Top Irish athletes back on form

Credit irishtimes.com

By Joshua Freeman

Two Irish athletes who faced career threatening challenges are bouncing back and looking stronger than ever.

On Sunday night Glasgow became part of Irish athletic history when both Mark English and Ciara Mageean picked up bronze medals in the men’s 800 metres and women’s 1500m respectively at the European Indoor Championships.

It spared Ireland another poor showing at the event and gave both their careers a timely boost in the right direction.

It could have been a very different story had they not battled back to their best after being plagued with misfortune over the last number of years.

It was only three years ago that Letterkenny native, English suffered a serious freak injury during a run with UCD. He ran over a pothole and damaged his foot.

It was an injury that meant missing that year’s World Indoor Championships and shattering his hopes of a good finish in the Rio Olympics, where he bowed out in the semi-finals after a lack of preparation.

It was a bitter pill to swallow following his bronze medal at the 2014 European Championships and a silver in the European Indoors of 2015.

Mageean’s story followed a similar pattern. Formidable at youth level, breaking Sonia O’Sullivan’s underage records before having three years filled of medals on the national and international stage between 2009 and 2012.

Similarly, to English, injury took its toll as she was diagnosed with a Calcaneal Spur on her left ankle; an injury which left her out of action for over two years through surgery and rehabilitation.

Her journey took a different twist to Mark English as she came back stronger breaking the 1500m Irish record with a run of 4:08.66-minutes upon her return along with a bronze at the European Athletics Championships.

The 2016 Rio Olympics is where their two stories intertwined once more, when the Portaferry native earned an Olympic semi-final berth only to see her form drop drastically after.

While English fought injury curses, Mageean fought form issues eventually breaking down after a series of poor performances.

That was the final straw for a determined Mageean who joined coach Steve Vernon in Manchester at Team New Balance in order to reignite her stuttering career.

At national level both athletes began shining again with Mageean becoming the first woman to claim the 800m and 1500m double since O’Sullivan in August 2018. With English claiming the 800m title in the men’s in both 2018 and 2019.

On Sunday, their hard work was rewarded with their respective medals, which also saw English become only the second Irishman to hold more than one medal at the championships. The other being David Gillick.

Even after Mageean’s race there was hunger that was lacking before as she said “I am very disappointed I don’t have a silver right now,” as she was pipped to second by Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui.

The pair have almost parallel patterns and with English only being 25 and Mageean 26, it appears as though the best is yet to come for these Irish warriors.

The pair claimed Ireland’s 19th and 20th medals at the championships since its inception, a tally which would seem certain to increase if their current form continues. For now, we not only have to be happy for the weekend but be thankful that we will hopefully get to see more proud Irish days on the track.

Spike in violence against women in 2019

Credit youtube.com

By Cait Caden

Three women were murdered in Ireland by men they knew before the end of the third month of 2019.

Cathy Ward was murdered by her husband in early March, Elzbieta Piotrowska was killed by her son in January and Jasmine McMonagle was killed in her home by a man also.

“Women are actually safer staying in an abusive relationship,” said DCU lecturer and researcher of domestic violence and abuse Melissa Corbally,

Corbally added that women who leave an abusive relationship are more at risk of being murdered.

221 women have died in Ireland in 23 years and 56 per cent of the people who commit these murders are the partners or the ex-partners of the female victims, however the majority of women murdered in Ireland knew their killers personally.  61 per cent of the victims were also murdered in their own home.

Corbally believes one of the main problems in tackling domestic abuse is the lack of collaborative and unified data collection in relation to physical abuse towards women.

The rates of domestic violence are not often accurately measured, according to Corbally,

She stated that frequency is one of the main things which can lead to confusion in relation to the rates of domestic abuse. For example, some reports state that a victim was hit by her attacker. However, this does not specify how many times or the time period that the victim was hit.

As a result of this “lack of comparable data,” Corbally stated it is difficult to create policy to accurately deal with the rise of women being murdered as a result of domestic abuse.

The Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016 – 2021 was a strategy launched by TD France Fitzgerald which aimed to tackle this issue.

