Daily Archives: May 28, 2015

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 28th May 2015

Irish naval vessel the LÉ Eithne rescues 201 migrants

Irish ship responded to vessels in potential distress off Libya coast


The LÉ Eithne completing the rescue of dozens of migrants off the coast of Libya on Thursday.

Irish naval vessel the LÉ Eithne completed the rescue of 201 migrants off the coast of Libya on Thursday.

The Irish Flagship received an alert at 8am from the Italian Marine Rescue Coordination Centre and the Italian Task Force Commander. It said there were five vessels in potential distress approximately 60 km off the coast of the North African state.

The LÉ Eithne, which was tasked by the Italian coastguard to recover the occupants of two of the vessels, arrived at the scene at 10am. The other three were attended to by other naval vessels.

It was the first time the LÉ Eithne had been involved in a rescue operation of migrants in the Mediterranean. It was carried out in co-operation with Italian, German and British ships.

The migrants were part of a flotilla of five makeshift inflatable vessels that were attempting to cross the South Central Mediterranean. The migrants included men, women, children, and one infant.

Sea conditions during the rescue were calm.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said the navy was providing an “invaluable asset” in terms of the migrant crisis.

“LÉ Eithne under the command of her captain, Commander Pearse O’Donnell, and her crew are providing an invaluable asset in assisting with the Mediterranean migrant crisis,” he said.

“The operation today demonstrates clearly the value of our participation in this important humanitarian mission.”

The navy said it is providing medical assistance, food, water and dry clothes to those in need.

The migrants will be transferred to the HMS Bulwark where they will be transported to a port in Italy.

Ireland’s blue flag awards 2015:

Is your local beach on the list?

Six beaches conferred with ‘dual’ Blue Flag and Green Coast status


Portmarnock is one of six beaches that have achieved dual Blue Flag and Green Coast status.

Blue Flags have been awarded to 81 beaches and five marinas around the State’s coastline – six more than last year.

Six of the 81 beaches are also among 58 locations conferred with national Green Coast status by Minister for Environment Alan Kelly on behalf of An Taisce.

Portmarnock, Portrane and Donabate in north Dublin, Salthill and Silver Strand in Galway and Rosses Point in Sligo have secured this “dual status”, according to the environmental organisation.

Wexford’s Ballinesker beach has been given a Blue Flag for the first time, as has the marina at Kinsale Yacht Club, Co Cork, while the coveted status has been regained at Cork’s Redbarn and Garretstown beaches.

Five beaches which lost out last year due to works associated with severe winter storm damage have also regained their flags: Miltown Malbay and Spanish Point in Co Clare, Mulranny and Bertra in Co Mayo and Rossbeigh, Co Kerry.

Wicklow’s Brittas Bay North, Enniscrone, Co Sligo and Skerries south beach in the Fingal area of north Dublin lost their flags due to failure to comply with water quality requirements.

Beaches have to meet a total of 33 criteria for the Blue Flag status, which is administered by An Taisce on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education. In the North, 10 beaches and two marinas have been awarded blue-flag status.

Kerry and Donegal are leading counties with a total of 13 Blue Flags, while Mayo has a total of 12 and Clare has a total of nine.

Co Galway’s five beaches retaining Blue Flags include Loughrea lake in the east of the county, while the city retained its two flags at Salthill and Silverstrand.

The five marinas which hold Blue Flags are Killinure in Co Westmeath, Kilmore Quay and New Ross in Co Wexford, the Royal Cork Yacht Club at Crosshaven, and Kinsale, Co Cork.

Green Coast awards, which are given to areas classified as “exceptional places to visit”, were conferred on Bishop’s Quarter and Seafield in Co Clare, for the first time, while Ballyhealy, Ballmoney, Booley Bay, Grange and St Helen’s Bay in Co Wexford also secured this status.

Fingal’s The Burrow and Cork’s Inchydoney East have received Green Coast awards for the first time.

