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Special needs assistants need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as soon as possible, says union

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The union representing Special Needs Assistants (SNAs), Forsa, has called on Government to ensure its members are vaccinated as soon as possible.

The union is unhappy that the vaccine rollout plan has been changed to one based primarily on age rather than occupation.

Andy Pike, head of the union’s education division, told RTÉ news on Monday: “Many of them will be working alongside healthcare staff, for instance in our special schools, where the nurses, physchiatrists and occupational therapists have all been vaccinated under the HSE rollout yet the SNAs working alongside them day to day will not be vaccinated.

“That’s just not a sustainable situation where you vaccinate half your workforce but the other half you just ignore.”

Meanwhile, talks to defuse a Government row on mandatory quarantine will this week consider an expanded role for quarantining at home and how vaccinations might be used to reduce periods of isolation after travel from certain countries.

Senior Government sources said talks between officials would take place this week – most likely Tuesday or Wednesday – in an effort to find a compromise after moves to add several EU member states and the US to the list of countries eligible for mandatory hotel quarantine caused a serious political row last week.

The expansion of the list is aimed at minimising the risk of coronavirus “variants of concern” spreading from countries, some of which have strong travel links to the Republic.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is understood to be committed to proceeding, notwithstanding opposition from other Government Ministers, most notably Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

“His view on this is not going to change,” said a well-placed source of Mr Donnelly’s stance. The leaking of the extended list of countries caused a significant row last week, viewed by some as an attempt to “bounce” the rest of Government into accepting its expansion.

There was significant diplomatic fallout arising from the leak, with one Government source saying it caused “consternation” in European capitals, while another said there was “real annoyance” over how the story had played out.

Sources said talks would focus on whether it would be possible to devise a “stronger quarantine-at-home system [and] a way that vaccines could be used to reduce the term [in quarantine]” for arrivals from some countries. The Department of Foreign Affairs is also likely to examine the legality of charging people arriving from other EU member states for hotel quarantine. The role of testing on arrival will also be examined.

Complex questions

The issue has raised complex questions for the Government. Linking vaccination to individual freedoms may be resisted by some European capitals, while hotel capacity, the criteria for inclusion of countries on the list, the review period for same, an “exit strategy” from the policy and the legal position regarding travel in the EU need to be addressed. Sources said countries that had put extensive hotel quarantine regimes in place had been forced to cap arrivals.

Government will also monitor the prospect of an early constitutional challenge to the quarantine system, arising from the case of two women who refused to enter mandatory hotel quarantine following their return from a trip to Dubai.

Government sources said on Sunday there will be consultation with Brussels as well, as fears grow in Europe over variants of concern, which are spreading in France and elsewhere.

Some in Government are concerned about the public health and political consequences of inaction. “It’s very dangerous for politicians to think they know more about the virus than medical experts and to effectively over-rule them,” observed a source.

Separately, the HSE has told hospitals they can provide surplus vaccines in exceptional circumstances to people who do not have conditions that could leave them at risk of severe illness or death as a result of Covid-19.

It told senior hospital staff in a letter last Wednesday that vaccination of anyone beyond group 7 – people aged 16-64 who had an underlying condition that puts them at high risk of severe outcomes – was not appropriate.

However, in exceptional circumstances and “as a last resort”, small amounts of vaccines could be administered to people outside the categories of those being medically vulnerable and at very high and high risk of severe illness or death.

It said “this should be done in a transparent, equitable and fair manner”.

Meanwhile, gardaí and teachers have urged the Government to introduce a separate Covid-19 vaccination programme to run in parallel with the new age-based system for the general public.

The general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) Antoinette Cunningham said on Sunday that her organisation was proposing that, in mass vaccination centres such as City West in Dublin, there could be separate streams that would provide vaccines side-by-side to both those in high-risk and front-line occupations such as gardaí and teachers, as well as to the general public based on their age.

Meanwhile, John Boyle, the general secretary of the primary teachers’ trade union, INTO, said a twin-track approach proposed by gardaí could easily be rolled out.

He suggested that given the scale of vaccination seen recently, gardaí and teachers could be vaccinated within a matter of a few days if the will was there. He said schools had been promised in February that teachers would be in the first 30 per cent of the population to be vaccinated.


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Irish man (24) who drowned in swimming pool in Marbella is named

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A 24-year-old man who drowned in a swimming pool near Marbella in Spain has been named locally in Co Clare as Irish Defence Forces member Gerard McMahon.

