Tag Archives: letter

From top: A bedroom in a direct provision centre in Swords, Dublin; Assistant Secretary at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan; tweets from Graham Clifford, of The Sanctuary Runners

Last night.

Journalist Graham Clifford, who co-founded The Sanctuary Runners, tweeted testimonies from three separate healthcare workers (above) who travel from their crowded living conditions in Direct Provision centres to their healthcare work setting.

It’s not known how many healthcare workers live in direct provision.

It comes amid a campaign by refugee and asylum seeker support groups calling on the Government to move out “at risk” residents from the crowded centres where social distancing is, they say, impossible.

It also comes amid reports on RTÉ’s Drivetime last night that there have been several positive tests in at least two centres.

Further to this…

A group of academics in health, law, human rights and migration has today published an open letter in which they’ve outlined their concerns about direct provision and Covid-19.

They’re calling for own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system. They say the the necessary accommodation is available to provide for this and, to not do so, could see the State falling foul of its legal requirements.

Just before lunch, assistant secretary at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan told journalists at a press briefing in Government Buildings that the Government was working “tirelessly” to ensure direct provision centres are “well-prepared” and “able to respond” to any Covid-19 issues.

She said 300 new beds – as opposed to rooms – were recently announced at new centres in Tullamore, Rosslare Harbour and Cahircaveen.

She added: “Further beds are being actively sourced for international protection applicants to better support social distancing measures in centres.”

The letter is addressed to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Health Simon Harris, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health Dr Tony Holohan, CEO of the HSE Paul Reid and a number of TDs and ministers in which they’ve outlined their concerns about direct provision and Covid-19.

The letter, signed by around 400 academics and counting, states:

“Dear Government representatives and State officials,

We are specialists spanning fields of health systems, public health, social policy, law, human rights, migration and racism.

We write to express our utmost concern that the State is continuing at this time to require large numbers of people seeking international protection to live in shared bedrooms, and to share sanitary and eating facilities, within the direct provision system.

This has prevented many people from socially distancing according to Government advice, with the aim of avoiding contracting COVID-19 and avoiding passing the virus on to others while they may be asymptomatic.

Many direct provision centres are in rural locations. An outbreak of COVID-19 within a centre, where people have not been in a position to socially distance themselves from one another, could spread rapidly and create a cluster of cases which the local health system in any given location may be unable to manage.

It is also important to note that a number of people living in direct provision centres work as care providers for others in the community.

In every region of Ireland at present there are unprecedented numbers of empty hotel rooms, student accommodation units and self-catering holiday accommodation units.

We implore you to act now, to provide own-door accommodation and individualised access to sanitation and eating facilities to every family unit and single person in the international protection system, given that such action is practicable at this time.

This matter is urgent, given that several cases of COVID-19 in direct provision centres have already been reported.

The small financial allowance provided to people seeking international protection (€29.80 per week for a child, and €38.80 per week for an adult) does not enable those living within the direct provision system to find alternative, private accommodation in order to socially distance themselves from others.

On the other hand, in light of the scale of the emergency socio-economic measures which the Government is putting in place for the rest of the Irish population at this time, it is reasonable to expect the Government also to invest in ensuring the safety of international protection applicants to the greatest extent practicable.

We note that the Government decided in the past few weeks to remove international protection applicants from emergency accommodation (which may have included hotels) into new direct provision centres.

The rationale for this, according to the Minister for Justice and Equality, is that it is easier to communicate HSE advice to people when they are gathered together in direct provision centres.

However, in our view, it is eminently possible to find ways to communicate with people while also ensuring that they are enabled to self-isolate in own-door accommodation.

The Minister for Justice and Equality has further stated that his Department has instructed each direct provision centre to create self-isolation facilities for use by those suspected to have COVID-19, and that the Department of Justice and Equality will pilot ‘off-site self-isolation’ for people suspected of having COVID-19.

There are two major flaws to this approach:

First, as per the HSE’s Guidance and the Government’s current instructions to the rest of the national population, social distancing from others before a person shows signs of infection with COVID-19 is necessary in order to prevent the spread of the virus – since COVID-19 can be transmitted by individuals who are not demonstrating or reporting symptoms.

Second, reports from residents suggest that at least some direct provision centres are creating self-isolation facilities which are manifestly inappropriate, in that they do not allow for physical distancing and provide no privacy for the patient in their illness or recovery.

We further note that the Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality wrote in the past few days to people living in direct provision centres to assure them that the Department is ‘actively sourcing new accommodation to reduce the numbers in some settings’.

We urge the Government immediately to find as many private rooms as necessary to ensure that every family unit and every single person currently within the international protection system is able to socially distance from others. As mentioned above, the accommodation is available and this matter is now urgent.

