Tighter regulations relating to asbestos in the workplace have just been signed into Irish law. The regulations bring in a single-exposure limit for all workers who might encounter asbestos either through their work or accidentally in the workplace.
They also require that all people removing or handling asbestos must now be adequately trained. The regulations were meant to be implemented as part of an EU directive in April.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment signed them in on 24 July.
Asbestos fibres, typically contained in insulation and building products and can be dangerous if inhaled as dust. They can contribute to an increased risk of lung cancer, scarring of the lung tissue.
The Health and Safety Authority is now drawing up guidelines to reflect the the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006.
There are no statistics on the number of people affected from asbestos-related illness in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland an estimated 80-100 victims die from asbestos-related illnesses every year.
Out like Flynn? TDs in danger
Seventeen TDs in danger of losing their seats (old constituencies in brackets):
Barry Andrews Fianna Fail (Dun Laoghaire).
Dan Boyle Green Party (Cork South Central)
Martin Brady Fianna Fail, (Dublin North East)
Joan Burton Labour (Dublin West)
Ivor Callely Fianna Fail (Dublin North Central)
Pat Carey Fianna Fail (Dublin North West)
Donie Cassidy (Westmeath)
Paudge Connolly, Independent (Cavan-Monaghan)
Beverly Flynn (Mayo)
Mildred Fox (Wicklow)
Michael McDowell PDs (Dublin South East)
Finian McGrath Independent (Dublin North Central)
Donal Moynihan Fianna Fail (Cork North West)
Liz O'Donnell PDs (Dublin South)
Batt O Keeffe Fianna Fail (Cork South Central)
Fiona O Malley PDs (Dun Laoghaire)
Mae Sexton PDs (Longford-Roscommon)
See no evil
Rosana Flynn, of Residents Against Racism, described it as "absolutely disgusting", "pathetic" and was "amazed that such an ignorant comment can be made in a programme on RTE." Frank Buckley of Sports Against Racism Ireland (SARI) asked, "How did this get past the radar?" and is reporting it to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.
And Chris Lowry wrote an opinion piece in the Evening Herald about it under the headline, "Ill judged, ill timed and ill informed."
But it turns out that none of these people, who criticised RTÉ for broadcasting a sketch by comedian Neil Delamare on RTÉ's Park Live GAA programme in the Evening Herald, had seen the offending piece. The show is presented by Mairead Ní Ghormain and Ger Gilroy.
When contacted by Village, Rosana Flynn said, "Maybe I should have waited until I'd seen the sketch. But they read the script down the phone, and I still stand over what I said."
Gaybo and the £1m bank draft
Competition has benefited some RTÉ presenters more than most. Joe Duffy is reputed to have had his salary at RTÉ doubled to around ?600,000 a year after he was offered a gig by NewsTalk. Marian Finucane also had her salary arrangements improved by a Newstalk offer. In 1989 Gay Byrne was offered £1m by the ill-fated Century Radio to make the switch from RTÉ. Oliver Barry, then head of Century, went out to Gaybo's home in Howth and left a bank draft for £1m no the table. But Gaybo balked. And although he did not persuade RTÉ to match that offer his income improved handsomely.
Marian Finucane was also courted by Century but she, too balked, after her financial arrangements with RTÉ improved too.
Failure to report on airport congestion
Ireland has failed to make a submission to the European Commission (EC) on airport congestion after the EC requested submissions on the matter last September. Despite Dublin airport being near full capacity at summer peak times, neither the government nor the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) made any submissions to the EC. There were two Irish submissions from Ryanair and Knock airport.
The EC is planning a major EU paper on airport congestion "to help with ... issues such as improving access to airports, improving air/rail intermobility and airport capacity".
There have been reports recently of overcrowding at the airport. Last week DAA opened a separate travel area channel for Irish and UK citizens following complaints from passengers who had to queue for over 45 minutes at immigration. The DAA also tried to get planning permission for a marquee on the car-park roof to help with overcrowding.
Last year 18.4 million people travelled through Dublin; by 2023 they expect 34 million passengers in the airport annually. A new ?200m terminal to handle up to 15 million passengers annually is to be built, but this will not be in use until 2009 at the earliest. Labour TD Brendan Ryan said: "Minister Martin Cullen must explain why he did not take part in this consultation".
