Archive | February, 2009

Cowen Pledges New Banking Standards

28 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

Major changes to banking regulation, including the merger of the Central Bank and Financial Regulator, will be announced by the Government within weeks to "bring an end to a sorry chapter in Irish life"; Taoiseach Brian Cowen has told 4,000 Fianna Fáil delegates attending the party’s Ard fheis in Dublin.

"There is huge anger and disgust out there at the way some of our bankers behaved. What they did was wrong, it was selfish and it caused a lot of pain and hardship to Irish people. They will not be forgiven easily. There is little return however, in wasting anger slamming the banks," he said.

The Garda Fraud Squad and the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby "will look after that", said Mr Cowen, who insisted that the Government’s actions to date with banks were necessary and justified: "If any market economy is to function properly, and if enterprise is to prosper, we need a fully functioning banking system that works."

"What we need to do now is fix the damage they have caused. In the weeks ahead, I will introduce new standards of banking regulation and new standards of corporate governance, which will restore our reputation and move us to the forefront of best international practice," he went on.

A Central Banking Commission, incorporating the responsibilities of the Central Bank and the supervision and regulatory functions of the Financial Regulator, will be created based on a Canadian model, while an overseas banking regulator will be brought in to keep oversight of the banks.

The changes will "underpin confidence in our financial system", get credit flowing again, lay down clearer lending rules and ensures that the financial system "that acts in the interest of the customer rather than short term gain. This initiative will mark an end to a sorry chapter in Irish banking history".

Taxes will have to rise, he said, but he did not say by how much and when: "Our tax system needs to change. During the good times, we developed a fairer and more progressive tax system that allowed people to keep more of their own money. Everyone had a better standard of living.

"That tax model was based on continuing growth. It works best when we have high employment and a thriving economy.

Unfortunately, we are not a thriving economy for now, and we need to adapt our tax system to fit our new circumstances. Everyone will need to pay more," he said.

Hinting that some workers currently not in the tax net will have to be brought into it, the Taoiseach said: "And while no one can be insulated from this reality we will seek to do it in a fair way that is based on ability to pay. Those that can bear it best will have to bear it most.

"But all will have to bear some burden; the scale of the challenge is so big. Through this combination of higher taxes and increased cuts in spending we will restore balance to our public finances by 2013," he said, in a clear indication that he will not bow to demands for an emergency budget.

Opening his speech, he said: "I realise tonight as I talk to you that many of you here in this hall and around the country have worries for yourselves, your families and your future. We are living in uncertain times and people are concerned about their jobs, their businesses and their homes."

Describing the crisis as the worst since 1929, he said: "The choices we make now as a society will have a profound affect on our country, and the generations of Irish people to come. How did we get here? Recessions are tough. They hurt people. They create anxiety. They say that the pain of losing something is greater than the joy of gaining it."

Clearly conscious of criticisms that he has not offered leadership, Mr Cowen said: "Now as Taoiseach, I am tasked with guiding this nation through one of the biggest challenges of her history. It is the greatest honour of my life to lead this Republic, but like you, I wish these were better days.

"But this is the situation we are in. And it is my job now, to work with all of you to make things better, for all of us. And for our country. I am confident that with your help, we can survive this situation and return Ireland to growth and to better times. We have done this before, and we can do it again.

"The fact is, we are now spending too much on the day to day running of the country. During the good times we could afford it, during the bad times we just can t. It s as simple as that," he said, adding that "every item of Government spending" is currently being reviewed.

The Cabinet will approve a Enterprise Stabilisation Fund with an opening budget of €100 million to be run by Enterprise Ireland: "The aim of the fund is to support viable but vulnerable exporting companies who, but for this recession, would be thriving," he told the 4,000 delegates attending.

The recession is causing, and will cause pain: "The measures we are taking to restore our economy will be painful for all. Living standards will fall across the country, and we will need to adjust. Services will suffer in the short term, and we will need to be patient," Mr Cowen said.

"But if we want to get back on track, if we want to get our country moving again, we have to do the right things now, regardless of the short-term political consequences," he said.

Urging people to co-operate and help each other, he said: "I want to see an Ireland that backs herself. Sometimes we are too quick to condemn and criticise in this country. There are cynics who will always say we can t do it, that there is no hope. Well, the Irish people don t need that now. It s a time for pulling together.

