Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable

Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable

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  • Category Archives Investigative Journalism
  • Garda Fallon Murder Investigation

    Fallon Family Continue To Seek Justice

    “This event was not only a dreadful tragedy for all of them but also a heinous crime against the State” Minister of Justice Alan Shatter

    The on-going cold case investigation into the brutal murder of Garda Richard Fallon in April 1970 has again encountered serious problems. An Garda Siochana’s Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT) lead by Detective Inspector Eamonn Henry has admitted in a meeting with Garda Fallon’s son Finian Fallon that physical evidence vital to the case has been lost.

    This follows on from a 2011 admission by the SCRT that they had “misplaced” the original case file. Frustrated and dismayed by the lack of progress being made into the investigation of his Father’s murder. Finian Fallon has now registered an official complaint with the Garda Ombudsman about the missing evidence.

    Commenting on the missing evidence Mr Fallon stated that “It’s deeply disappointing that this has happened. I shake my head when I think about it. How can this kind of material be just lost?” Sergeant Whelan from the Garda Press Office commented that Detective Inspector Henry confirmed that “the preliminary review is on-going and the Fallon family have been updated as to this position.” Responding to this Finian Fallon made it clear that ““this is a very perfunctory and disappointing response, and the length of time it has taken to conduct this preliminary investigation has been ridiculous.”

    A letter written by Justice Minister Alan Shatter in 2012 regarding the Garda Fallon murder case states that “I wish to express my deepest sympathy to the family. This event was not only a dreadful tragedy for all of them but also a heinous crime against the State.”

    Regarding the Fallon family’s repeated calls for a full independent inquiry into Garda Fallons murder, Minister Shatter went on to say that “the case is currently being reviewed by An Garda Siochana’s Serious Crime Review Team, I think the best approach for present is to allow that review take its course.”

    Mr Fallon also remains convinced that current Fine Gael Chairperson Charlie Flanagan made verbal assurances to the Fallon family that a full independent Inquiry into the murder would be conducted. On this issue Finian informed me that “Charlie Flanagan assured me that the government would undertake some kind of independent review. I took Deputy Flanagan at his word and hope Fine Gael will do the right thing after the SCRT review is complete. There is something rotten here, it should be acknowledged.”

    Responding to this Charlie Flanagan stated that “I would not have the power to give anyone assurances about establishing an inquiry, however what I can say is that this is a matter of grave concern and it is one of a number of capital murders that remain unresolved.”

    Mr Flanagan went on to say that “I have written to the Taoiseach and the Minister of Justice expressing my concern about the case, and I am awaiting publication of the SCRT report, I am hoping that the report will contain certain recommendations and my understanding is that this report will be published within weeks, and it is a matter of concern for me that the Garda Fallon murder remains unresolved, and I would be anxious to assist the family in any way possible in this regard.”

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  • ECT Kill or Cure?

    Three days after Mary gave birth to her first child Clare in 1976 she was treated with Electro- Convulsive Therapy. ECT is administered by passing an electrical current through the brain via electrodes applied to the scalp. This is done to induce seizures that some in the psychiatric profession still believe to be an effective and necessary treatment.

    Mary Haddock 63 is a retired music teacher from Cork. Mrs Haddock was administered with this treatment a further 12 times after the initial does of ECT over the course of several weeks. Mary was given Nitrous Oxide during the birth of her child; this is a commonly used gas in the medical profession. However Mary had a very negative reaction to the gas and this resulted in her being sent to Sarsfiled Court psychiatric Hospital in Cork for further treatment.

    Speaking about the effect of the treatment of Mary said that she “has no recollection of being given ECT” and “lots of things of the hospital admission I don’t remember like where I slept or where I ate”. Following on from this experience Mary was too traumatised to have another child of her own but four years later her and her husband Jim adopted their second child called Sheena.

    Mary is convinced that her treatment with ECT had a debilitating impact on her life and she felt she was being used as a “guinea pig” by psychiatrics and doctors who were trying a variety of treatments and drugs on her. Getting over this very difficult period in her life and on overcoming the stigma of being classed as a person with a mental illness, Mary said that “ it is very hard to address this in your own life once you are labelled, labels come off jars but they don’t come off people”. Mary said that she would like to see the new minister for health “completely ban the use of ECT” in the State.

