Irish Government ‘cheerleaders’ for EU encroachment on civil liberties

‘… access to citizens home address, mobile phone number, date of birth, credit card number, passport number, personal details and associations with other people’

Sligo News File Online

The Irish Government, which has consistently refused to check out United States military aircraft flying on war missions through Shannon, is allegedly behind EU measures to force citizens to provide confidential information for transfer to foreign intelligence services.

Martina Anderson, MEP, Sinn Fein
Martina Anderson, MEP,
Sinn Fein

Explaining what the EU is apparently moving on, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson, said in a statement that plans are afoot in Brussels for the rollout of a system known as the Passenger Name Record programme to enable “the mass collection and sharing of personal information by security agencies in the EU and beyond.”

She said, “A single PNR system imposed on Member States can contain information about your home address, your mobile phone number, your date of birth, your credit card number, your passport number and personal details about your travel preferences and your associations with other people.

“It also enables profiling – did you ask for a halal meal or a Kosher meal? Did you ask for one bed or two? Did you pay for someone else?”

Anderson, a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, said the provision, for which she described the Irish Government as “cheerleaders,” is not an anti-terror law. What it is she stressed, is “an expensive and unnecessary violation of basic civil liberties.”

EU MonitoringShe pointed out that “the mass collection of information from passengers who are not involved in terrorism or international organised crime has been condemned as unnecessary by the European Data Protection Supervisor.”

The perpetrators of terrorism and international crime “are well known to various member states” but the reality is that “the information is not being properly exchanged,” she said

She argued at EU level “that the scope of the PNR should focus on those areas and not capture everyone.”

EU PNR, she said, “needs to comply with the Data Retention judgement of the European Court of Justice which stated that massEU Image collection of data that is not targeted to certain categories is disproportionate and thus in violation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

She added that PNR programme is currently subject to a pending case in the European Court of Justice concerning its fundamental rights compatibility.

National planning laws changed to aid accommodation of immigrants

As many as 50,000 could be allowed settle in Ireland.

Sligo News File Online.

OireachtasThe Oireachtas has sanctioned substantial changes in the planning laws to facilitate the accommodation of immigrants.

The measures come amid growing public fear about the flood of immigrants expected to arrive in the country.

It is estimated that – including reunification of family members -upwards of 50,000 could be allowed settle here under cover of new provisions and government secrecy surrounding the plans.

Clonlea Strand Hotel
Clonlea Strand Hotel

The Government has confirmed that after a short induction in reception centres, immigrants will have houses offered to them and become entitled to receive full social welfare benefits and other allowances. They will also have full access to the jobs market and statutory support services in Ireland.

In County Waterford, an emergency meeting of residents, business interests and public representatives heard complaints about a centre chosen for the accommodation of immigrants in Dungarvin. The three- star Clonea Hotel is “a unique and privileged position on the South East coastline in one of the most stunning locations in West Waterford.” Overlooking the Blue Flag Clonea Beach, it has, according to the Owners, 57 stylish bedrooms and offers a variety of

Clonea Hotel & Swimming Pool
Clonea Hotel & Swimming Pool

dining options. An 18 hole Gold Coast Golf Course boasting breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Dungarvan Bay and the stunning Comeragh Mountains is situated close by. Facilities include an indoor leisure centre, swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, turkish bath, gym, ten pin bowling alley and a children’s soft play area – the Play Loft.

The convened emergency meeting, organisers stressed, was not anti-refugee. At issue, it was pointed out, was the suitability of the Clonea Hotel as a place for a reception and orientation centre for refugees. The Government proposes to locate upwards of 100 immigrants in a reception centre in the hotel. Speakers expressed fears about the knock-on impact this would have on the commercial life of the area, where people regard the hotel as a primary attraction in the local tourism industry. Some residents felt that amenities in the area would suffer and tourist numbers would dwindle.

Clonea Beach
Clonea Beach

It is said that a contract has been signed between management of the Clonlea and the Reception and Integration Agency which deals with the provision of accommodation for asylum seekers.

The Hazel Hotel in Monasterevin had also been commissioned to be the “orientation” centre to accommodate 520 immigrants.

