News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 31st March 2015

Ulster Bank partnership with An Post to widen its market place


Bank customers will be able to conduct certain transactions at post offices from next month.

Ulster Bank has announced a new partnership with An Post that will allow personal and business customers carry out certain transactions through the An Post network.

From next month, bank customers will be able to make cash deposits in any of An Post 1,140 branches or avail of cheque acceptance in designated post offices.

They will also be able to pay their Ulster Bank credit card bills using cash or debit card at any post office.

This partnership with An Post means that the number of places Ulster Bank customers can conduct basic banking transactions will increase from 111 to 1,251, providing them with greater choice, extended opening hours, accessibility and flexibility,” head of branch banking at Ulster Bank Jim Ryan said.

Liam Sheehan, sales and marketing director at An Post, said: “We look forward to providing top quality local services to Ulster Bank customers at 1,140 Post Offices around the country – and we’re also open on Saturday mornings.

“This further underpins our unique position in providing local, reliable financial services to Irish business and personal customers,” he added.

Pascal Donohoe says a bus plan could save taxpayers money and enhance quality of service

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann union members face ballot over potential privatisation


Dublin Bus vehicles parked in Conyngham Road garage in Dublin. The trade union SIPTU is to ballot Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann driver members for industrial action, in protest at National Transport Authority plans.

Introducing tendering for some bus routes traditionally operated by State companies has the potential to save taxpayers’ money, according to the Minister for Transport.Paschal Donohoe told the Dáil he was fully committed to controversial plans to put out to tender 10 per cent of routes currently run by Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann.

However, the plan for the potential privatisation of the routes could lead to strikes in the State transport sector in the weeks ahead.

The National Bus and Railworkers Union (NBRU) andsSiptu will ballot members in Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann for industrial action up to and including strike action following the collapse of talks on the tendering plan at theLabour Relations Commission earlier this week.

Mr Donohoe said international experience indicated that competitive tendering was “beneficial in providing subsidised public service obligation bus services-socially necessary, non-commercial bus services”.

He added: “I believe that our support for improved bus services should be given in conjunction with an appropriate degree of competitive tension within the market, in the interests of quality and cost effectiveness for commuters. This is why I am committed to the tendering of 10 per cent of bus routes.”

The Minister said he was disappointed trade unions had withdrawn from the LRC talks. “It is the Government’s view that these Labour Relations Commission discussions would allow employee concerns to be addressed satisfactorily. Indeed there has been a particular focus on facilitating existing employees to remain in either Dublin Bus or Bus Éireann if either company did not succeed in the tendering process,” he said.

“I understand that strenuous efforts were being made within the talks process to facilitate as many as possible existing employees staying in their respective companies, arising from forecast growth in the public service obligation market under the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann direct award contracts.”

Siptu said on Tuesday it would ballot drivers for industrial action. The NBRU said on Monday that it would be balloting its members in the two State-owned bus companies, as well as in Irish Rail, on the issue. It is also to initiate legal action aimed at blocking the initiative.

A Siptu spokesman said the result of the ballot should be known on April 10th. The union said it would be consulting with other grades of staff in the companies about “solidarity action”.

Unions say the tendering proposals could lead to the privatisation of routes and would result in a deterioration of their members’ terms and conditions if they have to move to private operators.

Under the current plans, orbital routes in Dublin, such as those between Blackrock and Rialto, and Chapelizod and Tallaght, would be put out to tender.

Bus Éireann routes earmarked for tender include commuter services from Dublin to Tullamore, Portlaoise and Kildare, as well as a number of routes in Waterfordcity.

Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann will be permitted to tender to continue to operate the routes.

The protective pros and cons of garlic


Forget the smelly breath< garlic can keep you youthful and healthy.

Garlic is hardly new, but it might be time to add it to your list of superfoods.

A recent study has discovered the pungent cloves can protect against ageing and disease, even preventing against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Whether taken as a supplement or eating it as a tasty addition to your dinner, the University of Missouri claims garlic can work wonders.

“Garlic is one of the most widely consumed dietary supplements,” Zezong Gu, associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study said. “Most people think of it as a ‘superfood,’ because garlic’s sulphur-containing compounds are known as an excellent source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection.”

It was a carbohydrate found in the cloves that really sparked the researchers’ interest.

“Scientists are still discovering different ways garlic benefits the human body,” he continued.

“Our research focused on a carbohydrate derivative of garlic known as FruArg and the role this nutrient plays in protective responses.”

