New Oireachtas website to give TDs easier online access to Leinster House business cost over €1.88 million

A website to give TDs easier online access to what is going on in Leinster House ended up costing more than €1.88 million.

The digital parliament project had originally been budgeted at €1.78 million when it was given formal approval in the summer of 2020.

A business case for the project said it would make life easier for TDs to keep track of Dáil business, allow for publication in real-time, and for the sharing of content on social media.

A detailed log of expenditure on the project reveals that costs in progressing it in 2018 and 2019 came to a total of just over €160,000.

A further €882,000 was spent on the digital parliament initiative in 2020 with bills for last year coming in at a combined €840,000.

The Oireachtas said the total cost of the project – including an estimated €1.77 million in costs for external providers – had been €1.88 million.

The business case for the initiative said order papers for Dáil business had previously been published in hard copy and as a “static PDF”.

This made it difficult for people to search for content with the new project intended to provide a new electronic “one-stop shop” for TDs.

The business case said: “Members will be provided with a dynamic schedule for the first time: business will be published in real time and members can check in and out when they choose.

“The system will make business flexible and useful to members, empowering them and removing barriers to access.”

Request for military to go on stand-by at Dublin Airport was a “Rubicon of sorts” for the Defence Forces

Dublin Airport Authority were prepared to pay “whatever is required” as the Defence Forces said they were being asked to cross a “Rubicon of sorts” in helping with the security delays that have dogged the airport.

The military were put on standby early last month to step in to ease lengthy queues at Dublin Airport and avoid further “reputational damage” from weeks of queuing chaos.

In correspondence with their parent department, the Defence Forces said they would need as much “lead in time as possible” to get prepared for airport duties.

An email from Major General Anthony McKenna on June 23 said: “I think that this point is required to be made forcefully before we find ourselves committed and deployed underprepared in an uncertain task.”

Department of Finance submission warned of possible impact of large tracker fine ahead of sale of state share in AIB

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was warned that a hefty fine for AIB over tracker mortgages could represent a “negative surprise” as the state prepared to sell a significant stake in the bank.

Officials explained how two previous attempts to offload a large chunk of AIB had fallen at the final hurdle in November last year and again in March this year after the “war in Ukraine intervened”.

They said that the time was right in June to sell down a major stake in the bank with “high quality investors” ready to make sizable trades for AIB shares.

A submission for Minister Donohoe said there were already half a dozen institutions who had indicated a firm interest in investing around €50 million each in the bank.

It said: “What is noteworthy is that these firms are all high-quality names and all but one are what the industry describes as ‘long only’ i.e. your traditional pension and investment funds as opposed to hedge funds that tend to have a short time horizon.”

Forged signatures, hearing delays, cold courtrooms, and lack of social distancing among complaints to Courts Service last year

An allegation of a forged signature, a lack of social distancing in court, and frosty conditions inside a courthouse were among the complaints made to the Courts Service last year.

The Courts Service said they had received a total of 131 formal complaints in 2021, of which more than twenty related directly to the performance of judges.

In September, a person alleged that there was a signature forged on court documents while in another case in November, a person who made a complaint said a copy of it had been shown to the solicitor they had raised concerns about.

A complaint about the lack of heating in Galway courthouse was made in December while the absence of social distancing in place at Cork Circuit Court was also flagged in May.

In other incidents logged, a person complained about the “conduct of [a] staff member at [a] meeting” in a Courts Service building in Dublin.

There were 22 cases of complaints against the judiciary with judges of the District Court, Circuit Court, and the High Court all the subject of complaints.

HSE board member said comments made in leaked recordings of Department of Health meetings were “assault on professional competence, judgment, and diligence”

A board member of the HSE said that comments made in leaked recordings of Department of Health meetings were an “assault on the professional competence, judgment and diligence” of the board.

In an email to fellow board members, Fergus Finlay described details from the recordings as “sneers, not factual criticisms” and said they were “deeply unprofessional”.

Mr Finlay said the comments demanded a “full and complete retraction” and said they could not be allowed to stand, given their impact on the reputations of those working for the HSE.

He said the HSE needed to defend their colleagues when they were “unfairly and gratuitously attacked” and said their trust had been undermined by “cheap sniping”.