    ECT continues to be used as a method of treatment in psychiatric units throughout the country. It is a highly controversial issue that has divided the medical community both here and abroad. It has been scrapped in many other European countries and new research into the procedure suggests that it leads to long term memory loss, and a 2007 study in Denmark concluded that patients treated with ECT were more likely to become suicidal.

    A report published last year into the effectiveness of ECT written by John Read from the University of Auckland New Zealand and Richard Bentall from Bangor University in Wales have concluded that “given the strong evidence of persistent and for some permanent brain dysfunction and the evidence of a slight but increased risk of death, the cost benefit analysis for ECT is so poor that’s its use can no longer be justified”

    In Ireland in 2008 ECT was administered to 407 patients, 43 of those patients were treated with ECT involuntarily. It is this involuntary application of ECT on patients who have not consented to the treatment that is causing the most controversy. Section 59 (b) of the  2001 mental health act gives a patients psychiatrist the legal power to enforce this treatment on any patient in their care as long as they obtain the signature of another consultant psychiatrist.

    One treatment of ECT can include up to 12 individual sessions. This is a situation that Dr Pat Bracken the Clinical Director of the West Cork mental health service wants to see urgently changed. Dr Bracken said “in his view it is wrong to be given such a controversial treatment without your consent”.  And that “one of the most startling things about ECT is the massive variance in its usage both within Ireland and Europe”.

    Dr Barcken went on to say that he believes it is apparent that “some psychiatrists in Ireland are clearly ECT enthusiasts” and that there needs to be a much more considered approach with the application of this treatment. Based on the statistics on the use of ECT in the state it is clear where you live in the country effects your chances of being given ECT. There is also a large discrepancy in the ratio of males and females treated with ECT; a recent report  indicates that you are twice as likely to be given ECT if you are female than male.

    In 2008 psychiatric hospitals in Galway, Waterford and Dublin hade the largest recorded usage of ECT on patients. In that year five hospitals accounted for the administration of more than 1600 sessions of ECT. These hospitals were, Waterford Regional Hospital, St Brigids Hospital Balinasloe Galway, University College Hospital Galway and in Dublin St Patricks Hospital and St John of God Hospital. None of the hospitals mentioned above were available for comment when contacted for comment.

    To put this figure into context the other 18 hospitals that carried out ECT on patients in 2008 only recorded 1040 individual sessions of ECT. These figures seem to back up Dr Bracken’s theory that there are some individual consultants who are much more likely to treat patients with ECT than their colleagues working in different parts of the country.

    What Dr Barcken wants to see is the law changed so that ECT is not given to a patient without their consent. This view is also supported by John Saunders the CEO of mental health charity SHINE and the College of Psychiatry of Ireland. Both Mr Saunders and the College of Psychiatry have stated that they want the 2001 mental health act revised so that patients in psychiatry hospitals in Ireland cannot be treated with ECT against their will.

    The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture the CPT has recently carried out an inspection of several psychiatric hospitals in Ireland. The CPT found that in one psychiatric hospital “many so called voluntary patients were in reality deprived of their liberty they were accommodated in closed units from where they were not allowed to leave and if staff considered it necessary these patients could be also be subject to seclusion and could be administered medication for prolonged periods against their wishes”.

    The CPT also recorded that some of the living conditions in the hospitals they visited “ left much to be desired”.  On the use of ECT in Irish hospitals the CPT concluded that “a capable patient may be forcibly administered ECT while the same patient may not be forced to take medication”.  The CPT have recommended a range of measures that they want to see implemented that they feel would make the treatment of mental illness in Ireland more effective for the patients and the state.

    John McCarthy from Cork City is the founder of Mad Pride Ireland. He has been married for 36 years to his wife Liz, and he has her to thank or not being treated with ECT. John was a successful business man; however he suffered a mental breakdown after he ran into serious financial difficulty.

