News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 22nd May 2015

Big young people turnout pushes figures upwards over recent referendums

  • Polls shut at 10pm tonight as returning officers in Dublin expect 70% showing in some areas.


Polling stations are closed after the referendums and by-election in Ireland on May 22nd, 2015.

Campaigners for same-sex marriage believe the referendum will be carried on the back of the high turnouts in urban centres and massive engagement by younger voters.

Turnout for the same sex-marriage referendum and the referendum to reduce the age eligibility for presidential candidates was higher in urban areas on Friday night, but was generally up on voting in recent referendums across the country.

‘Bated breath’

“It is about how we value and treat the gay community in Ireland. So many human stories and so many families are caught up in this and are waiting with bated breath for the result.”

Just before polls closed, the average turnout across Dublin county was an estimated 65% and 53% in the Dublin city council area. Turnout in Cork city was above 60%.

However, in other areas of the State, initial turnout was in line with recent referendums, or only slightly up.

Kevin Humphreys, Labour TD for Dublin South East and Minister of State at the Department of Social Protection, said turnout was high across working class and middle class areas in his constituency.

Mr Humphreys also said turnout was exceeding levels seen at the last general election in 2011.

Returning officers in Dublin said they expected turnout to inch towards 70% or more in some areas.

In Dublin county, turnout in Skerries stood at 52% at 6pm and was expected to reach as high as 70%. In Brittas, also in Dublin, turnout was at 45% in the early evening.

There was also a high turnout of those on the supplementary register, with 80% of those who added themselves on the register turning out in Killester, Dublin, as of 8pm on Friday.

At 6pm, 65% of those who went on the supplementary register had cast their votes by 6.30pm, with a 50% turnout in the constituency at that time.

At 7pm the turnout across Cork city was above 40%, and rising to 50% in Cork South Central.

Turnout across Galway city was also up on its usual referendum standards and stood at about 35% in the early evening.

Rural areas in east Galway were not as busy, standing at 20% at the same time.

In Mayo, the turnout at 8pm in Castlebar was 46%, 47% in Claremorris, 50% in Westport and 40% in Ballina.

In Limerick city, turnout at 5pm was around 35% and almost 40% in Limerick count at the same time.

In Donegal town the turnout at tea time was 30%, with 28% turning out in Letterkenny at the same time.

Cavan Monaghan also reported an early evening turnout at about 30%, which rose to 35% in towns such as Ballyjamesduff, where there is a Dublin commuter population.

Officials in Tipperary reported turnout at 40% between 5pm and 6pm, a figure they expected to rise substantially before polls closed.

In Laois, the early evening turnout in both rural areas and in towns hovered around 30%.

In Kilkenny city – where voting is also taking place for a by-election – the turnout in some areas was 54% at 7pm.

In Kerry, turnout was also described as brisk and stood at around 30% at 5pm, which was higher than previous referendums.

Turnout across Wexford was at the same levels around teatime, but activity at polling stations was up on other referendums.

Maíria Cahill calls on Sinn Féin to accept report and to apologise

  • Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt says DPP Barra McGrory should ‘consider his position’


Northern Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory apologises to three woman who accused an alleged IRA member of abusing them as children, after a damning report criticised how the prosecution was handled at the Public Prosecution Service offices in Belfast.

Maíria Cahill (above middle pic) has called on Sinn Féin to accept the findings of Sir Keir Starmer QC and to apologise to her.

Ms Cahill said she welcomed and accepted as genuine the apology issued to her by the North’s Director of Public Prosecution Barra McGrory over how the Public Prosecution Service dealt with allegations that as children, she and two other women were sexually abused by an IRA member.

In his damning report, Sir Keir issued 10 recommendations on how such cases might be avoided in the future. Mr McGrory accepted the report in full and said the recommendations would be implemented.

“The apology is welcome but I think what would be more meaningful is that the recommendations are quickly taken on board and implemented,” she said in Belfast after reading the 45-page report.

She also thanked the BBC Spotlightprogramme which broadcast an exposé on how she was allegedly raped by IRA manMartin Morris and how she was allegedly interrogated about her claims by four other members of the IRA.

“For the last seven months [since the BBCSpotlight documentary] I have been repeatedly trailed through the media, my credibility has been called into question, people have said I wasn’t prepared to give evidence in a court of law, that the not guilty verdicts somehow presented some sort of reasoning or attack on my credibility,” she continued. “I think this report completely vindicates my position.”

Badly treated by Sinn Fein?

Ms Cahill also said Sinn Féin had treated her badly since the story broke. She called on Sinn Féin to apologise and accept the report’s findings.

