Monthly Archives: July 2015

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 31st July 2015

Irish house prices to rise the most in the euro zone

S&P predictions says


Annual growth of 9% will see Ireland outpace UK, Germany and Portugal.

S&P is predicting property price growth of 9% for 2015 for Ireland, after which it said that growth should slow to a “calmer” rate of 5% in 2016 and 3% in 2017.

Ireland’s housing market will experience the highest price rises across the Eurozone in 2015 , Standard & Poor’s said on Thursday, as it predicts that house price growth will stay “relatively robust” over the medium term.

The ratings agency is predicting price growth of 9% for 2015 for Ireland, after which it said that growth should slow to a “calmer” rate of 5%  in 2016 and 3% in 2017. Given that it will be “some time” before the mismatch in supply and demand is rectified, S&P said it sees house price growth staying “relatively robust over the medium term”.

However, it pointed to emerging “signs of a deceleration”, particularly in Dublin, with prices in the capital remaining flat in the seven months to May.

“This in our view reflects an adjustment in house-price expectations by households, after the Irish Central Bank introduced stricter controls on mortgage lending,” S&P said, as it added that these restrictions will likely to continue to temper the recovery going forward.

With annual price growth of 9% in 2015, S&P said that Irish property price growth will outpace that in Germany (5%); Portugal (4%); and the Netherlands (3%). Spanish house prices will return to growth (by 2.5%) from their deep fall since the financial crisis, and Italian prices will also start to recover this year. Ireland’s property recovery will also outpace the UK, with S&P expecting house price inflation of 7% in the UK, and a soft landing for Switzerland, with price growth of just 1.5%.

BOI to acquire a stake in Lloyds €1.2bn property sale

The sale of commercial loans will leave Lloyds with ‘minimal’ exposure to Irish assets


The sale of the assets will leave Lloyds with ‘minimal exposure’ to Irish commercial assets the bank said.

UK bank Lloyds is to sell a portfolio of impaired Irish commercial loans to a group of investors including Bank of Ireland for about £827 million (€1.2bn). The sale, which is expected to close by the end of the year, will reduce the banking group’s exposure to Irish commercial assets to less than £30m.

The consortium also includes Ennis Property Finance, an entity affiliated to Goldman Sachs and Feniton Property Finance, an entity affiliated to CarVal, a private equity group.

Bank of Ireland will acquire a portfolio of approximately € 200m performing commercial loans, comprising over 650 customers in the SME and CRE sectors.

Mark Cunningham, director of Bank of Ireland Business Banking, said that the acquisitions demonstrates the bank’s “ongoing focus on further growing and developing our strong position in serving the business banking sector in Ireland”.

The value of the assets in the portfolio is £2.6bn, of which £2.3 bn were impaired. In the year to December 31st 2014 the portfolio generated pre-tax losses of about €130m.

In a statement, Lloyds said that it would use the proceeds for general corporate purposes and the transaction is not expected to have a material impact on the group but will be capital accretive.

Lloyds first announced its exit from the Irish market in 2010, when it pulled its loss-making subsidiary Bank of Scotland (Ireland). The bank said that the latest sale of the assets is in line with its strategy of “deleveraging its balance sheet by reducing run off assets and creating a low risk, UK focused bank”. The sale of the assets will reduce the banking group’s impaired loans as a percentage of closing advances to 2.2% and reduce provisions as a percentage of impaired loans to 48.3%.

Last December, Lloyds sold a £1.6bn portfolio of Irish buy-to-let residential and commercial mortgages to Goldman Sachs and Carval.

Ireland to become a global leader in climate-smart agriculture


Respondents to a new survey believe that better fertiliser use, and more research and innovation and optimized land use can help Ireland become a global leader in climate-smart agriculture.

Ireland can be become a global leader in climate-smart agriculture, according to 86% of respondents to a new survey due to be released later today at a leadership forum on climate-smart agriculture in the RDS.

The survey was conducted by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and the RDS, with the support of Glanbia Ingredients Ireland (GII), Diageo, and other private and public sector partners.

The survey reached a national and international sample of experts and industry stakeholders. Over four-fifths, or 86%, of respondents from the national sample, which included non-government organisations (NGOs), government, agri-business, researchers and farmers, said establishing Irish leadership on climate-smart agriculture could directly benefit the agri-food sector.

Boosting Exports

However, with the government aiming to boost the value of our agri-food exports by 85% to €19 billion over the next decade, 80% of respondents from the national sample said meeting these objectives is made challenging by our EU obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The respondents were also very clear on the domestic action required to establish Ireland as a global leader on climate-smart agriculture. They identified better use of fertiliser, boosting research and innovation, and optimising land use as among the most important success factors.

Almost nine out of 10, or 87%, said economically and environmentally optimising our land resource, between dairy, beef, tillage and forestry, is a key climate-smart strategy.

Tom Arnold, the IIEA’s Director General, said: “We hope that the climate-smart agriculture leadership forum will catalyse new thinking on climate-smart agriculture, with a shift towards more sustainable environmental and economic solutions for an industry whose scale is domestic and global.”

Seán Molloy, GII’s Director of Strategy and Supplier Relations, said: “Ireland’s agri-food sector is strong, and GII’s commitment to quality of source ingredients, security of supply, and sustainability are key components of our customer value proposition.”

“Already, GII’s pasture-based family farming method of dairying produces a highly sustainable range of quality ingredients. We have prioritised sustainability as a key business focus in our Open Source Sustainability and Quality Assurance Code,” added Molloy.

The IIEA – RDS leadership forum on climate-smart agriculture will take place at 2.30pm today (Thursday) in the RDS, Dublin.

Varadkar to seek assurances that pancreas transplant programme will start in September 2015


The Health Minister Leo Varadkar says he has been assured by both Beaumont and Vincent’s Hospitals that they will have a pancreas transplant programme in place by September this year.

A petition was handed in to Beaumont Hospital today calling for patients awaiting pancreas transplants not to be abandoned.

The transplant programme has been suspended since the retirement of Dr David Hickey, and the hospital is now in the process of appointing a new consultant to carry out the procedure.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he would meet the key partners over the next few days.

“There is obviously a concern out there so I’m going to seek assurances that it’s going to happen,” Minister Varadkar said.

Here are 5 reasons you definitely should not sleep in your make up?


We’re all guilty of stumbling in from a night out and falling asleep with a full face of make up on (and probably fully clothed) now and again… but how much damage is it really doing to our skin?

We got the low down from some skincare experts. And you’ll probably never wear sleep in your foundation again.

  1. It stops the natural renewal process.

“An extra layer of make-up left for a night stops a natural renewal process, which can result in dull and patchy skin. In the morning, pores might be blocked, as our skin was producing sebum all night and it hasn’t been removed. Blocked pores very often turn into spots, so sleeping in make up can cause break outs in the long term,” says Sonja Dymalovski from What Skin Needs.

  1. You’ll get spots and fine lines will look worse.

Shahana Rahman of MyChelle Dermaceuticals warns: “Sleeping in your make up can result in unnecessary exposure to free radicals in the environment, which the make up will then hold on to. This can not only heighten the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles but it can also clog up pores and cause your skin to break out.”

  1. It’ll be even more harmful if you already have problem skin.

“Sleeping in make-up can be particularly troublesome for those with problematic skin types or topical conditions such as acne, eczema etc,” Rahman says. “By not washing and cleansing your face you can increase inflammation and also open your pores to allergy inducing bacteria.”

  1. It will break down collogen and age you faster.

Kelita Bignall, founder of Yours Truly Organics, says: “When the makeup gets into you’re pores it can make them appear larger and cause inflammation.  The combination of blocked and inflamed pores can generate free radicals which break down the collagen which naturally occurs in your skin. The effects of this is that your skin can age much faster.”

  1. The more you make up in bed, the more damage you’ll do.

Maxine Flint, co-owner of Flint Plus Flint skincare, says: “Our skin, is like the rest of us, it functions on the periodic rhythm. At night, the skin’s most important function is to renew its cells. Wearing make up which clogs pores and the surface of the skin prevents this process, causing damage to the skin.

“It is true that the more often you sleep with your make up on, the more damage your skin will sustain over a period of time, however wearing make-up while sleeping just once or twice can have negative effects on your skin.”

Meet the extinct fly recently discovered (alive!) on a Devon nature reserve


In a world where humanity seems intent on systematically wiping out every other living thing on the planet, there has been a small glimmer of hope for wildlife – in the form of a fly called Rhaphium pectinatum.

Because this particular fly – thought to have died out 150 years ago just turned up alive on a nature reserve in Devon.

When and where did we last record a living Rhaphium pectinatum fly?

Richmond, today one of the leafier parts of London,

The last known recording of the Rhaphium pectinatum fly was on July 19 1868 when the renowned Victorian entomologist George Verrall caught a male and female at Richmond upon Thames, then in Surrey.

After that naturalists assumed the fly had become extinct.

Where did the fly reappear and who found it?

Then, 147 years later and 150 miles away, the Rhaphium pectinatum turned up again at the Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge Beds nature reserve, near Exeter.

The remarkable discovery was made by expert naturalist Rob Wolton who is a member of the Devon Fly Group and the Dipterists Forum which specialises in the study of flies.

Wolton said: “I took a recent trip to Devon Wildlife Trust’s Old Sludge Beds nature reserve on the outskirts of Exeter specifically to look for flies.

“Imagine my surprise when I examined my catch that evening to find it included a fly that was presumed extinct in Britain, not having been seen for 147 years.

“Definitely one to add to the list of Devon specialities.”

What do we know about the fly?

Little is known about the handsome, metallic green coloured fly, apart from that it is part of the family dolichopodidae, a group which is known as long-legged flies.

Most members of the family live in tropical areas of the world.

