News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 10th January 2014

The Irish Government does not care a damn about people like us it seems


Spinal injury sufferer Mary Carey was refused a grant to adapt her home in Navan Co Meath

Mary Carey (64), (above picture) who has had a spinal injury for 20 years and cannot walk unaided, lives with her husband John (72) in a small house just off the Dublin road, in Navan, Co Meath.

He sleeps upstairs while she, unable to get up the stairs, sleeps in a single bed in a back room where the couple also eat meals. She needs help getting into and out of the tiny downstairs toilet and has no access to a bath or shower.

“I wash myself with this basin,” she says, showing a blue, plastic basin on the bed containing a sponge, a plastic cup and shampoo. “It is embarrassing. You want to be able to do things like wash yourself, by yourself. It might seem silly to some people, but it means a lot to me.”

She no longer likes visitors coming to the house. “They’d be passing through the room where I sleep. Especially in the summer, people want to go to the garden. I have no privacy.”

The couple, who have a combined income of €376 a week, applied to Meath County Council last April for a home adaptation grant to install a stair lift, an accessible shower and ramp into the house.

The estimated cost of the works is €12,000. A public health nurse visited in May to assess their needs and reported to the council.

‘Medical priority 1′

Their application was categorised as ‘Medical Priority 1’, as Mary is “fully or mainly dependent on family or carer” and the “alterations/ adaptations would facilitate discharge from hospital or alleviate the need for hospitalisation in the future”.

On June 5th, however, they received a letter from the council telling them “all available funding [for grants] for 2013 has now been allocated” and so it was with “regret” that they were being turned down. In October, the council wrote again to them, advising them to fill in a review form to enable consideration of their application in the 2014 budget.

Meath County Council’s allocation for all housing adaptation and mobility grants has been cut severely by the Department of the Environment since 2011 when it was €1.4 million, to €997,208 in 2012, to just €487,123 last year.

A council spokeswoman said as of December 31st it still had applications for €1.3 million worth of grants on hand.

“Included in these unapproved applications are 35 Priority 1 applications to a value of €479,634,” she said. Funding for this year has not been announced.

‘Fulfil all criteria’

Local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has been advocating for the couple. “This couple fulfil all the criteria for this grant. If it was any other entitlement they would have it. The budget for these grants should be based on need, not on an auditing exercise.”

Asked what it would mean to get the grant, Mary closes her eyes. “Oh, it would mean so much. It would mean I could fall asleep beside John again. With his heart condition sometimes I don’t sleep because I worry he might have died in the night. It would mean so much, not just physically, but in here too,” she says, laying her hand over her chest.

‘It’s horrible’

John worries what will happen to Mary if something happened to him. “It is hard, and getting harder by the day. I’d do anything for that woman,” he says smiling towards Mary. “But it’s horrible. They say the economy is rising and yet we are being banged down and down. It feels like this Government doesn’t care a damn about people like us.”

Commander Chris Hadfield the Singing spaceman to promote Irish tourism


Commander Chris Hadfield became an internet sensation when he sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the ISS

The former commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, is to promote the island of Ireland as a tourist destination.

The retired Canadian astronaut made fans around the world by posting videos and pictures from his final space mission on social media last year.

He has agreed to make a series of short promotional films with Tourism Ireland.

He arrived in Ireland on Thursday, and will visit Dublin, Belfast, Armagh, the Glens of Antrim and County Donegal.

On his Twitter account, the astronaut said: “Good Morning, Ireland! Happily headed to Dublin and Belfast, hoping to learn a cúpla focal (a couple of words).”

Gaelic translation

Cmdr Hadfield gained a significant Twitter following in Ireland after he became the first person to tweet from space using the Irish language.

At the time he said he had been given help with the Irish translation by friends of his daughter, who is a university student in Dublin.

The astronaut is now set to take more lessons in speaking Irish during his trip to County Donegal.

Cmdr Hadfield will also learn how to play the Irish sport of hurling when he visits Dublin’s Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Tourism Ireland said it will create three short films of his five-day visit and use them to showcase Ireland’s “spectacular scenery”, Gaelic games and major visitor attractions, such as Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

They said they would use the films in an “extensive publicity and PR campaign”.

‘Space Oddity’

During his final space mission, Cmdr Hadfield tweeted aerial pictures of various places on Earth from his perspective on the International Space Station – many of them were of Ireland.

He also sang the Irish ballad Danny Boy on the station to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, but it was his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity that gained most attention.

The video went viral on the internet and propelled the singing spaceman to worldwide attention.

He now has more than a million followers on Twitter.

Tourism Ireland’s chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said: “We are delighted to welcome Chris Hadfield to Ireland. I would like to personally thank him for his tremendous generosity in agreeing to help us promote the island of Ireland around the world.

‘Great ambassador’

“Of course, he already began promoting Ireland last year, with the dramatic photos he tweeted from the International Space Station to his huge Twitter fanbase.

“Chris is an enormously popular, global figure and I am confident that our films of his visit to Ireland will be seen and shared by millions of potential holidaymakers around the world – inspiring them to come and sample the destination for themselves.”

Irish Tourism Minister, Leo Varadkar, said: “Having seen Ireland from space, it’s great to be able to give Chris Hadfield a closer look at what Ireland has to offer on the ground.

“His enthusiasm and energy make him a great ambassador for Irish tourism, and should help to persuade many more to come and see Ireland close up in 2014. I’m really delighted he has agreed to help us out.”

Cmdr Hadfield retired in July 2013 and returned to live in Canada.

During his trip to Ireland, the astronaut will also attend the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin and is due to sign copies of his book in Belfast and Londonderry.

Knock Airport predicts a busier year for 2014


A Ryanair flight takes off from Knock Airport in Co Mayo.

