Irish Abroad

McIlroy claims 'fifth major' on St Patrick's Day

Rory McIlroy on his way to victory at the Players Championship in Florida. Picture: Lynne Sladky

Rory McIlroy on his way to victory at the Players Championship in Florida. Picture: Lynne Sladky

Rory McIlroy celebrated St Patrick's Day in brilliant style becoming the first Irishman to win the prestigious Players Championship after a thrilling final round at Sawgrass.

McIlroy will take renewed confidence into his bid to win a genuine fifth major title at the Masters to complete the career grand slam.

McIlroy recovered from an early double bogey to card a closing 70 and finish 16 under par, one shot ahead of former Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who had threatened to become the oldest winner in tournament history. Furyk set the clubhouse target with a 67 that included two birdies in the last three holes, the 48-year-old - who is less than a month older than 2005 champion Fred Funk - hitting a brilliant approach to just three feet at the last.

However, McIlroy bounced back from a bogey on the 14th with birdies at the next two holes to move back into the lead and safely negotiated the treacherous 17th and 18th to secure a 15th PGA Tour title after starting the season with five consecutive top-six finishes.

McIlroy told Sky Sports: "It's very special. I just tried to treat it like any other day. Even though I've had all those close calls this year, they didn't mean anything.

"If anything they were good for me, I called them 'remote misses', it gives you even more hope to go forward and go again. I think all those experiences this year led me to this point and ultimately they were good for me because it got me over the line today.

"The birdie on 12 was huge to give me a bit of momentum and the final few holes were tough. To get that birdie on 15 after the dropped shot on 14 was massive.

"I knew 16 was a good chance and to par the last two holes and hit three good shots when I needed to, that gives me a lot of confidence going forward."

The victory comes just weeks before McIlroy will attempt to win the Masters and become only the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

The 29-year-old Northern Irishman added: "If I hadn't have won today I would have said I don't need a win going into Augusta, but it's very nice to get a win, especially doing it on this golf course, honestly a golf course that played a little bit similar to the way Augusta will play in a few weeks' time.

"I can take a lot from this. It's taken me a few weeks to get to this point but I feel like I'm playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep going with it and keep doing the same things."

While Shane Lowry missed the cut, Seamus Power finished in a tie for 35th on three-under. The Waterford’ man’s third round included a hole-in-one on the 155-yard third hole.

Trump set to visit Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock in Washington DC. Picture: Brian Lawless

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock in Washington DC. Picture: Brian Lawless

US president Donald Trump has confirmed he will visit Ireland later this year.

Mr Trump told Leo Varadkar that he wanted to make the trip during a meeting with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office in the White House on Thursday.

Mr Varadkar is on his annual St Patrick's Day tour to the United States.

Mr Trump said: "I am coming at some point during the year. I missed it last time and I would've loved to have been there. It's a special place and I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that, and it's just a great place."

One of Mr Trump's golf courses is in the Co Clare village of Doonbeg.

The Taoiseach presented the US president with a bowl of shamrock to mark his St Patrick's visit to Washington DC. The bowl presented to Mr Trump, in the company of his wife, Melania, was made at Kilkenny Crystal in Callan, the home town of Irish-American architect James Hoban. Mr Hoban designed both Leinster House in Dublin and the president's official residence, the White House.

Mr Varadkar said: "The American economy is booming. More jobs. Rising incomes. Exactly what you said you'd do. However, I believe the greatness of America is about more than economic prowess and military might.

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office. Picture: Brian Lawless

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office. Picture: Brian Lawless

"It is rooted in the things that make us love America - your people, your values, a new nation conceived in liberty. The land and the home of the brave and the free."

The Taoiseach added that the futures of the US and Ireland were entwined.

"I believe that future generations of our citizens should have the same opportunity to enrich one another's societies as past generations have," he said.

Mr Trump, who was joined on stage by US vice president Mike Pence, said that millions of Americans across the country celebrate the "inspiring" Irish people on St Patrick's Day.

