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Posts Tagged ‘ Alan Shatter ’

News in Brief-Dublin Ready For Porn Invasion As Missing Shatter Report Emerges

alan-shatter“Er, lads, we’ve lost it again”.

The Russian ’ghost ship’ floating about the coast has disappeared once again. It initially turned up off Ireland in February after breaking from the tow line taking it to the Dominican Republic. It was decided it would be too dangerous to attempt to board the ship and now it seems it’s gone again. How do you lose a ship like? Even St Anthony is perplexed. Wherever the ship is, it’s said to be infested with rats and carrying the missing police report into Alan Shatter’s drink driving incident. Continue reading

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Cyber-Bullying: The Story So Far…

cyber_bullyingLast Saturday, the 24th of November, Lara Burns was found dead in the stables next to her home in Co. Kildare. At only twelve years of age Lara had seemingly decided she could not go on any longer and taken her own life. The youth who was just three months into her first year at Maynooth Post Primary School is survived by her devastated family, mother Helene, father Robert, stepfather Noel and brother, Brendan.

Tragically, Lara is the third young girl to take her own life in recent months. Her death follows that of Erin Gallagher (13) from Co. Donegal and Ciara Pugsley (15) from Co. Leitrim who took her own life in September. As we all know and understand suicide is a complex issue which not only results from depression but a series of socio-cultural factors. However, in the case of these three girls cyber-bullying has been considered a primary factor in their horrifically premature deaths.

Claims that Lara Burns had been the victim of bullying first came to light after her brother Brendan who wished to pay tribute to his sister set up a special Facebook page in her memory. While he simply but poignantly wrote “RIP sis” many other contributors to the site made reference to the bullying Lara should never have had to endure.

Yesterday, after speaking with a source close to the Burns family, The Daily Star reported that Lara had in fact battled self harm issues in the period before her death. Apparently the youth had been working closely with and receiving emotional support from Pieta House, a group which provides help for those suffering from suicidal thoughts. In the wake of their daughter’s death the Burns family actually requested that in lieu of flowers at the funeral mourners donate to this particular group.

Having discovered that Lara was self harming for quite some time many are worried that the girl suffered at the hands of bullies for much longer than was originally thought. Naturally, due to the seriousness of this case and the growing epidemic that is cyber-bullying Gardai will be investigating further.

The Statistics

It is a little known fact that more people die as a result of suicide each year in Ireland than in road traffic accidents. While older people, especially men, are typically thought of as the most vulnerable group this is beginning to change and we are seeing suicide affecting increasing numbers of Irish people across the lifespan. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) youth suicide is growing at the fastest rate. In fact suicide is now considered one of the three leading causes of death amongst those aged 15-44 (male and female). Disturbingly, the WHO also found that youth suicide rates in Ireland are the fifth highest in the European Union whilst a separate report published by the Irish Medical Journal has revealed that there has been a 16 percent increase in a 20 year period in the rate of suicide in Irish teens under the age of 17.

Social Media

Thanks in part to ever changing hormone levels the teenage years are widely understood to be some of the most turbulent and vulnerable of an individuals entire life. Unfortunately today’s teenagers are facing greater challenges and dealing with more pressure than ever before. Simply inhabiting this world requires a person to deal with pressures resulting from alcohol, drugs, sexuality, sexualisation, body image etc. Of course technology despite all of its wonderful aspects also has a part to play. Today, your average teenager has a cell phone, a Facebook account, and probably numerous others (Bebo, Twitter or ask.fm anyone?) Obviously I am not suggesting we simply cut off these lines of communication but it is of the utmost importance that we recognise the dangers that come alongside them. There is no denying that there has been an influx of social media sites in recent years and I like so many others believe this is one of the major problems affecting teenagers today.

Today, if you don’t have a Facebook account you’re considered weird and lets face it no teenager wants to be considered strange. Not having a link such as this to their friends can make a fourteen year old feel like a social outcast. However having a social networking account (accounts in many cases) provides a direct channel to that individual meaning that if they are in fact being bullied they are contactable outside of school hours, at night time at the weekend, always.

