Author Archive

3 Post Offices Raided Within 12 Hours

JCB left after smashing hole in post office wall

Post offices in Waterford, Kilkenny and Dublin were the targets of attempted raids all within a 12 hour period today.

In Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny a JCB was used to breach a hole in the wall of the post office and remove a safe from the building. However reports suggest that the safe was empty. The JCB used in the raid had earlier been stolen in Carlow.

A post office in Kill, Co. Waterford was also subject to an armed attack. Two men entered the post office shortly after 11.30 am when staff and customers were on the premises. One of the men was carrying a shotgun although no shots were fired.

The most shocking of the raids occurred in Swords, Co. Dublin last night. Raiders entered the home of a postmaster and held both her and her husband hostage for several hours before removing the husband to a secret location while instructing the postmaster to go to work and withdraw substantial sums of money.

The man was left tied to a tree in Swords but freed himself shortly after 10am. When Gardaí became aware of the incident the gang were forced to abort their plans.

General Secretary of the Irish Post Masters’ Union Brian McGann said that the vast majority of raids on post offices were unsuccessful as postmasters and their staff did not have access to cash and all safes were time-locked.

Yesterday also saw the first time when someone was charged with Tiger Kidnapping in this state. Stephen Freeman of Ballymun, Co. Dublin was charged with the false imprisonment of former county hurler Adrian Ronan and his family appeared at Kilkenny District Court.  The tiger-kidnappers raided his family home on November 3 2009 and took his wife hostage while he took ransom money from the Bank of Ireland in Kilkenny city.

Mr. Freeman has been charged with false imprisonment and of attempted theft and possession of a firearm.

Growing Use of Crime Victims Helpline

Today the Crime Victims Helpline launched its Annual Report for 2010. The report showed an increase of 20% in contact made to the helpline with the total number for the 12 month period just under 3000.

The main crimes reported were assault (24%) and property related crimes including burglary (21%).  Somewhat surprisingly the number of burglaries reported to the helpline has remained relatively constant since it was set up in 2005. With the difficult economic situation the country and many of its inhabitants find themselves in a rise in burglaries and theft may have been expected. However, according to Maeve Ryan, co-ordinator of the helpline, most of the calls they receive are about anti-social behaviour:

“it is a less serious crime and difficult to prove but the consequences of it are immense” she said.

With the majority of calls received relating to reward-less assaults, acts of violence with no financial gain, what are the factors stimulating this rise? Some economists have weighed in with theories which may provide some explanation.

Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker published a paper titled The Economics of Crime. Within it he suggests that youths often commit crime as they think less about the future when assessing the costs and benefits of committing a crime. Also, depending on their age and if the crime is not too serious then in many Western societies their first crime is often “free”, free in that there “essentially is no punishment”.

Another element which Becker highlights is that of recidivism i.e. that after going to prison those that commit a crime are likely to re-offend. Becker believes that in prison, many offenders learn how to become better criminals.  This is a belief shared by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague.  Speaking at the launch of the report today Mr. Montague said

“short prison sentences are counter productive. When you bring troubled people together they form new networks and commit more and more serious crimes. “

Worryingly, some believe that the rise in assaults and violent crime may be a result of a much simpler and perhaps more worrying trend in our society.  District Court Judge Gillian Hussey, who is also patron and director of the helpline, believes that the growth of anti-social behaviour and assault in this country is exacerbated by the increasing issue of drug and alcohol abuse;

“if I found six sober criminals in a year it’s about as many as I found.”

The National Crime Victims Helpline is a freephone number – 116 006 – and the website is

The Forgotten People of The Recession

Are elderly people in this country being neglected? Are they being denied basic needs? According to research conducted by St. Vincent De Paul in which 600 elderly people were surveyed, it was found that many older people are going to bed early to save on rising fuel bills.

Furthermore, with October set to see a price rise of 21% from Bord Gáis  and 12% from the ESB the outlook is bleak for those elderly people already having to save on their fuel bills.

Those surveyed also cited a lack of public transport as a major issue. The problem is obviously heightened in rural areas where an absence of regular bus services leaves many elderly people extremely isolated. This not only exacerbates the issue of loneliness that many elderly face but for those with medical problems it can make journeys to hospitals, often some distance away, a difficult and uncomfortable process. With the prospect of hospital closures in some regions this appears to be an issue likely to worsen.

