Port Tunnel

As the Port Tunnel stutters to conclusion amidst ongoing controversy over the exclusion of "super-trucks", new research by Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum, has revealed that Dublin port in the 13th century was struggling with its own infrastructural challenges.


There was a great expansion of European trade in the 13th century, which placed new demands upon the port of Dublin. Areas of the port were reclaimed to allow it to expand, and a series of wooden walls (or "revetments") were built in order to direct the flow of the river and create deeper channels to facilitate the larger ships then being built. These walls are shown for the first time in this drawing, a representation of Pat Wallace's concept by Michael Heffernan. This features in the latest publication on the Wood Quay excavations, Medieval Pottery from Wood Quay, Dublin, by Clare McCutcheon, published by the Royal Irish Academy.




EU rules will enable 24/7 spying

'Universal surveillance" will be the result of new EU rules on "data retention" by internet and communications companies. The rules will lead to the creation of "vast databases of what people have been doing, with who, and where they've been". They involve "spying on every citizen at all times on the off chance that one of them might commit some crime at some stage in the future".

This is according to TJ McIntyre, law lecturer at the Irish Centre for European Law in UCD and chairman of the lobby group Digital Rights Ireland. He was speaking following a recent conference on "Privacy and the Data Retention Directive" hosted by the centre.

The data retention directive means that telecommunications companies (including internet service providers) will have to retain all electronic data for up to three years and produce it on request to police investigating serious crime. This covers internet browsing, emails and phone calls.

But under existing Irish law, the Garda can request phone records from companies when investigating any crime, not just serious crime, and have very little judicial oversight when doing so. The Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, has said he has "concerns" about the lack of privacy safeguards currently in place and called for new safeguards to be introduced in the context of transposing the EU directive.

There is no public record of how often or in what circumstances telecommunications companies have been asked for phone records. Answering a parliamentary question on the issue in 2005, the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, said it would not be "in the public interest" to reveal such information.




Irish need buttering up

The production of butter in Ireland was down

9.7 per cent in June 2006 when compared with production in the same months in 2005. In June 2005, 17,600 tonnes of butter were produced compared to 15,900 in June 2006.

The amount of milk consumed by people in Ireland was down only slightly from 43,200 litres in June 2005 to 43,000 in June 2006. Ireland is the tenth largest producer of milk of 25 European countries. Germany is the largest producer of milk followed by France, the United Kingdom, Holland and Italy.

?More www.cso.ie


Hospitals in west and northeast overspend by ?27m

Seven hospitals in the west and northeast of the country had overspent their budgets by a total of 27 million by May of this year. The figures were obtained by Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten. He said: "Public health services are already being curtailed in the northeast due to overspends. There is a very real risk that this will be replicated in the west and northwest. Figures released to the Irish Times also showed overspending in Tallaght, St Vincents, the Mater and Letterkenny for the first four months of the year.



MI5 according to Finucane

With the British security service MI5 due to assume lead responsibility for "national security" intelligence in Northern Ireland in August 2007, the Pat Finucane Centre has launched an internet bibliography of MI5. According to the Pat Finucane Centre, MI5 has a "long history" of "involvement in illegal activities".

In her 2006 annual report, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, expressed "significant concerns" about the proposed role for MI5, given that it is under no legislative obligation to cooperate with her investigations into agent handling and management of intelligence.

The bibliography lists, and links to, extensive sources of information on MI5 available on the internet, including newspaper articles, parliamentary records and reports by various inquiries which have investigated MI5's activities.


?More www.patfinucanecentre.org


St Brigid's may be saved

An Irish-built church in Manhattan's East Village has been temporarily saved from destruction by the US Supreme Court. On 28 July, a judge halted the demolition of the 158-year-old church until a full hearing on 24 August. The church, St Brigid's, was designed in a Gothic style by Irish architect Patrick Keely in 1848. The church was built by Irish famine immigrants in 15 months.

Keely originally came from Co Tipperary but in 1816, aged 25, he emigrated to the US. St Brigid's is one of 600 churches Keely designed and is thought to be the oldest surviving Keely church. During the 19th century the church served the Irish immigrant population and there are many windows and plaques dedicated to Irish parishioners. In recent years and up until its closure in 2001, the church had a Latino congregation.

The archdiocese of New York closed the church in 2001, saying its renovation would be financially impractical – it would cost at least $7m, and the number of urban parishioners had been shrinking. They want to demolish the church and use the land for ministerial or related purposes. EMMA BROWNE


Hot hot heat: record July temperatures

July saw some of the hottest temperatures since records began in 1885. Stations at Malin Head, Clones and Casemant Aeorodrome recorded temperatures of 31 degrees, while the country on average enjoyed temperatures of two degrees above normal. The period of 16-20 July proved the hottest with most places reaching a temperature of at least 25 degrees every day and some exceeding 30 degrees, the highest recorded since the record-breaking summer of August 1995. According to Met Éireann, temperatures are set to continue at cooler, more normal levels for at least the first half of August.



Blasket landowners refuse to sell up

The dispute over access and rights of way that has been preventing tourists visiting the Blaskets is set to continue as the state remains in a deadlock with its principal landowners. The deadline given by the Office of Public Works (OPW) for acceptance of its ?1.7m proposal to acquire the land expired on 20 July. An Blascaod Mor Teo (BMT), who own the majority of holdings, have said the offer of ?68,000 per hold is insufficient. BMT also claim they would need compensation for their investment in the island and for the ?40,000 spent on planning appeals. The OPW, whose ?8.5m scheme to turn the Blaskets into a Unesco World Heritage site cannot proceed without the land purchase, have said they do not intend to increase the value of their offer.