News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Thursday 29th August 2013

Retail sales rose in Ireland by 6.1% in July; Ex-cars up 1.3%


Irish Economy 2013: The volume of retail sales (i.e. excluding price effects) increased by 6.1% in July 2013 when compared with June 2013 and there was a increase of 4.7% in the annual figure. If Motor Trades are excluded, the volume of retail sales increased by 1.3% in July 2013 when compared with June 2013 and there was an increase of 1.3% in the annual figure.

The number of new cars sold in July jumped by 51% following the introduction of the 132 number plates, figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show.

There were 9,306 new private cars licensed last month, compared with 6,164 in July 2012.

The CSO said the sectors with the largest month on month volume increases were Motor Trades (+37.4%), Books, Newspapers and Stationery (+16.2%), Clothing, Footwear  & Textiles (+5.3%) and Bars (+2.8%).  The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were Electrical Goods (-4.9%) and Fuel (-4.2%). (See Table 3).

There was an increase of 6.1% in the value of retail sales in July 2013 when compared with June 2013 and there was an annual increase of 4.4% when compared with July 2012. If Motor Trades are excluded, there was a monthly increase of 2.3% in the value of retail sales and an annual increase of 1.5%.

New cancer research collaboration announced


The centre aims to develop ways of better predicting the best treatment for breast cancer patients

Details of a new cancer research collaboration, said to be the first of its kind in the world, have been announced by the Irish Cancer Society.

The Breast Predict project will see €7.5m invested over five years in a collaborative breast cancer research centre involving Irish scientists and academic institutions.

The aim of the centre will be to develop ways of better predicting the best treatment for breast cancer patients.

Over 50 leading researchers from six academic institutions across the island and abroad will be brought together in the virtual collaboration.

They will share resources, technical expertise and patient samples, while producing a breast cancer database and treatment models.

Their ultimate goal is to develop more accurate, precise and personalised therapies.

The project will be funded by means of a €1.5m investment by the Irish Cancer Society every year over its five-year term.

It will be the only breast cancer collaborative research centre in the world that can track patients over a long period – a process made possible by Ireland’s small population.

Professor John Fitzpatrick, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, said he is confident the programme will deliver improved personalised breast cancer treatments.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Prof Fitzpatrick predicted that noticeable progress would be made within a year

British police arrest two men in Horse-meat ‘fraud’ probe


Two men have been arrested as part of an investigation by British police into the horsemeat scandal, it was revealed today. 

City of London Police said that since launching an inquiry in May they have held two men on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and interviewed a further two men under caution.

The force said it has only released details now due to “operational reasons”, and would not say when the men were arrested or reveal their nationalities.

Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Shaw, from the City of London Police, said: “This is an extremely complex investigation covering a number of jurisdictions and a variety of businesses.

“We are working closely with police forces, other law enforcement agencies and regulators to determine whether horse meat being used in a range of meat products was deliberate and coordinated criminal activity.”

City of London Police were asked to work with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as part of its inquiry into the scandal. It reviewed evidence from law enforcement agencies in Europe and the UK, as well as from the FSA.

The force launched an investigation in May and said it made the arrests “during the initial stages” of the inquiry. Officers also carried out searches at businesses and homes in the UK.

Last month MPs condemned the slow pace of the national investigation into the horsemeat scandal, with no prosecutions six months after the problem was first identified.

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said authorities in both the UK and Ireland – where horse DNA was first discovered in processed beef products – had yet to acknowledge the scale of the illegal activity involved.

It said: “The evidence we received from retailers and food processors in the UK and Ireland suggests a complex, highly organised network of companies trading in and mislabelling frozen and processed meat or meat products in a way that fails to meet specifications and that is fraudulent and illegal.

”We are concerned at the failure of authorities in both the UK and Ireland to acknowledge the extent of this and to bring prosecutions.

”We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and would like assurance that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or other illegal activity.”

The FSA has already agreed to an independent review of its response to the scandal.

Cruise ships to boost NI economy

 Cruise ships to boost NI economy

(On the right) the new £7m (€8.2m) cruise facility will be completed by 2014.

Northern Ireland’s economy could see a 25% boost in the revenues generated by cruise ship visits over the next three years.

It is after Belfast Harbour received a £7m investment to build the first cruise facility in Ireland.

Belfast Harbour Chairman, Len O’Hagan said the new facility will revamp the Queen’s Island area as a tourism hub.

“Belfast is Ireland’s fastest growing cruise destination – a market which is one of the most important drivers of the local tourism economy.

