Tag Archives: Commissioner O’Sullivan

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 20th June 2014

Garda are constrained by budget cuts, says acting Commissioner O’Sullivan

 

Nóirín O’Sullivan tells policing event that force has ‘adequate’ resources to meet obligations

Acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said she believed the force still had adequate resources for policing.

The Garda force had been hit by budget cuts that “constrained” it, but it still had “adequate” resources to meet its obligations, acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has said.

And she insisted some investments were being made.

“This year alone we have bought 140 new cars which are augmenting the fleet. But when new resources and new finances are made available we can prioritise on where those new cars need to go and what types of cars and bikes we need.”

However, despite the reduced resources she believed the Garda was “policing very well”.

“Yes, the numbers have fallen slightly under 13,000,” she said in reference to the total strength of the force and the number former Garda commissioner Martin Calllinan said they should not fall below.

“Nevertheless, we do have adequate resources to police,” Ms O’Sullivan added.

She was speaking at an event in Farmleigh, Phoenix Park, Dublin, in which stakeholders in the justice and policing areas were meeting today for a consultation on how the new Garda Authority would be introduced.

This week the head of the Garda Inspectorate, which reviews all elements of policing in the Republic and advises the Garda and Government on the need for reforms, expressed the clear view that policing was struggling.

Chief Inspector Bob Olsen said the Garda did not have the resources it needed to carry out its work in the way it should.

The IT infrastructure enjoyed by police forces in other countries was not available to gardaí.

Garda vehicles were being switched from urban to rural areas to get more mileage from old vehicles.

It meant the fleet would all require upgrading at the same time and was a financial “time bomb”.

He had previously said Garda training had ground to a halt and that he and his staff were meeting detectives who had never received any training on how to be a detective.

Yesterday the Public Accounts Committee was told by the secretary general of the Department of Transport, Tom O’Mahony, that some parts of the penalty points system were on hold for years because neither the Garda nor Irish Courts Service had the IT it needed to operate them.

Ms O’Sullivan pointed out that Garda recruitment was about to begin again in the weeks ahead, saying it was something the organisation was looking forward to.

The new recruits would enter a Garda culture where the standards expected from them were clear.

The Garda culture needed to “tell them what those standards, values and behaviours are and ensure that the training is adequate and robust enough to foster those values in people”.

The Guerin report, which indentified serious shortcomings in policing in Bailieboro, Co Cavan, “represented an opportunity to review some of the policies and practices around investigations and supervision over sight and management”.

She said an online survey of Garda members since she had assumed her post on an interim basis following the snap retirement of Mr Callinan two months ago reflected the concerns that the main Garda representative bodies had been raising.

“I know the perception is that morale is on the ground. Certainly people are hurting, people are concerned and they were very concerned at everything that has happened.”

However, she believed the visible leadership she had demonstrated and her efforts to travel around and meet members of the force “not alone reinforced confidence in people that it’s business as normal, but that we can build on what has happened in the past, we can learn lessons and get stronger”.

She would “shortly” be in a position to talk about her plans to reorganised Garda Headquarters and also the reforms put in place as a result of the Guerin report.

She was aware of comments by independent TD Clare Daly in the Dáil yesterday when she alleged Mr Callinan, while still in office, had made attempts to contact the main Garda staff associations to ask them to express no confidence in the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

“I am aware of the reporting today which also says that the Garda associations have refuted that but that’s all I know about that.”

She said the Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe had returned to work and continued to enjoy the support of senior management in that regard. However, she did not want to go into specifics about the circumstances of any individual Garda member.

NTMA raises €500m in successful sale of three-month bonds

 

Taking advantage of positive investor sentiment towards Ireland, NTMA receives bids of €2.1 billion

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan with NTMA officials in the Treasury Holdings building in Dublin

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) has successfully auctioned a further €500 million in three-month Treasury Bills.

Taking advantage of positive investor sentiment towardsIreland, the NTMA received total bids amounting to €2.1 billion – 4.2 times the amount on offer. The three-month notes were sold at an annualised yield of 0.105 per cent.

