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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Who speaks now for Michael Galvin

                                                             Michael Galvin

On May 28, 2015 Michael Galvin shot himself inside a Ballyshannon Garda Station. He was 48 years old. His death is indicative of many things wrong with our justice systems.The endless waiting to be charged or not charged is just one of them. Michael, on what is known, is permanently maligned now among others, alive or dead, that was wrongfully investigated, found themselves inside a courtroom, and if not there, in the court of public opinion just below the steps of the courthouse. Yes, you have the right to know you are investigated but there is also the principled right to have it done in a timely manner. What was the delay and indeed what was the criminal charge? There never was one. 

The defence of the GSOC by their own members and this latest and pathetic judicial enquiry  is shabby and sloppy at best and who now speaks for Michael but those trying to mitigate their actions in an endless blame game that sets out to only speak for themselves. It is the usual actions of any organisation put under scrutiny where scrutiny itself here, with the GSOC, is supposed be their business. If Michael’s case is the yardstick by which we measure their actions, reform itself may not be enough as the actions that led to this man’s death calls for more than affirmative actions but legal and criminal accountability. 

The 'part report' about the GSOC and the Gardai by a judicial enquiry is not a report at all but just the usual stuff of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’ for truth is always a three sided coin and one side of this story is still missing. The report said that the decision by GSOC investigators was taken “bona fide” (in good faith) and that it was “at least in part” due to the legal uncertainty regarding the commencement of a criminal investigation. Because of these lame factors, there was no legal uncertainty with them when they decided not to inform Michael Galvin and another two officers as well that they were being investigated. These officers also gave statements still not knowing that they were suspects in a criminal investigation and that legal certainty for them lasted over three months. When they, the GSOC, decided to act at all, Michael was already dead, and only to his widow and his three children were left to be informed that, no, they should have told him sooner, silly mistake, and he has no charges to answer to. A serial killer or worse would know he/she was being investigated and a legal obligation would have been fulfilled. Michael Galvin and his colleges were not given that basic constitutional and human right. 

Those words ‘in good faith’ are lightweight in tandem with the words: ‘mistake’. What happened here was more than a mistake but a travesty of the spirit of what justice means and a gross abuse of power by the GSOC. The Government published only part of the Clarke inquiry report, citing the usual ‘legal reasons’ though clearly showing who they support and it is not Michael Galvin's family. There are rogue cops and one too many to count but a wrong will never make a right. 

Someone should answer to the courts for Michael's death and that someone should include those inside the GSOC and its legal affairs department that were involved in the investigation from the outset. No suicide stands alone for there is always a trail of tears to that action. The only thing now that can help Michael Galvin's family is to make ensure that his trail of tears that led to his death matter, and that what happened to Michael will not happen to another for no one is above the law and not least of those in the judicial system and the GSOC.

Barry Clifford  


Errors and confusion preceded garda suicide

That’s what comes out from a judicial inquiry into how the Garda Ombudsman handled its investigation into the case involving Sergeant Michael Galvin, who died by suicide, not knowing he had been cleared of any wrongdoing.

But one note of caution: only part of the report compiled by Mr Justice Frank Clarke has been published.
While the 27 pages published contain general observations and a summary of the findings, along with conclusions and recommendations, the detailed chapters are not available to the public.

But what has been made available paints a tragic picture surrounding the death of the 48-year-old married father of three, who was found dead at Ballyshannon Garda Station on May 28, 2015.
As Mr Justice Clarke reports, the circumstances of his inquiry “started and ended in tragedy”.

It started with the death of mum Sheena Stewart on the morning of New Year’s Day 2015. She died in a road traffic accident in Ballyshannon having earlier had “interaction” with passing gardaí, including Sgt Galvin.
Because of this contact, the matter was referred to GSOC under section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act.

The report said that within half an hour of learning of the events, the GSOC senior investigating officer Nick Harden recommended a criminal investigation be commenced, to GSOC director of investigations Ken Isaac, who agreed.

On this decision, the report said: “In summary the inquiry has concluded that it must have been the case that, at the relevant time, the circumstances then known did not appear to constitute a criminal offence.”
It said the decision was “mistaken”, although it said it was taken bona fide (in good faith).
The report said it was also “at least it part” due to the legal uncertainty regarding the commencement of a criminal investigation — and added that the law currently did not state evidence of criminal action needed to be present.

