Revenue was paid €783 million through unpublished tax settlements in 2022

A total of €783 million was paid last year in unpublished tax settlements involving close to 55,000 separate companies and members of the public.

Altogether, €665 million was paid out by companies in 35,684 separate settlements, an average of around €19,000 each.

A further €103 million had to be given to Revenue by individual taxpayers and members of the public, according to records released under FOI.

Those deals averaged around €6,000 each and made up 31% of the total number of cases involving unpublished tax settlements in 2022.

Another €6.1 million was paid out by partnerships in just over 1,200 separate cases, roughly €5,000 for each settlement.

There was also €1.09 million worth of settlements involving trusts estates, dealing with 195 cases each case worth around €5,600.

Another €7.5 million was paid by unincorporated bodies in 771 separate settlements, with an average value of just over €10,500.

Advocate General of Court of Justice of EU says technical standards should be available free of charge in case taken jointly by Right to Know

For the past five years, a case taken by Right to Know in conjunction with information NGO Public.Resource.Org has been rumbling its way through Europe.

In it, we had sought copies of harmonised technical standards agreed by the European Committee for Standardisation (or CEN).

Specifically, we looked for standards on the safety of toys, including chemical sets and chemicals present in things like finger paint.

These are a category of standards that are produced following a mandate by the European Commission and are adopted once a reference is published in the Official Journal.

The European Commission refused access both at first and following appeal.

Today, in the latest stage of the case, Advocate General Laila Medina has published her opinion on the case.

We had argued the technical standards could not be protected by copyright because they are part of EU law, and therefore require free access.

The Court of Justice agreed.

A media statement from them said: “The Advocate General concludes that the rule of law requires access [to the standards] that is freely available without charge.”

The Advocate General said the indispensable role of the standards in implementation of EU secondary legislation and their legal effects meant they should not benefit from copyright protection.

The opinion said that even if they were protected by copyright, free access to law should take priority.

Advocate General Medina proposed that the Court of Justice should annul the original decision refusing access.

It’s important to say that the opinion is not binding on the court and the judges are now beginning their deliberations in this case.

You can read the full opinion here.

Human rights body warns of “discord” from overcrowding and “intense oppressive atmosphere” at main transit centre for refugees in Ireland

A human rights watchdog said there was an “intense oppressive atmosphere” with poor ventilation and constant noise at the country’s main transit centre for refugees.

An internal briefing document from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said residents at Citywest were being housed in a “cavernous, hangar-like area” with only partitions to separate beds.

Management there had said that once numbers being accommodated crept above 900, it had become increasingly difficult to manage tensions at the centre.

“Discord was much more likely,” said the briefing. “[Management] noted that it can be small issues escalating into a full scale riot.”

The atmosphere had been generally peaceful and harmonious, but significant disturbances had occurred, with the Muslim observation of Ramadan having been a “flashpoint” due to alternative sleep schedules.

The “information capture” report mentioned a serious incident that had included the use of knives, chairs being thrown, and other assaults.

The briefing report said: “Thirty five security guards on site and thirty five guards including [garda] riot squad. During one particular incident over Ramadan, [management] said it took them one and a half hours to get control back over the hub.”

It also said that there was “near daily” presence of international protection applicants who had not been given accommodation yet and had to be removed.

In one case, a refugee had tried to gain access by swimming through the lake outside the Citywest Convention Centre.

Irish Prison Service warned of return of ‘revolving door’ as well as increased risk of violence and drug overdoses due to jail overcrowding

The prison service warned of the return of the “revolving door” for prisoners if new jail accommodation for criminals was not urgently provided.

In a submission to the Department of Justice, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) said the number of people in jail had increased by almost a quarter in the space of five years, and was only going to rise further.

And with more than 100 prisoners already sleeping on mattresses daily, they warned of “increased tension and incidences of violence” between inmates as well as higher potential for “violent assaults on staff”.

