News Blog

Honorary doctorates, tax affairs and Eurovision: the aftermath

Laura Slattery Mon, May 20
 
LIVE: News Blog

Sort by:

  • Latest first
  • Oldest first
  • This event has now ended
  • 08:48
    Good morning and welcome to the Monday morning after the nul points before on the Irish Times live news blog. Jumping into the paradox-ridden time-portal of news with you this morning is Laura Slattery. It looks set to be a busy news day, so I've got my serious-face on, a certain aspartame-laden diet soda on intravenous drip and - because it's the season - a bottle of Beconase I'll be jamming up my nostrils should the need arise.
  • 08:55
    Today's lead story in The Irish Times is Enda Kenny's claim that Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has his 100 per cent support after Shatter disclosed confidential Garda information that Independent TD Mick Wallace was warned over using his mobile phone while driving last year. The breaking development is that Wallace is going to lodge a complaint with the Standards in Public Office Commission today, as our political correspondent Harry McGee outlines here.

  • 09:02
    So what’s coming up today? Well, there will be the annual report of data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes to savour, a veritable inferno of pen action as Dan Brown signs books in Easons this evening and at some point Enda Kenny will be given an honorary doctorate in Boston.

    I’ll be bringing you all the excitement on this, more emotional debris from Eurovision and more Alan Shatter fallout. I’ll also be posing occasional and largely rhetorical multiple-choice quiz questions.
  • 09:16
    The breaking financial news this morning comes courtesy of Ryanair, which has released   full-year financial results for 2012 showing a 13 per cent soaring in revenues to €4.88 billion, while pre-tax profits climbed 3 per cent to €650.9 million. Deputy chief executive Howard Millar was asked by Morning Ireland's Emma McNamara earlier about Michael O'Leary's stated plans to stay on as chief executive for another five years. "Oh no, another five years of Michael!" he said, Michael-style.
  • 09:18
    The Monday news quiz question no. 1: Which of these is not a genuine Michael O’Leary quote?

    a)      “The best thing you can do with environmentalists is shoot them.”
    b)      “Do we carry rich people on our flights? Yes, I flew on one this morning and I’m very rich.”
    c)      “I will destroy my enemies by converting them to friends.”
    d)      “I’m paid about 20 times more than the average employee and I think that gap should be wider. I probably work 50 times harder.”
  • 09:21
    I should probably point out that last time I did a live blog for The Irish Times, it involved a 40ft Voldemort puppet terrorising the land, only to be defeated by a flotilla of flying Mary Poppinses, while a giant cauldron intended to represent world peace was erected above a sports stadium and David Beckham gazed purposefully from a boat.

    I’m not expecting today to be quite as surreal as Danny Boyle’s London 2012 opening ceremony, although who knows? The abortion hearings are on again this morning.
  • 09:29
    The Guardian has a story about Marks & Spencer that once again appears to finger Ireland as a conspirator in the great corporate push to avoid tax (note: this is more commonly referred to as "the complex interaction between international tax codes", of which large multinationals are simply helpless victims). Internal M&S documents seen by the newspaper show the firm’s tax structure involves shipping goods from one country, the UK, while invoicing the transaction to another, Ireland. If only its women’s clothing lines were half as creative.
  • 09:38
    The US is apparently braced for a plague of sex-starved locusts. What is the correct brace position for an oncoming plague of sex-starved locusts, I wonder?
  • 09:43
    Storm chasers get close to a tornadic thunderstorm, one of several tornadoes that touched down, in South Haven, Kansas, on Sunday. A half-mile wide twister struck near Oklahoma City. Photograph: REUTERS/Gene Blevins
    Storm chasers get close to a tornadic thunderstorm, one of several tornadoes that touched down, in South Haven, Kansas, on Sunday. A half-mile wide twister struck near Oklahoma City. Photograph: REUTERS/Gene Blevins
  • 09:49
    Recording equipment on standby: Alan Shatter is giving reporters an opportunity to doorstep him later this morning during a break from his duties at the citizenship ceremonies in the Convention Centre Dublin. I heard on the radio earlier that Enda Kenny is fully behind his Minister for Justice. This is, of course, entirely accurate. The Taoiseach is in Boston, so he's five hours behind, to be precise.
  • 09:53
    The answer to Monday news quiz question no. 1 is c) “I will destroy my enemies by converting them to friends”, which was yesterday’s Thought of the Day on Forbes.com and is attributed to influential medieval Jewish scholar Maimonides.

