Archive | August, 2008

Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge Is Cracking-up Says Expert

31 Aug

Concern Raised Over Stability of Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge

By J. P. Anderson

An independent expert has been called in to examine one of Ireland’s foremost landmarks over fears it is falling apart because of global warming.

Dublin City Council insists the prominent O’Connell Bridge at the foot of the capital’s main thoroughfare is structurally sound after routine repairs last week.
But conservationists have spotted a fresh crack in the centuries-old granite crossing over the River Liffey that they say points to serious damage that could result in its collapse.
The National Conservation and Heritage Group (NCHG) believe higher tides caused by climate change are eroding the bridge’s structure and may have dangerously weakened its foundations.
The group — made up mainly of a handful of high-ranking politicians, including an MEP and the politician brother of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern — have called in an independent structural engineer.
Dr Peter McCabe, who specialises in marine engineering and has worked in the field for 40 years, said he is worried from the reports he has received.
“All the indications — from descriptions I’m getting — are that the piers that support the bridge are settling,” he said.
“Cracks don’t appear on the superstructure of a pier for no reason. The primary reason is usually subsidence, an undermining of the foundation.”
Dr McCabe said he is travelling from his base in Cork to Dublin tomorrow morning to examine for himself the suspected crevice on the south-west section of the bridge.
“Bridges are built on piers and piers are very stable. If they settle — that is to say, subside, even millimetres — cracks develop,” he said.
“I’m suspicious that the foundations to these piers have been eroded, in view of the strong flow of the river in recent times.
“But until I see it, I won’t be certain. ”
The engineering consultant said if his fears are confirmed a detailed underwater examination using powerful lights will be needed at the foundations.
Damien Cassidy, a solicitor and NCHG chairman, said he noticed a fracture after council officials completed restoration of a balustrade and several pillars last week.
“An ordinary layman’s inspection of the bridge from the Aston Quay side reveals a considerable horizontal crack,” he said.
“I hope I am wrong about the crack, because if I’m not, there’s a danger that one of the bridge’s alcoves — under a heavy weight, perhaps three or four buses – could actually collapse.”
A Dublin City Council spokeswoman said: “There is no structural instability on O’Connell Bridge and we carry out regular inspections on the bridge. It is structurally sound.”
Mr Cassidy, who makes up the NCHG with former Dublin Lord Mayor Maurice Ahern, MEP Eoin Ryan as well as TDs (MPs) Joe Costello and Chris Andrews, said authorities were ignoring the impact of rising water levels.
“The water is hitting the bridge at high tide. It should not be hitting the bridge, it should be going under it,” he said.
“It looks like they are closing their eyes to global warming and flood risks.”
The conservationist, pointing out the collapse of several bridges around the country in recent floods, urged an official engineer’s report on all the old bridges spanning the Liffey.
Dublin may even need to consider massive protective measures like the Thames Barrier in London, he said.
O’Connell Bridge was designed by James Gandon, the revered architect behind many of the city’s most impressive buildings, including the Custom House and the Four Courts.
Built in 1794-98, it was originally called the Carlisle Bridge and widened and altered in 1800 before being renamed eighty two years later after Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell.

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Gay ? The Lord God Made Us All

30 Aug

Gay ? The Lord God Made Us All

By J. P. Anderson

MOST of you will have heard of the term “coming out” at sometime or other in your life. It’s the short form of “coming out of the closet”.
It’s basically telling someone about your sexuality. It really only applies to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. If you are LGBT or if you’re questioning your sexuality, the burden on your mind is enormous. Telling someone can lift a weight off your shoulders.
However, who/if/when you tell is up to you. It can remain your secret forever, but chances are that would require you to live a very sad and lonely life. Having done it before, and talked to other people who’ve come out as well, I’d like to offer you a little bit of advice.

