Articles in Category: National Interest

Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has died

Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has died.

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The Derry man died at Altnagelvin Hospital in the early hours of this morning.

The 66-year-old, one of the most prominent figures in Irish politics in recent decades, had been suffering from ill health for several months.

As a result of his illness, Mr McGuinness did not take part in the recent Stormont election which came about after he resigned as Deputy First Minister over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Sinn Fein enjoyed huge success at the election, almost overtaking the DUP as the largest political party in the North.

Many of the successful Sinn Fein candidates paid tribute to Mr McGuinness in their victory speeches.

His death will be a huge blow to Sinn Fein, given his prominence within Irish politics and on the worldwide stage for so many years.

However, Martin McGuinness was someone who divided opinion for the many years he was in the public eye.

To republicans, he was a hero and a peacemaker.

However, for others, he was someone they could not disassociate from his IRA background.

Mr McGuinness, who was born and grew up in the Bogside area of Derry, first came to prominence in the early 1970s when he was part of an IRA delegation which met British government officials in England.

He later admitted during his evidence at the Saville Inquiry that he was a member of the IRA during Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Mr McGuinness served a short jail sentence in the Republic in 1973 but told the Saville Inquiry that he left the IRA in 1974.

Alongside Gerry Adams, he went on to become the public face of Sinn Fein and was instrumental in a spilt within the party in 1983 which saw senior northern members take over control of the party from their southern counterparts.


In his role as a peacemaker, Mr McGuinness, who was married to Bernie and had two sons and two daughters, has been credited with playing a key role in steering the republican movement away from violence and down the political road.

He was Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator during the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In the subsequent power-sharing arrangements at Stormont he took on the role of Deputy First Minister, during which time he formed an unlikely close friendship with DUP leader Ian Paisley.

Mr McGuinness announced on January 19 that he was stepping back from frontline politics because of his illness.

That evening he spoke at a rally outside his home which had been organized in support of him and his family.

He told the crowd that it had been a difficult decision.

“I had a lot of thinking to do over the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“I had to think of Bernie, I had to think of my family. I had to think of the doctors in our health service and nurses who have been treating me over the course of the last six weeks.

“And I had to think of the people of Derry, the people of Ireland, the people in this constituency.

“I had to think of my colleagues within Sinn Fein and I had to be honest with all of them.

“But at the end of the day I had to make a decision and I had to be honest with myself.

“And the question I had to ask myself was I physically able and capable of fighting an intensive five/six week election in the current state that I am in and the answer to that was no.

“So the only fair thing to do was which I have done today was to make it clear that I won’t unfortunately, even though it breaks my heart, that I won’t again have an opportunity to ask the people of Foyle to support me in what will be a critical election to strength the Sinn Fein mandate.”

The exact details of the illness that Mr McGuinness was suffering from has not been made public.

Mini-robot now key to search as investigators fear Rescue 116 helicopter hit rocks in mystery crash

It is now feared the downed Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter may have hit rocks on a remote Mayo island before crashing into the sea at the foot of steep cliffs. By Luke Byrne and Ralph Riegel

Preliminary examination of wreckage from the US-built Sikorsky S-92A helicopter has given further weight to the theory that the aircraft suffered a catastrophic incident seconds before it either crashed into the sea, or disintegrated after an attempted emergency landing on the isolated Black Rock island.

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Last night, the Irish Coast Guard confirmed that the medical emergency the Rescue 116 was responding to related to a crewman losing a thumb on board a fishing vessel. A spokesman said a call was made that the helicopter should be dispatched after it was decided the crewman needed prompt medical attention due to the risk of septicaemia.

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A sonar is placed over the side of a boat in the water to track the transponder during the search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017

As the search continues - it looks increasingly likely that the helicopter collided with rocks.

Sources told the Irish Independent that the wreckage recovered so far displayed no sign of 'petalling', or the outward tearing of fuselage panels, consistent with an on-board explosion.

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Debris from the missing Rescue 116 helicopter is brought back to Blacksod pier from another Coast Guard Helicopter. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Similarly, none of the wreckage recovered has shown signs of intense heat or melting, which would have occurred if there had been an on-board electrical or fuel leak fire.

The helicopter is feared to have disintegrated having failed in a landing bid at Black Rock island, some 12km off the Mayo coast, or crashed directly into the sea at the base of steep cliffs.

The fuselage is believed to rest on the seabed at a depth of 40 metres just off Black Rock island. Wreckage was also found on the island.

Aviation and marine officials are baffled as to why no alarms were raised at 1am last Tuesday when the helicopter crashed into the sea.