The Problem With Anonymity

Typically, people have the confidence to say things they otherwise would not – both good and bad things – when a screen separates them from the individual they wish to speak to. Ian Power, communications manager of SpunOut, a youth organisation which aims to put an end to cyber-bullying, believes that this is how and why cyber-bullying so often spirals out of control. Power believes that what many individuals say online is more often than not something they would never say in “real life” In his opinion the “rise in the past year in the number of websites that allow anonymity” only exacerbates the issue. With the privilege of anonymity tormentors often feel that they can hurl even more outrageous insults and comments at their victims. Insults such as “I’m sorry to hear you tried to kill yourself. Next time finish it” This comment was aimed at a young victim of bullying here in Ireland. One website that grants users total anonymity is Ask.fm. This controversial site has found itself at the centre of both Ciara Pugsley and Erin Gallagher’s deaths.

Ciara Pugsley

Ciara Pugsley, who attended St Clare’s Comprehensive School in Manorhamilton Co. Leitrim, took her own life just last September after becoming the target of a vicious hate campaign launched against her online. The fifteen year old’s tormentors primarily used Ask.fm to abuse her. Among the comments the teenager received were ones telling her she was fat, ugly, retarded and that she lacked all self respect. Another individual, perhaps the same individual, then made reference to her depression questioning whether or not she was just pretending to be in pain in order to get attention. Heartbreakingly, the last message to appear from Ciara on her account was a response to the question “whats been up with you?” to which the teenager replied “u’ll see soon.” Shockingly vitriolic comments concerning Ciara were even posted online following her tragic death.

Erin Gallagher

Six weeks later, in a strikingly similar case, thirteen year old Erin Gallagher from Ballybofey, Co. Donegal was found dead after informing her online contacts – friends and tormentors alike – that she was considering killing herself following a bout of abuse suffered on Ask.fm. Again the comments aimed at Erin were much the same as those aimed at Ciara. The thirteen year old was dubbed a “fat, ugly tramp” by tormentors who once again preferred to remain anonymous. Multiple references were also made to the fact that Erin had been physically assaulted by some of the same girls. In a comment posted on Friday, the day before the thirteen year old died, Erin responded to bullies who were poking fun at the fact that she had been badly beaten by another girl and perhaps even had some of her hair pulled out during the attack

“Do u think ur funny bullying me over ask.fm? Yeah u prob think it was funny when I f**kin put a rope round my neck cause of yous, yous are that sad! Leave it now u had ur f**kin fun get over it! My hair wasn’t all over the ground trust me plus stop going round saying I got a bald patch I had or have no bald patch”.

Calls To Ban Controversial Site Ask.fm

In her Facebook tribute Erin’s older sister Shannon Gallagher wrote “I love you darling. It’s so hard to say you’re gone. Everyones heartbroken. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister. You were a stunning girl. No one deserved what you went through. I’m sorry that I couldn’t prevent it. Love you with all my heart” which actually spurred an outpouring of grief from family, friends and sympathisers across the nation and those who wished to call for an end to the now supremely controversial site Ask.fm.

Calling for an end to the site was Peter Sweeney who wrote:

“Erin is a 2nd year student who went to a local school here in Ballybofey who tragically due to bullying ended her own life. An absolute waste of a young life who had so much ahead of her. She was on a website called ask.fm where a lot of the bullying took place, and I call for it to be banned. Rest in peace Erin.”

Shockingly another user, Laura O Sullivan, who echoed Sweeney’s sentiments admitted “My own sister had the same trouble with that ask.fm, had a suicide letter written also, my mum found it thank god.”

Founder Of Ask.fm Defends His Site

Responding to the negative press Ask.fm has received following the death of these girls the sites founder Mark Terebin told RTE that he sympathised with the families of the victims adding “We do understand the gravity of the situation… of course there is a problem with cyber bullying in social media, but as far as we can see, we only have this situation in Ireland and the UK… It seems like children are more cruel in these countries.”  Having been further pressed by the media to comment on the situation at hand Terebin then issued another statement saying “Mass media is knocking on the wrong door. It is necessary to go deeper and to find a root of a problem. It’s not about the site, the problem is about education, about moral values that have been devalued lately. Don’t blame a tool but try to make changes… start with yourself. Be more polite, more kind, more tolerant of others.” He then went on to blame the medias coverage of these suicides for further deaths amongst teenagers “Suicide is not something to encourage via mass media. The more you promote suicide, the more it happens.”

