News Ireland daily news BLOG

Friday/Saturday 26th/27th February 2015

New Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s unveils the biggest reshuffle of Garda ever in the state

 

Forty officers assigned to new posts and a further 53 transferred to other positions? The changes represent Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan’s most significant change to the force.

Almost half of all Garda superintendents and chief superintendents have been assigned to new posts by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

The extent of the change is unprecedented in the force’s 93-year history.

The management shake-up is designed to rebrand and reform the Garda after a period of sustained controversy and in the face of significant criticism.

Some 40 officers have been assigned to their new posts after promotion and a further 53 have been transferred to new positions, though they remain at their existing rank.

At chief superintendent level, there are six promotions into the rank and 12 transfers. The 18 officers moving represent 41 per cent of all chief superintendents in the force.

And the 34 promotions into the rank of superintendent combined with the 41 transfers at that level represents 45 per cent of all superintendents in the force.

The promotions were anticipated, but the scale of the transfers was a surprise and is the biggest reshuffle of the force in the history of the State.

The extent of the changes were last night being interpreted within the force as Commissioner O’Sullivan “putting her stamp on” the Garda and making clear she was determined to reform the force.

The management reshuffle represents her most significant action since being formally appointed in November. She had been in the post on an interim basis for nine months.

Under the latest changes, a number of the highest profile units in the force have new officers in control and a large number of geographic divisions are also under new management.

The units with new management include: Garda Bureau Fraud Investigation; Garda Professional Standards Unit; Garda National Traffic Bureau; Garda NationalImmigration Bureau; Garda National Drug Unit and Organised Crime Unit; National Bureau of Criminal Investigation; Child Protection and Human Exploitation Unit.

The divisions with new officers in charge include: Westmeath; Kilkenny-Carlow; Mayo; Kildare, Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) West; Wicklow; DMR South Central; DMR North.

“These allocations, and the resulting additional changes at these ranks, are a critical element of our transformation programme,” Commissioner O’Sullivan said.

“They will allow us to develop the new structures, units and approaches required to ensure we are providing the best possible service to the public.”

Tackling Organised crime?

Following on from the widespread criticisms of the Garda’s approach to investigating crime contained in a major review Garda Inspectorate, a number of structural changes for the force have also been unveiled.

A new “strategic transformation office” has been established to manage the reform programme that has arisen from the Inspectorate’s report and recent controversies, including those involving penalty points.

The Garda National Drugs Unit and Organised Crime Unit have been combined to target organised gangs.

“Risk compliance and continuous improvement” offices have been established in each region to standardise policing processes and monitor the implementation of new initiatives such as victim support services, which the inspectorate had strongly criticised.

Detective superintendents in the regions will take responsibility for crime investigation, crime prevention and pro-active policing in their areas. This is seen as a decentralisation of powers from mostly Dublin based specialist units.

A new chief superintendent’s post has been established to oversee the new Child Protection, Domestic Violence and Human Exploitation Unit.

The commissioner said the placement of new officers in these new roles meant they would develop the skills and capacity needed to bring about the planned reforms across the force.

“Along with other key elements of the transformation plan, these changes will help deliver a victim-centred, community-focused police service that seeks to prevent crime in the first instance and then, when it does occur, investigates it professionally and thoroughly,” she said.

Michael D Higgins says Irish job insecurity fears needs to be addressed

Irish president stresses need to help those in precarious employment during RCSI lecture

  

President Michael D Higgins said the fears and aspirations of those trapped in chronic job insecurity must be addressed during his Edward Phelan lecture at RCSI.

Large swathes of the active populations of European countries are trapped in chronic job insecurity and their fears and aspirations need to be addressed, PresidentMichael D Higgins has said.

Delivering the Edward Phelan lecture at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), he said a new class of people with precarious employment, sometimes known as a “precariat”, had emerged from the most recent period of globalisation.

“Unlike the proletariat – the industrial working class on which social democracy was built – the precariat is defined by partial involvement in labour combined with extensive ‘work-for-labour’, that is, a growing array of unremunerated activities, often internships of various sorts, that are required to get access to remunerated jobs.”

Mr Higgins said the extension of the “precariat” had been accelerated by the recent financial crisis.

He also maintained that the shift towards precarious employment did not just affect those in low-skilled jobs. He argued that recent analysis of the education sector showed that a considerable volume of teaching and research work was carried out by “temporary lecturers”, “adjunct lecturers”, and so-called “teaching assistants”, who had no job security and must repeatedly resume their exhausting hunt for the next short-term contract.

‘Defining challenge’

Mr Higgins said that “responding to the needs, the fears and the aspirations of those citizens among us who do not enjoy security of employment is a defining challenge for our times”.

“It is a task not just for those who claim to represent the most vulnerable in society, but for all democrats, for trade unionists in all sectors, for workers’ representatives on permanent contracts, and for tenured staff in our universities.”