Others surveyed have fears over their security, which is understandable given the disgusting and deplorable acts of violence we have seen committed against the elderly recently. Attacks such as those on Maire Rankin (81) in Belfast and the attack on a 62 year old woman in Charleville in Cork. In a time of such economic hardship for so many are we going to see more attacks on the elderly as they pose easier prey? What can the state and we as society do about it?

Issues such as living costs, expenses and transport can be looked into by the state, however the question of security and loneliness may be more complicated, especially as no new Gardaí are to be recruited. It is these latter issues that we, as a society, can improve through acts as simple as a phone call or visit. This is worth bearing in mind as winter approaches.

Investigation Into Anglo Continues

The enquiry into the activities of Anglo Irish Bank received a boost today when Gerald Conlan, one of the businessmen lent money by Anglo Irish Bank to buy shares in the bank, was ordered by Naas District Court to disclose documents and information on the deal.

Mr. Conlan had previously refused to assist the enquiry into Anglo however today it was indicated on behalf of Mr Conlan that he would be complying with any court order made. Conlan is only one of ten “golden circle” businessmen who received the loan of €451 million in July 2008 to purchase a 10 per cent stake in the bank.

Paul Appleby, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, had applied for the court order and earlier expressed his satisfaction with the outcome:

“I welcome the successful utilisation of these new Criminal Justice Act provisions in aid of the Anglo investigations.”

The loan to Mr. Conlan and the other businessmen was a result of a €2.8bn loan given to Sean Quinn so that he could invest in Anglo Irish Bank. Directors of the bank wanted shares in the hands of these businessmen as a means of more share control amid fears that Quinn could sell all his shares on the market at once, leading to the price of the Bank’s shares falling rapidly.

Former Anglo auditors Ernst & Young are also facing investigation as they were the Bank’s auditors during the period that lead to much turmoil in the Bank, the period that also saw the above mentioned loans aswell as those to ex-chairman Seán Fitzpatrick and the €7bn deposit received by Anglo from Irish Life and Permanent.

Anglo Irish Bank, under control of the Minister for Finance, has also made a claim to US Courts to deny bankruptcy to former Anglo chief executive David Drumm. Anglo had previously filed documents with courts in the US outlining the extent of the actions by Drumm during his time in the bank and highlighted the financial transfers to his wife which reached “fever pitch” in December 2008, on the eve of his resignation as Anglo’s CEO.

Abuse,torture and neglect

Amnesty International Ireland commissioned a report into the abuse of children in this State, in light of revelations from the Murphy and Cloyne reports. The amnesty report attempted to explore why these abuses occurred and what can be done to ensure they never happen again.

Colm O’Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said that children in this country had been “brutalised, beaten, starved and abused” and that “much of the abuse described in the Ryan Report meets the legal definition of torture under international human rights law”.

The Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports have brought to the public domain details of the levels of abuse, torture and neglect that occurred in many religious run institutions aswell as the extent to which some went to cover up these abuse claims. Public anger has been further heightened by what many see as a refusal by the catholic church to acknowledge the extent of the abuse and cover ups that had occurred. Statements by clergy such as Fr. Paddy Banville of New Ross have done little to aid the Church’s cause. Banville had stated recently in an article for the newspaper The Irish Catholic that “wives and mothers” had “failed miserably to deal with the abuse of their children”.

However, Mr. O’Gorman also believes that blame cannot be placed solely at the feet of the clergy and thata “the institutionalised lack of accountability in the Irish State” should not be overlooked either, he said:

“This abuse happened, not because we didn’t know about it, but because many people across society turned a blind eye to it.”

This is a search for accountability for what O’Gorman describes as “ perhaps the greatest human rights failure in the history of the State”.

McGuinness and The Aras – Progress or Controversy?

As has been expected the decision by Sinn Fein deputy leader and North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness to run for election as President of Ireland has proved to be quite controversial.