Donegal’s Rathmullan and Sligo’s Enniscrone failed to meet the Green Coast water quality standards, while Ballycastle in Co Mayo and Skerries in north Dublin did not apply to retain their 2014 Green Coast designations.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, who presented at total of 144 awards at Ballinskelligs beach, Co Kerry, paid tribute to the “sterling efforts of local authorities, An Taisce and local communities” in ensuring that their beaches “meet the standards of excellence required for a Blue Flag or Green Coast award”.

An Taisce’s coastal programmes manager Annabel FitzGerald noted that those beaches and marinas which “achieved the accolade” had complied with “strict criteria relating to water quality, safety, facilities for visitors, beach management, environmental education and the provision of information”.

She also paid tribute to the volunteers involved in 440 “clean coast” groups, noting that over 500,000 pieces of litter and other items were removed from the marine environment during some 800 beach cleans last year.

County,                      Beach.

Antrim Portrush (Mill) West
Antrim Portrush Whiterocks
Clare Cappa Pier, Kilrush
Clare Kilkee
Clare Doonbeg
Clare Spanish Point
Clare Miltown Malbay
Clare Lahinch
Clare Fanore, Ballyvaughan
Clare Ballycuggeran, Killaloe
Clare Mountshannon
Cork Redbarn, Pilmore
Cork Garrylucas, Ballinspittle
Cork Garretstown, Ballinspittle
Cork Inchydoney, Clonakilty
Cork Owenahincha, Rosscarbery
Cork Tragumna, Skibbereen
Cork Barleycove
Derry Magilligan (Benone), Limavady
Derry Downhill, Castlerock
Derry Castlehill
Derry Portstewart
Donegal Bundoran
Donegal Rossnowlagh
Donegal Murvagh, Laghy
Donegal Fintra, Killybegs
Donegal Naran/Portnoo
Donegal Carrickfinn, Anagary
Donegal Killahoey, Dunfanaghy
Donegal Marblehill, Dunfanaghy
Donegal Downings, Rosguill Peninsula
Donegal Magherwarden/Portsalon, Fanad
Donegal Lisfannon, Fahan
Donegal Culdaff
Donegal Stroove
Down Crawfordsburn, Bangor
Down Tyrella, Downpatrick
Down Murlough Beach, Newcastle
Down Cranfield Bay, Kilkeel
Dublin Portrane
Dublin Balcarrick
Dublin Donabate
Dublin Portmarnock
Dublin Seapoint
Dublin Killiney
Galway Loughrea Lake
Galway Traught, Kinvara
Galway Salthill
Galway Silver Strand
Galway Trá Mhór, Indreabhán
Galway Trá an Dóilin, An Cheathrú Rua
Galway Cill Mhuirbhigh, Cill Rónáin, Aran
Kerry Derrynane, Caherdaniel
Kerry Derrynane
Kerry Ballinskelligs
Kerry White Strand, Caherciveen
Kerry Kells, Caherciveen
Kerry Rossbeigh
Kerry Inch
Kerry Ventry
Kerry Magherabeg, Castlegregory
Kerry Fenit
Kerry Banna, Ardfert
Kerry Ballyheigue
Kerry Ballybunion North
Kerry Ballybunion South
Louth Carlingford, Templetown
Louth Clogherhead
Louth Port, Clogherhead
Mayo Carrowmore, Louisburg
Mayo Bertra, Murrisk
Mayo Clare Island harbour
Mayo Dooega, Achill Island
Mayo Keel, Achill Island
Mayo Keem, Achill Island
Mayo Dugort, Achill Island
Mayo Golden Strand, Achill Island
Mayo Mullaghroe, Belmullet
Mayo Elly Bay, Belmullet
Mayo Ross Killala, Belmullet
Sligo Rosses Point
Waterford Counsellors’ Strand, Dunmore
Waterford Dunmore East
Waterford Tramore
Waterford Dungarvan
Waterford Clonea
Wexford Courtown
Wexford Morriscastle
Wexford Ballinesker
Wexford Curracloe
Wexford Rosslare
Wicklow Greystones
Wicklow Arklow
Wicklow Brittas Bay South

This new app could test the eyes of hundreds of people living in developing countries


A new app has been created to accurately test the eyes of people living in remote rural areas in developing coutries.

The Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek) is designed for use anywhere in the world and doesn’t rely on large hardware or electricity supply for standard testing methods.

READ MORE: Here’s what Google has in store for you with its latest version of Android .

Peek has a series of apps inlcuding the Peek Acuity which determines how clearly a person sees.

It features a letter E on the screen in four different positions. The tester then swipes in the direction the patient thinks the arms of the E are facing.

The app was tested on 233 people in Kenya aged 55 and over and produced results that were as accurate as standard paper eye test charts or those in clinics.

Dr Andrew Bastawrous, who co-founded Peek, had the idea for the app when transporting heavy eye equipment to difficult-to-reach areas of Kenya. (PEEK)

He said: “With most of the world’s blind people living in low-income countries, it is vital we develop new tools to increase early detection and appropriate referral for treatment. Mobile phone use is now so widespread that it seemed to be an ideal platform.

“In this study we aimed to develop and validate a smartphone-based visual acuity test for eyesight which would work in challenging circumstances, such as rural Africa, but also provide reliable enough results to use in routine clinical practice in well-established healthcare systems.

“Our ultimate hope is that the accuracy and easy to use features of Peek will lead to more people receiving timely and appropriate treatment and be given the chance to see clearly again.” (PEEK)

Peek was developed by the Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic research, the University of Strathclyde and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where Dr Bastawrous is a lecturer.

Less protein ‘key to longer life’

Cutting down on protein and upping consumption of carbohydrates may be the key to living a longer, healthier life,

New research suggests.


                 Reduce              Consumption                  Increase

In tests on mice, changing the mix of protein and carbs produced the same benefits as reducing calorie consumption by 40%.

Previous research has shown that strict calorie restriction can improve metabolism and extend lifespan across a wide range of species. But such a drastic strategy would be challenging for most people and may harm health.

Eating smaller amounts of high quality protein and a lot of healthy carbohydrates might prove more practical for humans, scientists believe.

Good sources of protein include eggs, milk, white meat and soya. Consuming healthy carbohydrates means choosing foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and pulses, and avoiding refined sugar, white bread and pastries.

Researcher Dr Stephen Simpson, from the University of Sydney in Australia, said: “We’ve shown that when compared head-to-head, mice got the same benefits from a low protein, high carbohydrate diet as a 40% caloric restriction diet.

“Except for the fanatical few, no one can maintain a 40% caloric reduction in the long-term, and doing so can risk loss of bone mass, libido and fertility.”

The mice were observed for eight weeks as they ate a range of diets with different protein and carbohydrate ratios in conditions where food was restricted or provided at all times.

Low protein/high carbohydrate (LPHC) diets when food was always available delivered the same benefits as calorie restriction in terms of insulin activity, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, the scientists found.

Even though mice on LPHC diets ate more – increasing their food and energy intake by 25% to 30% – their metabolism was higher than that of calorie-restricted mice and they did not gain extra weight.

Calorie restriction did not provide any additional benefits for LPHC mice.

If the findings – published in the journal Cell Reports – apply to humans, adjusting protein and carbohydrate intake could lead to healthier ageing, said the researchers.

Dr Simpson added: “It still holds true that reducing food intake and body weight improves metabolic health and reduces the risk of diseases like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease.

“However, according to these mouse data and emerging human research, it appears that including modest intakes of high-quality protein and plenty of healthy carbohydrates in the diet will be beneficial for health as we age.”

Early humans migrated out of Africa through Egypt rather than Ethiopia, new study says


A study of present-day genomes of north-east Africans suggests the northern route through Egypt and the Sinai was more likely

Early humans migrated out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago through Egypt rather than crossing the shallow sea that separated Ethiopia from the Arabian Peninsula as some archaeologists have suggested, a study of the DNA of modern people has found.

Scientists have long argued about which of the two migratory routes the first humans took when they emerged from Africa to colonise the Middle East, Asia and other parts of the globe. Now a study of present-day genomes of north-east Africans suggests the northern route through Egypt and the Sinai was more likely.

