Ireland

Former Australian envoy's dig at Ireland over US visas

Former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael Thawley. Picture: ANU

Former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael Thawley. Picture: ANU

A former Australian ambassador to the US Michael Thawley has had a non-too-subtle dig at Ireland as the battle for coveted US E3 visas rumbles on.

Currently, Australians have exclusive access to 10,500 of the two-year, renewable work visas each year. But under a bill before congress, which has the support of both President Trump and Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi, Irish citizens will get access to those visas not used by Australians.

Australia’s outgoing Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey lobbied for the scheme to remain exclusive to this country’s citizens.

Mr Thawley told The Australian that he also believed Australia had a better claim to the visas than any other country. But he also appeared to reference Ireland’s neutrality and problem of undocumented immigrants in justifying his position.

“Australia is a close ally of the US, having fought with it in every major war — not stood on the sidelines,” he was quoted as saying.

“We are a very large investor and employer in the US. And we are a strong and trusted economic partner on financial, tax and other regulatory issues. We don’t pose over-stayer or illegal immigrant issues.”

From 2000 to 2005 the English-born Michael Thawley served as Australia's Ambassador to the United States. Before that, he was international adviser to the former Prime Minister, John Howard, and served in a variety of positions in the Australian Government in Canberra and overseas.

He played a key role, along with Prime Minister Howard, in securing the E3 visa deal for Australia as part of a US-Australia trade agreement.

His comments have not won universal support amoing his former colleagues with one unnamed senior government source telling The Australian: “Immigration policy is the right of the congress of the US. We can’t get too hubristic, otherwise we will guarantee it goes through.”

During his recent visit to Ireland, President Trump was asked about the E3 visa bill.

“I think we’re going to be in good shape [on the bill]”, he said.

“I want to do that for the people of Ireland, but I want to do it for the people that are in the United States that want this vote to happen, that happen to be of Irish descent,” he added.

The Irish government has been approached for comment on Mr Thawley’s remarks.

Voting rights for Irish abroad referendum to go ahead

The same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 brought many Irish citizens abroad ‘home to vote’.

The same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 brought many Irish citizens abroad ‘home to vote’.

The Irish government has approved a plan to hold a referendum which, if passed, will allow Irish citizens living abroad to vote in presidential elections.

The poll is expected to take place in late October and the Varadkar government will be campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote.

Under the proposed change, all Irish passport holders of voting age would be eligible to vote for the President. The next presidential election is due in 2025.

The government estimates that there are 3.6 million Irish citizens outside of the Republic. This figure includes the total population of Northern Ireland (approximately 1.8 million) as well as those who have not reached voting age.

Online registration and postal voting would be used to extend the franchise, according to reports in Ireland. The campaign period would also be extended to accommodate a global electorate.

ALSO READ: Two 14-year-old boys found guilty of Dublin schoolgirl’s murder

If the proposed referendum passes, the 2025 presidential election would be the first in which Irish citizens not resident in Ireland could vote.

The referendum had been due to take place in May, alongside the divorce referendum and the local and European elections.

However, the Cabinet in February opted to delay the presidential vote.

The Taoiseach said the possibility of the vote being contentious and the uncertainty of Brexit were factors in the decision.

Speaking at the time, Leo Varadkar told the Dáil: "It will involve a good deal of planning, it needs a good campaign and we want to win it."

Ireland is almost unique among western democracies in denying its citizens abroad a vote.

Turnout in the 2018 Irish Presidential Election was as low as 30 per cent in come constituencies.

Turnout in the 2018 Irish Presidential Election was as low as 30 per cent in come constituencies.

Countries like France have global constituencies for its citizens abroad and elected representatives sit in the French parliament. Australia allows its citizens abroad to vote for up to six years after leaving the country. However, you must be first registered to vote while resident in Australia.

In 2016, a Convention on the Constitution voted in favour of extending the vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens living abroad. The possibility of citizens abroad being allowed to vote in Dáil and Seanad elections or referenda was not considered by the convention.

The wording of the referendum and the surrounding legislation is expected to be available by the end of July.