Last Saturday Mr. McGuinness was officially unveiled by Sinn Fein as their candidate for the Presidential election and swiftly received the support of 3 additional Oireachtas members to add to their 17 to give Mr. McGuinness the 20 votes required to enter the race. The additional support came from Kerry Independent TD Michael Healy Rae, Luke Ming Flanagan with Finian McGrath and Tom Flemming also believed to have provided their support.

Mr. McGuinness is well known to have been a leading member of the provisional IRA in the past and has gone to prison on two occasions as a result of this membership. Unsurprisingly it is this period of his past and the many heinous events executed by the IRA during this time of his membership that sits uneasily with many people. Within the past week we have seen much public disapproval of Mr. McGuinness’ decision to enter the race, with former TV presenter Gay Byrne brandishing both McGuinness and Sinn Fein as “liars”, saying: “they don’t mind lying and they’ve rehearsed their lies and they’ve been trained to lie.”

Should Mr. McGuinness win the race for President then he would assume the titular position of Head of the country’s Defence Forces, an issue which has irked many including Justice Minister Alan Shatter who believes that somebody with Mr. McGuinness’ “exotic background” would be “somewhat inappropriate” for this position.

Another aspect which appears to be overlooked but should be considered if Mr. McGuinness becomes President is his relationship with an Garda Síochana. Na Gardaí are the security providers to the President of Ireland yet one would imagine there must surely be an element of the Gardaí with some negative feeling towards Sinn Fein and Mr.McGuinness. There have been many events which could cause tension between the two but an act which lead to much disdain toward Sinn Fein was the 1996 killing of Det. Garda Jerry McCabe by the IRA. One would not be surprised if some members of an Garda Síochana were unhappy at having to protect a man of his alleged background and standing within an organisation that caused so much distress, in the South aswell as the North.

Sinn Féin have come under further criticism in this country for their boycott of the State dinner President McAleese hosted in Dublin Castle for Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year. This was seen by many as an ideal opportunity to make further strides in the reconciliation of the two countries and acknowledge the progress that has been made for peace, yet Sinn Féin as a party were very public at the time in their refusal to attend. This has raised questions as to how Mr. McGuinness would act, as head of this State, should he be required to meet the Queen or any other members of the Royal Family.

Mr. McGuinness himself has stated that he would be willing to meet Queen Elizabeth should he become president. He has also acknowledged being a member of the Provisional IRA and has condemned the killing of Det. Garda Jerry McCabe.

McGuinness has said on his time in the IRA: “ I don’t divest myself of my responsibility during the time I was in the IRA, I have plenty of regrets”. Yet his account of his time in the IRA is in stark contrast to that which has been reported. Former head of the RUC Special Branch Chief Superintendent Brian Fitzsimons and former RUC Chief Constable Hugh Annesley have both stated that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were key figures in the provisional IRA and that Sinn Féin and the provisional IRA were inextricably linked.

McGuinness has employed various tactics in response to questioning on this issue. To his credit he has always acknowledged he was a member of the IRA, however on certain occasions he has refused to answer the extent of his involvement. More recently as the Presidential race has progressed he has adopted a more open stance, stating that he had fought and fired a gun but that he had never killed anybody, either directly or indirectly.

However it is Mr. McGuinness’s record as a peacemaker that his campaign is based on. Martin McGuinness has been a key figure in establishing peace in the North. One of the most powerful images of the newly established peaceful North was of Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley side by side laughing and joking like old friends. Remember these were men considered to be sworn enemies. Men so opposed and divided in their beliefs that the thoughts of them being in each others company for long enough to work together seemed far-fetched. Yet there they were. Huge credit must go to McGuinness for his part in working so successfully with those from all sides.

Yes, his past is one of alleged violence, yet his present seems firmly one of peace. Mr. McGuinness has also highlighted his credentials for the ambassadorial role that comes with being President, on last Sunday’s “This Week” on RTE Radio 1, he said :

“ I’ve been in the Oval Office with three Presidents, I’ve been at the invitation of Nelson Mandela to South Africa”.

Let’s not forget either that Nelson Mandela was also considered a terrorist. Which brings us to the other argument in favour of Martin McGuinness as President. Wasn’t one of Ireland’s best loved political figures, former Taoiseach and President, Eamon DeValera a terrorist? He was of course a member of the original Irish Republican Army and fought in the 1916 rising. Is there such a huge distinction between the bloody wars fought by the IRA of then and now?

