Emergency homeless services already stretched beyond their means

Credit RTE.ie

Credit rte.ie

The Homeless Charity Trust has warned many more homeless people will die over the coming winter months due to a lack of emergency accommodation in the capital.

A man in his forties died overnight in Bray over the weekend while sleeping rough in the town.

The prediction follows the news yesterday that the number of people living rough on the streets of Dublin trebled in the last year.

The homeless action plan, Sustaining the Pathway to Home, is being conducted by Dublin’s four local authorities and will be implemented early next year.

The report states “the demand for access to emergency accommodation and related homeless services in Dublin is deepening”, while affordable and adequate housing remains extremely limited.

The draft also highlights the growing issue of people living on the streets for the first time.

One third of the 2,886 people accessing homeless services in the first six months of the year were using them for the first time.

These figures follow on from last year where over half of the 4,837 people using such emergency services were utilizing them for the first time.

The decision to move away from an emergency accommodation approach to a housing first solution to combat homelessness appears not to have aided the drastic situation.

Last year only 879 people “successfully moved away from homelessness back into independent living”.

Francis Doherty of the Peter McVerry Trust said that these figures would continue to increase as a result of rising rents in Dublin City despite the economic troubles of many Irish people.

In February the Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan announced the Government’s ambition to eliminate long-term homelessness by 2016.

Despite this, Government expenditure on social housing has been slashed from €1.3 billion in 2008 to €275 million last year, resulting in only 1,500 units being constructed annually for social housing initiatives compared to 8,000 previously.

Alice Leahy of Trust said: “The government is not accepting the fact that there is a need for emergency accommodation”, before declaring Trust cannot accommodate the high demand for places in its already fully occupied premises.

Doherty of the McVerry Trust was more optimistic, praising the new government initiative which allows people in financial trouble to receive rent allowance while working.

The next set of results, acquired two weeks ago, are expected to show another increase in people on the streets.

Ronan Morrissey

Court hears how unemployment led man to deal drugs

Credit Courts.ie

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A Dublin man was sentenced to 10 years for the possession of 2,500 ecstasy tablets, 58 kilos of cannabis, and 1.25 kilos of cocaine at the Dublin Circuit Court today.

The drugs were seized from his house in Finglas in March 2012, along with €144,000 in cash.

Christopher Seery (34) presented himself in Finglas Garda station the day following the seizure.

Sergeant Shane McCarthy told the court gardai were “convinced” Seery was holding the majority of the drugs and cash for associates.

He said gardai did not want Seery to take responsibility for all the seized drugs. Seery would not say who he was holding the drugs and cash for however, because he “didn’t want to put his kids’ lives in danger.”

A firearm was discharged at Seery’s front door following his release on bail. McCarthy said it was “possible he (Seery) is being held accountable for the loss of the drugs and cash.”

Reluctance to name associates aside, McCarthy said Seery was “candid” during questioning, and cooperated fully with gardai.

He told gardai he had been selling cannabis for approximately one year, and ecstasy and cocaine for approximately for three months.

He became “very emotional” during questioning, and “broke down crying, saying he should have followed his family’s advice.”

McCarthy said Seery had a “good, respectable family background”, and had made “a few bad decisions.”

He has three brothers and five sisters, none of whom are known to the gardai.

The court heard Seery had been employed as a roofer until 2009, when the downturn in the economy contributed to his losing his job. His wife had been employed by a pharmaceutical company until 2010.

Unemployed, he started taking cocaine and mixing with criminals. During questioning, he told gardai he saw an opportunity to make money and began dealing.

In sentencing, Justice Martin Nolan took into account Seery’s guilty plea, his cooperation with gardai, his employment history, and his relationship with his wife and three children.

He noted Seery’s criminal record comprised five offences not related to drug dealing and that the offences had been committed some time ago.

He accepted there were two component parts to the cash and drugs seized: drugs Seery was selling for his own profit, and drugs and cash he was holding for others.

In handing Seery a ten year sentence however, he said he had to consider the amount of drugs seized, Seery’s “deep involvement” with drug dealing, and the “appetite for cash he displayed.”

He said Seery had made a “reprehensible misjudgement.”

Eoghan McNeill

Minister for Justice condemns hate mail sent to members of the Muslim community

Credit WikiCommons

Credit WikiCommons

The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has condemned hate mail that has been sent to members of the Muslim community in Ireland.

An unsigned letter containing a photo of Micheal Collins was sent to a number of schools and mosques, threatening violent action if the proposed plan for a new Mosque in Dublin goes ahead. The letter contained threats such as ‘We will defend the faith by any means against the expansion of the Muslim faith’ and continued to threaten that they “will attack any Muslim man, women and child that enter any Mosque in Ireland”.

Mr. Shatter said in a statement that he condemns any “racism and religious bigotry in all their forms” and said he is “appalled by the nature of the communications”.

The letter and its violent intent have been condemned by the Irish Immigrant Council with a statement saying “A hate campaign against the Muslim community in Dublin must be fully investigated and those responsible prosecuted”.

