News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 23rd December 2013

€13m spent on Gathering yields a revenue of €170m for Irish economy


TOURISM Minister Leo Varadkar has said the €170m in revenue from the €13m outlay for The Gathering was a good return, but denied it was a “shakedown” of tourists.

The Gathering promotion brought 275,000 extra visitors to Ireland this year

Following on from the success, a week-long €585,000 campaign aimed at getting American tourists to visit Ireland next year has been launched.

Mr Varadkar said he was confident that next year would be another good one for tourism judging by early indications from bookings at tour operators and hotels.

Airlines are also putting on extra services.

SCAM: The enormous success of the drive to encourage the Irish diaspora to come home came despite actor Gabriel Byrne dismissing the promotion as “a scam to shake-down the diaspora for money”.

His comments sparked controversy, with President Michael D Higgins subsequently stepping in to defend him.

Byrne later said his comments may have been “a bit strong”.

Speaking on RTE radio, Mr Varadkar said: “It wasn’t a shake-down. We never pretended that it wasn’t about tourism.

“Tourism was key to this and it did bring in around €170m in revenue for an investment of €13m and that was a pretty good return on that investment.”

He added that there are 20,000 more people working in tourism than two years ago.

The Gathering is being credited with delivering record visitor numbers across Ireland’s main tourist attractions including the Cliffs of Moher, the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park, Blarney Castle, the Lakes of Killarney and the Rock of Cashel.

Some attractions reported unprecedented visitor numbers, with several saying they were up almost 19pc.

A new promotion designed by Tourism Ireland involves an extensive TV advertising campaign which will be seen by millions of Americans.

It has been scheduled to begin on Christmas Day and run until New Year’s Eve.

The tourism agency has paid for ads to appear on a number of popular stations, including National Geographic and Ovation.

Ads have also been taken out on TV networks in New York, Boston and Chicago – all important cities for Irish tourism.

The campaign includes a brand new 30-second ad for the coastal attraction, the Wild Atlantic Way.

AUDIENCES: It will air for the first time during the Michael Buble Special on Christmas Night.

It will also be seen during other prime-time shows with large audiences over the holiday period, including various New Year’s Eve countdown programmes.

The US accounts for 40 million of the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry.

Taken across all of Ireland’s overseas visitor markets, The Gathering helped drive overall tourist numbers up this year by 7.3pc (to October).

We’ll drink enough to fill 24 Olympic swimming pools this Christmas

A survey tells us


Reading this is enough to give you a hangover.

The Irish public will consume enough alcohol over Christmas to fill over 24 Olympic size swimming pools.

And we will drink enough wine to make up over 432 ice rinks.

When it comes to food we will make our way through enough chocolate, the calories of which if converted to energy, would generate electricity to power 860,000 houses on Christmas Day.

That’s according to a new survey from waste regulation company Repak, who are urging people to think green over the festive period.

Repak predicts that each household will generate around 74,000 tons of used |packaging in total this Christmas. This includes nearly five million boxes of chocolate and 48 million beer bottles – enough beer bottles to get from Dublin to Lapland and back over five times.

With pubs and clubs as well as house parties a must for many people catching up with friends over Christmas, over 22 million wine bottles and 60 million litres of alcohol will be polished off.

Consumers: We will get through over 28,000 tons of cardboard and paper packaging – enough to fill 647 articulated trucks, which placed end to end would stretch over 6.6 miles.

Irish consumers will spend on average €894 this Christmas, with an average of €485 spent on gifts, €259 spent on food and €150 spent on socialising.

With such an increase in consumption, Repak says that being conscious of waste disposal is now more important than ever.

The company is hoping to collect and recycle between 55 to 60pc of the household used packaging generated over the Christmas holidays

This equals 44,000 tons of recycled packaging in total.

With excessive amounts of food and drink to be consumed over the next few weeks, Repak is urging everyone to be more thoughtful about how they dispose of bottles, packaging and waste.

The waste disposal company says that Ireland has come along way since 2001 when we were only recycling 31,000 tons of used household packaging in a full year.

‘Man flu’ the truth that women don’t want to hear


New study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they have influenza because high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response

For years women have cried “man flu” when men make a fuss over a few sniffles.

But a new study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they are struck down with flu – because high levels of testosterone can weaken their immune response.

The study by Stanford University School of Medicine, examined the reactions of men and women to vaccination against flu.

It found women generally had a stronger antibody response to the jab than men, giving them better protection against the virus.

Men with lower testosterone levels also had a better immune response, more or less equivalent to that of women.

It has long been suggested that men might be more susceptible to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infection than women are.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found women had higher blood levels of signaling proteins that immune cells pass back and forth, when the body is under threat.

Previous research has found that testosterone has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting a possible interaction between the male sex hormone and immune response.

Professor of microbiology and immunology Mark Davis said: “This is the first study to show an explicit correlation between testosterone levels, gene expression and immune responsiveness in humans.

“It could be food for thought to all the testosterone-supplement takers out there.”

Scientists said they were left perplexed as why evolution would designed a hormone that enhances classic male sexual characteristics – such as muscle strength, beard growth and risk-taking propensity – yet left them with a weaker immune system.