The Government’s recently published guidance on ensuring an ethical approach to managing the crisis, An Ethical Framework for Decision-Making in a Pandemic, stresses that the implementation of public health measures should protect the interests of vulnerable populations and ensure that measures taken do not result in increased health inequalities.

In other words, in a pandemic, public health measures must apply to all; every person must be able to benefit from public health support, with the assistance of the State if necessary.

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From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) and Health Minister Simon Harris; Naima

This morning.

As groups working with asylum seekers and refugees continue their appeal for the Government to move people most at risk from Covid-19 out of crowded direct provision centres…

Naima, who lives in a centre which has more than 200 residents, has written an open letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

“The routine is the same every morning. I wake up, grab my phone and text the lady a few rooms up the corridor to check that she’s okay. On Tuesday, last week, she started to display flu-like symptoms. Her GP referred her for a Covid-19 test, which she still hasn’t had, and she was told to self-isolate.

There are 234 people living in our Direct Provision centre, there is no space for more self-isolation rooms. We are scared, we are anxious – what happens when more start to get sick? Where are we supposed to go?

My main concern is for the older and more vulnerable people. There are five individuals aged 60, or over, in our centre but many more with underlying health issues. One woman in her sixties had cancer treatment recently. Another has a rare genetic condition which means her immunity is compromised. Another younger woman had a stroke not so long ago.

These people need to be moved out of Direct Provision and Emergency Accommodation centres now before it’s too late. What exactly are we waiting for?

We don’t understand how people at risk on the outside are being asked to cocoon and keep social distance but we’re being kept together – and many are still going out to work every day in vital front line services. They, and we, need to be protected.

The woman who is in self-isolation shared her room with two other women. They haven’t been tested but their GP does not think they have the virus. In other centres we know there are many more people to one room.

The HSE posters about the importance of hand washing are up in the centre and there is an attempt to promote social distancing but it’s just impossible – there are 81 children in our centre.

Over the last two weeks we’ve been asking what the plan is for when people start falling ill in greater numbers – no one can tell us.

Please start moving people now. There is no time to wait. We cannot look back in a few months and say ‘if only’. We need action today. Taoiseach, Minister Flanagan, anybody – help us.”

Letter from Direct Provision Resident – MOVE THE VULNERABLE OUT (The Sanctuary Runners)

Yesterday: No Room To Isolate

Rollingnews

A letter the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty sent to her constituents earlier this month

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty recently wrote a letter to her constituents in which she stated:

I ensured that tips in our hospitality sector are paid to employees and not withheld.”

However, last June…

The Irish Times reported:

A Bill to prevent employers deducting or withholding tips from employees has been passed by the Seanad despite Government opposition.

Senators voted by 25 to 14 on an amendment to the Sinn Féin National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill and then passed the Bill without a vote.

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, who introduced the legislation, rejected as “completely wrong” claims by Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty that the legislation would result in tips being taxed under the PAYE system and would have knock-on negative effects on workers’ entitlements to social welfare supports.

…Independent Senator Michael McDowell sharply criticised Ms Doherty for putting a “money message” on the legislation, required for Bills that will have an impact on the exchequer.

He said it was an “absolutely threadbare and totally unacceptable suggestion” that it involves appropriating the public revenue.

Mr McDowell said that “in a society transforming itself to a cashless society it is wholly wrong that that entirely positive development is used as a licence to plunder workers’ pockets”.

There you go now.

Meanwhile…

Last Monday, before the election date was called, Ms Doherty was interviewed by Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, during which she told Mr O’Rourke:

“Nobody ever reads manifestos during the election. Seán, you know that.”

Listen back to the interview in full here

Pic: One Galway

UPDATE:

From top: The Central Bank in Dublin; Opening page of a letter from the Central Bank to the heads of financial institutions in Ireland

Yesterday.

The Central Bank wrote a seven-page letter to the CEOs of financial institutions in Ireland about their obligations under the Fitness and Probity Regime introduced by the Central Bank under legislation in 2010.

Essentially, the letter reminds the CEOs that their responsibility to ensure staff adhere to fitness and probity laws does not stop after they hire a person – but that they must ensure staff adhere to these rules “on an ongoing basis”.

The letter states that while the obligations of individuals within the industry appear to be “well known”, firms appear to have a “less understanding” of these obligations.

The authors of the letter – Director General of Financial Conduct at the Central Bank Derville Rowland and Deputy Governor of Prudential Regulation at the Central Bank Ed Sibley – say that one issue of “particular concern” is due diligence on an “ongoing basis” in respect of certain employees who have a “controlled function” [CF].

The letter states:

“We have seen instances where serious issues have arisen which should have prompted a firm to ask itself if a particular person in a CF role was still ‘fit and proper’.

In one example, an individual had a significant judgment registered against them, such that questions arose over that individual’s financial soundness, but the firm failed to take any steps to satisfy itself that the individual still complied with the standards.