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Jim Murray Mayo Civil Defence prepares to search along the coastline at Annagh Co Mayo for the missing Rescue 116 helicopter and crew with their Matrice 600 Drone. Photo Steve Humphreys

No mayday was received from the vastly experienced crew of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Their last communication - seconds before the helicopter vanished off radar and radio contact - was a routine message that they were minutes from refuelling at Blacksod Bay. No automatic alarms were triggered by the multitude of safety devices on board the S-92A.

"The likelihood is that we will only know precisely what happened when the Multi Purpose Flight Recorder (MPFR) carried by the S-92A is recovered from the wreckage on the seabed," one source said.

The MPFR, or 'black box', will allow AAIU officials to recreate digital details of the last moments of Rescue 116 including its airspeed, altitude, engine power outputs and systems status. Meanwhile, search teams looking for the three crewmen have successfully mapped out a section of water where they believe the aircraft's black box recorder lies.

But despite a 10-hour operation preparing the 100m by 100m area off Blacksod for a dive and underwater robot operation, large swells expected today could hamper progress.

The operation will be led by Commissioner of Irish Lights (CIL) vessel Granuaile.

The vessel is designed to operate in difficult sea conditions and is also equipped with a heavy-lift crane capable of handling 20 tonnes.

The S-92A is just over half the maximum lift weight of the Granuaile's crane at 12 tonnes.

Granuaile is also equipped with a Remotely Operated Vehicle submersible which, given the difficult and dangerous conditions, will initially be used instead of divers. Irish Coast Guard official Declan Geoghegan said they hoped to make progress over the next 72 hours.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who attended Capt Fitzpatrick's funeral on Saturday, will today visit volunteers and families.

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 Wreckage from Rescue 116 is brought back to Blacksod Pier. Photo Steve Humphreys

 

 

Donegal senator slams NI Secretary of State over boundary dispute

A Donegal based senator has labelled the Northern Ireland Secretary of State 'arrogant' over disputed territorial claims between Britain and Ireland.

Sinn Fein senator, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan to challenge the latest pronouncement from the British Government on the ownership of Lough Foyle.

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In response to a parliamentary question, the British Secretary of State for the North, James Brokenshire asserted that his Government's position remains that "the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK".

The ownership of the seabed and waterline at Lough Foyle on the Derry-Donegal border has long been disputed – with confusion about whether the area falls under the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic or the United Kingdom.

The UK Crown Estate claims propriety ownership of the sea floor of Lough Foyle to the high water mark on the Donegal side of the lough. However the Irish Government disputes this, claiming the Lough Foyle foreshore belongs to the Republic of Ireland under its State Property Act (1954).

Senator Mac Lochlainn said: "This is an arrogant and provocative pronouncement from James Brokenshire but unfortunately it is a repeat of previous pronouncements and again and again, previous Irish Governments have failed to sort it out.

“I am calling on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan to immediately challenge this assertion on behalf of the Irish people.

“I am also calling on Minister Flanagan to clarify what is the status of the negotiations between the two governments on the ownership of the Lough.

“The Loughs Agency tasked with responsibility for managing Lough Foyle by both governments have been repeatedly calling for a resolution so that the real tourism and fisheries potential of the Lough can be fully realised.

“Minister Flanagan also needs to clearly outline why agreement has not been reached to date.”

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Donegal in 19th place in Irish broadband speed table

One-in-three people say they may have to move to cities in Ireland get better broadband.

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Two new studies have shown that connections in some rural areas are so bad that emails can’t be opened.

The Irish Independent claims the worst area is Legan in Longford, which has an average download speed which can be 36 times slower than parts of Dublin.

Website Switcher.ie carried out 27-thousand tests and found that a third of customers were left unable to perform basic online tasks.

Donegal is ranked 19th among the 26 counties, with an average speed of 13.44 mps, compared to 44.85 in Dublin and 7.25 in Longford.

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Trump and Ireland: Five areas of immediate concern

So what happens now? Here are the five key policy areas to watch now that Donald Trump looks set to become President of the United States. By Philip Ryan

1. Undocumented Irish

Donald Trump looks to have swept into power on the back of an election pledge to drastically overhaul America’s immigration policy. His likely presidency, if he sticks to his campaign promises, will be defined by his treatment of illegal immigrants living and working in the US.

This is bad news for the 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the US, who have spent years lobbying presidents in the hope of securing green cards which would give them and their families more security. These dreams are all but dead with Mr Trump’s election victory.

The billionaire businessman’s hard line approach on immigration will not be restricted to Mexicans working in the US and undocumented Irish living in America will now be on tenterhooks awaiting the implementation of the new president’s policy commitments.  He said he will immediately deport any immigrant with a criminal record before introducing strict new laws and order controls.

He also plans to end so called sanctuary cities in the US where police do not prosecute or deport undocumented workers when they are caught working illegally. New York and Chicago, where thousands of undocumented Irish are based, are currently sanctuary cities.

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2. Multinationals

Another central plank to the new president’s campaign was a commitment to lure US multinational companies back to America with competitive tax rates.