It’s true, Ask.fm was quite innocently set up as a social networking tool that would allow members to ask questions and seek advice on various topics. It was never intended to be misused and abused the way it has been by certain members of the public. I’m sure cyber-bullying was never something website developers intended to encourage. There is also truth in what Terebin has said: we should be more tolerant of and nicer to others. However Ask.fm’s terms of service clearly states: “You will not, directly or indirectly, transmit any obscene, offensive, threatening, harassing, libellous, hate-oriented, harmful, defamatory, racist, illegal or otherwise objectionable material or content.”

Mr Terebin has gone to great lengths recently to point out that his site is just like Facebook or Twitter – a mere social networking tool – perhaps then it is time that he admit that he does in fact have a responsibility to the many users of his website. No, I do not believe that shutting down Ask.fm will eliminate cyber-bullying or teen suicide but Mr Terebin simply cannot continue to deny all culpability. The fact remains that each and every websites content must be monitored and managed and that is precisely why the founder of this particular site has tried to transfer the onus of responsibility to the shoulders of so many others. Certainly I do not wish to imply that the deaths of these girls are his fault but it seems to me that Mr Terebin should refrain from implying that the “cruel” children of Ireland and those who work in the media are to blame. In my opinion these are two incredibly naive statements. One simply cannot tar all the teenagers of Ireland with the same brush and an educated person would never suggest shutting up when it comes to suicide or depression for that matter. For years we have struggled to overcome the taboo status of suicide here in Ireland something we are only now succeeding in. It has long been acknowledged that communication is the key to battling both depression and suicide, given the statistics we saw earlier this is not the time to revert to silence and secrecy.

Anti Bullying Campaigners

In the wake of Lara Burns recent suicide Mr Jonathan Pugsley, father of Ciara , has come forward to express his sympathy for the family saying “It is devastating to learn that another young girl has taken her own life. My heart goes out to the Burns family because I know what they are going through” He also appealed, once again, to the politicians of Ireland to take “urgent action” to prevent more deaths amongst our young people. “I’ve tried to research all of this and it seems to me that the politicians in this country have spent the past 10-12 years talking about bullying but have done nothing about it.” Mr Pugsley said adding “The time for talking is over. We need urgent action now and urgent policies now to prevent further deaths.” Thanks to impassioned and dedicated campaigners such as Mr Pugsley and the tireless work of organisation’s like The National Anti Bullying Coalition (NABC) it seems our leaders will set in motion the changes this country so badly needs.

Following the success of the Tools for Teachers programme developed by teachers Sean Fallon and Mary Kent which provides free expert training in the recognition and elimination of bullying in schools across Ireland the NABC has urged Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to develop and implement an anti bullying system within Irish schools that is at least as effective as that devised by Fallon and Kent. “So please, Minister Quinn, use the authority you already have under the Education Act to initiate the end of this misery for students and their families now. For some of our teenagers, there is no time to lose, and next year may be too late” said a spokesperson for NABC recently. Fortunately, it is now expected that the minister will present an action plan expertly devised by members of The National Behavioural Support Service, the HSE and National Educational Psychologists to the NABC in the coming days.

Meanwhile, also petitioning for change is Minister for Justice Alan Shatter who wants to examine in further detail the prospect of prosecuting cyber-bullies. Addressing members of the Dail Shatter explained that bullying was a form of harassment and as such fell within the provisions of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. Whilst he acknowledged the difficulty in prosecuting bullies and the need to remain both practical and realistic he also said that he hoped to learn from countries such as Scotland and Australia both of which treat the matter extremely seriously.

At this point anything that would contribute to the recognition that bullying is not acceptable within schools, the workplace or any other environment is warmly welcomed by the people of Ireland. Until then it is important to remember these guidelines issued by SpunOut.ie for combating cyber bullying:

  • Ignore the bully – Do not respond online.
  • Keep some evidence of the bullying. Take a screenshot of the comments being posted to sites and retain all text messages.
  • Confide in someone you trust such as a friend, family member or teacher.
  • The most important thing of all is to speak up. Do not suffer in silence.

Naturally bullying contributes to feelings of depression so I also spoke to Sandra Hogan of AWARE to hear what advice she had to offer those suffering from depression. This is what she had to say:

“Anyone who might be affected by depression or concerned about a loved one can access information and support which is available. Our website www.aware.ie contains lots of helpful information about the condition and about our support services. Once you know what you are dealing with, it is that little bit easier to find coping techniques and minimise the impact it has on your life. There are some helpful resources aimed at young people such as spunout.ie, jigsaw and headstrong. Getting professional advice from a GP or other appropriately qualified health professional is important too.”