Authorities responded to a distress call at 10.25am on Friday. The alarm was raised by friends who found Mr McMahon lifeless in the pool.

Spanish authorities are treating the death of the holiday maker as a “tragic accident”.

Mr McMahon lived in the Killaloe area of Co Clare. Local priest Fr Jerry O’Brien confirmed he had met the family of the young man and expressed his sympathy on behalf of the community.

Ogonnelloe GAA posted a tribute to Mr McMahon who was well known and liked in the community.

“It is with profound shock and sadness that we learned today of the sudden passing of our young member and friend, Gerard McMahon. Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, Pat and Carmel, his sister Bríd, and all the McMahon family at this extremely difficult time.”

The club Facebook page posted a picture of Mr McMahon from 2016 when he and his team mates won the Division 3 League.

Scarriff Hurling also paid tribute to Mr McMahon who played for them at juvenile level. “Always with pride, great skill and giving all to the team and club.”

Meanwhile, local Fine Gael councillor Joe Cooney said the family of the young man were in the thoughts and prayers of the community.

Mr McMahon was a Private in the First Infantry Battalion in Renmore Barracks in Galway. St Patrick’s Garrison Church posted a message on Facebook asking for prayers for Mr McMahon and for his “family and comrades”.

A postmortem was expected to take place over the weekend at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Malaga.

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VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Don’t waste energy switching

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For years, Money Mail has urged readers to regularly switch energy supplier.

It wasn’t the most glamorous money-saving tip, but sticking with your existing provider meant you were almost certainly overpaying. 

And the return on this straightforward, mundane chore was lucrative, with households saving hundreds of pounds a year. But for now, you should forget all that.

The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices. And the market remains incredibly volatile, with experts struggling to predict what will happen over the coming months.

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers

Stick with it: The energy crisis has caused an unprecedented rise in wholesale gas prices meaning it not longer makes sense to switch  providers   

This means suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, are just not able to offer competitive fixed deals.

Some comparison websites are still running an energy switching service, but there are only a handful of tariffs listed. 

And, as we reported last week, some would cost the average household almost £3,000 a year.

So for now, your best course of action is to stay put.

If you are coming to the end of a fixed deal, roll onto your supplier’s standard variable tariff. 

These default deals are protected by the energy watchdog’s price cap — £1,277 a year for the average gas and electricity user — until April 2022. And there are no exit fees, so you are free to switch away the moment better deals return.

For those who signed up to ultra‑cheap deals a year or two ago, there is no getting away from the fact that your bills are going to rise. 

But locking into a new fixed deal now could mean you’re hit with even higher energy costs over the cold winter months.

To avoid adding to any confusion, Money Mail has temporarily removed all energy tariffs from our Best Buys tables. 

But rest assured, we are tracking the market closely and will update you as soon as something changes.

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can't offer competitive fixed deals

Suppliers, many of which are at risk of going under, can’t offer competitive fixed deals

Tip top!

While on the topic of rising bills, a big thank you to everyone for their top energy-saving tips after I publicly scolded my husband, Chris, last week.

Money Mail reader Molly Clark suggests leaving the oven open after cooking so not to waste the heat, using candles for softer lighting and ditching the dishwasher in favour of a good old-fashioned washing-up bowl. 

Another reader, Robert, goes a step further and washes his dishes with cold water. 

A small squirt from a 29p bottle of diluted white vinegar along with a dash of washing-up liquid on a little green fabric scouring cloth used in circular motions will ensure they are squeaky-clean, he assures me.

But I was most taken by Julie Priest’s suggestion of a fridge alarm that will go off when the door is left open.

Amazon has one with a ‘repeated siren’ mode — and if that doesn’t teach Chris to close it, I don’t know what will.

But at £21.99, I might stick to nagging for now.

Keep those tips coming!

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix's Squid Game)

Many see a monthly subscription, such as Netflix, as essential (pictured: Netflix’s Squid Game)

Need for Netflix

It’s fascinating to see how our spending priorities have changed since the pandemic.

Take the popular streaming service Netflix. Once a luxury, a monthly subscription is now considered essential, according to a report by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association published yesterday. 

One pensioner commented that their partner’s quality of life would just not be the same without it.

Another man from Wales said that he had not realised how important dining out was for ’emotional well-being’.

But as the cost of living soars, experts fear people could cut back on pension saving. With many already failing to put aside enough for the lifestyle they want in retirement, this could prove disastrous.

