News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 7th February 2014

Smoking pregnant rate for Irish women three times higher than the US


The smoking rate for pregnant Irish women is three times higher than mothers-to-be in Boston of the US.  An area of comparable size of Ireland.

The problem is heightened by the “disgraceful” lack of services here to help them quit, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children was told.

Prof Luke Clancy of the Tobacco Free Research Institute said he is the only respiratory physician in the country who runs a smoking cessation clinic, yet addiction to smoking should be regarded as a disease.

“Smoking in pregnancy is a serious problem in this country, yet there are no proper services (for quitters). Is a nicotine replacement patch safe? Probably not – but there is no comparison and it is at least 100 times safer than smoking.”

The committee is hearing from all interest groups in advance of the Government bringing in plain packaging for cigarette packets.

  Joe Sweeney, President of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents in Ireland, said it is “offensive to me and other retailers that there is an incorrect and arrogant assumption that their questioning of the proposals is somehow a defence of the tobacco industry”.


He told the committee: “We are trying to protect our own business interests, and while the product remains legal we expect to be recognised as responsible retailers who are competing with a criminal underworld.”

His organisation “contests and disputes” the sentiment that plain packaging would reduce the appeal of tobacco and tobacco products, as they are not on display here due to the display ban.

“It is difficult to understand how the appeal of a brand can attract a smoker, when the product is not visible to him or her and the impulse purchase that might have been prompted by the sight of a product does not occur.

“There is no hard evidence to suggest that oversized health warnings or plain packaging will reduce the amount of people currently smoking or those who start to smoke.”

He added: “Some organisations you have heard from, dismiss our contention that plain packaging will lead to increased illicit trade. If that is so, how do they explain the surge in illicit tobacco sales in Australia in the year since plain packaging was introduced there?”

Regulation from Europe will give the Department of Health all of the powers needed to tackle cigarette packaging. It will bring in measures such as 65pc of cigarette packets being given over to health warnings.

Tánaiste Gilmore says Minister for Education will meet USI about fee’s charges for apprentices


The USI union also wants to meet Minister Quinn over fees level charge.

Joan Collins: Independent TD said the Minister for Education “insists on treating apprentices as students but they are not students. They cannot avail of student grants or other financial assistance available to students.”

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will meet the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) to discuss the college fees levied in the budget on apprentices, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has pledged.

But he said apprentices earned between €300 and €700 a week and it was “not unreasonable that where there is a student charge, those who are part of the education system and are getting paid would contribute to the student charge”.

He was responding to Independent TD Joan Collins who complained that Mr Quinn had failed to meet theTechnical, Electrical and Engineering Union (TEEU) and USI representatives about the charge, ranging from €833 to €1,433 a year.


Until now apprentices were not charged, despite an attempt in 2004, but she said the Government had introduced the fee in the October budget without any consultation.

She said the Minister for Education “insists on treating apprentices as students but they are not students. They cannot avail of student grants or other financial assistance available to students.”

The Dublin South-Central TD said that Fás had paid the money in the past and its replacement Solas should pay it now, and not the apprentices.

Mr Gilmore said he understood Mr Quinn would meet the USI, but he made no reference to the TEEU. He said “apprentices continue to be paid while they are in the education part of their apprenticeship”

Some 75% of Irish people don’t believe slapping their children works


Two children’s rights groups want the practice outlawed.

Over 50% of Irish adults would support a ban on slapping children, a new survey has now found.

The survey, released today by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and the Children’s Rights Alliance found that most Irish adults were under the impression that slapping a child was already illegal.

Overall, 62% of adults surveyed believing that it is currently illegal to slap a child and 73% view slapping as an ineffective way to discipline a child.

The results have led both organisations for call for an outright ban on hitting children.

Caroline O’Sullivan, Director of Services, ISPCC said;

“We know that slapping children is harmful, it is ineffective and has innumerable negative effects such as increased aggression in children, increased anti-social behaviour and damage to the parent-child relationship.

“Now is the time for the Government to step up and implement a ban on slapping in all settings without delay.”

Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance echoed that stance.

“Currently, physical punishment of children by parents/legal caregivers, child-minders and foster parents is permissible in Irish law. We believe this is unacceptable.

“We urge the Government to remove the common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’, and legislate for an outright ban on violence against children in all settings.”

Brave family of Jonny Byrne to talk on Late Late Show


The Family of Jonny Byrne is to discuss ‘NekNomination’ craze on the Late Late show tonight saturday.

The family of tragic teenager Jonny Byrne will discuss his death on the Late Late Show tonight.

The RTE One show, hosted by Ryan Tubridy, will feature a panel discussion on the ‘NekNomination’ internet craze which contributed to the young hurling star’s death.

Their decision to talk about the 19-year-old’s death comes less than a week after Jonny drowned in the River Barrow in Co Carlow after drinking a quantity of alcohol. He jumped into the river as part of a ‘NekNomination’ dare.

His older brother Patrick, who doesn’t drink, jumped in after him in a desperate bid to save his life, but almost drowned himself in the attempt.

Both Patrick and Jonny’s father Joe have bravely spoken out, warning young people against the craze and have appealed to Facebook to remove pages dedicated to ‘NekNomincation’ from the social network.

