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Category Archives: Airline

Newcastle stun Leicester to inch closer to safety and keep top-four race alive

NEWCASTLE STUNNED LEICESTER to inch closer to survival and deal a potentially damaging blow to the Foxes’ Champions League hopes.

Callum Wilson struck twice in a shock 4-2 win at the ragged hosts to all but secure the Magpies’ Premier League status.

Caglar Soyuncu’s error gifted Joe Willock an opener before Paul Dummett’s first goal in over five years doubled the visitors’ lead.

Wilson’s second-half brace lifted the Magpies to 13th, despite Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho scoring late on for Leicester.

They will be safe if Fulham fail to beat Burnley on Monday but can now only go down on goal difference as they face the Cottagers on the final day of the season.

Leicester struggled badly after losing Jonny Evans in the warm-up and remain third but kept the door open for West Ham and the chasing pack in the race to finish in the top four.

The Foxes go to Manchester United on Tuesday while they also face Chelsea and Tottenham – after their FA Cup final against the Blues – in their final three top-flight games.

They could suffer late Champions League heartbreak again, with the fifth-placed Hammers five points behind with a game in hand, after the Foxes also missed out on the top four on the final day of last season.

Brendan Rodgers’ side never recovered from a last-minute change when Evans limped out of the warm-up, to be replaced by Albrighton.

The hosts enjoyed the bulk of the ball for the opening 10 minutes but faded quickly once Federico Fernandez glanced Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick wide after 12 minutes.

Newcastle sensed the Foxes were there for the taking and only Kasper Schmeichel prevented them from opening the scoring 16 minutes in.

Jacob Murphy set Wilson clear and he squared to Allan Saint-Maximin – only for Schmeichel’s brilliant save to turn the forward’s seven-yard effort wide.

It was a warning but the Foxes failed to learn their lesson and Newcastle grabbed the lead after 22 minutes.

Soyuncu should have dealt with a simple ball upfield from Dummett but allowed it to slip through his legs and Willock nipped in to race through and confidently beat Schmeichel for his fourth goal in four games.

Two minutes later, though, Martin Dubravka maintained the Magpies’ lead when he brilliantly kept out Wesley Fofana’s bullet header.

Yet Newcastle were on top and they deservedly added a second nine minutes before the break.

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Dummett had not scored since January 2016 but he rose above Fofana to head in Matt Ritchie’s corner from six yards.

Dubravka’s smart save denied Iheanacho as sluggish Leicester tried to respond and the goalkeeper saved Jamie Vardy’s attempted lob in first-half injury time.

The hosts’ urgency continued after the break and, when James Maddison’s free-kick deflected behind, Wilfred Ndidi headed wide.

But Wilson wrapped the game up with two goals to embarrass their hosts.

The Magpies hit Leicester on the break after 64 minutes when Ritchie won the ball off Ricardo Pereira and looked long for Wilson.

Timothy Castagne failed to cut the ball out and the striker went clean through to beat Schmeichel.

Wilson then put the Magpies in dreamland nine minutes later when he tapped in after his initial effort hit the post following neat work by Miguel Almiron to make it 4-0.

Leicester at least scored twice in the final 10 minutes through Albrighton and Iheanacho and, while Dubravka superbly stopped Ayoze Perez adding a third, it was too late for any comeback.

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Category Archives: Airline

Majority for Scottish National Party still uncalled, but Nicola Sturgeon ‘almost certain’ of win

SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of winning an overall majority for the Scottish National Party in the country’s election are still uncertain, despite the party making gains from its rivals.

With 47 constituency results declared today, the SNP so far has 38 seats, Liberal Democrats four, Conservatives three and Labour two. 

The SNP picked up key seats in Edinburgh Central, where former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson replaced the one-time Scottish Tory boss Ruth Davidson, as well as as in Ayr and East Lothian.

However, under Holyrood’s proportional representation system, those successes could see it lose seats on the regional list ballot.

Meanwhile, Labour’s Jackie Baillie held on in Dumbarton constituency, which had been the most marginal seat in all of Scotland and a top target for the SNP.

Baillie had a majority of just 109 from the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, but increased that 1,483.

With some constituencies still to be counted tomorrow, when the crucial regional list results will also be declared, Sturgeon said it was “not impossible”.

The pandemic meant traditional overnight counts were abandoned after Thursday’s Scottish Parliament election.

While the majority of the 129 MSPs at Holyrood have still be declared, Sturgeon said it was “almost certain” the SNP would win its fourth term in power at Holyrood.

She said that “when the time is right”, she should be able to offer Scots “the choice of a better future” in a second independence referendum.

Sturgeon, who defeated Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to claim Glasgow Southside, said: “My focus, if we are re-elected as the government, is to get back to work to steer the country through the crisis and into recovery.

“That remains the case. But once the crisis is over, and if there is a majority in the parliament for an independence referendum, people should have the right to choose our future. Scotland’s future should always be in Scotland’s hands.”

Speaking about the prospect of winning an overall majority, the SNP leader said: “It’s certainly not impossible, but nor is it guaranteed.

“That was always going to be on a knife edge, it comes down to a small number of votes in a small number of seats, so at this midway point it is certainly still there as a possibility, but I have never taken that for granted.

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“It is a long shot, to say the least, in a PR system, to win a majority, you effectively have to break the system. I would like to do it, but I have never been complacent about that.”

However she said it was “almost certain” the SNP would “win the election comfortably, and we should not understate the scale of that achievement”.

Meanwhile Robertson, the new Edinburgh Central MSP, said the message from voters there was that “Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands”.

The former SNP depute leader insisted: “In this most European of capital cities, people have resoundingly rejected the party of Brexit and Boris Johnson.

“The public has rejected all of the parties that want to block an independence referendum.”

As he secured his Perthshire North seat, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the SNP would be the “leading and largest party” in the new Scottish Parliament.

While he said there is a “long way to go” before all the results are known, he stressed it was now “beyond any doubt” that the SNP will form the next government. 

He added: “That is an absolutely gigantic feat for the Scottish National Party to have achieved, to be on the brink of a fourth continuous term.”

Elsewhere, former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond said the measure of his party’s success would be “our existence as a political party”, adding it is “here to stay”.

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Category Archives: Airline

€120,000 worth of suspected cannabis seized in Skerries

GARDAÍ SEIZED OVER €120,000 worth of suspected cannabis herb during searches in Dublin earlier this week.

Two men in their 20s were arrested during searches in Skerries on Thursday evening.

The Divisional Crime Task Force DMR North and the Balbriggan Drugs Unitconducted a search of a residence in the Mourne estate area of Skerries around 6:45pm as part of an investigation into the sale and supply of drugs in the area.

Gardaí seized approximately €800 of suspected cannabis herb and a weighing scales.

A man in his 20s was arrested detained at Balbriggan Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984.

The man has since been charged and released on bail.

In a related search of a residence in the same area later that evening, gardaí discovered and seized approximately €120,000 of suspected cannabis herb in five large vacuum-packed bags.

All of the drugs that have been seized are being sent to Forensic Science Ireland for analysis.

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A man in his 20s was arrested during the second search and detained at Ballymun Garda Station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996.

He has been released without charge and a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Investigations are ongoing.

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Category Archives: Airline

‘My body, my choice’: How some Irish wellness Instagram accounts became a hotbed of Covid-19 misinformation

ON 1 APRIL, Aisling O’Loughlin posted on Instagram for the first time in over seven months.

Although the former TV3 presenter’s feed used to regularly showcase her life as a showbiz reporter, images of her smiling alongside celebrities or glamorously dressed on red carpets slowly disappeared after she was replaced as the co-host of Xposé in 2017.

Over time, a new cast of characters began to feature in her photos: her mother tanning herself on a beach in Clare; a street in France, where O’Loughlin now lives; a tabby cat sprawled on a bed in hazy sunshine.

Even these updates began to dry up after she took to Instagram Stories instead, posting content that was more fleeting to a section of the app that allows posts to disappear forever once they’ve been live for 24 hours.

Then, at the start of last month, O’Loughlin returned to posting on her permanent feed.

In a one-minute video, she was almost apologetic when she acknowledged how long it had been since she shared anything that was visible for more than a day.

“Hello hello… haven’t put a post up in yonks,” she began.

“Over on Stories at the minute, we’re talking some of the big issues of the day, of our time essentially.

“I came out yesterday and I spoke out against a two-tier society. I don’t know one two-tier society that has ever ended well. Do you? If you do, get in touch.”

