Archive | October, 2008

Olaitan Illori’s Appeal Against People Trafficking Conviction Dismissed

31 Oct

By J. P. Anderson:

The Court of Criminal appeal has dismissed an appeal against his conviction by a man found guilty of illegally trafficking immigrants into Ireland.

Olaitan Illori, a lawyer who is originally from Nigeria but was living in Blessington, Co Wicklow, was convicted on 12 counts of illegal trafficking of immigrants into Ireland.

He was sentenced to four years in prison in July of last year.

Each count related to one of 12 adults who tried to enter the country at Dublin Airport on 27 October 2004.

The group had travelled to Ireland via Paris and had paid substantial amounts of money to MDI – a company in Mauritius – to be provided with entry visas and work permits.

Today the court rejected as verging on the absurd the submission that the Mauritians brought into the country should be regarded as accomplices.

It found they were victims in every sense of the word and that Illori had acted for personal gain.

Previous related article:

A 38-year-old man has been found guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court of trafficking illegal immigrants into Ireland over two years ago.

Olaitan Ilori with an address at Oak Drive in Blessington in Co Wicklow was remanded on continuing bail for sentencing at the end of the month. Ilori is a dual citizen of Nigeria and Ireland.

Ilori was charged with organising or knowingly facilitating the entry into the State of 14 Mauritian nationals, whom he knew or had reasonable cause to believe were illegal immigrants.

Mr Justice Martin Nolan instructed the jury that they must return a not guilty verdict in the instances of two children included in that group of 14.

This afternoon after nearly seven hours of deliberations the jury of five women and seven men found Ilori guilty on twelve counts, relating to the adults in that group.

Eight of the verdicts were unanimous. Majority verdicts were delivered on four counts.

Ilori is required to sign on twice daily at Naas garda station and was remanded on continuing bail to appear again before the courts for sentencing on 26 July.

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Court Rules In Favour Of Psychiatric Patient In Hospital Detention

31 Oct

By J. P. Anderson:

The High Court has ruled in favour of a woman with psychiatric problems who challenged the laws under which she is detained against her will.

The court found that the extension of her detention for up to 12 months was unconstitutional. Mr Justice Bryan McMahon made an order for the woman’s release but put a stay on that order for four weeks until appropriate care is found.

The case, which continues this afternoon, resulted in emergency laws being rushed through yesterday as some 200 other people are being detained on the basis of similar orders.

President Mary McAleese signed emergency legislation into law last night that closes off a potential legal loophole covering the detention of people in psychiatric institutions.

The legislation was rushed through the Dáil and Seanad yesterday.

The move came in advance of today’s High Court judgment.

The Government decided on the advice of the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher SC, and the Minister for Health, Mary Harney, to bring forward legislation to cover the situation that might arise if the High Court decides there is a flaw in the forms signed by psychiatrists to detain people involuntarily.

It was argued during the current High Court case that the form used by psychiatrists renewing admission periods was too prescriptive as it contained boxes with specific time periods rather than allowing a psychiatrist to specify periods of admission other than three, six or 12 months.

The Minister was advised by the Attorney General yesterday morning that emergency legislation was required to avert a situation where all 209 people who are currently involuntarily detained in public and private psychiatric institutions would be entitled to their freedom if the High Court decision goes against the state today.

Ms Harney got the approval of her Cabinet colleagues in the early afternoon to bring the emergency legislation into the Dáil and Seanad. She then briefed the Opposition on the background to the decision and explained why it would apply retrospectively.

The emergency legislation entitled the Mental Health Bill 2008 provides that irrespective of the forms used, no period of admission will be invalid.

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Editor.

Education Cuts: Greens Are A Dead Party Says Gilmore

31 Oct

By J. P. Anderson:

THE Greens were branded a “dead” party yesterday after backing education cuts during a crunch Dáil showdown.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore insisted the junior government partner would not be forgiven by voters for supporting the rise in class sizes.
Green Energy Minister Eamon Ryan hit back, insisting the party was facing up to economic realities, while Fianna Fáil attacked the opposition for “hypocrisy”.

Mr Gilmore was scathing of the Greens’ backing for budget cuts that brought 12,000 protesters to the gates of Leinster House.
“The Green party went to the people at the last general election saying they were going to look after education and they were going to look after children. They have let them all down.
“If a party cannot stand up for the very issue it put in biggest highlights in its pre-election promises, is it any surprise that such a party drives a motorway through the Hill of Tara, that it builds incinerators which it told people it was never going to build or that it allows prisoners to be rendered through some of our airports?
“The Green party is dead; the Green party is beaten, and this is a sad day for this country,” he said.
Mr Ryan insisted the Greens had taken a responsible attitude to the dire economic situation Ireland was now in, but would continue to fight for more education resources in future budgets.
“When it came to the cuts, it was decided in government that every department would play its part but that there would not be cutbacks in real expenditure in education, health and social welfare. In education there is an increase in expenditure of €300 million rather than a real cut. However, the reality is that the wage bill and the increasing number of students required the Government to collectively agree a series of measures which would allow the minister operate within that budget,” he said.
Cork FF TD Michael McGrath said it was impossible to ring-fence education, health and social welfare from cuts as the three departments accounted for 78% of government expenditure.
The Government won the vote 80-74 after putting down a counter motion to Labour’s one criticising the cuts, which stated it was a necessity to stabilise the public finances through “difficult expenditure decisions” to ensure education can be sustained in the long run.

