A FEW days ago, government ministers were tripping over themselves to be seen with the crew of LE Eithne.
The recent trip to Malta saw not one but three ministers, plus a rake of military top brass and high-ranking civil servants all on hand in the baking Maltese sunshine to welcome the Naval Service’s flagship into port at the end of her humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean.
Even the ship’s send off from its base in Cork merited not just Defence Minister Simon Coveney, but also the Taoiseach – who not only gave them a rousing speech from the flight deck, but warmly shock almost everybody’s hand.
Earlier today, however, it was a moment where the political classes took a step back and let the crew and their families enjoy the moment they had all been waiting for since being deployed on May 16.
As the only ministerial attendee, Minister Coveney kept it short and sweet – with a brief review of the guard of honour and then the families burst forward into the eager arms of their loved ones.
One Naval Services employee eyeing proceedings on the quayside at Haulbowline, Ringaskiddy observed: ‘Now THIS is the kind of work the Naval Services should be spending more of their time doing – saving lives and making a difference.’
The LE Eithne had been operational for six weeks, carried out 22 separate rescue missions and rescued 3,400.
A total of 170 of these were children.
The EU’s €120million Triton mission, which replaced Italy’s Mare Nostrum migrant operation, started after growing concerns about the fate of migrants fleeing war-torn Africa and seeking a new life in Europe.
Up to 1,000 migrants died in an horrific 24-hour period in April as critics likened the tragedy in the Mediterranean to ‘genocide’.
Minister Coveney confirmed earlier this month that Ireland will remain in the Mediterranean as part of the Triton mission until at least the end of September.
THE MEMORY of a woman who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a Cork hotel in 2011 was evoked yesterday at a gas safety launch in the Oireachtas yesterday.
It was announced a study should be urgently carried out to discover exactly how many illegally-installed boilers are currently being used.
The joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication is also recommending a study be made into the viability of carbon monoxide alarms being installed in all premises, whether private or public. And they want to see the regulatory structure that surrounds domestic fuel installations extended to the commercial sector. In making their recommendations, they frequently referenced Miriam Reidy, whose sister Siobhan Barrett has launched a campaign to have carbon monoxide (CO) alarms installed in hotels and other public places.
The report (and see Oireachtas video link below. The meeting starts after about 8 minutes) states lives are being put at risk all over the country by gas boilers being installed without the necessary safety certification.
Committee Chair, John O’Mahony TD, said: ‘The Report was informed by a hearing which took place in February of this year on the risk to public health and safety posed by uncertified gas boiler installations.
‘The Committee heard that illegal contractors are certainly operating in Ireland, but there was no consensus amongst the stakeholders as to the extent of this problem.
‘In compiling this Report, the Committee was at all times cognisant of the tragic death of Ms Reidy in Kinsale a number of years ago, which resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning following a gas leak.
‘Preventing more fatalities is the Committee’s priority in producing this Report.
‘We are greatly concerned by assertions that many installers are operating outside of the law, thus placing lives at risk, as well as undermining those installers who adhere to the law.’
At the moment, there is only a legal requirement that new build private dwellings should have a (carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, but not in commercial premises like hotels. For years now, the Association Of Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ireland has been lobbying hard for tighter control on the installation industry,
Since then, a variety of figures have been publicised as to the estimated amount of cheap and potentially lethal boilers are in circulation.
The figures range from around 60,000 to over 100,000, as presented to the Oireachtas earlier this year.
While most of these are in private dwellings – which carry the greatest risk from CO poisoning – as many as 8,000 domestic appliances may have also been installed illegally in commercial premises.
There has been behind-the-scenes conflict between the Commission for Energy Regulation and the APHCI over just what is the most accurate figure.
Late last year, it emerged the CER, which is the prosecuting authority for illegal gas works, was unable to verify how many people have potentially lethal boilers installed.
This is because the body does not know how many boilers are sold in Ireland each year.
And the CER, which even asked the Central Statistics Office to help determine boiler sales figures, admitted it may not even be possible to get a number.
