News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 23rd March 2015

Lucinda Creighton calls for inquiry into Phil Hogan’s meetings with Bord Gáis

Lack of documentation about set-up of Irish Water ‘appalling’ and ‘unacceptable’

  

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton said the idea that you could have discussions about all aspects of the establishment of a major utility, yet have no notes of those meetings, was “just not credible”.

Lucinda Creighton is seeking a formal inquiry into the lack of full documentation of meetings between then minister for the environment Phil Hogan and Bord Gáis Éireann chairwoman Rose Hynes about the establishment of Irish Water.

The Renua Ireland leader said an inquiry should be conducted by the Oireachtas environment committee into what she described as “appalling” and “unacceptable” practice.

She said the idea that you could have a general discussion about all aspects of the establishment of a major utility, including issues such as staffing levels, water metering, 12-year agreements with local authorities, yet have no notes of those meetings, was “just not credible”.

Ms. Creighton’s comments this week follow the revelations that no records were kept of meetings in October and November 2012 at Mr Hogan’s Leinster House office at a time when significant issues about Irish Water’s establishment were being decided.

During Irish Water’s first six months, April to September 2012, 23 meetings took place between Bord Gáis and the department, but only 10 were minuted. There were four meetings between Mr Hogan and Bord Gáis officials, two of them with Ms Hynes.

Bord Gáis said it was customary for such meetings to take place without recording what was discussed.

A Department of Environment spokesman said that “as officials were not present at the meetings the agendas or reports of the meetings are not generally available and therefore are a matter for those present”.

Leo Varadkar plans to bring in new organ donor law

  

At the launch of Organ Donor Awareness Week, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar revealed that he is planning to introduce new legislation to allow people to opt out of organ donation rather than opt in.

Mr Varadkar was launching the Organ Donor Awareness Week campaign at the Mansion House on Monday afternoon with ambassador Mary Kennedy.

The Minister announced he would be putting forward legislation aimed at changing the way organ donation happens in this country. Mr Varadkar also admitted that until Monday, he didn’t have an organ donation card.

“The heads of the human tissue bill will be introduced before the end of this year. I see a time when organ donation becomes the norm when people pass away,” he said.

The Irish Kidney Association hopes to encourage more organ donations through the campaign, which runs from 28 March to 4 April.

It comes as the 30th anniversary of heart transplantation at the Mater Hospital in Dublin approaches, along with the 10th anniversary of lung transplantation in Ireland.

Last year, there was a drop in the number of organ donations with 63 deceased donors, in comparison to 86 in 2013. In 2014, 251 people were given organ donations, down from 294 in 2013.

More than 700 people in Ireland are currently awaiting heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants, while more than 3,000 people in the country have received organ donations.

Chief executive of the Irish Kidney Association, Mark Murphy, said that greater cross-border co-operation is needed to save more lives.

He said Dr Tim Brown from Belfast City Hospital carries out transplant operations in Dublin during his holidays.

Mr Murphy added that the primary focus for the Irish Kidney Association was now to increase awareness.

“Talk to your family and let them know what your organ donation preferences are,” he said. “The Organ Procurement Service’s transition period gives us hope in future years that the organ donor rates for Ireland will be far better than they are now. The commencement of an audit of organ donor activity inside the country’s intensive care facilities is essential.”

Stroke vigilance urged as data shows women more at risk

42% more women than men died of stroke in Ireland in 2013, CSO figures show

  

Website of the Irish Heart Foundation. The foundation says the main reason more women die from stroke is that they live longer than men, resulting in a greater likelihood of being affected by the disease.

The Irish Heart Foundation is urging women to be extra vigilant of the warning signs of stroke ahead of National Stroke Week.

Provisional figures released by the Central Statistics Office showed 42 per cent more women than men died of stroke in Ireland during 2013.

In total 1,174 women died in 2013 out of a national total of 2,001 stroke-related deaths.

According to the foundation, the main reason more women die from stroke is that they live longer than men, resulting in a greater likelihood of being affected by the disease.