Please, whatever you do just remember there is truth in the old idiom “A problem shared is a problem halved” and speak out!

By Kerri Mitchell

For those coping with or affected by depression/suicide

Childline: 1800 666656 or text list to 50101

Parentline: 1890 927277

Teen Ireland: 1800 833634

Console: 24/7 helpline 1800 201890

3Ts 24/7 helpline: 1800 247100 or text “help” to 51444

HSE Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1800 742745

AWARE: 1890 303 302

Pieta House: 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie

Cyberbullying advice websites

Expert advice at webwise.ie

Academic based research at cybertraining-project.org

SpunOut.ie

World War II and the Irish deserters

Fighting for the Crown has always been a touchy subject in Ireland. Those who would take the King’s shilling were often looked down upon by friends and neighbours and even family members simply for joining the enemy. Despite the nationalist reasoning behind a substantial number of volunteers who left to fight Germany in World War I, returning soldiers were cast aside, branded traitors to Ireland by a society successfully brainwashed into believing the nationalist narrative driven into their minds by both the nationalist leaders and of course the Catholic Church. Coming home from World War II, one section of Irish soldiers who fought in Europe faced a much graver situation – not just the hatred of a nationalist populace, but imprisonment and reprisals on both themselves and their families, for the crime of deserting the Irish Defence forces.

Recently, Alan Shatter has announced a proposed piece of legislation which will provide an official amnesty for those Irish citizens who left their posts in the Free State army to fight for the Allies in mainland Europe. “The government apologises for the manner in which those men of the Defence Forces were treated after the war by the state,” Shatter declared. Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, Éamon de Valera immediately declared that the Irish Free State would remain neutral for several reasons – in view of the continued partition of Ireland, neutrality as the ultimate declaration of Ireland’s independence as well as the more practical matter of Ireland being a small nation and vulnerable to attack should she choose sides. Throughout the war, Dev maintained the Free State’s position. Strong pressure came from London over the use of Irish ports by the British navy, supported by the American representative in Dublin, David Gray. Dev continually refused any such requests, arguing that any moves in favour of one side would threaten the Free State’s safety, a stance which served to enhance his support from the populace. But really, Ireland wasn’t all that neutral, and certainly showed sympathetic leanings towards the Allies and their cause. For one thing, the Irish army passed on information to the British, while British soldiers who found themselves landing in the Free State were quietly slipped over the border into Northern Ireland; their German counterparts were instead arrested and interned. So, one might think, it wouldn’t be a step too far for some Irishmen to aid the Allies in their fight against Germany.

In the Irish Defence Forces were a large number of highly trained men, ready and itching to go into action which wouldn’t happen for them, barring an invasion of Ireland. A good portion of these men saw what was happening in Europe, and were unhappy with the country’s position of neutrality, men who wanted to fight – against evil, for more money and even food (which was distinctly lacking in Ireland’s army) or just for the hell of it. Around 4,500 to 5,000 are believed to have deserted their positions in the Irish Defence forces (alongside those who had legitimately joined the British army) and left Ireland to fight on the battlefields of Europe, though not all for the same sides. They joined different regiments and fought in many countries and during some of the most important episodes of the war which would eventually swing the Allies way. But if they expected to return home to a hero’s reception, they were sorely mistaken. While the Irish government was ostensibly neutral, the citizens were certainly not. And it’s not hard to understand why. These were a generation of people who had lived through the execution of the rebels of 1916, the War of Independence and the infliction of the Black and Tans, the Civil War and the toll that took on the populace, not to mention the partition of Ireland and the continued troubles across the country. Anti-British sentiment was still very fresh, and here were people, Irish people no less, who had deserted their country to go and fight in the army of the old enemy. And so came, from Dáil Éireann (despite their unofficial assistance to the Allied forces), the starvation order, officially known as the Emergency Powers Order No. 362, passed under the Irish Emergency Powers Act of 1939. The severity of the deserter’s punishment shows that the government of the time wanted to inflict as much physical and psychological pain on those 5,000 returning soldiers as possible. Under the legislation, they were to be punished in four ways – they forfeited all pay during the period of desertion, all pensions were lost to them, any employment benefits they might have been eligible for were revoked and for a period of seven years they were not allowed to hold any job paid for from public money. This, the government maintained, was to ensure that those who had faithfully fulfilled their oaths to the Free State army were the first to get the available jobs following demobilisation, to deter any future desertion and as a cost-effective way of dealing en masse with those who deserted, rather than incurring the cost of dealing with each individual through court-martial. In October of 1945, TD Thomas O’Higgins made moves to annul the legislation; while condoning desertion he felt the punishment laid on those who left for the Allied armies was far too harsh. However, the Dáil voted in favour of the order.

