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The Irish Emigrant - Issue No.938

Editor: Liam Ferrie.....January 24, 2005

© 2005 Irish Emigrant Ltd

Contributor: Katie Mingey

You can also read the latest edition as a fully indexed single document

The focus on the killing of Co. Cork boy Robert Holohan (11) was intense as a 20-year-old student was charged with his manslaughter. Wayne O'Donoghue, who is a neighbour, made himself known to gardaí and is said to have co-operated fully when questioned at length before being charged.

Interest in the Northern Bank robbery is being maintained and tomorrow will see the first discussions between the Taoiseach and Gerry Adams since Mr Ahern accused the Sinn Féin leadership of having prior knowledge of the plan to rob the bank.

Speed limits on the country's roads are now expressed in kilometres per hour rather than miles per hour. The decision to make this change and the actual implementation of it generated heated debate.

In other news the media is still covering the Asian tsunami disaster and the Irish response to appeals for help; detailed reports came back from China as a major Irish trade delegation tried to create closer ties between the two countries; and the only man jailed in connection with the Omagh bombing has had his conviction quashed and a retrial ordered.

Man charged with killing Robert Holohan

The tragic death of 11-year-old Robert Holohan has been followed by a tragedy for the parents of Wayne O'Donoghue (20) who, on Monday, was charged with the manslaughter of his young neighbour. Late last Sunday night it was announced that gardaí investigating the killing of Robert had arrested a 20-year-old man. He was detained near Midleton, Co. Cork at around 11:00pm and brought to Midleton garda station where he spent the night. Questioning began at 8:00am on Monday and continued throughout the day. That evening O'Donoghue, dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, was brought across the road to the Court House where he was charged with manslaughter.

During the brief hearing it was revealed that gardaí called at the O'Donoghue house last Sunday after a member of the family had contacted them. The 20-year-old then co-operated by answering questions put to him over a number of hours, knowing that he was going to be arrested in connection with the crime. His parents, Raymond and Therese, and his two younger brothers were in the court for the seven-minute hearing. The accused looked on as his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, asked prosecuting garda a few questions to emphasise the point that his client had been co-operating with gardaí. Mr Buttimer also made it clear that his client would not be applying for bail. Judge Michael Patwell remanded him to Cork Prison until Thursday. Some members of the small crowd that had assembled outside the courthouse shouted abuse at O'Donoghue as he was led from the court.

A day later it was reported that O'Donoghue had been transferred to the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Co. Laois. This came after at least one other prisoner in Cork threatened to harm him and after he had undergone a routine psychiatric assessment. On Thursday he again appeared in Midleton Court but this was a routine hearing and he was remanded for another two weeks when his solicitor again indicated that he would not be applying for bail.

The Holohans and the O'Donoghues are near neighbours in the same townland of Ballyedmond. Wayne O'Donoghue, a second year engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology, helped in the huge search for Robert Holohan and attended his funeral Mass last Saturday. At that he heard Bishop of Cloyne Dr John Magee urge "the one who has been responsible for this heinous crime against an innocent child come forward and face up to the responsibilities incurred, pay the debt to society that is owed and seek the mercy and forgiveness of an all-merciful God".

Before any arrest was made it had been suggested that Robert had done something to annoy his killer who, in trying to restrain him, caught him in an arm lock and unintentionally asphyxiated him. Nothing has been said since to confirm this but the fact that a manslaughter charge was brought instead of murder would suggest that the theory isn't too far off the mark.

Final metric hurdle crossed

By Thursday virtually all the country's speed limit signs had been changed from miles-per-hour to kilometres-per-hour, in time for the scheduled abandonment of the last official use of an imperial measurement. Although for many years all direction signposts have given distances in kilometres, motorists continued to be informed about the speed limit in mph. On most of the country's roads the speed limit has actually been lowered. The primary reason for this is that the 60mph on regional and local roads has changed to 80km/h, the equivalent of 50mph. At the same time the 60mph on national roads has increased marginally to 100km/h. The 70mph limit on motorways has increased to 120km/h (75mph) and we now have a new lower speed limit of 30km/h in some residential areas. The change, when it came, did not cause any problems; motorists who normally ignored the speed limits continued to do so.

Maybe it was always the case, but any official change to the way we live in Ireland, however innocuous, seems to result in discord led by our politicians. For the past few weeks Fine Gael and Labour spokespersons have been berating the Government for what they claimed was a late start in launching an awareness campaign aimed at helping motorists understand the change. I suspect if the campaign had started three months ago we would have been told that it was too early. A spokesman for the National Safety Council said that advice had been sought from psychologists, who recommended that a short sharp publicity campaign immediately before the changeover would be most effective.

In my first writing of this story I asked questions about the competence of local authority staff, based on media reports about the location of some of the new signs. Fortunately I had a chance meeting with a senior council official and was reminded that there are two sides to every story. The Irish Examiner carried a front-page photograph of an 80km/h sign erected on a Co. Mayo bóthairín with grass growing along the middle. In other counties 100km/h signs have appeared beside schools. In all cases the speed limit had been 60mph and the extra 2mph wasn't going to make a great deal of difference, but it was argued that the placing of new signs adjacent to schools only encouraged drivers to increase their speed on that stretch of road. In my chat with the official it was pointed out to me that these signs were at the junctions with National Primary Roads which have a 120kp/h limit and failing to erect a sign would have left the motorist believing that he or she was still in a 120kp/h area, or at least that is what the lawyers would argue when the council was being sued.

Actually we continued to use one other imperial measure until Thursday. Met Éireann had been giving wind speeds in miles-per-hour but this is now reported in kilometres-per-hour.

Fallout from bank raid

The theft of £26.5m from the Northern Bank and its implications for the Peace Process continues to be debated, on an almost daily basis. On Monday Northern Secretary Paul Murphy met Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern in Dublin to take stock of the situation. Afterwards both said they had no doubt that the IRA was involved in the bank robbery and that as a result it was "not business as usual" for Sinn Féin. However they did confirm that representatives of the two governments would meet all the Northern parties in the coming days, before Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair meet.

From China Mr Ahern indicated that he would resume contact with Sinn Féin in the coming week. He indicated that he is not looking forward to the prospect but believes that non-engagement will only set the peace process back further. A meeting between the Taoiseach and the Sinn Féin leadership is scheduled to take place in Dublin tomorrow. Later in the day Mr Ahern will have separate meetings with delegations from the SDLP and the UUP.

