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July 21, 2005

Gardai Protest Over Fears of Loyalist Attacks

News about Ireland & the Irish

IT 07/22/05 Gardaí To Protest Over Safety Fears
IT 07/22/05 Sinn Féin Proposal On Freeing Kelly Defeated
IT 07/22/05 Call For Overhaul Of Ethics Guidelines
IT 07/22/05 €17m Bridge To Be Built In Donegal
IT 07/22/05 Abbey Theatre: Consultants Unravel Cash Crisis
IT 07/22/05 Abbey Theatre: Exit Directors; Show Must Go On
IT 07/22/05 Abbey Theatre: The Centenary Year


Gardaí To Protest Over Safety Fears

Elaine Keogh

Gardaí in one of the most strategic Border stations say
they will walk out at the end of this month because of
fears for their health and safety.

Gardaí at Dromad station, on the main Dublin-Belfast road,
are concerned that the construction of the EU-funded Newry
to Dundalk dual carriageway has left them at risk of
attack. The rear of the building is just 60m (66 yards)from
the Border.

In recent years gardaí in Dromad have been shot at and have
been the target of an attempted car bombing by loyalists.

The Garda station, as well as land and buildings beside it,
were the subject of compulsory purchase orders to
facilitate the new 14km road. For the last three years,
gardaí have been waiting for the Office of Public Works
(OPW) to find them an alternative home.

The construction of the road is on schedule and while their
neighbours moved out, they remain in the rundown and
vulnerable semi-detached building.

A major security threat is from a laneway that previously
ended 12m from the rear yard; now it runs into the yard
from a busy road in Jonesboro, south Armagh. It is an area
of the North which is rarely policed by the PSNI. The lane
also gives access to three adjoining sheds; two of them are
in the South but the third is in the North.

"There may be a peace process but the private cars of the
gardaí are constantly under attack and have been broken
into at least five times by people who can walk right up to
them when they are parked at the rear of the station," said
one source. Just over two metres separate the building from
a field from where large rocks have been thrown at cars.
Earlier this year a Garda patrol car windscreen was

Garda Representative Association spokesman Det Garda
Michael O'Driscoll said: "It is open season on the gardaí
because now you can stand in the North and attack the
station. The property of the State and of station members
is being attacked on a weekly basis. The security is
totally inadequate."

Chief Supt Michael Finnegan, of the Louth/Meath division,
said he had been put on notice that gardaí were vacating
the station on July 31st for health and safety reasons. "We
have notified the OPW and our housing section of the
situation," he said.

© The Irish Times


Sinn Féin Proposal On Freeing Kelly Defeated

George Jackson

A proposal by Sinn Féin at last night's meeting of Derry
City Council calling on Northern Secretary Peter Hain to
immediately release Shankill bomber Seán Kelly from prison,
was defeated by a combination of SDLP and Unionist votes.

Kelly, who was given nine life sentences for the murder of
nine people in an IRA bomb attack in 1993, was freed on
licence five years ago under the Good Friday agreement.

However, his licence was revoked by Mr Hain who claimed
that Kelly had broken the terms and he was returned to
Magha-berry prison last month.

Describing Kelly's rearrest as "arbitrary internment", Sinn
Féin councillor Paul Fleming said no charges had been
brought against Kelly nor had any information been given
about the reason for his arrest.

© The Irish Times


Call For Overhaul Of Ethics Guidelines

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

The State's ethics guidelines should be changed
immediately, according to the Standards in Public Office

This is necessary to to stop directors of State boards
accepting major gifts, such as the €9,000 Cartier watches
given last year to some retiring Aer Rianta board members,
it says.

Some people would try to justify gifts such as these on the
grounds that "there is inadequate recognition" of the work
done by directors, the commission said in its annual

"Whether or not that is the prevailing view and regardless
of its merits, the standards commission considers, as in
all cases, that the proper course for dealing with
compensation of directors of public bodies is through
officially sanctioned remuneration agreements, and not by
way of ad-hoc arrangements which constitute inappropriate
use of public funds," the body said.

The watches were given by the retiring Aer Rianta chairman
Noel Hanlon last October to three directors of the company,
and to two more who had retired in June 2003.

The recipients were former CIÉ chairman, Dermot O'Leary;
former GPA executive Liam Meade; Cork businesswoman Freeda
Hayes; ESB chairman Tadhg O'Donoghue and Mr Hanlon himself.
Following the disclosure of the presentation at a farewell
dinner for directors the watches were returned or paid for.

"The possibility of occurrences demonstrates the urgent
need to finalise the proposed code of conduct for State
bodies which is being drawn up by the Minister for
Finance," said the commission, which is chaired by former
High Court judge Mr Justice Mathew P Smith.

However, the commission is still extremely unhappy at the
refusal of the Department of the Environment to accept its
amendments to a code of ethics for councillors and local
authority staff.