    While John was receiving treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Dublin, his doctor told him that as his health insurance was running out he wanted to treat him with ECT to see if it would make any difference to his condition. John’s wife Liz told the hospital that her husband was not to be treated with ECT and the psychiatrist did not go ahead with the procedure. This was basically because John was a private patient so he had some control over his treatment.

    Speaking about his battle with mental illness Johns said that “I attempted suicide and you can’t get much lower than that, but thankfully I failed which was a good thing as I can now hold my grandsons”. John feels that the treatment he received for his condition was completely inappropriate as he recalls “they kept toping up the medications as they didn’t fix and eventually I started walking around like a zombie”. As John became increasingly frustrated and angry with the treatment he was being given he discharged himself from hospital and now leads a medication free life.

    As John comments “I would never have given any thought to mental health until I had a break down”. John started Mad Pride Ireland after his experience with the mental health system in Ireland and his long held belief that current mental health system in Ireland is making it harder for patients to recover from their problems.

    John has invested over 100,000 euro of his own money into the orginisation in his attempt to change the perception of people with mental illness and the legal protection that allows consultant psychiatrist to administer ECT to any patient under their care, regardless of the patient’s personal wishes. As John concludes what he is trying to do is make people understand that  “It’s about love it’s about laughter, it’s about simplicities it’s about holding each other as a community it’s not rocket science”.

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  • Fallon murder file missing

    The ongoing investigation into the murder of Garda Richard Fallon has run into serious difficulty as it now appears that the original case file has been mislaid.

    Garda Fallon was shot dead in April 1970 on Dublin’s Arran Quay as he tried to prevent a bank robbery. He was the first member of the force to be awarded the Scott gold medal for bravery

    Richard Fallons son Finian has said  that he believes the file has gone missing due to information he received from the Serious Crime Review Team who are currently investigation the unsolved murder. Commenting on the current situation Mr Fallon said that “the system is exposing its failings and weaknesses”.

    Speaking to on the issue Detective Inspector Eamon Henry refused to comment on the issue stating that he “could not divulge any information about the case” and that the SCRT were “dealing directly with the family”. The last investigation into the case was carried out in 2006 by the new Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who was then an Assistant Commissioner.

    In relation to this new development Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten said that “it was unbelievable that the file on Garda Fallons murder has gone missing”.  Mr Naughten concluded by saying that “an urgent independent review off all of the available evidence is now warranted”.

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  • TD calls for enquiry into Fallon Murder

    Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten, has stated that there should be a full independent enquiry into the murder of Garda Richard Fallon. Speaking on the issue Deputy Naughten said that “if there is nothing to hide here, send in someone who could independently review all off the information and come to a conclusion”.

    Mr Naughten said that in his opinion “there was some type of a cover up in relation to Garda Fallon’s death”. This is a view that has been long held by Garda Fallon’s son Finian Fallon in his continued search for justice for his family.

    Mr Naughten went on to say that he did not believe that the Fallon case is closed “until those final questions and doubts that the family have are clarified once and for all, and that is the very least the state should do for a member of the force that died in the line of duty trying to protect this state at a very difficult time in our history”.

    Mr Naughten’s comments come a week after as the Serious Crime Review Team (SCRT), indicated that they are going to launch a preliminary review of the Murder of Garda Fallon that took place in April 1970.Garda Fallon was shot dead as  tried to prevent an armed robbery at the Royal Bank of Ireland on Arran Quay in Dublin.

    Former Sunday World journalist Sean Boyne has alleged in his 2006 book into republican gunrunning in Ireland that there were many questions still to be answered in relation to the murder. One of the claims contained in the Book is that Padraig Jock Haughey the brother of the late Taoiseach Charley Haughey had been seen in London with members of Saor Eire (the group largely blamed for the killing) and had been importing arms into the Irish Republic for use by the provisional IRA and other paramilitary organisations. And that some of the arms obtained were used in the murder of Garda Fallon.

    Deputy Naughten asked the Minister for Justice if an unpublished state file has been shown to Mr Boyne that included a picture of Jock Haughey in London with a named member of Saor Eire. Minister Ahern replied by saying that “my department did not provide information to the author from any files retained by my department”.

