Archive | May, 2009

Bray: Man Critical After Gangland Shooting

29 May

By J.P. Anderson:

A 32-year-old man is in a critical condition after being shot in Co Wicklow.

The attack happened in Richmond Hill in Bray at around 1am.

Shots were fired through the second floor window of an apartment complex by two men on an external stairway.

The man who was shot was found seriously injured inside an apartment in the complex.

He was taken to Loughlinstown Hospital but was later moved to Beaumont Hospital where his condition is described as ‘critical’.

The scene is preserved for a technical examination.

No arrests have yet been made.

However gardaí have issued a description of the suspects.

One man wore a black jacket, light-grey tracksuit bottoms, white runners and a blue baseball cap. He had his face covered, and was of average build.

The second man wore a black top, black tracksuit bottoms and black shoes and was of average build and height.

Anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to contact Gardaí at Bray on 01 6665300, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.

Political Abyss Beckons For Cowen As FF Reaches New Low

29 May

By J. P. Anderson:

BRIAN COWEN was staring into the political abyss last night as Fianna Fáil slumped to third place in the polls just a week out from elections that could break his premiership.

The Taoiseach’s party hit a new low of 20%, as Labour surged above it to 23% and Fine Gael held a commanding 16% lead despite registering a slight dip in support. The snapshot survey of the national mood pointed to Fianna Fáil facing a triple calamity in next Friday’s Euro, local and Dáil by-election showdowns.
Fianna Fáil looks to be heading for a wipe-out in Dublin where it is likely to lose its MEP as well as the two Dáil contests and up to half its seats on the city council. Voters across the country appeared to have ignored the Taoiseach’s pleas not to use the elections as a referendum on his handling of the economic crash, and if Fianna Fáil were to do as badly next Friday as the poll suggests, it would intensify opposition demands for a snap general election in early July on the grounds the Government no longer had a mandate to govern.
Such an historic collapse for Fianna Fáil would also raise serious questions within the party about Mr Cowen’s ability to continue leading it.
However, the Taoiseach insisted he was "fighting back".
"I’m up for the fight and I’m going to continue right on up to the end as I have done since my public career started.
"We are going to keep fighting for every seat in the country," he said after rallying grass roots supporters in Galway.
Though Fine Gael slipped two points in the Irish Times/TNS mrbi survey to 36%, it still commands a huge lead and saw its slight decrease benefit Labour which rose 3% while FF dropped another point and saw its junior coalition partners the Greens flat-line on 3%, while Sinn Féin dropped a point to 8% and the independents gained one to 10%.
The poll was conducted as the Government struggled to counter opposition criticism it had reacted timidly to the horrific findings of the Ryan report into institutionalised rape and torture of children while in the care of the church and state.
Just 12% of people expressed satisfaction with the Government – though this was a slight two point increase on the last survey – with 84% dissatisfied.
Mr Cowen’s satisfaction rating climbed slightly to 21%, but it was still well behind the other party leaders with Labour’s Eamon Gilmore down 2% to 49%, Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny slipping by the same amount to 31%, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams down a point to 33% and the Greens John Gormley up two points to 27%.

Welfare Payments A ‘Disincentive To Work’ Says Harney

29 May

By J. P. Anderson:

MINISTER FOR Health Mary Harney referred to the high social welfare rates in the Republic when pressed to say if the Government planned to reduce them.

She insisted that recent remarks by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan centred on the need for incentives to work, and she hoped that every member of the House would support them.

“We have one of the highest rates in Europe of social welfare benefits for old or unemployed people,’’ Ms Harney added.

She claimed that contrary to the view put forward by Dublin South Fine Gael candidate, George Lee, an unemployed married man receives €339 per week and not €204. Addressing the Fine Gael benches, she said: “Were members to at least get the facts right, they might have appropriate debates in the chamber.’’ Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan said the amount depended in some cases on whether the person was self-employed beforehand and the Minister should know that.

