Ireland

Thong protest goes viral after Cork rape acquittal

 Protestor Naoise Griffin Richardson in Dublin’s O’Connell St. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Protestor Naoise Griffin Richardson in Dublin’s O’Connell St. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Hundreds of people protested in Dublin city centre on Wednesday to highlight concerns over how rape trials are conducted in Ireland.

A recent case in Co Cork sparked outrage after a defence barrister referred to the 17 year-old complainant's underwear during the trial, in which a man was acquitted of rape.

Organised by a number of feminist organisations, demonstrators held up sets of underwear and signs that read "Stop victim blaming in courts" while chanting "Clothes are not consent".

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith told the crowd that they must organise and fight back against injustice.

"Consistently we see in court where women's bodies have been violated and women are made to feel like it's their fault," she said.

"Prejudice is at the heart of the system itself, no matter where you come from and who you accuse - there is a lack of justice in this country for women.

"This is a nasty unjust system - why are the government not bringing legislation forward to stop this happening in court?"

 Ruth Coppinger TD outside the Dáil where she raised the issue of victim blaming in rape trials.

Ruth Coppinger TD outside the Dáil where she raised the issue of victim blaming in rape trials.

The case was brought to wider public attention on Tuesday when Irish politician Ruth Coppinger held up a thong in the parliament chamber to highlight the outrage felt by some sections of the public.

"Why is nothing yet being done to stop the routine use of rape myths in trials, and how concerned is this Government about the chilling effect this is having on victims coming forward?" Ms Coppinger asked the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as she held the underwear aloft.

Present at the march, Ms Coppinger said it was clear young people will no longer stand by when they believe something is wrong.

"You're always a bit nervous when you do something like that in the Dáil because of the strict rules, but also I wasn't sure how it would go down. I wanted to do it with sensitivity" she said.

"I've been amazed at the response, a massive reaction.

"Normally you get some abuse, but the reaction has been incredibly positive.

"People are sickened by this type of society, sexism, racism or whatever is used to divide people and people are anxious to change that.

"It's reflective of the last five years in Ireland. It's been building, changing attitudes towards the position of women in society, particularly among young people.

"The idea that this could happen in 2018, that what you wear somehow justifies any kind of sexual violence, it's backward."

A popular social media campaign was sparked by the fall-out from the case with women from Ireland and abroad posting pictures of their underwear with the hashtag #Thisisnotconsent.

A victory for hope over fear, says re-elected president

 President Michael D Higgins and his family celebrate his re-election.

President Michael D Higgins and his family celebrate his re-election.

Michael D Higgins has welcomed his re-election as president of Ireland as a vote for hope over fear.

The 77-year-old poet, professor and campaigner secured his second term in office with a landslide margin of more than 55% of the vote.

Speaking in Dublin Castle after he was re-elected, Mr Higgins said: "The people have made a choice as to which version of Irishness they want reflected at home and abroad.

"It is the making of hope they wish to share rather than the experience of any exploitation of division or fear."

He said his version of Ireland is one which draws on traditional genius and contemporary creativity.

"The presidency belongs not only to any one person but to the people of Ireland.

"I will be a president for all the people, for those who voted for me and those who did not.

"I am so proud of this country, I am proud to be a president for all of you and with all of you, and I look forward with joy and hope to all that we will achieve together."

Mr Higgins, who has served at almost every level of politics, is a fluent Irish speaker and a long-time campaigner for equality.

He made history in 2014 when he became the first Irish president to undertake an official state visit to the UK.

There were loud cheers as the father-of-four embraced friends and supporters as he celebrated his victory.

Ireland's premier Leo Varadkar hailed Mr Higgins's re-election as an "historic victory".

"You secured 822,566 first preference votes which is the highest first preference vote by any candidate," he said.

"That is an extraordinary endorsement of the last seven years of your presidency and a really strong mandate for the next term of office over the next seven years."

Businessman Peter Casey, initially an outside contender whose last-minute surge in the polls following critical comments about the Travelling community saw him propelled into second place, got 23% of the vote.

In his speech, Peter Casey congratulated President Higgins.

"It's been amazing, it's been a real experience the past six weeks or so," he said.

"I'd like to congratulate President Higgins and wish Sabina a wonderful seven years.