    There is an Irish Government file on the murder of Garda Fallon that was due to be released in 2001 but is still currently being suppressed. Mr Naughten said that the file “has gone past the 30 year rule and there is obviously some reason why the file has not been released. The Roscommon Deputy also said that “my genuine fear is that the file may go missing as has happened in the past to other files”.

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  • Nanny State?

     It was an average October evening in 2005 in Dun Laoghaire Co. Dublin. As eight friends gathered for what was meant to be a party at Colm Hodkinsons flat. The party however turned to tragedy.  Colm Hodkinson had bought some magic mushrooms for e25 that day to share with his friends at the party.  About 30 minutes After Colm and his friends had eaten the mushrooms, Colm started to feel unwell and vomited.

    According to reports Colm then had a bad reaction to the mushrooms he had taken and proceeded to run up to the roof of the apartment block and jumped to his death. This was Colms first time taking magic mushrooms.  He had been told they were safe to use and harmless.

    Following the tragic death of Mr Hodkinson, his family campaigned to have the sale of magic mushrooms banned in any form. They meet with the then Tanaiste Mary Harney in December of 2005. And as a result of that meeting as of the 31st of January 2006 the government under the misuse of drugs act 1977 made it a criminal offence to posses or sell magic mushrooms in Ireland.

    But is this not something of an over reaction by the government. The whole treatment of this substance has been vastly disproportionate to the amount of deaths it is actually responsible for in Ireland. The two drugs responsible for the largest number of Deaths in Ireland are alcohol and tobacco and these can be legally bought throughout the country.

    This trend of governments across Europe banning the sale and possession of magic mushrooms based on one individual tragedy is becoming increasingly common. In the United Kingdom they implemented a similar law in 2005 when, 31-year-old man Robert McCracken jumped to his death from the 23rd floor of his apartment complex in Manchester.

    Mr. McCracken became agitated after consuming some Magic Mushrooms, and had became paranoid  that a taxi driver may be chasing him into his flat because of an unpaid taxi fair. Speaking at the inquest into his death his girlfriend Miss Gascoyne said “I don’t think it was suicide there was no indication that he would do something like that, it was the effect of the mushrooms”

    Later that year the British government moved to make magic mushrooms a controlled substance and it became illegal from April 2005, and was classified as a class A drug.

    What came as a surprise to many people this year was the decision of the Netherlands, which has the most liberal drug laws in Europe to ban the sale of magic mushrooms. This change in the law followed the death of a 17 year old French girl who was on a school trip to Amsterdam in March of 2007.

    The Dutch government took this step after, according to police reports she had jumped off the Nemo building in Amsterdam. This is a famous building in the city that is a popular place for tourists to visit. Speaking after their daughter’s death the parents of the girl said that they “hold the state responsible for her death, because the sale of mushrooms is legal.”From the 1st of December 2008 magic mushrooms were made illegal in Holland.

     With the sale of magic mushrooms becoming prohibited throughout more European countries the only thing governments will have achieved is to push the profits from the sale of mushrooms back into the pockets of drug dealers.

    The major problem for the government is that the banning of magic mushrooms will not stop its supply or use and may lead to more problems in the long term. As Joep Oomen of the European Coalition for just and effective drug polices said “prohibition will not stop the sale of hallucinogenics, it will move towards an illegal market and users will be forced to start using things they do not want, with having no indication of the dosage and the risks.”

    However although magic mushrooms have been attributed to very few deaths in Ireland, it must still be remembered that they are a drug that can be very harmful. Magic mushrooms contain psilocin and psilocybin . These compounds are psychedelics. They will cause an effect similar to a “trip” on LSD. Loss of reality may be experienced and severe anxiety and paranoia can occur.

