Archive | May, 2010

DUBLIN: Protests Held In Ireland Over Israeli Cammando Attack On Humanitarian Aid Ship

31 May

PROTEST HELD IN IRELAND OVER ISRAELI CAMMANDO ATTACK ON HUMANITARIAN AID SHIP:

About 1,700 people have attended a demonstration in Dublin this evening against the Israeli attack on an aid ship bound for Gaza.

Earlier today, Taoiseach Brian Cowen called for an international inquiry into the attack which left 10 pro-Palestinian activists dead.

Mr Cowen said he believed Israel’s blockade of humanitarian assistance to Gaza was illegal under international law.

“Whilst the Israeli government has withdrawn from Gaza, they remain a de facto occupying force since they decide what gets into Gaza and who gets out of it,” he said.

“The cause of this problem relates directly to the fact that there is a humanitarian blockade. I believe that is in violation of international law. People are entitled to have humanitarian assistance."

A protest, which has been organised by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), is currently taking place.

Demonstrators assembled on O’Connell Street before marching to the Israeli embassy in Ballsbridge. Speakers at the protest include TDs Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Chris Andrews, both of whom were refused access to the flotilla by the Cypriot authorities on Saturday. Dublin’s Lord Mayor Emer Costello was among an estimated 1,700 people who attended tonight’s protest.

Demonstrations were also held in in Belfast, Cork, Derry, Sligo and Waterford this evening. Up to 100

People also attended a protest at the Liam Mellows statue in Galway

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin today summoned the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evrony, to a meeting to discuss the incident. Mr Martin said he was "gravely concerned" over the storming of the ships.

"The reports of up to 15 people killed and 50 injured, if confirmed, would constitute a totally unacceptable response by the Israeli military to what was a humanitarian mission attempting to deliver much needed supplies to the people of Gaza," he said.

At least 10 people were killed in the early hours of this morning after the Israeli navy boarded the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, from the pro-Islamic aid group IHH, and Free Gaza’s Challenger 1, 130 kilometres off the coast of Gaza.

The ships were part of a six-vessel flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that eight Irish citizens had travelled with the flotilla. A further four Irish passport holders, who hold dual nationalities, are also understood to be part of the convoy, a spokeswoman for the department said.

Five Irish activists who were aboard the 1,200-ton Irish-owned cargo ship Rachel Corrie, were earlier confirmed as safe. The vessel was initially delayed because of mechanical problems and only left Malta last night.

SIPTU’s Ken Fleming said this morning the five were safe. “They want to let their families know they are alright. They told me that they still want to proceed to Gaza with the urgently needed humanitarian aid on board,” he said.

However, the status of the other seven Irish people with the convoy could not be confirmed.

Three Irish people – Dr Fintan Lane, Fiachra Ó Luain and Shane Dillon – were on board the Challenger 1, which had travelled from Cyprus in the first wave of the flotilla, according to Niamh Moloughney of the Free Gaza Ireland campaign.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign says that Mr Dillon has been deported, while Dr Lane and Mr O Luain are contesting their deportation and will be brought to court within 72 hours.

Freda Hughes from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said there are 11 identified people from the flotilla in hospital in Israel. “None of these are Irish. However there are 20 unidentified people in hospital. Some of them are afraid to identify themselves, and some are too badly injured to do so,” she said.

She said there were also two Irish Muslims aboard the Mavi Marmara. “They were processed through the IHH team. They flew to Turkey before boarding the boat. They’re Dublin based normally and we are very worried about them".

Sydney Morning Herald

journalist Paul McGeough, who was born in Co Monaghan and still travels on an Irish passport, and Australian photographer Kate Geraghty were out of communication for some hours after the clash. Ms Geraghty worked for a period with The Irish Times

In 2007.

"We are pleased to report that Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty, who are among the most experienced and well-trained Australian foreign correspondents, are safe, and being processed in an Israeli detention centre," Sydney Morning Herald editor in chief Peter Fray said.

The Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs today announced plans to summon Dr Evrony to an emergency meeting later this week. The Palestinian Envoy to Ireland, Dr Hikmat Ajjuri, will also be invited.

IPSC chairman Dr David Landy today accused Israel of breaching international law. “The fact that Israel would allow its forces to kill and wound international human rights activists shows the world once again that Israeli is a rogue state that acts with impunity,” he claimed.

Mr Ó Snodaigh condemned the attack and called on Mr Martin to expel the Israeli ambassador. “It looks as though this cold and calculated attack took place in international waters, in breach of all international maritime laws. There must be action from the international community," the Sinn Féin TD said.

