News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 13th February 2015

Aer Lingus Board Urges the Irish Government to Support Takeover Bid


Aer Lingus is open to a takeover under certain conditions.

The board of Aer Lingus urged the Irish government on Friday to support a takeover bid by the parent of British Airways, saying the offer will accelerate the Irish airline’s growth plans and enhance Ireland’s position as hub for trans-Atlantic travel.

The parent company, which is known as the International Consolidated Airlines Group, or I.A.G., has offered to pay about €1.36 billion for the airline but must win the support of the discount carrier Ryanair and the Irish government, the two largest shareholders of Aer Lingus.

This week, I.A.G. said it was willing to enter into a number of legally binding commitments to win the government’s support, including maintaining existing connections between Ireland’s airports and Heathrow Airport near London, a crucial point of contention for the Irish government.

“We have had further detailed discussions with I.A.G., and the board has a greater understanding of I.A.G.’s intentions for the future of Aer Lingus and the proposed commitments that I.A.G. is prepared to make in relation to Aer Lingus,” Colm Barrington, the Aer Lingus chairman, said in a news release.

“These discussions have further confirmed that it is clearly in I.A.G.’s interests to continue to grow Aer Lingus within the I.A.G. Group,” he said. “The board’s view is therefore that a combination of Aer Lingus with I.A.G. has a compelling strategic rationale and will deliver significant benefits for Aer Lingus, its employees, its customers and for Ireland.”

The Irish government is Aer Lingus’s second-largest shareholder, holding a 25.1% stake. Ryanair, is the largest, with a 29.8% stake.

Aer Lingus rejected two takeover offers late last year from I.A.G. but has said it would be willing to accept the latest sweetened proposal, made last month, if certain conditions were met.

In its latest bid for Aer Lingus, I.A.G. offered 2.55 euros, a share, including a dividend. The deal, if consummated, values Aer Lingus at about €1.36 billion.

Shares of Aer Lingus declined 1.8%, to €2.21, in late afternoon trading in Dublin on Friday.

In part, I.A.G. has pledged to keep the airline’s head office in Ireland and has said that Aer Lingus would continue to operate as a separate business with its own branding and management.

I.A.G. is one of the world’s largest airline companies, carrying more than 77.3 million passengers in 2014. Its portfolio of carriers includes British Airways and two Spanish carriers: Iberia, a full-service airline, and Vueling Airlines, a low-cost carrier.

The company posted revenue of €15.2 billion in the first nine months of 2014, up 7.4% from the period a year earlier.

Almost 50% of Ireland’s water supply is lost through leaks


Irish Water can confirm that about 800 million litres of water lost through leaks each day?

Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Jerry Grant says that without water meters, resolving the leakage issue is like looking for “a needle in a haystack”.

Almost half of the water supply in the State is being lost through leaks, according to the latest figures from Irish Water.

Jerry Grant, head of asset management for Irish Water, said about 800 million litres of water is being lost each day, which is 49% nationally.

Mr Grant said the more than 500,000 meters rolled out to domestic properties last year are being used to calculate the leakage.

“The figures are much more accurate than they were. There will always be a degree of estimates in them because we don’t have metering of every property,” he said.

Mr Grant told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the target was to save 2% of water this year.

“We’re reasonably confident for this year (to meet the target),” he said.

Mr Grant said the company will reduce pressure in some parts of the country to reduce leakage.

“The real bull work of water conservation and leakage management is to have district meters. We have about 10,000 of them across the country.”

Mr Grant said many of these meters did not work properly and were audited last year.

“Without them it’s like a needle in a haystack looking for leaks,” he said.

“There is no silver bullet solution. This effort will have to be maintained indefinitely.”

In figures released to RTÉ news, most local authorities said they are losing about 40 per cent of their water supply through leaks.

The report shows areas losing more than half their supply to leaks were Cork city, Co Cork, Tipperary, Mayo, Kerry and Roscommon.