His meteoric rise from showbiz businessman to voice of the ordinary man was predicated on his condemnation of US firms moving abroad to avoid paying corporation tax. 

His election manifesto committed to lowering the US corporate tax rate from 35p to 15pc. He also plans to implement a tax amnesty for multinationals paying tax offshore and allow them repatriate back to the US at a rate of 10pc. 

Mr Trump has used Ireland as an example of a foreign country taking advantage of US tax policy and stealing American jobs. It is safe to say Mr Trump will not be welcoming of the efforts of Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) to attract US business.

The worst case scenario would see US tech and drugs firms who employ thousands of Irish workers decamp back to the states, the best would see a reduction in US foreign direct investment.

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3. Trade

The billionaire businessman has rubbished almost every trade deal agreed by previous US presidents as bad for business and bad for America. Now in office, he will set about ripping up trade contracts with foreign nations and begin the process all over again in the hope of getting better deals for America. Mr Trump’s main focus will be the recently agreed Transpacific Trade Partnership (TPP).

The deal between 12 countries, including China and Mexico, is one of the most significant trade agreements in world history. It has yet to be signed into law by the US Congress and with Mr Trump in the White House it is all but dead in the water.

More central to Ireland will be Mr Trump’s view of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the European Union. The controversial trade deal is in advance stages of negotiations but the new president will want to put his stamp on the deal and rip up the work that has been done to date. 

Ireland’s historically strong trade relationship with the US will also be put under strain due to Mr Trump’s determination to lure companies and jobs back to America.

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Donald Trump and wife Melania after voting in New York Picture: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

4. Border controls and Visa programmes

Donald Trump has pledged to abolish the popular J1 visa programme which has seen thousands of Irish students flock to the US for the summer months in search of work. Despite using the programme to hire foreign students to work in his hotel chain, Mr Trump has insisted he will end the scheme once in office.

During the campaign, the newly elected US President said the visa programme is used to take advantage of workers and results in American losing out on jobs.

He has also promised to implement stricter custom checks on passengers flying into America due to security fears arising from the rise of jihadi terrorists. So far there has been no threat to the preclearance arrangement Ireland has with the US in Dublin and Shannon airports but this could be subject to change along with Mr Trump’s new customs and visa policies.

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5. Cross Atlantic relationships

We’ve come along way since Finance Minister Michael Noonan rolled out the red carpet and harpist for Mr Trump when he arrived at Shannon Airport two years ago.

Since then, Government ministers have gone out of their way to criticise the businessman’s stances and comments on various issues. Taoiseach Enda Kenny branded him a racist and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin openly supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan was even forced to urge party colleagues to stop publicly attacking Mr Trump. For his part, Mr Trump has dismissed his golf resort in Doonbeg in Clare as “small potatoes” and got into a spat with Mr Kenny during the sale of the State’s share of Aer Lingus. Now that he is in the Oval Office and with the prospect of a St Patrick’s Day State visit to the US around the corner, the Government will be anxious to build bridges with Mr Trump.

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'Valued' teachers mourned by local schools following Cavan 'murder-suicide'

A family of five found dead in their countryside home in Cavan yesterday were most likely victims of a murder-suicide, investigators believe.

The bodies of primary school deputy principal Alan Hawe, aged in his 40s, and his school teacher wife Clodagh, aged in her 30s, and their three sons were discovered at the house near Ballyjamesduff, in Co Cavan.

It is believed the husband and wife were found downstairs at Oakdene Downs in the townland of Barconey, while the boys - Liam aged 13, Niall aged 11, and Ryan aged six - were upstairs in their bedrooms.

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Coffins are taken to hearses at the scene in Oakdene, Barconey, Ballyjamesduff in Cavan, Pic: PA.

Garda assistant commissioner John O'Driscoll said they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths.

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"We believe all the answers are within that house - so therefore the most likely scenario is that one person in that house may have caused the death of the others," he said.

"All the circumstances will be explored but as it stands at the moment that is the position."

Mr Hawe, believed to be from Co Kilkenny originally, was deputy principal at nearby Castlerahan National School, which was due to start back after the summer break.

Niall and Ryan were both pupils at the school and the eldest boy Liam was a past pupil.

Mrs Hawe, from Co Cavan, taught at Oristown National School in Co Meath.

Locals said the family were out and about in the close-knit community on Sunday and gave no indication that anything was wrong.

"Nothing had happened prior to this grim discovery this morning that gave rise to anyone - including An Garda Siochana - having any suspicion that anything was untoward and this family were engaged with the community and seen yesterday," said Mr O'Driscoll.

"None of the activity and interaction with other people gave rise to any suspicion as to what was to happen."

Investigating gardai, who described the case as very sensitive, have found no evidence that a firearm was used.