  • Sinn Féin's Mitchel McLaughlin created a controversy by saying that he believed the killing of Jean McConville, the mother of ten abducted in front of her children and later shot dead by the IRA in 1972, was "not a crime". He did agree that it was "wrong". The comments were made on Monday night in a debate with Minister for Justice Michael McDowell on RTÉ's "Questions and Answers" programme. When his view generated widespread criticism Mr McLaughlin issued a statement in which he accused the Justice Minister of "an attempt to score cheap political points". Sinn Féin should have left it at that but Louth TD Arthur Morgan came out in support of the opinion that Mrs McConville's killing was "not a criminal act". He added that "dreadful things happen" in war situations. The IRA had claimed that Mrs McConville was an informer but the general belief is that she was shot because she went to the aid of a British soldier who was dying outside her door. She was one of "the disappeared" until her remains were found by a man walking on a Co. Louth beach 18 months ago.

  • On Tuesday the IRA issued a statement in which it formally denied having any role in the Belfast bank heist. It stated simply, "The IRA has been accused of involvement in the recent Northern Bank robbery. We were not involved". Crucially it was signed "P. O'Neill" which usually signals accuracy and authenticity, but Minister for Justice Michael McDowell was quick to point out that in 1996 a statement was also issued saying that the IRA was not involved in the killing of Det. Garda Jerry McCabe. PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde quickly let it be known that he is still convinced that the robbery was the work of the IRA.

  • There is speculation that the bank robbery may curtail this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations at the White House in Washington. It is said that President Bush is unhappy with Gerry Adams, believing that the Sinn Féin leader was aware that the robbery was being planned when he took a call from the President before Christmas. The Taoiseach and all the North's political leaders are normally invited to the St Patrick's Day reception, raising the question, is it easier to curtail the celebrations or to simply exclude Mr Adams? Speculation that the US authorities might withhold visas from members of Sinn Féin has been discounted, as MLA Gerry Kelly recently received a visa and will be travelling to the US in the next few days.

  • On Tuesday Chris Ward (23), one of the two Northern Bank employees forced to assist the robbers in escaping with £26.5m, was interviewed by the Irish News and by the BBC. He went over the events of the 24 hours in detail, explaining how his family were held hostage and he was taken to the home of his colleague, Kevin McMullen, where they were both questioned at length about the bank's security system. Both were told that if they did not co-operate their families would be killed, and they were ordered to go to work as usual on the day the robbery was carried out. The first instruction that Mr Ward had to carry out was to fill a sports holdall with more than £1m and deliver it to one of the robbers waiting at a nearby bus stop. Also on Tuesday a security video was broadcast on television news bulletins showing Mr Ward leaving the bank with the holdall.

  • For security reasons the bank has decided to move 40 Cash Centre staff to other duties at branches.

  • On Wednesday Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams made a public announcement attacking Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for making claims that the Sinn Féin leadership had prior knowledge of the bank raid. Mr Ahern has stated he has no intention of apologising to Sinn Fein and does not wish to comment further.

  • A TNS MRBI opinion poll in Saturday's Irish Times indicated that 62% of voters believe the government should continue to negotiate with Sinn Féin; 26% thought otherwise. Of those questioned, 47% believed that the IRA was responsible for the Belfast bank raid, 19% thought it wasn't involved, 29% said they didn't know and 5% had no opinion. On the question of whether or not Sinn Féin should serve in a coalition government, 39% thought it acceptable and the same figure thought it unacceptable; 18% didn't know and 4% had no opinion.

  • In an RTÉ interview on Sunday, Tánaiste Mary Harney repeated the assertion that the IRA carried out the robbery and that the Sinn Féin leadership was aware that it was being planned. She insisted that Sinn Féin must make clear that paramilitarism and criminality have ended and publicly accept that Jean McConville's murder was a crime.
Tsunami Appeal tops €50m

The body of the second confirmed Irish victim of the Asian tsunami, Conor Keightley, arrived back in Ireland on Friday. The Cookstown, Co. Tyrone native was on holidays on the Thai island of Phi Phi when the tsunami hit. His funeral will take place in Cookstown on Tuesday. There are still five Irish people missing after the tsunami, with three of those five considered to have been at serious risk.

On Monday Trócaire announced that it had collected some €15m through its church collections over the previous two Sundays. Combined with updated reports from the other aid agencies, it was estimated that the total sum donated by the Irish public had reached €48m. Coinciding with that news four Irish charities announced that they were winding down their campaigns to raise funds for the tsunami disaster. The estimate of the total collected has since been increased to more than €50m.

Taoiseach leads trade delegation to China

Bertie Ahern, along with four cabinet ministers and representatives from more than 200 Irish companies, spent the week in China as part of the largest trade delegation ever to travel abroad from Ireland. They started in Beijing and also visited Shanghai and Hong Kong in a bid to boost trade between the two countries.

During the six-day visit, the Taoiseach met China's President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Mr Ahern stated that delegates will target new business opportunities, particularly in software and telecoms, education services and environmental engineering services. He added that trade between Ireland and China is currently worth €4bn a year, while Irish exports to China increased 27% last year. Addressing 300 students and teachers at a Beijing university Mr Ahern said, "I see my current visit as a platform for a further boost to the political, human, educational, cultural, trade and commercial relations between our two countries". Mr Ahern reportedly raised the issue of human rights when he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao who, it was announced, will make a state visit to Ireland next year.

A number of agreements were signed during the visit, including one facilitating student exchange and another aimed at cooperation in the software industry. Minister for Education Mary Hanafin sees great opportunities in bringing Chinese students to Irish universities and also believes that Chinese should be taught at some third-level colleges here. Kerry Group announced an investment of €20m in China by buying an existing food ingredients company, building a new factory on a greenfield site, and later opening three more factories in the country. In the biggest deal of all Dublin property company Treasury Holdings is to invest €1.2bn in a housing and leisure development on an island north of Shanghai.

The Irish Times reports that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will speak with IDA Ireland about the possibility of setting up Ireland's first overseas investment office in China. Mr Ahern believes that by doing this Ireland would be positioning itself as a location for investment.

One of the visits paid by the Taoiseach was to the Chinese National Rehabilitation centre in Beijing where one of the patients is Jason Clarke (35), the son of well known television artist Frank Clarke. Jason, who was badly brain-damaged when he was struck on the head with a bottle, has been at the clinic since May, receiving intensive therapy which is now allowing him to walk with the use of a support bar. His treatment is part of a programme which has seen Chinese doctors and physiotherapists coming to Ireland to work with the Irish Wheelchair Association and it is expected that there will be further co-operation between the two countries.