The study analysed the genomes of 100 Egyptians and 125 Ethiopians and compared their DNA to people currently living in Eurasia and to other parts of Africa. It concluded that the ancient migratory route through the Sinai Peninsula has left its mark on the DNA of people living in Egypt today, scientists said.

Modern Egyptians show a greater genetic similarity than modern Ethiopians to present-day Eurasians which supports the idea that Egypt, and not Ethiopia, was the last stop on the African continent before early humans came out of Africa to colonise other parts of the world, they said.

“If people left Africa from the north then people who live there now should show the highest genetic similarity to Eurasians. If they left from the south through Ethiopia, then Ethiopians should show the highest similarity,” said Luca Pagani of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, and lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

“Two geographically plausible routes have been proposed: an exit through the current Egypt and Sinai, which is the northern route, or one through Ethiopia, the Bab el Mandeb strait, and the Arabian Peninsula, which is the southern route,” Dr Pagani said.

“In our research, we generated the first comprehensive set of unbiased genomic data from Northeast Africans and observed, after controlling for recent migrations, a higher genetic similarity between Egyptians than between Ethiopians and Eurasians – suggesting that Egypt not Ethiopia was the last stop,” he said.

For years it was believed that Ethiopia was the last stop before humans spread across the rest of the world
The researchers attempted to compensate for more recent migrations of people in the region between Eurasia and Africa, which must have occurred over the past few centuries, but still found a closer connection between modern-day Egyptians and Eurasians than between Ethiopians and Eurasians.

They also found that modern Egyptians were more similar genetically to modern east Africans than to west Africans, which supported the idea more recent human migrations were not interfering with the findings.

“The most exciting consequence of our results is that we draw back the veil that has been hiding an episode in the history of all Eurasians, improving the understanding of billions of people of their evolutionary history,” Dr Pagani said.

The study found that people outside of Africa split from the Egyptian genomes about 55,000 years ago, which the split from Ethiopian genomes occurred about 65,000 years ago, suggesting that Egypt was the last stop before emerging from Africa.

“It is exciting that, in our genomic era, the DNA of living people allows us to explore and understand events as ancient as 60,000 years ago,” Dr Pagani said.

Previous genetic studies in mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited down the maternal line, have suggested a migratory route that exited Africa from Ethiopia. However, Dr Pagani said that this work is not in conflict from the latest study as it is possible that some earlier migrations did occur across the strait of Bal el Mandeb to the Arabian Peninsula.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 27th May 2015

Aer Lingus sale will create jobs, so says the Minister for Transport


Opposition sharply critical of move to sell 25.1% State stake in Ireland’s airline.

Minister for Trasport Paschal Donohoe: “It is envisaged that by the end of 2016, a new net 150 jobs will have been created in Aer Lingus , rising to a new net total of 635 jobs by 2020.”

The sale of the State’s Aer Lingus share would create jobs, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe told the Dáil. “It is envisaged that by the end of 2016, a new net 150 jobs will have been created in Aer Lingus , rising to a new net total of 635 jobs by 2020,” he said.

The Minister said the Aer Lingus brand would be protected and its head office retained in Ireland. The airline would operate all its scheduled international air transport services under the Aer Lingus name, he added.

Mr Donohoe said the sale would strengthen Aer Lingus’s competitive positions, reduce risk to the company and provide it with the opportunity with a larger group to face the challenges in a changing aviation environment.

It would promote Ireland’s wider connectivity, he added, and could bring growth to our airports. It was anticipated the move would bring benefits to both Aer Lingus’s long-haul and short-haul networks within the IAG group.

“There will be a focus on sustaining and growing routes from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Knock,” Mr Donohoe added.

He said Aer Lingus was no longer our national flag carrier. That decision was taken nine years ago when 75 per cent of the shareholding was sold.