The Prophets are weeping by: President Michael D Higgins the President of Ireland


The Prophets are Weeping tackles extremism and is first poem since assuming office

The President said his poem was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict.

President Michael D Higgins has released the text of the only poem he has written since assuming office in 2011.

The Prophets are Weeping with its references to extremism and the displacement of people could hardly be more topical given the situation in the Middle East.

The poem was completed last year before the attack on theCharlie Hebdo offices in Paris which left 12 people dead. That attack inspired the following week’s cover which featured the prophet Mohammad weeping.

Mr Higgins finalised the poem in October last year but had been working on it for some time.

The President was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict. The poem begins:

“To those on the road it is reported that The Prophets are weeping, At the abuse of their words, Scattered to sow an evil seed.”

The President first mentioned the poem publicly at theGaisce awards to young people last week.

He said he was concerned that levels of youth unemployment would drive many young people towards extremists.

“It would be very wrong if we just stepped back and allowed the marginalisation of young people, that they be left in ghettos of Europe to be available to the predators of fundamentalism and the abuses of texts,” he said.

He referred to the “incredible threats from those who abuse sacred texts”.

He included the text of the poem in his Christmas card but it has not been more widely available until now.

The President once lectured on the sociology of migration and has often referred to the movements of people in different speeches.

He has also frequently referred to his own time as an emigrant in the UK and the United States.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, President Higgins expressed solidarity with the people of France and “Ireland’s unfaltering commitment to the freedom of thought and expression that today’s cruel events have attempted to undermine.”

President Higgins has published four books of poetry to date: The Betrayal in 1990, The Season of Fire in 1993, An Arid Season in 2004 and New and Selected Poems in 2011.

The Prophets are Weeping

To those on the road it is reported that

The Prophets are weeping,

At the abuse

Of their words,

Scattered to sow an evil seed.

Rumour has it that,

The Prophets are weeping,

At their texts distorted,

The death and destruction,

Imposed in their name.

The sun burns down,

On the children who are crying,

On the long journeys repeated,

Their questions not answered.

Mothers and Fathers hide their faces,

Unable to explain,

Why they must endlessly,

No end in sight,

Move for shelter,

for food, for safety, for hope.

The Prophets are weeping,

For the words that have been stolen,

From texts that once offered,

To reveal in ancient times,

A shared space,

Of love and care,

Above all for the stranger.

By M.D.H. 2014  

Sligo College lecturers concerned over plan to demote job titles


St Angela’s College staff in Sligo will have ‘teacher’ posts following merger with NUIG

St Angela’s College, Sligo: there are almost 60 full-time academic staff at the college, most of them female, and all currently hold the position of lecturer.

Academic staff at St Angela’s College in Sligo have expressed alarm at a plan to demote their posts from university lecturer to teacher as part of full integration with NUI Galway (NUIG). There are almost 60 full-time academic staff at the college, most of them female, and all currently hold the position of lecturer.

NUIG has accredited courses since 2006 at St Angela’s College, which provides third-level education in nursing, education and home economics. Under full integration, St Angela’s will merge with NUIG from next September.

The academic staff have been informed by management that an NUIG academic will meet them in separate groups early next week to brief them on qualifications for positions which they already hold. Staff will be asked to fulfil criteria which have not yet been specified to apply for a “small number” of lecturer posts.

An extraordinary meeting of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) branch at St Angela’s yesterday discussed serious concerns about the impact of the change in terms and conditions, which could restrict research and promotional opportunities and could have an impact on decision-making and curriculum development.

Staff have pointed out that the changes come just weeks after recent Equality Tribunal and Higher Education Authority reports highlighting gender imbalance at NUIG. The staff feel “particularly vulnerable”, according to sources, as many of whom have not had written contracts due to an internal dispute at St Angela’s dating back a number of years.

The staff have been told that their pay will not be cut, but they say their unions have not been permitted to participate with college management in the incorporation negotiations with NUIG. The heads of agreement are due to be signed off by the end of next month. Staff are understood to have made several requests to have the issue be referred to the Labour Relations Commission.

