Greyhound Racing Ireland sought €27,000 increase in pay and company car for its new chief executive

Greyhound Racing Ireland asked for a €27,000 hike in pay for its new CEO along with the provision of a company car.

GRI said the existing €132,920 salary for the role had not been reviewed in many years and was “no longer reflective” of the remuneration packages for senior management positions in the public or private sector.

In an appeal to Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, they said the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland was being paid €190,000 per year with a car and pension.

However, the board of GRI said they would be happy with a €160,000 salary for their new boss, a position that is expected to be filled in the coming months.

They also asked for a company car saying the organisation had nine stadia, which meant the CEO would be required to travel on a regular basis to different locations.

In addition, they sought a “defined contribution pension – 25% of salary paid by [GRI]” as well as up to thirty days’ holidays, according to records released under FOI.

Tusla’s concerns that abusers could open letters telling victims their information had been exposed in cyberattack

Tusla was worried individuals suspected of child abuse or domestic violence could intercept mail intended for victims who were being told their personal data had been compromised in the HSE cyberattack.

In a confidential report on what they call ‘Operation Return’, the child and family agency also highlighted concerns that letters letting people know their personal data had been stolen could end up at the wrong address and get opened by strangers.

An internal report from Tusla said some people were likely to be “extremely distressed” when they found out their personal information had been compromised in the 2021 cyberattack.

They said some – especially people who had recently turned eighteen – might not even have been aware that the agency held information about them, let alone that it had been exposed.

The report said every notification would need to be first examined by a social worker to ensure there was no risk to individuals from sending them a letter.

The report said: “Tusla are very aware of the risk to persons who may have notified child protection and welfare concerns or requests for domestic abuse services if the person subject to these abuse allegations is still based in the household and was to open a letter disclosing an engagement with Tusla that perhaps the person had yet to be informed of at that point in time.”

Irish Rail’s €1.9 million bill for cleaning up after vandalism and graffiti including spray-painted racist slogans

Irish Rail had to spend almost €1.9 million last year dealing with vandalism, graffiti, and other damage to its trains and buildings.

The rail operator dealt with 184 cases of graffiti or vandalism on trains last year with clean-up, repair, or repainting costing €1.73 million – or around €9,400 per incident.

The majority involved damage to the exterior of trains, a total of 166 cases, while the interior of a carriage was damaged on 18 occasions.

There were more than 300 instances logged where there was vandalism or damage to a train station or a railway structure.

A further €156,230 was spent by Irish Rail on clean-up and repairs following those with damage to lifts, bridges, rooves, and electrical substations all reported.

Central Bank of Ireland kept close watch for “channels of potential spillover” from collapse of Silicon Valley Bank

The Central Bank said they were closely watching for “broader spillover risks” in the aftermath of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).

In meetings of the Financial Stability Group, officials said that direct exposure of the Irish financial system was “minimal” following the bank’s failure.

However, a meeting on March 13 was told it could have an impact on the technology sector both globally and within Ireland.

In addition, the group heard that some Irish tech firms could experience liquidity issues and loss of credit, including credit card facilities.

The failure had by that stage caused “broader market turbulence”, with the value of banking stocks internationally and domestically affected.

An update from the Central Bank to the meeting said: “Direct exposures of the Irish financial system to SVB were minimal, but broader spillover risks are being actively monitored.”

On March 16, another meeting of the group was told the banking turmoil, which had now affected Credit Suisse, was being watched “closely”.

The Central Bank were looking at “the channels of potential spillover” to the Irish financial sector, including to credit institutions and funds.

Garda injuries while on duty caused loss of more than 75,000 days last year

Gardaí missed more than 75,000 days of duty last year after they were injured in the line of duty, according to new figures.

There were 20,807 days of absence for officers from a malicious injury that happened on duty, with a further twenty days where a garda was viciously attacked off duty.

