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Survivor’s right to information will form basis of new law



The Government will bring forward new legislation on the right to access personal information following the publication of a report on the country’s mother and baby homes, the Minister for Children has said.

Speaking on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme, Roderic O’Gorman said he had asked the Attorney General to look into the matter and that he aims to introduce the proposed legislation in the Dáil by the end of the year.

He wants the right of an individual to have vital personal information about themselves to form the basis of new legislation, he added.

“From the end of February, my department will be in a position to address subject access requests coming in to the department regarding personal information contained in the archive of investigations,” he said.

“As regards the wider piece of GDPR legislation, I’ll be prioritising that over the course of this year, I would hope to bring it to pre-legislative scrutiny this year and hopefully bring it into the Oireachtas by the end of this year.”


Minister O’Gorman said it was important an apology to the survivors of the mother and baby homes is made today.

Some survivors have asked for more time to read the Commission of Investigation’s 3,000-page report into the homes for unmarried mothers and their children, before the Taoiseach makes a formal apology in the Dáil this afternoon.

“It is clear that the State and successive governments failed in any way to address this issue, and I think it is important in that context, that the State, as part of the set of responses that it put out yesterday, the first one of these is an apology,” the Minister said.

Such an apology, he added, could be used as the basis to try to rebuild trust with survivors that had been “so badly damaged”.

I don’t think the Taoiseach or anyone in the Government is trying to in any way foist or deflect responsibility


Mother and baby home survivors ‘very hurt’ by Taoi…

Mr O’Gorman rejected any suggestion that the Government was trying to foist responsibility for the mother and baby homes scandal on to society.

He said: “I don’t think the Taoiseach or anyone in the Government is trying to in any way foist or deflect responsibility.

“That’s why the apology is coming. That’s why we set out 22 actions in our action plan of responses to this report.”

He added: “The fact that the Taoiseach on behalf of the State is making an apology today does make it very clear that this Government takes responsibility on behalf of the State for the failings that are manifestly clear within this report.”

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North’s health service to give £500 recognition payment to all staff



A special recognition payment of £500 (€565) has been announced for Northern Ireland’s health staff.

Stormont’s Health Minister Robin Swann said it will be paid to all health and social care workers including doctors, nurses, care home workers, domiciliary care workers, administrative staff and estates teams.

The payment is subject to approval by the North’s Department of Finance.

Mr Swann also announced a one-off recognition payment of £2,000 for students who have been on clinical placement between October 1st, 2020 and March 31st, 2021.

The qualifying courses include nursing and midwifery, social work and physician associate pre-registration programmes commissioned from Queen’s University Belfast and the Ulster University by Stormont’s health department.

Mr Swann said that thanking the health workers for their work through the pandemic was not enough.

“There are no words to properly convey what they have done for us – we will never be able to repay that debt,” he said.

The minister added that he recognised the payment may pose challenges for some of the lower-paid workers, in terms of potentially having an adverse impact on their social security payments.

“So this afternoon I have written to the ministers of finance and communities asking them to urgently consider the issue and to engage with the tax and benefit authorities in GB to request that these payments are excluded from consideration in this regard,” he said.

“And whilst the UK nations are still negotiating a new pay deal for NHS Agenda for Change staff this payment will have no bearing on that.”

A one-off award is also set to be made to carers but Mr Swann said more work is to be done on this before further detail can be announced.


Meanwhile, Dr Patricia Donnelly, the head of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, announced an acceleration of the rollout.

The region received a further delivery of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday, and another delivery is expected next week.

Dr Donnelly said those will cover the 75-plus age group and start provision to the over-70 population.

She said Thursday will see the start of a “twin-track approach”, as the seven regional vaccination centres start receiving members of the public.

GPs will focus on the 70-and-over age group, while the vaccination centres will offer appointments to 65-to-69-year-olds.

So far, 191,050 doses of Covid vaccinations have been administered.

This includes 168,140 first doses and 22,910 second doses.