“Were no genuine alternative to be articulated and translated into a plurality of policy options, populist politicians and heinous religious preachers alike will find it easy to exploit the fears and insecurities of precarious workers. This issue lies at the heart of the crisis which confronts European democracy.”

Mr Higgins said we cannot afford to let social cohesion unravel under the combined effects of the commodification of labour and the depoliticisation of economic policy.

“Distinguishing between populist manipulation of the masses and genuine empowerment of the citizenry through the democratic appropriation of debates on economic issues, it is important to affirm forcefully that no single economic paradigm can ever be adequate to address the complexity of our world’s varying contexts and contingencies.

“Decisions in the economic and financial fields should always remain amenable to political debate; they should not be abandoned to the automaticity of rigid fiscal rules, even less so as economists disagree over the theoretical soundness of such rules.

“We need to foster widespread economic literacy, supported by a pluralist scholarship and accountable policy options in a deliberative democracy.”

Mr Higgins said he was calling for an examination of the assumptions associated with a brand of economics that recast the market as a general principle for regulating the economy, treating labour, land and money as if they were pure commodities.

“The recent economic crisis has shown, on the contrary, that markets do require an institutional framework within which transactions between economic agents can be conducted under the auspices of a third party that guarantees their fairness over the long-term of human existence.

“Without such overarching regulatory authority, contractual relationships would run the risk of reverting to arbitrary logics and the expression of the will of the strongest.”

‘The interview that saved John Connell life’

The listener credits Ryan Tubridy’s 2FM’s interview with preventing his suicide

   

Ryan Tubridy received an email from a listener who said his show had prevented him from taking his own life

A listener to Ryan Tubridy’s 2FM radio show has credited the broadcaster’s interview with John Connell about depression with saving his life.

Tubridy interviewed the author on Tuesday morning about his battles with depression as a young man.

The listener today emailed the show to thank Tubridy for the interview which prevented him from taking his own life as he had intended that morning.

Tubridy read out the email on air.

It said, “The other morning I packed myself into my car and to the whole world it would have seemed like I was heading out to work, although on this occasion my pockets were loaded iwth painkillers and antidepressants.

“You see, on this occasion I was on a mission of self-destruction borne out of the pain of living and yet quite by chance the radio was tuned to Tubridy and on comes John Connell, on a radio station renowned for pop music and, dare I say it, nonsense at times, but that interview saved my life.”

The listener went on to reveal that he had been a victim of abuse at the age of nine, which led to more issues later in life.

“As a young boy of nine I suffered abuse, something I hide from the world, something I couldn’t face, something that gave me so much guilt, something that changed my world forever,” he said.

“Later in life my guilt manifested itself in addiction – alcoholism and compulsive gambling.  Addiction always needs that pat on the back to say, ‘Well done son, you’re great’ but always that deep, dark self-loathing.

“Nine years ago I entered a treatment centre for the gambling and alcohol addictions and one day at a time I’m still clean and sober but that’s only half the battle.

“That dreadful black dog creeps and crawls its way into my world.  The blackness it brings is so horrendous, a scratch you can’t itch, a pain invisible to all but me, a living hell.  The desire to self-destruct far outweighs the need to keep going.”

The man described himself as “fifty-something year old” who sometimes “feels like that nine year old boy, afraid and alone at sea, running as fast as he can and not moving an inch”.

However, he said he gained some insight from the interview with John Connell.

“And yet the other morning I got hope, hope to face that fear, to realise that help is out there just like the help I got to face addiction,” he said.

“I just need to find the courage to ask for it, to not hide behind a smile, the one that blocks out people, the ones that truly care.”

He said he had attempted suicide by various means four times in the past four years but “something has always saved me”.

He said, “Today I’m looking at the world with just a tad of hope.”

He said he was going re-engage with a counselllor and added, “As John said, there is a future.  The most dangerous place I can go to is into my own head alone.

“I need to use the services available and count the blessings I have and in no uncertain terms ask the good Lord to help me.”

Tubridy responded to the email by simply saying, ‘Well I don’t need to say anything about that”.

Anyone affected by depression or issues in this article can contact the Samaritans for free in the Republic of Ireland on 116 123 or Northern Ireland on 08457 90 90 90.www.samartians.org.

Coffee may protect against Multiple Sclerosis?

  

Case-control studies suggest coffee may protect against the risk of MS.

Filling up on coffee may protect against development of multiple sclerosis, according to findings from two cohort studies.

In both studies, patients with the highest levels of coffee consumption had significantly lower risks of developing MS over various time periods, Ellen Mowry, MD, of Johns Hopkins, and colleagues reported in an early-release abstract from this year’s American Academy of Neurology meeting.

The authors suspect that the caffeine in coffee is responsible for the relationship.