A technical examination being carried out at the property - which has been sealed off as a crime scene - and follow up post mortem examinations are expected to give a more definitive answer as to the cause of the deaths.

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Hearses leaves the scene at Oakdene, Barconey, Ballyjamesduff in Cavan, where a family of five were found dead in their countryside home. Pic: PA.

A number of objects found in the house are being subjected to "detailed technical examination".

The alarm was raised at around 10:45am today after someone, thought to be a relative, called to the house but got no answer.

Two officers dispatched to the scene from Monaghan Garda station gained entry to the house and made the discovery.

Investigators are continuing to talk to neighbours and the extended family of the victims to piece together clues as to what happened.

The family were well known in the area and involved with the local Castlerahan Gaelic Games Association (GAA) club.

Mr Hawe was a treasurer and fundraiser.

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Paddy Smith, a local councillor, said the deaths have been very distressing to all who knew the family.

"This has come as complete and utter shock to everybody in the area and everybody who knew the family because they were a very steady, hard working family," he said.

"It is a complete shock, out of the dark, people are just unable to grasp or comprehend what has happened."

Mr Smith added: "They are a very hard working and tight knit community, people just don't know what to say, they are shell shocked at this terrible tragedy."

Psychologists have been drafted in to assist teachers in both schools in helping pupils deal with the tragedy.

Several hearses arrived at the scene today as the bodies were removed in coffins.

Castlerahan National School and Oristown National School have released statements regarding the death of Alan Hawe, his wife Clodagh and their three children Niall, Ryan and Liam.

Alan and Clodagh were both working teachers at these local schools.

The statement from Castlerahan National School said Alan was a "valued member of our school staff and community" and described the three children as "wonderful children who will be greatly missed by all who knew them."

Niall and Ryan were pupils of the school and Liam was a past pupil.

"This is a terrible tragedy for the family, our school and our community. We are deeply saddened by this event.

"Our sympathy and our thoughts are with the extended family and friends."

The statement from principal Ann O'Kelly of Oristown National School said they were "deeply saddened" by this event.

"Clodagh was a much loved and valued teacher in our school and will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

"Our sympathies and thoughts are with Clodagh’s family and friends."

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Local Councillor Paddy Smith has said people are shellshocked as to what has happened.

Mr Smith said the family had lived in the area for the past ten years and were members of the local community.

Mr Smith said the family were seen yesterday in a happy state.

According to the local Councillor the mother had local connections in the area and her husband was a hardworking community man.

"No one can understand what has happened, it is a complete mystery. We are all shocked beyond words."

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Driscoll made this statement during a press conference in Cavan this evening: “We have identified everyone who we believe can be of assistance in this matter and when we have spoken to those people we will have more answers.

“We believe we know everybody that can be of assistance but if there is anyone out there who knows something and they believe that may be of particular relevance to this investigation and we haven't made contact with them, they should contact us here.”

"The most likely scenario is that one person in that house may have caused the death of the others."

"We are not looking for anyone else. We believe all the answers are within the house."

There is no evidence that a firearm was used.

The family are well known in the area. Both the parents are professionals who worked locally and they had been married for 15 years.

 

 

Donegal Scientists Make Major Alzheimers Breakthrough

Scientists at Randox Teoranta in Dungloe have made a major breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimers.

The team has developed a faster, more affordable method of identifying patients at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, using a blood test performed on the company’s patented Biochip Array Technology.Randox-Dungloe.jpg

The global healthcare company received a Distinguished Abstract Award for the test at last week’s AACC Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

As the leading event for laboratory medicine worldwide, the event is attended by 20,000 delegates from across the globe. Randox’s Alzheimer’s disease risk test was one of only 29 out of 1024 to receive the prestigious award.

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Whereas standard molecular testing can be both time-consuming and expensive, the Randox Biochip test can conduct multiple diagnostic tests on a single blood sample, which has both cost and time-saving benefits, in addition to a rapid diagnosis for the patient.

The Randox Biochip analyses the Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), the E4 variant of which is recognized as one of the most significant genetic risk factors for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

There are three versions of the ApoE gene: E2, E3, and E4. The E4 version increases a person’s risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and it may also be associated with an earlier onset of memory loss.

Each parent passes on one ApoE gene to their child, and if two copies of the E4 variant are inherited, a person’s disease risk is increased by 8-12 times.

The research presented at the AACC Conference was conducted by Randox scientists, and scientists at the Medical University of Vienna, who verified the accuracy of the Biochip blood test by analyzing 384 samples and comparing the results to that of a standard molecular diagnostic test. Both tests provided the same accurate results, however the Biochip tests results were available in a significantly faster 3 hours.

“It is the first time that we have used this biochip immunoassay technology to test for an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Emma C. Harte, PhD., a Research and Development Scientist at Randox Laboratories.

