Irish Freedom Party pays back €101 donation they say was “mischievous” and intended to force an investigation

The Irish Freedom Party was forced to pay back a €101 donation but they claim the contribution was made deliberately to force an investigation under electoral laws.

Party treasurer Michael Leahy said they had asked for the money to be given to charity and that they still don’t know exactly who made the “mischievous” donation.

The saga began in May 2019 when the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) made contact with the party saying they were investigating a payment the party had received.

“The Commission has been made aware that a donation of more than €100 has recently been made to the Irexit Freedom Party,” said an email, released under FOI.

In response, party director of finance Michael Leahy said they had received five donations that exceeded €100 but that none “constitute a prohibited donation”.

In a later email exchange, Mr Leahy said they had received one specific donation of €101.

He wrote: “I assume this donation was sent mischievously and I assume it was notified to you by the parties who sent it to us with a view to putting us in a situation where we would have a legal requirement to register as a third party.”

Tusla expresses concern over bringing itself into compliance with recommendations after being fined €115,000 for a series of data breaches

Child and family agency Tusla expressed serious concerns over whether it would be able to bring itself into line with recommendations from the Data Protection Commissioner following a series of serious data breaches.

The agency was levied with a €75,000 fine in May this year after personal details of three vulnerable children were disclosed to unauthorised parties, including in one case to an alleged abuser.

Internal records show how the organisation was struggling to deal with data protection issues and their chief executive Bernard Gloster warned the Tusla board they would struggle to achieve compliance.

In a note to the board, Mr Gloster wrote: “While a task force across the organisation has been established to pursue the implementation agenda, I remain concerned at capacity and ability in respect of achievement.”

You can read the documents in full here:

A database of anti-social behaviour, accidents, assaults, and near-misses on Irish Rail services in the first half of the year

More than 500 incidents of anti-social behaviour or assaults on staff or passengers have been reported by Irish Rail this year.

Another 62 incidents involving accidents where passengers were hurt, after falling onto platforms or getting hit by dislodged luggage, were also reported.

There were also 12 near misses with trains narrowly avoiding trespassers on tracks recorded by Irish Rail on a central log it keeps of incidents of concern, which has been released under FOI.

Nine assaults were recorded including a mass brawl at Drogheda station which left “quite a bit of blood”, and an attack on a state employee who got rammed by a bicycle.

The fight at Drogheda in January involved around a dozen people fighting in the station with gardaí arriving too late to arrest those involved, who had fled by train or towards the town.

You can read the records in full for yourself below:

A datadump of tens of millions of euro in expenditure on personal protective equipment and Aer Lingus PPE flights

These are two recent FOIs giving a detailed breakdown of expenditure on personal protective equipment during the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first set of records was obtained by Ashley Glover and shared with Right to Know. We are making it available here in the public interest.

The second record was released to journalist Gordon Deegan, and Right to Know sought a copy of it.

If you ever do read an FOI story that interests you … you can always get in touch with the public body involved and ask for a “re-release” of the records that underpinned it.

This is usually pretty straightforward. Anyway, here are the documents.

CervicalCheck: Submissions from the Supreme Court case involving campaigner Ruth Morrissey and her husband Paul

These are the submissions from the Supreme Court case involving the late Ruth Morrissey and her husband.

In July, Chief Justice Frank Clarke extended his “deepest sympathy” to the family as the judgment was published.

Right to Know is hoping to publish submissions from other important Supreme Court cases in the coming months.

With thanks to the Courts Service for providing the records:

Records on the management of the Covid-19 outbreak at a controversial direct provision centre in Co Kerry

These are 200+ pages of records on how Covid-19 infection was dealt with at the Skellig Star direct provision centre in Cahersiveen.

The records have been provided to Right to Know by the group Solidarity with Skellig Star Hotel Residents.

They detail how one doctor described the accommodation as “totally unsuitable” for residents who were trying to self-isolate.

Dr Anne Sheahan wrote: “I am concerned that this location is totally unsuitable to accommodate these residents for the next fourteen days while they try to self-isolate – no place to exercise or get fresh air and if they need to go out they cannot practice social distancing.

“From a public health perspective, I would urge you to consider seeking alternative accommodation for residents immediately.”

The records are in two separate files below:

A breakdown of tens of millions of euros in spending by three Irish universities: Trinity, Maynooth, and NUI Galway

This is part of an ongoing project by Right to Know to publish details of expenditure by third-level institutions.

Under the Public Service Reform Plan, public bodies are supposed to publish a list of purchase orders worth in excess of €20,000 every year.

Not all do and this project is an attempt to fill in some of those gaps.

Some of these records are available in spreadsheet format. If you want a copy, get in touch.

The order of the records is Trinity, Maynooth, then Galway.

A datadump of 400+ pages of NPHET Committee minutes and records

The volunteer group Bravo Charlie Tango (BCT) has obtained these records from the Department of Health.

They include records relating to all NPHET Committees, except the new Vaccine Strategy Group.

The full list includes the:

– Acute Hospital Preparedness Subgroup of NPHET

– Behavioural Change Subgroup of NPHET

– Guidance and Evidence Synthesis Subgroup of NPHET

– Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group (IEMAG) – Subgroup of NPHET

– Health Legislation Subgroup of NPHET

– Medicines and Medical Devices Criticality Assessment Subgroups of NPHET

– Pandemic Ethics Advisory Group – Subgroup of NPHET

– Vulnerable People Subgroup of NPHET

– Health Sector Workforce Subgroup of NPHET

– NPHET Subgroup Diagnostic Testing Approaches Subgroup

Bravo Charlie Tango (BCT) is a group of over 1,000 volunteer Irish motorcyclists that deliver emergency medical supplies to healthcare facilities around Ireland to assist frontline medics in fighting COVID-19.

BCT works alongside OSVX, a volunteer community for Covid-19 solutions. You can find out more about their work at the following link.

OPW officials warned Minister there would be “a degree of opposition” to reopening of all gates at the Phoenix Park

On July 6, the OPW issued a press release talking excitedly about Dublin’s green lung and how an experiment to keep the side gates of the Phoenix Park closed would continue.

In that statement, they said: “With this in mind, reducing the volume of ‘through-traffic’ is critical and maintaining safe, quiet, open spaces for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy is a key priority for us.”

A few days later, they made an about turn and decided to reopen all of the gates, except one that is being restored.

These records bring some clarity to why that decision was made.

A text message exchange between John McMahon, a senior official at the OPW, and the Private Secretary to Minister Patrick O’Donovan spells it out.

“As directed, the gates will reopen from tomorrow morning,” wrote the official. “As advised yesterday, there will be a degree of opposition to this.”

You can read the documents for yourself below:

Three historic buildings at National Botanic Gardens were in danger of collapse according to Office of Public Works surveys

The Office of Public Works was told that three historic structures in the Botanic Gardens were in danger of collapse and that loose glass panels in the buildings were a safety hazard to the public and staff.

The Aquatic House – a complex of three buildings in the Dublin gardens – had “significantly deteriorated” because of weather ingress, timber decay, and rusting ironwork.

An internal report said the dismal condition of the complex was in “direct contravention” of the OPW’s legal responsibilities to safeguard the buildings.

Last month, the OPW announced a €250,000 emergency project to stabilise the Aquatic House and remove all vegetation from the three structures.

They said they hoped eventually to “faithfully restore” the buildings and reopen them to the public subject to the availability of funding.