News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Friday 18th December 2015

Fine Gael official denies sinister corruption at party selection convention

John Perry TD claims serious irregularities in Fine Gael Sligo-Leitrim ballot


Fine Gael TD John Perry whose counsel told the High Court there had been a “sinister corrupting of the democratic process”.

A Fine Gael official has denied there was any “sinister corrupting” of the democratic process in relation to the party’s selection convention for Sligo-Leitrim.

Darragh Kelly, regional organiser and returning officer on the night of the convention, was under cross-examination on the fourth day of local Deputy John Perry’s action against his Fine Gael party claiming the convention result, at which he failed to win a nomination, should be set aside and a new convention held.

He claims there were serious irregularities in the conduct of the convention in the Mayflower Ballroom in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, on the night of October 16th, when two candidates were selected to contest Sligo-Leitrim for Fine Gael.

Mr Perry claims there should be three candidates and says he is entitled to stand, given a commitment made by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a parliamentary party meeting last December that no sitting TD would be stopped from running.

During cross-examination by Micheál P O’Higgins SC, for Mr Perry, it was put to Mr Kelly that, as returning officer he operated two, or multiple, registers in which voters at the convention were marked off.

Mr Kelly replied he was not running two registers and also said no registers were withheld from Mr Perry’s side.

“Myself and my legal team complied with all requests (to disclose documents),” he said.

Asked why both versions of a certain statement had not been provided to Mr Perry’s side as part of the legal disclosure process, he said that was because one of them was a draft.

The first of those statements contained a reference that it was “suggested by (Fine Gael general secretary) Tom Curran to remove two votes”, and Mr Kelly had said he would not do that “as a matter of conscience.”

Pressed on why it was not contained in the second version of his statement, he said it was a draft but he also did not “wish to impugn the general secretary or his character”.

He stressed the word “suggested” had been used in the original statement.

Mr O’Higgins said what had happened was a “sinister corrupting of the democratic process”. Mr Kelly replied that “no corruption took place”.

He added: “I didn’t carry out that deed or action.”

Earlier, Mr Kelly told Fine Gael counsel Seamus Woulfe, he accepted that there were irregularities in a small number of votes but they were the result of impersonation or due to genuine errors on the night.

He also disputed the convention was disorderly and said he had ensured it would be marshalled and run in as orderly manner as possible.

It was claimed by Mr Perry that the convention was quite disorderly because of the number of people, around 800-900, at what was an unsuitable and congested venue.

Mr Kelly said the decision to use this venue was taken by the local organisation based on geography and budget and because it had been previously used in the last convention for the constituency in 1996.

While there were efforts to move people into the main hall, he “would not call it chaotic or out of control”.

He also said if the court was to order a new convention it would demotivate and disenfranchise members including because those who voted the first time may not be available to do so at a second convention.

He said the court challenge had meant the general election campaign was in abeyance in terms of organising posters, literature and teams of canvassers.

This has led to frustration among candidates and members and also provided an opportunity for the party’s opponents to take advantage of the situation, he said.

Meath East Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee told the court the Taoiseach did not give any commitment at last year’s parliamentary party meeting that all sitting TDs would be allowed to run in the general election.

Ms McEntee, who acted as secretary and marked off those in attendance at that meeting, said she had no record of Mr Perry being there.

While she did not take a note of what the Taoiseach said, she said his comments were in the context of a long conversation and the effect which the imposition gender quotas would have.

The Taoiseach did not mention the word convention but she took it to mean the same thing: that no sitting TD would be prevented from running at convention.

Had the Taoiseach said no TD would be prevented from running in the general election, she would have taken a note of that because that was different from running at convention.

Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy awaits sentencing after conviction

Former IRA chief to know fate next year after guilty verdict on nine charges of tax evasion


Thomas the ‘Slab’ Murphy (66) was found guilty at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin of not paying income tax for nine years. Photograph: Collins

Thomas “Slab” Murphy, who was once the head of the IRA’s so-called army council, will be sentenced next year by the Special Criminal Court following his conviction yesterday on nine charges of tax evasion.

After a 32-day trial, Murphy (66), Hackballscross, Co Louth, was found guilty by the three judges in the non-jury court of failing to furnish tax returns for nearly a decade from 1996.

The trial came nearly a decade after files were seized in sheds on his farm that straddles the Border during a raid led by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab), backed up by 400 British and Irish soldiers, PSNI members and gardaí.

Delivering the verdict, Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that in each of the individual counts on the indictment the accused is guilty”.

State subsidies

The court heard Murphy received €100,000 in State and EU subsidies and had been involved in cattle sales worth hundreds of thousands of euro at a number of marts.

The 2006 raid led to the seizure of €625,000 in cash and cheques. Following the raid a €1 million settlement was made with Cab and the UK’s Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

“I am aware of the reports of this morning’s judgment and that Tom Murphy has been released on bail,” Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said. “He has strongly contested the accusations. I have no comment to make until the legal process has been concluded.”

Moustache a bonus for men

A study finds


Women are still outnumbered in medical leadership by men with moustaches, a study has found.

If you think this study must be some kind of a joke, you’re right.

Every year, the British Medical Journal puts out a special Christmas issue full of quirky (but still peer-reviewed) studies. They’re all designed to make you chuckle. This year, there’s a serious topic: Sexism in science and medicine.

The study, in short, found that moustaches – while increasingly rare, with the researchers citing reports that less than 15 per cent of men in the United States sport such facial hair – still outnumber women in positions of medical power.