In a statement, the Irish Government said: “The presidency serves a very different function to the Dáil and Seanad. This referendum will be about reimagining a presidency for the 21st century, a presidency that represents the Irish nation not just the State, and that is elected by all citizens.”

The referendum has been welcomed by the Votes For Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) group.

“Wonderful news that this referendum has been confirmed,” the group tweeted. “Extending the Presidential vote to Irish citizens abroad acknowledges their Irishness and puts us in line with over 30 other European countries on voting rights.”

But there has been an almost immediate backlash against the extension of voting rights with radio presenter and journalist Ciara Kelly who wrote: “It's my view that many of the diaspora look back at the old sod with green tinted glasses and see us largely stowed in moth balls at the point at which they or their parents or grandparents left. But that is not who we are. We are a young, vibrant, outward looking, progressive, liberal country. I'm not sure that is truly recognised by our ex-pats.“

She went on: “I would stick to the old rule - no representation without taxation. No vote unless you have to live with the consequences of that vote.”

Boys, 14, found guilty of Dublin schoolgirl's murder

Ana Kriegel was just 14 when she was murdered by two boys her own age in Lucan, Co Dublin last year, a Dublin court has found.

Ana Kriegel was just 14 when she was murdered by two boys her own age in Lucan, Co Dublin last year, a Dublin court has found.

Two 14-year-old boys have been found guilty of the murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel in Co Dublin last year.

Both boys have been granted anonymity due to their age, and were referred to as Boy A and Boy B throughout the trial.

Boy A has also been found guilty of aggravated sexual assault. The boys are the youngest people in the history of the state to ever be convicted of murder.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for 14 hours and 25 minutes, after a six-week trial in Dublin's Central Criminal Court.

Ana Kriegel's naked body was found with a ligature around the neck in a derelict house in Lucan, Co Dublin, days after the 14 year-old went missing on May 14, 2018.

Former state pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy identified around 50 areas of injury on the schoolgirl's head and body, and concluded the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Ms Cassidy also said that there was evidence of penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina.

Geraldine Kriegel described her daughter Ana (above) as “a dream come true for us”.

Geraldine Kriegel described her daughter Ana (above) as “a dream come true for us”.

The jury foreman's hand shook as she handed over papers to the court clerk, before stating they had found both boys guilty on all the charges facing them respectively.

Justice Paul McDermott thanked the jury who he said "were brought off the street to consider these matters, which is all the more reason to express deep appreciation to you, I can't offer you anything but most the most sincere gratitude and excuse you all".

After the verdict, Ana's parents, Patric and Geraldine Kriegel hugged each other and their friends and wept in the court room.

Outside court, Mr Kriegel told media that their daughter Ana was "our strength".

Her mother said: "Ana was a dream come true for us, and she always will be. She'll stay in our hearts forever loved and forever cherished. We love you, Ana."

Boy B's father left the room immediately after the verdict, slamming the door, before returning shortly after, clapping and loudly stating: "An innocent child is going to prison."

Both Boy A and B's mothers wept and held their sons before they were taken by Gardai to detention.

Both boys have been remanded in detention until July 15.

Dublin emigration museum wins European tourism award

EPIC, a Dublin museum dedicated to the Irish diaspora, has won a major tourism award.

EPIC, a Dublin museum dedicated to the Irish diaspora, has won a major tourism award.

The Irish emigration museum has been voted Europe's leading tourist attraction, beating locations like Greece's Acropolis and Barcelona's Sagrada Familia.

The Dublin museum was given the prestigious award at the 26th annual World Travel Awards in Portugal.

The museum was given the distinguished award just three years after opening its doors to the public at The CHQ Building in Dublin's docklands.

Some of the competition included the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Rome's Colosseum.

Founder of Epic Neville Isdell said: "It is truly an honour to receive an award of this magnitude.

"We have thoroughly enjoyed welcoming the tens of thousands of people who have visited us both from Ireland and overseas each year and look forward to welcoming many more.

"I have always believed that the story of Irish people around the world was worth telling, and so, I founded Epic.

