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A solicitor impacted by the effects of the drug Thalidomide who fraudulently claimed over €120,000 in social welfare payments will begin a jail term next week.
Herbert Kilcline (60) told gardaiafter the fraud came to light that he felt he was entitled to the payments because he had been excluded from compensatory payments made to victims of birth defects caused by the Thalidomide drug. He has since repaid the money in full.
Kilcline told gardaí: “I admit it was wrong, no matter how aggrieved I felt. It wasn’t the right way to deal with my grievance.”.
Kilcline told gardaí that the deformities suffered to his hands as a result of his mother taking the anti-nausea drug during pregnancy had left him unable to peel vegetables or use a can opener.
Judge Karen O’Connor said Kilcline’s moral culpability was very high, noting the offending was not motivated by financial pressure or gambling, but by a grievance and an element of greed.
She indicated a three-year sentence with the final one year and three months suspended.
Defence counsel asked Judge O’Connor to defer sentence for one week to allow Kilcline to put his affairs in order. She granted the application and deferred sentencing until this day next week.
Kilcline, of Bessborough Parade, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to obtaining disability allowance on false pretences on dates between 1996 and 2001 and making a gain by deception in relation to social welfare payments on dates between 2004 and 2010.
At the original sentence hearing in 2019, Garda Conor Bresnan told Dean Kelly SC, prosecuting, that after being contacted by social welfare officials in relation to suspected fraud gardaí had launched an investigation and Kilcline had co-operated with a search of his home, handing over documentation such as his social service card.
The total amount fraudulently obtained was €129,293 and the entire period of offending taken into account was from 1996 to 2012.
The court heard that Kilcline had not been put forward previously as a child for the scheme by his parents as the effect on him was relatively minor then and they did not want to stigmatise him.
Kilcline said in 1992 he was officially diagnosed as a victim of Thalidomide but was told that the State compensation scheme was out of time. He then applied successfully for the mean-tested disabled person’s maintenance allowance.
He was legitimately granted this payment but failed to inform the department when he began working and when his financial situation changed. The court heard that Kilcline worked as a tutor in Trinity College Dublin and had income from the sale of various properties and from rental income from six flats in the city.
He said he felt morally justified in getting the money but accepted he was not entitled to it. He said he felt resentment for not getting compensation and accepted he had withheld information
Michael Bowman SC, defending, said at a previous hearing that his client took the view that because the Thalidomide compensation was not a means-tested scheme that he was entitled to the disability allowance regardless of his means.
Judge O’Connor noted the aggravating factors included that the offences occurred over a long period of time, that there was premeditation involved and the loss to the exchequer was considerable.
She noted he was not devoid of means, had been in employment and acquired property.
She noted in mitigation that Kilcline had pleaded guilty, co-operated with the investigation and had been “remarkably forthcoming”.
She noted his remorse, shame and that he had been assessed as being at low risk of reoffending. She took into account all the money had been repaid.
The judge noted that he had overcome his limitations but continued to live with the physical, psychological and social consequences of Thalidomide. She said he finds basic daily functions difficult, had become very reclusive and suffers with anxiety and depression.
Judge O’Connor granted an application from The Law Society for transcripts of the sentencing hearing and later noted this may have an impact on his professional future and reputation.
Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
Senior figures in United States politics have made it clear that the government of Boris Johnson in the UK will face negative consequences internationally if it attempts to rupture or dispense with the Northern Ireland protocol, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
In a presentation at the National Press Club in Washington DC on Thursday she said the protocol was “necessary, operable and going nowhere, despite what Boris Johnson might wish to believe”.
She said she had met with “people of considerable influence” in the US Congress and in the Biden administration on her visit to the US this week and they all stood four square behind the Belfast Agreement and the protocol.
“I heard yesterday on the Hill the clearest possible articulation across the board that any notion of walking away from the protocol would not be acceptable to the United States.”
Asked about a report in the Financial Timed that Washington had delayed lifting tariffs on UK steel and aluminium products amid concerns about threats by the UK to invoke article 16 of the protocol, Ms McDonald said this was a matter for the Biden administration.
However, she said: “There is no doubt where the US stands. If Johnson believes he can walk away from the protocol, he is wrong and there will be consequences for Britain if he chooses that course of action.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who was also in Washington DC on Thursday, said if the lifting of tariffs was being delayed due to concerns about the protocol, he would argue at a meeting with the US state department that it had “got it wrong” in its view on what article 16 was about.