“We defined a moustache as the visible presence of hair on the upper cutaneous lip and included both stand-alone moustaches [for example, Copstash Standard, Pencil, Handlebar, Dali, Supermario] as well as moustaches in combination with other facial hair [for example, Van Dyke, Balbo, The Zappa],” the researchers write in the study. “Department leaders with facial hairstyles that did not include hair on the upper lip (for example, Mutton Chops, Chin Curtain) were considered not to have a moustache.

We evaluated each leader for the presence of facial hair regardless of sex.”

The cross-sectional analysis of medical leaders was published by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Berkeley Law, and the University of California San Francisco. The researchers pointed out that women were once scarce in medical schools, but have made up about half of most classes for long enough that positions of leadership at health institutions should be looking a little more diverse by now. But in the world of US academic medicine, just 38 per cent of fulltime faculty, 21 per cent of full professors, and 16 per cent of deans are women.

“Moustachioed individuals significantly outnumber women as leaders of medical departments in the US,” the researchers conclude in the study. “We believe that every department and institution should strive for a moustache index.”

Of the 1018 medical department leaders examined by the study, only 190 were moustachioed men. But only 130 were women. That’s 13 per cent women and 19 per cent men with visible hair on their upper lip. Bringing the moustache index up to 1 without adding more leadership positions would actually still leave us pretty far from gender parity.

Just five specialties had more than 20 per cent women department leaders, and these were obstetrics and gynaecology (36 per cent), paediatrics (31 per cent), dermatology (23 per cent), family medicine (21 per cent), and emergency medicine (21 per cent).

Moustache density was thickest in psychiatry (31 per cent), pathology (30 per cent), and anaesthesiology (26 per cent). But 10 specialties were 20 per cent moustachioed or more.

It’s true that this isn’t, like, the be-all-end-all argument that medical schools need more women at the top. It’s clearly a gag, and as my roommate wisely said this morning, “I’m sure if someone made a chart, we’d see that moustaches are going down and women are on the up.”

The study is inspired by more “serious” research, and the problem is a real one. “Sex discrepancies in leadership are distressingly common across specialties,” the researchers write.

The researchers advise against improving the moustache index by pressuring male doctors to shave, as this would be discriminatory. Instead, they write, medical institutions might consider making their ranks more welcoming to qualified women.

This tiny swallow-able camera could help diagnose cancer more efficiently

      Petri dish
Tiny sensing system cameras swallowed by patients has been used in recent years rather than endoscopes as a less intrusive way of gaining images inside the throat and gut.Scientists have developed a new type of “video pill” – a swallow-able camera that could detect throat and gut cancers more effectively.

The cameras rely on a small light source produced by the video pill to illuminate affected areas and produce images but researchers from the University of Glasgow have now created a pill that uses fluorescence imaging to identify the rich blood supplies which support cancers and help them to grow.

The fluorescence imaging technique is already an established diagnostic tool in medicine but it is known to be expensive and bulky, a factor usually confining it to laboratories.

However, the university’s School of Engineering team has managed to use fluorescence imaging in a small pill form for the first time using an advanced semiconductor single-pixel imaging technique.

Research associate Dr Mohammed Al-Rawhani said: “The system we’ve developed is small enough and power-efficient enough to image the entire human gastrointestinal tract for up to 14 hours.

“We’ve confirmed in the lab the ability of the system to image fluorescence ‘phantoms’ – mixtures of flavins and haemoglobins which mimic closely how cancers are affected by fluorescence in parts of the body like the intestines, the bowel and the oesophagus.

“The system could also be used to help track antibodies used to label cancer in the human body, creating a new way to detect cancer.

“It’s a valuable new technique which could help clinicians make fewer false positives and negatives in cancer diagnosis, which could lead to more effective treatment in the future.”

Professor David Cumming, the university’s chair of electronic systems, said: “We’ve played an important role in developing the technology behind video-pill systems and this is an exciting new development which offers a valuable new resource for gastrointestinal imaging.

“There’s still some way to go before it will be ready for commercial production and clinical use but we’re in early talks with industry to bring a product to market.

“We’re also interested in expanding the imaging capabilities of video-pill systems to new areas such as ultrasound in the near future.”

Curiosity rover begins to study dunes on Mars


The rippled surface (left pic.) of the first Martian sand dune ever studied up close fills this Nov. 27, 2015, view of “High Dune” from the Mast Camera on NASA’s Curiosity rover.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has begun an up-close investigation of dark sand dunes up to two stories tall on the Red Planet.

The rover will be passing over the dunes on its trek up the lower portion of a layered Martian mountain, a trip that should take several months.

The dunes close to Curiosity’s current location are part of “Bagnold Dunes,” a band along the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater. The dunes are made from basaltic minerals, which give them their dark color. Observations of this dune field seen from orbit show that edges of individual dunes move as much as 3 feet per Earth year.

They don’t look all that different from dunes found on Earth. But this is the first investigation of an active sand field on another planet.

NASA plans to have the rover scoop up a sample of the dune material for analysis with laboratory instruments inside Curiosity.

Among other things, scientists hope to learn how the dunes move and whether they are different than those found on Earth – since the Mars atmosphere is less than 1 percent as thick as Earth and its gravity is only a third of Earth. They also want to find out whether sand grains of different sizes possibly include different types of minerals.

Curiosity has been working on Mars since early August 2012. It reached the base of Mount Sharp in 2014 after investigating outcrops closer to its landing site and then trekking to the mountain. The main mission objective now is to examine successively higher layers of Mount Sharp.


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