News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 29th March 2015

HSE recoups €3m for care of deceased medical card-holders

  

Executive due further €2m in ghost payments from GPs in receipt of capitation fees

 

The HSE had continued to make capitation payments to GPs in respect of these cardholders after their deaths.

The Health Service Executive has recouped more than €3 million paid to doctors for taking care of people who were dead.

But the HSE is due another €2 million in “ghost payments” from GPs who had received capitation fees in respect of medical card-holders who were deceased.

Following the centralisation of the medical card scheme to the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) in 2009, some 20,000 card-holders were removed when it was discovered that they were deceased.

The HSE had continued to make capitation payments to GPs in respect of these cardholders after their deaths.

The value of these ghost payments was estimated to be approximately €5 million.

However, more than €3 million has now been recouped from GPs relating to the period between 2005 and 2012.

The figures have been uncovered by former mayor of Galway Cllr Pádraig Conneely, who has raised the matter with the HSE Regional Health Forum West.

Responding to a written question submitted by former chairman of the Forum, Cllr Conneely, Kieran Healy of the PCRS said that the issue of ghost payments had been raised by the Public Accounts Committee in 2012.

But the issue of recouping capitation payments erroneously paid to GPs was complicated by the lack of a centralised system and a correlative issue of underpayments to GPs resulting from delays in registering new-born babies, he said.

Legacy issue

“Both of these issues have now been addressed following the centralisation of the medical cards system. The HSE has also undertaken a number of additional actions to address the issue of legacy overpayments and underpayments,” added Mr Healy.

“The capitation amounts recouped in respect of clients who died, covering the period 2005 to 2012 is €3,095,180.30,” he confirmed.

While he welcomed this progress, Cllr Conneely said that it was unacceptable that ghost payments of up to €2 million should remain unclaimed by the HSE.

“It made a mockery of the entire system that millions of euro could be paid out to GPs to look after patients who were already dead. There isn’t much that they can do for them at that stage,” said Cllr Conneely.

“As a country, we barely have enough money to take care of the people who are alive without squandering vast sums on people who are dead. The full amount should be recouped and the HSE shouldn’t rest until this is the case,” he added.

Marine Minister Coveney announces almost €2m package of investment in Irish fishery and local harbours

  

 

The Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, has announced details of a €17.8m capital investment package for Ireland’s publicly owned fishery harbours and local harbour network.

Flagship projects include small-craft harbours and pontoons in Howth, Co Dublin, Rossaveal, Co Galway and Killybegs, Co Donegal; dredging works at Dunmore East, Co Waterford; electrical upgrading in Castletownbere, Co Cork, and remedial works at the pier in Dingle, Co Kerry.

Howth Harbour will receive €1m for a small-craft pontoon, €150,000 towards a site investigation for the West Pier pontoon and Middle Pier upgrade, and €75,000 for traffic management works.

“This is a significant level of investment in publicly owned fisheries and local harbour network. It will continue the implementation of the Governments strategy to develop and improve the facilities at our fishery harbour centres,” the Minister says.

UCD seafood advice

In each edition of SeaHealth- ucd, Prof Ronan Gormley pens a seafood article about people in fisheries and aquaculture – fish packers, processors, distributors, retailers, health professionals and consumers.

Third-year food science students undertake a three- month product development course to create new or modified products. The module exposes students to the industry and prepares them for a career in the food sector.

The latest issue concentrates on the preparation of smoked mackerel fishcakes (cistí mara). The objectives were threefold: to produce upmarket frozen fishcakes with mashed potato and carrot, to investigate the use of sodium caseinate as a cryoprotectant in frozen cistí mara and to compare breaded cistí mara with cod/salmon fishcakes purchased in a supermarket. Email ronan.gormley@ucd.ie.

High hopes on Currane

Early March saw few anglers on Lough Currane due to rain, sleet and howling gales, which put off all but the most intrepid trollers. But as St Patrick’s Day approached, an improvement in the weather brought out the boats with an increase in salmon landed.