He also welcomed the Taoiseach's partner Matt Barrett, who also attended the event.

Mr Trump added: "I know many Irish people and they are inspiring, they're sharp, they're smart, they're great and they are brutal enemies so you have to keep them as your friend. Always keep them as your friend.

"You don't want to fight with the Irish, it's too tough, it's too bloody."

He reminded the crowd that the shamrock tradition began almost 70 years ago when Ireland's first ambassador to the United States, John Hearne, gave then US president Harry Truman a small box of it. He added that he accepted the gift as a symbol of America's "enduring friendship" with Ireland.

"The Irish are confident and fearless. They never give up, they never give in," he added.

Earlier, the US president said Brexit was "tearing countries apart".

President Donald Trump, right, talks with, from left, Congressman Richard Neal, Leo Varadkar, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Capitol Hill in Washington. Picture: Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump, right, talks with, from left, Congressman Richard Neal, Leo Varadkar, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Capitol Hill in Washington. Picture: Susan Walsh

The president, who set out his hopes for a "large scale" US-UK trade deal, added that: "I'm not sure anybody knows" what was happening with Brexit.

"It's a very complex thing right now, it's tearing a country apart. It's actually tearing a lot of countries apart and it's a shame it has to be that way but I think we will stay right in our lane," Mr Trump said.

The two leaders discussed Brexit as well as a number of Irish-US specific matters. Afterwards Mr Varadkar said he had a "really good meeting" with President Trump.

"We spoke about Brexit. Needless to say we have very different views on Brexit as to whether it's a good thing, but it was a real opportunity for me to set out Ireland's position, particularly when it comes to protecting the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and protecting the border."

Mr Varadkar also said the leaders spoke about the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US.

"We talked about immigration. Very strong support from the president around the issue of securing more visas for Irish people to come and work here in the US, and (to) help us solve the issue of tens of thousands of Irish people who came here a long time ago but are undocumented," the Taoiseach said.

Earlier on Thursday US vice-president Mike Pence confirmed he was also planning a trip to Ireland with his mother Nancy. Mr Pence made the comments at a breakfast meeting with Mr Varadkar and his partner at the vice-president's residence in the capital.

During the meeting Mr Varadkar said that he is not judged by his sexual orientation but by his political actions.

"I stand here leader of my country, flawed and human but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs." Mr Varadkar added: "I don't believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible. It's found in every country were freedom and liberty are cherished. We are, after all, all God's children. And that's true of the United States as well, the land of hope, brave and free."



Sydney Irish air rage accused 'overdosed' on sleeping pills

Leroy Hyland was restrained on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney after attending the Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas in October. Picture: Facebook

Leroy Hyland was restrained on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney after attending the Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas in October. Picture: Facebook

An Irishman who attacked a crew member on a flight back from the Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas had taken an excessive dose of sleeping tablets, a court has heard.

Leroy Thomas Hyland took quadruple the recommended US dosage of a sleeping pill which he had never previously consumed during a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney on October 10th last year.

The 26-year-old then “woke up in a freaked-out state” and believed that passengers were gang members and had stolen his wallet, passport and phone.

Mr Hyland, who is on bail, has pleaded guilty to three charges in relation to a disturbance on Delta Air Lines flight DL41 from Los Angeles to Sydney on October 10 last year.

He pleaded guilty to behaving in an offensive and disorderly manner on an aircraft, common assault and assaulting/threatening with violence/intimidating aircraft crew.

The 26-year-old appeared before Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on Tuesday where his lawyer said he took an adverse reaction to sleeping pills taken after “an overseas catch-up trip to Las Vegas to watch the Conor McGregor fight.”

Mr Hyland ran out of the usual sleeping tablets he took for long-haul flights and purchased sleeping pills which a shop assistant suggested would “really knock him out” for the 14 hour flight from LA to Sydney.

He initially took two pills but didn’t feel much effect so he took a further two tablets which is quadruple the recommended US dosage, according to his lawyer.

