Oireachtas plans spending of up to €1.2 million on hosting a series of four international conferences in Dublin

The Oireachtas plans to spend up to €1.2 million on hosting a series of conferences as part of plans for “fostering international and inter-parliamentary relationships”.

An internal memo also recommended the expansion of the Leinster House protocol section to help run them saying Ireland had not been “active” in hosting these events for some time.

The four conferences, which will run between 2022 and 2024 will see large international delegations visit Ireland for planned events at the Convention Centre and Dublin Castle.

An internal memo said the estimated cost of holding the events would be €1.2 million although only a €20,000 booking needed to be paid this year.

Members of the Oireachtas Commission were told the benefits of the events “far outweigh” any risks involved in hosting them.

Department of Defence were warned report on Jadotville medals would cause “upset” and of difficulties in “managing expectations” of veterans

The Defence Forces chief of staff promised to “hold feet to the fire” on a controversial review of the Siege of Jadotville as Minister Simon Coveney pushed for a speedy conclusion to the investigation.

The review group had planned to submit a report on Jadotville to the Department of Defence by the end of April but had sought an extension of two months.

However, the department grew impatient and wanted to have it ready well before the Dáil ended for the summer, according to emails released under FOI.

An email from the department’s secretary general Jacqui McCrum said: “As you know from the discussion with the Minister [Coveney], he is keen to have this recommendation well in advance of the Dáil term closing and, on that basis, mid-June was the request.”

In response, the then Defence Forces Chief of Staff Mark Mellett wrote: “I felt it was important that the request for an extension be realistic.

“Having tested the work schedule ahead of the Review Group, it was clear that the 30 April was NOT attainable. I will continue to ‘hold feet to the fire’ on this.”

Internal records also detail how the department was warned of considerable fallout from release of the report and its recommendations.

The department were warned aspects of the report were likely to cause “upset” and that there would be difficulties in managing the expectations of veterans.

A copy of the business case for drug testing in An Garda Síochána warns how drug-using members could become susceptible to corruption

Gardaí expect to spend €600,000 over the next four years on drug testing for members amid warnings of the risk of corruption and over-reliance on garda intelligence to monitor drug use within the force.

An internal application for funding said the estimated cost of testing around 1,900 candidates, trainees, and gardaí would be €150,000 to conduct 150 separate testing operations.

The application said gardaí had up to now been unable to monitor drug use within the force and instead had to rely on gathering intelligence to identify use and supply of narcotics by officers.

Corporate Enforcer (ODCE) spent almost a year trying to secure transfer of six detectives from gardaí to tackle white-collar crime

The corporate enforcer was forced to wait almost a year for the allocation of half a dozen detectives despite repeated requests to An Garda Síochána.

Internal emails detail how ODCE director Ian Drennan grew frustrated as he tried to temporarily add manpower in his office, at one stage saying the gardaí had “clearly no intention” of transferring the officers in the foreseeable future.

You can follow the full saga in the records below from the original request all the way through to the intervention of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

A selection of internal audit reports from local authorities and cultural organisations

As part of an ongoing project, we’ve been gathering up internal audit reports from all sorts of public bodies across Ireland.

In this instalment, we have internal audits from three different county councils.

There are seven from Dublin City Council.

Several more from Cork City Council.

And a selection from Galway County Council.

There are also four sets of audits from organisations in the cultural sector:

The Arts Council

The National Gallery

The National Library

The National Museum

You will see differing levels of redaction in all the documents with different public bodies taking dramatically different approaches … another one of the vagaries of FOI in Ireland.

Poolbeg storage project to deal with potential “oil emergency” runs €1.6 million over budget due to Covid-19 disruptions

A project to build an emergency oil storage for use amid concerns about the impact of Brexit went over-budget and required approval for injection of an extra €1.6 million in state funding.

The project involved the refurbishment of a 40-year-old oil storage facility on the Poolbeg peninsula in Dublin to help protect against an “oil emergency” in the run-up to Brexit, or in the future.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic saw costs on the project escalate with an enforced closure of the site for almost three months and increased claims from contractors caused by public health measures.

These records were the subject of a frankly bizarre appeal involving the Department of Environment who had claimed that they did not constitute “environmental information”.

At one point, the department said it couldn’t be environmental because the oil supply was very unlikely to ever be used … and that they’d taken measures to ensure there would be no spill.

You can read the decision that resulted from that case here.

TL:DR, yes, information relating to a major project to store oil for use in an emergency is environmental!

National Transport Authority presentation on public transport safety and concerns some female customers are fearful of taking journeys

The National Transport Authority (NTA) plans to survey customers about their experiences on public transport after dark amid fears some women are afraid to travel on services.

An internal presentation for the NTA board said decreased passenger numbers on services had made the problems of anti-social behaviour even more visible for customers.

And it said a significant part of people’s fears about public transport related to the “last mile” of their journey as they reached their homes.

The briefing had been requested by the board who believed safety on buses, trains, and Luas services was a matter of “particular concern”.

Department of Finance submissions on sale of government stake in Bank of Ireland

The Department of Finance said the state was already “in the money” as it planned a sale of its stake in Bank of Ireland.

Minister Paschal Donohoe announced in June that the government would be selling off its 13.9% stake in the bank through a pre-arranged trading plan.

Records released under FOI reveal the plan first began to gather steam in March when a banking roadmap said bank stocks had recovered from a “torrid 2019/2020”.

An internal presentation said sale of Bank of Ireland stock would allow the department to signal that the “privatisation programme is back on”.

It said the Exchequer was currently down €5 billion on its €29 billion investment in the banking sector and that shares would need to double in value from that date to close that gap with full recovery unrealistic in the short term.

Trinity College warned of “incalculable” loss if anything were to happen Old Library or Book of Kells in plea for €25 million in government support

Trinity College warned of the risk of a fire like that which struck Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral in an application for €25 million in government funding to redevelop their historic Old Library.

They said a “litany of destructive fires” at historic buildings around the world illustrated the risks of deterioration and damage to the library, which houses the Book of Kells.

The university wrote directly to Taoiseach Micheal Martin seeking financial support and saying the fire at Notre Dame “underscores the urgency of the project”.

They said it had been fifty years since any major work had taken place at the Old Library and that it was now in “vital need” of upgrading.

A submission for government said: “Fire prevention and suppression systems in the Old Library, especially in the wood-lined, cathedral-like Long Room, must be updated and improved.

“The collections contained in the Old Library are, collectively, the most valuable, and at the same time, the most vulnerable assets in the university.”

Trinity also warned that the damage to Ireland’s reputation if anything were to happen to the library’s famous Long Room or the Book of Kells would be “incalculable”.

Cork City Council response to damning report from Ombudsman for Children on dire living conditions at Traveller accommodation site in their area

A local authority hit back at a damning report by the Ombudsman for Children which said the rights of Traveller children were being violated at an accommodation site in their area.

Cork City Council said matters were “nowhere near as simple as outlined” in a lengthy finding-by-finding rebuttal, which they submitted to the Department of Housing.

It also said the report on the Spring Lane site did not show a “complete understanding or appreciation of the complex problems and deep-rooted socio-economic issues” involved at the site.

The report by the Ombudsman for Children had detailed failure after failure to improve living conditions with children left in filthy, overcrowded, rat-infested, cold and damp living conditions.

However, a six-page letter sent to Minister Peter Burke by the council said that while an external observer view was useful, that they had great difficulty in accepting a number of its findings.