Ireland's Eye - A round up of top Irish news stories


Obese Carrickfergus
SHOCKING government figures released last week show there are over 5,000 people on the obesity register in Carrickfergus.  The worrying statistics were released as part of the Northern Ireland Census report.

The report reveals that there have been two deaths in the borough as a result of medical complications from being chronically overweight, with obesity being written on the death certificates as the cause of death.

The report shows that in 2012, there were 135.5 patients per thousand of the population on the obesity register -- 5,284 out of a Carrick population of 39,000. This is higher than the Northern Ireland figure which is just 110.3 people per thousand of the population.

Government rules require GP surgeries to keep records of how many patients are obese and the figures were published as part of the census.

The obesity register actually underestimates the number of obese people as it does not include children and does not include those who have not attended their GP surgery recently. The obesity register includes those patients aged 16 years and over with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30. 

Also according to the census, Carrick has a lower rate of births to teenage girls than the Northern Ireland average. In Carrick in 2011 there were 11 births per thousand teenage girls in the population; the Northern Ireland figure was 14 births per thousand teenage girls.

The average age at death was 79 in 2011 in Carrickfergus which is also the Northern Ireland average. Life expectancy for males in Carrickfergus for 2008-2010 was 77.4 years, and for females 81.8 years.

Carrickfergus Advertiser

Priest Convicted Over Teen Contact
A NEWRY priest convicted of indecently assaulting a teenager had been in a seven-year relationship with her.  The revelation came during Father Terry Rafferty's sentencing at Craigavon Crown Court earlier this month.

As the former administrator of Newry Cathedral left the courtroom after receiving three years' probation and 100 hours of community service he was spat at and branded scum.  The attack outside the courtroom came from a woman unconnected to the case who then spat on a second priest, Canon John Kearney.

Rafferty was suspended from his duties in May 2011 after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced against him.  In court it emerged that the former Donaghmore parish priest's conviction relates to the first six months of a relationship with the complainant, which began when she was 16 and he was 38.

It was stressed in court that, while Rafferty had pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault, his plea was made on the basis that, when the relationship began, the complainant was below the then age of consent, which was at that time 17. During the period in question -- June 2001 until January 2002 -- the pair engaged in consensual "passionate kissing" and touching over clothes.

The court was told that the relationship continued after the complainant's 16th birthday, lasting until 2007.  The court heard how the relationship had developed from a friendship that had started through the priest's work with Harmony Cross Community Choir. 

It was told that physical contact between the pair began during a trip to Canada and that the complainant told police the priest made her feel "very special,” was "a lot of fun" and that people liked being around him.  The court heard about his friendship with her family and that he would often call to the family home, on one occasion bringing her a coat as a present. This, Justice Gemma Loughran said when sentencing, was an abuse of the family's trust and of Rafferty's position as a priest and "quasi-teacher."

Lambasting the 50-year-old as he stood in the dock, Loughran said she would not be taking into consideration the 2008 lowering of the legal age of consent to 16.  “She was below the age of consent. End of story," she said, adding that the age difference involved also represented an abuse of trust.

The judge also outlined aspects of the victim impact report, which concluded that the girl is now suffering “chronic adjustment disorder.”

As well as probation and community service, she ordered that Rafferty, who has stepped down from his role as parish priest but remains within the priesthood, be subject to a 10-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

Newry Democrat

Against Gay Nups
MOURNE Presbyterian Church has penned an open letter to South Down MP Margaret Ritchie urging her to vote against a government proposal to redefine marriage.

In the Kilkeel church's letter, its minister and associate minister say that a vote by the former SDLP leader in favor of the bill, or an abstention, would be viewed as "a betrayal of our trust."

Reverend William Bingham said the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Reverend Roy Patton, had encouraged all congregations to write to their political representatives to show their opposition to the marriage (same-sex couples) bill due to be voted on this week in the House of Commons.