Monday, January 26, 2009

Roscommon and paying double for music

Last week's incest and neglect case in Roscommon is the most disturbing case I've covered. Barry Andrews, minister for children, was quick to react and by Saturday the HSE announced it was to hold an "independent" inquiry with a report due in six months. How the HSE allowed the six children to remain in that house when social workers were visiting them regularly is difficult to believe and a full explanation is needed.

While Andrews has moved quickly on this it is amazing that the HSE or his department didn't brief him about this case before it came to court. He only heard about it through media reports last Wednesday. You also have to wonder how independent a four person inquiry which contains two HSE officials will be. These are two reasonable points that Alan Shatter, Fine Gael's spokesman on children, has made.

Mairead O'Shea in Roscommon reported from the mother's trial for us in the Sunday Times as we covered the the legal issues and fallout surrounding the case in a focus piece.

There are restrictions over what can be said about parts of this case because of pending legal action.

One person I spoke to in the area from which this family lived was the local priest.

He told me: “People would know there were problems but nothing like what came out [in court]. People round here are no different from other country people. They would help if they knew there was a problem but you don’t interfere with a family unless you’re invited in. The children served mass and I certainly never noticed any difference with them and other children.”

One of the neighbours Mairead interviewed told us that because people knew social workers were involved with the family, people presumed any difficulties were being addressed.

By being aware of that we put our faith in that system and felt that this isn’t happening without anyone knowing,” said the woman.

From the political rhetoric from last of week it seems the biggest knock on effect of this case may be that it seals the argument for the need to have a referendum which could give children's rights a firm place in the constitution.

The shadowy "right wing Catholic group" who supported the Roscommon mother's quest to keep her family together in 2000 have finally given those (such as children's rights groups) who want a change in the constitution a shocking case to illustrate their argument. We actually don't know how much the current constitutional position of the family as a sacred institution hampered the HSE's attempts to take the children in to care. It may have been down to a lack of resources for social workers or simply a bad decision based on the mother's promise to improve but that doesn't matter now.

In other news, hard pressed small businesses are being taken to court for not paying their music licenses for playing radios or CDs by Phonographic Performance Ireland (PPI). The biggest gripe companies have is that most of them are already paying the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO). PPI collects for the record companies and IMRO collects for the artists basically. There is a growing area of litigation in enforcing intellectual property rights in Ireland which I find interesting.

Last year Hollywood studios tried to get in on the act by charging toddlers for watching Disney movies in playschools. They shot themselves in the foot though by not registering their collecting body with the Irish patent office. The recent Thomas Roddy case shows how UPC are losing millions through the prevalence of "dodgy boxes".

PPI are taking the government to court later this year for allowing hotels to have an exemption from public copyright charges in their bedrooms. PPI is also heavily involved in the legal tussle with Eircom down in the four courts over the downloading of music from the web.

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