A&E problems won't go away

The situation at A&E units has become a daily news item. After the Irish Hospital Consultants' Association said that ongoing overcrowding created a "serious risk" to patients, the Health and Safety Authority asked hospitals throughout the country to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of A&E departments. The HSA expects to have reports back by February 25. Minister for Health Mary Harney welcomed this development; she also referred to proposals made by Dr Aidan Gleeson of Beaumont Hospital which would dramatically reduce the number of patients on trolleys in A&E units, and she hoped that the practices suggested by Dr Gleeson will be implemented.

Also during the week a €96m development at James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown was formally opened. This includes a new A&E unit but so far there have been no reports of overcrowding there. At the opening it was announced that the hospital will in future be known simply as the Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown. While some people can become very passionate about the problem of overcrowded A&E units, others can be equally passionate about the renaming of a hospital, and Joe Duffy's Liveline programme on Friday received many calls from people who considered the name change totally unacceptable.

At the same time as the extended Connolly Hospital was being opened, Ms Harney was visiting Cork University Hospital to view a new A&E department which is due to open in March. There she acknowledged problems in A&E units and described these as pressure points in the health system, which has an annual budget of €11bn and carries out one million procedures a year. She expects, however, that the €70m which she allocated to a ten-point plan, aimed at fixing the system's more immediate problems, to yield benefits by the autumn.

Bits and Pieces
  • A genealogical conference at the Oranmore Lodge Hotel in Oranmore, Co. Galway on March 19 and 20 is being organised by Galway County Council and Galway County Heritage Forum. A panel of well-known experts, including Professor Nollaig Ó Muraile, Dr Terence Dooley, Bríd Higgins and Dónal Taheny, will conduct lectures and consultations and will be able to provide advice and assistance to those with specific genealogical or family history questions. A number of specialist booksellers including Kenny's Bookshop and Spellissey Bookshop will also be in attendance and the organisers expect to attract some 200 people to the conference from Ireland and abroad. More information is available at: http://www.galway.ie/planning/heritage/genaeological_brochure_05.pdf

  • When the first three staff members entered the post office on Upper Rathmines Road in Dublin on Monday morning they were confronted by two masked men. The branch manager, a clerk and a cleaner were tied up and the two raiders demanded the key to the safe and escaped with around €250k. It's not known if the two men were actually armed and there was no indication as to how they entered the building. The Irish Independent, however, claimed that the raiders had managed to obtain keys to the premises and knew enough about the security system to disable it.

  • Three men who raided Edenderry Post Office in Co. Offaly on Friday afternoon were definitely armed; at least two carried shotguns. Two Dublin men were later arrested in connection with the incident and a third is being sought by gardaí. Reports don't make it clear if the missing man is in possession of the "undisclosed sum" taken in the raid or if this has been recovered.

  • As of Monday, non-national parents of children born in Ireland before the passing of the Citizenship Act last year can lodge applications to remain in this country. Among the conditions which will apply are that they must have been continuously resident in the State. If their initial application is successful they will be allowed to remain for two years. At that stage if they can show that they are self-sufficient and of good character they will be allowed to stay here for another three years, at which stage they will be eligible to apply for citizenship.

  • It is reported that the Campbell Bewley Group is negotiating with potential partners with a view to reopening the former Bewley's café on Grafton Street as a wine bar café. If agreement is reached it is likely to be with Jay Bourke and Eoin Foyle, the owners of the Café Bar Deli restaurant chain which started with the acquisition of the former Bewley's café on George's Street. Unwilling to accept the closure of the Grafton Street café, some Dublin Councillors will table a motion calling for a change to the city development plant so that the premises can only be used as a café. At the same time a lobby group, campaigning to save the café, is meeting the owner of the property, Treasury Holdings, in an attempt to have the rent reduced to a level that would allow a café to survive.

  • US Ambassador James Kenny is advising Irish students to "come to America" through the J1 programme. Mr Kenny has issued the invitation on the US embassy website, as part of a series of efforts to re-ignite interest in the summer work-travel programme. The popularity of the J1 visa fell dramatically last year, with only 2,800 applications lodged, down from 6,500 in 2003. Mr Kenny blames the decline partly on more stringent security requirements; students must now attend a brief interview at the US embassy in Dublin, and must be registered with US authorities while on the programme. The agency arranging the interview charges €100 and students may also have the expense of travelling to Dublin for the interview. As well as receiving extensive coverage in the media Mr Kenny addressed visa information sessions at TCD on Tuesday and UCC on Wednesday.

  • Snow and sleet fell in many parts of Ireland late on Monday and early on Tuesday. The northwest counties of Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Cavan and Roscommon were worst affected, although there was black ice in the east on Tuesday morning. The severe weather resulted in a 30-minute closure of Dublin Airport; three flights were cancelled and others delayed. A number of schools were closed and some bus and local train services were disrupted but the disruptions were short lived as milder weather followed.

  • Farmers in north Dublin are seeking pledges from the new owners of Superquinn guaranteeing that the company will continue to buy its vegetables from them. It was reported, however, that Fergal Quinn has already written to a large number of his regular suppliers assuring them that "It is business as usual". In a separate development Senator Quinn later indicated that he and his family "will recognise the loyalty and contribution of colleagues" if the sale of their stake in the Superquinn chain is successfully completed. Select Retail Holdings is paying €450m for the supermarket group, with around €270m of this going to the Quinn family.

  • The Mahon Tribunal has been hearing from Joe Tiernan, the builder who paid almost £2.8m for land at Coolamber near Lucan. The tribunal was particularly anxious to establish if he was part owner of the property and if the sale to him was to hide profits from the Revenue Commissioners. He denied this emphatically. He insisted that he was unaware of the identity of the owners although it has since emerged that the solicitor he had been dealing with, John Caldwell, was one of the beneficiaries, as was Jim Kennedy, and former politician Liam Lawlor also appears to have had a significant interest in the land.

  • Questioned further about the land, Mr Tiernan said that planning permission was more likely to be obtained if Liam Lawlor was not seen to support it. On the day that it was voted through Mr Lawlor did not attend the council meeting. Mr Tiernan, a Fine Gael activist, told the Tribunal that he was confident of having the land rezoned as he personally knew three quarters of the councillors. The planning permission obtained by Mr Tiernan was overturned by An Bord Pleanála and in the High Court. Two years later, however, under a new development plan, the land was rezoned and planning permission was obtained for more than 500 houses.