"I'm sure the sentiments you described so wonderfully there, I'm sure they are shared by everyone here - wishing you all the very, very best."

Gavin Duffy, who gained just 2% of the votes, said: "Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I have regrets? No."

Sinn Fein faced a disappointing result, with candidate Liadh Ni Riada gaining half of the support achieved by the late Martin McGuinness in 2011.

After receiving 6% of the vote, she said it was important the election was held, rather than allowing Mr Higgins to return to office unchallenged.

"The people of Ireland spoke today and spoke with a resounding yes to put Michael D Higgins back in office," she said, congratulating the president.

Mrs Ni Riada also said she hopes voters in Northern Ireland would soon be able to vote in Irish presidential elections. A referendum on the issue is anticipated next year.

In her speech, Joan Freeman, who received 6% of the vote, singled out the president's wife Sabina.

"I'm so happy for you Sabina," she said.

"The people who voted for me - thank you for that."

In the longest speech of any of the defeated candidates, Sean Gallagher, who gained around 6% of the vote, expressed pride in the campaign he and his team had run.

"Together we put forward ideas that can shape the future and today is not the end of those ideas," he said.

Mr Higgins has long championed an ethical Republic and has repeatedly addressed issues surrounding memory, commemoration, identity and the conflicting traditions on the island.

The refugee crisis in Europe and the plight of migrants has been a favourite topic, as well as the importance of the arts and Ireland's great literary tradition.

Pope Francis meets Irish victims of clerical abuse

 Pope Francis speaks to the audience at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, during the Festival of Families. Picture: PA

Pope Francis speaks to the audience at Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, during the Festival of Families. Picture: PA

The Pope has met with victims of church abuse and mistreatment in Ireland after expressing pain and shame over failures to tackle the scandals.

The 90-minute private encounter with eight survivors at the Papal Nuncio's residence in Dublin came hours after the Pope acknowledged that Irish people had a right to be outraged by the church's response to the crimes.

On the first day of his historic visit to Ireland, the pontiff also prayed for all victims of clerical sex abuse. The Pope's decision to address the dark legacy of abuse in a speech in Dublin Castle drew praise in some quarters, but others criticised Francis for not saying enough or offering a public apology.

With the reverberations of a litany of clerical sex crimes casting a shadow over the first papal visit to Ireland in almost 40 years, Francis acknowledged the gravity of what had happened.

"With regard to the most vulnerable, I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the church charged with responsibility for their protection and education," he said.

"The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community.

"I myself share those sentiments."

Later in the day, Francis sat in prayerful contemplation inside a Dublin cathedral at a candle perpetually lit for those abused.

On a full day of engagements in the Irish capital, the Pope also visited homeless people who receive support from a centre run by the Capuchin Fathers' religious order.

In his Dublin Castle speech, the pontiff also expressed hope that remaining obstacles to reconciliation in Northern Ireland could be overcome. Ireland has undergone seismic social changes in the four decades since the last papal visit in 1979, when John Paul II was lauded by a nation shaped by its relationship with an all-powerful Catholic Church.

But the church's response to clerical sex abuse scandals, most of which emerged years after John Paul II's visit, have severely damaged trust in the religious institution and seriously weakened its influence on Irish society.

While thousands lined the streets of the capital to catch a glimpse of Francis passing in his famous Popemobile on Saturday afternoon, the crowds were certainly not on the scale witnessed when John Paul II made a similar trip. And among the well-wishers lining Dublin's streets there were also protesters, who vented their anger at the pontiff as he drove by.

During his address at the castle, Francis referred to steps taken by his predecessor Pope Benedict, as he insisted the church was acting on abuse.

"It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole," he said.

Afterwards, one abuse survivor, Colm O'Gorman, branded his response as "disgraceful".

"He could have talked to us all in a way that was blunt, that was clear, that was frank, that was human, that was accessible," he said. "He refused to do so. And that's a huge shame. I think frankly it's rather disgraceful".

 Pope Francis and President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Pope Francis and President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

In the speech, the Pope said he also wished to acknowledge women who in the past had "endured particularly difficult circumstances".