Ahmed, who works at the Clonskeagh Mosque in Dublin, insisted that there is a good attitude towards Muslim people in Ireland saying that it is “generally peaceful”. He claimed that the violent letter instils “no fear at all” in Muslims in Ireland and that the act is an isolated incident that is not acceptable in a multicultural society.   He said: “We don’t care about the letter; the act is not acceptable but it will not shake our belief in God”.

There are currently over 65,000 Muslims living in Ireland, with over a third of those being born in the country.

Gavin Lacey

No snow on Christmas Day

Credit Irishtimes.ie

Credit irishtimes.ie

Notorious weather forecaster Ken Ring, who successfully predicted the July heat wave back in January and our extreme winter of 2010, expects snow in December but Ireland will miss out on a white Christmas. The New Zealander uses the moon, sun and tidal activity to make his forecasts.

Talking to the Irish Examiner, Ring says “Some southern areas may get isolated heavier falls but these are not expected to be widespread. There will be a sudden downward plunge into sub-zeros in the last few days of November. The first serious cold spell is in the last few days of November with the possibility of widespread snow on or near the last day”.

“There may be chances of snow in the last days of the year and the first few days of January, in the third week of February and in the first week of March” he said.

The weather expert is not expecting the arctic conditions of 2010 to return.

A Dublin City Council spokesperson, along with the Stephen Smith from NRA (National Road Authority), confirmed that they have increased their stock pile of salt since the severe winter of 2010. Their current stock pile is 2200 tonnes, with a reserve of 2000 tonnes. From October until March the Dublin City Council monitors road conditions and responds once temperatures reach below 1 degree Celsius. They cover approx. 300 km of Dublin city roads concentrating predominantly on key roads, bus routes and emergency routes, but housing estates are not included. Once in operation, 80-100 tonnes of salt could be used on a severe night.

Last week, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., and Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D. launched the Government’s ‘Be Winter Ready’ 2013-2014 Information Campaign at the National Emergency Coordination Centre in Dublin. Advice from Government departments, the Gardaí, the HSE, local authorities and transport providers will now be available on the website www.winterready.ie.

The campaign intends to provide practical advice on how best to prepare for the coming winter. It aims to ensure the public are aware of where advice and help can be found if needed and to reassure the public that arrangements have been put in place to ensure that there will be a coordinated response to severe weather events.

The weather, as un-predictable as it is to most of us, remains unthreatening. Most of us can rest assured if Ring’s predictions are true, along with the comprehensive preparations in place at the NRA and Dublin City Council, a severe winter doesn’t pose a threat.

Lilah Gaafar

League tables show further evidence of elitism in education

castleknock college

Credit castleknockcollege.ie

Students from fee-paying schools are still dominating the highest point courses in universities, according to the Irish Times school league tables published today.

Despite data which says that non fee-paying schools accounted for three quarters of the top 100 secondary schools in the 2013 league tables, it is private school students who snap up the most sought after courses.

The league tables also show a major advantage to the affluent south Dublin area, with 25 schools there sending at least 94 per cent of their students to college. The list shows that 17 schools in the top 100 are located in south Dublin – 14 of them fee-paying – while north Dublin boasts only two, Castleknock College and Ard Scoil Rís.

Mary Maguire, deputy principal of Warrenmount National School, Dublin 8, which has 49 per cent foreign national attendance, expressed concern at the elitism within the Irish education system.

“Not many of our students’ families are in a financial position to send their children to fee-paying schools, and even at such a young age they definitely face a disadvantage being forced into state-run schools.”

The research also found that there was an overall increase in university attendance, with school leavers 14% more likely to go to University than the figures from the 2012 league tables.

However, a spokesperson for the Teacher’s Union of Ireland has called the league tables “an exercise in silliness”.

Hannah Popham

Cash-in-transit stolen in Finglas

Credit Garda.ie

Credit garda.ie

A man armed with a handgun yesterday held up the driver of a cash-in-transit van, escaping with a deposit box filled with cash.

The armed robbery – which occurred in Finglas yesterday afternoon at approximately 2.50pm – is one of many in Dublin recent months.

According to the Garda press office, a car used in the robbery was later found abandoned.

No arrests have been made, and the investigation continues.

Gardaí have appealed for anyone with information to call Finglas Garda station on 01 666 7500.

Paul Doyle

Latvia still awaiting Irish aid

800px-Flag_of_Latvia.svg

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The Irish government has yet to officially offer any assistance to Latvia in relation to the shopping centre disaster last week in which 54 people perished.

Latvian president Andris Berzins described the tragedy as “mass murder” earlier this week, after the roof caved in on a shopping centre in the capital Riga last Thursday.

Foreign aid offers have come in across the continent from “Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Belarus, Sweden, Turkey, the U.K., and by an international institution – the Nordic Council of Ministers,” according to the Latvian embassy in Dublin.

The Latvian foreign minister believes that “although a decision on engaging a foreign expert lies within the competence of the prosecuting authority, a step like that could help raise public confidence and promote transparency in establishing truth about the tragedy.”

A book of condolence will be opened for signing again today at the embassy of the Republic of Latvia, 92 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2 between 14:00-16:00.

Although Ireland are yet to provide aid to the Baltic state, the Irish Government has sent a team of experts to the Philippines to assess how we can assist there.

Simon Maguire