Saturday round-up: TAP CEO demands more than €3 million in severance pay; Alentejan councils investigated for fraud with EU funds

Country’s bishops cannot agree on pedophile priests; teachers maintain strike actions

Saturday has brought no end to ongoing national soap operas.

Splashed over Correio da Manhã’s front page is the fact that ousted TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener is reported to be demanding more than €3 million in severance pay. 

Adding to the enormity of the claim is the fact that she is also apparently still at her desk, as no one has officially told her to go. 

This may be due to a small matter of procedure, explained by President Marcelo: Ms Ourmières-Widener (sometimes just referred to as Ms Ourmières) should be dismissed by a TAP general assembly, not by the government on national television. That general assembly has not yet assembled.

Alentejan councils meantime are the latest to become investigated for alleged fraud in the obtainment of EU funds. At issue are said to be thousands of euros attributed through ‘direct contracts’ (ie contracts not put out to public tender) through a private company led by a TAP flight commander. According to reports, even TAP could be involved in this investigation as “several of its planes participated in air shows organised by the same (private) company”.

Headlines everywhere have been trying to keep up with the number of priests suspected of having sexually abused children and teenagers who are still in active service. The 100 or so names are being ‘dealt with’ in very different ways, depending on which diocese they are attached to. Some bishops have been ‘suspending’ the priests, pending further inquiries into witness statements given to the Independent Commission (set up to investigate this situation), others have been allowing them to continue with their ministries on the basis that witness statements may not be truthful. “The dioceses of Lisbon and Porto have decided for now to maintain in functions priests suspected of sexually abusing minors”, writes Correio da Manhã today, suggesting there are 12 of these potentially pedophile priests working in the country’s two largest cities. President Marcelo has declared himself “disappointed” with the way the Episcopal Conference has been dealing with this scandal. Much more is likely to develop over the next few days, particularly as Pope Francis has now opened up the possibility of the Church allowing priests to marry (women).

Teachers also remain very much in the news as the end of the negotiation process with the government sees them almost as dissatisfied as when it began, and vowing that their struggle will continue. Monday will see new dates put forwards for further forms of protest; new types of strikes which Expresso concedes could very well mark the entire school year (which only has another three months left to run). The likelihood is for another 18 days of district strikes (taking schools to the end of March), as well as a strike of all ‘non-teaching activities’, culminating in another ‘full blown national effort’ to show discontent on June 6.

Squeezing into the day’s headlines is a story that could be said to sum up the national dilemma:  A patient travelled four hours in an ambulance to arrive back where she started. This is another example of the condition of the country’s health service. It is a situation that is said to have left the Caldas da Rainha fire service, responsible for driving the 190 kms – and repeatedly being told by hospitals ‘no thank you’ – “indignant”, and the patient – whose condition was considered urgent – “disoriented”. The saga was prompted by four hospitals saying they could not take the woman, with the first one eventually accepting that it had to.

Finally, there has been some more positive Portuguese news today: two national cheeses have been voted among the World 50 best. They are Queijo Serra da Estrela and  Queijo de Azeitão.

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Portugal Resident