News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 11th January 2014

Bank documents now missing ahead of Banking inquiry,


Material relates to communication between Bank of Ireland governor and a tax adviser

Sinn Féin has said “key” documents relating to the bank guarantee have gone missing from the Department of Finance in the build-up to a banking inquiry.

Party finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said he became aware of the absence of the records following a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The material in question relates to two letters from 2009 between the Bank of Ireland governor and a named tax adviser which had been copied to late minister for finance Brian Lenihan.

Their exact significance was not clear last night.

However Mr Doherty said: “These are some of the only documents between the governor of the Bank of Ireland and the minister for finance during a period when the government decided to pump €3.5 billion of taxpayers’ money into that bank.

“I have now been informed that these letters have gone missing from the Department of Finance.”

Mr Doherty also said the development lent further weight to previous comments made in the Dáil by Taoiseach Enda Kenny with regard to documents having gone missing. “He said they have either been shredded disposed or dispatched of,” Mr Doherty said.

“This new revelation compounds that criticism. Once again, key documents in relation to the bank guarantee cannot be found after Fianna Fáil have left office.

‘Sensitive documents’
“The only reason we know that these documents are missing is because two separate FoIs were made on the same document over a four-year period. The question has to be asked about what other sensitive documents have gone missing. The reality is that we may never know. If the upcoming banking inquiry is to be successful, it is important that all relevant documents are found or returned.”

In a statement to RTE last night, the Department of Finance said it had conducted a widespread search for the documents and it was not clear why they could not be located.

A €126m plan for Galway harbour should create some 800 jobs  

But Europe must give green light


A computer-generated image above left of the Galway harbour plan, which would give a boost to trade and tourism in the West.

A major €126m redevelopment of Galway Harbour, which would open up trade and tourism routes to the West, will create up to 800 new jobs, according to developers.

The planning application for the venture, which is the first in the country to use the ‘IROPI’ route, must be green-lighted by Europe because it is being built into a designated European habitat.

The IROPI clause in contained in the EU Habitats Directive and states that projects which may have a negative environmental impact may still proceed for reasons of ‘Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest’.

Eamon Bradshaw, CEO of Galway Harbour Company, said they were confident the project would be given the green light because it had been open about the impact it will have.

“We are putting up our hands and saying at the very beginning yes we will have an impact on the habitat and we’re acknowledging that. And that’s what is different from other planning applications,” he said.

Mr Bradshaw said the group had liaised closely with European Commissionofficials on the plans and also brought people from Hull Port, which has previously gone through the process, to Galway to examine the site.

If the plans are green-lighted the Galway Harbour Company must put forward a compensatory habitat. A number of alternative sites and separate compensatory measures are now being looked at.

The plans for a 27-hectare extension include a 216-berth marina, a 12-metre deep commercial quay, deep sea berthing suitable for cruise liners and a nautical centre.

A cruise and coach terminal will also be included.

If given the green light, the expansion project will be carried out in four stages, with construction on the first stage due to begin next year at a cost of €52m.

The planning application will go live on January 20, with a final decision expected in around six months.

Working mothers are the real heroes of this world says Kate Winslet


Working mothers are “real heroes”, the actress Kate Winslet has said, as she discloses she spurns outside help with her children because it would make her unhappy.

Winslet, who has recently had her third child, said she chooses not to have “lots of people who do the cooking, the driving, all that jazz”.

She told Glamour magazine she would not want her children “raised that way”, as she praises mothers who work full time as “heroes”.

Winslet, who recently played single mother Adele in film Labor Day, said the character had a lot of strength to be able to function despite her sadness.

She told the magazine the role had showed her that women from all walks of life are able to “just pull it together because you have to”.

“Mothers who work full time – they’re the real heroes,” she said.

When asked about her life, which she described as “little” when away from the cameras, she added she “trundles along”, having friends over and making dinner.

“It’s weird because the two worlds are so different: from fishmongers to tea to film sets. But that’s the case for any actress who’s a mother.

“Sure, I could have lots of people who do the cooking, the driving, all that jazz – but I would be unhappy.

“I wouldn’t want my children raised that way.”

Console Charity says 600 Irish people in UK at risk of suicide

An Irish suicide charity’s helpline in Britain last month received 600 calls from Irish immigrants who it deemed to be of “immediate risk” of taking their own lives.

Of the further 1,600 calls that Console’s newly formed London centre received last month, 1,100 were from people deemed to be at “low or moderate risk” of suicide and 500 from family members still in Ireland who were concerned about the welfare of their loved one living in Britain.

Paul Kelly, who founded Console here 11 years ago, said the majority of those deemed to be of immediate risk of taking their own lives and who contacted the Westminster centre from across Britain, were young adults aged 18 to their early 30s, particularly young men.

Mr Kelly said a number of factors had lead to the people reaching such a low ebb. He said many had travelled to Britain full of hope for a future where they could secure work and build a new life.

However, he said many, particularly from rural backgrounds, had found themselves unprepared for numerous factors including a lack of work there and the high cost of accommodation. That had led some to suffer from mental health problems such as depression but they did not know where to turn for help.

“They said things like they felt disconnected, suffering from loneliness and isolation. That led some to enter into a state of despair. They felt they had let themselves and their families down,” he said.

Mr Kelly also made reference to the large number of calls which came from Ireland to the Westminster centre from family members of people living in Britain.