EDUCATION Minister Batt O’Keeffe has insisted school staffing changes proposed in Budget 2009 will return them to teacher allocations they had in 2007, when he says “the roof did not collapse”.
From next September, schools will have one classroom teacher for every 28 pupils at primary level, and for every 19 students in second-level schools.
But budget measures other than those staffing changes will mean that, when schools reopen after the summer holidays, many other things will be quite different from what they were in 2007.

LANGUAGE SUPPORT

Schools with high numbers of international children were given increased teachers in September 2007 to help children whose first language was not English.
This was to be the first stage of a Government commitment in the Towards 2016 social partnership agreement to provide an extra 550 language support teachers by 2009.
Up to then, one language support teacher was sanctioned for every 14 children in this category, but to a maximum of two.
Primary and second-level pupils have benefited from these extra teachers in the past two school years, but all schools will again be limited to two language support teachers from next autumn, meaning an automatic loss of four staff in dozens of schools.
There will be a double blow for those newcomer children in 2009 as, not only will they lose a few hours a week of English language teaching, they will be further diluted into larger classes than the previous two years.
This is also likely to have an impact on their classmates, as teachers strive to help children who have difficulty understanding what is being taught.
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
The Government has boasted of its success integrating children with varying special educational needs, and the increased number of special needs assistants in our schools is testimony to that.
But as with the international students, these children’s requirement for individual attention is vital to helping them reach their potential.
Even if primary and second-level class sizes were the same as they were in 2007, there is likely to be an increased proportion of pupils among the extra 14,000 Mr O’Keeffe predicts will be sitting in classrooms around the country next autumn.
The one-to-one help they get will therefore be less than two years earlier, as will the ability of teachers to cater for all the other students.
FUNDING
From next September, schools with Traveller students will be given just half the money they have received in previous years to help keep them in education by helping out with the costs of books, class materials and uniforms, and many schools previously given support for having high numbers of disadvantaged students will lose that funding.
Primary schools will have an average of €600 less next autumn in extra funding for learning materials used by teachers helping children with learning difficulties, or for

the remaining language support teachers.
CURRICULAR CHANGE The roll-out of a wider curriculum at primary and second level each year means more focus on children working in small groups to get a hands-on feel for many subjects.
In primary level science, a subject the Government is trying to get more young people interested in for the sake of the economy, teachers already complain that they are struggling to allow children working in sufficiently small groups to do their own experiments in class.
This was highlighted in a recent report by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), statutory advisers to Mr O’Keeffe, on implementation of the subject at primary level. The second-level staffing reductions — will mean schools possibly dropping science subjects as an option for Leaving Certificate students.
Higher and honour-level classes previously split up by schools might have to be taught together, meaning teachers’ time being shared between students of different abilities.

TEACHERS, parents and other interested groups will continue to lobby for a reversal of education cutbacks in the coming weeks and months despite their failure to persuade government TDs to vote against them.

The attendance of 12,000 people at a protest against education cuts outside the Dáil on Wednesday night will be used as a reminder to the Government of public concern about the issue, regardless of its survival on the Labour Party motion on class sizes yesterday.
It is understood that a number of government backbenchers have already agreed to lobby Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe and other cabinet members on those concerns.

The most urgent worries are about the impact of changes to substitution cover for teachers on uncertified sick leave from January, which primary and second-level schools say will lead to closures or children being sent home because of an inability to have classes supervised.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) outlined to Mr O’Keeffe yesterday, in a meeting after the Dáil vote, the effects it expects the cutbacks will have on schools.
“We emphasised the damaging effects that the removal of substitution will have in the very short term. We asked him to reflect very seriously on that matter because primary and second-level managerial authorities have said schools will be in chaos because of that decision,” said ASTI general secretary John White.
However, there was no sign that any changes are likely to be made to the proposed budget cuts.
“The minister told them he wants their members to work with him through the challenges ahead and co-operate with any changes proposed,” Mr O’Keeffe’s spokesman said.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) will hold rallies against education cuts each Saturday between November 8 and December 6 in Galway, Tullamore, Cork, Donegal and Dublin and ASTI members are being asked to highlight the effects on their schools to local Government party TDs in the coming weeks.
The result of a ballot of the INTO’s 25,000 members on the latest national pay deal is expected to be known at the weekend. It is unclear if this or the ballots of the ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland — open until November 7 and 14, respectively — will be used by the country’s 60,000 teachers as a protest vote against the budget.
However, the 6% pay rise which the deal would secure them and other public servants over 21 months from next September could be hard to turn down, given the economic changes witnessed even since the deal was agreed six weeks ago.
Mr White stressed that the pay deal and the budget are separate issues.