“The most disturbing thing for me in all of this is that the person who caused great hurt and trauma, not just to me but to his other victims, essentially was not prosecuted successfully,” she said.

“And also the other people who caused great hurt by forcing an IRA investigation into it. Had that IRA investigation not happened, we most likely would have been with the police making a criminal complaint long before we did.”

In a statement, Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said “it is the sole responsibility of the police to investigate reports of crime and it is the responsibility of the PPS to prosecute in cases of abuse.

“At the Assembly’s justice committee we have continually raised the unacceptable and unnecessary delays. We welcome any recommendations that will support victims of abuse through the legal system and ensure justice.

“We will judge the recommendations of the report on how they well they serve victims in the future.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said Mr McGrory should “consider his position” as DPP in light of the findings. “The buck stops with Barra McGrory and he should consider his position. It is simply not acceptable to try to wash his hands, Pontius Pilate-like, by claiming the case was opened before he took office or that he was not directly involved,” he said.

“He is a very well paid leader whose organisation has failed a victim who has taken terrible abuse for having the courage to publicly take on the IRA, without the support she deserved from the PPS,” Mr Nesbitt added.

Challenge anyone on abuse:

He said it was now essential that the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire published his review into the conduct of the police in the case.

West Belfast Assembly member Alex Attwood said the Starmer report was a “full vindication” for Ms Cahill.

“Maíria Cahill has demonstrated again and again that she will challenge anyone and any organisation when it comes to the truth of abuse,” he said.

“She does so on her own behalf. She also does so on behalf of other victims to ensure their voices are heard, their terrible experiences acknowledged and that accountability prevails.”

Traditional Unionist Voice party leader Jim Allister QC said: “As the politician who met with Barra McGrory QC and urged him to bring in an external investigator in regard to the PPS handling of the Maíria Cahill cases, I welcome the publication of the Starmer report.”

Retired GPs asked to join under-sixes scheme as they faces court challenge’s


Contracts have also been sent to GPs who do not have formal garda clearance to treat children and who exclusively treat patients with drug addiction problems

Retired family doctors are being asked to join the scheme offering free GP visits to children under six.

Contracts have also been sent to GPs who do not have formal Garda clearance to treat children and who exclusively treat patients with drug addiction problems.

The move comes amid ongoing resistance from hundreds of GPs to signing up to the July 1 scheme. Some GPs have described it as “morally wrong”.

A High Court action challenging the under-sixes contract is due to be lodged today by the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP).

The legal test relates to the rule that GPs with existing patients under six who have a medical card or GP card will lose these contracts if they do not sign up to the free visits scheme by next week.

A spokesperson for the Health Service Executive (HSE) said it could not provide figures for how many doctors had signed up so far.

However, she confirmed that in addition to doctors with existing medical card patients, the HSE had written to GPs who had other health sector contracts. It is understood these would include contracts to treat drug abusers.

A small number of doctors who have retired from the medical card scheme have been written to as they are still on the medical register. It is a matter for each individual GP to decide whether to take up the contract.

Meanwhile, Dr Andrew Mannion of the Donegal Medical Centre said all GPs in Donegal town were signing the contracts “under duress”.

He said: “We feel compelled to sign the new contract as the HSE has threatened that if we do not, they will remove all our existing under-six medical card patients from our practices and assign them to a practice that has signed the new contract.”

The doctors argue that this would lead to “untold hardship and uncertainty for our patients”, who may have to travel a considerable distance to see a GP.

“It would lead to breakdown of the doctor-patient relationship that we have and break the continuity of care that we have traditionally provided as GPs,” Dr Mannion said.

“We believe that the new contract is morally wrong. We believe that scarce resources should be provided to patients with the greatest medical and financial needs.

“We believe for example that none of our patients would like to see a healthy under-six child receive a medical card whilst a chronically ill eight-year-old does not.”

He added that they want the Government to focus on helping the most vulnerable children.

Heart rate can indicate risk of diabetes, finds large-scale study


Faster resting heart rates are associated with increased risk of developing diabetes, finds study published in International Journal of Epidemiology

Heart rate monitor: ‘Each additional 10 beats per minute was associated with 23% increased risk of diabetes,’ said Dr Xiang Gao. Photograph: David Sillitoe

Measuring heart rate could help identify people at risk of diabetes, research has shown.

Scientists found that faster resting heart rates were associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.

More heart beats per minute were also linked to poorer fasting blood sugar levels.

US researcher Dr Xiang Gao, from Pennsylvania state university, said: “We found participants with faster heart rates, suggesting lower automatic function, had increased risk of diabetes, pre-diabetes and conversion from pre-diabetes to diabetes.

