Tens of thousands of young Irish workers struggle to survive on rock-bottom wages

Parliamentary reply reveals scale of low pay rates.

Sligo News File.

Tens of thousands of young workers are being left to struggle on near impossible to live on wages.

Details have been revealed in reply to a parliamentary question.

Minister of State Regina Doherty said “exact” information on the pay of employees 26 years and under was not available.

However, she turned to the National Household Survey referring to it “as the official source of estimates of employment in the State.”

The Survey, she said, showed that in the last quarter 2016 134,500 were only receiving the minimum wage or less.

It is believed that countless thousands of those 26 years and over are also on rock-bottom rates.

Given the droves of people stuck on lowest possible earnings or unable to land a job, and virtually unrestricted immigration keeping it that way, Coalition propaganda of strong economic and social growth seem to be very much in the realms of fantasy.

Permission to demolish Sligo historic house may be appealed to Planning Board

Building constructed in 1879 “in a good state of repair.”

Property held by St. Nathy’s Diocesan Trust.

Sligo News File.

Sligo County Council has given a school body permission to pull down down a historic building.

The structure, which is not included in the Sligo Records of Protected Structures, was erected 138 years ago, in 1879.

Bishop Brendan Kelly,

The Board of Management of Curry National School said they want to demolish the former parochial house and outbuildings to make way for a car park.

The buildings and site, it’s understood, are held by the St. Nathy’s Diocesan Trust, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, a registered limited company.

Farmer, John Gallagher who objected to the proposal said the area had already witnessed the demolishment of at least six other buildings of heritage character in the last 20 years.

In his submission, he said the principal part of the old parochial house, at Drumbaun, Tubbercurry, is in “a good state of repair.” This had been ensured by the personal investment successive occupants, as parish priests, made towards the upkeep of the dwelling and outhouses. Clergy had been using the residence until relatively recently.

Mr. Gallagher said the access to the property featured two gate piers of dressed limestone with capping. There is also a distinctive ornamental outer gate pier, the only remaining one of its kind in the area.

He said that the dwelling, with slated roof, “has still intact the original cast iron rain gutters and cut limestone window sills.”
Calling on the Council to preserve the building, he said there was sufficient land available to resite a parking and set down area for a nearby school without need to encroach on the former parochial property. The lands were held by the St. Nathy’s Diocesan Trust and could be used to address the required safety and other needs of the school.

He added that “The Letter of Consent given to the Board of Management signed by Bishop Kelly requires clarification as it omits reference to St. Nathy’s Trust Limited.”

However, the council authorised the applicants to demolish the structure. The authority stated that having considered the Natura Impact Statement and mitigation measures it deemed “the proposed development would not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the European site having regard to its conservation objectives.”

In a letter to the Sligo Champion, another South Sligo resident has also raised strong concerns about the removal of the historic residence. The decision is expected to be appealed to the planning board, An Bord Pleanala.

The directors of the St. Nathy’s Diocesan Trust named in an annual return filed with the Company Registration Office in January 2016 are: Brendan Kelly, Clergyman, St. Nathy’s, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon and Padraig Costello, Catholic Curate, Secretary, Kilmovee, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Mayo. The others are Michael Joyce, Catholic Curate, Parish House, Curry, Co. Sligo, Marian G. Hannan, Catholic Curate, Parish House, Ballysadare, Co. Sligo, and Thomas Johnston, Catholic Curate, Charlestown, Co. Mayo. The company number is 74426.

Post office network further threatened by Government order farmers must use internet for payment applications

Applications must be sent online at a loss to rural post office service.

Sligo News File Online.

The survival of post offices may be threatened, but that hasn’t stopped the Government from ordering farmers to abandon the network.

Under regulations announced by Agriculture Minister Michael

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Creed, farmers must in future go online to obtain the EU Basic Payment.

Although farm bodies are beginning to wake up to what’s happening, Creed is understood to have motioned that he is not for turning on the issue.

The decision is binding on all applicants – even those in rural areas where there is no internet connection must conform to the dictate.

A letter circulated by Creed’s department categorically states that “…100% of BPS applicants will be required to apply for BPS by submitting an online application from 2018 onwards.” No ifs or buts, that’s the decree as issued by Creed. He describes the measure as an EU regulation.

Of course, the move will not mean the same for every farm family; some will already be using the online facility. But what of those who don’t have online? As well, many farmers in places where online is available are not necessarily familiar with the operation of the system.

In prescribing online as the only avenue through which applications for the Basic Payment Scheme will be entertained the Fianna Fail partnered Government is also backing away from its claimed commitment to the future of the rural post office service. Thousands of farmers have submitted applications for the EU payment through post offices up and down the country. Now, that has been kicked to the side – farmers who refuse or fail to take the internet route will apparently lose their entitlement to payments or have to employ consultants to do the uploading for them. No financial support from the Government or the EU will be available to cover the cost of the consultancy work.