“Nothing is known about its biology, but it seems that it may like brackish conditions like those found at the Old Sludge Beds, and may even be associated with the extensive tidal reed beds nearby at the head of the Exe estuary,” said Wolton.

So could this resurrected fly be the Messiah?

No. But – as Rob Wolton is quick to point out that neither is he a very naughty boy.

“To most people, the only good fly is a dead one,” he said. “Only a tiny proportion of the flies in Britain are pests, while many are important for pollination and for ensuring efficient recycling of the nutrients in dead plant material.

“And they are an important part of the food web – many of our birds rely on them. Without flies, there would be no swallows, and not many bats.

“Nor, incidentally, would we have any chocolate – the cacao tree is pollinated by midges, a kind of fly.”

Would you trust a spray-on condom?

A New York-based student Michele Chu has developed a ‘condom in a can’, using the same technology as spray-on bandages. But just how reliable would this liquid latex be?


Michele Chu, a student at the Pratt Institute in New York, is leading a sexual revolution. Her latest innovation, a spray-on latex condom dubbed ‘Girlplay’, is “changing the whole experience of love-making”.

Pitched as the perfect prophylactic for busy, modern couples, Girlplay, it is claimed, can be sprayed directly onto the penis and will take only two minutes to dry. Previous attempts to break into the spray-on condom market – such as one launched in 2006 by Jan Vinzenz Krause – flopped due to the extensive, passion-killing length of time they took to ‘set’.

  • Five reasons why the male pill isn’t coming any time soon

Worryingly, no information has yet been offered about how to remove the sheath after use – nor has Chu assured her potential buyers of the condom’s 100 per cent safety.

But to dispel any qualms and assure potential customers of her utmost professionalism, Chu has unveiled additional products in her Girlplay range, including the world’s first ‘smartbra’.

The smartbra’s sales pitch evokes Roger Moore-era James Bond gadgets – it comes with a remote control that can “unhook the smartbra with just the touch of a button”.

But whilst some of the products in the Girlplay range are just for fun, Chu sees real potential in her ‘condom in a can’. “These spray-on condoms are made for the perfect fit, and function like spray-on bandages in the marketplace today,” she says. Whether they will become commercially available remains to be seen.

The demand for ever more safe and sustainable condom technology has been on the rise in recent years. In 2013, a company from San Diego named Apex Medical Technologies won a $100,000 grant for their invention of an environmentally friendly sheath. Questionably, it was woven from reconstituted bovine tendons sourced from a Chinese supermarket.

  • Sustainable, invisible, indestructible: introducing the super condom

Other breakthroughs include the University of Oregon’s heat-activated, “shape-memory” designs and a self-lubricating condom developed by the Boston Medical Center – coated with ” “super-hydrophilic nanoparticles”.

One of the benefits of a spray-on condom, like Chu’s, is that it eliminates the need for different ‘sizes’. So unfortunate men would no longer have to suffer the embarrassment of buying XS small condoms (which are, sorrowfully, a thing).

Chu is continuing to refine her design, and hopes that the Girlplay range will be on sale within the year.

Blue moon, 2nd full moon in July, will arrive early tomorrow morning

2nd full moon in a calendar month occurs once every 2½ years on average


A United Airlines passenger plane crosses the waning gibbous moon, one day after a full moon on July 2, in Whittier, Calif. There are two full moons this month.

An astronomical phenomenon that occurs once in a blue moon is happening early Friday morning — a blue moon.

For the second time in July, skywatchers will be able to look up to a full moon. Here are six things you need to know about the lunar event with a somewhat misleading name.

What is a blue moon?

Whenever there are two full moons in a calendar month, the second one is called a “blue moon,” according to popular definition. The first full moon this month appeared on July 2, and a second one — the “blue” one — is happening Friday. While the moon will rise just before sunset Thursday, it wont be full until 6:43 a.m.

Is the blue moon actually blue?

Most blue moons will look pale gray and white, just like on any other night.

“Squeezing a second full moon into a calendar month doesn’t change its colour,” NASA says.

However, the moon can turn blue on rare occasions, such as a volcanic eruption, NASA says.

In 1883, for example, people saw blue moons almost every night after the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa exploded. The culprit was the plumes from the eruption, which were filled with particles one micron wide. Particles of this size act like light filters and scatter red light, allowing blue light to pass through.

In a similar fashion, forest fires — which produce smoke with micron-sized particles — can also affect the way we see the moon. NASA recalled a famous incident in September 1953 when a muskeg fire burned in Alberta. Clouds of smoke containing micron-sized oil droplets made the sun look lavender and the moon blue from North America to England.

The moon could also look red, thanks to the abundance of aerosols in the atmosphere which scatter blue light, allowing red light to go through, NASA says.

“For this reason, red blue moons are far more common than blue blue moons,” according to NASA.

Why is it called a blue moon if it’s not blue?

The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer’s Almanac and labelled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three. Though Sky & Telescope corrected the error decades later, the definition caught on.

How often does a blue moon happen?

Most years have 12 full moons. A blue moon, however, occurs every 2½ years on average.

The last blue moon appeared in August 2012. The next blue moon will not happen until January 2018.

What’s the blue moon’s importance?

Blue moons have no astronomical significance, says Greg Laughlin, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“Blue moon is just a name in the same sense as a ‘hunter’s moon’ or a ‘harvest moon,'” Laughlin previously told The Associated Press.

“It’s not blue. It’s not even rare,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said on Twitter on Wednesday.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th July 2015

Adopted people in Ireland to gain right to information on their birth parents

The Minister for Children James Reilly says planned legislation is ‘major breakthrough’


The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly and Michelle Shannon the director of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs pictured at Government Buildings.

Planned legislation that would offer up to 50,000 adopted people a legal right to information about their birth parents for the first time has been described as a “major breakthrough” by Minister for Children Dr James Reilly.

The Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill will operate retrospectively and will also apply to all future adoptions.

The publication of the general scheme and heads of the Bill took place today.

People who were the subject of “informal” or illegal adoptions, or who were wrongfully registered, will also be able to avail of the information and tracing services planned under the legislation.

Many adoptees have faced difficulties accessing their birth cert, due in part to a constitutional right to privacy on the part of the birth parent.

Dr Reilly said officials had sought to strike a balance in the draft bill between the desire of adopted people to know more about their identity and the right to privacy of birth parents through a new statutory scheme.

In order to access records, adopted people would be required to sign a statutory declaration obliging them to respect the wishes of birth parents in cases where they do not wish to be contacted.

There will be no criminal sanction in the bill for failing to comply with this declaration.

The release of birth certs will, however, be subject to some conditions.

While there will be a presumption in favour of the disclosure of a birth cert, this will not apply if there are “compelling reasons” for the refusal, such as a person’s life being placed in danger.

In these cases, an adopted person could appeal the decision in court.

In addition, any additional identifying information – such as medical records – may only be disclosed with the consent of the birth parent.

‘Major breakthrough’

Overall, Dr Reilly said the bill marked a “a major breakthrough in dealing with the complex challenge of providing a statutory entitlement to identity information for adopted persons”.

Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burtonsaid the denial of birth certs and identifying information in the past was associated with an era when adoption in the State happened “very much in the shadows, with little or no regulation and great secrecy”.

She said: “As an adopted person myself who discovered the true identity of my parents only after an exhaustive and deeply emotional search in the late 1990s, by which time they were dead, I always thought that this was grievously wrong.

“This is why I welcome the publication of legislation today.”

A mixed response.

The 200-page bill drew a mixed response from adoption groups.

Paul Redmond, chair of the Coalition of Mother And Baby Home Survivors, said it was a “very good day” for the adopted community in the State.

“Finally after years, decades and generations of secrecy, we’re finally coming out and joining the rest of the international community,” he said.

“We’ve been assured that substantial information from our files including our medical information is going to be released in the future pro-actively.”

But the Adoption Rights Alliance said the legislative proposals would impose “statutory discrimination” against adopted people.

Susan Lohan, the alliance’s co-founder, said adopted people should have unconditional access to their birth certificates and files as a basic right, rather than having to sign a statutory declaration.

“We cannot possibly endorse what we have seen of the proposals as outlined by the Minister and his officials, as in some circumstances adopted people will be forced to sign away their rights in a way that further marginalises them on a statutory basis,” she said.

Claire McGettrick, also of the Adoption Rights Alliance, said it was important to separate the issues of information and tracing.

She said that adopted people are seeking a statutory right to information, as opposed to a statutory right to a relationship with their natural mothers.

“Adopted people can already navigate the civil records in the General Registrar Office to obtain their birth certificates, and additional barriers, such as an information veto and a statutory declaration that one will respect one’s natural mother’s privacy, are wholly unnecessary and offensive to adopted people,” she said.

But the alliance said it intended to “fully engage” with the upcoming committee hearings on the legislation.

“We are happy to work with Dr [James] Reilly and we wish to stress that the only statutory provisions we are in a position to endorse is where adopted people are given unconditional access to their birth certificates and files,” she said.

Mr Redmond said his group’s only issue of contention was a one-year lead-in to enacting the legislation.

Mr Redmond said a key breakthrough was the fact that “illegally and informally adopted people” would be given equal status with legally adopted people in terms of tracing and searching, as this was a very important matter for the community.

Court finds Eircom and Vodafone guilty of overcharging Irish customers


Eircom and Vodafone have today been convicted and fined for continuously sending customers over-charged bills.

Following an investigation by industry watchdog Comreg, the telecom giants along with Three Ireland pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court today to charges under Section 45 of the Communications Act.

Vodafone was fined €10,000 and eircom received fines totalling €21,000 after they each pleaded guilty to seven charges.

Three, which pleaded guilty to three charges, will be spared a conviction and will get the Probation Act if they donate €15,000 to charity by September 28 next.

Judge John O’Neill singled out Eircom for criticism branding their code of practice a joke and he said that when customers complained they were “pushed from Billy to Jack and they were ignored”.

