News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th June 2015

Think-tank calls for tax increases in next Irish budget


The Government has been urged to increase taxes in the next budget instead of pressing on with much vaunted cuts.

The Social Justice Ireland think-tank called on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to plough money from taxpayers into reversing cuts to caring, housing, and anti-poverty services that have been implemented over the last six years of austerity.

In two of the more controversial proposals, the group said businesses should pay a minimum effective corporate tax rate of 6% to generate at least €1bn for the state.

The better-off in society & those earning salaries of in excess of €100,000 a year — should be hit with a 3% income levy through the Universal Social Charge, which, the group said, would raise €210m.

Fr Sean Healy, director of the organisation, said the next budget would be about recovery and determining what kind of a country our children will inherit.

“This is not the time for tax cuts,” he said.

“All available resources should be used to invest in addressing Ireland’s major deficits — in areas such as caring, housing, and poverty that affect the young, the old and most in between.”

The think-tank, which each year costs its own version of the budget, said spending should increase by €1.5bn as set out in Government plans.

Some of the main spending ideas include an additional €680m to support the social housing strategy, with new options on low-cost finance; €350m spent on health to support primary care teams; and new measures to support older people and those with disability, and to tackle obesity.

Social Justice Ireland said a new universal pension should be introduced and welfare payments be increased by €6.50 a week.

It also called for a €350m investment in education to help adult literacy, afterschool care, and early childhood education; and €710m to be spent on broadband, rural transport, and a rural enterprise scheme.

Social Justice Ireland said the country should have EU average levels of tax in order to pay for an EU average level of services and infrastructure, but it does not.

Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst, said: “After many years of coping with the financial downturn, we, as a nation, now need to consider what sort of a future we want for our children and our grandchildren.

“Some of the decisions we take now, on issues like social housing, childcare, and broadband, may not bear fruit for some years — yet it is vital that these good decisions are taken now, because these decisions will shape the way Ireland looks and functions in the future.”

Fr Healy added: “Whilst Minister Noonan is required to frame Budget 2016 within the parameters of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, this should not stop him from framing worthwhile, and overdue, investments in society, as well as the economy.”

Shane Ross & Independent Alliance to field up to 20 candidates in general election


Journalist Carol Hunt and Lord Mayor of Drogheda unveiled as new members

The Independent Alliance, headed by Independent TD Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice is to field up to 20 candidates in the upcoming general election.

The Independent Alliance is to field up to 20 candidates in the upcoming general election.

The group – headed by Independent TD Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice – introduced a number of its newest members at a press conference today.

Journalist Carol Hunt and former Lord Mayor of Drogheda Kevin Callan will stand for the alliance.

Senator Feargal Quinn will be chairman of the grouping and Senator Gerard Craughwell is also supporting the movement.

Deputy Ross said this was not a political party and will not impose any whip except on confidence motions.

He said: “We are radical but we are responsible.”

The press conference was cut short when DÁil ushers said non-members cannot be interviewed on the grounds of Leinster House.

John Halligan TD accused one of the ushers of being biased against Independents.

AbbVie (Abbotts) announces €40 million investment in Sligo

The biopharmaceutical company is to create 50 new jobs over next four years in Ballytivnan, Sligo.


AbbVie chief executive Rick Gonzalez and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the official opening of the newly expanded AbbVie facility in Sligo last year.

AbbVie is to expand its medical device manufacturing facility in Sligo, creating 50 highly-skilled jobs over the next four years.

The biopharmaceutical company, which was formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories, is investing €40 million in its manufacturing facility at Ballytivnan in Sligo.

The company’s manufacturing site in Ballytivnan currently produces drug delivery devices, including a pen-style injector that is used by patients around the world who use AbbVie’s treatment indicated for a range of auto-immune conditions.

Including today’s announcement, AbbVie’s investment in Ballytivnan and broader manufacturing operations in the country has reached more than €134 million since 2013.

AbbVie employs more than 500 people at five different sites around the country, including three manufacturing plants – two in Sligo and one in Cork. The research-based biopharmaceutical company was formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories.

A sex survey shows one in four men masturbate every day


Almost half of sexually active men do it more than once a week, compared with a quarter of women.

Almost half of the sexually active men who responded to The Irish Times sex survey masturbate more than once a week.

Men masturbate more than women, with one in four male respondents to the sex survey saying they do it every day, compared with 5% of females.

Almost half of sexually active men who responded masturbate more than once a week, compared with a quarter of women.

“My understanding is that it is more acceptable for men to do so,” says sexologist Emily Power Smith. “Women are still very embarrassed to admit that they do and are less likely even to know it’s an option when growing up.”

Psychotherapist Trish Murphy suggests that “masturbation for women could possibly be included in sex education to promote a sense of right to pleasure.”

Both men and women consider masturbation to be the solution to not having enough sex, yet ironically women who masturbate tend to have higher sex drives than women who don’t. So there is a pay-off in a committed relationship of engaging in “regular self-love”, Murphy says.

In addition, nine out of 10 people who responded to the survey say they masturbate alone.

According to Brendan Madden, a psychotherapist, “Sexual stimulation and release are clearly more important for men than women.

This ties in with other results of the survey that indicate men rate sexual encounters as highly enjoyable and important. And it ties in with a wide range of sex surveys around the world.”