Earlier First Minister Arlene Foster said she would rather see people vaccinated than doses potentially wasted.

Ms Foster was speaking following reports of a leaked email which appeared to offer some staff in the South Eastern Health Trust the opportunity to register family members for early access to the jab.

The email indicated that over-65s, known to staff, could book in at its vaccine centre before the official announcement.

The trust said it started a local trawl in advance of the online public booking system going live to fill slots and ensure they would not “lose hundreds of precious vaccine slots”.

Mrs Foster said: “The vaccination centres are using the Pfizer vaccine, and it is very restrictive in how and when it can be used. It has to be kept at very cold temperatures and then used quite quickly.

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine needs to be stored at very low temperatures. Photo: PA

“As I understand it from looking into this, this is to deal with the very first appointment because we do not want to risk losing this vaccine.

“We are very proud of the fact that our wastage in terms of vaccination is about 0.4 per cent, I think that is very, very good and I’d much rather see people vaccinated than waste the vaccine.”

The First Minister told the BBC: “I think wasting the vaccine would be absolutely the wrong message to send to people.”

The Stormont Executive is set to meet on Thursday with Education Minister Peter Weir expected to bring a paper around school closures.

Schools in the North have been closed since stopping for the Christmas break due to a fresh raft of lockdown restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.


Northern Ireland should freeze co-operation with R…

It was announced on Wednesday that a further 16 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the toll in Northern Ireland to 1,779.

The Department of Health also confirmed another 527 positive cases of the virus.

There are now 775 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, including 68 in intensive care.

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Status yellow rainfall warning in place for 12 counties



A status yellow rainfall warning has been issued for 12 of counties in the north and west of the country.

Met Éireann has forecast heavy rain with a risk of localised flooding for Donegal, Meath, Westmeath, Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Longford and all of Connacht.

The warning will come into force at 6pm and remain in place until 6am Thursday morning.

The UK’s Met Office has also issued a weather warning for all six counties in Northern Ireland, from 6pm on Wednesday to 9am on Thursday.

The forecaster said heavy rain would bring some flooding and transport disruption in the region.

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NI garden centre told British carrot seeds not available due to Brexit rules



Carrot, cucumber and courgette are among the seeds a Northern Ireland garden centre owner has been told he cannot ship from Britain.

Tomato, runner bean, onion and lettuce seeds are also on the prohibited list that Robin Mercer received from his British supplier.

The supplier sent a list of more than 40 different seed types to Mr Mercer on Wednesday, advising him they would no longer be available due to new Irish Sea trading rules.

Northern Ireland’s continued compliance with EU rules on plant health means a variety of plants, seeds, plant products and soils cannot be imported from Britain.

Robin Mercer is the owner of Hillmount garden centres (Liam McBurney/PA)

Importers also face added red tape and bureaucracy to ship many other plants from Britain.

Mr Mercer, who owns Co Down garden centre business Hillmount, called on the UK government to act immediately to save Northern Ireland’s horticulture industry.

“Every day poses a new problem and it’s not now or in the next month or during this spring season, these Brexit-related changes are going to impact the future of gardening for the rest of our lives,” he said.

“So I’m appealing to the government to step in and ensure that our industry is saved for the thousands of gardeners across Northern Ireland who enjoy the benefits of gardening for their mental health.”


Mr Mercer said he had stockpiled seeds and other products prior to the end of the transition period in anticipation of problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs the new trading arrangements.


Northern Ireland should freeze co-operation with R…

“Every supplier I talk to gives me more bad news, a new problem or consequence with no solution,” he said.

“It’s a blessing in a way that we’re in lockdown as we just wouldn’t be able to sustain the stock for our customers if we were open. Originally we were told that there might be a two-week delay on seeds but now we’re being told that there will be no deliveries full stop and there is nothing to replace these seeds – once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

He added: “For 80 years we have supported local suppliers and growers here but the reality is that around 50 per cent of our stock comes from outside Northern Ireland as we just don’t manufacture the goods or grow the plants here to meet customer demand.”

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