“At all stage of preparations to join the flotilla the organisers reiterated non-violent and peaceful resistance to any boarding by Israeli army. The Israelis had nothing to fear from this flotilla."

Mr Andrews said he was "deeply shocked but sadly not surprised" by today’s events. "Israel has proven repeatedly that it believes itself to be above international law, evidenced by the fact that it carried out these attacks in International waters," he said. “I have just spent a week with several of the people who were on board these boats and I can say with absolute certainty these people were only concerned with peacefully bringing badly needed aid to the region."

Irish Congress of Trade Unions president Jack O’Connor and general secretary David Begg issued a joint statement condemning the assault.

“The people on those boats were civilians engaged in peaceful humanitarian work, bringing much needed aid to the Gaza Strip and were no threat to anyone,” they said. “To launch a military assault on a humanitarian convoy is beyond the bounds of all that is acceptable and should be judged as such by the international community. The assault was akin to the actions of a rogue state.”

Amnesty International called for "credible and independent" inquiry. Noeleen Hartigan, programmes director for Amnesty International Ireland, said Israeli forces appear to have used excessive force. "Israel says its soldiers acted in self-defence, alleging that protesters attacked them, but it seems incredible that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have possibly been justified," she said.

Labour Party spokesman on human rights Joe Costello said Israel’s actions were a "violent and unprovoked attack on a peaceful flotilla". He accused Israel of acting like a "rogue state".

 

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ISRAEL: At Least 10 Killed During Assault On Gaza Aid Flotilla: UPDATED

31 May

ISRAEL: AT LEAST 10 KILLED DURING ASSAULT ON GAZA AID FLOTILLA:

Gaza Strip – News Image

PHOTO: This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aboard a military vessel in international waters off the Gaza coast surrounding a Turkish ship. Israeli commandos on Monday stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens after encountering unexpected resistance as the forces boarded the vessels.

AP Photo/IHH via APTN).

By AMY TEIBEL and TIA GOLDENBERG, Associated Press Writers Amy Teibel And Tia Goldenberg, Associated Press Writers:

JERUSALEM – Israeli commandos on Monday stormed six ships carrying hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists on an aid mission to the blockaded

Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens after encountering unexpected resistance as the forces boarded the vessels.

The operation in international waters off the Gaza coast was a nightmare scenario for Israel that looked certain to further damage its international standing, strain

already tense relations with Turkey — the unofficial sponsor of the mission — and draw unwanted attention to Gaza’s plight.

The tough Israeli response drew condemnations from Turkey, France and the U.N.’s Mideast envoy, while Greece suspended a military exercise with Israel and postponed a visit by Israel’s air force chief.

About 10,000 Turks also marched from Israel’s Consulate in Istanbul toward the city’s main square, shouting slogans denouncing Israel. The protesters earlier Monday tried storm the Consulate building but were blocked by police.

In response, Israel advised its citizens Monday to avoid travel to Turkey and instructed those already there to keep a low profile and avoid crowded downtown areas.

The Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, Denmark and Greece were summoned for meetings, and the French foreign minister called for an investigation. Activists from all of those European countries were on board the flotilla. In neighbouring Jordan, hundreds demonstrated in the capital Amman to protest the Israeli action and demand that their government breaks diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

There were conflicting accounts of what happened early Monday.

An Al-Jazeera reporter on one of the Turkish ships said the Israelis fired at the vessel before boarding it. The Israelis, who had declared they would not let the ships reach Gaza, said they only opened fire after being attacked by activists with sticks, knives and live fire from weapons seized from the Israeli commandos.

"On board the ship we found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces," declared Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

"The organizers’ intent was violent, their method was violent and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome."

Israeli security forces were on alert across the country. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli "aggression," declared three days of mourning across the West Bank and called on the U.N. Security Council and Arab League to hold emergency sessions on the incident.

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the rival Hamas government in Gaza, condemned the "brutal" Israeli attack and called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission meant to draw attention to a 3-year-old Israeli blockade of the coastal territory. Israel imposed the blockade after Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group, violently seized the territory. Critics say the blockade has unfairly hurt Gaza’s 1.5 million people.

"It’s disgusting that they have come on board and attacked civilians. We are civilians," said Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement, which organized the flotilla. She spoke from the

Mediterranean island of Cyprus and said she had lost contact with the flotilla.

Before the ships set sail from waters off the east Mediterranean island of Cyprus on Sunday, Israel had urged the flotilla not to try to breach the blockade and offered to transfer the cargo to Gaza from an Israeli port, following a security inspection.

Israeli naval commandos stormed the ships in a predawn raid while they were in international waters after ordering them to stop about 80 miles (130 kilometers) from Gaza’s coast, according to activists.