He said customers would have been upset, petrified and “worried sick” when they received letters from debt collectors chasing them for money on behalf of eircom. In one case, they used debt collectors to pursue an elderly man living in a nursing home after he had already cancelled his account, the court was told.

Vodafone over-charged another man who had suffered a serious injury in a fall and had cancelled his account, the court heard.

The customers were only refunded after Comreg got involved, the judge was told. Prosecution counsel Christian Keeling said the aggravating factors were the phone companies’ failures to deal with customer complaints a timely and courteous manner.

Comreg compliance analyst Miriam Kilraine told the court there were seven customer complaints in relation to Eircom. One reported that they asked to cancel their account in January 2014 but they continued to be billed in the following months and a debt collection company pursued them.

In another instance, an elderly man living in a nursing home had also cancelled his account in 2013 but continued to get bills and a debt collection company engaged by eircom.

Eircom had also failed to deliver a service to another consumer who had money debited from their account. Another Eircom customer was over-charged for broadband after his debit details were got mixed up.

Judge O’Neill was told that another customer signed up for a €35 a month package but was instead billed at €50 a month for several months. The court was also told another customer signed up for an Eircom loyalty bundle but never received the €25 a month deal.

Ms Kilraine said that in November 2014, a man emailed Vodafone to cancel the account of his son who had suffered a serious injury in a fall. Despite numerous calls to the company he still ended up paying for two extra months.

The court heard the company failed to cancel broadband accounts of two customers and one of them was pursed by a debt collection company. One of their customers upgraded to “e-fibre” high-speed broadband but it never worked and another was put on the incorrect plan.

Judge O’Neill was told that a Vodafone customer opted for an unlimited calls and texts plan but it was never applied to her account. Another Vodafone user ended up overpaying by €705 after she was erroneously double billed.

The Comreg analyst told the court that Three Ireland which took over O2 accounts last year kept billing and getting paid by two customers who had cancelled accounts.

Another customer got a phone upgrade and was offered a package by shop with a Three franchise. She accepted a deal where she would get 300 minutes of free calls to the UK if she paid an extra €2.99 on top of her €55 a month package.

However, she ended up getting billed for €300. She repeatedly went back to the shop and got no explanation and the sales assistant hid from her, the court was told.

The court heard the phone company’s customer service team had worked out of Mumbai in India but they have set up a new call centre in Limerick to deal with complaints.

Lawyers for all the companies said the cases related to human and system error and the court was to note that they have all set up new remediation plans to ensure these problems won’t happen again.

Counsel for Vodafone and eircom also asked the court to note they had 2.3 million and two million customers respectively.

The court was also told they have agreed to contribute to prosecution costs.

Enda Kenny’s first director of elections now joins Lucinda Creighton’s Renua party as candidate


Leader Lucinda Creighton at the launch of Renua in Trinity College, Dublin, back in March.

ENDA Kenny’s first director of elections has joined Lucinda Creighton’s Renua party.

Frank Durcan was Mr Kenny’s director of elections for the 1975 by-election which saw the Taoiseach successfully contest his late father Henry’s Dail seat.

Mr Durcan also worked closely with Mr Kenny on other election campaigns until 1984 when he fell out the Taoiseach and quit the party.

Since then Mr Durcan has served as an Independent councillor on Mayo County Council.

Speaking to, Mr Durcan said he joined Renua because he believes it is the only “credible political party”.

He also paid tribute to his new party leader, Ms Creighton, who he described as “another Mary Robinson in the making”.

“She has something that the rest of them don’t. She has common morality and civic morality, and she is an able debater. She is educated and has proven herself in both Europe and Ireland,” he said.

Mr Durcan said he was impressed by Ms Creighton’s “very courageous” decision to step down as a minister and leave Fine Gael over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act.

“She walked away from a very substantial amount of money. It is not everyone that would have that type of courage. We don’t have got enough people like Lucinda in Irish politics,” he added.

Mr Durcan does not intend to run in the next general election but will serve as a Renua councillor on Mayo County Council.

He will also assist the party in finding a candidate to run against the Taoiseach.

Meanwhile back in Sligo ?

Finbarr Filan of Shafin Developments fame confirmed to run for Renua Ireland


The brother of Westlife singer Shane Filan will run for election in Sligo-Leitrim as a Renua candidate.

Finbarr Filan, brother of former Westlife singer Shane Filan, is to run for Renua Ireland

Mr Filan has confirmed he will be the general election candidate for the party headed by Lucinda Creighton. He will run in the Sligo-Leitrim constituency.

Mr Filan was a property developer and set up Shafin Developments with his brother Shane during the boom.

The firm took out a series of loans to construct a 90-home estate in Dromahair, Co Leitrim. The company went into receivership in 2012 and the pair were left with debt of €23 million.

Mr Filan said he welcomed the opportunity to be part of a political change.

“From my work in town and city centre management, I have experienced firsthand the frustration of the real time environment of retail business dealing with a monolith of a local authority.

“We need change and I would welcome the opportunity to be part of and help lead this change,” he said.

“I believe I have the character, personality, ability and life experience to win a seat for Renua in Sligo Leitrim.”

Ryanair reports a 25% rise in profits, and raises traffic forecasts


Passenger numbers up 16% to 28m in the first quarter of this year.

Ryanair said it is to raise its full-year traffic target by 3 million to 103 million.

Ryanair has reported a profit after tax of €245 million for its first quarter, up 15% on the €197 million recorded for the same period a year earlier.

Passenger numbers were up 16% to 28 million from 24.3 million and the airline said it was raising its full-year traffic target by 3 million to 103 million.

The airline said its full-year profit would be at the higher ends of its earlier guidance of between €940 million and €970 million due to strong bookings.

“This guidance, which is 12% ahead of last year’s profit, is heavily reliant on the final outturn of second-half fares over which we currently have almost zero visibility,” said chief executive Michael O’Leary.

Revenues were up 10% for the quarter from €1.49 billion to €1.65 billion while earnings per share increased from 14.22% to 17.90%.

Unit costs excluding fuel fell 7% in the three months under review.

The airline said it is now 70% hedged as far ahead as fiscal 2017 at an average price of $66 a barrel. It said it is 90% hedged at $91 a barrel for the 2016 financial year.

Ryanair said it intends to cut fares by between 4% and 8% over the winter months. It also plans to ground 40 planes between October to March as against 50 last year.

The airline said that fares for the first half of the financial year will be broadly flat.

“Our faster capacity growth and lower oil prices may lead to an aggressive pricing response from competitors who will try to defend their market shares,” said Mr O’Leary.

Having unanimously voted to accept IAG’s offer for its 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus earlier this month, Ryanair said that if the deal proceeds it would expect to receive the proceeds from the sale in September.

The Vatican hosts world leaders to fight climate change


More than half of the world’s population resides in cities, where 80% of all greenhouse gases are emitted. Citizens of large cities are directly affected by local decisions regarding ‘going green.

Cities across the world are developing policies and sustainable practices in efforts to provide healthier local environments and contribute to the global ‘green’ effort.

65 mayors recently visited the Vatican to discuss climate change with Pope Francis, giving cities a role in debates that previously only took place on the global and national level, where it is just not possible to deal with urban issues. National legislatures, whose debates are shaped more by financial interests than the everyday needs of local citizens, often get stuck in a state of paralysis regarding such policies.

Cities are in the perfect position to tackle issues such as air quality, energy efficiency, and conservation.

Depending on their geological location, cities are experiencing different effects of the same global pollution problem. Coastal cities, especially those in the developing world, are more vulnerable to natural disasters but do not have the massive sums of money needed to upgrade their infrastructure to better withstand flooding. Drier regions are experiencing intense summer heat waves and droughts that can cause health problems and strain water supplies for agriculture.

Residents who feel the effects most are the urban poor, infants, and the elderly.

As the effects of pollution are publicized and felt by individuals, communities, and nations, the world’s cities are setting into motion a bottom-up movement to push for a better quality of urban life.

Curitiba, Brazil has passed many successful policies, including integration of urban green spaces, reduction of waste, and a widely used public transportation system. Chicago has developed policies anticipating a hotter and wetter climate by repaving its roads with permeable materials, planting more trees, and offering tax incentives to encourage green office roofs.

Many cities have initiated environmental legislation that exceeds US Environmental Protection Agency standards.

An important organization in the movement, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership is a group of the world’s largest cities committed to reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency. In 2006, 40 cities were signed up–now there are more than 75 cities committed to the project with a combined population of over half a billion.

As grassroots, bottom-up movements spread, so does the inspiration and aspiration to care for the planet–for the Earth’s sake, the community’s sake, and the sake of the future generations.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 26th July 2015

David Drumm to give evidence by video link to Banking Inquiry team


Ciaran Lynch said a decision would be made on Tuesday

The Chairman of the Oireachtas banking inquiry Ciaran Lynch said it will decide on Tuesday if it will accept an offer from the former Anglo Irish Bank Chief Executive, David Drumm, to give evidence to the inquiry via video link from the United States.

Mr Lynch said by then the inquiry team will have access to the full legal advice on the matter and will make a decision on that basis.

However, he would not be drawn on the implications for the future of the inquiry if some members withdraw from the session if the inquiry does agree to hear Mr Drumm’s evidence in this way.

Mr Lynch said he was sure the work of the inquiry could be kept “out of the courts” when the full membership meet and discuss the matter with their support team and legal advisers on Tuesday.

He said it was important that the inquiry finish its work and that it has managed to complete two thirds of its work and interview 70 witnesses without encountering any major legal obstacles.

Mr Lynch said at the start of the inquiry he had asked members to leave their club jerseys at the door and he was sure they would do that when the group meets again on Tuesday.