So if you have spare cash leftover at the end of the month, consider using it to give your future self a better life.

It could be me…

Inspired by a colleague, I bought my first ever EuroMillions lottery ticket last Friday. It was a rollover with a juicy £174million jackpot, and I was feeling lucky.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t win. But what fun I had daydreaming about what I’d do with such a windfall. 

And since no one scooped the prize money, I figured there was no harm in having one more go in last night’s record £184million draw. Who knows, I could be a multi-millionaire by the time you read this.

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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‘I learned a lot from Michaela’

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‘I lived through the darkness and learned how to move away’: The football manager looks back on the 10 turbulent years since his daughter’s murder

“I hope it is useful to people, that is what I really hope,” Mickey Harte says on the publication of his memoir Devotion, an account of what has been a turbulent and often heart-wrenching decade for the Ballygawley man and his family.

“I lived through the darkness and learned how to move away” are the stark words on the back of the book. It’s a coda for the shocking murder of Harte’s daughter Michaela McAreavey while on her honeymoon with John McAreavey in Mauritius in January 2011

That tragedy, while Ireland was still in a post-Christmas slumber, was a reminder that the country is a village: the outpouring of sympathy was national. There followed a protracted trial of two resort employees and their controversial acquittal, an ongoing quest for justice and, as chronicled here, the family’s attempts to fight their way through seasons of bewilderment.

A strong Catholic faith, which Harte has always openly espoused, runs through the narrative. His daughter had been an ardent supporter of the Tyrone senior football team since he became manager in 2003, the year they won the first of three senior All-Ireland titles in six years. Father and daughter were fast friends.

He stayed on as manager after the tragedy, the team winning two further Ulster titles and reaching the All-Ireland final of 2018. Harte coached the side through a serious cancer diagnosis, turning up for games when he should really have been in bed.

Harte’s 30-year involvement with Tyrone came to an end last November when he sat in a car in the dark with team captain Mattie Donnelly for 90 minutes during a county board meeting in Garvaghey, waiting for a text that never arrived.

He was always one to keep moving and was soon appointed Louth manager. He watched Tyrone win its fourth All-Ireland last September. “I’d a good seat in the Hogan Stand and enjoyed every minute of it.”

Harte now has more time to play golf and knocks down kilometres on a time-battered treadmill in the shed. Apart from an early morning daily visit to the local chapel, he doesn’t really know where the day will take him.

The room in which he is sitting for this interview, talking into a laptop screen, is filled with sunlight. More often than not, the house is teeming with grandchildren. It is, he says, a good time for his wife, Marian, and himself. And the publication of this book marks the end of a project that was intense and revelatory.

“It was an organic evolution of a conversation,” he says of the collaboration with the Kildare journalist Brendan Coffey. It began with a casual chat; they sparked, a sense of trust and friendship developed, and over the course of several years they talked about Harte’s life through the prism of the past decade.

The book is told in Harte’s words but also includes short, piercing first-person accounts of the days after Michaela’s death from her brothers and husband.

“It was enlightening for me, too, the way Brendan dealt with this and had these interviews with our sons and with John,” Harte says now.

“That, I suppose, told a tale for me that was very valuable because we had never sat down and had that individual in-depth conversation with each other. You felt you knew what was going on in everybody’s mind but you didn’t see it through their eyes.”

Although the subject matter of the book is harrowing in places, one of its achievements is to present a rounded memory of Michaela Harte, later Michaela McAreavey: kind, mischievous, a chatterbox, into glamour, a sister who could offer sound advice to her brothers and also drive them up the walls; a young woman who, in high-octane Celtic Tiger Ireland, was completely unfazed by the fact that her values and beliefs were not always in step with those of broader society.

“Aye. She was loyal to the faith she believed in and grew up in. And she held fast to the traditions and standards of the church as she saw it. She was that kind of person. And that made me very proud of her. I liked her single-mindedness. I liked her ability to say: the right thing is more important than the popular thing in her eyes.”

I learned a lot from Michaela’s life in the things she liked. She loved older people. She loved her granny and grandad

Marian and Mickey Harte had three boys and one girl. Although a broken finger as a child ended Michaela’s interest in playing Gaelic football, she began accompanying her father to team training when she was a kid and never lost the habit. It was their thing long before he became senior manager.

The Hartes raised their children in an orthodox Catholic tradition. It was and remains a central element of how they live. Throughout his new book, Harte remembers how his daughter practised her faith .