Ireland’s borrowing costs have been trading near record lows of late on foot of two recent credit upgrades and further European Central Bank stimulus measures, including an interest rate cut, earlier this month.

he NTMA has raised €6.5 billion of Ireland’s long-term money this year already, bringing it 81 per cent of the way towards its full-year funding target of €8 billion.

Today, the yield on 10-year Irish bonds remained at 2.4 per cent, keeping the State’s borrowing costs below those of the UK.

Investors are buying bonds of peripheral euro zone states amid signs the region’s debt crisis may be over.

The so-called “yield grab” was fuelled earlier this month by comments from ECB chief Mario Draghi that Frankfurt was prepared to take more action if the new measures fall flat.

The cost of posting a letter is to increase from July this year

  

Communications regulator gives An Post green light to raise cost of a stamp to 68 cent. 

An Post has been cleared to increase the cost of postage from July 21st next.

The price of sending a letter is to increase next month. The communications regulator ComReg has given An Post permission to raise the price of its stamps, with effect from Monday, July 21st.

The standard domestic letter rate for items up to 100g will increase from 60cent to 68 cent while the standard international letter rate will increase from 90 cent to €1.00 for items up to 100g.

Despite the increase, An Post said the new rates will remain among the lowest in the EU countries including Britain, France, Belgium and Italy, and well below the EU domestic average of 71 cent.

A range of discount options will continue to remain available to businesses buying stamps in bulk and using meter mail, Ceadúnas licence and bulk-mail services.

A spokeswoman for An Post said the increase is necessary due to “ongoing cost reduction initiatives” and to “stem the unsustainable financial losses” arising from the Company’s Universal Service Obligation where losses totalled €55 million in 2013 .

An Post’s annual report published in April of this year showed that in 2013, the company made an operating loss of €11.4 million in spite of an increase in turnover of 0.5 per cent and an extra €20 million from a stamp price increase. The operating loss in 2012 was €17.5 million.

More than half of all mobile phones are Smartphones

 

Broadband subscriptions and speeds also increase, according to new Comreg report

With the rise in smartphones comes an increase in data volumes, which rose by 48.1 per cent in the year to the end of March to reach 13,897 terabytes

Smartphones are more popular than ever before, according to new figures published by the Communications regulatorComreg.

Its latest quarterly report shows that 57.2 per cent of all mobile phones in use in Ireland are smartphones, up 12.2 per cent for the first quarter 2013.

The study reveals there are now 3,206,880 active 3G and 4G users in the country.

With the rise in smartphones comes an increase in data volumes, which rose by 48.1 per cent in the year to the end of March to reach 13,897 terabytes.

According to the figures there were 5,619,777 mobile phone subscriptions in total in the first three months of 2014, down 0.1 per cent on the previous quarter. Ireland’s mobile penetration rate for the quarter was 121.9 per cent.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) was €26 per month, down from €28 on the previous quarter. Comreg attributed the decline in ARPU to cheaper mobile phone plans and increased sales of bundled products.

The total number of text messages sent by mobile users in Ireland was over 2.02 billion in the first three months of the year, down 25 per cent on the same quarter in 2013. The number of multimedia messages (MMS) sent declined by 7.4 per cent.

Fixed voice and mobile voice traffic also declined during the quarter. Fixed voice traffic was down by 1.3 pe cent while mobile traffic fell by 0.8 per cent.

Comreg’s report shows that broadband subscriptions rose by 0.7 per cent versus the previous quarter to stand at 1.7 million at the end of March. The estimated household broadband penetration rate was 67 per cent.

Average broadband speeds continue to rise with 56.7 per cent of all subscriptions equal to or greater than 10 Mbps, up from 32.2 per cent for the same quarter a year earlier. Approximately 37.7 per cent of all broadband subscriptions were equal or greater than 30 Mbps up from 21.3 per cent.

The number of WiFi hotspots and access points increased by approximately 18.4 per cent and 16 per cent respectively on an annual basis.