Later, he passed close to the site of a former Magdalene laundry as he arrived on Sean McDermott Street in the north inner city to meet well-wishers outside

Our Lady of Lourdes Church. The notorious laundry institutions run by Catholic religious orders effectively incarcerated thousands of young women from troubled backgrounds and forced them to work under harsh conditions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had earlier urged the Pope to "listen to the victims" in his own address at Dublin Castle. In forthright remarks, the Taoiseach said there had to be "zero tolerance" for those who abuse and anyone who facilitated them.

Mr Varadkar also acknowledged the Irish state's failings in the mistreatment of many in the past, describing the nation's history of "sorrow and shame".

"Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors," he said.

"Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure this is done here in Ireland and across the world."

Mr Varadkar said he hoped the Pope's visit marked a "new chapter" in Ireland's relationship with the Catholic Church.

Earlier, the Pope met Irish President Michael D Higgins at his official residence in Phoenix Park. Mr Higgins also raised the issue of abuse, conveying the anger felt by many Irish citizens at the scandals.

The Pope also used the first day of his visit to praise those who helped forge Northern Ireland's historic Good Friday peace agreement in 1998.

In an apparent reference to the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland, which has seen the region without a properly functioning devolved government for 20 months, Francis said: "We can give thanks for the two decades of peace that followed this historic agreement, while expressing firm hope that the peace process will overcome every remaining obstacle and help give birth to a future of harmony, reconciliation and mutual trust."

Francis is ostensibly in Ireland to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) - a major global church event focused on promoting family values.

He ended his first day of engagements by joining 82,000 others at a WMOF musical celebration in Croke Park. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli was among those to sing for the Pope, delivering a powerful rendition of Ave Maria. The Pope's Saturday itinerary also included meeting with engaged and recently married couples in Dublin's Pro Cathedral.

On Sunday, the Pope will fly west to Co Mayo, where he will follow in the footsteps of John Paul II and take part in a religious service at a holy shrine in Knock. He will then return to Dublin for the closing centrepiece of the WMOF event - an outdoor Mass in front of an expected congregation of half a million people in Phoenix Park. 

Honeymooning Irishman dies in Greek inferno

 Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp who died in the Gree bushfires.

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp who died in the Gree bushfires.

An Irishman has died while on honeymoon after becoming caught up in wildfires that have swept across Greece.

Newly married Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp became separated from his wife Zoe Holohan as they tried to escape the fires in the coastal town of Mati.

The pair got married at Clonabreany House, Kells in Co Meath last Thursday before flying out to Greece on Saturday.

Ms Holohan, who works in advertising for the Sunday World, is in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands.

In a statement, the family of Ms Holohan and Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp said: "We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of our family member, Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp.

"The families would respectfully appreciate privacy at this time as we grieve and as Zoe makes her recovery.

"Funeral arrangement will be announced at a later stage."

 Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp and bride Zoe at their recent wedding.

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp and bride Zoe at their recent wedding.

Ireland's Ambassador to Greece Orla O'Hanrahan confirmed Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp's death.

She said her sympathies and heart went out to his family at this time.

The couple, who lived in Dublin, were travelling in a vehicle when they were forced to flee.

Ms Holohan was able to escape to a nearby beach and was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night.

The Irish Embassy in Athens is providing consular assistance to Ms Holohan and her family.

Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp worked in finance for a Dublin catering company and also volunteered for Blood Bikes East, which provides an emergency medical transport service around hospitals in Dublin.

Committee member Franco De Bonis said Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp started off as a volunteer rider a year ago and very quickly became further involved in the service and was its secretary.

"Brian is a very charitable man - he's one of these people who you know when he's in the room. He has a big voice and he's the type who wants to get things done," Mr De Bonis said.

"He's a man of action and is very selfless. His heart is in the right place and will always want to help.

"Brian would never walk away from a situation knowing someone needed help," he added.

Up to 80 people have died in the forest fires which have raged through Greek villages and holiday resorts.

Ireland launch bid for UN Security Council seat

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in New York for the launch of Ireland's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in New York for the launch of Ireland's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

The Taoiseach has said that the country will bring its "practical lessons" in helping end the conflict in Northern Ireland to the United Nations Security Council.

As Ireland officially launched its campaign for a seat at the top UN table, Leo Varadkar said its success in bringing peace to Northern Ireland following its long history of division has given Ireland a "perspective on conflict resolution and reconciliation".

