A pilot study on spread of Covid-19 in a meat processing plant and the latest inspection reports from abattoirs

A pilot study on the spread of Covid-19 in a meat processing plant found “inadequate ventilation” was playing a key role and that rapid testing of workers as they arrive at work should be considered.

It said one plant – which had been at the centre of an outbreak of coronavirus among workers – had a particular risk from the “re-circulation of chilled air” in areas where meat was being cut and packaged.

The report also said that rapid on-site testing should be looked at as a tool to stop infected workers before they even made it onto the factory floor.

Separately, a series of inspection reports from meat processing plants reveal continuing issues in the industry.

One plant was reported to have temperature screeners at its entrance. However, the temperature limit was incorrectly set at 38 degrees instead of the HSE guideline of 37.5 degrees.

At a number of meat processors, staff were found to be wearing less-effective visors instead of face masks. “Continue to review and adjust as necessary the use of face coverings,” the report advised.

At one plant, face masks worn incorrectly was a “common occurrence” and the plant was told to follow HSE guidelines on wearing of masks.

One report said there were “particular concerns” over layout of a canteen with seating placed close together and no protective screens between tables.

Another was told their plant needed more sanitation points and to ensure better social distancing in the smoking area.

One meat processor was told to confirm a Covid-19 isolation room would be available at the plant and to provide reassurance that the hand sanitiser gel they used contained at least 60% alcohol.

Concerns were also raised at one plant about toilets and locker rooms being too busy. “Set a maximum number of people [for them],” said the report.

Another plant was told it needed to increase the number of Covid-19 safety officers and hold a meeting with supervisors to reinforce the public health measures required.

The report added: “Proof that this has completed to be sent to the inspector.”

Non Covid-19 issues were also flagged with one plant warned about “dirty coverall” clothing strewn around a locker room at the time of an inspection. A major slip hazard was also identified on the slaughter line there and the plant was told to “reduce the quantity of animal fluids” spilling onto the floor.

Dept of Finance flagged concerns work-from-home tax credits might most benefit older men, already in secure jobs, and with higher salaries

The Department of Finance considered creating a new “bespoke” tax credit for home workers but flagged concerns the main beneficiaries would mainly be men, aged over thirty, in full-time employment, and already on higher salaries.

Officials also explored the possibility of a one-off tax credit of either €25 or €50 for every worker as well as a revamped “home renovation incentive” for refurbishing a room as an office.

A range of options were prepared for Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe ahead of Budget 2021 to help the hundreds of thousands of people forced to work from home throughout 2020.

Official report into how greyhound listed as “rehomed” in Ireland ended up coursing in Pakistan finds no animal welfare issues

An internal investigation into how a greyhound listed as having been rehomed as a pet in Ireland ended up coursing in Pakistan has found there were no animal welfare issues in the case.

The dog Granard Swift was listed in official records of Greyhound Racing Ireland as having been rehomed as a pet in Co Tipperary.

However, it subsequently emerged that the greyhound had been bought by a purchaser with a U.S. address, shipped to the UK, and then transported on to the Rajpur Coursing Club in Pakistan.

The internal report said the error arose because of an online registration system that automatically used Tipperary as the location for animals that were classed has having been “rehomed” or “retired as [a] pet”.

You can read the full set of records below:

Courts Service were offered option of using cinemas for juries to view trials on silver screen

The Courts Service were approached by a major cinema chain about the possibility of screening criminal trials to jurors on the silver screen.

Odeon Cinemas made contact with courts management about the possibility of having jurors socially distanced in large cinema theatres while watching and listening to evidence from a separate court room.

According to internal records, a similar plan had been put to use in Scotland as a variety of options were being explored on how to safely run trials during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesman said the cinema proposal had been ruled out as it was not considered a “practical or cost-effective” solution for holding trials.

An internal note had said this “hybrid” option for trials would see the jury watch proceedings live on a cinema screen, which would be securely broadcast from a court room in another building.

It said: “The jury is based in the cinema for the duration of the trial and watches proceedings on the big screen. The cinema is closed to the public during the day while the courts are sitting.”

Records on award of new medals to veterans of Siege at Jadotville raise concerns it might “re-ignite” pain and angst of survivors

A draft document on the award of extra medals to veterans of the famous Siege at Jadotville warned it could “re-ignite” a lot of pain and angst amongst survivors of the battle.

