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Connacht Tribune

PAC leaves no room to duck the tough questions

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Catherine Connolly

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

To the left hand side of Leinster House lies a modern annex, not really visible from the main gates. It is called LH2000. Many TDs and Senators have offices there and there is a nice cafe, opening out into an internal courtyard with an artificial pond.

Every year a duck arrives into the pond with a brood of ducklings and stays there for a week. Then some guys from the Office of Public Works arrive to take away the duck and ducklings, because they are (literally) sitting ducks for predatory seagulls who think nothing of carrying the little fluffy ones away.

Talking of sitting ducks and predatory seagulls, the most important work in LH2000 takes place deep in the basement.

That houses four modern committee rooms, complete with automatic TV cameras and sophisticated audio equipment. It’s there the Oireachtas committees meet.

Most of the work they do is really important but not all that exciting. They do pre-legislative scrutiny on proposed Bills and also do a line-by-line analysis of Bills going through the Dáil. They also scrutinise European Directives and legislation which may well be a fate worse than death.

But they also do high profile stuff. If there’s a controversy over a health overspend, or about Bus Connects, they will haul the head of the HSE or the chief executive of Dublin Bus or the National Transport Authority in, and grill the individuals (especially if the public is up in arms).

Occasionally, special committees are convened to examine a particular issue or legislation. There was a special committee that came up with the SláinteCare proposal for the future of the health services, which will now be implemented – although I would not hold my breath.

The Committee on the Eighth Amendment, which recommended its repeal and the availability of abortion up to twelve weeks, is probably the best known.

The most high profile, and powerful, committee of all is the Public Accounts Committee. Unlike the other committees only TDs are entitled to be members of it. Its chair is always drawn from the main opposition party, in this case Fianna Fáil’s Sean Fleming.

The remit of PAC is to safeguard public money. It is called the watchdog for public finances, there to ensure value-for-money, and to haul back Departments and agencies that are spending money in a spendthrift way without being accountable about it.

Much of its work is based on the work of the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy. His office essentially audits each major Department and agency to ensure public monies are being spent appropriately.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Violent incident in Tuam leaves seven hospitalised

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Gardaí are investigating after an incident in Tuam yesterday left seven people injured.

A violent altercation broke out between a large group at the cemetery in Tuam at about 4pm yesterday.

Around 30 Gardaí responded to the incident at the cemetery on the Athenry Road in Tuam, which broke out following two funerals in the area.

Gardaí supported by members from the wider North Western Region and the Regional Armed Support Unit had to physically intervene between parties and disperse those present.

Five males and two females were injured during the course of the incident and were taken to University Hospital Galway with non-life threatening injuries.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested at the scene, as he tried to flee in possession of a knife.

He was taken to Tuam Garda Station and has since been released. A file is being prepared for the Juvenile Liaison Officer.

Gardaí are appealing for any witnesses to this incident or for anyone with any information to contact Tuam Garda Station .

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Connacht Tribune

Anger over ANC ‘snip’

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Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue

ANGRY farmers hit out during last week’s Galway IFA at the Dept. of Agriculture over what they described as their ‘heavy handed tactics’ in docking BEAM penalties from ANC payments made last week.

Although Agriculture Minister, Charlie McConalogue, has apologised for the actions taken by his Department officials, delegates who attended last Thursday’s night county IFA meeting in the Claregalway Hotel, hit out at what happened.

In some cases, according to Galway IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, farmers who had already paid back the BEAM penalty also had the money deducted from their ANC (Areas of Natural Constraint) payments made last week.

Many farmers received ‘a shock in the post’ when their ANC payments were hit with the deductions of penalties from the BEAM scheme – earlier they had been warned of interest penalties if any balances weren’t repaid within 30 days.

At the core of the problem was the inclusion of a 5% stock numbers reduction in the BEAM scheme (Beef Exceptional Aid Measure) aimed at helping to compensate farmers for a drop-off in beef prices between September, 2018 and May, 2019.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Siblings find each other – and their Connemara roots – after 80 years

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Reunited...Pat and Miceál McKeown outside their mother Síle’s birthplace in Carna.

By Erin Gibbons

A family separated for over 80 years was reunited at the end of an emotional journey in Connemara last weekend – thanks to DNA testing and the expert help of heritage researchers.

Pat McKeown, who lives in Staffordshire in the UK, is the daughter of Síle Gorham from Roisín Na Mainiach, Carna – but she was given up for adoption and reared for a time in a Belfast Mother and Baby Home.

Now, at the age of 81, she found her roots – returning to her mother’s native place for the first time last weekend, in the company of her long-lost brother Micheál.

It was an emotional end to a lifelong search for her roots that even led her to hire a private detective to try and locate her family and to discover her name.

All of this proved unsuccessful – and she had effectively given up her search when she was contacted unexpectedly by a man called Miceál McKeown, who turned out to be her brother.

Micheál – an artist and sculptor – and his daughter Orla had made the connection through DNA testing, after Miceál too had set out to discover more about his own roots.

That revealed that Síle Gorham had married Michael McKeown in 1939, and Síle went on to have three more children named Áine, Séan and Miceál.

Pat visited Connemara last weekend for the first time to learn about her mother Síle and the Connemara ancestry which she feels was robbed from her for her entire 81 years.

She was accompanied by Miceál, his wife Rosemary, daughter Orla and son-in-law Rueben Keogh.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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