Those only used to seeing posts on her feed may have believed that O’Loughlin’s analysis of societal fairness was unexpected. Her remarks may even have come across as innocuous, if a little strange. Then she explained herself. 

“We’re talking about the vaccine. Am I allowed to say that out loud? Are we allowed to say that on this platform? We’re talking about the vaccine, we’re talking about Covid, we’re talking about what’s going on and I’m allowing people to have a voice.”

O’Loughlin explained that she is in favour of “equality” about vaccines, but those who had been monitoring her Instagram stories in the weeks before the video could see the post for what it was: a thinly coded anti-vaccine message.

In the weeks beforehand, she repeatedly questioned the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines in her stories alongside comments of support for her views.

Some had laughed off O’Loughlin’s swerve from showbiz, but her message is resonating with a community that flew under the radar until she returned to posting on her feed.

That community’s use of Instagram has exposed a critical flaw in efforts to curtail the spread of misinformation on social media, and is helping spread Covid-19 misinformation to young female audiences.

A concerned mother

Since that 1 April video, O’Loughlin has shared over 30 similar posts that have escalated her war against Covid-19 vaccines and other measures aimed at fighting the pandemic.

After posting just three times last year, her feed has recently become littered with false claims, including suggestions that Covid-19 vaccines are “experimental”, that RTÉ stars have been paid off by pharma companies and that face masks contain “parasitic worms”.

She has also praised other figures who have made misleading and false claims about the pandemic over the past year, including UCD professor Dolores Cahill and former Pfizer researcher Mike Yeadon.

Professor Dolores Cahill is among those whose false claims Aisling O’Loughlin has shared on Instagram

Source: PA

But unlike many conspiracy theorists who have come to the fore in Ireland, O’Loughlin’s method of communication is somewhat novel here.

Rather than posting angry diatribes against global elites, she speaks in a calm, personal tone, advocating choice and understanding for those who are vaccine hesitant.

The opinions of those in favour of vaccines are sometimes sought, which presents an illusion of balance.

She uses phrases like “my body, my choice” – a slogan previously associated with the abortion referendum in 2018.

Her video messages also reference her status as a parent, framing her views as those of a concerned mother rather than a conspiracy theorist. And false and misleading claims are posed as questions, a subtle move that allows misinformation to be shared without being an outright lie.

Dr Eileen Culloty, a disinformation researcher at the DCU’s Institute for Media, Democracy and Society, explains that such tactics were developed by anti-vaccine campaigners after social media companies blocked terms linked to the movement.

“Just before the pandemic, there was already huge concern and push-back against platforms including Instagram for the amount of anti-vaccine misinformation on them,” she tells The Journal.

“The platforms were doing all the same things that they have done to reduce misinformation around Covid: they blocked certain hashtags and phrases and promoted health sources.

“But all that really happened was that the anti-vaccine activists adopted new tactics to get their message out. They used use hashtags like #learntherisks and #justaskingquestions, and very emotional content to draw people in.”

Alternative health and wellness groups

Culloty also highlights an overlap between the anti-vaccination movement and alternative health and wellness groups, particularly as both have used the issue of childhood immunisation to make claims about responsible parenting.

Before the pandemic, these groups relied on emotional personal testimonies to falsely claim that their children had gotten ill from vaccines and to promote ‘natural’ medicines to keep young people protected instead.

And as new vaccines have developed over the last twelve months, they have linked up with Covid-19 conspiracy groups to create a unique cohort of people – especially younger adults and mothers – who promote pandemic-related misinformation.

Although O’Loughlin is not an outward advocate for any specific alternative remedies, many of those who follow her and agree with her views are.

The Journal monitored dozens of Instagram pages which shared O’Loughlin’s videos in recent weeks and analysed accounts which liked her posts and posted supportive messages on her feed.

Supporters of her message included people who described themselves as holistic nutrition coaches, wellness advocates, energy healers, acupuncturists, homeopaths and massage therapists.

Many shared O’Loughlin’s videos and other forms of Covid-19 misinformation to their feeds and Instagram stories, but others – including those offering services to the public – showed no sign they held anti-vaccination beliefs aside from engaging with her posts.

Misinformation analyst Aoife Gallagher of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue suggests that such accounts may have been drawn in by O’Loughlin because her tactics are similar to those used by influencers aligned to the alternative health industry.

“This is something that has really exploded in the past year,” she says.

“That cohort of wellness influencers have this message that says things like ‘seek your own truth’, ‘ask questions’, ‘come to your own conclusions’, ‘reject the mainstream narrative’, ‘reach in your own sense of enlightenment’ and so on.

“A lot of those kind communities would embrace conspiracy theories and be pretty sceptical of or have a lack of trust in Big Pharma and modern medicine.”

QAnon influence

Gallagher explains that this sense of distrust aligned with political opposition to Covid-19 measures, but suggests a big factor which turned many wellness advocates towards conspiracy theories was the spread of the QAnon conspiracy theory last year.

The debunked theory claims that an anonymous, high-ranking government official known as Q frequently shared information about a “deep state”, tied to satanism and child sex trafficking, that worked against Donald Trump when he was president.

Gallagher says the movement diluted some of the more political aspects to the theory last summer, and instead began to play up its claims to champion child protection measures to create a moral panic which drew in a new type of follower.

“This was really where we started seeing the kind of wellness influencer type cohort on Instagram start to dive into these conspiracy theories,” she says.

There is no indication from her posts that O’Loughlin believes in the QAnon theory, but its proliferation may in part explain why so many alternative health and wellness advocates are attracted to her Covid-19 conspiracy videos.

The movement’s fingerprints are, however, visible on Instagram pages of other Irish influencers who market themselves using health and wellness terms.

One such account with almost 15,000 followers, features the terms “gluten free” and “organic” in her biography, alongside a link to her own range of baseball caps, bags and t-shirts which feature anti-lockdown slogans like ‘born to free’.

Psychological needs

Others may simply have been drawn to O’Loughlin’s message and other conspiracies because of the impact of the pandemic on people mentally.

Professor Karen Douglas of the University of Kent, who has studied the psychology conspiracy theories for more than a decade, says that conspiracy theories tend to proliferate in times of crisis.

She tells The Journal that the situation has been exacerbated over the past year as lockdowns continued and people felt even more worried and uncertain about the future.

“When people are trying to make sense of a lot of (sometimes confusing) information, or when they feel unsafe and insecure, conspiracy theories might seem to offer some answers,” she says.

“So, this means that at any given time, anyone might be susceptible to conspiracy theories.”

Shane Timmons, a research officer at the Behavioural Research Institute at the ESRI, told The Journal their research has found “that if you’re getting your main information about Covid mainly from TV or radio, you’re much more willing to say you’d definitely take the vaccine”.

“But if your main information is coming from social media, news sources or general posts, you are much more likely to be vaccine hesitant. Vaccine hesitant people who say they’re not sure, or they won’t take the vaccine.”

He says that related to this, the general research on conspiracy theories shows that when uncertainty is high, people have a higher need to fill the information gap, and wherever they go for information will fill that gap. If they go towards mainstream media or reputable sources, that is one thing, but if people turn to social media, this is a space that is not regulated.

There is also a whole range of cognitive biases that can come into play, says Timmons.

“One bias that comes up regularly is confirmation bias – if we see information that confirms our beliefs we already have, we are much more likely to accept that and not look for any contradictory evidence.

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“If you have concerns about how quickly the vaccine was made and worry that it’s not safe, and you’re getting most of your information from social media where you might read anecdotes from someone who had side effects, you will take on that information and maybe become more hesitant.”

Regarding the wellness space, the ‘natural is better’ bias comes into play, says Timmons. People with this bias automatically assume if something is natural, it is better for them and vice versa – if it’s not natural, it’s not good.

When people follow these biases, they might not slow down and analyse the information fully.

Another important component is people’s perceptions of control over their own lives, he says.

“If they feel a need to be in control they are more likely to want to reject the consensus … they might reject the official narrative and embrace the alternative account, which can give them a sense of power and control.”

He says that it’s important to note there are different populations within the wellness space who are drawn to these accounts. “Some will have genuine concerns they want addressed,” he says.

Some social media sites have done things to try and intervene, like Twitter’s prompt before people share links, asking them if they have read the article they’re about to share. This can slow people down and get them to think about what they’re sharing, he says.

“The vast majority of people, that will stop them from sharing the false information,” says Timmons.

“There will be some bad actors who want to share that information even though they know it’s false. The vast majority of people out there are not trying to share misinformation – they see something which shares their world view.”