“Nor is the State the majority shareholder in the company. We own a minority 25.1 per cent shareholding and I want to use the opportunity now to maximise the benefit of that residual shareholding to put the company on a firm footing for the future while protecting key general national interests.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman Timmy Dooley said he could not get his head around the necessity, from the Minister’s perspective, to sell the remaining stake in the airline. A decision was taken in 2006 to change Aer Lingus’s semi-State status and trade it publicly, thereby ensuring it would be run on a commercial basis in the best interest of all, including workers, passengers and the country, he added.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand how the Government has failed to realise the importance of retaining the shareholding and having control, although not absolute control, over the direction of the company or an input into it,” Mr Dooley said.

Aer Lingus had successfully emerged from the worst financial crisis in the State’s history, or one of the deepest in the OECD, as a lean and growth-oriented company with very significant cash reserves to take on the kinds of challenges that would arise.

Sinn Féin spokesman Dessie Ellis said it was very sad to express an opinion on what was a done deal that nobody outside of IAG and Fine Gael wanted.

“The Government has made its decision behind the closed doors in a shrewd media operation which shows blatant disregard for the Oireachtas and its role in dealing with issues of such importance,” he added. “No matter what anyone says, the Government will seek to sell its share in Aer Lingus and the weak and cowed Labour Party members will go along with it.”

Diversity of opinion’ not welcome in mainstream political parties

Says Lucinda Creighton on Averil Power’s treatment


Lucinda Creighton left & Averil Power.

Fianna Fail’s treatment of senator Averil Power illustrates that “diversity of opinion” is not welcome in the mainstream political parties, according to former minister Lucinda Creighton.

The Renua leader today said the events surrounding Ms Power’s departure from Fianna Fáil “sums up everything I know about politics”.

And Ms Creighton admitted that her new party “wouldn’t shut the door” to Ms Power but said they have had no conversations about her joining Renua.

“To my mind it sums up everything I already know about politics or at least the old political establishment, which is that diversity of opinion on really sensitive social issues, that different people have strong opinions on, that diversity of opinion is just not welcome in the old parties,” Ms Creighton said.

“The passion of individuals like Averil Power is something to be welcomed in politics, not something to be feared. So that’s my view on the matter,” she added.

Separately today, Ms Creighton criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny over conduct towards other deputies in the Dail.

During ‘Leaders’ Questions’ today, Mr Kenny accused Independent TD Clare Daly of going on a “rant” about the proposed sale of the Government’s 25.1pc stake in Aer Lingus.

Later, Ms Creighton said the Taoiseach should “show a suitable respect for our parliament”, adding that Mr Kenny spoke in a “patronising way”.

She added: “I think certainly the Taoiseach does not do himself any justice in speaking to people in that way.”

Earlier in the Dail, Ms Creighton expressed frustration after the Taoiseach did not respond to her claims that Independent TD Catherine Murphy was being “silenced” by Siteserv.

It was reported this week that Siteserv wrote to the Ceann Comhairle seeking tat the Dail record be amended to address what it described as “unfound” and “false” accusations in recent speeches by Ms Murphy.

Ms Creighton called on the Taoiseach to “reject attempts to silence members of the House” by Siteserv and businessman Denis O’Brien.

Ireland’d HSE patients are too frightened to complain ?

Warns the Ombudsman


Patients also believe complaining wouldn’t make a difference?

Irish patients are afraid to complain about how they are treated by hospitals over concerns their standard of care will be affected.

An investigation by the Ombudsman found that many people refused to lodge complains against hospital staff because they feared repercussions for themselves or their loved ones.

The report, from Ombudsman Peter Tyndall, calls for an independent complaints service for patients.

“I wonder if the tragic events seen in Aras Attracta and Portlaoise hospital could have been avoided if those complaints were dealt with properly,” he said.

A large proportion of those surveyed also believed complaining made no difference.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Ombudsman recommended that the HSE and each hospital put an action plan in place to “ensure that people have access to an effective independent advocacy service.”

The survey was carried out because Mr Tyndall was concerned that his office was receiving fewer complaints compared to other health service ombudsmans in other countries.

