News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 6th August 2015

Hundreds of survivors from capsized fishing boat taken by Irish navy vessel LÉ Naimh to Italy

  Surviving migrants are brought aboard Irish and Italian Navy life-boats in the area where their wooden vessel capsized and sank off the coast of Libya on Wednesday. Photograph: Reuters

Hundreds of people who survived the capsizing of a smugglers’ fishing boat have been brought to Italy.

Among those rescued was a Palestinian man who saved his wife by giving her his life jacket, then diving below the surface to grab their toddler daughter as she disappeared.

Military vessels and aircraft from a multi-nation operation were searching waters off Libya, a day after the 20-metre (66-foot) boat overturned as rescuers were approaching.

With seas warm and calm, rescuers expressed hopes others might be alive.

In the first hours after the accident on Wednesday, 367 survivors were rescued and 25 bodies recovered.

Military officials from the Republic of Ireland, whose navy vessel the LÉ Niamh was among those at the scene, said they were given an initial estimate of 600 migrants aboard the smugglers’ boat.

If that estimate holds, as many as 200 migrants might have drowned.

At least 367 survivors were taken aboard the LÉ Naimh, which was approaching the dock at Palermo, Sicily, by late afternoon.

The Italian Navy, which had two ships in the rescue operation, said three survivors were flown by helicopter for medical treatment aboard the Doctors Without Borders ship Dignity1.

One was a man with a fractured leg. The other was a mother, with one-year-old son, who needed dialysis.

Three other injured survivors were flown out by another navy helicopter to a hospital on the tiny Italian island, Lampedusa, south of Sicily.

When the Dignity1 arrived at the capsizing site, it was hard to tell how many were in the water, Juan Matias Gil, a Doctors Without Borders search and rescue operations field co-ordinator, said.

“All in all, there were no more than 50 people” in the water, Mr Gil said.

“There were some bodies floating, so it was quite a shocking scene.”

During the rescue, crew of Dignity1 tossed life vests and life preservers as survivors swam frantically to boats.

Video made aboard Dignity1 and released by Doctors Without Borders showed the Palestinian family.

The mother caressed the hand of her daughter Azeel, a little more than one year old, as the father, Mohammed, sat next to them.

“They all went into the water, with only one life jacket,” Mr Gil said.

“So this life jacket was with the father, who gave the life jacket to his wife, because she didn’t know how to swim. “After that he saw that the baby was getting deep in the water” and in danger of drowning.

“After he came out with the baby, they were seen, they were rescued and they were brought aboard” Dignity1, Mr Gil said.

Several Syrians were among those rescued, including a pregnant woman who at first appeared in danger of miscarriage.

Ireland set to record a good year in tourism this year


But industry warned not to blow boom by overcharging holidaymakers like in the past

Ireland is on target for a record year in terms of tourist numbers, according to latest figures

Ireland is on target for a record year in terms of tourist numbers but the industry has been warned by Government not to “make the mistakes of the past” by overcharging.

CSO figures for the first half of 2015 show almost 12% growth in overseas visitors North and South – an additional 407,100 when compared with January to June 2014.

Minister for Tourism Paschal Donohoe said the figures showed Ireland was on track for earnings of €5 billion per year in 10 years’ time.

But in a strongly worded message to the industry he said the special nine per cent rate of Vat was dependent on the industry offering value for money. He warned the Government would keep this in mind, when deciding whether to renew the special rate.

“We must be mindful of the mistakes that were made in the past and ensure they are not repeated. Our value for money rating has improved dramatically in recent years” he said, noting that the latest figures represented “out best half year performance ever”.

According to tourism Ireland, growth this year has come from all key markets especially Britain, North America and Mainland Europe. Key factors that aided the boom were value for money – especially for sterling and dollar holidaymakers – the attraction of the Wild Atlantic Way, air access and the abolition of travel tax in the South.

Mr Donohoe said he would like to see another US city added to the list of destinations flying to Ireland, but he did not specify which one.