He also said it is critical that the banking inquiry survives the recent controversies about how it is operating.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Mr Lynch said a Senior Counsel has been appointed to look at the internal procedures of the inquiry and it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

He said he would not speculate on what would happen if an inquiry member refused to take part in a particular hearing.

The inquiry has faced a number of challenges to date but it has operated on a collegial basis so far and he expected next weeks meeting to discuss Mr Drumm’s offer of video evidence will be in the same context, he added.

Mr Lynch said the value of the committees work will be reflected in its final report which is due to be published by the end of the year.

Earlier, a number of politicians who are members of the Banking Inquiry said that they will not participate in a proposed session where David Drumm may give evidence by video link.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy and Fianna Fáil finance spokesman McGrath said if the Banking Inquiry agrees to accept evidence via video link from the former Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm they will not participate in that session.

Mr Murphy said he had made the decision to protect the integrity of the inquiry and said it would be undignified of the Oireachtas to offer Mr Drumm the privilege of giving evidence when he refuses to return to Ireland to co-operate with garda investigations.

He said agreeing to Mr Drumm’s request would be a fundamental mistake.

Mr McGrath said he believed that facilitating someone who had refused to cooperate with Justice authorities would be an affront to democracy and should not be considered.

The Socialist Party TD, Joe Higgins said he would make his final decision on the matter on Tuesday after the committee hears legal advice on the matter.

He said some people were saying that it would be interesting to hear from Mr Drumm but many others felt strongly that allowing him to give evidence in this way might treat ordinary people who had suffered as a result of the banking collapse with great contempt.

New poll shows Ireland wants Leo Varadkar as leader


Fine Gael Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar is the overwhelming favorite among the public and Fine Gael supporters to be the next leader of the party.

A poll for The Sunday Times shows 34% of people would like to see Varadkar, who came out as a gay in January, take over from Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“It’s always nice to get positive feedback from the public, but there is no vacancy. Enda is the leader and I have my hands full in health and a lot of work to do,” Varadkar said.

The poll shows independents are up five points to 31%, a record high. Fine Gael were unchanged in the poll with 24%. Fianna Fail were down three points to 18%, Sinn Fein were down two to 17%. Labor was down one point to eight and the Greens were down a point to one %.

Recently-formed political alignments were too new to be included as separate groups in the poll and were counted with the independents.

They included the Social Democrats launched last week with three Independent TDs (members of Parliament) as joint leaders. One of them is Roisin Shortall, a former junior minister who resigned from government in 2012 when she also resigned from the Labor Party.

The other new party is Renua Ireland, whose leader is Lucinda Creighton, who also resigned as a junior minister and from Fine Gael when she voted against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Both the Social Democrats and Renua have said they will run candidates in every constituency in the next general election which will be held within a year.

HSE pays €4.4m every year for mental health treatments in the UK?


The HSE is paying €4.4 million a year for mental health treatments in the UK.

The Sunday Times reports that 13 patients have been transferred to the UK for specialist psychiatric treatment.

The patients were moved abroad for periods of between two months and almost 14 years.

Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on Mental Health Colm Keaveney said these cases highlight the lack of investment in specialist care available in Ireland.

“We’ve seen a breach in the Programme for Government – a commitment to ring-fence specialist recruitment and expenditure in community mental health teams,” he said.

“It’s resulted in a staffing crisis on the ground … the HSE are left with no option but to export many of our complex, acute mental health needs.”

Irish study to find best way to quit smoking for ever


The programme was launched by the HSE in 2011, resulting in 600,000 “quit attempts” since then

One is a global empire with testimonials from Anjelica Houston, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Branson. These stars claim to be among the millions of smokers around the world who have kicked the habit thanks to the advice of a former 100-a-day smoker who ultimately died of lung cancer.

The other is a programme run by the HSE that uses hard-hitting media ads and an online and telephone support system to encourage smokers to quit for good.

And now, the Tobacco Free Research Institute (TFRI) at the Dublin Institute of Technology is using a controlled sample of 300 smokers as guinea pigs to test the success rates of Allen Carr’s Easyway smoking cessation programme versus the HSE’s initiative.

The 12-month Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), which is free for participants and funded through the Department of Health’s Lottery Fund, is intended to show which programme – if not both – is the most likely to help smokers quit for good.

The Allen Carr method was founded by the British accountant-turned-anti-smoking crusader who devised his ‘Easyway’ method of smoking cessation after trying unsuccessfully for years to quit his 100-a-day habit.

When he finally did quit after 33 years of smoking at the age of 48, he established his now world-wide chain of clinics and self-help books promoting his concept, which kept him smoke-free until his death from lung cancer at the age 72 in 2006.

The programme was launched by the HSE in 2011, resulting in 600,000 “quit attempts” since then.

Along with online and telephone support – including the National Smoker’s Quit Line manned six days a week – it has run a number of hard-hitting media campaigns, including the stark message that “one in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease.”

The campaigns also include a series of TV ads using the late Gerry Collins, the father-of-three from Greystones, Co Wicklow, who candidly spoke of how his addiction to cigarettes was literally killing him before he died of lung cancer due to smoking in January, 2014.

“Unusually, we have recruited publicly because we want to compare these two treatment modalities,” said TFRI founder and consultant respiratory physician Professor Luke Clancy. “The Allen Carr method is well known all over the world but the efficacy has never been established,” he told the Sunday Independent.

While the number of smokers in Ireland is at its lowest ever level, at approximately 20pc of the adult population, Prof Clancy, who was instrumental in bringing in the 2004 smoking ban, said Ireland still has a way to go if we are to achieve the health department’s goal of being virtually smoke-free, with just 5pc of the population smoking by 2025. “We worried that no matter what we do, we won’t reach this target,” he said. “So we’re looking to see can we improve things.”

Already hundreds of smokers have signed up to the free controlled trial that will take place over the next 12 months in Dublin. After completing an online survey, participants are selected based on various criteria, such as age and number of cigarettes smoked a day.

Those selected can bail out any time after being randomly selected to take part in either the Allen Carr group or group. They will be monitored at one, three, six and 12-month intervals after signing a consent form and being assessed by a nurse who monitors weight and carbon monoxide levels in exhaled breath.

Those who stick it out for the whole year will be rewarded with the chance to enter a draw for a trips to Paris and the Caribbean.

How Lycos almost won the search engine war


In 1998, a young developer named Jim Gilliam was hired at Lycos after he impressed management by finding bugs in their site. He took on the task of improving their search results to find a way to beat their biggest competitor, Yahoo.
It was exhilarating to be back in the game again, a 20-year-old college dropout with stock options, working at the center of the internet revolution. But I was overwhelmed. I’d only ever worked on a team with a half-dozen people, and Lycos was a huge company with hundreds of employees. All the developers seemed much smarter and more experienced than I was, and I was struggling to understand all the different proprietary technologies Lycos had created.

As I dug in, I realised that the scope of the problems was immense. I was paralysed. I didn’t know where to start. At the end of my first week I passed Lycos’s VP of development Dave Andre’s office on my way out for the night. No one else was around and he waved me in. He asked how everything was going, so I was honest and told him what I was feeling. With no hesitation, he dropped the most influential piece of advice I’ve ever received. He said, “Jim, you can code. You have all the power. Just go do it.” So I did.

Lycos was a search engine, and like all search engines at the time, it was trying to figure out how to make money. The key was to make our search engine into something that would appeal to advertisers. Like Excite and Yahoo, Lycos paid the browser, Netscape, to send traffic our way, and we were all trying to keep people on our sites longer, because the longer people were on our sites, the more ads they saw. Lycos’s CEO, Bob Davis, was a sales guy, and his strategy was to cut deals with new, venture-funded dot-coms and split the revenue on all the ads that we sold. We would increase our ad inventory, help the startups, and the Lycos logo would be all over the web.

I didn’t really care about all that. I cared about our search results, which seemed to be the one thing that no one was paying attention to. We were a search engine, but our results sucked, mainly because it took between six and nine months to refresh the search catalogue. This meant that even our partner sites didn’t show up in our search results, making the entire sales strategy pointless. If I could fix this, our search would be better and we’d actually sell more ads.

Climate change drove woolly mammoths to extinction, say scientists

Dramatic climate shifts made it difficult for large animals such as the woolly mammoth to survive, new research confirms.


The mighty megafauna of the last ice age, including the wooly mammoths, short-faced bears and cave lions, largely went extinct because of rapid climate-warming events, a new study finds.

During the unstable climate of the Late Pleistocene, about 60,000 to 12,000 years ago, abrupt climate spikes, called interstadials, increased temperatures between 7 and 29 degrees Fahrenheit (4 and 16 degrees Celsius) in a matter of decades. Large animals likely found it difficult to survive in these hot conditions, possibly because of the effects it had on their habitats and prey, the researchers said.

Interstadials “are known to have caused dramatic shifts in global rainfall and vegetation patterns,” the study’s first author Alan Cooper, director for the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said in a statement emailed to Live Science.

Temperature drops during the Late Pleistocene showed no association with animal extinctions, Cooper said. Instead, only the hot interstadial periods were associated with the large die-offs that hit populations (local events) and entire species of animals (global events), he said.

Ancient humans also played a role in the megafaunal extinction, albeit a smaller one, he said. By disrupting the animals’ environments, human societies and hunting parties likely made it harder for megafauna to migrate to new areas and to refill areas once populated by animals that had gone extinct, he said.

Extinction analysis

The study is the latest in a long string of research examining what caused megafauna, or animals weighing more than 99 pounds (45 kilograms), to die off during the Late Pleistocene.

George Cuvier, the French paleontologist who first recognized the mammoth and the giant ground sloth, started the speculation in 1796 when he suggested that giant biblical floods were to blame for the animals’ demise. The extinctions also baffled Charles Darwin after he encountered megafaunal remains in South America.

Since then, various studies have placed the bulk of responsibility on ice age humans, temperature swings and aperfect storm of events.