The resultant effect on those soldiers and their families is still felt even to this day. Speaking in recent years, those who still lived recalled the ever-present fear of being brought to task because of their choices. Work was hard to come by, as employers didn’t look too kindly on membership of the British army, forgetting the desertion aspect. Paddy Reid, who fought against the Japanese with the Royal Artillery in the jungles of Burma, resorted to scouring the countryside, finding odd jobs like picking turnips for farmers to survive. For families, home was often to be found in the slums and never in the one place for too long, nor was there ever the assurance of food on the table. Others were thrown directly into jail. Phil Farrington was put in a Cork military prison at the age of nineteen, caught while returning home on leave, where starvation rations were given to the prisoners who often resorted to eating egg shells. The guards showed nothing but contempt for the inmates, who were often beaten if they didn’t work hard enough. Suicides, somewhat unsurprisingly, were not uncommon. And perhaps more disturbing was the fate of the children of these men. Many were taken away from their destitute parents, whether their fathers had returned alive from the war or not, and were placed into industrial schools at the mercy of daily beatings with rubber truncheons and faced with malnourishment and horrifically unhygienic environments. And according to some reports, those children of British soldiers bore the worst of it all. An ‘SS’ beside their names signified the crimes of their fathers, and marked them out for the most cruel of punishments. Whether this occurred or not, the fact of the matter was that physical and sexual abuse was only the norm, for all children unfortunate enough to be cast into these places. “It’s so ironic that their fathers had fought so hard to enter in one of the most atrocious wars in the history of the human race and had freed all those poor people from the concentration camps in Belsen and yet their own children were subjected to a similar type of concentration camp back at home in Ireland, just because their fathers had ‘deserted’ the Irish Army,” said Irish politician, Mary Ann O’Brien.

“A simple pardon, yeah, we’ve had the Queen over, we’ve had people of the North, the peace,” said the grandson of Phil Farrington, deserter and veteran of D-Day, “and yet we still can’t get the Irish lads that fought for the war, we can’t get them a thank you or a pardon, it’s shocking, shocking that someone comes back from the war, could have given their life, I know many did, that are still blacklisted and then to be treated the way he was. They didn’t run away for a holiday, they weren’t making fortunes and gallivanting around Europe they were running towards guns.” Feelings are still quiet deep on a subject which is only coming back to the surface of discussion in recent years, and it’s not as straightforward an issue as one might think. For starters, those men had, at the base of it all, deserted, and any army in the world which doesn’t punish deserters is simply asking for trouble. If they do nothing, even when those who left went for a good reason (in most cases), what message does that send to those left behind, or those who might join in future years? These were men who had sworn an oath to their country and they effectively abandoned that oath. Some have argued that they probably, in fact, got off lightly. Desertion in other countries at the time would have brought a severe sentence on your head – the Soviet army in particular was infamous for punishing its deserters with execution. Having said that, less than ten years after the war ended, an amnesty for all British deserters was announced by Winston Churchill in 1953, so a precedent for forgiveness was indeed there, whereas in Ireland, the same move has taken 59 years more thus far. And whereas those who deserted from the British army surely did so to save their own skins, those 5,000 Irishmen who deserted the Irish army did so to join another, and to face far greater dangers than they would have confronted in Ireland. Their punishment was indeed severe but again at the base of it all, they had committed a crime against the country they had sworn to defend, breaking the law is breaking the law.

People will argue that their reasons were just and the ends justify the means. But we have no idea how many fought on the side of the Germans rather than the Allies, or what reasons other than fighting against evil persuaded them to abandon their comrades, their oaths and their country. Again, the explanation is the same as to why they were so hated in the first place – the residual effect of the protracted fight against the British, the legacy of their rule in this country and the continued partition of North from South. And, of course, we mustn’t forget the move by both the Irish government and the Catholic Church to create a national identity to go along with our new state following independence – an identity which was nationalist and Catholic in its outlook, an identity which didn’t allow for deviations such as fighting for those who oppressed us for so long. Even today many aren’t aware of this part of our past and in schools our history books are either shamefully short or completely empty concerning those men, their actions and their fate, which, despite the complicated nature of their actions, do not deserve to be confined to the footnotes of history..

