Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Thursday 19th March 2015

John Perry Sligo/Leitrim TD one of the many TDs who has hired family members “like his Wife”


John Perry TD: Stepped down as minister of State for small business in July of last year in a Government reshuffle.

Fine Gael TD John Perry is one of dozens of TDs who have appointed relations to positions during the lifetime of this Dáil.

Mr Perry appointed his wife Marie Mulvey last year as his parliamentary assistant on January 2nd this year.

The TD for Sligo-North Leitrim stepped down as minister of State for small business in July of last year in a Government reshuffle.

His wife Marie began working for him as parliamentary assistant in January this year on a salary of between €38,760 and €49,035, according to RTÉ.

The practice of TDs hiring relations is not encouraged and Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it should to be done if at all possible. Mr Perry has had financial difficulties in recent years arising from his businesses and property interests in Ballymote, Co Sligo.

Many other TDs have hired family members, usually one of two full-time positions for which they get State funding: parliamentary assistant and secretarial assistance.

Labour Minister of State Seán Sherlock employed his sister Úna Willis as a secretarial assistant based in East Cork. Ms Willis has worked with Mr Sherlock and their late father, Joe, who was a TD for Cork East until 2007.

His colleague Willie Penrose, representing Longford-Westmeath, has employed his brother Johnnie Penrose as his parliamentary assistant, taking him on in 2007.

Family connection’s, 

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett has employed his daughter Jaci, as his parliamentary assistant in the last Dáil term and also in this Dáil. term.

The Fine Gael TD for Kerry South Brendan Griffin hired his wife Róisín as his secretarial assistant and his cousin Tommy as his parliamentary assistant. Mr Griffin decided in 2011 that he would accept only half his TDs salary.

His Fine Gael colleague Andrew Doyle (Wicklow) took on his sister Eithne who job-shared the parliamentary assistant role since summer 2007.

Bernard Durkan, also from Fine Gael, hired his son Tim as an assistant in his Dáil office.

Jack Wall, the Labour Party TD for Kildare South, hired his son Mark, who is also a county councillor, as his parliamentary secretary, a role he filled since 2006.

Kildare North Independent TD Catherine Murphy employed her daughter Yvonne on a temporary basis as a parliamentary assistant. When the TD was made the whip for the technical group, Yvonne worked in that office but members of the technical group made contributions to her salary.

Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney, while still in the Labour Party, hired his wife Deirdre on a temporary basis. At the time, he said at least 27 Oireachtas members had members of their family working for them.

Similarly, South Tipperary Independent TD Mattie McGrath employed his daughter Tríona in the parliamentary assistant role. His niece Kathy was employed as his secretarial assistant.

Kerry Labour Party TD Arthur Spring took on his brother Graham as his parliamentary secretary.

“It was nothing to do with following or not following recommendations. It was about getting the best person to do the job and I’d hire him 10 times over if I could,” he said.

Independent TD Joan Collins’s partner Dermot Connollywas one of two people job-sharing the parliamentary assistant’s role in her office. Mr Connolly is also very involved in Dublin South Central as a political organiser.

Renua Ireland account now forced to change it’s name


Having failed to register their name on Facebook, it looks like Renua Ireland will have the last laugh as the “Renua Ireland” parody account says they have been forced to change their name.

Online pranksters snapped up the ‘Renua Ireland’ community page moments after the party was officially launched last Friday by Luncinda Creighton and Eddie Hobbs and immediately began poking fun at the party and its policies.

But now the viral hit, which has 9,000 or so more Facebook likes than its more serious counterpart, has posted that it is to “reboot and change [its] name”.

In a post, it suggests that a complaint may have been filed with Facebook administrators as it hints that “lawyerbots” were involved with the decision.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with poor PR skills, complaining to Facebook about a vastly more popular page that was set up first with a similar name. Oh, no…,” says the post.

“We expect our page name and URL will change in the not too distant future. Thank you for your continued support and please help spread the word.”

