Management say inspections have shown structure complies with ‘statutory requirements’
TD denounces delay in promised provision of a new garda station as ‘completely farcical’
Sligo News File
Sligo gardai have been ordered to return to the local garda station on Pearse Road from which officers walked out last week citing concerns about health and the safety of the building.
Senior garda management has told the protesting members that inspections by fire services, the HSA and OPW have shown that the structure complies with statutory requirements.
However, the Garda Representative Association say they have not yet been given sight of the findings, and that an earlier independent report which the association itself had commissioned deemed the place “not fit for purpose.”
Fianna Fail TD Marc MacSharry said he had been informed that a tender for the refurbishment of Sligo Garda Station had been issued and works on the building would be complete by the end of September next year.
Commenting after he highlighted issues surrounding the building with the head of HR with An Garda Siochana John Barrett, MacSharry condemned the delay in the promised provision of a new station as “completely farcical.”
“For two years, I have been calling on the Minister for Justice to outline a timeline for the provision of a new building following a Government commitment back in 2015. Since then there has been virtually no movement on securing a site for the new station and conditions at the Pearse Road building have led to officers staging a protest.
“Ministers Fitzgerald and Flanagan have been stonewalling on the issue for over two years. Despite tabling several questions to the Ministers for Justice and the OPW seeking progress on a new site, the answers were vague, claiming that there would be ‘agreement on the purchase of a site soon’ or that the Department would ‘reach agreement on the purchase shortly.’
“This hands-off approach continued . . . when Minister Charlie Flanagan, despite assuring me in the Dáil that he would be ‘happy to engage’ with me on the issue, subsequently told me that it wasn’t his responsibility to secure a site.
“This constant passing of the buck has to stop. On the one hand, we have a Transport Minister who has secured a commitment on the reopening of a south Dublin Garda station, while on the other we have a Justice Minister who is completely disinterested in the health and safety of officers who are working out of a condemned regional and divisional headquarters in Sligo.
“. . .I questioned the head of HR with An Garda Síochána John Barrett in the Public Accounts Committee about the situation at the station; he confirmed that tenders for €1.25m for the refurbishment of the existing station are due in December and that works are to be completed by the 30th September 2018. He also stated that procurement of the preferred site of the new station beside Summerhill College should continue in tandem with the refurbishment process.
“I would like confirmation from the Justice Minister that this process will be proceeding as outlined by John Barrett this morning. The status quo is not an option,” he added.
Sligo-Leitrim has four TDs, Martin Kenny, Sinn Fein, Tony McLoughlin, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail deputies Marc MacSharry and Eamon Scanlon. Scanlon is the Fianna Fail party spokesman for business and job creation.
The Government pulled support from a Ballaghaderreen production plant because of its trade in tobacco products. Exclusive Cigar Manufacturers, which launched in 1978, and employed 38 at its facility on the Charlestown Road, reportedly announced last month that it is to transfer operations to Sri Lanka.
But now it has been revealed that owing to a treaty on tobacco control the Government had removed all aid to the company.
In the Dail, Junior Minister for Jobs Pat Breen told local TDs that in January 2013 “the Department of Health communicated to all Departments and their agencies the guidelines for the implementation of Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”
He said Principle 4 of the Convention guidelines stated that “because their products are lethal, the tobacco industry should not be granted incentives to establish or run their businesses.”
For this reason, his Department and its agencies “are no longer in a position to support companies in this sector,” he said.
The Ballaghaderreen firm started life as Hofnar in December 1978.
Workers stated that they were unaware of the impending closure of the plant.
Dep. Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fail) said ECMI “…is one of the largest private employers in West Roscommon. That might surprise some people, but it is the case.
“The jobs involve a specific skill set and many who are being made redundant will likely have to leave their county to find similar work, and we all know that Dublin is busting at the seams. IDA Ireland has visited County Roscommon only once in 2017 and nearly half the year is gone. From the information I have received, its representatives also only visited once in 2016.
“Ballaghaderreen has been dealt several severe blows in recent years. Going back 12 or 14 years, we had the loss of the United Meat Packers, UMP, meat plant, but we have also lost a hotel and several businesses. The reality is that the community in Ballaghaderreen reacted. It built many units which are there for jobs to go into, but the Government has not delivered. There is a huge amount of talk about balanced regional development in the programme for Government, but it is not happening.”
