News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 10th June 2014

Member of child abuse commission says documents from vaccine trials inquiry are available

Commissioner says ‘a lot of information’ was collected before inquiry was suspended


Dr Irene Hillary pictured in 1981. She said she was concerned that an inquiry into the vaccination trials, under the aegis of a commission set up to inquire into child abuse, would have implications for her professional reputation.

A member of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abusehas said that a significant amount of work had been done and documentation collated when its vaccine trials inquiry was suspended in 2003 due to legal action.

The inquiry, set up as a module of the commission by government order in June 2001, was to investigate the use of children from mother and baby homes, orphanages, reformatories and industrial schools in three such trials.

Dr Kevin McCoy had been chief inspector of the Inspectorate of Social Services in Northern Ireland, before his appointment to the commission in 2000.

Last night, he told The Irish Times that before the vaccine trials inquiry “ran into the ground” due to legal action, “a lot of information had been collected and work done”.

He believed all such documentation remained among the commission’s records which, as reported here two weeks ago, are to be housed in the National Archives for 75 years before limited access to them is allowed.

The work of the vaccine trials inquiry was suspended when in July 2003, a unanimous judgment by the Supreme Courtupheld an appeal by late UCD professor Patrick Meenanagainst a High Court decision which had directed him to give evidence before the vaccine trials division of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

The government order directing the vaccine trials inquiry was declared invalid in June 2004, following a challenge by retired UCD professor of microbiology Irene Hillary. She expressed concern that the establishment of an inquiry into the vaccination trials, under the aegis of a commission set up to inquire into child abuse, would have implications for her professional reputation.

The particular vaccine trial involving both academics took place between December 1960 and November 1961. Results were published in the British Medical Journal in 1962.

The 58 children on whom the vaccine was tested came from mother and baby homes at Bessborough, Cork, atCastlepollard, Co Westmeath, at Dunboyne and Stamullen, Co Meath, at St Patrick’s on Navan Road, Dublin, and at Mount Carmel Industrial School in Moate, Co Westmeath.

Upwards of 300 children were involved in the three trials it was intended to investigate. As well as the 58 above, 69 children from St Anne’s Industrial School in Booterstown, Co Dublin, were vaccinated in a second trial in 1970, as well as a further 23 from the Killucan area of Westmeath. Its results were published in the Cambridge Journal of Hygiene in 1971.

The third trial it was intended to investigate took place in 1973 and involved 53 children from Dublin mother and baby homes at St Patrick’s, Madonna House, Cottage Home, Bird’s Nest and Boheennaburna, as well as 65 children living at home in Dublin.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Independent councillor Victor Boyhan, who was raised in the Protestant-run Bird’s Nest Home, yesterday called on the Government to set up “a new and comprehensive investigation . . . into the alleged drug trials undertaken on children in care homes”.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse’s vaccine trials division was to investigate those three instances as well as “any other vaccine trial found by the commission to have taken place in an institution between 1940 and 1987 based on an allegation by a person who was a child in that institution that he or she was the subject of such a vaccine trial”.

In November 2006 then minister for health Mary Harneyannounced there would be no further examination of vaccine trials due to the successful court actions of 2003 and 2004.

Republic of Ireland bid to ban branded tobacco


If passed, the new law would force tobacco firms to remove all branding, including logos, trademarks and colours from cigarette packets sold in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland has become the first country in Europe to try to pass a law banning the sale of branded cigarette and tobacco packets.

The proposed legislation would force tobacco firms to use plain packaging, removing all logos and trademark colours from cigarette packets.

Irish Minister for Health James Reilly said the ban would help to save lives.

Australia was the first country in the world to ban branded tobacco and New Zealand is currently debating the law.

‘Less attractive’

Other European countries, including the United Kingdom, are still considering whether or not to legislate.

In a statement, the Irish health minister said: “The objective of the bill is to make tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to reduce the ability of the packs to mislead people, especially children about the harmful effects of smoking.”

However, tobacco companies have strongly opposed branding bans, saying plain packaging would assist criminals as it would make counterfeit cigarettes more difficult to detect.

A spokesperson for British American Tobacco (BAT), which owns cigarette brands including Benson & Hedges and Dunhill, said they were “disappointed” that the Irish Cabinet had approved the draft bill.

“There is no credible evidence that plain packaging will work in terms of stopping children taking up smoking or encouraging current smokers to quit,” the firm said.

“Instead, Minister Reilly’s plain packaging bill will simply play into the hands of the criminals who are ready and waiting to supply people, regardless of their age, with cheap tobacco products.”

‘Marketing gimmicks’

In recent years, the Republic of Ireland led the debate in tackling the dangers smoking poses to public health.

In March 2004, Dublin became the first parliament in the world to introduce a total ban on smoking in the workplace.

Controversially, the workplace ban included pubs and clubs, but it has been largely hailed as a success with a 97% compliance rate.

Dr Reilly, who took over as health minister in March 2011, has been working on a plan to make the Republic of Ireland “tobacco-free” by 2025.

He has defined a tobacco-free Ireland as a state where less than 5% of the population smoke. Currently the figure is 22%.

‘Black market’

Dr Reilly said the introduction of plain packaging legislation was “a significant step forward” towards achieving the 2025 goal.

He added: “Given all we know about the dangers of smoking, it is not acceptable to allow the tobacco industry to use deceptive marketing gimmicks to lure our children into this deadly addiction and to deceive current smokers about the impact of their addiction.

“The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry.”

The BAT spokesperson added: “The Irish government has yet to publish a Regulatory Impact Assessment to show how it intends to address the black market and intellectual property issues associated with plain packaging or how Irish retailers and small business owners would be affected.