"When we opened in 2016, we had a vision to create a local museum that could connect globally.

"It's very important that we honour the Irish diaspora abroad and recognise the vital contributions and monumental impact Irish people have made worldwide.

"It's wonderful to be recognised for this award, thank you to those that made this possible through hard work and dedication, and to those who voted for us."

The museum, which will welcome more than 300,000 visitors this year, shows the far-reaching influence of Irish people and covers 1,500 years of Irish history.

It tells the powerful story of 10 million Irish people who travelled abroad to start a new life, including the contributions they have made, and the enormous influence they had and continue to have on the world.

The museum takes visitors on a journey of emigration from Ireland, to the far corners of the globe including America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Galleries in the interactive museum illustrate the global impact Irish emigrants have had on areas such as sport, music, dance, creativity, charity, politics, science and technology.

Visitors get hands-on with Irish culture and its past - swiping through video galleries, dancing through motion sensor quizzes, listening to remastered audio from 100 years ago and watching videos that bring Irish history to life.

Other highlights include a gallery of infamous Irish rogues, a whispering library featuring some of Ireland's most prominent Irish writers, a celebration of Irish music and dance, which includes Riverdance, and an Irish family history centre where visitors can consult with a genealogy expert to learn more about their own family history.

Theresa May set to step aside as British PM

Theresa May is expected to resign as Conservative Party leader on June 10.

Theresa May is expected to resign as Conservative Party leader on June 10.

Theresa May is under pressure to set out when she will quit Number 10 after a Cabinet revolt over her Brexit plan.

The Prime Minister will meet the leader of backbench Conservatives, Graham Brady, today (Friday) to discuss her future after her authority was left in tatters following the backlash against her "new Brexit deal".

Senior ministers set out their concerns in "frank" talks with the beleaguered premier as Downing Street delayed publication of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) which sets out her Brexit plan in law.

The Prime Minister's private meeting with Mr Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, could be the moment that Mrs May sets the date for her exit from Downing Street.

A 1922 Committee source told Press Association they expected June 10 to be the day Mrs May chooses.

"Hopefully what will happen is she will stand down as Tory leader I think on or before June 10, and she will hopefully remain as caretaker Prime Minister until such time as a new Tory leader is elected," they said.

"My feeling is that she will stay until June 10."

The source said a new leader would ideally be in place by the end of the European summer to get a Brexit deal through parliament before October 31, the date currently set for the UK's exit from the EU.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with Boris Johnson in 2017. Mr Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, is among the favourites to succeed Theresa May as British PM.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with Boris Johnson in 2017. Mr Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, is among the favourites to succeed Theresa May as British PM.

In Ireland, there are increasing fears that Mrs May’s departure will increase the chances of a hard Brexit, especially if she is replaced by a committed Brexiteer like Boris Johnson.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has ruled-out any renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which maps-out Britain's exit from the European Union, if Theresa May is replaced as British Prime Minister.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Coveney said: "It's not up for renegotiation, even if there is a new British prime minister...the personality might change here, but the facts don't."

He described Mrs May as "a decent person" but strongly criticised Conservative MPs at Westminster - branding them as "impossible" on the issue of Brexit.

Ireland among most expensive places for expat workers

Dublin is becoming a more expensive place to send expat workers.

Dublin is becoming a more expensive place to send expat workers.

Ireland is now one of the top 20 most expensive locations to send expatriate workers, according to a new global survey.

ECA’s annual MyExpatriate Market Pay report surveys the cost of benefits, salaries and tax treatments in countries around the world in order to assist companies with benchmarking their expatriate packages when relocating staff. Benefits include the allowance to cover essential costs such as accommodation, international school fees, utilities or cars.

The UK has overtaken Japan as the most expensive location to send expatriates, with the average expat pay package rising by £44,688 to £311,240, according to the survey.

Oliver Browne, Remuneration Manager at ECA International, said the tight Dublin rental market had contributed significantly to the costs.

“Similar to the trend we saw in the UK, benefits costs have increased notably due to the rise in accommodation and rental fees,” he said.

