Irish Abroad

Mates make sure grieving fiancee gets 'Frankie's car'

Broc Nicholson pictured recently with her Irish fiancee Francis Shanley who died earlier this month.

Broc Nicholson pictured recently with her Irish fiancee Francis Shanley who died earlier this month.

Friends of an Irish tradie killed in the M4 crash worked round the clock to finish a car he was working on as a surprise for his heartbroken fiancee.

Francis Shanley’s colleagues from Vaughan Civil in Sydney worked in secret to renovate a Subaru WRX so they could present it to Broc Nicholson at a celebration of their mate’s life on Tuesday.

The 36-year-old’s fiancee was “over the moon” when she was surprised with the car which has custom Frankie plates in honour of her partner.

Francis Shanley, from Bornacoola, Co Leitrim died when his car was hit by a beer truck in a pile-up involving eleven cars on the M4 motorway in Sydney on May 9.

A-53-year-old man has been charged with dangerous driving causing death after police allege he changed lanes and then stopped causing the fatal crash that killed Frankie.

‘Frankie’s Car’ - The Suburu WRX which was presented to Broc Nicholson by mates of her late fiancee.

‘Frankie’s Car’ - The Suburu WRX which was presented to Broc Nicholson by mates of her late fiancee.

Jamie Morrissey said his mates at Vaughan Civil “worked round the clock for the past nine days” to get the car ready for today’s ceremony at Macquarie Park Cemetery where it was presented to Broc.

“All his close friends came together to work on it –people who knew nothing about cars came to work on it because they wanted to do it for Frankie.

“It was good for us as well –it kept our mind off things.”

Frankie loved to buy cars and fix them up and he was working on the Subaru WRX when he was killed.

The car was “fully stripped” in his work yard with hundreds of parts everywhere so it was no easy feat for his mates to fully restore it in nine days.

“Frankie was an outstanding person. He was a gentleman and that’s why we did it. If it was any one of us, he would be the first person to step in and help so we thought it would be a fitting tribute to Frankie.

“He would do anything for you. Today is a very sad day for Broc but we hope we can bring a smile to her face when we surprise her with the car,” Jamie explained.

Francis Shanley’s workmates from Vaughan Civil who restored the car.

Francis Shanley’s workmates from Vaughan Civil who restored the car.

Broc Nicholson said Frankie would be “so proud” that his friends had finished the car for her.

She said: “He would be so proud and so am I. I know he’s going to be so jealous when I’m driving it instead of him.”

Family and friends of Francis Shanley who gathered for a special celebration of his life at the Camellia Chapel were told that he lived life with “love, honour, integrity and a sense of humour.

Celebrant Brett O’Brien said: “He was alert and alive. He made people laugh. He had a fearless enthusiasm for life and our world is poorer without him.”

His Australian fiancee Broc paid a beautiful tribute to Frankie.

“You’ve touched our hearts beautiful…You always knew how to make me laugh, listen to my problems, make me feel better when I was sick,” she said.

She poignantly read the vows she had written for their upcoming wedding. The couple were due to get married in August.

“You are my world. You are my rock. You are the reason I am the person I am today.

“I will hold you, honour you, respect you, cherish you and most importantly love you.

“To the most charming, funny, handsome person – I will always love you.”

The Suburu before its transformation.

The Suburu before its transformation.

Frankie’s younger sister Ruth Shanley said his family in Leitrim were heartbroken to lose him but had “beautiful memories” of their time together.

She said: “Frankie always used to look after me – he always had my back.

“He always put a smile on my face with his silly sense of humour and his cheeky smile.”

His close friend Gary Hart was friends with Frankie for over 20 years after meeting in school in Leitrim.

“There was never a dull moment when Frankie was around. Frankie was horrid craic. He’ll be sadly missed in this country and in Ireland,” he said.

Frankie is survived by his fiancee Broc Nicholson, his parents Christine and Basil Shanley and his siblings Mark, Ruth and Catriona Shanley.

He is also mourned by hundreds of people from across the globe who loved him particularly in the communities of Co Leitrim, Western Australia, Darwin, Carmila and Sydney.

Wicklow climber missing after scaling Everest

Wicklow climber Seamus Lawless is missing on Mt Everest

Wicklow climber Seamus Lawless is missing on Mt Everest

The Irish government will offer any support it can to help efforts to find a missing climber on Mount Everest, the Tánaiste has said.

Seamus "Shay" Lawless, from Bray, Co Wicklow, fell as he descended the peak on Thursday having just achieved a lifetime ambition of reaching the summit.