He says that people also don’t tend to find causal explanations satisfying when there is a simple explanation for a major event – like Covid-19. “They will look for a cause that is proportional to the outcome.”

Timmons says that fear and uncertainty are a big driver to people seeking out information, and even being drawn to conspiracy theories. Research has shown that people who believe conspiracy theories can hold two contradictory beliefs about the same thing, such as believing that the virus was both engineered and that it does not exist.

“If you already hold pre-existing anti-establishment views you are more likely to think this alternative narrative makes sense,” he says. 

Douglas also says that those attracted to conspiracy theories tend to have existential needs (which make people need to feel safe and in control) and social needs (related to the need to maintain a positive view of themselves) which are not being met.

This is one danger of messages in this wellness arena and with someone like O’Loughlin who tends to deliver her videos in a friendly, reassuring manner and her posts often intersperse comments from those who agree with her between videos on her ‘Stories’. 

New audiences

Another issue is O’Loughlin’s use of the Stories feature itself.

Unlike the videos which have recently appeared on her feed, O’Loughlin’s posts on the stories section of her profile disappear after 24 hours.

The fleeting nature of these posts mean they can easily evade fact-checkers for Facebook – which owns Instagram – because they vanish before they can be debunked and flagged as misinformation.

Worryingly, the use of the platform by O’Loughlin and wellness accounts is bringing Covid-19 misinformation to a younger audience than other forms of social media.

“It’s a generalisation but it’s kind of accurate as well, that Facebook would be for older people in younger people would be using Instagram,” Gallagher says.

A spokesperson for Facebook recently told The Journal that a number of O’Loughlin’s Instagram posts had been removed for violating “harmful misinformation policies”.

The company also said her account had been de-prioritised in searches on the platform, meaning it was less likely to appear in the search bar for those looking for it.

“Our fact-checking partners prioritise the content that’s most likely to cause harm, and the most likely to lead to harm, and want to optimise for the content that’s most likely to have heightened reach,” a statement said.

“With that in mind, our fact-checkers optimise for more permanent posts when looking for areas where they can action.”

The spokesperson also said that fact-checks were matched to posts in Stories “when it makes sense to do so”, but did not specify whether this had ever happened to O’Loughlin’s account.

For now, O’Loughlin’s account remains active and despite being de-prioritised by Facebook, is easily accessible. She did not return requests for an interview or comment on her use of Instagram. In a recent post, she said she did not align herself with any political movement or tactics but aligns herself to “love” and “the question of truth and justice”. 

The regular stream of videos continues, both in her stories and on her feed, and there is no indication that another hiatus is imminent.

– Contains reporting by Aoife Barry.

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Category Archives: Airline

US Military are monitoring the uncontrolled re-entry crash of a Chinese rocket

THE US MILITARY has said it is monitoring the re-entry of an out-of-control Chinese rocket.

American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon has no plans to shoot down an out -of-control Chinese rocket now tumbling towards Earth.

“We have the capability to do a lot of things, but we don’t have a plan to shoot it down as we speak,” Austin said.

Pentagon experts expect the body of the Long March 5B rocket, which fell out of orbit after separating from Beijing’s space station, to fall to the surface sometime on Saturday or Sunday.

But exactly when and where it will land is still difficult to predict.

“We’re hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone. Hopefully in the ocean, or someplace like that,” Austin said.

He suggested that the Chinese were negligent in letting the rocket body fall out of orbit.

“I think this speaks to the fact that, for those of us who operate in the space domain, there’s a requirement, or should be a requirement to  operate in a safe and thoughtful mode,” said Austin.

There is a need to “make sure that we take those kinds of things into consideration as we plan and conduct operations” in space, he said.

After its separation from the space station module, the rocket began to orbit the Earth in an irregular trajectory as it slowly lost altitude, making any predictions about where it will re-enter the atmosphere or fall back to the ground nearly impossible.

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It could end up breaking apart upon entry, with only smaller debris bits falling to Earth — and even if the rocket falls from the sky mostly intact, there is a good chance it will just splash down into the ocean on a planet made up of 70 percent water.

But neither of those outcomes is certain, and there is a chance the rocket could crash land into an inhabited area or onto a ship.

It is not the first time China has lost control of a space craft as it returns to Earth. The space laboratory Tiangong-1 disintegrated upon re-entry into the atmosphere in 2018, two years after it had stopped working, though Chinese authorities denied they had lost control of the ship.

With reporting from Niall O’Connor

 © AFP 2021

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Nicola Sturgeon calls ex-deputy leader of Britain First ‘racist’ in tense confrontation

NICOLA STURGEON HAS called the former deputy leader of Britain First a “racist” after she accused the Scottish First Minister of “flooding” the country with immigrants.

Voting in the Scottish parliamentary election ended last night, with results expected in the next few days.

Jayda Fransen, who is standing as an independent in Glasgow Southside, the same constituency contested by Sturgeon, confronted the SNP leader yesterday outside what appeared to be a polling station, according to footage posted online.

Fransen, who has convictions for religiously aggravated harassment, said to Sturgeon: “What are you sorry for? Mass immigration, Marxism?

“I’m not a fascist. I’ve been on the ground speaking to locals who say you are an absolute disgrace …”

Sturgeon said: “We’ll see what the locals’ view is later on.”

Fransen said: “The locals, what the ones you have flooded from other countries?

“The decent people of Scotland don’t want it flooded with immigrants.”

Sturgeon told her: “You are a fascist, you are a racist and the southside of Glasgow will reject you.”

Scotland’s First Minister then walked away with party members as Fransen pursues her, talking about “mass immigration” and “Marxism”.

Responding to footage of the incident on Twitter, Sturgeon later wrote: “Glasgow Southside is the most diverse and multi-cultural constituency in Scotland – one of the many things that makes it so brilliant.

I am confident it will unite today to utterly reject these fascists.

Fransen later tells an SNP supporter who asks her who she is: “I’m not fascist, just a normal, decent unionist patriot.

“My grandfather fought the Nazis.”

In a piece to camera uploaded by the British Freedom Party, she accuses Sturgeon of “running away like a coward”, adding: “Of course if you flood a constituency with foreigners and hardline republicans who absolutely hate Britain, hate the union, they are going to secure their votes.

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“The unionist community are no longer unrepresented and we are coming for you.”

Fransen has previously been pictured outside the constituency office of Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf holding a sign saying “it’s okay to be white” and has said she is running against the “SNP commie, Marxists, naughty people”.

She has previously been convicted of a number of religiously aggravated crimes, including harassment in both 2016 and 2018 – the latter of which saw her sentenced to 36 weeks in prison.

Although a member of the British Freedom Party, documents from Glasgow City Council show Fransen is running as an independent.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the counting of votes for the 2021 Holyrood election will take place over a number of days, with all results expected to be declared by Saturday evening.

Counting usually begins immediately after the polls close at 10pm and continues overnight, with results declared in the early hours.

But the need for social distancing among count staff has meant votes will be tallied from this morning.

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1 in 100 bikes stolen nationwide in 2020 as Dublin and Limerick cyclists worst hit

HER NEW ELECTRIC bike gave Carly Bailey a new lease of life last summer.

“It was perfect as it gave me that little bit of confidence if I wasn’t in a great place as I could give it a little more power,” she said.

Carly has a degenerative disc condition in her back, so on days she was feeling unwell, she simply boosted the battery.

After rediscovering her joy of cycling during the first Covid-19 lockdown, she invested in a bike that she thought would last her a while. Just 17 days later, Bailey walked out of the council offices at City Hall in Tallaght to find it was gone.

The Social Democrats councillor had secured her new bike with the highest standard lock as well as another on the front wheel. It was taken just after lunch, in a public place – with witnesses who reported the theft as it was in progress to council security.

Security arrived quickly but the bike and thieves were nowhere to be found. “It was gone within seconds,” according to Bailey.

The councillor had insured her new bike so could get a replacement. However, she uses it less now, something that a Dublin Cycling Campaign survey found happens in more than a quarter of bike theft cases.

Bailey’s bike was just one of over 5,200 stolen last year. Over the past few weeks, Noteworthy has examined bike theft trends around the country and investigated what councils around Ireland are doing to tackle this issue as part of our Stolen Wheels project. We can now reveal:

  • Bike theft figures remained fairly static in 2020 compared to the previous year, with a drop of 2% in Dublin and an increase of 4% across the rest of the country
  • Provisional figures “suggest a marked decrease” in bike thefts up to March this year
  • Almost 30,000 bikes were stolen over the past five years, with an average of 70% of thefts occurring in Dublin
  • Around 1,400 bike stands were installed since the pandemic across Irish cities, but parking infrastructure remains inconsistent
  • Campaigners say parking is also often in the wrong location which can lead to a higher risk of theft

However, in part one of this project, which you can read now, we found that the use or threat of violence in bike and scooter thefts increased by 65% increase last year.