He then fell asleep but woke an hour later and “the nightmare begins.”

Hyland travelled to Las Vegas to watch Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor in action.

Hyland travelled to Las Vegas to watch Irish UFC fighter Conor McGregor in action.

Mr Hyland was in a “freaked out state” and believed other passengers were gang members and had robbed his belongings, the court heard.

His lawyer said: “This was the first time he had taken this type of sleeping pill and he had no prior knowledge of its effects.”

The Irishman had a blanket over his head “to hide from those he believed were targeting him” and a flight attendant said he was “rambling about getting robbed.”

He believed the flight attendants were part of the group that had stolen his belongings telling them ‘you are part of it, you are one of them.’

The court heard Mr Hyland was disorientated and told crew members: “Someone is trying to steal my identity. I don’t know who to trust.”

Mr Hyland’s lawyer said he was frightened by the situation in which he found himself and at one stage shouted: ‘Help, help’ in a thick Irish accent which may not have been understood.

A doctor’s report tendered to court concluded that Mr Hyland’s behaviour could have been caused by taking an excessive number of sleeping tablets.

After the incident on-board, Mr Hyland was restrained for the remaining 10 hours of the flight and arrested when the plane landed at Sydney Airport where he “appeared very confused” and didn’t seem to remember what had happened on the flight.

His girlfriend was concerned and took him to hospital that night and the court heard he “wasn’t right until 7am the next day.”

Mr Hyland’s lawyer told the court the 26-year-old works 60 hours a week as a sheet metal worker and the act was “so out of left field, there’s a low to zero risk of him re-offending.”

He said: “This man is worthy of a second chance” and asked the court not to jail him.

“He made a mistake and it’s not going to happen again,” he added.

He said it had always been Mr Hyland’s dream to “live and work in Australia” and he hoped to apply for permanent residency in the future and a criminal conviction put this dream “at risk.”

The acting magistrate said she accepted that Mr Hyland was otherwise of “good character” and “didn’t take the tablets with the view that this would occur.”

But she found the offences were “very serious” and asked for a sentencing report to be prepared before she passes sentence.

The case was adjourned until April 16 to allow for the preparation of this report.

Mr Hyland was supported in court by his brother who travelled from Ireland to attend the hearing.

His employer, his partner and a close friend all provided character references to the court.

A victim impact statement from the US flight attendant who was attacked by Mr Hyland was also submitted to court.

Grieving Mayo family grateful for 'unbelievable generosity'

Amy Gill, 23, from Mayo was killed in a car accident in Victoria on February 6.

Amy Gill, 23, from Mayo was killed in a car accident in Victoria on February 6.

Amy Gill (23) from Coolacht, Co Mayo arrived in Australia on January 14.

On February 6, she was a back seat passenger in a car with four occupants which collided with another vehicle in the small town of Euston near the New South Wales/Victoria border.

Ms Gill and her friends were on their way to work on a farm when the accident took place. Ms Gill and another backseat passenger lost their lives.

Her friend Catherine Langan from Bohola, Co Mayo was injured in the crash but is expected to make a full recovery, according to the Mayo News.

The tragedy led to a massive online fundraising campaign to cover repatriation expenses for Ms Gill’s remains. Although the initial target was only €15,000, nearly three times that amount was raised – €44,461 before the family stopped donations on February 11, only two days after launching the appeal. Her funeral took place on Monday, February 25.

Her grieving Mayo family has thanked everyone who donated to the online fundraising drive.

“It is with great relief that we can say we have raised enough money to get Amy home to Mayo,” Amy’s cousins wrote. “We, on behalf of Amy’s family, do not know where to begin in thanking everybody for their generous donations. The unbelievable support and generosity from all of you has given Amy’s parents and sisters some comfort in knowing they will have Amy home as soon as possible now.“

A large congregation attended her funeral mass at St Colman’s Church in Claremorris.