This is more than two years after the APHCI told the CER that the annual number of illegally installed boilers is ‘at least’ 10,000.
As a result, thousands of lives are at risk as a result of the illegally installed boilers put into homes around the country ‘on the cheap’. And given up to 8,000 illegally-installed boilers are in commercial premises, Mrs Barrett’s campaign is all the more timely. Although domestic CO alarms cost as little as €16, the costs for commercial premises could be many more times that.
Options include fire and CO alarms housed in one single unit and wired to a central monitoring station in a commercial business.
Although a stand alone monitor can cost around €50, the cost of wiring it to a central monitoring unit can – according to industry sources – ‘thousands’ and that depends on the size and type of the commercial premises.
Another option, which some hotels have already adopted, is for a CO alarm directly attached to the commercial boiler.
If the alarm detects CO, it doesn’t just alert the commercial premises owners, it also automatically shuts down the boiler.
However, there are those who believe one alarm attached to a boiler might not be enough, especially if that alarm malfunctions.
These would be those who favour even a simple domestic CO alarm being placed in hotel rooms, which is a comparatively cheaper option.
Mrs Barrett said last night: ‘If a small, domestic alarm had been in my sister Miriam’s hotel room, I am convinced she would still be alive today.
‘I appreciate there are many sides to the issue and that not all the experts would think a small domestic alarm is the right way to deal with the CO problem. but I personally think it is a no-brainer.
‘At the very least, a small, battery-operated CO alarm that costs as little as €16 would be an extra layer of added security against this lethal gas.’
She added: ‘I am so glad that the joint committee is tackling this issue and taking seriously concerns about the whole heating appliances issue.
‘My worry, however, is the amount of time it is taking for changes to be made.’
MORE PEOPLE will die before a simple measure to warn about carbon monoxide poisoning is legislated for, the sister of a woman who died in 2011 has predicted.
Siobhán Barrett’s sister Miriam Reidy died in Kinsale’s Trident Hotel, Co Cork, after the deadly gas leaked into her hotel room. Mrs Barrett is to launch a campaign to make it compulsory for all buildings – whether public or private – to have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. They cost as little as €16 and take just seconds to install.
‘Since Miriam died, nothing has changed as far as I can see it,’ Mrs Barrett said last night. ‘In health and safety terms, her death was little more than an insignificant incident and just doesn’t seem to have made any difference to anything.
‘As much as I hate to say this because I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, I believe more people will die before the powers that be actually do something.’
Her comments come as a joint Oireachtas committee report on gas safety is due to be released in the Dail on Wednesday. It follows on from a warning in 2012 about the ‘ticking time bomb’ of illegally-installed gas boilers.
There are an estimated 100,000 illegally-installed gas appliances around the country. In addition, there are more than 2,300 plumbers operating around the country who are either not fully registered or even qualified to install gas boilers.
Wednesday’s Dail report is due to recommend that anyone who wants to buy a boiler will either have to be a fully registered gas installer or be able to prove that will be installed by one.
The issue of carbon monoxide alarms in public premises is not, however, among recommendations for action, yet. This is in part to do with the recent change in law which means all new build dwelling houses have to have them installed.
But it is the lack of any legal obligation on the part of owners of public premises to install carbon monoxide alarms that most concerns Siobhán Barrett.
Last night, Trident Hotel MD Hal McElroy said: ‘There is no legislation or requirement for hotels to have carbon monoxide alarms in hotel rooms.
‘Having given this consideration and taken advice, we fitted detectors on the new boiler system at source which is a more efficient way of ensuring that the CO or any variation in output will close down the boilers.
‘There can be no CO without combustion. This is in fact a safer and more efficient way of ensuring the safety of our guests and staff.
‘This device detects, at source, a presence of carbon monoxide or any irregularities in the system, and in the event of either, would immediately shut the boiler system down.’
Miriam died at the hotel on January 9, 2011, five days after the hotel’s boiler was converted from natural gas to liquid petroleum gas. Plumber Richard Davis, who converted the boiler, was subsequently tried for manslaughter and other charges and found not guilty. Mr Davis of Killanully, Ballygarvan, Co. Cork, had denied all charges.