John Stout, who served with the Irish Guards and fought at Arnhem and the Battle of the Bulge, is unrepentant. “I know in my heart,” he maintains “that we done the right thing. We fought for small nations and we liberated camps where people had been slaughtered. I would never regret…I would do it all over again.” Perhaps they were right in doing what they did. From the comfort of the 21st century, it’s hard to decide.

News in Brief-Controversy Reigns Supreme At Government HQ While Irish Fans Mock Merkel

The biggest story this week has to be the publication, by the ESRI, of a report claiming hat four out of ten families would be financially better off on benefits than going out to work. Almost as soon as the news broke fierce denials were issued from the government claiming the report had not been reviewed or approved before being published online.

Although denying they came under pressure from the government the Economic and Social Research Institute later revised their findings, saying the analysis contained in the paper was ‘seriously flawed’, and that a more realistic figure for those families better off on benefits was closer to 10% than 44%.
From the ESRI’s own goals to no goals, sadly for football fans the Euro dream is already over, losing as Ireland did last night to Spain. Here comes the inevitable onslaught of criticism – all those Trap-branded consumer deals better quickly revert to their pre-Euro names as the football manager is now bound for a battering from the pundits.
Some football fans however are having a better time of it. The now famous ‘Angela Merkel Thinks We’re At Work’ flag holders are playing into extra time as photos of their flag have gone viral. Even making it as far as Angela Merkel’s office. Disappointingly though, this time next week, they will be at work.
Irish World War II veterans that were ostracised for absenting from Irish Defence Forces and joining the British Army are to be given an amnesty according to Alan Shatter. Not as an excuse for desertion the amnesty is to reverse rulings put into pace under De Valera that prevented dissenters claiming a service pension or gaining state employment for seven years on their return. Whilst this re-evaluation of the struggles of the armed forces is welcome, just how many WWII veterans are left to enjoy it?
Mick Wallace has dominated the papers this week not only because of a €2.1million outstanding tax bill but also in the debate over Dáil dress code. Apparently his trademark pink t-shirt “because Wallace is worth it” hair isn’t appropriate for the Dáil and instead male politicians will be expected to swap beauty tips in business attire. Shoddy dressing has been largely blamed on independent TD’s such as Wallace who’s refusal to conform to ‘the man’ could see him put in the corner.
Dressing appropriately isn’t an issue for Madonna who when it doubt whips them out, flashing her various bits and bobs whilst on her current European tour. Piers Morgan really took offence to the middle-aged mammary pointing at him from the tabloids branding Madge ‘cringe-worthy’ and ‘desperate’. What a boob.

News in Brief-Broke Westlife Star May Seek Band Reunion

Under inspection from TROIKA feels like when your mum checks if you really have tidied your room. This week officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund have arrived to check up on us to deem if Ireland is worthy of another cash biscuit from the barrel.

It’s not looking good for Westlife’s Shane Filan, in trouble with creditors over alleged €4million debts incurred by his property company. At least this may mean for Filan fans that a Westlife reunion may be quickly scheduled after their summer farewell tour.

Filan’s financial forecast has been echoing the weather this week with heavy rain and gale force winds. Despite the rain only two races were called off yesterday at Punchestown where race goers were often forced to take shelter from the wind and rain. On walking the track Ruby Walsh assured race organisers the ground was fine – on a two mile stretch he only had to change his mud covered goggles four times – fine indeed.

Ray D’Arcy has refused to retract his outburst directed at the Catholic Church last Friday. Whilst apologising for his use of language on an early morning show the Today FM presenter refuses to retract his statement to the Church hierarchy. This isn’t the only controversy concerning the church this week.

Alan Shatter announced on Wednesday a new bill outlining mandatory reporting in cases of child abuse. However confusion exists concerning whether this law will include priests that hear of pertinent details during confession although if outside of confession they must be reported under the same regulations. Auxillary Bishop of Dublin Raymond Field has stated the seal is ”unvioable” and other priests, according to the Irish Independent have suggested they would be uncomfortable about compromising the Seal of Confession regardless.

There is a loop hole in the legislation preventing the imprisonment of non-reporters if another enactment entitles a person to the refusal to disclose. Does this loop hole (more of a loop tunnel it seems) not already make the argument void, nullifying the need for priests to come forward?