U2 front man Bono and former Irish president Mary Robinson are also backing the bid.

On Sunday night, UN ambassadors were invited to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden as part of the Irish push to win the seat.

Mr Varadkar and Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney officially launched Ireland's campaign on Monday night at UN headquarters with a special event celebrating Irish food, music heritage and culture.

More than 400 UN diplomats and other guests were invited to attend the reception on the UN's North Lawn.

Mr Varadkar said: "Our perspective on conflict resolution and reconciliation is informed by the long history of conflict and division on our island, and our success in bringing it to an end.

"We learned that it takes two to fight, but many to make a lasting peace.

"This year is the 20th anniversary of the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

"While the path to full reconciliation remains incomplete, the Good Friday Agreement has stood the test of time, creating new relationships, overcoming centuries-old divisions, and giving hope for the future.

"We understand the need to listen, and the importance of respecting differences.

"On the UN Security Council, we would bring our hard-won insights and practical lessons to the table.

"As a nation that has experienced colonisation, conflict, famine and mass migration, Ireland's lived history resonates with the aims and objectives of the UN Charter.

"Ireland has a longstanding commitment to working for the eradication of poverty and hunger in the world."

The reception took place beside the Arrival sculpture, by Irish artist John Behan, which was gifted to the UN by Ireland in 2000.

Mr Varadkar also said that the Irish Government launched a strategy to double the scope and impact of Ireland's global footprint by 2025 as well as opening 13 new embassies and consulates in the past year.

He also said: "We are deeply aware that, in an interdependent world, the challenges of our time do not respect geographic boundaries.

"Finding solutions is a shared responsibility.

"This sense of shared responsibility guides Ireland's view of the world and the part we play in it."

Ireland will be competing for one of two seats available for the 2021-22 term with Canada and Norway. The Taoiseach said he does not underestimate the competition for the seat, but believes Ireland can win it.

Crooked banker David Drumm jailed for six years

 Former Anglo-Irish chief David Drumm has been jailed for six years.

Former Anglo-Irish chief David Drumm has been jailed for six years.

A former banker who led a bust institution which contributed to the collapse of the Irish economy has been sentenced to six years in prison.

David Drumm, 51, was convicted earlier this month at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting after arranging dishonest and fraudulent multibillion-euro transfers to boost the books of the failed bank Anglo-Irish in the months before it imploded in 2008.

Judge Karen O'Connor said Drumm will be given credit for the five and a half months he served in custody in the United States during his extradition to Ireland in 2015.

Anglo was taken into state control in January 2009 following a run on its deposits and plummeting share prices.

Bailing out Anglo was to cost taxpayers billions of euro.

The judge said Drumm was being sentenced for the two offences he had been convicted of, and not for Ireland's financial collapse.

"This court is not sentencing Mr Drumm for causing the financial crisis. Nor is this court sentencing Mr Drumm for the recession which occurred," she told the court.

"This offending did not cause Anglo-Irish Bank to collapse.

"This court will sentence Mr Drumm only for the two specific offences for which he has been convicted."

She went on to tell the court she was of the view that eight years' imprisonment was the "appropriate headline figure".

But the judge said: "Taking into consideration the mitigating factors, this court is going to impose a sentence of six years' imprisonment in relation to counts one and two."

Drumm was convicted in connection with the €7.2 billion fraud following a trial that lasted more than 80 days.

He had denied conspiring to "dishonestly" create the false and misleading impression that deposits in 2008 were €7.2 billion larger than they were as well as knowingly presenting the false figures to the market in December 2008.

 David Drumm was convicted in connection with the €7.2 billion fraud following a trial that lasted more than 80 days.

David Drumm was convicted in connection with the €7.2 billion fraud following a trial that lasted more than 80 days.

But he was found guilty of two offences, conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law and false accounting contrary to section 10 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

The judge said the second offence flowed from the first, and that the jury rejected submissions made on behalf of Drumm and convicted him unanimously.

"He was the chief executive officer at the time, a member of the board of and therefore in a position of trust in relation to the bank, its depositors, investors and lenders and also potential depositors, investors and lenders.