Dep. Michael Fitzmaurice (Ind) said the West of Ireland needed a balance of development which it was not getting.
“Ballaghaderreen was once noted as a sort of gateway town, especially with Knock Airport located nearby. We need a focus on Ballaghaderreen as well as other towns in County Roscommon and, indeed, the west of Ireland…
“If one looks at all the plans, one will see that there is a focus on building railways out to the likes of the airport and such projects. There should be a focus on putting good infrastructure in place and on ensuring that it is attractive, especially for business people, to move to towns like Ballaghaderreen.
“I am not saying that people can be picked up by the neck and told to set up business there. The town lost the meat factory, and it has lost other businesses. There is scope there.”
Dep. Dara Calleary “The ultimate irony is that Ballaghaderreen is the headquarters of the Western Development Commission whose outgoing chairman, former Fine Gael councillor Paddy McGuinness, declined to be reappointed because he called the Minister of State out, called the Government out and, more importantly, called permanent Government out for their complete lack of interest in and lip service to the challenges facing regional Ireland.
“We want the Minister of State to come to West Roscommon and East Mayo and, in terms of Roscommon, focus on west Roscommon. The growth he speaks about is going into the area around Monksland. It needs to be spread across the county. Similarly, the action plan for jobs in the West is a plan for Galway city and the rest of us are being left behind.”
Dail hears of unemployed being asked ‘in front of neighbours’ if they had a new suit of clothes for interviews, whether they had ever committed a crime and whether they intended to commit a crime in the future.
Sligo News File Online.
Teachers are being shunted into JobPath programmes because apparently there are no proper jobs for them.
The issue has been raised in the Dail where the Social Protection Minister, Leo Varadkar was questioned about the “requirement for newly qualified teachers to engage with a private company as part of JobPath in training and activities not related to teaching.”
JobPath was rolled out by former Labour Minister Joan Burton in 2014. Her department stated that Seetec and Turas Nua Ltd., the two successful private sector bidders for the four-year €340 million euro contract would be providing 1,000 staff in 100 outlets to assist the long-term unemployed in finding suitable employment and training.”
Deputy Thomas Broughan put it to Varadkar that “a specific problem” concerning JobPath had arisen in the case of second-level teachers, “although others are also affected.” Teachers, Broughan said, “are required to pursue JobPath training activation but
effectively are casual workers doing substitute work in different schools, including preparatory work.” They also have to be available for work at literally a day’s notice, he said.
Varadkar said people who have been unemployed for a long period of time “should be open to preparing for and taking up employment in occupations or sectors outside of their preferred field of work.This applies to people from all backgrounds, trades and professions.”
He went on to say that on referral to a JobPath service provider, job seekers “are assigned a personal employment adviser who works
with them to identify potential employment opportunities and support them in overcoming any barriers to employment. This may include, depending on the individual, the provision of training in job search and interview skills, or indeed in certain vocational skills.
“In addition JobPath service providers will tailor their approach to accommodate and support people, such as teachers, who can secure part-time or short-notice substitution work.”
However, JobPath came under fire from Limerick Fianna Fail Deputy Willie O’Dea who asked Varadkar if his attention had been drawn to the criticisms being levelled at it.
O’Dea said he was raising the question “because of the large volume of complaints” not only he but also other colleagues on all sides of the house were receiving about the operation of the scheme.
Referring to the reply from Varadkar, O’Dea said he was “staggered by the Minister’s reference to there only being 145 complaints.
“With as much certainty as I can have short of counting, I have received that many complaints from different parts of the country.”
He said, “A woman from County Wicklow rang me last night. She was obviously in distress because of her initial interaction with JobPath. I have received complaints from people in my constituency who were invited into a relatively small room and while sitting cheek by jowl with their neighbours – it is a small city – asked questions about whether they had a new suit of clothes for interviews, whether they had ever committed a crime and whether they intended to commit a crime in the future.
“Who dreamed up these questions?”
O’Dea said that last June the Minister told him that “the Department intended to commission customer satisfaction surveys.” He asked if this been done and whether the surveys had been conducted.
Varadkar said the independent customer satisfaction survey was under way and the results were expected “before the end of the year.”
