News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 21st & 22nd March 2015

Most Irish people want credit unions to merge, and provide ATMs,

debit cards and online banking


A majority of Irish adults are in favour of credit unions joining forces.

Research by Behaviour and Attitudes found 84% are in favour of mergers, and the provision of an enhanced range of products and services.

More than a quarter of those surveyed said they would consider moving to a credit union account for day-to-day banking if a full range of services were provided.

These services include ATM and debit cards, longer opening hours and online banking according to the research, which was carried out for the Credit Union Restructuring Board.

Ireland’s special tax deals meet EU rules, says Taoiseach Kenny


Ireland has nothing to fear from EU moves to oblige us to reveal all special tax arrangements with multinational companies over the past decade, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny insists.

Mr Kenny has also signalled that the Government will step up its efforts to ease EU restrictions on increased public spending ahead of the next general election.

The single currency membership rules, to which Ireland has signed up, fix tight spending limits which would seriously limit tax cuts and increased welfare payments ahead of the election expected next spring.

Mr Kenny said that while Ireland accepts the rules, “we are in a very different position to that we were in four years ago”.

He said: “Hopefully we can continue to reduce the taxation burden so that people next year will continue to see another modest increase in their take-home pay.”

However, the Opposition accused the Government of trying to clear the way for a giveaway budget to “buy” the election.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s tax arrangements with multinational companies are again in the spotlight. Last Wednesday, the EU Commission cleared a new proposal to oblige all 28 member countries to exchange all international company tax “rulings” which were struck over the past decade and still remain in force.

The plan, which all 28 member governments must approve, would involve confidential circulation each quarter of new tax deals done with multinationals.

Within weeks, a verdict on a special EU investigation into Ireland’s tax dealings with the computer giant Apple is expected.

The Brussels executive has also announced the launch in June of a fresh effort to harmonise company taxes across all 28 EU members, as the previous effort has remained blocked since 2011.

After the summit in Brussels, Mr Kenny said he was confident Ireland’s deals with multinationals can stand up to scrutiny.

“Ireland has been very clear that we will stand over and defend our position on this in all circumstances,” he said.

He also cited the abolition of the “stateless concept” two budgets ago, and the phasing out of the “double-Irish” tax scheme last year.

Renua Ireland Linda and party gang visit Sligo


Lucinda Creighton.

Lucinda Creighton brought her backroom team to Sligo for their final supporter’s meeting before the launch of Renua Ireland on last Friday.

The Dublin South East TD met with up to 20 supporters in the Radisson Hotel to discuss the new party and its policies.

Ms Creighton was joined by celebrity financial advisor and TV presenter Eddie Hobbs, independent Offaly County Councillor John Leahy and several backroom volunteers such as reserve member of the defence forces Liam McCabe and Ciara Ahern.

The Claremorris native, who was also accompanied by her teacher sister, spoke of the current “dysfunctional democratic machine” and how her new political party would put Irish citizens first.

Eddie Hobbs explained why he joined the party and said a “mood of anger had turned to intolerance” for all political parties, both in government and in opposition.

People showed up from all over the North West, from Donegal to Roscommon, Leitrim and Mayo. Women were vastly outnumbered by men at the meeting – there were about four women to 16 men present. Participants included business owners, secondary school principals, a retired former CEO of an Enterprise board, HSE staff and Mart managers.

Liam McCabe told the meeting that they were building 40 constituency teams within seven regions around the country. Sligo will be in the North West Regional team.

The next North West Regional AGM will be held in the G Hotel, Galway on March 30th. Mr McCabe said they would look at using technology such as Skype to cater for Sligo people who may not be able to attend the AGM in Galway.

Oireachtas Committee to listen to Virgin Atlantic worries on Aer Lingus sale


Representatives of Virgin Atlantic could be asked to appear before a group of TDs and Senators to discuss their concerns over the possible sale of Aer Lingus.

The airline established by Richard Branson claims the proposed take over by IAG would have an adverse effect on ticket prices, connectivity and quality of service, meaning that Irish consumers would lose out.

VAA is bringing its concerns to the European Commission.

Fianna Fáil’s transport spokesman Timmy Dooley wants them to come before the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

Mr Dooley said: “My understanding is that they have deep concerns about a tie-up between Aer Lingus and IAG and the impact it will have on competition from an Irish and European perspective.

“They are seeking some redress from the European Commission.

“It is my intention through the joint Oireachtas Committee to have an invitation extended to Virgin Atlantic to come before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport to outline their concerns.”

Kissing your dog could improve your health scientists say


Researchers at the University of Arizona believe microbes in a dog’s gut may have a probiotic effect on the human body.

Smooching or kissing  your pet dog could actually be good for your health.