Overall industry retail revenues for telecom companies decreased by 3 per cent, according to Comreg. Total retail revenues in the twelve months to March totalled €3.13 billion, down from over €3.22 billion a year earlier.

A Great View of Earth of the Summer Solstice

  

An image of the midnight sun over the northern reaches of the western half of the globe.

A new satellite image beautifully highlights the Earth forming a perfect crescent as the midnight sun beams down on the far northern reaches of the globe

Planning to host a party for the summer solstice tomorrow? Here’s a view that will help build some excitement, courtesy of a satellite positioned about 36,000 miles from the Earth’s surface.

Brian McNoldy, a tropical storm researcher at the University of Miami, grabbed an image of the Earth as GOES-West, a satellite operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that shows the Earth at local midnight last night. It beautifully highlights the earth forming a perfect crescent as the midnight sun beams down on the far northern reaches of the globe.

While the solstice is officially at 6:51 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, McNoldy explained in an email that the image captured is a pretty close representation of what it will look like from the same vantage point. In other words, this is a solstice drill that’s as close to the real thing as possible.

McNoldy also shared another bit of trivia: you won’t see a similar view from the opposite side of the planet. GOES-West, which in satellite parlance sits in a geostationary orbit above the 135°W meridian, snaps a full Earth picture at local midnight everyday. However, GOES-East, its aptly-named partner on the other side of the planet, operates on a slightly different schedule and the closest you’ll get to this view is a photo taken at 12:45 a.m. local time. That view, while still pretty spectacular, would show a warped crescent as opposed the perfection of GOES-West’s view.

Feel free to add that to your trivia game at your solstice party.

The solstice is commonly referred to as the longest day of the year, a statement that leaves most folks in the Southern Hemisphere shaking their heads. A more accurate description of the solstice is that due to the position of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, the North Pole will be angled as close to the sun as possible this year. That makes it seem like the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere but the shortest in the southern hemisphere. After Saturday, the two hemispheres’ luck will start to reverse which each day getting shorter in the northern half of the globe and longer in the southern half.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 18th June 2014

Higgins raring to get his teeth into his old foes in Irish Banking inquiry

  

There was no sign of eggs frying on the sun-soaked plinth of Leinster House, but temperatures were running a little high inside the building.

The Technical Group were in conclave. It should’ve been a short meeting, simply a procedural rubber-stamp of Joe Higgins’s candidacy to replace Stephen Donnelly on the banking inquiry committee, as the Socialist Party TD’s nomination was unopposed.

But Joe’s former comrade, Clare Daly, took exception to the notion that her one-time ally had been selected unanimously by the group. A bemused John Halligan asked if she was opposing the choice, but the Dublin North deputy wasn’t. However, she was objecting to the use of the ‘unanimous’ word.

A lengthy wrangle ensued but in the end – as planned all along – Joe was selected unopposed in a sort-of unanimous way.

What is it about this infernal banking inquiry which seems to spark more shemozzles than the Football Championship?

First it came to pass (eventually) that the Government announced it would hold an official inquisition into how our banking sector scampered over the cliffs like a cartoon roadrunner. It was surely a no-brainer, providing an admiring electorate with the edifying spectacle of all sorts of toppled masters of the financial and political universe being summoned to account for their movements in front of a democratically selected cross-party committee of gimlet-eyed TDs and senators.

What could possibly go wrong?

Having proved themselves in recent months to be experts at the art of porcine couture (the ability to fashion a sow’s ear out of a silk purse), the Coalition didn’t disappoint this time either. A serious outbreak of faffing about by government senators led to them losing their majority on the committee – a cock-up which the Coalition promptly compounded by drafting in two extra Fine Gael and Labour recruits to restore the status quo, thereby causing opposition uproar in the Upper House.

And this hoohah led to Independent TD Stephen Donnelly throwing a strop over the inequity of it all and throwing his hat at it, declaring the Taoiseach was “treating democracy in a cavalier manner” as he headed for the door.