Niall Gibbons CEO of Tourism Ireland, which is a North/South body set up to promote the whole island, said the nine% vat rate and zero rated air travel tax were not available in Northern Ireland. This was because taxes in the North were a function of the Westminster Parliament, but he said there was considerable enthusiasm for the adoption of such measures within the legislative assembly in Northern Ireland.

Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland was determined to maximise the number of new year-round and winter air routes into Ireland which included new CityJet flights from London to Cork and Aer Lingus from Dusseldorf to Cork.

Additional capacity is to be installed this winter on Aer Lingus routes from Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich and Geneva . Lufthansa is increasing capacity on its Munich–Dublin route; Ryanair on its routes from Copenhagen and Venice, Barcelona, Berlin and Madrid. In addition Aer Lingus will increase capacity on transatlantic routes while Delta is increasing capacity from JFK New York to Dublin.

Mr Donohoe said the tourism sector was on track to meet Government targets for 2025 which included €5 billion in overseas tourism revenue, an extra 50,000 jobs in the sector and 10 million overseas visits to Ireland, compared to 7.6 million in 2014.

The increased traffic into Ireland in the first six months of 2015 came from Germany (+12%); France (+13%; Spain (+15%); Italy (+32%); Benelux (+11%) and the Nordic region (+ 5%).

The increase from Britain was 9.4%, while from North America it was 15%.

Seán FitzPatrick’s vain attempt to adjourn his trial is denied

Former Anglo chairman had sought the adjournment due to recent publicity


An application to adjourn the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick has been denied.

The trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick is to proceed in October after an application for adjournment by his defence was denied.

Lawyers for Mr FitzPatrick (66) – who has pleaded not guilty to 27 charges under the 1990 Companies Act – made the application due to concerns over the publicity surrounding a recent, separate trial of three Anglo officials.

Bernard Condon SC, defending, had told the Dublin CircuitCriminal Court “a cascade of sludge” was visited on the head of his client during those proceedings.

However, in his ruling on Thursday, Judge Martin Nolan declined the application pointing out that the defendant had been the subject of attention for years.

“Anybody living in this country has to be aware of the huge amount of adverse publicity that has been directed toward Sean FitzPatrick since 2008,” he said.

He believes a jury can deal with the case impartially, he said, and that Mr Fitzpatrick’s acquittal at a separate recent criminal trial underscored his confidence in this regard, in that the jury arrived at a verdict based on the facts of the case.

“Mr Fitzpatrick’s reputation is negative at this stage,” he said. “It seems to me the trial should go on.”

In a brief outline of his decision, Judge Nolan said it was his job to ensure the defendant had a fair trial and an impartial jury.

He said his decision must also take into account whether an adjournment would allow the “odium and ridicule” heaped upon Mr Fitzpatrick to fade over a period of time from the public memory.

Prosecuting counsel Paul O’Higgins, he said, had previously argued that two months would suffice in this regard.

In the meantime, “villains and heroes” will be produced in the media alongside other distractions like the forthcomingRugby World Cup, All-Irelands and the pending general election.

The recently-concluded case regarding former Anglo officials, which formed the basis of the defence’s application, had taken its own course and heard comments from counsel, witnesses and the judge.

“I have no doubt these comments were proper,” in relation to the case being tried, Judge Nolan said.

Mr FitzPatrick’s charges include 21 of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and six of furnishing false information from 2002 to 2007. The trial will begin on October 5th.

The use of Irish language in Northern Ireland differs from the Republic


Linda Irvine, wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, pictured in east Belfast as she helps bring the Irish Language to the community

People in the Republic learn Irish “to pass exams” but in Northern Ireland they are motivated by the love of it, an official study has found.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) said the stark cross border differences also showed that people who are passionate about their native tongue for reasons of identity are more likely to use it.

The state think-tank warned Irish will not flourish unless ways are found to encourage people to learn it and use it in everyday life.

Using data from a number of studies the ESRI reported that in the Republic 30% of people who learned the language for “its own sake” used it every week, compared to 19% who learned it for another reason.

ESRI author Dr Merike Darmody said research suggested that activists need to be encouraged in order to bring Irish into everyday mainstream use.

“People in the Republic seem to have a much more pragmatic attitude. They say we need it to pass exams,” she said.

