News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th March 2015

Government’s legacy of defending children destroyed by new Bill, says Ronan Mullen


The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald insists legislation in children’s best interests

Senator Ronan Mullen: legislation facilitates fundamental attack on child’s rights.

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen has warned the Government and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald that legislation updating family law will destroy their legacy as defenders of children’s rights and best interests.

He said there were features of the Children and Family Relationships Bill which were unobjectionable and indeed desirable. “But the legislation contemplates and facilitates a very fundamental attack on a child’s rights by allowing some children to be deprived of the right to be brought up by their own mother and father or, in any event, by a mother and father,’’ he added.

Senator Mullen said important questions merited detailed and careful consideration. “We should be guided by values and sober reflection when faced with making major changes to our society,’’ he added.

He said the Bill would be central to the debate about the marriage equality referendum.

“The timing of this radical Bill today is all about pretending that the change in the constitutional meaning of marriage has no implications for children’s rights to a father and mother,’’ he added.

‘Adult-centred purposes’

“That is yet another way in which children’s rights are being subverted, for other more political, adult-centred purposes.’’

Introducing the Bill, which has been passed by the Dáil, M/s. Fitzgerald said the legislation was in the best interests of children. It set out, she said, new and updated provisions on guardianship, custody and access for children living with their married parents, their unmarried parents, with a parent and the parent’s partner or with a grandparent or other relative.

She said it also set out the rules under which parentage of a child born through donor-assisted human reproduction might be established. It made provision for a step-parent, a civil partner or a parent’s cohabitant of not less than three years’ duration to apply to the court to become a guardian where he or she had co-parented the child for two years, she added.

“The Bill does not alter in any way the parentage of children conceived naturally or through fertility treatment which does not involve the use of donor gametes,’’ she said.

Averil Power, Fianna Fáil, said Irish family law was out of date and did not reflect the diversity of modern families.

“For too long, Irish family law has treated non-marital families as invisible and, as a result, has denied children the legal protection and support they deserve,’’ M/s Power added.

Mary Lou McDonald calls Tánaiste a ‘wimp’ in Dáil water debate

The Sinn Féin deputy leader asks Joan Burton if she supports moves to collect unpaid water charges?


During a heated exchange in the Dáil Mary Lou McDonald TD has referred to the Tánaiste Joan Burton as a ‘wimp’.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald described Tánaiste Joan Burton as a “wimp’’ after claiming she failed to say if she supported the deduction of unpaid water charges from people’s wages or social welfare payments.

Amid heated Dáil exchanges on Thursday, M/s McDonald insisted that M/s Burton was not answering the question.

“I wish the Tánaiste to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’,’’ said M/s McDonald. “Do you support the plan for attachment orders….?’’

The reply from M/s Burton, who was seated, was inaudible.

“You’re a wimp,’’ said M/s McDonald.

M/s McDonald said it seemed Labour was to become Irish Water’s debt collector, “sticking your hand into the pockets of families who are struggling to provide for their children or to pay their mortgage or rent’’.

She asked if that was the way Labour helped cash-strapped families.

M/s McDonald asked the Tánaiste if she supported Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly’s proposal “to raid people’s wages, social welfare and pensions’’.

M/s Burton said she supported Mr. Kelly’s work “in actually bringing a proper investment plan and structure for water development in this country’’.

Aer Lingus and Ryanair rules require two people in cockpit at all times

Now Easy-Jet is changing its policy in the wake of this week’s German-wings crash tragedy and disaster in the French Alps Mountains.


Aer Lingus and Ryanair have now confirmed that both airlines always require two people to be in the cockpit at all times when a plane is in the air. This is clearly stated in their manual.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it approved procedures with Irish airlines a number of years ago to ensure a minimum of two people are in the cockpit at all times. This was as a result of the 9-11 terrorists attacks.

It comes in the wake of today’s revelation that the co-pilot of the German-wings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday appeared to want to destroy the plane.

A French prosecutor said today that on the basis of information from the “black box” flight recorder, the Co-Pilot had been alone in the cockpit and intentionally started his descent while the Pilot was locked outside the cabin after using the planes toilet.

“If a Cockpit Crew member needs to leave the cockpit, a Cabin Crew member is required to remain in the cockpit, with the door closed, while the Cockpit Crew Member is absent,” an Aer Lingus spokesperson said.

“Pilots and Cabin Crew are trained in cockpit door procedures during initial training and during annual recurrent training.”

“Ryanair requires two people to be in the cockpit at all times,” a spokesperson for the budget carrier said.

“If a pilot needs to visit the bathroom the cabin crew supervisor is required to stand into the cockpit for these brief periods.”

British airline Easy-Jet said today it would enforce a new policy for two crew members to be in the cockpit at all times from tomorrow.

“Easy-Jet can confirm that, with effect from tomorrow they will change its procedure,” the airline said in a statement.

Similar decisions have been announced by Canada’s Air Transat, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Iceland air but Easy-Jet is by far the biggest airline to take action.

