News Ireland daily BLOG update

Monday 2nd February 2015

No penalties for people who miss Irish Water deadline


Deadline of midnight to register with Irish Water to receive accurate bills

Saturday’s water charges demonstration has brought parts of Dublin to a standstill as protesters converge on the GPO.

There will be no penalties imposed on those who fail to meet this week’s “deadline” for registration with Irish Water although some who fail to sign up for the new regime may face higher charges at some future point.

Irish Water spokeswoman Elizabeth Arnett said there will be an assumption made that those who do not confirm their details with Irish Water are part of a two-adult household so will face the standard charge of €260.

She also said that households who do not register with the controversial utility will not be in a position to apply to the Department of Social Protection for the €100 Water Conservation Grant although the deadline for applying for that grant is still some way off.

“We will make an assumption that you are on a standard charge, in other words that you have more than two adults in the household and that you have both water and waste water services, and in that respect your bill would be €260,” she told RTE’s Sean O’Rourke.

“You may need to have a lower charge than that, we can’t determine that unless you’ve contacted us and similarly in terms of the €100 conservation grant unless your details have been confirmed with us you won’t be able to apply to the Department of Social Protection for that grant”.

All told 30,000 households registered with Irish Water over the weekend. Just over half of the households expected to pay bills to Irish Water have registered their details with the new utility as a deadline of midnight tonight looms for registration to ensure accurate water bills.

Almost 850,000 homes have provided their details to Irish Water out of the estimated 1.5 million customers who will receive their first water bills in April.

There is no penalty for not registering by this time, but the default rate of €260 will apply to households with no confirmed details.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water told The Irish Times the utility would continue to accept confirmation from people or changes in their details after the deadline.

“People can confirm or change their details with us anytime. We’ll continue to do that beyond February 2nd. The earlier you give it to us the better so you get the correct bill. If you get a bill that has any aspect of it not right, get onto to us.”

About 35,000 households returned their registration packages with no details, according to the water company. This figure includes 20,000 unopened packs.

An estimated 400,000 households will not be required to pay bills because they have private wells and septic tanks.

All households, including those who are not Irish Water customers, are eligible to apply for the water conservation grant of €100, but they need to register with the utility in order to qualify.

The Department of Social Protection has set aside a budget of €130 million to pay for the €100 water conservation grant – equivalent to paying the fee to 1.3 million households.

The Department of Environment has confirmed to The Irish Times that there is no deadline for households to apply for this grant, which will be paid from September.

A statement from Irish Water said 1.065 million households had registered their details with the utility, which includes about 200,000 responses from homes who are not Irish Water customers.

All households, including those who are not Irish Water customers, are eligible to apply for the water conservation grant of €100 but need to register with Irish Water before they can apply for the grant.

“Approximately 79 per cent of those are on the public water main and therefore customers of Irish Water. This represents over 56 per cent of the total customer base,” the statement said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party will not stand over a situation where people are charged for their domestic water supply.

“One of the really frustrating things in all of this debate is the government has set out their stall… and the shambles that is Irish Water,” she told RTÉ radio.

“We in opposition have spent all our time trying to row them back from that very flawed approach. They haven’t listened to us and have carried on regardless. And we’ve wasted a whole pile of parliamentary time and the time of public servants who have all of the facts and figures and all the data at their disposal arguing a flawed proposal rather than putting our heads together as parliamentarians and coming up with a proposal that’s fair. And that works,” she said.

Pressed on where the party would find the money to finance Irish Water, Ms McDonald said half would come from exchequer funding, some from commercial rates and the party would be open to “looking at all forms of formula”

“You would tailor the level of investment and works you could carry out on the basis of that formula,” she said.

Aer Lingus Regional begins Dublin to Donegal service


Airline also announces new Donegal to Glasgow service, with up to four flights weekly

Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Stobart Air, has launched a new route between Dublin and Donegal.

Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Stobart Air, has launched a new route between Dublin and Donegal.

The airline today flew its first flight to Dublin Airport as the new operator of the PSO (Public Service Obligation) route from Donegal. The airline will fly twice daily return flights seven days a week year round.

Sean Brogan, interim chief executive officer of Stobart Air, said twice daily services between Donegal and Dublin will facilitate day return travel from Donegal for both business and leisure passengers.

