Ready to Run

The Bare Your Soul Nearly Naked Run for Valentine’s Day was launched last week in Dublin, in aid of, an online mental health community providing peer and professional support, and The Irish Heart Foundation.

A Cold Court

A reading of minus one Celsius was recorded in Athy District Court on Tuesday of last week after Judge Desmond Zaidan called a halt to proceedings for 20 minutes and ordered Gardai (police) to bring back a thermometer.

Zaidan rose from the bench to allow all present to go and warm up with a hot drink while Gardai went in search for the thermometer.

A reading of minus one degree was recorded inside the courthouse at 12:45 p.m. by Inspector Jim Doyle despite a sophisticated underfloor heating system installed in the landmark building.

“The reading is minus one from the thermometer,” he said. “It’s actually warmer outside than it is inside.”

Zaidan said to work in such conditions was “unacceptable.”

“It is unacceptable to work in these conditions and especially for members of the public to work in these conditions. It’s freezing.”

He also said his chamber was colder than the main body of the court, but he refused to adjourn the whole sitting and later in the afternoon the temperature went up one degree.

He added that there had been an issue with the timer on the heating system, and that the court caretaker had done his best.

Meanwhile members of the public, solicitors and the press wore their hats, scarves and kept their coats on throughout the day.

-Leinster Leader

Tragic Avalanche Death

Tributes have poured in for the Coleraine junior doctor who died in an avalanche in the Scottish mountains two weekends ago.

Una Rachel Finnegan, 25, was killed with three of her friends when an artificial cliff of snow and ice gave way underneath them on Bidean Nam Bian in Glencoe. The four climbers were swept 1,000 feet down to the bottom of the mountain, where they were smothered by ice and snow.  One other man escaped with minor head injuries and a woman remains critically ill in hospital with severe head injuries.

News of Finnegan's death was met with shock when her name was released as one of the climbers who had perished in the freak accident.  Finnegan, described by her former vice principal as a "very bright and talented young student," was a keen climber, and the group she was with were said to be experienced winter walkers.

The daughter of retired Causeway Hospital consultant Dr. Owen Finnegan, she had been living in Edinburgh, where she was following in her father's footsteps by working as a junior doctor in the city.

-Coleraine Chronicle

17 Convicted of Benefit Fraud

The scale of benefit fraud in Dungannon, Cookstown and Magherafelt was made clear last week as new figures revealed over £150,000 was falsely paid to claimants convicted of benefit fraud in the last year.

A total of 17 people were convicted of fraud. Among those convicted was a 30-year-old woman from the Dungannon area who claimed £26,381.27 in income support despite being in work. For the offence she received a two year prison term suspended for three years.

In April last year a 50-year-old man from Mid-Ulster received a nine month prison term suspended for two years after being convicted of falsely claiming £29,988.11 in incapacity benefit when he was working.

Other cases include a 34-year-old man from the Cookstown area who falsely claimed £14,439.67 in Income Support while working, and a 32-year-old woman from the Dungannon area who received 200 hours of community service plus an order to pay court costs of £58 after claiming benefits worth £8,287.95 while in work. 

Throughout Northern Ireland there were 592 convictions for benefit fraud in the time period. The total amount fraudulently claimed was £4.5 million and may have accumulated over a number of years.

Sinn Fein's Bronwyn McGahan said that some people could be falsely claiming benefits as a result of the recession.

“Benefit fraud is illegal and should not be happening, but I believe that many people who are normally law abiding are been forced into taking this action more due to need rather than greed," she said.

“The current dire economic situation and the Tory welfare cuts are putting people into poverty and some are unfortunately taking a chance to claim monies that they are not entitled to.”

-Tyrone Courier                      

Student Intimidated by Twin Bullies

A student at Davitt College in Castlebar is allegedly being so intimidated by twin brothers that he can’t sleep at night.  The horrifying ordeal suffered by the teenager was outlined by Councilor Michael Kilcoyne at a meeting of the Castlebar Joint Policing Committee (JPC). 

Kilcoyne explained that the youth’s father informed him that his son was being continuously intimidated by a pair of teenage twins who wait outside the school gates to bully and assault him. The twins have allegedly threatened to stab the victim, and the boy’s father now has to collect and drop off his son at the school door.

A letter written by the boy’s doctor was read out to the JPC members which stated that the child is upset and unable to sleep. He also refuses medication to help him, because he “feels he needs to be on guard at all times.”  The doctor also called for the local authority to deal with the matter.

“The twins were at the school with one on each side of the footpath. They are causing a major problem to this child. It is an awful situation, he is afraid to sleep in his own home. We have to do something about it. It can’t carry on like this,” Kilcoyne said.

The victim’s account of the bullying has been supported by his school’s vice principal Gerry King in a letter that was read out at the JPC meeting. 

The twins are known around the Castlebar area. In the past they have been linked with anti-social behavior and are believed to have carried out random attacks on young people where money and mobile phones were taken. 

Mayor of Castlebar Brendan Henaghan claimed the town was being held to ransom by the pair, while Councilor Frank Durcan said that in the past such blackguards would get the “leather injection” and it would soon stop it.

Garda patrols have been in operation around Davitt College in recent months. According to Councilor Thérèse Ruane, parents say the situation has improved but has not gone away.  

-The Mayo News

Woman Fights for CP Awareness

A woman who suffers from a mild form of Cerebral Palsy has told of how she has been refused entry to some local nightspots eight times in the last two years because door staff thought she was drunk.

Rebecca Lovell called on those working in the hospitality trade, and door staff, to be given more disability awareness training.

As a result of her condition, Lovell often slurs her words and walks on the outside of her feet, symptoms she says people can mistake for being drunk.

“I usually try and explain to the door staff that I have Cerebral Palsy but they rarely want to listen. I have contacted pubs after incidents and they’ve apologized and organized free entry to the club only for the same thing to happen again,” she said.  “I’m just fed up with it at this stage.”

During the latest incident, Lovell says she was told, “You’re too drunk, you can’t come in,” and she simply walked away.

The 22 year-old, who was awarded an honors psychology degree from Magee University last year, said, “I try not to let my condition affect or limit my lifestyle and social life.  That is now being curtailed by door staff when I’m out trying to enjoy myself though.

“The thing is, the more you insist you are not drunk the more you sound like you are so you have to walk away.”

On the most recent occasion Lovell, who works with disabled children, had gone into town to meet work colleagues in a city center watering hole.

“I didn’t get in and despite telling the door staff I had Cerebral Palsy I was turned away,” she said.

It is an experience the Cornshell Fields woman fears is shared by others with similar conditions.

“This is the City of Culture 2013 but yet disabled people cannot go for a drink without being refused entry,” Lovell added.

Admitting that she can see where an issue might arise due to her particular symptoms, she said, “It is the attitude you are met with when you try and explain. I think pub and security staff should have to undergo some form of disability awareness training.”

-Derry Journal