  • Gardaí are investigating the tendering for projects at Beaumont Hospital following an investigation by Comptroller and Auditor General John Purcell. On Thursday the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee was told by Mr Purcell that, between 1998 and 2001, a single contractor had been selected to carry out construction work at the hospital to the value of €3.3m. While this in itself didn't indicate a problem, the fact that some tenders were redrawn after the work was complete and payments had been made for work that wasn't done, suggested irregularities. It was also found that a number of unsuccessful tenders were created under the names of non-existent companies to give the impression that the tendering process had been adhered to. The Committee was told of the resignation of the manager of the Technical Services Division, which was responsible for awarding contracts.

  • Television viewers living in the Leenane area of Co. Galway are threatening to stop paying their TV licence fee after RTÉ said it would not be repairing a transmission mast damaged in a recent storm. The mast was originally erected by the local community but RTÉ claims that safety regulations prevent it from asking its repair crews to work on the mast, which is erected on the side of a mountain. Attempts to find a new safer site for the mast are proving difficult, with landowners demanding exorbitant fees. An RTÉ spokesman claims the station was asked for €100k for a small piece of ground three metres by three metres.

  • Returns submitted on behalf of President Mary McAleese showed that supporters donated more than €137k towards her planned campaign for re-election as president. In the event, with no opposing candidate, the President was returned to office without the need for a campaign and only €45,500 was spent in preparatory work. The balance was returned pro rata to the donors and the President did not apply for the State funding to which she was entitled.

  • As of January 16, 19 prisoners who had been given temporary release for Christmas were still at large. All should have returned to prison on or before December 29.

  • A Cork man who asked his boss for Monday off, to travel to Dublin, quit his job when his request was refused. He didn't want to explain that he needed to travel to the capital to collect his lottery winnings of €1.35m.

  • Because an increasing number of construction workers in Ireland don't speak English, the Health and Safety Authority has distributed a safety guide using pictures to illustrate hazards.

  • The Golden Island Shopping Centre in Athlone, with 42 retail units, has been sold to Tesco for a sum understood to be in excess of €50m.

  • Much was made of the fact that when a PAYE worker overpays tax no refund is made unless it is applied for. In response to criticism Revenue claimed that most of those who are due repayments do, in fact, submit an application. An upgraded computer system will in future be used and overpayments will be dealt with automatically.

  • Ireland Today: Pauline and I spent a pleasant weekend in Westport and on the way there I noticed a strange pyramid-like structure in a field at The Neale in south Co. Mayo. I must have seen it on a number of occasions in the past but this time my curiosity won out. It was too wet and miserable to stop on the way, but Sunday was a bright sunny day so we returned by the same route. The wall to the field turned out to be a bigger obstacle than I expected and from a distance I didn't think a closer view was going to yield additional information. The only local I could find wasn't able to help, other than to say that it had been repaired under a FÁS scheme. The Shell Guide to Ireland describes it simply as a "curious 18th century stepped pyramid", but from www.lakedistrict.ie I learned that the structure, around 30-feet high and 40 feet at the base, was probably built around 1760 at the behest of "Sir John Browne the 7th Baronet and 1st Baron of Kilmaine, in memory of his brother, Sir George Browne".

National Lottery Winning Numbers:

  • Wed: 04, 08, 12, 14, 26, 30 (13) - two winners shared the jackpot of €1.35m.
  • Sat: 01, 09, 12, 17, 33, 38 (37) - the jackpot of €1.35m was not won.
Northern News
  • Giedrius Vainauskas (23) who had been living and working in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, died from stab wounds in the early hours of last Sunday morning. The Lithuanian immigrant was found at the rear of a house and died later in hospital. The dead man had been a lodger at the property and it is believed that he was attacked when he tried to intervene in a domestic dispute. Police are now looking for two local men who haven't been seen since the killing.

  • The Court of Appeal in Belfast has overturned the 1976 murder convictions against Richard Hanna and Robert Hinds, who were aged 16 and 14 respectively when Peter Johnson, a Catholic, was found dead in his Cave Hill Road home in North Belfast. The two youths were convicted solely on confessions which, they subsequently alleged, were beaten out of them. As a result of his experiences Mr Hanna developed a severe alcohol addiction problem and also had to flee to England when he was threatened by the UVF. He died just under a year ago. Mr Hinds also suffers ill health and was unable to be in court when the verdict was announced.

  • Derryman Martin Doherty (54) is currently in prison as a result of his failure to agree to give evidence before the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday. Until recently he had been referred to as PIRA 9. It is expected that he will have to serve six weeks of the three-month sentence which was recently imposed for contempt. There is considerable anger at the imprisonment of Mr Doherty and it is frequently pointed out that, although he wasn't in the city on Bloody Sunday, he is the first man to spend time in prison as a result of the day's event.

  • Ken Barrett (41), the man who pleaded guilty to murdering Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, has lost his first appeal against the decision of the Sentence Review Commission not to consider him for early release under the Good Friday Agreement. It is believed that Barrett expected to be released in March, but the SRC has reiterated that it has no role in reviewing the sentences of people held in prisons outside the North; for his own safety Barrett was removed to a prison in England soon after his conviction.

  • It is thought that the same gang of four or five masked men, armed with a knife and a metal bar, forced their way into homes in Caledon, Co. Tyrone and Poyntzpass, Co. Armagh on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. A 58-year-old man in the house in Caledon received minor injuries and the gang stole cash and a mobile phone. The victim in the second house was Terry Murray (83) and, although he was uninjured, he was left suffering from shock. The thieves took money and his wallet.

  • The Rev. Martin Smyth, now aged 73, has decided that he will not contest the next Westminster election. He has represented the South Belfast constituency since 1982. Hoping to replace him is his UUP colleague Michael McGimpsey, although Mr McGimpsey is described as pro-Agreement and Rev. Smyth is considered as staunchly anti-Agreement. The DUP says it will also contest the election on this occasion.

  • Bishop of Derry Dr Séamus Hegarty is being asked why he has failed to take action against a priest of the diocese who is believed to have paid £19k to a man who claims that, as an 18-year-old, he was the subject of a sexual advance. In a statement Dr Hegarty explained that the alleged incident involved two adults and that no illegality had occurred. It is said that many priests in the diocese are concerned that, since the priest in question has not been identified, all will be under suspicion.

  • Last Sunday work started on the demolition of the Andersonstown police station with the dismantling of the 100ft telecommunications mast. The infamous station closed officially yesterday and full demolition is scheduled for next month.

  • Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan accepted that "human error" and a deficient computer system were to blame for the failure to prosecute a senior Orangeman who was alleged to have breached Parades Commission's guidelines. The case didn't proceed when the PSNI failed to take action within six months to prevent the case becoming statute-barred.