Article 4 of the new Department of the Environment planning measures, designed to assist “in implementing the Government’s Irish Refugee Protection Programme,” inserts four new classes of exempted development into the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 to 2015, which has the effect that the changes in use specified in the new classes are exempted from having to obtain planning permission. The new classes of exempted development are:

• Class 14(g): change of use of a premises from a hotel to a hostel (other than a hostel where care is provided);

• Class 14(h): Change of use of various forms of premises providing residential or overnight accommodation to specific use as accommodation for refugees and asylum seekers, as defined in legislation. This class of exempted development will assist in implementing the Government’s Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), which was established by the Government on 10 September 2015 in response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe;

• Class 14(i): Change of use of various forms of premises providing overnight accommodation to use as an emergency reception and orientation centre (EROC) for refugees and asylum seekers. A network of emergency reception and orientation centres will be established by the Department of Justice and Equality for the initial reception of persons arriving in Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme;

• Class 14(j): Return of premises, the use of which changed under an exemption in Class 14(h) or 14(i), to their permitted use immediately prior to that change of use. It is a condition of this class that the exemption from planning permission will apply for a period of 3 years only from the date of the commencement of the change of use exempted under Class 14(h) or (i).

Article 3 of these Regulations amends the definitions of “business premises” and “excluded premises” in the Principal Regulations by removing the distinction in them between a hotel and a hostel.
In accordance with section 16(3) of the Interpretation Act 2005, these Regulations come into operation at the end of the day before the day on which the Regulations are made.

Some 95% of all applications for asylum in Ireland this year were reportedly rejected as not being genuine. The top 5 nationalities seeking asylum were Pakistan, Bangladesh, Albania, Nigeria and Malawi, countries not at war.The Government is understood to have been heavily lobbied by sectors of industry to allow more immigrants access to the state to take up jobs here.

Currently, thousands of Irish parents and children are walking the streets in the forlorn hope of finding a home. The number of homeless families is also growing with little prospect of housing coming on stream for them any time soon.

Accommodation Government erecting for Irish Families
Accommodation Government erecting for Irish Families

Senator paints dismal picture of the future for Health Service.

Allocation for 2016 ‘far short of what’s required.’

Sligo News File Online.

Service cuts, longer waiting lists and further seizure of medical cards; this is the dismal prediction of a Sligo Senator speaking of the likely state of the Health Service for the year ahead.

HSE 2016 Health Plan "fantasy." Senator Marc MacSharry, FF.
HSE 2016 Health Plan “fantasy.” Senator Marc MacSharry, FF.

The Government announced 2016 €13billion plan is “fantasy,”  said Marc Mac Sharry.

The allocation for the coming year “falls far short of what’s needed to run a functioning health service,” he said.

He also warned of a deterioration “of the already unacceptable conditions that patients and staff are experiencing day in day out in our overcrowded and underfunded hospitals.”

EU rules which the government is party to dictate that top-ups for health and end of year supplementary estimates will not be allowed in 2016.

“Years of bogus budgets,” said McSharry “have brought us to a situation whereby patients are now forced to wait for hours, and in some cases days, on trolleys in our Emergency Departments.”

Ignored by Fianna Fail-led Government; some of the thousands who campaigned against closure of the cancer services at Sligo General.
Ignored by Fianna Fail-led Government;
some of the thousands who campaigned against closure of the cancer services at Sligo General.

Sligo’s cancer services were killed off by a Fianna Fail-led government in 2009.

Former Junior Minister John Perry has since worked to have the service reinstated, and recently announced that the HSE has now received tenders for the installation of a new mobile follow-up Mammography at the hospital to serve needs of patients in Sligo and Leitrim.


CPO Tax Relief

Farmers eligible for easement of Capital Gains tax.

Sligo News File

Land purchased under a Compulsory Purchase Order qualifies for the Capital Gains Tax reliefs announced in Budget 2016.

Tony McLoughlin, T.D., Sligo - Leitrim
Tony McLoughlin, T.D.,
Sligo – Leitrim

TD Tony McLoughlin said Finance Minister Noonan confirmed 1 January as the date from which the arrangement will kick in.

The Fine Gael Deputy added that the measure would enable those farming along the new N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin route to buy replacement land.

Responding to a parliamentary question McLoughlin raised about back up garda resources for Operation Thor, Fitzgerald, the Justice Minister said the detailed allocation of resources is the responsibility of the garda commissioner and her management team.

She listed the activities engaged in under the Thor operation, stating that “it is not possible to detail the additional resources that will be made available to any one county.”

ICSA takes concerns over ABP – Slaney merger to the Competition Commission

‘Huge alarm among cattle and sheep farmers that this deal will be disastrous for them’

‘Delay merger until full examination of key aspects is concluded and published’

Sligo News File Online

ICSA is insisting that the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC – formerly Competition Authority) delays ICSA Officeissuing clearance to the reported merger between ABP and the Slaney Foods Group until a full examination of the following aspects of the merger is concluded and published. ICSA also believes that all interested parties, including farmer representative associations should be consulted at every stage of this process.

•To what extent competition for cattle will be hindered by the reduction in independent outlets competing for cattle with the big two of ABP and Dawn?

