Tag Archives: Michael Lowry

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 29th. January 2016

Irish Labour party promises to slash taxes by a third if returned to power?


The Irish Labour has promised to reduce taxes for workers on €25,000 by as much as a third as part of a €3bn tax reform package if it is returned to power.

Workers on up to €50,000 would also see their taxes reduced by up to 15% under the promised reforms.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin unveiled the tax-cut promise yesterday evening in Mullingar, ahead of Labour’s conference here today.

The plan would put more than €1,000 a year back into the pocket of a worker on €25,000. However, a high earner on €120,000 or more would not see any reductions in their tax obligations.

As part of the pre-election promise, Labour says USC would be abolished on incomes up to €72,000. Workers would also pay less PRSI once their income amounts to less than €704 a week.

Any gains under the changes for higher earners would be clawed back by adjusting their tax.

Announcing the changes, Mr Howlin said the USC was the “most draconian of the charges” introduced during the recession. However, Labour still wanted to keep a broad tax base and would limit reductions.

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Under the proposals, a worker on €25,000 would see joint reductions in USC and PRSI result in a €1,132 saving annually, or €22 per week.

A worker on €50,000 would see €2,043 saved a year or €39 per week . Someone on a salary of €72,000 makes a saving of €3,302 or €63 per week.

Labour stressed that higher earners would see gains clawed back.

Someone on €120,000 might see USC reductions of €3,302 but these would be cancelled out by income tax-related increases.

Mr Howlin also responded to calls for the next government to have a “rainy day” fund, saying that Labour had financial plans, though this was an unallocated amount, if Ireland faced future economic challenges.

The minister would not be drawn though on what exactly these funds were, or how much.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council yesterday warned that the projections for increased spending by the next government were incorrect, and were several billion euro short of what was being promised by parties wanting to be in government.

With just days to go before the expected announcement of the election, Labour TDs and delegates will today discuss jobs and healthcare, among other issues, before party leader Joan Burton gives the main address at the conference tonight.

Minister Lynch rows back on inquiry into a contentious HSE sexual abuse case

Circumstance involves woman allegedly abused in southeast care home


Kathleen Lynch: “The setting up of a commission of inquiry would require a Government decision and a vote by the Oireachtas.”

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has pulled back from apparently conceding that a commission of inquiry should take place into how the HSE handled allegations of serious sexual abuse at a foster home in the southeast.

In a statement last night she said serious consideration must be given before any decision was made about establishing a commission of inquiry to look at all aspects of what happened.

The Minister with responsibility for social care said a definitive judgment on this should not be made in advance of seeing a report by barrister Conor Dignam who she formally appointed on December 7th to undertake a review of two reports already completed on the matter.

“The setting up of a commission of inquiry would require a Government decision and a vote by the Oireachtas,” said Ms Lynch.

The Minister pointed out that, on first hearing of this matter in April 2014, her immediate concern was to ensure that no person was currently at risk. She received that assurance and was informed that no new admissions had been made to this private foster home since 1995, with the last resident being removed in 2009.

“The critical question of why this young vulnerable person was left in the foster home until 2009, even though the most serious concerns had been raised about her, remains the central issue.

“It is important to note that the Devine and Resilience Ireland reports, once published, may answer some of the questions that currently remain unanswered.

“The ongoing Garda investigation since 2010 has prevented publication of these two reports. It has not, however, prevented the HSE from implementing the recommendations in the Conal Devine report including a national foster care audit, which is welcome.”

In relation to the controversy about the issuing of an apology to this vulnerable person, Ms Lynch said the confusion and lack of clarity was very regrettable, and that it was important now to clearly establish the facts of what had occurred.

An in-depth investigation?

Earlier yesterday, in a radio interview, Ms Lynch said an independent inquiry into the issue might be required. She said that when she received correspondence from the Public Accounts Committee she had commissioned a “desktop review” by Mr Dignam.

Ms Lynch told RTÉ’s News at One that, after this review, Mr Dignam had suggested a more in-depth investigation take place. “I have never ruled out an independent inquiry and I do believe that’s where we are heading,” she said.

The controversy centres on how an 11-year-old girl with disabilities was placed in a foster home, despite the facility being subject to serious sex abuse allegations.

