News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 3rd July 2013

New Aer-Lingus route expansion to create 200 jobs


AER Lingus is to expand its transatlantic operations with new year round services to San Francisco and Toronto.

Airline chiefs and Government claimed the investment in the North American market would boost links with Silicon Valley and also bring tourists into Ireland.

Aer Lingus said the expansion would create 200 jobs.

Christoph Mueller, the airline’s chief executive, said the carrier’s transatlantic business is going from strength to strength.

“Our transatlantic capacity will increase by 24% in 2014, following on from the 13% additional capacity in our 2013 transatlantic schedule,” he said.

“Our operation of the San Francisco route will strengthen Ireland’s ties with Silicon Valley and encourage Ireland’s development as a technology hub for Europe.”

Leo Varadkar, Transport Minister, said: “This Government has always sought to improve air access to key tourism and business markets, such as the US and Canada.

“The return of the direct air service to the US west coast is particularly important and I’m very happy to see the route being filled by an Irish airline.”

Aer Lingus will run five services a week from Dublin to San Francisco from April next year. A daily direct service to Toronto will kick in at the same time for the summer season with up to four services a week in the winter.

Aer Lingus said the investment will support jobs in the airline and aircraft leasing company the ASL Aviation Group.

As part of the wider transatlantic operations, new aircraft will be based in Shannon offering increased frequency in and out of New York and Boston.

Emily O’Reilly successfully elected as European Ombudsman


Ireland’s Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has been elected as the next European Ombudsman and will take up her new post in October, it was announced today.

Ms O’ Reilly’s victory was welcomed by the outgoing European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros who  said she would pursue the job with dynamism and vision.

Her departure opens the way for the appointment of a new Ombudsman and Information Commissioner here.,Ms O Reilly has been in the post since 2003 and was re-appointed for a new six year term in 2009.

She was famously described as “Blonde Ambition” by former Fianna Fail  government press secretary PJ Mara who clashed with her during her previous career as a political correspondent.

Mr Diamandouros said “I am convinced that Emily O’Reilly will pursue with dedication, dynamism, and vision the European Ombudsman’s goal of serving as a bridge between European citizens and theEU administration.

“Her experience in impressively restructuring and successfully running an ombudsman institution at the national level will undoubtedly be extremely valuable to her new institution.

“I am also sure that she will give further impetus to the European Ombudsman’s close cooperation with the ombudsman community in Europe, in which she has played a prominent role over the past ten years. I congratulate her warmly and wish her the very best in leading the European Ombudsman institution forward.”

A former journalist Ms O’ Reilly – who is in her mid fifties – is a native of Tullamore, Co Offaly and is married with five children. She is  a graduate ofUniversity College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin.

She was also the recipient of a Niemann Fellowship in Journalism at Harvard University, Cambridge, U.S.A.  In December 2008 Ms O’Reilly was awarded a Doctor of Laws by the National University of Ireland in recognition of her contribution to public service and to human rights.

Irish Government approves the closure of St Patrick’s Institution


The Government has approved the closure of the controversial St Patrick’s Institution, which is a detention centre for young offenders.

A proposal to shut it down was brought before the Cabinet last night by Justice Minister Alan Shatter and accepted.

Mr Shatter decided on the immediate closure, which was revealed in the Irish Independent on Monday, after studying the contents of damning reports on St Patrick’s from the inspector of prisons, Judge Michael Reilly.

The judge issued a heavily critical report last autumn and issued a number of recommendations.

It is understood he was not happy with the implementation of the recommendations and as a result the minister opted for closure.

In the meantime, 16 year old offenders have been transferred to Oberstown and Trinity House centres in north county Dublin.

It is expected that the remaining prisoners, aged between 17 and 21 years, will now be moved to another Dublin jail.

The population of St Patrick’s has dropped from 230 two years ago to 120 today because of the changes.

Senior staff at the institution were informed of the shutdown proposal on Sunday.

Lithium Lowers the Risk of Suicide in Those With Mood Disorders


A study published in the journal reveals that the drug lithium is effective in lowering the risk of suicide and self harm in those with mood disorders.

“The drug seems to reduce the risk of death and suicide by more than 60% compared with placebo. This review reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders, ” author’s of the study state.

One of the leading causes of global disability is mood disorders. The two types of mood disorders are – unipolar disorder, a clinical depression, and bipolar depression, which is manic depression.  Both these disorders cause serious long term conditions that involve extreme mood swings. Those with bipolar depression experience mania and hypomania.

People who suffer from mood disorders are at 30 times greater risk of suicide compared to the general public. The only way to keep their moods in normal limits is with the help of stabilising drugs such as lithium, anticonvulsants or antipsychotics. But not much is known about their role in suicide prevention.

In order to check whether lithium has a preventive effect for self harm and suicide in those with unipolar and bipolar mood disorders, a team of researchers from the universities of Oxford, U.K., and Verona in Italy conducted a study.

They examined the results of 48 randomized controlled trials that were done on 6,674 participants. The participants were given lithium with placebo or active drugs in long treatment for mood disorders. They noticed that compared to the placebo, lithium was more effective in lowering the number of suicide and deaths from any cause. But they couldn’t trace any clear benefits for lithium when compared to placebo in preventing self harm.

