News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 26th January 2015

Irish Minister Noonan says debt conference on Greece is not necessary


Minister insists direct recapitalisation for funding banks is still on table

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: “The issue for Greece is not debt cancellation, it’s the affordability of the debt – that means the interest rate and the maturities.”

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said that a proposed European debt conference is “not necessary yet” as he gave his first response to yesterday’s Greek elections which saw radical left party Syriza top the polls.

Asked about his comments earlier this month in which he indicated his broad support for a debt conference, Minister for Finance pointed out that all bailout negotiations so far had been conducted within the context of the eurogroup.

“I don’t think it’s necessary yet. Cyprus and Greece and Portugal and Ireland and Spain have all been resolved by negotiations at euro group and ecofin and there’s no suggestion that that model won’t succeed again. I have no doubt even without going to the meeting, that there’s sympathy for the Greek people and that there would be a disposition among colleagues to be helpful .”

Euro zone finance ministers are meeting today for a eurogroup meeting at which the elections in Greece will dominate discussions. Greece will be represented today by the outgoing Greek finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis.

Speaking in Brussels, Minister Noonan said that Ireland had itself contributed € 350 million to the Greek bailout , hence there was “€ 350 million of Ireland’s taxpayers’ money at play.”

Asked if a Greek debt restructuring would have implications for Ireland, Minister Noonan said that Ireland had already significantly restructured its debt, through various mechanisms such as extension of maturities, and the restructuring of IMF loans.

“The issue for Greece is not debt cancellation, it’s the affordability of the debt – that means the interest rate and the maturities,” he said pointing out that restructuring is more difficult when yields are running at close to 9 per cent as in the case of Greece, rather than 1.7 per cent in the case of Ireland. “Our debt is in a very good position now – it’s affordable and it’s repayable.”

He said Ireland’s quest for retroactive direct recapitalisation from the ESM fund for AIB and Bank of Ireland was still on the table, even though the government is looking into options for selling AIB.

“There are alternatives that might suit the taxpayer better, like selling the shares on the market. Direct recap always involved selling bank shares to the European ESM but a better alternative may be to sell on the market and that’s why we have retained financial advisors to advise us on which way to go , but both options are still there. “

He said that it was important that the newly elected government in Greece was respected fully. “Everybody has to respect that choice, and everybody has to treat them like equals in this forum here.”

“I have no doubt even without going to the meeting, that there’s sympathy for the Greek people and that there would be a disposition among colleagues to be helpful ,” he said. He pointed out that Greek people don’t get any welfare payments after being unemployed for 12 months, the minimum wage and unemployment assistance is half of what it is in Ireland, and that the country has an unemployment rate of 25 per cent.

“There’s a general appreciation that it’s difficult for a lot of people in Greece and there’s not a great surprise that that would manifest itself in the polling booth.”

Is the Irish Credit Union going to provide mortgages?


The Irish League of Credit Unions is looking into whether providing mortgages for members is feasible.

The league established a group last September to investigate the idea, which would be a radical departure from their core business.

In Ireland, the average credit union loan is around €6,000.

However, sources within the movement feel that larger institutions could handle the loans on a small scale and would benefit from diversifying their loan books. It is, they say “very, very early days”.

A spokesperson for the ILCU said that the league is looking into expanding the range of loans it offers.

“In September 2014, the League Board established a “Home Loan Group” to look into how Credit Unions could provide home loans to their members as a result of many credit unions being asked for additional product of this nature and as a way to diversify the existing credit union products.

This group, with the help of an external consultant have been conducting a feasibility study to scope out how home loans might be made available by the credit union movement to credit union members.

“A first draft of this initial scoping report is due to be considered by the group next week. It is intended that the report (when finalised) will be presented to the League Board by the Home Loan Group. A decision will then have to be made on whether there is a feasible project to explore further with credit unions & with the Central Bank”.

Sources say that if successful, the move can address demand, give additional choice and improve cash flow for credit unions.he

The regular over-the-counter Anticholinergic drugs like benadryl

may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s


A new study confirms the link between everyday drugs, those medications with anticholinergic effects, and dementia.