Earlier, Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan challenged the Minister to say if the Government intended introducing another budget, or a social welfare bill, when the Dáil resumed after the elections.

“Is it the Government’s policy that the social welfare budget should be cut?’’ he added.

Labour’s Michael D Higgins said that Mr Lenihan had remarked that large social welfare provisions could be a disincentive to work and was a difficult issue to tackle.

“There is no doubt whatsoever that the implications of the Minister’s statement yesterday constituted a promise to have a change in social welfare policy,’’ Mr Higgins added.

“The only way this can be achieved is by way of a supplementary social welfare bill.’’

It was significant, he added, and that the Minister for Finance was only three weeks ago suggesting Ireland had a magnificent social welfare system that protected the poor.

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey remarked: “Does Deputy Higgins remember the £1.50 increase in the old-age pension when Labour was in government?’’ He said that Labour had not done much for the old-age pension.

Fine Gael’s Michael Ring said that Fianna Fáil had taken medical cards off old-age pensioners.

Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said the Dáil had not been given clarity on the Government’s social welfare policy.

Mr Dempsey challenged Dr Reilly to say where Fine Gael would get the additional €2.5 billion required.

“The only way Fine Gael could have got it was by cutting the rates of social welfare,’’ he added.

Dr Reilly replied: “Was it not Deputy Dempsey who asked what was €50 million in the overall scheme of things?’’

(Editor’s note: If Minister Harney was not so keen in past years to import ‘yellow pack workers’ instead of training young native Irish people to take up available jobs then she would have less of a problem now dealing with the burden of ‘social welfare payments’. The real ‘disincentive’ to work for many young Irish people is ‘low wages, poor working conditions and the high cost of living.

Ms Harney wishes to see a return to the situation that existed in this country in 1913 and to that end she seeks to impoverish and demean working class people, their families and communities to suit an employer group wishing for a return to a situation of compelling people to work for a pittance ‘insufficient’ to meet their needs and the needs of their families. The other important thing is that the work must be there before unemployed people can accept or reject each job offer on its merits).

Ulster: Man Held Over McDaid Murder

29 May

By J. P. Anderson:

Police are continuing to question another man about the murder of Kevin McDaid who was beaten to death by a loyalist mob in Northern Ireland.

The 33-year-old was one of two men arrested on Thursday in connection with Sunday’s killing in Coleraine, Co Londonderry. The 53-year-old was later released on bail pending further inquiries.

So far six men have been charged with Mr McDaid’s murder. They all appeared before the Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday where each man denied the charge.

They, and another two men, also denied the attempted murder of Damien Fleming, 46, who was critically injured in the attack.

Some of the men were also charged with assault – Mr McDaid’s widow was attacked, as was a pregnant neighbour.

NINE COLERAINE men aged 18 to 50 have appeared before Ballymena Magistrates Court on charges connected with the murder in Co Derry of Kevin McDaid last Sunday and other crimes.

Six men were charged with the murder of the 49-year-old father of four.

They are David Craig Cochrane (18) of Windyhall Park, John Thompson (29) of Daneshill Road, Frank Daly (48) of Rosemary Place, Christopher McDowell (33) of Glebe Road, Paul Newman (40) of Grassmere Close and John McGrath (50) of Hawthorn Place. They deny the charges.

Frank Daly and John McGrath are further charged with assaulting Mr McDaid’s widow, Evelyn, as are Ivan McDowell (42) Lisnablagh Road and Aaron Beech (23) of Windyhall Park.

These charges are also denied.

David Cochrane snr (47) is also charged with affray and he denies this charge.

The accused were brought into the court individually to face charges. They responded only to confirm their names and that they understood the charges.

District Judge Philip Mateer warned the court, which was packed with supporters of the nine men, that he would not tolerate any disorder.

There was a significant police presence in the courtroom.

Also in the public gallery were members and friends of the McDaid family, including one of his sons.

Det Insp Ian Magee confirmed to the court that each of the accused denied the charges against them. He told the court he could connect each of the accused with the crimes.