    Michael O’Leary would never waste time making his enemies his friends.
  • 09:59
    Wallace-watch:
  • 10:04
    Happy Birthday to Cher, Busta Rhymes, Joe Cocker, Jane Wiedlin from The Go-Gos and Nick Heyward from Haircut 100. Now there's a musical supergroup I'd like to hear.
  • 10:21
    RTÉ Radio 1 has played the clip of last Thursday's Prime Time in which Alan Shatter brings up an alleged incident when Mick Wallace used his mobile phone while driving. "I actually thought he made it up, and I was a bit shocked," Wallace tells Pat Kenny. He later indicates there was a verbal encounter with a Garda about a phone call he made at a traffic light.

    I'm confused by this story as I always thought that if you were actually trying to smear a political opponent, you would do the sensible, obvious thing and hoodwink a more junior/naive colleague to do it on your behalf.
  • 10:41
    The Monday news quiz question no. 2: Which one of these is the most horrifying?

    a) the top notes hit by the operatic vampire who sang Romania’s Eurovision entry.
    b) the “swivel-eyed loons” in the Tory party.
    c) the concept of honorary doctorates to someone who has completed a real one.
    d) the part of last night’s episode of The Fall where the killer applied red nail varnish to his victim’s fingers
  • 10:43
    Here's actor Keanu Reeves looking cool on a pier at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, where he's presenting his film Man of Tai Chi. I think it might be about martial arts. He directed this one too. Photograph: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
    Here's actor Keanu Reeves looking cool on a pier at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, where he's presenting his film Man of Tai Chi. I think it might be about martial arts. He directed this one too. Photograph: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
  • 10:49
    A crew of astronauts is picked off one by one by a malevolent force. That’s the synopsis for The Last Days on Mars, a British-Irish co-production directed by Ruairi Robinson that gets its world premiere at Cannes today as part of the director’s fortnight selection - which is prestigious, apparently, or so the Irish Film Board says on its press release about it. The film stars Liev Schreiber and the fabulous Romola “23 stitches” Garai. I'm just hoping the malevolent force in question isn't a plague of sex-starved locusts.
  • 10:59
    The Irish Times is down to the final five in its Best Place to Holiday in Ireland competition, which you can read all about here. I'm intrigued to learn that what City of Culture Derry "lacks in hanging baskets it more than makes up for in activity". But I reckon this controversial absence of floral arrangements dangling from walls could be easily fixed before the jury arrives at its final decision - it's still all to play for, Derry.
  • 11:08
    I’m still recovering from Saturday night. It was the television event of the year to date. Sparkly one-pieces. Dazzling special effects. A terrifying time-warp. Bombastic beats. Hilarious one-liners. Lesbian power-couples. Impossible girls.

    The Doctor Who series finale had it all.
  • 11:15
    If, for some strange reason, you missed Eurovision, however, here's the winning entry from Denmark's Emmelie de Forest, the cross between Isla Fisher and Diana Vickers who brought us her very own Scandi-Shakira with bonus tin whistle.

    Altogether now: How many times can we win and lose? / How many times can we break the rules between us? / Only teardrops

  • 11:22
    Now, back to some real news: There has been a "disturbing failure of governance" in some public bodies in relation to their use of personal information about welfare claimants, Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has warned this morning.

    His office carried out a major audit of the Garda's Pulse system during the year and uncovered widespread inappropriate access to records - including information about celebrities - by Gardai.

    Oh dear. Isn't that what Daily Mail Online is for?
  • 11:27
    The correct answer to Monday news quiz question no. 2 was d) the part of last night’s episode of The Fall where the killer applied red nail varnish to his victim’s fingers.