  • On Tuesday the weather in New Zealand's Southern Alps cleared sufficiently to allow the recovery of the body of Dr Dónal Deery, from Ligoniel in north Belfast. He had fallen to his death a week earlier. Dr Deery's body is expected to arrive back in the North on Wednesday.

  • More than 100 primary schools across the North were closed on Tuesday as a result of overnight snowfall. Traffic was also badly disrupted and flights from Belfast International Airport were delayed or cancelled.

  • Planxty received a rapturous welcome when they appeared before a packed Waterfront Hall on Wednesday night. This was the first of four scheduled concerts at the venue.

  • In the three months to the end of November the North's unemployment rate increased from 4.7% to 5.1%. This is .9 of a percentage point down on the year-ago figure and is lower than London (7%) and Scotland (5.5%).

  • Nationalists and unionists were both concerned with a report that the UDA is in negotiations with the British Government over a requested £71m to be used in retraining paramilitaries so that they can undertake useful non-criminal activities.

  • NIO Environment Minister Angela Smith rushed through permission for a development at Banbridge, Co. Down, which might result in IKEA opening there rather than in Ballymun, in north Dublin.

  • Wilbert Ross (54) and his son, also called Wilbert (35), died when their car collided with a van at Tobermore near Magherafelt in Co. Derry on Monday evening. Both men were from Tobermore.

  • Keith Pauley (21), from Lisburn, and Ashley Arnott (18), from Moira, Co. Down died on Monday night when their cars collided outside Lisburn.

  • The PSNI in Belfast is trying to trace a truck which failed to stop after knocking down George Browne (60) in the Waring Street area of the city on Wednesday. Mr Browne, from Victoria Street, died from his injuries.
The Courts
  • Judge Angela Ni Chondúin ordered that a 17-year-old girl be detained for two weeks for her own safety rather than be released into the care of her mother. Ten days ago the court heard that the girl had been working as a prostitute in central Dublin under the supervision of her mother who had brought along another daughter, aged six. The mother and the six-year-old were apparently looking on as the teenager engaged in a sexual act with a 50-year-old man. Reports on the case fail to say if legal action is being taken against the man but I understand the six-year-old has been taken into care.

  • It's not clear what Dublin criminal Martin Foley hopes to achieve by going to the High Court in an effort to stop the Sunday World repeating allegations it has already published. I didn't know, and I guess you didn't know, that the newspaper had claimed that Foley, who is also known as "The Viper", was a garda informer. Now, as a result of the court case, we are all aware of the accusation. The newspaper articles also contained a prediction that Foley would die violently; three attempts have already been made on his life. In court Foley accepted that he could not sue for damages. Judgement was reserved.

  • Two Co. Offaly men who managed to get into a fight with some locals while home on holiday in Ireland were ordered to pay a total of €33,700 in fines and compensation when they appeared before Judge John Neilan in Tullamore District Court. The court heard that Edward Cullen and Noel Maher, both with addresses in Birmingham, had been having a farewell drink with friends in Edenderry when an argument broke out. The pair went off and armed themselves with a hurley and a sledgehammer and returned to the scene to continue the row. Gardaí, however, arrived before serious damage was done but as the two men tried to leave in a car a garda officer was caught on the bonnet. He managed to get off after a few hundred yards and was uninjured.

  • Yet another family dispute over land has come to an end with only the lawyers showing a profit. When James Ryan died intestate in the early 1990s the remaining members of his family disputed the ownership of the family farm at Bawnmore near Cashel, Co. Tipperary. That was eventually settled with the dead man's brother, Pat, owning 90 acres, half of the farm. However by then feelings were so bad that Pat immediately made out a will leaving the land to a neighbour, Thomas Ryan, who had been renting that part of the farm. Pat died in 1997, leaving his brother and sister, Michael and Nora, to challenge the validity of the will. A reasonably compromise seemed to be found when Thomas Ryan offered to give up half his inheritance provided they covered his legal costs of €70k. Before the necessary legal documents were complete further disputes arose and the matter was back before the courts again in the past week. Before a ruling was delivered Nora and Michael Ryan considered it appropriate to withdraw and the case was struck out. However by this time they, along with a cousin, John Dalton, were responsible for massive legal bills for both sides.

  • Christopher Cosgrove (61), a former Marist brother now living in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, was found guilty by a jury in Sligo Circuit Court of 180 counts of indecent assault against six young boys at St John's National School in Sligo town. Cosgrove was released on bail and will be sentenced in March; the judge said that Cosgrove undoubtedly faced a custodial sentence.

  • Kevin Dempsey (24), of Coolock in Dublin, was given a four-year jail sentence when he pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine worth €125k and a firearm. Judge Desmond Hogan decided not to impose the mandatory ten-year sentence as Dempsey had co-operated with gardaí from the moment of his arrest and his fingerprints were not found on the gun which was wrapped in a plastic bag when it was retrieved from his mother's garden.

  • An 18-year-old man was jailed for four years after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his foster sister when she was aged from four to six, between 1999 and 2001. The girl's mother told the court how she was devastated when she discovered that the boy she had taken care of as a son from the age of ten until the age of 15 had let her down so badly.

  • Colm Murphy, the only person so far convicted in relation to the 1998 Omagh bombing, won an appeal against his conviction on Friday and now faces a re-trial. The judges of the Special Criminal Court found that he supplied two mobile phones used in the attack, in which 29 people were killed and more than 200 were injured. Mr Murphy appealed against his conviction on more than 40 grounds and succeeded on two. These related to interview notes, which were altered by two detectives, and a mention of the fact that he had prior convictions. Mr Murphy, who had been jailed for 14 years, remains in custody but is expected to make a bail application before the Special Criminal Court next week. This development was greeted with extreme dismay by the relatives of those who died in the bombing.

  • James McDonagh (39) from Knockbridge, Dundalk was jailed for ten years after he was convicted of importing cannabis resin worth between €1.5m and €2m. He was deemed to be the ringleader of a scheme which saw the drug being shipped in a load of furniture on a truck from England. The driver of the truck, Brian Mulligan (25) from Dromiskin, Co. Louth was jailed for six years and two other defendants, McDonagh's brother Thomas (36) and Scott Neary (34), both from Dundalk, were each given three-year sentences. The older McDonagh was described as "the brains behind the operation".

  • Retired priest Fr Harry Moore (68) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy between 1984 and 1985. The court heard that Fr Moore, who was brought up in an orphanage, had been drinking heavily since 1970. The offences took place when he was a curate at Bayside in Dublin; he will be sentenced at a later date.