NUIG says it has two parallel grades of academic contract in its current structure – university teacher and lecturer. “The salary scales and promotion tracks of both grades are identical,” it said, with lecturers carrying out a mixture of research and teaching while teachers focused primarily on teaching. It said it was “clear that the most appropriate contract is that of university teacher”, but this did not involve a demotion.

NUIG said that “at a future stage… full support will be provided for St Angela’s staff wishing to pursue research activity” and such support is already in place for NUIG university teachers.

St Angela’s College president Dr Anne Taheny said in a statement that “the proposed incorporation of St Angela’s College Sligo and NUIG is part of the National Strategy for Higher Education 2010 and discussions on the incorporation are continuing”.

“The terms and conditions, including pay, of all staff are governed by EU Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (TUPE) and, as public servants, by public service agreements such as Croke Park and Haddington Road,” her statement said.

Trying for a baby can be a stressful time for some couples


How to stop fertility problems damaging your relationship with your partner.

Fertility problems are a concern for many couples and trying for a baby can cause a serious rift in your relationship, if the emotional impact is overlooked.

Coping with Fertility Problems:

  • Don’t blame yourself or your partner
  • Share your concerns
  • Be open about your feelings
  • Listen to each other
  • Get support from others with fertility problems
  • Plan activities together

Infertility problems

Infertility deals a severe blow to both men’s and women’s identities. In fact, their sense of themselves as sexual people becomes distorted as their ability to procreate is called into question. Men often feel emasculated as a result of infertility, particularly if there is a male factor involved. Women feel unfeminine, damaged and defective.

Sex comes to mean failure-failure to conceive and therefore failure to be a “real man” or a “real woman.” These negative distortions become magnified as infertility progresses, and often get generalized so that one’s self-esteem is affected. Infertile men and women can easily feel worthless as people. Infertility takes the spontaneity out of sex. 

Infertility, particularly if it is long-term, is probably one of the most difficult times in a couples’ life. Nothing can erase the pain; one must go through it in order to come out of it. Most importantly, couples must talk to each other about their fears, worries, sadness, anger and any other feelings related to their infertility.

For men who have been taught not to express their feelings, this can be especially difficult. Yet people feel less depressed, and hence more sexual, when they can express their emotions. It is important to be honest with oneself about the source of one’s feelings. For example, a fight about whose turn it is to do the dishes might stem more from anger over infertility than from frustration about getting housework done.

It is also important for partners to remind themselves, and each other, that infertility should not determine one’s self-worth or one’s sexuality. Being a “real man” has about as much to do with the quality of his semen as it does with whether or not he eats quiche. Likewise, being a “real woman” is simply not related to her ability to bear children.

Though it may be difficult to harness the energy, men and women should continue the same kinds of behaviors that made them feel sexual before their infertility, whether it be dressing in a certain way, sharing a romantic dinner or going dancing. It is especially important to exercise, eat properly, get enough sleep and in general keep one’s body in good shape. The healthier one is, the better (and more sexual) he/she will feel.

The key ingredient is nurturing. It is essential to nurture your relationship. Consider it even more important than the child you wish to have. Children usually remain at home about 18 years; most marriages that endure last far longer. And relationships, like children, flourish when there is an abundance of love, caretaking, attention and consideration. It is important to stay connected to each other.

* Make sure you spend time discussing matters other than infertility. Do set up regular times, however, to talk about infertility.

* Share your emotional responses (which may be constantly changing), and when it is necessary to make decisions relative to treatment, use that time to discuss those options.

* Minimally, arrange weekly meetings in which you “check in” with your partner. Each of you can take a turn talking about your feelings, concerns and preferences about treatment.

* In making decisions, be sure to listen to each other in a non-judgmental way without trying to change the other’s mind. Try to set aside your own feelings for the moment in order to understand your partner’s position. When each of you feels fully understood, then you can negotiate more easily and make decisions with which you both feel comfortable.