It had wanted local authority officials to be barred from
having any extra job that "could reasonably be regarded as
weakening public confidence. The commission felt that there
should be a general prohibition on any such business,
occupation or activity while the person was in the
employment of a local authority, with the proviso that the
matter should be referred to a supervisor in the event of

Moreover, it also wanted restrictions ensuring local
authority staff could not quit and immediately take private
sector jobs where their contacts and experience would have
significant value.

"In such circumstances, it was felt that the imposition of
a moratorium for a specified period would not be
unreasonable," the annual report noted.

The commission had wanted guarantees for whistleblowers who
complained if they had been asked to act illegally,
improperly, or in an unethical way.

However, the fact that former minister for the environment
Martin Cullen refused to take the commission's observations
on board was "disappointing" and the commission said it was
"surprised" the department had not consulted further on the

Criticising ministers and ministers of state, the
commission said they should not use or allow their offices
to be used for electoral purposes during campaigns.

Meanwhile, the commission once more called on the
Government to amend the ethics legislation so that it could
appoint inquiry officers to handle the early stages of

The commission abandoned its investigation into a public
relations contract awarded by Mr Cullen to a Waterford-
based consultant, Monica Leech.

It did so because the evidence presented to it did not
establish that a prima facie case existed against him.

© The Irish Times


€17m Bridge To Be Built In Donegal

Chris Ashmore

The go-ahead has been given for the biggest bridge yet to
be constructed in Co Donegal.

The €17 million bridge will connect the Rosguil and Fanad
peninsulas - with the eastern side of the bridge located on
the estate of the family of Lord Leitrim.

He is remembered as one of Ireland's most notorious
landlords, who was assassinated by locals in 1878.

The bridge will be 350m in length with six spans. Over €5
million will be spent in 2006, €8 million in 2007 and the
final €4 million in 2008.

It is due to open in June 2008. Plans for the bridge were
first mooted in 1986.

Local TD Neil Blaney said: "The bridge will have a major
impact on the local economies of both peninsulas, and
especially for tourism."

A trip between the two points in each peninsula currently
involves a journey of 50km.

Donegal's Development Plan includes the objective of
forming an interlinked maritime chain across the north of
the county. The bridge represents the final link in the
maritime chain.

© The Irish Times


Consultants Unravel Cash Crisis

Carl O'Brien

The independent consultants appointed to review the
financial management of the Abbey Theatre found five
separate budgets with different projected outcomes for the
Abbey Theatre in 2005.

Consultants said the different budgets reflected the "lack
of clarity" surrounding the annual budget process and
financial procedures at the theatre.

The comments are contained in a review conducted by
consultants KPMG, which has been obtained by The Irish

One of the budgets prepared in October 2004 projected that
the theatre would reach break-even point in 2005; another
undated budget projected significant losses; yet another
budget, prepared in early May this year, projected an
operating profit; the latest budget, prepared in late May
2005, projected an operating loss of €263,000.

Internal correspondence, also obtained by The Irish Times,
shows the KPMG report that was presented to the Abbey board
on Wednesday was the fourth draft and followed concerns
among board members that "due process and natural justice"
be observed.

The KPMG report shows in detail for the first time how
losses mounted at the theatre during its centenary year,
and how accounting errors and poor financial controls meant
board and committee members failed to identify the full
extent of the financial crisis facing the company.

The budget for the centenary programme, known as
"Abbeyonehundred", was originally in the region of €3
million, however, it appears no final budget was ever

The consultants found a "version" of a budget with hand-
written totals and costs for some projects which did not
equal the breakdown of costs provided.

Some €650,000 was provided for a national tour of The
Playboy of the Western World, however, the costs were never
included in any of the income and expenditure statements
during 2004.

The board and its finance and audit committee told
consultants it was not aware that these costs were not
included in these statements.

The consultants were also unable to find a formal budget
for The Shaughran, although minutes of a meeting in August
2004 projected that it would cost in the region of
€430,000. Figures suggest it had operating losses of
€434,128. After the Arts Council grant factored in, this
figure was €47,728.

Plans to raise sponsorship of €2 million for the centenary
year also fell short of target by €500,000. The Book of
Days, another centenary initiative, cost in the region of

In December of 2004, the Arts Council provided the Abbey
with a stabilisation grant of €2 million, including an
early draw-down for the payment of overdue PAYE and PRSI.

The consultants concluded that accounting errors, poor
corporate governance and "ad hoc" analysis of reporting of
the finances contributed to the scale of the problem.

While these problems took place during 2004, the
consultants say income and expenditure statements for the
first four months of this year are "incomplete and

The report did not uncover any indication of an act of
theft or fraud, and there is no suggestion that any board
member or member of the finance committee was guilty of

The board is comprised of non-executive directors who
contribute their time and commitment without any

Latest estimates show the theatre recorded losses of €1.85
million in 2004 and now faces accumulated losses of at
least €3.4 million.

