Fragments 2006-10-05

Judges claimed €1.9m in expenses in 2005 and the highest amount claimed by a single judge was €54,902. Over €63,000 was claimed for judicial attire and incidental expenses.

Figures released by the Courts Service under a Freedom of Information application show that 55 district-court judges claimed a total of €996,00 in 2005; 34 circuit-court judges claimed €800,000; 33 High Court judges claimed €102,000; and nine Supreme Court judges claimed just €19,000.

The courts have now resumed after the summer recess. On the 2 October the Supreme Court and High Court resumed after being off for August and September. The Circuit Court was off for the month of August. However, there were 20 extra sittings over the summer recess to tackle a backlog of cases.

In total, 131 judges claimed expenses for travel, subsistence, judicial attire and incidental expenses in 2005. The most common claim was for subsistence which accounted for €1.2m in expenses claimed, 98 per cent of this related to subsistence in Ireland. Over €62,000 was claimed for judicial attire, such as wigs and gowns, and incidental expenses. Over €576,000 was paid for travel expenses. A majority of this related to expenses incurred whilst judges travelled court venues around the country. There are 55 circuit court venues and 188 district court venues outside of Dublin. The remainder is made up of expenses paid for attendance at conferences

A district court judge claimed the largest amount of expenses – a total of €54,902 – €13,000 for travel and €41,000 for subsistence.

The High Court judges claimed the most in judicial attire and expenses – €31,300. One High Court judge claimed €4,500 for judicial attire and incidental expenses.

Emma Browne



Mother deported without child

A woman has been deported to Nigeria without her five-year-old son, despite having a doctor's letter saying her son was sick and unable to report with her to gardaí. This is the third known instance of a mother being deported without her children.

Mary Ucheh, from northern Nigeria, was deported on 21 September on a charter deportation flight organised by the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). She had reported to GNIB in Dublin, as requested, with her Irish-born one-year-old child. She had left her five-year-old son with friends and brought a letter from her GP saying he was sick.

Her son has since been taken into care of Health Service Executive. Sources close to the case have said measures are under way to have him deported. Neither the HSE nor the Department of Justice would comment on the case.

Mary Ucheh had been living in an accommodation centre for asylum seekers in the Kiltimagh area of Co Mayo for the past two years. She said she had been raped by four men in Nigeria, during riots between Muslims and Christians in 2001. She was refused asylum. She had been attending the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre in Castlebar and had a letter of referral from her GP to a psychiatrist, whom she was due to see on 26 September.

Colin Murphy



Cullen fails to deliver buses promised in NDP

Minister for Transport Martin Cullen said on 28 September that he will provide funding for an additional 100 buses to Dublin Bus but, despite this, the government will still not meet its target of 275 buses promised under the National Development Plan (NDP). Furthermore, this announcement of more buses has come right at the end of the NDP's 2000-2006 timeframe, which means it is unlikely that they will be on the road until 2007.

Additionally, Martin Cullen failed to mention that these buses were promised under the NDP and instead said these additional buses were part of the Transport 21 plan and proposals he had made to government.

Under the NDP the government promised 275 buses for Dublin bus by the end of the year 2006. Up until last week only 113 of these had been provided.

In 2000 the government provided 93 additional buses out of the promised 275. Then between 2001 and 2004 the bus fleet did not increase at all.

When Transport 21 was announced in November 2005, it provided for an additional 20 buses. Last week's announcement, on the 28 September, provides for an additional 100 buses. This still leaves 62 buses outstanding from the NDP.

Emma Browne



Tribunal Watch: The Morris Tribunal

How long has it been now?

It began in June 2002. Due to finish October 2007.

What's it about?

In a nutshell, Garda corruption in Donegal.

How much has it cost?

A cool €26.06m; €14.25m in legal fees.

Who's in the witness box?

Former justice minister John O'Donoghue, the Garda Commissioner, and TDs Brendan Howlin and Jim Higgins. The most sensational evidence has come from Garda witnesses, wife of a detective garda Sheenagh Mahon and informer Adrienne McGlinchey, as well as a large number of victims of Garda mistreatment.

What have we found out?

The first two reports described a catalogue of fraudulent explosives finds, extortion calls and false arrests, all by gardaí. The last three provided evidence of involvement by members of the force in the planting of evidence and the misuse of Sections 29 and 30 of the Offences against the State Act.

Any casualties?

Several senior officers have resigned. Superintendent Kevin Lennon was sacked. Sergeant John White was charged twice with planting evidence, but was acquitted. But the recent reports accuse him of planting the shotgun at Burnfoot in 1998 and of involvement in the explosive device found at the MMDS mast in 1996.

Further developments?

The Morris reports have led to the establishment of a Garda Ombudsman's and a Garda Inspectorate.