The court heard that Mr McDaid suffered a broken nose and bruising to his back in the attack that cost him his life.

The court heard that a postmortem found that the 49-year-old had died from a heart attack.

Peter Madden, solicitor for Christopher McDowell, asked if the evidence against his client was from three witnesses, one of whom had a lengthy criminal record.

This was confirmed.

There were no applications for bail and the nine were remanded in custody to appear before Coleraine magistrates by video link on June 8th.

France: Record £30m Cocaine Haul London Bound

29 May

By J. P. Anderson:

Police in France have intercepted a record-breaking haul of pure cocaine in a British lorry heading for London.

The 684kg haul – with an estimated street value of £30 million – is almost double the quantity usually seized by British police in an entire year.

The vehicle’s driver and a passenger, who are both thought to be British and in their 50s, were arrested on Wednesday in the south of France.

Traffic police became suspicious when the HGV – which had arrived in the country from Spain – was seen being driven erratically on the Mediterranean coast motorway outside Montepelier.

A scanner revealed the drugs when the lorry was pulled over for routine checks. Police say strong coffee beans had been placed inside the vehicle to confuse sniffer dogs.

The cocaine had been packed into plastic bags and rubber containers, and was concealed behind a pile of peat.

A local customs spokesman said: "It’s likely that its ultimate destination was London. Police are currently questioning the driver and passenger who were on board, both of whom are thought to be British nationals."

He added: "This is such an important find that budget minister Eric Woerth is coming to examine the drugs personally later this week. It’s the biggest haul of cocaine ever seized in mainland France."

Both of the arrested men denied all knowledge of the cocaine, but confirmed they had been delivering their load to London.

The English capital is regarded as the centre of the European cocaine trade.

No Irish Data On The Impact Of Alcohol On Foetus

28 May

By J. P. Anderson:

DESPITE awareness of our national binge drinking culture, no data has been collected in this country on the number of children adversely affected by alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Ireland, the support group for those affected by the syndrome, has said there is a reluctance among doctors to link maternal drinking with behavioural and cognitive problems later in life.
The Department of Health has confirmed, in a response to a Dáil parliamentary question, that they have no data collated on the extent of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
According to latest research from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the syndrome occurs in three-to-six out of every 1,000 births in the United States.
In Germany, approximately 2,200 children are born each year with FAS, while a further 10,000-15,000 suffer from intellectual difficulties and behaviour problems linked to drinking during pregnancy.
Fine Gael’s David Stanton said the lack of research was worrying as the US figures suggested there could be 177 to 354 Irish babies born each year with Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.
"Even moderate drinking can have effects," he said.
"Last week, Minister Harney agreed symptoms can range from mild attention deficit problems to lifelong problems such as neurological, cognitive and behavioural problems, growth retardation and developmental delay. I am concerned about this when one, every day, sees a rise in these issues in schools. There is possibly a link. We must advise and inform people much more."
Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Ireland co-ordinator Michele Savage said the syndrome is insufficiently recognised here even though research suggests that twice as many Irish women than American women drink in pregnancy.
"The physical, psychological and psychiatric effects of drinking are just not being recognised here. If a child had a broken leg, you would want them to have crutches. Similarly, a child whose development has been hampered by drinking during pregnancy needs particular help."
Responding to questions posed by Mr Stanton, the department said it was working to address the lack of information.
"The promotion of healthy behaviour in relation to alcohol intake is a national priority not least among young women who are planning or embarking upon pregnancy. In order to create greater awareness in relation to the risks associated with alcohol consumption, we now advise women to avoid alcohol in pregnancy. The department is also devising legislation to provide for mandatory labelling of alcohol containers advising of the risk of consuming alcohol during pregnancy," a spokesman said.
It was also confirmed the HSE is developing proposals for a research project in a major maternity hospital to evaluate the prevalence of alcohol exposure in pregnancy, the patterns of drinking and the factors that influence whether or not a woman drinks alcohol before conception and during each trimester of pregnancy.