Dr. Emma Harte PhD is one of a team of Randox scientists at the Randox Teoranta site in Dungloe, Co. Donegal, who carried out this pioneering Alzheimer’s research.

“This type of testing is important in our quest to understand and diagnose Alzheimer’s and empower patients to understand risks, consider medication, and even make early lifestyle changes.”

“Pairing this test with medical and family history for risk of Alzheimer’s disease has the real potential to advance personalized medicine. This fast, accurate testing will allow doctors and patients to make more informed choices earlier to potentially slow the possible progress of Alzheimer’s.”

Dr. Maria Zellner, from the Institute of Physiology at the Medical University of Vienna, said the Randox Apolipoprotein E4 Biochip test is a real breakthrough in the area of Alzheimer’s research.

“For the first time, multiple tests for the plasma Apolipoprotein E4 can be conducted simultaneously – meaning an accurate diagnosis can be achieved faster and earlier. The Apolipoprotein E4 Biochip, which our 384 plasma samples confirmed as having 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity, can diagnose patients as either Apolipoprotein E4 positive or Apolipoprotein E4 negative in as little as 3 hours. Early Alzheimer’s diagnosis is fundamental for the patient and their loved ones to actively manage the disease, and to enable clinical intervention. It is also critical to the development of new pharmaceutical treatments for Alzheimer’s disease which are more likely to be beneficial if the disease is identified at a very early stage.”

Thousands expected in Derry today for the funeral of Bishop Edward Daly

As final preparations are made in advance of today’s funeral mass for former Bishop of Derry Dr Edward Daly, members of the public are being advised of traffic restrictions will be in place.

Large numbers are expected to attend the service which will take place at this afternoon 3.30pm in St Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry, including political and church leaders travelling to the city to pay their final respects to one of the city’s most iconic figures.

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Mass goers and regular users should note that the William Street Car Park will be closed to the public from now until 6pm tonight.

Alternative parking will be available to members of the public wishing to attend and drivers are advised that they can use public car parks located at Strand Road, Queen’s Quay, Victoria Market, Foyle Street and Bishop Street.

Some traffic restrictions will remain in place before and during the service to reduce congestion in and around the Cathedral area and people are asked to follow directions from stewards and the PSNI.

Drivers are also asked to be mindful of blocking entranceways and restricting access to residential areas to ensure easy access for emergency services if required.

People are advised to arrive early at the Cathedral for the mass which begins at 3.30pm due to the large numbers anticipated. Burial will take place following the service in the Cathedral grounds.

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Bishop Edward Daly absolving a dying man during the Bloody Sunday massacre.

'Utter madness' - Boy racers driving cars at each other in latest rural craze

Young Donegal motorists are driving at high speeds at each other on rural roads in a new craze described by gardaí as "utter madness". By Greg Harkin

The so-called 'chicken game' involves drivers in their late teens and early 20s speeding towards one another before attempting to avoid each other at the last moment.

The 'winner' of the challenge is the driver deemed to have pulled out of the manoeuvre last.

The motorists involved do not wear seat belts and sometimes carry passengers who film the events.

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Independent.ie understands a young motorist involved in one of the incidents is due before the courts later this year.

Gardaí and road safety campaigners have expressed serious concern at the dangerous craze.

"This is a very worrying development and the consequences can be horrendous," said Garry Doggett, who runs the Pro-Social Driving Course in counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.

Motorists convicted of various offences in the courts are given the option of attending the four-day classroom based courses in return for reduced sentences.

"We are aware of this new so-called craze and it is just crazy. We will be addressing the consequences of what can happen on our course going forward," said Mr Doggett.

The restorative justice solution will be rolled out in Co Mayo later this year.

On the course offenders meet gardaí, ambulance staff and fire officers who have dealt with the aftermath of fatal road traffic collisions.

However, Mr Doggett says he is due to meet insurance company representatives later this month to discuss the possibility of a new course for young motorists who haven't been before the courts.

Less than 2pc of those who have been on his course in Donegal have appeared in court again.

"We get to see the people who have been before the court but I believe we need a new pre-emptive solution and one idea we have is a course that can be taken which would lead to an insurance premium discount for those who take it," he said.

"We have to be able to get to young people before they commit an offence, or worse before they kill someone or kill themselves.

"We are extremely hopeful that the insurance companies will support any initiative which can lead to safer roads for everyone."

Letterkenny-based Gda Insp Goretti Sheridan said her officers are aware of the new craze.

"We are aware of incidents where young people are involved in this so-called game of 'chicken'. There is no other way to describe it than utter madness and we would appeal to young people not to engage in this activity," she said.

Firefighter killed after plane crash-lands in Dubai; four Irish on board

A firefighter was killed while responding to a plane crash-landing in Dubai, the chairman and chief executive of Emirates airline has said.