The Irish Times sex survey was conducted on over the course of a week in June 2015. A total of 12,639 participants completed the survey (a 71% completion rate), with 12,134 responses used in the follow-up analysis. Over 500 responses were excluded, the vast majority because the participant was under the age of 17 (below the required age to take part) or where it was obvious that false information had been provided. Click here to view the full results, with interactive graphics.

The survey was carried out among self-selecting individuals. It is not a weighted survey and does not purport to be accurately representative of the wider population, biased as it is towards certain age groups (over two-thirds of those who took the survey were between the age of 24 and 50) and towards those who are more sexually active. Therefore all results should be seen as indicative rather than definitive.

Women should be taught about female orgasm in school


The sex survey returned a fairly consistent result concerning an inability to orgasm.

Women should be taught about masturbation and female orgasm in sex education classes, two prominent Irish sex therapists have said.  The Irish Times sex survey of more than 12,000 people has found that up to half of women of all sexual orientations have experienced inability to orgasm during sex and this may be due to a lack of knowledge, said Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and Irish Times columnist.

Teresa Bergin, a psychosexual therapist, said that difficulties were also psychological in many cases and were “a very painful topic for women who were afraid to talk to anyone about it, even their female friends.”

An inability to orgasm was relatively consistent among participants across all female age categories at between 43 per cent among 35- to 49-year-olds to 51 per cent in the 17- to 24-year-old age category.

“Difficulty reaching orgasm is a very common issue,” said Bergin. “ Some women experience this difficulty from time to time and it is related to tiredness, distraction, not being sufficiently aroused, or not giving themselves enough time. It can also be a result of difficulties within the relationship and can indicate communication problems. On the other hand, there are many women who have never experienced orgasm and it is a very distressing and frustrating problem for them, particularly when they don’t feel able to talk to their partner about it.

“This issue can affect men too: for them it is an even more difficult topic to talk about and very stressful given the possible implications for fertility,” she added.

It may come as no surprise that men masturbate more than women, the survey found. Almost half of sexually active men said they masturbated more than once a week, while almost one in four did so at least once a day. This compares to almost one in three sexually active women who said they masturbated more than once week, and just 5 per cent who said they did so at least once daily.

Bergin commented: “The statistics here for men are certainly higher than for women and this figure is probably true of the general population. There has been a myth in the past that women simply don’t masturbate and that it is solely a male pursuit. This is certainly untrue, however; women don’t appear to talk about masturbation, even among themselves. It seems to be quite a private, unspoken activity.”

Younger women are keen users of sex toys, with seven out of ten 25- to 34-year-olds using them. The majority (58 %) of sexually active people have used sex toys. Women were slightly more likely than men to use them, at 61% compared to 55%.

Sex toys were most popular with bisexual women, with 80 per cent saying they had used them, followed by 79% of lesbians.

“From my clinical experience, this seems to be an accurate result. In comparison with 10 years ago, I notice that people are more likely now to be open to experimenting with sex toys. They are more likely to introduce these into sexual activity and to talk with a partner about it. Women in particular are now more likely to buy, and use, a vibrator for their own personal pleasure but do not tend to discuss this with other women,” said Bergin.

Look out Tuesday is here an Asteroid could be coming our way

Scientists and celebrities urge governments to defend the planet from space rocks


The passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system,

Tuesday is the first annual Asteroid Day, an attempt by a coalition of scientists and celebrities to raise public awareness of the risks posed by space rocks striking the earth.

People are being encouraged to sign an international petition to governments encouraging them to spend more in defence of the planet.

The goal is to step up efforts to identify impactors such ascomets and asteroids before they reach us and to devise ways to steer these objects away from our orbit.

It all sounds very science fiction but the earth has always been at risk of being struck by such objects and the danger continues today.

Recent strike

The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in the upper atmosphere over Russia in February 2013, showering the ground below with large fragments. It injured 1,500 people and damaged more than 7,000 buildings but luckily there were no recorded deaths.

The largest impactor in modern history also occurred over Russia, the Tunguska Event of June 30th, 1908. The asteroid flattened about 2,000sq km, an area the size of that within London’s M25 ring road, said Prof Mark Bailey, director of Armagh Observatory.

It landed in Siberia so it was forests that were destroyed, but had it struck a city like London the deaths and losses would have been staggering.

Chelyabinsk was 20m across while Tunguska measured more than 60m. Imagine, then, what the damage would be like with an impacting object 10km across. This is the estimated diameter of the impactor that wiped out thedinosaurs 66 million years ago.

It struck the earth at the northern tip of the YucatánPeninsula in Mexico, leaving an impact crater 180km across and 20km deep. It sent billions of tonnes of material into the atmosphere, blotting out the sun and wiping out life on land and sea.

Global impact

Impactors have therefore had a powerful effect in shaping the biological history of the planet, forcing evolution to come up with organisms capable of living in a new environment post-collision.

Nor has the threat eased with time. Worldwide efforts to track these objects have identified more than 10,000 that cross our orbit. Of these, 867 have diameters of at least 1km, a size capable of having a global impact.

Armagh Observatory doesn’t look for them. It is trying to understand where they come from and why they have strange orbits. “The interesting question we are looking at is: are we currently in a high or low occurrence rate,” said Prof Bailey. “It looks like a lower rate, but this could be followed by a period of heightened activity.”


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