Already boasting more Facebook likes than other political party including Fine Gael, which only has 9,357 despite being the country’s largest political party, the page has been a big hit with Facebook users.

The ‘real’ Renua Ireland could not be reached for comment and it is not known if they are responsible for the parody page’s removal.

Ireland’s €40m drug problem?

Almost half a million of all patients on anxiety & depression drugs


Almost 2.3 million prescriptions were written for anxiety epression drugs in 2012, enough to cover more than half the population.

An Irish Examiner investigation has found 330,000 public patients were prescribed those drugs that year at a cost of €40m to the State.

The figure is likely to be closer to 500,000 when private patients are taken into account.

It also found substantial variations in prescribing rates and in the cost of drugs around the country.

In some counties, one in five public patients are prescribed anxiety and depression drugs compared to one in 10 in other regions.

The figures are based on an analysis of the top five most frequently prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs under the General Medical Services (GMS) scheme in 2012.

The number of prescriptions written for all five drugs increased between 2011 and 2012, by up to 25% in the case of anti-depressant Sertraline.

In Limerick, 10% of the total population was prescribed anti-anxiety pills or anti-depressants, the highest percentage in the country. This figure jumps to 21% for those with medical cards

In South Tipperary, 9.9% of population are on anti-depressants, rising to 21.7% of those with medical cards.

In the Cork North Lee area, just under one-in-10 people are using these drugs, rising to one-in-five for those with medical cards.

The percentage was lowest in Dublin South, at 4.3%.

One possible explanation is that medical card coverage in Limerick is 47%, compared to 20% in Dublin South, therefore more prescriptions were issued under the GMS scheme.

However, this argument is challenged by the figures for Donegal, where 56% of the population has a medical card (the highest percentage in the country) but where the percentage of the total population prescribed these drugs is lower than Limerick, at 7.3%.

The populations of both areas are similar.

Digging deeper, the percentage of GMS patients prescribed these drugs in Donegal is the lowest in the country.

In fact, the figure is just over one in 10 (13%) compared to one in five in many other areas of the country. The percentage is highest in Cork South Lee, at 23.5%.

The State spent almost €40m on 2.3m prescriptions for the top five in 2012, covering 330,000 patients.

However, if we were to include private prescriptions, it would push the figure closer to 500,000.

This is at a time when less than a quarter of the 251 mental health posts approved for last year have been filled.

Martin Kenneally, director at the Centre for Policy Studies at University College Cork, who has published a working paper Why Do Drug Prescribing Rates Differ Across Irish Regions said it is hard to understand the variations “in the absence of any in-depth research linking them with the prevalence of illness”.

Mr Kenneally’s paper found the GMS prescribing rate in the north west was “around 25% below the national GMS norm”, which echoes our findings here.

He also found substantial variations, as did we, in the cost of public medicines in the different regions.

To date however, Mr Kenneally said, “these regional differences have attracted little research attention”.

For example, Diazepam, brand name Valium, the most popular benzodiazepine under the GMS scheme, costs €24.49 per patient in Donegal and €59.27 in Dublin North Central.

The most prescriptions for Diazepam are written in Cork North Lee, where the cost per patient is €40.99, more than €15 dearer than Donegal.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Siobhán Barry, writing into today’s Irish Examiner, said the variations in prescribing described here provided grounds for “a more in-depth analysis by health economists”.

In relation to therapies available to public patients diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or depression, we asked the HSE if they were offered therapy or counselling as a first treatment step.

The HSE said those with mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression would “usually be offered therapy at primary care level” under its Counselling in Primary Care (CIPC)”.

However, when asked how many patients are on the waiting list to access to CIPC, the HSE said there were 478 waiting longer than three months; 39 waiting longer than six months; and six waiting more than nine months.

The HSE blamed most of the delays on “specific requirements” of patients, “for example, they can only attend on a Monday morning, or after 4pm, or are waiting to be seen in a particular area”.