"I want to see a society that benefits all of us on this island, irrespective of class, colour or creed. Rural, urban, foreign or native, private or public. We are a beautifully complex people, a nation of a thousand parishes. But we are on the same island now, and to make this day dawn again, we have to stick together. Ireland holds us all together; we must all mind her now," he said.

Facing Challenges Together:

Address by Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance, to the 72nd Fianna Fáil Ard fheis

We are living in turbulent times. The difficulties facing our economy are the most challenging in the history of our State.

We are experiencing an international recession of unsurpassed severity, prompted in turn by the worst crisis in international financial markets in 60 years. Every major world economy is suffering or will suffer this year. Our problem is compounded by unhelpful exchange rate movements and by our over reliance in the recent past on the housing sector as the driver of growth.

Of course, if we could have foreseen the extent of the international crisis, we would have done things differently. Perhaps as a Government we were over-ambitious in trying to meet the understandable demands of our people for more and better public services when the resources were there.

There is little to be gained in beating ourselves up over this. We have to get on and do what we can and do it in a united way.

These are very testing times for our party. But we, of all parties, should know our obligations to the country must take precedence over party or sectional interests. Sean Lemass along with Ken Whittaker rescued this country from the abyss in the

Late fifties. Ray McSharry, did it in the late eighties. Now, we must measure up to our responsibilities. Our determination must be to do what is right for the country. We will leave the pursuit of political populism to others.

There are three inescapable facts we must all face:

First, this year, we will have to borrow four and a half thousand euro for every man woman and child in this State.

Second, over one quarter of all our day to day bills, including pay, will be paid for by borrowed money.

Third, the interest on this borrowed money will use up one third of all the income tax receipts we expect to take in this year: dead money that should be going to meet our public service needs.

We have an €18 billion hole in the public finances. The world is looking on. We need to persuade those who might invest here that we are capable of taking the tough decisions now to get our house in order. If we cannot do that, we are in danger of losing all the gains we have made over the last twenty years.

Thankfully, our establishment of, and investment in, the National Pension Reserve Fund means that our net debt is comparatively low and this, together with the cash balances built up by the NTMA allows for a better funding position than would otherwise be the case.

Nonetheless we must get our cost base down as quickly as possible and become the highly competitive economy we once were, if we are going to achieve future export-led growth.

Last week, in the teeth of implacable opposition, this government took an important step on the road to our recovery. We voted through the bill that gives effect to levy that will see public servants pay on average 7.5% to the cost of their pensions.

We know this will be painful for public servants and their families. We know it has caused anger. But the choices facing us are stark. Unless we take the pain now, greater sacrifices will be needed at a later date. Let us be clear: this is not about

Targeting public servants. It is about asking those in secure, guaranteed pensionable employment to make the same adjustment that is taking place across the economy. The greatest tragedy of any recession is joblessness. Every day, workers in all our

Communities are losing their jobs. Each day last month, 1,000 workers became unemployed. Many others are maintaining their jobs only by taking cuts in their pay, in some cases of up to 25%.

The public service pay bill accounts for one third of all expenditure. To get our public finances back in order, there simply was no alternative but to make savings in the area of pay and pensions.

It is also essential that savings be made in the public pay bill as part of the comprehensive national effort to adjust pay bills downwards with the aim of restoring competitiveness in our economy.

There has been much talk in the last few days about the need to increase tax. Both the Taoiseach and I have said tax increases and the broadening of the base are an essential part of our plan to get the country back on the road to economic recovery.

But there is much ill-informed comment about taxation. We constantly hear that somebody else should pay: we all have to pay. It is important to point out that the top 1% of all earners whose income is over €200,000 contribute 20% of the total

Income tax yield. The 2% who earn over €150,000 contribute 28%. And the 6% who earn over €100,000 contribute 47% of the entire income tax take.

And let us look at the income levy we introduced in the budget. This is levied on gross income; that is, before any deductions. Like income tax, those earning over €100,000 pay a very high percentage of the income levy yield: some 37% in fact.

Over the last ten years, when we could afford it, we progressively reduced the tax burden on the lower paid to the point where 40% of all income earners are now outside of the tax net.

According to the latest figures, a married one-income couple with two children on average earnings in Ireland continues to have the lowest tax wedge in the entire OECD. In fact, for the sixth consecutive year, when cash benefits from the State are

Taken into account, such families face a negative tax burden, receiving more money in cash transfers from the State than they pay out in income tax and social security contributions.