However, since that strategy was launched, some of the most brutal attacks on women took place in Ireland.

Landmark cases happened in 2018 in relation to women being violently murdered by men. One was the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her and children by her husband. He used a hatchet and his bare hands.

The second was the abduction and assault of Jastine Valdez.

“Things are going in the right direction,” said Corbally on what is being done about the rate of domestic abuse in Ireland. She added that there is a lot “more to be done.”

Seven women were murdered in 2018 and eight were murdered in 2017, according to Femicide Watch Reports done by Women’s Aid.

Women’s Aid also found that although seven women were violently murdered last year, only 7 per cent of those who suffered domestic abuse rang a helpline.

Women’s Aid could not be reached for a comment before publication.

Moonlight witness unaware of water shortage

Credit irishtimes.com

By Ian Brennan

Witness Gary Cunningham was unaware of a water shortage at the Fawnagowan farm of murderer accused Patrick Quirke during the time he was working there, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

The Court had previously heard that the reason the accused went to the tank where the body of Bobby Ryan was found to draw water from it was because he knew there was no water in the open tank he would normally use.

Cunningham was working for the accused on a placement since February 2013 for 15 weeks, and worked for a further two weeks afterwards while he was obtaining a degree from CIT in agricultural science.

Quirke pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan, a DJ that goes by the name of Mr Moonlight, saying he was celebrating with his wife the weekend Mr Ryan went missing

Cunningham told the court he would visit the Fawnagowan farm to bring back silage to the accused’s home farm in Breanshamore every day.

Cunningham went into detail with the prosecution counsel David Humphries BL about the practise of agitating slurry, saying it was common in farming in order to draw silage from a pit to be spread on fields.

Cunningham said he was unaware of the tank where Ryan’s body was found and couldn’t recall what was in the area around the tank.

He was not working the day the body was found as he had been injured after being kicked by a cow the Friday before. He had sent a text to the accused saying he would be back working and returned to work the morning after the body was found.

Cunningham said that he and the accused only had one quick conversation about the body being found, where Quirke had mentioned rumours that a group of Polish people had been involved with the murder of Mr. Ryan.

A second witness was called before the stand, Emmet Kenny, had worked for the accused since February 2009 on a three-month placement while attending agricultural college, before being hired to work for the months of February, March and April for the years since, including in 2013.

Mr Kenny said he was aware of the tank at the back of the farm where the body of Mr Ryan was found, saying he thought it was “an old septic tank”.

The witness told the court that Quirke took the June Bank Holiday in 2011 to go away, and that the accused had told Kenny of his plans two weeks in advance.

Mr Kenny told the court he had never spread slurry in either Fawnagowan or Bearnshamore farms, saying that separate contractors were responsible for doing that.

After the arrival of Gary Cunningham in 2013, the workload was divided between the two men and Mr. Kenny decided to work part-time.

The trial is ongoing in front of Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of 12 people, six men and six women.

Facebook backs minister over new child protection legislation

Credit: Breakingnews.ie

By Ellen Fitzpatrick

Facebook has broken their silence to back Minister Bruton’s proposal to police the internet

The minister is proposing new legislation to protect children online.

Facebook say that they already have a set of community standards where, when violations occur, the offending content is immediately removed.

They also said their current practices already reflect much of what the minister is proposing.

The new legislation will introduce several changes that will protect Irish residents using the internet.

Facebook is the first social media organisation to welcome the new legislation saying they support its aim to maintain a safe and secure social networking platform for all ages.

“Our priority is to make Facebook a safe place for people of all ages, which is why we work closely with safety experts, including the National Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU, and have spent many years developing a range of tools to help people have a positive experience on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“We very much welcome the consultation Minister Bruton has launched and support its stated aim of achieving a proportionate and effective approach to dealing with harmful content online. We also welcome his focus on defining “harmful” communications in such a way that does not curtail legitimate freedom of speech and freedom of expression online,” they added.

The ministers initiative comes after a school in Newry had pornographic material put on their website and the momo challenge scare that went viral on Whatsapp last week.

