Category Archives: News

Victims of Sligo town centre fire named

Six from adjoining apartments treated for smoke inhalation.

Sligo News File Online

Two men who have died following a fire in Sligo town centre have been named locally as Sonny Harte and his son, Sean.

The fire broke out in a three-storey premises on Market Street in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The men, aged in their 60s and 30s, were removed to Sligo University Hospital where they were later pronounced dead.

According to reports, six people were rescued from adjoining apartments and treated for smoke inhalation.

It’s believed the gardai are not treating the fire as suspicious.

Fianna Fail crackdown on householders buying turf or coal from unregistered suppliers

Bill to empower inspectors to arrest offenders.

Prosecution of persons using tobacco or alcohol on which duty not paid.

Sligo News File Online.

Government partners Fianna Fail have introduced a Bill to compel householders to show where they have obtained their home heating briquettes, turf or coal.

Under the provisions, inspectors will be empowered to enter houses or properties and demand documents proving that the heating supplies have been legally sourced. The Bill provides that a search may be conducted at a different location at the authorised person’s discretion.

Fianna Fail Bill
Declan Breathnach, TD,
Fianna Fail.

It will an offence to obstruct, impede or assault an authorised person. The Bill also makes it an offence to fail to comply with a request which is made by an authorised person. Officials will have the power to arrest offending or obstructive householders and hand them over to gardai.

Families will be hit with the full force of the law where found to have secured prohibited heating supplies from other than a registered operator.

John Lahart, TD, Fianna Fail

The Bill, number 47, known as the Sale of Illicit Goods Bill 2017, is sponsored by Fianna Fail Deputies Declan Breathnach, John Lahart and Robert Troy. It contains some 14 sections divided into five parts.

One of its key measures is to make it a criminal offence for a person to buy solid fuel or illicit alcohol or tobacco. It will also be a crime for a person to buy solid fuel, or alcohol or tobacco products from an unregistered retailer.

Robert Troy, TD, Fianna Fail

The Bill, if enacted or implemented, will constitute one of the most extreme measures ever to be effected in the State. It may also have implications not yet clear from the proposed legislation.

The further section on solid fuel states that it will be a criminal offence for a person to buy or attempt to buy solid fuel in circumstances where he or she had known or should have known that the applicable taxes had not been paid. The onus will be on the suspected householder or offender to demonstrate that the relevant taxes and duties have been paid.

Section 5(1) of the Bill makes it an offence for a person to buy or attempt to buy tobacco in circumstances where he or she had known or should have known that taxes and excise duties had not been paid. It also makes it an offence for a person to buy, or attempt to buy, tobacco in circumstances where he or she did not care whether taxes and excise duties had been paid.


Section 5(2) makes it an offence for a person to buy or attempt to purchase a tobacco product in circumstances where he or she should have known that they were buying a counterfeit product, or that they did not care whether or not it was counterfeit.

Section 5(3) introduces a statutory presumption to the effect that a pack of tobacco product which does not contain a tax stamp will be presumed to be illicit. The onus will be on the person who owns the pack to prove that the tobacco product in question is not illicit.

A section dealing with alcohol makes it an offence for a person to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol in circumstances where he or she had known or should have known that taxes and excise duties had not been paid on that alcohol. It also makes it an offence for a person to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol in circumstances where he or she did not care whether the applicable taxes and excise duties had been paid. As well, the section makes it an offence for a person to buy or attempt to buy alcohol in circumstances where he or she should have known that what was being bought was a counterfeit product, or that they did not care whether or not it was counterfeit

Section 13 sets out the penalties which will apply in the context of a prosecution for an offence which is committed under sections 4, 5, 6 or 8.

Under section 13(1), where a person is found guilty of having committed an offence under this Bill, on the first occasion he or she will be subject to a class B fine (currently €4,000) or a jail term of up to six months. For a second and subsequent offence, a class A fine (currently €5,000) or a longer jail term of up to 12 months can be imposed.

