Daily Archives: May 29, 2014

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 28th May 2014

The number of female TDs hits a new record high for Dáil Éireann


The election of Dublin West Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger, as well as Gabrielle McFadden, brings to 27 the total number of women in Dáil Éireann 2014.

There are now more female TDs than ever before, with Fine Gael’s Longford-Westmeath by-election winner Gabrielle McFadden having taken up her Dáil seat today.

195 women were elected to local government last Friday, while six seats remain to be allocated.

There has also been a slight increase in the proportion of Ireland’s female elected members of the European Parliament, with five women and five men having been elected across the three Irish constituencies and one seat still to be filled.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has welcomed the increase in the number of elected female representatives. They’re  calling on political parties to continue showing their commitment to getting more women involved in politics.

Women in Politics and Decision Making Officer at NWCI, Louise Glennon said: “This is a clear sign that the impending gender quotas legislation is having a positive impact. Women deserve and need to be at the table where decisions that affect all our lives are made.

“The most recent elections have proven a proud moment for all the women who put themselves forward, whether they were elected or not… the increased visibility of women throughout this campaign will encourage more women to stand in the General Elections”, she added.

The election of  Dublin West Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger, as well as Gabrielle McFadden, brings to 27 the total number of women in Dáil Éireann.

At present, Fine Gael have ten sitting female Dáil members, namely Catherine Byrne (Dublin South-Central), Áine Collins (Cork North-West), Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy (Laois/Offaly), Regina Doherty (Meath East), Frances Fitzgerald (Dublin Mid-West), Heather Humphreys (Cavan/Monaghan), Helen McEntee (Meath East), Olivia Mitchell (Dublin South), Mary Mitchell O’Connor (Dún Laoghaire) and Michelle Mulherin (Mayo).

The Labour Party have seven female deputies, namely Joan Burton (Dublin West), Ciara Conway (Waterford), Anne Ferris  (Wicklow), Kathleen Lynch (Cork North-Central), Jan O’Sullivan (Limerick City), Ann Phelan (Carlow/Kilkenny) and Joanna Tuffy (Dublin Mid-West).

There are six female independent members of Dáil Éireann, namely Joan Collins (Dublin South-Central), Lucinda Creighton (Dublin South-East), Clare Daly (Dublin North), Catherine Murphy (Kildare North), Maureen O’Sullivan (Dublin Central), Róisín Shortall (Dublin North-West) 

Sinn Féin is represented by Mary Lou McDonald (Dublin Central) and Sandra McLellan (Cork East).

Ruth Coppinger has become The Socialist Party’s Dáil Deputy, while there are currently no sitting female Fianna Fáil members in Dáil Éireann.

Women currently hold 20.5% of the 949 total local election seats across the country, a 3.5% minimum increase on the number of outgoing female local authority representatives.

An urban / rural divide continues, however. Dublin City Council has just exceeded the 30% quota, with 44 men and 19 women, while in Clare just three women were elected to sit alongside 29 men.

According to NWCI Director Orla O’Connor: “We need to see more women and men working towards women’s equality and this can only happen if there are more women at the decision making table.

“We are being told that Ireland is on the road to recovery, yet this is not true for many women. Men leave the Live Register four times faster than women. Employment for women under 35 is falling, even as overall employment improves.

“NWCI looks forward to working with all those newly-elected politicians to advance the issues that will make a real difference to women’s lives and make society better for both women and men”, she said.

Constance Markievicz was the first woman elected to Dáil Eireann in 1919 and was the only female Cabinet minister in Irish history until 1979.

Garda oversight body ‘defining moment for our force’ say’s Noirin O’Sullivan


Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan tells Oireachtas the independent authority brings a chance to rebuild trust.

Speaking before the Oireachtas Justice Committee, interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said the introduction of the authority could represent a ’defining moment for the force’.

The establishment of an independent Garda oversight authority provides the force with a unique opportunity to reform and renew itself and build public trust and confidence, interim Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan has said.

Speaking before the Oireachtas Justice Committee, which was discussing the new oversight body, Ms O’Sullivan said the introduction of the authority could represent a “defining moment for the force” that could allow it to demonstrate accountability and professionalism are at its core.

The authority was mooted by the Government after a string of recent scandals related to the force emerged.

An Garda Síochána, Ms O’Sullivan said, was already subject to significant oversight from institutions such as the Oireachtas Justice Committee, judiciary and Garda Inspectorate.

She said this was welcome as An Garda Síochána needed to be accountable and the new authority could further enhance confidence in the force. She said the new authority should be guided by what is good for the community and policing.

Ms O’Sullivan said An Garda Síochána was committed to engaging constructively with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to reach the objectives of the force, adding that she believed gardaí should not investigate other gardaí as independent objectivity was important.

She said the force must be open to internal and external criticism and that “dissent was not disloyalty”.

The expectations society has for An Garda Síochána have changed since the 2005 act was introduced, she said.

Gardaí hold a privileged position and serve with energy, dedication and pride, she added.

Former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan said GSOC had done some very good work since its introduction but there was now an opportunity to enhance it and make it more effective and independent.

Independence and impartiality are key factors for a successful police watchdog, she said, but the act underpinning GSOC does not mention these matters.

She said GSOC should be responding to every individual complaint and should have the power to investigate policy and practice matters.

Baroness O’Loan said it was not sustainable that GSOC could not investigate complaints against the Garda commissioner as it gave the impression accountability was OK for junior members of the force but not their seniors.

She said there needed to be a separation between GSOC and the State and that she could not think of any experience serving officers could bring to the table that retired officers could not.

