News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 12th June 2015

2015 on track to be Ireland’s best-ever year for tourism


2015 is set to be a record year for tourism, according to a new report from the CSO.

Figures show that more than 1.5 million trips were made to Ireland by overseas visitors in the first three months of 2015.

That represents a 13% rise on the same period last year.

The news comes as Fáilte Ireland is reminding towns that today is the closing date for entrants to apply to the 2015 Tourism Towns Award.

Alex Connolly from Fáilte Ireland said that that these figures are good news for tourism operators across the country.

“The American market is extremely strong – that’s been helped by the fact that the American economy is improving – but also by the fact that the currency is currently working in favour of American visitors,” he said.

“Also the UK market, the British market, is very strong at the moment.

“We’ve recently surveyed the tourism businesses in Ireland and eight of 10 tourism operators are telling us that they reckon their business will be up this year.

“We could be looking at the best tourism year on record.”

Drumm, Fitzpatrick, McAteer, Whelan given inquiry date


Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern asked to appear on July 16th, before former Anglo executives

Former Anglo Irish Bank executives David Drumm, Sean Fitzpatrick, Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan have been directed to appear before the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry on July 29th.

Other high-profile Anglo executives John Bowe and Tom Browne have been directed to appear on July 24th. Mr Bowe was a former head of capital markets at the bank and featured prominently in the Anglo Tapes controversy.

Mr McAteer and Mr Whelan were found guilty last year of giving illegal loans to 10 developers to buy shares in the bank and ordered to do community service. This followed a 48-day trial.

In addition, former Irish Nationwide Building Society chairman Michael Walshhas been directed to attend on September 2nd, along with John Stanley Purcell, a former director with the institution.

Anglo and INBS received €34.7 billion in bailout cash from Irish taxpayers following the crash of the Irish financial sector in late 2008.

However, no date has yet been set for the appearance of INBS’s former chief executive Michael Fingleton, who was issued with a notice to attend the committee on May 21st.

Other high profile players in the financial sector before and after the crash who have yet to be given a date include, Alan Dukes, the former chairman of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, Mike Aynsley, IBRC’s ex chief executive, Gillian Bowler, a former chair of Irish Life & Permanent, Gary McGann, a former director of Anglo, Fergus Murphy, a former head of EBS Building Society who is now an executive with AIB, and Matt Moran, an executive with Anglo.

These directions were issued late yesterday as part of the latest tranche of communications by the Inquiry to witnesses to appear before the committee, which is investigating the events that led up to the financial crash in 2008.

The 11-person committee is being chaired by the Labour Party’s Ciarán Lynch.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been asked to appear on July 16th while the current holder of the office Enda Kenny will appear a week later, along with jobs ministerRichard Bruton.

Tánaiste Joan Burton will appear on the same date along with the former Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is set to go in front of the committee on September 10th.

It now remains to be seen if all of those directed to appear will actually turn up at the committee, in particular Mr Drumm, who moved to the United States after his exit from Anglo and has shown little interest in returning to Ireland.

Rethink how you eat your veggies


We’re always being told to eat our greens, pack our diet full of fruit and vegetables and get much-needed nutrients into our bodies.

But while many of us think that pinging a steam fresh bag of veg in the microwave or popping a few florets of broccoli in a pan to go with our dinner will do the job, it turns out that a lot of our storing, preparation and cooking methods of vegetables are actually diminishing their nutritional value.

In her new book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, journalist Jo Robinson has shared some top tips on how to make sure you are getting the most out of the veggies you eat.

Cook tomatoes for longer. The longer you cook tomatoes for, the more nutritious they become because the heat changes the lycopene within them into a form our bodies can process a lot easier. This means that canned tomatoes have more nutritional benefits than the fresh variety thanks to the cooking and canning process.

Boiling vegetables. Most of us will have heard before that boiling vegetables like spinach is wrong because water soluble vitamins like vitamin C seep out during the process. However Jo reveals that antioxidant levels also lower when boiled. Instead, try steaming, sautéing or roasting your veg to keep it nutritious.

Don’t cook chopped garlic straightaway. If you put chopped or minced garlic in a hot pan as soon as you’ve prepared it, you stand little chance of absorbing any allicin, the beneficial compound that makes garlic such a fundamental part of a healthy diet. This is because it hasn’t had chance to activate, so leave it for ten minutes after preparing before putting it on the heat as this will give the enzyme a chance to do its thing.

Cutting carrots before cooking. We’re all guilty of this mistake at some point: cutting carrots before cooking them. While it seems like the logical thing to do, cooking them whole, then chopping them into your desired shape helps keep more nutrients in the little orange numbers. Jo adds that cooked carrots are better for you than in their raw form, as it helps break down the cell walls, which means the nutrients are easier to get to.

Some 7,700+ patients on Irish Hospital trolleys during May


It’s the highest May figure since records began

Over 7,700 patients were left waiting on trolleys for an inpatient bed last month – a 31% increase on the same period last year, new figures have shown.

According to the latest ‘Trolley/Ward Watch’ figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), 7,713 patients were left waiting on trolleys during May of this year compared to 5,891 during May of last year.