During the week the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the HSE of lying to it in correspondence last December when it said a meeting had been arranged at which the alleged victim of over a decade of abuse in the foster home was to receive an apology.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien yesterday promised to give a comprehensive answer to PAC on Tuesday. Mr O’Brien said he had asked the HSE’s social care division to look very carefully at the accusations so it could “get to the bottom of it” and give a comprehensive answer to the committee.

Minister Donohoe refuses to rule out Fine Gael relying on Lowry to support a new Government

High Court found Tipperary TD engaged ‘a litany of falsification and deception’


The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said he rarely saw the Tipperary TD Michael Lowry in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has again declined to rule out the possibility of relying on Independent TD Michael Lowry for support to form a coalition government.

Speaking on Thursday, following a High Court ruling that dismissed the former minister’s appeal against a decision by the Moriarty Tribunal to only award him one-third of his legal costs, Mr Donohoe said the Government’s position was that it did not want to have to do a deal with any independents after the general election.

Reports last week suggested that initial talks had been held by Fine Gael with a number of Independents , including the TD from Tipperary, about the possibility of supporting the next government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly declined to rule out the possibility of a post-election agreement with Mr Lowry.

On Wednesday, the High Court found that Mr Lowry engaged in “a litany of falsification and deception” – including the falsification of a solicitor’s files – in his failure to co-operate with the tribunal.

On Thursday Eoghan Murphy, The Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, said he is not contemplating requesting the support of Independents. Mr Murphy said he agreed with Taoiseach’s belief that returning the Fine-Gael and LabourCoalition was the best option for the country.

Earlier in the week, Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagansaid his party should not deal with any Independents, while Labour Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly launched an attack on Mr Lowry, saying he rarely saw the TD in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

Mr Kelly said he did not believe it would be necessary to do any business with Independent TDs after the general election. “My ambition is to see this Government re-elected and I believe it will be re-elected,” he said.

Asked what his objection to Mr Lowry was, Mr Kelly said: “I don’t pay much attention to Deputy Lowry. I note I rarely ever see him in the constituency and I rarely ever see him in the Dáil, so I don’t pay much attention to him whatsoever.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton of Labour said earlier in the week that she believed Mr Lowry’s involvement in supporting the next government was “not appropriate”.

Our attitudes to ageing are impacting on our health

Negativity linked to poorer cognition.


How people feel about ageing appears to have a direct impact on their health, a new Irish research has shown.

According to the findings, those with a negative attitude to ageing have poorer mental and physical health.

The research was based on the latest data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) in Trinity College Dublin. TILDA is an ongoing study of people over the age of 50 in Ireland.

The study found that over a two-year period, those with a positive attitude to ageing had better cognitive abilities. However, those with a negative attitude had worse cognitive abilities and a slower walking speed.

These results stood even when others factors were taken into account, such as health changes which took place during the two years, medication, mood and other changes in life circumstances.

The study also found that a negative attitude towards ageing affected the interaction of different health conditions. The researchers pointed out that frail older adults have an increased risk of many health problems, including cognitive issues.

However, they found that among participants in this study, frail adults with a negative attitude had worse cognition compared to non-frail participants, but frail participants with a positive attitude had the same cognitive abilities as their non-frail peers.

“The way we think about, talk about and write about ageing may have direct effects on health. Everyone will grow older and if negative attitudes towards ageing are carried throughout life, they can have a detrimental, measurable effect on mental, physical and cognitive health,” commented lead researcher, Dr Deirdre Robertson.

How our plastic planet waste is the scourge of the whole World

Scientists warn that the ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming


Humans have made enough plastic since the Second World War to coat the Earth entirely in cling film, an international study has revealed.

This ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming, say scientists – for it confirms that human activities are now having a pernicious impact on our world.

The research, published in the journal Anthropocene, shows that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste.

Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps. The impact is often highly damaging.

“The results came as a real surprise,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, of Leicester University.

“We were aware that humans have been making increasing amounts of different kinds of plastic – from Bakelite to polyethylene bags to PVC – over the last 70 years, but we had no idea how far it had travelled round the planet. It turns out not just to have floated across the oceans, but has sunk to the deepest parts of the sea floor. This is not a sign that our planet is in a healthy condition either.”

Marker for a new epoch?

The crucial point about the study’s findings is that the appearance of plastic should now be considered as a marker for a new epoch.