‘There is a frustration in our hearts and in our heads about the fact that someone can die in a hotel room and nothing happens as a result. That adds to the hurt we all feel as a result of her sad loss’.
The Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard how Ms Reidy, 35, and her sister, Patricia Reidy Russell, were staying at the hotel while in Kinsale for their cousin Marie Reidy’s hen party.
They had returned to their room at around 1am. Neither of them had drunk very much. Miriam collapsed when she got up to go to the bathroom during the night and Patricia called a doctor after helping her ‘dazed’ sister into bed.
The women, who initially thought their drinks might have been spiked, were treated with injections for the vomiting bug. Later that day, when Marie – concerned she couldn’t contact them – went to their room, she discovered them and performed CPR on Miriam while a pal called 999. Paramedics fought to save her but she was already dead. Patricia, who was also violently ill, was rushed to hospital and her life spared.
The State had alleged Mr Davis failed to correctly convert the boiler to run on petroleum gas. The trial heard it was installed without a carbon monoxide safety test being carried out. It also emerged that shaft ducts in the hotel, which was built in 1965 and refurbished in 2004, had not been fire-sealed.
As a result, the boiler produced large amounts of carbon monoxide, which migrated through incompletely sealed service ducts and into hotel rooms, the trial heard. Other guests, including Limerick City FC player Ian Turner and his girlfriend, were also affected by the poisonous gas.
The defence argued commissioning of the boiler was not the only issue. They said the accumulation of gases due to ineffective flues and the passage of gases through incompletely sealed service ducts into Miriam and Patricia’s room were also factors.
‘Miriam will be forever in the hearts and thoughts of all those of us who work in the Trident Hotel.”
The jury found Mr Davis not guilty of unlawfully killing Miriam. It also found him not guilty in his capacity as a director of Davis Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ltd to two breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 relating to the conversion of a gas boiler for use with liquid petroleum gas at the Trident Hotel on or about January 4, 2011.
His company, Davis Plumbing and Heating Contractors Ltd, was found not guilty of two similar breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act on dates in January 2011.
‘We still carry an awful lot of hurt about the whole thing,’ Siobhán said last night. ‘The court case got us a hearing and the outcome was the outcome and as a family we have to respect that.
‘But it is heart-breaking to think a young woman, our sister, died and there was no accountability on any level for her death and that is one of the heart-breaking things about her death.
‘There is a frustration in our hearts and in our heads about the fact that someone can die in a hotel room and nothing happens as a result. That adds to the hurt we all feel as a result of her sad loss.
‘If Miriam’s death meant anything in the context of health and safety, then something would have been done to help make sure it doesn’t happen again.
‘We are trying to get on with our lives but we are always hoping that something will be done to change the way things are as far as carbon monoxide detectors are concerned.
‘Miriam died through no fault of her own but the fact that there is no accountability it just heart-breaking. It’s almost as if her death wasn’t enough of a wake-up call for someone to do something and pay attention.
‘I suppose the reality of the situation in this is that if it happened a second time, and another person’s daughter or sister died in a hotel again, maybe then they might realise the situation. Maybe they might finally say “Hello, we might need to change the law here.”
‘I wish it wasn’t the case but I feel that is the only way they will do something, because clearly Miriam’s death hasn’t been enough for them. And you know the pace of change in this country.’
Of her sister, she said: ‘Had Miriam been alive this year she would have celebrated her 40th birthday this May. Instead of attending a 40th birthday party, we visited her favourite beach in Kerry – Banna beach and released some balloons in her memory.
‘Miriam was a kind and gentle natured young woman, very close to her family and she had a good circle of friends. When she died she was just in the middle of plans to move into a new home with her boyfriend and move onto the next phase of life – get married and have her own family.
‘Instead that dream was stolen from her – she was taken from us and it now appears that her death was insignificant.’