“Caffeine could be an attractive compound given its apparent benefit in protecting against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases,” Mowry said in an email to MedPage Today. “The exact mechanism by which it does so in those diseases is unclear, and if caffeine is confirmed to be protective in MS, it may still be acting via a different mechanism.”

Although the balance of evidence linking coffee and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s falls on the side of benefit, the literature on coffee and MS is far less clear.

“The literature is a bit limited with respect to coffee and MS risk,” Mowry said. “One study showed no apparent association between the two, although notably that study had fewer patients than ours.”

She noted that her study was limited because it “asked patients about prior coffee intake after the diagnosis of MS was made, such that it is possible that ‘recall bias’ played a role. For example, perhaps patients with MS subconsciously underestimated their previous coffee intake more than people without MS.”

She and colleagues conducted two population-based, case-control studies. One was a Swedish study that included 1,629 MS cases and 2,087 controls. The other was a Kaiser Permanente Northern California study of 584 cases and 581 controls.

In the Swedish cohort, they found that drinking coffee was associated with a reduced odds of developing MS compared with drinking no coffee at all.

The reduction in risk was greatest for those who drank the most coffee. Those who reported having at least six cups a day or more had a 33% reduction in risk of developing MS compared with not drinking any coffee (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.95).

The researchers also found that those who had high coffee consumption for either 5 or 10 years before the index year had a lower likelihood of developing MS:

•           5 years: OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.50-0.99

•           10 years: OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.48-1.06

Similar results were seen in the northern California study. People who drank at least four cups of coffee per day prior to the index year also had a 33% reduction in risk of MS compared with those who drank no coffee, they found (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.47-0.95).

A possible explanation for the association is that the caffeine in the coffee has neuroprotective properties and may suppress the production of proinflammatory cytokines, the researchers said.

Although the relationship requires further study, Mowry said coffee and caffeine should also be studied for potential effects relapses and long-term disability in MS.

A white-tailed eagle found dead in Lisnaskea

  

The Irish Wildlife Trust has revealed that a white-tailed eagle has been found dead. The discovery was made in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh.

A spokesperson for the trust said: “We are sorry to bring you the terrible news that another white-tailed eagle has been found dead. The male white-tailed eagle, Ingar, was almost four years old and had spent most of the last year on Upper & Lower Lough Erne.

“It had been hoped that he was going to set up a territory on the lake and take a mate but sadly this is not to be.

“With a long life span and small reproductive output, every eagle is important in the reintroduction scheme and every loss a heavy, heavy blow.

“People on this island, north and south, need to unite to stamp out the persecution of all our wildlife, especially birds of prey.”

Bumblebees form false memories as us humans,

Scientists now say

  

The early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum), is one of the smaller bumblebees.

When recalling memories, some individuals can remember items incorrectly. Tiny, buzzing little insects known as bumblebees can be unreliable witnesses too, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology – the first to explore false memories in any non-human animals.

“We discovered that the memory traces for two stimuli can merge, such that features acquired in distinct bouts of training are combined in the animal’s mind. As a result, stimuli that have actually never been viewed before, but are a combination of the features presented in training, are chosen during memory recall,” said Dr Lars Chittka of Queen Mary University of London, who is a co-author on the study.

Dr Chittka and his colleague, Dr Kathryn Hunt, trained bumblebees to expect a reward when visiting a solid yellow artificial flower followed by one with black-and-white rings or vice versa.

During subsequent tests, bumblebees were given a choice between three types of flowers. Two were the yellow and the black-and-white types they’d seen before. The third type of flower had yellow-and-white rings, representing a mixed-up version of the other two. Minutes after the training, they showed a clear preference for the flower that most recently rewarded them. Their short-term memory for the flowers was good.

One or three days later, however, something very different happened when the bumblebees’ memory was put to the test.

At first, the bumblebees showed the same preference displayed in the earlier tests, but as the day wore on, they appeared to grow confused.

Half of the time, they began selecting the flower with yellow rings, even though they’d never actually seen that one in training before.

“The insects’ observed merging of long-term memories is similar to the memory conjunction errors humans sometimes make,” the scientists said.

“We don’t think those false memories in either bumblebees or humans are simply bugs in the system, but rather are side effects of an adaptive memory system that is working rather well.”

Dr Chittka added: “there is no question that the ability to extract patterns and commonalities between different events in our environment is adaptive.”

“Indeed, the ability to memorize the overarching principles of a number of different events might help us respond in new situations. But these abilities might come at the expense of remembering every detail correctly.”

In bumblebees, with their limited brain capacity, the pressure to economize by storing overarching features of a class of objects rather than each individual object might be even more intense.

“We are fascinated to learn how lifetime experiences accumulate and are integrated in making day-to-day foraging decisions,” Dr Chittka said.

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