Briefing for National Transport Authority board on Dublin’s November riot and public transport

A public transport briefing in the wake of last year’s rioting in Dublin said the cost of damage to vehicles was likely to be around €5 million and that a rethink of updates for the public during a crisis was needed.

A note prepared for the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA) said travel information had “initially proved difficult” to update as services were diverted or cancelled but improved as time went on.

It also raised questions over whether a crisis management call should have been scheduled earlier on the night of the riots, after a stabbing incident on Parnell Square was seized upon by the far right and fascists to provoke widespread disorder.

The note said: “Should a crisis management call have been called earlier than 10pm?

“At the time it was felt that the operators had enough to deal with and may not have had time for an all-operator meeting.”

In a section entitled “lessons learnt”, the National Transport Authority said work on their mobile app TFI Live was needed to tell customers that information might not always be accurate during a “security event”.

It said a series of “template messages” would be developed for such incidents, which included public disorder, severe weather, or other major unforeseen disruptions.

Details of three of the recommendations were withheld under FOI law on the basis it could risk the safety of gardaí and compromise the NTA’s ability to manage emergency scenarios.

The note also described in detail the scale of destruction with an estimated repair bill of €5 million as three Dublin Bus vehicles were destroyed, one Luas tram severely damaged, and another bus suffered extensive fire damage.

Briefings for staff of Met Éireann on how to communicate climate change to the public

Guidance for Met Éireann forecasters on how to inform people about the impact of the climate crisis detailed a “run of very wet months” and how rainfall in both February and March was almost fifty percent more than expected.

An advisory for staff said that record high sea surface temperatures over the Atlantic had lasted for over a year and were making the atmosphere both “warmer but also moister”.

It said this was linked to increases in extreme weather events such as storms and intense rainfall.

The guidance described how 2023 had been the third wettest year on record with 20 percent more rain compared to the long-term average in the period between 1981 and 2010.

This had only continued into the New Year with rainfall levels in February 49 percent above average and in March 46 percent over what was considered the norm.

Met Éireann staff were told that a “southerly displaced jet stream”, which the country had seen multiple times since last summer, brought low pressure systems to Ireland and more rainfall especially in the South and the East.

“Ireland is now warmer, and wetter compared to previous decades and years,” said the guidance document.

It explained how a warmer atmosphere carried more moisture, around 7 percent for each degree of warming, which would inevitably lead to a greater intensity of “heavy rainfall events”.

The document also said the growing season for crops and plants was increasing because of the warming climate.

Met Éireann data showed the growing season over the decades now lasted on average fourteen days more in Belmullet, County Mayo, and an extra sixteen days at both the Valentia Observatory in Co Kerry and the Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Another briefing on the number of storms that were hitting Irish shores said that since the practice of “storm naming” had begun, there were an average of eight named storms in each season.

However, by the time of Storm Kathleen in early April, it was the eleventh of the season although, conversely, there were only four during the storm season between September 2022 and spring of 2023.

The guidance document said that overall, last year had been “the warmest year on record by a large margin, and one of the wettest years on record”.

“It was the warmest year on record at 21 out of 25 [weather] stations (record lengths between 10 and 83 years),” said the briefing.

“Eighteen stations had their highest mean maximum temperature on record and twenty-four stations had their highest mean minimum temperature on record.”

Another document on the context of climate change said it was still unclear exactly how the frequency and intensity of storms hitting Ireland would evolve.

It said: “There is, however, high confidence that maximum rainfall rates will increase as a result of a warmer atmosphere carrying more moisture.”

Rising sea levels were also expected to increase storm surge and coastal flooding risks, according to the records, which were released under FOI.

One update for staff said there was a particular danger from so-called “compound events” where heavy rainfall arrived at the same time as high tides.

In internal discussions, Met Éireann staff also wrote about how the record high temperatures of 2023 had been somewhat unexpected and that this year had been anticipated to be warmer due to the El Nino weather system.

An email from one meteorologist said: “In Ireland, we should be preparing for both warmer summers and winters as this is what the climate projections in [our systems] are showing going forward as mean temperatures globally continue to increase due to human caused climate change.

“This will not necessarily be a linear or steady increase, especially here in Ireland, with our climate being dependent on other factors such as the position on the jet stream and Atlantic SSTs [sea surface temperatures].”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Met Éireann said their role was to monitor, analyse, and predict Ireland’s weather and climate for the public and stakeholders.