The season’s catch has now rocketed up into the high teens with superb fish ranging from seven to 12lbs. With the milder weather set to continue, there are high hopes for a good spring run, says Rod Robinson.

The Waterville Lakes and Rivers Trust, along with with Inland Fisheries Ireland, has initiated an economic survey to assess the impact of angling on the Waterville area.

Anyone interested in helping to protect this iconic fishery, can do so online at surveymonkey.com/s/ WatervilleLakesandRiversTrust.

Great day at Graiguenamanagh

“In the 20 years of our club’s existence it is hard to believe we had never once fished at Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny, on the River Barrow. It’s a beautiful spot. The locals and angling club do everything they can to make anglers feel welcome,” says Colm O’Gaora of Portobello AC from Dublin.

Better still, despite the bitter cold and easterly breeze, the river was stuffed with dace and roach. Ferri made the most of his peg to take 8.2kg by alternating between pole and stick float.

“Great fishing – we hope to be back within 20 days instead of 20 years,” he says.

Results: 1, Ferri, 8.2kg; 2, T Campbell, 5.05kg; 3, C O’Gaora, 4.58kg; 4, T Nelson, 3.10kg; 5, S Campbell, 2.04kg.

Inniscarra festival

There was top-class sport on three sections of the Coachford Greenway world championship stretch for the 39 Irish and British anglers at the first festival of the season at Inniscarra, Co Cork.

Kevin LeVelle of Liverpool, a first-time visitor to Coachford, took the festival win with a catch of 21.95kg, followed closely by junior international James O’Doherty, of Erne Anglers, with 20.25kg. David Herron of 19.750kg, of Midland Angling Supplies, came third with 19.75kg.

For details on festival dates from May to September, visit ncffi.ie/eventscalendar.

Group of Irish Independents publish agreed principles and priorities

 

Some Irish Independent TDs led by Shane Ross met with Independent councillors in Tullamore to announce an agreed set of principles and priorities.

A group of five Independent TDs, one Independent Senator and more than 50 Independent councillors have published an agreed set of principles and priorities at a meeting in Tullamore.

The priorities include the abolition of the party whip, the radical revival of rural Ireland, stripping politicians of the power to make political appointments, protecting the vulnerable and ruling out privatisation of banks without reform.

At a press conference Independent TD Shane Ross said it was “early days” and decisions had yet to be made.

He said he would not rule out going into Government with any democratically elected representative, including Sinn Féin, but he added that others may have different views.

TD John Halligan stressed that they were not forming a party and they would take the views of the 50 councillors who attended today’s meeting before deciding on whether or not they would present a manifesto.

He confirmed they would be announcing a name for the alliance in due course.

TD Finian McGrath said they had not yet decided if they would seek ministries or support a minority government if they had the numbers to do so.

The group also said they had not yet decided if they would pool their Independent leaders’ allowance.

The group are holding the meeting behind closed doors, but for the first 20 minutes the speakers in the media room were left on.

During this period members of the media heard Mr Ross say that this was an opportunity and some would accuse them of opportunism.  He said he would take that.

The group have also decided that they would support a government if the agreed to their set of priorities, but Mr Ross told the meeting they would not be in favour of passing all legislation with a blank cheque.

He was also heard to tell the meeting that they were not interested in poaching big names.

Former FF colleague claims Haughey knew phones were tapped

 

John O’Leary says in his memoirs he formed the view after meeting with Haughey

Former Fianna Fáil minister of state John O’Leary has claimed a meeting he had with Charlie Haughey led him to believe the former taoiseach was aware of the tapping of journalists’ telephones

A former Fianna Fáil minister of state has claimed a meeting he had with Charlie Haughey led him to believe the former taoiseach was aware of the tapping of journalists’ telephones in the early 1980s.

Mr Haughey always strongly denied he had any knowledge of it happening.

It was first revealed by the then Fine Gael minister for justice Michael Noonan, in January 1983, that the telephones of Irish Independent journalist Bruce Arnoldand former editor of the Irish Times Geraldine Kennedy, a political journalist at the time with the now defunctSunday Tribune, had been tapped by a Fianna Fail government the previous year.