In Britain, all income above €6,860 is subject to income tax at 20%. In this State, workers can earn €18,300 before they start paying tax, PRSI or income levy.

Our minimum wage is the second highest in the EU. When the minimum wage was introduced in 2000, it was subject to income tax and PRSI. It is now well outside the tax net

You see, our tax system is highly progressive. Those with high incomes pay most. Those on low incomes pay least and those on the minimum wage pay nothing at all.

And yes, tax increases have to be part of the solution to our economic difficulties. But there can be no return to the bad old days of 64% tax rates. Any changes we introduce have to be carefully considered so that they do not impact on employment

Or our competitiveness. Any tax changes must also be just and fair so that all who benefit from state services pay according to their means. If the main opposition parties have ideas about how we should progress on the issue of tax, I am prepared to listen.

Another essential part of our plan for recovery is expenditure reduction. If we are to increase taxes, I want to be able to say in all confidence that public services are being delivered in a cost effective and efficient manner. The Special

Expenditure Review Group, under the chairmanship of Colm McCarthy is busy in my Department and will be making proposals to me shortly. The Government will consider those proposals very carefully and if any savings can be made in advance of the next budget, we will gladly make them.

It is important that this State can pay for itself and put its day to day running costs on a sustainable basis. That is what we do in our own households: the State can be no different.

We Irish are natural sceptics. We tend to wallow in our ills and beat ourselves up. There is an understandable desire to lay blame and in a democracy, the government must take responsibility and we do.

But, this week, it was useful for us all to be reminded by no less a person than Jean Claude Trichet, that we have within us the capacity to work our way out of this acute downturn.

The same ingenuity, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that built the economic miracle of the last twenty years can put us back on the path to growth. This world recession will pass. We must all pull together to make sure Ireland can secure maximum benefit from the inevitable up turn.

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Limerick: Man (23) Charged With Geoghean Murder

28 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

A 23-year-old man has appeared in court charged with the murder of Shane Geoghegan in Limerick.

Mr Geoghegan (28) was shot dead near his home in Dooradoyle last November.

Barry Doyle of 106 Hyde Road in Limerick, but originally from Portland Row in Dublin, was charged with murdering Mr Geoghegan.

The court heard he replied ‘I’ve nothing to say’ when formally charged with murder earlier today.

Mr Doyle was remanded in custody to appear at Limerick District Court again next Friday.

UPDATE:

A 23-YEAR-OLD man appeared before a special court sitting in Limerick at the weekend charged with the murder of Shane Geoghegan.

Barry Doyle originally from Portland Row, Dublin, but with an address at Hyde Road, Limerick, was charged with the murder of the 28-year-old rugby player at Clonmore, Kilteragh, Limerick, on November 9th last.

Mr Doyle was one of 16 people arrested last week as part of the Garda inquiry into the death of Mr Geoghegan, who was shot dead just yards from his home in a case of mistaken identity.

Eight men and eight women were arrested in pre-planned searches in Limerick, Dublin and Co Tipperary.

The majority of those taken into custody were arrested in Limerick city, where 120 gardaí were involved in interviewing the suspects at separate Garda stations over a number of days.

All of those remaining in custody were released over the weekend, and some are expected to appear in court over the coming days on unrelated matters.

There was a large Garda presence for Saturday’s special court sitting at Limerick District Court.

Up to 20 detectives, including members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, were present in the court room, while members of an armed Regional Support Unit patrolled the area outside.

Det Garda Seán Lynch of Roxboro Garda station in Limerick gave evidence of arresting and formally charging Mr Doyle at 3.15pm on Saturday at Bruff Garda station in Co Limerick.

Judge Tom O’Donnell was told that Mr Doyle replied “I have nothing to say” in response to the charge.

Solicitor Michael O’Donnell was appointed to represented Mr Doyle, who was assigned free legal aid.

Insp Seamus Ruane said the State was seeking to have the accused remanded in custody until Friday.

Dressed in a grey and white hoodie and jeans, Mr Doyle remained silent throughout the brief court hearing.

Limerick’s most senior garda, Chief Supt Gerry Mahon, was also present for the special court sitting.

Judge Tom O’Donnell said because of the nature of the charge the issue of bail was a matter for the High Court.