•To what extent does the acquisition reduce competition in the rendering trade, given that there will now effectively be only four category three outlets for handling fifth quarter products?

•To what extent will the acquisition undermine competition for niche Hereford and Angus beef given that Slaney was a main competitor to ABP for these important added value markets which are particularly important for key supermarket contracts?

•Is the CCPC concerned at the fact that a dominant player in the beef industry in Ireland and the UK is now in control of 40% of sheepmeat processing (via Irish Country Meats, part of the Slaney Foods Group) in Ireland as well?

Competition Authority•To what extent is competition for cattle impacted in Northern Ireland where the Linden Food Group (currently the owner of 50% of the Slaney Foods Group) was an important independent processor but which will now be under the influence of the ABP merger and will the CCPC examine what impact this will have on the cattle trade in the Republic?

ICSA president Patrick Kent said that there was huge alarm among cattle and sheep farmers that this deal will be disastrous for them.

“Farmers are very worried that this merger will be used to drive prices even lower. Many farmers believe that the cattle trade is operated almost like a cartel as there seems to be little difference in prices or in specifications. Most farmers associate the difficulties in getting better prices with the dominance of the ABP, Dawn and Kepak groups. This merger further consolidates the cattle trade in a small circle which leaves the farmer in an extremely vulnerable position.”



‘Resign’? – ‘absolutely not’, says Sligo Cllr. featured in RTE Investigates

“The people of my area here are absolutely furious the way this was done”

Sligo News File Online.

Cllr. Joe Queenan, Independent, Sligo County Council.
Cllr. Joe Queenan, Independent,
Sligo County Council.

A Sligo councillor has said he is considering his “legal options” after an RTE Investigates documentary allegedly filmed him agreeing to act as an intermediary for a fake company, formed by the documentary makers,  claiming to represent investors seeking his support in connection with wind farm development in the county.

In the programme, broadcast by RTE last Monday, Councillor Joe Queenan is alleged to have offered or agreed to act for the fictitious company. The programme also alleges he discussed investment in an agri business he said he was thinking about, and of which he thought the cost would be €400,000, with he himself being able to put of €200,000. The programme makers state that they had insisted the meeting should be conducted on a strictly confidential basis  – seemingly the meeting was later held in a Sligo hotel.

Queenan has formerly served as Chairman of Sligo County Council, Chairman the Sligo Institute of Technology, and Chairman the Sligo County GAA Board. He is currently a member of the board of the Sligo Institute, a position to which he was appointed this year by Labour’s Minister for Education, Jan Sullivan.

Speaking on RTE’s Drivetime on Thursday Queenan described himself as the owner of a dairy farm, a supermarket in Enniscrone, the lessee of a supermarket in Strandhill, and an auctioneer. He is also an estate  agent. The RTE Investigates programme alleges he is an agent for twenty-four landlords leasing properties to Sligo County Council.

It is alleged by RTE Investigates that properties he owns were not listed in a statutory Declaration of Interests that all councillors are duty bound to complete and submit annually to the Ethics Registrar.  The legislation requires all elected representatives must list all property interests or sources of income.

Fianna Fail reportedly accepted Queenan’s resignation from the party immediately following the transmission of the RTE Investigates documentary. His resignation is also said to have been accepted by LAMA, the  Local Authority Members Association, at the weekend. Sligo County Council has reportedly confirmed it is holding its own internal inquiry regarding the RTE documentary; with its Ethics Registrar looking into issues raised in the programme.

The programme makers state that the Ethics Declaration of Interests was the “foundation for their investigation, “and that their “pitch” to Councillors was that they “wanted to eliminate the risks of not getting planning permission for the development of the projects the fake company they had set up was supposedly seeking.

“Our first request was to ask Councillors if they were willing to work with us to solve planning problems on a strictly confidential basis.” The presenter is then heard to state that a selected number of Councillors were  contacted.” They state that a handful of local authority members agreed to meet on confidential terms to discuss getting  around planning problems.”

The programme alleges that when Queenan offered his services to them, “he focussed on the value of the pre-planning process.” The presenter states that this is where “the prospects of a potential developments are discussed with local planners. This is an important stage of any development, and section 247 of the Planning Act makes it very clear that it is a criminal offence for Councillors to seek ‘any favours, benefit or payment direct or indirect on his or her own behalf or on behalf of any other person or body” for work they might do in this area.

Queenan, a member of Sligo County Council for the last 18 years, is alleged in the televised RTE Investigates programme to have explained how he would be able to assist Vinst Opportunities, the fictitious company  set up by the RTE Investigates Unit. Speaking with an undercover reporter using the name ‘Nina’, who identified herself as an agent for the fictitious company, Queenan allegedly states on the film, “Really what I can be here is a link man or a gopher or whatever between your architects and the local authority. And I can be the eyes and ears and I will know, because they will tell me.