A Turkish website showed video of pandemonium on board one of the ships, with activists in orange life jackets running around as some tried to help an activist apparently unconscious on the deck. The site also showed video of an Israeli helicopter flying overhead and Israeli warships nearby.

Turkey’s NTV showed activists beating one Israeli soldier with sticks as he rappelled from a helicopter onto one of the boats.

The al-Jazeera satellite channel reported by telephone from the Turkish ship leading the flotilla that Israeli navy forces fired at the ship and boarded it, wounding the captain.

"These savages are killing people here, please help," a Turkish television reporter said.

The broadcast ended with a voice shouting in Hebrew, "Everybody shut up!"

The Israeli military said troops only opened fire after encountering unexpected resistance from the activists. Activists attacked troops with knives and iron rods, and opened fire with two pistols seized from the forces.

A total of five soldiers were wounded, two seriously, including at least one hit by live fire, the army said. Two of the dead activists had fired at soldiers with pistols, the army said.

"They planned this attack," said Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch. "Our soldiers were injured from these knives and sharp metal objects … as well as from live fire."

The violent takeover threatened to deal yet another blow to Israel’s international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.

It occurred a day before

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss the Middle East peace process.

The ships were being towed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, and wounded were evacuated by helicopter to Israeli hospitals, officials said. One of the ships had reached port by midday.

There were no details on the identities of the casualties, or on the conditions of some of the more prominent people on board, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85.

Satellite phones on board the ships were turned off, and communication with a small

group of reporters embedded with the Israeli military was blocked.

The Free Gaza Movement is an international group of pro-Palestinian activists that claims the blockade, imposed three years ago after the militant Islamic Hamas group overran Gaza, is unjust and a

violation of international law.

Organizers included people affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement, a pro-Palestinian group that often sends international activists into battle zones, and the IHH, a Turkish aid group that Israel accuses of having terrorist links.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli raid and said it was summoning the Israeli ambassador for an "urgent explanation."

Hasan Naiboglu, the Turkish maritime affairs undersecretary, told the Anatolia news agency that Israel had jammed communications with the ships. He accused Israel of violating international law by carrying out the raid in international waters.

Turkey had unofficially supported the aid mission and has been vocally critical of Israeli military operations against Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel’s Ynet news website said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Turkish officials, including the defense and foreign ministers, to discuss the raid.

The United Nations expressed "shock" and condemned the killings. "We are in contact with the Israeli authorities to express our deep concern and to seek a full explanation," said a statement from the highest-ranking U.N. official in the region, Robert Serry.

The flotilla of three cargo ships and three passenger ships carrying 10,000 tons of aid and 700 activists was carrying items that Israel bars from reaching Gaza, like cement and other building materials.

This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza movement has tried to ship in humanitarian aid to Gaza since August 2008.

Israel has allowed ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since a three-week 

military offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers in January 2009.

The latest flotilla was the largest to date.

————— 

Glenberg reported from aboard the Israeli warship INS Kidon. AP writer Selcan Hacaoglu contributed to this report from Ankara.

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————-

UPDATE:

Israeli commandos have stormed an international aid convoy bound for Gaza leaving up to 19 dead and sparking mass protests across the world.

Britain joined other countries in denouncing the attack as "deplorable" with Palestinian leaders describing the bloodshed as a "massacre".

The deadly dawn raid on a Turkish ship sparked a mass protest in Istanbul with 10,000 people marching through the street, burning Israeli flags.

Commandos, dressed in black and armed with rifles, dropped down ropes from helicopters onto the Mavi Marmara boat, heading a flotilla of six.

Flotilla Deaths

Israeli officials said soldiers opened fire after activists attacked them with iron bars, axes and knives.

They added that activists had tried to "lynch" one of the commandos and blamed the violence on passengers.

But a reporter on the boat – en route from Cyprus – said the commandos had begun firing before landing on the vessel.

And an Al-Jazeera correspondent said the Israeli soldiers continued shooting even though a white flag of surrender had been raised.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the attack giving his "full backing" to the military force.

Twenty eight Britons and a number of Greeks, Swedish and Irish were among 700 aboard the flotilla which was 80 miles off Gaza.

There were fears for two of the Britons – Sakir Yildirim and Cliff Hanley, both from Bristol – who were aboard the Marmara and have not been heard from.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "??I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza flotilla.

"We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved."

An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council will be held this afternoon.

The raid was widely condemned by the international community, with France, Sweden, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Turkey among countries denouncing Israel.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said he was "shocked" by the seriousness of the raid and demanded a full investigation.