The low-cost carrier transported nearly 65 million people around Europe over its last financial year and has 8,000 employees.

Report calls for better accessibility for child mental health services

Nearly 90 children and adolescents in need of support admitted to adult wards in 2014


Dr Shari McDaid, director of mental health reform, has called for the State’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to be made more accessible to young people and their families.

Nearly one third of children and adolescents in need of support from mental health services were admitted to adult wards last year, while waiting lists for youth mental health services increased by 8% to 2,818 young people.

Speaking at the launch of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition report into the mental health needs of Irish children and adolescents, Dr Shari McDaid, director of Mental Health Reform, called for the State’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to be made more accessible to young people and their families.

“This report has found that there are a bewildering number of agencies involved in children’s mental health care, which can cause confusion at what is already a stressful time for young people and their families,” said Dr McDaid. “When we consider that one in three young people are likely to have experienced a mental disorder by the age of 13, it becomes clear just how urgent the need for good quality services and support is.”

Dr McDaid warned that in 2014, 89 children and adolescents suffering from mental health issues were cared for in adult wards, adding that 405 young people were on a waiting list for services for over the year.

The recommendations laid out by the coalition highlight the importance of “meaningful participatory” mental health structures where young people have a voice in decisions that affect their lives.

The report calls for “accessible, developmentally appropriate and specialist inpatient services” for children or young people with acute mental health difficulties, including those with a dual diagnosis of mental health with learning difficulties or substance misuse.

It recommends appropriate training for GPs and primary care professionals across the State to ensure early detection and appropriate intervention. The coalition also found that a national framework was needed to support children and adolescents who may need to transition from CAMHS to adult mental health services.

The coalition also called for an increase in staff numbers working with young people, an issue Anne O’Connor, director of Mental Health Services for the HSE, also highlighted.

“We have challenges – the one at the top of the list is recruitment,” said M/s O’Connor.

“We have money, we have the authority to go out and recruit staff, and we just can’t get them. This is particularly a challenge in relation to consultants, nurses and psychologists.”

Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, voiced concern at the number of “vulnerable children” who were receiving care in adult psychiatric wards.

“These are wards where violence, tension and threats are not uncommon and I would suggest that such an environment is an upsetting place for an adult,” said Dr. Muldoon.

“Therefore one can only imagine how it must leave a child or adolescent feeling when they are already struggling with negative feelings about themselves.”

“The way our children and young people feel within an adult psychiatric unit will stay with them forever,” he said.

The Children’s Mental Health Coalition report would act as a vital aid in erasing the “prevalent gaps” that exist within the State’s child mental health services.

Kerry people love cucumbers? Now what’s your county’s favourite fruit or veg?


Kerry people love their cucumbers … What’s your county’s favourite veg?

Ireland’s favourite fruits vegetables vary wildly from county to county.

While the people of Offaly eat potatoes and swedes, Sligonians prefer chillies and fresh herbs and in Donegal they at berries, oranges and sweet potato.

Supermarket chain Tesco have revealed the most purchased greens in their stores, with Dubliners plumping for kale and avocado over cabbage and apple.

With nearly 70 million sold in stores every year, bananas top the charts in most counties and just slip to second place in Clare, Donegal, Galway, Kildare and Mayo which favour fresh berries over bananas at the top of the fruit and vegetable charts.

Cauliflower and kale are the least popular across the country but that could all change this year with cauliflower tipped as a food trend for 2015.

Nutritionist Elsa Jones said that getting your fruit and vegetables will still help you be big and strong.

“It’s encouraging to see that Irish people are buying a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Getting your five-a-day is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It’s also important to eat a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables as each colour provides a unique set of nutrients. For optimal health, aim to eat the five colours of the rainbow every day – red, orange, yellow, green and purple.”

Bats observe strict flight code to navigate the skies


Scientists have discovered that bats use an “airway code” to avoid collisions when they fly.

The sonar-based traffic rules ensure there are no accidents as they dive and turn at high speeds while chasing food.

Researchers from the University of Bristol studied pairs of Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) foraging over low water for stranded insects in Somerset.

Researchers simulated the creatures’ sonar view on a computer and it showed that the bats swapped leader-follower roles as they flew.

Lead scientist Dr Marc Holderied said: “The bats seem to have adopted a simple trick: once another individual is close enough for your biosonar to pick up its echo, copy this individual’s flight direction within four to five of your own wingbeats.”

Co-author Dr Luca Giuggioli, also from the University of Bristol, said: “Quantifying the movement decisions that bats adopt to forage has implications well beyond animal ecology.

“By employing movement strategies that nature has optimised over millions of years, engineers may be able to improve the efficiency of search and rescue missions, monitoring tasks, and surveillance operations in the emerging market of flying drones and autonomous moving vehicles.”

The animals performed chases or coordinated manouver’s by copying the heading their leader was using a blink of an eye-500 milliseconds-earlier.


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