Tell a mate first. The best person, and indeed the person who probably already knows is your best friend. If you’re gay, chances are this’ll be a girl. For me, the majority of my friends are girls. With the help of your best mate, tell other mates. Its easier if you’ve someone to back you up.
Talk to an adult you trust. If you’re in school some excellent people to talk to are your guidance counsellor or your Chaplin. Again it’s up to you though. Someone who knows you really well will always accept you for who you are.
Talk to a helpline. The best example is a gay switchboard, where you’ll always find some one with a listening ear who knows exactly what you’re going through.
Tell your parents. This is the trickiest one. Some people will find it easy to tell their parents, others won’t. You’ll more than likely be afraid of what your parent’s reactions will be. This is normal.
Tips I would give are:
Don’t be on your own when you tell them. Have moral support from a close friend or relative.
Have a back-up plan. This is an extreme measure, but have a place to stay in case you need to leave the house for the night.
Expect the unexpected. When parents find out about their children’s sexuality, they go through a kind of grieving/guilt phase because they have to come to terms with the fact that you (probably) won’t be giving them grandchildren and they may try to blame themselves for your sexuality.
Reassure your parents. Try to explain to them that it’s not a choice you’ve suddenly

made and it’s nothing to do with the way they brought you up, it’s just who you are. Explain to them that you’re no different today than you were yesterday.
Give them time. Remember, the plan they’ve envisaged for you has been changed slightly and they need time to adjust. The best piece of advice I got from a gay friend is that you shouldn’t tell your grandparents.
I’m not saying definitely don’t tell them, I’m just saying it’s something that would be hard for them to understand.
You have to remember that all through their lives they’ve probably been influenced strongly by a church and that homosexuality has always been a taboo topic for them.
Like I’ve said, who you tell, if you tell and when you tell is entirely up to you. You may need to get it off your chest, or you may survive till you get to college. The only person who can judge the right time is you. Listen to your heart and your brain.
FOR a teenager, there is little crueller than their peers unleashing a barrage of taunts and teases.
And while it is a sad indictment of the taboo that still surrounds homosexuality in this country today, considering the pack mentality of the schoolyard it is perhaps not surprising that a recent Trinity College survey found 50% of gay and lesbian students are subjected to bullying at school.

More worrying however, is the suicide rate among gay teens — they are six times more likely to take their own lives than their heterosexual peers.
According to David Carroll, project leader with BeLonG To, a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenered young people, the fear of coming out is almost greater than the revelation itself.
“If you grow up hearing names like faggot, queer, poof, for a young person who thinks they might be gay, coming out means facing a barrage of insult and ridicule from their peers.
“Listening to the negativity that is associated with being gay can cause what’s called ‘internalised homophobia’, meaning they actually believe what they have heard for so long. It is this kind of thing that can then lead to self-harm and suicide. It is a problem that needs to be addressed.”
With a growing public profile, from pop stars to soap stars, popular culture has accepted homosexuality, but the open-mindedness still hasn’t hit the school yards, where increasing number of gay and lesbian students are experiencing homophobic bullying and harassment.
“More than 80% of the people who come to our youth session have experienced homophobic bullying — it is our most prevalent problem. It is mainly verbal but often can be physical and even sexual — for instance young men in changing rooms being groped.”
The reason for this upsurge, said David Carroll is because the increased visibility on TV and in the media means younger people can see it, identify with it — and are coming out at a younger age.
“And because this is the first generation of Irish people who are doing this, we are seeing these problems,” he said.
Schools now need to take a lead on the issue, which support groups say can easily be addressed.
A campaign initiated last year and driven by members of BeLonG To aimed to highlight the issue of homophobic bullying in school using posters and talks to raise awareness.