The number of passengers using Knock airport reached 665,000 last year

Knock Airport is predicting this year will be its busiest ever year, with passenger numbers expected to exceed 700,000 for the first time.

The annual number of passengers using Ireland West Knock reached 665,000 last year – the second highest traffic figures at the airport since it opened in 1986.

The Gathering tourism promotion provided a major boost for passenger numbers in 2013, according to the airport, particularly from key markets in the UK, Italy and Germany.

There was a 7 per cent increase in traffic on London services, a 28 per cent increase in traffic from the German market on Lufthansa’s Dusseldorf service and a 23 per cent increase in traffic from the Italian market on Ryanair’s Milan service.

New destinations for 2014 include a new twice weekly service from Eindhoven in Holland which commences at the beginning of April. In addition Ryanair will commence new direct services, three times weekly, to Glasgow, from June.

“We are looking forward to the year ahead being the busiest year in the airports history with four new services being launched, extra capacity on our key London services and the Wild Atlantic Way project getting underway,” airport managing director Joe Gilmore said

Scientists discover itching is linked with feelings of praise and love


Scientists in Japan have discovered that when you scratch an itch it activates the same brain mechanism that creates feelings of praise and falling in love.

Researchers have said that the blood flow in the striatum and midbrain increased, making these regions more active, when the subjects scratched areas near the itchy parts.

A group of researchers, including Hideki Mochizuki, a special-appointment assistant professor of neurophysiology, and Ryusuke Kakigi, a professor of neurophysiology, carried out the study on sixteen men and women.

Using electric stimuli they produced an itchy feeling on the subjects wrists. The subjects were then told to scratch near the itchy area. The researchers found that scratching the itchy areas activates “the reward system”, the nickname given to the midbrain and striatum collectively.

Activation of the “reward system” produces feelings of comfort. Despite the reaction generated scientists have warned against overstimulating the “reward system”.

“If the workings of the reward system are curbed, people will stop scratching their itchy areas so much, and their symptoms will improve,” Kakigi said.

Dublin student wins Young Scientist for maths project


The winner of the 50th BT YSTE Paul Clarke shows off his trophy!

Research on attitudes to older people in workforce wins group prize for Kinsale students

A Dublin student who found answers to previously unsolved mathematical problems has won the 50th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS. Paul Clarke undertook months of research into complex mathematical theory to become the young scientist of the year.

A project by students from Kinsale seeking to understand people’s attitudes to older people in the work force took the prize for best group. The runner up individual award went to a Dublin student who developed a laboratory management system and the runner up group prize was claimed by students from Mayo who designed and built a gumshield communication device for managers and players.

Paul Clarke of St Paul’s College Dublin wanted to do something new, solve mathematical problems linked to a concept known as cyclic graph theory. “I am looking at a number of unsolved problems in graph theory,” the 17-year-old fifth year explained. Graph theory provides a mathematical way to look at structured data, structured in the way data points are captured in a graph.

While graph theory is difficult it is extremely useful in a number of ways, Paul explained. It helps computers build complex models of experimental drugs or proteins, and can be used to solve puzzles like the “travelling salesman” that optimises the route that should be taken to visit a number of points in the least possible distance.

“It was demanding and needed dedication and motivation,” he acknowledged. For example he might pursue a possible answer but discover a month on that it would not work, particularly because the problems were “unsolved and hard”.

Paul received the BT Young Scientist of 2014 perpetual trophy, a cheque for €5,000 and the chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

Gauging people’s response to working with older people as the retirement age rises was the goal of Cathy Hynes, 13, and Eve Casey, 12, first year students in Kinsale Community College and helped them win the best group prize. “People will have to work with more older people because of the changing retirement age,” Eve explained. They wanted to know how people felt about that and whether there was any negative response to it.

They undertook a survey of almost 1,150 people in age categories ranging from 15 years through 89. They asked a series of questions, weighted for example from strongly agree to strongly disagree. They had to use advanced statistical techniques to process the data and this helped them come up with interesting conclusions. For example, while people did not seem to have a problem with more older people in the general workforce they didn’t want to have more elderly in their own workplace.

Cathy and Eve as best group winners receive a BT perpetual trophy and €2,400.

Shane Curran, 13, a second year from Terenure College Dublin claimed the runner up individual prize with a project that involved writing software and building a system to help run a laboratory. He already has plans underway to commercialise his product,, and to make it available to laboratory managers.

The project involved creating a web page and a doing a significant amount of programming to provide services such as monitoring supplies of chemicals, cataloguing lab equipment and even keeping tabs on experiments. He had 150 people test the system and make suggestions about the services needed by them and he worked these into his package. “Their response was really positive,” he said.

He built the system to use the cloud rather than having to build the software package on a local computer, a decision that would save lab managers thousands of euro, he said. Shane receives a BT trophy and €1,200.

The runner up group award went to three Transition Year students from St Gerald’s College, Mayo. Conor Gillardy, Evan Heneghan and Calum Kyne also have a product with commercial potential, a gumshield that has a build-in communication system that allows a player on the pitch to hear instructions coming from the coach on the sideline.

The device is a conventional gumshield but with a tiny build-in power supply, electronic circuitry and a vibration motor, Calum explained. The motor rests safely against the back teeth and uses them to conduct sounds to the ear through the jaw.

All components are safe and placed so that they don’t have any impact on the player, said Conor. They tested it on players involved in sports where gunshields are obligatory including GAA and rugby. They are already looking for a manufacturer in China and have plans to develop and sell their product at home and abroad. They receive a BT trophy and €1,200.

The exhibition remains open to the public until Saturday afternoon, with tickets costing €12 for adults and €6 for students. Family tickets cost €25.


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