Parish priest Fr Peter Gannon, said it was a very difficult time for the community.

“Words can never relay the depth of grief of the family and friends and community,” Fr Gannon said, according to a report in the Mayo News.

“Not alone is there a numb feeling but there can also be a feeling of being cheated and being robbed of a beautiful life. On behalf of us all we express our deepest sympathy to family relatives, neighbours and friends,” he said.

“Amy was a beautiful girl in every respect of that word. Her life, far too short, gave pleasure and brought blessings to so many people, most especially her parents John and Ann and all the family. She was loved everywhere she went and she brought a quality to life through her warmth and personality. Tragic death is like a black-out, one minute the sun is shining and the next it is dark night. In the space of a minute our whole words can be turned upside down. Nothing can prepare us for something like this,” Fr Gannon told the congregation.

Colin Bell of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust told The Irish Echo: “Whenever tragedy hits like that and the word comes back to the families, who do they turn to? They don’t know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to get the loved one home. One phone call to us can change all that.

“There are so many young people out in Australia at the moment and accidents do happen and unfortunately, it can happen to anybody. It’s tragic.

“Tragedy is tragedy no matter where it happens but when it happens on the other side of the world. You’re pretty helpless here at home and that is where we can come in and help.”

The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, established in 2013, has now repatriated the remains of 659 loved ones to Ireland from all over the world, including 72 from Australia.

For more information, search for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust.

Many would be emigrants caught in visa limbo

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Changes to Australian visas have people waiting for their 457 visa application to be processed worried that they could not only not be granted leave to stay in Australia but they could also lose the money they spent on their applications.

When the rules changed, many occupations were removed or downgraded and those who were eligible for a four year visa and to apply for permanent residency can now only get two years. A 457 application should take 5-10 months but applications have been taking longer to process since the changes were announced.

Australia scrapped its skilled 457 visa programme last year. The programme had allowed tens of thousands of Irish workers to enter the country legally since 1996. The visa changes were announced in 2017 by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who said he wanted “to put Australians first.”

Turnbull alleged the 457 visa was being misused by employers to import cheaper workers and not to fill genuine skill shortages.

For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application
— Department of Home Affairs

The 457 visa was replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS) 482 but the list of occupations that qualify for the 482, is significantly reduced. The new visas has been described as limited, expensive and with an intimidating amount of paper work.

People can apply for a refund of their visa fees but there are no guarantees. The employer's nomination fee of $330 is not refundable.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told The Irish Echo: "The Department assesses all valid visa applications unless the application is withdrawn. For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application. Refunds are only available in limited circumstances and does not include circumstances where an applicant has withdrawn their application due to change of mind."

The people affected by the situation are often in Australia on bridging visas. They may no longer be entitled to a four year visa. If they have to apply for a 482 visa, they may not be entitled to work rights under any new bridging visa while they wait for the application to be processed.

The Home Affairs Spokesperson continued: "The bridging visa held in association with a 482 visa application will remain valid until the 482 visa application is finalised. Applicants holding a bridging visa with no work rights may apply for permission to work. Each request is assessed on a case by case basis."

People who applied for 457 visas before 18th April 2017, when the new rules were announced by Malcolm Turnbull, were to be protected by the old rules and still avail of permanent residency applications, shorter temporary transition periods before applying for permanent residency and the higher age bracket. But these may not apply if they have to make a new application for a 482.

The Department fo Home Affairs says: "Transitional arrangements were put in place in March 2018, in relation to certain requirements for people who held or applied for a subclass 457 visa before 18 April 2017.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

"People who held a 457 visa before March 2018 and meet the various requirements, including being nominated in an eligible occupation, can apply for permanent residence through the Direct Entry (DE) stream of the subclass 186 or 187 visa.

"People who held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017, or had applied for a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 that was subsequently granted, are able to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream.

"Eligible overseas workers will need to lodge an application for permanent residence within four years, by March 2022."

Thousands of Irish availed of the 457 following the economic crash ten years ago.