But many schools did not display the posters, and there is an uneasy feeling that many schools, Catholic in orientation, are reluctant to open the debate on homosexuality.
Dave Roche, community development manager of Cork Gay Project and UNITE, a support group for young gay people, aged 16– 24 said he has come across a “Catholic right-wing” mentality which is difficult to change.
“I don’t want to oversimplify, but it is the simple lack of any reference to feelings and lifestyle of a gay person. It is very much heterosexual orientated and this contains a hidden message that there is nothing else. It is almost impossible for teachers to come out in the work place and that too sends a message.”
The Rainbow Support Services, a support network for gay people in the mid-west, said that it had written to 69 secondary schools in the mid-west letting them know about its services, but only got responses from five of these schools.
“In the 22 years we have been in the mid-west we have been only asked once to go into a secondary school to do a workshop on our helplines and that school was in Limerick. I am not surprised at the lack of response from schools given their ethos around religion,” said Vanessa Buswell.
But this kind of bullying happens to teenagers who are not even gay, said Dave Roche, and teens who do not conform to stereotypes — if a young male does not play sport for instance — are singled out for abuse.
According to Mr Roche, by not addressing this issue, schools are allowing other forms of discrimination, like racism, to fester.
Gemma Tuffy of the Association of Secondary School Teachers (ASTI) said although teachers might be concerned promoting advice in schools could expose them to action by management and parents, its message to teachers is very clear.
“We are insistent that homosexuality should be discussed openly and that they do need to proactive.”
But while it is easy to blame schools and teachers, it is young people themselves who need to challenge attitudes, said Mr Carroll. “Often the problem for teenagers is that they think they are alone — they feel isolated and are afraid.”
Parents too are worried about their child being bullied in this way, but have no confidence about taking further steps, said Mr Roche
“Parents are often the silent victims in this. They are facing old stereotypes about what it mean to be gay and they too fear facing family and friends.
Mr Carroll backs this up.
“The main reason parents are calling is because they are worried about their child and what they might face. They generally want to be supportive.”
A spokesperson for the Sexual Health Centre in Cork, which trains young people to be peer educators, said that larger numbers were taking the course each year.
“Peer Education is about providing young people, who want to be able to help others to access information and learn about their own sexuality, with the information they need to inform their peers on issues that affect them.
“We want to tell young people that they don’t have to rush into anything. There is a lot of talk about sex, but not all young people are out there doing it.”
A twenty-year-old bisexual man, recently qualified as a peer mentor said coming out at school was a big no-no.
“I would say most people wait until they are at college. It is the first opportunity that you really have. It is still a big struggle though. And even after people have made it, they still worry about what people will think — friends and especially family. The homophobic attitude is still there unfortunately.”

For further information and support contact BeLonG To at 01-873 4184

www.belongto.org

France: International Dragnet For Calais Rapist Interpol Alerted

30 Aug

France: Interpol Alert For

Calais Jungle Camp Rapist:

International Manhunt Launched

By J. P. Anderson

A man who raped a UK journalism student at an illegal immigrants’ camp in Calais is believed to be a people smuggler and may have fled to England, police have said.

An international manhunt is under way after the attack on a 31-year-old Canadian-born woman on Tuesday night.

She was set upon while visiting a makeshift camp known as The Jungle near the port in Calais.

The woman, who was studying in London and had lived in Britain for years, had gone there to produce a photojournalism report.

Now French detectives reportedly believe she may have been attacked by a human trafficker.

Meanwhile, photofit images of the rapist had been put together using descriptions by the victim and a witness.

The two pictures, which are described as "very similar", have been sent to the French ports, the British authorities and Interpol.

Vice-prosecutor Philippe Muller said there was a strong possibility the man was a people smuggler or migrant and had already left the country.

He said: "We fear he may well have already gone, possibly to England or to another French port. It’s also possible he’s gone to Belgium or the Netherlands."

Investigators have traces of the rapist’s DNA and also his fingerprints to help identify him.

It is believed he is not a French national but this possibility is not being ruled out, Mr Muller added.

Police could not say how many migrants at the camp have been questioned as the investigation is continuing.

The Jungle is one of several camps where illegal immigrants wait to smuggle themselves across the Channel and into the UK.

A police spokesman said: "Conditions in the camp are very hard. The occupants’ sole aim is to secure their passage to Britain.

"You have to be very careful when entering these camps. The people there, mostly men, have an illegal status; they have no job and no home. The Jungle is a dangerous place and it’s not safe to go there."

About half the occupants of the camps in Calais tend to be from African countries such as Sudan, Mali and Eritrea, while others have come from countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, according to aid workers.