Dublin drop, with increases elsewhere

Crime statistics obtained from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) by Noteworthy shows that bike theft has remained relatively constant, with very slight decreases over the past three years.

Some locations in Ireland showed large increases, but most areas that also encompass cities recorded a drop in numbers, with the exception of Galway where there was a 23% increase to almost 200 thefts in the past three years.

“Provisional figures recorded by An Garda Síochána suggest that there was a slight decrease in theft of pedal cycles nationally in 2020 compared to 2019,” according to a Garda spokesperson. This drop was greater (-2%) in the Dublin Metropolitan region. They added: 

This decrease is despite a marked increase in ownership and pedal cycle usage particularly in Dublin during 2020.

A 2020 Sports Ireland survey on the impact of Covid-19 restrictions found there was a 75% increase in cycling between the end of February – before lockdown – and mid-May.

Dublin has always been the epicentre of bike theft in Ireland; it accounts for an average of 70% of all bikes reported stolen nationwide in recent years.

When this is broken down by metropolitan region, thefts in most areas remained the same or dropped last year. However, thefts in the Eastern region, around Dún Laoghaire, rose by 45% in 2020 to over 500 for the first time in five years.

More thefts were reported “from garden sheds, gardens, apartment complexes and houses” in 2020, according to a garda response to a Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Joint Policing Committee query.   

Source: Noteworthy/Flourish

To view an interactive version of this graph, click here.

Around the rest of the country, if Dublin is excluded, there was a 4% increase in bike thefts overall last year, with some areas recording rises and others drops.

There were more than double the number of thefts in Wexford (43), while Wicklow (112) and Cavan/Monaghan (23) almost doubled. Meath (99), Louth (128) and Sligo/Leitrim (24) recorded increases of 50% or more.

The biggest drops occurred in Westmeath (27) which fell almost 50% as well as Limerick (196) and Kildare (114) which had around 25% fewer bikes reported stolen last year.

There is good news for the current year as a Garda spokesperson told Noteworthy that provisional figures for the first quarter of 2021 “suggest a marked decrease” in bike theft nationally, with around a 20% drop in Dublin compared to the same period in 2020.

Almost 30,000 stolen in five years

The CSO began publishing crime statistics in 2003. When bike theft is analysed from that date, a jump can be clearly seen when the Cycle-to-Work Scheme was introduced at the start of January 2009.

Bike thefts jumped by over a thousand that year from a baseline before the scheme of around 3,000. This crime then increased steadily until 2014 when it peaked at over 6,500 reported stolen.

This correlation with the scheme has been well publicised over the past few years. Garda Inspector John Finucane, based at Pearse station, told Noteworthy that “bike theft is an ongoing problem”.

The bike-to-work scheme, interest in cycling and high value bikes are contributory factors, and anecdotally, more people are cycling since the start of the pandemic.

Noteworthy obtained a detailed breakdown of thefts over the past five years from the CSO. We found that over 27,000 thefts occurred during that time, with over 19,000 of these in Dublin.

Source: Noteworthy/Flourish

To view an interactive version of this graph, click here.

When we put these thefts in proportion to population, we found that Dublin had over double the number of bikes stolen per capita compared to the next highest area, Limerick. Also in the top five were Louth, Waterford and Galway.

Not all theft reported

In our previous Bicycle Blackspots investigation, we found that collisions involving cyclists often go unreported, meaning far more occur that are recorded on official statistics. The same is true for bike theft.

“It is accepted that pedal cycle theft is underreported,” the Garda spokesperson told Noteworthy. They added that the CSO Crime and Victimisation survey 2019 identified that 54% of victims of bike theft had reported the crime to the gardaí.

“An Garda Síochána urges all victims of pedal cycle crime to report these incidents for investigation, and to assist An Garda Síochána in analysing and targeting this crime type.”

However, in a 2015 survey of 1,500 cyclists Dublin Cycling Campaign estimated that only 25% of bike thefts are reported. This means that the true figure for bicycles stolen last year is around 10,000 at a conservative estimate to potentially over 20,000.

A full breakdown of each area recorded by the CSO can be viewed in this searchable table:

Source: Noteworthy/Flourish

Large scale organised crime ‘not identified’

Though official theft figures have slightly decreased, the number of bikes being taken nationwide remains high. Taking just the reported thefts alongside the high Sports Ireland estimate of 510,000 people who cycled every week last year, this equates to one bicycle being stolen per 100 cyclists in 2020.

So, who is responsible for this scale of crime?

Two groups are mentioned by people Noteworthy spoke to as part of this investigation over the past few weeks: young people – mainly teenagers as well as organised criminals.

In our article on aggravated bike theft yesterday, we found that gangs of teens have been targeting people near Luas stops, with councillor Oisín O’Connor saying that more activities and resources are needed in the coming months “to help clubs and youth groups to bolster a programme over the summer”.

Garda presence on the ground was also raised as an issue in relation to the rise in these violent thefts, with Zara Flynn whose son was attacked last Friday calling for better community policing – something that has been cut in recent years.

O’Connor, a Green Party councillor for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and strong cycling advocate, was himself a victim of bike theft. His bike was stolen from Harcourt Street in November 2019 by – he found out a couple of months later – an organised crime gang.

The Journal reported last year that the criminal faction, whose bosses hailed from the Plungé and Kaunas areas of Lithuania, had been stealing bicycles for a number of years and ferrying them across Europe to the Baltic state in a trade suspected to be worth millions of euro annually.

Some of the bikes recovered by gardaí in the container seizure in 2019

Source: Garda Press Office

This Lithuanian gang was linked to a €250k seizure of 119 bikes made by gardaí in Dublin in December 2019. “There was a container found full of expensive bikes, much more expensive than my own,” explained O’Connor.

I was contacted in March to say that my bike had been found in that haul but it took me until June [due to Covid] to get it back.

Since then, gardaí, along with its colleagues in Europol, carried out a massive operation last year which resulted in the dismantling of the main working aspects of this gang in Ireland.

When asked if organised gangs are still involved in bike thefts in Ireland, a Garda spokesperson said that “despite media reports and anecdotal evidence of large scale organised criminal activity, this has not been identified or supported, to date, by criminal investigations”.

The added that An Garda Síochána investigate all bicycle thefts reported and work “closely with online advertising companies to target and share information to identify potential stolen bicycles for sale”. 

Source: (Photo) Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

Poor parking without consultation

O’Connor was one of the lucky cyclists who managed to get his bike back, as when bicycles are found, it can be difficult to reunite them with their owners, even if they have been reported stolen to the gardaí.

“The vast majority [of] persons reporting stolen bicycles to An Garda Síochána do not know the frame number… or have a picture of the bicycle,” according to a Garda spokesperson. This makes “it very difficult” for gardaí to identify owners of bicycles which have been recovered.

The recording of this type of information is essential in returning recovered pedal cycles to their owners.

In addition to these steps, Inspector Finucane advises that people spend 10% to 20% of the value of their bike on two locks, lock their bike to an immovable object, if possible indoors or in well-lit areas.

However, this is not always possible, according to Martina Callanan from the Galway Cycling Campaign, as the bicycle parking is not always placed appropriately. “Bicycle parking should be in prominent highly visible places where there are lots of people to deter theft and, where possible, sheltered.”

Callanan said that their group is finding it difficult to get information from Galway City Council on where they are planning to install stands and why they are choosing particular locations.

The locations the council choose should be done in consultation with cycling and disability groups, and not in secret.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council said that they welcome suggestions “from cycling and accessibility advocacy groups in relation to the provision of cycle parking”.

They added that they take into account “a number of inputs when identifying new locations for the installation of on-street cycle parking”, such as proximity to transport nodes, requests from businesses and feedback from community wardens.

“Additional cycle parking facilities will be provided in tandem with the progression of the Galway City Cycle Network, with ad hoc requests for stands facilitated where possible.” 

Source: (Photo) Andrew Downes via Xposure

Callanan said that the quality of bike parking and the proximity to where you want to go has been shown to have an impact on whether people will use a bike for a particular trip. “Poor bike parking stops people from [cycling] to local restaurants, cafes and shops as if you can’t park your bike somewhere safe, you’re not going to use your bike.”