    The oldest representations of hallucinogenic mushrooms in the world are in The Sahara Desert. They were produced 7000-9000 years ago. The idea that the use of hallucinogens should be a source of inspiration for some forms of prehistoric rock art is not a new one. After a brief examination of instances of such art, this article intends to focus its attention on a group of rock paintings in the Sahara Desert, the works of pre-neolithic Early Gatherers, in which mushrooms effigies are represented repeatedly. The ritualistic scenes of harvest, adoration and the offering of mushrooms, to large masked gods covered with mushrooms, not to mention other significant details, lead archeologists to think that they were dealing with an ancient hallucinogenic mushroom cult. What is remarkable about these ethno -mycological works, produced 7,000 – 9,000 years ago, is that they could indeed reflect the most ancient human culture as yet documented in which the ritual use of hallucinogenic mushrooms is explicitly represented.

    Further evidence in support of the idea that the relationship between Man and hallucinogens is an ancient one comes from the ancient populations of the Sahara desert who inhabited this vast area when it was still covered with an extensive layer of vegetation. The archeological findings consist of prehistoric paintings which the author in Algeria. This could be the most ancient finding up to the present day, and shows culturally how important these hallucinogens were to ancient civilisations.  

    Magic Mushrooms have long been compared to cannabis as being a “gateway drug” that leads users on to harder drugs. Jennifer Brennan from the Ana Liffey Drug project said that she thinks “the prospect of the government relaxing any law that controls illegal drugs is a bad idea” she also said that “recovering addicts have enough problems trying to stay clean without legal hallucinogens being available”. The organisation based in north inner city Dublin is a project that works with people, experiencing addiction to minimise the harm that problematic drug use causes. Mrs Brennan finished by saying that she “supported the Irish government’s decision to ban magic mushrooms”.

    This is a view that has angered the many owners of Head shops throughout Ireland, these shops had made a good trade from the selling of magic mushrooms. The Manager of the Nirvana head shop on Capel Street, Dublin John McDonald said that he “thinks the government making magic mushrooms illegal was a complete over-reaction”. Mr McDonald added that “he knows that the availability of mushrooms have no connection to the use of harder drugs in Ireland.”

    Although government policy has lead to magic mushrooms being branded as a harmful drug there has been new research conducted at the John Hopkins University in America. That may change the way the medical community looks at hallucinogenic mushrooms. The researches argue that therapeutic potential can be found in hallucinogenic drugs. And that their use in the treatment of medical problems such as, depression, drug addiction and chronic pain should be re-examined.

    The study involved 30 middle-aged volunteers who had religious or spiritual interests. The volunteers attended two eight-hour sessions, two months apart, where they were given psilocybin the active ingredient in magic mushrooms  at one session and the non-hallucinogen Ritalin at the other; they were not told which drug was which. The study reports that in more than 60 per cent of cases the experience with psilocybin qualified as a full mystical experience based on established psychological states. Eight out of ten of the volunteers reported moderately or greatly increased well being or life satisfaction.

    Figures from the Irish Health research board from 2005 show that there were 59 deaths that were directly because of alcohol consumption in that year. Hallucinogens are the cause of so few deaths in Ireland that they are bracketed with barbiturates hallucinogens, cannabis and other chemicals. And in 2005 these combined substances resulted in only 6 deaths.

    Further statistics from the office of Tobacco Control in Ireland; show that smoking is thought to be the cause of approximately 6,000 deaths in Ireland every year. And that around 30 per cent of all cancer deaths in Ireland are attributed to smoking. Figures on the cost to the state to provide health services for smokers from the OTC state that it cost’s 1 billion euro a year.

    The problem with figures like these is it shows how in relation to one incident the government moved to make hallucinogenic mushrooms illegal. Rather than addressing the larger problem of alcohol and tobacco related deaths in Ireland. If the statistics from the Health Research Board is looked at over an eight-year period from 1998 to 2005 alcohol has been connected with 24 per cent of all drug related deaths while hallucinogens have been connected with only 2 per cent of fatalities.

     While it is a tragedy when anybody dies suddenly dies when taking drugs. The Irish government should focus more on educating people about drugs and there dangers rather than their regulation. As mushrooms are now banned in Ireland, because in the governments view, they expose the citizens of Ireland to an unacceptable risk, then according to this mentality alcohol and tobacco should also be made illegal as they contribute to the deaths of thousands of people every year in Ireland. However the fact the these drugs are so social acceptable  makes it  inconceivable that such laws will ever be passed in Ireland, regardless to the problems these legal drugs continue to  cause in Irish society.