They dip their noses into all sorts of unsavoury places – but smooching your pet dog could actually be good for your health. Researchers at the University Arizona (UA) believe that the microbes contained in a dog’s gut could have a probiotic effect on the human body – encouraging the growth of positive microorganisms.

And now these scientists are recruiting participants in the hope of proving their hypothesis.

“We’ve co-evolved with dogs over the millennia, but nobody really understands what it is about this dog-human relationship that makes us feel good about being around dogs,” said Kim Kelly, an anthropology doctoral student and one of the primary investigators on the study.

“Is it just that they’re fuzzy and we like to pet them, or is there something else going on under the skin? The question really is: Has the relationship between dogs and humans gotten under the skin? And we believe it has.”

The study is being conducted under the university’s new Human-Animal Interaction Research Initiative, which aims to bring researchers from different disciplines together, to explore the mutual benefits of human-animal relationships.

Kelly will work alongside collaborators from the UA Department of Psychiatry, the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, the UA School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, and the University of California, San Diego, in order to explore whether living with a furry companion boosts physical and mental health in older adults.

“We essentially want to find out, is a dog acting like yogurt in having a probiotic effect?” Kelly said.

Previous research has shown that dog-owners tend to be happier and healthier – but there has been little understanding of the reasons behind this. Meanwhile, other studies have shown that dogs and their owners share much of the same gut bacteria over time.

“We think dogs might work as probiotics to enhance the health of the bacteria that live in our guts. These bacteria, or ‘microbiota,’ are increasingly recognized as playing an essential role in our mental and physical health, especially as we age,” said Dr. Charles Raison, principal investigator for the study and a UA professor of psychiatry in the College of Medicine.

“We know that not all bacteria are good. We can get very sick from the ‘bad’ bacteria, and modern medicine has done a wonderful job of protecting us from various diseases that are created by these bacteria,” said Raison.

“But unfortunately, by eliminating the bad bacteria we’ve started eliminating the ‘good’ bacteria, too.”

Participants in the study will be paired with a dog from the humane society and live with the animal in their home for three months. At the start of the study the researchers will non-invasively evaluate the participants’ gut bacteria, diet, physical activity levels and immune function. The dogs’ gut bacteria and physical activity levels also will be measured via non-invasive means.

These tests will be repeated after one, two and three months to find out if there have been any positive impacts on gut microflora in either the humans or the dogs.

The researchers will also look for evidence of any changes in both the participants’ and the dogs’ health and emotional well-being.

The participants will all be aged over 50 and will not have lived with a dog for at least six months.

Govt committed to safeguarding forest resources:

Says Mushahidullah Khan


The Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan has said that the government is committed to safeguard existing forest resources and increase area under forests from below 5% of the total land mass of the country.

“I will leave no stone unturned to achieve this ambitious goal for the sake of our present and future generations’ healthy lives and sustainable environment,” he made these remarks in a statement issued on the occasion of World Forest Day observed on Saturday.

The federal minister said that boosting tree plantation at all levels was a must for protecting humans, animals and plants from delirious impacts of global warming. He added that through plantation “we will secure future of our existing and future generations from the devastating impacts of climate change causing carbon emissions, particularly carbon dioxide”.

He added that failure in this regard would only continue to expose humans and every kind of life on earth to harmful effects of global warming. He said, “This year’s World Forest Day (WFD) is being marked across the world including Pakistan under the theme ‘Forests and Climate Change’, which highlights forest-based solutions to address climate change.

Mushahidullah said, “This global celebration of forests provides a platform to raise awareness about the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests.” Forests and trees offer key solution to the most of the disasters triggered by climate change including (flash) floods, land erosion, river erosion, landslides and forest fires, he said. “They also sustain and protect us in invaluable ways by providing clean air that we breathe and water we drink,” he added.

The minister further said, “They host and safeguard the planet’s biodiversity and act as our natural defence against climate change. Life on earth is made possible and sustainable thanks to forests and trees.” Talking about benefits of forests, he said that they constitute the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Besides, they also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent communities, he added.

He also said that while playing an important part in the battle for adapting to and mitigating climate change, the forests are valued for balancing oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air as well as protecting watersheds, which supply 75 percent of freshwater worldwide and nearly the same amount in Pakistan.

“Yet despite all these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forests are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change,” the minister deplored.

Appreciating the role of forest officials at Climate Change Ministry, Mushahidullah said that the country last year won $3.8 million grant from the World Bank through its Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) under the Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) facility.

Pakistan was among 27 developing countries who were competing for the funding to boost forestation in their respective countries through REDD+ projects. But only eight countries were selected and “our country is luckily among them, which is no doubt a huge success”, he said.

The minister said that REDD+ is an opportunity of unprecedented significance as it offers incentives for developing countries like Pakistan to tackle deforestation and invest in low-carbon pathways to sustainable development. The grant of $3.8 million would be used over a period of two years for readiness activity and capacity building, he added.


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