Anticholinergic medications span a range of common drugs and include antihistamines, sleep aids, antidepressants, cardiovascular meds, gastrointestinal drugs (for diarrhea, incontinence, diverticulitis, and ulcers), and muscle relaxants. Now, a new study confirms the link between these everyday medications and dementia. Taking anticholinergic drugs at high doses or for a long time may significantly increase your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, say researchers from University of Washington School of Pharmacy.

“If providers need to prescribe a medication with anticholinergic effects because it is the best therapy for their patient, they should use the lowest effective dose, monitor the therapy regularly to ensure it’s working, and stop the therapy if it’s ineffective,” Dr. Shelly Gray, a professor and director of the geriatric pharmacy program at the UW School of Pharmacy said in a release.

On average, older people take four or five prescription drugs and two over-the-counter drugs each day. Clearly, drugs are an important part of medical care for older people; however, older people are more sensitive to the effects of many pills, including anticholinergics, which block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and so effect the nervous system. While the drugs are too numerous to mention, those with anticholinergic effects — and these effects are sometimes dependent on the dose — include Benadryl, Sominex, Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Luminal, Skelaxin, Limbitrol, and Tavist.

For the current study, the researchers investigated a previously reported link between anticholinergics, both prescription strength and over-the-counter, and dementia by employing more rigorous methods than in the past. Specifically, the researchers conducted a longer follow-up of more than seven years and more accurate use assessment via pharmacy records, which included nonprescription choices. The team tracked nearly 3,500 seniors participating in a long-running study, the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), a joint project of UW and the National Institute on Aging.

The most commonly used medications in the study, the researchers discovered, were tricyclic antidepressants like doxepin (Sinequan), antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), and antimuscarinics for bladder control like oxybutynin (Ditropan). People taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin, 4 mg/day of diphenhydramine, or 5 mg/day of oxybutynin for more than three years, the researchers estimated, would be at greater risk for developing dementia. Importantly, substitutes are available for some of these drugs.

While this study is the first to show a dose response — meaning, the more you use anticholinergic medications the greater your risk of developing Alzheimer’s — it also is the first to suggest this higher risk may persist, and may not be reversible, even years after you stop taking these drugs. “Older adults should be aware that many medications — including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids — have strong anticholinergic effects,” Gray said.

A heart-breaking message from four motherless children to Leo Varadkar


Seán Rowlette and Michael Kivlehan had meeting with Minister about safety of maternity services.

Seán Rowlette said that he told his children where he was going, they sat down and wrote a letter to Minister Leo Varadkar.

“We miss our mum so much every day.”

This was the heart-breaking message from four Co Sligo children asked their father to deliver to Minister for HealthLeo Varadkar.

Seán Rowlette and Michael Kivlehan had a “productive” two-hour meeting with Mr Varadkar where they sought assurances about the safety of maternity services. Both men lost their wives following childbirth at Sligo Regional Hospital and said they wanted to ensure that no other family endured the same pain.

Mr Rowlette from Dromore West, Co Sligo brought the same message in a hand-written note from his four children.

Addressing their letter to Minister Leo Varadkar, Leanne (9) Abbie (7) Joseph (4) and sally (2) wrote: “We miss our mum so much every day. Can you please make sure this can never happen to any other mum again.

“And to make our hospitals safe”.

Mr Rowlette’s wife Sally (36) died in the Sligo hospital in February 2013, the day after her fourth child was born there.

Dhara Kivlehan (28) from Dromahair, Co Leitrim died in a Belfast hospital in September 2010, nine days after her son Dior was born in Sligo hospital. The inquest into her death was delayed for four years.

Speaking after the meeting the men said they were pleased with a number of assurances given by the Minister.

Mr Varadkar who described the meeting as “very useful” said afterwards that a new maternity strategy was being developed in 2015 which “will map maternity services for the next few decades”.

“It was a very good meeting. He listened to everything we had to say,” said Mr Rowlette.

The men’s solicitor Roger Murray from Callan Tansey said they were particularly pleased to get an undertaking from the Minister about the availability of ICU beds in specialist hospitals in the case of emergencies. At the inquest into Dhara Kivlehan’s death it emerged that there was a delay in transferring her from Sligo because of the non-availability of such beds.