In each case, it is also possible for both a fine and a jail term to be imposed. Section 13(2) states that a summary prosecution may be initiated by an officer of the Revenue Commissioners, or a Garda.

Section 13(3) provides that where a person is charged with an offence under sections 4, 5, 6 or 8, it will be a defence for that person to show that the goods had been purchased as part of a test purchasing operation which had been notified in advance to the local Superintendent, and that such notification had been duly acknowledged in advance of the goods having been bought.

Under section 13(4) summary proceedings may be initiated anytime within 12 months.

Section 14 provides that where a person is convicted of a summary offence under the Bill, the court is required to order the person to pay the costs of the prosecuting side which arose in detecting the offence and prosecuting it.

Suppliers on the 2011-2012 EPA list of registered solid fuel suppliers include only one in Sligo. There are no entries for Donegal, Leitrim, Roscommon or Mayo.

 

New Garda Station for Sligo sometime in the future.

Regional and Divisional headquarters already underway in Galway, Wexford and Dublin.

Expansion of CCTV surveillance.

Sligo News File Online.

It could be a few years before work gets underway on the much promised new garda station for Sligo.

Junior Minister Eoghan Murphy said the town is one of eight locations earmarked for the construction of new garda stations. The Sligo development, proposed as a Public Private Partnership project,  is included in the Capital Investment Plan for An Garda Síochána for 2016-21 but may not go ahead for some time yet.

The plan also provides for the refurbishment of existing premises. Tubbercurry, however, is not on the list.

Junior Minister Eoghan Murphy.

Murphy said the Government is assessing submissions received for the Sligo town station following advertisements published in March 2015.

Construction of a new regional headquarters for Galway and divisional head offices for Wexford and Dublin is already underway.

Stations similar in scale to Sligo are to be built in Cavan, Tipperary, Glanmire and Macroom.

Last year, the Fianna Fail backed Coalition announced that by 2021 the Garda workforce should comprise 5,000 Garda members, 2,000 Garda Reserve members and 4,000 civilians.

Funding is also being pumped into the expansion CCTV surveillance which gardai, customs, social welfare and tax authorities can use to look in on recorded activities of the public. Cameras are programmed to record information about where people are at given times, banks they visit, people they talk with and much more. The surveillance activity is in line with the Programme for a Partnership Government which provides for increasing investment in CCTV systems set up along the road network and in urban centres.

However, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has warned that the “expanded use of CCTV systems has society-wide implications.

“Unless such systems are used with proper care and consideration, they can give rise to concern that the individual’s ‘private space’ is being unreasonably invaded.”

The Commissioner’s Office states:

“Recognisable images captured by CCTV systems are personal data. They are therefore subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Acts. A data controller needs to be able to justify the obtaining and use of personal data by means of a CCTV system.”

Section 2(1)(c)(iii) of the Data Acts requires that collected data are “adequate, relevant and not excessive.”

An organisation must be able to demonstrate that the serious step involved in installing a system that collects personal data on a continuous basis is justified.

“Before proceeding with such a system, it should be certain that it can meet its obligations to provide data subjects, on request, with copies of images captured by the system.”

The location of cameras is a key consideration. Cameras placed so as to record external areas should be positioned in such a way as to prevent or minimise recording of passers-by or another person’s private property.

Data protection legislation also specifies that clear signage indicating CCTV image recording is in operation be displayed on prominently placed easily-read, well-lit notices.

Section 2D requires that “certain essential information is supplied to a data subject before any personal data is recorded. A written CCTV policy must be in place. This should  include information including the identity of the data controller; the purposes for which data are processed and any third parties to whom the data may be supplied.

Details as to how to make an access request and the retention period and security arrangements for CCTV must also be addressed.

“If the identity of the data controller and the usual purpose for processing – security – is obvious, all that need be placed on the sign is a statement that CCTV is in operation as well as a contact (such as a phone number) for persons wishing to discuss this processing. This contact can be for either the security company operating the cameras or the owner of the premises.”