They said the so-called revolving door for prisoners could return with temporary release being offered in an “unstructured manner” early in sentences.

This could have a knock-on effect on public safety and undermine the administration of justice if criminals were let go too early.

The IPS also warned of the potential “widespread outbreak” of infectious diseases like Covid-19 and tuberculosis due to overcrowding in Irish jails.

They also predicted increased levels of illegal contraband entering the system, including narcotics, mobile phones, and weapons.

They said this could lead to “drug related illness” and “possible death in custody” as a result of overdose due to difficulties in tackling smuggling.

Former chair of An Bord Pleanála says forensic investigation had cleared staff of leaking internal report

The ex-chairman of An Bord Pleanála said a forensic search had cleared staff of leaking an internal report and that it was important for their “peace of mind” that they knew that.

In an email to staff, Dave Walsh said it was vital for the reputation of the planning board and that he hoped that two other public bodies with access to the report would carry out a similarly “thorough” investigation.

Mr Walsh said it had been a “very difficult” time for An Bord Pleanála and that he hoped a long weekend would give staff some time to “recharge the batteries”.

In the update to staff last October, he wrote: “The continued media commentary on the issues in the report and the re-hashing of previous reporting is both unfair and counterproductive to all the work that we are continuing to do to address matters.”

Detailing the steps An Bord Pleanála had taken to determine the source of the leak of the internal report, he said a forensic ICT examination had taken place.

He said IT experts had looked at any stored locations of the final report and whether it had been accessed by anyone outside management.

Mr Walsh wrote: “This examination has concluded that, apart from the three members of the senior management team who prepared the report and myself who received the report on Thursday 20th October, there were no other unauthorised accesses of the documentation.

“All emails with the attachment that were sent either within the organisation or externally between the relevant dates where a leak could have occurred (Thursday 20th to Sunday 23rd) were accounted for and fully in order.”

Right to Know wins case on access to water abstraction register from Environmental Protection Agency

Another success to tell you about as the Commissioner for Environmental Information orders release of a register of the locations of 1,223 locations around Ireland where abstraction of water takes place.

Examples of this would be dairy, beef, and horticultural farming, data centre cooling, quarrying, and other industrial uses.

Some pretty remarkable parts of the case included:

  • The EPA claiming that personal information exemptions applied even though much of the register comprised companies, organisations, and state bodies.
  • The Department of Agriculture pressured the EPA not to release a list of farms pumping from rivers.
  • The EPA bizarrely claimed disclosure of the locations could leave them vulnerable to “vandalism”.

You can read the full decision below. Also, a really good long read from including an interview with our co-director Ashley Glover.

Defence Forces forced to destroy more than 3,600 weapons including rifles of high value to collectors

The Defence Forces had to dismantle thousands of weapons last year including rifles that would have been of considerable value to collectors.

Strict rules prohibit the Irish military from selling weaponry to anybody except the manufacturer or another government, where feasible.

However, defence sources said the weapons that were decommissioned could have netted a significant payback for the state had it been possible to sell them.

An inventory of items details how 1,714 pistols, many of them Browning weapons, along with 1,555 rifles, mostly Lee-Enfield .303 rifles, were destroyed.

A defence source said the rifles especially were still valuable and had they been sold could have generated a significant payback for the exchequer.

That was not all the weaponry that was decommissioned either, with 208 light machine guns and 96 heavy machine guns also scrapped.

In addition, twenty three 20mm cannons were destroyed, along with three mortars, seven anti-tank guns, and 564 assorted barrels for the weapons that were disposed of.

A further 155,438 associated spare parts were also scrapped, according to information provided by the Defence Forces.

Internal records detail how the Defence Forces’ hands were tied over how they could dispose of the weapons.

A letter from Jacqui McCrum, the Secretary General of the Department of Defence, said permission had been granted for sale of some of the weapons in 2012.

However, this was superseded by new rules that were introduced three years later.