The report details a communication breakdown between GSOC investigators and gardaí at Ballyshannon, and between those gardaí and the members under investigation, about the GSOC investigation.
The report concluded that it was “wrong” that the members concerned did not know statements they were making internally were being submitted to GSOC, and it said this was an internal communications failure.
It said it was “extraordinary” that three gardaí didn’t know they were under criminal investigation until three months later.

The report said there was a “lack of clarity” among GSOC staff about keeping gardaí informed about the progress of an investigation in accordance with their “obligation” to inform.

The report also said there was a “lack of proper understanding” among gardaí as to the way GSOC “is required” to do its work.
Cormac O’Keeffe

Enda Kenny was appealing to the diaspora to vote...

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dancing with Ann McCoy after he spoke at St Michael's Irish centre in Liverpool. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The Taoiseach went across the water to appeal to displaced Gaels to do their duty by the old country.
Mr Kenny was trying desperately to bring some influence to bear on the Brexit vote. He wants those who were born on this island, or who claim Irish lineage, to plump for the UK to remain in the EU. This, he believes, would be in Ireland’s best interests. He’s probably correct on that score, but still, it took some neck to ask Irish immigrants to give up their oul’ vote for the green, green grass of home.
Most of those to whom he was appealing were coughed out of a country that couldn’t wait to see the back of them. For the older cohort, their plight was whispered behind hands in high places rather than acknowledged.

Nor was there any acknowledgement of their contribution to a moribund economy through remittances sent home to ensure that those left behind were fed.
Across the water, in that country from which, according to the dominant strain in Irish culture at the time, all evil emanated, these people were given a chance to wring a full life from their circumstances.

Many were to make the discovery that it wasn’t who you knew, or how lucky you were in education, that determined whether you could make a decent living.
England made them. England provided them with the tools to ensure their own children would have the kind of advantages denied them.

And now, along comes the leader of their native land asking them to wrap their franchise in nostalgia and tribalism when they enter the polling booth.
Effectively, Mr Kenny was appealing to them to vote not for what was in their best interests, but in the interests of a country that had deemed them surplus to requirements.
Will the appeal fall on deaf ears? Quite likely, certainly among the older voters.
The reality is that while many if not most emigrants retain a place in their hearts for the old country, their heads are firmly located in the real world in which they live.
Anecdotally, many older exiled Irish are finding themselves on the Leave side.
In a recent contribution on RTÉ Radio 1’s Late Debate, former TD Pat Carey made the point that most of his relatives in Britain are voting to leave. Others have professed to similar feedback from friends and relatives.

One irony-free vignette appeared on the RTÉ news on the day that Mayo were playing in London in the All Ireland championship. One match-goer proclaimed in a broad Irish accent his annoyance at immigration into his adopted country.
This was repeated elsewhere in broadcasts from Irish communities in Britain. The London-based Irish Post newspaper conducted an online poll on voting intentions that returned a result of 55% Remain and 37% Leave.

It’s difficult to imagine any similar poll in this country producing a result where more than one-third were in favour of leaving — and that doesn’t even take into account that older voters were less likely to have participated in an online poll for a London-based newspaper.
Far from finding common cause with the plight of their native land, many of these people are in agreement with that cohort of older British people who are voting Leave for the simple reason that they want to turn back the clock.

They are not comfortable with a world that has been rendered insecure by a combination of bankers and terrorists. The economic collapse in 2008 dealt a blow to the pact that they had signed up to on arriving in UK. No longer was there a certainty that hard work and careful saving would lead all the way to a healthy pension in retirement.

They had sacrificed a life in their homeland on the understanding that a better life awaited them across the water, and then as they lived through their Autumn years, feckless bankers trampled on their dreams.
The new brand of organic terrorism presents another strain of insecurity. Throw in the news dispatches of a Biblical procession of refugees making their way from the eastern tip of the EU into the heart of Europe, and insecurity can be stoked into fear.

In such an environment, the triumph of emotion over reason, of fear over hope, which is at the heart of much of the Leave campaign, is capable of hitting home with older voters in particular.
In this regard, the exiled Irish in Britain probably have much more in common with their fellow natives in the USA than with anything Enda Kenny has to offer.
Stateside, the rise of Donald Trump has been borne on wings promising that he will turn the clock back to a time when the American dream was open for business. ‘Make America Great Again’ is Trump’s campaign slogan. For Irish emigrants who arrived in the last 50 years, this appeal to give him the tools to strip away insecurity can be compelling.

