Over 300 high-priority emergency calls responded to by ambulances only after two hours in first six months of 2022

Ambulances took more than two hours to arrive at the scene of a high priority emergency call more than 300 times in the first six months of last year.

Figures from the National Ambulance Service (NAS) show how 48 calls – classified as DELTA for dealing with life-threatening events other than cardiac or respiratory arrest – were not responded to until three hours after the original call was made.

In a further 28 cases, there were delays of over four hours in response time while 20 cases had a response time exceeding five hours, according to data released under FOI.

The NAS said only one ECHO call – a serious life-threatening cardiac or respiratory arrest – had taken in excess of one hour for a response time.

Altogether, there were 2,612 DELTA calls that took at least one hour to respond to from the time an emergency call was placed.

A target response time of nineteen minutes is in place for all callouts considered life-threatening, including both ECHO and DELTA calls.

We’ve also made the data available in Excel with some pivot tables included below.

If you’re working in local media, you should be able to click into your own county so feel free to use … with perhaps a small credit for Right to Know!

Ireland’s ethics legislation overly bureaucratic and no real system in place to properly review what is declared

Ireland’s ethics legislation is too bureaucratic with challenges in identifying and dealing with potential conflicts of interest for politicians and senior public servants.

A Department of Public Expenditure presentation said there was a lack of clarity and uncertainty on what ethical rules applied to civil servants and elected representatives.

It also admitted that the level of knowledge and understanding of ethics obligations among public officials was “questionable”.

The presentation said there were separate regimes in place for politicians at national and local levels with different requirements on what had to be disclosed, donations received, and the sanctions in place for breaches.

It said there were “bureaucracy and effectiveness issues” with much of the system paper-based and no real system in place for properly reviewing what was declared.

The presentation said: “Responsibilities for advice, development of guidelines and codes of conduct is diffuse [spread widely].”

It said that obvious anomalies in the applying rules had also “impact[ed] adversely on the credibility of the ethics regime”.

Bill for NAMA commission of investigation stands at €4.76 million including €1.26 million in legal fees from the past two years

A replacement water boiler and dishwasher costing €1,211, legal fees of €1.26 million, and €8,000 for new laptops and computer accessories were among the bills run up by the long-running NAMA inquiry.

A database of costs details more than €1.48 million in costs over the past two years with the latest overall bill for the commission of inquiry standing at €4.76 million as of last November.

A line-by-line breakdown of the inquiry’s most recent expenditure shows nine different solicitors and barristers shared €1.26 million in fees for the provision of legal services.

Susan Gilvarry – who was appointed the new sole member of the commission of investigation last summer – was paid €377,000 for the “provision of solicitor services” between September 2020 and October 2022.

One barrister was paid €220,000 for their work with the inquiry during the same period while another counsel earned €190,000 for providing legal services.

Six other legal advisers earned between €16,885 and €165,556 over the two-year period, according to a database of costs released by the Department of the Taoiseach.

The commission of inquiry also said there had been salary costs of just over €490,000 in the period from September 2020 until the autumn of last year.

Ireland missing out on big-budget productions by streaming giants due to cap on tax relief scheme for TV and movie makers

Ireland was missing out on big-budget productions of movies and TV shows from streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime because a cap on a tax relief scheme was too low.

In a pre-budget plea, tourism and culture minister Catherine Martin said feedback from an official trip she made to L.A. suggested Ireland was simply not being considered because of its €70 million cap on tax relief for productions.

She said recent years had seen streaming companies in particular making ever-larger scale productions with correspondingly larger budgets.

In a letter to then-Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe last August, she wrote: “Feedback from Irish visual effects companies at my recent trip to Los Angeles, is that we are losing out to other countries in attracting major internationally mobile productions costing in the region of €100m. They do not consider Ireland, because of the cap.”

Concerns over “opportunism” and accommodation providers who would look to financially benefit from the crisis in Ukraine

Senior government officials warned of “opportunism” as they struggled to provide accommodation for refugees with suggestions put forward for using disused buses, seminaries, school gyms, an empty ferry terminal, and even the creation of two new fifteen-minute cities.

In internal emails, civil servants said they needed to watch out carefully for people who would look to financially benefit from the crisis, as had happened during the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises.

Brainstorming emails said the focus should be on “speed rather than perfection” including when it came to building standards and planning permission.

It said everything should be on the table including the use of seminaries, boarding schools, the army camps at the Curragh and Gormanstown, major stadiums, army housing, and churches.

One email said: “There is an unused ferry terminal in Dun Laoghaire [in Dublin] – the terminal could be used, and a ferry‐size boat could be used to house people in that dock. Cruise ships also an option. Ask all marinas to house three families – old boats are not expensive.”

