News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 1st March 2015

Tánaiste Joan Burton pledges to increase Irish child benefit in 2016?

 

The Labour party leader accuses some political opponents of hijacking peaceful protests

Michael O’Regan reports from the annual Labour Party Conference in Killarney. Party leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton made a number of pre-election pledges including increased child benefit.

A series of pre-election pledges including increased child benefit next year have been made by Tánaiste Joan Burton.

In her keynote speech to the Labour Party national conference, she also attacked the Opposition parties and Independents saying they were not capable of offering an alternative government.

Ms Burton also accused some political opponents of hijacking peaceful protests.

“In a free society that’s bullying. The Labour Party has a long history of standing up to bullies,” she said.

Ms Burton said the Coalition was building the economic recovery and with it new jobs and opportunities for people.

“The true measure of our success will be delivering a social recovery alongside the economic one. Meaning every person, every family and every community benefits from renewed prosperity,” she said.

She said that every taxpayer had more money in their pay packet because of the tax reductions in the last Budget.

“Pensioners, people with disabilities, people living alone – they’ve all received a Christmas bonus. This is the Labour Party living up to our standards – this is Labour in action.

“The Labour Party is in Government to ensure economic strength goes hand in hand with social justice.”

Pointing out that the first thing Labour did in Government was to increase the minimum wage, she promised that it would be increased if that was recommended by the newly established Low Pay Commission.

She said that Fianna Fáil had introduced the Universal Social Charge and its effects on low-income families were savage.

“Labour in Government has freed 410,000 low-income workers from USC. In the Budget, that will go to half a million. Half a million low-income workers freed from USC – completely,” she said.

“And we will continue to reform it for middle-income workers. To make sure that the teacher or the tiler earning €35,000 a year continues to see their Universal Social Charge come down.”

The Tánaiste also pledged that having already increased child benefit the Government will do so again in the next Budget.

“By the end of this year, we’ll set out the steps that will enable us to introduce two weeks’ paid paternity leave. So that new mums and dads can both afford to spend precious time with their new baby mums and dads will also be able to bring their young children to the doctor for free. “

She said that more would have to be done in the area of childcare.

“I want to ensure that before they start primary school, every child has a right to two years of free pre-school. This will be a key plank of our election platform.”

She said that some people suggested that Labour should have stayed out of Government in the party’s own interests.

“Those people do not understand this party – and they never will. We put Ireland first – and we always will,” she said.

“In highly unstable economic times, politicians have one critical role – to provide political stability. We have provided that stability and the country is recovering.”

With the approach of a general election in 2016, she contrasted the Government’s record of recovery with what she termed the chaos on the Opposition benches.

“Fianna Fáil won’t enter government with Sinn Féin orFine Gael. Sinn Féin won’t enter government with either of them. The Independents can’t govern themselves. And the hard-left are opposed to governing.

“It’s a coalition of chaos – and the country simply cannot afford it,” she said.

The Tánaiste said that by contrast, this Government ended the chaos of the economic crisis.

“We converted fear into hope. And an economy built on quicksand into one built on solid and sustainable foundations. It hasn’t been easy,” she said.

“Labour and Fine Gael see individual issues in different ways. Sometimes very, very different ways. What we share is a desire to secure the recovery and spread its benefits. And we work together – the Taoiseach and I – in partnership – to achieve it.”

Your dogs could attack sheep if they are not neutered

  

Your dogs could attack sheep if they’re not neutered

Irish vet pete Wedderburn is warning dog owners to neuter their pets, or risk them attacking sheep this spring.

Even dogs who don’t live in rural areas could also benefit from neutering, he said.

Wedderburn, of the Bray Vet clinic, says that incidents of dogs attacking sheep across the country can be linked to the non-neutering of dogs.

The benefits

“One of the main reasons why male dogs do leave their homes is the male hormones that make them want to seek bitches that are season,” he said.

If they are castrated they are much less likely to wander. You need to keep your dog in; you can’t just let your dog out. There is no doubt male hormones can drive dogs to perform ‘superdog’ feats of escaping out of a garden.

He added: “At this time of year you have sheep that are heavily pregnant and lambs that are nearly born.” He said that sheep are vulnerable to being chased while pregnant, and young lambs can be killed by dogs.

“Dogs tend to get excited about the hunt and they… might kill six or 10 sheep. In these circumstances the farmer has the legal right to shoot dead any marauding dogs. If it’s your pet that happens to run off, it could get shot.”

He said that another big reason why he is motivated to persuade people to neuter their dogs is because of the problem of unwanted puppies. “We still kill over 4000 dogs every year because they are not wanted,” he said. “A lot of those dogs are being born to accidental pregnancies.”