In steps Joe Higgins: Out on the plinth after the Technical Group pow-wow, the newest kid on the committee block was doing his damnedest not to lick his chops in anticipation of another chance to sink his fangs into his same old foes.

“I am sure that the Taoiseach who was in charge of the country when the property bubble was being blown up, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, will be brought before the inquiry,” Joe reckoned with relish. “And that Taoiseach Cowen, who presided over the initial bailout, and I also believe that Taoiseach Kenny, who continued the bailout, should be among those who would be called.”

He was clearly raring to get started, and while he may not have the in-depth knowledge of banking arcana like financial whizz-kid Stephen Donnelly, Joe has a PhD in winding up the great and the good.

“I am prepared to sit and to quiz and question in the inquiry those individuals who were central to the political and economic events of the time, and interrogate them very strenuously,” he vowed.

However, a short time later during Leaders’ Questions, a gloomy Clare Daly was determined to rain on the committee’s parade. “It’s quite clear that the toothless banking inquiry is not going to expose anything, except maybe a few politicians to a bit of badly needed publicity,” she sniped.

“It has dawned on many citizens now that the Oireachtas inquiry into banking has about as much chance of getting to the bottom of what happened in the banking sector as Billy Bunter would have in finding out who robbed the school tuck shop. It is a joke,” she sneered.

Across the chamber the Taoiseach looked a bit weary. He must be fatigued from all his recent travelling (San Francisco, Guernsey and Lebanon) and recent U-turns (banking inquiry and discretionary medical cards). “I am glad to note the political policy regulatory structures on banking governance will be examined by the Oireachtas committee free of any direction from the Government,” he began, before being drowned out by cackles from the far side.

Finian McGrath comforted Enda. “Don’t worry – Joe will sort it out,” he assured the Taoiseach, but there was general agreement among the Opposition. But it wasn’t unanimous.

Irish Central Bank issues warning on crowdfunding (peer to peer) regulations

  

The Irish central bank has issued a warning to consumers over the unregulated status of crowd-funding and peer-to-peer lending.

The two cash-raising techniques have become increasingly widespread as small businesses find it hard to raise traditional bank finance.

  They involve businesses raising funds by amalgamating small sums invested by non-experts, often through third part platforms.

The Central Bank’s warning details concerns about risks specific to lending money through crowdfunding platforms, including the risk of the investor company or indeed the platform itself failing.

It also flags “the risk of misleading or insufficient information disclosure, unfair contract terms of misleading commercial practices, and the absence of dispute resolution and redress mechanisms”.

The bank’s statement does acknowledge that crowd-funding or peer-to-peer lending “is a type of market-based finance that could help stimulate funding to small and medium sized enterprises as well as personal lending”.

Read: Borrowing without banks – here’s how you’ve done it.

While the Central Bank told TheJournal.ie this morning that it is not hitting the ‘red alert’ button on crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, it considers it important nonetheless that consumers know its regulatory status.

Industry response

A spokesperson for peer-to-peer platform linkedfinance.ie said that the company wanted to see the industry regulated.

“We want it regulated…we’ve engaged with the Department of Finance and the Central Bank from the start on this. We’re lobbying to get the industry regulated.”

He added that much of the transactional activity around crowd-funding took place through ordinary bank accounts, which are themselves regulated.

Gardai Commissioner O’Sullivan announces overhaul of penalty points system

  

The Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, has announced an overhaul of the controversial penalty points system.

The changes to the fixed charge penalty scheme are designed to strengthen oversight of how it operates and make it easier for the public to apply for cancellations.

The moves follow an examination of the system by the Garda Inspectorate, which found widespread breaches in policy.

The inspectorate’s probe came amid allegations by Garda whistleblowers regarding the cancellation of points for some motorists.

Ms O’Sullivan announced that the authority to cancel fixed charge penalty notices will now be centralised at the processing office in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

A guide explaining how the cancellation system works will be published on the force’s website, garda.ie, while a special form for cancellation requests will be made publicly available on the website, or through the Thurles office.