“Police received a report of an incident in relation to a website in the name of a school in the Newry area.  On further police investigation it was established that the lease for this website had expired and it was legitimately purchased by another user,” a police spokesperson said.

“While it would be impossible to remove every danger from the internet or from the adaptation of new technology, what we need to do is to ensure that parents and children are better equipped, that the state can provide regulation and enforcement, and that online platforms take responsibility,” Minister Bruton said in a speech to Saint Brigids Girls National School,  Glasnevin.

“The danger of not providing a clear definition is that we would unintentionally restrict legitimate freedom of speech and freedom of expression, which are core values,” the Minister added.

There has been no reaction to this proposed legislation by Instagram and Twitter as of yet.

The definition of content that is considered harmful, according to the Minister, include anything that has potential risks of self harm or suicide, threatening, humiliating or intimidating forms of cyber-bullying and content that has an “effect of exposing a person to risk of death or endangering health.”

Although it is a requirement that anything that is a criminal offence must be removed under Irish and EU law, this new legislation would regulate the content that children are exposed to daily.

“While there are many very good initiatives going on across the government to promote online safety, particularly by WebWise, the Online Safety Commissioner can be a single online access point through which all available Online Safety resources can be accessed by parents, teachers and children. This could build on the government’s Be Safe Online portal,” the Minister said.

There are two ways in which this legislation aims to regulate online safety and institute an Online Safety Commissioner, to establish a media commission or have two regulators.

Three suspicious packages discovered in London

Credit upgradedpoints.com

By Gerard Grimes

Security alerts involving suspicious packages are being investigated at three major transport hubs in London.

The first incident, at Heathrow Airport, occurred at 9.55am this morning and has now been made safe.

“At approximately 09:55hrs police received a report of a suspicious package at The Compass Centre, Nelson Road, Hounslow.

“The building was evacuated as a precaution. Specialist officers attended and the package was made safe,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.

This is the second incident of its kind at Heathrow this year. Police were called to Terminal 2 of the airport after reports of a suspect package on January 6.

On that occasion, the package – an item of luggage, was assessed by police and the terminal was later reopened.

There are currently two other suspicious packages being investigated, at Waterloo Station and London City Airport.

British Transport Police were called to Waterloo Station at 11.40am this morning following reports of a suspicious package.

Specialist officers are currently on scene, assessing the package. Cordons are in place but train services are operating as normal.

Police were then called to London City Airport Aviation House, Royal Docks, Newham at 12.10pm.

“Specialist officers are at the scene. The building has been evacuated as a precaution. Enquiries are ongoing,” a statement from Met Police read.

A statement from London City Airport read: “We can confirm that the airport is operating as normal, flights are not impacted and the DLR is fully operational.”

Officers are now investigating if the there is a link between the three incidents, but have said it is currently “too early” to say.

Leader’s Questions: Live Blog

By Catherine Gallagher

Micheál Martin – Fianna Fail:

2.03:

Raises issues of Mortgage Loan Scheme

“I don’t know what planet the Minister is on. Why did the Department not make an annoucement.. the public deserve to know. People are still applying. Why can’t the government and the Minister be honest?”

2.06:

Taoiseach:

“Everyone has the right to shelter and the right to buy their own home.”

“Take for example the Help to Buy Scheme, 10,000 people have benefited from it.”

“What we have to consider is to increase the cap of 200 million and we also have to consult with the Central Bank…

2.09

Micheál Martin – Fianna Fail:

“The Taoiseach said in December there would be no problem”

“Why didn’t the Minister say he was going to be approaching the Central Bank?

“Why can’t you be upfront with people?

“We are all going through this charade of ‘we must get this note from here'”

2.11:

Taoiseach:

“When it was announced, it was capped at 200 million and it would run for three years. It was a huge success.”

2.12:

Mary Lou McDonald – Sinn Fein

Raises SVP report on lone parent families

“The report finds that the the living conditions are the second worst in Europe… that’s shocking, Taoiseach”

“These families are like others, they get up at the crack of dawn and struggle.”