The victim is believed to have visited the wood more than once before she was raped.

New Armed Garda Unit For Limerick and Cork

29 Aug

New Armed Garda Unit for Limerick and Cork

By J. P. Anderson

A HEAVILY armed and highly trained Garda unit is to hit the streets of Cork from Monday week.
The Regional Support Unit (RSU) is being piloted in the Garda Southern Region, with sub-units in Limerick and Cork.
The Limerick unit is due to be operational next week, followed by the Cork unit.
The units are armed and trained to a similar standard as the elite Emergency Response Unit (ERU), in Limerick since March.

The units form a “second tier” firearms response to armed situations, including barricade incidents.
They were recommended by Garda Inspector Kathleen O’Toole in her review of the Barr Tribunal, which examined the shooting dead of John Carty in Abbeylara, Co Longford, in 2000.
The squads will deal with armed incidents, including shootings and armed robberies.
The units have been assigned reinforced patrol cars. The firearms will be held in a secure box in the boot. The box will contain less-than-lethal weapons, such as incapacitant sprays and Taser shock guns, and lethal weapons, including Heckler and Koch machine guns and Benelli shotguns.
It’s understood about 24 gardaí and eight sergeants have been trained for the two units. The operational strength of each unit is 10 gardaí and two sergeants, with two other gardaí and two other sergeants spare to fill any vacancies.
“They were trained to the same level as the ERU, which is very high,” said one source.
The training period was three months. The oldest garda is thought to be about 35.
It’s understood up to half of all the gardaí who applied failed to reach the mark, in terms of capabilities and fitness.
The unit in Limerick will be involved in responding to gangland shootings and preventing a resurgence of the violent gang feuds.
With gangland shootings much rarer in Cork, the unit is likely to be concerned with armed robberies.
The gardaí in the units are supposed to carry out normal patrol duties in marked Garda cars and will only convert into RSU mode if they are called to an armed incident. They will change clothes and access the weapons. A number of signs will be placed on the patrol car to distinguish the vehicle from other marked patrol cars.
The RSU will be piloted for some months followed by a review.
If successful they will become permanent and the green light with be given for units in other regions.
The main Garda associations have expressed concern at aspects of the units but agreed to the pilots.
The Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors will conduct their own analysis of the pilots.
They are concerned at “blurring” the distinction between unarmed uniformed members and non-uniformed armed officers.

Ireland A Haven For International Criminal Gangs: Europol

29 Aug

Ireland a Haven for International Criminal Gangs: Europol

By J. P. Anderson

IRELAND is a “highly attractive” destination for illegal immigrants and criminal gangs smuggling them in, according to an EU security report.
The report also said Irish criminal gangs were bypassing international drug traffickers in Europe and arranging deals in “source” countries.
“The UK and Ireland are highly attractive destinations for illegal immigrants and organised crime (OC) groups who facilitate illegal immigration,” said the EU Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2008, conducted by Europol.

“Both countries are favourite destinations because of a flourishing economy and consequent demand for workers, particularly in low-skilled sectors, and the image of easy access to health, welfare and education systems.”
The report by the EU police co-ordination agency said “significant numbers of people” were attempting to enter Ireland.
“Nigerian OC groups for generations present in, amongst others, the UK and the Netherlands, and responsible for various forms of fraud, are now also discovered in Ireland,” said the report.
The assessment said educational establishments had gained importance in facilitating illegal immigration in Ireland and Britain.
“This allows the use of genuine documents instead of falsified documents to apply for access to a school. Recently, also, bogus schools, established by the OC group themselves, help in obtaining the visa applications by providing the necessary documents.”
The report said Irish criminals based in drug-trafficking hubs in north-western Europe, particularly in the Netherlands and Belgium, acted as “facilitators for drug deliveries” to their home country.
The report said some Irish gangs were directly organising shipments from production countries.
“Established Irish OC groups are starting to bypass the criminal hubs and becoming active in the source countries,” said the report.
Ireland has two Garda liaison officers in Europol, based in The Hague, and a Customs liaison officer is pending.