Galway registered the highest number of prescriptions per person, with a prescription rate of 8.4 compared to an average of six to seven per person across most local health offices.

the Top pills?

– Escitalopram (Lexapro), up 9.3%, from 542,317 in 2011 to 592,704 in 2012.

– Diazepam (Valium/Anticalm), up 1.6%, from 506,508 to 514,350.

– Alprazolam (Xanax), up 2%, from 456,466 to 465,698.

– Venlafaxine (Efexor/Venlofex), up 11.2%, from 353,005 to 392,615.

– Mirtazapine (Mirap/Mirtazapin), up 18%, from 256,431 to 302,586.

– Citalopram (Cipramil), up just under 1%, from 295,998 to 298,648.

– Sertraline (Lustral), up 25%, from 185,312 to 231,500.

 – Number of prescriptions written for each drug under the GMS between 2011 and 2012

1.23 Million Irish households have now registered with Irish Water


Irish water has announced that a further 130,000 households have registered with the utility in the past month.

This now brings the total number of validated households 1.23 million.

Around 990,000 of those registered are Irish Water customers with the rest having their own private means of obtaining water.

The company estimate that the 1.23 million households registered make up 66% of their potential total customer base.

A grant?: The company say that they expect registrations to continue in the coming weeks ahead of bills being issued in April. Registration is required for households to be eligible for the water conservation grant.

All households across the country are entitled to this water conservation grant.

This grant is for €100 and is also available to those already paying for their own water supply through a group scheme or a private well.

The company say that 150,000 households are yet to register their details with the company and are being advised to do so to ensure they receive the correct bill and that they receive the conservation grant.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has yet to announce the deadline for applying for the conservation grant.

The billing? : Customers can expect to receive their first bills from April onwards with them being sent out over an eight week cycle.

This means that some customers will not receive their first bills until June. This will be repeated in each billing cycle, meaning that customers can expect a bill about every 12 weeks.

Speaking about the forthcoming bills, Head of Communications and Corporate Affairs at Irish Water, Elizabeth Arnett, said, “for those who are not customers and still wish to avail of the government’s water conservation grant, they should contact us as soon as possible to register their details and secure the Irish Water account number they will need.”

Irish state facing fines of up to €100m after European finding’s on doctors’ hours


A court of Justice says Ireland has failed to meet obligations under Working Time Directive for training doctors.

In opinion published on Thursday Luxembourg Court states workers are entitled to a minimum rest periods, and Ireland’s decision to exclude training time from the calculation of doctors’ working time “encroaches on that minimum rest period”.

Ireland could face fines of up to €100 million if the European Court of Justice finds the State is in breach of a directive governing the maximum hours of work for non-consultant doctors, the Irish Medical Organisation has said.

The advocate general at the European Court of Justice, in an opinion published on Thursday, said Ireland had failed to fulfil its commitment under the EU’s working time directive in relation to doctors’ working hours.

The opinion said that by excluding the training hours of non-consultant hospital doctors from the concept of “working time,” the State was in breach of European law.

While the opinion by the Advocate General is not the final judgment, in the vast majority of cases the Court upholds the opinion.

The Irish Medical Organisation said if the advocate general’s opinion was upheld, the State could face fines of up to €100 million as well as an additional €1 million for every day the breach of the directive continued.

Under current arrangements the work of non-consultant doctors in public hospitals is divided between time spent treating patients and protected time for training.

In the opinion published on Thursday, the Luxembourg Court states workers are entitled to a minimum rest period, and Ireland’s decision to exclude training time from the calculation of doctors’ working time “encroaches on that minimum rest period”.

The Advocate General also points out that participation in a training programme is obligatory for trainee doctors.

“Contrary…to the impression that Ireland wishes to convey, the two aspects of the activity performed by non-consultant hospital doctors – their provision of medical care and their training – are intrinsically linked,” the opinion states.