On comparing lithium with each active drug treatment, a statistically important disparity was noticed only with carbamazepine for intentional self harm.  Overall, compared to other active treatments, lithium was better.

“This updated systematic review reinforces lithium as an effective agent to reduce the risk of suicide in people with mood disorders,” say the authors.

They continue to state that lithium exerts anti suicidal effect by lowering relapses of mood disorders. There is also evidence that states lithium decreases aggression and possibly impulsivity.

They conclude saying, “Clinicians need to take a balanced view of the likely benefits and harm of lithium in the individual patient. Understanding the mechanism by which lithium acts to decrease suicidal behavior could lead to a better understanding of the neurobiology of suicide.”

The top three pension myths


After hundreds of consultations over the past 12 months we compiled a list of the three most frequent pension misconceptions.

Guaranteed final salary schemes

The most common myth about UK private pensions is that final salary (defined benefit) schemes are guaranteed.

The second most commonly held incorrect assumption was that final salary schemes always increase in value each year; and the third that final salary schemes automatically provide for spouses and dependants when the member dies.

It has become clear that there is a lot of misinformation and, in some cases, downright lies in the public domain about UK private pensions.

This must be addressed urgently as it could seriously compromise people’s long-term financial planning strategies. The myths need to be busted.

The belief that final salary, or defined benefit, pensions are guaranteed is simply not true in the vast majority of cases.

Find the best annuity rate for your circumstances

Defined benefit (DB) schemes are, by their very nature, reliant on the financial stability of the members’ firm. The question someone, especially a younger worker, should ask themselves is ‘will my company still exist and be financially sound in three or four decades’ time when I come to draw my pension?’

Also, it should be remembered that pension formulas can, and often do, change over time and such modifications can significantly alter how much a member accumulates in their pension fund.

DB pensions

Next there is the idea that DB pensions always annually increase in value. While the value on paper may indeed increase, what members need to bear in mind is the real return that is being achieved after inflation has been taken into account. The majority of pension schemes are now applying increases in line with CPI (consumer prices index) rather than RPI (retail prices index) and the government forecasts that CPI will be 1.2% less per annum than RPI over the long term.

Final salary pension

Finally, we have the belief that spouses and children will receive a member’sfinal salary pension should that member die. In many cases a spouse will receive 50% of the income the pension member was receiving on death – but again, this is not guaranteed. Due to the increasing liabilities that pension schemes are facing, many are now changing the terms in which spousal benefits are paid.

Such changes include amending the amount of annual increases the spouse will receive annually on the pension, pension reductions for considerably younger spouses (more than 10 years), and declining spousal pensions if the spouse is a non-UK domicile and the marriage was not registered in the UK.

The earths climate extremes are ‘unprecedented’


More national temperature records were broken in the last decade than in previous ones

The Earth experienced unprecedented recorded climate extremes during the decade 2001-2010, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Its new report says more national temperature records were reported broken than in previous decades.

There was an increase in deaths from heatwaves over that decade.

This was particularly pronounced during the extreme summers in Europe in 2003 and in the Russian Federation during 2010.

But despite the decade being the second wettest since 1901 (with 2010 the wettest year recorded) fewer people died from floods than in the previous decade.

Better warning systems and increased preparedness take much of the credit for the reduced deaths. The WMO says smarter climate information will be needed as the climate continues to change.

Its report, The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Climate Extremes, analysed global and regional trends, as well as extreme events such as Hurricane Katrina, floods in Pakistan and droughts in the Amazon, Australia and East Africa.

The decade was the warmest for both hemispheres and for both land and ocean surface temperatures. The record warmth was accompanied by a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, and accelerating loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and from glaciers.

Global mean sea levels rose about 3mm per year – about double the observed 20th century trend of 1.6mm per year. Global sea level averaged over the decade was about 20cm higher than in 1880.

The report notes that the high temperatures in the decade were achieved without a strong episode of the El Nino current which typically warms the world. It says that a strong El Nino episode would probably have driven temperatures even higher.

Although overall temperature rise has slowed down since the 1990s, the WMO says temperatures are still rising because of greenhouse gases from human society.

The WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said: “Natural climate variability, caused in part by interactions between our atmosphere and oceans means that some years are cooler than others. On an annual basis, the global temperature curve is not a smooth one. On a long-term basis the underlying trend is clearly in an upward direction, more so in recent times.”

But climate change doubters emphasise the lack of movement in temperatures throughout the decade.

Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER), told BBC News that the issue hinged on the time frame.

“For longer periods (two decades or longer) we found a robust and a statistically significant warming trend,” he said. For shorter periods – a decade or less – there is no longer a significant temperature trend of either sign, consistent with the reports of a recent ‘plateauing’ of global temperatures.”

Even so, many climate scientists are alarmed by the consistently high temperatures during the decade. Every year of the decade except 2008 was among the 10 warmest on record.

The warmest year ever recorded was 2010, with a temperature estimated at 0.54C above the 14.0C long-term average of 1961-1990 base period, followed closely by 2005.

Greenland recorded the largest decadal temperature anomaly, +1.71C above the long-term average and with a temperature in 2010 of +3.2C above average. Africa experienced warmer than normal conditions in every year of the decade.

Results from WMO’s survey showed that nearly 94% of reporting countries had their warmest decade in 2001-2010. No country reported a nationwide average decadal temperature cooler than the long term average.


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