Zalasiewicz is the chairman of a group of geologists assessing whether or not humanity’s activities have tipped the planet into a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, which ended the Holocene that began around 12,000 years ago.

Humans causing catastrophic ecosystem shifts: study.

The hot topic of climate change.

World’s oceans clogged by millions of tonnes of plastic trash.

Most members of Zalasiewicz’s committee believe the Anthropocene has begun and this month published a paper in Science in which they argued that several postwar human activities show our species is altering geology.

In particular, radioactive isotopes released by atom bombs left a powerful signal in the ground that will tell future civilisations that something strange was going on.

In addition, increasing carbon dioxide in the oceans, the massive manufacture of concrete and the widespread use of aluminium were also highlighted as factors that indicate the birth of the Anthropocene. Lesser environmental impacts, including the rising use of plastics, were also mentioned in passing.

But Zalasiewicz argues that the humble plastic bag and plastic drink container play a far greater role in changing the planet than has been realised.

“Just consider the fish in the sea,” he said. “A vast proportion of them now have plastic in them. They think it is food and eat it, just as seabirds feed plastic to their chicks. Then some of it is released as excrement and ends up sinking on to the seabed. The planet is slowly being covered in plastic.”

In total, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is manufactured every year, states the paper, The Geological Cycle of Plastics and Their Use as a Stratigraphic Indicator of the Anthropocene.

“In 1950, we virtually made none at all. It is an incredible rise,” added Zalasiewicz. “That annual total of 300 million tonnes is close to the weight of the entire human population of the planet. And the figure for plastic manufacture is only going to grow. The total amount of plastic produced since the Second World War is around 5 billion tonnes and is very likely to reach 30 billion by the end of the century. The impact will be colossal.”

As the paper makes clear, plastic is already on the ocean floor, remote islands, buried underground in landfill sites and in the food chain.

Even the polar regions, generally considered still to be pristine zones, are becoming affected. In 2014, researchers found “significant” amounts of plastic granules frozen in the Arctic Sea, having been swept there from the Pacific Ocean.

In some cases, wildlife adapts to the spread of plastic. For example, on islands such as Diego Garcia, hermit crabs have taken to using plastic bottles as homes. However, most of the impact on wildlife is harmful.

Creatures ranging from seabirds to turtles become entangled in plastic and drown or choke to death. “The trouble is that plastic is very slow to degrade, so we are going to be stuck with this problem for a long time,” said Zalasiewicz.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 1st February 2015

Some 20,000 march in Dublin anti-water protest as a man is arrested & charged


Thousands march in protests across the country ahead of Irish Water deadline.

Saturday’s water charges demonstration has brought parts of Dublin to a standstill as protesters converge on the GPO.

A man arrested and charged following an anti-water charge protest in Dublin yesterday afternoon has been released.

The arrest occurred after a group of several hundred anti-water charge protesters broke away from a peaceful march in central Dublin and sought to gain entry to Leinster House.

The man in his 40s was questioned at Irishtown Garda station. He is due in court on February 26th. This was the only arrest during more than 20 anti-water charge protests around the country on Saturday, including events inCork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo and Waterford.

The demonstration in Dublin caused disruptions and led to traffic diversions around O’Connell Street and the Liffey quays as buses and Luas traffic were curtailed and roads closed to traffic.

There were reports of a flare being fired and some pushing and shoving in Dublin, but gardaí outside Leinster House said they were happy with how the demonstration proceeded.

“There was a feeble attempt to pull open the gates but there was no great assault on the place. There was a flare but there was no major incident,” a source said.

According to Garda sources, a man with a camera who had climbed on top of the Dáil gates for a panoramic view of the demonstration slipped and fell inside the railings but was not believed to have been badly hurt.

Estimates of the number of protesters vary, with organisers of the Dublin protests claiming around 20,000 people attended, while Gardaí at the scene said the number was less than half that. The Garda press office declined to give an estimate.

Protesters had assembled at various locations around Dublin city including Christ Church Cathedral, Rialto and Connolly and Heuston stations, before marching along the quays and converging on O’Connell Street from 3pm.

The crowds were addressed by various non-political anti-water charges activists, including one young man who reiterated claims made by Derek Byrne of the Dublin Says No campaign group that President Michael D Higgins was a “parasite”, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the rest of the political establishment.

Several protesters sported “Je suis Derek” signs, with Greek flags also in evidence following anti-austerity party Syriza’s election victory last weekend.