FruArg could even reverse the damage caused by things such as smoking, pollution, brain injury and the natural process of ageing.

Immune cells in the brain called microglia are normally the first line of defence in the nervous system. However, a by-product of their function as protectors is the production of nitric oxide, which can be harmful. And this is where garlic comes in.

“When stress was applied to the model, there was an expected increase in microglial cells and their by-product, nitric oxide,” Zezong explained.

“However, once we applied FruArg, the microglial cells adapted to the stress by reducing the amount of nitric oxide they produced.

“Additionally, FruArg promoted the production of antioxidants, which offered protective and healing benefits to other brain cells.

“This helps us understand how garlic benefits the brain by making it more resilient to the stress and inflammation associated with neurological diseases and ageing.”

Want more kitchen inspiration? The Rush University in Chicago recently found spinach can knock up to 11 years off brain age, so start stocking up on those leafy greens, too!

Ireland’s marriage age jumps to its highest level ever


The average age of Irish newlyweds has risen to its highest ever recorded level, with couples waiting until their mid-thirties before they tie the knot.

Less than two-thirds (59%) of couples decided to be wed in a Catholic church, while 28% were married in civil ceremonies, down 1% on 2013.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office released today show that the average age of grooms is now 35-years-old, while the average for brides in 2014 was 33, up from 32.8 in 2013.

In more than 63pc of marriages, the groom was older than the bride, except when the couples were under 30 – in which case, the bride was, on average, older in almost 41pc of marriages.

The latest figures from the CSO show the average age for grooms has steady increased since the 1970s – where, in 1977, the average groom was aged 26-years-old.

Similarly, the average age for brides fell from 26.3 in 1964 to 24 in 1977 before increasing to its highest level of 33-years-old in 2014.

Based on local levels, Waterford had the oldest newlyweds, aged 37 and 34 respectively, while Monaghan recorded the lowest average for grooms and brides at 33.6 and 31.4.

Last year, nine out of ten marriages were the first for both the groom and bride – while nearly 2,500 weddings involved at least one divorced person.

Some 392 same-sex couples became civil partners in 2014. Three-quarters of these civil partnerships took place in Leinster, with more than 50pc of them being held in Dublin.

Meanwhile, the number of people opting for Catholic wedding services has fallen to its lowest level.

World oceans could take thousands of years to recover from climate damage,

A study says


Decades of climate change have taken a toll on ocean ecosystems – and it could take millennia for them to bounce back, according to new research.

It only took us an existential moment to damage them, but they won’t be fixed in our lifetime.

Researchers say ocean ecosystems have taken a hit from climate change – and that it could be thousands of years, not hundreds, before they recover. By analyzing layers of fossilized ocean fauna, scientists from UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory and Coastal and Marine Sciences Institute were able to make out correlations between abrupt climate change and disturbances in ocean biodiversity. Their study was published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Biologically diverse seafloors can lose large amounts of dissolved oxygen as a result of climate change. The process – called deoxygenation – can disrupt the biodiversity of ocean ecosystems. But previous studies did not quantify these disturbances and recoveries in relation to sudden climate change. Led by Sarah Moffitt, a UC Davis research team began by extracting a huge fossil core from the ocean floor off Santa Barbara.

“After the initial sampling at sea, I took the entire core, which was about 30 feet long,” Dr. Moffitt said in a statement. “I cut it up like a cake, and I sampled the whole thing. Because of that, I had the whole record.”

The core contained fossil evidence from a period spanning 16,100 to 3,400 years ago. In that time, Moffitt noticed repeating patterns. Diverse seafloor ecosystems would experience deoxygenation coinciding with warming periods, and rapid loss of diversity would follow. In low-oxygen periods, fossil evidence was minimal. Even minor drops in oxygen levels appeared to curtail undersea life. And while the warming events seemed to last hundreds of years – possibly only decades – it took ecosystems thousands of years to bounce back.

And it’s not all in the past – Moffitt says these deoxygenation events should viewed as analogues to the present.

“These past events show us how sensitive ecosystems are to changes in Earth’s climate – it commits us to thousands of years of recovery,” Moffitt said in a statement. “It shows us what we’re doing now is a long-term shift – there’s not a recovery we have to look forward to in my lifetime or my grandchildren’s lifetime. It’s a gritty reality we need to face as scientists and people who care about the natural world and who make decisions about the natural world.


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