White House spokesman Bill Burton said the United States "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained" in the incident.

Meanwhile protesters in Istanbul tried to storm the Consulate building but were blocked by police.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said: "We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel.

"This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a flagrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations," it added.

The flotilla, carrying about 10,000 tonnes of aid and up to 700 passengers on six vessels, had been warned by Israel not to pass a sea blockade.

The activists were headed to Gaza on a mission designed to draw attention to a three-year-old Israeli blockade of the coastal territory.

Israel blamed the activists for the violence but expressed regret for the deaths. It told its citizens to avoid travel to Turkey.

"They [the activists] initiated the violence," Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister told Sky News.

"We made every possible effort to avoid this incident. The servicemen were given instructions that it was to be a police operation and to use maximum restraint.

"Unfortunately they were attacked with deadly force by the people on the boats – with iron bars, knives and live fire."

Mr Netanyahu cut short a trip in Canada and America to return home. He had been due to meet Barack Obama later this week.

The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas described the deaths as a "massacre".

Hamas meanwhile urged Arabs and Muslims to "rise up" in front of Israeli embassies across the globe in protest.

"We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.

There were plans for protests in Athens, while demonstrations developed outside Downing Street in London.

Israel’s Arab community called a general strike and hundreds of people from across the political spectrum flooded onto the streets of Nazareth to protest.

EU foreign affairs Chief Catherine Ashton called for a "full inquiry" into the raid.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced the attack as "inhuman," saying it brought Tehran’s arch-foe "closer than ever to its end."

Sky’s Middle East correspondent Dominic Waghorn said: "There already was much debate in Israel about the wisdom of blocking this flotilla from a PR point of view.

"But whatever the legalities storming an aid armada with commandos was never going to look good for Israel."

———- 

Lone Parents To Loose State Social Welfare Payment Under New Bill: UPDATED

28 May

LONE PARENTS TO LOOSE SOCIAL WELFARE PAYMENT UNDER NEW BILL:

Lone parents are to lose their State payments when the youngest child reaches the age of 13 if a Bill published by the Government today becomes law.

The current cut-off age for the One-Parent Family Payment is when the youngest turns 18, or 22 if in full-time education and if they pass a means test.

The Social Welfare Bill also provides for Jobseeker’s Allowance to be taken away from a person who refuses an offer of suitable employment.

It also provides for the reduction of the Allowance if they refuse to participate in an appropriate training course.

Changes

One-Parent Family Payment to be reduced from April 2011 when the youngest child reaches the age of 13.

Disqualification of receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance where the person refuses an offer of suitable employment.

Reduced rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Supplements for claimants who refuse to participate in courses and training.

Names, addresses, fines and penalties of people who have been convicted of offences under social welfare legislation to be published.

The Bill will be debated in both Houses of the Oireachtas in June and early July.

————————-

UPDATE:

SINGLE PARENTS whose youngest child is over 13 will no longer be able to claim one-parent family payments under the terms of new social welfare legislation published last evening.

The change was described as “blunt and brutal” by Olwyn Enright, the Fine Gael spokeswoman on social protection, who accused Fianna Fáil of a cynical political move in releasing the information late on a Friday.

Under the terms of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010 there will also be changes to disqualify people from collecting Jobseeker’s Allowance if they refuse an offer of suitable employment.

The one-parent family payment is currently paid to a parent until the youngest child reaches 18, or 22, if the child is in full-time education.

The Government said the changes would bring Ireland’s support for lone parents more in line with international provisions, where there is “a general movement away from long-term and passive income support”.

It added that the current arrangements, whereby a lone parent can receive the allowance without any requirement for them to engage in employment, education or training, were not in the best interests of the recipient, their children or society.

“Despite improvements made to the one-parent family payment over the years, a large proportion of lone parents and their children are still experiencing poverty,” it added.

There were about 90,500 recipients of the payment at the end of last year, a 53 per cent increase since 1997.

The total cost of the scheme in 2009 was €1.1 billion, compared to €338 million in 1997.

The payment is made up of a personal rate for the parent of €196 a week with €29.80 for each additional qualified child. The amount depends on the weekly means of the parent.

The Bill will be debated in the Oireachtas before the summer recess in early July.

Ms Enright said the announcement had been made without any plan to help those in one-parent families into education and employment.

“The decision to cut the payment is blunt and brutal and, damningly for the Government, is not backed up by a clear plan,” she said.

Ms Enright said Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cúív was ignoring that over 80 per cent of one-parent families were already engaged in education, training or work. She added that Fine Gael was very much in favour of encouraging people into work or training.

“I know that the majority of people in receipt of social welfare want the opportunity to up-skill retrain or work,” she said.