The new visa has also limited availability and is only obtainable as a short-term visa, for a maximum two years, or a medium-term visa up to four years.

Brian (not his real name) is one of those caught in an immigration no-man’s land.

He came to Australia with his wife and two children. He has been on a 457 since 2014 as a carpenter. His first employer nominated him for permanent residence. Brian spent $7,000+ agents' fees on the permanent residence application. Then his employer went out of business before the PR was granted. As a result, Brian’s PR visa was not granted. He lost the $7,000+ and had to start again.

Brian then had to move his 457 visa to a new employer, but his visa only had a few months left so he had to then apply for a new 457 visa. He paid new 457 fees of $2,700. He applied for his second 457 visa in December 2017. The employer’s part was granted in October 2017 so expired in October 2018. Brian’s second 457 visa cannot now be granted.

Brian will be forced to re-apply for a 482 visa. The 482 visa costs are more than double the fees he paid for the 457 visas. 482 visa fees will be $5,500.

Brian's employer lost $330 on the first application, but will now be forced to pay the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy of $7,200 to lodge the new nomination. A huge cost that will surely deter a lot of employers from even agreeing to proceed.

It was also reported in October that more than 630 Irish people had been deported from Australia over the last two years according to figures released by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Overstaying a visa, having a visa cancelled or invalid visas were the most common reasons for their deportation.

Working holiday visa age limit increased to 35

backpacker.jpg

From today, the reciprocal age limit for Irish and Australian citizens to get a Working Holiday visa has been increased to 35.

Before today, applicants had to be no more than 30 years old to get a ‘backpacker’ visa.

The increased age limit for Australia in only available to Irish and Canadian citizens.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the new arrangements will strengthen Australia's close and long standing ties with Ireland.

"Both Canada and Ireland have been part of Australia's Working Holiday Maker program since it began in 1975, so it is fitting that they are the first countries to become eligible for the extended age range," Mr Coleman said.  "Last year, more than 16,000 citizens from Canada and Ireland were granted Working Holiday visas for Australia, with many of them living and working in regional and rural areas during their stay."

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the change would “not only allow a more diverse group of people to avail of this scheme, but also help to strengthen those links between our two countries even further”.

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, who is visiting Australia on official business, added: “Since the Working Holiday Programme began in 1975, it is estimated that more than 275,000 young Irish people have spent up to two years in Australia under this scheme. In 2017 alone, some 8,653 visas were issued to Irish citizens under the Working Holiday Programme. The agreement to extend the age eligibility on a reciprocal basis underscores the wide-reaching success of this programme to date.”

The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. You must be outside Australia when you apply for your first Working Holiday visa and when the visa is decided. If you apply for a second Working Holiday visa, you must be in Australia when the visa is granted. If you apply outside Australia, you must be outside Australia when the visa is granted. You can generally only work six months with one employer but many Irish nationals use the visa as a stepping stone for employer sponsorship and eventually, permanent migration.
 

 

Global Irish fun run gets into stride again

Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Seventeen cities, eight countries, one global nation.

The Ireland Fund’s Global 5k run will get into stride again on September 22. 

Events will take place in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to raise money for causes in Australia and Ireland. 

The global patron for the run is Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan, who will take to the field in Melbourne this year. The Sydney run will be led by former Sydney Swans star Tadhg Kennelly. 

“It’s hard to believe we’re in the fifth year of this event,” said John Gallagher, chairman of the Ireland Fund Australia Sydney Young Leaders.

“It’s grown every year but we are really hopeful that this is the year that the run becomes a really established, fun event for runners, walkers, families, pets, anyone who likes, on the Irish Australian community calendar in all three cities. 

“We’re thrilled to have the support again of both Sonia O’Sullivan and Tadhg Kennelly, helping us to raise much-needed funds for worthy causes in Ireland and Australia.”

Starting in Brisbane at 7am, with the baton handed to Sydney and then over to Melbourne, the young leaders will run 5kms in their respective cities before passing the virtual baton. 