Ten people were taken to hospital after the incident at Dubai International Airport, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum told a news conference.

The accident happened as Flight EK521, a Boeing 777, was arriving from the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram.

There were 300 people on board the aircraft at the time, including four from Ireland.

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The accident was the most serious ever for Emirates, which has grown at a breakneck pace over the last three decades and turned its home city of Dubai into a major long-haul international air hub.

It was the second major air disaster for a Dubai government-backed airline in less than five months.

A FlyDubai 737-800 jetliner crashed in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, in March, killing all 62 on board. The two airlines operate independently of one another, though they share the same chairman and are both ultimately owned by the government of Dubai.

Speaking to reporters in Dubai, Mr Al Maktoum stressed that all passengers were safely evacuated before the plane was engulfed in a fireball.

He said one firefighter died trying to put out the blaze.

Emirates said the accident happened at around 12.45pm local time as Flight EK521 was arriving from the southern Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram.

It confirmed that "all passengers and crew are accounted for and safe", but gave no details of what went wrong.

"We do not have ... all the information. Thankfully there (were) no fatalities among our passengers and crew," Mr Al Maktoum said in a video statement . "Our thoughts are with everyone involved."

The Boeing 777-300 was carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew members from 20 different countries, according to the airline. Those onboard included 226 Indians, 24 Britons, 11 Emiratis, and six each from the United States and Saudi Arabia.

Airline officials refused to answer questions from journalists, including what might have caused the accident.

A problem with the plane's landing gear appeared to have at least been a contributing factor. Video shot by a passenger on another flight showed the plane tilted to its right side and lying on its belly as thick smoke poured out. The right wing appeared to have been torn off the fuselage during the crash.

Emirates predicted there would be an eight-hour delay in operations across its network, disrupting travel plans for thousands of passengers during the busy summer holiday season. The Dubai Media Office said flights resumed at the airport a little before 7pm local time.

"Our main priority at this time is the safety and wellbeing of all involved and full co-operation is being extended to the authorities and emergency services managing the situation," Emirates said.

Passengers escaped the burning plane using inflatable slides. At one point after coming to a stop, part of the plane exploded into a bright orange fireball.

By the time firefighters managed to extinguish the blaze, the roof of the plane had been consumed and scorched from the cockpit all the way to the tail.

Director general of residency and foreigner affairs at Dubai airport, Mohammed al-Marri, said some of the passengers had their passports with them, but that others lost their passports during the quick exit from the aircraft.

Based on the passenger manifest, Mr al-Marri said officials were able to facilitate the entry of the flight's passengers into the United Arab Emirates.

In Dubai International Airport's gleaming Terminal 3, the home of Emirates, the typically bustling arrivals hall was hushed. Flat-screen televisions showed all incoming Emirates flights delayed or rescheduled.

Dubai resident Girisankal Gangadhakan said his wife called him after the plane landed to tell him that she and their three children onboard had been involved in an accident but were safe.

"I was shocked when I heard about that," he said.

The Boeing 777 departed Thiruvananthapuram at 10.19am and was scheduled to land at 12.50pm local time, according to Emirates.

Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the south-western Indian state of Kerala. Many migrant workers employed in the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf nations come from Kerala, which is a popular beachside tourist destination.

TP Seetharam, India's ambassador to the UAE, said Indian diplomats had been dispatched to the airport and had met directly with many passengers.

"Many of them are in shock after such an event, and there may be minor bruises," he said.

Dubai International is by far the Middle East's busiest airport and is the world's busiest air hub in terms of international passenger traffic. It handled some 78 million passengers last year.

Fast-growing Emirates is the region's biggest carrier. The government-backed airline has a good safety record, with no other major accidents recorded since its founding in 1985.

The 777 model is one of the workhorses of Emirates' fleet. It operates more than 120 of the twin-engine planes, more than any other airline.

 

Disgust as tickets for Donegal match on sale for €350 on ebay!

Tickets for the All-Ireland quarter-final between Donegal and Dublin this weekend have been put on ebay for a whopping €350!

It’s a double-header at GAA HQ on Saturday, with Tyrone and Mayo clashing first, before Donegal and Dublin go to war. The GAA expect the double-header to be a sell-out at Croke Park this weekend.

There is a huge demand for tickets from supporters in all the counties involved, with those desperate to see the games scrambling for tickets.

However, there is disgust amongst GAA supporters nationwide after two tickets for the quarter-final went on ebay for €350. The face value of the tickets are €30.

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Supporters are calling for GAA authorities to stamp out the issue of touts getting their hands on tickets – who are pricing the genuine fan out of the games.

One irate Donegal fan told Donegal Daily, “It’s just a disgrace, it’s so wrong, something has to be done to alleviate this problem in the GAA.