A recent poll in Niall O’Dowd’s online operation, illustrated the point. The poll showed Irish-Americans voting 45% for Trump and 41% for Hillary Clinton in this year’s presidential election.
“Now they believe they see America moving backwards at a rate of knots,” O’Dowd wrote in the Irish Times. “Getting money for no work offends them (many strongly believe Mitt Romney’s claim that 47% of Americans are on welfare). Government handouts are all seen as pecking away at what they considered their once-idyllic lifestyles, certainly in the rear-view mirror.
“They’re also aware that in the recent bank meltdowns, they got left holding the baby while bankers prospered despite the crash.”

While many in this country would agree with the latter sentiment, the general world view is not one that would be widely recognised here. But that’s where there is an understandable chasm between this country and its sons and daughters scattered around the world. They have for years, decades, and even generations been assimilated into their adopted countries. They have forged lives that were unavailable to them in their native place.

As such, their links with home are based not on reality but notions. Another obvious example of this was the attitude of large tracts of the so-called diaspora to the campaign of violence perpetrated by the IRA for 25 years. While the vast majority at home opposed the idea of murdering for a political aim, many exiles ignored the bloodshed for the misty-eyed notion of freeing the country from bondage.
It’s against that background that Mr Kenny went campaigning last week. He wants them to do their duty by a land that is no longer theirs. Good luck to him.

It will be interesting to observe whether the campaign reaps the desired results.

Michael Clifford

Trouble in the Kingdom of Kerry

It seems there is something rotten going on in the kingdom of Kerry. A ban on hunting female red deer and curlews has at last been imposed on the former beef and chicken eating people of Kerry as their addiction to the more exotic venison and wild poultry became a bit more more rampant; it was also seen by many as sexist to just spare the male deer. 

The curlew (a bird) as well, I am reliably informed, was not shot to be eaten at all but because it was just singing too much. A right racket they threw up in the early mornings. Of course one could argue it was the recession that started all this beef. The minister for Heritage acted quickly when the red deer were nearly wiped clean from the kingdom completely, and there was only 4% of the curlews left. (The hunting season for them was only 4 weeks)

Yet, both species had survived thousands of years on the Killarney hills, and saw the Celts, Vikings, Normans, and the British come and go, and were there before the cry of freedom became a byword to be allowed to shoot anything or anyone that moved at all. Now, all that was left standing in the way from their complete extinction was the freedom loving Kerryman, and the few hunters that came to lend them a hand who were not native Kerry-men themselves. Yes, it needed legislation just to make common sense of it all and stop Kerry-men and others from being deer and curlew serial killers.

All of this reminded me of when I asked a fisherman recently did the seagulls impact much on his catch. He replied with a learned wisdom: ‘Well, they take their share.’ 

Barry Clifford

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Can an ape be classed as a legal person with rights??

Of course it seems like a loaded question but not entirely, but can Socrates, the great ape, be classed as a legal person? Considering that his closest cousin is the chimpanzee, and we are the closest cousins to them both, there are plans to do just that. 

In New York, a group of activists have filed lawsuits to grant them the “right to bodily liberty.” They also hope the judges will grant and recognize that the chimps have a basic legal right not to be imprisoned. Their beef is the imprisonment of four of them: Tommy, 26, Kiko, 26, and young Hercules with younger Leo; all four of them exist in cages across New York state.

The activists also claim that not too long ago that slaves were not classed as legal persons but as property belonging to a real person. They also argue that even a ‘Corporation’ is classed as a legal person so why not a chimp. One reason also they give is that they can’t argue for their rights just like children, and so they need legal representation and is a very strong point indeed. 

Spain saw it that way and passed a resolution in 2008 that deemed the great ape to be considered a legal person. So if Socrates and I ever land there, I am sure he will be giving me all sorts of trouble like wanting to drive the car and go look at other humans in cages. He will have to pass the Vehicle Driving Test first and that is sure to cause a few headaches or even a few heart attacks.

Of course, joking aside, there is a deeper issue going on and that is to stop the abuse of all animals. The activists want the chimps restored to a more natural habitat and what we would consider to be a more humane existence. Animals everywhere have little or no rights, and the sentences handed out to those that abuse them only encourage the abusers. 

In case I was in doubt about that issue I went to court once to pay a fine. While there, a man of considerable height and physique was up on charges for killing a golden retriever puppy. He lived in a terraced house next to a family that owned the puppy. The puppy really belonged to the six and seven year old girls of that family who gave it all the love and affection that that little ball of fluff would ever need. One day, the girls with the puppy stepped out their front door just as the man next door did. The puppy waddled over to the man’s boot and piddled on it, which drove him into and unstoppable rage. He kicked and stomped the puppy with his boot until the last yelp died away and there was no movement left or signs of life.

