Covid-19 measures cause consternation for candidates who failed their driving tests, according to records from Road Safety Authority

A warning not to cough under any circumstances, an instruction to keep windows open in the driving rain, and glasses fogging up due to a facemask were among the complaints made by learners following the resumption of driver testing by the Road Safety Authority.

The issues were among 61 written complaints made to the RSA since driving testing restarted in mid-July after the Covid-19 lockdown.

One candidate explained how they had asthma and had advised the instructor they had recently changed inhaler and might need to cough.

“I was advised that if I coughed at any stage the test would be over immediately,” wrote the candidate. “This was difficult to control while under exam pressure, and added a huge amount of unnecessary stress.”

Another said it seemed strange that an instructor had only used a mask with them, and not with other people they were dealing with.

“[The staff member] was talking with other Irish without having the mask but to me was … using the mask; is that because I’m from different skin colour?” they asked.

In June, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said it was “untenable” for so many to escape local property tax. By September, he deferred any decision on it again.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told officials in June that local property tax needed to be reformed and that it was “untenable” to allow so many houses, including those built since 2013, to continue avoiding having to pay.

However, three months later he announced another deferral on changes to the scheme despite vowing that he would “deal with [it]” if re-elected.

The original promise was contained in a submission signed off by Minister Donohoe in June before a new government had been formed.

The Fine Gael politician was told that reform of property tax would need to be prioritised if it was to be changed in this year’s budget.

In a personal note added to the submission, Mr Donohoe wrote: “It’s untenable to continue to allow a growing number of homes outside LPT [local property tax] base.

“One way or other, the Minister for Finance must legislate for this matter in 2020. May be no harm to get legislation done now for a later revaluation date. A government with a majority must deal with this matter, I hope that I can.”

Oireachtas’ €28,000 cost for Senate counts including €5,000 in hotel bills, €6,413 on plastic sheeting, and €10,778 on catering

A €5,000 bill at a four-star hotel and a €6,413 spend on plastic sheeting were among the bills paid by the Oireachtas to run Senate counts this year.

The count was held at Dublin Castle with only candidates or their agents allowed to attend the event, which took place in late March and early April.

The Oireachtas had hoped the event would cost just €5,765 if held as normal in Leinster House but ended up paying out €28,809 in costs.

According to a list of bills released under FOI, €4,871 was spent on audio visual services with another €942 on electrical services.

A bill of €6,413 was incurred with Myra Glass to provide 5mm clear plastic sheeting which was used to set up Covid-19 barriers.

A cleaning bill of €357 was also paid while €5,000 was paid to the nearby Radisson Blu Hotel on Golden Lane so count staff did not have to travel home each night.

Irish Water’s €160,000 bill for providing drinking water after aluminium levels in Achill rose five times above safe levels

Irish Water had to spend €160,000 on providing water in Achill Island after aluminium levels skyrocketed to five times recommended levels.

Records released by the water utility reveal how at one stage aluminium levels in the water rose above 1,000 micrograms per litre … when the recommended maximum safe amount in drinking water is 200 micrograms.

Irish Water said they had contracted a third party supplier to provide tankered water on the Co Mayo island during the peak tourist season.

The total cost of this over the 28-day period of the water warning came to €160,000, or the equivalent of more than €5,700 daily.

Internal records reveal that pressure on water supply in the area was such that pumping water into tankers for Achill threatened to cause shortages in the Westport and Castlebar area.

The problems were being compounded by frequent bursts on the mains water pipe on Achill whenever the raw water supply was switched off.

As a result, Irish Water laid a new pipe on the island to help deliver a continuous supply of water to the Achill water treatment plant.

The internal records – which were released following a request under Access to Information on the Environment Regulations – show how the plant reached capacity with rising water temperatures on 7 August.

An email said: “The plant cannot cope with demand and there’s a serious problem with water quality.”

Covid-19 complaints to Irish Rail include a dog sitting on a table, passengers vaping, and just a single toilet on a two hour train ride

A dog being left sitting on a table, just a single toilet on a two hour train ride, and passengers vaping and drinking were among more than 690 complaints made to Irish Rail about Covid-19 measures over the past four months.

Figures show that there were 176 complaints received in June with a steep rise in July when the rail operator logged 280 from disgruntled passengers.

There was a fall-off in August to 149 complaints, and a sharp drop in the number received by Irish Rail in September at just 86.

A sample of complaints released by Irish Rail under FOI reveal a variety of complaints including one of two passengers who travelled with their dog from Dublin to Cork.

Department of Health official critical of academic paper that highlighted sharing of personal information through Covid-19 app

A Department of Health official strongly criticised an academic paper that had drawn attention to privacy concerns around the HSE’s Covid-19 tracking app.

In an email, a senior official said the paper was “journalistic in much of its narrative” around how the app was sharing personal information.

“It is incorrect on certain key points and and it is unclear how and whether it has been peer-reviewed,” said the message.

However, records released under FOI show the HSE were happy to work with the authors of the paper to address some of the privacy concerns that had been raised around the app.

You can see more in the response below:

A department briefing note on the controversy around the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and people travelling out of Ireland

This is a copy of a Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection briefing note on a controversy that flared during the summer surrounding foreign travel and pandemic welfare payments.

The Department were forced to defend airport inspections, which it claimed had yielded €10 million in savings.

It emerged at the time that flights to Romania and Moldova were a particular target for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment checks.

The briefing note covers the controversy from start to finish and what to say if asked about recipients returning to work, or compliance checks on travel abroad.

HSE feared they would “lose public confidence” over flaw in Covid-19 tracker app that drained batteries of mobile phones

The HSE feared losing public confidence over a flaw in the Covid-19 tracking app that was draining the batteries of some mobile phones.

Internal emails reveal how 12,000 people had deleted the app within a matter of hours of the problem first being reported.

At one stage, the loss of users was down by more than 83,000, according to records released in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The development team working on a fix were told it was needed “ASAP” and that time sensitivity on solving the problem was key.

One email said: “We’re back into a work week tomorrow and people will not be able to survive without a phone; the risk is that we lose public confidence and start seeing high rates of deletion.”

Developers were also worried that fixing the issue might create new problems but were “sprinting” to push out an update for the app.

An email sent from Google to the HSE said: “This issue is our highest priority – we’ve been sprinting on a fix that we can push out as fast as possible without creating risk of inadvertently making things worse.”

Restoration of dome of Four Courts has cost over €4 million so far and is not expected to be completed until early 2022

A project to restore the iconic dome of the Four Courts has cost more than €4 million after unforeseen complications in the project.

The project to restore the dome began in January 2015 but is not now expected to be completed until at least early 2022, according to the Office of Public Works.

After scaffolding was put in place, the OPW inspected the capitals [the decorative top part of each column] that supported the dome structure and found they were severely decayed.

As well as damage to the edges, examinations found that the “load-bearing core” of the supports had also deteriorated significantly over the course of the decades.