Cork City councillor, Colette Finn, called for improved cycle parking last year after a number of healthcare workers’ bikes were stolen. She told Noteworthy that community and cycling groups are delighted to get involved and give feedback.

Councils do need to build the capacity for two-way dialogue into their system. A lot of the time people agree [on issues] such as the best place for bike parking. It’s usually not controversial. What is controversial is [when] they put it in without asking and it doesn’t suit anybody.

Inconsistent infrastructure

Not only is the parking location important, but the type of rack can have a significant impact on reducing the risk of bike theft. The Sheffield stand or hoop – a thick metal bar in the shape of a square arch – is recommended as best practice for secure parking.

David Timoney of Dublin Cycling Campaign explained that “any other racks are useless as they’re easy to cut through”. He said there are more of these racks being installed, with one reason for this in Dublin being the introduction of dockless bike schemes such as Bleeper as “they can’t be left on the pavement”.

Noteworthy asked all of the city-based local authorities how many Sheffield stands they have in their area and if many were installed since the start of the pandemic, which a lot of new cycling infrastructure has been prioritised.

Related Read

‘Eight teens were kicking him’: Violent bike and scooter thefts up 65% last year

Source: Noteworthy/Flourish

Explore the table above to find out the number of bike stands each city-based local authority has in place, how many have been installed since Covid-19 and what plans they have for bicycle parking in 2021.

A spokesperson for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown said that it only installs Sheffield cycle stands, though there are other types of racks in parts of the county that “are not on public space and were not installed by the council”. Fingal County Council only installed this type of parking.

Dublin City Council and Galway City Council both stated that 95% or more of their bicycle stands were of the Sheffield type.

Most local authorities are installing Sheffield stands. An estimated 1,400 bike stands were installed since the pandemic across Irish cities, with the vast majority of these this more secure style of parking.

The other councils have a combination of bicycle parking, with Limerick City and South Dublin not providing a breakdown. Waterford City had the lowest percentage of Sheffield Stands – at around 20% – with Cork City slightly ahead with about 40%.

We also compared city-based councils that provided the number of bike stands or parking spaces in their area. All except South Dublin gave this data to Noteworthy, with a spokesperson for South Dublin County Council stating:

“Unfortunately, there is not a definitive list of [bicycle stands] but the Traffic Section are committed to undertake an audit of the county later in the year.”

Source: Noteworthy/Flourish

To view an interactive version of this graph, click here.

Dublin City has by far the most stands, with over 5,200 currently installed. However, when stands are put in proportion to population in each local authority area, Cork City is ahead.

Fingal comes out worst with the lowest proportion of stands per capita. Only slightly better is Limerick City.

In our previous Bicycle Blackspots investigation, we analysed hundreds of cycle-related complaints obtained through freedom of information (FOI) requests to the city councils and found that bike parking was the top infrastructure-related complaint.

Indoor spaces lacking

All cycling advocates we spoke to around Ireland said that more indoor secure bike parking was needed for both public parking in towns and cities, as well as private parking in apartments and offices.

One of the “biggest issues we have right now is the quality of bike parking is really, really poor in apartment blocks,” according to Dublin Cycling Campaign’s Timoney. The group’s research found that these complexes are high risk areas for bike theft.

He has visited numerous apartment blocks around Dublin and found “legacy bike racks in the basement”. Proper safe parking should be provided with “Sheffield hoops and ideally a secure cage with fob access”.

Lack of secure parking has resulted in people storing bikes on their balconies around the city “because they can’t leave them in the underground carpark”.

New design standards were recently published for new apartments state that “that adequate bicycle storage provision needs to be made within, or close to, the dwelling in a location that is sheltered and secure”, a spokesperson from the Department of Housing told Noteworthy.

This does not address those already built and Timoney felt that a funded retrofitted programme is needed.

When the idea of a grant scheme or other incentive was put to Dublin City Council, a spokesperson said they were “not aware of any grant or incentive schemes available to residents for improvement of cycle parking facilities within existing developments”.

They added that when older and existing developments come back into the planning process, “it is possible to require the provision of higher quality cycle parking facilities”.

In terms of its indoor parking, the Dublin City Council spokesperson said in addition to the council’s existing facility at Drury Street, it is “in advanced negotiations with a number of car park operators to acquire spaces for indoor cycle parking in their facilities”. It is also currently rolling out up to 350 bike bunkers “to provide secure covered bike parking for residents in their neighbourhoods”.

A change in perspective needed

From the need for better parking to more policing, Oisín O’Connor feels that bike theft is still not being taken seriously in Ireland. “There doesn’t seem to be the impetus to deal with it as it’s seen as a lesser crime.”

He feels that one of the reasons behind this is that people in official positions still don’t “view the bicycle as being people’s main mode of transport”. Instead, it’s seen as “a hobby”.

If it was treated as someone’s way of getting to work, someone’s way of getting around, then there would be a different response to it.

The bike needs to be viewed more like a car, according to O’Connor, as “for a lot of people it is their main mode of transport and if they don’t have it, they’re stuck”. This is especially important as families are now investing in electric or cargo bikes instead of a second car.

“If thousands of anything else were being stolen to this degree every year, something serious would be done about it.” 


Part one of our Stolen Wheels investigation where we found a 65% increase in aggravated bike and scooter theft last year is out now. 

This investigation was carried out by Maria Delaney of Noteworthy. It was proposed and funded by you, our readers.

Noteworthy’s previous cycling investigation which exposed the worst places in Ireland to be a cyclist can be read here.

You can support our work by submitting an idea, funding for a particular proposal or setting up a monthly contribution to our general investigative fund HERE>> 

Want an inside look at the investigations we currently have under the microscope at Noteworthy? Sign up here:

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RTÉ journalists describe ‘anger’ at Denis O’Brien’s attendance at leaving do in letter to station bosses

RTÉ JOURNALISTS HAVE written to the broadcaster’s bosses to express their anger following businessman Denis O’Brien’s attendance at a leaving party for outgoing Northern Editor Tommie Gorman. 

The chair of the NUJ’s broadcasting branch, Emma O’Kelly, sent the letter to RTÉ’s director-general, Dee Forbes, as well as RTÉ News’ managing director, Jon Williams, on behalf of the union’s members. 

In it, she wrote that members of the NUJ were “perplexed” as to why O’Brien had attended the virtual leaving do.

The letter states: “Mr O’Brien’s actions over many years have been inimical to the interests of public service journalism. His attendance has attracted public comment and has been perceived as granting him a special standing in line with distinguished guests who were present at the function.”

Also in attendance at the leaving party was Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who later said he did not realise O’Brien was scheduled to attend. 

The letter goes on to remind Williams and Forbes of “Mr O’Brien’s hostile attitude towards the work of RTÉ journalists”.

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“Members who attended have expressed the view that they would not have done so had they known that Mr O’Brien would be present,” the letter added.

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Former TD Kate O’Connell will not run in Dublin Bay South by-election

FORMER TD KATE O’Connell has said she won’t be putting her name forward for the Fine Gael nomination in the Dublin Bay South by-election. 

A by-election is due to be held in the coming months in this constituency after former minister Eoghan Murphy announced he would resign his seat. 

Former Fine Gael TD O’Connell said she made clear her intentions to put forward her name for selection as the party candidate in the by-election. 

However, today she announced she would not be going ahead with this. 

Speaking to RTÉ radio’s Today With Claire Byrne, she said: “I’ve spoken to people across the country, people across the constituency, people who have supported me and people who would be in the know.

“And it appears that preparations have been made for a long time, that it would be impossible for me to win a convention.

She said there seems to be many reasons why she was not the “desired” candidate in this by-election. 

O’Connell said she will “of course” stay in Fine Gael, adding that it “wouldn’t be in my nature to stand aside and be silenced in any way”.

She discussed her time as a TD, but said she “wouldn’t see myself as a victim at all”.

“Perhaps there may have been an idea that I served a purpose in taking the seat back from Renua and my job was done, but also over the years I have faced sort of particularly personalised commentary and attacks in terms of attending Fine Gael meetings.”

She said somebody “had actually gone to the effort” of placing a sod of turf in her team member’s bag “and said “she was going to present it to me in front of people” at a party meeting. 

She said things like this might not seem that serious, but “that’s designed to diminish” because she’s “from the country” and not from Dublin Bay South. 

Fine Gael Councillor James Geoghegan has secured the support of the 12 party branches in Dublin Bay South. 