For that act of great wanton cruelty in front of two very frightened and traumatised little girls, that inhumane bully and pathetic excuse of a man was fined a total of €20 and 'asked' that he not do it again.

Barry Clifford 

Making cents: Thinking of starting a business online?

WHETHER the aim is to earn a side income from home or open up a whole new business career, many of us are drawn to the idea of starting our own business, writes Grainne McGuinness

And particularly with the growth of online commerce worldwide, it is now easier than ever to do from home. If you spot a niche in the market, or have a passion you would love to make a living from, there are supports available to you when starting out.
I asked two people who have started online businesses in the last few years where they had found the most help and both gave the same answer — their Local Enterprise Office (LEO). They are based on opposite sides of the country, but both gained valuable support from their local branch.

Sinead Sinnott had experience running her own business, but wanted guidance on online retailing when she set up “I did a good few day courses with the local enterprise board — good value at €50 per day with good trainers. They have a wide selection of courses and were very strong with all the online selling, social media promotion, etc.”

Mary MacSweeney, senior executive officer with the LEO Dublin City said they can provide assistance in many areas, depending on need. “The supports we provide range from training, access to experienced mentors, financial supports, and business networks. The financial supports are limited to certain sectors and types of businesses, and there is information about this on the website,”
Judy O’Sullivan, MD of, also recommended the LEO.
"I used one of their mentors and she was brilliant. The office run a load of courses — everything from flushing out your business idea to helping you prepare for a grant.”
Funding is key in the early stages. Microfinance Ireland is a government-backed initiative that provides loans of up to €25,000 to small businesses, including start-ups. You can check eligibility and apply from

There are other grants and state supports, such as tax relief, depending on the type of business and the stage of development. You can get detailed information on these at
If you are getting certain social welfare payments, there are other supports to help you become self-employed. You may be eligible for either the the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance or the Short-Term Enterprise Allowance — ask at your local social welfare office.
You might also be able to get extra assistance in starting your business under these schemes, such as grants for training, market research, and business plans.

I asked MacSweeney where she would recommend people start.
“Completing a ‘Start Your Own Business Course’ would be an excellent starting point,” she suggested. “Speaking to a mentor about your ideas can also assist in identifying gaps in knowledge or experience and can help in reducing the risk.

“Enterprise Ireland have an Innovation Voucher that people can apply for that allows them to work on the business idea with the help of third level students which can be of great assistance in developing an idea or product.”
And the most common mistakes she sees? “Assuming that they will be able to charge a fee for their service that will cover their costs and eventually be profitable. The best advice I could offer is that a person researches others providing a similar product, that they get feedback from potential customers, and that their limit their spending in the early stages.”

To limit costs around website design in the early days, Sinnott recommended
“ is a template-type, manage-yourself website which was very helpful. You can use an off-the-shelf template to test until you feel you have a good money-making idea or can afford to get a custom-made site.

“They have good discussion forums and are very helpful with any questions you may have.”
Grainne Mc Guinness

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Beat stress: a complete and relaxing guide

Ruby Wax: 'Every single disease you catch is because of stress'

“If left unchecked for a prolonged period of time, stress can cause much more serious, long-term mental and physical illnesses such as anxiety and depression," said Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, at the time, before adding that it can also "be a contributing factor in health problems such as heart disease and even obesity.”
Solemn words indeed. Yes, people have different tolerances for stress – one man's panic inducing confrontation is another man's mildly stimulating discussion – but if so many of us are beside ourselves with stress, it's important we realise it and learn how to relax.
Here is my guide to doing exactly that.

What is stress?
We all know what stress feels like – but to get a more in-depth understanding, it's helpful to take a look at the origins of this natural but often harmful human instinct.
Biologically speaking, we’ve changed very little from our hunter gatherer days. Back when being eaten by wolves or accosted by a rival tribe was a legitimate concern, a stress induced ‘flight or flight’ response was appropriate: we would have had seconds to decide whether we were going to run or stand and fight.  

In modern society, we have given similar meaning to scenarios that are not actually life threatening at all. For example: noisy neighbours, poor relationship communication, a bad boss and getting cut off in traffic can all be enough to elicit that same fight or fight response.

Often, the problem – and the key to our high stress levels – is that whereas traditional 'fight or flight' situations were over quickly, today they drag on and on (bad bosses, for example, don't tend to go anywhere fast). As a result, we live with the harmful effects of mini shots of adrenalin and cortisol constantly hitting our blood supply.
Your body is not able to distinguish the origin or severity of your stressors, so whatever the cause, all stress is drained into one collective ‘pool’ of worry. If this pool gets too full before you are able to combat your stress, health problems ensue.