Regular audits will be undertaken to keep a watch on the operation of the system and a revised internal manual outlining the changes to policies and procedures will be published.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “These and other ongoing changes of the Fixed Charged Penalty System demonstrate An Garda Siochana’s commitment to improving the effectiveness and transparency of the process.

“We will continue to work with the Criminal Justice Working Group to examine how best to implement the short, medium and long-term recommendations set out in the inspectorate’s report.

SAFETY

“An Garda Siochana’s primary focus is in ensuring that the system continues its success in improving road safety and reducing road deaths,” she added.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last night welcomed the announcement.

“They are very important steps in ensuring that we 
have an efficient fixed charge penalty system in which people can have full confidence,” she said.

Ireland to lift top rate tax for offshore oil groups to 55%

 

The Irish government is to raise the maximum amount of tax levied on offshore oil and gas production to 55 per cent but has stopped short of setting up a national oil company along the lines of Norway’s Statoil.

Amid public controversy over the potential of oil and gas deposits in Irish waters, and the amount of tax companies pay on any profits any commercial fields would generate, Pat Rabbitte, Ireland’s energy minister, said on Wednesday that the new fiscal regime would increase the state’s tax take at an earlier stage in the production process.

The arrangements mean that the overall amount of tax oil companies will pay on commercial production would rise to a maximum 55 per cent, depending on the size of the field, from 40 per cent currently. The new higher rate will apply to new licences only; existing contracts are not affected.

The changes follow a report by Wood Mackenzie commissioned by the government into the fiscal regime surrounding oil and gas exploration and production in Irish waters. The consultants compared Ireland’s fiscal arrangements with those in marginal production countries such as South Africa and Spain and recommended the changes based on the potential for commercial oil and gas discoveries.

The UK and Norway were also included in the comparisons because of the frequency with which their experiences are cited by both proponents and opponents of exploring for oil and gas in Irish waters.

Mr Rabbitte said that by acting now to clarify future licensing terms, “it is my intention to communicate a clear message in relation to the stability of Ireland’s fiscal regime for the oil and gas exploration sector”. He said that would allow them to “focus on effective and timely exploration effort”.

Oil and gas companies have been prospecting in Irish waters for more than four decades. The Wood Mackenzie report says that only four commercial gasfields have been discovered, and no commercial oilfields. One industry executive estimates that up to €4bn has been spent on exploration in the waters of the Atlantic and the Celtic Sea so far.

Controversy over the financial returns from Irish oil and gas has been sparked by the delays that have plagued the Corrib gasfield off the northwest coast. It was discovered in 1996 but production is not expected to come onshore until 2015 after public protests against the building of pipelines led to arrests and the jailing of protesters that sparked public outrage.

Industry executives say comparisons of Ireland with Norway are inappropriate and premature. The Wood Mackenzie report said: “The essential point is that . . . offshore Ireland remains a very high risk, very high cost province for exploration.”

Fish do feel pain as well says an expert

   

Fish do have feelings and intelligence on a par with other animals and deserve better consideration of their welfare, according to a behavioural biologist at Australia’s Macquarie University.

DR Culum Brown came to the conclusion after reviewing the scientific evidence on fish capabilities.

He found that fish have good memories, lived in social communities, co-operated, and learned from one another.

They displayed behaviours normally seen in primates and were even able to build complex structures and use tools.

While their brains differed from those of other vertebrates, they contained structures that performed similar functions seen in other animals.

There was also mounting evidence that they felt pain in the same way humans do.

Brown believes fish are just as likely to be sentient as other animals.

He wrote in the journal Animal Cognition: “Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate.

“We should therefore include fish in our ‘moral circle’ and afford them the protection they deserve.”

People rarely thought about fish other than as food or pets, said Brown.

He pointed out that fish were second only to mice in terms of the numbers used in scientific experiments.

With more than 32,000 known species, fish far outweighed the diversity of all other vertebrates combined, he added.