News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 28th January 2015

Opposition party TD’s go walkie’s in Dáil over Garda malpractice motion

Now Lads and Lassies can we put on a good show for the General Election?


Taoiseach says Ceann Comhairle’s sub judice ruling preventing debate irreversible?

What now Taoiseach:-

Opposition TDs have staged a walkout from the Dáil chamber over the cancellation of a debate on the Guerin Report.

Opposition TDs walked out of the Dáil in a row over the ruling out of a debate on a motion setting up a commission of investigation into claims of Garda malpractice.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett ruled earlier this week that the matter could not be debated because it was sub judice and would contravene the Dáil’s standing orders.

Before Wednesday’s walkout, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a ruling made by the Ceann Comhairle was not reversible. “The Ceann Comhairle, in his utter independence, has made a ruling that a debate is not allowed,’’ he added.

The commission is to investigate allegations of malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan division of An Garda Siochana and follows the findings of a report by Sean Guerin SC into claims made by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Guerin’s report led to the resignation ofFine Gael TD Alan Shatter as minister for justice.

When the vote was called today, TDs on the Opposition benches left the chamber. A note issued to TDs by Mr Barrett’s office on Tuesday indicated that while the motion could be moved today, there could be no debate as it was currently sub judice.

This is understood to refer to a High Courtaction taken by Mr Shatter to overturn some of Mr Guerin’s findings.

The HSE unveils its new advisory group on medical card eligibility


Team tasked with developing ‘more compassionate apporach’ to awarding cards

Leo Varadkar: Group would widen discretion further to take into account medical hardship and burden of an illness on an individual and their family, regardless of income.

The HSE has announced the membership of a group tasked with developing “a more compassionate and supportive approach” to the awarding of medical cards.

The clinical advisory group on medical card eligibility has been asked to see how the burden of a medical illness can be accommodated in the award of a card, over and above financial hardship.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the group would widen discretion further to take into account medical hardship and the burden of an illness on an individual and their family, regardless of income.

‘Health outcomes’

It will have three months to draw up revised guidelines around which officials and medical officers can decide to disregard the means test, he said.

The group, which is chaired by GP Mary Sheehan, will meet monthly and provide an interim report within three months. Peter Fitzpatrick of Our Children’s Health, which is campaigning for a medical card for all sick children, has been appointed to the group.

The group has been told to develop a framework that considers all stakeholders, “ takes account of health outcomes in the context of a finite health budget” and is “sufficiently flexible and attentive to the most vulnerable individuals and those with critical needs”.

Following controversy over the awarding of medical cards and a row-back by the Government last year, the number of discretionary cards issued has increased from 50,000 to 75,000 in a year.

Other members of the group are:

  • Dr Jerome Coffey, Director National Cancer Control Programme;
  • Dr Denise Mc Donald, Paediatrician, Tallaght Hospital;
  • Ms Virginia Pye, Director Public Health Nursing, Longford Westmeath;
  • Dr Mary Stains, Medical Director, Stewart’s Hospital;
  • Dr Margo Wrigley, National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead, Psychiatry;
  • Ms Emma Benton – Therapy Professions Advisor;
  • Dr Margaret O’Riordan, Medical Director of ICGP;
  • Mr Mel Cox, Pharmacist;
  • Patricia Ryan, Patients for Patient Safety Ireland.

Investigations to examine why farmers’ files are found on Galway roadside


Thousands of documents were strewn along a 10km section on the Athenry Road

Thousands of documents from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food were found on Athenry Rd out of Tuam, Co Galway.

Three investigations are now underway into how thousands of documents containing farmers’ personal details ended up on a roadside outside Tuam, Co Galway. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner andGalway County Council both said they were investigating the incident. The Agricultural Consultants’ Association also said it was trying to get to the bottom of the incident.

The documents strewn along a 10km section on the Athenry Road, were first noticed on Sunday evening. Many of the documents relate to the Rural Environment Protection Scheme which was run by the Department of Agriculture. They contain details such as farmers’ names, addresses, herd numbers, payment details and maps of farms. Many of the farmers appear to be from the local area.

Discarded documents also included letters from farmers to the Department, laboratory results on soil samples and breakdowns of farmers’ entitlements and payments. One document contains a signature with a 1991 date while another detailing the breakdown of a farmer’s payments was dated 2010.

The Department of Agriculture said it understood the papers were the property of a private agricultural consultant, not the department, and said the county council is dealing with the matter.

A spokesman for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said the office had not received any breach notification under the code of practice in relation to the incident. If someone handling personal data believes the code of practice regarding data protection has been breached, they are obliged to inform the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has now commenced an investigation into the matter,” he said.