Young people are more prone to call in sick due to stress than older people, a survey found 

How to spot stress
Physical symptoms of stress include: a pounding heart; elevated blood pressure; sweaty palms; tightness of chest; aching neck, jaw and back muscles; headache; chest pains; abdominal cramps; nausea; trembling; sleep disturbance; tiredness; susceptibility to minor illness; itching; being easily startled; forgetfulness.
Common mental processes: your mind racing or going blank; not being able to ‘switch off’; a lack of attention to detail; your self esteem and confidence plummeting; disorganised thoughts; a diminished sense of meaning in life; a lack of control or the need for too much control; negative self statements and negative evaluation; difficulty in making decisions; a loss of perspective.

Common behaviours: becoming withdrawn and not wanting to socialise; increasing your alcohol, nicotine or drugs intake; under or over eating; becoming accident prone and careless; becoming impatient, aggressive or compulsive; not taking breaks; taking work home; procrastinating on important projects; managing time poorly and consequently losing out on leisure activities.
Feelings you may experience: irritable, angry, depressed, jealous, restless, anxious, hyper alert, unnecessarily guilty, panic, mood swings, crying easily.

How to reduce stress
Once you have learnt to identify your stressors and the symptoms they produce, it’s important to have some strategies to fight back. Remember that no matter where your stress is coming from, your body will treat it the same.
Here are some strategies you can use at any time to manage stress: 
Go for a walk. An activity as simple as walking can provide an immediate change of scenery and body chemistry that can drastically reduce stress. Try to add 20 minutes to the amount of time you normally spend out of the house or office every day – you'll notice the difference.
Get training. Vigorous exercise such as weightlifting or higher intensity cardio releases endorphins that make us feel good and help battle our stress hormones. Be sure not to push exercise too hard though, especially at times of high stress, as this will be treated as yet another stressor and added to the ‘pool’.
Get touchy feely. Assuming your stress is not directly related to your friends, romantic partners or family, close physical contact with other people is very good for us and can help to relieve stress. Consider indulging in a warm embrace between friends, hug with a family member, even sex with a romantic partner.

Learn to reframe negative situations. Happy people have the ability to put a positive spin on a negative situation. Whatever you are going through, try to draw out a positive no matter how hard it may be. Our last freedom as humans is the ability to decide how we think and feel about our environment.
Meditate. Meditation or mindfulness can help you find the mental clarity to process the negative scenarios that you encounter and find answers. Mindfulness can also help you to see the world ‘as it is’ so that the numerous petty annoyances of a typical day don’t bother you quite so much.
Cut out the noise of other people's worries. At times of stress, it’s important that we set about a plan to free our minds of the things that are bothering us. Its important to keep in mind that as a family member, romantic partner, friend and colleague, others will often share their worries with us. There is a big difference between showing empathy and compassion with someone else’s worries and taking those worries on ourselves. Show that you care, but don't wear the weight of their stress around your neck.
Take time out. Nothing is more important than your health. If you feel as if your stress levels are approaching boiling point, take some time for a relaxing getaway. Do the things you enjoy to do, spent time the way you want to spend it.

Communicate your need to do this with those close to you and request their understanding. You may be surprised by the extent to which people are willing to help you – believe it or not, they'll have been through very stressful period of life themselves.
Scott Ladler

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Garda Commissioner talking a good talk but key issues not addressed

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald reviews a guard of honour made up of garda students. Picture:

On at least four occasions at the Policing Authority meeting on Monday, Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan used the word “journey”.
“I want to make it clear that this is a journey,” she said at one point. “Certainly, we have a journey to go but we have a good news story,” she said at another point. And on it went, this talk about journeys and process and learning and what have you.
Journeys are all the rage in management speak these days, up there with the phrase “grow and evolve”.

It’s all about fashioning a corporate entity as a human being that it might evoke the kind of emotions one reserves for living, breathing creatures. Once upon a time, this tosh was confined to Californian geeks, but today it has contaminated all areas of life, including, it would appear, the upper echelons of An Garda Síochána.

To be fair to the commissioner, she did project a force which is on the corporate ball. There are processes aplenty in place. New offices have been established to enhance the police service.
Management is reaching out to “our critical friends”, a term coined by the commissioner to describe anybody who finds fault with the prevailing Garda culture or practices.

