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Wednesday 14th May 2014

An Irish construction Plan by Enda Kenny promises a world class sector for Ireland

  

Enda Kenny, the taoiseach and Eamon Gilmore, tánaiste, this afternoon announced a package of measures to stimulate activity in the construction industry and boost local and European election prospects, just with over a week to polling day on Friday May the 23rd.

The taoiseach promised “a world-class, competitive and dynamic sector operating to the highest standards and in line with best practice.

The term “world-class” is the most overused and laughable bullshit term in the lexicon of Irish politicians and policy makers when “bog-standard” would often be acceptable if that could be even attained.

Kenny today launched  a report called a “strategy” almost 5 months after what was to be a medium strategy for 2014-2020, at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown and he said the central aim of the latest strategy is “to provide homes for our people by tripling housing output by 2020 and adding 60,000 jobs to the construction sector over the same period.”

He announced spending of €200m that will be “a huge boost for tourism, sports, local communities, jobs and for the construction industry itself.”

It includes the allocation of €20m to the Pyrite Remediation Scheme and a €30m gift for the GAA’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh Stadium in Cork – – money can always be found at election time.

Some 75 actions span across many related areas including housing, planning, financing, the commercial sector, infrastructure and public investment, standards and regulation, and skills and competitiveness.

Kenny says the strategy addresses many important issues and obstacles for the improvement of the sector and indeed for the country as a whole.

Such issues include:

  • – a strategic and measured approach to the provision of housing, nationally and in Dublin, with mechanisms in place to detect and act when things are going wrong;
  • – continuing improvement of the planning process, striking the right balance between current and future requirements;
  • – the availability of sustainable bank and non-bank financing for viable projects;
  • – appropriate access to mortgage finance on sustainable terms;
  • – effective enforcement of proper building standards and appropriate regulation;
  • – the identification and removal of blockages to necessary commercial development, and
  • – facilitating the strengthening of capacity in the sector, especially in terms of international expansion and technology advancements.

“One project I’m excited to see progress on is the development of an interlinked, national greenway network and the commitment of €10m to start the Dublin-Athlone-Galway route will help create an internationally recognised tourism attraction,” Kenny said and concluded: “The Government has a plan for Ireland, a plan for jobs and stability…We now have a plan for the construction sector. To get it back up off its knees and contribute again to Ireland’s recovery.

A sustainable construction sector based on the highest standards of quality is essential to make recovery local and to get Ireland working again.”

Reilly denies a plan to shut maternity units in the West & North West of Ireland

 

An HSE study mooted closure of up to four obstetric units in the west and north-west of the country. The Minister for Health James Reilly: said the HSE report had ‘no standing on its own’.

Minister for Health James Reilly has said he has no plans to close any of the State’s 19 maternity units.

Dr Reilly said a study commissioned by the HSE, which moots the closure of up to four obstetric units in the west and north-west, has “no standing on its own”.

The study, which was revealed in this morning’s Irish Times, has to feed into a national review of maternity services, the Minister told the Dáil today.

The study proposes a number of options for the future of maternity services in the west and north-west, from no change to current arrangement to the closure of up to four units at Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Sligo and/or Letterkenny. The closure of the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe features in four of the six options outlined in the report.

Dr Reilly said staff-patient ratios in maternity units were far too high but there had to be an examination of the roles of those working in hospitals so as to determine how better use can be made of staff. “We must find ways to support staff using other staff so that we can provide the safest possible care for patients.”

Bill Maher, chief executive of the West/North-West Hospitals Group, said no reconfiguration of services has been recommended to or approved by the groups or its senior management. “Feasibility studies have not even been carried out and speculation at this early stage in the process is unhelpful and upsetting for patients and staff.”

He said a review of existing models of maternity care was being conducted across the group, and the board had accepted recommendation to develop consistency in these care models.

Staff and the public would be engaged in the consultation process and the review of maternity services in the west and north-west would be considered as part of the broader national review of services, he said.

Baby giraffe makes Dublin Zoo debut

  

The giraffe calf made his first outside appearance in the African Savanna yesterday

There was the giraffe equivalent of “wetting the baby’s head” at the African Savannah at Dublin Zoo this week when the entire herd welcomed a new-born calf into its fold.

Weighing in at a healthy 70kg and 1.7 metres tall, the male Rothschild giraffe was quite a handful. He was an instant hit with the herd of seven giraffes when he made his debut at the savannah enclosure on Monday.

Dublin Zoo operations manager Gerry Creighton explained: “It’s part of the acceptance ritual.”

Female members of the herd had a sneak preview when the calf – who has yet to be named – was born in front of them last Wednesday.

The birth was captured on CCTV, to the delight of zoo staff.

The successful birth was also a happy ending for the mother Maeve, whose last calf, Tamu, born at the zoo in June 2012, died last December.

Meanwhile, the proud father, Robin, who has sired several other giraffes at the zoo, including Tamu, was introduced to his newborn for the first time this week and he immediately took to him, Mr Creighton said.

