the lagoons and forests, among bears and wolves, had to move. This is because, he says, the Earth behaves in cycles, with climate change an integral part of this.

“What would the Earth be like if the climate never changed, if temperatures remained the same all over the planet, sea levels never rose or fell, carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere remained constant?” he asks.

“This is impossible, because of the way the crust of the Earth moves according to the model of plate tectonics. When the plates that make up the crust of the Earth collide, this generates volcanoes, which, if on a large enough scale, can affect the climate.

“For example, the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 reduced global temperatures by over one degree, and it took another five years for climate to return to normal. This was not a super large volcano by geological standards. All the plates of the crust are in constant motion, so parts drift north or south into warmer or colder climates.”

Some would argue that human evolution “would not have even begun were it not for climate change”, says Prof Williams. “Africa suffered increased aridity at various times over the past couple of hundred thousand years, which led to changes in lifestyle from tree-dwelling apes to grassland-living hominids.

“Not only is climate change inevitable, but if we examine past climates which have existed on Earth, we see that at present the Earth is cooler, sea levels are lower and atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are less than they have been for most of Earth history, “ he says, reviewing some “snapshots in deep time

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