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‘It would be too dangerous for these families to stay’

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Every day Edward Beattie (83) drives his tractor to a house at Ballagh Cross, Rahara, Co Roscommon, where he had lived for more than 70 years.

Encroaching floodwater forced him and his wife Teresa (81) out of the property in February.

Their son, Matthew Beattie, says Edward has had to see “his life’s work, his home and farm, crumbling in front of his eyes” because of regular flooding from nearby Lough Funshinagh.

When Roscommon County Council commenced flood-relief works at the turlough last June, his parents felt they had got “10 years back”, says Matthew, and were looking forward to being home for Christmas.

However, a High Court order temporarily halting the works has been secured by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE). The case is due to be mentioned in court again this week, with a full hearing expected to proceed next month.

“Overnight they had a sense of hope, but now there is just despair,” says Matthew of his parents’ reaction to the news.

Laurence Fallon, a farmer and independent councillor, says the outcome of the case may come too late for the Beatties and five other families who could be “evicted” by Lough Funshinagh’s rising waters before Christmas.

“It would be too dangerous for these families to stay. It could take just five minutes for their homes to be engulfed in water,” he says.

Fallon and other locals say FIE should have considered the suffering facing these families when taking its legal action, which halted the construction and laying of a 2.6km pipe designed to take water from Lough Funshinagh, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and pump it into the much larger Lough Ree.

“There is gloom over the entire community. We have no future in the village [Rahara],” says Fallon, one of 42 local farmers affected by floods in recent years.

‘Unintended consequences’

FIE says the blame for any misery lies with the council, which it accuses of not doing the necessary environmental impact assessments before embarking on the work and being “in contempt of planning and European law”. The group is concerned about “unintended consequences” the measures could have.

Tony Lowes, FIE director, says it could well be that the works under way are the best solution for Lough Funshinagh, but that the necessary assessments should have been done in advance “to make sure for example that the waters don’t end up in someone else’s living room down the line”.

Flooding around Lough Funshinagh in Co Roscommon in January. Photograph: Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis
Flooding around Lough Funshinagh in Co Roscommon in January. Photograph: Lough Funshinagh Flood Crisis

“Our actions are not intended to stop flood control measures and leave residents at the mercy of rising water levels,” the group said in a statement. “They are to ensure that the growing threat of flooding be addressed with the best available scientific advice and on a basis that is fair to all those who face threats to their homes across Ireland as climate change bites.

“We ask the residents to understand that it is not that we value birds or plants more than human beings – we value human beings and all the ecosystems that support us.”

Fallon says an impression has been created that the proposed flood-relief works will damage the SAC and threaten local flora and fauna, but he believes the opposite is the case.

He argues that “much of the flora and fauna has been killed off by the floods”, with trees such as ash and whitethorn dying.

“The FIE have talked about the whooper swans but they don’t know that for 50 years I have counted anything from 112 to 148 swans grazing on my land every winter. They eat the grass and then they stand on their heads and pick up food at the bottom of the lake,” he says.

“But last year, for the first time, only 20 of these majestic birds came, because there is no food at the bottom of the lake now. They are fooling themselves if they think they are saving the whooper swans.”

He said all the council was trying to do was remove excess water from the turlough.

A 1949 Act

FIE has also questioned why the local authority utilised the 1949 Local Authorities (Works) Act, which makes special provision for emergency works, to embark on the project.

“If we had remained silent while Roscommon County Council used a 1949 Act to authorise works of this scale outside of the planning system to proceed without the required studies, every county manager in the country would follow their example”, the group says.

The council has “with huge regret” paused the flood relief works. It intends to “vigorously defend the project” and to do everything possible to ensure work can resume as soon as possible.

“Since 2016, life-threatening and escalating flooding at Lough Funshinagh has been damaging properties, causing distress and fear amongst local people, and destroying the environment,” it says.

The council says water levels in the lough are 2.5m-3m higher than usual for this time of year and, with more flooding predicted for next year, it was planning ahead by laying a preparatory overflow pipe.

Matthew Beattie says it was now “a humanitarian issue” with a real danger to human life in the event of further flooding.

“There are drains around our home and other homes with 20ft of water in them and this is only mid-August,” he says.

He says his father and other farmers have been “custodians of that lake”, as were previous generations.

“We are all aware of the threat of climate challenges and we need to work together but this [legalistic] approach polarises people and polarises opinion.”