* If a particular month is especially stressful, perhaps due to an IVF cycle, a poor semen analysis, etc., then “check in” with each other more often – daily if necessary! It is also important when your period comes, to acknowledge together the sadness and disappointment you feel. If possible, plan a special treat for yourselves at that time.

* Be open about your feelings on an ongoing basis, in addition to regular meetings in which you set aside time to talk. If you don’t share your feelings, your partner will be forced to make assumptions that may or may not be true.!

* State your wishes to your partner. Even the most sensitive and perceptive people are not mind readers.

How friends and family can help

Ultimately, many infertile women and men become enraged over these multiple losses. They are upset by other people’s insensitivity, hurt by criticism from their families, tired of treatment, frustrated by limited options and resentful of their “fishbowl” existence. But support from family and friends can help — making infertile women and men feel better about themselves, relate better to those who care about them and respond better to treatment. One Houston endocrinologist has even suggested there would be “more successful pregnancies if family and friends knew how to be emotionally supportive.” This task will be easier if those who want to help respond in some way to the losses of infertility.

Main guidelines to remember

Admit there is a problem.

Pretending the problem does not exist or avoiding it is not helpful. You may first have to deal with your own feelings about infertility, work through disappointment and thwarted expectations of being a grandmother or grandfather, for example, and examine deep-rooted beliefs about conception, child- bearing and medical intervention.

Acknowledge the infertility by asking how things are going with treatment or how they are feeling. This shows your interest and offers them a chance to confide in you if they choose. If they do not elaborate on their activities, do not question them further at that time. At least they will know someone recognizes the significance of this experience in their lives.

Become informed.

Hurtful comments like: “Just relax;” “Quit work and you’ll get pregnant;” or “Adopt and you’ll get pregnant” reveal serious misunderstandings about infertility. Broadly defined, infertility is a medical problem which prevents a couple from carrying a pregnancy to term or conceiving after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. The problem may be with the woman (40% of the time) or the man (40% of the time). In the remaining 20%, both individuals have problems or the reason for their infertility is unknown. Only 5% of all couples who adopt later get pregnant. Furthermore, adoption is not an option for all couples.

Be realistic.

Often people believe that to be helpful, they must be able to eliminate another’s pain. This is impossible; caring people cannot take away the pain, but can only help them to manage it. Be honest with yourself as well as with your friend/loved one about your discomfort and emotional limitation

Listen carefully.

Don’t be afraid of your friend’s/loved one’s depression, anger, or guilt. If they will talk about their infertility, allow them to freely and fully express their emotions. They may grieve, going through a process of crying and repeatedly talking about what has happened and what might happen in the future. By venting negative feelings and releasing tension, they can often move on to a more positive, optimistic perspective. Suppressing emotional pain may just delay the grieving process or protract it. Bear in mind that people experiencing infertility want a sounding board more often than an opinion.

Accept different ways of coping.

Each person must discover how to cope best with their problem. People come from divergent economic, religious, and cultural backgrounds all of which influence their responses to infertility. Don’t expect them to act or react as you think you might. Some people want to be included in all family and social gatherings which involve children, while others actively avoid such events. Some talk openly about their treatment; others share nothing. Moreover, treatment demands are so varied that needs change.

Ask them how you can be supportive.

Do they want you to ask how things are going or do they want you to wait until they initiate discussion? Would they like you to accompany them to the clinic? Would it be helpful for you to bring over the evening meal, particularly after certain procedures or surgeries? If they don’t know, encourage them to think about what they expect so that they can let you know. This acknowledges that they are the authority on what they need, when they need it and from whom they would like to receive it.

Make the invitation.

Baby showers, christenings, family reunions and holidays are especially difficult times. An invitation lets the infertile woman or man know they are thought of and wanted; it’s always nice to be asked. If they choose to decline, accept their choice. If you know them well enough, ask them what kind of social involvement they want. What would make events easier for them?.