Atrial fibrillation

Other factors are also at play such as the higher risk of stroke in women with atrial fibrillation than men with the same condition.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat and is associated with strokes that are more severe and more likely to be fatal.

In Counties such as Carlow, Clare, Offaly, Monaghan, Roscommon and Sligo, the difference was even higher, with stroke-related mortality among women close to or exceeding double the rates of men.

In Laois the rate was almost three times higher.

Kilkenny and Leitrim were the only two counties that had higher mortality among men.

Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy Chris Macey said stroke is Ireland’s third biggest killer disease.

Call ambulance

He said people should be aware of the symptoms and understand that the only response when the condition strikes is to call an ambulance immediately.

Mr Macey said stroke kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer in Ireland and called on women to be aware of the “FAST” warning signs.

The FAST acronym stands for: Face – has the person’s face fallen on one side?

Arms: can they raise both arms and keep them there? Speech: is their speech slurred? Time: time to call 999 if you see any one of these signs.

Lifestyle changes such as drinking in moderation, not smoking, being more active and improving diet can have a dramatic impact on lowering stroke risk.

The foundation said it is estimated 40% of strokes could be prevented through better control of blood pressure.

Mother told she has weeks to live urges others to get simple blood test

    

A woman in her 50s who was diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer has urged women from their 20s upwards to get a simple blood test, which can diagnose the potential killer disease.

The mother of two Anne Herlihy (pictured above) described the disease as a “sneaky killer”, as she has never been in physical pain and never believed her symptoms, which masqueraded as minor ailments, were anything else.

“If I had only understood that bloating and fatigue, indigestion, nausea, bladder urgency, change in bowel habits, and the feeling of fullness, was something to do with ovarian cancer, I would definitely have pushed it with my GP,” explained Anne, from Charleville, Co Cork.

“I was diagnosed last December with stage four terminal ovarian cancer. I was told I had had it for at least one and a half years before the symptoms really made me go to a doctor.”

Despite living in the shadow of her declining health, Anne spoke out publicly to raise awareness among other women.

“Women lead such busy lives between rearing a family, working (and) working within the home, that they tend to put the symptoms down to minor things and don’t go to the GP.”

“When they do go to the GP it is sometimes wrongly diagnosed, or the proper tests are not taken. At the moment there is no screening to help prevent ovarian cancer but there is a blood test that can be done in your GP called a CA125,” she told the Limerick Today talk show on alive 95FM today.

Anne initially underwent a colonoscopy, but because the cancer was hidden, the results came back all clear. After becoming more and more bloated she was admitted to hospital where doctors told her she had ovarian cancer, and that it had spread to her lungs and her chest cavity.

“It was like being hit by a truck both for my husband and for myself, and it was the thoughts of having to come home and tell my family was the most difficult part,” Anne said as she fought back tears. Anne has two adult children.

“I’m 52. Ovarian cancer doesn’t discriminate (between ages). It’s usually for women in the over 60/70 age group but I’m on an online forum where women (aged in their 20s) have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. That seems to be the problem – there isn’t awareness of the symptoms.

Anne, who was given around 12 weeks to live last December, said she is unsure how long she has left to live. She has recently finished a bout of chemotherapy and is receiving a cancer maintenance drug.

“Women have to push for these tests, and hopefully (my story) will save somebody’s life…That’s basically what I have to say today; If women push for tests, I might be lucky, it might save a life.”

White tea and its anti-cancer benefits

 

Few of us can get through the day without sipping on a comforting hot drink at some point. It’s relaxing, rehydrates and can stave off cravings for unhealthy snacks. But if you’re in a tea-shaped rut, it could be time to mix things up a bit with white tea.

There are four main types of white tea: Silver Needle, White Peony, Long Life Eyebrow and Tribute Eyebrow. Head to your local health shop and ask for assistance if you want a bit of help choosing the one for you. But just what makes this drink so great?

Antioxidants

While black and green tea are great, white tea is the least processed, meaning you’ll reap even more rewards for drinking it. It’s packed with antioxidants, which fight free radicals and are particularly necessary if you live in a polluted area, such as a big city.