“These people who have the modest aspiration for a decent life, how could they when they are in the here and now?”

“It’s not good enough Taoiseach to brush this over as you often do .. these are families that need not a hand out, but a hand up”

“What do you propose to do in the here in now? When will you introduce a living wage?”

2.15:

Taoiseach:

“In terms of what we are doing, we are increasing welfare payments and jobs. We have introduced the Family Working supplement. We are reducing the cost of childcare. We are increasing pay. We are reducing the cost of medicines.”

“I have immense respect for SVP but I don’t think it tells the full picture.”

2.19:

Mary Lou McDonald – Sinn FéinL:

“It’s not unexpected but it’s depressing the measures you are taking.”

“Many of the interventions you mention are subsidies for low-paid employment. I am not going to trade statistics with you. I am telling you what you should already know; people are struggling

Taoiseach:

“You don’t want to trade statistics because you don’t want to know the facts”

“There is a living wage in UK and Northern Ireland, it is actually lower than the Minimum Wage that we have here.”

2.22:

Paul Murphy – People Before Profit

“At the the rate we are facing a 4 or 5 degree increase in temperature. The 15th of March has been named for a global school strike for Climate Change.

A masss movement on Climate Change is needed.

“Will you listen to the school students

“Do you believe we should get people out of cars and we should make public transport free?”

2.26:

Taoiseach:

“Yes, of course I will listen. As you aware we have major proposals in public transport.”

“These are students saying to all of us to get our act together. Among the people who need to listen are people in parties like you, who don’t believe in climate tax charges”

2.28:

Paul Murphy – People Before Profit:

“The systems and the policies you approve are incompatible with change.”

“Using climate change as a green washing exercise to introduce more tax will not work with people.”

“Free public transport, it would make a huge change on emissions in our second biggest sector.”

2.30:

Taoiseach:

“No, we are not going to introduce free public transport free. Instead of investing 600m to make public transport free, we should improve it to encourage more people to use it.”

“Socialists are no friends of the environment, you opposed water changes”

2.32:

Michael Harty – Independent TD

“Taoiseach, we cannot reform the health service from current spending.”

“The HSE service plan for 2019 it will struggle to maintain 2018 services.”

“Unmet need will continue to grow. The capacity of our service is at the maximum and this is recognised internationally as unsafe”

“We educate our graduates for export”

“Is this going to be the legacy your government leaves behind? Are you planning an extrodinary

2.35:

Taoiseach:

“We are investing in primary care centres. We are investing in a 10 year capital budget.”

“We are increasing bed capacity; 200 last year and 200 this year.”

“The next step is contractual reforms for GPs.”

2.38

Michael Harty – Independent TD:

“We do not have the manpower to underpin general practice. We are losing our GPs from urban practices, let alone rural practices.”

“Your government is failing general practice.”

Taoiseach:

“We are in negotiations with the IMO to restore funding in general practice.

3.05:

Mary Lou McDonald – Sinn Féin:

“Can I ask if you plan to introduce a redress scheme for those affected by defects in housing?”

Eoghan Murphy – Minsiter for Housing:

“In 2014, the controls around housing were greatly improved. The difficulty we have is it poses a tax risk for the government accepting liabilty for each individual houses.”

3.11:

Brendan Howlin – Labour:

“I would ask all of us in the house to support local media. The debates in this house should be presented free of charge.”

Taoiseach:

“I agree with you”

3.12:

Richard Boyd Barrett – People Before Profit:

Raises issue of affordable housing

“Are not the proposals for affordable housing not a complete hoax?”

Eoin O’Broin – Sinn Féin:

“We have a situation where 136m of this fund is just sitting there.

“Does the Minister appreciate know the limbo that applicants are in and how long they have to wait to know if their applications will be drawn down or not?”

Eoghan Murphy – Minister for Housing:

“We are only a year and a month and we have seen hundreds approved and drawn down. The lag between approval and being drawn down is not always a local authority’s issue.”

Ministers says he is in negociations with Department of Finance and Public Expenditure.

