News Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th April 2015

Aer Lingus talks to conclude within weeks

  • Says Pascal Donohoe

Claims that IAG and Government close to deal on Heathrow guarantees

  

Shares in Aer Lingus rose 5.5% to €2.42 at lunchtime yesterday in Dublin

Discussions about the takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG should be concluded within coming weeks, the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe has indicated.

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the Minister said that the Government’s steering group on the takeover proposal and its advisers had engaged further over recent weeks and that this engagement had been “useful”.

He said talks had focused on matters previously outlined by him and that IAG had provided further details on “issues of concern” to the Government. In earlier statements on the proposed deal, Mr Donohue has highlighted employment prospects, expansion plans and commitments on the Aer Lingus Heathrow slots as being particularly significant.

“ Discussions are progressing and as I have indicated previously I do not want this process to be drawn out unnecessarily and I expect that it can be brought to a conclusion in the coming weeks,” he said on Thursday.

Shares in Aer Lingus surged in trading on Thursday following reports of a rapprochement between IAG and the Government, which controls 25% of the Irish airline. A deal on the Heathrow slots is seen as being most significant in the talks.

IAG is proposing to pay close to €1.4 billion for Aer Lingus. The stock was up almost 4% at €2.38 on Thursday afternoon, having climbed higher earlier in the day.

Youthful Ireland top country in Europe for stats on young people

     

Ireland is the most youthful country in Europe, according to new figures from Eurostat.

We have the largest proportion of children under the age of 15, at 22%.

France is next on almost 19%, followed by the UK.

Ruth Deasy of the EU office in Dublin, says the number of people in Ireland under the age of 30 is exceptional.

“Ireland stands out in this study as the most youthful country in the EU, where four out of 10 Irish people are aged less than 30 and this is really quite exceptional,” said Deasy.

“We also have the largest proportion of under-16s in the EU and by quite a large margin.

“Ireland’s fertility rate is high, it is the highest in the EU but it is still slightly below replacement level,” said Deasy.

12 months extension granted for charities to register with CRA

 

Only 200 of the estimated 4,000-plus charities in Ireland required to register with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) have registered, despite the threat of stiff fines for non-compliance.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald has announced a 12 month extension to the deadline after discussions with the Charities Regulatory Authority.

The one-year extension of the deadline risks undermining confidence in a sector which has been working to regain public trust after the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)  scandal 18 months ago.

In a statement Minister Fitzgerald said only 200 charities had registered when the original deadline expired.

NOT AFFECTED

The Minister said the move does not affect 8,500 other charities which have been automatically registered with the authority by virtue of the charitable tax status granted to them by the Revenue Commissioners before mid-October 2014.

The Authority was established by the Government last October almost a year after a series of financial scandals at the CRC involving a gold-plated pension for its retired Chief Executive, Paul Kiely, top-up payments to some executives and cross-directorships with a related company.

This and subsequent revelations about finances at the Rehab organisation led to a significant decline in public donations to most of the Republic’s charities.

A SCANDAL?

Responding to the Minister’s announcement, the Irish Charities Tax Reform group (ICTR) has expressed concern that the announcement of an extension of the registration deadline for certain charities risks undermining confidence in the sector which has been trying to regain public trust after the CRC scandal of 18 months ago.

During that scandal it was revealed that the board of the long-established disability charity had approved the use of charitable donations to help fund a €740,000 annual pension for its former chief executive, Paul Kiely.

OVER-AMBITIOUS

A spokesperson for the ICTR group told RTÉ News it was “over-ambitious” of the 2009 Charities Act to set a deadline of six months for unregistered to register with the new Charities Regulatory Authority, as the law had not been fully enacted until 16 October last year.

The spokesperson for the 160-strong umbrella group, which represents some of the country’s largest charities, said that a shortage of resources in the newly-established Charities Regulator’s office compounded the problem.

The CRA website apologises to readers that “due to the high volume of queries we receive, it may take us some time to respond to your query”.

STAFFING

The ICTR has said that only four new additional full-time staff equivalents were allocated to the regulator last year.

It conceded that the regulator also inherited a further five full-time staff from the Commission for Charity Regulation and Bequests but said they continued to fulfill their established functions.

The group said a crunch meeting is scheduled soon with the Department of Justice and Equality on a request from the Charities Regulatory Authority for additional staff.

It said the Scottish regulator was given 50 staff a decade ago to service a population similar to the Republic of Ireland’s

The group estimates that the Republic of Ireland’s regulator needs approximately 11 extra staff to boost its complement to about 20.

AWARENESS RAISING

Meanwhile, an organisation representing over 1,000 charities, The Wheel, has called for big awareness raising initiative to ensure unregistered charities understand their obligation to register.

Welcoming Minister Fitzgerald’s 12 month extension of the deadline for unregistered charities to make themselves known to the Charities Regulator, The Wheel Director of Advocacy Ivan Cooper, said many of the mostly smaller organisations concerned seem to be unaware of their obligation.

The Wheel also called on the minister to ensure that the CRA is sufficiently resourced to communicate with, educate and support charitable organisations that have yet to apply to it for registration.

Mr Cooper also called on the Department to ensure that the CRA is given enough resources to support the other 9,000 or so registered charities that are currently completing their entry in the CRA’s Register.

He said it will be working closely with the CRA and other partners in the charity sector to raise awareness of the requirements facing unregistered charities.

Applications for inclusion on the Register of Charities can be made through the CRA’s website at the CRA’s website at www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie

24,000 Irish people could have un-diagnosed diabetes

   

The largest ever study into diabetes risk and cardiovascular risk, conducted by VHI Healthcare, has revealed that 24,000 people in Ireland could have un-diagnosed diabetes.

