News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th November 2015

Full statement issued on behalf of Pat Smith – former IFA general secretary

‘He has no intention of lowering himself and getting into a brawl with an organisation’


Pat Smith is extremely saddened at the events of the past week, which has left many families hurt, especially the family of IFA where he spent over 25 years working.

Mr Smith said that Eddie Downey’s resignation as president of the IFA is a huge loss for Irish farmers and should not have been allowed happen.

Eddie, Mary and his family are reflective of all that is good in farming and Pat Smith wants to wish them well and assure IFA members that if Eddie Downeywas let do his job as president the IFA would not be in this turmoil.

Mr Smith said his solicitors wrote to the executive council of IFA on Wednesday and he was very disappointed that those who so badly want transparency did not make members aware of the contents. A copy is now enclosed.

Less than 24 hours after standing down from the position of IFA general secretary, to allow the association the opportunity to move on with the real work agenda, bad decisions were made that were catastrophic for the association.

  • Ex-IFA chief wants half of his severance pay to go to charity
  • Ex IFA chief’s pay package ‘obscene’ , says leading ICA member
  • IFA president Downey quits after €2m deal disclosure

Running an organisation such as IFA is a very complex and demanding job, and Pat Smith is very proud of his contribution to building IFA into one of the most effective and powerful organisations in Europe.

As he left IFA last week, the association had its highest paid-up membership ever and every committee was working hard and delivering real results on the issues of the day.

The large severance package?

The severance package agreed with Pat Smith represented approximately 6-weeks’ redundancy pay for each year worked for the association and fulfilled on legal commitments he and other staff have in relation to pension shortfalls following the closure of the defined benefit scheme.

Pat Smith believes the deal done was fair in the context of his work and delivery for the association for more than 25 years and the reality of what happened.

However, he has no intention of lowering himself and getting into a brawl with an organisation that is currently in turmoil and incapable of dealing with any matter fairly.

Therefore Pat Smith is asking that IFA stand good to its deal and pay his €1 million severance to charity before Christmas in equal amounts to Self Help Africa and StVincent de Paul.

Again Pat Smith wants to especially thank the staff of IFA and ask that the membership row in behind the association and support its vital work.

You have no plan and you have no clue  “on stressed out nurses”

Heated scenes between Tanaiste and Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton Dail


The TÁNAISTE Joan Burton has been accused of having “some cheek” after calling on hospital management and nurses to engage in constructive dialogue to prevent industrial action.

During heated scenes in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said that nurses were “stressed out” managing the “utter chaos” in the health system.

She noted that 92% of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s members have voted in favour of strike action month due to overcrowding in emergency departments.

“Leo Varadkar is presiding over a disaster that is putting the safety and, God forbid, the lives of patients at risk,” Ms McDonald said.

“The crisis in our health service is getting worse. This is not a dispute about pay, it’s a dispute about patient safety.

“Nursing staffing levels have been decimated on your watch,” she said.

However, Ms Burton said she wanted all sides to engage with the State’s industrial relations machinery.

Within the ED departments it does require widespread and construction positive action from the hospital managers, consultants and nurses,” the Labour Party leader said.

Ms McDonald replied that the Tánaiste have the gall of the highest order to appeal to these people to be constructive”.

“They are managing day on day the chaos your Government have inflicted on hospitals,” she said.

The Leaders’ Questions debate descended into a shouting match as the Ms Burton said a taskforce set up by Health Minister Leo Varadkar which the HSE and nursing union sit on was making progress.

She also said that he urgent assessment units were one solution that hospitals should be looking at.

And she said that there are 700 more nurses working in public hospitals than there were a year ago.

“We have some of the best staff working in our hospitals in the world. You hardly want to see nurses going on strike,” Ms Burton said.

“As recently as a couple of days ago we had a report from the OECD that indicated we have one of the highest ratios of nursing employment in all of the OCED countries.”

Ms McDonald said there are 4,500 less nurses than five years ago and the moratorium on recruitment “has absolutely buckled our hospitals”.

She also referred to the Government’s decision to drop its plans for Universal Health Insurance, saying: “Your Teflon minister for health Leo Varadkar has abandoned your big idea. You have no plan and you have no clue.”

Ireland’s Xmas drink-drive campaign to target ‘morning-after’ offenders

Garda to pay particular attention to drivers using bus lanes and mobile phones illegally


The number of roadside checkpoints testing for alcohol is to be increased for the next six weeks and the Garda will pay particular attention to drivers using bus lanes and mobile phones. Those stopped for either offence are likely to find themselves breath-tested.

The seasonal anti-drink drive campaign this year is to target so-called morning-after drivers.

The number and frequency of roadside checkpoints testing for alcohol is to be increased for the next six weeks and the Garda will also be paying particular attention to drivers using bus lanes and mobile phones illegally.

Those stopped for either offence are likely to find themselves breath-tested as well.

Road Safety Authority Christmas campaign.

Announcing the Christmas/New Year campaign on Thursday, the Garda andRoad Safety Authority disclosed that this year, to the end of October, 6,000 drivers had been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving – the vast majority of them males, and more than half of them aged between 20 and 39.