It adds that the aim of the EU working time directive is “to guarantee better protection of the safety and health of workers by ensuring that they are entitled to minimum rest periods – particularly daily and weekly – and adequate breaks and by setting the maximum average duration of the working week at 48 hours, which is expressly stated to encompass overtime.”

A full judgment will be delivered within the next three to six months.

The Irish Medical Organisation welcomed the decision of the advocate general.

Eric Young, assistant director of industrial relations at the Irish Medical Organisation said it represented a significant vindication for non-consultant hospital doctors and a significant rebuke for the health services in Ireland.

“This verdict must be a wake-up call for the Irish Government. For years they have forced non-consultant hospital doctors to work excessive hours and that has caused immense hardship and helped create the morale crisis which is forcing young doctors to emigrate from Ireland.”

“We should not have to rely on intervention from Europeon matters like this. Ireland’s health service managers must take responsibility and fulfil their legal obligations to employees and to ensure that patients are dealt with in a safe environment. While progress was made in the 2013 agreement that brought an end to the NCHDs stoppages of that year, there remains enormous work to be done. The target agreed at that time (2013) was that all hospitals would be fully compliant with the European Working Time Directive by the end of December last but that is still not the case. “

He said the Irish Medical Organisation estimated that there were still 230 non-consultant hospital doctors in over 21 hospitals working more than 24 hours. He said some were forced d to work 32 hour shifts.

Mr Young said 33% of non-consultant hospital doctors were routinely required to work in excess of the legal 48-hour limit and he said this situation had to be addressed.

“Removal of the protected training time will make this situation worse.”

The Department of Health and the HSE have not yet made any comment on the decision published on Thursday by the advocate general.

Friday’s solar eclipse is like nothing we’ll see for another 19 years


This is not quite a total solar eclipse, but it’s pretty close.

This Friday, a rare total solar eclipse will be visible across parts of Greenland, Europe, and North Africa. Not only is this the only total solar eclipse in 2015, but it’s the last of its kind for another 19 years.

There are a few things that makes this eclipse so rare:

(Sadly for the US, the eclipse won’t be visible from North America but here’s how to watch live online.)

It’s the only total solar eclipse of 2015. Total solar eclipses are pretty rare just by themselves. On average, there are usually only one to two total solar eclipses a year. After Friday’s event, there are four more total solar eclipses taking place between now and the year 2020.

It’s the first total solar eclipse of the 21st century that occurs on the same day as the first day of spring. To have the moon block out the sun on the same day as the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring, is even more rare.

It won’t happen again until the year 2034.

And after that, the only other two such events will be in 2053 and 2072 before the next turn of the century.

Certain solar eclipses occur in periodic cycles and this one is part of the Saros cycle 120 — a highly studied set of eclipses.

The Saros cycle 120 refers to a very specific set of solar eclipses that take place every 18 years and is visible from the same regions on Earth because of where in space the moon and Earth are relative to the sun. The first documented Saros cycle solar eclipse took place in 933 AD. The next one in the cycle will take place on March 30 in 2033. There are other Saros cycles that refer either to other solar eclipses with different alignments between the earth, moon, and sun or certain lunar eclipses.

And to top it off, the moon will look larger than usual during Friday’s event. The moon isn’t always the same distance from Earth in its orbit. When it’s either a full moon or a new moon and is closest to Earth, like the new moon on Thrusday, March 19, we call it a supermoon. Full moons that are also supermoons can appear as much as 14% larger in the sky.

There are, on average, four to six supermoons every year.

Don’t expect a spectacular view of the supermoon this time around, though. It’s really only impressive when it is full, but sadly, a solar eclipse can only take place when the moon is between Earth and the sun, which is also when the moon is in it’s new moon phase, which is invisible in our night sky.

The next supermoon that coincides with a brilliantly bright full moon will be this year on September 27, and, unlike tomorrow’s event, everyone with clear skies will get a chance to see the show.


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