News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 18th July 2014

Alan Kelly now reverses cut to 23 voluntary groups in Ireland


Health and disability organisations to share €1.3m funding after ministerial U-turn

Thirty organisations in total, including 23 health and disability groups, will receive funding based on their existing allocations up to July 2015.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has restored funding to 23 health and disability organisations whose grants were controversially axed by his predecessor Phil Hogan.

Mr Kelly said he was making bridging finance totalling almost €1.3 million available to avoid a “sudden and adverse impact” on the organisations.

However, he said it was essential the 12-month breathing space he has created is used to find a more long-term sustainable solution to the funding problems of the organisations.

His decision follows a review of the Scheme to Support National Organisations (SSNO) in the community and voluntary sector. Thirty organisations in total, including 23 health and disability groups, will receive funding based on their existing allocations up to July 2015.

Mr Kelly said he and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Kathleen Lynch, had agreed that public funding of organisations in the health and disability sector needed to be reviewed. Efficiency in the use of public money was needed and duplication had to be avoided.

There were 155 applications for support under the two-year scheme, of which 55 were successful. Last week, Mr Hogan suggested it would be more efficient for organisations to receive funding “only from the department with lead responsibility for policy in their area, rather than seek funding across a number of different departments”.

The cut was heavily criticised by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and leading neurologist Prof Orla Hardiman, among others. Organisations affected by the cut included the IrishDeaf Society, the Motor Neurone Disease Association and Irish Autism Action.

Leo Varadkar confirms sunbed ban for U18’s comes into operation from next Monday


It will be an offence to allow a person under 18 years of age use a sunbed

It will be an offence for a sunbed business to sell or hire a sunbed to anyone aged under 18.

A ban on under-18s using sunbeds will come into place next Monday, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has confirmed.

Under the Public Health (Sunbeds) Act, it will be an offence for a sunbed business to sell or hire a sunbed to anyone aged under 18, or to allow a young person to use a sunbed.

“This is an essential step to protect children’s health and wellbeing and an important preventive measure in terms of skin cancer,” Mr Varadkar said.

Skin cancer is the fast growing cancer in Ireland, with more than 850 new cases of melanoma a year and 150 deaths. HSE data shows the cost of treating skin cancer ranges from €6,000 to €10,000 a year. Some patients are on advanced new cancer drugs costing up to €100,000 per patient.

The Department of Health is planning further restrictions on sunbed use, including a ban on unsupervised use, some marketing techniques and health claims.

Mr Varadkar said people with fair or pale skin were particularly at risk if they exposed their skin to the sun without protection. “To be pale is to be beautiful. Don’t feel you have to get a tan,” he advised.

Mr Varadkar said he wasn’t surprised by research findings which show that four out of five over-50s are overweight or obese. He said it was pretty clear that Ireland as a country was overweight and people were putting themselves at much greater risk of illness, especially in later life.

The vast majority of people could address the issue through lifestyle change and more exercise, he said. “There are a lot of measures in place and more coming, but the Government can’t make you skinny. At the end of the day, it’s important that people modify their lifestyles and avoid unnecessary illness.”

Asked about the suspension this year of gastric band surgery of morbidly obese patients at St Vincent’s hospital, he said this wasn’t a cut as the same number of operations nationally was taking place this year as last year.

On the introduction of a sugar tax, he said he wasn’t in favour of more taxes and would need to be convinced by international experience before considering such a move.

Four-fifths of Irish women ignorant of birth control


Almost 80% of Irish women know nothing about long-term contraceptive options, with the pill and condoms being the most relied upon forms of contraception.

Approximately 27% of Irish women depend on condoms to avoid getting pregnant and the same percentage relies on short-term medicine like the contraceptive pill.

However, according to the new study, women when presented with long-term options chose them over the shorter ones.

At least a third of women opt for long-term contraception when informed of the various choices.


The study, which was carried out for Bayer Healthcare, shone a light on Irish women’s attitude to contraception.

And Dr Shirley McQuade said there are myths surrounding longer-acting contraceptives.

The medical director of the Dublin Well Woman Centre said: “There is clearly a need to dispel the myths around long-acting reversible contraception.

“The survey showed that many women are uneasy or are fearful of having an internal long-term contraceptive and more clarity is needed.”

She said that there are new devices available nowadays that are small and non-invasive.

Dr McQuade also stated that the latest developments in contraception were proving more effective than more traditional forms.