These are the highest May trolley figures seen since records began in 2006. In May of that year, 4,214 people were left waiting on trolleys, therefore last month’s figure of 7,713 represents an 83% increase.

The hospitals with the highest number of patients on trolleys last month included Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital (782), Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda (718), University Hospital Limerick (538) and University Hospital Galway (524).

The INMO pointed out that in recent weeks, two patients who were over 100 years old, were left waiting on trolleys for more than 24 hours. However, it insisted that ‘every day is the same inside Emergency Departments (EDs), with elderly people on trolleys lined up, head to toe, along small narrow corridors’.

The organisation said that there are not enough nurses to care for these patients and at this point, many of its members are ‘embarrassed to have to face patients and their families who have to suffer this indignity’.

INMO general secretary, Liam Doran, described the treatment of these elderly patients as ‘a damning indictment of our society’.

“While some investment has been made recently, it is only the tip of the iceberg. The Government as a whole needs to take responsibility for this ongoing crisis as we continue to see a deterioration in the figures month on month,” he commented.

He added that the stated target of having a reduction in the level of daily overcrowding in EDs by October 1 ‘is merely a pipe dream’, unless there is major investment in acute beds, step-down beds, community services and recruitment initiatives for nursing and other staff.

Six care workers in court for alleged assault of Áras Attracta patients


Case put back until July 14th to allow disclosure of TV footage and various documents

Six people appeared in court on Friday for allegedly assaulting patients who are intellectually disabled at the HSE-run Áras Attracta centre in Swinford, Co Mayo

Six people appeared in court on Friday for allegedly assaulting patients who are intellectually disabled at the HSE-run Áras Attracta centre in Swinford, Co Mayo.

The cases against all six, five women and a man, were put back until July 14th for mention by Judge Mary Devins at a sitting of Ballina District Court.

The cases against the defendants were put back to allow for disclosure of TV footage and various documents and papers that the State is seeking to rely on.

The six accused, Joan Gill (62), Dublin Road, Swinford; Patrick McLoughlin (56), Lalibella, Mayfield, Claremorris;Christina Delaney (35), Seefin, Lissatava, Hollymount;Kathleen King (56), Knockshanbally, Straide, Foxford; Joan Walsh (42), Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co Sligo and Anna Ywunsong Botsimbo (34), Lowpark Avenue, Charlestown, were all present for this morning’s brief court hearing.

An intensive garda investigation into allegations of assault was mounted following a Prime Time TV investigation late last year.

Footage, which was secretly filmed by an undercover reporter, showed residents at the centre being forced fed, physically restrained, shouted at and slapped.

The assaults allegedly occurred in November at what is known as ‘Bungalow 3’ in the Áras Attracta complex.

One of the accused, Ms Gill, faces five assault charges, the others one each.

Judge Devins put back all the cases to July 14th for mention to allow disclosure be provided. A date for a full hearing will be decided thereafter.

Solicitors for five of the accused requested that an application for free legal aid be deferred until a later date.

On the instructions of the DPP charges against all six defendants have been brought under Section 2 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

The penalties for conviction are a fine of €1,905 or six months in prison.

The State was represented at the hearing by the State Solicitor for Mayo, Vincent Deane.

Polar bears develop taste for dolphins as Arctic warms


Norwegian scientists have seen polar bears eating dolphins in the Arctic for the first time ever and blame global warming for the bears expanding their diet.

Polar bears feed mainly on seals but Jon Aars at the Norwegian Polar Institute has photographed dolphins being devoured by a bear and published his findings in the latest edition of Polar Research this month.

“It is likely that new species are appearing in the diet of polar bears due to climate change because new species are finding their way north,” he told AFP.

The first incident he documented was in April 2014 when his team came across a polar bear feeding on two white-beaked dolphins.

Although dolphins are regularly seen in the Norwegian Arctic in the summer when the ice has melted, they have never been observed during winter or spring when the sea is usually still covered in sheets of ice.

But Norwegian scientists have reported a strong retreat of ice and two nearly ice-free winters in recent years which they said could have attracted the dolphins further north, where they probably became trapped by the sudden arrival of dense ice blown into a fjord by strong northerly winds.

Aars said the bear he photographed had probably caught the two dolphins when they surfaced to breathe through a tiny hole in the ice.

“Even if they saw the bear, the dolphins did not necessarily have any other choice,” he said.

In the photos a skinny old male bear devours one of the dolphins and appeared to have stored a second one under snow for later – something which scientist had never seen before.

“We think that he tried to cover the dolphin in snow in the hope that other bears, foxes or birds would have less of a chance of finding it. Maybe to be able to eat it a day or two later, once he had digested the first one,” Aars said.

After the first incident in 2014, a further five cases of dolphins stranded or captured and then eaten by bears have been reported.

“I don’t think that this signifies a great upheaval” in the diet of the carnivores, Aars said. “It’s just that the polar bear is coming into contact with species they have not been used to meeting until now.”

Polar bears are opportunistic predators that are also known to feed on small whales if the opportunity arises.


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