Nix Political Xmas Cards

Laois/Offaly Labor Senator John Whelan has reiterated his call for the Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin to ban the practice of politicians dipping into the public purse to pay for their personalized Christmas cards.

Last year alone, the printing and posting of thousands of cards from politicians of all persuasions, including 10 ministers, cost the taxpayer in the region of €150,000.

When Whelan proposed curbing this facility for politicians he was likened to a Scrooge by long-serving Fianna Fail Senator Terry Leydon, who admonished Whelan for his suggestion, saying he would not be intimidated and pledged to dispatch his usual batch of Christmas cards to constituents.

However, Whelan insists that the privilege of having “free” printing and postage is being abused when it is used for the purpose of Christmas cards.

“It’s thoughtless rather than thoughtful and displays no goodwill or solidarity with hard pressed households at this time of the year,” Whelan said.

“There is nothing Dickensian about what I am saying, but for many families we are living in the worst of times rather than the best of times. I earnestly believe that we are adding insult to injury by sending out these indulgent personalized cards paid for out of the public purse.

“I don’t know anyone who prizes receiving a Christmas card from their local politician which they have forked-out for themselves. It’s sort of like pick-pocketing someone and then offering to buy them a drink.

“Like all other politicians this week, I received promotional material from charities like the Jack&Jill Foundation appealing for us to support their charity Christmas cards. I just felt we would be far better off supporting them, or other hard pressed worthy charities instead of sticking the bill for Christmas cards on the taxpayers’ tab.”
- Offaly Express

Gays Support Equality Foe

A Christian demoted by his employer for saying that gay marriage in churches was “an equality too far” should be given his job back and compensated, one of Northern Ireland’s leading gay rights activists says.

Last week London’s High Court ruled against Trafford Housing Trust after it disciplined Adrian Smith for the comment on his personal Facebook page by demoting him to a non-managerial post with a £14,000 cut in salary.

However, due to legal complexities, Smith could only be awarded £98 in damages and the judge said that the case left “the uncomfortable feeling that justice has not been done to him. I must admit to real disquiet about the financial outcome of this case.”

However, despite losing the case, Trafford Housing Trust has refused to reinstate the devout Christian to his former post or restore his salary.

Jeffrey Dudgeon, whose landmark 1981 European court case led to homosexuality being decriminalized in Northern Ireland, said, “I am pleased to hear the result of the case in favor of Adrian Smith. It seemed to be completely needless demotion and attempted dismissal for something quite harmless.

“I would hope that he would get his previous position restored to him and the income he has lost compensated. To my mind the whole thing is just spectacularly dreadful.”

Smith has also received vocal support from the prominent gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who said that the court case was “a victory for free speech and fair play.”

He said, “Adrian Smith is entitled to his view and should never have been demoted.  Adrian’s opposition to religious organizations being forced to conduct same-sex marriages is shared by the prime minister and the equality minister, the gay rights group Stonewall and the entire leadership of the Church of England. If Mr. Smith is guilty, then they are all guilty.”
- Belfast News Letter

Stole Girlfriend’s Dog

A man who stole his ex-girlfriend’s dog and threatened to “cut off its head” if she didn’t speak to him was ordered to stay away from the Montpelier, O’Brien’s Bridge and Newport areas.

Conor O’Sullivan, 35, of Killarney, pled guilty to stealing the dog from the woman’s home last February 25, and to harassing his former partner over a three month period earlier this year.  He also pled guilty to a charge of trespassing at the home of his former girlfriend.

Garda (police officer) Inspector Seamus Ruane told Limerick Court the defendant entered the back garden of the woman’s home in the Montpelier area and stole the black and white border-collie whose name is Izzy.

He said the defendant had been in a relationship with the woman for a number of years, but that it had ended a number of weeks before the incident “at the behest of the defendant.”

Ruane said there had been a number of “particularly nasty type incidents,” prior to the theft of the dog, and he said O’Sullivan had “commenced phoning and texting” the injured party following the break-up.

“The intervention of the Gardai seems to have brought the defendant to his senses,” said Ruane, who told the court O’Sullivan contacted the injured party after he stole her dog.

“He threatened that he would cut off the dog’s head if she didn’t speak to him” he said.

Solicitor John Herbert disputed this allegation. “To the best of my knowledge that was not done, there was no threat,” he said.

Herbert agreed the incident was bizarre and he said his client had been under a lot of pressure around the time of the offenses.

“He wasn’t able for it [the break-up]. It was serious and it should never have happened,” he said.
The court was told O’Sullivan, who has no previous convictions, had cooperated with Gardai and that he had made admissions following his arrest.

He added that there was “an ownership issue” in relation to the dog as it had been given to his ex-girlfriend by members of his client’s family.

Judge Eugene O’Kelly said he was willing to adjourn the case for review in six months time.
- Limerick Leader

Debt Increases

The average consumer debt in Co. Clare has increased five-fold over the last four years, with judgment claims filed against Clare debtors jumping from €920,026 in 2008 to a current figure of €5.661 million.

An indication of the hardship Clare people are experiencing is also reflected in the dramatic rise of credit unions taking defaulters to court.

According to debt defaulters magazine Stubbs Gazette, the dramatic rise in Clare’s debt levels has resulted in a drop of 13 places in a nationwide league table, from 15th place in 2008 to now being the most second indebted county behind Cork.

Unemployment is one of the main reasons behind the explosion of consumer debt in the Midwest, which has been one of the hardest hit areas.

The Stubbs figures track debts that have been chased through the courts after an individual was unable to pay telephone, fuel and tax bills, as well as repayments on unsecured loans such as credit cards, personal loans and credit union loans. The figures do not include mortgage debt.
- Clare Champion

Shopping Center Anger

A well-known Longford developer has come under intense fire over contentious attempts to build a shopping center close to a key 1916 Easter Rising battleground.

Dromard builder Joe O’Reilly owns a parcel of land along Moore Street, one of the last remaining stomping grounds linked to the infamous 20th century rebellion.

The notoriously media-shy developer, who shot to prominence with his development of Dundrum Town Center, Ireland’s largest shopping precinct, has planning permission for another 800,000 square foot development that also takes in part of O’Connell Street.

Over the past seven days, however, O’Reilly has attracted renewed criticism from a well established parliamentary watchdog over the plans.

In his capacity as chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Labor TD (member of Parliament) Michael McCarthy lashed out at O’Reilly’s Chartered Land company for failing to engage with the Oireachtas (government) supervisory group.

“The committee and myself... made every reasonable attempt to bring them in,” he said.

McCarthy said numerous attempts had been made to support the now Dublin-based developer, but branded demands for details to be heard away from the media spotlight as “unacceptable.”

Relatives of those most deeply associated with the Moore Street site were just as outspoken.

James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of 1916 leader James Connolly, urged Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan to step in by refusing consent for works on a stretch of land that only five years ago was deemed a national monument.
- Longford Leader