“Each additional 10 beats per minute was associated with 23% increased risk of diabetes, similar to the effects of a 3kg-per-sq-m increase in body mass index (BMI).”

The four-year study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, recruited a total of 73,357 Chinese adults. Their results were combined with data from seven previous studies involving almost 100,000 men and women.

“We found a similar association – individuals with fast heart rate had 59% increased risk of diabetes relative to those with slow heart rate,” said Dr Gao.

During the four-year follow-up period, the scientists identified 17,463 pre-diabetic cases and 4,649 diabetes cases.

All the study participants were employees of the Kailuan Coal Co, Ltd, a coal mining company in China. For this reason, they could not be viewed as representative of the general population, said the researchers.

However, combining the findings with those from other individuals with different social and cultural backgrounds revealed a similar association between heart rate and diabetes risk.

Owners of iOS 9 should play nice with Older iPhones & iPads


Good news for those of you with older iPhones. Apple’s next-gen mobile OS will reportedly support your aging smartphone.

According to 9to5Mac, which cited multiple sources familiar with Apple’s plans, iOS 9 is being developed to work with devices like the iPhone 4s and original iPad mini.

“In order to avoid the sluggishness and bugginess that was most notably seen in iOS 7 for the iPhone 4, Apple has restructured its software engineering process to better support older hardware,” 9to5Mac said.

Cupertino is building a “core version” of iOS 9 that will work on devices with Apple’s older A5 processor, the blog said. Then, it will enable other features that might only work on newer gadgets.

Apple’s iOS 8 is technically compatible with older devices, but it’s not an ideal experience on gadgets like iPhone 4s.

As 9to5Mac notes, the move might surprise some Apple-watchers, who likely assumed that Cupertino wanted its customers to upgrade to newer, pricier iPhones rather than updating old phones to iOS 9. That might be the case, of course, but not everyone can afford a new iPhone (and this lets Apple poke fun at Android fragmentation even more).

The report comes several months after 9to5Mac reported that iOS 9 would focus more on stability than shiny new features. That’s still true, it said today, though we’ll probably see a few tweaks, from transit info on Apple Maps and new fonts to a Home app for HomeKit devices andsplit screens on the iPad.

One thing enthusiasts might not like: a new security feature, dubbed Rootless, which “will prevent even administrative-level users from being able to access certain protected files on Apple devices,” 9to5Mac said—a potential blow to iPhone jailbreakers.

Expect more details about iOS 9 and Mac OS X at next month’s WWDC, which kicks off June 8 in San Francisco.

An octopus can ‘see’ using its skin

Ability may help octopuses change colour to camouflage themselves


A blindfolded octopus isn’t blind.

The researchers experimented on skin samples from the California two-spot octopus, like this hatchling. (University of California Santa Barbara)

That’s because octopuses can detect changes in brightness with an organ that’s not typically linked to a sense of sight — their skin, U.S. researchers have found.

“Octopus skin can sense light by itself. It doesn’t need the eyes to be able to sense light,” said Desmond Ramirez, lead author of a new study describing the phenomenon, in a video statement.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

A summary of the paper:

Ramirez, a PhD student, and co-author Todd Oakley, a professor in the Department of Ecology Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara, don’t think that the skin of an octopus can detect details like contrast and the edges of objects the way eyes can.

But their ability to detect light may help explain how octopuses are so good at changing the colour of their skin to camouflage with rocks, sand or other surroundings.

No brain required?

The researchers didn’t test living octopuses, just samples of their skin. When they exposed the skin samples to light, pigmented spots on the skin called chromatophores expanded, making the skin look darker. The response happened without any help from the eyes or brain.

When they exposed the octopus skin samples to light, pigmented spots on the skin called chromatophores expanded, making the skin look darker. (University of California Santa Barbara/Journal of Experimental Biology)

Further research suggested how the chromatophores could respond to light — they contain light-sensitive proteins called opsins. Opsins are the same light-sensitive proteins found in the octopus’s eyes and used in regular vision.

“It looks like the existing cellular mechanism for light detection in octopus eyes, which has been around for quite some time, has been co-opted for light sensing in the animal’s skin,” Oakley said in a statement.

While the researchers think the skin’s light-sensing abilities may help an octopus camouflage with its environment, they don’t yet know how exactly how those abilities are used in a living animal, Oakley told CBC News in an email.

“So we don’t know how it is used in camouflage.”

Octopuses belong to a scientific group called mollusks that include animals such as clams, snails and chitons. Many of those other kinds of mollusks were already known to sense light with their skin and respond by doing things like moving toward or away from it, but not by changing their colour.


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