Data, states legislation,”shall not be kept for longer than is necessary.” A data controller needs to be able to justify the retention period. For a normal security system, it would be difficult to justify retention beyond a month, except where the images identify an issue – such as a break-in or theft – and is retained specifically in the context of an investigation of that issue.

The Commissioner’s Office points out that, “in general,” An Garda Síochána “making a request to view footage on the premises of a data controller or processor would not raise any specific concerns from a data protection perspective.”

Any person whose image is recorded on a non-domestic CCTV system has a right to seek and be supplied with a copy of their personal data from the footage. To exercise that right, a person must make an application in writing. The data controller may charge up to €6.35 for responding to such a request and must respond within 40 days.

Threat to future of West Roscommon cigar plant

‘Major job losses unless alternative operation can be found.’

Sligo News File Online.

Nearly 40 jobs could be lost at the ECMI Cigar Plant in Ballaghaderreen.

closure Ballaghaderreen plant
Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

It’s believed workers were told of the possible lay offs unless an alternative to the closure of the plant can be found.

ECMI has been based in the town for almost 40 years.

Local TD Michael Fitzmaurice has described the possible 38 job losses as “a huge blow to the region.”

He said, “The fact that the redundancies will come into effect starting as early as May 15th gives little time for the planned consultation with the employees at the plant.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said he will be calling on Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor to make immediate statement on the matter

Ballaghaderreen Job losses

The company has been “a solid employer” in the town of Ballaghaderreen since 1978, he said.

The threatened closure of what is one of the biggest private employers in West Roscommon is “a huge shock to the economy of the area and a massive blow to the 38 people involved.

“I will be asking Enterprise Ireland and the IDA to prioritise the Ballaghaderreen area for alternative and additional employment as soon as possible.”

Government doesn’t know how many passports have been issued?

‘Huge increase in demand for passports from South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Canada and other states’ – TD.

Sligo News File Online.

There has been an enormous increase in the demand for Irish passports, but it seems the Government doesn’t know how many they have issued or the basis on which they have been granted to people abroad.

Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Raising the issue with Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, Deputy Thomas Broughan said he had noticed a huge increase in demand for passports from South Africa, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and other countries. “Many thousands of applications were made in 2015 and 2016.”

He asked Flanagan, “Does the Department have any idea how many people worldwide have an Irish passport,” and “what are the eligibility levels?”

He said, “I remember asking the former Deputy Gilmore when he was Minister, the very same question and he could not give me an answer. Does the Department actually know?”

However, it looks from the Dail record that Flanagan as the current Minister responsible for the Passport Office was apparently unable to get any closer than that “there are millions of Irish passport holders worldwide.” He also failed to specify the application requirement for the acquisition of an Irish passport.

So, is the Passport Office is throwing out passports without keeping any record of the number or the persons to whom they are being handed over? If not, why then has Flanagan – and seemingly before him, Gilmore – failed to provide the details?

Dail on progressing Northern Ireland talks

‘No one is more corrupt than your gang.’

‘Martin’s party wrote the guide book on corruption.’

‘How many brown envelopes were handed over?’

Sligo News File Online

Extract from today’s Dail report on the breakdown in talks on the restoration of Northern Ireland political institutions.

Northern Ireland
Micheal Martin, Leader, Fianna Fail

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin responding to Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald: ‘No one is more corrupt than your gang.’

Northern Ireland
Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein

Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein: ‘The party of corruption is speaking now.’

Micheal Martin: ‘No one is more corrupt than Deputy Doherty’s gang — Sinn Féin and its colleagues.’

Pearse Doherty: ‘How many went before the tribunal? How many brown envelopes were handed over?’

Micheal Martin: ‘No one could be more corrupt in terms of the destruction of Ireland politically than Sinn Féin-IRA.’

Northern Ireland
Mary Lou McDonald, Deputy Leader, Sinn Fein

Mary Lou McDonald: ‘Martin’s party wrote the guide book on corruption.’

Micheal Martin: ‘It is a very touchy subject for Sinn Féin.’