O’Dea: “Time will not permit me to read all of the e-mails, letters and other correspondence I have received on this issue, but a person from the Minister’s constituency e-mailed me after finding the JobPath experience humiliating, stressful and demoralising. I have received a number of other e-mails. One person’s connection with JobPath had accentuated their anxiety owing to the behaviour of some of the staff. Another person stated no benefit or job opportunities had been presented since they were coerced into attending Turas Nua. Yet another person told me about receiving advice from staff who had received a paltry three months of training and many of whom did not have a background in human resources. Perhaps this explains the reason the number of complaints is so small.
Some 90% of the people who have complained to me have begged me to keep their names out of it because they felt threatened. That is sinister. I can meet the Minister and show him some of the e-mails I have received. The people who sent them did not want their names to be mentioned because they feared retaliation.
That is unacceptable.”
Varadkar: “I am unsure what the Deputy means by “retaliation”. If people are concerned that their payments will be reduced, that cannot be done. Neither of the JobPath providers has the authority to do so. It can only be done by my officials. Sometimes people who attend social welfare offices and Intreo centres have complaints. This may be down to personal interactions, for example, how they have been treated by individual staff members, or their interpretation of what was said to them. However, personal questions sometimes require to be asked in one-to-one engagements. Asking someone whether he or she has a suit in order that he or s he can appear well at an interview is reasonable. Some of the questions people might be asked in interviews are also asked in—–
Government and local authorities funding development.
Sligo News File Online.
Knock Airport recorded a relatively small increase in passenger numbers in 2016.
The airport is supported by local authorities, including debt-ridden Sligo County Council.
It has also received allocations of €1.3m and €900,000 from the Department of Transport in the last year.
According to reports, passenger numbers have increased by around 7%.
Concern is meanwhile growing over the North West’s faltering economy.
There has been little new industrial or service sector investment of major significance during the last twelve months.
The commercial rate, reduced on urban-based premises was bumped up on rural businesses in 2016, despite many struggling to survive. Some have closed.
At the same time, Council-run Local Enterprise Offices are offering grants and loans for new business start-ups.
Young people disillusioned over the lack of development and job creation are leaving the region in droves.
TDs representing the Sligo-Leitrim constituency are Martin Kenny, Sinn Fein, Tony McLoughlin, Fine Gael and Eamon Scanlon and Marc MacSharry, both Fianna Fail.
It seems the Fianna Fail-backed Fine Gael-led government doesn’t feel under any substantial political pressure to deliver for the North West. This is also apparent regarding the alleviation of the trolley crisis at the Sligo University Hospital. While extra beds are being rolled out in nearly a dozen hospitals across the country, that Sligo, it’s reported, has been omitted from the plan.
Medical practitioner calls for an investigation amid allegations ‘multidrug-resistant infections a contributing factor in 29 hospital deaths.’
25,000 deaths per annum in the EU linked to multidrug-resistant infections
Use of antibiotics on some farms may be breeding potential killer bugs that pass to humans in the food chain.
‘Some bacteria building up a tolerance to antibiotics, possibly posing a bigger threat to humanity than terrorism.’
‘Resistance to antibiotics will emerge as an even greater threat to mankind than cancer.’
Sligo News File Online
Health Minister Simon Harris apparently believes vaccination is the answer to the hospital trolley crisis.
He has urged everyone who hasn’t availed of the flu shot to do so now. The Minister hasn’t mentioned that the jab can cause a worrying condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome in some.
He said, “My message this afternoon is simple and clear – it is not too late to be vaccinated.”
But what of the major emergency where bug resistance to antibiotics is killing people on a colossal scale.
According to a medical expert, the incidence of multidrug-resistant infections “may have been a contributing factor in 29 deaths” at just one Irish hospital alone.
Countrywide, the figure could be in the thousands.
Referring to findings of the Health Information and Quality Authority, Clare-based TD, Dr. Michael Harty has warned that the occurrence of resistant infections at Limerick University Hospital “has not been adequately controlled.”
He said overcrowding in emergency departments resulted in “significant compromises in maintaining adequate levels of environmental cleanliness, which in turn increased the risk of health-care associated infections, including multidrug resistant infections.
“These infections are life-threatening if contracted by frail elderly patients who are placed at risk on trolley queues for prolonged periods of time in the emergency department or placed in congested, overcrowded wards.”
Dr. Harty said that multidrug-resistant infections pose a threat to patients “in all acute hospitals…”
Cross-channel, an expert committee set up by the British government found that superbugs resistant to antibiotics are implicated in the deaths of 700,000 people across the world every year. The report warns that the growth in such infectious disease could kill 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050.