“Expats in Ireland are more expensive for companies despite average net salaries for expatriates actually dropping by two per cent (€965) since last year. This was more than offset by an average rise of 14 per cent (€8820) in the cost of benefit provisions that companies had to provide their overseas staff,” Browne explained.

ECA’s recent rental accommodation report revealed that rent in Dublin entered the top five most expensive in Europe for the first time, averaging €3406 per month for a mid-range, three-bedroom apartment.

As expensive as it is, Ireland (18th) is less costly than Australia (9th).

Middle Eastern nations Saudi Arabia and UAE continue to offer the best salaries for expats, with the nations now offering an average of £71125 and £69280 to mid-level expats respectively.

Browne explained: “The Middle East has always offered extremely high salaries to overseas workers, and 2018 was no different. However, the benefits offered in these nations are not among the most costly for an employer, and the average value of benefits offered actually dropped in both locations last year, while the lack of any personal tax means that the overall package works out to be a lot lower when benefits and tax are both taken into account.”

Trump confirms Irish visit in June

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington DC in March.

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington DC in March.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Ireland while on a visit to Europe in June, a White House spokesman has said.

Mr Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will hold a "bilateral meeting" on June 5 in Shannon.

The trip has already been subject to reported controversy over the venue of the talks.

The president's visit to Ireland is set to be largely private, with Mr Trump expected to base himself at the golf resort he owns in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

Rumours of a disagreement have been reported that focus on whether the meeting with Mr Varadkar would take place on Mr Trump's property at Doonbeg - the president's apparent preference - or on more neutral ground.

Irish authorities reportedly preferred nearby Dromoland Castle.

But Simon Coveney, Ireland's deputy premier, said reports of a stand-off over locations were exaggerated and not true.

On Monday, it was reported that Mr and Mrs Trump would join the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for afternoon tea while on a three-day visit to the UK, which begins on June 3.

The couple will also be guests of the Queen.

The president's formal visit follows a working trip to the UK last summer that sparked demonstrations across the country.

Campaigners are again hoping to fly a blimp, depicting the US president as a nappy-wearing baby, over London, after it was hoisted in Parliament Square during protests against the US leader's last trip.

The protesters have been accused by former Tory chief whip Lord Jopling of "mindless idiocy".

The visit to Ireland and the UK are part of Mr Trump's wider trip to Europe, which will include events in France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

'New IRA' admits to Derry killing of journalist

Journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed by Republican dissidents in Derry.

Journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed by Republican dissidents in Derry.

The so-called New IRA has admitted responsibility for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry.

Miss McKee, 29, died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18.

In a statement given to The Irish News using a recognised code word, the group offered "full and sincere apologies" to her family and friends.

The New IRA is an amalgam of dissident paramilitary groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

The statement said: "On Thursday night following an incursion on the Creggan by heavily armed British crown forces which provoked rioting, the IRA deployed our volunteers to engage.

"We have instructed our volunteers to take the utmost care in future when engaging the enemy, and put in place measures to help ensure this.

"In the course of attacking the enemy Lyra McKee was tragically killed while standing beside enemy forces.

"The IRA offer our full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death."

One of Northern Ireland's most promising journalists had her dreams snuffed out in a barbaric killing, her partner has said.

"Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act," Sarah Canning said.

"Victims and LGBTQI community are left without a tireless advocate and activist and it has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with," she added.

"This cannot stand, Lyra's death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else's life and her legacy will live on and the life that she has left behind."

A young woman signs a book of condolence for Lyra McKee in Belfast. Picture: Liam McBurney

A young woman signs a book of condolence for Lyra McKee in Belfast. Picture: Liam McBurney

Ms McKee was an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer, a trade publication covering the media industry.

In 2016, Forbes Magazine named her one of their 30 under 30 in media.

She had been working on a new book which had been due to be published in 2020.

Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary, said Ms McKee was one of the most promising journalists in Northern Ireland.

She said: "A young, vibrant life has been destroyed in a senseless act of violence.

"A bright light has been quenched and that plunges all of us into darkness."