He remanded Mr Doyle in custody to appear before the same court again on Friday.

UK: Fugitive Rapist Peter McDonagh Quizzed Over Murder

28 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

A sex offender who went on the run is due to be questioned over the murder of a prostitute.

Peter McDonagh, 44, walked into a police station in Canterbury, Kent, on Friday to hand himself in.

Police had warned that McDonagh was a danger to women after he had disappeared from a bail hostel in the West Yorkshire area more than two weeks ago.

The convicted rapist will be quizzed by South Yorkshire detectives investigating the murder of Sheffield prostitute Michaela Hague.

Miss Hague, 25, was brutally stabbed to death during a frenzied attack in Sheffield more than seven years ago.

The mother-of-one was stabbed 19 times in her back and neck when the killer struck on November 5, 2001, in a secluded car park.

As she lay dying in the arms of a police officer she gave a description of the man who had attacked her.

Earlier this week police warned the public not to approach the "unpredictable" McDonagh and released pictures of him in an effort to find him. West Yorkshire Police took the unusual step of appealing for help in tracing him, after branding him a danger, particularly to women.

McDonagh was released from prison in September 2008 after serving an eight-year sentence for a knifepoint rape committed in the Holbeck area of Leeds in 2002.

He also has previous convictions for offences committed in York and the Irish Republic.

Six Babies Poisoned By Ecstasy

28 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

SIX inquiries about the ingestion of ecstasy by babies and toddlers have been made to the National Poisons Information Centre (NPIC).
The centre, based at Beaumont Hospital, received 286 inquiries regarding ecstasy poisoning from 2004-2007.
"Six of these inquiries concerned suspected ecstasy ingestion in children aged three years or less," the centre points out in a letter published in the latest issue of the Irish Medical Journal.
All the children were successfully treated with supportive therapy that included cooling and hydration.
One of the children was a two-year-old boy who had ingested an unknown amount of ecstasy and developed irrational behaviour, facial flushing and stiffness of the extremities.
When he was examined in hospital he had dilated pupils and a significantly increased heart rate of 190 beats per minute. He recovered fully following treatment.
The centre points out that airway protection, seizure control, correction of metabolic disturbances and cooling measures are the mainstay of treatment following an ecstasy overdose.
It warns that ecstasy tablets are often very colourful and may be particularly attractive to young children.
"Because of their lower body weight and differences in metabolism and excretion, children are at risk of poisoning from doses of drugs that an adult might usually tolerate," it says.
In paediatric cases, the most appropriate gastrointestinal decontamination procedure is activated charcoal, if it can be given within one hour.
Ecstasy toxicity is unpredictable, even in adults, and there is a wide variation in how different individuals tolerate the drug.

Dublin: Gardai Arrest Seven and Recover Millions After €7.6m Theft

28 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

GARDAÍ INVESTIGATING the theft of €7.6 million from a Bank of Ireland vault believed last night they had recovered a large portion of the cash in the Dublin suburbs of Phibsboro and Blanchardstown.

The operation was ongoing last night but gardaí said they were confident the recovered money, believed to be several million euros, represented a portion of yesterday’s robbery.

Six men and one woman have been arrested. They are members of a well-known gang from Dublin’s north inner city and are connected to a major Dublin gangland figure.

Earlier yesterday, Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern expressed his concern at the circumstances surrounding what was the biggest robbery in the history of the State.

A bank worker was forced to deliver the money, before gardaí were informed, to a gang holding his partner and her family hostage.

Two women and a five-year-old boy were kidnapped at gunpoint and tied up by the north Dublin gang. One of the women was also beaten.

The bank official forced to steal the money, Shane Travers (24), is the son of a garda. He was told to bring the cash to Clontarf Dart station in north Dublin, less than half a mile from where his father is stationed.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and other senior officers are to hold a series of talks with senior banking officials to reiterate safety protocols after yesterday’s robbery of the Bank of Ireland vaults at College Green in Dublin city centre.

The facility was holding such a large sum because it is a collection point for vans delivering cash to banks and ATM machines around the country. Mr Travers is not a senior member of staff. The vaults were opened as normal at 7am when Mr Travers arrived.

Mr Ahern said protocols agreed between the banking sector and Garda stated that in the event of a kidnap situation, no money should be taken from any bank facility before gardaí were alerted.