The members of the authority were primarily focused on what has changed in the force in recent years. A succession of reports, culminating with the recent O’Higgins commission of investigation report, point to the same old problems resurfacing.
The three areas explored by chair Josephine Feehily and her board were how the force had improved services to victims, attitudes to internal critics and whether there was any attempt to address the negative aspects of Garda culture.

The commissioner and her team set out improvements for victims of crime over the last15 months. In particular, the force has established 28 offices around the State to assist victims. A survey to be published on Thursday will suggest that many victims are still dissatisfied at how they are treated, but Ms O’Sullivan acknowledged that all is not yet perfect.
“We need to keep asking victims what we can do better,” she said. “We listen, we learn, we improve and we measure.”

A notable feature of the meeting was the commissioner’s repeated acknowledgment that the force hadn’t got everything right so far, but was trying to do better. This position was a refreshing departure for any leader in Irish public life.
There have been changes in process for whistleblowers as well. The commissioner mentioned the recently established office of protected disclosure manager, who will deal with officers wishing to report wrongdoing. This is in wake of the experience of Sergeant Maurice McCabe, whose claims of malpractice led to the setting up of the O’Higgins commission after years of encountering brick walls within the force.

Now things are different. There is a “robust” process in place to accommodate whistleblowers.
This is opening up, according to the commissioner “a culture of listening and hearing and openness to our critical friends and our constructive friends”, she said.

In dealing with those matters the commissioner and those of her team who also contributed came across as professional and committed to a change agenda. On the subject of processes, they couldn’t be faulted. On a corporate level, the gardaí have process coming out their ears.
What was not explored was whether or not things have really changed on the ground. For instance, four officers who would be categorised as whistleblowers within the force are all out on sick leave. How come? How, in a force where the input of these critical friends is being embraced, are they apparently in a situation where they can’t continue to work as normal?
Neither was there anything about the difference in the approach that the commissioner is leading towards critical friends and the treatment of Maurice McCabe behind the closed doors of the commission by the commissioner’s legal people. Has Ms O’Sullivan embarked on a journey since then — a mere 13 months ago — which has changed her approach? If so, it would be reassuring to hear about it.

Authority member Bob Collins raised two salient points about culture. He wondered what it said about Garda culture that one officer felt compelled to secretly tape his conversations. Ms O’Sullivan failed to address that.
Collins also questioned the culture of internal investigations within the force. Again, there was no coherent response. The culture of internal investigations is central to some of the problems.

For instance, the internal investigation into abuse of penalty points didn’t even interview McCabe or former garda John Wilson, who had highlighted the abuse. Could it be that the investigation didn’t want to find out the full extent of what it was investigating?
Similarly, the internal investigation into McCabe’s complaints of malpractice was less than robust in places. In one case, involving alleged assault, the probe didn’t even locate the victim’s statement. This again raises the question as to how robust such inquiries are.

What emerges when one looks beneath the bonnet is that process is not the real issue. Whether it be the treatment of victims or whistleblowers the problem is that the approach has long been to ensure that nothing negative that might impinge of the force corporately, or on the career prospects of individual senior officers. That element of Garda culture is at the heart of many of the controversies that have dogged the force in recent years.
The men and women who serve under often trying circumstances deserve more, as does the general public. Unfortunately, despite the journeys and the processes, we are no more enlightened as to whether real change is under way in that area.
Michael Clifford

The beggar’s words horrified me

The beggar’s words horrified me
I wasn’t certain what she meant, but my brain was in overdrive with the possibilities

I was in Dublin, pulling my suitcase along Abbey Street towards the Irish Life car park, when I noticed a woman in a long dress sitting on the side of the street beside the railings near a bus stop. I knew I had two coins in my pocket – €1 and €2 pieces – and I carefully fingered the smallest coin as I approached her, and placed it in her hand. I didn’t make eye contact and rushed on before she realised what I was doing.

“Thank you,” she said, but I wasn’t sure if I had helped her by giving her the money or insulted her by refusing eye contact.
It was Sunday morning and the car park was closed until 10am, so I walked all the way back up towards O’Connell Street to pass the time. The little woman saw me returning and she smiled, as if I had been defeated in some game. This time I felt obliged to give her the other coin.