However, advances in examining ancient DNA and ancient climate allowed Cooper and his colleagues to get to the bottom of the issue.

They examined DNA from dozens of megafaunal species that lived during the Late Pleistocene, combing through more than 50,000 years of DNA records for extinction events. The ancient DNA not only told them about global extinction events, but also local population turnovers, which occur when a group of animals dies and another population of animals moves in to replace them. [Wipe Out: History’s Most Mysterious Extinctions]

They then compared the data on megafauna extinction with detailed records of severe climate events, which they gathered from Greenland ice cores and the sedimentary record of the Cariaco Basin off Venezuela.

“By combining these two records, we can place the climate and radiocarbon dating data on the same timescale, thereby allowing us to precisely align the dated fossils against climate,” Cooper said. “The high-resolution view we gained through this approach clearly showed a strong relationship between warming events and megafaunal extinctions.”

The findings also show that extinction events were staggered over time and space, likely because the interstadial warming events had different effects on different regions, Cooper said.

Modern connections

Earth’s climate is much more stable today than it was during the Late Pleistocene, making the world’s current warming trends a “major concern,” the researchers said.

“In many ways, the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and resulting warming effects are expected to have a similar rate of change to the onset of past interstadials, heralding another major phase of large mammal extinctions,” Cooper said.

In addition, humans have disrupted the habitats and surrounding areas of many wild animals, making it challenging for species to migrate or shift ranges to places where they would be better adapted to deal with climate change, he said.

Other researchers called the new study an important one.

It shows “that the extinction and population turnover of many megafauna was associated with rapid warming periods, rather than the last glacial maximum [when the ice sheets reached their maximum during the last glacial period] or Younger Dryas [a sudden, cold spell that happened when the Earth was starting to warm] as has previously been suggested,” said Eline Lorenzen, an assistant professor of paleogenetics at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

In fact, understanding how the past climate change affected extinction rates may help people be better prepared for future rapid global warming events, she said.

“This study is a bit of a wake-up call,” Lorenzen said. “Here we have empirical evidence — based on data from a lot of species — that rapid climate warming has profoundly impacted megafauna communities, negatively, during the past 50,000 years.

“It doesn’t bode well for the future survival of the world’s megafauna populations,” she said.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 25th July 2015

It’s time to jail reckless bankers say’s & urges Lucinda Creighton in new policy

Bankers who recklessly lend money to people should face jail, Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has said.


Renua Ireland founder & leader Lucinda Creighton

The leader of one of Ireland’s newest political parties was at Leinster House to publish her party’s plan on tackling white-collar crime.

Renua Ireland TD Billy Timmins said the Irish justice system does not take white-collar crime as seriously as so-called ordinary crime.

“If you steal an apple in Moore Street, odds are you will go through the process. But we know that many big criminals involved in company crime and fraud get away with it,” Mr Timmins said.

The plan

The party has published a 10-point plan aimed at increasing action against white-collar criminals, including making reckless lending a criminal offence – as recommended by the Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan.

“There is a really strong sense that notwithstanding the extraordinary collapse of the banking system and the massive destruction caused to the economy which has affected the lives of ordinary citizen, nothing has really changed,” Ms Creighton said.

The former Fine Gael junior minister said the policy would bring real accountability to actions and failures to act in the business world.

“We will introduce legislation which imposes criminal liability on a senior manager of a banking institution, fund or insurance undertaking who knowingly puts the viability of the institution at risk,” Ms Creighton said.

The other seven actions include:

1.       Criminal sanctions for company directors who conduct business recklessly, based on laws already in force in Australia.

2.      Curbing the use of limited company liability to escape punishment for breaking the law.

3.      Tightening provisions to ensure claiming ignorance of the law is not a defence.

4.      Reducing scope for sentence mitigation on grounds of previous good character or “good family”.

5.      Improving training for all company directors.

6.      Facilitating whistleblowers – including giving them a percentage of taxpayers’ money recouped from detecting wrong-doing.

7.      A special white-collar crime court with streamlined procedures and more training for judges and lawyers.

Asked generally about the new party, just launched in March, Ms Creighton said they are organised in all 40 constituencies nationwide in a very short space of time.

She conceded that she had said the party needed something like €1m to run a national election campaign but they had decided from day one not to take company donations.

“So the party in every constituency in the country is engaged in fundraising. It is amounts, big and small but mainly small, from individuals and not companies,” she said.

The Candidates?

Ms. Creighton said by the end of next week 14 candidates will have been selected.

“I think that is excellent for what is a party only launched weeks ago,” she added.

Wicklow TD Mr Timmins said the new party could not match the spending power of the big parties. He said unlike the big ones it got no taxpayer funding as this is decided at the start of each Dail term.

“But we have something special and that is the enthusiasm and commitment of our new members who want to change Irish politics for the better,” Mr Timmins said.

A number of candidates attended the launch, including Cllr Patrick McKee who stood in the recent Carlow-Kilkenny by-election.

Laya Healthcare hike up prices by a mighty 4%


Company blames rise on significant increase in volume and cost of claims

Dónal Clancy, managing director of Laya Healthcare, blamed a rise in the number and cost of claims for price rises that will apply to more an half the firm’s customers from September.

Most Laya Healthcare customers will face price increases averaging 4% from the beginning of September.

The company blamed the price increases on a significant increase in the volume and cost of claims over the past year.

The price increases will apply to around 55% of policies and will apply to policies renewed after September 1st. Laya says it has around 500,000 customers.

Laya managing director Dónal Clancy said the company was “acutely conscious of the impact” the increases would have and said it had “tried to minimise the impact across our schemes”.

“We have protected 49 of our schemes from a price increase, and minimised the impact on families with our free kids cover,” Mr Clancy said.

He said the price rises had been driven “by the significant increase we have experienced in the number and costs of medical claims in the past year”.

Mr Clancy said Laya had seen an 18% increase in the volume of claims while the cost of claims has climbed by 15% over the last 12 months.

“While better practices, high-spec technology and improved treatments are all translating into better patient outcomes, they are driving medical costs higher; which in turn has a negative impact on premiums,” Mr Clancy said.

He also pointed to a medical cost management programme implemented by the company which he suggested would deliver efficiencies of €100 million between 2012 and 2016 and had helped minimise the increases.

The Laya price increase sees it join GloHealth and Aviva in upping prices this year and attention now is likely to focus on what will happen and the State’s largest insurer, the VHI. While VHI has made no announcement on its pricing plans, an increase of some kind before 2016 seems likely.

Almost 100,000 new private health insurance policies were sold earlier this year as people rushed to enter the market to avoid age-related penalties introduced at the beginning of May.

Under the new Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) regime which started on May 1st, anyone aged over 34 without private health insurance has to pay higher prices when they take out a policy.

While the price increases will attract most attention, Laya healthcare also announced a range of new and extended benefits.

It has extended its “Free Kids” cover to its Essential Connect Health plan for a second child and every child up to the age of 18.

It will also reduce child rates on 18 schemes by between 3 and 6% and has promised to extend its 24 hour confidential GP Line.

Increases in Irish wine tax is totally against the spirit of the EU trade,

A group claims


The Support Your Local campaign said increases in the cost of a bottle of wine goes against the spirit of the European Project.

The group is calling on the Government to reduce excise duty on the beverage in the next budget.

It says a €1.50 increase since 2012 is having detrimental impact on farmers across the continent, while lowering the quality of wine being consumed here.

“€1.50 has been added in excise to a bottle of wine over three budgets,” said Evelyn Jones of the National Off-Licence Association, adding that the group is campaigning for a 50c reduction – one-third of the recent increase.

“That would go a long way towards improving the basic quality of wine tin he bottle.”

“The fact of the matter is that that Government is choking the quality out of an artisan product that’s produced by farmers across Europe.

“It’s seen as middle-class taxation- easy pickings – [but] would be contrary to the spirit of the EU treaty, as we don’t make wine here ourselves.”

There are a handful of wineries and vineyards in Ireland, but they are small in scale. The Lusca winery in Lusk, Co Dublin, produces only a few hundred bottles a year from vines next to their apple orchard.

Scientists stop aging process in earth worms, humans may be next


Human eternal life is just around the corner?

New research by molecular scientists at Northwestern University has led to the development of a procedure that allows them to switch off the aging process in worms.

As with most organisms, the worms initially showed that their adult cells began deteriorating when they reached reproductive maturity. The aging process — versus growing — begins because biological functions that protect cells within the body are shut down.

Since humans have the same genetic switch, the findings lend credence to the hope that humanity may one day be able to alleviate the aging process and certain degenerative diseases, according to the Daily Mail.

“Wouldn’t it be better for society if people could be healthy and productive for a longer period during their lifetime?” Richard I. Morimoto, senior author of the study, asked “I am very interested in keeping the [biological] quality control systems optimal as long as we can, and now we have a target. Our findings suggest there should be a way to turn this genetic switch back on and protect our aging cells by increasing their ability to resist stress.”

Morimoto is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Molecular Biosciences and director of the Rice Institute for Biomedical Research in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, where he has been building up to his latest findings for a decade. The study was published in the 23 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

The transparent roundworm C. elegans has a biochemical environment similar to that of humans and are a popular research tool for the study of the biology of ageing and are used to model human diseases.

“C. elegans has told us that aging is not a continuum of various events, which a lot of people thought it was,” Morimoto said.

Harmful drinking is a middle-class phenomenon?


Wealthy over-50s are endangering their health by drinking far too much, experts have warned

Wealthy over-50s are endangering their health by drinking far too much, UK experts have warned.

Harmful drinking is a ‘middle-class phenomenon’ with older, successful people at most risk, AGE UK has warned.

Although affluent middle aged people often appear to look after themselves by eating well and exercising regularly, they are actually far more likely to drink too much than their less successful peers.