  • Michael Hayes (26) of Kennedy Park in Limerick was jailed for five years after he pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of his friend, James Kelly (42) in June 2001. Mr Kennedy died as a result of being stabbed once in the head and twice in the leg. Judge Carroll Moran criticised the inordinate delay in bringing the case to court; Hayes had handed the knife used in the attack to gardaí soon after the event but wasn't charged until August 2004. The judge said that, had Hayes denied the charge and been found guilty, he would have been jailed for at least ten years. In the circumstances the judge thought six years more appropriate and then reduced it to five because the case took so long to come to court.

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that the High Court was wrong in awarding €84k to Geraldine Weir Rodgers (36) of Annagry, Co. Donegal who was injured in a cliff fall near Rossnowlagh Beach in 1997. Ms Weir Rodgers had sued the landowner but the Supreme Court decided that she should have exercised more care in approaching the edge of a cliff. This ruling was greeted enthusiastically by the farming community and by hill walkers, who agree that they are primarily responsible for their own safety.

  • An apology from Minister for Health Mary Harney to a man suffering from hepatitis C was read out in the High Court on Friday. The man, born in 1980, had contracted the virus at birth from his mother, who had in turn contracted it through being given contaminated blood products in 1977. The man also received compensation and, although there is a confidentiality clause in the agreement, it is reported that the settlement was in the region of €2m.

  • The Supreme Court will sit today and tomorrow to consider the constitutionality of the proposed legislation which will retrospectively regularise deductions from the pensions of people being cared for in nursing homes. The bill was referred to the court by President McAleese.

  • Two men were detained when a fight broke out in the foyer of Mullingar District Court on Thursday. Noise from the dispute was clearly heard in an adjacent courtroom which was in session at the time. Joseph Donoghue (21) from Mullingar and Stephen Penrose (19) from Ballynacarrigy, Co. Westmeath were remanded in custody until Thursday.

  • A case in which student Patricia Hegarty, of Killala, Co. Mayo, had sued her Dublin landlords was settled out of court. Rita McKenna and her daughter Edel of Glasnevin had been accused of using hidden video cameras to monitor Ms Hegarty's movements. They denied this but nevertheless lodged more than €8k in court as compensation; it seems this sum was accepted.
Employment & Industrial Relations
  • As many as 260 redundancies are currently reported to be under discussion at Shannon Airport. Approval for the move must be granted by Dublin Airport Authority, which retains ownership of the country's three airports for the time being - despite last year's break-up of Aer Ríanta. Pat Shanahan, chairman of the new Shannon Airport Authority, gave an assurance that any redundancies will be voluntary, although this didn't placate the unions who are demanding that job levels be maintained. Some 560 people are currently employed at the airport.

  • SerCom Solutions, the supply chain management specialist, will cease operations at its Dublin facility in Clondalkin from April 29. This will mean the loss of 220 of the 252 jobs at the site, with the remainder - principally support roles to group operations - moving to a smaller Dublin facility. Changes in market demands have prompted Sercom to outsource its current print functions and transfer assembly activities to its Limerick facility, where some 300 people are employed.

  • A total of 270 jobs will be lost in Lurgan, Co. Armagh with the decision of US multinational Teleflex to close its subsidiary Rusch, which manufactures a range of medical devices including tracheotomy tubes and catheters.

  • About 70 jobs will be lost with the decision to close the Jefferson Smurfit Group's paper mill in Clonskeagh, Dublin, the last such facility in Ireland, on the grounds that it has become uncompetitive.

  • Cigarette manufacturer Gallaher is pointing to Europe-wide structural changes as the reason behind its decision to lay off 80 workers at its Ballymena facility; currently the plant has a workforce of 850.

  • "Cheap foreign imports" were blamed for the closure of a factory in Virginia, Co. Cavan which manufactures paint rollers. The 46 people employed at Ezy Koter Ltd will lose their jobs at the end of February.

  • Transnova Teo, which has been manufacturing electrical transformers at Casla, Co. Galway for the past 17 years, is to close with the loss of 20 jobs.

  • The Shelbourne, one of Dublin's most luxurious hotels, has been fined €7,000 by the Equality Tribunal for a manager's racist comment. Tanya Persaud, an Australian national with an Afro-Caribbean father, said that her manager made insulting remarks about fellow employees of her race and ethnic origin, and victimised her when she made a complaint. The hotel was ordered to apologise to Ms Persaud, and pay her the fine; it was also told to draw up an equality policy. The manager in question claimed that he was talking about his experience of working in the Caribbean and was not referring to Ms Persaud or any particular race of people.
Politics & Politicians
  • Minister for Justice Michael McDowell will seek Cabinet approval for the introduction of electronic tagging as an alternative to custodial sentences, according to the Irish Times. It is likely to be tried on first-time offenders and those guilty of public order offences. Senior officials at the Department of Justice have been in touch with the authorities in Britain where a similar system operates.

  • Sinn Féin published accounts which showed that it had an income of just over €2m in 2003, a 30% increase on the previous year. Fundraising in the US was considered particularly successful as it generated €144k. This was paid to the Belfast office as political parties in the South are no longer allowed to accept foreign donations.

  • The popularity of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the Fianna Fáil party and the Government has increased dramatically, according to an Irish Times/TNS mrbi opinion poll. Satisfaction with the Government has risen to 52%, up nine percentage points since the previous poll in October, and up 18 points since June; 40% say they are dissatisfied. The Taoiseach is recording a satisfaction rating of 60%, up seven points since October's poll, and the highest since just before the 2002 general election. For other party leaders the position is: Mary Harney 54% (no change); Enda Kenny 44% (-2) Pat Rabbitte 49% (no change); Gerry Adams 42% (-9) and Trevor Sargent 33% (-2). Fianna Fáil remains the most popular party, with 38% support, up three percentage points, with Fine Gael recording 22% popularity, down two points. Labour was unchanged at 13%; Sinn Fein at 11% (-1); PDs 4% (+1); the Green Party was unchanged at 4%; and other 8% (-2).

  • It seems that any type of association with former government press secretary and later political lobbyist Frank Dunlop raises doubts about the honesty of an individual. Tommy Reilly was selected as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the forthcoming Meath by-election but, once it was revealed that in 1997 he had jointly purchased land with Mr Dunlop, the newspapers picked up the story and the Fianna Fáil National Executive decided that a detailed investigation was required before his candidature could be sanctioned. Mr Reilly said that he later acquired Mr Dunlop's stake in the property, which he wanted as house sites for his children. The Fianna Fáil investigation is ongoing.
  • Health insurer BUPA has increased its premiums by 6% following a decision by Minister for Health Mary Harney to increase the cost of private beds in public hospitals by 25%. This will bring the annual cost of the basic policy for two adults and two children to €1,296. VHI is expected to follow suit when it reviews its charges in the summer but the latest insurer to enter the market, Vivas Health, said it had no such plans.