“The powers of An Garda Síochána enable us to breath test any driver who has committed a road traffic offence,” said Chief Supt Mark Curran at the launch of the campaign on Thursday.

“So, for example, if you are detected driving in a bus lane, or using a mobile phone, you can be tested for the presence of alcohol.”

Impaired performance.

Irish and international research has shown that using a mobile phone while driving can impair driver performance even more than driving while intoxicated, and also delay driver reaction times by up to 40 per cent.

In the past 12 months, 284,000 drivers admitted to drink-driving, according to an RSA survey. Arrest rates ran at a rate of 150 a week. Of the 284,000, 10 per cent admitted to drink driving on at least one separate occasion.

Forty per cent admitted consuming two or more drinks. Rates of offending were higher among those who drove to work and among drivers involved in collisions or near misses. In general, such drivers were also likely “to be high speeding and rule violators”, said the Garda and RSA.

Mandatory tests

The number of mandatory alcohol test checkpoints are to be increased, Mr Curran warned.

The chief executive of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, said any quantity of alcohol impaired driving.

“This is not an opinion,” she said. “It is a scientific fact. So if you are heading to an office party or socialising over the Christmas and New Year period, make sure you plan ahead. Leave the keys at home and book a taxi, hackney, use public transport or designate a driver.”

This year to November 25th, 143 people were killed in road crashes, many of them relating to drink. The figure is 32 down on the same period in 2014.

Irish children are regularly exposed to alcohol ads,

A new study finds.

Significant exposure to drink marketing increases likelihood children will binge drink


On foot of the research, Alcohol Action Ireland is calling for legislation to regulate the sector.

The majority of Irish children are regularly exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing by drinks companies, a new study has found.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), which commissioned the research conducted by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, says the results show alcohol marketing to be a “child protection issue”.

Significant exposure to material, it said, increases the likelihood that children will drink, binge drink and engage in risky behaviour.

On foot of the research, the lobby is calling for legislation to regulate the sector.

The study, Alcohol Marketing and Young People: Drinking Behaviour in Ireland, is based on data collected from 686 children, aged 13-17, in 16 schools in three regions with the aid of a questionnaire.

It found 90 per cent were exposed to “traditional” or off-line advertising in the week prior to the study, with more than half of those surveyed citing four or more such advertisements a day.

It found 77 per cent reported online exposure and 61 per cent owned alcohol-branded merchandise.

More than half of Irish children (53.5 per cent) between the ages of 13 and 15 had previously consumed alcohol, it said.

Cannabis (Skunk) can seriously damage some of the vital nerve fibres in the brain


Smoking skunk can significantly damage the vital nerve fibres which allow communication between the two halves of the brain, a study has found.

Evidence found higher consumption of powerful kinds of cannabis caused more harm to fibres in the “corpus callosum” – the structure that allows communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres.

But what effect it might have on users, and whether there is any connection with psychosis – known to be associated with strong forms of the drug – is still unclear.

Skunk weed is believed to be the most widely used form of cannabis in the UK today.

Potent cannabis strains, commonly known as skunk, are thought to be the most widely used form in the UK today. They contain high levels of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which, when in contact with proteins in the corpus callosum, trigger biochemical effects.

Two scanning techniques were used to look at “white matter” – the part of the brain made up of neural fibres which nerve signals travel along – in the brains of 43 healthy volunteers and 56 patients who had reported an episode of psychosis, which is a serious mental condition characterised by hallucinations and delusions that lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Researchers say there is an urgent need for better education on the risks of cannabis use.

Lead researcher Dr Paola Dazzan, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, said: “We found that frequent use of high potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibres in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not.

“This reflects a sliding scale where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage will be.”

She also said there was an “urgent need” to educate health professionals, the public and policymakers about the risks associated with cannabis use.

Mayo gathers for all out action on climate change


Irish schools, community groups, churches, businesses and members of the public are coming together to ask the government to represent us at a UN conference in Paris by coming to an agreement to take definite action on climate change.

The call has gone out to world leaders to create a low carbon, just and sustainable future for all.

Two events have been organised in Mayo as part of the Global Climate March (

The first climate gathering takes place in Belmullet tomorrow (Friday, November 27) at 2.30 p.m. on Shore Road. Participants will line the shore, beginning at the pier, and send a message from Belmullet to Paris to protect our future.

For more information, contact Belmullet Tidy Towns on  (097) 20977,, and/or join Belmullet Climate Gathering on Facebook.

Then on Sunday, November 29, at 12.45 p.m., on The Mall, Westport, meeting outside St. Mary’s Church, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the general public will walk hand in hand around the Mall to symbolise our wish to work together to protect our town and our future and to call on the government to join in and take action on climate change.

For Sunday’s event, contact your local church or Laura Dixon on  (087) 9767019,, and/or join Westport Climate Gathering on Facebook.

A picture and video will be taken of the gathering and sent to local, national and international media with the message: Tógaimis todhchaí níos fearr le chéile, Let’s Protect our Future and Stop Climate Change.


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