News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 14th & 15th March 2015

President Higgins urges Irish public to ‘look to the future with optimism’

In a St Patrick’s Day message, Michael D Higgins says holiday ‘a time to come together’


President Michael D Higgins has used his St Patrick’s Day message to urge the public to look to the future with “optimism and confidence” amid indications that an economic recovery is occurring in Ireland.

President Michael D Higgins has urged the public to look to the future with “optimism and confidence” amid indications that an economic recovery is occurring in Ireland.

In his St Patrick’s Day message, Mr Higgins said he hoped for a future “underpinned by solidarity, community and the fundamental values which must lie at the heart of any just and ethical society”.

“St Patrick’s Day also marks a season of regeneration and hope,” he said. “In recent times the people of Ireland have faced difficult challenges; challenges which necessitated much tenacity and fortitude as we were required to work through testing and dark days.

“As our economy now moves slowly towards what we hope will be sustainable recovery, we are once again encouraged to look to the future with optimism and confidence.”

St Patrick’s Day, Mr Higgins said, is a time to “come together to celebrate and share our rich culture and heritage” but also to reflect on the life of our patron saint, St Patrick.

“His story was founded on hardship, destitution and great sorrow; but became a narrative of courage, vision and opportunity,” the President said. “It is a story that has been relived time and again by the many Irish people across the centuries who have left their native land to create new homes and communities in countries around the globe, and it is an experience we share with so many migrant populations all across the world, something we must never forget.”

Mr Higgins said the “Irish family stretches far and wide” and that, as a nation, “we are very conscious of the great debt of gratitude we owe to the many members of our Diaspora who remain loyal to the country in which they or their forefathers were born; generously supporting and encouraging those who remained at home and helping to shape and craft the modern Ireland we know today.”

He said the many parades and celebrations held across the world in honour of St Patrick “bear witness to, and provide a focus for, that unique bond which joins in friendship and solidarity all the Irish people and people of Irish descent wherever they may be”.

“To all those who share this island, to Irish people by birth or descent wherever they may be in the world, to those who assist and welcome them, and to those who simply consider themselves to be friends of Ireland, I wish each and every one of you a happy St. Patrick’s Day,” he added.

A PwC report from 2008 showed 22 men owed €25.5bn to their banks

The final bailout figure amounted to €64bn.


According to the PwC report which showed that 22 borrowers owed €25.5 billion to Ireland’s banks when they were guaranteed and estimated that the banks might lose €10.6 billion in a worst-case scenario.

The banks were ultimately rescued to the tune of €64 billion in taxpayer funds.

The former Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dáil in November 2008 that a PwC report ‘demonstrates, under a number of stress scenarios, that capital levels in the covered institutions will remain above regulatory levels in the period to 2011’

The confidential report from 2008 into Ireland’s banks shows that just 22 men owed up to €25.5bn to their banks.

The names include Sean Quinn, Johnny Ronan, Denis O’Brien and Sean Dunne.

The PwC report also estimated that banks would lose no more than €10.6bn at worst, though this was qualified by saying accuracy was dependent on whether the banks were truthful.

The final bailout figure amounted to €64bn.

After receiving the PwC report, then Taoiseach Brian Cowen claimed in the Dáil he was right to guarantee the banks, as they had more than enough cash to survive the next three years.

The report also shows banks were unaware of the scale of the losses they were to face. AIB told PwC its biggest impaired loan at the time was one of €31m to a chicken farmer in Poland accused of fraud.

The accountants said banks were adequately capitalised at time of 2008 guarantee, and the FF Taoiseach was advised banks might lose €10.6bn in worst-case scenario

The former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and figures from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers will face questions at the Oireachtas banking inquiry about a PwC report in November 2008, which said Ireland’s banks were adequately capitalised at the time of the State guarantee two months previously.

Mr Cowen, who is due before the inquiry in the coming months, is understood to have written to the inquiry asking which topics and documents it wishes to discuss with him when he appears.

Outgoing PwC chief Rónán Murphy is among 29 individuals the inquiry will call to hearings beginning in April.

Extraordinary amount

In Austin, Texas for his St Patrick’s Day visit to the US, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked about the heavy concentration of large bank loans to a small number of borrowers.

“It seems like an extraordinary amount of money to an extraordinary small number of individuals,” Mr Kenny replied.

He said the inquiry had a “very specific remit” to investigate the causes of the financial crisis and he had no doubt it would investigate the report on the loans.

Mr Cowen told the Dáil on November 19th, 2008, that the PwC report “confirms that all the institutions reviewed are in excess of regulatory capital requirements” when the guarantee was introduced on September 30th.

“The PwC report demonstrates, under a number of stress scenarios, that capital levels in the covered institutions will remain above regulatory levels in the period to 2011,” he told the Dáil.

The joint board of the Central Bank and the Financial Services Authority of Ireland had submitted the PwC report to the late Brian Lenihan, then minister for finance.

“The Minister has met with the governor of the Central Bank, the Financial Regulator and PricewaterhouseCoopers to discuss the report, which presents an analysis of the capital positions of the six institutions having regard to their loan book,” Mr Cowen said.

Corrib discharge pipe surfaces after big storms in north Mayo

Environmental Protection Agency says pipe was transporting ‘mainly rainwater’


The EPA says it does not believe there are any pollution risks from a pipe from the Corrib gas project has surfaced from the seabed in north Mayo, saying the pipe was transporting “mainly rainwater”.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is investigating how an outfall pipe from the Corrib gas project has surfaced from the seabed in north Mayo.

Recent storms are believed to have caused the damage, which resulted in a stretch of the pipe coming loose and floating up to the surface, where it was spotted by fishermen on Friday morning.