Damien English, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail and Fine Gael TD for Meath West said today that he was disappointed O’ Connell is not running.

“I thought she had a chance of winning so it is a pity,” English said.

English said he believed that there was equal support from the party for both Geoghegan and O’Connell to run as candidates.

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Fine Gael party sources state that it was made clear to O’Connell that there was space for her to run as candidate. However, they said a person has to put their name in the hat at the selection convention.

They added that just because 12 branches nominated Geoghegan to be their by-election candidate did not preclude O’Connell from seeking a nomination.

Party sources also denied that it was a gender issue, or that cracks in the relationship between the party leader Leo Varadkar and O’Connell since the Fine Gael leadership contest had anything to do with her not being a candidate in the by-election.

At the moment, the sitting TDs in the area are: Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Sinn Féin’s Chris Andrews, the departing Eoghan Murphy and Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan. 

Ryan was elected on the first count ahead of Andrews last year, with Murphy taking the third seat and O’Callaghan squeezing O’Connell out for the final seat

O’Connell, who is a pharmacist, was not supported by the Fine Gael national executive for a Seanad seat after losing her seat as a TD. 

Labour’s Ivana Bacik is the sole nomination for the party in the by-election, it was announced today. Meanwhile, Lord Mayor of Dublin and Green Party chair Hazel Chu announced this week she is seeking nomination to run.

With additional reporting by Christina Finn

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Council to increase pedestrianised space on Dublin’s Capel Street, asks public for feedback

PLANS TO REMOVE on-street parking and increase pedestrianised space on Dublin’s northside have been announced by Dublin City Council today as part of a public consultation process

The Council proposes to increase car-free space around Capel Street and Parnell Street and is asking members of the public for feedback on its plans which include making a stretch of Capel Street between Ryder’s Row and Parnell Street traffic-free on a 24/7 basis. 

It’s also proposed to remove all on-street parking between Ormond Quay and Mary St and to temporarily widen footpaths throughout the area – including between Strand Street and Ormond Quay – to facilitate hospitality businesses and outdoor dining this summer. 

The plan also proposes to widen footpaths on the west side of Capel Street and on the nearby Strand Street. 

Under the proposals, loading bays will be removed from Capel Street “to better align with non-hospitality businesses” and disabled parking spaces in the vicinity will be relocated but there will no reduction in the number of disabled parking spaces, according to the Council. 

The plans also propose to remove a certain amount of parking spaces between Mary Street and Little Britain Street. 

The consultation process begins today and will end on 14 May. If approved, works will begin later this month, the Council said. 

According to the Council, the plans would provide 1,300 metres sq of additional public space. 

Consultation is open for improved pedestrian set up for Capel Street!!!
There are some good things in there but this is a really modest proposal that reflect what should have been done years ago rather than what the city needs at this very unique moment: https://t.co/40rsIkWOTG pic.twitter.com/Sb53sgkNX2

— Janet Horner (@JanetPHorner) May 7, 2021

It follows an announcement yesterday that work on pedestrianising several streets on the southside to facilitate outdoor dining has begun.

Four streets will either be traffic-free or sections of them will be made traffic-free after 11am each day.

These are:

  • Anne Street South from the junction of Dawson Street
  • South William Street from Exchequer Street to the Brown Thomas carpark exit
  • Drury Street from just after its junction with Fade Street to the Drury Street underground carpark
  • Dame Court From Exchequer Street

It comes after trials to pedestrianise several streets in Dublin city were carried out in July and August of last year, with trials being extended due to the positive feedback.

Online surveys carried out by Dublin City Council found that 95% of the 1,588 respondents were in favour of having the selected streets permanently pedestrianised.

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The plans, however, have been met with criticism from Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan who said the southside interventions represent a “disappointing lack of ambition” and “a failure to address the scale of the challenge this summer”. 

“We know that thousands of people will want to seize the opportunity of less Covid restrictions by finally meeting up with each other and making contact with friends and family – this year much of that will need to be outside,” said Hourigan. 

“To provide that scale of space for social gatherings while maintaining street access for those with disabilities will be very difficult.

“The paltry amount of space currently planned to achieve this task simply is not good enough. Businesses will be relying on access to open public space for seating and queuing but with little extra space planned under these proposals it is likely that only the pavement will be available, creating obstructions and hazards for those in wheelchairs or with mobility impairment.”

“In the last year we have truly understood the need for investment in our public realm in Dublin – access to toilets, seating, bins and car free areas have all become a significant issue. Most businesses want greater access to car free space, the Dublin Town group support more pedestrianisation, and the public want more car free space,” she said.

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Brian Rowan: The question now re any amnesty in the North is whether Johnson can be trusted

IT HAS BEEN the long war in the peace – the fight for the Past; for the so-called ‘truth’ of the conflict years.

The political effort to shape some legacy process in the North has been a 14-year work-in-progress, involving never-ending consultations, negotiations, proposals and agreements that, then, become disagreements.

That past is a ‘mass grave’, described as such by the senior Northern Ireland police officer Tim Mairs – now an assistant chief constable with Police Scotland, and on a journey, at pace, to the highest rank.

In this description of a ‘mass grave’, he is thinking about the hurts of those conflict years, the competing narratives of what happened and why, the unanswered questions and how the past is always in our present.

The amnesty question

That 14-year journey since the first consultation began in 2007 has never been on a straight road – too many dead ends and no route yet from argument to agreement.

This week, there has been another row over the outline of the latest UK Government thinking – a legacy process that would not include prosecutions or prison.

The reports in both The Times and The Daily Telegraph have been described as “well informed”; and confirmed to me as accurately representing the direction of travel. It reads like an amnesty – some drawing of a line that has become the next battle and the new trenches in the here-and-now.

In a Twitter post, the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney could not have been clearer.

I’ve met many victims of the Troubles & their families. I’ve seen ongoing heartbreak & pain whenever legacy is in news. Irish Govt is clear that we oppose any unilateral action on legacy, contrary to SHA. Victims&NI must be the priority, the only priority! https://t.co/sra1KACinD

— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) May 6, 2021

The SHA, or Stormont House Agreement of 2014, has not been implemented. Its framework is a Historical Investigations Unit and an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, as well as story-telling and reconciliation elements.

Now, in a unilateral move, the UK Government wants to rearrange that furniture.

Part of this will involve a new independent body to establish facts and to report to families. The new emphasis will be on information and the higher goal of reconciliation.

In the poisonous atmosphere of Northern Ireland in 2021, there is little sign of healing – more rancour than reconciliation.

Lack of trust

Unionist fears are about the future of the Union, damaged by a post-Brexit Irish Sea border. Fears also about a border poll.

Related Reads

Loyalist mum: The Bobby Storey decision was the spark that lit the tinderbox this week

Opinion: The violence this week was choreographed by criminal gangs using children as fodder

Police blast rioters with water cannon as violence flares again in Northern Ireland

All of this has become a blame game; most obvious in the fallout within the DUP. This day next week, that party will choose its next leader – the Stormont MLA and minister Edwin Poots or Westminster leader and MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

There is a mood in the wider unionist/loyalist community to pull Stormont down and fight an early election on these fears about the Union in the hope of energising the vote.

The pandemic is the thread on which the Northern Executive hangs.

Now, this legacy row.

It has been my long-held view that an amnesty is the only way to achieve a meaningful information or ‘truth’ process. Is this why the UK Government is moving to end prosecutions and jail? Or is it just about protecting military veterans who served in Northern Ireland – creating an escape route from scrutiny?

Prisoners were released as part of the peace process; a statement that the wars were over. In my book Political Purgatory, the republican Leo Green, who was part of the 1980 hunger strike and at one time Sinn Féin’s political director at Stormont, comments:

The imprisonment of anyone – republican, loyalist, British Army/UDR or RUC personnel – for conflict-related offences is directly at odds with the prisoner release provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and can only impede rather than facilitate truth recovery.

Green no longer speaks for Sinn Féin, but he is right and, now, the UK Government is moving to that position. But Boris Johnson and his government are not trusted. What is their motivation?

Is it really about helping achieve a meaningful information process or is it in the self-interest of protecting troops?

On Wednesday on Twitter, I wrote the following:

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1/ This government has no interest in the past of this place other than protecting soldiers. The binning of the Stormont House Agreement began more than a year ago. Let's see if any new approach applies across the board. The past has become a long war in the peace…

— Brian Rowan (@BrianPJRowan) May 5, 2021

That war will continue – its ‘mass grave’ a reminder of those conflict years and a peace that is always a fight and an argument.