Respond to the need for dignity and respect.

Let your friend/loved one know that you see them as multi- faceted people and that infertility is only one part of their lives. Remind yourself that infertility does not make them helpless or their lives less meaningful. Respect the desire for a child, even if you do not agree with the method of attaining that goal. By the same token, respect the decision to stop treatment or rule out adoption.

New tiny contact lenses will help people see with inbuilt telescope


A tiny device in new contact lenses, aimed at hundreds of thousands of people suffering from age-related eye problems, could increase the user’s vision nearly by three fold

Contact lenses with inbuilt telescope could help hundreds of thousands see better

Hundreds of thousands of people with sight problems could be helped with a revolutionary new contact lens, which has an in-built telescope to aid vision.

Swiss scientists have invented a tiny device which can increase a user’s vision by nearly three-fold – in the wink of an eye.

The contact lenses would be far cheaper than surgery and will help people suffering from age related macular degeneration (AMD) to see more clearly in their peripheral vision.

AMD is the biggest cause of sight loss in Britain, affecting more than 500,000 people who lose the ability to see in the centre of their vision making it difficult to read and recognize people’s faces.

Sufferers include Judi Dench, the actress, who now says she struggles to read scripts because of the condition.

Designer Dr Eric Tremblay, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, said the magnifying contacts would allow people with sight loss to read text more easily and see faces.

Presenting a working prototype at the American Association of the Advancement of Science conference he said: “They are a contact lens that has a very thin telescope built into it – it allows you to have magnified vision. So it makes the object that you look at bigger.

“The most compelling reason why you would want to have this is to help people with serious visual problems, such as macular degeneration, or other retinal illnesses where people have severe vision loss.

“In a lot of cases magnification is very useful. So what people usually use are head mounted telescopes which doesn’t work for everything. It doesn’t track with vision and it’s quite bulky and interferes with social interaction.”

The lenses have tiny telescope built into their centre which works the same way as looking through a pair of binoculars.

To activate the lens, users must be paired with specially adapted glasses that recognise winks, but ignore blinks.

The contact lenses have two apertures, one which is magnified and one normal.

When users shut their right eye, the glasses change the polarization of light so that it hits the contact lens at the right angle to trigger the magnification effect. A wink with the left eye effectively turns off the telescope.

The contacts zoom in thanks to special light filters. And when they wink their left, the image returns to normal.

“So the contact lens does all the optical zoom and the glasses can switch between vision,” Dr Tremblay added.

“It is instant. You wink and the image changes. It is quite large and rests on the white part of your eye and is quite large and quite thick.”

There are already glasses on the marked for people with AMD which have mounted telescopes but they tend to look bulky and interfere with social interaction. They also do not track with head movement so users must position the eyes and tilt the head to use them.

Currently a small telescope can be surgically inserted into the eye but the operation can cost around £6,000. The new lenses are likely to be far cheaper.

The breakthrough was welcomed by charities who said that it could help with daily tasks like driving and reading instructions on medication.

Clara Eaglen, RNIB Eye Health Campaigns Manager, said: “It is encouraging that innovative products such as these telescopic contact lenses are being developed, especially as they aim to make the most of a person’s existing vision.

“Anything that helps to maximise functioning vision is very important as this helps people with sight loss to regain some independence and get out and about again, helping to reduce isolation.

“The more sight someone has, the more they are able to live safe, independent lives. This could mean not having to give up driving, remaining in employment, being able to cook safely and read medication instructions.

“This research is still at an early stage but it will be exciting to watch how it progresses and to fully understand how this could help people with AMD.”

Acting CEO of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf, said: “There is virtue in having a zoomable contact lens for some people with macular degeneration who have lost their central vision. We will be interested to see how in practice it works for people with AMD.

“With an ageing population investment in research and new treatments is a pressing issue as there are 600,000 people in the UK with this form of sight loss.”

The research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in San Jose, California


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