    But I’d have accepted e) none of the above, it’s the prospect of a rapid surge in the pollen count.
  • 11:42
    The Workers Party has put out a statement on the abortion hearings, which this morning is throwing questions at Ireland's quota of perinatal psychiatrists - all three of them. Party spokeswoman Valerie Hayes says: "It is very clear that a vocal and reactionary minority within Fine Gael, with the total support of the Catholic hierarchy and extremist pressure groups like Youth Defence and the Iona Institute, are intent on using the entire legislative process, and these hearings in particular, to make this legislation even more restrictive than it already is."

  • 11:48
    Our report on the first part of today's 10 whole hours of health committee abortion hearings is here.
  • 11:56
    Gnomes designed by celebrities including Elton John (his is in the centre) on display at the Chelsea Flower Show, London. Never trust a gnome. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
    Gnomes designed by celebrities including Elton John (his is in the centre) on display at the Chelsea Flower Show, London. Never trust a gnome. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
  • 12:12
    Here's an extract from Alan Shatter's speech at the citizenship ceremonies in Dublin:

    "For those of you granted citizenship today you are becoming citizens of a republic, a constitutional democracy which recognises the personal rights of each of you as individuals and which greatly values inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity."

    Which country are they becoming a citizen of then? It doesn't sound like the one I live in.
  • 12:17
    The 3Ts suicide prevention authority campaign has launched its Suicide in Ireland Survey Report, which you can read here. It's written by Prof Kevin Malone of UCD and it contains "the science and humanity behind stories of lives lost to suicide".
  • 12:39

    John B. Keane’s 1960 play Many Young Men of Twenty (said goodbye) was "referring to young men heading off to war", Prof Malone said at the launch of his report on suicide in Ireland. “Fifty years later, suicide is our war for young men."

    The report documents some heart-breaking encounters with State services: "Case studies of some families’ experiences in the time leading up to their loved ones’ deaths included reports of difficulty in receiving proper health care and treatment. One family reported that their son had been 'stitched up in A/E, given a month’s prescription and sent home' with another family citing that they had been sent to another hospital with a note that read 'Sorry, not our area'."

    Things weren't much better in the post-trauma phase, with one family reporting they had been told their daughter "would have been hospitalised if she had VHI".

  • 13:00
    Listen, Cmdr Hadfield was last week's hero. Now we've got "astro-mom" Karen Nyberg, (Ground Control to) Major Tim Peake and the rest of Expedition 36 to look up to - literally. No pressure!
  • 13:35
    Yahoo! chief executive Marissa Mayer has confirmed reports that the purple-hued tech giant is buying blogging network Tumblr for around $1.1 billion - which she naturally did via her Tumblr account. "It was no surprise to me that David Karp is one of the nicest, most empathetic people I’ve ever met," she says of the Tumblr founder who has just made a packet on the deal.

    So yes, Keep Calm and Carry On Trying to Make Yahoo! Cool. (Hint: Start by ditching the Keep Calm thing.)
  • 13:39
    Abortion window-dressing:
  • 13:44
    Iron Man III has taken just three weeks to overtake Les Misérables at the Irish box office, collecting more than €2.5 million to date, according to these figures. So that's Iron Man, one. The combined forces of Wolverine, Catwoman, Maximus the Gladiator and Borat, nil.
  • 13:52
    Here's the latest on Shatter vs Wallace. The media has a mixed relationship with Alan Shatter. On the one hand, he's always threatening to bring in a privacy law. But on the other hand, his name lends itself to puntastic headlines.
  • 13:57
    The Monday news quiz question no. 3: Who is feeling more downcast today?

    a) Tottenham Hotspur supporters.
    b) Irish people who view Eurovision success as some kind of validation of their national identity, as opposed to just a fun pop competition.
    c) Everyone who auditioned for Louis Walsh’s new boyband and didn’t get a callback.
    d) Everyone who auditioned for Louis Walsh’s new boyband and did get a callback.
  • 14:10
    This is an important story by Martin Wall on an ADHD postcode lottery. Should ADHD be classed as a mental illness under the terms of the long-term illness scheme? Medical officers in different parts of the country have different views.
  • 14:13
    One for the road: Here's the final scene from the last ever episode of Cheers, which aired on the American television network NBC on May 20th, 1993. That’s 20 years ago to the day, ageing readers.