“If people say we have to adhere to the protocol and article 16 is part of the protocol then it becomes a legitimate thing you can use.”
“It is not about whether you should or should not use it. It is about how you should use it.
“You should use it in a narrow sense of a particular issue that is causing economic or societal harm in Northern Ireland, for example, medicines .”
“If the medicine issue has not been fixed and is starting to affect the people of Northern Ireland, it would be right to instigate article 16 to focus minds on that issue.”
Ms McDonald also told the press club event that she expected the United States would “be on the right side” on the controversy over British plans for an amnesty in relation to killings during the Troubles.
She said the British government was going to the ultimate point to keep the truth from the people about its war in Ireland.
She said the Johnson government’s plans would mean “in effect no possibility of criminal action, civil actions or even inquests into killings in the past”.
Ms McDonald also forecast that a point was coming over the coming five or 10 years where referenda would be held on the reunification of Ireland. She urged the Irish government to establish a citizen’s assembly to consider preparation for unity.
She also said “there will be need for international support and international intervention to support Ireland as we move to transition from partition to reunification”.
Separately, asked about a recent Sinn Féin golf fundraising event that was held in New York, Ms McDonald said the money that was raised would be spent on campaigning and lobbying in the US.
She described it as a patriotic expression by people in the US who had a deep interest in Ireland and the peace process.
Drop in cancer diagnoses as high as 14 per cent during pandemic, early data shows
The drop in the number of cancers detected during the Covid-19 pandemic could be as high as 14 per cent, preliminary data has suggested.
A report from the National Cancer Registry said it was still too early to provide “definitive answers” on whether pandemic hospital restrictions last year led to a reduction in the number of cancers diagnosed.
The registry’s annual report said an estimated decrease of 14 per cent in detections pointed to the “potential scale” of Covid-19’s impact on other healthcare.
A separate analysis of data on microscopically verified cancers diagnosed last year showed a reduction of between 10 and 13 per cent, the report said.
The drop in confirmed cancer cases, when compared with previous years, could be partly accounted for by “incomplete registration of cases already diagnosed”, it said.
Prof Deirdre Murray, director of the National Cancer Registry, said there were “clear signals that, as expected in Ireland, the number of cancer diagnoses in 2020 will be lower than in previous years”.
The shortfall in cancers being diagnosed would present a “major challenge” in the coming years, with lengthy waiting lists and disruptions to screening services “all too commonplace” already, she said.
Ms Power said it was frightening to think of the people who were living with cancer but did not know it yet. She added that existing cancer patients were “terrified” of having treatments delayed due to the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
The registry’s report said there were about 44,000 tumours identified each year between 2017 and 2019.
Not counting non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer diagnoses were for breast and prostate cancer, which made up almost a third of invasive cancers found in women and men respectively.
For men this was followed by bowel and lung cancer, and melanoma of the skin. Lung cancer was the second most common cancer for women, followed by colorectal cancer and melanoma of skin.
Nearly a third of deaths in 2018 were attributed to cancer, with lung cancer the leading cause of death from cancer, the report said.
The second, third and fourth most common cancers to die from in men were bowel, prostate and oesophagus cancer. For women breast, bowel and ovarian cancers were the most common fatal cancers.
The report said there were almost 200,000 cancer survivors in Ireland at the end of 2019, with breast cancer patients making up more than a fifth of the total.
The research found cancer rates among men had dropped between 2010 and 2019, with mortality rates decreasing or remaining the same across nearly every type of cancer. Rates of cancer detected among women had increased between 2008 and 2019, with mortality rates for most cancers decreasing.
The report said the five-year survival rate from cancer had increased to 65 per cent for the period 2014 to 2018, compared with 42 per cent two decades previous.
There had been “major improvement” in survival rates for most major cancers, however, the research noted the chances of survival varied significantly depending on the type of cancer.
Prostate, melanoma of the skin and testis cancer had survival rates of more than 90 per cent, followed closely by breast and thyroid cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma. Pancreas, liver, oesophagus and lung cancers had much lower five-year survival rates on average, the report said.
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Senior figures in Washington stand behind Belfast Agreement and protocol, McDonald says
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