The EPA says it does not believe there are any pollution risks, as the pipe was transporting “mainly rainwater”.

The fishermen had been crossing Broadhaven Bay towards Porturlin when they spotted the pipe on the sea surface, and reported it.

Shell E&P Ireland, which said that it was about 800m long, confirmed that it had mobilised marine support vessels to the location.

Describing it as “plastic ducting”, the company said the pipe was used to treat discharged “treated surface water” from the Ballinaboy terminal, as per its licence from the EPA.

“Once the offshore team has assessed the situation, a remedial plan to reposition the ducting on the seabed will be carried out,” the company said.

“As gas from the Corrib offshore field has not started to flow, no produced water is being discharged to sea,” it said.

The incident is an embarrassment to the company which has emphasised the high standards applied in constructing the Corrib gas project.

Erris fisherman Pat O’Donnell, who was jailed for seven months for offences related to his opposition to the project, said that “this should not have happened”.

“This is what we fought against, and we are so lucky that there were no pollutants in the pipe,” he said.

The outfall or discharge pipe was laid to carry marine emissions from the Corrib gas terminal at Ballinaboy out to sea off Erris Head.

Originally, it was intended to discharge chemical contaminants, but the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association campaigned for an alternative due to fears about impact on marine life.

It secured a commitment that contaminants would be pumped back into the wellhead 83 km offshore.

A legal agreement copperfastening this was signed by Shell with the fishermen in 2008, but required a change to its EPA emissions licence.

Guess what age we are at our most happiest?


You might look back fondly on memories of crazy times at university or a booming social life as a 20-something, but it’s in our 30s when we may just see our happiness blossom.

Two thousand people over 40 were asked to reflect on their levels of happiness throughout different stages of their lives, highlighting key moments within each decade.

Their verdict revealed, on average, people enjoy the best year of their life at the age of 34, having been able to tie the knot, start a family and make strides in their career.

Not only was this the happiest year but the one when we are more comfortable within ourselves too – earning enough money to get on the property ladder, meeting monthly payments with confidence and beginning to start enjoying the finer things in life.

Of the participants who chose their 20s as the happiest, they cited the freedom, social life and career progression as the reasons behind their preferred decade.

Those who pinpointed a year in their 40s as the best for them, were spurred on by the fact they were able to enjoy watching their children grow up and purchase a bigger home.

The 50s were highlighted as the best for some due to their children leaving the nest, paying off the mortgage and even starting afresh after a divorce as the stimulants.

“The study reminds us of the many treasured memories and experiences to be had at every stage of life and the foundation of many of those is a happy and secure home life,” said Yale’s MD Nigel Fisher, who led the study.

“The same can be said for the memories and associations a family home holds, whether it’s family dinners every Sunday, building a den in the living room with the kids, or BBQs with friends in the garden.”

Yellowstone hot spring turned green by good luck coins


The spring ‘Fading Glory’ as it appears now

A famous hot spring in Yellowstone Park in the United States has turned from a deep blue to surreal green and yellow as a result of visitors using it as a wishing well.

The ‘Morning Glory’ hot spring pool in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming has changed dramatically since the 1950s, thanks to an accumulation of coins, rubbish and natural debris.

It is now popularly known as Fading Glory, due to the transformation from its original colour to the present yellowy-green hue.

Nearly three million tourists flock to Yellowstone each year and many, perhaps seeking wish fulfilment, throw a coin into a spring.

In the case of Fading Glory, debris, largely coins and rocks thrown by tourists, started to clog up the vents and water circulation was affected.

This lowered the temperature of the water and caused a migration of orange-coloured thermophilic bacteria towards the centre of the pool.

Adam Hoffman, writing in Science Friday said: “Pigments produced by swaths of those microbes – called microbial mats are responsible”

However he says the pool, whilst perhaps no longer naturally beautiful, has its own aesthetic merits, calling its yellows, green and oranges “brilliant.”

Wireless energy sent 170 feet through the air


Japanese scientists have succeeded in transmitting energy wirelessly, in a key step that could one day make solar power generation in space a possibility, an official said Thursday.

Researchers used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power — enough to run an electric kettle — through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver 55 meters (170 feet) away.

Devices like charging pads are popping up in stores. These pads can charge your phone wirelessly. Would it be possible to power everything in your house that way? Trace explains how a technology similar to WiFi could soon become normal.

While the distance was not huge, the technology could pave the way for mankind to eventually tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth, a spokesman for The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

“This was the first time anyone has managed to send a high output of nearly two kilowatts of electric power via microwaves to a small target, using a delicate directivity control device,” he said.

JAXA has been working on devising Space Solar Power Systems for years, the spokesman said.

Solar power generation in space has many advantages over its Earth-based cousin, notably the permanent availability of energy, regardless of weather or time of day.

While man-made satellites, such as the International Space Station, have long since been able to use the solar energy that washes over them from the sun, getting that power down to Earth where people can use it has been the thing of science fiction.

But the Japanese research offers the possibility that humans will one day be able to farm an inexhaustible source of energy in space.

The idea, said the JAXA spokesman, would be for microwave-transmitting solar satellites — which would have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae — to be set up about 36,000 kilometers (22,300 miles) from the earth.

“But it could take decades before we see practical application of the technology — maybe in the 2040s or later,” he said.

“There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them.”

The idea of space-based solar power generation emerged among US researchers in the 1960s and Japan’s SSPS program, chiefly financed by the industry ministry, started in 2009, he said.

Resource-poor Japan has to import huge amounts of fossil fuel. It has become substantially more dependent on these imports as its nuclear power industry shut down in the aftermath of the disaster at Fukushima in 2011.


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