“Many people who are positive about the language don’t actively speak it – that’s similar to the experience seen in Wales.

“Particularly in Northern Ireland, considering that it was much more prevalent – you learn the language for it’s own sake so it shows that issues around identity and national identity are more prevalent.”

The ESRI said about half of those who learned Irish in school in the Republic did so to pass exams while almost nine out of 10 people surveyed in Northern Ireland said they wanted to know and have Irish and were drawn to it for reasons of identity.

It said that while school children in the Republic often have a bad attitude towards the language their parents feel more positive about it but it does not translate into significant use.

Vodafone ordered to tell Irish customers how to cancel their contracts


Mobile giant Vodafone has been ordered to tell Irish customers how they can cancel their contracts.

A state watchdog said the telecoms company was not complying with consumer protection legislation.

In an enforcement order, Vodafone was told to change its website to make sure customers are fully advised on their legal rights to drop their subscription before they make a purchase.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission said Vodafone “was not complying with consumer law” over the information that should be provided to customers.

Anyone who bought goods or services from the company online over the last year can get details on how to cancel.

Isolde Goggin, chairwoman of the commission, said: “Customers of Vodafone will in the future be given the correct information as required by law.

“In addition, customers who bought goods or services online from Vodafone in the past 12 months and who now wish to cancel their contract can find details of how to do so in the customer notices section of the Vodafone website.”

Earlier this year, compliance notices were issued to eircom, eMobile, Meteor, Three and UPC over consumer protection laws.

UPDATE 3.55pm: Vodafone Ireland have released the following statement on the matter:

Vodafone acknowledges the findings of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) in relation to customers purchasing products and services through its online sales channel.

The CCPC asked Vodafone to clarify a customer’s rights to cancel a contract pursuant to the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation and Other Rights) Regulations 2013 (the ‘Consumer Information Regulations’) and specifically to clarify their rights to a fourteen day “cooling off period” and the cancellation procedure to be used in doing so.

Vodafone has now clarified this information on its website for customers who have purchased a product/service online through their e-shop, to ensure that the customer’s cancellation rights are clearly outlined and easy to understand.

Vodafone apologises to its online customers in relation to this matter. It has worked with the CCPC in relation to this issue and is confident that these matters have been fully dealt with and that the company’s e-shop is now compliant with these requirements set out by the CCPC.

Flesh-eating ‘piranhas’ found in south west coast of Irish waters


Piranha have been discovered prowling off the south-west coast

The tiny sea crustaceans – which are the same size as just three grains of salt – have been discovered prowling off the south-west coast

The world’s smallest flesh-eating piranha-like creature is lurking in the sea off the Irish coast.

And don’t be fooled by its tiny 3mm length – the deep-sea creature can take on whales and Great White sharks and strip the flesh from dead pigs and other livestock within hours.

The tiny sea crustaceans – which are the same size as just three grains of salt – have been discovered prowling off the south-west coast.

Called amphipods and incredibly tiny, they are like mini-piranha because they have teeth sharp enough to tear through the carcasses of dead whales and sharks which sink to the ocean bed.

A team of scientists from Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre also revealed the miniature sea beasties have been known to devour pig corpses within a few hours.

Billions of the terrifying crustaceans live in depths of down to 4,500m in the North Atlantic and hunt in huge shoals to eat the remains of dead marine animals, from whales to seabirds.

NOC scientists set out to catch them using a trap filled with mackerel bait, and were shocked to discover they snared 40,000 of the creatures, which have since been named after late biologist Roger Bamber.

Lead author Dr Tammy Horton revealed: “Amphipods are incredibly diverse and adaptable – there are currently around 10,000 known species.

“They live in all marine environments, from shallow waters to the oceans deepest trenches, on land and in fresh water.

“I gave the species name ‘lemarete’ to one of the amphipods because it translates from Greek to ‘bold and excellent’, which is the motto on Roger Bamber’s coat of arms.

“Roger always put a lot of thought into the names he gave species, such as the tanaid species he named after a creature in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.”

The research forms part of the NOCs ongoing deep-sea study, linking with the oil and gas industry on how their work affects the environment.


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