“Similarly, we have seen examples where individuals have been criticised publicly by other regulators and/or the courts for past actions. However, their current firms have failed to take any steps to assess whether those individuals are still fit and proper, and it has been left to the Central Bank to intervene.”

In addition, the letter raises concerns about institutions not informing the Central Bank about individuals who’ve been dismissed for fraud.

It states:

“We also see instances where Firms have identified fitness and probity concerns about an individual and have taken steps to address these, but have failed to
report those concerns to the Central Bank.

In some cases, the firms have gone so far as to suspend or dismiss the individuals for fraud but have neglected to report this to the Central Bank.

“In that scenario, the Central Bank is unable to consider an individual’s misconduct, in particular in respect of any future PCF [pre-approval controlled function] application that an individual might submit.

“To be clear therefore, where your Firm has any fitness and probity concerns regarding a person who is performing a CF role, and takes action on foot of those concerns, you must notify the Central Bank without delay.”

The letter also states that the Central Bank, under its ‘gatekeeper’ remit, is supposed to approve the promotion of people to certain senior positions in writing – after this approval is sought by the firm.

But, the letter states, some firms have not sought the Central Bank’s approval and, in certain cases, the individuals who were promoted “have been those roles for a considerable time“.

The letter adds:

“You, your board and any relevant committees play a critical role in ensuring that the right people are proposed as PCFs. It is crucial that you ask not merely whether a given candidate is competent, but also whether the individual acts with integrity at all times.”

The letter can be read in full here

Earlier: Nothing To See Here Ever

Thanks Breda

INM logo; Denis O’Brien (right) and former INM chairman Leslie Buckley

This afternoon.

Further to an alleged data breach at Independent News and Media.

It’s being reported that INM has written to individuals who may have had their data searched.

David Murphy, of RTE, has seen one of these letters.

He told Claire Byrne on RTE’s News At One earlier:

Claire Byrne: “What does it [the letter] say?”

David Murphy: “Basically Clare, what it is is INM setting out the timeline of events, what it knew, what it didn’t know and it has also outlined the new information it got from the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement which is hoping to appoint inspectors to investigate business affairs at Independent.

“So, in a nutshell, really what it says is that the letter says to people that their data may have been searched.

Initially the company was informed that this search was looking for a long-term service contract but now it’s been informed by the Director of Corporate Enforcement that the search may have been more extensive and for a different purpose.

“And it says that there was a list of names and or people of interest and that the individuals who’ve received the letter were on that list.”

Byrne: “This is the 19 people that we’ve heard of.”

Murphy: “This is the 19, exactly.”

The company says it doesn’t know if any searches were undertaken or for what purpose but it says, based on the limited information currently available to INM, it seems possible that there were searches done.

The company said it didn’t know to whom any of the searches, search results, would have been provided.

“It says, in the letter, that information related to you may have been put at risk of an unauthorised disclosure which would have consisted of emails to and from INM and also digital files held on its servers where any reference to a named individual, as of October 2014.

Byrne:So if you’re one of the 19, if your name popped up anywhere on their system, regardless, outside of your email exchanges, they’re saying, that’s included as well.”

Murphy:That’s included. So it’s not just emails sent by an individual in INM, it’s also emails they would have received or emails sent by an external person who’s on the list going into INM, so you can see it’s actually quite broad in terms of the way the search could have been conducted.”

Byrne: “OK, and the email [letter] aswell firmly points the finger at who they believe was responsible here?

Murphy: “That’s right so what it says here is very clearly that the information was provided to a third party service provider under the instruction of the then chairman of INM. Now Leslie Buckley, last Friday, who was the chairman at the time, issued a statement because a lot of this material has arisen from an affidavit which is being lodged in the High Court by the head of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan.

“And Mr Buckley has said that he is going to defend robustly each and every allegation and he also was very disappointed by the way in which this information had come into the public domain as opposed to being raised in court where it could be perhaps challenged by someone’s legal representative.

“But today he’s saying he’s not commenting on the letter.”

Byrne: “Ok, but we will hear more about this in five days time, if not before, but in five days time, we have that court hearing.”

Murphy: “So, in five days time, the Director of Corporate Enforcement is due to go into court and outline his reasons why he thinks inspectors should be appointed into INM. With any court case, you never really know, sometimes, they’re adjourned, but that’s the date that’s in the legal diary.”

Byrne: “OK, David Murphy, thank you very much for that.”

Listen back in full here

INM confirms Buckley role in alleged data breach (RTE)

SPARK-Ireland tweetz:

When a pregnant abused mother goes to court and gets a safety order and explains to @welfare_ie why she can’t get maintenance, is it appropriate they then write threatening letters like this? Should vulnerable files not be flagged and protocols put in place?