3.17:

Danny Healy-Ray – Independent

“Will the government reverse the the new drink driving bill in light of the anger in rural Ireland?”

Taoiseach:

“I think there is a degree of misunderstanding. The new law has changed the penalty, not the limits.”

Peter Fitzpatrick – Independent TD

“People in rural Ireland cannot build on old lands, can you say if this is coming to an end?”

Eoghan Murphy – Minister for Housing:

“It is not fair to say that we do not have houses being built based on local need. We are waiting on new guildelines but local authorities are still operating on 2015 guidelines.”

3.41;

Mary Lou McDonald – Sinn Féin:

“In the event of a No-Deal Brexit, that means a hard border – how do you plan to tackle that?”

Taoiseach:

“A lot of people have come up with alternative arrangements but all we have written down is the terms written in the Backstop.”

Lunchtime round-up

By Catherine Gallagher

#UNEMPLOYMENT – The rate of unemployment has fallen to 5.6% in February, according to figures released today from the Central Statistics Office. Unemployment stood .2% higher this time last year.

#DENIS O’BRIEN – The Supreme Court has ruled that his privacy was not breached during a Dáil debate about the sale of Siteserv.

The came following O’Brien’s appeal of the High Court Finding in May 2017. The businessman argued that his privacy was breached by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Social Democrat’s Catherine Murphy.

#MURDER – Laura Kenna (37) has been found guilty of attempting to murder a civil servant Fionnuala Burke in Dublin two years ago.

#PSNI – The Northern Ireland Policing Board has been warned that they could face legal action in the event of politicians involved in the appointment of the next PSNI Chief constable.

The warning comes in light of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald stating that she does not believe any current senior PSNI officer is up to the job.

#WEATHER WARNING – A status yellow rainfall warning has been issued for Munster and Leinster. It is due to commence today at 3pm until tomorrow at 6pm

10 at 10

By Catherine Gallagher

#DENIS O’BRIEN –  The Supreme Court has dismissed Denis O’Brien’s appeal over statements made in the Dáil about his banking affairs.

The decision will be made this morning on O’Brien’s appeal on the High Court finding that the courts had no power to intervene on issues raised by him. He claimed that Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty revealed information about his banking affairs.

#POVERTY – A report released by the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has found that poverty among single parents has more than doubled between 2012 and 2017.

In 2017, 45% of single parents said they experienced a heavy financial burden due to housing costs. Also, 84% stated that they were unable to meet unexpected costs.

#CENTRAL BANK – The Central Bank may be forced to take action if there is no improvement in diversity, according to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

The Central Bank’s diversity and inclusion assessment found that 80% of men between 2012 and 2017 filled senior roles.

#BREXIT – Britain’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary are resuming talks in Brussels today. Downing Street said that negotiations are a at a “critical stage” as Theresa May presses for concessions from the EU to persuade MPs to back her Brexit Deal in next week’s crucial Commons vote.

#NORTHERN IRELAND – A primary school in Northern Ireland has reported that pornographic material appeared on their school website. St Ronan’s Primary School in Newry was alerted to the matter on Sunday.

The school said they believe the site was hacked. They have been in contact with the domain hosts and the police to try to resolve the issue.

#US – The US intends to scrap a trade status granted to India and Turkey which would allow certain products from the two countries to be imported duty-free.

In a statement, the Office of the US Trade Representative said the two countries “no longer comply with the statutory eligibility criteria” for the programme.

#FINE GAEL – Fine Gael’s newest European Parliament election candidate Mark Durcan for Dublin was unable to name any streets in Dublin or stations along the Metro line.

Durcan, who is a former SDLP leader from Derry said he won’t be moving to Dublin if he wins a seat in the EU Parliament.

#MORTGAGE SCHEME – Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is being asked to clarify if a Government-backed mortgage scheme will be delayed as it has run out of funding.

A document from the Department of Housing, released to RTE’s Morning Ireland under the Freedom of Information states how further approvals are not currently being processed for the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan.

#HIV Treatment – A HIV-positive man in the UK has been cleared of the AIDS virus following a bone-marrow transplant from a HIV-resistant donor.