The number of deaths in the EU attributable to multidrug-resistant infections has already climbed to more than 25,000 per annum.
Driven by growing concern over the mortality rate in Ireland, the government moved to establish a body of top scientists to advise on the superbug crisis in Irish hospitals. Strangely, estimates for the number of infections and deaths associated with antimicrobial-resistant bacteria were said not to have been available when a 2013 report compiled by scientists was finalised by Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Using “a crude extrapolation on population size for the country,” the authority, however, concluded it may suggest the order of 30,000 infections per year and upwards of 500 deaths.
The rapid escalation in human life-threatening drug-resistant diseases has also led to fears that the use of antibiotics on some farms may be breeding potential killer bugs that pass to humans in the food chain. Earlier this year, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies reportedly lambasted the farming industry in the UK when she warned that some bacteria are building up a tolerance to antibiotics, “possibly posing a graver threat to humanity than terrorism.” Former British Chancellor George Osborne stated that, in the absence of effective measures, resistance to antibiotics would emerge as “an even greater threat to mankind than cancer.”
According to the FSAI report, use of antibiotics on Irish farms was up to four times higher than in Denmark. The report states that 100 tonnes of antimicrobials – these are agents that act against all types of microorganisms including bacteria (antibacterial), viruses (antiviral), fungi (antifungal) and protozoa (antiprotozoal) – was sold for veterinary use in Ireland in 2013. Antimicrobial use in the Irish pig production industry in 2011 was stated by the FSAI to be upwards of 152.5 mg/kg pig meat, a dosage roughly four times more than used on Danish farms. The FSAI also stated that estimates suggested that “antimicrobial use in the poultry sector in Ireland is considerably higher than in Denmark.”
The life-threatening or health-endangering consequences which the seeming mass medication of pigs, poultry, and livestock reared for human use has for consumers are profoundly worrying. What is the scale of drug-resistant bacteria or diseases being transmitted in meat product or its impact on the health of people, especially the elderly or the sick with an impaired immune system?
The 2013 dated FSAI report points out that “at present, there is no specific monitoring of foods imported into the EU for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria…”
It also states, “The relative importance of transfer of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to food during primary production, compared with contamination of foods with antimicrobial -resistant bacteria during washing, processing and preparation is unknown.”
As well, the report focusses on landspreading of animal manures, by-products and municipal organic materials “deposited in the environment, including water sources.” It states, “This is likely to be a factor contributing to the presence of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in foods of non-animal origin.
In debating the drug-resistant infections issue in the Dail before the Christmas, Dr Harty said that between 2009 and 2014, there was more than 50 cases of CPE-produced enterobacterial in Limerick. Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) or carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) are Gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics considered drugs of last resort for such infections. CRE is described as “the new superbug” and the “nightmare bacteria.” It is claimed that the bacteria can kill up to half of the patients who get bloodstream infections.
Dr. Harty said in 2014 a member of the infection control team at the hospital became so concerned about the escalation of multidrug-resistant infections that she made “a protected disclosure” to the Health Information and Quality Authority – HIQA. The authority, he said, carried out an unannounced inspection, the findings of which were summarised as “especially poor standards of environmental hygiene; ward maintenance not carried out in a timely fashion; long-standing extra beds in wards; and inappropriate bed spacing which led to increased risk of spread of infection between patients.”
Despite this, the incidence of multidrug-resistant infections continues to grow in the hospital, he said. Multidrug-resistant infections also pose a threat to patients “in all acute hospitals…”
He said that the incidence of CPE – carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae – infection, “which is just one of several multidrug-resistant infections, is increasing at an alarming rate in the hospital and new cases continue to occur.”
Commenting on details of an internal report of July 2016, he said that there were 33 cases in 2014; in 2015 the figure rose to 53, and in the first half of 2016, 19 new cases were identified.
Dr. Harty’s revelations should have set alarm bells ringing across the entire health service. Are our hospitals safe, particularly given the conditions of overcrowding and trolley queues, all apparently conducive to the spread of life or health-threatening infectious diseases or “superbugs”?
Dr. Harty, who has called for an investigation, said infection prevention measures in Limerick “are failing to adequately control the spread of multidrug infection.
“Overcrowding in the hospital and presumably in other hospitals is putting patients’ health and lives ar risk for many reasons, in particular exposing patients to multidrug-resistant resistant infections.
