In short


A roundup of today's other home news in brief

Jury seeks verdict in sexual abuse trial

A Co Tyrone jury has yet to come to a decision in the case of Dublin-based priest Fr Eugene Lewis, who denies sexually abusing three young sisters, one of whom alleged he went on to rape her while counselling her for having an affair with a married policeman.

Following two and a half hours of deliberation yesterday at the end of the six-week trial, Judge Philip Babington sent the Omagh Crown Court jury of six men and six women home for the day.

They return this morning to continue in their effort to reach unanimous verdicts on the former provincial superior of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, or White Fathers.

The 76-year-old priest, based at Cypress Grove House, Templeogue, Dublin, faces a total of 11 charges of indecently assaulting the Co Fermanagh sisters between August 1963 and September 1973.

30 school librarians may lose jobs

Thirty librarians working in disadvantaged schools face the loss of their posts under plans tabled by the Department of Finance, writes Seán Flynn.

The Department of Education confirmed yesterday discussions were ongoing with the Department of Finance on the matter.

The Department of Finance appears reluctant to give ground on the issue because of the moratorium on recruitment. Michael Stacey principal of Patrician College, Finglas, Dublin, said school librarians in disadvantaged schools were playing a key role in boosting literacy standards.

The 30 librarians were given rolling employment contracts which expire later this year. Despite their key role in boosting literacy, they were not identified as “frontline staff”. They are employed in the cities and counties of Dublin, Waterford, Wicklow, Donegal, Galway and Cork.

Taoiseach defends use of jet during Harney’s US mission

A controversial internal US flight of the Government jet to Las Vegas in early February 2008 was necessitated by adverse weather conditions, according to an official report supplied to Taoiseach Brian Cowen by the Air Corps, writes Deaglán de Bréadún. The incident took place during a visit to the US by Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney.

The issue was raised in the Dáil yesterday by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who called on Mr Cowen to amend the Cabinet Handbook “to make it clear, if a situation like Las Vegas were to arise again, the jet could not move without his authorisation”.

The Air Corps report, which was forwarded to Mr Kenny last March, states that the aircraft took a delegation, including Ms Harney, her husband Brian Geoghegan and six officials, from Baldonnel Aerodrome. It landed at Prescott Airport in Arizona at 8.30pm (local time) the same day. The Minister was visiting health facilities in the region and was due to attend the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, on February 3rd.

The report states, however, that “very heavy snow was forecast in the area from February 3 for a number of days”.

It was decided to fly the jet to another airport where de-icing equipment was available, or which was outside the snowfall area.The nearest suitable location was Las Vegas.

The jet flew from Prescott to Las Vegas Airport without passengers on February 2nd. The delegation travelled to Phoenix by road. The jet flew to Phoenix on February 4th to pick up the delegation and bring them to Houston, Texas.

In an accompanying letter to the Fine Gael leader, Mr Cowen writes that the crew “dealt with the operational matters that arose during the course of the mission . . . it is not practical to seek the approval of the Taoiseach for handling situations that may arise during missions”.

Lecturer calls for committee on jobs

The annual delegate conference of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed was told yesterday that if the Government was serious about job creation, it would set up a special joint Oireachtas committee to address the issue.

The comments were made in Athlone by Dr Mary Murphy,lecturer in sociology at NUI Maynooth, who said politicians do not have a clear jobs strategy.

“The Government’s response to the jobs crisis is to develop a smart economy but the type of investment needed, just isn’t there . . . A smart economy would only create tens of thousands of jobs, we need hundreds of thousands. Where is the education and training strategies that need to be linked up in order for this to be a success?” she asked.

Dr Murphy said unemployment figures understated the unemployment problem.

O’Keeffe urges academics to ‘close gap’

The Minister for Enterprise Batt O’Keeffe has said that academic scientists must join with industrial partners from the very beginning of their research to speed up the delivery of smart economy jobs, writes Dick Ahlstrom.

This would close the gap “between research and retail”, Mr O’Keeffe said yesterday in Brussels after a meeting with Ireland’s new EU commissioner for research, innovation and science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Research scientists had “no difficulty” with industrial partnerships”, stated Dr John Walsh, chair of the Trinity Research Staff Association. However, he added: “the present Government perhaps seems to be abandoning the long-term view for short-term gains,” he said. “We would be concerned with anything that was a short-term opportunistic approach.”

Visitor numbers down almost 19%

The number of trips by visitors to Ireland was down by 18.5 per cent in March compared with the same month last year, according to the latest figures. Some 434,200 inward trips were made during the month, down 98,600 on March 2009.

Central Statistics Office figures show the number of visitors from Britain was down by 21 per cent to 212,700. Trips to Ireland from other European countries and North America were down by 23 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively. Trips from other areas, including Australia, Japan and South Africa, increased by 3,100. Irish residents made 543,100 trips abroad in March, down 3.7 per cent on last year.

The period from January 1st to March 31st accounts for approximately 20 per cent of overall visitors each year, according to Tourism Ireland.Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the effect of the world recession on consumer spending had hit visitor numbers.

Coast Guard keeps eye on oil spillage

The Irish Coast Guard says it is actively monitoring the Gulf of Mexico oil spillage, which some experts are predicting will eventually affect Ireland and the rest of western Europe, writes Paul Cullen.

However, the Coast Guard says there is nothing to suggest “so far” that the spill will move any further than the Caribbean basin.

Explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau said the oil would make its way via the Gulf Stream to western Europe. According to the Department of Transport, the Coast Guard is receiving daily updates from the European Maritime Safety Agency and a monitoring information centre in Brussels.

“The Coast Guard has a series of standard operating procedures in place and has stockpiles of equipment located around the country,” a spokeswoman said.

Youth pleads guilty to causing 8,000 worth of damage

A youth, who caused nearly €8,000 worth of damages during acts of vandalism which he claims were fuelled by use of head shop drugs, has been remanded on bail for sentencing.

The 16-year-old boy pleaded guilty at the Children’s Court to criminal damage to four cars, in Monkstown, Dún Laoghaire, after 4am on January 1st last.

Judge Heather Perrin heard that the teenager caused a total of €3,963 of damage during that incident.

On another date the teenager wrote off another vehicle to which he caused €3,900 worth of damages.

He also admitted two public order incidents, in which he threatened gardaí.

Defence counsel Karen Dowling said her client had been abusing head shop drugs and that period was a “haze”.