UK researchers warned it was a ‘hidden health and social problem’ because on the outside most wealthy middle class people appeared to be living well.

“Our analysis challenges popular perceptions of who is drinking too much,” said Age UK’s Chief Economist , Professor Jose Iparraguirre who carried out the research .

“It suggests public health messaging is not reaching high income groups who are most at risk.

“Because this group is typically healthier than other parts of the older population, they might not realise that what they are doing is putting their health in danger.”

The findings are based on responses from 9,000 over 50s who took part in the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing. They were asked about income, educational attainment, health, physical activity levels, loneliness depression, marital status, and employment.

Current NHS guidelines advise that men drink no more than 21 units a week – roughly 10 pints of beer. Women are advised to stick to 14 units, around seven glasses of wine.

The researchers defined harmful drinking as between 22 and 50 units a week for men and 15 to 35 weekly units for women. Higher risk was quantified as 50 units for men and 35 for women. One unit represents

Analysis of the responses showed that the risk of harmful drinking peaked for men in their early 60s and then gradually tailed off.

Women on high salaries and those who had retired were more likely to drink heavily, while smoking, higher educational attainment, and good health were all linked to heightened risk in both sexes.

Although the researchers found that heavy drinking was no linked to feeling lonely or depressed, men who lived on their own were more likely to consume harmful amounts of alcohol.

A report by the think tank 2020Health found that around eight million British adults drink more than is considered safe my experts, many of whom are middle class people who regularly drink wine with their evening meal.

Women are at greater risk if they evenly share a bottle of wine with their partner because their alcohol tolerance is lower than men’s.

The rise of home shopping delivery services has also been blamed for encouraging more older women to drink.

Government figures published last October showed a 65 per cent increase in the number of women over pension age beginning treatment for drink related problems in the last five years in England.

“We can sketch the problem of harmful drinking among people aged 50 or over in England as a middle class phenomenon: people in better health, higher income, with higher educational attainment and socially more active are more likely to drink at harmful levels,” added Professor Jose Iparraguirre

“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ ageing process.

“Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people.”

Charities said that many middle aged older people did not realise how much they were drinking because they often did it at home.,

“Harmful drinking is a real issue for middle-aged and older people, many of whom are regularly drinking above recommended limits, often in their own homes,”

“These are the people who, if they develop alcohol related illnesses, tend to require the most complex and expensive health care due to the mental and physical problems caused by drinking too much.

Drinking too much alcohol is directly linked to over 60 medical conditions including liver disease sevenfold, mouth cancer fivefold and stroke threefold. For women, breast cancer risk doubles.

A four-legged Brazilan snake discovered recently

Fossil discovered of four-legged snake from 113 million years ago


An four-legged snake, Tetrapodophis amplectus a salamander.

Scientists have discovered a 113 million-year-old fossil of a snake which has four legs with fingers and toes.

The Tetrapodophis amplectus – nicknamed ‘huggy snake’ – is the first evidence found of a four-legged snake.

The 20cm-long skeleton, which is thought to be from Brazil, has a tiny head the size of a human fingernail.

It has two very small front legs with wrists, elbows and hands and slightly longer back legs, which would have been used to grasp its prey.

A skeleton of a Tetrapodophis

The fossil, which is of a juvenile, also shows adaptations for burrowing, rather than swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

Dr Dave Martill, who discovered the unseen fossil in a collection in a German museum, said it is “an incredibly significant specimen”.

The University of Portsmouth professor said: “It is generally accepted that snakes evolved from lizards at some point in the distant past.

“What scientists don’t know yet is when they evolved, why they evolved, and what type of lizard they evolved from.

“This fossil answers some very important questions, for example it now seems clear to us that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards.”

• Fossil with hips shows snakes’ lizard past

Dr Martill has been working with expert German palaeontologist Helmut Tischlinger and Dr Nick Longrich, of the University of Bath, who studied the evolutionary relationships of the snake.

Dr Longrich, who had previously worked on the origins of snakes, became intrigued when Dr Martill told him the story at the local pub in Bath.

He said he was initially sceptical, but when Dr Martill showed him photographs, he knew immediately that it was a fossil snake.

He said: “A four-legged snake seemed fantastic and as an evolutionary biologist, just too good to be true.

“It is a perfect little snake, except it has these little arms and legs, and they have these strange long fingers and toes.

• Scientists discover fossilised remains of world’s longest snake

“The hands and feet are very specialised for grasping. So when snakes stopped walking and started slithering, the legs didn’t just become useless little vestiges – they started using them for something else.

“We’re not entirely sure what that would be, but they may have been used for grasping prey, or perhaps mates.”

Interestingly, the fossilised snake also has the remains of its last meal in its intestine, including some fragments of bone.

The prey was probably a salamander, showing that snakes were carnivorous much earlier in evolutionary history than previously believed.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 24th July 2015

Enda Kenny aims to reduce taxes to encourage the return of Irish emigrants

Taoiseach greeted by anti-water charge protesters at MacGill summer school


Taoiseach Enda Kenny prior to his address at the MacGill Summer School.

Irish emigrants are not returning to the country because they fear they will get “screwed” for tax, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has claimed.

Speaking at the MacGill summer school, where he was greeted by several dozen anti-water charge protesters on Friday evening, Mr Kenny said the tax rate was “too high a rate and it kicks in too early”.

He reiterated the plan to cut the 7% rate of Universal Social Charge in the forthcoming Budget.

“In doing so, we will bring down the marginal rate of tax paid by people earning less than €70,000 to less than 50%.”

“You have to have a stepped approach to this. That makes it more difficult for our sons and daughters to come home if they want to because they’ll say ‘why should I? Why should I go back if I’m going to get screwed for tax here?’”

He wanted 2016 to be “our own year of family reunification, where our children come home at last from Melbourne or London or New York”.

Addressing the packed room, Mr. Kenny referred to the theme of this week’s summer school, ‘Ireland at the crossroads’, noting there was also a political crossroads.

He said people had two roads to choose from. They could choose the road to strengthened economic recovery, or decide to take another road “that’s maybe unmined or unmapped and certainly untested”, a road that “gambled the recovery”.

The Taoiseach also said he believed the next general election would be “like the Grand National” with “lot of runners and riders”.

“I hope we don’t end up with a Tower of Babel in respect of Independents and nobody can get anything done.”

Mr Kenny took several questions from the floor, including one from a local Fine Gael councillor and one from Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the Omagh bombing.

Mr Gallagher said he had “repeatedly asked” for an opportunity to meet the Taoiseach in relation to a report on the bombing that had been presented to him in 2012.

“I’ve actually had to pay €5 to come into the hall. Will you have a meeting with the Omagh families and listen to what they have to say?”

Mr Kenny said he would fix such a meeting “as soon as I can, but it will probably be September”.


There was a heavy Garda presence around the village on Friday as a group of protesters gathered outside the Highlands Hotel ahead of Mr Kenny’s address .

Crush barriers were brought in early in the morning and cones were used to restrict parking on the main street. The Garda helicopter also patrolled overhead.

During the afternoon’s session on rural Ireland, protesters could be heard shouting and chanting outside.

Chants from about 50 protesters carrying banners and placards included: “No way, we won’t pay” and “Labour, Blueshirts, Fianna Fáil; jail, jail, jail them all.”

Catherine Murphy TD told the event a “culture of excessive secrecy” pervaded our politics.

“It is only after the event that we get a glimpse of a decision or set of decisions that on too many occasions favour those in the know; those with connections and those with money. It is quite destructive and indeed highly offensive to the vast majority of people.

She said she got a glimpse of some of that when she pursued the issues surrounding Siteserv and IBRC.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the summer school he was concerned that a poor policy on migration seemed to be “giving rise for the first time in Irish society to a political party focusing on the single issue of immigration”.

Hospitals to face unannounced inspections over patient nutrition

Costs associated with malnutrition add up to more than €1bn of healthcare spending


Older patients, cancer patients, surgical and gastrointestinal patients are more vulnerability to malnutrition and dehydration.

Hospitals will undergo unannounced inspections as the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) attempts to tackle patient malnutrition and dehydration.

Malnutrition affects more than a quarter of patients admitted to Irish hospitals. It affects their recovery and causes illness and death, said Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn.

“Evidence shows that malnutrition and dehydration often occur together. Dehydration occurs when more fluid is lost than taken in. It has been reported that patients already malnourished on admission are more likely to lose weight during their hospital stay, and their weight loss is proportionately higher,” Mr Quinn said.

Under the new review guidelines, all public acute hospitals, other than stand-alone maternity and paediatric hospitals, will be expected to complete a self-assessment questionnaire and submit it to the authority. Hiqa will then carry out unannounced inspections in about 13 hospitals to verify results and understand how nutrition and hydration care in the hospital is delivered.

Older patients, cancer patients, surgical and gastrointestinal patients are more vulnerability to malnutrition and dehydration.

Hiqa said in 2007 the annual costs associated with malnourished patients was estimated to be more than €1.4 billion, 10 per cent of the healthcare budget that year. About 140,000 adults are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition at any given time.

Hiqa said it wants to encourage hospitals to follow evidence-based best practice in nutrition and hydration care with a focus on screening and assessment, arrangements at mealtimes and the patient’s own experience.

“We want to ensure that patients are adequately assessed, managed and evaluated to effectively meet their individual nutrition and hydration needs. Initially, hospitals will self-assess their position. The information provided by hospitals in self-assessments will inform the programme of unannounced inspections, which is due to start later this year,” said Mr Quinn.

An overview of the authority’s findings will be published in 2016.

New York bar run by two Irish men named ‘The world’s best bar’

The Dead Rabbit in Manhattan is described as a unique take on the traditional Irish pub


The Dead Rabbit in Downtown Manhattan which has been named as the ‘world’s best bar’.

A New York bar founded and run by Belfast natives Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon has been named the world’s best pub, winning a drinks industry competition.