EVERY citizen must pull together and work harder to help Ireland beat the economic downturn, the Taoiseach said yesterday.
Brian Cowen told an international business summit in Dublin that everybody must play a part to restore confidence in the economy. It is important to tell the world that Ireland is still open for business despite a 30% slide in tax revenue and the collapse of the property market, he said.
Mr Cowen also said budgetary cutbacks were absolutely necessary because future generations will be saddled with repayments on high borrowings.

Employers’ group, IBEC, said it was right the Government should be supported by the public in taking difficult decisions.

“Not all of the Government’s decisions in the recent budget have been as well thought-out as they might have been,” said IBEC director-general Turlough O’Sullivan. “However, at a time of crisis it behoves all of us to support the general thrust of the budget strategy.”

Confront Those Who Make Anti-Gay Remarks Urges President

31 Oct

Stop homophobia: bullying of gays condemned

PRESIDENT MARY McAleese has called for an end to the bullying of gay people in Ireland.

The President, addressing a gay youth forum in Galway yesterday, urged her audience to challenge people who make homophobic remarks.

She said that the suffering of gay people who had been bullied was one of Ireland’s untold stories.

“Homophobic bullying continues to be a serious issue and a trend that we have to stop,” she said, adding that she was concerned about the issue and its link to suicidal behaviour.

She urged those present to “refuse to go along with the loud voices of prejudice”. The forum was organised by Belong To, an organisation which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people between the ages of 14 and 23.

President McAleese said that being gay was not a choice, but more akin to a life discovery.

She said that realising you were gay and feeling like there was something wrong with you could be “a diabolically lonely experience”.

“We know people who are gay who have paid the price dearly in terms of mental ill health for living as a heterosexual,” she said.

The President also made the link between her own experience growing up with sectarianism in Belfast and homophobia, saying that the two were first cousins. “Nobody should have to suffer because of their sexual orientation in this country,” she added.

Michael Barron, national development co-ordinator of Belong To, said that it was useful to link homophobia with sectarianism and racism.

“Sometimes homophobia is seen as less important than racism,” he said. “It needs to be taken more seriously.”

Mr Barron also cited research which states that there is a link between homophobic bullying and suicidal behaviour.

Through his work he said he came across some gay teenagers who suffered from guilt, shame and embarrassment. “They can sometimes feel there is something wrong with them,” he added.

Many LGBT groups from around the country travelled to the Galway forum to meet the President.

Among them were the Rural East Clare group, Dundalk Outcomers, the LGBT community of Waterford and the southeast and other representatives from Tipperary and Limerick.

Maria Jose Torres, project co- ordinator with shOUT, Galway’s LGBT group, said: “Some of our young people were touched by what the President had to say. It is major to have someone like the President support our work. It gives it the relevance it deserves.”

IFA Urges Government To Rethink On Budget Cuts

31 Oct

By J. P. Anderson:

The leader of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Padraig Walshe, has called on the Government to revisit the Budget cuts imposed on farmers.

He said the cuts were unacceptable, disproportionate and discriminatory.

He was speaking at a meeting in Tullamore last night attended by more than 1,000 sheep farmers.

The meeting was also addressed by the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith.

Mr Smith said difficult decisions had to be taken in the Budget and it was unfortunate that they were having an adverse impact on some people.

MORE THAN 1,000 angry sheep farmers from all over the country gave an angry reception to Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith in Tullamore, Co Offaly, last night where he met the Irish Farmers’ Association publicly for the first time since the Budget.

The Minister had accepted the invitation from the IFA to attend the meeting before the Budget, which contained the suspension of major farm schemes, was brought forward.

The Minister was heckled as he delivered his script on the sheep sector. Fog horns were sounded and there were shouts of “you are a disgrace” as he told them there was a future for the sheep industry but action was needed now.

During a question-and-answer session when Galway delegate Michael Silke said he was disappointed and there was “nothing in what you said”, there was loud applause and roars of approval.

There was even greater applause when Michael Holmes from Mayo attacked the “civil servant” who had never been near a sheep farm and who had written the Minister’s script, which contained nothing. A countyman of the Minister’s, Richard Moran, said when he met the Minister seven years ago he had 700 sheep. Now he had only 120.

He said unless there was money forthcoming there would be no industry left.