“Where are you from?” I asked.
She named a city in eastern Europe. Beneath a blue scarf, her black hair held strands of grey. She looked beyond me, into the air, as if she were a ship drifting past me, unconcerned. And as she moved the coin from one hand to the other, I noticed a wedding ring on her finger.
I gazed into her chestnut-brown eyes, trying to think of another question, because they say it’s important to respect a beggar as a real person and not just reduce the relationship to money. But I may have lingered too long. Eventually she spoke out of the blue scarf.
“Jiggy jiggy?” she said like it was some kind of question.
The words horrified me. I wasn’t certain what she meant, but my brain was in overdrive with the possibilities. I felt ashamed. But instead of curiosity about what she might have meant, I felt fear, and I moved off, pulling the suitcase behind me, and furious with myself in some undefined way.

I walked onwards to O’Connell Street, thinking about Cumann na mBan and how a woman with a weapon is not quite as offensive as a male with side irons. There’s something very romantic about the idea of uniformed girls in 1916, with guns blazing for a republic of civil liberty and gender equality.

Near the GPO there was a man selling republican flags: tricolours with stencils of Pearse, Collins, and a variety of other heroes to suit the entire spectrum of political taste.
I picked out the green and yellow Starry Plough, as it was called when the Citizen Army flew it over Dublin during Easter 1916. The vendor wanted €20 but I walked away as if I had been insulted, and then returned to plead that I had no money, like a penniless dealer at a horse mart in Drumshanbo, until he eventually agreed on €10.
I passed him the money, slyly, as if we were doing an illicit deal, folded the flag into the pocket of my jacket and returned to the hotel.

The breakfast club
There was still an hour to go before I could get my car, so I decided to indulge in breakfast. But there was a queue winding out of the dining-room door, so I went across the foyer to wait at the glass window that stretched from floor to ceiling. A man from eastern Europe was squinting in the sunlight, being interviewed for a job by a boy in a suit.
“Do you have black trousers?” the interviewer inquired.
“Yes,” he said. “And I can start today if that is important.”
“Good,” the young man said, “let’s go and look at the kitchens.”
In the dining room I had poached eggs and a pot of coffee. At another table beside me, an American family were inspecting tourist maps and brochures.
Two glum daughters said they wanted to go home, and the mother, who looked exhausted, said they had only just arrived. Their father, a burly man in a New York T-shirt whose face was more likely moulded by weather than by any human emotion, declared: “This is Dublin. This is where the real fighting took place in 1916. You gotta know these things.”

As I walked down Abbey Street once again, I saw no sign of the woman at the empty bus stop. Maybe she was gone home, I thought, or was splurging my €3 on a coffee, or phoning her husband at the other end of Europe to say she missed him. Who knows? I suppose there’s a lot of things we can never know.
Michael Harding

Former CIA Officer: Listen To Your Enemy !!!!

Former CIA Officer: Listen To Your Enemy, Because ‘Everybody Believes They Are The Good Guy’

Amaryllis Fox is still in the process of getting her CIA cover rolled back.

Amaryllis Fox is a writer, a peace activist and a former CIA Clandestine Service officer. 
She recently sat down with Al Jazeera’s AJ to discuss what she’s learned from working undercover in counterterrorism for nearly a decade.
Her takeaway? Listen to your enemy. 

“If I learned one lesson from my time with the CIA, it is this: Everybody believes they are the good guy,” Fox said in a video shared by AJ on Facebook Monday. 
When it comes to the Islamic State militant group, Fox says the public conversation is “more oversimplified than ever” and encompasses stories “manufactured” by a small minority of powerful people who remain in power by “convincing the rest of us to keep killing each other.”

She believes understanding comes with listening. 

“The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to them,” she said. “If you hear them out, if you’re brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not you might’ve made some of the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours.” 

Cavan Sieczkowski

Top medical insurer hits out at '€1m legal fees'

Sustained high legal costs in Ireland have been criticised for driving up costs for doctors and the State.

Two years after a report calling for reform of legal costs in clinical negligence cases, the UK-based medical insurer, Medical Protection, said that legal costs remained "very high".
One case was settled for €40,000 damages but the legal costs for the plaintiff were €80,000, according to Emma Hallinan, director of claims policy at the insurer. The fees were eventually "negotiated" down to €60,000.

"We frequently see claims where costs exceed the damages paid," said Ms Hallinan. "We have recently seen two cases in which plaintiff costs were claimed in excess of €1 million. In one of the claims, the plaintiff's bill was nearly €1.4 million, and after negotiation, was agreed at €900,000. In another the bill was just over €1 million and agreed at €800,000," said Ms Hallinan.

