News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 16th August 2013

University Woman loses legal battle to have a home birth


University lecturer was seeking orders compelling HSE to allow her have baby at home

The High Court has rejected a case taken by a mother seeking orders compelling the HSE to grant her applicationfor a home birth. University lecturer Aja Teehan, whose second child is due on October 13th, applied to have the baby born at home inThomastown, Co Kilkenny, assisted by a midwife.

She alleged the HSE is operating a “blanket policy” of refusing to cover home births for women who previously had Caesarean section births which means she cannot have her baby at home as a midwife will not get indemnity cover to attend. Ms Teehan has a six-year-old daughter born after a Caesarean section.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley today rejected her application and said it would be “manifest irrationality” for the courts to change the criteria for home births as set out by the HSE. She said the claim by Ms Teehan amounted to compelling the HSE to “accept, or rather, to consider in good faith whether it would accept liability for a risk that it does not believe is justifiable.” She added: “As a matter of law, I do not consider that she is entitled to that.

” In a 21-page written judgment, which was not read out in court, Ms Justice O’Malley said it had already been established through the case of O’Brien v South Western Area Health Board that there was was no statutory obligation on the HSE to provide for a home birth service.

However, the HSE does allow home births under the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between themselves and independent midwives who to carry out home births. Under those terms, the HSE has agreed to indemnify independent midwives under terms which exclude potentially risky births include vaginal birth after Caesarean section (Vbac) which Ms Teehan wants to have. Changing the criteria for women who want to have such births would be a “clinical decision, based on assessment of the risks involved which the court is not entitled to make”, Ms Justice O’Malley said.

The judge acknowledged there were disputes over the potential risk involved in a uterine rupture during a home birth. Even if it was 0.5 per cent, as had been claimed, she said it was not her task to decide who was right in the argument. “The HSE, is entitled, having regard to the potential consequences of uterine rupture to provide maternity services in such a way as to minimise the risk of its occurance, even if that risk is small.” At a hearing last month, Matthias Kelly SC, for Ms Teehan, told Ms Justice O’Malley his client was not trying to be “some sort of martyr” but was trying to minimise the risk for herself.

She was acting as a perfectly responsible mother and had asked the HSE to look at the evidence in her case but there was “no engagement” by the HSE, just a repeat of a “mantra” when declining her application. Opposing the application, Paul Anthony McDermott, for the HSE, said the policy had “not plucked the policy out of thin air” but had followed the practice in other jurisdictions and the policy was rational and based on medical evidence.

This afternoon Ms Justice O’Malley set the issue of costs back for hearing on September 6th. Ms Teehan said she would not consult with her legal team as to whether or not she will appeal to the Supreme Court.

Irish phone companies putting pressure on customers to go paperless billing


Thomas Pringle TD has spoken out against Irish phone companies’ attempts to “pressurise” customers to move to paperless billing.

He said: “Paperless billing is environmentally friendly and should be adopted where possible. However, this doesn’t suit everyone and, with less than half of all older people being regular internet users, efforts to move to online-only billing would have a very negative impact on these people.

“Attempts by certain companies to pressurise people into adopting this method is most unwelcome and in breach of what is a basic consumer right-to have access to a bill.” He reminded the public that they do not have to accept paperless billing. He also called on ComReg to intervene in response to the companies’ “abysmal behaviour”.

Fifty Leaving Cert students suspected of cheating in this year Irish exam’s


The exam scripts were held back with a further 25 ‘provisionally withheld pending communication’ with students.

The results of fifty Leaving Certificate examinations have been withheld over cheating suspicions. A further 25 results are being provisionally held back from the State Examination Commission (SEC) pending further communication with the school and students concerned.

The SEC state that cases of cheating can be highlighted in a number of ways, such as: An examiner detecting similar work from more than one candidate when correcting work from the same centre; while marking an examination script, an examiner may discover memorandum, notes or paper brought in by a candidate in an attempt to gain an advantage in the examination or an examination superintendent may detect a candidate using prohibited items such as books, mobile phones or attempting to contact another candidate in the centre. When incidences like this occur, the superintendent must submit a report to the SEC.


The SEC state that 67 papers were withheld in 2011 and 75 in 2012, but that every effort is made by the SEC to investigate the events prior to the issue of the examination results, but they said that this is not always possible to do. “In these circumstances results are withheld without prejudice and pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned,” they said. The SEC is charged with responsibility of ensuring that the rules and regulations of state examinations are met.

They state that “it is essential in order to uphold the integrity of the Irish examinations system and to underpin equity and fairness within the system in order to enable all candidates to display their achievements on an equal footing”. They added that “any incidence of suspected copying, improper assistance from another party, plagiarism or procurement of pieces prepared by another party are thoroughly investigated by the SEC and the candidate is liable to have penalties imposed as provided for in the Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools”.

The rules

The state examination rules on cheating and inappropriate behaviour are very clear. They state: A candidate may be expelled from the examination hall if his/her behaviour is such as to jeopardise the successful conduct of the examination. Submission of material of a pornographic nature or any other offensive material or the inclusion of any cash/cheque in the script may result in the examination in all subjects being disallowed.

In the case of cheating, the rules state:

Where the Commission is of the opinion that any candidate has violated any of these rules… the Commission may think fit from any sum payable in respect of any grant or scholarship obtained by the candidate, according to the opinion which the Commission may form of the gravity of the offence.

The Commission may, if the Commission thinks fit, publish the candidate’s name and address, as given in the notice of intention to present for examination, as those of a candidate who has been so deprived and the Commission may, according to the opinion of the Commission as to the gravity of the offence, debar the candidate from entering for any of the examinations run by the State Examinations Commission for such period as the Commission may determine.