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DUP queries whether President is ‘snubbing’ North centenary events

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The DUP has questioned whether President Michael D Higgins is “snubbing” events marking Northern Ireland’s centenary after it emerged he declined an invitation to attend a commemorative church service with Queen Elizabeth.

DUP Assembly member Peter Weir also asked if Mr Higgins was joining Sinn Féin and the SDLP in “boycotting” such events, a move which he said “speaks volumes” about Ireland’s “commitment to reconciliation and progress”.

Mr Weir said on Wednesday he had written to Mr Higgins “asking if his office is officially snubbing all events marking this milestone in the decade of centenaries”. If this was the case, Mr Weir said, “I have urged him to think again”.

Ulster Unionist MLA and former party leader Mike Nesbitt also queried why Mr Higgins was unable to attend the service and said it was “surprising, uncharacteristic and regrettable”.

However, he said the reciprocal state visits of the queen to Ireland and Mr Higgins to Britain were “the high water mark in Anglo-Irish relations”. He said Mr Higgins has “shown a consistent willingness to outreach and a focus on reconciliation. So until we know the reason why he can’t attend we cannot be critical.”

Armagh service

The Service of Reflection and Hope, taking place in Armagh next month, will mark 100 years since the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland. It is organised by the leaders of the island’s main Christian churches, who had anticipated Mr Higgins would take part as head of State.

However it has emerged that Mr Higgins would not be present. Mr Higgins, who is on a four-day visit to Rome, has not yet commented on his decision.

The President attended a meeting of non-executive presidents from 14 EU States yesterday but made no public comment other than remarks on the meeting itself.

His spokesman had told The Irish Times on Tuesday that the President was “not in a position to attend” the service. He did not elaborate on Wednesday or say why the President could not attend. Asked about the DUP’s remarks, his spokesman said the President had nothing further to add.

The President does not need to request Government permission to travel to Northern Ireland so the decision was made by his office, without reference to the Department of the Taoiseach. Sources said a Government representative will attend the service but it had not yet received an invitation.

The Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Church of Ireland primate Archbishop John McDowell and other church leaders will be present at the service on October 21st.

It is being organised by the Church Leaders’ Group “as part of their wider programme of collective engagement around the 1921 centenaries, with an emphasis on their common Christian commitment to peace, healing and reconciliation.”

A statement on Wednesday from the group – which is made up of the two Archbishops, the Presbyterian Moderator and the presidents of the Methodist church and the Irish Council of Churches – did not reference Mr Higgins but said the service was “offered as a contribution to the work of building community and deepening relationships”.

A spokesman for Dr Martin commented earlier that “the important thing is that this service is going ahead. It is an initiative of the main Christian denominations on this island and is underpinned by prayer, peace and reconciliation”.

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German election roundup: Immigration, pension reform and tough questions from children

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More immigration needed in Germany to prop up pension system

Immigration is a huge topic ahead of the September 26th election. And today the pro-business Free Democrats have been sharing their views on it, as well as the pension system. 

The FDP say many more workers from abroad – half a million per year – are needed to help keep the German pension system functioning.

“We need a fundamental rethink in migration policy,” parliamentary group vice chairman and financial politician Christian Dürr told DPA. 

“If we manage to make Germany an open, modern immigration country and at the same time stabilise the pension, we will gain more as a society than we can imagine today.”

READ ALSO: ‘Germany needs more immigrants to fill jobs’

Dürr accused the CDU/CSU and the SPD of putting the financing of pensions on the back burner which he said is a fatal mistake.

For the next federal government, he said, the ageing society will be a major challenge. He said more people were retiring but fewer contributors were entering the labor market.

“The state already has to subsidise pension insurance with large sums of money,” Dürr said. “In the long run, we can’t afford that.”

The FDP is proposing a reform of pension financing based on higher migration into the labour market and an equity pension, in which pension funds invest in stocks to generate higher returns.

“If we want to stabilise our public finances and reduce debt, our country needs at least 500,000 immigrants per year,” Dürr said.

The FDP advocates for a points-based system based on the Canadian model to increase immigration. 

People who want to come to Germany would be classified according to education, work experience, language skills and age. Meanwhile, Germany should make it easier to recognise professional qualifications gained abroad, according to the FDP.