“It is a pity Fianna Fáil didn’t recognise the merits of this when the country had full employment and that they are only belatedly coming around to the notion now they see it as a way of saving money,” added Ms Enright.

————–

SINGLE parents are set to lose vital state support as part of a "cynical" ploy by Government to cut the financial aid for any family whose youngest child is older than 13.

Details of the new Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill announced yesterday evening show that families of teenage children are facing even more hardship from April of next year.

Under the existing social welfare system, every lone parent family with a child under the age of 18 and a weekly household income of less than €425 is eligible to receive a monthly financial payment from the state.

The means-tested figure is currently available to applicants who are a single parent, step-parent, adoptive parent or legal guardian of a child under or younger than 18 or aged between 18 and 22 and in full-time education.

However, under new measures proposed by Minister for Social Protection, Éamon Ó Cuív, this system is set to be scrapped from April 2011, with the age bracket slashed to include only families whose youngest child is aged 13 or younger.

The minister has defended the Bill, which will be put before the Dáil and Seanad in June and July, as a necessary step towards ensuring the state does not pay unneeded financial aid to members of the public.

However, criticising the plan as a "cynical" ploy which fails to take account of the daily realities of people in financial hardship, Fine Gael social and family affairs spokesperson, Olwyn Enright, said the plan will force the least well-off in society to pay for other individuals’ mistakes.

"The decision to cut the payment is harsh and, damningly for the Government, is not backed up by a clear plan.

"It is without any plan to facilitate this group into education and employment, and Minister Ó Cuív is ignoring the fact that over 80% of one parent families already engage in education, training or work," she said.

Highlighting what she believed was a deliberate attempt to bury the information, the opposition TD added: "I must note the cynical political move by Fianna Fáil in releasing this information so late on a Friday evening."

Among the other details of the proposed bill are plans to disqualify any individual from receiving the jobseeker’s allowance if they refuse an offer of "suitable employment", and to reduce the payment if they refuse to participate in training courses.

————–

UPDATE:

The Government has said, under the proposed changes contained in the Social Welfare Bill, no lone mothers would be cut off from social welfare payments while looking for a job.

The former Minister for Social Welfare, Mary Hanafin, also said although the Bill proposes to end one-parent family payments when the youngest child reaches the age of 13, the changes would be phased in over six years.

Lone parent groups have criticised the Bill, published yesterday, which proposes to penalise unemployed people who refuse jobs which are deemed suitable, or decline to take up training described as appropriate.

Ms Hanafin said the aim was to support lone mothers while getting them into education and training and eventually into employment.

She added that her Department had set the age at 13 years because it was felt that it was after this period of primary education that parents were facing less expenditure in bringing up their children.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has rejected criticism of proposed changes contained in the Social Welfare Bill.

Speaking at a regional Fianna Fáil conference in Athlone, Co Westmeath, this morning, Mr Cowen said the changes proposed with regard to lone parent payments would be introduced over a six-year transitional period.

He said it was all about reducing dependency for those involved and helping them to get out of a situation where they had been locked in unemployment.

General President of SIPTU Jack O’Connor has described proposed changes as ‘heartless and reprehensible beyond belief’.

Mr O’Connor said the Government had dismissed suggestions for a pro-active jobs support strategy and that its policy would expose young people to exploitation and leave them with no alternative but to emigrate.

A group representing lone parents criticised the Government for unnecessarily causing widespread worry among its members by failing to state that proposed restrictions on who qualifies for the One-Parent Family Payment will not affect current recipients.

The organisation, called Open, says the Social Welfare Bill reform of this payment will only affect new applicants from April of next year who have children over the age of 13.

Mary Hanafin rejected suggestions that the Government was forcing unemployed people to go onto training courses at a time when many training centres were full.

Ms Hanafin said there were over 150,000 training place available this year.

If enacted, the law would cut payments by about a quarter to those who turn down training courses, while those refusing job offers would have their entire dole payment disqualified.

The bill also proposes to remove the one parent payment when the youngest child reaches 13.

The current cut-off age is 18 or 22 for those in full-time education and satisfying a means test.

Candy Murphy of the One Family organisation said that without access to jobs, training and affordable childcare, the proposals concerning One-Parent Family payments would push more lone parents onto other forms of welfare and into deeper poverty.

Brid O’Brien of the National Organisation of the Unemployed underlined the shortage of appropriate courses while criticising the absence of a promised PRSI subsidy for employers taking people off the dole queue.

Labour Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Roisin Shortall called the Bill ‘worthless’ and without genuine job and quality training opportunities and help in areas like literacy.