She added: ‘Her death has left a huge void in our family and in all of our lives and that will be there forever. We live with the pain of her loss every day.
‘It would be of some small comfort to us to know that her needless death was not in vain and that legislative changes would have come in to effect as a result.’
Cork County Council was asked to explain what it has done since Miriam Reidy’s death to help prevent another death like hers but it declined to comment on any action it has taken.
Instead, spokesperson Tom O’Sullivan said: ‘The Health and Safety Authority investigated this incident in Kinsale and is the statutory body responsible for the issues raised in your questions. There is no issue for the CCC planning department.’
When Cork County Council mayor councillor John Paul O’Shea was then approached, he replied: ‘The HSA is the statutory body that inspects promises from a health and safety compliance perspective and has powers to enter any building at any time to do so and to order specific actions.
‘Also, Cork County Council does not have responsibility for certification of completed works to a building, it is the developer and their professional advisors who do so.’
Unlike Cork County Council, the Trident Hotel did at at least acknowledge the loss felt by the Reidy family.
MD Hal McElroy said: ‘Following the tragic death of Miriam Reidy, we expressed, and again wish to express our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones, and we wish to state again how profoundly sorry we are for their loss. Miriam will be forever in the hearts and thoughts of all those of us who work in the Trident Hotel.’
A Department of the Environment spokesperson said: ‘From an analysis of the incidents that have occurred in the UK, the predominant area for carbon monoxide fatalities is in dwellings.
‘This analysis would appear to suggest that non-domestic buildings would not be considered high risk category having regard to the number of carbon monoxide incidences involved.’
Have you lost a loved one from carbon monoxide poisoning in a public premises? Email randomirish @ icloud . com
Do you know (Robert) Michael Ward? Do you want to tell your story anonymously? Contact Random Irish News in the strictest of confidence.
A WOMAN is facing death from bladder cancer because her ex-fiancé told her he was a doctor who could cure her.
Michael Ward was jailed for five years yesterday after the court heard chilling details of how he ‘operated’ on his victim twice – in her own living room.
The ‘pathological liar and a dangerous fantasist’ had masqueraded as a high-flying medic – but he had no medical qualifications. His former fiancée remained undiagnosed for up to ten weeks because of his lies. Her potentially fatal tumour was finally discovered a week after he operated on her.
And the woman told how she believes Ward had allowed the court case to drag on because he thought she would be too ill – or even dead – by the time the trial came around. The gravely ill woman – who has not had a relationship since her ordeal – said she fought the case to stop 32-year-old Ward, from Co. Cork, from wrecking another life.
She said: ‘The only reason I have come this far and endured another three years of constant reminders is the thought that I could stop something like this happening to another woman.’
Last week, Ward pleaded guilty on day four of his trial to recklessly endangering her by masquerading as a doctor and purporting to treat her between August and October 2006.
He also pleaded guilty to assaulting her causing her harm.
When the pair met in June 2006, the respectable-looking man, with an address at Grove Road in Little Island, claimed to work as a doctor at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.
It later emerged that he was not medically qualified in any way and had even given her a fake name.
Detective Garda Kevin Keys yesterday told the Central Criminal Court that Ward and the woman had ‘a brief intense relationship’ in 2006.
But she knew him as Michael O’Brien, a paediatrician and medical doctor at Dublin’s Mater Hospital. He was actually a secondyear law student at the time.
He said the woman had been getting medical treatment for an undiagnosed condition and in August 2006 she told Ward’s about her problem.
He told her that her own doctors ‘did not have a clue’ and he ‘undertook the clinical management of her condition’.
He took daily urine samples, which he claimed were analysed by a lady called ‘Maria’ in the laboratories in the Mater Hospital, and then told her that a fictitious doctor – ‘Dr Harper’ – had diagnosed her as having an abscess on her bladder .
Ward prescribed antibiotics and specially prepared compounds before – on two days in October – he made her lie down on an air mattress for three hours, when he claimed he had inserted a ‘hypodermic syringe’ to both anaesthetise her and drain the abscess.