They said: “All the climate information, services and content provided by Met Éireann is based on the objective scientific analysis of Ireland’s climate and broader global climate information.

“An important part of our role is to communicate information to all audiences, in terms of current weather and climate and also broader historical and future insights to help inform immediate and longer-term policies and decisions.”

Renovation of Irish Ambassador’s residence in Washington D.C. would have cost at least $13 million

Civil servants warned that refurbishing the old home of the Irish Ambassador in the U.S. capital would have a final bill of $13.48 million with “significant risks” this could rise even higher.

The mansion on S Street in Washington DC was sold by the Department of Foreign Affairs for around $8 million in March after a series of inspections revealed it was no longer safe for use by diplomats, their families, or people attending official events.

A detailed business case for the sale explained how repeated fractures in water piping had led to “spontaneous leaks” with a risk of damage to electrical wiring in the 11,000 square foot property.

It said the rear façade of the house was stained and needed repainting and weatherproofing.

The report said the S Street property also required replacement of all finishes, paint, trim, flooring, carpeting, and ceiling tiles.

The business case explained: “Many flooring and carpeting materials have exceeded their useful life, while walls exhibit peeling paint and bubbling plaster.

“The ceiling tiles are stained due to previous leaks. The bathrooms also need updating, with several requiring tile and fixture replacements.”

Warning for Justice Minister Helen McEntee over knock-on effects for Ireland from U.K. plan for deportations to Rwanda

Department of Justice officials warned that U.K. plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda were likely to make migrants “think twice” and look at other options like Ireland.

In a briefing on deportation, Minister Helen McEntee was told that while Britain’s Rwanda policy was “mired in legal actions”, it was still likely to have a knock-on effect for other states.

It said it could make Ireland seem like “an attractive alternative” or as “a stepping stone” to later getting back into the United Kingdom permanently.

The briefing, which was prepared in 2022 as the department considered an end to a COVID-19 moratorium on deportations, said U.K. policy on migration would inevitably affect Ireland.

It said: “The first transfer of refugees from the U.K. to Rwanda has yet to succeed. It is currently mired in legal actions.

“While it remains to be seen how successful the U.K.’s much criticised attempt to outsource its immigrant processing to Rwanda will be in reality, [it could be that the chance] of being removed to that state would cause migrants to the U.K. to think twice and seek alternatives.”

The briefing said if the United Kingdom was successful in reducing or deterring arrivals, neighbouring states would feel the impact.

“Ireland may ultimately be seen as an attractive alternative, or a stepping stone to the U.K. via eventual Irish citizenship and the Common Travel Area at a later date. Such behaviour would not be new,” said the briefing.

NCT complaints over last-minute cancellations, broken number plates, and delays in getting test appointments

Cracked number plates, last-minute cancellations, and too little time to get a car back in working order were among the complaints made about the NCT last year.

The Road Safety Authority said they had received 88 formal complaints about the roadworthiness test in 2023 but that there had been a sharp drop in gripes since the year before.

In one, a person expressed disbelief that they had failed because there was a small break in the number plate of their car.

An email to the RSA said: “I own a 2005 registration car, very well kept and low mileage for her age. During September, I had extensive work done on her and I knew she would pass with flying colours.

“She was well presented: vacuumed, washed, and polished. Imagine my disgust when I was then told she’d failed because of a cracked front number plate! The number plate was perfectly legible.”

Another wrote of how a one-month limit to get their car back in order was not enough time during a cost-of-living crisis.

“That’s thirty days if it’s a new tyre costing €80 and thirty days if it’s a €1,500 bill. How is this enough time for people to save this money and get a car repaired in time?” they asked.

The Road Safety Authority said there had been a significant fall in the number of complaints they received in 2023 about the NCT.

A spokesman said: “In 2022, the RSA received 207 complaints, which has fallen to 88 in 2023, which we feel is evidence of the improvements in the NCT Service for the public.

“This is in a period where a record of 1.6 million NCT tests were completed in 2023. We expect that in 2024 the volume of customer complaints to the RSA regarding the NCT Service will continue to reduce, however, we will always aim for a service that provides a satisfactory experience to all customers.”

A database of deliberate damage and vandalism to sites under the control of the National Parks and Wildlife Service

An information board blasted with a shotgun, an old well severely damaged with stones left strewn around, and land cut up by scramblers were among the incidents of vandalism in national parks and conservation areas over the past two years.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said they had logged thirty-four cases where parks, natural heritage areas, or special protection areas were damaged deliberately by visitors.

