News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 28th December 2013

Retailers report bumper start to winter sales


New figures suggest opening day of the sales yesterday was the busiest in six years

Most retailers reported both footfall and spending increased by more than 20 per cent on last year.

Early indications have suggested that Irish shop owners are set to enjoy their best winter sales period since the economy imploded more than five years ago.Figures released today by Retail Excellence Ireland have confirmed that the opening day of the sales yesterday was the busiest in six years with most retailers reporting both footfall and spending increasing by more than 20 per cent on last year as tens of thousands of shoppers went in search of bargains in urban centres across the State.The chief executive of the retail umbrella group David Fitzsimons had been downbeat about retail sales figures just before Christmas but he said today that the start of the winter sales “could not have gone any better with both footfall and spending significantly up on last year”.

He said members of Retail Excellence Ireland had seen large numbers of shoppers out in force in the primary shopping centres and cities with most of those who opened yesterday reporting significant jumps in sales.

Mr Fitzsimons said he had spoken to one retailer who had done 50 per cent of last year’s St Stephens Day turnover in the first hour of trading yesterday.

“After a somewhat disappointing December for retail, many businesses were carrying significant amounts of stock into yesterdays sales equating to very deep discounts, which a significant cohort of consumers responded to,” Mr Fitzsimons said.

“We have noticed that savvy consumers are willing to postpone fashion, footwear, home and prestige and luxury brand spending into the sales period,” he continued and pointed out that today was an even more important day as it marked the first day that all retailers nationwide start their ales “and our local economies open back up for business”.

Mr Fitzsimons expressed the belief that the Government’s Home Renovation Incentive Scheme will act as a further stimulus to “big ticket” home spending in the coming days with consumers benefiting from a 13 per cent tax credit on home renovation costs.

Many of the largest retailers in the Republic who opened their doors yesterday were similarly upbeat with all reporting significant increases in both footfall and spending compared with last year.

Festive miracle for lonely OAP who advertised for company


James Gray receives post from well-wishers. Photo by Irish Post

THE lonely Irish pensioner who took out a newspaper advert looking for someone to spend Christmas Day with enjoyed the festive season in company for the first time in a decade.

James Gray (85), who paid for the ad in the ‘Irish Post’ in London, told how he had been on his own for the past 10 years.

But the Corkman’s wishes were answered by London-Irish couple Marian and John Cunningham, who volunteered to join him for Christmas dinner.

“This is like a miracle come true,” said James, a retired butler living in south London.

Marian, who is originally from Galway, said she was happy to spend Christmas Day with James because she thought it was brave of him to put up his hands and say that he was feeling lonely.


“It really pulled at my heart-strings when he said he thought he was the only person who was in this situation, because he really is not,” she said.

The pensioner had advertised in the hope of finding a Christmas companion, but he received only one reply. And his spirits were crushed when those plans fell through.

He then went public, saying that this time of year is hard if you are old and alone.

Since then, offers have flooded in from across Britain and as far away as the US and Chile, with more than 1,700 cards and gifts being sent to James.

Eating nuts during pregnancy could prevent allergies


The study utilized data from an ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II programme.

A new study suggests that eating nuts while pregnant may lower the risk of having a child with a nut allergy. The study authors think that pregnant women who consume nuts during pregnancy could have been helping their child build up an immunity to nut allergens. The study is the first to provide evidence that this is possible,

The study authors controlled for factors such as a family history of nut allergies, and found the strongest link between eating nuts and babies who were resistant to nut allergies in women who ate five or more servings of tree nuts or peanuts per week.

The study utilized data from an ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II. Participants were children whose mothers had previously reported on their eating habits during pregnancy, United Press International explains. Out of the 8,205 children included in the study the scientists found that just over 300 had developed a nut allergy. One-hundred and forty of those cases were tree nut or peanut allergies.

“Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy. Additional prospective studies are needed to replicate this finding,” said study author Lindsay Frazier in a statement obtained by UPI.

The study authors caution that they cannot prove a cause and effect relationship because there are so many factors that influence how children develop allergies and thus cannot issue an official recommendation to eat more nuts. However, as nuts can be part of a healthy diet, there is certainly nothing to lose in eating them in an attempt to contribute to the health of the future baby.