Simon Cowell has been altogether too forth coming in his confessions this week. With sordid affairs and admitting regular colonic treatments to give him that ’sparkle’ in his eye. At least Cowell has had the decency to apologise for the sordid serialisation of his private life in The Sun throughout last week. Simon said he was forced to ’hide under a pillow’ as more and more of his escapades were revealed. The media coverage of these ”exclusives” we’re widespread last week with almost every tabloid running a feature, whilst Simon may have been able to escape, those of us not able to leave the country were forced to greet his smearing face at every turn.

Controversial Self Defence Law Finally Comes Into Effect

A new law entitled The Criminal Law (Defence and Dwelling) Act 2011 came into effect on Friday last, finally allowing for Irish homeowners to defend themselves against attack in their own home.

The law clearly allows for a homeowner to use justifiable force in the event of the attack, and, more importantly, says that they are no longer obligated to retreat from their home if there is an intruder present. The legislation was drafted after the events of 2004 during which Pádraig Nally, a farmer living in County Mayo, shot and killed a traveller, John ‘Frog’ Ward, who had been trespassing on his land. Although Nally was sentenced to six years in November 2005, his conviction was quashed the following October and he was found not guilty of manslaughter in December of the same year.

The only question is why it took so long to bring into effect, legislation wise, a law which has been in place in other countries for decades. There are roughly 25,000 burglaries each year in Ireland, and over 15,000 of these take place while the victims are inside their home. In America, for example, the Castle Doctrine has been enshrined in law in over 30 states since the early 1980s. And judgements made on the basis of such thinking have been given, favouring the homeowner, since the 1920s.

Concerns have been immediately raised by several parties since the legislation has come into effect. Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, has warned that the new law cannot be used as an excuse to attack someone. Speaking on Newstalk’s breakfast show, the Minister stressed “It’s not a licence to kill anyone.” Mark Kelly, the director for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is one of the law’s most vocal critics, arguing that the legislation’s provisions “contain insufficiently robust legal safeguards to protect the right to life of householders or intruders.” Speaking on Thursday, Kelly said that this law will only encourage people to use lethal force in defending their property, and that the Act is “at odds with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Burglars do indeed have the right to life. When they’re operating as normal citizens, and not breaking the law. Breaking into someone’s house, especially while they or their family are inside should be a waival of this right and the acknowledgment that they may lose more than their freedom. One fear is that the knowledge that homeowners have the right to stand their ground will simply serve to cause burglars to arm themselves before breaking and entering. Then again, the thought that someone may be waiting inside with a fully loaded shotgun, ready to stand their ground, may be just the deterrent such cowardly criminals really need.

A Culture Of Greed:A Charachteristic Of Both Cowen and Kenny`s Governments

The party was characterised by greed and excess. Junkets, hours spent racking up thousands in the Dáil bar. The tent at the Galway races, hand-outs and stuffed envelopes. By means of the general election earlier this year, the people voted to end the privilege and self-importance so valued by the previous Fianna Fáil administration.

But, it seems, that culture is hard to stamp out. Justice Minister, Alan Shatter recently requested use of the government jet to fly to an informal meeting of EU justice ministers at a Polish resort, at a cost of a hefty €20,000 to the taxpayer. Mr. Shatter was told, thankfully, to travel commercially instead, saving the government, and more importantly, those who fund it, a total of €17,000.

What is hard to believe, however, is the argument provided by Shatter as to why he needed to use the private jet. The out-of-touch minister complained that no direct flights were available to Gdansk airport on the night he wished to travel. If he was forced to take a commercial flight, he would have to endure a lengthy stopover in Copenhagen, something beneath the minister’s stature and office.

But Mr. Shatter isn’t the only Fine Gael minister enjoying the perks of office. Government ministers have used the official jet on 23 occasions since taking office earlier this year, at a staggering cost of €400,000. Enda Kenny is the biggest spender, €195,000 in taxpayer money on flights which included ‘drop offs’ in Knock and a €5,600 jaunt to Cork, to bid farewell to Queen Elizabeth. Michael Noonan regularly flies to Brussels on the back of the taxpayer, while Mr. Shatter has already clocked up €50,000.

It would seem that the recession stops at the doors of Dáil Éireann, despite vows of solidarity with the people.

It took several years for the Irish people to recognise and put an end to the excess and greed of Fianna Fáil. It will not take them as long this time.

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