"In addition, the public are entitled to trust the information published by a public limited company and to make decisions based on that information."

She added: "Mr Drumm along with others put together a dishonest scheme and engaged in transactions, designed to inflate deposits from a non-banking entity to Anglo-Irish Bank on September 30 2008 which was the reporting year end date for that bank.

"The intention was to create the false and misleading impression that Anglo Irish Bank was stronger or in a healthier position than it actually was as a result of 7.2 billion euro in corporate deposits i.e. deposits from a non-bank entity."

And she told the court: "The fact that the scheme ultimately did not succeed is irrelevant. Mr Drumm was part of a conspiracy which potentially could have caused significant loss.

"It appears that no actual money was lost. From the evidence it is clear he was the driving force in Anglo-Irish Bank and the person behind the funding initiatives being considered by the bank.

"He authorised the transactions, was at the helm of the bank, and clearly extremely 'hands-on' in his position in the bank."

Dressed in a dark suit and blue open-collar shirt, Drumm, of Shenick Avenue in Skerries, Co Dublin, listened intently as the judge delivered his sentence, but gave no reaction.

Three of his former colleagues - John Bowe from Anglo's treasury department, Willie McAteer, the bank's former director of finance and the former chief executive officer of Irish Life and Permanent, Denis Casey, were all convicted of the same conspiracy and jailed in 2016 for terms ranging from two to three and a half years.

The judge pointed out during sentencing that McAteer and Bowe "were subordinates to Mr Drumm within the company structure in Anglo Irish Bank".

"Mr Drumm held a more senior position and was a more influential figure. He had a leadership role," she said.

Boy to be returned to Australia in tug-of-love case

 The High Court has ruled that a nine-year-old boy must be returned to Australia.

The High Court has ruled that a nine-year-old boy must be returned to Australia.

A heartbreaking legal custody battle between an Irish dad and an Australian mum has been settled.

The young son of the estranged couple must be returned from Ireland to Australia to resume living with his mother there, an Irish High Court judge has directed.

The boy was brought to Ireland by his father for a holiday late last year but was not returned.

Ms Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh said the child, aged nine, has a "deep and loving relationship" with both parents and had told a psychologist he wished they could all live together in Australia or that his father could be Australian so he could go there whenever he chose or that Ireland and Australia could be "one big land".

According to the Irish Examiner, the child had sobbed, saying he was "not able to pick", she said. 

The parents had had a relationship in Ireland but that broke down early in the child's life. The mother returned to Australia long term with the boy but came back after the father commenced litigation. An Irish District Court in 2010 made an order permitting her to relocate to Australia with the child.

Further litigation followed and final orders made by the Australian courts in 2015 confirmed the boy would continue to reside with his mother with his father having considerable access and holidays with his son outside Australia.

The Australian court was critical of the mother insofar as she was viewed as very controlling in the relationship with her son and wished to exclude or limit the father/son relationship.

It granted the father considerable access reflecting, the judge said, a view the father's role in his son's life was very critical and important.

The Irish High Court proceedings arose from issues regarding the father's ability to travel to Australia after he was forced to leave the country in 2017.

According to The Irish Examiner, the evidence indicated he had not overstayed his visas and was never unlawfully in Australia, he was refused a tourist visa in November 2017 which caused practical problems when he was to return the child after a three week holiday here, the judge said. He had not done so.

The judge said the child was habitually resident in Australia before his holiday here, his mother has rights of custody and had not consented to the child staying beyond the three weeks.

That meant there was an unlawful retention of the child here within the meaning of the Hague Convention.

The father's case was that he believed it was very unlikely he would get a visa to return to Australia, with the effect he would not be able to see his son, creating a risk of psychological harm or an intolerable situation within the meaning of the Hague Convention such as not to require the child's return to Australia.

The evidence did not support the father's claims in that regard, the judge held.

The child gave a description to a psychologist of a very ordinary "normal" life in Australia, said he was happy to come here to see his father because he missed him, but he also missed his mother.

The evidence is both parents are extremely important to the child and are both good parents to him, she said.

She did not accept it was "highly unlikely", as the father argued, he would not get another visa to enter Australia to see his son.

If the situation was made known to the immigration authorities and the courts there, some arrangement could be reached, she believed.