The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, in Downtown Manhattan, won the award from 2,000 entries in the annual Spirited Awards.

McGarry and Muldoon opened the tavern in February 2012 and described it as a unique take on the traditional Irish pub.

The pair, both originally from Belfast, previously worked together in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel cocktail bar.

It was there they met Conor Allen, an Irishman working in New York’s financial sector, who offered to support the two in setting up their own bar.

The Dead Rabbit, which features an extensive selection of Irish whiskeys and cocktails, takes its name from an Irish-American street gang run by the boxerJohn Morrissey in the 1850s.

Located in a 19th century redbrick building, the bar seeks to commemorate the history of the area in its name, vintage decor, and recreations of historic cocktails.

As well as taking the main award, the Dead Rabbit also won the ‘World’s Best Cocktail Menu’ award.

The Spirited Awards are held each year in New Orleans as part of Tales of the Cocktail, an event for global producers of spirits.

A judging panel of 50 industry experts decided the winners.

The seagull hysteria in Ireland shows ‘A complete lack of awareness of nature

Say’s Birdwatch Ireland.


Seagull numbers have declined considerably over past two decades

Enthusiasts cautioned against sensationalist media coverage about seagulls, including calls for protected birds to be culled.

Seagulls very rarely harm people, they don’t have claws and their numbers have fallen dramatically in the past 20 years, birdwatchers have pointed out.

Enthusiasts cautioned against sensationalist media coverage, including calls for protected birds to be culled, after a week where gulls have been accused of killing sheep, stealing phones and attacking motorcyclists.

“It’s no coincidence that this news story flares up at this time of year and does so every year,” said Birdwatch Ireland development officer Niall Hatch. Most of the year gulls are quite docile but they become protective in mid to late July when their chicks are about to leave the nest. “They tend to get a little more vocal and tend to swoop a bit more. People might perceive it as a threat”

But he said it’s extraordinarily rare for them to actually harm or hit anybody. “In all the media hysteria over the few days there’s actually been remarkably few reports of anyone being hurt by these gulls.”

He added that gull populations aren’t increasing, in fact the opposite is true with numbers of the smaller herring gull declining substantially in the past two decades.

“Just over 20 years ago there were 60,000 pairs of these nesting around Ireland and that population plummeted to around 6,000,” said Mr Hatch.“They’re now on the red list in Ireland as being endangered.”

Rónán McLaughlin, a birdwatcher and photographer based in Co Cork, said overfishing in Irish waters conrtibuted to the herring gull leaving coastal nesting sites in favour of landfills. When the landfills closed the birds had to find another food source, so they headed for urban areas. “They’re very adaptable and very intgelligent, they’re going to go where the food is.”

The scavenging birds eat discarded food in towns and in some cases keep rodent populations down by eating rats. “It’s not the loss of a habitat, it’s just that the birds have adapted in a different way to feeding and decided: ‘we can go to the beach, we can go to seaside resorts because it’s easy pickings’,” said Mr McLaughlin.

He added that recent headlines about giant gulls using their claws to kill sheep in Kerry amount to media scaremongering. “I mean, a seagull doesn’t have claws. It’s got webbed feet for starters.”

He said the last thing birdwatchers wanted was for someone to “go down to Dingle with a loaf of bread and just lace it with rat poison or something like that”.

An article by Calvin Jones on this week noted an online poll where more than half the respondents supported culling gulls. “I can’t help feeling that’s partly because people are reading and believing all of these horror stories in the media, without any balancing arguments, or a full understanding of the facts,” he wrote.

Niall Hatch from Birdwatch Ireland agrees. He said the coverage has been “extremely frustrating”. But it also highlights a disconnect between Irish people and nature. “There does seem to be a lack of awareness of nature and of wild animals and of how wild animals behave. That’s something we find a lot in Ireland and it’s not necessarily the same in other European countries,” he said.

Either way, the coverage is likely to die down shortly enough. Gulls don’t need to look after their young for too long, said Mr Hatch. “This aggression or what perceived aggression there is will cease in the next week or two. There are actually more gulls in our cities during the winter but we don’t hear any complaints like that, it’s just a late-July phenomenon.”

The end of the world is nigh! Maybe not quite yet?


A doom-laden US study in 1972 predicted that the earth would run out of food and resources, becoming uninhabitable by around 2050.

The end of the world has been put back by at least 50 years by a team of British scientists.

A doom-laden US study in 1972 predicted that the earth would run out of food and resources, becoming uninhabitable by around 2050.

Now scientists at Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute have claimed we have a little more grace – until the end of this century, or the year 2100.

To come to their conclusion, the team updated the 1970s computer model used to predict how finite the Earth’s resources are. Aled Jones, co-author of the study in journal Sustainability, said: “They made a good attempt in the 1970s but it might have been too pessimistic.

“The limit is pushed back to the second half of this century.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 23rd July 2015

HSE offers €1,500 to attract overseas nurses back to Ireland


Up to 500 nurses and midwives sought in new recruitment initiative.

The HSE says a relocation package is available for nurses and midwives who would like to come and work in the Irish health service

The HSE is to offer a tax-free €1,500 relocation expenses package to encourage nurses and midwives working abroad to take up posts in the Irish health service.

The HSE is seeking to attract up to 500 nurses and midwives working in the UK and further afield to work inIreland under the new initiative.

Ian Tegerdine, HSE national director of human resources, said a relocation package was available for nurses and midwives who wished to come and work in the Irish health service and who applied for posts through the new recruitment campaign. The HSE said the package on offer included: up to €1,500 tax-free removal/relocation expenses including the cost of flights subject to Revenue guidelines on allowable removal expenses; the cost of registering for the first time with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland; funded postgraduate education; incremental credit for experience gained outside Ireland.

The HSE said there were vacancies in a wide range of hospital and community facilities and it was seeking to attract up to 500 nurses and midwives from the UK and elsewhere to Ireland.

It said it was hoped that many Irish nurses and midwives working in the UK in particular would take up the opportunity to return home and work in the Irish public health services.

Mr Tegerdine said the campaign would focus on connecting with nurses and midwives in the UK and further afield via advertising on social media channels and newspapers.

The HSE said that those taking up employment would receive a salary scale of €27,211-€43,800 with additional pay for shift and differentials.

It said it was also offering nurses and midwives permanent contracts of employment, as well as opportunities for continuing professional development and sponsorship programmes for specialist post-registration education and Masters study.

Meanwhile back in the UK:

‘Irish hospitals are so backward compared to here in the UK’

UK-based Irish nurse on new HSE recruitment drive


Lauren Irwin above pic middle a nurse from Rathfarnham, Dublin who has been working in the UK since 2012 says she will not be tempted back to Ireland.

An Irish nurse, working at a London Hospital since April 2012, has said the latest HSE recruitment programme will not tempt her to move back to Ireland for work.

Lauren Irwin (26) from Rathfarnham in Dublin said, “The staffing levels at the hospital I work at in London are so much better than at home.

“On the whole the hospital is managed in a much more efficient way.”

The HSE are currently attempting to attract 500 Irish nurses to come home, offering them free flights and relocation expenses worth €1,500.

Lauren Irwin, a nurse from Rathfarnham, Dublin. She has been working in the UK since 2012.

Lauren told that salary considerations are not her primary concern, adequate working conditions are the most important thing in her mind.

“I’m so supported here by the hospital management and by the National Health Service itself.

“You have to be content in the workplace. Pay comes second.” she said.

Read More: Irish nurses to be wooed back home with €1,500 relocation offer

Lauren said that on the whole, patients receive better care at hospitals in the UK.

“There’s nobody lying on a trolley for two or three days. That wouldn’t be tolerated here. But it’s still accepted in Ireland,” she said.

She added that she had received an email from Tallaght Hospital in relation to recruitment.

Read More: Eilish O’Regan: After the exodus comes the charm campaign

“I got sent lots of information on the recruitment drive this morning.

“I can’t see many people taking them up on it.

“One of my friends moved home to Ireland recently after working in the UK for a few years.

“He was in total shock at how bad things still are in Irish hospitals.” she said.

The number of advertised jobs in Ireland rises by 17% over past year


Sectors driving the increase include telecoms, retail, and tourism

The total number of jobs being advertised has increased by 17% over the past year, and by 7% in the past quarter.

Sectors driving the annual increase of 17% include telecoms (+41%); science, pharmaceuticals and food (+28%); financial services and insurance (+49%); construction, architecture and property (+18%); retail (+15%); and tourism (+14%).

Meanwhile, between April and June of this year there was an increase of jobs being advertised in healthcare (+32%), legal (+15%), and manufacturing (+17%)., which compiled the figures, has also published a Jobs Market Sentiment survey stating there is strong sentiment in the jobs market among jobseekers, with 50% (either employed, currently unemployed or in education and training) of the belief that the jobs market is improving.

In addition, more than half of jobseekers surveyed claim to be more secure in their job compared with 12 months ago. Almost two in 10 say they have already received a salary increase this year and three in 10 are expecting an increase.

The report looked at all corporate jobs advertised on two prominent jobs websites from the beginning of April to the end of June this year.

The flotation of AIB likely to take place in 2016,

Says Michael Noonan


The NTMA plans to focus on smoothing out €35bn in repayment ‘chimneys’ of national debt between 2018 and 2020

The Minister of Finance Michael Noonan at the press briefing for the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) annual report for 2015.

A stock market flotation of shares in the nationalised Allied Irish Banks is more likely to take place in mid-2016 than later this year, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said.

Although the Government had made preparations for an initial public offering this autumn, the Minister this morning suggested the flotation will not take place before the election.

“The only window for an IPO left this year is in November, and I have said that the IPO isn’t going to be influenced in any way by the political calendar,” Mr Noonan told reporters at the publication of the annual report of the National Treasury Management Agency.