The calf will remain at the zoo until he matures in about five or seven years’ time and then will likely be loaned out to other zoos as part of the international zoo breeding programme, he added.

But in the meantime, he’s sure to be a hit with the crowds.

Children worst affected by recession in Ireland

   

One in every 3 young Irish people have been deprived of food, heating or clothes over the past 5 years. Children have been disproportionately affected by the collapse of the economy

Almost one in every three children has been deprived of food, heating or clothing during the recession.

The ESRI has released new research on the impact of the downturn on different age groups, genders and family types over the past five years.

The ESRI report, From Boom to Recession, finds that younger people have been the worst affected, with unemployment rates hitting 25% in the under 25s category, compared to 12% for those aged 45 and over.

Meanwhile, 130,000 children have suffered deprivation, that is defined as not being able to afford basic food, clothes or heating. Almost 33% of the under 14s are classed in this category, compared to 11% for the over 65s.

Income poverty by gender and age group, 2007 and 2011

Cohabiting couples with children experienced the most acute rise in job cuts, while childless couples were far less likely to be deprived.

Gender gap

A separate study by the think-tank looked at the impact of job-losses on both sexes, with men suffering the most dramatic impact.

The gender gap between men and women in work fell from 16% in 2007 to 8% in 2012 – while one in 10 women are now the main breadwinners in their household.

Estimated employment rates by gender, 2007 and 2012 (model-estimated controlling for other factors)

The sharp increase in the number of unemployed men is thought to be down to the collapse of the male-dominated construction industry.

As much as 30% of water lost by faulty pipes

  

New investment plan needed for water supply in capital.

Areas of Dublin are losing around 30% of their total water supply through damaged infrastructure.

The capital’s water loss, due to damaged infrastructure, is less than the national average of 41%, but the figure still represents a major headache for Irish Water.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) showed that in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, water distribution losses were over 29pc in 2013.

Leak analysis last February, July and December revealed around 18,000 cubic metres of water were lost each day.

Each cubic metre is equal to 1,000 litres of water. A toilet flush uses around nine litres.

The Commission for Energy Regulation is yet to set the domestic rate for water but the commercial rate in Dublin is €1.99 per cubic metre.

Spacemen trio returns to Earth in a Russian capsule

 

A Russian and an American returned to Earth on Wednesday with their Japanese commander aboard a Soyuz capsule in the first such landing since Moscow’s ties with the West imploded over Ukraine.

Koichi Wakata the first Japanese leader of an International Space Station mission NASA’s Rick Mastracchio and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin completed a 188-day stay that began months before Europe was thrown into its worst security crisis since the Cold War.

Ex-Soviet Ukraine has since seen a part of its territory seized by Kremlin forces and the West retaliate with sanctions that have prompted Russia — provider of the sole manned link to the orbiting laboratory — to question the wisdom of future cooperation in space.

A top Russian minister stepped up the rhetoric on Tuesday by warning that Moscow may reject Washington’s request to extend the station’s lifespan by four years until 2024.

The trio was all smiles on Wednesday as they clambered out of the conic capsule in their bulky space suits after touching down without mishap in the sand-swept steppe of Kazakhstan.

But Tyurin hinted of the overriding tensions by singing the praises of Russian space equipment that may one day slip out of Western hands.

“The landing was outstanding,” Tyurin said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

“It was simply ideal. We do have some wonderful technology!”

The US ‘hopeful’ about cooperation:-

Moscow is fiercely proud of its rockets and still fetes its ability to trump the United States during the Soviet-era space race by putting the first man in orbit in 1961.

And a top minister in charge of the military-industrial complex warned that Moscow may strike back at new high-technology export restrictions that Washington imposed in retaliation at the Kremlin’s Ukrainian land grab by limiting US access to Russian space equipment.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that Russia was “planning to only need the ISS until 2020” and then spend funding “on other promising space projects.”

NASA had said in January it would like the orbiter’s lifespan extended in order to improve its marketability and chances of getting commercial investment in space.

The US government agency said only that it had “not received any official notification from the government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point.”

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki suggested that the United States might not be as reliant on Russia’s space technology as some in Moscow might like to think.

“We do have a number of materials of the same kind that we can use in the future,” she said.

Rogozin added on Tuesday that Moscow could also prohibit the United States from using a Russian engine crucial to some Pentagon launches of its military satellites.

Space expert Vadim Lukashevich of Moscow’s state-funded Skolkovo Foundation said the absence of Russia’s RD-180 engines could ground the US Defence Department Atlas V rocket for “two to three years”.

Yet Lukashevich noted that the RD-180 deal requires Russia to also disclose to the United States all the details of the engine’s design.

“So in three years, they will be able to develop their own engine and we will lose that market for good,” Lukashevich said in a telephone interview.

NASA hopes to keep the ISS spinning 400 kilometres (250 miles) above Earth a bit longer to help private US firms such as SpaceX upgrade rockets it now uses to ferry up cargo to also be able to accomodate astronauts.

The United States has relied on the Soyuz for all manned missions since retiring its Shuttle Programme in 2011.

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