The mother has always been the primary carer of the child, he has resided in Australia for as long as he can remember and the Irish court could also not make a choice effectively forcing the mother to live in Ireland, she said.

She directed the child's return to Australia, stressing it would be in his best interests for the immigration authorities there to look favourably on his father's visa application.

Landslide win for Yes vote in abortion poll

 Yes supporters celebrate Ireland's landslide vote for change.

Yes supporters celebrate Ireland's landslide vote for change.

Ireland has voted overwhelmingly to reform its strict abortion laws.

Campaigners celebrated with champagne after a historic referendum result in which two-to-one polled in favour of change.

Crowds chanted the name of the Indian dentist whose death after she was refused a termination while miscarrying electrified an emotive revolution in social attitudes.

The public decided by a landslide to repeal part of the state's constitution which effectively prohibits the procedure unless a mother's life is endangered.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "I believe today will be remembered as the day we embraced our responsibilities as citizens and as a country.

"The day Ireland stepped out from under the last of our shadows and into the light. The day we came of age as a country. The day we took our place among the nations of the world."

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar celebrates with Health Minister Simon Harris.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar celebrates with Health Minister Simon Harris.

The poll was held on Friday, with the Government promising to allow the controversial medical intervention in early pregnancy which has polarised Irish society for decades.

It produced conclusive consensus for reform amongst men and women, nearly all classes and age groups and across most counties in Ireland.

The vote was 66.4% to 33.6% in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, which effectively outlawed abortions.

The only constituency to vote no, narrowly, was Donegal in the north-west.

Crowds gathered in the courtyard at Dublin Castle to hear the result began chanting "Savita, Savita", in reference to dentist Savita Halappanavar, 31, who died in an Irish hospital after she was refused a termination while she miscarried. Her family said the new measure should be called Savita's Law.

Around 200,000 Irish women have travelled to the UK since 1983 for the procedure, Mr Varadkar said, returning home from places like Liverpool with tiny coffins.

Health minister Simon Harris, a prominent voice for yes during the referendum campaign, led victorious supporters in a round of "Yes We Did" chants, a version of former US President Barack Obama's famous campaign slogan.

He said: "Under the Eighth Amendment we used to say to women in crisis: take the boat or take the plane. Today we say, take our hand."

Mr Varadkar said: "We voted to look reality in the eye and we did not blink and voted to provide compassion where there was once a cold shoulder."

 Huge crowds gathered at Dublin Castle to celebrate the result.

Huge crowds gathered at Dublin Castle to celebrate the result.

Thousands were in the castle courtyard by the time the official results were announced on Saturday evening.

Some dressed as angels, while hundreds wore jumpers and T-shirts with campaign slogans.

Maeve Conway, 21, decorated her dog Baby's harness with Yes badges.

"For 35 years we were waiting for this," she said. "It's a huge change for Irish women."

Another repeal supporter said she finally felt free in Ireland.

"Everyone respects us and our decisions and it is really feeling there is support ... and not to feel that they are going to throw you into a home or ship us off to a foreign country."

Ministers have promised to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the days of exiling women in the most tragic circumstances were over.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley claimed the unborn child was the big loser, while a leader of the No campaign, Cora Sherlock, said it was a sad day for those who believed in genuine human rights.


 

Returning emigrants face many obstacles, report finds

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IRISH emigrants in Australia say housing and car insurance costs are the biggest barriers to returning home. The findings are contained in a new report that also proposes ways to tackle the problems.

The independent report, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, looks at the challenges facing returning emigrants worldwide. It makes 30 recommendations about how to cut the red tape and make the move home easier.

As part of their research, the report’s authors, Indecon, surveyed more than 1,100 returned emigrants and emigrants living abroad – including Australia – about the barriers they faced on returning to Ireland. The biggest obstacles cited by all Irish emigrants were: buying or renting a house; getting a mortgage; car insurance costs and the paperwork needed to open a bank account or transfer savings or pensions, the survey found.

“The cost of car insurance is going to force us back to Australia,” one respondent told the researchers. Another said: “It is impossible to get a mortgage. Added to that the price of rentals and I am in a crazy living situation.”