Suicide Rate Six Times Higher Among Gay Teens

29 Aug

Suicide Rate Six Times Higher Among Gay Teens

By J. P. Anderson

HOMOPHOBIA is still a significant problem in schools, with teachers ill-equipped to talk about the issue of sexuality, a support network for gays and lesbians has claimed.
Rainbow Support Services (RSS) said it was recently forced to find accommodation for a 16-year-old boy and girl from the mid-west after they were forced out of their homes and schools after ‘coming out’ about being gay.
RSS co-ordinator Vanessa Buswell said the teenagers had to find work after they were “thrown out” of home. She said homophobia was a greater problem in schools than in the home.

A recent survey by Trinity College found 50% of gay and lesbian students were subjected to bullying in school. This compares with 16% who are bullied outside of school.
Despite the fact that the suicide rate among gay teenagers is six times higher than heterosexual teenagers, secondary schools in the mid-west have spurned approaches from RSS.
“We have written to 69 secondary schools in the mid-west letting them know about our services and we only got responses from five of these schools. In the 22 years we have been in the mid-west we have been only asked once to go into a secondary school to do a workshop on our helplines and that school was in Limerick. I am not surprised at the lack of response from schools given their ethos around religion,” said Ms Buswell.
Michael Barron of BeLonG To — the support organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered young people — said: “Teachers are still ill-equipped to talk about gay and lesbian identity. They can talk about inclusion and racism but not about sexuality. It is time to open up now particularly when the safety of students is at risk.”
Rose Tully of the Irish Parents Council said homophobic bullying was making it difficult for teenagers to become comfortable with their sexual orientation.
“I feel it’s important that students have available all the advice that is there. No parent or teacher wants to see a young person die by suicide by not having access to the available advice.”
The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) said a clause in the Employment Equality Act could cause problems for their members as it defends the right of schools to adhere to a certain ethos.
Gemma Tuffy said teachers might be concerned that by promoting advice in the

Schools it could expose them to action by management or parents.
She said ASTI had its own hotline for teachers who are gay and would like to extend this service to pupils.

www.belongto.org

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Additional information:

What Is BeLonGTo?

BeLonG To is an organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people, aged between 14 and 23.

We provide safe, positive and fun environments for LGBT young people – facilitating them through exploration, development and growth so that they can access all their rights as equal citizens participate as agents in positive social change.

BeLonG To also provide a lobbying and campaigning voice on LGBT youth issues and works to support the development of youth services to LGBT young people throughout Ireland.

We were established in 2003 and our work can be broadly broken down as follows:

YOUTH WORK

BeLonG To started out as a youth work delivery service. The youth groups now include:

BeLonG To Sunday – a weekly youth group that often attracts more than fifty young people each Sunday

LadyBirds weekly group for LBT young women.

IndividualiTy – a youth group for transgender young people.

BeLonG To also provides a Drugs Education & Prevention Outreach service, which conducts crisis intervention work and delivers awareness programmes to young people at BeLonG To. This service is funded by The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and supported by the North Inner City Drugs Task Force.

ADVOCACY AND CAMPAIGNING

BeLonG To provide a national voice for LGBT young people and their issues, playing an important role in campaigning for the rights of LGBT young people. Campaigns have included the very successful ‘So Gay!’ campaign as well as the ‘Stop Homophobic Bullying in School’ campaign. BeLonG To has also lobbied on the issue of suicide, resulting in the inclusion of LGBT people as a named ‘at risk’ group in ReachOut – the governments 10 year strategy on suicide prevention.

NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT – BeLonG To Ireland


The National Development programme – BeLonG To Ireland – supports the development of designated LGBT youth work outside Dublin. It also addresses the inclusion of LGBT issues in mainstream youth work and supports research and training on LGBT issues.

www.belongto.org

Four Children Committed Suicide Last Year

28 Aug

Four Children Committed Suicide Last Year

By J. P. Anderson

FOUR children aged 14 or younger died by suicide last year.
The children, three boys and a girl were among 460 people who took their own lives in 2007, a death toll that represents a rise of 12% over the 409 suicides that took place in 2006.
The true number could be higher, however, as 119 deaths from injury or poisoning was classified as “events of undetermined intent”. These included two children aged 14 or under.