He said because that protocol was not followed yesterday, gardaí had no time to put a rapid reaction operation in place. “I would be less than frank if I didn’t say that there are issues of concern in relation to how this happened and how it was allowed to happen,” he said.

Labour’s justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said the stolen money would now be invested in the drug trade. Fine Gael’s spokesman on justice Charlie Flanagan said similar robberies had been foiled in the past by surveillance, noting that funding for Garda overtime had now been reduced.

The north Dublin gang behind the raid staked out a house at Badgers Hill, Kilteel, Co Kildare, where Mr Travers, from north Co Dublin, lives with his girlfriend, Stephanie Smith, and her family.

Mr Travers was in the house alone when his girlfriend and her mother returned to the property just after 10pm on Thursday with Stephanie Smith’s five-year-old nephew.

As the women and boy arrived at the house, a six-man gang burst into the property. Three of them were armed with handguns and one with a shotgun. One of the men took a vase and smashed it across Stephanie Smith’s head.

At about 5.30am yesterday, the two women and the boy were tied up and put into the back of a blue Peugeot Partner van and driven to a disused house at The Rath, near Ashbourne, Co Meath.

The Smiths managed to free themselves at 8.30am and walk to Ashbourne Garda station. Mr Travers’s red Celica car was found burned out in Glasnevin.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said he was shocked Mr Travers, a junior vault worker, had access to such massive sums of cash.

"I would be less than frank if I didn’t say that there are issues of concern in relation to how this happened and how this was allowed to happen," he said.

The elaborate kidnap and robbery at the landmark building – Europe’s first purpose built Houses of Parliament, overlooking Trinity College – was similar to the £26.5 million pre-Christmas heist carried out by the IRA on the Northern Bank’s head office in Belfast in December 2004.

Minutes after the latest robbery, newly appointed Bank of Ireland chief executive Richard Boucher sent an email to all staff expressing sympathy but reminded employees to follow tried and trusted steps to foil tiger kidnaps.

Bank staff are told to raise the alarm the moment they are separated from the kidnap gang.

Tiger-kidnappings have hit Irish banks hard in the last few years with crime gangs initially targeting cash-in-transit delivery vans before taking hostages in their own homes in a bid to outsmart beefed up security.

MINISTER FOR Justice Dermot Ahern said he was “very concerned” about aspects of yesterday’s bank robbery and “how it was allowed to happen”.

He spoke at length during the day with the Garda Commissioner and Deputy Garda Commissioner about the incident.

“I would be less than frank if I didn’t say that there are issues of concern in relation to how this happened and how it was allowed to happen.”

Mr Ahern said he had also spoken to Bank of Ireland chief executive Ritchie Boucher and that as a result of that there would be contact between the Garda Commissioner and banking authorities about security procedures.

Labour Party justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said the bank and the Minister for Justice should explain to the public how a criminal gang was easily able to escape with €7 million following the latest kidnapping and robbery.

Mr Rabbitte said yesterday’s incident was “particularly shocking and contemptible” as it involved violence against a young woman and a five-year-old child being held hostage.

“The result of this raid will be another €7 million into the coffers of the criminal gangs . . . ,” he said.

In his response to the robbery, the Minister for Justice said reports of €7 million being taken were “not far off the mark”.

“Criminals are going for the line of least resistance, the human connection as it were. Given the fact there is so much detailed technology available to financial institutions, the line of least resistance is the human being.”

He said gardaí would sit down with financial institutions to see if there was anything that could be learned from the incident.

UPDATE:

The robbery from the Bank of Ireland branch in Dublin’s College Green was described at a special garda briefing this afternoon as "an elaborate crime carried out by a team of ruthless criminals."

The money was withdrawn by a bank employee named as Shane Travers after his partner Stephanie Smith, her mother, Joan Smith and her five-year-old grandson were taken hostage at their house in Badgers Hill, Kilteel, Co Kildare.

At a briefing with media at Naas Garda Station this afternoon Supt John Gilligan of the Garda Press Office said the incident was well planned and said it was “comparable to any large-scale robbery that has ever taken place in this country.”

The garda investigation is being led by Supt Pat Mangan and Divisional Supt Michael Byrnes.

An incident room has been set up at Garda Divisional Headquarters in Naas and the investigation is being co-ordinated with Pearse Street Garda Station in Dublin.