READ ALSO: Where do Germany’s political parties stand on dual citizenship and nationalities 

In the debates for the leading candidates in the Bundestag elections, the financing of pensions has been controversial lately. Green Party candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock also spoke out in favour of more immigration of skilled workers. The Left Party leader Janine Wissler called for politicians and civil servants to pay into the statutory pension fund.

Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Armin Laschet (CDU/CSU) have been arguing about whether young people should be guaranteed that the retirement age and pension level remains stable. Scholz advocates for this guarantee, while Laschet said it doesn’t need to be considered at the moment.

The latest polls

Here’s a snapshot of some of the latest polls on Wednesday, with SPD still in the lead ahead of the CDU/CSU. 

Bavaria’s Söder sees signs of a turnaround for conservatives

Despite the polls, CSU leader Markus Söder remains confident that CDU/CSU can win the election race.

“We are already seeing the first signs of a turnaround,” Söder said on Wednesday. “I think anything is possible, we can still catch up with the SPD. It is much closer than most believe at the moment.”

Söder is confident that the CDU/CSU – also known as the Union – would become the strongest force in the federal election.

“We will be ahead on election night,” he said. Söder went on to compare politics to football, saying “you have to be an optimist, as a fan of FC Nuremberg anyway”.

We won’t pretend we know much about German football, but Nuremberg must not be at the top of the Bundesliga right now – I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if they make a comeback.

Laschet caught out by children 

There was another awkward moment for the CDU’s Armin Laschet, who’s bidding to become the next Angela Merkel. 

Laschet – and the SPD’s Olaf Scholz – faced a series of questions from young people, on a range of issues. 

One of the youngsters – Romeo – asked about Laschet’s position on marriage for all. Laschet denied he had been against same-sex marriage before Germany voted to legalise it in 2017.

In true professional style, Romeo referred to a previous interview in Spiegel where Laschet had said that as a member of the Bundestag he had voted against the motion on same-sex marriage by the SPD. Laschet tried to dodge the answer by saying: “You were already reading Spiegel so long ago? That’s great.”

To which Romeo replied, “Nah, I Googled it.”

Scholz also had to deal with hard questions. 

Romeo, for instance, asked Scholz why children have drowned in the sea because they want to get to Germany, and why a plane was not sent to them to pick them up.

Scholz replied that many people were looking for ways to come to Germany that were not safe. He said authorities had to try and save them, and make their homeland safer.

Hats off to the young people asking the tough questions. 

Scholz: No tax cuts for the rich 

In a Tuesday interview on ZDF talk show Klartext, SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Sholz declared that “there will be no leeway for tax cuts” for the rich after the election.

In order to ease the tax burden on lower and middle incomes – as he plans – “you have to make sure that those who have a lot contribute a little more,” he told the interviewers. 

READ ALSO: What the German parties tax pledges mean for you



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Russia Is Open to US, EU Tourists & Getting A Visa Is Easier Than You Think

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As the United States and many other Western nations continue to spiral towards social, political and spiritual bankruptcy, many readers have reached out to ask about whether it’s possible to flee to Russia. 

The short answer: Yes. 

The longer answer: Yes, and it’s not as difficult (or expensive) as you may think.

Who can get a Russian visa?

Russia hasn’t completely reopened, so the first step to coming is making sure travel and visa services have been restored with your home country. 

Aside from Americans, citizens of the following nations are currently allowed to enter Russia:

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Turkey, the Swiss Confederation, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Maldives, the United Arab Emirates, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of Cuba, the Republic of Serbia, Japan, the Republic of Seychelles Islands, Ethiopia, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Republic of India, State of Qatar, Republic of Finland, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Armenia, Hellenic Republic, Republic of Singapore, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Federal Republic of Germany, Syrian Arab Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka , Republic of Iceland, Republic of Malta, United Mexican States, Portuguese Republic,Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Austria, Hungary, Lebanese Republic, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Republic of Mauritius, Kingdom of Morocco, Republic of Croatia, Kingdom of Belgium, Republic of Bulgaria, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Ireland, Italian Republic, Republic of Cyprus, People’s Republic of China, Principality of Liechtenstein, Republic of North Macedonia. 

You should double-check the Russian government’s official list (#13 for air travel), which may have added (or maybe even removed) countries since this article was published. 

Where can I apply for a visa?

There are numerous agencies that can do all the heavy lifting for you. We highly recommend Encore Travel. We know of numerous Americans who have worked with this company and they all have glowing reviews. We recommend applying for a 3-year multi-entry visa. 

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