News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 4th July 2013

ECB Bank to regulate AIB and Bank of Ireland directly


Minister Michael Noonan says there is no evidence’ to suggest Irish banks will need more capital.

AIB and Bank of Ireland and at least one more systemically important institution operating here will be regulated directly by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt when the new European banking supervisory regime comes into force, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday.

Mr Noonan also reiterated that the Irish banks are well capitalised and said there was no evidence that they would need additional funds from the State when a new set of stress tests is completed next year.

When asked by Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty to identify which Irish banks would be directly regulated by Frankfurt, Mr Noonan said “AIB and Bank of Ireland will be two. We could have a number of bids on the table for the third.”

He said the third institution could be Ulster Bank, in spite of the fact that it is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, which is regulated in the UK. It will come down to which banks are considered “systemically important”, he added.

Mr Noonan said the Central Bank of Ireland and the ECB would decide which Irish banks are directly regulated under the regime.

The banking union will see the introduction of a single supervisor in Europe, the ECB. It will take over responsibility for all major or systemically important banks from national regulators from mid-2014. This will involve a minimum of three institutions per country, Mr Noonan said.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath asked the Minister what impact direct supervision from Frankfurt would have on the activities of the Central Bank here.

Mr Noonan said the ECB could choose to fly people in to Dublin for supervisory purposes or it might use a group of people based locally. “I’m not sure how the logistics will work.”

He also suggested the ECB might delegate certain functions to national regulators, while retaining its right to override the domestic supervisor and “take control” of a situation. Those banks in Ireland not directly regulated from Frankfurt will continue to supervised by the Central Bank, he added.

On the issue of the Irish banks needing more capital, Mr Noonan said: “There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the Irish banks will need extra capital next year. They are very well capitalised. I have no evidence [to the contrary] at this point in time either.”

He was involved in a testy exchange with Mr Doherty, lasting a few minutes, on what mechanism would be used to provide extra capital to the Irish banks if it was required following the stress tests next year.

“You are trying to construct a theory on a fake premise,” Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan confirmed that the budget would be brought forward from its usual slot in early December to October 15th under new European rules.

The Finance Bill will be published before Christmas, he added.

Senators vote to scrap itself the Seanad


Plans to hold referendum pass by 29 to 22

The Seanad has this evening voted to scrap itself. Senators approved plans to proceed with a referendum on Seanad abolition by 29 to 22.

The move means it is now virtually certain that Ireland will hold a referendum on scrapping the Seanad in early October.

The last time the Seanad voted against a government Bill Eamon de Valera was Taoiseach so it is not surprising that the Seanad did not block plans to hold a referendum on scrapping itself.

However a slew of Fine Gael Senators had spoken out against abolishing the Upper House of the Oireachtas. They held fire this evening and decided not to oppose the plans until the referendum campaign itself.

The Seanad is now likely to sign off on the plans next week with a referendum in early October.

Speaking last week, former Presidential candidate Senator David Norris launched a scathing attack on those trying to abolish the institution.

New leads spark Met formal inquiry into Madeleine McCann now missing for 7 years


Madeleine was almost four years old when she disappeared, she would now be 11 years old.

Scotland Yard says it has “new evidence and new witnesses” in the Madeleine McCann case and has opened a formal investigation into her disappearance.

The Met Police said it still believed there was a chance Madeleine was alive and it was investigating 38 “persons of interest” after reviewing the evidence.

Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, said the shift from review to investigation was “a big step forward”.

Madeleine was almost four when she disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.

She went missing from her family’s holiday flat in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, as her parents dined out with friends at a nearby restaurant.

Portuguese authorities dropped their investigation into her disappearance in 2008, but Scotland Yard started a review in May 2011, after Prime Minister David Cameron had responded to a plea from the McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire.

New theories

Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood, who is heading what has been called Operation Grange, said: “The review has given us new thinking, new theories, new evidence and new witnesses.”

A team of Scotland Yard’s best detectives, assisted by police overseas, in an inquiry paid for by the Home Office, offers the best opportunity to find out what happened to Madeleine McCann. It may also be the last chance to do so.