For those who believe Senator Norris as President would give the image of a progressive Ireland, could it be argued that Martin McGuinness as President would give an even stronger image of progression? Could it provide an even more powerful symbol of how far this country has come from its troubled past? Or would it give the wrong image, the President of this country with such a controversial past – some acknowledged but even more alleged?

Please comment and let us know what you, the reader, think of this issue.  

Irish Interest Rate Cut as Fine Gael Fail To Deliver on Promises

It has been an interesting week for the country with regard to our finances. EU ministers signed off on interest rate cuts to Ireland’s bailout plan which is predicted to save the country up to €10 billion over the course of the deal. The EU have agreed to a zero margin on the loans, which essentially means that Ireland will only pay an interest rate of whatever its costs the EU to fund the loans. There will be no additional interest rate “penalty” applied.

This good news followed positive statements from the government, specifically Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton, on Friday that EU member states would agree to guarantee Ireland’s low corporate tax rate. The Minister said that she had asked for this formal guarantee to be added to the treaty granting Croatia accession to the EU, a treaty which is due to be voted on later this year. Our corporation tax rate of 12.5% is seen as a key component of our industrial strategy, however it has come under much pressure from several European countries, specifically France, who sought to have it raised in exchange for more favourable terms to our bailout. This was seen to be rather hypocritical of France after a report earlier in the year by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that France has a nominal corporate tax rate of just over 33% but an effective rate of as low as 8.2% after various deductions. This point had been raised by Finance Minister Micheal Noonan at the time in response to mounting pressure from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr Noonan also added that Ireland had “ eliminated practically all allowances so our effective rate was over 11%”.

This week also so the publishing of an Audit of Irish Debt by a team from the University of Limerick which had been commissioned by the non-government organisations Afri, Unite and the Debt and Development Coalition. Dr. Sheila Killian, who lead the research, described the results as “truly frightening”. The report found a potential national debt of €371.1 billion. This consisted of €91.8 billion in direct Government debt and €279.3 billion in State backed bank debt. The report provides some incredibly interesting reading. Not only does the €279 billion result from Bank Debt but figures also suggest that a large part of the €91 billion direct government debt was due to the banking crisis.

The report also mentions the “intricate layers of anonymity” it found in relation to bondholders involved in the banking bailout. This should not come as a surprise. The details of who exactly the bondholders are that we are spending billions to repay has never been made readily available. Given the way a lot of these financial products work (CDS, CDO) and the level of pressure that has been placed on Ireland to repay bondholders ever since the Fianna Fáil Government provided the bank guarantee, we can assume these bondholders are large EU investment banks (like Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank) and various EU institutions.

Why the EU are applying such pressure on us to repay is to avoid a financial situation known as contagion, basically a domino effect of banks and/or economies collapsing. It is not in the interests of the EU to imply overly draconian penalties or repayment terms on the country in case we collapse entirely and default on our debts. It has given us our slap on the wrists and now needs us in fit enough condition to repay our debts, all of them. Finance Minister Noonan found that out this week, the removal of a margin on the EU loans should ease some pressure on the country, however, as transpired from Saturday’s meeting with ECB President Jean Claude Trichet when the issue of burning some of Anglo Irish Bank’s bondholders was suggested, Mr. Noonan was met with a stern no. With the mounting pressure on the EU and specifically the Eurozone area as a result of problems in Ireland, Portugal, and Greece not to mention Spain and Italy, Ireland will be heavily pressed to repay every cent possible to its national and bank creditors.

Bear in mind that the bondholders Minister Noonan suggested burning are “unguaranteed, unsecured” bondholders, meaning they leant to the banks at a level where –as the name suggests –should there not be enough money to fully pay back all creditors, then this group will not be guaranteed to be repaid what they had anticipated. Unfortunately for us, these “unguaranteed, unsecured” bondholders are in line to receive every cent back that they had gambled!

Despite pre-election claims from Fianna Gael that should they get in to Government then Anglo bondholders would have to be burned, it now appears that will not transpire. What Fianna Gael have found out since coming to power is that it’s very easy to be an armchair boxer, it’s a much tougher proposition to be in the ring fighting the fight.