It was one of a number of protests which took place across the country yesterday.

In Cork, an estimated crowd of about 3,500 took to the streets, and similar demonstrations were held in Galway, Waterford and Sligo among other locations.

Protesters unfurled a 2.5 metre flag saying “We won’t pay” above the 13th century King John’s Castle during a march which was held in Limerick earlier.

Local groups

The marches were organised by local groups, as opposed to last December’s gathering outside Government buildings which was overseen by the Right2Water central organising committee and political parties such as the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit.

“I think it’s about the people, there shouldn’t be any political element,” said Siobhán Andrews (44) from Raheny who took part in the Dublin march.

“We’re not sure how we feel about politicians, because we’ve been let down by them a lot . . . Some of them have been supportive but, then again, we don’t know who to trust. If Sinn Féin or whoever gets in, how do we know they’re going to fix the problems?,” she added.

Arklow native Freddie Trevaskis Hoskin disagreed that a chasm is opening up between anti-Government politicians and grassroots protest movements.

“I think that’s a bit of a false dichotomy. I think people are out on the streets on a political issue, on an issue that affects them,” said 21-year-old Trevaskis Hoskin.

“It might not be a politics with a capital P, it might not be high political theory, but it’s actual, on-the-ground politics, which is far more important,” he added.

Following today’s marches, another major protest is being planned for Dublin in March.

‘People are angry’

Meanwhile, Derek Byrne, the water protester who sparked controversy with his verbal assault on President Michael D Higgins, has refused to retract his description of the head of State being a “parasite”.

Mr. Byrne, who took part in today’s protest in Dublin, said: “The people are angry and the people have every right to be angry in this country because the people of this country have been sold out by the so called political leaders,” he told RTÉ radio.

However, he refused to express any contrition for his abuse of the President at a recent protest which saw a visibly angry crowd lock horns with gardaí after his entourage had left.

“As I said, it was regrettable that he was called a ‘midget’,” Mr Byrne said of his own language.

“But I stand by everything else because at the end of the day President Higgins was a man I voted for and was someone that was very outspoken on human rights issues. We have a very serious human rights issue going on in this country at this moment in time and President Higgins has not spoken out for the people.”

The Right2Water campaign, which spearheaded the mass rally in Dublin late last year attended by more than 100,000 people, had urged members of the public to attend the latest protests. However, it distanced itself from the organiser’s.

In a statement, the campaign said: “The campaign against these unjust water charges continues. Last year, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets all over the country, and wrung significant concessions from the Government. “But as we said at the time – people marched for abolition, not concessions.”

Varadkar considers legal means to reduce cost of medicines


Ireland pays more for its medicines that other European countries

A spokesperson for the Minister for Health has said he may have to consider using existing legislation to achieve savings in the cost of medicines.

It follows reports in the Sunday Business Post that Leo Varadkar was considering using legislative powers to impose a price cut on pharmaceutical firms.

The newspaper carried out a sample survey of a number of prescription drugs, which found Ireland was paying more for its medicines than other European countries.

The minister’s spokesperson said Mr Varadkar was determined that the State would have the funds to ensure patient access to effective new therapies, and that to do this, savings must be achieved in the existing cost of medicines.
The spokesperson said the minister was keen to do this in cooperation with the industry.

However, the spokesperson said should this not prove possible, all alternatives, including the use of provisions of existing legislation, would have to be considered.

Discussions on a mid-term review of a pricing agreement between the Government and the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, which represents the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland, have been taking place since the final quarter of last year.

Responding to news that the minister was willing to consider using legislative powers to impose price cuts, the IPHA said its members companies had played a major role in assisting the Government in controlling health expenditure.

In a statement, the IPHA said ten separate price reductions had been provided by its member companies in the past seven years, and that savings of €800 million had been delivered between 2006 and 2012.

The IPHA said a further €400 million in savings was set to be delivered under the current supply agreement this year.

It also said these price cuts had occurred in the context of a big increase in medical cards.

Not bad looking woman has worst attendance record in Dail


Valerie O’Reilly absent for 37% of meetings in 2014

Valerie O’Reilly, who was described as ‘not bad looking’ by Michael Lowry TD.

Valerie O’Reilly, the “not bad looking” woman at the centre of the Michael Lowry Dail note scandal, had the worst attendance record last year on the State board she is seeking to be re-appointed to.