Simon Coveney said he had spoken to Mr Lawless's wife Pamela several times over the weekend and had discussed how the authorities could help.

The Trinity College professor's family have launched a fundraising campaign to help finance expensive search and recovery efforts.

His relatives, who said Mr Lawless's insurers were not assisting in the search, have asked for the public's help to raise the money needed to gather a team of Sherpas to find him.

A GoFundMe page set up by the family with a target of raising €750,000 had passed €250,000.

“At this moment in time we have little to no information about what happened on Thursday 16th May, nor do we know the current location of Shay,” a post on the page reads. “It is our priority to locate him and bring him home and we appreciate all the support that can be offered as we face this hugely challenging situation.”

The GoFundMe page set up for missing climber Seamus Lawless.

The GoFundMe page set up for missing climber Seamus Lawless.

Mr Coveney said the authorities in Ireland would help in any way possible.

"I have spoken to Pamela his wife on a number of occasions over the last 24 hours," he told RTE on Sunday.

"She is a remarkable woman and she is going through a nightmare that many of us simply can't imagine."

He added: "We are willing to offer any support we can, either financial or organisational, she knows that."

Mr Lawless's colleagues at Trinity College organised a vigil on Saturday evening.

The climber was an assistant professor at the university's School of Computer Science.



Fiancee's tribute to 'lucky charm Irish boy'

Francis Shanley was on his way to work when his ute was struck by a truck.

Francis Shanley was on his way to work when his ute was struck by a truck.

The fiancee of a 36-year-old Leitrim man who died in yesterday’s major road accident in Sydney has paid tribute to her “lucky charm Irish boy”.

Francis Shanley from Currycramp, Bornacoola, Co Leitrim, who lived in the Sydney suburb of Wenworthville, died following an 11-car pile up on the M4 in Sydney’s west.

His fiancee, Broc Nicholson, paid tribute to her partner on Facebook.

“Most of you have heard the devastating news of our beautiful, strong head, lucky charm Irish boy Francis Shanley has sadly passed way today,” she wrote.

“He will be forever in our hearts and sadly missed. Going to be a long road ahead getting back on our feet.

“Fly high my beautiful angel, I love you forever and always.”

The tradie, who the Irish Echo understands had lived in Australia for ten years, died at the scene of the accident after his citybound utility was struck by a light-rigid truck carrying beer kegs, about 5.50am on Thursday morning.

Mr Shanley’s family is receiving consular assistance.

The Church Street exit where the crash occurred is the final opportunity for motorists to leave the motorway before distance-based tolls apply.

Police are investigating whether a last-minute bid to exit before the toll could have been behind the crash, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"It is a part of the roadway which can cause problems with people leaving the motorway to then go into the Church Street off ramp," Police Chief Inspector Adam Phillips told the paper.

Irish tradie killed in Sydney car crash

Image taken from the Nine News helicopter of the fatal M4 accident.

Image taken from the Nine News helicopter of the fatal M4 accident.

A 36-year-old Irish national has died following a major accident on Sydney’s M4 motorway this morning.

The man, a 36-year-old from Wentworthville, died after his citybound utility was struck by a light-rigid truck carrying beer kegs, about 5.50am (Thursday 9 May 2019), at the Church Street off-ramp at Mays Hill, NSW Police have said.

It’s believed 11 vehicles were involved in the crash, with five people taken to hospital for treatment to various injuries; however, only 10 vehicles stopped.

The man has not being named but his family is receiving Irish consular assistance.

Investigators believe a vehicle involved in the crash may have left the scene before speaking with police.

“While investigators are not suggesting the driver of the unknown vehicle caused the crash, they do believe they may have information which may clarify the circumstances surrounding the incident,” a NSW Police statement said.

Crash Investigation Unit Commander, Inspector Katie Orr, said police wanted to speak with the driver of the 11th vehicle to find out what they may have seen at the time of the crash.

“We want to speak with this driver to find what they know about the events leading up to the crash,” Inspector Orr said.

“We also want to speak with any drivers who may have witnessed the crash and left the area or have relevant dash-cam footage.”

All citybound lanes have now re-opened after being disrupted for more than five hours.

Thousands expected at suicide prevention walks

Darkness Into Light walks will take place in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Darwin on May 11.

Darkness Into Light walks will take place in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Darwin on May 11.

Up to 3000 people are expected to walk together into the dawn for the annual Darkness Into Light event in aid of suicide prevention and mental health awareness in Bondi on Saturday, May 11, 2019.

