Thursday 22nd May 2014
Alan Shatter donates his severance pay to Jack & Jill Foundation
Justice Minister Alan Shatter held the post for three years.
Former Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter has announced he will donate his severance pay to charity.
Mr Shatter was entitled to 70,000 euros (£56,691) after resigning from his post earlier this month.
He resigned after receiving a report into allegations made by a police whistleblower.
He said the money would go to the Jack & Jill Foundation, which supports families of children born with serious neurological conditions.
Mr Shatter made a statement to the Irish parliament (Dáil) on Thursday afternoon.
He said he was surprised to find out that he was eligible for severance pay, as legislation abolishing such payments had been passed.
Mr Shatter said if he retained the money, it would be worth around 34,000 euros (£27,535) but, because of tax incentives for charities, it would be worth in the region of 50,000 euros (£40,492) to the Jack & Jill Foundation.
He added that he hoped the donation would be seen as an appropriate way to mark the end of ministerial severance payments.
Mr Shatter stood down as a cabinet minister on 7 May after receiving a report into how he and his department handled the issue of police whistleblower Maurice McCabe.
The whistleblower had raised concerns that senior officers had acted inappropriately in getting penalty points removed from the driving licences of well-connected offenders.
Mr Shatter said at the time that he disputed some of the report’s findings, but he was going to take responsibility so as not to distract from the government’s work.
A day before his resignation, a report by the Republic of Ireland’s data commissioner found that the former justice minister had broken data protection laws by disclosing, on live television, police information that an opposition parliament member had been using his mobile phone while driving.
€27m in salaries and expenses will be paid to our 12 Irish MEPs by 2014 “It’s astonishing”
Oh our Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher has costs totalling an ENORMOUS €2,174,314 before end of term.
Ireland’s 12 MEPs cost the Irish taxpayer an average of €2m each in generous salaries, expenses and allowances.
For the first time, it was disclosed the full extent of the MEP gravy train, which has cost Irish taxpayers €24m in total since the politicians were elected in 2009.
According to the figures, six of the 12 MEPs have cost taxpayers more than €2m.
The top claimant was Fianna Fail MEP for Ireland North West and election candidate Pat ‘the Cope’ Gallagher, who had costs totalling €2,174,314.
In contrast, Fine Gael’s Ireland South MEP, former GAA president Sean Kelly, had combined costs totalling €1,630,609 for the period.
Independent MEP for Ireland North West Marian Harkin, who got €2,154,028, told the Irish Independent that people needed to know what their MEPs were claiming.
Independent MEP for Ireland East Nessa Childers received €2,040,899. Fine Gael MEP for Ireland North West Jim Higgins got €2,099,520 and Ireland East FG MEP Mairead McGuinness got €2,051,750.
For all of the MEPs elected in 2009, their gross salaries amount to €427,120 until the end of 2013. They are each entitled to staff cost allowances of €255,000 a year plus office cost allowances of €51,600 a year.
Calls from within the parliament to end the “generous and bloated expenses regime” have to date been opposed by a majority of MEPs.
MEPs are not required to provide receipts proving how they spend their expenses, with the EU saying it is a “matter of honour” that the money is spent correctly.
The substantial costs incurred relate to:
- Salaries paid to MEPs;
- Expenses paid to cover their travel, up to and including business-class flights and first-class train tickets;
- Expenses on hotels and taxis;
- Keeping staffs of up to six people each;
- Maintaining offices in Ireland and in Europe.
The figures were compiled using data from the European Union, publicly available information and voluntary declarations from the MEPs.
Fine Gael’s MEP for Dublin, Gay Mitchell, who is not running again and who did not respond to queries from the Irish Independent, had combined salary and expenses costs totalling €1,978,528 for the period up until the end of December 2013.
Fianna Fail MEP for Ireland South Brian Crowley had combined salary and expenses costs of €1,914,761.
Our figures relate to the period from when the MEPs were elected in mid-2009 to December 31, 2013. As a result, the final total cost of our representatives will be closer to €27m when 2014 costs are included.