The Government has said, under the proposed changes contained in the Social Welfare Bill, no lone mothers would be cut off from social welfare payments while looking for a job.

The former Minister for Social Welfare, Mary Hanafin, also said although the Bill proposes to end one-parent family payments when the youngest child reaches the age of 13, the changes would be phased in over six years.

Lone parent groups have criticised the Bill, published yesterday, which proposes to penalise unemployed people who refuse jobs which are deemed suitable, or decline to take up training described as appropriate.

Ms Hanafin said the aim was to support lone mothers while getting them into education and training and eventually into employment.

She added that her Department had set the age at 13 years because it was felt that it was after this period of primary education that parents were facing less expenditure in bringing up their children.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has rejected criticism of proposed changes contained in the Social Welfare Bill.

Speaking at a regional Fianna Fáil conference in Athlone, Co Westmeath, this morning, Mr Cowen said the changes proposed with regard to lone parent payments would be introduced over a six-year transitional period.

He said it was all about reducing dependency for those involved and helping them to get out of a situation where they had been locked in unemployment.

General President of SIPTU Jack O’Connor has described proposed changes as ‘heartless and reprehensible beyond belief’.

Mr O’Connor said the Government had dismissed suggestions for a pro-active jobs support strategy and that its policy would expose young people to exploitation and leave them with no alternative but to emigrate.

A group representing lone parents criticised the Government for unnecessarily causing widespread worry among its members by failing to state that proposed restrictions on who qualifies for the One-Parent Family Payment will not affect current recipients.

The organisation, called Open, says the Social Welfare Bill reform of this payment will only affect new applicants from April of next year who have children over the age of 13.

Mary Hanafin rejected suggestions that the Government was forcing unemployed people to go onto training courses at a time when many training centres were full.

Ms Hanafin said there were over 150,000 training place available this year.

If enacted, the law would cut payments by about a quarter to those who turn down training courses, while those refusing job offers would have their entire dole payment disqualified.

The bill also proposes to remove the one parent payment when the youngest child reaches 13.

The current cut-off age is 18 or 22 for those in full-time education and satisfying a means test.

Candy Murphy of the One Family organisation said that without access to jobs, training and affordable childcare, the proposals concerning One-Parent Family payments would push more lone parents onto other forms of welfare and into deeper poverty.

Brid O’Brien of the National Organisation of the Unemployed underlined the shortage of appropriate courses while criticising the absence of a promised PRSI subsidy for employers taking people off the dole queue.

Labour Spokesperson on Social and Family Affairs Roisin Shortall called the Bill ‘worthless’ and without genuine job and quality training opportunities and help in areas like literacy.

(Editor’s note: Yet, billions is being stumped up to the BANK ROBBERS).

37 Children Died While In ‘State Care’ Since 2000: HSE: UPDATED

28 May

 

The Health Service Executive has revealed that a total of 37 children died in State care in the last 10 years, 18 of those from ‘unnatural causes’.

A further 19 children died from natural causes and health-related conditions.

There had been calls for a full disclosure from the HSE following the death of the Dublin teenager Daniel McAnaspie, who was murdered while in the care of the State.

According to the HSE, of the 18 deaths from ‘unnatural causes’:

  • 5 died from suicide
  • 5 deaths were drug related
  • 2 were unlawful killings
  • 3 died from road accidents
  • 3 died from other accidents

HSE lead local health manager Bernard Gloster said 20 of the 37 children who died were teenagers. He said 17 were ‘younger children’.

Mr Gloster would not confirm whether or not Daniel McAnaspie’s death was included in the figures

Minister for Health Mary Harney said the Government was committed to investing more in child protection but that there still was ‘a long way to go’.

——————-

UPDATE:

A total of 37 children have died in the care of the State over the last 10 years.

The HSE said this evening that 18 of these died of unnatural causes and 19 died of natural causes in the period from January 1st 2000 to April 30th of this year.

Five of the children died from suicide, five of the deaths were drug related, two were unlawful killings, three died in road traffic incidents and three died in other incidents.

A total of 19 children died from natural causes and health related conditions, such as brain tumours, leukaemia, surgical complications and heart disease during the same period.

The HSE said the number relates to children who were officially in the care of the HSE or former health boards in accordance with the provision of the Child Care Act 1991 by court order or voluntary consent.

Bernard Gloster, a senior manager at the HSE who was given the task of drawing up a list requested by the Government, said yesterday he did not expect the figure to change substantially fro a list of 23 given to the Government.

The announcement follows severe criticism of the HSE, which was unable to provide definitive figures on the number of children who died in State care to Minister for Children Barry Andrews. It also refused to hand over any files of children who died while in State care to an independent review group established by Mr Andrews.