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  • Restaurant Industry

    You have just worked for 75 hours this week you are exhausted angry and feel like you are being exploited. In return for your labour you have been paid a pittance by your employer and threatened that if you complain about the conditions of your work then your job, family or even your personal safety could be in danger. Where are you? in Some underdeveloped country that operates far from the jurisdiction of the  European Union and the rights they supposedly safeguard? ,no you are in Ireland  and you have just been introduced to the reality of being a migrant worker in restaurants throughout the country.

    Thousands of people go out every night to eat across Ireland. This is still one of the most traditionally valued symbols of love in Ireland, to buy your loved one an expensive meal washed down with a bottle of overpriced wine. Not many of the customers to the nation’s restaurants and food outlets realize just how undervalued and mistreated many of the staff that prepare and cook their meals actually are. If the scale of this widespread abuse was publicised, people would be left with more than just a bad taste in their mouths left by that bottle of cheap red wine.

    The restaurant sector in Ireland has undergone a period of tremendous growth over the last ten years.  This industry is a large source of jobs to the Irish economy, and it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of euros is spent on eating out each year in Ireland. The fact that many people in Ireland choose to eat out more regularly now, and that there has never been more choice in what sort of food is available to diners will come as no surprise to most people.

    What many people may not be aware of however is that there is widespread exploitation of workers in restaurants and food outlets throughout Ireland. This exploitation of workers takes place among mainly migrant workers. The main reason that this mistreatment of staff goes largely unpunished is that the victims are in most cases illegal immigrants who are warned by their unscrupulous employers that if they contact the authorities about their working conditions they will be imprisoned or deported. However even if a migrant is legally working in this country with a work permit, permits are mostly specific to an employer or a profession and it is difficult for a worker if they are being mistreated to change the status of their work permit or leave their current employer.

    So how bad are conditions that many people are being forced to work in?  A recent report published by the Migrant Centre of Ireland the (MRCI) highlighted that in some cases workers are being paid rates of just 2 euro an hour and working in excess of 75 hours a week. A recent inspection by the National Employment rights authority of 850 catering business’s found that 76 per cent of business’s inspected were in breach of employment law.

    This problem has not happened overnight. There has been for many years a problem with the treatment of migrant workers in the hospitality industry. One case that was highlighted recently in the press was the case of a Pakistani man who was paid 50 Euros a week over a period of five years in a Dublin restaurant. The man was threatened by his employer with the loss of his work permit and deportation if he went to the authorities. In this case the worker was represented by the MRCI at the Labour relations committee and was awarded 116,000 euro in compensation.

    Outcomes such as this one is very much the exception in Ireland, with thousands more workers in this industry being currently exploited. The Irish governments own legislation does nothing to help the situation as non EU migrant workers who obtain the legal right to work Ireland are restricted by their work permit to working with a specific employer and job, obviously this leads to abuse of power by employers as migrant workers are then unable to legally seek alternative employment.

    The stories that are reported in the press are only the tip of the iceberg as far as this problem is concerned. Take for example the story of Li who travelled to Wexford from China in search of what he thought was going to be a better life. Li paid 380,000 Yuan (30,000e) to a woman in China who told him that she could get him documents to work in Ireland as a chef and after a period of five years he could claim citizenship.

    When Li arrived in Ireland he states that “I was one of eight people living in a house with no kitchen, I worked long hours and was paid only 150 Euros a week in cash.” As a result of the conditions Li left the restaurant and his work permit was not renewed by his employer. Li spent the next few years working in very poor conditions in restaurants throughout the country, until in March 2008 he was jailed as he was unable to produce identification to the Garda. Li’s experience is a damning account of how people who come to Ireland looking for a better life are being mistreated.