Other major issues were finding employment – particularly with the requirement for face-to-face interviews – and the difficulty of having professional qualifications recognised.

Health insurance, childcare, access to welfare and higher education costs were also significant concerns.

“My son, who has just finished high school in Australia, cannot move home for university because he is now considered a foreign student,” another respondent said. “He was born in Ireland and has always considered himself Irish but because we, his parents, left for work, he is now not allowed to move home for university.”

Respondents living in Australia and New Zealand viewed many issues even more negatively than respondents living in other countries, or those already returned to Ireland. Perhaps this is not surprising because the report notes that people who emigrated to non-EU countries face more barriers when they try to return.

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More than 80 per cent of survey respondents living in Australia or New Zealand believed buying or renting a home in Ireland, or getting a mortgage, was either difficult or very difficult. More than 50 per cent viewed opening a bank account as difficult or very difficult. 

Overall, car insurance was the biggest area of concern for those returning from Australia, with 81.6 per cent rating it as very difficult.

The problem is the Irish insurance companies often do not recognise a no-claims bonus from overseas. In response to all these issues, the report has made 30 recommendations on removing unnecessary administrative or other barriers.

The numbers of returning emigrants prove there is a need for urgent action. The report found that more than 26,000 Irish emigrants returned to Ireland in 2016 – 20 per cent of those from Australia. 

On the issue of bringing down the cost of car insurance for returning emigrants, Indecon has recommended promoting companies that offer noclaims discounts to returning emigrants and introducing measures to remove unjustified penalties for these motorists.

To help returning emigrants with housing, the report recommends extending eligibility for the government’s Help to Buy scheme. The scheme gives a tax rebate to first-home buyers. However, at present anyone who has lived overseas for more than four years is not eligible. The report recommends extending eligibility to people who paid tax in Ireland in the last 14 to 15 years.

In its conclusion, Indecon said some of its 30 recommendations will require significant changes but adds: “Given the extent of the barriers faced by our returning emigrants we believe these [changes] are justified.”

On a positive note, one of the key recommendations has already been implemented. A centralised Returning to Ireland website, with advice on everything from setting up home to setting up bank accounts, is now live on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Global Irish website.

Government departments must report on their progress in implementing the rest of the 30 recommendations before summer. The full report and recommendations can be accessed at: www.dfa.ie

Emigrants urged to travel home to vote in abortion referendum

 Abortion Rights campaigners, (left to right) Morgan Maher, Adam Murray and Lute Alraad during a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Abortion Rights campaigners, (left to right) Morgan Maher, Adam Murray and Lute Alraad during a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

An estimated 40,000 Irish people living abroad are eligible to vote in a planned referendum on abortion.

Campaigners are urging emigrants to return home to cast their ballot and have their say on whether to change restrictive laws on termination of pregnancy.

The Irish Government backed proposals to hold a referendum on the State's Constitution which grants equal right to life of the unborn and the mother.

It is expected to be held in May.

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign has kicked off its #HomeToVote social media drive.

Dubliner Mary Jane Fox, who moved to the UK at the beginning of the year, has already pledged to make the journey home.

"Even though I'm fresh off the boat in London, I'll be making the journey and encouraging everyone I know to go back too," Ms Fox said.

"It is ironic that so many Irish women are forced to make the same trip in reverse to have an abortion.

"I want to travel home to make sure this comes to an end."

The organisers said they want to emulate the surge in interest by emigrants who came back to Ireland to vote in support of gay marriage reform in May 2015.

The Home to Vote campaign aims to encourage any citizen living abroad for less than 18 months to return to vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which imposes strict limitations on abortion in Irish law.

More than 30,800 Irish people emigrated in the 12 months to the end of April 2017, according to the latest official figures.

It is estimated a further 20,000 emigrated in the second half of last year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined last week that voters would be asked whether they wanted to repeal the controversial amendment and replace it with new wording to allow parliament to legislate on abortion in the future.

Terminations are only allowed in Ireland when the life of the mother is at risk and the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

Last December, a report by a specially convened parliamentary committee found the Eighth Amendment was not fit for purpose and should be repealed.

That followed recommendations from members of Ireland's Citizens' Assembly to liberalise the law on terminations.

The committee also recommended abortion be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without a woman having to explain her decision.