Apples lose their crunch from climate change’s, A study finds

  Global warming is causing apples to lose some of their crunch but is also making them sweeter, a study said on Thursday.

Analysing data gathered from 1970 to 2010 at two orchards in Japan, a research team said there was clear evidence that climate change was having an effect on apple taste and texture. “All such changes may have resulted from earlier blooming and higher temperatures” during the growth season, they wrote in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

About 60 million tonnes of apples are produced every year, making it the world’s third most popular fruit. Previous studies had shown that global warming was causing apple trees to flower earlier, and that harvests were also affected by changes in rainfall and air temperature. The orchards used in the study produce the Fuji and Tsugaru apples, the two most popular kinds in the world.

The farms are located in Japan’s Nagano and Aomori prefectures, which had seen a mean air temperature rise of 0.31 and 0.34 degrees celsius, respectively, per decade. The orchards were chosen because there had been no changes in cultivars or management practices for extended periods, thus ruling out non-climate factors like technological improvements in the apple change. The data collected over the years included measures of acid and sugar concentration, fruit firmness and watercore – a disease that causes water-soaked areas in the flesh of an apple.

The analysis showed a decrease in acidity, firmness and watercore, but a rise in sugar concentration over time. “We think that a sweeter apple is a positive thing and a loss of firmness is a negative thing,” study co-author Toshihiko Sugiura of the National Institute of Fruit Tree Science in Fujimoto told AFP.

“We think most people like sweet and firm apple fruits, although everyone has his own taste. A soft apple is called ‘Boke’ in Japanese which means a dull or senile fruit.” The study said that the results “suggest that the taste and textural attributes of apples in the market are undergoing change from a long-term perspective, even though consumers might not perceive these subtle change.” The research claims to be the first to measure changes in the taste and texture of food as a result of climate change.

Discovery of woman and children at least 1,000 years old “very exciting & significant”


An archaeologist has described the discovery of the remains of one woman and two children at least 1,000 years old at a dig in the Burren as “very exciting and significant”.

Dr Michelle Comber, director of the Caherconnell Archaeological School, said there was “an air of excitement” on the penultimate day of the eight-week dig when the remains were discovered. She said the remains are of a 45-year-old-plus woman, a child aged between 1 and 2, and a baby.

The school called the Gardaí, who took photos of the remains. Dr Comber said gardaí were satisfied that the remains were ancient. Dr Comber said the remains “could be thousands of years old but we won’t know for a couple of months until the results of carbon-dating of the bones are made available”. Caherconnell is located 1km from the Poulnabrone dolmen. Dr Comber said the remains definitely pre-date the building of the fort or cashel under excavation at Caherconnell, which was built around the 10th or 11th century.

Local farmer John Davoren admitted to mixed feelings over the discovery. Mr Davoren — who has operated Caherconnell fort as a visitor attraction since 2003 — said: “The discovery has brought some excitement, but as caretaker of these lands, I feel a connection to the people who have come before us. “Someone always cries at the graveside and the body of the very young baby would have brought hardship to whoever it was back then.” Dr Comber said the remains contained in stone boxes or cists were buried beneath the wall of the cashel enclosure.

She said the smaller of these two cists contained the remains of a young child with the bones of a baby who was either stillborn or died shortly after birth. She said the other cist contained the body of the woman “and she suffered from joint disease, probably as a result of much physical labour over the course of her lifetime”. Dr Comber said the excavation “puts the natives back into the picture of medieval Ireland”.

Irish astronomer helps measure black hole magnetic field for first time


Artist’s impression of a pulsar with a very high magnetic field radio telescope in Germany which is used to observe the Galactic Centre region for unidentified pulsars

An Irish astronomer is among an international group of researchers who have directly measured the magnetic field surrounding a black hole at the centre of our galaxy for the first time.The research is published in the latest edition of the top scientific journal Nature.
It follows the discovery earlier this year of a special stellar beacon, or pulsar, near the “supermassive” black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.For many years astronomers have been scanning the centre of the galaxy for pulsars. A pulsar is a dying star which spins rapidly and emits a regular pulse of radio waves in the process.
  Several months ago telescopes in space, which are operated by NASA, captured unusual X-ray bursts emanating from a pulsar at the centre of the galaxy.Astronomers around the world quickly manoeuvred radio telescopes towards the pulsar and began taking readings.
“We were too excited to sleep in between observations! We were calculating flux densities at 6am on Saturday morning and we could not believe that this magnetar had just turned on so bright.” said Irish astronomer, Dr Evan Keane, from the Jodrell Bank Observatory at the University of Manchester.The radio waves were being twisted by a magnetic field created by gas clouds being sucked into the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, called Sagittarius A*.
By analysing this twisting effect, the scientists have for the first time measured the strength of the magnetic field around the black hole and have concluded it is relatively strong. Discovering a pulsar close to this black hole has been a key priority of astronomers for several decades. Because the radio waves they emit are precisely timed, pulsars can be used for a variety of measurements, including testing Einstein’s theory of relativity.
The pulsar used by the researchers in this paper is a magnetar, a rare type of pulsar with a magnetic field that is 1,000 times stronger than a normal pulsar, and 100 trillion times stronger than the magnetic field around earth. Sagittarius A is slowly swallowing the hot, ionized gas around it through a process known as accretion.
Yet the amount it devours is small in comparable to its size, and the question of why has puzzled scientists for some time. The team was able to establish that the matter being eaten is surrounded by a magnetic field strong enough to regulate the black hole’s consumption. “There are really no other ways to measure these properties of supermassive black holes. So it really is an extreme laboratory for physics,” Dr Evan Keane said.

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