“Despite the high number of interactions with our hospitals, relatively few people complain when they are unhappy with the service they receive. Compared with other jurisdictions, complaints to the HSE and to my Office are very low. I want to find out why this is,” he said in 2014.

Complaints to the ombudsman about healthcare represent 20% all complaints received. In Northern Ireland this figure is over 60%, while in the UK it is closer to 80%.

Galway locals build a raft to help swans raise their cygnets


Five cygnets have now survived

Hundreds of people in Co Galway have been following the progress of five cygnets born in Oranmore a few days ago.

Locals assisted in the process, by installing a special raft to allow a pair of swans to breed safely.

Engineer Peter Butler led the effort after hearing about how high tides had submerged the swans’ nest year after year.

Using recycled materials, including plastic bottles and wooden pallets, he designed a raft that would withstand tidal fluctuations and allow swans the 40-day window they need to hatch their eggs.

The birds took to the structure and have been nesting on it since early April.

The first cygnet hatched last week, followed by seven others since then. So far, five have survived.

Their parents have been keeping a close eye on their offspring and fending off gulls, herons and wild animals.

It has emerged that the pen, or mother swan, was herself rescued six years ago by volunteers from the local swan sanctuary.

She was cared for by Mary Joyce of the Galway and Claddagh Swan Rescue group for a number of months, before being tagged and released  in October 2009.

The organisation has appealed to people not to feed the swans or the cygnets, as they are able to fend for themselves and do not need human assistance to eat.

The baby swans will spend the next few months on the estuary at the edge of Oranmore before setting off on their own.

Locals hope to leave the raft in place to give the swans a chance to repeat their successful mating next year.

Ireland’s inbound visitor numbers show a big increase


The volume of people travelling to Ireland was significantly higher between February and April this year than the same period last year, according to official figures on Wednesday.

The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that an extra 212,000 trips to Ireland took place during the three-month period.

Overseas visitor numbers were 13.5% higher than between February and April 2014.

Inbound visitors primarily came from Britain and other European countries. Trips by North Americans were up 20.2%, or 237,600, in the period.

Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors and has significant potential to play a further role in the country’s economic revival. In 2014, tourism was responsible for a 12% increase in earnings and a 9% increase in overseas visitor numbers.

For 2015, Ireland projects an increase of 6% in overseas tourists.

The Earth’s Ozone is now in Good Shape, say Scientists 

  The arctic ozone without the Montreal Protocol (left) and following its implementation (right) on 26 March 2011.

Earth’s ozone is in good shape, according to scientists, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, which has helped us avoid severe ozone depletion.

After years of dangerous depletion that left a giant hole over Antarctica, our ozone is finally recovering. Once scientists realized that bromine-containing halons and chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were eating away at the Earth’s protective layer, leaders enacted the 1987 Montreal Protocol banning such chemicals.

Now we are reaping the rewards, with the ozone layer in much better shape than it would have been without the United Nations (UN) treaty.

“Our research confirms the importance of the Montreal Protocol and shows that we have already had real benefits. We knew that it would save us from large ozone loss ‘in the future’, but in fact we are already past the point when things would have become noticeably worse,” lead author Professor Martyn Chipperfield, from theSchool of Earth & Environment at the University of Leeds, said in a press release.

Concentrations of these harmful substances can survive in the atmosphere for many years. However, the good news is that concentrations peaked in 1993 and have subsequently started shrinking.

In the new study, the researchers used a state-of-the-art 3D computer model of atmospheric chemistry to investigate what would have happened to the ozone layer if the Montreal Protocol had not been put in place.

The researchers suggest that the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic would have grown in size by an additional 40 percent by 2013. Their model also suggests that had ozone-depleting substances continued to increase, the ozone layer would have become significantly thinner over other parts of the globe.

Such would have been the case especially during extreme events like the exceptionally cold Arctic winter of 2010-2011.

Without the Montreal Protocol, the new study reveals that a very large ozone hole over the Arctic would have occurred during that cold winter and smaller Arctic ozone holes would have become a regular occurrence.

According to the team behind this new study, scientists must continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure all potential threats to the ozone layer are mitigated.