A provision in the Garda Síochána Act act stating that people who made false or misleading complaints face penalties should be removed as it could deter people from coming forward as they might.

Ronan Brady, journalism lecturer at Griffith College, said the Freedom of Information Act should be extended to An Garda Síochána and that Ireland was unique in the fact it did not cover the police force, which had brought a greater openness in other jurisdictions.

He said it was convenient to believe FOI could inhibit intelligence gathering but this was not the case.

The recently elected ‘Anti-austerity candidates’ could damage Irish economy’


The parties and independent candidates that campaigned on anti-austerity agendas and made gains in the local and European elections could do enormous damage to the economy if they repeated this success at the general election in two years, according to economist Jim Power.

“The thought of its scares the living daylights out of me,” said Mr Power speaking at the Friends First economic outlook presentation in Dublin.

He argued that Ireland is a small open economy that is heavily reliant on attracting foreign investment and skilled labour to work in this country. Mr Power declined to name any parties or individuals in particular.

Rather he cited policies such as defaulting on debt and proposed tax hikes as having the potential to wreak havoc with the economy.

He hoped that last weekend “was a massive protest vote” and that in two years time, before the general election, most Irish people will realise that what these parties and individuals stand for is “totally alien to what we stand for”.

Mr Power, who helped campaign for a local election candidate, found on the doorsteps that the overwhelming source of disaffection among voters were issues relating to the health service and in particular medical cards.

The Government is scheduled to introduce €2bn in budget cuts October 14 agreed with the troika in order to reduce the deficit below 3% in 2015.

Mr Power urged the Government to implement a neutral budget apart from the €500m planned in water charges.

“I would argue that at this stage €2bn could do more harm than good and could cause the Government to miss the budget deficit next year.”

Mr Power has forecast GDP to grow by 2.1% this year and 3.8% next year, with GNP expected to grow by 1.5% in 2014 and 3.2% next year.

He forecasts unemployed to drop to 11.4% by the end of this year and 10% by the end of next year.

Named Irish Hospitals blamed for 75% of HSE overspend


Irish hospitals are being blamed for almost three-quarters of the HSE’s budget over-spend in the health authority’s performance report.

The HSE said hospitals had racked up €63m of the €80m deficit at the end of March.

The overall deficit is significantly higher than the €26.7m reported over the same period last year.

Almost 40% of the overspend by hospitals was caused by income shortfalls (€10m) and increased costs of agency staff (€14m).

  The hospitals with the biggest budget overspend are:

  1. University Hospital Limerick €5.9m.

  2. Waterford Regional Hospital €4m.

  3. Mater Hospital, Dublin €3.8m.

  4. Galway University Hospital €3.3m

  5. St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin. €2.8m.

The health authority said the National Service Plan clearly showed it was facing the most “severe” financial challenge this year.

The report shows spending over the first three months of 2014 at €2.97bn which is lower than the €3.08bn reported over the same period last year.

However, it only had a budget of €2.88bn for the period which was less than what was spent.

The report points out that the HSE’s budget has been cut by 27% — €4bn over the past seven years.

It said the number of new attendances at emergency units had increased by 8,225 over the first three months, a 3% increases and the number admitted as in-patients from emergency departments had risen by 1,583 — a 2% increase.

Admissions through medical assessment units had risen by 1,250 – 16% higher than last year.

However, the number of people on emergency department trolleys while waiting on a ward bed had decreased by 3% compared with the same period last year.

The number of people admitted for planned procedures is 3% (753 people) lower for the first three months of the year compared with the same period last year.

A total of 24,285 people have been admitted for scheduled hospital care up to the end of March. However, the number of people in hospital on a day care basis is 1% (3,077 people) lower than the same period last year. A total of 202,815 people had been treated in hospital on a day care basis up to the end of March.

At the end of March, 46,000 people were waiting for an in-patient or day care hospital procedure, with one in 10 waiting over eight months.

According to the report, 4,532 children are waiting for an in-patient or day care procedure and almost one in five are waiting more than five months.

There were 16,295 people waiting over a year for an out-patient appointment at the end of March — about 5% of all those waiting. Last year, 17% were waiting more than a year for an appointment.

Zebra finch Songbirds can understand non-language aspects of the Human Speech


A study has revealed that songbirds can be trained to understand non-language aspects of human speech. The study proved that zebra finches have the capability to show even more sensitiveness to prosodic variations, like changes in the pitch, volume and duration of spoken syllables, than humans.

It is now believed that the evolution of structured language might have been predated by prosodic features of vocal sounds. The study involved birds that were trained to respond to patterns of human speech syllables. Researchers placed a loudspeaker above their cage so that the birds can listen to sounds.

The birds were tasked to peck a specific key or take no action depending upon the sound. The birds were offered a food reward for a correct response, while 15 seconds of darkness was all they got for an incorrect response.

Both a male and a female speaker uttered two different sequences of four naturally spoken syllables. Also, researchers altered pitch, volume or duration to stress the first or last syllable in each group so as to add prosodic patterns typical of human speech.

The finches performed brilliantly as they not only recognized the changing patterns, but they were able to apply their learning to sequences consisting of new syllables as well.

The findings of the study provided strong evidence that zebra finches are sensitive to the same prosodic cues known to affect human speech perception, said the scientists.

Michelle Spierings, from Leiden University in the Netherlands, led the team of scientists and he reported the findings in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Our results show that sensitivity to prosodic cues is not linked to the possession of language and might have preceded language evolution, possibly originating from a pre-existing sensitivity to meaningful variation in pre-linguistic communicative sounds”, he added.