Just over 40,000 days were lost to an accidental injury that happened during work while 6,822 days were taken following a road traffic accident while working.

Figures released under FOI show that more than 235,000 days were lost to illness last year, the equivalent of 645 officers off sick on any given day.

Garda manpower during 2022 was around 14,000, which meant each member took an average of roughly seventeen days off ill last year.

Investigation reports into two accidents involving Air Corps aircraft in 2021

An Air Corps airplane had to make an emergency landing after the crew reported hearing a loud bang with smoke spotted streaming from the aircraft’s engine.

A safety investigation report said the two-person crew experienced “significant vibrations” in the cockpit along with a “loud grinding metallic noise”.

The aircrew of the Pilatus airplane then lost all engine power with an emergency oxygen system activated to ensure they were not overcome with smoke or fumes.

The plane had been on a training flight and was about fourteen miles from Air Corps headquarters in Baldonnel in Dublin when it ran into trouble.

The investigation report said: “Shortly after levelling off, the crew heard a loud bang and experienced significant vibrations and yaw with fluctuating torque.”

The instructor took control of the plane and used what power was still available from the engine to level off the aircraft.

As noise and vibrations “intensified”, black smoke could be seen coming from the engine with an oil slick covering the canopy of the plane.

“The aircrew experienced a loss of remaining engine power and completed the engine fire or mechanical failure in the air checklist and the engine was secured,” said the report on the 2021 incident.

Electricity bill at Leinster House more than trebles with staff saying it was “staggering” and “a bit of a shock”

Leinster House was hit with a bill for a staggering €334,000 for electricity in December, a 216% increase on the previous year and despite cutting their energy usage.

In internal emails, a staff member wrote of getting “a bit of a shock” after seeing the bills that came rolling in at the end of the year.

Another said that while they had been expecting a “significant step change” in bills, the actual increase “seems very significant”.

Records released by the Oireachtas show the bill for the final month of the year more than trebled from €105,945 in December 2021 to €334,919 in December 2022.

However, gas bills remained more stable as Leinster House relied more on a wood pellet heating system to keep TDs and Senators warm.

While €33,223 was spent on wood pellets between November and December of 2021, €99,000 was spent on them during November and December 2022.

Dangers of over the counter codeine medications not made clear enough to consumers with risk of severe kidney damage outlined as part of investigation

Serious risk from codeine-containing medicines were not being spelled out clearly enough in product information, according to a report from the Irish Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).

The HPRA is currently leading an EU investigation of the controversial combination painkillers following research on serious adverse reactions, including fatalities, for people who had developed dependence on the drugs.

A report said in addition to well-known “toxicities” from the anti-inflammatory products in the over-the-counter medications, there was also a risk of severe kidney damage from long-term use.

It detailed the development of “severe hypokalaemia in the setting of renal tubular acidosis” following continuous use or misuse of the codeine medications.

The report said this was a “new concern” that had not been properly reflected in product information for codeine and ibuprofen combination drugs.

It said the condition appeared in patients where there was “prolonged chronic abuse” as a result of a dependence that had developed.

The HPRA said healthcare providers needed to be alerted to the risk and to raise patient awareness of “the potentially clinically significant consequences of codeine addiction”.

Infestations of mice, black mould, and being housed in an old maintenance room among complaints by Ukrainian refugees about standard of accommodation being provided in Ireland

Refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine complained this year of dire conditions in their accommodation in Ireland with mice infestations, damp causing their children to fall ill, black mould, and heating only being turned on for a couple of hours each day.

A log of issues from the Department of Children and Equality reveals how some people were being housed in what appeared to be an “old maintenance room” with a constant foul smell.

Residents there said they could not even open the door to air it out because the exit led directly out onto a street.

There were two complaints about an infestation of mice while another wrote about how their accommodation was very damp with heating being “hit and miss”.

A summary of the person’s letter said: “Construction work has been happening daily on the premises. The management attitude towards residents is not nice or welcoming. Hygiene standards are low.”