Those who care to look through the documentation will find that Creed or his Department is also demanding farmers must give their PPSN. This and date of birth is confidential information protected under date protection laws. The issue arises where he explains about applying online for the EU Basic Payment. The letter from his department stipulates that where seeking assistance about the online application process “…you must have your PPSN to hand and be an account holder.”

Case Study 5 is an account of the ruling issued by the Data Protection Commissioner in 2007 concerning “Excessive Personal Data on EU Single Payment Scheme Application Forms.”

The Commissioner’s report states:

“I received a complaint that the EU Single Payment Scheme Application Forms, which are issued annually by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, contained pre-printed data in respect of the date of birth and PPS number of the farmers to whom the forms are issued. A farmer informed my Office that he, and many other farmers, would usually need to get professional assistance from Teagasc or other qualified agents in the completion of these forms.

“He pointed out that the pre-printing of this personal data on the forms infringed his privacy as he had no means to restrict his professional adviser from viewing his date of birth and PPS number. He also stated that it would be normal for those professional advisers to retain copies of the completed forms in case the Department of Agriculture & Food raised queries which might need to be referred back to the advisers at a later stage.

“In contacting the Department on this matter, we highlighted that both PPS numbers and dates of birth constitute personal data and are, therefore, subject to the protections set down in the Data Protection Acts, 1988 and 2003. We went on to state that in a situation where the Department sends out forms with personal data pre-printed on them and is aware that the recipients may need the assistance of third parties to complete them, the Department must make every effort to ensure that only the very basic personal details – such as name and address – are pre-printed.

“We pointed out that the problem with pre-printing other personal data is that it gives the recipient only one choice in terms of safeguarding it – that is that he/ she could blacken it out or otherwise delete it prior to showing it to a third party. We expressed some doubt about whether the Department would welcome the return of completed application forms which were somewhat defaced. Finally, we drew attention to the potential risks to the privacy of an individual where their personal data, such as a PPS number, fell into the hands of a third party.

“The Department examined the matter, and it immediately set about taking into account the concerns which my Office had expressed. In the drafting of the Application Form for 2008, the Department commendably removed completely the data fields concerning the applicant’s date of birth and PPS number.

“This case demonstrates how common it is for public bodies or other authorities to fall into the practice of processing categories of personal data even where such data is not needed to administer the scheme or application in question. Greater care must be taken by all concerned to ensure that only the minimum amount of personal data necessary is processed in the administration of schemes run by public bodies. In particular, I strongly advise public bodies which are authorised to use PPS numbers to do so sparingly and with extreme care.”


Snails rule: Thousands of Sligo householders left to put up with contaminated water source

Two European laws on protected species ‘coming into conflict with each other.’

Sligo News File Online.

Snails have got in the way of an urgently needed upgrade for the Lough Talt public water supply.

Vertigo geyeri

Thousands of householders rely on the scheme which is heavily contaminated.

However, plans to improve the supply have run foul of families of  whorls said to be living on the shore of the lake.

Whorls, a class of snail, are protected by Irish and EU legislation as are other species whose natural habitat is the Talt.

The Planning Board has sided with Sligo County Council and refused permission for a new treatment system to safeguard the health of the numerous water users presently drawing the water for domestic purposes from the lake.

Inspector for the Planning Board Dolores McCague has reported the grounds on which the local County Council has refused Irish Water permission to proceed with a system designed to ensure water sourced from the lake would comply with EU standards.

In agreeing with the council, the inspector proposed that the Irish Water plans be rejected. The Board subsequently accepted the recommendation.

However, the inspector alluded to a provision known as Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest. If no alternative to abstraction from the existing water source exists, “notwithstanding adverse effects,” consideration would have to be given to whether IROPI arises, she said. That situation is provided for in Appropriate Assessment, Stage 4 and was referred to in the Planning Authority’s further information request. “Such an exception has not been invoked, and the fourth stage of the process has not been carried out.”

Some TDs are unhappy that because of the pre-eminent status which the Government and the EU has granted to the Vertigo Geyeri and other species works essential to safeguarding the health of the local population have had to be given the thumbs down.

An MEP has also reportedly been on about “conflicting EU laws.” However, the Board Inspector may have just hit on the solution, a process through which the people of South Sligo won’t have to be denied a safe supply of water because of the presence of molluscs and their neighbouring species currently living in or near the source of the supply.

The Talt has been the source of raw water for the existing scheme since the 1940s. A Survey conducted for the Water Framework Directive in 2014 found the lake to be home to five fish species: the three-spined stickleback, arctic char, eel, perch, and brown trout.

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.”