Causes close to her heart included helping homeless people, preventing suicide and supporting LGBT rights in the most restrictive regime in Europe.

High salaries 'attracting emigrants home' claims Minister

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys says the salary levels on offer in Ireland are attracting emigrants home.

“Our economy is good,” she told the Irish Echo during her recent visit to Australia. “The wages back home are attracting people back to Ireland. For that reason, there are more people coming back to Ireland than leaving right now.”

A large number of expat nurses sent a strong message of solidarity with their striking colleagues in Ireland during the recent industrial action. Protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth featured banners with a clear message for the Irish government: “Give us a reason to come home”.

Did the minister have a message for those nurses?

“The HSE always welcomes nurses back and has established a ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign to support nurses to make the move back,” she said.

“There are a range of incentives to encourage Irish nurses who currently live abroad to consider returning home and joining the Irish health service. Those incentives include up to €1500 in vouched removal relocation expenses including the cost of flights, nursing registration costs and a funded postgraduate education.”

The Government could not say how many nurses had taken advantage of the Bring Them Home incentives, but according to figures published under a Freedom of Information request, fewer than 150 nurses returned under the scheme in 2017.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

The minister spoke at a number of events about the important role the diaspora has to play in Ireland’s future. She also opened the new Irish Support Agency offices at The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. One way to engage Irish citizens abroad is to allow them to vote in elections. Does she personally support extending the voting franchise to Irish citizens abroad?

“This is something that the Government has looked at and we’re going to bring forward a referendum [on whether Irish citizens abroad can vote in presidential elections] and leave that decision to the people.”

Ireland is one of the few western democracies which does not allow its citizens abroad to vote.

Meanwhile, Australia is very much part of the Irish government’s plans to explore new markets to diffuse the impact of Brexit, according to Minister Humphreys.

“Diversifying our markets is part of our Brexit strategy,” she told the Irish Echo. “We consider Australia to be a very good opportunity. I know its a long distance but the world is a small place now. There are many opportunities for Irish companies here.”

She also said that Ireland provides excellent opportunities for Australian companies.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

“They see Ireland as a gateway into the European Union. Ireland will be the only English language country left in the European Union when the UK leaves.”

The Minister said the fintech sector is particularly active. A number of Australian enterprises, including Macquarie Bank, are seeking licences to operate in Ireland.

“We welcome that,” she said. “Their corporate governance structures are very similar to ours. They’re happy that our government regulation is strong and we have a stable country. So they know, when they business with us, we do what it says on the tin.”

Ms Humphreys led an eight-day trade and investment mission, covering Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and Singapore. Seventy-one Enterprise Ireland client companies participated in 24 business events and pre-arranged meetings with potential business partners including Telstra, Optus, ANZ Bank, CBA, Cochlear, BT Financial, NAB Bank, Deloitte, Macquarie Bank, Stone and Chalk, and Amazon Web Services.

The minister confirmed plans to open new Enterprise Ireland offices in Melbourne as part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy. She would not be drawn on whether the absence of diplomatic representation in Melbourne and Brisbane would be addressed. Perth has an honorary consul.

“We will continue to expand our representation through Global Ireland so whether its our agencies opening new offices or the diplomatic service, we’re always looking to increase our presence all over the world,” the Minister added.

Taoiseach's fanmail to Kylie revealed

Kylie Minogue got fanmail from the Taoiseach.

Kylie Minogue got fanmail from the Taoiseach.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked Australian pop star Kylie Minogue if he could welcome her to Ireland personally when she came to Dublin for a concert last year.

Mr Varadkar wrote a note on official headed notepaper from the Office of the Taoiseach, which was released following a freedom of information request by the Mail on Sunday.

The letter, which was signed “Leo V Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister)” was sent before Ms Minogue’s planned concert at Dublin’s 3Arena on October 7, which she had to reschedule due to a throat infection.

“Dear Kylie,” the Taoiseach wrote. “Just wanted to drop you a short note in advance of the concert in Dublin. I am really looking forward to it. Am a huge fan! I understand you are staying in the Merrion Hotel which is just across the street from my office in Government Buildings. If you like, I’d love to welcome you to Ireland personally.”