Michael Biggins of Mayo said he feared the Minister’s microphone had been switched off when he was at the Cabinet table because he had not stood up for sheep farmers, who were being robbed.

Mr Smith was offered a chance to “redeem himself” by getting the money for sheep farmers out of Europe and he was told by James Reynolds from Longford that he was not inspired by the Minister’s performance to get the money.

The Minister was told by IFA president Pádraig Walshe at the beginning of the session that the cuts were “unacceptable” and must be revisited as they were stifling agriculture but their job was to get a €30 per ewe payment for sheep from the EU.

The Department of Agriculture, said Mr Walshe, had not delivered to the package and there was now a real problem in the sector where the national flock had fallen by a quarter of a million animals to just over 2.5 million now.

The Minister defended the cuts made in the Budget and said difficult decisions had to be made to protect the advances made over the last decade.

He said he would need the support of the other 26 countries to get a €30 per head maintenance payment for their ewes as had been suggested by Liam Aylward in his report for the European Parliament, but many of these countries were not as interested in the industry as Ireland.

Mr Smith, who took notes of what the farmers were saying, said he was aware of all the difficulties they faced.

The Irish Farmers Association is planning a series of public meetings over the Budget.

IFA President Padraig Walshe said there is mounting anger in the farming community over the Government’s Budget cuts, which he said hit 60,000 low income farmers the hardest.

Mr Walshe urged farmers and local politicians to attend meetings in Mayo, Cavan, Cork and Donegal over the next fortnight.

Mr Walshe said the cut in Disadvantaged Areas Payments directly hit the incomes of 40,000 farmers and contravened Government commitments that the weakest groups would not be targeted in the Budget.

He said the Government’s attack on the 54,000 farmers participating in the Suckler Welfare Scheme comes as a further blow, hitting many of the same farmers.

Mr Walshe said young farmers were gutted by the shelving of the Installation Aid scheme.

‘This is an outrageous attack on young people struggling to get established in farming. Our industry needs young trained farmers to take over from their parents and the axing of the Retirement Scheme has thrown the succession plans of hundreds of farm families into disarray,’ he said.

UK: 340 Pupils Suspended Daily Over Violence

31 Oct

By J. P. Anderson:

More than 340 children are suspended for violence against other pupils every school day in England, figures from the

Conservatives showed.

Official data showed 65,390 pupils were temporarily excluded for violence against their classmates in 2006/07, the party said. The figure is up 2,720 on the previous year, and equates to 344 suspensions per school day.

The

Tories argued the figures demonstrated further evidence of the lack of discipline in schools.

They have also highlighted large increases in suspensions in certain areas.

In the London borough of Southwark, the number of exclusions for violence rose from 166 to 348 last year – up 110%. Hartlepool saw the number rise 53%, while they were up 50% in Middlesbrough.

Exclusions were up more than 10% in London as a whole, with inner London the UK region showing the biggest increase, up 20% to 3,430.

Across England overall, the increase was 4.3% between 2005/06 and 2006/07.

The Government defended the figures, saying teachers were using "short, sharp shocks" to control pupils.

But shadow children’s secretary Michael Gove said: "This is further evidence of the lack of discipline in our schools.

"It is vital that teachers are given control over the classroom so they can deal with bad behaviour before it escalates into violence."

UK: Smoking Advert Targets Parents

31 Oct

By J. P. Anderson:

A hard-hitting TV advert showing a young girl’s fears of her mum dying from smoking is going on air at family viewing time today.

Each week 2,000 people die from smoking related diseases in the UK.

This has a potentially devastating effect on children’s lives, according to the Department of Health, which has launched the new Smoke-free advert.

The advert opens on a darkened children’s bedroom and a young girl is heard saying: "I’m not scared of the dark."

The ad then cuts through a series of images, including a crawling spider and the leering face of a clown, with the young girl saying "I’m not scared of spiders", "I’m not scared of clowns".

It ends with a group of young mums who are chatting together and smoking; the girl says: "I’m scared of my mum smoking."

One of the mums turns and smiles at the camera and the girl says: "I’m scared that my mum will die."

The adverts are timed to air in the early evening when both parents and their children are most likely to be watching together.

Health experts hope the adverts will motivate parents to visit their

NHS Stop Smoking Services, which make stopping four times more likely.

Graham Taylor, 40, and his 37-year-old partner Julie quit smoking this year using the NHS Stop Smoking Services for the sake of their 10-year-old son Ellis.

Graham said: "I know that our smoking must have played on his mind. I know that smoking can affect kids negatively – it can prompt them to start smoking far too early.

"Going smoke-free is good for us all but it really benefits Ellis as it means he has a healthier lifestyle in a smoke-free environment."

*The NHS Smoking Helpline can be reached on 0800 169 0169.