He is the second known adult worldwide to have benefited from successful treatment.

#REZONING – Up to 20,000 homes could be provided in plans to rezone industrial land in Dublin’s city centre.

Up to 270 hectares has been marked on four key growth sites in Jamestown Business Park, Dublin Industrial Estate, Glasnevin; sites near the Malahide Rd, Coolock and a tranch of land along the Naas Road from Inchicore to Cherry Orchard.

Party for Animal Welfare launches in Dublin

Party For Animal Welfare (PAW) held a media event on Tuesday 26th February where they talked about their goals and plans for the future.

A new political party that advocates for animals rights in politics are looking for people to stand as election candidates around the country

Some of the party’s main aims are to ban fur farming, ban fox and badger hunting, ban life hare coursing and ban greyhound racing. They also want to put a stop to puppy farming and fix the equine issue in Ireland

They invited the public to come to their launch to find out about their party. They were also encouraged to volunteer to become a member and pay an annual fee, and to put themselves forward to become an election candidate for the party in local elections.

Councillor Jane Smith, the deputy leader for the Animal Welfare Party (AWP) in Cheshire, UK was in attendance on the day. She was AWP’s first ever elected councillor.

Smith gave a speech about the importance of having parties whose sole purpose and concentration is about the welfare for animals. These parties “give a voice to animals in human politics”.

“The sweeping changes for the better that can be made when animals are fairly represented in human politics,” she said, “this country already has some very, very committed advocates and the times now come to bring it all together to make real political change for animals”.

Smith was joined on the panel at the launch with Chairperson of PAW Gerben Uunk and Caroline Rowley, spokesperson for Compassion in World Farming.

At the launch they showed videos of members from some of the other 18 political parties for animals in the world, who were wishing PAW luck and inviting them into the “family”.

Towards the end of the talk they allowed for the members of the public who had come to the launch to ask questions and talk about the issues that animals face and why they should be stopped.

Two women at the launch stayed back to organise with Uunk to start meetings for the party in Dublin, they organised to meet once at the start of every month to try promote the party and invite more members to join them.

PAW is part of a growing animal protection movement. The first party for animal welfare was the Dutch party got the Animals, since them many other political parties have been launch worldwide.

By Rachel Halpin

No signs of assault at victim’s house, Mr Moonlight trial hears

There were no signs of assault where ‘large amounts of blood’ were spilled in Mary Lowry’s bedroom and living room, the Mr Moonlight trial heard this afternoon.

Giving evidence before the jury, forensic scientists stated that did not find ‘large amounts’ blood in the living room and master bedroom of Ms Lowry’s house.

While many swabs of potential blood spots were taken from the master and living rooms, none of these resulted to be sufficient DNA evidence.  

Patrick Quirke of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan, a truck driver and part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight on a date between June 3 2011 and April 2011.

Last week, the trial heard that the post-mortem examination of Mr Ryan’s body showed evidence of assault.

Swabs were taken from the crime scene on May 3rd, 2013 by forensic scientist Martina McBride from Ms Lowry’s house. These included an area behind the headboard of the bed, a shelf in the wardrobe and ceiling. Samples of the mattress and carpet, as well as the chandelier from the living room, were also sent for examination.

The swabs and samples were then investigated by Dr Hillary Clarke, who also gave evidence at the trial this afternoon.

However, she explained that she found no suitable DNA samples which could have been appropriately discriminated to determine their original source.

Hair clip

Under cross examination by Lorcan Staines SC, for defence, Dr Clarke outlined that she had ‘interest’ in the hair clip which was found in the run off from the slurry tank.

Dr Clarke described the hair clip to be ‘pieces of plastic’ and explained that it had broken into four parts, and its hinge mechanism was missing.

The wife of the accused, Ms Imelda Lowry, was accompanied by a young male at the trial this afternoon.

Justice Eileen Creedon read out the case for the search warrant of Ms Lowry’s house later on at the hearing. She stated that the search warrant for the property was lawful.


By Gabija Gataveckaite

Image credit: The Irish Times

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