“Equally, it will allow for easier connectivity to transatlantic services from Dublin for Donegal passengers and for US passengers to visit Donegal,” he said.

Aer Lingus Regional has also announced a new Donegal to Glasgow service, with up to four flights per week.

“Our services between Glasgow and Donegal will facilitate leisure and business passengers on both sides of the North Channel,” Mr Brogan said.

“We remain committed to offering Aer Lingus Regional customers reliable and efficient services to key regional areas across the United Kingdom and Ireland,” he added.

Cancer in Ireland to double by year 2040,

says a new report


Inevitable ‘boom’ expected because of relatively young population now growing.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar speaking at the launch of the NCCP cancer report ‘A Strategy for Cancer Control in Ireland’.

Ireland will see a doubling in the incidence of cancer by 2040, according to a new report published today.

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) said while considerable progress had been made in the implementation of the many recommendations of the 2006 national cancer strategy, a number of priorities remained a work in progress.

Because of Ireland’s relatively young population and inevitable “boom’’ in the number of ageing people, Ireland would have the highest growth of cancer incidence inEurope, according to the report.

The report on the 2006 national cancer strategy was launched in Dublin by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. He said cancer services had shown a marked improvement since it was initiated.

Mr Varadkar said the third national cancer strategy for 2016 to 2025 was now being developed and he would set up a steering group. “Now, almost eight years on, it is timely to review implementation undertaken to date, celebrate the successes and identify the gaps that remain,’’ he said.

Another challenge, according to the report, would be the “current financial climate leading to capacity constraints in beds, theatre and ICU [/Intensive Care Unit/] and uncertainty regarding the availability of development funding at a time of rising incidence and prevalence of cancer’’.

Drug costs and related laboratory testing were predicted to rise sharply in the coming years, the report said.

The strategy provided a clear vision and focus for change, the report said. Strong political, policy and HSE (Health Service Executive) support, combined with effective clinical leadership across disciplines and tumour-site specific diseases were, and remained, essential, it said.

It said 2,870 men attended the eight NCCP rapid access prostate clinics in 2013. Of these, 1,591 were offered an appointment within 20 working days and, on average, 36 per cent of those who attended were subsequently diagnosed with cancer.

Access to clinics continued to be an issue, with just 55 per cent of patients who were referred seen within the target time, it said. The situation had deteriorated further in the first half of last year, it said.

The report said Galway, Limerick and Waterford hospitals had continuously struggled to reach their targets, with a contributory factor to the delays a lack of consultant urologist posts locally.

Since January last year targets were not being met in some Dublin centres because of cancellation of clinics over holiday periods and staffing challenges, the report said. There was a commitment to provide additional consultant urologist posts, the report said.

IVF treatment causing a huge increase in Ireland’s twin births


Ireland’s twin birth rate has increased dramatically due to an rise in IVF treatment.

Over 1,200 mums have delivered twins each year since 2009. Before 2000, the figure hadn’t topped 200.

Medics have attributed the increase to the rising interest in IVF treatment and to older mums.

In 2014, the average age of mothers in Ireland was 32.2 years – which is one of the oldest worldwide. Studies have shown that twin pregnancies increase significantly with maternal age.

Twins currently account for 10-20% of all babies born through IVF.

However, the Government will soon consider legislation which could include a ban on the use of multiple-embryo transfers in fertility treatment.

This could ultimately lead to a reductioin in the number of twins born in the future.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar will bring forward legislation governing a number of aspects of assisted human reproduction following the Supreme Court ruling last November in which a birth mother of twins born by surrogacy was deemed to be their legal mother.

The Minister is reportedly considering the aspects surrounding multiple embryo transfers.


The Sims Clinic in Dublin, which carries out approximately 1,400 IVF and egg donation cycles each year, said that it would have concerns about any ban on multiple embryo transfers.

Clinical director David Walsh said that older women in particular would be affected by any rule change.

“For younger women it is very sensible to have a single embryo transfer policy as they have time to have more children,” he said.

“But it will penalise older women.”

Mr Walsh added that 3% of all births in Ireland arise out of fertility treatment.

He said that ultimately it will see the number of Irish women travelling overseas for fertility treatment.