Walkers will gather at Bondi Life Saving Club at 4.30am, setting off towards Tamarama where they will head towards the cliffs as the sun begins the rise, before making their way back to the end point at Bondi Pavilion for coffee, a sausage sizzle, chat and entertainment.

The annual 5km walk initially started in Ireland in 2009 by suicide prevention charity Pieta House and has now gone global with 200,000 participants expected to walk together from Darkness Into Light in 180 cities in 11 countries around the world on May 11.

Proceeds from the Australian events, which will also take place in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Darwin, will go to Pieta House as well as Australian organisation Batyr, that focuses on preventative education in the area of youth mental health.

It's Batyr's fourth year to be involved with Darkness Into Light and has so far has enabled the organisation to run 24 batyr@school programs throughout the eastern suburbs of Sydney.

With national support by Darkness Into Light, Batyr can continue to offer a range of programs for young people across Australia that "give a voice to the elephant in the room".

For registration to the walk, please click here.

Irish-born ex-bikie faces deportation under controversial policy

An Irish-born former bikie has lost his legal fight against deportation.

An Irish-born former bikie has lost his legal fight against deportation.

An Irish-born ex-bikie, who has lived here since he was six years old, faces deportation under a controversial Australian government policy.

Paul John Pennie’s visa was cancelled in 2016 and his appeal against deportation was rejected in the Federal Court last week.

Pennie, who moved to Australia with his parents in 1980, was sentenced in July 2015 to four-and-a-half years in a WA prison for charges including possessing methylamphetamine with intent to sell or supply and wilful destruction of evidence.

In January 2016, a delegate of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton cancelled Pennie’s visa, ruling he did not pass the character test due to his criminal record which included being a former vice president of the Bandidos bikies gang.

After the minister refused to revoke the cancellation, Pennie, now 44, took his case to the Federal Court but last Thursday his application was rejected.

According to the Federal Court’s transcript, Pennie has significant family ties in Australia and essentially none in Ireland. His parents, who live in Perth, are elderly and he is very close to his sister and her family.

His sister supported his appeal, telling the court that deportation to Ireland “would destroy him”.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s policy of deporting people who moved to Australia as children.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s policy of deporting people who moved to Australia as children.

In her judgement, Justice Katrina Banks-Smith referred directly to the level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing support in Ireland which, she said, was similar to Australia.

A submission by Minister Dutton to the case asserted: “I accept that Mr Pennie departed Ireland as a young child and would experience significant difficulties in establishing and adjusting to life as an adult in Ireland. I also accept Mr Pennie's immediate family and social supports are in Australia and he may experience significant emotional and practical hardships upon return to Ireland. I find that Mr Pennie's psychological conditions may be exacerbated given his history of depression and suicidal ideation.

“However,” he added. “I find that as an Irish citizen Mr Pennie will have a level of access to healthcare, social welfare and housing support that is similar to other citizens of Ireland.”

Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí said he could not discuss individual cases but added: “Any Irish citizen who is deported to Ireland would have the same rights and entitlements as any other Irish citizen in terms of healthcare, access to housing and social services.”

He added: “The guidelines regarding the determination of habitual residence address the issue of returning emigrants very specifically. The guidelines state: “A person who had previously been habitually resident in the State and who moved to live and work in another country and then resumes his/her long-term residence in the State may be regarded as being habitually resident immediately on his/her return to the State.””

The Ambassador also said NGOs like Crosscare and Safe Home Ireland “provide advice and assistance to returning emigrants”.

Pennie, who suffers from heart failure (he suffered cardiac failure in 2014), Crohn's disease, depression and chronic pain, had claimed he feared a lack of medical care for his health issues in Ireland and that he would be homeless.

Since 2014, more than 4,000 people have been stripped of their Australian visa and returned to their country of birth, regardless of how long ago they left.

The policy has been criticised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In February, following a meeting with her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, she said: “I’ve made it clear that New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes … but equally, the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there.”

Is the Irish government concerned that Australia is compelling people with criminal backgrounds and no particular support network in Ireland to reside there?

Ambassador Ó Caollaí said: “The majority of deportations of Irish citizens dealt with by the Embassy involve comparatively recently arrived Irish citizens who have overstayed their visa and the circumstances [outlined] don’t arise.”

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.

Podcast series gives voice to Irish Australian emigrant tales

Ciarán O’Raighne has spoken to a wide range of Irish emigrants for his podcast series Lucky Country.