“Did I learn anything? Well, maybe not from her faith. I learned a lot from Michaela’s life in the things she liked. She loved older people. She loved her granny and grandad. She was attracted to older people – to stewards at gates at games, say, maybe because she could work her way past all of them with her charm and get to places she couldn’t otherwise get to.

Mickey Harte with daughter Michaela and son-in-law John McAreavey on their wedding day in Ballymacilroy, Co Antrim in January 2011. ‘He was one of our family. He was special in Michaela’s life so he is always going to be special in our lives too.’ Photograph: Irish News
Mickey Harte with daughter Michaela and son-in-law John McAreavey on their wedding day in Ballymacilroy, Co Antrim in January 2011. ‘He was one of our family. He was special in Michaela’s life so he is always going to be special in our lives too.’ Photograph: Irish News

“And she had an equal love for children. Young children would gravitate to her, and she would be all over them. So she had a love for both age groups. I noticed the connection with the grandparents, the sheer love she had for them, and learning and hearing from things of theirs back in the day. More so with Marian’s because my parents died when she was young.

“And I noticed the sheer love between a grandparent and grandchild. And she taught me that – I am that grandparent now.”

Her death naturally asked different questions of how each of the family relied upon and practised their faith. His son Mattie had begun to ask himself serious questions in the aftermath: it seemed as if he might be on the verge of quitting religion. Instead, he took a dive into the doctrine and experienced what is described as a profound spiritual crossing.

Harte speaks as openly and naturally about Catholicism as he does Gaelic football. But he smiles at the idea that he might judge how others do or don’t practice.

“It would be no business of mine to judge anybody else in what they do with their faith. I would see it as a faith handed on to me from previous generations who probably weren’t as questioning as today. But there is probably a lot to be said for the way they believed even if it wasn’t a searching belief, if you like. And I would think that because some people throw that out as archaic, they haven’t replaced it with much of substance. That’s an issue, I feel.

“And I never could see that if you are a Catholic and there are certain things the Catholic faith teaches, why would you be considered sort of rare because you do that?”

Because certain people within the church did certain things that weren’t right… does that destroy all the good work that went on? There has to be a sense of balance

He nods at the obvious response: that if the visit of Pope John Paul in 1979 was the high-water mark of mass-movement Catholicism, the litany of abuse scandals and the gradual erosion of influence has seen a big retreat.

“Is there not a slight sense of imbalance there?” he reasons. “That because certain people within the church did certain things that weren’t right and weren’t good… does that destroy all the good work that went on? There has to be a sense of balance.

“I think that far and away the people in religious life are very good people who have a serious impact on people’s lives. It is so easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater. To say these things went on – so is the get-out clause not living your faith because someone did it in a poor fashion? That does a great disservice to the great number of really good priests and religious who have been part of our lives.”

There has always been a radical aspect to Harte’s public profile. His first All-Ireland-winning Tyrone team was sensationally confrontational in its antic, chaotic style, which sent the sport itself in a different direction.

Feted as an innovative manager, Harte was a gifted footballer whose Tyrone career was sabotaged by an internal club row that opened a chasm within the community. A full decade of friendships frosted over, and the Ballygawley community was effectively locked out of official football in the 1980s. The only reason it was patched up was because the elders realised that the juvenile Peter Canavan was a once-in-a-century proposition – that it would be immoral not to have him playing for Tyrone.

Harte has never regretted a second of that standoff because, as he outlines, he believes he was doing the right thing on principle. It’s his first and only arbiter. He has broken from convention, such as his appearance at a rally for Seán Quinn in 2012. He is completely indifferent to the court of public opinion in expressing his beliefs, Catholic or otherwise.

His standoff with RTÉ, which has parallels with the club football row, is now a decade long, and Harte is adamant that he won’t speak or deal with the Irish state broadcaster again. Ever.

Until 2010, his relationship with RTÉ was cordial if unremarkable. In that year, he sent a private letter to the director general and board chairman to protest what he felt was a demotion in the games assigned to Brian Carthy, the Gaelic Games correspondent for RTÉ Radio.

Carthy was and remains a popular and highly-regarded figure on the GAA circuit, and other managers voiced the same concerns. Harte heard nothing back for over a week. Some kind of conciliation was then reached through Tyrone county board officials but, shortly after that, the contents of the letter appeared in a national newspaper. RTÉ denied that it was responsible for the leak. Harte cannot believe this is the case.

