News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th St Stephens day 2013

Number of people going bankrupt in Ireland doubles in last year


The number of Irish people adjudicated bankrupts in Ireland and the UK almost doubled this year.

And the numbers are expected to surge this year despite the introduction of personal insolvency laws that allow borrowers to have debts written down subject to strict income guidelines.

A total of 157 Irish citizens were bankrupted in Britain this year compared to 106 last year, an increase of 48pc.

There was also a 49pc increase in the number of bankruptcies in Ireland, from 96 to 143 according to ‘Stubbs Gazette’.

James Treacy, managing director of ‘Stubbs Gazette’, said the credit bureau and debt collection agency was predicting close to 7,000 bankruptcies next year as a result of the reduction in the bankruptcy discharge period from 12 to three years and new laws slashing the costs associated with bankruptcy.

Mr Treacy said that the new personal insolvency regime had “got off to a slow start”, with many individuals unable to afford personal insolvency because of diminishing or “disappearing” levels of income.

“Anecdotal evidence, and indeed our own experience as a debt collections agency, indicates that many will simply have no disposable income in excess of the minimum subsistence income levels with which to make a meaningful — or acceptable, from a creditor point of view — payment on their debts,” said Mr Treacy.

The annual Stubbs review of Irish debt shows the number of judgments registered in the courts fell by 6.5pc, from 6,504 in 2012 to 6,110. But the overall value of judgments obtained by creditors fell by almost 60pc from €1.32bn to €838.9m.

JUDGMENT: Toxic loans agency NAMA secured the largest court judgment this year, €90.1m, against Blessington developer Kevin McNulty.

The judgment against Mr McNulty related to a 2009 facilities agreement provided by the former Anglo Irish Bank and to personal guarantees allegedly provided by the developer in 1998 and 2003 in relation to the liability of two companies.

The top commercial judgment obtained in the courts, €114m, again by NAMA against businessman John McCann of Loughross Road, Crossmagelen, County Armagh.

The judgment arose from loan and guarantee facilities involving Allied Irish Banks, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Ireland which had been taken over by NAMA.

Christmas calls answered by Childline up 20% on Xmas last year


Childline responded to 1,450 calls and messages on Christmas Day.

That’s a 20% increase in the number of children seeking help on the same day last year.

The children’s helpline have told how the festive season can bring unwelcome stress and trauma to vulnerable children.

Margie Roe, National Childline Manager said: “Children contacted Childline on Christmas Day for a variety of reasons but many of the calls were from those experiencing family difficulties, loneliness and mental health issues.

“The impact of alcohol abuse in the home over the Christmas period can also have a very negative impact on children.”

This year marks Childline’s 25th year helping kids in Ireland.

In May this year the ISPCC’s listening service answered their five millionth call.

Despite the help of over 600 volunteers, Childline is still struggling to meet demand.

In the last year, one in three calls to Childline were left unanswered.

Ms Roe said: “The call figures received on an annual basis indicate how vital Childline is to children in Ireland and illustrates the deficit of accessible 24 hour services for children and their families.

“However as the demand continues, we are concerned about the calls that we are unable to get to.

“When a child reaches out for support it’s so important that they receive an answer.

“We continue to ask the public for their support in helping us to answer more calls going into the new year.”

The children’s helpline said that they have experienced a drop in donations this December.

If you would like to donate €2 to Childline please text the word CHILDLINE to 50300.

Children can reach Childline on 1800 66 66 66.

Irish Government recommends penalising the +30’s Irish for first time health cover

says health market report


Minister for Health Reilly should move to get younger people into market, An audit suggests

A report on the health insurance market says financial penalties for newcomer over-30’s would be in line with the idea of “lifetime community rating” which Minister for Health Dr James Reilly (above left) has previously indicated he will introduce.

Anyone over the age of 30 should pay a financial penalty when they take out health insurance for the first time to encourage them to get cover at a younger age, a Department of Health report has recommended.

The report says the move would be in line with the idea of “lifetime community rating” which Minister for Health DrJames Reilly has previously indicated he will introduce.

The report, commissioned by Dr Reilly, says he should consider measures to get younger people into the health insurance market.

It also says the Minister should “discourage, by means of a financial penalty, people who take out health insurance for the first time after age 30”.

“This would be in line with the principles of lifetime community ratings,” the report added.

The move would be designed to stop the flow of younger people out of the health insurance market.

The Irish private health insurance market is based on the principles of community rating, where everyone pays the same for identical products regardless of age.

Younger people – who tend to claim less frequently – are charged more than would normally be actuarially necessary.

This money is then used to subsidise the cost of cover for older people for whom the price of insurance could be prohibitively expensive if based on risk.

As more younger people leave the market because of higher prices, questions have been raised about how the cycle of inter-generational solidarity can be maintained in the future.

Seven Greenpeace ship crew granted visas to allow them to depart Russia


(above left) Greenpeace International activist Anthony Perrett (R) from Britain poses with his lawyer Sergey Golubok, who holds papers certifying the termination of prosecution. He became the first of the 30 Greenpeace Arctic activists to have the criminal case against him dropped by the Russian Authority.

Greenpeace International activist Anthony Perrett (R) from Britain poses with his lawyer Sergey Golubok, who holds papers certifying the termination of prosecution. He became the first of the 30 Greenpeace Arctic activists to have the criminal case against him dropped, in Saint Petersburg on December 24.

Russian authorities have issued visas to seven of 30 members of a Greenpeace ship crew that allow them to leave the country after dropping criminal charges against them over a protest outside an Arctic oil rig.

Greenpeace said other foreign members of the crew are expected to get their exit visas soon.