Brian Rowan is author of Political Purgatory – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland. Published by Merrion Press.

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‘I’m only 27, I shouldn’t be like this’: Nurses with long Covid call for better supports

NURSES HAVE CALLED for a specialised sick scheme for healthcare workers who suffer from long Covid and more flexibility for a phased return to work.

More than 7,500 nurses and midwives have contracted Covid-19 in Ireland – over a quarter of all Covid-19 cases among healthcare workers.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) annual conference today heard from four nurses who were diagnosed with Covid-19 at different stages over the pandemic and who are still suffering from the effects of the disease.

27-year-old Eilish was working on a Covid ward when she was diagnosed with Covid-19 last April. She has been out of work for a full year.

“I wasn’t hospitalised but I did need to get a pulse oximeter sent out to me because I was breathless without moving,” she told the conference today.

“Working on the Covid ward, I had seen how quickly people can get very sick, despite their level of fitness or health or age, so it was obviously very worrying like I had seen firsthand colleagues go into ICU. You’re worried as to how sick you’re actually going to get with Covid.”

A number of weeks following her initial infection, her symptoms had not gone away and she had developed additional symptoms. After ten months and various different tests to check for organ damage, it was discovered that Eilish had pericarditis, a swelling of the tissue surrounding the heart.

“I used to not be on any regular medication and now I’m on a lot of different medication and inhalers,” she explained.

“I used to be able to run 5km but for a while a ten minute walk was a struggle through long Covid, now I’m up to 30 minutes and I’m doing cardiac rehab as well. It does take a lot to accept how your body is now. I’m only 27, I shouldn’t be like this.”

She said there is a need for national data on the number of people with long Covid, particularly healthcare workers, and more long Covid clinics so there is access in every county for those who need the range of tests required to check for organ damage and other longterm effects of the disease.

Eilish also called for greater supports from employers to facilitate a phased return to work for those with long Covid.

“You shouldn’t be penalised for going back to work,” she said. “Different healthcare providers throughout my journey have said to me about using my annual leave to facilitate a phased return, but what happens when that runs out if I’m not fit enough yet to do a 13 hour shift?

We need a phased return that doesn’t include my annual leave. As well as that, if I go back to work tomorrow and relapse, I have to go out again and I’m now on my sick leave. We only have 12 weeks of full pay sick leave over four years – after that, it’s 12 weeks of half pay and then you’re on no pay. So I’m out a year and had I gone back early, six months ago I’d be on no pay now from work.

The conference also heard from Eileen O’Keeffe, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in January this year. 

“From a symptom point of view, it’s the absolute extreme exhaustion, that’s completely debilitating,” she said. O’Keeffe said if she has a shower she has to go back to bed for between two and four hours.

“To do normal day-to-day functions it has to be literally broken up like that,” she said.

“At the moment the longest that I can tolerate actually being up is about five hours, but when I do that I pay for it the next day. I have really bad joint pain all over my body, horrendous headaches and migraines and the brain fog is really challenging.”

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She said there is a lack of acknowledgement that long Covid exists as it is not a visible condition.

“If you see me out tomorrow doing my shopping I’ll look fine when you see me, but you won’t see me for four days because I can’t get myself up and out of the house and physically do that.

“When people see me I am having a good day and I can do things for short periods of time, so I can go to the shop for half an hour and come back, but anything more than that I am not able.”

O’Keeffe also called for more flexibility for healthcare workers returning to their jobs after time off work with long Covid. 

“Maybe the days need to be spaced out more, maybe they do need annual leave scheduled in, they need that break for a week and then go back in. It needs to be flexible to the person, because it has affected everybody so differently,” she said.

The INMO is calling for government and employer measures including tailored medical supports, research into long Covid impacts, a guarantee that healthcare workers with long Covid won’t face income cuts, and flexible rehabilitation back into work.

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HSE pressures maternity hospitals to follow guidelines and allow partners attend

THE HSE HAS written to hospitals reminding management that partners of pregnant women should expect to be present at 20-week scans unless there is a “documented risk” based on a Covid-19 or other outbreak. 

In the letter from the HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, he outlines that all hospitals should ensure that they are “implementing the current national guidance” which would allow partners into scans. 

The issue of restrictions at maternity hospitals has been raised repeatedly during the course of the pandemic but HSE CEO Paul Reid said yesterday he believed that “conditions are right” for partners to be allowed greater access. 

Hospitals can make individual decisions on their own restrictions but Reid said yesterday that the HSE would be writing to all hospitals outlining the guidance that is in place. 

In that memo, Henry cites Covid-19 guidance on visiting hospitals and says that it is “generally appropriate” to facilitate a partner visiting when someone is an inpatient in a maternity hospital. It notes that most stays are for a short duration. 

The guidance states that partners should be facilitated during childbirth and if a child is in the neonatal unit. 

In regards to 20-week scans, the memo adds: 

Patients should normally expect to bring a partner or other accompanying person to their 20-week scan and to other appointments if there is reason to anticipate that the visit is likely to involve communication of particular emotional significance.  

In his letter, Henry suggests that guidance has not been implemented by some hospitals in that partners are not be facilitated when they should. 

Yesterday, The Journal spoke to several women who shared their pregnancy experience online in the under the hashtag ‘WhoseNeedsAreBeingMet’.

“I note that we continue to see reports in the media from women and their partners reporting that partners have not had access in circumstances in which it appears that they could expect to have access if the national guidance was implemented,” Henry says in the memo. 

I am sure you agree that this is a cause of distress to patients and their partners at a very important time in their lives and should only happen if it is absolutely essential to safe operation of the maternity services.

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“In that context I would be grateful if you could request that all HSE hospitals providing maternity services confirm that they are implementing the current national guidance.”

Henry notes that “there may be local operational issues such as an outbreak of Covid-19″ that require additional limits on access but that these should be in place “for a period of time”.

“However any such additional limits on should be based on a documented risk assessment that is reviewed regularly,” he adds. 

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Man sentenced to life in jail for murder of his estranged wife’s partner

THE ELDEST DAUGHTER of a man who was murdered by his girlfriend’s estranged husband has told him she will never forgive him and she hopes “he never sees the light of day again.”

Veronica Carberry said her life has been turned upside down and her family devastated by the murder of her father Aidan McMenamy.

Following Carberry’s statement this morning, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon sentenced Anthony Paget to life imprisonment for the murder of McMenamy at Clinch’s Court, North Strand Road, Dublin 3.

His trial heard that Paget stabbed McMenamy in the early hours of the morning during a row over Paget’s estranged wife Candice Paget.

The 46-year-old, of Carnlough Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter but a jury found him guilty of murder by a unanimous verdict following a week-long trial last month.

Carberry said the day her father died, her life turned upside down.

What was supposed to be the happiest time of her life, as she moved into a new home, has left her numb inside, needing antidepressants to cope with how she feels and medication to help her sleep.

She added: “I have lost the bond with my kids because I am not the mother or the person I was.”

She told her father’s murderer that he will never know the impact the killing has had on the family and added: “I will never forgive him for this and the pain he has caused our family and I hope he never sees the light of day again.”

The deceased’s sister Amanda McMenamy fought back tears as she spoke of how upsetting it is to know that her brother was “on his own without his family to hold his hand,” as he lay dying.

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Listening to the details of his death during the trial was traumatic, she said, “but we did it as a family”. She said her brother took “the wrong path in life but behind everything he was a very kindhearted young man, he would do anything for you”.

She said the family would never wish any other family to suffer their ordeal, the sleepless nights, not being able to eat. She added: “We just hope and pray that Aidan is resting with our mam and dad.”

Paget’s lawyer Michael Bowman SC read a short letter written by his client in which he said he is sorry for the pain and loss he caused. He said he would use his sentence to pray that his victim’s family find closure.

The life sentence is backdated to 19 July 2019 when Paget first went into custody.

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Former Defence Forces member Lisa Smith wins appeal against UK entry ban

THE FORMER DEFENCE Forces member accused of membership of so-called Islamic State (IS) has won an appeal against a ban on her entering the UK.

Lisa Smith, who is from Co Louth, had been the subject of a Home Office-issued exclusion order since December 2019.

The order was made on the grounds of public security.

Smith (39) is charged with membership of the IS terror group and funding terrorism. She denies the charges.

She is currently on bail in Ireland ahead of a scheduled trial in the country’s Special Criminal Court next January.