NEARLY a sixth of Irish adults admit to having felt afraid or unsafe as children due to their parents drinking.

The research from Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) also shows that nearly a fifth of Irish adults remember witnessing drink-related arguing among their parents.
This comes after a National Study of Domestic Abuse found, in a third of cases, alcohol was a potential trigger for abusive behaviour and that in one-in-four of the most severe cases, alcohol was always involved.
It also emerged 9% of those interviewed said they were often embarrassed as children by their parents’ drinking and that 7% often had to take responsibility for looking after the parent or their siblings during drinking binges.
The AAI research, by Behaviour and Attitudes, on childhood experiences of parental drinking was carried out on a sample of 1,000 18 to 40-year-old adults. It showed no differences among the various socioeconomic groups.
Alcohol Action Ireland chief executive Fiona Ryan said: "We commissioned the survey in order to gain an insight into the potential scale of the problem for children and families now – the impact of parental alcohol problems are not just yesterday’s problems but today’s and tomorrows too.
"This research provides only a glimpse into a problem but it provides a case for the Government to initiate a comprehensive examination of the extent and impact of parental alcohol problems on children’s welfare and well being and the services available to support children and families. Fear and anxiety make bad childhood friends," she said.
Alcohol Action Ireland’s call for greater research was supported by the country’s leading children’s charities. Barnardos and the ISPCC.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr Sarah Buckley warned yesterday that parental alcohol misuse can interrupt a child’s development.
"Children whose parents abuse alcohol are at a higher risk of emotional, physical, psychological, social and educational difficulties.
"They are also at risk of being neglected and not having their needs met. It is important that we understand the extent of the problem in Ireland," she said.

Hospitals Face New Infection Control Challenges

28 May

By J. P. Anderson:

THE Republic’s hospitals face a significant financial challenge in meeting infection control standards, including major infrastructural change if they are to comply with new mandatory guidelines for the prevention of healthcare acquired infection.

The National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infection, published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) yesterday, lists a dozen minimum standards that must be in place within the next 12 months.

Healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) include the bacterial infections methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and clostridium difficile.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that at any given time, 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from infections acquired in hospitals. However, a recent report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre suggests the rate of MRSA here had fallen by 25 per cent between 2006 and 2008.

The exception to the 12-month deadline is the standard dealing with environment and facilities management, which has a three-year timeframe.

This standard calls for an appropriate number of single rooms with en suite facilities to enable associated infections be prevented and controlled, as well as the availability in each hospital of pressurised isolation rooms with dedicated access lobbies.

The majority of hospitals here do not have pressurised isolation rooms at present, while many hospitals have a relative shortage of single rooms. The Health Services Executive (HSE) now faces a significant capital outlay if it is to meet its obligations to ensure hospitals are “fit for purpose” as judged by Hiqa. In addition, the new standards mean that any acute hospital built in future must have 100 per cent single en suite rooms.

For existing hospitals which do not conform to current best practice in the prevention of associated infections, the document says: “There should be specified implementation timeframes contained with the implementation plan to meet these standards and these should be signed off by the board, or equivalent of the service.

“Specific measures to minimise the risk of the spread of HCAIs in the interim period should be implemented and defined within the implementation plan” the standard states.

Other standards cover issues such as hand hygiene; antibiotic resistance; staffing levels, and the particular infection risk associated with medical devices.

Jon Billings, director of healthcare quality and safety with Hiqa said at the launch: “The public and service users have a significant role to play, through taking an active role in ensuring they maintain personal diligence in hand hygiene and in challenging the implementation of these standards from people providing care.”

Dr Kevin Kelleher of the HSE’s healthcare associated infection governance group said: “We will continue to work with hospitals over the coming months to support them in achieving the requirements set out in the standards. We will build on these assessments to plan and prioritise continued action to achieve compliance over the next 12 months.”

The new Hiqa standards will apply to all health and social care services in Ireland, public and private, including hospitals, community care services, GP and dental surgeries and primary care services.