Erik Salholm



Language key to integration

A report on integrating immigrants into Irish society has called for English-language courses to be made available to migrant workers. The 'Realising Integration' report, published by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, says a lack of English is a key barrier to integration. At present the only funding that goes towards English classes for immigrants comes out of the national adult-literacy budget. The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) estimates that about 10,000 immigrants are taking these classes. The area of adult literacy is already under-funded, receiving ?3 out of every ?1000 spent on adult education and the money going to immigrants' classes is putting a larger strain on the industry.




Ireland and the globalised arms trade

Ireland is playing its part in a growing global arms trade that will see military spending overtake peak Cold War levels by the end of this year, according to a new report.

As revealed first in Village in August, DDC Ireland Ltd manufactures a key component for the Apache attack helicopter at its plant in Cork. The component is exported to the US, where it is incorporated into the Apache by Boeing and then shipped out to third countries – including Israel.

A report by Human Rights Watch in August on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon detailed "indiscriminate attacks against civilians" in Lebanon, including some carried out by Apache helicopters.

The new report, Arms Without Borders, details how the arms trade has become more globalised, with more companies and countries exploiting loopholes in arms-export legislation to ship components for assembly in other countries, from where they can then be exported again. It cites Ireland as an example. In the US, Boeing "sources components for the Apache from the Netherlands and Ireland, countries that should, according to the guidelines of the EU Code of Conduct, also refuse exports of the full weapons system directly to Israel".

The report concludes that existing arms regulations are dangerously out of date and that states must agree an international arms-trade treaty.




Warnings over defective HIV self-test kits

The Irish Medicines Board (IBM) has warned of potentially defective HIV and chlamydia self-test kits on the market. The IBM is investigating a supplier a called Celtic Integrated Network (CIN) after it discovered that its HIV test kit does not meet medical-device legislation. They believe CIN may have distributed products to pharmacists of members of the pubic via the internet.

They are also concerted that self-test kits for syphilis, pregnancy, and cholesterol from the same supplier may have components that are past their sell-by date. Also labelling and assembling of the kits may be inadequate. An Garda Síochána and Customs and Excise are also looking into the matter.

The IMB is urging consumers who may have purchased kits not to use them and to return them or contact the IMB.

A report published last week shows that there was a 174 per cent increase in notified sexually

transmitted infections between 1994 and 2003.

Chlamydia, which can lead to infertility, increased by 1,044 per cent between 1995 and 2004, rising by 21 per cent between 2003 and 2004 alone.

Emma Browne


Jobs for the boys – literally

The Taoiseach's proclivity for appointing his pals to state boards has made a farce of the government's policy on gender-balancing. In the case of the Parole Board, jobs-for-the-boys literally means what it says, as the latest round of appointments has reduced female representation to a paltry 20 per cent. The official target for all state boards is 40 per cent minimum for both sexes.

When the tenures expired for two directors, community representatives Daisy O'Reilly and former Victim Support chief executive Lillian McGovern, the 10-member board was left with a sole woman, ex-officio director Mary Burke, principal officer of the prisons policy division in the Department of Justice.

The two departed women have been replaced by Serena Bennett, who qualified as a barrister last year and is believed to be the choice of justice minister Michael McDowell, and Christopher Nolan, a Fianna Fáil supporter, personal friend of Bertie Ahern and retired security-firm proprietor. The latter is already a Peace Commissioner, one of 6,808 upstanding citizens empowered to sign official documents and certain statutory orders for the unremunerated privilege of appending the PC letters to their names. His company, Argus Security Limited, specialised in private investigations and providing shop bouncers from its head office at the eponymous Nolan House on Harrington Street, Dublin. He bought the premises from the Islamic Society of Ireland in 1985. In recent years, the company has been run by his son, also Chris Nolan, and was bought out earlier this year by Kratos Security.

The near-obliteration of female representation on the Parole Board has alarmed support groups for victims of crimes against women. They argue that many prisoners applying to the board for parole have been convicted of rape. (The Parole Board only deals with prisoners sentenced to more than seven years in jail).

The gender imbalance also poses immediate practical problems. Up to now, it has been the board's practise, under its chairman, Limerick solicitor Gordon Holmes, to interview applicants in teams of two, comprising one male and one female director. The present composition of the board makes that impossible.




Love your liver

Drug users in Dublin's north inner city have been involved in developing and disseminating information packs as part of the 'Love your liver' campaign. The campaign was devised to inform drug users about Hepatitis C, an infectious disease that is prevalent among the drug-using community.

Research shows that many current and former injecting drug users hold and share misinformation about Hepatitis C. The packs contain a contain a credit-card-sized wallet with an information booklet which states the top 10 facts about Hepatitis C, as well as other relevant information such as how Hepatitis C can be contracted and where to go for testing and treatment.

Included in the pack is a liver-shaped stress ball and a carton of fruit juice.

The 'Love your liver' campaign is a joint initiative of the Chrysalis Drug Project, Dublin AIDS Alliance and Uisce (the Union for Improved Services Communication and Education). It is funded by the North Inner City Drugs Task Force and will target 2,000 active or former drug users who are living, working or visiting the north inner-city task-force area.

Sara Burke