Smith’s father is originally from Belfast and her case against the Home Office hinged on whether she was entitled to enter the UK as a consequence of that fact.

Both sides in the case before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) accepted that the UK had a legal right to exclude non-British citizens from EEA (European Economic Area) countries, including Ireland.

However, that right does not cover those of dual nationality and Smith’s legal team argued she was entitled to the rights of a dual national as a consequence of her father’s birthplace.

The case involved argument on the nationality rights conferred under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and differences in how the law treats married and unmarried parents, given Smith’s father was not married to her mother when she was born.

In a written judgment, the SIAC has allowed Smith’s appeal against the exclusion order.

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Her solicitor Darragh Mackin, from Phoenix Law, welcomed the decision.

“Today’s ruling is hugely significant for the upholding of basic human rights principles, which include the right to be free from discrimination,” he said.

The decision to exclude our client was discriminatory and contrary to the basic principles underpinning the Good Friday Agreement.

“As an Irish citizen who resides in a border town, it was always asserted that to restrict her from travelling across the border was unlawful and could not be stood over.

“We warmly welcome the court’s determination today which will now reinstate our client’s basic rights to travel to the North of Ireland at her convenience.”

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Twitter suspends eight accounts linked to anonymous ‘Barbara J Pym’ account used by Eoghan Harris

TWITTER HAS SUSPENDED eight additional accounts linked to the anonymous Twitter account associated with former Sunday Independent columnist Eoghan Harris. 

It was reported last night that Harris admitted to editors he was part of a Twitter account, Barbara J Pym, which regularly tweeted about Irish politics and journalism.

His contract with the newspaper has been terminated with immediate effect, with the newspaper’s editor describing Harris’s involvement with the account as “a betrayal of trust”. 

The account was suspended overnight, and a Twitter spokesperson has confirmed that eight other accounts linked to Barbara J Pym have also been suspended. 

The spokesperson said all of the accounts violated the site’s “policy on platform manipulation and spam”. 

“Platform manipulation is strictly prohibited under the Twitter Rules,” the spokesperson said.

“The account you referenced [Barbara J Pym] was permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam.”

This policy is aimed to prevent people from using Twitter “in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behaviour that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience” on the platform. 

The spokesperson added that Twitter is “proactively” monitored to identify and mitigate “attempts at platform manipulation”. 

“We will continue this approach to platform manipulation and any other attempts to undermine the integrity of our service.” 

Yesterday, Sunday Independent editor Alan English said that many of the comments on the account “went far beyond what I would describe as fair and reasonable comment. Under no circumstances would such material have been published in our newspaper or on Independent.ie.”

Harris regularly wrote columns about Northern Ireland and Sinn Féin. 

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English said, in a statement yesterday evening, that the company found “Eoghan Harris’s involvement with this account as a betrayal of trust and as such his contract has been terminated”.

English added: “Regardless of where they stand on any issue, we expect our writers to put their views across in a transparent manner. Readers can agree or disagree with these opinions. We will not, however, tolerate hidden agendas.”

The editor said Harris “accepted that he was one of the founders” of the Barbara J Pym account and he was one of a group that contributed to the “entity”. 

English said on Twitter earlier that attacks on Irish Examiner journalist Aoife Moore by the Barbara J Pym account were “contemptible”. 

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Gaeltacht summer courses cancelled for the second year running

SUMMER GAELTACHT COURSES have been cancelled for the second year running. 

During a departmental consultation process, mná tí, who provide accommodation for students, and course operators expressed “considerable health and safety concerns” for Gaeltacht families and the local communities arising from the hosting of summer courses due to Covid-19.

Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Gaeltacht and Sport, Jack Chambers said a decision has therefore been taken not to proceed with State-backed courses in summer 2021.

He said work is now underway on developing an appropriate stabilisation package for the sector.

“We engaged extensively with all those crucial to the operation of Gaeltacht summer colleges including mná tí and the colleges themselves. In the course of this, it was very clear that Gaeltacht accommodation providers were concerned about bringing visiting children into their homes in the context of the public health situation. I completely understand and respect those views,” he said. 

Chambers said there were concerns about hosting large numbers of teenagers, who are not vaccinated, in their homes.

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“We are conscious of the consequences of this decision for the Gaeltacht economy which is reliant on the summer courses. For this reason, we will evaluate the impact of this development on the sector with a view to progressing an appropriate stabilisation package,” he said.

“I understand that this will be disappointing for many young people who were looking forward to attending this year. Some Irish Colleges will be offering online digital courses in 2021 and the Department is also supporting a number of digital initiatives to allow young people to continue to develop their language skills over the summer months and beyond,” added Chambers.

The minister said he is confident that a solution can be reached over the coming weeks which will ensure courses can continue into 2022 and beyond.

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Coronavirus: Four deaths and 434 new cases confirmed in Ireland

A FURTHER 434 cases of Covid-19 have been reported by Irish health authorities this afternoon.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) also confirmed that four further people with Covid-19 have died.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan and Deputy CMO Dr. Ronan Glynn are holding a weekly Covid-19 briefing this afternoon. 

Of the cases notified today: 

  • 221 are men / 212 are women
  • 80% are under 45 years of age
  • The median age is 31 years old
  • 197 in Dublin, 44 in Cork, 34 in Kildare, 20 in Limerick, 20 in Meath and the remaining 119 cases are spread across 16 other counties. 

Speaking at the briefing, Glynn said that four deaths is also the average number of deaths being reported at present.

He said that the reproduction  number is “at or around 1″ and that “thankfully deaths and numbers in hospital and critical care are decreasing.”

The Department of Health says there are currently 126 Covid-19 patients in hospital with 34 patients in ICU, down two from yesterday. 

“We are beginning to see more and more of the impact of vaccination obviously in those who’ve been vaccinated. All of that said, you need to be careful, we have seen a slight increase in the number of close contacts per case over the past week,” he said.

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Holohan said that this should be borne in mind as businesses reopen over the coming weeks. 

“Next week we will see many more business open which means employees and customers will return to work and our economy will begin to restart in earnest. This is a very positive sign and a testament to the hard work of the vast majority in supressing incidence of disease in our communities,” he said. 

It is extremely important that business owners, employees and customers take great care and review safety protocols and practices and ensure to consider all the actions we can all take as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones. 

The latest vaccination figures from the HSE show that, as of Wednesday, 1,233,067 people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while 467,471 have received two doses. 

A total of 42,974 vaccinations took place on Wednesday.

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Woman, 36, missing from Dublin since end of April

A WOMAN HAS been missing from Dublin for over a week.

Gardaí are asking for the public’s assistance in tracing the location of Michelle O’Riain, who has been missing from Sandymount since Thursday, 29 April.

The 36-year-old is described as being 5’5”, of a slim build, and with shoulder-length blonde hair.

She was last seen wearing a beige coat.

Gardaí are asking anyone with information to contact Irishtown Garda station on 01 666 9600, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.

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Dublin City Council to trial on the spot fines for parking illegally in bus and cycle lanes

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL are set to introduce a new on the spot fines system to target people who park illegally on footpaths and in bus and cycle lanes.

The pilot scheme, will come come into effect on 1 June, will see tickets issued on the spot to drivers who park illegally in certain locations.

DCC has said the project will last for 12-months and will complement the existing options for dealing with illegally parked cars of clamping, relocation and removal to the Pound.

In a statement the Council said that Dublin Street Parking Services (DSPS), who manage enforcement on behalf of the Council, focuses on keeping people and traffic moving freely around the city.

It said that the current options are effective in most cases but there is “an ongoing challenge” in tackling illegal parking on bus and cycle lanes, short stay illegal parking and footpath parking in particular.

Christy Burke, Chair of the Transportation SPC welcomed the move and said that illegal parking was having a serious effect on vulnerable pedestrians.  

“This initiative is welcome and we would ask all people to park legally and ensure that footpaths are kept clear. Parking illegally on footpaths blocks access for the mobility and visually impaired users, for people with buggies and any action which reduces this parking is to be supported,” he said.

Dermot Stevenson, Parking Enforcement Officer, said that the new scheme was needed to augment the current system.

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“Dublin City Council needs an additional form of enforcement in order to keep the city moving. Vehicles illegally parked on a short term basis can disrupt the flow of traffic and cause problems for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We have done extensive research with other local authorities in recent months and we believe that this additional enforcement tool will increase parking compliance in key areas,” he said.

Once the new scheme has concluded its 12 month run DCC will report back to the Transportation committee on how effective the Fixed Penalty Notices.

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