A spokesman for Galway County Council said the council had been alerted to the matter on Sunday evening. “The community warden service responded to the call and visited the location, confirming the presence of a range of documentation,” he said.

“The documentation was removed early on Monday 26th January 2015 by Galway County Council and an investigation by the environment unit of Galway County Council is currently ongoing. The outcome of the investigation will determine the appropriate course of action to be taken.”

The Agricultural Consultants’ Association, which represents independent agricultural consultants, said it too was trying to establish the facts of the situation. Its president Tom Dawson said he did not know where the documents had come from. “Our members abide by a code of ethics,” he said. “This flies in the face of our code of ethics but I cannot say any more until we have established what happened.”

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins welcomed the news that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner was investigating the matter. “At this point I would advise farmers to be wary of any unsolicited communications, by phone, text or otherwise that they receive,” she said.

“They should be particularly vigilant of getting letters or phone calls out of the blue or people contacting them with some of their details and hoping to elicit more information from them.”

Stem cell breakthrough could lead to a baldness cure


Scientists have successfully used human stem cells to generate new hair, paving the way for a potential new cure for baldness. 

The study from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) in US represents the first step towards the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss, researchers said.

“We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” said Alexey Terskikh, associate professor in the Development, Ageing and Regeneration Programme at Sanford-Burnham.

“Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles,” said Terskikh.

The research team developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells.

They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle.

Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture.

“In adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties,” said Terskikh.

“We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice,” said Terskikh.

“Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects,” Terskikh added. The research was published in the journal PLOS One.

Skull fragment find sheds light on Neanderthal and human interbreeding


Skull found in a cave in Israel suggests humans and Neanderthals met 55,000 years ago

The partial skull of a modern human (Homo sapiens) (C) is placed between a Neanderthal (L) skull and a complete modern human skull (R) on display outside the Manot stalactite cave in northern Israel. Photo: EPA

A skull from one of the earliest known Europeans has been found in an Israeli cave, shedding light on the migration of modern humans out of Africa.

The discovery of the skull suggests humans and Neanderthals were interbreeding 55,000 years ago, 10,000 years before they were thought to have met.

The expansion of modern humans out of Africa to Europe and Asia was a key event in human evolution.

The first steps out of Africa are estimated to have happened 60,000 years ago, marking the beginning of humanity’s colonisation of the world, but the harsh climate hampered the invasion across Europe.

Eventually the modern human replaced their less civilised ancestors, and it had previously been thought the two species met 45,000 years ago somewhere in Europe.

Related Articles

But the scarcity of human fossils from this period has meant these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations have remained largely enigmatic.

Now it seems both were occupying Western Galilee at the same time and could have met during foraging trips – explaining how modern Europeans came to inherit about 4 per cent of their genes from Neanderthals.

Israel Hershkovitz, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, said: “It’s amazing. This is the first specimen we have that connects Africa to Europe.”

Neanderthal fossils dating back to the same period have been found at other sites in the eastern Mediterranean – placing the two species in the same area.

The prehistoric cave is located in the region where Neanderthals periodically lived – perhaps when ice sheets in Europe forced them to migrate to warmer places like the Levant.

It is also situated along the only land route available for ancient humans to travel out of Africa to the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

The partial skull of the adult was discovered in 2008 during construction work which damaged the roof of the cave that was blocked by natural rockfall about 30,000 years ago – sealing it from further disturbance.

The findings published online in Nature provides the earliest evidence modern humans co-inhabited the area with Neanderthals and may have mated at least as far back to when the skull was dated.

Professor Bruce Latimer, of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, said: “It’s been suspected modern man and Neanderthals were in the same place at the same time – but we didn’t have the physical evidence. Now we do have it in the new skull fossil.

“Modern humans and Neanderthals likely encountered each other foraging for food.”

The skull was preserved by wet conditions in the cave which allowed researchers to use mineral dating techniques to show it is around 55,000 years old.

Prof Latimer said it contained a relatively small brain of around 1,100 milliliters. The modern human brain averages around 1,400 milliliters.

Several features of the cranium resemble modern man’s skull – in particular a bony formation called the occipital bun on the back.

Its purpose is unknown but the Neanderthal’s looks much like a bony ‘hot dog’ bun with a groove down the centre – a feature absent in the cave fossil and also typically missing in modern humans.

The fossil’s gender is unknown because it’s missing the brow ridge – a tell-tale sign. Younger human teeth and bones have also been found in the cave and it’s believed there are probably more fossils in the cave linked to the skull.


Comments are closed.