Although the Yard cannot put right mistakes made during the initial inquiry, when the Portuguese were accused of failing to seal off the area where Madeleine had been staying and gather all available forensic evidence, the new team has had access to all the files.

That has enabled detectives with no prior involvement to look at the case objectively and form fresh views about what may have happened to Madeleine. There is a real determination among officers to solve the mystery – and a quiet optimism that it may be possible.

His 37-strong police team is two-thirds of the way through examining 30,500 documents from files held by the Portuguese, private investigators and British police. Some fresh interviews have also taken place.

“Over the last two years what the review has told me is that there is no clear, definitive proof that Madeleine McCann is dead,” Det Ch Insp Redwood said.

“So on that basis, I still genuinely believe that there is a possibility that she is alive.”

He added: “It is a positive step in our hunt for Madeleine that our understanding of the evidence has enabled us to shift from review to investigation.”

Scotland Yard’s decision to formally open its own investigation – which, like the review, will be funded by the Home Office – follows extensive discussions with UK prosecutors and the Portuguese.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said: “It’s highly unusual – although not unprecedented – for a British police force to launch its own inquiry into an incident abroad.”

In a statement, the McCanns said: “Kate and Gerry warmly welcome the shift in the Met’s emphasis from review to investigation.

“It is clearly a big step forward in establishing what happened and, hopefully, towards bringing whoever is responsible for Madeleine’s abduction to justice.”

The Met said the 38 “persons of interest,” who include 12 British nationals, are from five European countries – Portugal, the UK and three unnamed others.

Detectives say they need to find out more information and collect evidence on them and are not anticipating any immediate arrests.

The 12 UK nationals, who are not all currently in the UK, are believed to have been in Portugal at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

Portuguese assistance

The Met said it was “at an advanced stage of dialogue” with the other countries involved, and enquiries would be continuing with their assistance in the months ahead “to establish more information about the individuals concerned and any potential involvement”.

A foreign national resident abroad could not be prosecuted in the UK for any possible crime that may be linked to Madeleine’s disappearance.

Detectives say Madeleine’s parents, the friends the McCanns were with in Portugal and people known to the family before they went away are not suspects or people they need to investigate.

The investigation is currently closed in Portugal and as part of the country’s criminal justice system it cannot be reopened unless judges are convinced there are solid grounds to do so.

British police have formally asked the Crown Prosecution Service to submit an international letter of request to Portuguese authorities for assistance in obtaining evidence relating to their inquiries.

The Met has asked for a small number of its officers to be present in Portugal for the inquiries there.

As part of the review, a computer-generated image of how Madeleine might have looked at the age of nine was created with the help of her family. They marked her 10th birthday on 12 May.

By May 2012 – one year into the review – the Home Office’s costs had reached £1.9m. The Met Police said a more up-to-date figure for the cost of the review would be released in due course.

The former head of the National Police Improvement Agency Peter Neyroud said it was a difficult investigation because it involved two countries, possibly more.

“It was always going to be an expensive inquiry and it is a fine judgement as to how far you go on but if, as appears, there are fresh lines of inquiry and a case worth pursuing, there is a young lady out there who deserves to be reunited with her parents – or a murder case that deserves to be pursued.”

Pregnancy screening test developed in Ireland


Irish scientists have developed a screening test which could detect life-threatening pre-eclampsia in the early stages of pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure in expectant mothers and is thought to affect 3pc of first-time mums.

At present, there is no effective test for the condition.

Therefore, medics are unable to offer preventative treatments.

However, scientists in Cork have developed a screening test which they believe could detect the condition at the 15th week of pregnancy.

If the test is found to be successful, it could be available to all mums-to-be in less than three years. Clinical trials are currently underway and should finish by 2016.

The project – Improved Pregnancy Outcomes by Early Detection – has received €6m in EU funding and began in November 2012.

Project leader Professor Louis Kenny, UCC Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said it took the college a total of 12 years to develop the test.