“Every year, you hear the same stories regarding tickets for the knockout stages of the All-Ireland series.

“Genuine fans being priced out of going to games by touts, the tickets are getting into their hands far too easily, and there only interested in making a profit of them.

“€350 is just absolutely disgraceful, it’s not on and something should be done about, when Donegal got to the All-Ireland final there were tickets going for €1,000, the GAA need to do something now!”

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What we know about Nice Bastille Day attack so far

Police and forensic teams are currently in Nice trying to establish more information surrounding last night's attack.

1. Some 84 people – including several children - were killed when the 25-tonne truck zigzagged a full two kilometres along the seafront Promenade des Anglais as a fireworks display marking the French national day – Bastille Day - ended just after 10.30pm

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2. The gunman at the wheel of a heavy truck which ploughed into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice was a 31 year-old Franco-Tunisian, born in Tunisia. He was known to police for common crimes, but he was not known to intelligence police.

3. The truck careered into families and friends listening to an orchestra or strolling above the beach towards the grand, century-old Hotel Negresco. Eyewitnesses said the driver swerved from side to side to kill as many people as possible as he drove for two kilometres.

4. 18 of the injured are in a critical condition

5. The attacker also opened fire before police shot him dead last night

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6. There has been no claim of responsibility this morning. Police are trying to establish whether the driver might have had any accomplices in Nice which has a reputation for Islamist activism. Nice, a city of 350,000, has seen dozens of its Muslim residents travel to Syria to fight, a path taken by previous Islamic State attackers in Europe.

7. French President Francois Hollande has announced that a state of emergency – which began after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris in November – has been extended by three months.

8. Italy has announced it will boost controls at three road crossings into France and at the Ventimiglia train link between the two countries. Nice is 35 km from the Italian frontier.

9. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would stand by France's side in the "fight against terrorism".

"Germany stands in the fight against terrorism at France's side, united with many, many others. I am convinced that, despite all the difficulties, we shall win this fight."

9. Bastille Day marks the 1789 revolutionary storming of the Bastille prison in Paris as an attack on liberty by fanatics who despised human rights.

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Arrest warrant issued for actor Gerard McSorley

A warrant for the arrest of Fr Ted actor Gerard McSorley was issued yesterday.

He is accused of damaging a bank’s flower-pots,  but gardai have two months in which to serve the warrant before the case is called again.

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Dungloe District Court was told McSorely is charged with damaging two flower pots at the Bank of Ireland in Bunbeg in the Donegal Gaeltacht.

The pots were described on the summons as the property of the manager of the bank, Marion Boyle.

McSorley, 66, of Cul Na Toinne, Magheraclogher, Bunbeg, is accused of the criminal damage offence on June 16, 2016.

The actor, who has appeared in several films and tv plays, was Fr Todd Unctious in the Fr Ted series.

It was the first time the summons appeared on Judge Paul Kelly’s list and the actor was not present in court when the case was first called.

As Inspector David Murphy said he was applying for a warrant for the actor’s arrest, defence solicitor Jacqui Sharkey asked for the case to be put back for a second call.

An hour later, when the case was called again, Ms Sharkey said she was unable to contact Mr McSorley.

Judge Kelly issued a warrant for the actor’s arrest and told Ms Sharkey she could arrange with gardai for it to be served with discretion.

He adjourned the hearing to September 13.

Brexit: Northern Ireland votes to remain in the EU

Leave did better than anticipated in North but majority choose to stay in the bloc

Northern Ireland has voted to remain in the EU in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the bloc.brexit_votes.jpg

Ballot papers waiting to be counted at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, as counting gets under way in the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The results from Northern Ireland saw the Remain side edge it by 55.77 per cent, with the Leave side doing better than expected.

Foyle was the first constituency to declare in the count towards the overall result in Northern Ireland in the UK’s referendum on its EU membership, with a strong majority for Remain.

A total of 32,064 voted for the UK to stay in the EU with 8,905 backing Brexit.

West Tyrone has voted to remain in the EU, with 26, 765 votes for Remain and 13, 274 votes for Leave.

Belfast West has voted to remain in the EU, with 23,099 votes for Remain, 8,092 votes for Leave.

Belfast South voted strongly to remain, with 30,960 for Remain, 13,596 for Leave.

Belfast North has voted narrowly to remain, by 20,128 to 19,844.

North Down voted to remain with 23,131 votes for Remain, 21,046 votes for Leave.

Belfast East voted to leave, with 20,728 for Remain and 21,918 for Leave.

DUP stronghold Lagan Valley voted for Brexit with a total of 22,710 (47 per cent) voting for Remain and 25,704 (53 per cent) voting for Leave.

North Antrim has voted to leave, with 18, 782 votes for Remain and 30, 938 voting for Leave.