Three of the 12 MEPs elected in 2009 have since retired or stood down from their seats.
Former Democratic Left leader Proinsias De Rossa, who retired as Labour’s Dublin MEP in February 2012, between salary, expenses and staff expenses, received €721,636.
His replacement, Emer Costello, accumulated salary and expenses totalling €896,498 for the 22 months up until December 2013.
The current junior transport minister, Labour’s Alan Kelly, and Socialist TDJoe Higgins were each paid salaries of €167,076 for the period up until they were elected to the Dail in February 2011. They both also received travel expenses and staff cost allowances totalling €535,689, bringing their total costs to €702,765 each.
Mr Kelly’s replacement in mid-2011 was Labour’s Phil Prendergast, who accumulated salary and expenses totalling €1,188,566.
Socialist MEP Paul Murphy replaced Mr Higgins, and has accumulated salary and expenses costs of €1,343,117 for the period.
Improved mental health services will reduce A&E admissions,
says expert Siobhan Barry
A mental health expert says the policy of admitting psychiatric patients to emergency departments needs to be “looked at”.
The statement comes after Fianna Fáil’s mental health spokesperson Colm Keaveney claimed that staff at the psychiatric unit in University Hospital Galway have asked the Health and Safety Authority to examine patient safety concerns at the facility.
The HSA says it is aware of concerns at the unit, and is engaging with staff.
The news comes after Professor Shane O’Neill’s resignation as Beaumont Hospital’s clinical director over the issue of assessment of psychiatric patients in the emergency department.
Siobhan Barry, clinical director of the Cluain Mhuire Service, says community centres should be the focus for mental health services, and not acute hospitals.
“I think we do need to look at that specific problem in as much as the necessity to present to emergency departments is reduced when community services are sufficiently developed that people don’t need to go to emergency departments,” she said. “And that has not happened.”
Faulty gene ’causes night munchies’
A faulty gene could lead to late-night snacking, new research has found
Scientists appear to have traced the irresistible pull of the refrigerator at 2am to the “night munchies” gene.
When the PER1 gene is faulty, the natural mechanism that synchronises sleeping and eating goes awry, they believe.
This can lead to “night eating syndrome”, the inability to avoid feeling hungry at night which in some people can disrupt sleep and lead to over-eating and weight gain.
The discovery was made by conducting tests on mice with two human genes, PER1 and its partner PER2, which has previously been linked to sleep disturbances.
When PER2 was defective in the mice, as expected they dozed off earlier than usual. But de-activating PER1 affected eating behaviour, leading to mice wanting to eat when they should be sleeping.
“For a long time, people discounted night eating syndrome as not real,” said lead scientist Dr Satchidananda Panda, from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.
“These results in mice suggest that it could actually be a genetic basis for the syndrome.
“We really never expected that we would be able to decouple the sleep-wake cycle and the eating cycle, especially with a simple mutation. It opens up a whole lot of future questions about how these cycles are regulated.”
When the researchers restricted access to food, offering it to the mice only at normal meal times, they found that even animals with the faulty PER1 gene maintained a normal weight.
Over a 10-week period their weight was no different to that of animals with functioning PER1 genes. This showed that the weight gain caused by faulty PER1 was entirely due to meal mistiming and not other metabolic factors.
The scientists believe that normally, PER1 and PER2 are kept synchronised and turned on and off at the same time, keeping sleep and eating cycles aligned. But a mutation in PER1 can break this link, leading to an urge to eat at night.
Diver narrowly avoids being swallowed by a 40-tonne whale
This diver had a lucky break when he narrowly avoided getting swallowed by a whale.
Rainer Schimpf was filming the annual sardine run near Port Elizabeth in South Africa when the 49-foot-long Byrde’s whale swam up from the depths to feed on the fish.
A video shows just how close the whale came before swerving at the last minute to avoid him.
Schimpf was knocked back by the force of the huge creature as it breached, but was uninjured.
He captured some amazing pictures of the whale swimming up from beneath him before it disappeared back into the ocean.
Always remind us never to come between a huge whale and his dinner.