    Story’s like Li’s have become common place. Edita who came to Ireland in 2007 from Lithuania to work in a restaurant in Blanchardstown Co. Dublin recalls her experience of working in Ireland “I was treated like a dog by my boss and supervisors”, “I worked 12-14 hours a day five and six days a week.”  Jamal who is from Bangladesh, reported that he was paid, 175 Euros per week for 72 hours work. He said this treatment left him “very angry and depressed, I felt that I was treated like a slave.”

    The experiences of the people mentioned above reflect how urgently the government and the immigration service’s need to address this problem. Brendan Smith from the Labour Relations council in Ireland said that “it is impossible to know how many migrant workers are actually working and living under these conditions as any illegal or undocumented workers would not want to draw attention from any authority to their situation.

    This issue is not something that will be easy to solve. The problem is so ingrained that it will be difficult to change this culture of abuse. The hospitality industry would argue that if tougher measures are brought in that it will affect the viability of thousands of small businesses throughout the country, that are already facing a drop in profit margins due to the recession. Another argument has also been that if people are prepared to work long hours for low wages is that not their prerogative. In some cases people may accept these conditions but the emphasis must be on employers and the government to make this the exception rather than the rule.

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  • Kenneth Noye

    Vera Philips Griffiths an Irish born grandmother who has lived in Coventry for the last 40 years is going to confront infamous British underworld figure Kenneth Noye in prison to find out the truth about who stabbed her common law husband to death in 1994.

    Colin Hickman was murdered at the front door of his home in 1994 and died in Vera’s arms at the scene of the crime. Vera is seeking to uncover the truth of what happened on that night, as she does not believe that her husbands business partner Timothy Caines who was convicted of the murder in 1995 is guilty.

    The aftermath of that terrible day had massive repercussions for Vera and her family. Vera was herself an early suspect in the case, and the resulting police investigation resulted in her being sacked from her job as a teacher at a local school. Vera also had to rebuild her life after the suffering the trauma of Colin’s murder.

    One of the main reasons for this is that Vera who was an eye witness to Colin’s murder saw a white man running away from the scene of the crime. Timothy Caines is black but he was still found guilty of the murder despite Vera’s testimony.

    Vera told the Sunday World that she is not nervous about confronting convicted killer Kenneth Noye in prison. Speaking about her plans to speak to Noye Vera said that “all I want to do is find out the truth and get some closure on who killed Colin for me and my family.” Vera said that she is plans to visit Noyes in prison as soon as she gets confirmation on what prison he is being held in.

    Vera is also planning on asking Kenneth Noye to sponsor her on a charity tour of Ireland. She said that she was asking Noye to do this in  “retribution for what he has done throughout his life.”

    Vera still spends around five months of the year in Kilkenny City. Her mother and her brother still live in the city. Vera is spending more time in Ireland as her mother who is now 90 years of age is very elderly.

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  • Garda Fallon Murder investigation

    The Serious Crime Review Team (Cold Case Unit) headed by Detective Superintendent Christopher Mangan has said that they are going to undertake a preliminary review of the murder of Garda Richard Fallon in April 1970. In conjunction with their investigation the SCRT are going to request the original case file from the Garda Commissioner.

     Garda Fallon’s son Finian Fallon has spoken of his relief that the unsolved murder may now have fresh light shed on it by the possible reopening of the investigation. Finian and his Brother Richard meet with Detective Superintendent Christopher Mangan and Detective Inspector Eamonn Henry in the SCRT headquarters on Harcourt Street in Dublin 2 this week. Finian Fallon said that the meeting resulted “in the most positive development in the case in years.”

                 Mr Fallon said that “he was delighted that the head of the SCRT had meet with him and discussed his fathers murder.” Mr Fallon said that “there is so much corroborating information that has come out over the years that it merits a proper investigating, as has been given to people in the North for cases that raise similar questions in relation to collusion and possible negligence on the part of the Government in terms of people being murdered in the service of the state.”

     The SCRT have scheduled to meet again with the Fallon family in early November for an update on how the investigation is progressing. Finian said that he still believes in 2010 which marks the 40th anniversary of his fathers murder. That the full resources of the state should be put into finding those responsible as “the murder of a Garda was a capital offence so in our constitution there is an explicit recognition of protecting people who are servants of the state.” Mr Fallon said that it is his belief “that the Government are in breach of his family’s constitutional rights” in regards to this issue. He is also convinced that there has been a Government cover up in relation his fathers murder.

