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Mother rejects claims controversial autism dossiers relate only to ‘dormant’ court cases

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A woman whose disabled son’s sensitive health records were being used as part of controversial dossiers for the Department of Health has rejected claims that the files relate only to children involved in dormant court cases.

Margaret Cronin, mother of Jeremiah Cronin (21), who is profoundly intellectually disabled, said she was shocked to learn in recent days that his records were being used by the department without her consent.

She said her family’s 21-year fight to ensure Jeremiah is provided with all necessary services and adequate educational placements is ongoing and not dormant.

“Our numerous requests for help from the various agencies of the State were falling on deaf ears and ultimately we were left with no other option but to engage solicitors who issued proceedings on our behalf for Jerry in 2003,” she said.

“We regret to say that these legal proceedings remain alive to this date and this is despite numerous attempts by our legal representatives on our behalf to seek mediation/resolution of these proceedings.”

Last month claims emerged on an RTÉ Prime Time programme that the Department of Health had maintained dossiers of sensitive information on children with autism involved in long-dormant court cases.

The department subsequently told parents last month that it “never unlawfully held sensitive medical and educational information of children involved in dormant court cases”. It said it was normal practice for defendants to litigation to gather and maintain “appropriate information” in order to obtain legal advice or defend the proceedings.

‘Not appropriate to comment’

When asked whether it categorised Mr Cronin’s case as dormant, the department said it would “not be appropriate to comment on the substance of an individual case”.

Ms Cronin said her solicitors informed her on April 12th last that they had received a letter “out of the blue” from the department’s secretary general confirming that Jeremiah’s case was one of those referred to in the RTÉ Prime Time programme broadcast last month.

“This was a complete shock to me,” she said.

The programme contained an interview with Shane Corr, a whistleblower who stated that treating doctors had been contacted by the department and asked to provide records on patients without informing the patient or their guardians or solicitors.

“I am shocked to think that the Department of Health was engaging in such conduct behind not only my back but also unbeknownst to my solicitors. This letter has caused great distress to myself and my family,” Ms Cronin said.

She said the letter states that the department “never gathered sensitive medical and educational information on children involved in court cases in the manner portrayed in recent media reports”.

“I find it extremely difficult to accept this as it flies in the face of what the whistleblower had to say . . . At this point in time, I do not know whom to believe. All I do know is that my son and our family are now caught up in the middle of this saga which the department says in their letter to me of April 12th that they have been aware of . . . since last year – yet we have only been informed now,” she said.

Ms Cronin said the department told her to contact an “independent liaison officer” whose address is associated with the department.

“This of course begs the question as to how independent can this liaison officer be,” she said.

“I will not be contacting the liaison officer as I have instructed my solicitors to write to the Department of Health seeking a copy of the dossier that they have maintained in respect of my son Jeremiah.”

Independent officer

In a statement, the department said it had appointed an independent support liaison officer to engage directly with the families involved in the allegations in the RTÉ programme regarding the collection of data for litigation purposes.

“The department is providing necessary logistical support, including email facilities, to the support liaison officer, to ensure that he can engage with families in as timely and supportive a manner as possible. His engagement with families is independent of the department,” it said.

It said it acknowledged with regret the distress that headlines arising from the RTÉ programme generated.

“The department has never gathered sensitive medical and educational information on children involved in court cases in the manner portrayed in recent media reports. There is no evidence that the Department of Health was secretly compiling dossiers on children with autism involved in special educational needs litigation as alleged.”

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Three Cork publicans prepare to begin trade again

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Pensioners who like to read the paper as they enjoy a few leisurely pints are the cohort most excited by the resumption of indoor service in pubs, according to a Cork city publican who has only traded for two weeks since March 2020.

Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn, says his regulars have been phoning to check what time he is opening on Monday, with some saying they have not had a social outing since the start of the pandemic.

“We know all our regulars on a first-name basis. We have a man who comes in and has two or three pints on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He will read the paper but he will watch the world go by at the same time,” he said.

“He will chat when he wants to chat. He is in his late 70s and he wouldn’t have been out [socially] in 15 months.”

Mr O’Donovan said it has been a surreal time but was hopeful that better days were coming.

“We will adapt and get on with all the changes we have to make with how we do business,” he said. “It is difficult in that we never wanted to be asking people about their health status. We have to be cautious but it is another step in getting life back to the way we knew it.”

‘It has been a struggle’

Danny Collins was looking forward to reopening the Boston Bar in Bantry, west Cork after a year of many sleepless nights due to worries about keeping the business afloat.

“I have been going through my savings to pay the mortgage as we were only open for a couple of weeks last year,” the independent councillor said.

“It has been a struggle. Of course there were other bills as well. To have your pub cameras, you had to pay the internet bill. I was also advised to keep my cooler system running. In the winter, I had to put on the heating.”

Mr Collins said he was apprehensive about all the different regulations that will have to be complied with as indoor service returns, such as staffing all entrances, and that finding employees had been a struggle for those in the sector.

“I think the PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] should be reviewed at this point,” he said.

‘We can’t wait to open’

In Cork city, publican Ernest Cantillon will be opening Electric bar/restaurant and Sober Lane bar this week.

During the pandemic, he set up an online cocktail sales business and sold takeaway food, allowing him to keep a core team of about 15 people employed despite his business only opening as a traditional pub for a couple of weeks last year.

“We have also shifted to a new model of opening four evenings a week,” he said. “We are opening next Wednesday through Saturday and then staff will have three days off. That has been a key factor in staff retention and recruitment. We are going to give it a go. We can’t wait to open.”

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Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday

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In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.

The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.

Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.

READ ALSO: WEATHER: German flood zones at risk of further storms

The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.

The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.



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Prosecutors allege R Kelly had sexual contact with under-age boy

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US prosecutors in R Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an under-age boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex-trafficking trial to hear those claims.

Federal prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations – but not new charges – against the R&B singer in a court filing on Friday.

Jury selection is due to start August 9th in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.

The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise control over them.

The charges involve six different women and girls, who are not named in court filings.

Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.

Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio.

According to the prosecutors’ court filing, after asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still under-age.

And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy”, prosecutors wrote.

The filing does not say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.

The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later.

Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.

Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern”.

The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult classic Trapped In The Closet, a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.

Kelly’s private life has drawn scrutiny since the 1990s, and he currently is also facing sex-related charges in Illinois and Minnesota. He has pleaded not guilty.– AP

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