“The facility will enable Belfast to be promoted as a tourist destination to an even wider range of operators, leading to a projected increase of 25% over the next three years in the revenue generated for the local economy by cruise ship visits.”

He said: “With over one million people visiting Titanic Belfast in just over a year and the popularity of attractions such as the Odyssey, the newly refurbished Nomadic and the marina at Abercorn Basin, combined with the development plans for the Titanic Drawing Offices, HMS Caroline and the Titanic Dock and Pump House, Queen’s Island in the Harbour Estate has become a major tourism destination.”

Sixty ships are expected to stop at Belfast this year generating more than £18m for the local economy.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said: “I am delighted to be able to welcome this further and substantial investment in infrastructure.

“It demonstrates the significant economic contribution that Belfast Port continues to make to Northern Ireland in terms of connectivity, jobs and the local economy.”

The new facility will also include an area for coaches and a new welcome centre.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said: “The berth facility will be located beside Titanic’s Dry Dock and Pump-House and will include a large area to accommodate coaches.

“The improvements to infrastructure will ensure the best possible cruise ship experience and enhance Belfast’s reputation among cruise operators and visitors alike.”

From 2014 cruise ships will move from Stormont Wharf to a berth adjacent to Alexandra Dock in Co Down.

This year, Belfast was ranked on Trip Advisor as one of the UK’s top destinations.

Eating certain fruits lower’s the risk of diabetes


Eating more whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes and apples, is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

The new research also suggests that a greater fruit juice consumption has an adverse effect on a person’s risk of developing the condition.

Researchers from the UK, USA and Singapore examined the association of individual fruit consumption to type 2 diabetes risk. Data was used from three studies among US adults.

The study included both men and women and ten individual fruits were used: grapes or raisins; peaches, plums or apricots; prunes; bananas; cantaloupe; apples or pears; oranges; grapefruit; strawberries; blueberries. Fruit juice included apple; orange; and grapefruit.

Food frequency questionnaires were used to assess participants’ diet, asking how often, on average, they consumed each food in a standard portion size.

Information was gathered on the participants’ body height and weight, smoking, physical activity, multivitamin use and family history of diabetes. Information for women was collected on menopausal status, post-menopausal hormone use and oral contraceptive use.

Results showed that 6.5% of the participants developed diabetes. Their total whole fruit consumption correlated positively with age, physical activity, multivitamin use, total energy intake and fruit juice consumption.

Three servings per week of blueberries, grapes and raisins, and apples and pears significantly cut the risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, a greater consumption of fruit juice increased the risk.

Replacing three servings per week of fruit juice with individual whole fruits reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%, with the exception of strawberries and cantaloupe melon.

Scientists unravel ancestry of Ireland’s rarest fish


Killarney shad or goureens are found in just one Kerry lake

Scientists have unravelled the eventful family tree of a remarkable County Kerry resident right back to the Ice Age.

This is the fish episode of the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ genealogy show and traces the family history of the Killarney shad – that’s the Shads of Killarney – born survivors with an apparent keen instinct to overcome adversity and adapt to dangerous environments.

Known locally as the ‘goureen’, it turns out that the Shads of Killarney have kept themselves to themselves for quite a while and are unique to one lake in the world, Lough Leane in Kerry. The herring-like fish are now “critically-endangered” and in need of protection.

The UCD, University of Salford and Inland Fisheries Ireland study is published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, and reconstructs the origin of the shad, providing genetic evidence for the timing of colonisation of the lake after the last glaciations ended.

“Fish are programmed to go upstream to spawn and they came to the rivers after the ice retreated,” said Prof Stefano Mariani, the senior scientist involved. “Some of them got trapped and were ‘landlocked’ in freshwater lakes.”

Prof Mariani and Dr Ilaria Coscia used a “molecular clock” based on analysing the rate of DNA change to date the arrival of fish in the lake.

“Two groups of twaite shad arrived,” said Dr Coscia. “The first 16,000 years ago towards the end of the Ice Age and another branch arrived 7,000 years ago.”

Prof Mariani explained that the fish could no longer venture out to sea. “On top of being isolated spatially, these guys were forced to change their lifestyle, eat a differentdiet and live in fresh water. With these strong selective forces, inevitably you become something different.”

Today’s Killarney shad is now genetically isolated from its ancestors. “The two groups are no longer there. The lake became a genetic mixing pot and today they’re all the same,” said Prof Mariani.

The fish has become so adapted to its new habitat that no migration to the sea is needed for the completion of its life cycle.

The major concern for the goureen now is that a “catastrophic environmental event in Lough Leane could eliminate the entire genetic pool”, given that the fish is only present in one location in the world.


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