Minutes of national operations group of Irish Blood Transfusion Service detail struggles with phone system, illness, and Covid restrictions

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) spent months struggling with a failing phone system which was unable to cope with the volume of calls they had to deal with as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

The service said their phone system had never been designed to deal with such high demand with walk-in donations replaced overnight by an “appointment only” system.

In meetings of their National Operations Group, the IBTS reported how they were receiving “many many donor complaints” from people struggling to get through even as stocks of blood ran perilously low.

Throughout the first five months of this year, the phone system was flagged as “a major concern”, and classified at one stage as a “red risk” with donors unable to get calls answered or even leave a message.

The IBTS said the system had been replaced in August, meaning the issue had finally been resolved after several months of problems.

Minutes of meetings of their National Operations Group describe how precarious blood supply issues became during the first half of the year between staff illnesses, phone problems, and struggles with getting donations.

More than a third of applications for scheme to regularise status of undocumented migrants have been approved so far

Around a half of all applications in a scheme allowing undocumented migrants to stay in Ireland came from three countries, Brazil, Pakistan, and China.

The Department of Justice said there had been more than 8,300 individual applicants – including families – for the scheme, which had so far generated more than €3.73 million in fees.

The department said that 2,835 applications have been granted with another 39 withdrawn while just 34 applications have been refused.

Applications relating to 5,307 people are yet to be determined while the figures also show that a significant majority of applications came from men, or around 64% of the total.

The highest number of applications came from citizens of Brazil from where there were 1,504 people applying to regularise their status.

There were a further 1,307 applicants from Pakistan and 1,159 from China, including Hong Kong, according to department figures.

Significant numbers of applicants also came from the Philippines (751 applicants), Nigeria (446 applicants), and India (313 applicants).

There were also 26 people from Russia applying for regularisation of their status and 77 from Ukraine, the figures show.

Thirty three applicants came from U.S. citizens, thirteen from Canada, thirteen from New Zealand, and 13 from an “unknown” country.

County council puzzled by failure of pedestrian bridge that was certified to last a century but had to be removed after just over twenty years

A county council said they are still trying to figure out why a bridge built to last a century failed after little more than twenty years and had to be quickly removed.

The Millennium Bridge in the historic castle town of Trim, Co Meath had to be shut this summer after an inspection found it was at immediate risk of collapse.

The footbridge over the River Boyne had only been opened in 2001 at a cost of €111,000 with tender documents specifying a structure intended to last for one hundred years.

However, a civil engineering consultant ordered it be closed immediately this summer due to what it said was a “danger of total failure”.

The emergency removal of the bridge ended up costing the taxpayer another €10,000 with a temporary ‘Bailey Bridge’ installed with the assistance of the Defence Forces.

Meath County Council said that design works for a new bridge are currently underway and they cannot say how much a permanent replacement will cost.

Councillors have been told it could be between €500,000 and €600,000 with a cost benefit analysis looking at the best option for replacing it.

A copy of an inspection report, released under FOI, explained how the bridge had scored a maximum five in a safety rating system indicating “ultimate damage”.

It described how key parts of the structure’s support system were rotten and that “similar rotting” was almost certain in joints within the bridge.

The report by civil engineers Mark Murphy Consultancy said: “The bridge is no longer fit for purpose.”

It said the footbridge should be closed immediately to all pedestrian traffic and inquiries made to see if similar issues had occurred with structures built from the same type of timber.

Oireachtas redacts details of payments made under special secretarial allowance scheme to TDs and Senators for the first time

Payments to the Gaiety School of Acting, a firm headed by former radio host Ivan Yates, and the well-known PR firm the Communications Clinic were part of more than €1.27 million paid out by the Oireachtas through a special allowance over the past year.

For the first time however, the Oireachtas has refused to release the names of dozens of individuals who were hired through the special secretarial allowance saying it was personal information.

The log of €1.274 million in expenditure is heavily redacted with the identities of people providing public relations, communications, and secretarial services to Ministers and TDs redacted.

The case has already been appealed by Right to Know and we will keep you posted on developments.

Trump luxury hotel and resort warned about unauthorised erection of fencing on protected sand dunes in Co Clare

He never did get his wall, and now former U.S. President Donald Trump has been warned he might have to tear down a fence near his luxury resort in Ireland.

A local authority issued a warning letter to the Trump International Golf Links at Hotel in Doonbeg over what they said was the unauthorised erection of fencing on sand dunes near the five-star resort.

In correspondence with Trump’s hotel group, they said the new fence had no planning permission after they received a complaint from a member of the public.

An assessment carried out by the council in early September said that permission had not been sought for the erection of fences at two locations on the dunes at Doughmore Beach.

It said: “Based on my onsite observations, as these fences were only included along two areas of the dunes, they did not appear to serve a security function.

“It would appear that their function relates to coastal/sand dune protection works. The fencing in the Carrowmore townland looks to be only partially completed.”

It concluded that the fencing constituted both works and development and was not exempted under planning laws.

“As there is no planning permission granted for these works, they are considered to be unauthorised,” said the assistant executive planner in his assessment.