Ms O’Reilly, Mr Lowry’s former press adviser, received at least €55,000 in fees over five years from the National Transport Authority board to which the controversial TD lobbied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have her re-appointed.

But the Sunday Independent has discovered that Ms O’Reilly was absent for three of the eight disclosed board meetings in 2014, or 37pc.

No other board member missed as many meetings in 2014 as Ms O’Reilly, who had a far better attendance record in 2013 and 2012. In both years, she missed two out of 12 meetings, or 16pc.

Last week the Sunday Independent revealed how Mr Lowry passed a note to Mr Kenny in the Dail seeking to have Ms O’Reilly re-appopinted to the board of the NTA, ending the note saying: “She’s not bad looking either!”

The note, published by the Sunday Independent, said: “Taoiseach, would you please consider reappointing Valerie O’Reilly to the board of the NTA. A woman, bright intelligent and not bad looking either! Michael Lowry.”

Speaking in the wake of the controversy, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe insisted that the only basis upon which Ms O’Reilly’s request to be re-appointed will be considered based on merit.

Ms O’Reilly, managing director of Unicorn PR, turned down several requests for comment on the controversy from the Sunday Independent.

Despite Government statements that all appointments to state boards are done through the public appointments system, it has emerged that the rules allow ministers scope to appointments “other than strictly in accordance with the process”.

Guidelines issued by Minister Brendan Howlin’s department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) state there are a number of specific exceptions to the rules permissible. Mr Lowry declined to comment on the ongoing controversy when contacted by the Sunday Independent this weekend.

But he has caused some tension within the Government by suggesting the note was given to the Sunday Independent by a Labour member of the coalition.

He said that the note was passed on with the “full knowledge” of Environment Minister Alan Kelly, his constituency rival. Mr Kelly has strongly denied he had anything to do with the note’s surfacing.

However, considerable efforts have been taken to reveal the identity of the person who picked up the note from the Government benches.

Ms O’Reilly has been sitting on the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA) – where members get €11,970 a year in fees – for almost five years. Mr Lowry’s comments on Ms O’Reilly’s “not bad looking” appearance has sparked anger among his female colleagues in the Dáil.

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said she was concerned that such a “shallow view” of women still existed in Irish politics. “Handing a note over in the chamber is very peculiar and the contents, I think, didn’t do her justice,” Ms Corcoran Kennedy told the Irish Independent.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy questioned why Mr Lowry felt it was an appropriate way to lobby the Taoiseach.

“I wonder what type of a relationship he has with the Taoiseach that he can send that type of note,” Ms Murphy said.

“I think it’s done her a serious disservice and you think these type of things are over and then they crop up again.”

Former Fine Gael minister Lucinda Creighton said she believes the exchange between the Taoiseach and Michael Lowry was proof that the “nod and a wink” culture was an “attitude that still persists” throughout Government.

Ms O’Reilly has been running her business, Unicorn Public Relations, for more than a decade and clients include Clerys department store in Dublin and the Irish Heart Foundation.

Before setting up her own company, she worked with Chris Roche Publicity, where she handled various accounts including for Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.

Mr Lowry is currently facing High Court action over alleged unpaid taxes to the Revenue Commissioner.

Mr Lowry personally approached Mr Donohoe about the reappointment of his former press adviser to a State board. Mr Lowry pulled Mr Donohoe aside outside the Seanad chamber last Wednesday week and informed him “out of courtesy” that he intended to “pass a note to the Taoiseach” seeking the re-appointment of Valerie O’Reilly to the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Later in the Dail, the former minister handed the note to an usher who proceeded to pass it on to Enda Kenny.

NUIG appoints a leading woman as head of equality task force


A university forced to pay a lecturer €70,000 for failing to promote her because she was a woman has appointed a leading female academic to help shape its gender equality policies.

NUI Galway has asked Professor Jane Grimson of Trinity College Dublin to head up a new gender equality task force with a remit to help prevent future gender discrimination cases.

Prof Grimson, a computer engineer with a strong commitment to promoting the involvement of women in engineering and technology, is a former Dean of Engineering at TCD and helped establish that college’s Centre for Women in Science and Engineering.

President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne said the appointment was sanctioned by the college’s governing authority, which had stressed the need for an external, independent chairperson.

