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



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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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture



Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds



Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

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Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal



CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

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