The Medical Protection Society's concern follows revelations last week that barristers and lawyers working for certain State bodies are lobbying for an increase in their fees now that the economic crisis has passed.
Fees for barristers working for the Director of Public Prosecutions and for lawyers on the free legal aid panel had their fees cut by almost 30pc since 2008.
Figures from the Central Statistics Office showed that legal costs increased by around 5pc over a six-month period last year. The cost of legal services in Ireland was also noted by the Troika, and by European Commission analysts who were sceptical about the reforms promised by new legislation.

The Medical Protection Society, which insures more than 15,000 Irish doctors each year, produced a report two years ago showing that Irish legal fees were higher than anywhere else in the Western world, and called for a cap to limit Irish lawyers' fees to 20pc of their client's award.

"Since this paper was published, Medical Protection has continued to monitor the situation and has seen sustained very high plaintiff costs in Ireland," said Ms Hallinan. "We remain concerned about the cost of clinical negligence and the increasing burden these costs have placed on both the State and individual practitioners."
Claims of high legal fees are disputed by the legal profession.

The Law Society has "refuted" the Medical Protection Society's claims as "crude" and accused it of making "erroneous and misleading" statements. It has said that better resourcing of the health and court systems would help avoid and reduce claims.
Motor insurers have also weighed in against legal fees, claiming that legal costs have contributed to the high costs of motor premiums.
The chairman of the Bar Council of Ireland, David Barniville, dismissed these claims as "unfounded."

Barristers prosecuting criminal cases for the State have been lobbying for an increase in their fees now that the economic crisis has passed.
Solicitors and barristers dealing with free legal aid cases are also seeking an increase in fees. The State has cut fees for solicitors by almost 30pc since the bust.
Maeve Sheehan

Garda treatment of victims of crime described as 'disconcerting'

A continuing failure to keep some victims of crime informed about their investigations was described as “quite disconcerting” at yesterday’s Policing Authority meeting with the Garda Commissioner 

Authority member Vicky Conway said this failure was despite the establishment across the country of Garda Victims Services Offices — a central and much-publicised part of the commissioner’s response to various critical reports.

Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s judgement was also questioned regarding her appointment of a senior garda, rather than an external expert, to the new role of protected disclosure manager, akin to an internal whistleblowers’ protector.

The commissioner revealed at the meeting that the number of current complaints from whistleblowers was in “single figures”.

The authority yesterday held its first of two public meetings to discuss the findings of the O’Higgins inquiry, which documented a litany of flawed investigations and poor treatment of victims within the Cavan Monaghan division in 2007 and 2008.

The meeting followed a stinging statement from the authority after a private session with Ms O’Sullivan on May 26, in which it expressed its “serious concern” at the impact on victims at the “systemic performance and management failures”.

That statement also expressed its “dismay” at the familiarity of the failures and its “deep unease” at the organisation and management culture.

Dr Conway said figures from the Garda Public Attitudes Survey were “quite disconcerting” in that, since the Victims Services Offices were established a year ago, a number of victims said they were not receiving information about the progress of their investigations or not enough information.

Dr Conway, a law lecturer at Dublin City University, told the commissioner it was “essential” that this was acted on quickly, as it would have a great impact on public confidence.

She asked both deputy commissioner John Twomey and Ms O’Sullivan if specific action had been taken regarding the treatment of victims in Cavan-Monaghan, but was provided with information about the broader efforts to deal with the issue.

Ms O’Sullivan and a number of her senior managers said that a range of measures had been taken which would greatly limit the chances of the poor investigations and supervision highlighted by O’Higgins happening again.

Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan said the way in which investigations were handled now was “significantly different”.

He said 28 victims offices had been set up and that changes had been made to the Garda Pulse computer system that identified both an investigating garda and an assigned supervisor.

The system was able to track all investigation notes, a process that could be reviewed. He said the chances of cases “falling through the cracks were significantly reduced”.

Ms O’Sullivan added that there were now “safeguards” in place to ensure issues were identified early and interventions made.

The garda team also pointed out that training for garda recruits had changed.

Civilian head of the Garda Analysis Service Gurchand Singh said they were commencing a full evaluation of the victims’ offices.

Authority member Judith Gillespie, former deputy chief constable of the PSNI, asked the commissioner whether her decision not to appoint an outside expert as the new protected disclosure manager was a “missed penalty kick”.

Ms O’Sullivan said she did not consider it a missed opportunity and explained that the garda manager could access external assistance.

Referring to Sergeant Maurice McCabe, authority member Bob Collins asked the commissioner what did it say about the organisation and its culture that a whistleblower secretly recorded conversations.

Ms O’Sullivan declined to comment on any individual, but said she was determined to build an environment that people could trust.
Cormac O' Keefe