It said even disused buses could be converted into accommodation while help could be sought from skilled apprentices in fitting out emergency lodgings.

These records were released following an appeal to the Information Commissioner after extensive delays in dealing with the request by the Department of Children and Equality.

Driver testers raised “serious health and safety concern” over allowing learners take their test in car without a valid NCT

Driver testers raised concerns they were being put at risk after the Road Safety Authority (RSA) changed rules to allow cars without a valid NCT to be used during a driving test.

The RSA temporarily relaxed rules around the obligation to have an up-to-date NCT because of long delays for motorists in getting an appointment to have their cars checked.

However, a union representing driver testers said the proposed changes presented a “serious health and safety concern” for their members.

In one email last October, they said they needed much more detail on what was being planned saying “the priority must be the health and safety of testers”.

A spokesman for the Road Safety Authority said there was a responsibility on motorists to ensure their car was always in roadworthy condition when driving.

He said: “At the start of a driving test, as part of the insurance declaration, all candidates are required to formally to confirm that their vehicle is in a roadworthy condition before the driving test can commence.

“Driver testers also conduct visual inspections before the driving test to check lights, indicators, brake lights etc. The policy only allows for an NCT certificate that has expired within three months of the driving test date and the candidate must show evidence of an imminent NCT test appointment.”

Road Safety Authority research flagged concerns over effectiveness of doubling fines with many Irish drivers feeling they are “unlikely to be apprehended”

Road Safety Authority (RSA) research raised concerns that increased fines for speeding and using mobile phones might not work as many drivers believed they were unlikely to be caught while others were not bothered by a potential doubling of fines.

In research submitted to the Department of Transport, the RSA said there was a perception there were “not enough [gardaí] policing the roads” of Ireland.

This meant many drivers felt they were “unlikely to be apprehended while engaging in traffic offences”, according to the paper.

The research paper was submitted to the department in August, a few months before the department announced fines for 16 road safety offences would be doubled from last October.

The report by the RSA’s research department examined multiple pieces of work from recent years on driver behaviour in Ireland.

They said a major concern was that less than half – or between 35 and 44% – of drivers had said doubling fines would have a positive impact on their driving behaviour.

It said more research was needed on how penalty severity, swiftness of punishment, and likelihood of apprehension would deter offending.

The RSA research also flagged “enforcement perceptions” particularly around the number of gardaí who policed the roads.

It said: “Enforcement is critical to the success of any penalty increases, as deterrence theory posits that people will not change their behaviour unless they believe they are likely to be detected, and then receive a swift and severe punishment.”

Department of Defence claimed it was “grossly inequitable” to take savings they made on military pay away from them

The Department of Defence said it was “grossly inequitable” they were to be penalised for making savings on military pay which they wanted to use to help plug gaps in rest of their budget.

In pre-budget discussions, the department’s secretary general told the Department of Public Expenditure there was a long-standing arrangement they could keep the cash they saved for military equipment, buildings, and other needs.

In a strongly-worded letter, the defence secretary general Jacqui McCrum said: “It has now been proposed that this arrangement should be discontinued with immediate effect.

“It is my very strong view that it is grossly inequitable to seek to change these arrangements midway through the National Development Plan and I would appreciate your assurances that this arrangement can continue.”

Ms McCrum said discussions between her department and officials at the Department of Public Expenditure in the run-up to Budget 2023 had raised a “number of issues of very significant concern”.

Trump Hotels say works to fragile sand dunes in Co Clare were to stop people “trampling and traversing” all over them

A hotel belonging to Donald Trump said they were trying to protect fragile sand dunes from getting trampled in the latest twist in a saga over the erection of fencing near his luxury Irish resort.

In a letter to Clare County Council, Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg denied they had carried out any unauthorised development on a nearby beach and dunes.

They said they had installed fencing to combat what they called “the regular trampling and traversing” of the dunes at Doughmore Strand.

The hotel said it had been causing “significant erosion” and was undermining the “fragile dune system” in the area.

In their letter, they said Clare County Council had themselves erected signage to try and keep people from walking up and down the dunes.

The Trump Hotel added: “However, the issue has persisted and this had led to further undermining of the dunes.

“In order to prevent further activity on and damage to the dunes, fencing was erected along the sea front. The fencing erected is similar to fencing which is already in place along the top of the dunes which is designed to stop people (golfers) from walking down the dune face.”

Trump’s hotel said works to manage coastal erosion had previously been allowed by the council and that “sand trap fencing” had long been part of those efforts.

Their managing director Joe Russell wrote: “We deny the existence of any unauthorised development on [the] lands … however, we are committed to engaging with the planning authority as part of this process and in respect of any future conservation management activities.”