He is part of the Spay Aware campaign, who have recently begun surveying their supporters on the issue.

However, as they have found that over 90% of the respondents are female and a similar percentage have or would neuter their dogs, they need to get more of a male input. A survey is available to fill out online.

Men and spaying

“The big question is what happens with men out there?” said Wedderburn.

He said that he has anecdotally heard of situations where, “when a male dog is talked about being castrated that a male owner would roll his eyes and go ‘I wouldn’t want that happening to me’.”

He added that “not every male dog needs to be castrated” and that the owner and vet should discuss the issue, but that on average it is the best thing for pets.

It can benefit dogs that pee in the house, or mark objects or mount visitors, as well as dogs that fight or are aggressive.

Wedderburn said that some cancers in dogs can also be prevented through spaying.

He pointed out that from 2016, it will be compulsory to have all dogs microchipped, so dogs who do attack sheep could be tracked down to their owner.

Sheep attacks in November: the Irish Farmers Association had warned about attacks on sheep flocks.

Its national sheep chairman John Lynskey warned dog owners that their pets “can inflict horrendous damage on a sheep flock in an attack” and that “the owners can be held responsible for the losses involved”.

He also said at the time: “Unfortunately, I am taking calls on a frequent basis from sheep farmers around the country who have suffered similar such attacks. There are far too many dog owners not taking the responsibility that goes with owning a pet..”

In 2013, the IFA launched a protocol to help farmers who may encounter a dog attacking their sheep.

​The perception of the dress & why it is seen as black or blue

  

The dress above that sparked a social media frenzy

Were you caught up in the social media frenzy on the colour of the dress yesterday?

It appears that those of you who thought the dress is black and blue were correct as a new photo on the Daily Mail reveals the original.

Wired.com have a fascinating explanation of the science behind the dress furore and it appears that the simple picture of a dress has triggered a fascinating insight about the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world.

According to the science and technology website, the colour of the dress is different for different people at different times because of the way that humans have evolved to see daylight.

They asked Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College, she said,

“What’s happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis,” says “So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black.”

Four Country Roads that Big Tom helped put the town of Glenamaddy on the map.

The Country and Western legend sang it to fame

  

Those were the days when busloads travelled from all over the West to dance at the local ballroom of romance, The Sound of Music.

The singing pubs were doing a roaring trade; there was still a fair day every month, two bustling secondary schools, two banks and a host of shops and small enterprises. Now the famed ‘Four Roads’ are eerily quiet, punctuated by shuttered shops.

Driving off the M6 motorway on the way to Glenamaddy, internet connection starts to drop and by the time we reach our destination the words “no service” appears on screen.

Parking is not an issue in the town square; in fact drivers can practically stop in the middle of the road outside the few operating shops and get their business done before the next vehicle pulls up.

For every pub that is open, there is a closed one on either side, and although it’s lunch time on a Wednesday there isn’t a soul on the street.

Just like countless small towns and villages across the country, Glenamaddy in Co Galway has lost at least 20 businesses and services over the past decade.

The biggest hit to the town was the loss of Ulster Bank in 2013 and the Bank of Ireland in 2006.

It was, locals say, the beginning of “the death of the town”.

As a result, accounts moved to banks in Roscommon, Dunmore and Castlerea – all about 15 or 20 miles away.

The domino effect, as people did their banking and shopping elsewhere, was dramatic. It claimed up to 10 pubs, small shops, hardware stores, a filling station, a garage, a print works and the town butchers shop.

Manpower at the local Garda station was also drastically reduced and four months ago the national school lost a teacher as non-national families left the area.

And it hasn’t stopped there?

At least 125 young people have emigrated, buildings are left idle, no houses are being built, Mass times have decreased, farmers are getting older, GAA clubs in this part of north Galway are struggling, there is no taxi service and the future of the local Post Office is a constant worry.

Potential cuts to Bus Eireann routes in the West of Ireland will be another body blow for the catchment area including the villages of Williamstown, Glinsk, Creggs, Kilkerrin, Ballymoe and Clonbern.

During a tour of Glenamaddy – celebrated for its bustling nightlife in the 1980s when top showband stars performed in The Sound of Music dancehall – Independent Councillor Des Joyce said: “the hammering has got to stop.”

“If the Government do not start looking at rural Ireland fast it’s going to die in front of them. We’ve lost a generation and we’re going to a place where in 10 or 15 years time there will be nothing left.”

The biggest threats to the area are the absence of broadband, lack of funding in local enterprise, and few opportunities for youth. In fact, connectivity has become so limited in the area that national newspapers can’t even be bought in Ballymoe and Kilkerrin, they must be ordered in advance.