He said many were from mothers and girlfriends of people about their sons and boyfriends who were struggling but who had great difficulty in expressing what they were going through.

As is the case in Ireland, the people receiving the calls in the year-old Westminster centre are trained mental health professionals.

Mr Kelly said there was a good news story to come out of the Irish charity’s operation in Britain as, in only the last 12 months, it has even managed to attract the attention of the NHS which has sought its advice on training programmes for those dealing with suicide and bereavement.

Meanwhile, St Patrick’s Mental Health Support Service says it had 2,510 calls for support in 2013 — 29% more than in 2012. Email contacts rose 46% to 1,450.

Its figures for 2013 showed a significant rise in calls relating to depression: 572 in 2013 compared to 382 in 2012. It also said the number of female callers (1,846) almost tripled that of their male counterparts (664) in 2013.

Tom Maher, director of Clinical Services at St Patrick’s said: “It’s encouraging to see the substantial increase in mental health queries to the St Patrick’s Support Service during 2013. It’s a sign that we are getting better at talking about our mental health”

* St Patrick’s Mental Health Support Service: 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. 01 249 3333, or email

* Console: 1800 201 890

Cork student develops software that adds to what search engines do


Caelen’s code modifies what the engine is doing to deliver an enhanced service

15-year-old Caelen Feller developed software that looks to improve search engines

We all use search engines when surfing the internet, but few of us know what these engines do. Caelen Feller knows, and also knows how to improve them.

The 15-year-old transition-year student from Coláiste Choilm, Cork, developed software that adds to what search engines do, and he presented his research at RDS.

It took him a month and a half to produce the software code to achieve it but his code convinced 158 people that they had an improved experience with better searches.

“I investigated ways to improve web searches with a focus on news,” Caelen said.

He wanted to be able to tailor the browsing experience for the user with changes that would give more power to the user.

The primary search engine remains functioning behind, but Caelen’s code modifies what the engine is doing to deliver an enhanced service.

Rory Flynn, a 17-year-old fifth year from Newbridge College, Kildare, also wanted to improve a service for users.

“Data compression is used every day on websites to speed up movement of pages,” he says.

It is based on using mathematical algorithms to crunch down the data to speed up transmission and then un-crunching it when it arrives on screen.

Most of the algorithms used today were written in the 1980s and 1990s however, and Rory wanted to develop a new one.

While he achieved his aim, he found his compression algorithm did not perform as well as competitor systems.

It achieved less compression and was slower, but it is “lossless” and can reconstitute data without loss of quality or clarity, he says.

Penguins climbing the walls as Antarctic ice becomes too thin


Emperor penguins endure forced marches, awkward mating rituals, blistering cold and the possibility that all these indignities will be exposed by David Attenborough.

Yet life for at least some of these birds has become even harder. Satellite and aerial reconnaissance by the British Antarctic Survey shows that four colonies of emperors have been forced to forgo the usual sea-ice breeding grounds and repair to firmer ice shelves that jut from the continent.

The shift, apparently caused by a lack of sea ice in warmer promontories of Antarctica, appears to be forcing thousands of birds to surmount walls of ice up to 30m high. The scientists are not clear on how they manage this.

They speculate that a colony of birds spotted near the edge of an ice shelf on Barrier Bay may have ascended through a gully a few kilometres from their breeding ground.

A colony of breeding birds on the Shackleton Ice Shelf also appeared to have made the uphill journey via a shallower route along ice creeks, although it was not clear how they managed to get down afterwards.

“On the way out, they negotiate a large ice cliff,” the scientists write in the journal PLOS ONE. “The drop may be considerable, although there is evidence of large snow drifts abutting the cliff … How the emperor penguins get down the ice cliff is … unclear.”

Peter Fretwell, a geographer at the British Antarctic Survey, said it was possible they were sliding down the cliff, their fall cushioned by the drifts. “We usually imagine emperor penguins to be quite clumsy,” he said. “We don’t think they can climb up the shelves.”

The birds’ predicament – and potential agility – carried uncanny echoes of the 2011 animated film Happy Feet Two, a work of fiction not hitherto thought to contain particularly accurate observations on the lives of emperor penguins.

Dr Fretwell said he had not seen the movie, and thus could not comment on whether it would now be regarded as prophetic in the annals of Antarctic research.

The study concludes that in at least two cases, colonies of emperors may be choosing to forsake the sea ice in years when it becomes too thin – adaptive behaviour that could stand them in good stead if the Antarctic begins to warm, as predicted by scientists. “The Arctic has warmed, the Antarctic hasn’t yet,” Dr Fretwell said.

Emperor penguins were akin to the canary in the coalmine of Antarctic warming – the disappearance of sea ice was expected to endanger the species. If the birds were able to climb on to ice shelves, they might have a stronger chance of surviving in greater numbers.

“It’s not going to be a silver bullet for the emperor penguins,” said Dr Fretwell. “Ice shelves are more exposed in winter, they are farther from their feeding grounds. There are disadvantages as well.”

He said that none of the sites had been visited, not even by Sir David – although a plane had flown over two of them to take more photographs of the habitat.

Dr Fretwell and his three co-authors are uncertain how long the four colonies have been breeding on these loftier spots, formed by the ice of glaciers flowing off the continent. “It is unclear at present whether this behaviour of breeding on ice shelves is a new phenomenon associated with recent climate change or one that has always existed but has not yet been documented,News Irland daily BLOG


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