“We fully acknowledge the issues here for NUI Galway and are committed to addressing them. This appointment marks a milestone for the university in tackling gender equality.”

The move to set up a task force followed a ruling by the Equality Tribunal late last year which found in favour of a claim by now retired botany lecturer Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington that she had been unfairly overlooked for promotion for 20 years.

In addition to requiring that Dr Sheehy Skeffington be retrospectively promoted and compensated financially, the tribunal also made strong criticisms about the university’s promotions record and interview process.

Five other female academics who also applied unsuccessfully for promotions in 2009 announced they would be taking legal action against the university and Dr Sheehy Skeffington has donated her compensation payment to help fund their case.

Members of the university’s governing authority were greeted by a student demonstration as they gathered for their meeting yesterday. The students are calling for Dr Sheehy Skeffington’s five colleagues to be automatically promoted.

Rare protected bird shot dead in Kerry


Rare protected bird shot dead in Kerry

An investigation has been launched by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, after the young female hen harrier was discoveredThe Gardaí are also investigating the incident.

A protected species

Killing a hen harrier is an offence under the Wildlife Act, as the birds are listed as a protected species. The penalties include significant fines and/or imprisonment.

The bird had been followed by thousands of people online as part of a satellite tracking project run by the NPWS and local community group IRD Duhallow.

Dr. Barry O’Donoghue of the NPWS, who oversaw the satellite tracking project, said it gave people an insight into the life of this bird and her progress.

He said the tracking system showed that the bird visited Meath, Louth, Monaghan and Armagh and rested by the shores of Lough Neagh, before making a long distance journey all the way to the Atlantic cliffs of South County Cork.

The bird stayed there for most of her first winter with a number of other harriers. From these older birds, she would have learned of good hunting places and safe places to spend each night.

In late 2014 she returned to South Kerry, back to the very site where she was born. It seems likely that she might have returned to breed there this summer, but unfortunately her life has been cut short.

A survey of breeding hen harrier reported that 128 to 172 breeding pairs were recorded in 2010. However, the breed has been in decline in recent years due to hill farming, coupled with an increase in forestry.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Friday-Saturday-Sunday 8th, 9th % 10th August 2014

All political Parties should show their accounts, says the Chairman of S.I.P.O


388 complaints made about Michael Lowry in 2012

The commission, chaired by Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, states in the report it is “anxious that some form of guidelines for political party accounts be put in place as soon as possible.

All political parties would have to subject their accounts to public scrutiny under proposals from the Standards in Public Office Commission.

In its annual report for 2013, the commission emphasises that it would like to see guidelines for political party accounts that would give the public an indication of the amount of funds they raise each year and the nature of those funds.

It comes after earlier draft guidelines submitted by the commission were rejected by former minister for the environment Phil Hogan. They proposed that local branches of political parties, including youth wings, provide accounts. Mr Hogan rejected it on the basis that it would place too onerous a burden of reporting and accountability on local party branches which were voluntarily run. Sipo later published information showing almost €1 million was put in accounts for Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour.

Guidelines sought

The commission, chaired by Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, states in the report it is “anxious that some form of guidelines for political party accounts be put in place as soon as possible. If ministerial consent is forthcoming, the earliest period for which political party accounts will be required will be the year 2015 and this information will be made available during 2016.”

The new Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly will make the decision on that issue.

In all, there were some 29 complaints made against politicians in 2013, some 16 of which were deemed to be valid.

The report notes that the number of complaints had returned to more normal levels following an unprecedented number received by Sipo in 2012. There were some 427 complaints in that year, 388 of which related to Michael Lowry, principally about land interests he had in Wigan.

The report detailed the inquiries conducted by Sipo into complaints against Mr Lowry and others. In Mr Lowry’s case the conclusion was there was not sufficient evidence to sustain the complaints. In relation to the land in Wigan it was pointed out that its value fell below the threshold of €13,000 above which land must be registered by a TD as an interest.

The commission found there was no requirement on TDs and Senators who went to the US on a trip organised by Family and Life to register the costs as a donation as the Ethics in Public Office Act provided that a member can avail of such funding “in the course of, and for the purpose of, the performance of a function as a member [of the Oireachtas]”. The parliamentarians submitted a report to the Oireachtas after the visit.