Toiseach Leo Varadkar and friends with Kylie Minogue in Dublin. Picture: Twitter/Tiernan Brady

Toiseach Leo Varadkar and friends with Kylie Minogue in Dublin. Picture: Twitter/Tiernan Brady

The Mail on Sunday, which obtained the letter, reported that the Department of the Taoiseach twice refused a request for the letter to be released under Freedom of Information legislation, arguing that it was written in a personal capacity by the Taoiseach and “does not relate to matters arising in the course of, or for, the purpose of the Taoiseach’s functions as the head of Government”.

Ultimately the Taoiseach consented to the release of the letter after an appeal against the decision was refused.

Mr Varadkar received a phone call from the singer apologising for the cancelled gig, the paper reported. He eventually went to the rescheduled concert, which took place in December and met the singer after the gig.

Former Sydney Rose harassed in Kilkenny pubs

Brianna Parkins, the 2016 Sydney Rose Of Tralee, says she had to fight off drunken pests on a night out in Kilkenny.

Brianna Parkins, the 2016 Sydney Rose Of Tralee, says she had to fight off drunken pests on a night out in Kilkenny.

The 2016 Sydney Rose of Tralee, Brianna Parkins, says she had to fight off a man who put her in a headlock at a bar in Kilkenny last week.

The 28-year-old, who now lives in Dublin, claimed the man went on to try to kiss her against her will, forcing her to push him away from her and her friend.

Speaking on The Ryan Tubridy Show on RTE Radio One, the Sydneysider said "in a perfect world", the incident would have been seen at the time as an assault.

"The plan was to head down to Kilkenny, great to drive through the town, the craic was moderate to high, we were all excited, tanning each other's backs in the Airbnb before heading out," she told Tubridy.

"We get to the first bar and within 10 minutes - I hadn't even ordered a drink yet - I get put in this headlock by this massive sort of rugby-built dude.

"He grabbed me in a headlock in one arm and my friend around with the other arm and just goes in for the shift. It was like being cuddled by an Alsatian, slobbering all over you.

"This was maybe 9.30 or 10pm - not too late for being that sloppy."

She said that this wasn't the first time something like this had happened to her on a night out in Ireland, but what shocked her further was that no one stepped in to help when they saw her forcibly release herself from his grip.

Brianna Parkins on stage with Daithi O’Sé at the Rose Of Tralee.

Brianna Parkins on stage with Daithi O’Sé at the Rose Of Tralee.

"In a perfect world, it would be assault but I'm 28, I've been going out for years, it's kind of sad that I am almost desensitised to that - you expect that now on a night out," she said. "But what I didn't expect was, I reacted like a normal person, grabbed him by the back of the head, reefed him off me and my friend, gave a few solid good shoves for good measure and he kept coming back at us.

"I just had to keep responding more and more aggressively and everyone in the bar turned to look at me as if I am the person causing the problem, but this bloke had a good 30kg on me - physically, we weren't evenly matched.

"No one helped, his mates didn't help, they thought it was funny and the bouncer looked at us like they were going to almost consider kicking me out."

It was like being cuddled by an Alsatian, slobbering all over you.

She moved on with her group of friends to another bar after they finished their drinks, and while they were approached by men, nothing happened when they refused their company. However, she added that there was a further incident in another bar later in the night when a man "screamed into her face" when she turned down his advances.

"We don't even stay half an hour, a big group of guys are dancing around us, dancing on us quite aggressively," she said.

"They're trying to cuddle us and put their arms around us and you're like 'no thanks' - as a girl you try give the polite 'no', because you're told not to be bitter or aggressive.

"He got up into my face and screamed, 'You're on a night out, love' and I'm like, 'I know, I'm dancing with my friends and having a good time and I don't want to be bothered by you guys'.

She said the sort of behaviour she witnessed would not be seen in outback pubs in Australia.

"I've been in rough, outback pubs in Australia but I've never had that level of carry-on happen."

She said it made her consider that these kinds of incidents should be reported to gardai.

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.