One firearm stolen or lost daily over last four years in Ireland


Almost one legally held firearm has been reported stolen or lost every day over the last four years.

Garda figures show 1,134 firearms have been reported stolen between 2010 and 2013 inclusive, and that a further 159 have been reported lost.

Such weapons are targeted by gangs specialising in the theft of firearms who sell them on to other criminals.

Interim Garda commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan said that “a responsibility falls on all firearms owners” to ensure every precaution is taken to ensure their guns don’t “fall into the hands of criminals”.

An annual report compiled by the Garda chief, and published yesterday by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, shows that 168,597 firearms certificates were in force at the end of 2013.

Ms O’Sullivan said that as certificates are renewed every three years, the 168,597 figure does not accurately reflect the total number of firearms.

At the conclusion of the first three-year firearms licensing phase, in July 2012, there were 218,684 certificates, she said.

In addition to the 168,597 in operation at the end of 2013, there were 3,121 non-resident firearms certificates granted to people not ordinarily resident in the State.

Other figures in the Garda Annual Review of the Operation of the Firearms Acts 1925 to 2009 show:

nFour new shooting ranges were authorised by local superintendents last year;

n16 shooting ranges were authorised at the end of 2013;

n20 rifle and pistol clubs were authorised at the end of 2013, the same as the previous year.

Ms O’Sullivan said 809 restricted firearms certificates were issued during the year.

She said that “a responsibility falls on all firearm owners to ensure that every precaution is taken to ensure their firearms remain secure and do not fall into the hands of criminals”.

Jennifer Lopez has water mite named after her by grateful biologists ‘united by her music’

Litarachna lopezae is the bug’s name thanks to scientists working 230ft deep in treacherous waters off the coast of Puerto Rico

Sexy singer Jennifer Lopez, world famous for her looks and talent, has a new claim to fame… a bug has been named after her.

Scientists working 230ft deep in treacherous waters off the coast of Puerto Rico – where the Bronx-born singer’s parents come from – came across a new species of water mite.

Because they had been listening to J-Lo’s music while they worked, they all agreed the mite would be named Litarachna lopezae in her honour.

One of the biologists, Vladimir Pesic, from the University of Montenegro, said he and the other scientists had argued passionately about the World Cup – but not about the music they listened to.

“The reason behind the unusual choice of name for the new species is simple: J-Lo’s songs and videos kept the team in a continuous good mood when writing the manuscript and watching World Cup Soccer 2014,” he said.

“As European, I supported Germany, but the whole team was united with J-Lo songs,” he wrote.

The mite was found on a coral reef in Mona Passage, a body of water separating Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

He said naming it after J-Lo was a ‘small token of gratitude’ for the singer of hits such as Ain’t It Funny, I Luh Ya Papi and his personal favourite, All I Have.

She is not the only celebrity to have organisms named after her. Mick Jagger has a type of trilobite named after him, a spider was named after U2’s Bono and a marine parasite found only in the Caribbean sea was named after Bob Marley.

Scientists successfully unlock the genetic blueprint of wheat


The genetic blueprint of wheat has been deciphered for the first time, a discovery that researchers said Thursday could lead to improved plant breeding and protection against disease and drought.

Bread wheat is a leading staple for 30% of the global population, but unlocking its genetic secrets has been particularly difficult because its genome is five times the size of a human’s.

The latest research means that the full sequencing of the wheat genome is now about three years away. Researchers focused on a cultivated wheat variety known as Chinese Spring (Triticum aestivum L.)

They have produced a draft sequence of its genome, including the location of more than 124,000 genes, many of which relate to grain quality, pest resistance or stress tolerance.

A team of French researchers has also mapped a complete bread wheat chromosome, known as 3B, leaving 20 more chromosomes to decipher.

“We have reached a great milestone in our roadmap,” said Catherine Feuillet, co-chair of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC). “We know now the way forward to obtain a reference sequence for the 20 remaining chromosomes and we hopefully will be able to find the resources to achieve this in the next three years.”

Growers say the need for better strategies is crucial, because just as the world population is projected to reach nine billion by 2050, wheat production is falling due to a warming planet.

Wheat production fell by 5.5 per cent from 2000 to 2008, said the study in the journal Science by researchers at the IWGSC. Meanwhile, growers need to boost production by 70 per cent in the coming decades in order to meet the planet’s food needs. Wheat is the world’s third biggest crop after maize and rice.


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