  • On Friday Minister for Health Mary Harney announced that she had sorted out problems relating to the commissioning of a new €48m health centre in Ballymun which had been lying idle for two years. In making the announcement she obviously believed that patients would be using the centre in the near future, but a spokesperson for the Health Service Executive said that it would be 12 months before it opened due to the time required for the tendering process and the subsequent equipping and fitting out of the premises.
  • RTÉ has confirmed that Marian Finucane will move from her one-hour daily slot on Radio One and will broadcast two two-hour programmes on weekend mornings; these will run from 11.00am to 1.00pm. Her weekday slots will, as expected, be taken over by Ryan Tubridy but whether he will be confined to one hour or take over part of Pat Kenny's time remains to be seen.
Travel & Tourism
  • More than 17.1 million passengers travelled through Dublin Airport in 2004, an increase of 8% on the previous year. Traffic from Europe was up by 13% and the number of travellers arriving from the US also increased, exceeding one million for the first time. Knock Airport has also been experiencing strong growth and expects to serve over a half-million passengers this year. During the week it served its three millionth passenger since opening in 1986.

  • A new nine-kilometre bypass named after poet Patrick Kavanagh will eliminate Carrickmacross' traffic problems and make life easier for cross-border motorists. The road, which is expected to cut 20 minutes from the journey from Dublin to Derry, was opened on Friday by Minister for Transport Martin Cullen. Hauliers from both sides of the border called for recognition of the great part played by Garda Martin McKenna in keeping traffic moving through Carrickmacross in recent times. With the arrival of the new bypass he will no longer be required to direct the traffic, a duty he has performed for many years.

  • Ireland's two Michelin two-star restaurants, Thornton's at the Fitzwilliam Hotel and Patrick Gilbaud in Upper Merrion Street, have retained their status. Tipperary chef Kevin Thornton sees this as a step towards obtaining three-star rating; in the Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland only three restaurants are granted three-star status and they are all in southeast England. L'Ecrivain Restaurant in Lower Baggot Street has also held on to its one-star rating.
The Irish Abroad
  • On Tuesday Canon Kenneth Kearon became the first Irish person to be officially installed as the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. The service of installation was presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury and among those taking part in the service were the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev. Dr John Neill, and the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Rev. Desmond Harman. The service was attended by the Irish Ambassador, HE Mr Dáithí Ó Ceallaigh and the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev. Dr Robin Eames. Canon Kearon was born in Dublin in 1953, graduated from TCD and was ordained in 1982. He served in a number of Dublin parishes and for a time was Dean of Residence at Trinity College, becoming Director of the Irish School of Ecumenics in 1999.

  • Controversial Irish priest Neil Horan has been dismissed from the priesthood. As a result of the defrocking, the 57-year-old has lost all rights, church titles and offices associated with being a priest. Mr Horan, who lives in London, drew international attention as a result of his attack on a leading contender in last year's Olympic marathon in Athens and previously for running onto the track at a Formula One race. Last year he was acquitted after being charged with indecency with a child as a result of a 1991 incident. The Archdiocese of Southwark stated that, even though Mr Horan is no longer a priest of the diocese, "We will continue to have a concern for Neil's well-being".

  • Colin Martin (43), from Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, has been released from jail in Thailand after serving eight years. He was originally given a 20-year sentence after he was convicted of stabbing New Zealand Brett Holdsworth in 1997, but this was reduced to ten years on appeal. Mr Martin has always maintained his innocence and said he only confessed because police tortured him. According to reports, Mr Martin spent two years in leg irons and contracted tuberculosis while in Chonburi prison. During his imprisonment, he was visited by Irish people in the area and assisted by the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas.
Conservation & The Environment
  • Over the weekend there was concern about the outcome of test on pigs which had shown symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease. The pigs, from a Co. Carlow farm, had been spotted by a vet at a meat plant near Tullow and samples were sent to England for testing. Preliminary test results released on Sunday indicated that they did not have the illness but the meat plant and farm will remain closed until the final tests confirm this.

  • The Irish Times reports that the plan to reintroduce the golden eagle to this country is progressing better than expected, although none of the 35 birds released in 2001 is yet old enough to breed. Only three of the 35 have died and, although they were all released in Glenveagh National Park in Donegal, some have moved to Galway, Clare and Kerry.

  • On Wednesday the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment heard from eminent archaeologists who were very unhappy with the proposed route of the M3 near the Hill of Tara. Professor George Eogan, the man who carried out the major excavation at Newgrange, considered the choice of route a very odd decision and Dr Edel Breathnach, one of three academics who had been researching Tara for the last 14 years, claimed that the road will "destroy this immensely important landscape". She also argued that this particular route will lead to protracted delays and significant extra costs due to archaeological work and court actions.
  • Patrick Collison (16), a student at Castletroy College in Limerick, is the 2005 Esat BT Young Scientist of the Year. He won the award for developing 'CROMA' - a general purpose language for Web programming. When the award was announced ten days ago President Mary McAleese presented Patrick with a €3k cheque and a Waterford Crystal trophy. The Best Group award went to Francis Wasser and Michael Mulhall from Christian Brothers Synge Street, Dublin, for their project "Numerical solutions of Hamilton's equations". A project on "The feeding behaviour of freshwater shrimp" won Kevin O'Reilly, from Christian Brothers Grammar School in Newry, the runners-up prize in the individual section, and the group runners up were Claire Conaghan, Áine Mulcahy and Seán Liston from Desmond College in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, for their project on "Intelligent Cats Eyes".

  • Minister for Education Mary Hanafin was in the news in a big way on Tuesday after she told the Irish Times that she will not be introducing change in the State exam system until she is satisfied that the proposed changes will bring improvements. There has been an expectation that self-directed learning, continuous assessment and project work would be introduced to the Leaving Certificate but Ms Hanafin, a former teacher, isn't convinced that this is progress. She argues that the Leaving Cert is highly regarded internationally as an objective assessment and she does not wish to risk this reputation. The Minister also points out that, in today's society, teenage boys are having difficulty performing within a structured environment and could lose out if the planned changes were implemented. A spokesperson for a parents' organisation was critical of this cautious approach and blamed teacher opposition but a spokesman for the TUI was also critical; he was concerned that his members were about to lose out on an opportunity to increase their earnings.