The claim, by John O’Leary, TD for Kerry South from 1966 to 1997, who also served as a minister of state, reopens a hugely controversial event in Irish politics, which led to Mr Haughey’s resignation as taoiseach in the then Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrats government in 1992.

Mr O’Leary writes about a meeting he had with Mr Haughey in Leinster House, in 1983, in his book, On The Doorsteps, Memories of a long-serving TD, which was published last week.

He says that remarks made to him by Mr Haughey about contacts he had with Mr Arnold as a Fianna Fáil backbencher made it clear the then party leader had read transcripts of his conversations with the journalist.

In January 1992, former minister for justice Sean Doherty claimed he had ordered the tapping of the telephones of Mr Arnold and Ms Kennedy with Mr Haughey’s knowledge in 1982. He said as soon as the transcripts of the taped conversations became available he took them personally to Mr Haughey in his office and left them in his possession.

Mr Haughey’s position as Fianna Fáil leader was very vulnerable in 1982.

Before resigning as taoiseach, Mr Haughey called a press conference and described Mr Doherty’s claim as “absolutely false’’.

Mr O’Leary served on the Fianna Fáil front bench with Mr Haughey in the 1970s and was appointed a minister of state by the then taoiseach Jack Lynch in 1977 at the same time as Mr Haughey was made minister for health.

Mr Haughey dropped Mr O’Leary, who had voted forGeorge Colley in the leadership contest, as a junior minister when he replaced Mr Lynch in 1979. Mr O’Leary later voted against him in leadership heaves.

He reveals in his memoirs he had been telephoned by Mr Arnold on several occasions in 1982 about the party leadership, but he felt it was a private matter between himself and the journalist when he was summoned to Mr Haughey’s office in 1983.

Mr Haughey asked: “Tell me, John, did Bruce Arnold ever ring you up in relation to his stories about the leadership of the party ?’’

When Mr O’Leary said he could not recall, Mr Haughey said: “Would it surprise you so, John, if I told you that Bruce Arnold did talk to you on the phone ?’’

Mr O’Leary writes: “As soon as I left Haughey’s office that day, I realised that my conversation with Bruce Arnold must have been recorded and that Haughey had been given the transcripts.’’

He adds it troubled him at the time to think he could not have a private conversation with a journalist.

He writes that calling him into his office that day was Mr Haughey’s way “of putting the squeeze on me and showing that he had something on me’’.

Mr O’Leary expresses the view that Mr Haughey’s justification for the phone tapping was “he didn’t trust the top brass in the guards and he didn’t trust his senior ministers’’.

He adds it was part of Mr Haughey’s “paranoid nature’’

The app that bans the dirty words

Clean Reader’s blue dots do the censor’s job on sundry saucy classics

  

Ireland has a long history of literary censorship. With the establishment of the Free State in 1922, a Committee on Evil Literature was formed to tackle the matter of obscene publications. By the time the first official Censorship of Publications Act was brought into law in 1929, the definition of obscenity had extended to include information about family planning.

As many as 10,000 books were banned in Ireland before a system of appeal was put in place in 1967, limiting the period a book could be banned to 12 years.

Some of the notable titles that suffered the censors’ rigorous eye included Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy, John McGahern’s The Dark and Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls, which were all banned for their explicit sexual content. All three are now available to buy through Clean Reader, a new American app that sanitises standard texts, removing profanities for tender eyes.

Clean Reader offers cleaned-up versions of more than one million classic and contemporary titles, with an easy-to-use interface that gives instant access to its library. The app is free and titles are priced individually, from €1.99 to €12.99.

Once you download the app, you are offered a variety of options for reading: Clean, Cleaner or Squeaky Clean. When you purchase a book through the Clean Reader store, the app scans the text for swear words, racial slurs, religious insults and what its creators call “anatomical terms that can be a little racy.”

Offensive words are replaced with blue dots, which the reader can tap to reveal an approximation of the offending term (“witch” for “bitch”, for example) in case the meaning is not clear from the context or the reader is just curious. The current lexicon of licentiousness extends to more than 100 words and phrases. It is also possible to switch the profanity radar off and read the books in their uncensored depravity.