Her letter said: “New policy stipulations for stock disposal in the nature of weapons and ammunition introduced in April 2015, strictly limit customers of such sales to the original manufacturer or their authorised agents only, or another government, where feasible.”

She said that based on that policy change and the absence of a buyer for the weapon, she would “welcome plans for the destruction event” last July.

Ms McCrum wrote: “I would, however, emphasise the need for thorough, detailed and documented records of the items destroyed to facilitate the ongoing process of reconciling … items procured with public funds.”

The letter also explained how the Defence Forces had invited a representative of the department to be present at the destruction to “provide additional assurance”.

Internal emails also describe how some of the weapons were held back for museum or display purposes after first being deactivated.

Another message said rifles would require stripping of their wooden components as a shredder would only destroy metallic parts.

An email said: “It is expected that this disposal process will take less than ten days and further processes are being planned for.”

Security analyst Declan Power said: “It’s another example of how the Defence Forces have their hands tied behind their back in ways that do not always benefit them.

“Some of these items have a resale value and it would seem to make more sense that they could be sold on to at least get some return from the taxpayer, or at least for that option to be explored.

“Whatever money was raised through their sale could have been reinvested into new equipment, or into the general defence budget.” Asked about the records, the Defence Forces said they had nothing further to add to their contents.

Greyhound Racing Ireland sought €27,000 increase in pay and company car for its new chief executive

Greyhound Racing Ireland asked for a €27,000 hike in pay for its new CEO along with the provision of a company car.

GRI said the existing €132,920 salary for the role had not been reviewed in many years and was “no longer reflective” of the remuneration packages for senior management positions in the public or private sector.

In an appeal to Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, they said the CEO of Horse Racing Ireland was being paid €190,000 per year with a car and pension.

However, the board of GRI said they would be happy with a €160,000 salary for their new boss, a position that is expected to be filled in the coming months.

They also asked for a company car saying the organisation had nine stadia, which meant the CEO would be required to travel on a regular basis to different locations.

In addition, they sought a “defined contribution pension – 25% of salary paid by [GRI]” as well as up to thirty days’ holidays, according to records released under FOI.

Tusla’s concerns that abusers could open letters telling victims their information had been exposed in cyberattack

Tusla was worried individuals suspected of child abuse or domestic violence could intercept mail intended for victims who were being told their personal data had been compromised in the HSE cyberattack.

In a confidential report on what they call ‘Operation Return’, the child and family agency also highlighted concerns that letters letting people know their personal data had been stolen could end up at the wrong address and get opened by strangers.

An internal report from Tusla said some people were likely to be “extremely distressed” when they found out their personal information had been compromised in the 2021 cyberattack.

They said some – especially people who had recently turned eighteen – might not even have been aware that the agency held information about them, let alone that it had been exposed.

The report said every notification would need to be first examined by a social worker to ensure there was no risk to individuals from sending them a letter.

The report said: “Tusla are very aware of the risk to persons who may have notified child protection and welfare concerns or requests for domestic abuse services if the person subject to these abuse allegations is still based in the household and was to open a letter disclosing an engagement with Tusla that perhaps the person had yet to be informed of at that point in time.”

Irish Rail’s €1.9 million bill for cleaning up after vandalism and graffiti including spray-painted racist slogans

Irish Rail had to spend almost €1.9 million last year dealing with vandalism, graffiti, and other damage to its trains and buildings.

The rail operator dealt with 184 cases of graffiti or vandalism on trains last year with clean-up, repair, or repainting costing €1.73 million – or around €9,400 per incident.

The majority involved damage to the exterior of trains, a total of 166 cases, while the interior of a carriage was damaged on 18 occasions.

There were more than 300 instances logged where there was vandalism or damage to a train station or a railway structure.

A further €156,230 was spent by Irish Rail on clean-up and repairs following those with damage to lifts, bridges, rooves, and electrical substations all reported.