“Rather than trying to push through this legislation, the government should give further consideration to the evidence and drop this misguided policy.”

Should you answer work emails from home? Most employers think so


A new survey has shown that 60 per cent of employers expect workers to check emails outside office hours.

NEW RESEARCH SHOWS that over 60% of employers expect their workforce to check emails outside of office hours.

The survey, which was carried out by Fastnet Recruitment, also revealed that almost three quarters of the working population think that technology has a negative impact on work-life balance.

Surprisingly, the proportion of employers citing the negative impact of technology on free time was higher than that for employees. 82% of bosses said it was disruptive, compared to 68% of employees.

More than eight out of ten employees said that remote email access contributes to longer working hours.

Fastnet managing director Niamh O’Driscoll said that the increasing use of smartphones “means that people are constantly connected, whether in or out of the office and indeed outside office hours”.

Recent moves in France have sought to restrict the use of smartphones for work outside office hours, but a slim majority of Irish workers and 75% of employers would oppose a measure like this.

O’Driscoll added:

“Clearly there is a balance to be struck here. Ireland is lucky enough to be home to a large number of highly successful multinational firms and there is no doubt that the flexibility of our workforce and ease of doing business here has consistently influenced positive FDI decisions.”

“However, these survey results show that technology’s influence on flexibility can just as easily undermine the quest for a work-life balance.”

Ireland’s discount supermarkets continue to grow their share


Aldi and Lidl experienced double digit growth in the first five months of this year, according to the latest figures on supermarkets from Kantar Worldpanel in Ireland.

It shows the Irish grocery market is continuing its recent return to growth. Among the large supermarkets Dunnes has recorded the strongest sales performance, while Aldi and Lidl continue to grow market share.

“A gradual increase in the cost of food and drink has helped push price inflation to 2.6%, a record for 2014, which has increased the amount shoppers are spending at the tills and has kept the grocery market in growth,” according to David Berry, commercial director at Kantar World panel.

  “Dunnes is the only one of the big three retailers to grow its sales this period, albeit by a relatively modest 0.7%. Its clear strategy of offering ‘round euro’ promotional offers is appealing strongly to price-conscious consumers. Some 30% of Dunnes’ in-store sales are now sold on a round euro deal – up from just over 20% a year ago.”

Aldi and Lidl have both maintained their double digit growth at 21.6% and 13.2% respectively. Aldi’s record share of 8.0% is held from last month while Lidl has reached a new record high of 7.9%.

David continues: “SuperValu’s sales remain in line with last year, with a slight dip in market share from 25.2% to 24.8%. Tesco continues to perform behind its main competitors, but the retailer’s sales have improved since the decline of almost 7% seen at the end of 2013. Interestingly, both retailers have succeeded in recruiting new shoppers this month.

SuperValu has gained 32,000 additional shoppers and in so doing has recorded a seventh consecutive month of footfall growth. Tesco’s additional 12,000 customers is more modest, but the trend over the past year has been one of losing shoppers, so this is a welcome change for the retailer.”

Echoes of an Ancient Earth Identified by Scientists


Scientists say only part of the planet melted when an object the size of Mars slammed into the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, and echoes from before the collision can be found in an unexplained isotopic ratio within Earth’s mantle. If the entire Earth did not melt, that means there may be a few hidden vestiges of our planet from a time before the moon.

Ancient gases trapped deep within the Earth’s mantle may reveal clues about our planet’s earliest days, according to a new study.

For the past decade scientists believed our planet’s memorywas reset 4.5 billion years ago when an object the size of Mars slammed into the Earth, releasing enough energy to cause most of the Earth to turn into a liquid magma ocean.

Any clues to the planet’s earlier past, scientists thought, likely got melted away in this last, great impact, which also created our moon.

However, Sujoy Mukhopadhyay, a geochemist at Harvard University has found evidence that the impact may not have affected the whole planet in the same way.

“The simulations we are doing now indicate that some regions got melted and vaporized, while the opposite side of the planet did not melt at all,” he said Monday after presenting his research at the Goldschmidt conference in Sacramento.

If the entire Earth did not melt, that means there may be a few hidden vestiges of our planet from a time before the moon. And they may help scientists learn more about the Earth’s infancy and planetary formation in general.

To support this theory, Mukhopadhyay and his colleagues compared gases trapped in volcanic rock from deep in the Earth’s mantle to gases that came from a more shallow part of the mantle. They found that the Helium-3 to Neon-22 ratio in the shallow mantle is significantly higher than in the deep mantle.

Neither Helium-3 or Neon-22 are affected by radioactive decay, and they cannot be changed by plate tectonics either, said Mukhopadhyay. They can, however, be changed if the Earth was liquid.

If the entire Earth became liquid after the last major impact 4.5 billion years ago, there would not be a difference in the isotope ratio in the two parts of the mantle. Therefore, the researchers conclude, only part of the mantle melted all the way at that time.

This theory is further buoyed by examination of the 129-xenon to 130-xenon ratio, which put a time stamp on the formation age of the oldest part of the Earth’s mantle to within the first 100 million years of the Earth’s history.

The rocks that the researchers examined came from a few different hot spots around the world. The deep mantle gases were trapped in rocks from Hawaii, Iceland and Samoa. The more shallow mantle gases were in rocks found around mid-ocean ridges.

Mukhopadhyay said the next step is to make more measurements of rocks from different hot spots around the world, and then use that information to build more realistic models of giant impacts.

“What this means is the Earth has memories that go back further than we thought,” he said.


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