“I have a good working relationship with them and if there is amendments to be done or any… I can go in and talk to planners, encourage them and impress on them the importance of trying to get…”

The programme shows Queenan repeatedly stressing that he did not want any payment or fee. He is quoted saying “I am not looking for anything out of it.” It is alleged in the broadcast that Queenan referred an agri business he had been thinking about, mentioning possible investment in this. He allegedly states to ‘Nina’, “I’m soon starting an agri feed business in Enniscrone where I know there’s a market for. One of the issues of the moment is I haven’t enough of space.This is me personally, now, I haven’t the space.” Queenan allegedly mentions a site for which the owner is asking for €300,000, “so it would take me another €100,000. It would take up to €400,000 to get up and going. I’m just talking to you now as…I’m not looking for anything at the moment.”

The programme makers state that they subsequently telephoned Queenan and asked him “how he wanted to structure the support for his business, and how he planned to keep it a secret.” Queenan is alleged to have stated, “Anything you ask me to do, I’ll do it for the benefit of Sligo, that we will bring more wind farms to Sligo and we’ll bring more income for the Council. Eh…And I don’t want any fee or nothing like that for anything I do for you. Right.” Going on, he states, “…again we are talking hypothetically slightly now here.” Then – “And all these conversations…now I mean they’re…I presume are totally confidential” In response to  comments of the caller, it’s alleged he stated, “I don’t…I don’t…I don’t…I don’t want to read them in a fuckin…in a local media paper or anything like that…Eh…these meetings never took place in other words.”

Solicitors for Queenan said the Councillor was not corrupt; he did not want a fee.

Queenan said in a statement through his solicitors, “I unfortunately neglected to complete my annual written Declaration as comprehensively as I should have, and as comprehensively as I would have in previous years. I wholeheartedly regret the oversight.”

Asked by RTE Primetime presenter Mary Wilson on Thursday whether he should “do the honourable thing and resign from the Council,” Queenan replied, “Absolutely not.

“I felt this whole thing was a sting. I was setup. I went there in good faith to listen to the lady. The people of my area here are absolutely furious the way this was done. I’m delighted with the support I have got. I apologise wholeheartedly for my errors, and the people of Sligo will adjudicate on me in the future.”

He said in a statement, “I am now considering all of my legal options in relation to this matter,”

ICSA president warns EU pact with South American states will imperil Irish beef industry

Pressure on Bruton to oppose deal

Sligo News File Online

The president of the ICSA Patrick Kent has called on Trade Minister Richard Bruton to issue a statement on how he intends to protect the Irish beef industry in the light of what he has described as a threatening trade deal the EU is negotiating with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.
Patrick Kent, President, Irish Cattle & Sheep Farmers Association.

According to the ICSA leader, who held discussions with Commission officials in Brussels last week, there is a renewed drive at EU level to finalise a deal with the four South American countries, which make up the Mercosur block.

Warning that such pact would open EU markets to greater quantities of lower price South American beef, Mr. Kent said any agreement that lowered or eliminated tariffs on South American imports “will undermine the price of Irish exports to the UK and continental Europe.”

He said. “The beef sector is barely hanging in there in terms of profitability. It is hard to see what Ireland can gain out of a deal with the Mercosur block but it is abundantly clear that beef will lose.”

“Minister Bruton, in his role as Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation has responsibility for trade. He needs to push the importance of beef to the Irish economy with the EU trade commissioner, Cecelia Malmstrom and insist that Ireland will not accept a bad deal on beef.”

Demanding the Minister make an immediate strong statement outlining the position of the Government on the situation, Mr. Kent said, “there is no time for prevarication as our information is that there is a drive on to get a deal wrapped up before the end of the year,”

Families on the breadline in run-up to Christmas: Cllr. Scanlon

‘I will fight to ensure farmers get payments they’re entitled to.’

Sligo News File Online

Cllr. Eamon Scanlon, Fianna Fail
Cllr. Eamon Scanlon, Fianna Fail

South Sligo Fianna Fail councillor Eamon Scanlon has said there are ongoing delays in the issuance of farm payments.

“This is a ridiculous situation that leaves many families on the breadline in the run-up to Christmas,” he said.

He also expressed concern about “confusing paperwork and drawn out processes.”

Others to address the meeting called by Cllr. Scanlon included his party’s spokesman on agriculture, Eamon O’Cuiv and Dr. Ken Swanick.

He said, “I will continue to fight to ensure that farmers get the payments they are entitled to.”