  • Student protests are not unusual and in recent years they have been against increases in annual registration fees and in support of demands for increased maintenance grants. The latest protest at NUI, Galway, however, is over a shortage of car parking places. In an effort to prevent members of the public from using the campus as a free city centre car park, the college authorities allocated 860 car parking spaces to members of staff and 140 to students.
Entertainment & The Arts
  • A new stage comedy/musical entitled "I, Keano" is receiving much publicity. The show, which runs at the Olympia Theatre from February 8-19, endeavours to tell the story of the troubled relationship between Irish soccer team manager Mick McCarthy and team captain Roy Keane, although all the main characters are dressed in togas and the setting is Ancient Rome.

  • It has now been confirmed that U2's world tour will open at the San Diego Sports Arena in California on March 28. The tour will include four concerts at Croke Park in Dublin in June.
  • Gardaí launched a murder investigation after Thomas Brady (49) was found dead in his flat in the Rialto area of Dublin on Wednesday night. The separated father of six was discovered by his 24-year-old son at around 8.00pm; he had been struck on the head a number of times with a blunt instrument. Mr Brady, a mature student, was described by a garda officer as "an upstanding member of the community".

  • Dublin window cleaner David Crowley (40), of Donaghemede, died on Tuesday when he fell from the second floor of a building on O'Connell Street.

  • Aidan Martin (38) from Sligo was fatally injured when he lost control of his motorcycle at Kilmacaugh, near Athlone, late last Sunday night.

  • At 7:15am on Monday another motorcyclist was seriously injured when he was involved in a collision with a car in the Dublin suburb of Tallaght. Ciarán Benson (24), from Saggart, Co. Dublin, died from his injuries a day later.

  • Also on Monday, at around 8:00am, Maryne le Yaouanc (31) died when her car crashed into a gate as she drove out of a garage at Ballytore, Co. Kildare.

  • That afternoon at around 3:00pm, Patrick Crawley (81) was killed in a two-car crash near his home at Magheracloone, Carrickmacross.

  • Ellen Murphy (45), of Kill in Waterford, lost her life when her car was involved in a head-on collision with an SUV on the N25 at Kilmacthomas, in Co. Waterford, at 8:00am on Tuesday morning.

  • Shortly after 6:00am on Wednesday Patrick Cahill (38), from Lisnagry, Co. Limerick, died when the car he was driving collided with a truck at Borris-in-Ossory, Co. Laois.

  • Thursday saw another motorcyclist die, this time on the East Link Bridge in Dublin. The victim was named as Cheng Geng Yan (27) with an address in Dublin

  • A two-car collision near Ballymascanlon roundabout at Dundalk at 7.20am on Friday claimed the life of one of the drivers, William White (57), from Rostrevor, Co Down.

  • The fourth motorcyclist to die on the roads in six days was Andrew McClean-O'Hara from Sligo town. He lost his life on Friday night when his bike left the road and struck a tree on the N17, near the village of Curry in the south of the county.

  • At 9:30pm on Saturday a 38-year-old woman was fatally injured when her car crashed into a barrier at Ballinatray Bridge, between Courtown and Gorey in Co. Wexford.
Business News
  • The Director of Consumer Affairs is in dispute with Tesco Ireland over the use of discount vouchers which are regularly sent to the supermarket's customers. Michael McAneaney, a DCA inspector, used a €6 voucher as part payment for 36 cans of Budweiser which were being sold by Tesco at €1.71 each. By using the voucher he ended up paying €1.54 per can. Mr McAneaney later visited Tesco's head office and was able to establish that the supermarket had paid €1.71 per can for the beer and was therefore guilty of below cost selling, an offence in this country. When the case reached the District Court Tesco successfully applied to seek a High Court ruling on the legal basis of the DCA prosecution.

  • In 2004 the average rate of inflation was 2.2%, down from 3.5% in the previous year and the lowest in five years. The annual inflation rate at the end of December was 2.6%, down from 2.9% in November.

  • The Special Savings Incentive Scheme, introduced by Charlie McCreevy in 2001 in an effort to curb spending, is now expected to cost the State €3bn, up from previous predictions of between €2.5bn and €2.7bn. Under the scheme the State will add 25% to sums saved by individuals. As the scheme matures between May 2006 and May 2007 account holders are now increasing their contributions to the limit of €254 a month, and so increasing the amount the State will be required to pay.

  • IFSRA chief executive Dr Liam O'Reilly's appearance before an Oireachteas committee was widely reported. Of most interest was the fact that an unspecified number of the 19 people criticised in a High Court inspector's report into National Irish Bank are still working in the industry. None of the 19 remains in the employ of NIB and it is thought that only a small number are with other financial institutions. It is anticipated that most of the remainder will be obliged to change career.

For the most part it was a damp, grey depressing week, apart from the excitement of a bit of snow on Monday night/Tuesday morning, although being so close to the sea in Galway we didn't get that relief. It all changed on Sunday when it turned cold under a virtually cloudless sky.

The coming week will continue to be cold, bright and sunny. Daytime temperatures will not exceed 7C and most nights will be at or below freezing.

Latest Temperatures:Day 5C (41F).................Night 0C (32F)



Vodafone All-Star SF Exhibition Game, Hong Kong

.....All Stars 2003 6-19.....All Stars 2004 6-08

Leinster O'Byrne Cup SF Final

.....Westmeath 0-12.....Laois 0-17

FBD Insurance SF

.....GMIT 2-08.....Clare 0-06

.....Mayo 1-11.....Roscommon 0-09

.....Sligo 0-07.....Leitrim 1-10

Munster McGrath Cup SF

.....Cork 0-07.....Limerick 2-03

.....Tipperary 0-5.....Cork IT 1-10

Walsh Cup SH

.....Offaly 0-16.....Down 0-10


Celtic League

.....The Ospreys 22.....Ulster 21

.....Connacht 8.....Cardiff Blues 18

.....The Borders 29.....Leinster 16

AIB All-Ireland League Division One

.....Ballymena 27.....Shannon 31

.....Buccaneers 18.....Garryowen 27

.....Clontarf 8.....Blackrock College 13

.....Co. Carlow 26.....Dungannon 14

.....Dublin Univ. P.....Cork Constitution P

.....Lansdowne 9.....Belfast Harlequins 13

.....Galwegians 13.....UCD 19

Sports Shorts

Golf: Darren Clarke finished joint fourth in his first competition of the season, the South African Airways Open in Durban. Two final rounds of 67 secured a late climb-up the table for Clarke at the event won by South African golfer Tim Clark, with a 15-under-par total.


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