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Pat the Cope Gallagher: ‘The Deputies can have their one-to-one outside. In here they cannot do that.’

Change in Community Employment scheme welcomed by Sligo TD

Lowly paid Community Employment jobs to lessen widespread North West unemployment figure.

Sligo News File Online

Local Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin is welcoming a change in the Community Employment schemes.

Community Employment Schemes
Tony McLoughlin, T.D.,
Fine Gael.

The Social Welfare funded projects are designed to help the country’s army of unemployed and disadvantaged people to get back to work.

However, jobs available under the schemes are only part-time and temporary placements based within local communities.

McLoughlin notes what he says is Central Statistics data showing that, since 2012, the Live Register has dropped by 30.8% in Sligo and 36.8% in Leitrim.

This of course does not show the level of unemployment in the region.

Community Employment The Central Statistics Office states that Live Register is used for no more than to provide a monthly series of the numbers of people registering for Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance or for various other statutory entitlements at local offices of the Department of Social Protection.

“It is not designed to measure unemployment.” The Register “includes part-time workers (those who work up to three days per week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseekers Benefit and Jobseekers Allowance.”

Community Employment Schemes, which cost millions of euros, are essentially lowly paid occupations where unemployed are taken on to carry out local services on the cheap.

And, now, the sensation of the year. Sligo County Council has reportedly announced a spectacular turnaround in its financial performance.

Sligo County Council
Ciaran Hayes, CEO,
Sligo County Council.

According to CEO, Ciaran Hayes the authority has converted what was a €23 million deficit over a seven year period into a €2.8 million surplus between 2015 and 2016. Fantastic! Whoops of delight from councillors!

And the formula for the extraordinary transformation from ‘basket case’ council to vibrant service provider? A reduction in staff levels and other severe cost cutting, says Hayes.

State to back consumption of cocaine and other banned drugs bought from illegal drug dealers

First Government sponsored self-injecting drugs centre due to open soon.

Health professionals to assist or guide in use of banned narcotics.

Sligo News File Online.

The State could soon be assisting people to consume cocaine and other banned drugs purchased from illegal street dealers.

Credit: TruthDig

Plans for the creation of self-injecting facilities are contained in a Cabinet supported Bill currently being piloted through the Dail.

Under the proposed legislation, addicts and others will be able to buy banned substances from illegal drug pushers without fear of prosecution for consumption in centres to be licensed and staffed by the State. Health professionals will be on hand to assist or guide addicts in the use of the narcotics.

Drugs BillGardai will have little or no power to arrest those found in possession of the proscribed substances in licensed facilities.

Critics have questioned the ethics of the plans. It is also felt that the controversial legislation would amount to the State effectively aiding the illicit drug traffic.

Already, there is pressure to have injecting facilities extended to every town and village in the country. Many fear this could lead to an uncontrollable explosion of drug consumption among the young, not least children of school-going age. There has been no consultation with parents countrywide on the Bill, it’s believed. The people generally have apparently been sidelined, with also no information released as to the potential financial cost of the self-injecting project.

Euros

 

 

The annual outlay for the project could ultimately run into millions of euros.

Efforts by a few TDs to have the workings of the proposed measures reviewed a couple of years after the enactment of the legislation have been shot down.

The illicit drugs market has been valued at upwards of €700 million.

It is not known exactly how many have died of drugs or the scale of murders or injury committed by those high on narcotics.

Estimates indicate that there are currently more than 35,000 opiate users in Ireland.

Following the implementation of the legislation , a pilot injecting centre is due to be opened in Dublin city centre later in the year. The locations of other facilities have not yet been decided.

Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and other political parties are understood to have indicated their support for the legislation.

Injecting centreBut is this a development about which the people should be troubled? Should parents in particular be apprehensive? Are there dangers  the public need to be aware of? In the following NewsTalk 106-108  report, Marie Byrne – founder of the Aisling Group International, an help and information charity concerned with the negative effects from drugs and alcohol abuse- calls attention to what she says injecting rooms in other jurisdictions have led to. It’s alarming.

