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Irish police throw stick in spokes of alleged bicycle thief – dpa international

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DUBLIN — A man was arrested early on Saturday by Irish police investigating the theft of thousands of bicycles over the past year. According to a police statement, the arrest took place “following the search of a house in County Cavan [bordering Northern Ireland]” the previous day. Police said that the operation followed the discovery late last year of 116 stolen bicycles in a container in the capital Dublin. Police said they seized 13,000 euros (15,477 dollars) in cash and froze a further 122,500 euros held “in various bank accounts.” Gardaí, as Irish police are called, also found memory sticks “containing photographs of suspected stolen property, including bicycles.” Over 2,500 bicycles have been stolen across Ireland during the first half of the year, according to police records. There was a 40-per-cent jump in thefts in June, after the lifting of restrictions on movement related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Belfast terrorism probe hears of murky ‘agent provocateur – dpa international

The Free Derry Corner, marking the entrance to the Bogside, an Irish nationalist stronghold in the city (Simon Roughneen)

GALWAY — Defence lawyers representing six people charged with terrorism in Northern Ireland told a Belfast court on Monday that a British security forces “agent provocateur” played a role in the suspects’ arrests. The six, who appeared on video from a nearby police station due to concerns about spread of the novel coronavirus, are accused of membership of the “New” Irish Republican Army (IRA) and of planning terrorist attacks. “Did an MI5 agent organize and finance these meetings?” one of the lawyers asked, referring to a British spy agency.

Irish minister quits but EU commissioner defiant after apparent breach of virus curbs – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland’s agriculture minister resigned on Friday after seemingly flouting anti-coronavirus measures introduced earlier in the week by the government. Prime Minister Micheál Martin said former minister Dara Calleary’s appearance at a Wednesday golf event and dinner was “wrong and an error of judgement.” In a Friday statement, Martin said the event “should not have gone ahead in the manner it did given the government decision of last Tuesday.” Calleary told Mid West Radio, a local broadcaster in his Mayo constituency, that Martin was “entitled to be angry and disappointed.” Ireland’s police said that they were investigating the event over “alleged breaches” of health laws.

UN tourism agency knocks ‘timid’ leaders, says safe travel possible – dpa international

Before the pandemic and restrictions, scenes such as this in Melaka, a town in southern Malaysia that is a popular tourist destination, were common (Simon Roughneen)

LIMERICK — The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations agency, on Tuesday criticized governments for being “overly focused” on health and described as “not enough” the “re-opening of borders to tourism” seen to date. The agency wants governments “to do everything they can to get people travelling again,” citing the “the sudden and rapid fall in tourist arrivals” caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Governments have a “responsibility to protect businesses and livelihoods,” the Madrid-based agency said, pointing to estimates published in July that showed the collapse in travel between January and May as having cost up to 320 billion dollars – three times the losses to tourism incurred during the 2007-09 financial crisis and equivalent to Colombia’s gross domestic product.

Study suggests Atlantic plastic pollution far worse than thought – dpa international

Looking out on the Atlantic over cliffs next to the Céide Fields, a landmark neolitihic site in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

LIMERICK — Plastic pollution in the Atlantic Ocean could be 10 times worse than previously thought, according to estimates by the UK-based National Oceanography Centre (NOC) published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications. Samples of Atlantic seawater taken at depths of up to 200 metres suggest the “supply of plastic to the ocean [to] have been substantially underestimated,” the NOC reported. The NOC said the volume of invisible or near-invisible microplastics “is comparable in magnitude to estimates of all plastic waste that has entered the Atlantic Ocean over the past 65 years.” The NOC’s Katsiaryna Pabortsava, the report’s lead author, said that earlier studies did not measure “the concentrations of ‘invisible’ microplastic particles beneath the ocean surface.”

Irish government reimposes some virus curbs on midlands region – dpa international

Hand sanitiser near the entrance of a church in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A resurgence of coronavirus cases in parts of Ireland has prompted the government to stop residents of three adjoining counties from travelling elsewhere in the country for two weeks. Prime Minister Micheál Martin announced the curbs in a Friday evening press conference, saying that “over the past week, there have been a number of localised clusters, which are of serious concern.” The restrictions affect counties Laois and Offaly, as well as Kildare – a densely-populated county that is part of the commuter belt ringing capital Dublin. The almost 400,000 people living in three counties can only travel elsewhere in Ireland – which recorded a population of 4.76 million in the 2016 census – for work or “essential” purposes such as medical treatment. 

Under-fire Chinese app TikTok to set up European hub in Ireland – dpa international

DUBLIN — Video-sharing app TikTok will invest 420 million euros (500 million dollars) in a European data storage centre in Ireland, the company announced on Thursday. The proposed hub will house European user data, according to Roland Cloutier, TikTok’s global chief information security officer, who said the move will strengthen “safeguarding and protection of TikTok user data” in a “state of the art physical and network security defence system.” Cloutier said “hundreds” of jobs will be created – an announcement welcomed by IDA Ireland, the state investment promotion agency, as “good news.” IDA Ireland Chief Executive Officer Martin Shanahan said IikTok’s statement “postions Ireland as an important location in the company’s global operations.” Banned in China, US online giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have substantial operations in low-tax Ireland.

Irish peacemaker and politician Hume remembered at funeral by Pope Francis and Dalai Lama

Some well-known pubs in the centre of Derry (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The funeral took place on Wednesday of John Hume, the former Northern Ireland politician who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his efforts to end three decades of deadly conflict in the region. Tributes from Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and Bono were read out by Donal McKeown, the Catholic bishop of Derry, who presided over the funeral Mass. A Vatican statement said that Pope Francis was “saddened” to learn of Hume’s death and “sends the assurance of his prayers to his family.” Hume died on Monday at the age of 83 after a long illness. Hume’s “message about peace and non-violence in the resolution of conflict … will long survive him,” the Dalai Lama said. Bono, lead singer with Irish rock band U2, described Hume as “a man who made all our lives bigger.”

Leaders recall ‘political titan’ who pushed for peace in Ireland – dpa international

The Peace Bridge spanning the River Foyle as it runs through Derry (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The smiles and handshakes among leaders from the two parts of Ireland attending a meeting last week in Dublin were arguably the legacy of the late Nobel peace laureate John Hume, who died early Monday. Shortly after Hume’s death was announced, he was remembered by Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin as “one of the towering figures of Irish public life of the last century.” Martin last week hosted leaders from both sides of Northern Ireland’s ethnic and sectarian divide at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council, a body set up in the wake of the 1998 Belfast Agreement, a peace deal which Hume helped negotiate.  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday that “without John Hume there would have been no Belfast or Good Friday Agreement,” referring to the 1998 deal, which was also endorsed by the European Union and the United States.

Irish Nobel peace laureate John Hume dies at 83 – dpa international

The Free Derry Corner, marking the entrance to the Bogside, an Irish nationalist stronghold in the city (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Former Northern Ireland politician and Nobel laureate John Hume, who helped broker a peace deal in the region, has died at the age of 83. In a statement released early on Monday, Hume’s family said they were “deeply saddened to announce that John passed away peacefully in the early hours of the morning after a short illness.” Hume, who co-founded the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), shared the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble, who was head of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). Leaders of the two biggest parties in Northern Ireland at the time, the men were awarded for their efforts to end three decades of violence in Northern Ireland via the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement. Their partnership crossed the region’s ethnic and sectarian divide, with Hume’s SDLP campaigning for the non-violent unification of Northern Ireland with rest of Ireland and the UUP seeking to keep the region under British rule.