While the the report spreads the blame, it says the board
itself was responsible for the Abbey Theatre's financial
affairs and it should have provided more effective
oversight into the financial reporting and cost control
activities, particularly in relation to the national
theatre's centenary programme.

© The Irish Times


Exit Stage Left For Directors But Show Must Go On

There will be a decision on Monday about further funding,
writes Deirdre Falvey, Arts Editor

Onwards and upwards seems to be the motto. The Abbey was
yesterday maintaining it was business as usual, as it
picked itself up after the findings of the financial
consultants' report, which is accelerating changes to the
famously labyrinthine structures at the national theatre.
These include the imminent departure of the board of

Fears on Wednesday that the Abbey was facing technical
insolvency by the end of the week were temporarily halted
with an Arts Council cheque yesterday to ensure wages could
be paid today.

The council wouldn't confirm the figure but the money came
from the theatre's annual revenue funding (€5,050,000 in
2005) rather than the €2m "stabilisation" grant which
depends on changes being implemented, and only a small
portion of which has been signed over.

This week's to-ing and fro-ing of leaked letters about
insolvency may have been part of an elaborate bargaining
between the theatre and the council over the release of
funds and the release of the report.

At the staff meeting directly after Wednesday's lengthy
board meeting, KPMG briefed workers on the details of the
report, and director Fiach MacConghail, whose priority is
that staff are kept informed, attempted to reassure and
offer leadership. The report on the Abbey's finances will
be discussed at a day-long Arts Council meeting on Monday,
and a decision will be made about releasing more money.

The council has been keen for some time to receive the
report; the Abbey gave a copy to the council and to
Minister for the Arts John O'Donoghue, but only released a
detailed summary for public consumption. It is believed
that, according to legal advice, some of the report could
be actionable as it names individuals.

Following the appointment of MacConghail as director -
incorporating both artistic and management functions which
had previously been carried out by artistic director Ben
Barnes and managing director Brian Jackson, both of whom
left the company in May - the theatre is slowly reforming
the internal structure.

Directly below MacConghail will be four directors: two new
directors, of public affairs and of finance and
administration, whose posts were recently advertised in The
Irish Times, plus technical director Tony Wakefield and the
creation of another new post, that of literary director.

Pending the finance director's appointment, Declan Cantwell
has been made interim chief financial officer.

Planned productions include nothing on the expensive scale
of The Shaughraun. An all-male version of The Importance of
Being Earnest opens at the Abbey on Tuesday, and bookings
are very strong, according to the theatre.

The rest of the year's programme is in place, and sources
at the theatre are gung-ho that it is very much a case of
the show going on. Sources say plans for next year are more

The Dublin Theatre Festival shows are a co-production with
Belfast's Lyric Theatre of Hamlet at the Peacock, and the
Tricycle theatre production of Bloody Sunday: scenes from
the Saville Inquiry on the main stage.

After the festival there will be a new production of Lennox
Robinson's Drama at Inis at the Abbey, and the Peacock will
be dark for the rest of the year.

Five people have left the theatre under a voluntary
redundancy scheme, and more are to follow within a few
months, totalling nine.

There is to be an immediate interim audit of the management
accounts for the first six months of 2005, as the financial
position for this year is unclear.

A new company will be set up at corporate level, limited by
guarantee, along with a new board. The Minister has said he
is keen that this would be in place no later than
September, and that the new board of nine would replace the
existing convoluted structure.

© The Irish Times


The Centenary Year

A chronology of recent events relating to the financial
crisis at the Abbey Theatre.

Late 2003: The budget for the centenary programme,
"Abbeyonehundred", is set at €3 million, to be raised
through external funding and a €1 million State grant.

January 2004: A finance and audit committee is established
to act as the board's representative in financial and
auditing matters in the Abbey.

Early 2004: This committee seeks to reduce the budgeted
cost of the programme, which was already over-running.
Options including scaling back the programme are explored.

May 2004: The €1 million State grant is received.

Mid 2004: The finance and audit committee is told The
Shaughraun has run significantly over budget by €400,000
due to "excessive spending". Sponsorship shortfall of €1
million. A fresh analysis of remaining projects leads to
newly predicted costs of €3.3 million.

July 2004: The national tour of The Playboy of the Western
World commences, followed by an international tour. It
later emerges that the €650,000 budget for the national
tour is not included in any income and expenditure
statements during 2004.

December 2004: The Arts Council offers €2 million to the
Abbey as part of a "stabilisation plan" to address losses
from the centenary programme, on condition that sweeping
changes are made to corporate governance.

May 2005: Following new analysis of accounts, the operating
loss for 2004 is increased from €1 million to €1.85
million. The Abbey announces the appointment of KPMG to
investigate the finances.

Source: KPMG report, July 2005

© The Irish Times

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