The Global 5k will conclude when the last young leader crosses the finish line in San Francisco. 

“It’s a really excellent event,”
Kennelly said. “I brought the family along last year; tried out my knees again for the first time in a few years. 

“And it’s a very Irish take on a fitness event – we all get the exercise in first, and the sausages and goodies afterwards! I enjoyed the chat and the craic and meeting everyone last year.” 

People can support the event by signing up to run, by volunteering on the day, by sponsoring a runner or making a donation. 

All runners get an event T-shirt, plus a delicious breakfast BBQ after the race. Sponsorship packages are also available. 

Global 5k runs take place in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Toronto, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Belfast, Dublin and London.

Australian visa slump slammed by business groups

Australia is making it harder for skilled migrants to get permanent residency.

Australia is making it harder for skilled migrants to get permanent residency.

Migration to Australia has been slashed to its lowest level in more than a decade after the federal government put tough new hurdles in place.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has claimed that the fall in numbers was a consequence of the government meticulously going through applications to weed out unsuitable claims.

“We’re making sure that people who do become part of our Australian family are coming here to work, not to lead a life on welfare,” Mr Dutton said.

But business lobby groups, migration agents and representatives of ethnic groups have criticised the cuts, warning of economic damage if the numbers are allowed to fall further. 

Groups representing more than 60,000 Australian businesses have criticised the Turnbull government’s cuts to skilled and family migration.

Australia took in 20,000 fewer permanent migrants than in the previous financial year, mostly becasue of a 12,000 drop in skilled visas and an 8,000 drop in family visas.

The Australian Industry Group, one of the nation’s leading business groups, said the cut was disappointing.

“We are strong supporters of the migration program and to see it drop so significantly below the 2017-18 intake ceiling is disappointing,” AIG’s chief executive, Innes Willox, said.

Mr Willox said it was to the government’s credit that skilled visas still made up the same percentage of the intake, at about 68 per cent.

However, he encouraged the government to “get closer to reaching the ceiling” of 190,000 places this financial year. The official cap is still set at 190,000, despite real numbers falling short this year.

“Skilled migrants generate the greatest economic benefits to the Australian community, through their direct contributions to our national employment and skills base,” Mr Willox said. “Many also bring specialist attributes that provide even bigger benefits, by deepening our entrepreneurship, innovation and international linkages.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry blasted the cuts, arguing employers were paying the political price for the government’s failure to keep up with infrastructure demands in growing cities. 

“This is a real crisis,” the chamber’s CEO James Pearson said. 

“This is a problem right now, particularly for regional businesses serving regional communities. Politicians have failed to plan properly for the population growth in Sydney and Melbourne and regional Australia is now paying the price because of this cutback in our skilled migration by stealth.”

Both sides of politics have praised the lower numbers with Labor leader Bill Shorten vowing to clamp down on the number of temporary work visas. 

“No temporary visa worker should be here for a day longer than it takes to train an Australian,” Mr Shorten told the Australian Financial Review.

Are you reconsidering your future in Australia because of the visa clampdown? Tell us your story. Email editor@irishecho.com.au

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.

Pension shake-up may hit returning emigrants hardest

Ireland's Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó'Caollaí

Ireland's Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó'Caollaí

IRELAND’S Ambassador to Australia has played down concerns that returning emigrants could be worse off by proposed Irish pension reforms, saying most people’s entitlements would be largely the same.

Breandán Ó Caollaí said the proposed overhaul of how a person’s State pension is calculated (see below) would be “a fairer approach for all.”

One of the more controversial proposals is that a person may need to make 40 years of social security contributions to claim the full State pension. This is in contrast to the current system where someone could qualify for a full pension based on just 10 years’ payments, provided they had no gaps in their employment record.

Mr Ó Caollaí said this scenario was “quite rare” and “an anomaly”. 