     The recent enquiry into the murder of LVF leader Billy Wright in the Maze Prison which cost UK Taxpayers £36 million, has only increased the Fallon’s family call for a similar enquiry to be put in place to investigate the circumstances of Garda Fallon’s death. Speaking on this issue Finian said that “millions were spent on the enquiry of a convicted Loyalist killer, why could a similar investigation not be set up to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of a Garda who was murdered in the service of the State.”

    There is a file on the Murder of Garda Fallon that was due to be released in 2001 but to  this day remains suppressed. Fine Gael and Labour have both stated that they want to see this situation rectified. Mr Charles Flanagan TD the Fine Gail Justice spokesperson said, “even though many years have passed the Fallon family are still suffering and it is incumbent on the government to provide answers”. Commenting on the issue Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said that “on Labours return to Government I would be in favour of a review of whatever files remain either within the Gardai or in Government departments to determine whether there may be any effective way of pursuing the unanswered questions”.

    The Minister for Justice Mr Dermot Ahern was unavailable for comment on the issue, however a press release from his office stated that his position on the matter remains unchanged to comments he made in 2007 in regards to the case. Mr Ahern said then that “The murder of the unarmed Garda in question was fully investigated by the Garda Siochana at the time, and I am unconvinced that there is any further practical step open to me which would likely alter outcomes in this case.”

    Finian Fallon was only three years old when his farther Garda Richard Fallon was gunned down. Garda Fallon had attempted to intercept an armed gang who had just robbed the Royal Bank of Ireland on Arran Quay in Dublin on the 3rd of April 1970. Garda Fallon was shot twice once in the neck and once in the shoulder as he tried to prevent the robbery. Garda Fallon was the first Garda to be murdered in the line of duty in 28 years. And he was the first member of the Gardai to be posthumously awarded the Scott gold medal for bravery.

    Commenting about his family’s reaction at the time of his Fathers murder Finian who now works as a bereavement councillor said that “a death in any family has a devastating impact but especially when it is a violent death”. Speaking about the effect his fathers murder had on him at the time Finian said that as a child he would “stand in his cot having imagined conversations with my father and waiting for him to come home from work.”

    Finian now aged 43 is convinced that his fathers murder lead to the premature death’s of his two brothers Damien Fallon and Joseph Fallon who passed away aged 42 and 41 respectively. His mother Deirdre died in 1994 at the age of 56 and his sister Miriam now lives in South Africa. Finian and his brother Richard are all that is left of the immediate Fallon family in Ireland.

    Three members of Saor Eire were charged with the murder of Garda Fallon but were cleared of all charges at the trial. Mr Fallon has since meet with members of Saor Eire who told him that they are convinced they were framed for his father’s murder. A former member of the organisation who did not wish to be identified that I spoke with told me that “all of those involved in the original trial have called for an enquiry based on the fact that the evidence presented against them was falsified”. To date nobody has ever been convicted of the murder of Garda Fallon a crime that at the time could have resulted in the Death Penalty.

    In his office in Kildare Street in the centre of Dublin I asked Mr Fallon if he still feels any anger about that night in April 1970 when his family’s life was ripped apart for ever. He comes across now as a man who long ago dealt emotionally with his father’s death. As he says himself: “I have moved on from it a lot.”  But he is   determined to continue his search for the truth about those tragic events in April 1970. Commenting on his ongoing campaign Finian concluded by saying that “I see a lot of hope around here, people hope for change and justice all around us, and I see my struggle as part of that, it is not just a means of getting back at someone it is about uncovering things so we can use them for the future instead of using them for the past”.

    Mr Fallon can only speculate about who was responsible for his Fathers murder and if elements within Government were involved in a cover up. However this does not change the  fact that after all these years Finian Fallon, and the rest of the Fallon family deserve to have some answers so they can finally begin to put the ghost’s of the past to rest.

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