Some 5,000 first-time mothers from across the EU will now be involved in the clinical trials, including 1,000 from Munster.

Take it outside you parents to stay fit while playing like a child again


It’s well known that fitness and exercise are important to overall health. Exercise boosts your metabolism to burn fat, promotes a strong immune system, and releases harmful toxins from the body through sweat.

Hard sweating through fitness is beneficial for your health as well as cardio exercises to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. You can control blood sugar, high cholesterol, sleep disorders, and even stress, all with the implementation of an exercise routine.

Does this mean another trip to the gym? Not this time!

When the weather permits, who wants to stay indoors when there is so much you can do outdoors by going green with your fitness program?

When first starting out, why not try the good old back yard for some inspiration? Try doing some exercises that you would normally do indoors, such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and any other stationary routine, and try it out in the great outdoors. The fresh air can add a huge boost to your workout!

If you are looking for more fun than the backyard, you can head down to your local playground as many parks and playgrounds have equipment satisfactory for physical activities, with a little imagination. Pump on the swings, workout the abs on the slides, climb across the monkey bars and other equipment. Find your inner-child, while promoting some healthy fitness activity. This could be your chance to have some fun on the playground, while also giving yourself a good light-hearted workout.

Walking is always one of the best forms of exercise, and can be a little more effective when picking up the speed and adding a few weights to carry as well as on your ankles.

Jogging is also a passion for many people and a great choice for overall fitness while enjoying the outdoors. Make your walks and jogging more fun by changing your route often. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or explore some parts of your town that you have never seen before!

Another way to de-stress your life while being fit is to find a nearby trail and go hiking.  Paths that are steep can get the heart pumping for a beneficial cardio workout. Be sure to bring along plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellents – and bring your dog as well.  Most outdoor activities can provide fun, fitness and a bonding moment for both of you.

Some other great activities for the great outdoors include leisurely bike rides, a couple of laps at the local pool, and skating or rollerblading – all of which offer a workout while strengthening and toning your muscles. Swimming benefits by working all muscles in your body for increased metabolism and strength without sweating.

If you are passionate about green living and outdoor fitness, check into local classes of outdoor yoga, Pilates or other fitness programs that may meet your needs.

Your fitness plans don’t have to go to the wayside just because the weather is not cooperating as there should always be a backup plan. Going green by enjoying the environment is one of the best options but when it is not feasible, provide your own at-home gym equipment with a treadmill or elliptical, both a great form of cardio workout, as well as adding weights and other equipment to complete your own fitness area in lieu of your greatest joy – going green to be healthy.

Your fruits and vegetables can tell day from Night and even get Jet Lag


You probably don’t feel much remorse when you bite into a raw carrot.

You might feel differently if you considered the fact that it’s still living the moment you put it into your mouth.

Of course, carrots—like all fruits and vegetables—don’t have consciousness or a central nervous system, so they can’t feel pain when we harvest, cook or eat them. But many species survive and continue metabolic activity even after they’re picked, and contrary to what you may believe, they’re often still alive when you take them home from the grocery store and stick them in the fridge.

The most recent evidence of this surprising phenomenon? A new paper, published today in Current Biology by researchers from Rice University and UC Davis, found that a range of harvested fruits and vegetables—including cabbage, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and blueberries—behave differently on a cellular level depending on their exposure to light or darkness. In other words, these fresh produce have an internal “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, just like we do.

Previously, Rice biologist and lead author Danielle Goodspeed had found that some plants depend on light cycles and their internal circadian rhythm to fend off predatory insects, at least while still in the ground. In experiments, she had noticed that thale cress plants used reliable daily exposure to sunlight as a basis for anticipating the arrival of insects during the day, and were able to build up reserves of defensive chemicals beforehand, during the night.

In this new study, she and others sought to determine whether already harvested samples of plant species that we commonly eat demonstrate the same kind of circadian behavior. They started by looking at cabbage, a close relative of thale cress, subjecting samples to similar experiments employed to arrive at the previous finding.


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