  • 14:26
    The answer to Monday news quiz question no. 3 is a) Tottenham Hotspur supporters, and here's why.
  • 14:34
    Speaking of football, the pick of tonight's television is likely to be BBC One's one-hour Panorama special into the Hillsborough cover-up. It's called Hillsborough: How They Buried the Truth and it's on at 9pm.
  • 14:39
    One important finding from the 3Ts Suicide in Ireland report published this morning concerns the cluster effect. The phenomenon of suicide clusters has been underestimated, according to author Prof Kevin Malone. “Our findings suggest that up to 50 per cent of our under-18 suicide deaths in Ireland may be part of couplets or clusters.”

    A young suicide death can reverberate so intensely in smaller closed communities that the whole community is at increased risk for at least a year, and also at anniversaries.
  • 14:44
    Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has his back up against a wall. Politically and literally. Here he is at the Convention Centre Dublin earlier. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien / THE IRISH TIMES
    Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has his back up against a wall. Politically and literally. Here he is at the Convention Centre Dublin earlier. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien / THE IRISH TIMES
  • 14:55
    If it's not taxation, it's privacy. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt may be adept at making his company's position sound perfectly reasonable, but the "Google is evil" forces are fast organising themselves into a coherent force. Here's what Nick Pickles, director of the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, has to say about its new augmented-reality eyeglasses, as reported via PA:

    “Google Glass doesn’t just challenge our assumptions about consent, it challenges whether we even have a choice any more. It makes it seem perfectly normal to collect data on other people, without ever asking their permission and that is a dangerous step that poses a fundamental threat to our current notion of privacy.

    “People wearing Google Glass don’t own the data, they don’t control the data and they definitely don’t know what happens to the data. This is turning members of the public into a Google army, collecting data for the sole benefit of selling advertising and boosting Google’s profits."

    Not a fan, then. And in tomorrow's news: Schmidt "welcomes the debate" on privacy.
  • 15:16
    The Happy New Ear Campaign have asked for a meeting with the Taoiseach, after Minister for Health James Reilly was apparently “too busy” to sit down with them. “He has fobbed us off at every opportunity,” says Lorraine Murphy, whose daughter Anna’s implant failed leaving her in an unnecessary silence.

    “It is international best practice to have double cochlear implants, yet in Ireland our children only receive one,” says campaign member Danielle Ryan. The campaign group wants funding for double cochlear implants for deaf children to be ring-fenced in the Budget.

    Enda Kenny can hear, but will he listen?
  • 15:25
    Here's another picture from the Chelsea Flower Show, just because I have no garden and am obliged to live vicariously through agency photographers: It's a 'Ladybird' plant. Photograph: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
    Here's another picture from the Chelsea Flower Show, just because I have no garden and am obliged to live vicariously through agency photographers: It's a 'Ladybird' plant. Photograph: REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth
  • 15:31
    I'm now waiting for Enda to do his commencement speech and pick up his doctorate in Boston. I'll be crushingly disappointed if this whole exercise doesn't involve at least three cringe moments, half a dozen references to The Gathering and/or the diaspora and some form of silly hat.


  • 15:42
    I am learning more than I ever expected to know about the achievements of Wayne Budd, Mary Lou DeLong, Cornelia Kelley and James Woods, the four other people picking up honorary degrees at Boston College today.
  • 15:49
    Breaking: Enda Kenny is not wearing a silly hat. This is outrageous. The others wore hats.

    The Taoiseach is speaking now. "Bond of hope and history", "enduring kindness", etc. A weather joke about rain-soaked Seattle during his last trip. "I felt right at home."

    Enda is reliving the fear, hunger, starvation and emigration of the potato blight. "We remember who we were in those dark years." We're never allowed to forget, in fairness.
  • 15:54
    From our Washington correspondent:
  • 16:03
    Enda has just segued from Cmdr Hadfield to Rosa Parks. I'm not sure how that happened. He's talking about leadership now. And now digital evolution.

    "Being left alone for even five minutes is highly unlikely in your 24/7 always-on world," he says, before digressing into a whistlestop tour through Cold War history. Chocolate. BMWs. Blue jeans. This speech is eclectic.