“That’s fair to say. From where it landed anyway, whether it was the individuals it was sent to, I’m not prepared to say that. But it was sent as a private and confidential correspondence. And someone got a good look at it.”

The point of no return occurred in the summer of 2011. An ill-devised sketch lampooned Harte for attending the Dalai Lama conference in Limerick with his son-in-law. The sketch closed with the playing of Pretty Little Girl from Omagh, which the family felt was grossly insensitive.

While he refused to communicate with RTÉ, he emphasises that he never stopped the Tyrone players from doing so. “They were supporting me, which I really respected. But I never stopped the players from talking.”

It appears that at an institutional level they were saying we have to put manners on this boy because otherwise he is going to cause us bother. That is how it appeared to me

His belief remains that the breakdown originated in the letter of support he sent, and he rejects the idea that having made his point, it might be easier to just let it go.

“Naw, there is a time to do that and a way to do that,” he says. “And when that time and that way passes, it isn’t there anymore. It appears that at an institutional level they were saying we have to put manners on this boy because otherwise he is going to cause us bother. That is how it appeared to me.”

 

These are the two sides of Harte. He is utterly rigid on points of principle yet completely adaptable in unexpected ways. Somehow, there is plenty of laughter in a book dealing with such weighty subjects.

He never visited Mauritius. Their son Mark volunteered to fly out in the nightmarish aftermath and attended the trial. But he says he would, in theory, like to ask the two men charged with his daughter’s death if it had been worth it, just to cover up a thieving ring. His hope would be that they would at least acknowledge that what happened in that room was not intentional.

Michaela and John McAreavey on their honeymoon. Photograph: McAreavey family handout/PA Wire
Michaela and John McAreavey on their honeymoon. Photograph: McAreavey family handout/PA Wire

“Because I think it would be better if that were the case. And of the two men implicated in this –albeit they were acquitted – of the two, I feel there were two different personalities and people. And I think one of them found himself in a place that he happened to be in and might not have wanted to be in. I am not so sure about the other one.

“So I think I might hear two different stories there. I think one of them would be capable more than the other of doing whatever he felt necessary to save his face or the vice ring that was going on in terms of the stealing that was there. So I just have a picture of two different people being there. That is my impression. One knew what he was doing and the other happened to be implicated by his presence.”

The passages where he recounts the six weeks John McAreavey spent living with the family after the murder are very pure and sad. They walked early in the morning, made simple breakfasts, and talked and talked. Harte asked his son-in-law if he was okay for that to be included.

“He was one of our family. He was special in Michaela’s life so he is always going to be special in our lives too. And he gave that sense of Michaela’s presence still being there. He was so important to her and he meant so much to her in life that it was good to have him around in those darkest days. I think it would have been a mutual feeling in that it made him feel he had some connection with Michaela. It was very difficult but thank God we are well beyond it now.”

That comes across. It’s clear the Hartes have an intricate and steadfast network of friendships within the Ballygawley and greater Tyrone community. Disappointed as Harte was with his closing hour as Tyrone manager, he holds no recriminations and looks back on the 30 years with pride. In the end, he was happy to be just another Tyrone fan last September.

“Yes, it would have been lovely to be there on the sideline. You can’t deny that. But the next best thing is to be there when Tyrone win it. I told the group of players before I left that I wanted to win an All-Ireland for them. Because we did soldier a long time and I think we built those players up over a number of years to get to that level so yes it would have been nice to cross the line with them again. But I am so glad that they got there.”

Now it is autumn and Mickey Harte has time to sit back. He has reached a stage where, he says towards the end, he is “mad about life, savouring every minute”. Louth training will resume in the new year. In the meantime comes the publication of this book and his hope that it might bring solace to other people.

“It is very emotional, obviously,” he says. “That is the big thing. It is not even the heavy parts, if you like. There are little times and phrases and sentences. Like when my son Michael wrote the letter to me . . . I mean, that was a big thing that I didn’t think would affect me the way it did. But it did. And other times you just read little lines and nuances and the in-depth treatment of that time and how things were. It is an emotional read.

“But I would balance that off with believing there can be some great value to others when they read this and that there can be a sense of hope from difficult and dark places. And to me that is a price worth paying. Going through the emotion again is a price worth paying if I can help someone else have a sense of hope in their life when that seems all nigh impossible.”

Devotion: A Memoir by Mickey Harte with Brendan Coffey is published by Harper Collins Ireland

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