Health benefits

White tea can claim some pretty amazing things, one of them being that it could help prevent cancer. That’s thanks to the flavonoids, which have been proven to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. White tea can also thin the blood and lower blood pressure, help lower cholesterol, protect the heart and strengthen your bones. Not bad for a brew!

A sparkling smile

White tea contains some fluoride, which is great for your general oral health and keeping teeth and gums in top condition. It also kills bacteria that cause bad breath and decay.

Glowing skin

Forget slapping on products, real beauty comes from the inside. If you drink white tea, you should notice a brightening of your complexion thanks to its free radical fighting power. The effects of sun damage, a poor diet and stress can all be partially reversed by consuming white tea.

The taste

Not everyone likes the taste of herbal or green tea, but white tea tastes naturally sweet and is much more enjoyable for many people. In addition to this, it’s low in caffeine – brilliant if you’re sensitive to it or just want to try and cut down.

Calls for global action as Arctic sea ice hits record low

  Glacier retreat is being measured by scientists.

Glaciers are melting faster than previously recorded, scientists say.

The Arctic sea ice cover recorded this year is the lowest since satellite records began, scientists say, prompting renewed calls for action and stark warnings on the impact of the warming Arctic on global sea levels.

The annual ‘maximum extent’ of ice covering in the Arctic marks the beginning of the sea ice melt season and is used by scientists to calculate the level of cover.

Science Correspondent Alok Jha has been to the northernmost city in the Arctic, where scientists have been measuring glacial retreat and reporting worrying findings on the state of the climate that they are hoping global leaders will heed.

This year’s findings, released in the past week, from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), rang alarm bells with scientists across the globe.

On February 25, 2015, Arctic sea ice extent appeared to have reached its annual maximum extent, marking the beginning of the sea ice melt season. This year’s maximum extent not only occurred early; it is also the lowest in the satellite record. However, a late season surge in ice growth is still possible.

Professor Doug Benn, a Glaciologist from the St Andrew’s University in Scotland who is currently working at the University of Svalbard, has been studying the Tunabreen glacier in Svalbard.

He told ITV News there are strong indications the scale of glacier retreat – which began centuries ago – has accelerated greatly recently.

The initial retreat seems to be mainly from natural causes, as the earth warmed at the end of what is called little ice age, but human activity has taken over as the main driver of warming in the Arctic now.

Professor Benn explained one of the focuses his study was on the “carving” of ice – the process by which large icebergs fall from glaciers into the sea – as this process transfers ice a lot quicker from land to sea. This in turn impacts sea levels, causing them to rise.

Professor Adrian Luckman, also from the University of Svalbald, explained part of the reason for the glacial melt was warmer temperatures in the ocean. He said the rate of retreat of the glaciers was increasing all over the Arctic as well as the Antarctica.

Dr Kim Holmen, Director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, described how the melting of the glaciers was having a negative effect on the entire climate system.

Speaking from Longyearben he said the melted glaciers were changing the life of the animals, plants and birds that rely on the area to survive.

He warned of the global impact that the changes being observed in the Arctic, and said it was clearly past time for humans to act to mitigate the impact of their actions.

We see change today and we see obvious traces of human impact on climate…it is of importance to do something now. Changes will be coming regardless of what we do but we must do something to minimise the influence of human and climates.

The melting of glaciers is the single biggest contributor to rising sea levels, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) says.

Sea levels have been rising steadily since the 1970s due to a combination of ocean thermal expansion – a term used to describe the increase in volume and decrease in density of the ocean as the result of the increased temperature of the water – and the increased water caused from the melting of glaciers and ice sheets.

Glacier retreat is being measured by scientists.

A video made by the University Centre in Svalbard shows the rate of shrinkage recorded from May to November in 2014.

The impact of the current rises are being felt across the UK – and the Met Office is warning that by 2030 a rise of between 11- 16 cm is likely.In February last year, the Met Office warned:

With the warming we are already committed to over the next few decades, a further overall 11-16cm of sea level rise is likely by 2030, relative to 1990, of which at least two – thirds will be due to the effects of climate change.

We are very confident that sea level will continue to rise over coming decades as the planet continues to warm, and these numbers represent our current best estimate for the UK.

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