HSE Emergency Dept. overcrowding gets worse over this summer


Emergency department overcrowding has worsened this summer compared to last summer, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

The INMO’s latest trolley and ward watch figures have confirmed an 8% increase in overcrowding in July of this year compared to July 2013.

The nurses’ union says the latest figures also confirm that many wards, in addition to ED departments, are now regularly overcrowded.

The figures show that during July, 5,535 patients admitted for inpatient care found themselves either on a trolley in an emergency department, or placed on an additional bed/trolley on an inpatient ward.

The INMO says the figures suggest that the health service continues to face ever-increasing demand with greatly reduced bed capacity.

The Organisation says the figures also show that five hospitals recorded huge increases in the number of patients on trolleys this summer compared to the previous summer.

Sligo Regional Hospital recorded a 187% increase in July 2014 compared to July 2013, while the Mater and St James’s in Dublin had a 154% increase.

INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said these significant increases represented a major challenge for the health service which it cannot ignore.

“The levels of overcrowding recorded in a number of hospitals during Julyare totally unacceptable, leave patients without dignity and privacy and causes excessive workloads on already overstretched frontline staff,” he said.


“Patients on trolleys are a real problem” says new Minister Varadkar


Figures for July show an 8% increase in numbers since last year

The number of patients on trolleys at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda has doubled in the past year, figures for July show.

The number of patients on trolleys in some hospital emergency departments is “a real problem”, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has admitted.

Responding to figures which show an 8% yearly increase in the number of patients on trolleys last month, Mr Varadkar said the HSE had responded by releasing €5 million for packages to speed up the discharge of patients and have them transferred home or to long-term care facilities.

“Most patients now in emergency departments will be in a bed or at home within nine hours. I am monitoring the trolley count on a daily basis and in some hospitals it is a real problem,” he said.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, which compiles the figures, said that five hospital emergency departments suffered big increases in the number of patients on trolleys between July 2013 and July 2014.

At Sligo Regional Hospital, the number of trolleys grew from 45 to 129, a rise of 187%. Dublin’s Mater hospital and St James’s Hospital saw trolley numbers grow by 154 per cent, while there was a doubling of numbers at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

Almost half (44%) of Irish workers admit to having been drunk while working


That means there’s probably someone drunk in your job right now.

Nearly half of Irish people have shown up to work drunk, a new survey has suggested.

Dublin-based law consultancy Peninsula Ireland questioned 1,353 Irish employees by telephone and found that 44% had been under the influence while at work and 77% of employees have had to discipline staff for being under the influence.

Alan Price, managing director of Peninsula Ireland said that there is a big difference between going out the night before and showing up to work still drunk.

“Employees who attend work under the influence of alcohol are not just putting themselves at risk but also the safety of others. It is fine heading to the pub at lunch for a quick drink or enjoying a few beers with your friends the night before, however when does it impede your job?”

Price says that some companies might consider random testing for employees to determine if they’re under the influence.

“It puts the safety and reputation of your business on the line. Employers may well wish to introduce random drug and alcohol testing into polices and if this is the case then they can implement at their discretion.”

The World Health Organisation says that one person dies from alcohol-related illness in Ireland every day and, while rates of binge drinking are falling, 75% of all alcohol consumed in Ireland is done as part of a binge drinking session.

Are you happy with your broadband speed?


A subsidised scheme to guarantee minimum speeds in broadband blackspots is being wound down.

RURAL BROADBAND USERS could be facing higher charges as the National Broadband Scheme is wound down.

A Government decision to end the scheme will affect users in some of the country’s worst broadband blackspots. They had been able to benefit from a subsidised service from 3 Ireland under the scheme. However, minimum speeds are no longer guaranteed.

Earlier this year it was announced that over €450 million will be invested in a new fibre broadband network that could bring broadband speeds of between 200 to 1000 Mbps to an initial 50 towns, with the Government committing to faster speeds across the country.

We want to know about your experience: Are you happy with your broadband speed?

Scientists closer to understanding the birth of the Sun


Researchers have investigated the solar system’s prehistoric phase to better understand the events that led to the birth of the Sun.

Researchers have investigated the solar system’s prehistoric phase to better understand the events that led to the birth of the Sun.

The team led by Dr Maria Lugaro and Professor Alexander Heger, from Monash University, used radioactivity to date the last time that heavy elements such as gold, silver, platinum, lead and rare-earth elements were added to the solar system matter by the stars that produced them.