The 30 people were arrested in September following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arcticand spent two months in jail before they were granted bail in November.

Hooliganism charges against the crew were later dropped after Russia’s parliament passed an amnesty law that was seen as an attempt by the Kremlin to assuage the criticism of Russia’s human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Greenpeace said Anthony Perrett was the first to get the visa in his passport.

“This was the final step,” Mr Perrett said in a statement released by the group. “I’ll be leaving for home inWales as soon as possible now, extremely proud of what I did three months ago. We took peaceful action to defend a part of the world that is the heartbeat of our climate.”

Putting shoes on was a real space oddity says Chris Hadfield


He famously sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity from 250 miles above Earth – and beamed a series of stunning photographs of Scotland to the world.

But astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield was left flummoxed by the routine task of putting on his trainers before using exercise equipment while in orbit.

The 54-year-old – a Canadian with Scots ancestry – took extraordinary shots of the country from the International Space Station. He also made a video of himself performing Bowie’s award-winning track. But he said weightlessness made the mundane task of putting on a pair of shoes very tricky.

Surgeon suspended for allegedly branding his initials on a liver 


Mr Bramhall (above right) had worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for more than ten years

A Surgeon has been suspended after allegedly branding his initials on a transplant patient’s liver.

Simon Bramhall, a highly experienced consultant based in Birmingham, is accused of burning “SB” on to a patient’s liver as he operated on him.

The letters were spotted by a colleague during routine surgery on the unnamed patient. It is feared the initials may have been imprinted on hundreds of other transplant recipients.

Mr Bramhall, 48, has worked at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for more than ten years. The surgeon is a widely acknowledged liver transplant expert, who has published extensively on the subject and carried out pioneering operations.

Mr Bramhall, from Redditch, Worcestershire., is now under investigation over the alleged offences. It is suspected that he used a beam of argon gas, normally for sealing vessels, to mark his patient. Experts say the gas would leave superficial burns, but is not usually harmful.

Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, added: “This is a patient we are talking about, not an autograph book.”

A spokesman for University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said it had suspended a surgeon but declined to name him.

However, sources have named Mr Bramhall.

In a statement, the trust said: “Following an allegation of misconduct, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust has suspended a surgeon while an internal investigation is completed”. 

When approached, Mr Bramhall denied he was suspended.

Yesterday, an insider was reported as saying: “It is quite astonishing to think someone may have done this, especially someone as experienced at Mr Bramhall.

“I am hoping this is just a mistake.

I don’t know what would possess someone to do that to another human being.

“What gives a person the right to do that to another?

“Now people may think otherwise about coming to the hospital, if the allegations are true.

“I’m just a little shocked that something like this may have happened right under everyone’s noses.

“Imagine if the person died and was an organ donor: would the new owner of that liver want it to be branded?

I doubt it very much.

“It could have happened hundreds of times, who knows? It was just luck that this incident was brought to light.”

Earlier this year, Mr Bramhall was in the news when he performed the 4,000th liver transplant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which has been a centre of excellence for the procedure since 1982.

In the past,

Mr Bramhall has spoken out against scarce donor organs meant for NHS patients being sold to wealthy foreigners for tens of thousands of pounds.

The surgeon was critical when it was reported that Kings College Hospital in London had given livers to patients from Greece, Cyprus, Kuwait, Libya and Dubai, at a time when 550 NHS patients were waiting for new organs.

Mr Bramhall has played a role in publicising improved survival rates for liver transplants and in 2011 he performed a operation to save the life of a teenager, whose donor liver had been rescued from the burning wreckage of a crashed plane.

The organ was being flown to Birmingham in a Cessna jet, which crashed in thick fog.

Rescuers were able to save the liver, which was in pristine condition in its protective box.

He was also part of a team which in 2009 performed a multiple organ transplant, which saw a teenager receive a new liver, bowels and pancreas.

Diabetes risk gene SLC16A11 may be inherited from the Neanderthals


Neanderthals interbred with humans and their genes are scattered among us today

Gene variant that increases the risk of diabetes in Latin Americans may have been inherited from Neanderthals.

The variant is found in about 20% of East Asians and is rare in Europe and Africa.

A gene variant that increases the risk of diabetes in Latin Americans may have been inherited from Neanderthals, a new study has found.

The gene variant was detected in a large genome-wide association study (GWAS) of more than 8,000 Mexicans and other Latin Americans.  

People who carry the higher risk version of the gene are 25% more likely to have diabetes than those who do not, and people who inherited copies from both parents are 50% more likely to have diabetes, researchers have found.

The higher risk form of the gene – named SLC16A11 – has been found in up to half of people with recent Native American ancestry, including Latin Americans, ‘BBC News’ reported.  

The variant is found in about 20 per cent of East Asians and is rare in populations from Europe and Africa.

The elevated frequency of this risk gene in Latin Americans could account for as much as 20 per cent of the populations’ increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes – the origins of which are not well understood.  

“To date, genetic studies have largely used samples from people of European or Asian ancestry, which makes it possible to miss culprit genes that are altered at different frequencies in other populations,” said co-corresponding author Jose Florez, a Broad associate member, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Assistant Physician in the Diabetes Unit and the Center for Human Genetic Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

“By expanding our search to include samples from Mexico and Latin America, we’ve found one of the strongest genetic risk factors discovered to date, which could illuminate new pathways to target with drugs and a deeper understanding of the disease,” Florez said.  

In the study published in the journal Nature, researchers conducted genomic analyses, in collaboration with Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and discovered that the SLC16A11 sequence associated with risk of type 2 diabetes is found in a newly sequenced Neanderthal genome.  

Analyses indicated that the higher risk version of SLC16A11 was introduced into modern humans through mixing


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