Previous studies have found that while women may accuse men of exaggerating when they have flu, females who are more likely to admit to having sniffles and sneezes.

The research, carried out by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last winter, shows that women are are 16 per cent more likely to say they are ill.

Twins born 87 days apart to celebrate first ‘real’ Christmas


A happy family: Chris and Maria with their children Jack, Olivia and twins Amy and Katie

THE twins born 87 days apart are preparing to spend their first Christmas together.

The proud parents of miracle babies Amy and Katie Jones-Elliott cannot wait to enjoy their “first real Christmas” with their precious daughters.

The sisters made international headlines last summer when they were born almost three months apart.

Amy arrived 24 weeks before she was due on June 1, 2012, weighing just 1lb 3oz.

Katie arrived on August 27, after weeks of round the clock supervision in Waterford Regional Hospital, at a healthier 5lb 10oz.

Their mother Maria said that she is excited about this Christmas, as last year they had their Kilkenny home on “lockdown”.

“Last year we had the place on total lockdown because they might have gotten sick, so I don’t remember a lot about it believe or not,” Maria told the Herald.

The family were then forced to protect their little girls from any risk of infection, as Amy was born so early.

“It was just ourselves here last Christmas. My husband was on nights, so he was in bed, so it was just ourselves here.

UNDERSTAND: “This year, we are going to have our dinner by ourselves, but then we will go and visit their grandparents,” Maria said.

The twins are now almost 19 and 16 months old, and have older siblings Olivia (14) and Jack (12). They made their first visit to Santa last week.

Their mother feels they are still too young to understand fully what is going on, but that they enjoy saying “ho, ho, ho”.

“They are getting a learning activity centre from Santa. Amy was recently diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, so this will help with her hand-eye coordination,” she added.

The twins are now beginning to develop their own strong personalities, and it seems that Katie is the confident one.

“They know when the other is in a bad mood or whatever, but at the same time, if Amy has something nice in her hand – like a biscuit or something – Katie has no problem taking it off of her.”

Maria is now encouraging parents of premature babies to visit the Foundation of Irish Premature Babies website, as she feels it has lots of useful support and advice for parents.

“It is a very hard time of year for parents if they have a premature baby in the hospital. It’s a very good website for support.”

Irish people need more Engagement with sport for health’s sake


Next week will bring the New Year and many people’s minds will turn to new possibilities. Hopefully, last week’s publication of a major report commissioned by the Irish Sports Council will still be echoing after the Christmas festivities and will encourage more people to think again about the well-proven benefits of taking exercise.

At the level of personal health, regular moderate exercise prevents the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and dementia.

And for those with chronic illness, regular exercise can have both a treatment and secondary preventive role. In addition, structured participation in sport offers a broad range of societal benefits.

The publication of the largest study of participation in sport and exercise ever conducted in Ireland provides valuable information to help inform policy. Keeping Them in the Game provides evidence from three large, nationally representative surveys covering all age-groups from primary school children to older adults.

In order to improve participation levels, either more children and young adults must become involved in sport or the level of dropout from regular exercise among adults must be reversed.

This latest research suggests remedial action be focused on post primary schoolchildren and adults. It found that second level students participate less in exam years and this has a lasting effect on whether they are active later in life.

The research also found adult activity is linked with life events; issues such as work commitments and family responsibilities force sporting activity down many adults list of priorities. And a marked deprivation factor emerged with those in lower socio-economic groups less likely to re-engage with sports as adults.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations, including a refocusing of public money towards formal participation programmes with less spent on sports facilities.These programmes should be designed to exploit social networks as well as tackling time constraints.

The Irish Sports Council along with the Ministers for Health, Sport and Children must now come together to ensure these valuable scientifically backed recommendations are implemented.

In the meantime, as a much more modest personal initiative, people might consider participating over the coming days in the Goal mile, an event which has become part of the Irish Christmas over more than three decades. There are runs in more than 100 locations in Ireland and the event has spread abroad as far as Melbourne.

A s well as enjoying the camaraderie and contributing to a very good cause, the benefits of exercise are thrown in too.

Greenhouse gases, not Sun, the key driver of climate change


Variations in heat from the Sun have not strongly influenced climate change, a new study shows, contradicting the belief that long warm and cold periods in the Earth’s dynamic past were caused by solar activity. 

Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions.

These tend to prevent sunlight reaching Earth, causing cool, drier weather. Since 1900, greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of climate change, the research found.

The findings overturn a widely held scientific view that lengthy periods of warm and cold weather in the past might have been caused by periodic fluctuations in solar activity.

They show periods of low Sun activity should not be expected to have a large impact on temperatures on Earth, and are expected to improve scientists’ understanding and help climate forecasting.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh carried out the study using records of past temperatures constructed with data from tree rings and other historical sources.

They compared this data record with computer-based models of past climate, featuring both significant and minor changes in the Sun.

They found that their model of weak changes in the Sun gave the best correlation with temperature records, indicating that solar activity has had a minimal impact on temperature in the past millennium.

“Until now, the influence of the Sun on past climate has been poorly understood,” Dr Andrew Schurer, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said.

“We hope that our new discoveries will help improve our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the past few centuries, and improve predictions for how they might develop in future,” said Schurer.


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