The study is significant because it contradicts prior studies which suggested that eating nuts during pregnancy either had no effect or could raise the risk of the child forming a nut allergy. The authors of the new study assert that the prior studies were based on less reliable data and raise the possibility that eating nuts is an excellent way to try to prevent allergies in children.

In 2008, the  American Academy of Pediatrics retracted advice that parents not feed young children nuts. Peanut allergies can range from minor irritations to life-threatening allergies and recent years have seen the rise of children who are even more sensitive to the nuts, including the smell. With more research on nut benefits on the way, pregnant women should seriously consider eating them in order to give their child a better chance of avoiding a lifelong allergy.

COPE Galway pays no top ups and issues a funding breakdown


The Charity for the Homeless COPE Galway provided over 15,000 bed nights to 356 people during 2013

The organisation has also issued a statement saying it doesn’t pay top ups and never has

In 2013 COPE Galway provided refuge to 88 women with 83 children who were fleeing from violence at home

A further 283 women and 253 children availed of the Support and Outreach service

Also in the course of the year COPE helped over 200 older people, some of whom feel isolated and alone, and provided over 45,000 meals.

The full and part time staff of 100 comprise social care professionals, childcare workers, community support workers, chefs, cleaners, drivers, fundraisers, and administrators. They are supported by over 150 volunteers

In a statement COPE says all salaries are on or below the levels of corresponding staff aligned to HSE pay scales and it does not nor never has paid top ups.

The CEO, Jacquie Horan, receives a salary of €53,251 for the part-time position, minimum 25 hours per week.

It receives 79% in funding from statutory bodies the HSE and the City Council, 5 % from grants and 8% from service charges

COPE concludes by saying it depends on the generosity of the public to raise the remaining 8% of the funds required

Fin whale carcass on Keel Beach draws locals to the Achill beach


Fin whales are the second largest species of whales, eclipsed in size only by the blue whale

The whale became stranded on Keel Beach on Christmas Eve but died a few hours later.

A 20-metre fin whale which became stranded on a beach in Achill Island has died.The whale became stranded on Keel Beach on Christmas Eve but died a few hours later, according to local RNLI officers.It is not yet clear what condition the mammal was in prior to getting stranded.Irish Whale and Dolphin Group chairman Willie Meuhlausen travelled to the beach yesterday to take samples including skin, blubber, muscle and baleen as well as photographs.

The group said a steady stream of people had been coming down to the beach to see the whale.

Fin whales are the second largest species of whales, eclipsed in size only by the blue whale.

New eruption may be brewing at El Hierro volcano in Canary Islands


A view of El Hierro island’s coast on Nov. 6, 2011, after an underwater volcano eruption, in the Canary Islands, southwestern Spain.

Two years after a new underwater volcano appeared offshore of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, earthquake swarms and a sudden change in height suggest a new eruption is brewing near the island’s villages, officials announced Friday (Dec. 27).

After the announcement, one of the largest temblors ever recorded at the volcanic island, a magnitude-5.1 earthquake, struck offshore of El Hierro at 12:46 p.m. ET (5:46 p.m. local time) Friday, the National Geographic Institute reported. Residents on the island reported strong shaking, and the quake was felt throughout the Canary Islands, according to news reports. The earthquake’s epicenter was 9 miles (15 kilometers) deep.

Before the earthquake struck early Friday afternoon, the island’s volcano monitoring agency, Pelvolca, had raised the volcanic eruption risk for El Hierro to “yellow.” This warning means that activity is increasing at the volcano, but no eruption is imminent. A similar burst of activity prompted a yellow warning in June 2012, but the volcano soon quieted down.

Parts of El Hierro have swelled nearly 3 inches (7 centimeters) in the past week, with the growth centered between El Pinar and La Restinga, according to Involcan, the Volcanological Institute of the Canaries.

More than 550 earthquakes rattled the island between Monday and Wednesday, also centered on La Restinga. About 30 of the earthquakes were greater than magnitude 3, Involcan said. The earthquakes are triggered by magma rising underground, fracturing rocks and swelling the surface as the hot rock reaches upward. “The earthquake swarm corresponds to a new magmatic intrusion,” Involcan said Friday morning in a statement.

Friday’s preliminary magnitude-5.1 earthquake was on the opposite side of the island from the ongoing swarm.

El Hierro was the site of a spectacular underwater volcanic eruption in 2011, which severely affected island fisheries and forced islanders to evacuate.


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