He had inserted a ‘plastic type object’ and left it there for several hours.
The object eventually ‘popped out’ and when the victim saw it, she thought i t looked like a syringe from a teeth whitening set.
He then ‘reinserted a new syringe’, the court heard . Detective Garda Keys said that during that two-day period Ward presented the woman with gifts of lingerie and a pair of boots which she later discovered had been bought with her own Laser card.
She confronted him about the unauthorised payments but he denied all knowledge. She went to the Mater Hospital a few days later to ask for Ward but discovered that he never worked there. Staff at the hospital made a complaint to the gardaí – and the woman was immediately referred to accident and emergency.
Her consulting doctor at the time prepared a report for the sen-tenchearing, in which he stated that he had no doubt that ‘by delaying appropriate medical treatment’ Ward had caused the woman serious harm.
He said the tumour was allowed to grow unchecked when it could have been treated.
His deceit was uncovered in mid-October, 2006, a week after the couple got engaged.
The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was later diagnosed with a life-threatening and rare form of cancer which had gone untreated for eight to ten weeks after Ward ‘undertook the clinical management of her condition’.
The victim had the tumour removed on November 11, 2006, three weeks after she discovered that Ward had lied to her.
She remains gravely ill. The court heard Ward also deceived her about the death of his father – who is alive and works as a laboratory technician – as they were about to go on a mini-break to Rome after their engagement. And he also cancelled a trip to the U. S. at the last minute for ‘an emergency surgery’.
Ward was arrested in February 2007 and he told gardaí that the allegations were ‘frivolous’. He added ‘I have no comment’.
Detective Garda Keys read from a victim impact statement, that the woman felt Ward had deliberately used ‘stalling tactics’ throughout the case because she believed he wanted her to be either ‘too sick or no longer a l i v e to t e s t i f y i n the case’.
She said there was a strong possibility that she would not have been alive to see the case to completion – but she endured it because she thought by doing so she could prevent this from happening to ‘some-one’s daughter or sister’. The woman said she had been encouraged by both family and friends to concentrate on her recovery rather than the case – but she felt she had to pursue it.
She said that Ward showed no remorse and allowed her to take the stand ‘knowing as he did the truth of everything’, and knowing how ill she was. She said that after three years and four days into the trial he eventually pleaded guilty.
Detective Garda Keys said the woman described how she was too ‘consumed and devastated’ by the way Ward had deceived and manipulate her to have the strength to deal with her illness when she was first diagnosed. She said his actions ‘still take a toll on me’.
The garda said that she described Ward’s actions as a ‘brutal deceit’ that has resulted in her ‘losing my belief in the inherent goodness in people’ – but she hoped in time that she ‘could regain the trust I used to have’.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton described the case ‘as deeply sad’ and jailed Ward, of Little Island, Co. Cork, for six years – but he suspended the final year of the sentence on the condition that Ward keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
The judge said: ‘He was able to charm her into a relationship which was of no benefit to her.’
He added that the woman’s illness had been confusing for a long time and people in such situations would search around for help.
He did not accept that Ward had been in love with the woman . He told the court: ‘You do not deal with love through manipulation – but rather with the truth, and that is the basis for any really stable relationship.’
He added that he could not ignore the fact that by treating her with this ‘ridiculous scheme’ Ward knew he was limiting her chances of recovering from whatever illness she may have had.
He said that Ward had ‘presented himself as a high-flying doctor’ and the woman had put her trust in him which was ‘badly betrayed’.
‘I am not impressed that he pleaded not guilty, leaving her in a position to give evidence in what he knew to be the truth when she was gravely ill.’
He commended the victim on ‘her enormous courage in discussing private matters in a public forum’ and noted that her motivation had been to stop something like this happening to any other woman.
He said that it was hard to think of ‘a worse betrayal and endangering of someone’s life, even considering that it was part of a fantasy for him’.
But Patrick McEntee SC, defending, said it was ‘an extremely sad case’ and he had ‘express instructions from my client to apologise fully for the distress, pain and suffering’ that Ward had caused to the victim.