The research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Almost 30,000 people took part in the study from 2009 to 2013.

Of those, nearly 5,000 people (17%) were found to have abnormal initial fasting blood sugar levels.

Men were up to three times more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.

Research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Those with abnormal blood sugar levels were most likely to be older, men, smokers, with abdominal obesity, higher BMI and higher blood pressure.

Study findings included that the risk of undiagnosed diabetes went up by 89% for every 5kg increase in body mass index.

The author of the report and medical director at VHI Healthcare, Dr Bernadette Carr, said: “The results of our research suggest that the rate of undiagnosed type two diabetes and pre-diabetes is higher in Ireland than in similar European countries such as Britain and Holland.

“THESE RESULTS DEMONSTRATE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR INDIVIDUALS TO UNDERSTAND AND MANAGE THEIR OWN HEALTH RISKS.”

Dr Bernadette Carr, The author of the VHI diabetes report said “By making some very simple lifestyle changes, people can improve their outcomes and, in the case of pre-diabetes, can even delay or prevent progression to diabetes,”

Fitness apps will not improve your health  

And it could be harmful?

 

They are the latest health and fitness ‘revolution’, beloved of the fad dieters and the pilates obsessives and not to mention some of our leading politicians.

But what use, really, are increasingly popular health apps like Fitbit and Jawbone that monitor our activity levels, heart rate and even sleep patterns? None at all, according to one leading GP – and they could even end up doing harm.

Writing in the BMJ, Glasgow GP and health commentator Dr Des Spence warns that the products, which increasingly include wearable devices that link to computers and smartphones, providing 24-hour health monitoring, are “untested and unscientific” and could ignite “extreme anxiety” in a new generation of the “worried well”.

Warning that such apps could soon be “ubiquitous”, Dr Spence said that devices that could offer perpetual health monitoring risked giving rise to ‘over-diagnosis’ of health problems, with people unable to distinguish harmless variation or faulty readings from genuine signs of ill health.

“The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty,” he writes. “Make no mistake: diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people. We must reflect on what we might lose here, rather than what we might gain.”

Thousands of health apps are now available and some are even endorsed by the NHS.

George Osborne raised eyebrows when he was seen wearing one – a Jawbone ‘UP’ wristband – at a committee hearing two years ago. It is unclear whether the device played an important part in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s subsequent weight loss, but he did confirm at the time that former Education Secretary Michael Gove was also using one.

George Osborne sporting the Jawbone wristband
Despite their rising popularity, there is no evidence that smartphone-connected health apps can actually improve health, although two randomised trials of weight loss apps for old-style ‘handheld PC’ devices did show they worked better than paper or web-based fitness programmes.

Not all doctors are convinced health apps are a cause for concern. Also writing in the BMJ, Iltifat Husain, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, USA, said that apps which encouraged more exercise and a better diet could well carry benefits.

He said that while tests of Fitbit and Jawbone devices had not found evidence they could improve health outcomes or exercise compliance, there was also no evidence they could do harm.

“Healthy people may well benefit from using some health apps…but doctors need to be proactive about telling people which metrics matter and which apps they should buy,” he writes.

Daily brisk walking good for prostate cancer survivors

 

Brisk walking a key for prostate cancer survivors.

Brisk walking for about three hours a week is enough to help prostate cancer survivors reduce damaging side effects of their treatment, according to a promising study.

“Non-vigorous walking for three hours per week seems to improve the fatigue, depression and body weight issues that affect many men post-treatment,” said Siobhan Phillips, lead author from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“If you walk even more briskly, for only 90 minutes a week, you could also see similar benefits in these areas,” he added.

Phillips used data from the health professionals follow-up Study. She focused on prostate cancer survivors who were diagnosed with non-advanced disease prior to 2008 and responded to a health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaire.

Common HRQOL symptoms included urinary and bowel problems, sexual function issues, fatigue, depression, increased body weight and erectile dysfunction.

The men reported the average time spent during a week walking to work or for exercise as well as time spent jogging, running, cycling, swimming and playing sports.

They also reported their usual outdoor walking pace as easy, average, brisk or very brisk.

The findings indicate that higher duration of brisk walking were associated with better hormone/vitality functioning (affecting fatigue, depression and body weight).

“Those who are able to walk should be encouraged to start an easy walking routine or engage in other non-vigorous activities soon after a prostate cancer diagnosis,” Phillips noted.

The benefits could help manage symptoms such as fatigue, depression and body weight – and improve overall health.

Walking may also potentially increase survival and impact their quality of life by preventing the onset of those other conditions.

The only surviving male northern white rhino is put under armed guard 24 hours a day

  

Rangers in Kenya risking their lives to keep the above 43-year-old rhino safe.

Sudan is the last hope for this Rhino species now on the verge of being wiped out for ever.

But ivory is now fetching as much as £47,000 per kilo as demand grows

Animal sanctuary Ol Pejeta trying to raise money to help pay for guards

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino – stripped of his horn for his own safety – is now under 24-hour armed guard in a desperate final bid to save the species.

Sudan is guarded day and night by a group of rangers who risk their lives on a daily basis as they try to keep the rhino from poachers lured by the rising price of ivory.

But even without his horn, keepers in the Kenyan reserve of Ol Pojeta in fear for his safety.

Guard: The rangers keep an armed watch around Sudan at all times to deter poachers after his horn

Northern white rhinos at the Ol Pojeta reserve in 2012

The 43-year-old rhino – who could live until his 50s – is the last chance for any future northern white rhino calves.

Sudan was moved, along with two female rhinos, from a zoo in the Czech Republic in December 2009.

The reserve, which specialises in the conservation of rhinos, was chosen because of its successful breeding programme with black rhinos.

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