Currently, an estimated 50% of the women receiving IVF treatment travel to clinics overseas. The Irish Multiple Births Association said they have noticed a rise in the number of enquiries for membership.

Rachael Joyce, of the association, said that she has noticed a jump in membership numbers from 800 to 1,800 in the space of just a few years.

“Most are seeking advice and support because of having two or more children at the same time,” she said recently.

Accelerated ice melt causing Iceland to rise


Parts of Iceland are rising, and the culprit may be climate change.

GPS measurements show that land in the central and southern parts of Iceland have been rising at a faster pace every year, beginning at about the same time as the onset of the ever-increasing melt of the island’s eponymous ice due to rising temperatures, a new study finds.

One of 62 GPS stations scattered around Iceland that have detected the land rising in response to glacier melt. Langjökull glacier is in the background.

“There have been a lot of studies that have shown that the uplift in Iceland is primarily due to ice loss,” study lead author Kathleen Compton, a PhD student at the University of Arizona, said. But this one, detailed in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first to show that the acceleration of one speeds up the other.

That uplift could in turn affect Iceland’s notorious volcanoes and hasten eruptions, which can have impacts on air travel, so clearly seen in the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which disrupted air traffic for weeks.

When Ice Melts, Land Rises

Any big chunk of ice like a glacier or an ice sheet pushes down on the land below it, like a person laying on a tempurpedic mattress. (This is why parts of the bedrock of Antarctica are actually below sea level.) When that ice is removed, the land slowly rebounds, just as the mattress will slowly fill in when the person gets up.

Parts of North America are still rebounding after the retreat of the ice sheets that covered the region during the last major ice age thousands of years ago. But under Iceland, the mantle — the semi-solid layer of the Earth below the crust ¬— is a bit goopier, and so responds more quickly to changes in the weight pressing down on it.

What the new study shows is that parts of Iceland are rising much faster — as much as 30 millimeters, or 1.4 inches, a year — compared to prehistoric ice loss. This faster response is because recent ice loss, which is ultimately triggered by atmospheric warming due to the buildup of greenhouse gases, is happening at a faster pace.

“I’m not surprised at the amount of uplift, as the visible signs of ice loss are there for everyone to see,” David McGarvie, a volcanologist with The Open University in Scotland, who has studied Iceland, said.

And not only is the uplift faster, it’s accelerating 1 to 2 millimeters per year, Compton and her colleagues found.

GPS Signals

The researchers first noticed this unexpected increase in the uplift when they looked at the data coming from one of the GPS stations in a network of 62 such stations across the island. In looking at other stations in that network, they found the same trend, with the fastest accelerating uplifts closest to the biggest glaciers.

In analyzing the records, the team found that the area with the accelerated uplift coincided with the higher rates of glacier melt that has been separately documented by glaciologists since 1995.

“The upward velocity of the crust as measured by the researchers is almost certainly due to recent loss of ice mass due to melting,” McGarvie said.

As further corroboration, temperature records going back to the 1800s have showed steadily rising air temperatures since 1980. Both of these factors correspond to calculations Compton performed when Iceland’s recent uplift began.

“It’s always nice to see something come together this well,” she said.

Potential Side Effects

Compton also ran some calculations that showed that the only way to see the faster and faster uplift would be from sped up ice melt.

McGarvie isn’t completely convinced that the uplift is escalating as the data record is relatively short (only a few decades), but he says the idea is well worth continued study.

Whether or not similar uplift could be happening in other places with significant ice loss is difficult to assess because many of those spots have land that responds more slowly to pressure changes and have less extensive GPS stations than Iceland.

But, Compton said, “I think it’s certainly something that we should have on our radars.”

As for how the uplift will continue to play out in Iceland, she said that “this acceleration can’t go on forever,” but that it would be interesting to monitor over the next several years and see how it might change over time.

One thing scientists are concerned about are the potential effects the uplift could have on tectonic activity in an already active Iceland, as the changing stresses on the ground could impact volcanoes and earthquake faults. In fact,another recent study suggested that melting in the mantle caused by uplift could make eruptions of the size ofEyjafjallajökull in 2010 more common — an effect of climate change that wouldn’t be limited to Iceland itself, as that episode made clear.


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