    Oh, he's onto carbon dioxide levels. "Sitting in his tin can, Major Tom was wrong. Planet Earth is blue. But there is something you can do."
  • 16:32
    The reference to blue jeans in Kenny's commencement speech was in fact his tribute to the work of Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis, who picked up US Patent number 139, 121 on this day, May 20th, in 1873. Enda describes this as "the birthday of what for some was the ultimate symbol of freedom".

    Personally, I've always found denim rather restricting.
  • 16:43
    Britain's Prince Harry jokes with what looks like a republican baby as he attends the opening of the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre for injured service personnel in south-west England. Photograph: REUTERS/Mark Richards/Pool
    Britain's Prince Harry jokes with what looks like a republican baby as he attends the opening of the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre for injured service personnel in south-west England. Photograph: REUTERS/Mark Richards/Pool
  • 16:49
    Meanwhile, in stock market news, the Iseq index has climbed 1.4 per cent today to its highest level since the dark days of September 2008 that we don't like to talk about. This is in no small part thanks to a warm market response to Ryanair's profit-spinning and relatively bright outlook - its share price ascended comfortably, free of turbulence. Indeed, Ryanair is flying higher than it ever has before. Its stock rose 7 per cent to €6.78 in Dublin today, the highest share price since the airline's initial public offering in May 1997. Just wait until it starts charging for wifi.
  • 17:00
    Rod Stewart is as surprised as you are that his new album Time has gone to number one in the UK charts - the first time such a thing has occurred since he stuck out a greatest hits volume in 1979. "I’m over the moon, absolutely over the moon. It’s a long time in between but it’s always worth waiting for,” he said. Over to you, Daft Punk.
  • 17:07
    It's been a day of "wrecking amendments" and counter-wrecking amendments in Britain on the Gay Marriage Bill front, and the BBC is reporting that the bill is now likely to pass this evening, largely because Labour MPs are expected to back David Cameron and save him from his own backbenchers.
  • 17:16
    Did I mention I had a lovely time on a little holiday to Florida late last week? They have excellent supermarkets there.
  • 17:17
    Spacewalking is not as easy as it looks, Major Tim Peake is now telling Emily Maitlis on the BBC News Channel.
  • 17:23
    Meanwhile, Laura Marling's new album is streaming live on IrishTimes.com, if you're stuck on public transport and would like to be taken to a better place. Now I remain unconvinced that Marling will ever be able to top Night Terror off her first album, but I'll be pressing the play button on this, her fourth record, Once I Was An Eagle, with as open a mind as I can muster:
  • 17:33
    The Shatter situation isn't going anywhere fast, if Fianna Fáil has anything to do with it. Justice spokesman Niall Collins says Shatter's explanation for his inappropriate use of private and personal information is totally unacceptable and that the Minister has "completely missed the point" in trying to excuse his behaviour. It's a resignation issue, he insists, mentioning concepts like "respect" and "dignity" and "trust" that may be unfamiliar to aficionados of Irish political theatre.
  • 17:43
    David Cameron's spokesman has told Bloomberg he "was not aware of any bilateral meetings" between the British prime minister and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt - both men attended a regular gathering of executives in London today. Cameron intends to lead efforts on global tax reform during Britain's presidency of the G8 - or at least he plans to give some lip service to the idea. Tomorrow it's the turn of Apple in the taxation spotlight, as chief executive Tim Cook goes before a US Senate hearing into companies' offshore tax practices. Expect to hear the words "Double Irish" used witheringly.
  • 17:52
    These ladies are followers of John the Baptist, aka Mandaeans. In the background, a believer is baptised in the Lek River near Houten in the Netherlands. Today is a holy day for Mandaeans all over the world. Photograph: REUTERS/Michael Kooren
    These ladies are followers of John the Baptist, aka Mandaeans. In the background, a believer is baptised in the Lek River near Houten in the Netherlands. Today is a holy day for Mandaeans all over the world. Photograph: REUTERS/Michael Kooren
  • 18:03
    And on that surprisingly religious note, I conclude today's live news blog, having lost all remaining semblance of muscle tone and 40 per cent my eyesight. I'm off now to solve the fodder crisis and/or think about what I have done. The Live News Blog will be back tomorrow. It's only a day away.