The record – which was prepared for Defence Minister Simon Coveney – warned that the department was coming under considerable pressure to award additional medals to a select number of men from ‘A’ Company.

However, it cautioned that there was no legal basis to support the award and that there was no available evidence on the original deliberations from the 1960s about the award of medals.

The draft submission also warned that it could have a knock-on effect, particularly for soldiers who were “nominated but overlooked” for awards in the intervening years.

It also said it could cause further “pain and angst” among the veterans, all of whom had been presented with an award called ‘An Bonn Jadotville’ in 2017.

You can read the full set of records below:

Department of Public Expenditure charge €200 in search and retrieval fees for seven pages of records

One of the most inconsistent aspects of making Freedom of Information requests in Ireland is the imposition of fees.

Most can be dealt with for free as long as the requester is happy to refine the scope of the request to bring it below a five-hour threshold at which fees apply.

If the request is likely to take longer than five hours to process, a public body is supposed to give an opportunity to refine it … to make it more manageable so fees don’t apply.

In this case, Right to Know director Ken Foxe had been seeking copies of records relating to sanction for salaries in excess of rates that had been previously agreed.

Mr Foxe repeatedly offered to reduce the scope of the request to the Department of Public Expenditure.

However, the department offered only one possibility, which was for him to specify which posts he was interested in finding out about. This was clearly impossible given that’s what the request was meant to find out.

The imposition of fees was appealed but the Information Commissioner ruled that the department had done all they needed to assist the requester.

In that decision, they said: “While I fully accept that the applicant may not have the required knowledge that would allow him to refine the scope of his request to a particular post or posts, it is also apparent, from the Department’s description of the manner in which sanction requests are processed, that the Department would not be in a position to offer a list of relevant posts for consideration without conducting a search for relevant records.”

Mr Foxe subsequently decided to pay the fees personally believing it was important the department would not be able to close off inquiries of this nature.

In the decision, the Department of Public Expenditure released four records (€50 per record) – consisting of seven pages (at a rate of €28.57 per scanned page).

You can read them for yourself here. A second set of records (provided for free!) relating to another public service appointment are also available below:

Data Protection Commissioner warns it is “acutely strained” as it investigates giant tech companies with access to “disproportionate resources”

The Data Protection Commission warned it was “acutely strained” as it grappled with cases involving giant multinational tech companies and rising complaints from members of the public.

The agency also said it faced an uphill battle as it investigated big technology firms who had access to “disproportionate resources” to fight their corner.

They said the commission was now frequently accused of lengthy delays in its investigations because they were limited in the amount of inquiries they could progress at any one time.

The warnings were contained in a stark pre-budget submission, where the agency pleaded for extra manpower, financing, and a “fit-for-purpose management and organisation structure”.

The record has been made public just as the European Court of Justice issued an opinion that privacy complaints could be taken against tech giants in any EU state, and not just Ireland.

The Data Protection Commissioner had warned its ability to operate effectively was affecting Ireland’s “credibility on the world stage” and that a well-resourced regulator was now a “national and immediate imperative”.

Chronic air pollution, feelings of confinement, and “tired” décor at official residences among issues flagged in reviews of Irish Embassies

Cramped offices, noisy air conditioning, Ireland as an unknown country, and chronic air pollution were among the issues flagged by Irish diplomats serving around the world.

A series of mission review reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs reveal a litany of issues for diplomatic personnel including access to healthcare, feelings of confinement, and extreme vigilance in undertaking travel.

You can read them all below. They provide a fascinating look at various countries around the world and the challenges faced by diplomats living there.

Mother & Baby Home Commission chair Yvonne Murphy “greatly concerned” about last minute changes to legislation on preservation of commission archive

The chair of the Mother and Baby Home Commission raised concerns with a government department about how little time they were given to offer views on controversial draft legislation about their archives.

Judge Yvonne Murphy said she was “greatly concerned” about a new addition to the law which required the commission to deposit evidence and documents with the Minister without redaction.

She told the Department of Children that the latest draft of the bill had been sent to the commission’s office after 5pm on Monday, 5 October.

However, it was due to be brought before Cabinet the following morning “leaving no opportunity for the Commission to make its views known”.

The full report of the Mother and Baby Home Commission is expected to be published in the coming weeks.