The comments followed reports based on secret whistle-blower recordings of meetings of Department of Health staff which were highly critical of the HSE.

The recordings contained comments referring to “fake targets”, concerns about the health service’s “financial sloppiness”, and the credibility of health budgets.

Irish Prison Service abandons electronic tagging project saying it was neither “cost effective” nor “value for money”

The Irish Prison Service abandoned a project to electronically tag prisoners after spending around €1 million and deciding it was neither “cost effective” nor “value for money”.

An analysis of the project found that the average cost per prisoner for the tagging was just over €12,000 per inmate over the course of eighteen months.

An internal paper said when the project had first begun, it was hoped major savings could be made especially when escorting criminals for hospital visits.

However, these savings had never materialised and despite efforts to get different prisons to sign up, jails had been slow to submit applications for its use.

The Irish Prison Service had originally said they did not hold any records analysing the cost-benefit of the scheme.

However, following an appeal to the Information Commissioner, they released this redacted version of a review document on the project.

‘Strong moral case’ for death in service payments for healthcare workers who had died of Covid-19

Officials said there was a “strong moral case” for a Covid death in service payment for health workers and that it would provide “reassurance” to those who continued to work in hospitals and other facilities during the pandemic.

A series of Department of Health submissions explained how there was no legal obligation to pay anything extra to those who died while providing healthcare during the Covid crisis.

The officials also advised that any scheme would not be compensation for “any specific wrong” but simply a payment made as a gesture.

Under the scheme, the families of healthcare workers who lost their lives through Covid-19 infection are to be paid €100,000 with applications for the scheme set to open shortly.

A note ahead of a memo for government said that by March 2021, fifteen healthcare workers had lost their lives after being infected with Covid-19 while working.

It said: “While the State may not have a legal obligation to make payments to families in these circumstances, there is a strong moral case for ensuring that families bereaved in such circumstances to not face hardship.

“Furthermore, assurances to healthcare workers that a payment will be made to their families is a reassurance to them in continuing to provide essential services, notwithstanding the real or perceived additional risk to which they may be exposed.”

A database of complaints about homeless accommodation provided by the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive

A married couple not being allowed to stay together, a broken bed that injured a child, harassment and assault by staff, and a snoring roommate were among the complaints made about homeless services this year.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) said it had received nearly sixty formal complaints in the first half of this year.

Thirty-three of the complaints related to staff at hostels and accommodation while ten were about living conditions in housing.

In one incident in January, a resident alleged that they had been assaulted by a staff member while three other complaints were made since then containing allegations of “harassment by staff”.

A mother complained in February that she had raised an issue about a broken bed in her room, which has now “caused injury to her son”.

Country by country briefing from Tourism Ireland on rising costs for visitors to Ireland

Tourism Ireland was worried a Lonely Planet article about the cost of visiting Ireland would get “amplified” across the world amid a “low but consistent number of complaints” about rising bills for holidays makers visiting here.

Monitoring had found there was a steady level of complaints online from visitors to Ireland on social media with 55 of 68 issues raised in a single week relating to costs, and 42% of all complaints specifically about car hire.

The state agency said there was continuing “low-level feedback” on the cost of renting a car as well as hotel room costs from trade partners and on social media.

However, Tourism Ireland said they had so far largely escaped negative coverage in mainstream media in a briefing paper.

The country-by-country special report on rising costs said trade partners in France were particularly concerned about “ongoing price and availability issues”.

Irish Rail says provision of 24/7 train services could compromise safety as night hours needed for railway maintenance work

Irish Rail poured cold water on suggestions they could run train services through the night or at much later or earlier hours.

There have been growing calls for the rail operator to put on additional early or late trains to match service levels that are available in many EU countries.

However, in discussions with the National Transport Authority (NTA), Irish Rail said 24/7 operations would not be “viable irrespective of any level of funding” that was available.

A senior Irish Rail official said overnight gaps in service were a key time for maintenance works and if those hours were lost, “the infrastructure … could not be maintained to a safe standard”.

An email said: “The Irish Rail network does not allow for alternative routing of services unlike, for instance, certain parts of the Great Britain network where diversionary routes allow for longer operational days.”