He recommended that a warning letter be issued to TIGL Enterprises Limited, the owners and operators of the Trump Hotel.

On September 13, that letter was sent to the company saying it was the council’s belief that unauthorised development “may have been, is being, or may be carried out”.

Department of Defence declined cut-price offer to buy two “essentially new” transport aircraft for less than 40% of their purchase price

The Irish military were offered two aircraft that were “essentially new and unused” for less than 40% of the cost of a new plane.

The two C295 transport aircraft had been in service with the UN world food programme, were ready for delivery, and had seen “virtually no active service”.

The Department of Defence however, declined the offer saying that all procurement of goods and services had to follow EU rules.

In previously unreleased documents, it has emerged that the two aircraft were being offered at just 38% of their purchase price and were already configured for carrying personnel and freight transport.

These records were released following a successful appeal by Right to Know to the Information Commissioner.

You can read that decision here and view the documents themselves below:

Ryanair letters complain of “incompetence” of Dublin’s airport authority and requests for “wildly excessive” charges

Ryanair accused the Dublin Airport Authority (daa) of “incompetence” and having caused Ireland international embarrassment during the summer.

In correspondence with the aviation regulator, the low fare airlines said proposed hikes in airport charges were “unjustified” and that they weren’t confident daa could spend any increased budget effectively.

Ryanair also called for the airport authority to be hit with penalties over lengthy queues and said the increased charges they were seeking were “wildly excessive”.

In a letter to the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), Ryanair said the Dublin Airport Authority were now looking for what in real terms would be a 91% increase in the price cap.

It said: “DAA wants airport users to pay additional sums in airport charges for its own lack of foresight and resource planning.”

Ryanair accused the airport authority of being unprepared for the bounce-back in air travel this summer, which had resulted in chaotic queues.

The letter, which was sent in early July, said: “DAA’s ongoing security queue issues are exclusively down to poor management and must not be conflated with an incorrect perception that the price cap needs to increase in order to solve the security queue issues.”

Damage to “priceless” tomb, graffiti, and church windows shot at with an air rifle among vandalism incidents at national monuments over past year

More than sixty cases of damage to national monuments were reported over the past year with grave slabs broken, medieval churches graffitied, and an air rifle believed to have been shot through the windows of another historic site.

The Office of Public Works said wilful vandalism to sites was an ongoing problem with five separate cases at a single castle complex over the past twelve months.

They said fencing at Carlow Castle had been damaged on four separate occasions, while in another incident the lock and latch of a gate to its tower was broken off.

A megalithic cemetery at Carrowkeel in Sligo was defaced with chalk graffiti while somebody inscribed their initials on a lintel stone at the site.

Graffiti was sprayed on to the wall of both the historic Roscommon Abbey and St Mary’s Church in New Ross, Co Wexford.

At St Mary’s Church in Gowran, Co Kilkenny, a large chunk of stone was broken off the top of the Kealty Tomb, according to records released by the OPW, one of two such incidents there during the summer.

In Roscommon Castle, padlocks were cut off the gate and a stone removed from an opening with repairs later having to take place.

“Digging on site” was reported at Killarney High Cross in the summer of 2021 while masonry and structure damage was reported on a “very regular basis” at Raheen-a-Cluig on Bray Head in Co Wicklow.

Locks to two of the country’s most ancient sites at Loughcrew, Co Westmeath and Dowth, Co Meath were cut off with a “power grinder”.

Sharp rise in the number of parents summoned to court because of school truancy by their children

There has been a sharp rise in the number of parents or guardians being summoned to court for repeated absences of their child from school.

The number of summonses issued by Tusla dropped dramatically during the pandemic with home-schooling arrangements and restrictions around attending school with any symptoms of illness, frequently in place.

However, in the first eight months of this year, Tusla has issued 103 sets of proceedings against parents or guardians of children for truancy.

By the end of August, the child and family agency had initiated 66 cases involving primary school children and another 37 involving secondary students.

Nearly 45% of the cases related to just two counties – with 21 cases in Co Limerick and another 25 in Co Galway.

More than thirty gardaí suspended so far this year amid allegations including domestic violence, sexual misconduct, and the disclosure of sensitive information

Thirty-three members of the gardaí have been suspended this year for reasons including domestic violence, sexual misconduct, and disclosing information.

A total of fifty-five officers were also found in breach of garda discipline and were handed out €9,570 in fines, according to information released under FOI.

An Garda Síochána said six officers had been suspended due to allegations related to domestic violence while six more were suspended for “sexual misconduct”.

There were four suspensions for assault, another for what was described as “improper association”, and three for driving under the influence.

Gardaí said two officers had been suspended for theft, two more for fraud or extortion, and one for “inappropriate conduct”.

The force also revealed that one officer had been suspended for disclosing information and two others for discreditable conduct.

There was one suspension for inappropriate use of garda IT systems, and two for the falsification of statements during investigations.

Another officer was temporarily taken off the force for a drugs incident while one garda was suspended for road traffic offences.