He asked Mr Justice Charleton to accept that Ward was ‘a seriously conflicted man who has problems with telling the truth and was sucked into a world of fantasy, a fantasy of being a doctor’.
He added that Ward ‘did not know and could not have known that the victim had cancer at the time and that while his interference allowed the disease to take some steps forward, he did not know that was happening.
‘He made an irresponsible decision, one he had no right to make and one that he never should have. He told lies but there was nothing in it for him.
‘There was no suggestion that he got sexual gratification for it. ‘He did a serious thing and he must be punished for it. If only to stop people masquerading as doctors,’ Mr McEntee said.
He then read from a letter from Ward’s mother, in which she described her boy as ‘a model son’ who had always been good to her, her husband, her daughter and grandson.
She said Ward acted as a father-type figure to his nephew, ringing him to check his homework was done and taking him to the cinema at the weekend.
She said the whole family was devastated and it was her worst nightmare that her only son was before the court .
He was a man she described as ‘not a bad person’ and someone who had always been a great source of pride for her.
AN anti co-location campaigner whose protests against the Beacon Medical Group have led to the firm laying staff off last night vowed to continue her fight.
Consultant geriatrician Dr Christine O’Malley, former head of the Irish Medical Organisation, has been involved in helping direct a series of legal challenges to Beacon’s planning applications to build their private hospitals in Limerick and Cork.
The troubled group’s failure to get permission to build is costing the company dear in legal and consultancy fees on top of the estimated €850m it has to raise to fund its plans.
On Friday, the group – which, in 2006, owed €142m to banks, and a further €3.4m other creditors, including the Revenue Commissioner – announced six redundancies and pay reviews for senior staff.
The decision comes just a few weeks after the Irish Mail on Sunday revealed that the Beacon Medical Group is in danger of being struck off for failing to file accounts on time.
If Dr O’Malley’s efforts – and those of her partner Tom O’Donoghue – had backfired, they would both have been faced with legal bills of more than €150,000.
O’Donoghue, for example, had appealed An Bord Pleanala’s decision to grant planning permission to Beacon’s Limerick planning application all the way to the High Court for a judicial review.
He won, now the application is back to square one and Dr O’Malley is vowing to take that application all the way to judicial review if needs be.
Last night, Dr O’Malley said: ‘I fully intend carrying on with my opposition to whatever planning permission they apply for.
‘If it costs the company ever more money, then so be it.’
She added: ‘Private hospitals do not treat really sick people. They deal with the walking wounded and worried well, and planned operations, not emergencies.
‘And few, if any, actually have doctors on call throughout the night on a regular basis.
‘Mary Harney at the Department of Health seems convinced that private hospitals will take up the slack and end up treating all comers.
‘That just isn’t going to happen.
‘Objecting to Beacon’s planning applications is just my way of throwing sands in the wheels of something I am very opposed to.’
The Beacon Medical Group group, faces being banned from operating if overdue accounts are not filed. They were due last May.
BMG is the most important player in the Government’s controversial co-location initiative and awarded HSE contracts to build private hospitals on State-owned land at Dublin’s Beaumont, Cork and Limerick.
Car dealer Michael Cullen is chief executive of the company, which is co-owned by property developer Paddy Shovlin.
A spokesman for the Beacon Medical Group said recently the group was in a sound financial position.
‘We are not struggling financially. We have a number of profitable companies,’ said Pauline Cullen who handles communications for the group.
‘We are a very small project team and we are doing an awful lot. We possibly do too much for the size that we are.’
Miss Cullen said the fact that a helicopter owned by BMG directors had been mortgaged to Bank of Scotland in April was not related to any company financing efforts. With bank debts of E150m registered in 2006, the firm
took out two new mortgages with Ulster Bank this February.
In a statement to the IMoS recently , a spokesman said the company had engaged in ‘productive discussions with a number of banks’ and was confident of raising the required finance for the co-location projects.
Last night, the online edition of the Companies Registration Office carried no record of up-to-date accounts received.