“Using heavy radioactive nuclei found in meteorites to time these final additions, we have got a clearer understanding of the prehistory of the solar system,” Lugaro said.

“We can now tell with confidence the final one per cent of gold, silver and platinum, were added to the solar system matter roughly 100 million years before the birth of the Sun.

“The final one per cent of lead and rare-earth elements, such as those that make your smart phone, was added much later – at most, 30 million years before the birth of the Sun,” Lugaro added.

Lugaro said the detailed timing opened up new opportunities to understand the series of events that led to the formation of the Sun.

Some time after the last addition of heavy elements the solar system matter went into an ‘incubation’ period, during which time the stellar nursery formed – where the Sun was born together with a number of other stars.

“We now know this incubation period could not have lasted more than 30 million years. This offers us the chance to determine the lifespan of the nursery where the Sun was born, how massive it was and how many stars were born there together,” Lugaro said.

“Ultimately, we want to have a clear understanding of the circumstances of the birth of our star and the prehistory of the solar system.

“Understanding the timescales and processes leading to the formation of our solar system is key to relate its birth environment with that of other planetary systems in the galaxy,” Lugaro said.

UCD scientists find volcanic seabed off Donegal coast that could cause an Irish tsunami


The scientific breakthrough came on the Rockall Bank, a marine bed the size of Ireland which lies more than 500kms out to sea.

A team of scientists has found a previously undiscovered volcanic seabed fault off our west coast which could one day cause a tsunami.

The scientific breakthrough came on the Rockall Bank, a marine bed the size of Ireland which lies more than 500kms out to sea.

Thirteen scientists, led by UCD’s School of Geological Sciences, used a remotely operated vehicle at depths of up to one kilometre to find a new slope facing the west coast which could affect Ireland if it were to fracture again.

Among their discoveries was an abundance of a rare protected fish called the Orange Roughy, which can live for up to 150 years.

But it’s the discovery of the volcanic structure – or fault – which has stunned the scientific team aboard the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer.

“The faulting or fracturing of the earth’s surface under the sea is not as rare as people might think, but because it is not visible it is often not considered,” said Dr Aggeliki Georgiopoulou from UCD.

“The research of the scarps in this area will provide us with key information on the possibility of future land-slides in this region. As this particular slope is facing Ireland, if there were a new landslide to occur, we need to estimate if it would impact the Irish west coast.”

The scientists representing eight nationalities and led by Dr Aggeliki Georgiopoulou and Dr Veerle Huvenne from the National Oceanography Centre in the UK spent two weeks using a remotely-operated vehicle to study the Rockall Bank’s ocean floor.

They will now review 50 hours of seabed footage to see if a new landslide 520kms away could cause a tsunami.

The deep-sea escarpments they found were formed around 15,000 years ago.

“During the expedition we discovered that the scarps in this area are actually very different from one another both geologically and biologically, which we hadn’t anticipated as they are in such close proximity to one another,” said Dr Georgiopoulou.

With 50 rock samples and over 20 gravity cores retrieved, the team hopes to be able to explain this diversity.


“We now need to further review the samples and data to help answer questions such as: do these differences in the terrain mean that this wasn’t one single landslide? Could these escarpments have formed in different episodes and that’s why they look so different?” said the UCD scientist.

“This is the first time we took such a close look at a submarine landslide so it will take us some time to analyse the video – this is completely new information for us. The video footage has also revealed that sea-floor pinnacles evident on the Irish National Seabed Survey map are in fact volcanic edifices, so far not documented or included in the geological maps of the Irish offshore,” she said.

The group say their research may help them to understand the geologic behaviour of sediments and rock on slopes under the sea and establish a better understanding of the stability of our continental slope.

“The use of the new gravity corer provided scientists with an opportunity to retrieve three metre core sediments from areas under the seabed that haven’t been reached before,” said Dr Veerle Huvenne.

“Also capturing footage and taking samples using the Holland I gave us an unprecedented look at the terrain. It was as if we were in the field itself, walking around and selecting exactly the samples we needed, instead of taking a blind hit in 1000m water depth.

“Now we know exactly where each of our rock samples, short cores and biological samples came from,” she said.

Both scientists said the research was also about protecting marine life in the event of mineral exploration, and it may also lead to the discovery of some new medicines.