The incident began when an armed gang of six men forced their way into the house when the two women and the child arrived home between 10pm and 10.30pm last night. Mr Travers was watching television in the house when the gang arrived.

The men were all wearing balaclavas, black clothing, gloves and spoke with Dublin accents. One of the men is described as being particularly well-built and has a physique likened by gardai to that of a body-builder.

At least three of the men were armed with handguns and gardai believe a shotgun may also have been used in the attack.

One of the hostages, Stephanie Smith, was injured after she was struck in the head with a vase by a gang member.

The four were held hostage overnight until 5.30am when the gang ordered the two women and the child into the back of a blue Peugeot Partner van. Gardaí say this van was fitted with false registration plates.

They were tied up and driven in the back of the van to The Rath near the Marriott Hotel in Ashbourne, Co Meath.

At 6.30am Mr Travers drove his red Toyota Celica to the Bank of Ireland branch in College Green. He drove through Inchicore, along the Quays and parked in his designated parking space at 6.58am.

Within 15 minutes he left the bank with what gardai described as four laundry bags and placed them in the car.

He then drove to Clontarf where at 7.30am he met a man wearing a baseball cap at the DART station. This man then took possession of the Toyota Celica at which point Mr Travers walked across the road to Clontarf Garda Station and reported the crime.

The car was later found burnt-out near the Tolka public house in Glasnevin.

The two women and the child managed to free themselves from the blue van and they walked into Ashbourne where they contacted gardaí at the local station shortly before 8.30am.

Gardaí said the family was traumatised as a result of the incident and Ms Smith had to receive medical attention for a head injury.

Supt Gilligan said gardaí are not sure if the man in Clontarf was part of the original six-man gang or was a seventh member. However, he said gardaí are convinced that other people “must be aware of what went on”.

Supt Gilligan said he was not in a position to detail the exact amount of money involved but confirmed that a “substantial amount” was taken in the robbery.

Gardaí are seeking two cars, a silver Volkswagen Polo (reg: 00-KE-2843) and a black Volkswagen Golf (registration number: 05-D-33720).

Both cars were taken from the house at Badgers Hill yesterday morning and gardai have called on members of the public who may have seen any of the vehicles in question to contact the incident room at Naas or Pearse Street Garda stations.

In a statement issued yesterday The Bank of Ireland said it was investigating the incident and added that its priority is for the safety and well-being of the staff member and family involved.

It said its support services have been made available to the victims and that it will be making no further comment "until it is appropriate to do so".

Earlier today the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern met Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and senior management to review the incident and to look at procedures in place in relation to bank security.

Last night’s incident is the second such kidnapping in the area in recent months. In December, at least five raiders entered a house and threatened a husband, wife and one adult daughter in the house. The gang broke into the home of Peter Nevin, a director of cash-in-transit firm GSLS, just off the Maynooth to Celbridge road in Co Kildare.

He was taken to his work premises in the Bluebell area of Dublin, where a sum of more than €1 million was reportedly stolen.

ANALYSIS : The robbery of €7.6m raises fears of copycat raids, with families of bank staff put in danger

WHEN THE dust has settled following yesterday’s robbery of the Bank of Ireland on College Green in Dublin city centre, one question will remain: how was young bank worker Shane Travers able to access €7.6 million in cash and drive away without the bank’s security procedures swinging into action?

Travers, a 24-year-old son of a garda originally from north Co Dublin, works in the Bank of Ireland vaults storage facility on College Green. The normal working day there begins very early so Travers’s arrival time at 7am was not out of the ordinary.

The vaults where the estimated €7.6 million was taken from were opened yesterday morning to prepare money for collection by cash-in-transit vans for delivery to ATMs and bank branches around the country. The vaults were not specifically opened for Travers to take what was effectively ransom money needed to free his girlfriend, Stephanie Smith, her mother, Joan, and five-year-old nephew. They were being held by an armed gang in Co Meath.

There were at least two other men at the storage facility when Travers took the money. Travers is believed to have told these people the situation he was in. He put the money into four laundry bags given to him by the gang. He carried the bags himself to his car and drove off at 7.15am.

It was more than 10 minutes before a designated person appointed by the bank to alert gardaí to major robberies made a call to the Garda.

Protocols agreed between the Garda and banks state that in kidnap situations like yesterday’s, gardaí should be informed a robbery is taking place before any money is taken from a bank.