Mr Gloster said there had been “considerable confusion” in the media over the issue, which threatened to undermine the integrity of the HSE’s childcare services.

He said one reason for the delay in providing definitive figures was a decision to change the definition of children who die while in State care to include those who continue to receive aftercare services when they turn 18 years. These services, which typically include supported accommodation, help vulnerable children who have been in care between the age of 18 and 21 to move into adulthood.

The HSE’s commitment to confirm the number of children who have died while in care follows the intervention of Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who has faced sustained criticism in the Dáil over his Government’s failure to obtain definitive information from the HSE.

Last Sunday, it was reported that the total number of children who died while in State care could be anything up to 200.

The HSE is now drawing up a list of children “known to” HSE services, who have died over the past decade. Mr Gloster said work was continuing with officials at the Department of Health to provide a definition of what this actually meant.

He said this process should be concluded by Monday and he hoped a complete list would be drawn up and given to the Government by next Friday.

Mr Gloster said this was a very difficult task because it involved checking manual records and relying on the local knowledge of social workers. He said the HSE was reforming the way it keeps records. He said the HSE welcomed the

Government’s intention to pass emergency legislation to remove the legal impediments preventing the HSE from handing over files on children’s deaths.

Minister for Health Mary Harney told RTÉ last night legislation was being prepared and would be enacted before the summer recess.

Fine Gael’s Childcare spokesman Alan Shatter accused the HSE of failing to tell the truth.

“The HSE has in its statement utterly failed to truthfully explain why as recently as March 2010 the Minister for Children (Barry Andrews) was informed that the number of child deaths in care was 23 and how it is that nine weeks later the number has grown to 37,” he said.

“Today’s revelation is not only an indictment of the incompetence and failure of the HSE, but also an indictment of the utter failure of Government to ensure the proper monitoring and governance of our childcare and protection services.”

Later tonight the Minister for Children Barry Andrews criticised the 10 weeks it took to hand over the figures, which he requested in March.

He also said it was a matter of deep concern that there was a significant difference between the original figures of 23 presented and the higher number announced.

“The overall discrepancy between the figures reported raises serious questions about the management of information in the HSE in an extremely sensitive area and I will be requiring both an explanation and assurances from the Board and Senior Management in the HSE,” he added.

Mr Andrews revealed he was also awaiting information on the death of any child known to the HSE child protection system and the death of young adults in the care of the HSE in the period immediately prior to their 18th birthday.

“I am informed by the HSE that this information will be available by Friday June 4,” he added.

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THE HSE has come under intense fire after it revealed 37 children had died while in care in the past decade, just a day after the Government said it believed the figure would be 23.

The deaths include five by suicide, five from drugs and two by unlawful killing.

Fine Gael challenged the accuracy of the tally, while Minister for Children Barry Andrews expressed alarm over the figure and said he would be demanding an explanation from senior HSE management.

"It is a matter of deep concern that there is significant difference between the original figures of 23 presented to me by the HSE and the higher number announced today," said Mr Andrews. "The overall discrepancy between the figures raises serious questions about the management of information in the HSE in an extremely sensitive area, and I will be requiring an explanation and assurances from the board and senior management."

The figures released last night show that five children died by suicide, five deaths were drug-related, two were unlawful killings, three were the result of road traffic accidents and three were the result of other accidents.

Another 19 children died from natural causes, such as brain tumours, heart disease and leukaemia.

The 37 children died between January 1, 2000, and the end of April this year. And HSE chief Prof Brendan Drumm said he believed the figure was "absolutely reliable". He defended the earlier figure of 23, claiming that up until recently there had "been no standard definition" regarding deaths in care.

Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter accused the HSE of dishonesty. "The figures not only yet again confirm its incapacity to either both properly collate essential information and to tell the truth, but also yet again starkly and tragically highlights the chaotic dysfunction within our childcare and protection services."

Jillian Van Turnhout of the Children’s Rights Alliance said the number of deaths rang "alarm bells".

Belfast: Two For Court Following Cannabis Haul

28 May

Two men aged 27 and 37 are due to appear before Laganside Magistrates Court tomorrow on charges relating to a £20,000 (€23,530) cannabis seizure in Belfast.

The men are charged with possession of a Class B drug and possession with intent to supply.

A PSNI spokesman said the men were arrested after a car was stopped and searched on Colinview St at 5pm on Thursday and a large quantity of cannabis herb discovered.

During following up searches of two houses in the Poleglass area a quantity of cannabis plants were also seized. Police estimate the total value of the haul to be £20,000.