Details of ten of the incidents have been withheld by the NPWS who said they were the subject of ongoing criminal investigations.

The Glen of the Downs in Co Wicklow was a hotspot for anti-social activity with multiple incidents of illegal dumping, graffiti, damage to gates, and vandalism of its Octagon building after a €280,000 conservation project.

At Mullyvea in Co Donegal, an interpretive board was blasted with lead shot some time last autumn, according to the log of incidents provided by the NPWS.

Another interpretive board was stolen from the Duntally Wood Nature Reserve, also in Donegal, a few months earlier.

There were five separate incidents at the Coole-Garryland Nature Reserve in Gort, Co Galway, with precise details of one case redacted from the records.

Average of thirty three child protection concerns raised about teachers each year

More than 130 allegations of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, and neglect were made against teachers in Irish schools over a four-year period.

Figures from the Department of Education detail an average of around 33 child protection concerns that had to be investigated each year between 2019 and 2022.

There were 42 allegations of emotional abuse and 31 allegations of sexual abuse, which made up more than half of the total complaints.

The department said there had also been 18 child protection reports of physical abuse and a single case of neglect.

In some cases, there was more than one allegation made, according to the data, which was released under FOI.

Eleven child protection concerns involving both emotional and physical abuse were reported as were fourteen cases involving both physical and sexual abuse.

There were also a small number of allegations in the categories of ‘neglect and physical abuse’ (1), ‘neglect and sexual abuse’ (3), and twelve cases that were listed as ‘unknown’.

The Department of Education said data for last year was not yet available as it had not been verified yet.

Rise in support for investment in Defence Forces but concerns over bullying and sexual harassment controversies remain

There has been a significant rise in public support for investing in Ireland’s military, according to a survey carried out by the Defence Forces.

Asked whether expenditure on defence of the country was important to Ireland, 78% agreed it was compared to a figure of 66% just three years earlier.

The Defence Forces (DF) survey was carried out last August against the backdrop of global instability caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine but before the outbreak of war in Israel and Palestine.

It also found that 74 percent of people supported additional resources for the Irish military with 29 percent strongly agreeing the DF needed to be given greater funding to fulfil their role.

Among the reasons given for increased investment were 21 percent who said to keep the country safe and defend Ireland, 20 percent who said troops were currently under-resourced, and 14 percent who said we needed a “better [and] bigger army”.

Significant water leak at National Archives led to “concerning” discovery of asbestos beneath floors

A major leak at the National Archives caused suspended ceilings to collapse, disturbed flooring, damaged document storage boxes on four different levels, and the discovery of asbestos in the building.

An internal report said the leak occurred after the valve on a high-pressure hose “perished” leading to a steady flow of water that began to flow throughout the building.

It said water had seeped through the National Archives premises in Dublin affecting all six floors, file storage areas, and the ground floor reception.

However, the report said they were fortunate that much of the damage had been cosmetic and that no archival records had been lost during the event.

It said: “The most concerning damage was to the flooring in the third-floor workroom and the possible presence of asbestos.

“Most importantly, no records suffered any significant damage, and no records were lost.”

Attorney General penned direct letter to Minister Paschal Donohoe over “completely insufficient” allocation in budget for his office

The Attorney General’s Office warned the budget they were being offered for 2024 was “completely insufficient” and would not even be enough to maintain existing services.

The office was so unhappy with their allocation that Attorney General Rossa Fanning ended up writing to Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe to seek extra funding.

Their sister organisation the Chief State Solicitor’s Office were also bitterly disappointed at what they said was “effectively … a significant cut” after inflation and government pay deals were accounted for.

In pre-budget correspondence, the Attorney General said they wanted to express their “surprise and concerns” that they had only been allocated €23.8 million, “significantly below” what they had been seeking.

The AG’s office had prepared what they said was a “substantial business case” for additional staff to meet commitments made by government and increased demand for their services.

However, they said while they appreciated this expansion might need further consideration, the budget allocation they were given would compromise their ability to “discharge … core functions on behalf of government”.

They warned: “An additional €750,000 is absolutely necessary in the provisional estimates to meet essential service needs in 2024, bringing the provisional 2024 Office estimate to €24.5 million.”

Subsequently, the Attorney General himself wrote directly to Minister Paschal Donohoe to make a direct plea; however, that letter has been withheld by the Attorney General’s office under FOI laws.