Jonny, who played U21 hurling for Carlow and was a student in Carlow IT, was laid to rest amid moving scenes earlier this week.

Fr Tom Lalor said teenagers should help end the craze which has had devastating consequences for Jonny Byrne’s family and could see other families DEVASTATED if it was repeated again.

Some gluten-free foods to avoid for your health’s sake


Many would-be healthy eaters are now seeking out gluten-free products, as are – by medical necessity – the one% or so of the World’s population with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which eating gluten can lead to damage in the small intestine and other organs.

Sales of gluten-free foods are growing very rapidly, amounting to an estimated €4.9 billion in 2012 and expected to hit €7.5 billion in 2017.

But swapping in a gluten-free version of your favorite snack isn’t the same as eating well. Depending on the products you choose, you may not be cutting carbs at all – and could even be opting for carbs that are worse for you.

“If somebody is choosing a gluten-free version of a cracker or a bread product or a pasta product and they’re thinking that it’s going to be healthier just because it’s labelled gluten-free, that is a huge mistake,” says dietitian Tricia Thompson, author of The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide.

Always take a look at the ingredients, she says. If you see milled corn flour, white rice flour, or a starch (usually corn, potato, or tapioca) as the first ingredient, that product probably is high on the glycemic index and doesn’t have much fiber – bad news for a balanced diet. Carbs aren’t the only catch.

Gluten-free products also often have additional fat (and therefore calories) compared to their wheat-containing counterparts. “Manufacturers may add more fat to a product to improve the mouth feel, so that it will taste more similar to a gluten-free version,

M/s Thompson says. That gluten-free label, in other words, isn’t a free pass to the baked-goods aisle. “Junk is junk, regardless of whether or not it’s labelled gluten-free.” Here are some gluten-free products that aren’t high on the health food list – and the ingredients that make them offenders of a healthy diet.

Irish Government launches a plan to support clean tech research and development


The Irish Government has launched a plan to support clean tech research and development.

Pat Rabbitte, Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, TD, has announced the launch of the Government’s Offshore Renewable Development Plan (OREDP) to develop the country’s clean tech potential.

As part of the overall strategy, the OREDP will aim to facilitate the development of the nation’s abundant offshore renewable energy across three key fronts – environmental sustainability, technical feasibility and commercial viability.

As part of the plan, an offshore renewable energy steering group (ORESG) will be established as its overseers and will be chaired by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD.

The ORESG’s remit is to interact with environmental organisations and authorities like the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government and create environmental assessments based off their findings.

The group will also look into the research and development of the renewable energy sector in Ireland with an emphasis on creating jobs through potential international collaborations and will facilitate an initial market support scheme for ocean energy, both wave and tidal.

Limitless potential

Minister Rabbitte was speaking at the recent Ocean Energy Industry Forum in Dublin and spoke of how it is now the time to develop our clean tech potential with our abundance of renewable energy potential: “Ireland has a landmass of around 90,000 sq km, but a sea area of around ten times that size, at 900,000 sq km. Ireland’s position at the Atlantic edge of the EU gives an almost unparalleled offshore energy resource, with suitable conditions available for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.”

The Minister went on to say that: “The potential of the offshore renewable energy sector to be a source of sustainable employment and growth in the green economy has been consistently identified in Government economic planning and job creation strategies, and by the European Commission in its recent Communication on ‘Blue Energy’ – especially in coastal communities where job creation faces particular challenges.”

The announcement is part of the Government’s international commitment to reduce our demand on fossil fuels and encourage more energy creation.

The Government, as part of the European Union, has signed an agreement among all its members that by 2020, 16pc of Ireland’s energy used will come from indigenous renewable energy with an added target of 10pc of all transport to be provided from clean tech.

Irish researchers’ breakthrough doubles battery life of phones, laptops and e-cars


A new nanotechnology that doubles the life of smartphone, laptop and electric-vehicle batteries even after being charged and discharged more than 1,000 times has been developed by researchers at the University of Limerick.

The breakthrough means the research team could be tapping into a market estimated to be worth US$53.7bn by 2020.

“We have developed a new germanium nanowire-based anode that has the ability to greatly increase the capacity and lifetimes of lithium-ion batteries,” said lead researcher Dr Kevin Ryan.

The research published by the journal Nano Letters outlines the findings.

“This breakthrough is important for mobile computing and telecoms but also for the emerging electric-vehicle market, allowing for smaller and lighter batteries that can hold more charge for longer and maintain this performance over the lifetime of the product.”

Small is the next big thing

The research team has also ensured its nanotechnology solution is scalable, low-cost and low-energy, making the technology both greener and commercially viable.

The research has been supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the Principal Investigator Program to Dr Kevin Ryan and also by EU funding through the GREENLION Project.

“The typical lithium-ion battery on the market today is based on graphite and has a relatively low capacity. This limits the amount of energy which can be stored. In our research we used an alternative element, germanium, which is of a higher capacity,” Ryan said.

“The challenge has been that the material expands quite dramatically during charging and falls apart after a relatively small number of cycles.

“By using nanotechnology, we have found a way to restructure germanium, in the form of nanowires, into a stable porous material that is an ideal battery material as it remains stable over very long time scales during continued operation,” Ryan added.


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