HSE says mental-health tribunals will go ahead
The HSE has said that it will be able to meet the 1 November start date for the mental-health tribunals. The HSE were responding to a report in the Irish Medical Times last week which said a letter sent from the HSE to the Department of Health warned the HSE would not be able to meet the 1 November start date for the tribunals as announced by Mary Harney. These tribunals will independently assess the cases of psychiatric patients who are involuntarily detained in mental-health institutions.
On 6 July, in reaction to the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services Report, Mary Harney announced the mental-health tribunals would start on the 1 November. A little over a week later, Aidan Browne, HSE National Director of Primary, Community and Continuing Care, sent a letter to the Secretary General of the Department of Health saying: "We would welcome your advice on the position of the HSE with regard to commencement of the act on 1 November 2006, given the fact that our services are incomplete... While we are actively working at addressing these issues it will not be possible to address them in the timeframe to the commencement of the act."
The HSE now say they can meet the start date: "It is confident that it will be in a position to employ all aspects of the act by the target deadline."
Any decision to detain or extend the detention of a patient will be subject to automatic review within 21 days by a mental-health tribunal.
Up to 3,000 people are involuntarily detained in psychiatric institutions every year.
How to bring weapons into Ireland
There is little or no investigation by the authorities of applications to bring munitions and weapons into Ireland, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.
To bring weapons or munitions into Ireland, or through Irish airspace, an airline must get clearance from the Department of Transport. (This clearance is officially known as an "exemption" to the Air Navigation (Carriage of Munitions of War, Weapons and Dangerous Goods) Order, 1973.)
Village requested copies of all such applications since 2001 from the department under the Freedom of Information Act. The department replied by releasing just a "sample" application, with all details of the munitions involved, their destination and the airline blacked out.
Applications for clearance can be submitted up to 48 hours before the flight, on a standard application form. The application form does not request any information on the intended use of the munitions.
In the sample application released to Village, an application from the US to carry munitions through an Irish airport on 19 March 2006 was received by the Department of Transport three days prior to that, on 16 March. A transport official forwarded it on by email to the Departments of Justice, Defence and Foreign Affairs, and by fax to the Irish Aviation Authority, for clearance.
The Department of Justice replied within two hours that "the minister has no observations to make on the proposed landing".
The Department of Foreign Affairs replied after four hours, "There are no obs [observations] from this section."
A note records that the Irish Aviation Authority phoned with no observations.
There is no record of any response from the Department of Defence.
The application was approved by the Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen, on the same day.
The Department of Transport said all applications to transport munitions into Ireland were processed in the same manner. Refusing to grant the request for all such applications since 2001, the department said there would be "no advantage from receiving a copy of every application... as this would run into thousands of documents, most of which would be the same, or very similar".
Boasting about broadband
It seems Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey forgot about Ireland's poor broadband record when he hailed the government's month-long broadband awareness campaign a success on 31 July. On 10 July the government began the 'Broadband Aware' campaign – four television adverts were broadcast and a dedicated website set up. After 21 days, Noel Dempsey hailed the campaign a success, saying, "This campaign, which airs on a cross-border basis, has been a huge success to date... Figures from the Broadband Aware website show numerous users have viewed the website since the campaign launched." However the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is unable to provide figures regarding the website use. Labour TD Tommy Broughan said Dempsey's comments show "he still has his head buried in the sand when it comes to the scale of the disastrous broadband deficit facing the country."
Availability rather than awareness has been the main problem for broadband in Ireland. Broadband coverage based on population is at 72 per cent, putting us second last out of 15 EU countries. There are only 322,000 broadband users in Ireland. Just 16 per cent of internet-enabled households in Ireland have broadband compared to an EU average of 48 per cent.
Agriculture staff take control
In order to help with the driving test backlog, seven civil servants from the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF) have been recruited as temporary driving testers. The seven staff had to do an interview, sit a driving test and undertake six weeks of training to become temporary driving testers. They will work as testers for at least 18 months.
The civil servants were taken from DAF because the Department of Finance has said that any rural vacancies must be taken from surplus staff in DAF's local offices. There are surplus staff in these offices as a result of the introduction of the single payment scheme. At present there are 140,000 people waiting to sit their driving tests. Some of these people will have to wait 14 months before they can sit the test. In order to clear some of the backlog the government has outsourced some of the testing to the National Car Testing Service and also introduced a bonus scheme for driving testers to encourage them carry out tests in the evenings and on the weekends.