The example given in the Government’s consultation paper is of someone who worked in the UK between the ages of 17 and 52 and worked up to a full UK pension, then moved to Ireland and worked for 13 years before retirement. Under the current system, they would also get a 100 per cent Irish pension on top of their British one.

It is in contrast to other scenarios in the consultation paper of people who worked for much longer but got a smaller pension. 

One is a woman who worked from the ages of 17-20 and then cared for children for 20 years. She went back to work for another 22 years but would only receive an 85 per cent pension under the averaging system.

Under the new way of calculating pensions, the person in the first scenario would only get a 33 per cent pension while the second person would get 100 per cent. 

While these scenarios had very different outcomes under the old and new systems, Mr Ó Caollaí said that people with "normal emigration patterns" would have mostly similar entitlements.

“Most people can claim pensions from both jurisdictions they worked under, and receive two pensions,” he said. “While both pensions might be at a reduced rate, their combined payment will quite possibly be greater than a single pension.” 

Emigrants returning to live in Ireland may be disadvantaged by new rules for state pensions.

Emigrants returning to live in Ireland may be disadvantaged by new rules for state pensions.

People who worked in Australia also have the option of claiming a pro-rata pension under the Irish Australian Social Security Agreement if this is more beneficial to them.

Under the agreement, periods of working life in Australia are treated by Ireland as periods of insurance, and vice versa. These periods are added together to meet the minimum periods required for the pensions offered by each country.

Ashley Johnston of the Irish Welfare Centre in Sydney said they could direct people of pension age to the appropriate social welfare service “to receive sound and comprehensive
advice regarding their entitlements and pension queries.”

The proposals are explained in a consultation paper, on which interested Irish citizens can give feedback on until September 3, 2018. To make a submission go to www.welfare.ie and clicking ‘consultations’. 

How are Irish State pensions currently calculated?

State pensions are currently calculated using the yearly average approach. Your total number of social security contributions is divided by the number of years between first starting work and the last full year before retirement. A yearly average of 48 is required for a full pension. This method penalises those with big gaps in their employment record, eg for child-rearing. Under the proposed reform, pensions would be calculated using the Total Contributions Approach (TCA). Pensions would be based on the total number of Social Security Contributions a person made. Controversially, as many as 40 years of contributions could be needed to get a full State pension, although the Government stresses the number of years has not been decided yet. People who left the workforce to care for children will receive credited contributions that will count towards their pension entitlement.

Is applying for a pro-rata pension under the Social Security Agreement between Ireland and Australia a separate application process? Do you choose one or the other?

No, you apply for the State pension in the ordinary way. The application form requests (among other things) details of any employment abroad. When assessing your claim, the official will first see if you can qualify for a full rate pension in the normal way. If you do, there is no need to check overseas contribution records etc. If you do not, he or she will then go through a number of checks to see what method of qualification will give you the highest possible payment. If you have indicated you have a foreign employment record, this will be one of the options considered.

Answers supplied by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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.

St Patrick's Day will be a UK holiday under PM Corbyn

Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

St Patrick’s Day will be a public holiday in Britain if Labour wins the next election.

Labour will press ahead with plans to introduce new national holidays to mark the patron saints of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, if it wins the next general election.

After eight years of “damaging Tory austerity”, Britain’s workers deserve a day off, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said last week.

Labour will ask for the support of the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that the same four holidays can be enjoyed in all regions.

Under Labour’s proposals, public holidays will be held on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).With eight public holidays, Britain has the fewest of any G20 or EU country.

“If we win the next election, St George’s Day will become a national holiday for Britain’s workers. It will be a day where we can all show our pride and celebrate our country’s tradition of fairness, inclusivity and social justice” Mr Corbyn said.

 “Eight years of Tory austerity, which Labour will bring to an end, have had a disastrous effect on our vital public services and workers have paid a heavy price in the cost of living and their working lives.

 “We will give our workers four extra days paid holiday.

 “The four nations that make up our country are more divided as a result of the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative government.”