KIMMAGE, Dublin: Armed Gardai Arrest Man Following Tiger Raid On Ulster Bank

28 May

ARMED GARDAI ARREST MAN IN KIMMAGE FOLLOWING TIGER RAID:

A man has been arrested following the abduction of a woman and the robbery of around €100,000 from a bank in Dublin.

The money has since been recovered.

The woman was taken from her home in Ballyfermot this morning while her partner, who works at the Ulster Bank in Kimmage, was ordered to go to the Bank and take out the money.

He was given instructions on how to deliver it.

However, gardaí became aware of what was happening and an operation was set up led by the Organised Crime Unit and backed by the Emergency Response Unit.

The money was to be handed over in Dublin around midday but armed gardaí arrested a man in his 20s on the Lower Kimmage Road.

He is now being detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act at Crumlin Garda Station and can be questioned for up to seven days.

The woman who was kidnapped was found in the Fairyhouse area of Co Meath.

It is understood she may have gone into house for help before the alarm was raised.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said ‘the successful resolution of the kidnap underlines once again the importance of following the protocols in place for dealing with this kind of incident.

‘They are designed, firstly, to ensure the safety of persons and, secondly, to thwart the activities of these gangs.’

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UPDATE:

Gardaí are searching for a gang of five men who abducted the wife of a bank employee and tried to rob €100,000.

The plot was foiled after armed officers from the Organised Crime Unit and the Emergency Response Unit stopped a car with the cash and arrested a man in his 20s.

The woman was released unharmed and has since been reunited with her husband.

Gardaí say further arrests are expected.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern has congratulated the gardaí on the success of the operation and said it underlines the importance of following the agreed protocols.

A gang of five armed and masked men forced their way into the home of an employee of the Ulster Bank on Sundrive Road in the early hours of this morning.

They took the man’s wife away in the boot of the family car and forced him to go to work and get them money.

He was given a bag and a phone and the gang called him at work and told him where to leave €100,000.

He left the money in his car on a road in Harold’s Cross, which was then collected by a man and transferred to another car.

The gardaí had been alerted and set up an operation led by the Organised Crime Unit, backed up the Emergency Response Unit.

When the money was collected the man’s wife was released unharmed in Ratoath, Co Meath.

As soon as gardaí were sure she was safe, they moved in and arrested the man with the bag of cash.

He is from Dublin’s south inner city and known to gardaí. He is being questioned at Crumlin Garda Station and can be held for up to seven days.

Minister Ahern expressed his sympathy to the couple.

IBOA General Secretary Larry Broderick said the attempted robbery was ‘a further example of the return of a disturbing trend which is causing anxiety and concern to bank staff throughout the country.’
www.garda.ie

Hundreds Of Young People Die Of Blood Clots (DVT): Says Charity

28 May

HUNDREDS OF YOUNG PEOPLE DIE OF BLOOD CLOTS (DVT): Charity

Hundreds of young people are dying every year from blood clots; it has been revealed, forcing doctors to think again about deep vein thrombosis.

DVT had previously been thought to be a problem in surgery patients or the elderly.

But the new figures, obtained by the thrombosis charity Lifeblood from the Office of National Statistics, reveal an alarming number of young people are killed by the condition.

The charity found that between 2005 and 2008, some 1,075 people aged 40 or under died of a blood clot. Of these, 60 were children or teenagers.

Most deaths are in pregnant women or people born with so-called "sticky blood".

Lifeblood director and haematologist professor Beverley Hunt said even a slight pain in the leg may need to be checked.

She said a clot could move up to the lungs with potentially fatal results.

"If the pain is persistent and you can’t explain it and it’s been there for a couple of days, see your doctor," Professor Hunt said.

"The trouble is that these figures have made us all think again about what constitutes the symptoms of a DVT and we are going to have to do some more research."

Billie-Jo Twigg developed a blood clot at just 19 – and almost certainly owes her life to her teacher.

She had dismissed the pain and swelling in her leg as a pulled muscle.

But her biology lecturer at Portsmouth College recognised the signs of a serious blood clot and urged her to see her doctor.

Billie-Jo told Sky News: "The doctor measured my leg and it was an inch bigger than my other one.

"They wouldn’t even let me catch the bus to the hospital. They made me take a taxi, which they paid for.

"The next morning they found three clots, two in my calf and one behind my knee. I was a bit panicky."

Her teacher Caroline Morgan said: "It’s obviously not just the elderly that get affected by deep vein thrombosis.

"It could be anybody. As young as Billie-Jo and as healthy as she is – it could happen to anybody.

"I’m just so grateful we had that conversation. She is doing well and has her whole life in front of her."