Strangford has voted to leave, with 18,727 votes for Remain, and 23,383 votes for Leave.

Belfast East has voted to leave, with 20,728 for Remain, 21,918 vote for Leave.

The electorate in East Antrim firmly backed calls to pull out of Europe, with 22,929 votes for Leave compared with 18,616 votes for Remain.

Leave campaigners also enjoyed success in South Antrim, where 22,055 voters backed Brexit while 21,498 said they wanted to stay.

East Derry has voted to remain, by 21,098 to 19,455, while Upper Bann voted to leave, by 27,262 to 24,550.

South Down voted for remain, by 32,076 votes to 15,625, as did Mid-Ulster, by 25,612 votes to 16,799.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone has voted Remain, by 28,200 votes to 19,958. Newry and Armagh also voted to remain in the EU.

Electoral area

Northern Ireland is treated as one electoral area in the overall UK result, but the count was broken down across its 18 constituencies, with those separate outcomes added together for the regional result.

The verification of ballot papers started in eight regional count centres shortly after polls closed at 10pm.

The final regional result was be announced at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast by the chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland, Graham Shields.

There were about 320 electoral staff in the centre, including counters, count supervisors and count calculators.

After arriving at the Belfast centre, DUP MLA for Belfast South Christopher Stalford said: “If leave [vote] is over 30 per cent I will consider that as a victory.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “The signs in Northern Ireland is that Leave will do better than anyone expected even a few weeks ago.”

Ian Paisley Jnr also said he believes a Leave win would make the DUP more influential in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said: “For us this was about staying in Ireland, as Ireland, staying as one, not having one part in Europe and the other part of it outside of Europe.”

Belfast South MP and former SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell also said he was hopeful of the Remain campaign winning and that he believes the UK must “throw itself into Europe full thrust”.

Campaign

Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and the Alliance Party campaigned for a Remain vote in the referendum campaign, while the DUP, Traditional Unionist Voice and Ukip were among those advocating a Brexit.

The future of the Irish Border was a key issue in the campaign, with claim and counter-claims on whether a UK exit would see a return to security and customs checkpoints.

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Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Mr Cameron made the announcement in a statement outside Downing Street after the final result was announced.

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He said he would attempt to "steady the ship" over the coming weeks and months but that "fresh leadership" was needed.

The PM had urged the country to vote Remain, warning of economic and security consequences of an exit, but the UK voted to Leave by 52% to 48%.

England and Wales voted strongly for Brexit, while London, Scotland and Northern Ireland backed staying in.

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UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed it as the UK's "independence day" but the Remain camp called it a "catastrophe".

The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as the markets reacted to the results.

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Flanked by wife Samantha, Mr Cameron said he had informed the Queen of his decision to remain in place for the short term and to then hand over to a new prime minister by the time of the Conservative conference in October.

It would be for the new prime minister to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal, he said.

"The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected," said Mr Cameron. "The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered."

The referendum turnout was 71.8% - with more than 30 million people voting - the highest turnout at a UK-wide vote since 1992.

Labour's Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Bank of England may have to intervene to shore up the pound, which lost 3% within moments of the first result showing a strong result for Leave in Sunderland and fell as much as 6.5% against the euro.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage - who has campaigned for the past 20 years for Britain to leave the EU - told cheering supporters "this will be a victory for ordinary people, for decent people".

Mr Farage - who predicted a Remain win at the start of the night after polls suggested that would happen - said it would "go down in history as our independence day".

He called on Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum but campaigned passionately for a Remain vote, to quit "immediately".

Labour sources also said David Cameron "should seriously consider his position".

But pro-Leave Conservatives including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have signed a letter to Mr Cameron urging him to stay on whatever the result.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who called for the UK to remain in the EU but was accused of a lukewarm campaign, said poorer communities were "fed up" with cuts and felt "marginalised by successive governments".

"Clearly there are some very difficult days ahead," he said, adding that "there will be job consequences as a result of this decision".

He said the point he had made during the campaign was that "there were good things" about the EU but also "other things that had not been addressed properly".

Former Labour Europe Minister Keith Vaz told the BBC the British people had voted with their "emotions" and rejected the advice of experts who had warned about the economic impact of leaving the EU.

He said the EU should call an emergency summit to deal with the aftermath of the vote, which he described as "catastrophic for our country, for the rest of Europe and for the rest of the world".

Germany's foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier described the referendum result as as "a sad day for Europe and Great Britain".

But Leave supporting Tory MP Liam Fox said voters had shown great "courage" by deciding to "change the course of history" for the UK and, he hoped, the rest of Europe.

And he called for a "period of calm, a period of reflection, to let it all sink in and to work through what the actual technicalities are," insisting that Mr Cameron must stay on as PM.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the EU vote "makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union" after all 32 local authority areas returned majorities for Remain.