This did not happen yesterday. In the 10 minutes-plus between the money being driven from the bank and gardaí being notified, Travers would have been almost at Clontarf Dart station, less than two miles from College Green, to hand over the cash to the raiders.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said yesterday if the protocols had been followed gardaí could have put a rapid reaction operation in place.

“Unfortunately the bird had flown by the time gardaí were involved,” he said.

But even if the bank had contacted gardaí before Travers left the branch, gardaí would have had one major factor to deal with.

When Travers left College Green with the money, he still did not know where he was to drop it off for collection by the gang. So his colleagues would have been of no assistance to gardaí in that regard. Travers had been given a mobile phone by the gang and was informed via that phone, only after he left College Green, of the exact drop-off point for the cash.

In the 1980s banks were plagued with in-branch armed hold-ups and introduced safety mechanisms to deter them. Criminals then began robbing money at gunpoint when it was being delivered by cash-in-transit vans to ATMs.

But after a sharp rise in such attacks in 2005 and 2006, the cash-in-transit companies put measures in place to make money harder to access in their vans. They also fitted dye boxes, which explode ink over money if a storage box is forced open.

Now the gangs have moved on again and are targeting bank workers by kidnapping their loved ones. Such raids are sometimes called “tiger robberies” because of the similarity between the gangs’ modus operandi and the way tigers stalk their prey.

The fear for gardaí is that given the success of yesterday’s raid, copycat attacks will follow.

Dublin: Ringsend Rally Against Bus Cuts

28 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

Sinn Féin Dublin City Councillor Daithi Doolan has announced that Ringsend residents will be demanding Dublin Bus to reverse its threat to cut back on services across the City. A protest will take place today, Saturday, noon, at the Ringsend Bus Garage, Ringsend Road.

Speaking in advance of tomorrow’s protest, Councillor Doolan said,

"Tomorrow’s rally will allow the residents of Ringsend an opportunity to voice their opposition to the proposed cuts to our local service. Between Ringsend and Donnybrook garages over 40 buses will be taken away. This will be a disaster for local people. If the government carry out their threatened cuts it will mean more traffic chaos, more pollution, longer waits for less buses and more people on Dublin’s dole que’s. "

Councillor Doolan concluded by demanding

"That the government immediately lift the threat to cut the bus local service."

The Protest will take place today, Saturday February 28th, noon, Ringsend Bus Garage, Ringsend Road, Dublin 4.

Amnesty International ‘Concerned’ Over The Lack Of Children’s Mental Health Services

27 Feb

By J. P. Anderson:

AMNESTY International Ireland (AII) said it is "gravely concerned" about the lack of adequate mental health services for children in Ireland.
Following reports that 20 children who were placed in the care of the state have died over a six-year period, including five young people who died from drug overdoses and two from suicide, executive director of AII Colm O’Gorman said mental health teams suffer from grave shortages in basic staffing.
"New, child-appropriate, facilities have been promised since expert group reports in 2001 and 2003, and four were promised in A Vision for Change, but none have yet begun construction," he said.
"Between November 2006 and December 2007, 216 children had to be admitted to adult units, in contravention of the convention on the rights of the child." In September last year, in a meeting with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Barry Andrews, AII submitted a briefing on childhood mental health and the education system.
It concludes mental health problems in children are associated with educational disadvantage, disability, offending and anti-social behaviour, placing extra demands on social services, schools and the juvenile justice system.
"It must finally be recognised by Government that investment in the future of children’s mental health is not just required under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but would also yield enormous benefits for society," it states.
"Untreated, mental health problems create distress not only in childhood, but pass into adulthood, potentially affecting the mental health of the next generation of children," the report said.
The UN advises that healthy development and active participation of children is uniquely crucial to the optimum development of any society, and that children are more affected by the action — or inaction — of Government than any other group. According to a spokesman for AII, it is awaiting a response from the minister.
Mr O’Gorman also noted the lack of mental health services with the criminal justice system: "It is shocking that Ireland still does not have a formal system to divert people with mental health problems from the criminal justice system to the mental health services.
"Consequently, many people with mental health difficulties needlessly end up in criminal detention. As far back as 1982 Government promised to deliver four secure units for people who are a risk to themselves or others. In 2006 the promise was five units. In 2008 there were still no units provided."

(Editor’s note: See previous related articles on this page).