Why injection rooms are not the right fix for Ireland’s drug problem

Marie Byrne of the Aisling Foundation says the failure of a similar initiative in Australia should be a stark warning for us here

Why injection rooms are not the right fix for Ireland's drug problem

File picture

The failure of injecting rooms run by the State of New South Wales in Sydney Australia is well recorded and can serve as a warning to Ireland where the suggestion to follow suit is now being pushed on the Irish people. But who will listen?  

Working internationally and in Australia, sometimes with the Australian Government, has given me lots of opportunity to see what can work in decreasing drug use in a society. When it came to injecting rooms, what was made very clear was that addicts did not gain back control of their lives, according to a national Australian Government report.The experience in Sydney showed that those presenting at injecting rooms brought their own heroin to inject under medical supervision. The result – police, knowing that addicts were carrying illegal substances, were required to make a personal decision to allow them enter the building without arrest or not. The outcome – heroin became legal on the street and created pockets of corruption in the police who now held such power over those people who were using.  

Upon entry to the rooms, addicts very often inject larger amounts of heroin to get stronger effects. Knowing someone medical is on hand in case of an overdose creates a comfort zone for their drug use. After injecting they leave through the back door where prostitution and drug sales were often rife – making the area more unsafe and reducing the areas property prices overall.

Follow the money

The United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs bans the use of such injecting rooms -where they were known to be linked to the decriminalisation/legalisation of drugs which it does not support. The Irish Government has signed up to the UN Treaties – to open such rooms is flying in the face of that agreement. As it stands, Ireland is already being criticised for not complying with Article 33 of the UN Convention where young people are entitled to services that take them off all illicit or psychotropic substances – drug recovery services for young people here are few and far between.

The old saying goes: ‘follow the money’, so it’s worth asking who is really benefiting from these rooms and the potential decriminalisation of drugs? Addicts often don’t gain freedom from heroin by availing of injection rooms. Drugs are the second biggest trade in the world – linked with the arms trade – and unfortunately corruption feeds off the weak and powerless in this business.

Portugal is cited as a great success after decriminalising all drugs. Not so, according to the Dalgarno Institute in Australia who noted the Portuguese method of collecting evidence about their success is deeply flawed. Dalgarno notes: “The ‘Silver Bullet’, which is an estimate, is worded to sound like it is communicating evidence-based fact.  So, when they use the term ‘evidence based’ to bolster their argument – it’s merely an evidential smoke screen.”

Leaving statistics and debates aside, parents in Ireland are struggling to prevent their children from using drugs with very little support. The over-prescription of drugs and a feeling of hopelessness leads to a feeling of helplessness. Ireland has one of the highest rates of drug use in Europe. Our lack of drug-free programmes to help people come off substances only worsens the problem. Over half of all suicides are drug- and alcohol-related. With only approximately 200 residential places, 40 detoxification units and a handful of day programmes, it’s simply not enough.

Nordic know-how

Help is needed now not more drugs and ways of using them, according to Swedish drug expert Borje Dahl. Sweden, unlike Ireland, has one of the lowest rates of drug use. After a disastrous period following the decriminalisation of drugs, the Government has invested heavily in more drug-free programmes, policing and social care to deal with the issue.

A report from as far back as 2002, compiled by well-known recovery programme in Ireland ‘The Addiction Spoke’, noted that abstinence-based programmes had a higher success rate, were more cost-effective than subsiding addicts on drugs and helped people gain back control of their lives.

Using drugs and being facilitated to do so, regardless of the environment, can take away individuals’ and families’ opportunity to feel in control of their well-being. As communities fear for their future, Ireland needs to step up to the mark if it wants to reduce its human and financial costs. Preventing drug use, supporting recovery services and social networks is needed and possible. If there is no money for these programmes there most definitely should be no money for useless injecting rooms.

Marie Byrne is founder of the Aisling Group International, an addiction Counselling National Charity based in Ireland.