Today’s standards

As an exercise in exploring the app, its strengths and limitations, I downloaded The Country Girls to see how its “sexual explicitness” measured up against today’s standards.

The first blue redaction occurs on page 8. It doesn’t draw particular attention to itself – it is barely bigger than a full stop – but it does interrupt the flow of reading as you try to figure out the censored word and eventually succumb to the approximation, which doesn’t necessarily provide more clarity.

In this first instance, for example, Baba is recounting praying every night as an act of penance, because “she is afraid of (blue dot)”. Click the button, and Clean Reader suggests “heck”; double-check the original: the elided word is “hell”.

Now, Baba’s fear of hell doesn’t strike this reader as even potentially profane, so what Clean Reader reveals most clearly is the fact that censorship is cultural as well as literal, and obscuring offensive words does nothing to protect the reader from sophisticated or subversive ideas. This is borne out by the fact that there is not much difference between the original version and the “squeaky clean” version of O’Brien’s “notorious” book.

The most commonly elided word in The Country Girlsturns out to be “God” (approximations include “gee” and “gosh”), followed by “damn”, which is rendered, naturally, as “darn”. “Sex”, which is mentioned only twice in the text, is redefined as “love”. There are three references to breasts, which are redefined as “chests”.

Different meanings

This last example is particularly amusing: only one of the three instances refers to female anatomy; the others refer to a chicken dish and a man’s coat pocket. Interestingly, several Irish and British profanities – “bloody” and “feck” among them – sneak in, even in the “squeaky clean” version.

This further reinforces the cultural subtleties of censorship. The app is American and draws its lexicon from American English. As a computer-generated reader, meanwhile, it takes a literal approach to language, plumbing it for its immediate meaning and failing to take into account other variables.

The app’s failures also remind us that, even in 1960s Ireland, the redacted words in the “squeaky clean” version of The Country Girls were not why the book was banned, although the scant mention of Baba’s breasts surely sent pulses racing in the censors’ office.

Rather, it was the overall context of the book’s portrayal of young women striving for personal and sexual independence. That message still resounds with clarity, decades and blue dots aside.

The fact that Clean Reader offers an unabridged version of the book alongside the cleaned-up version, however, puts the onus on the individual to determine what is appropriate. It also resolves the problems that ensue when you tamper with another’s text, as Ron Charles, a journalist with the Washington Post, discovered when he downloaded Colson Whitehead’s bildungsroman Sag Harbor.

Set in a middle-class African American enclave of Long Island, Whitehead uses popular slang to describe the coming of age and sexual awakening of an African American teen. Wiped of profanity by Clean Reader, Charles reports, the book becomes “downright mystical. In one particularly fine moment,” Charles reports, the narrator says, “I could hit your fat o o fine, you o Rerun from What’s Happening-looking o.”

UFO conspiracy theorist claims to have seen nine-foot alien on space shuttle

  

A UFO conspiracy theorist Clark McClelland who had claimed to be a NASA veteran, has said that he saw a nine-foot alien on the space shuttle.

McClelland has maintained the truth of his story, despite being dismissed by skeptics, as ‘delusional’ and never having worked with NASA, the Mirror reported.

McClelland has posted a video on conspiracy website ‘Paranormal Crucible’ as a “testimony”, which showed images of the plus size entity interacting with NASA astronauts in a bay of the shuttle, while he allegedly monitored it in an unspecified top secret mission, from Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

He added that he saw the alien for one minute and seven seconds.

A picture posted on his website shows him and Judy Resnick, the second ever US female astronaut who died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, alongside six others.

McClelland has claimed that the US government had taken off his pension and made shocking claims that aliens had infiltrated governments on Earth, in a video he recorded unearthed, recently by paranormal website ‘Inquisitr’.

Though UFO believers have been satisfied by pictures of him on the website, one online sceptic has posted there were no mentions of his name on NASA’s site and it only appeared on sites or posts related to UFOs.

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