“The line has to be drawn that nothing else goes and that business comes back into town. We need a better chance to try and survive, we can’t keep doing it on our own,” said Mr Joyce, a farmer, business man and father of four, who donated a limousin bull to Glinsk National School to save it from closure in 2013.

The community raised an incredible €105,000 by selling the bull and other fundraising events to buy a new oil tank for the school.

Local business man Aidan Potter, has run Potter Hardware and the local Post Office with his father, Mattie, for more than 30 years, and feels abandoned by the Government.

“We won’t survive for another five years without high quality broadband when the bigger towns are taking our customers,” he said recently.

“Every single business is in danger and there is no point saying any different. The truth is we all don’t know week to week if we will be able to continue trading,” he added.

During the half hour interview in the hardware store just one customer came in and charged three tiny bolts, costing €1.50 each, to an account.

According to the 2011 Census figures, the West of Ireland has the oldest population with an average age of 37 years – with females aged half a year older. The ageing population of Glenamaddy has robbed the town of vitality.

Three weeks ago, Margaret and Donnie Keaveney found the going was getting too tough and decided to retire, closing their gift shop and garage on Church Street after 75 years.

“Self employment is the worst business to be in at the moment, you work for nothing. In the last five years we didn’t even get a wage out of it,” said Mrs Keaveney.

“We hear all these announcements that things are picking up but it’s not reflected in this area – west of the Shannon there is nothing.”

During a four-hour stint of the town of Glenamaddy we chatted to just one young farmer, Martin Flanagan (19).

“Every young fella is being driven out by no employment, there are not enough grants for young farmers to keep us in our homes,” the agriculture student said.

According to Michael Fitzmaurice, the Independent TD for Roscommon South-Leitrim, the situation in Glenamaddy is repeated in almost every rural county.

“You can multiply Glenamaddy by 200 that’s the reality. It’s like the Government keep injecting us with a bit of chemo to keep us ticking but if we don’t get a good shot of Radium soon, rural Ireland will be dead and gone,” he told the Sunday Independent.

“We are swallowing everything from the EU and we’re fighting to survive. The whole thing has to change to make country life viable,

“We’re not looking for anymore than anywhere else but we need strategic economic activity,” Mr Fitzmaurice added.

At this stage, every business and service in Glenamaddy is relying on local custom to keep them afloat, as well as constant community activism.

Hopes also remain pinned on the sustainability of local staples, including the Credit Union, Supervalu, Londis and two small local factories.

“They wrote a song about Glenamaddy called Four Country Roads, and we don’t want to see our youth driven out. We want to see our family businesses and family farms being passed on to the next generation, but the Government need to help us,” said Mr Joyce.

“These are great people; they love their town and want to ensure its recovery.”

Humans eradicated their Neanderthal rivals thanks to early dogs bred from wolves

   

Humans bred wolves to help them hunt in Europe 40,000 years age

Humans were able to eradicate their Neanderthal rivals in Europe thanks to early dogs bred from wolves, according to a prominent American anthropologist.

Dogs were used by humans to gain a competitive edge in hunting that led to the extinction of Neanderthals on the continent 40,000 years ago, Professor Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University claims.

“We formed an alliance with the wolf and that would have been the end for the Neanderthal,” Prof Shipman told The Observer.

Her theory challenges the conventional academic wisdom that wolves were only domesticated a mere 10,000 years ago, coinciding with the rise of agriculture.

The professor believes that wolves were bred by humans as early as 70,000 years ago, when humans first came to Europe from Africa – leading to the domestic dogs we know today.

The theory would solve the mystery of why the dominant Neanderthals in Europe died out a few thousand years after the arrival of humans on the continent, despite having lived in the region for more than 200,000 years.

Prof Shipman argues that the alliance with the wolf, along with superior weapons and hunting skills, enabled humans to outwit their Neanderthal rivals and become the dominant species.

“Early wolf-dogs would have tracked and harassed animals like elk and bison and would have hounded them until they tired. Then humans would have killed them with spears or bows and arrows,” Prof Shipman said.

“This meant the dogs did not need to approach these large cornered animals to finish them off – often the most dangerous part of a hunt – while humans didn’t have to expend energy in tracking and wearing down prey.

“Dogs would have done that. Then we shared the meat. It was a win-win situation,” she added.

A study published last year found that modern humans and Neanderthals lived alongside each other in Europe for 4,000 years, exchanging culture and genes.

In Asia humans and Neanderthals could have lived side by side for up to 20,000 years, as anatomically modern humans colonised the continent long before reaching Europe.

The last Neanderthals in Europe are thought to have died out in modern-day Belgium, where they lived in caves as their numbers dwindled.

Most scientists believe that Neanderthals quickly died out after the arrival of homo sapiens to Europe, owing to competition for resources and possibly violent conflict.

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