Another explained how they were being served “rotten” food but that they were still being forced to pay for it.

When residents said they were not willing to continue paying, the management “threatens to evict them”.

Multiple Ukrainian refugees said their children were becoming ill due to the quality of food they were getting with “stomach aches” and other issues.

Another wrote about unacceptable conditions with residents in tiny rooms that were only separated by plywood.

One entry in the log said: “Bad living conditions with constant humidity and black mould everywhere. This is causing some residents to become sick. Request to move.”

Damp was a problem for another resident who said once the weather became cold, the floors were soaked with condensation that had got into wardrobes.

“The conditions are not safe for children who often become sick,” said the complaints log.

Patient safety concerns in trying to check complaints about doctors who over-prescribe benzodiazepines and other habit-forming medications

An expert group set up to look at over-prescribing of drugs said serious patient safety concerns arose with difficulties in getting access to the prescribing history of doctors who were subject to complaints.

Minutes of group meetings said complaints about doctors required a “piecemeal trawl” of individual pharmacy records which could be time-consuming, expensive, and insufficient.

Concerns were also raised over how difficult it was to get solid data on the extent of private prescribing of benzodiazepines, and other addictive drugs, including sleeping tablets.

One meeting was told: “It was reiterated that it is very difficult to get a clear picture of private prescribing without a centralised record and the urgency of resolving the issue was flagged.”

It said a campaign needed to be undertaken to get prescription of certain addictive drugs in Ireland at least back to international averages and to “reign in the outliers”.

The meeting also heard that a lot of people come out of hospital on “sleeper” tablets they had never been on before admission.­­

Challenges in helping patients who had been on benzodiazepine drugs for years, especially the elderly, were raised.

It said it might be a better approach to start with patients who had been on the medications “for months, rather than years”.

“Two of the aims of the group are encouraging doctors not to initiate these medications and also reducing the number of chronic users,” a meeting heard.

The minutes also flagged how use of “chronic pain medication” could lead to addiction with particular issues with opiates, over the counter codeine medications, and the drug pregabalin.

A meeting was told that there was a serious issue in the UK and Eastern Europe with illicit fentanyl – a powerful opiate – that needed to be monitored.

The easy availability of over the counter codeine medications was highlighted with a “pattern of young women (age 15-34) purchasing high levels of these drugs”.

It was suggested that this could be due to period pain but the meeting heard that despite restrictions on buying codeine medications, it was easy for people to simply travel from “one pharmacist to another” to get around them.

A meeting also heard how the power of the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland was “huge”.

Minutes of that meeting said: “It was agreed that we need visibility on what is coming into the country.”

It said while doctors knew certain drugs could be addictive, patients did not, and that perhaps packaging should more explicitly state the risk of dependency.

The minutes said: “It was agreed that it can be much easier to prescribe pain relief than not to, as not doing so is more time consuming and requires spending longer with the patient and sometimes providing alternatives.”

Another meeting heard about the “aggressive promotion” by drug companies of certain drugs for pain after an operation.

It was told that opioids were given “far too easily” and that better access to pain clinics would be a better development for patients.

The minutes said: “There was a discussion around the importance of educating patients regarding the risk of addiction to opioids, and concern that Ireland could go down the same route as the US regarding opioid addiction.”

In a statement, the Irish Medical Council – who released the records – said they had been part of the overprescribing group since 2019.

The group’s chair, Dr Margaret O’Riordan, said “[We have] been working with the HSE, the Department of Health, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and the medical profession over the past number of years to consider the issue of overprescribing, and particularly overprescribing of benzodiazepines and z-drugs [sleeping tablets], in this country.

“The Medical Council recognises the challenges medical practitioners face in regard to the prescribing of such drugs, and by joining with our stakeholders, aim to reduce initiation and overprescribing of these drugs in the interest of patients, and to support prescribers in adherence with guidelines.”