Ciarán O’Raighne has spoken to a wide range of Irish emigrants for his podcast series Lucky Country.

Lucky Country is a brand new podcast and national community radio series in which Irish immigrants tell their stories in their own words.

Produced by Dubliner and long-time Sydney resident Ciarán O’ Raighne, the series seeks to get to the kernel of the Irish emigrant experience in Australia.

“Lucky Country is all about Irish voices,” O’Raighne explains.

“Why they came, their trials and tribulations. Men and women from all provinces. Catholics, Protestants and everywhere in between.

“Aged in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and even an 82-year-old who worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme. Some grew up in the six counties at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Others came in more recent years after the Celtic Tiger imploded nine years ago.

“The storytellers come from the island of Ireland and work as semi-professional soccer players, business owners, graphic designers, television producers and even a boxer who holds NSW and Australian titles.”

Harry Cummins, 83, from Dundrum came to Australia more than 50 years ago and lives in the Snowy Mountains area. He is one of the subjects of Lucky Country.

Harry Cummins, 83, from Dundrum came to Australia more than 50 years ago and lives in the Snowy Mountains area. He is one of the subjects of Lucky Country.

Putting the podcast together has been a labour of love for O’Raighne, who presents a twice-weekly show on Celtic FM under his broadcasting name, Jack Murphy.

“The Irish are known for their storytelling,” he says. “Perhaps it dates back to pre-electronic media device days, when village storytellers went from house to house to tell stories to the locals in exchange for a bite to eat and something to drink. Oral story telling was also a critical way to keep Irish Gaelic culture intact under British colonial rule.”

The Irish, O’Raighne says, also have a particular affection for radio.

In an address to the United Nations in 2016, President Michael D Higgins spoke of Ireland’s affection for the spoken word.

“Irish people spend more time than most nations listening to the radio. Our national, local and community radio stations are invaluable resources.”

The father-of-two has been in Sydney since the late 1980s and recently celebrated 25 years on the air.

Before leaving Ireland he presented arock music show on a Dublin radio station. He also worked as a news announcer in his university days.

In the late 80s, O’Raighne got his US Green Card but decided to first go on an adventure to Australia on the fledgling Working Holiday Visa. He has called Australia home since then.

He continued his passions of playing rugby and was selected to play for the Western Australian state squad and, later, played first grade for Northern Suburbs in Sydney.

He has also worked as a freelance broadcast journalist with ABC radio, BBC and RTÉ.

“The series has been made possible with the assistance of many volunteers and I’m grateful to everyone who worked on Lucky Country,” O’Raighne told the Irish Echo. “We also received some help from the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Programme together with the Australia’s’ Community Broadcast Fund.”

To access the Lucky Country series, just click here.

Jail for man who bashed two Irish backpackers

Two Irish backpackers were bashed by a man armed with a baseball bat.

Two Irish backpackers were bashed by a man armed with a baseball bat.

A Queensland man has been jailed for five years for the brutal bashing of two Irish backpackers who have been left with lifetime health issues.

Ashley John Moss pleased not guilty to grievous bodily harm and assault occasioning bodily harm but a jury in Cairns District Court found him guilty on Friday, March 15.

Moss hit Irish backpackers Owen Fogarty and Daniel McDermott in the head with a metal baseball bat after they got into an argument in front of his Mossman home in 2017.

The group of backpackers went to confront the father of three after he assaulted one of their friends earlier in the night, and the argument escalated.

Judge Dean Morzone told the court Moss' response was "grossly disproportionate, excessive and unreasonable", according to the ABC report.

"There was antagonistic behaviour between those in your yard and the tourists in response to the earlier assault and things became heated," he said.

"None [of the tourists] entered your yard and you could have retreated inside instead you took the time to collect a metal bat.”

After receiving emergency medical treatment in Australia, both Mr Fogarty and Mr McDermott returned to Ireland.

Mr McDermott lost hearing in his right ear and suffered tinnitus and seizures as a result of the bashing.

He was also on the wait list for a cochlear implant.

"His long-term prognosis is unclear," Judge Morzone said.

"He couldn't work for 10 weeks and still has a scar on his head. He also gets nervous in large groups and says he gets flashbacks to that night."

Moss broke down as he was sentenced.

"Your sister describes you as protective, kind and caring," Judge Morzone noted.

"Your otherwise good character is marred by a criminal history impacted by drugs and alcohol."

Moss was sentenced to five years in prison and will be eligible for parole on September 16, 2021.

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.