“The Minister was also very clear on doctors’ duty of candour to relatives,” said Mr Murray. Both Mr Rowlette and Mr Kivlehan had criticised the attitude of some clinical staff to them in Sligo.

Mr Murray said the Minister had acknowledged the importance of making relevant doctors appear at inquests .

Mr Rowlette said Mr Varadkar had also addressed the need to have automatic inquests if a woman dies in child birth. “We had to fight to ensure there was an inquest,” he pointed out.

He said that before he left his home at 7.30am, his children had asked him where he was going. When he told them, they sat down and wrote a letter to Mr Varadkar. “The Minister was sympathetic. I showed him First Holy Communion photos taken at Sally’s grave.”

In a statement, the Minister said that while maternity services in Ireland were on a par with the rest of the western world, there had been a number of serious cases of medical misadventure in recent years, resulting in maternal and neonatal deaths “that might have been avoided”.

He added: “This gives me concern as Minister for Health.”

Smallest and most endangered sea turtle found in Rossnowlagh beach Co Donegal


Foot-long marine turtle did not survive landing on rocks of Rossnowlagh beach

The Kemp’s Ridley turtle has been described as the world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle.

Coastwatch Ireland has confirmed identification of a tiny reptile washed up in Donegal as a Kemp’s Ridley – described by National Geographic as the world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle.

The foot-long marine turtle with an unusual beak did not survive its landing on rocks of Rossnowlagh beach, and was found by Coastwatch volunteer Aoife Flynn on Christmas Day.

As all appropriate laboratories were closed, she photographed the reptile from all angles and put it in her deep freeze until an autopsy could be carried out.

It was initially thought to resemble a rare hawk’s bill turtle, but an autopsy conducted in recent days by a Letterkenny vet and Coastwatch regional co-ordinator Dr Trish Murphyidentified it as a Kemp’s Ridley, which is found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, but can migrate as far north as Nova Scotia.

Just over 40 of these have been recorded in Irish waters since records dating to 1748, and only 1,000 breeding Kemp’s Ridley females are believed to exist worldwide, due to over-exploitation of its eggs by man in past centuries.

They are known for their unusual “nesting processions”, called “arribadas”, where the females colonise entire sections of beaches to lay their eggs – having swum thousands of miles in some cases to return to their own birthplace.

As National Geographic described it, the struggle to sea by tiny hatchlings is “even more riveting”.

“Beset by predators, hatchlings make this journey at night, breaking out of their shells using their caruncle, a single temporary tooth grown just for this purpose,”the magazine says.

Their nesting grounds are subject to protective legislation. Fishing vessels have also used “turtle excluder” devices in their gear, but populations haven’t recovered.

Their life span is about 50 years if they are lucky, during which they growing to all of 2 feet or 65 cms in shell length, weighing up to 45 kilos.Favourite food is crabs and jellyfish, while they also have a penchant for munching seaweed.

Rossnowlagh, a well known surfer’s beach in Donegal bay, is not far from Murvagh where quantities of jellyfish were recorded for Coastwatch by Joe Gatins last summer and autumn.

Scientists have moved Doomsday clock closer to midnight?


Doomsday Clock has been moved closer to midnight. The atomic scientists have shifted the clock two minutes up and now it is only three minutes away from midnight, which symbolizes the Doomsday. The readjustment has been made on 22<sup>nd</sup> January and highlights the climatic change that needs to be controlled by capping fossil fuel emissions.

The advisory board stated “World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required. In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats.”

Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist executive director, elaborated “Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenal pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.” He also mentioned that the efforts of the world leaders have not been enough to protect people from potential catastrophe.

With the readjustment of Doomsday Clock the scientists are reminding the authorities to put more efforts to reduce pollution as well as overuse of fossil fuel. They also urge to end the development of nuclear weapons, which is further endangering the planet. Benedict said “We are not saying it is too late to take action but the window for action is closing rapidly.

The world needs to be awakened from its lethargy and start making changes.” The constant climate change can be stopped only by achieving this and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. According to Richard Somerville, a member of the Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Efforts at reducing global of heat-trapping gases have so far been entirely insufficient.”


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