Males accounted for 398 suicides, four out of five of all such deaths, according to the figures from the Central Statistics Office. The biggest single number of suicides recorded — 89 — was among men in the 25-34 age groups.
By contrast, the 55-64 age groups were the greatest risk group among women, although female suicides were evenly distributed across all the age groups.
Suicide is still a relatively low cause of death in Ireland, especially when compared with heart disease and strokes, which caused 9,931 deaths; cancer, which took 7,844 lives; and lung conditions, which killed 3,541.
However, the overall suicide toll of 460 last year was the highest in three years and the four deaths recorded in the 5-14 age group was higher than in any of the previous six years. There were two such deaths in 2006, three in 2005, two in 2004 and 2003, none in 2002 and two in 2001.
Although research is continuing and the National Office for Suicide Prevention does carry out analysis on the suicide figures in Ireland, the small numbers that occur in the 14 years and younger age group do not allow analysts to draw any clear conclusions, said a HSE spokesperson.
Lloyd Byrne, regional manager with the ISPCC, said the figures were sad, but not surprising. The organisation’s Childline service last year received 814 calls from suicidal children and teenagers and 204 calls from children who had already self-harmed.
“The numbers are increasing, probably because children are more aware of the service and more able to contact it, because they have mobile phones, but it also shows a serious underlying problem,” he said.
Mr Byrne added that demand for Childline showed official services were lacking. “Our busiest times are evenings and at weekends when social services are not available. We need a proper out-of-hours support system for children,” he said.

The Samaritans’ regional publicity officer, Mary Malcolm, said while the organisation was not in a position to collect statistics, anecdotally its volunteers dealt with a lot of young callers.
Childline: 1800 666666 Samaritans: 1850 609090.

ALSO:

Study reveals trend reversal as more men than women inflict self-harm:
MORE men than woman inflict repeated, deliberate self-harm on themselves in a reversal of previous trends in such behaviour, research has revealed.
Dr Ella Arensman of the National Suicide Research Foundation said the research underlined the need to examine how effective treatment programmes are for men who repeatedly self-harm.
Dr Arensman was lead researcher in the study of deliberate self-harm in eight European regions, including Cork and Limerick that will be presented today at a conference in Glasgow.

Researchers from the Network for International Collaboration on Evidence in Suicide Prevention collected data on more than 44,000 cases of self-harm in eight European regions between 1989 and 2003.
Dr Arensman said the gender pattern in relation to repeat self-harm had changed since the previous two decades when the rates were similar for men and women across Europe.
“I believe it is crucial that we look at how effective treatment programmes are for men because most studies up to now only involve women,” she said.
The research also revealed that a significant number of men and women who present at hospital emergency departments in Ireland with self-inflicted injuries are not being assessed.
The study found that six months after presenting at A&E, 16% of men and 12% of women in Ireland had not received an assessment.
“We know that a lot of people who self-harm continue to engage in this practice and are most at risk during the three months following a visit to hospital,” she said. “We also know that a lot of people who engage in self-harm also engage in self-cutting and what is also new is that there is no difference between men and women who engage in repeated self-cutting.”
Dr Arensman said the National Office for Suicide Prevention’s 10-year strategy, called Reach Out, recommended that a standard assessment procedure be introduced in hospitals for patients who self-harm.
“The recommendation is not yet implemented at national level and it should be, particularly in the light of these findings. We cannot afford to be complacent — assessments must be provided immediately a patient presents with a self-inflicted injury,” she said.
Other research discussed at the conference include a Stirling University-led study in which 700 teenagers aged 15 and 16 in central Scotland were questioned about self-harm. About 14% said that they had self-harmed.
It found that those who reported having concerns about sexual orientation, a history of sexual abuse or knew a family member who self-harmed, were more likely to act. Low self-esteem was also a factor.