“An external independent investigation needs to be carried out urgently, especially in the light of information that at least 29 patients may have had a multidrug-resistant infection as a contributory cause to their deaths.”
Minister of State at the Department of Health, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said she would “certainly bring the Deputy’s suggestion that there be an independent report to HIQA and the Minister and see what can be done.”
Estimated 9,000 work permits issued 2016 to enable companies to hire workers from India, Pakistan and other non-EU countries.
Countless undocumented migrants employed in the restaurant, catering, domestic, cleaning sectors.
Sligo News File Online
Nearly 129,000 out-of-state nationals have been granted Irish citizenship.
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has revealed the details in response to a parliamentary question.
She said that the number naturalised here between 2000 and 2016 ran to 128,500 approximately.
The total may be higher as the Minister pointed out that the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service had advised her that the retrieval and compilation of the actual figure “would necessitate a disproportionate use of time and resources which could not be justified…”
She said that in the period 2000 to 2009, 17,400 foreign nationals received certificates of naturalisation.
According to records, the government granted citizenship in Ireland to 24,262 people in 2013.
In a recent radio interview, the leader of the newly formed National Party estimated that 850,000 immigrants had entered the State.
Citing data published by the Central Statistics Office, the Irish Migrants Centre has stated that “immigrants represent 578,000 in Ireland.”
In a submission to the Low Pay Commission, the Centre noted that “undocumented migrants are employed in a range of jobs across a number of sectors.
“The top three sectors of employment are restaurant and catering (32%), domestic work (29%) and cleaning and maintenance (12.8%)”
“A high proportion of these (66%),” they stated, “have been in their current job for over 2 years and of this 31% have been in the same job for over 5 years.”
They added that of the undocumented respondents in the survey, “69.5% indicated that they are working over 30 hours, with 60% earning over €300 a week.”
Undocumented migrants are persons not having the official documents needed to enter, live in, or work in the country legally.
Various bodies are piling pressure on the government to open the country to thousands more refugees in the immediate future.
Ireland already has almost 7,000 ‘officially homeless’ persons. The figure has increased by over 40% in the last year alone. One in three of those in emergency accommodation is a child.
Concern is growing over heightening pressure on health services, schools and the existing levels of unemployment among young Irish job seekers, particularly in the North West.
In 2015, the government granted 7,353 work permits to non-EU citizens to work in Ireland. These were issued to foreign nationals from among other places India, Pakistan and Brazil. The figure for 2016 is expected to be about 9,000, with the number of permits increasing by 20% annually to enable companies to bring workers from abroad to Ireland.
Data published cross-channel has confirmed that Britain’s foreign-born population has now exceeded eight million, indicating one in eight of those living there were born abroad.
Councillors sanction new record high commercial rate on rural businesss.
Sinn Fein abstain from vote.
Sligo News File Online.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail members of Sligo County Council have voted to raise the commercial rate on rural shops and other local enterprises, sparking fears for the future of the already struggling rural economy
Margaret Gormley, an Independent member of the authority, said
she was deeply disappointed at the decision, especially since many smaller businesses are barely surviving as it is.
She believed the increase in the commercial rate- which comes at the same time that the rate on urban-based premises is being slashed – will lead to business closures across the rural hinterland.
The motion to increase the rural rate was supported by councillors Tommie MacSharry, Jerry Lundy, Keith Henry and Seamus Kilgannon, all Fianna Fail and Hubert Keaney, Sinead Maguire and Dara Mulvey, Fine Gael. It was opposed by Cllrs. Paul Taylor and Martin Baker, Fianna Fail, and Independents Margaret Gormley, Marie Casserley, Michael Clarke and Joseph Queenan. Cllrs.Thomas Healy and Sean MacManus, Sinn Fein abstained. Cllrs. Rosaleen O’Grady, Fianna Fail and Gino O’Boyle, People Before Profit were absent.
In another potentially crippling blow for the rural economy, some farmers face losing their holdings as pressure grows for the settlement of unpaid loans.
According to reports, agri representatives have been receiving calls and letters from distraught farm owners who claim they are being ‘bullied’ by some financial institutions.
There is growing concern that a generation of farm families could be wiped out as vulture funds or other financial entities take possession of land holdings up and down the country.
The pressure of unresolvable debt is driving many farmers to suicide, it is feared.
One prominent campaigner has said that when farmers lose their land and home,”they lose their life, and their children lose their futures.”