“While there is a window there, the likelihood is that the IPO will go into the middle of 2016, late spring, summer of 2016, something like that.”

At the publication of the NTMA annual report, the agency’s chief Conor O’Kelly said it plans to smooth out €35 billion in repayment “chimneys” [of the national debt] \between 2018 and 2020.

“We’ll focus strategically on trying to manage ahead … maybe getting some switching and buybacks going to try and smooth out what the requirement will be. That will be a significant focus.”

Options include the issuing of inflation-linked or dollar denominated bonds.

Asked whether investors had raised questions about the election, Mr O’Kelly said the matter had been raised only at the “very margins” of discussions. “Maybe questions number 8, 9, 10 on peoples’ list and probably only half the time that it gets mentioned.”

In his experience, investors were generally not that interested in elections until you get closer to the actual event. “They don’t spend an awful lot of time on polls, on speculation.”

Asked what questions were being raised by investors, he said: “They’re asking what is the likelihood of a change from a general centrist coalition type scenario. That’s generally what they’re asking – and I normally kick high into the stand.”

Mr Noonan said his aim in the October budget was to bring the level of national debt to 100 per cent of GDP next year or below it. Ireland’s debt, which peaked at 123 per cent of GDP after the crash, was cut to 110 per cent of economic output at the end of 2014.

“At the end of this year – and we’re close enough to the end now to be able to predict with a degree of accuracy – it will be at 105. In the budget in October I’m going to be budgeting to bring it to 100 \[per cent] or to break through 100,” Mr Noonan said.

“When you think that the average debt for the euro zone is a shade under 95 per cent of GDP , we’re coming very very close to the European average on a time span I wouldn’t have predicted even two years ago.”

Echoing Mr O’Kelly, the Minister said events in Greece had not really affected Ireland.

“We’re no longer rated with the Mediterranean countries which were involved in programmes. We’re seen increasingly now as an economy more like the small northern countries in Europe.”

Mr O’Kelly said the fact that Ireland’s debt was unperturbed amid recent market volatility over Greece demonstrated that Ireland was seen as a “semi-core” debt issuer in the market.

“When you look at where we’re ranked by the bond markets currently, we’ve been defined in a kind of a semi core category – not quite peripheral, not core,” he said.

“In recent volatility and market moves around the the Greek story and around the European uncertainty, Ireland’s position as a semi-core credit was really confirmed.”

He characterised 2014 as the year the State made a smooth return to private debt markets, followed by moves to refinance expensive IMF debt with cheaper debt of longer maturities.

The NTMA has raised €11.3 billion so far this year, just over 90 per cent of its requirement.

“The statistic I like to use on this – it’s not exactly accurate, but it’s very very close – is that that funding has been done at double the maturity of last year and at half the yield. That really is showing how dramatic the improvement in our credit story is and of course the impact of QE,” he said in reference to the European Central Bank’s bond-buying campaign.

“We’ve issued at the yield of 1.5 per cent on average this year versus 2.8 per cent last year and our average maturity this year has been close to 19 years versus just over 10 years last year.”

The NTMA raised €5 billion via two sales of a 30-year bond at the start of this year, the latter €1 billion of which was sold at the yield of 1. 3 per cent.

“That is extraordinarily low in terms of that kind of maturity. You can never say what’s going to happen in financial markets but it will be quite some time before Ireland gets to issue a 30-year security at that kind of yield again.”

Mr Noonan said he would not be instructing Nama to appear before the finance committee in Stormont to answer questions about the sale of its Northern portfolio. All his relationship with State agencies such as Nama were governed by law, he said.

“I have no legal authority to request or instruct Nama to appear before any forum outside the jurisdiction,” he said.

“As well as that, Nama are obliged to be accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas through the [Public Accounts Committee] and to make themselves accountable to any other forum would be in breach of that.

“Nama are quite willing to answer any questions that are considered relevant by the Northern Ireland finance committee.”

Eating slowly has some benefits says new studies


Taking time to savour your food could help you lose weight, suggests a new study.

Those who make more time to enjoy their dinners might not just be more relaxed – they could benefit from finding it easier to keep weight off, too. That’s because they tend to feel fuller afterwards, claims a new study.

For a while scientists have been aware that slow eaters tend to have lower BMIs, but the reason why was unknown.

Now researchers from the University of Bristol have decided to investigate whether eating slowly affects how hungry we feel afterwards.

To make sure quantities and rates at which people ate were exactly the same, 40 participants were fed tomato soup through a tube for this experiment. Exactly 400ml were pumped in; one group had theirs fed at a fast rate, a second at a slower pace (11.8 ml per two seconds, then a four-second pause for the fast group, 5.4 ml of soup per second, then a ten-second pause, for the slower group).

Participants were then quizzed on feelings of fullness, both straight after the meal and again two hours later.

Those in the slower category claimed to feel more satisfied both times around. Interestingly, the participants in this group also estimated they had eaten more than their counterparts (108 ml more on average).

To take their research further, scientists then asked participants to taste two kinds of biscuit after they’d had their soup. Both groups consumed roughly the same amount, so now they want to repeat the experiment without ‘forcing’ people to eat, but simply offering snacks after. They believe this will give more of an insight into whether eating slowly prevents snacking.

There are many benefits to eating slowly, so maybe you should take more time over dinner tonight. As well as having potential slimming effects, it makes digestion easier and leaves you less likely to feel bloated or suffering from heartburn.

Cigarette butts most common type of litter in Ireland,

A survey shows

 Image result for Cigarette butts most common type of litter in Ireland

‘Smokers need to make every effort to dispose of cigarette butts,’ says Minister for the Environment

The 2014 National Litter Pollution Report found that “ cigarette-related litter” accounted for almost 55% of litter.

Cigarette butts and packets remain the most common type of litter found on Irish streets, according to the Department of the Environment’s annual litter survey.

The 2014 National Litter Pollution Report found that “ cigarette-related litter” accounted for almost 55% of litter, with butts constituting more than half of all litter items found on the street.

The survey, carried out by Tobin Consulting Engineers, found food-related items accounted for more than 16% of litter with chewing gum being the single largest litter component in the food litter category, accounting for 15% of all litter recorded.

Packaging litter at 12.4% is the third largest component of national litter pollution recorded.

The worst litter culprits are pedestrians (41%), motorists (18.7%), retail outlets (10.3%), places of leisure and entertainment (6.1%), gathering points (5.5%), school children (4.8%) and fast food outlets (4.7%).

The level of litter was improving however, with 12.3% of areas surveyed considered litter free, compared to 12.2% in 2013.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said people needed to take individual responsibilty for litter.

“Smokers in particular, in light of the results announced today, need to make every effort to dispose of cigarette butts correctly at all times.”

An older cousin of our Earth Kepler 452B is discovered


An “older cousin” of Earth has been discovered orbiting a distant sun-like star more than 1,000 light years away.

The world is 60% larger than Earth and lies in the star’s “habitable zone” — the orbital region where temperatures are mild enough to be suitable for life.

No one knows if life has evolved on the planet, Kepler-452b. However, since the parent star is 1.5bn years older than the sun, any creatures living there could be far more advanced than they are on Earth.

That makes Kepler-452b a good candidate for scientists involved in the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (Seti).

On Tuesday, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking helped launch a new £64m (€90m) project to hunt for radio signals from alien civilisations.

Breakthrough Listen, funded by Russian internet billionaire Yuri Milner, will use two of the world’s most powerful radio telescopes to scour thousands of stars for intelligent transmissions over 10 years.

News of Kepler-452b’s discovery was released by astronomers operating the American space agency Nasa’s Kepler space telescope.

Jon Kenkins, from Nasa’s Ames Research Centre in California, said: “We can think of Kepler-452b as an older, bigger cousin to Earth, providing an opportunity to understand and reflect upon Earth’s evolving environment.

“It’s awe-inspiring to consider this planet has spent 6bn years in the habitable zone of its star; longer than Earth,” said Dr Kenkins.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 22nd July 2015

Michael McDowell calls for radical Dáil shake-up

MacGill Summer School: Former tánaiste says next ceann comhairle by secret ballot.


Kevin O’ Malley, US ambassador to Ireland, and his wife Dena, with former tánaiste Michael McDowell SC and Dr Joe Mulholland, director of the Patrick MacGill Summer School at the opening in Glenties, Co Donegal on Sunday night

Former tánaiste Michael McDowell has called for urgent “now-or-never” change before the general election that would see the next ceann comhairle elected by secret ballot and not chosen by the incoming government.

Mr McDowell, a former minister for justice and attorney general, called for a number of radical changes to the Dáil and Seanad when giving the opening address of Patrick MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, last night.

He said the window for making the changes was narrowing fast and warned that if they were not agreed before this Dáil term comes to an end, then they would never happen.

Delivering the John Hume lecture, Mr McDowell said that Irish democracy was dysfunctional and the present system did not make the Executive or the government accountable to the Oireachtas.

“If the Standing Orders relating to the election of ceann comhairle are not changed now before the election,” he said, “the next ceann comhairle will inevitably be on the say-so of the next incoming government and, as present, on the basis of a whipped party vote.

“That office cannot continue to be a consolation prize for a disappointed would-be minister. It cannot remain in the gift of the incoming government, to be bartered away as part of the spoils of electoral victory between those who share ministerial power.

Pro-active champion

“Dáil Éireann, as our ‘House of Representatives’, badly needs an elected Speaker who is in reality, and is seen to be, wholly and unambiguously mandated and empowered to act as the pro-active champion of each and every single one of those elected TDs in vindicating their twin constitutional functions: firstly, of holding the executive power to democratic accountability and, secondly, as legislators,” he said.

To achieve that would require a free and secret ballot, he said, as happens in Westminster, where the perception of the Speaker is as a wholly independent office holder, with no ties to the government of the day.

He said the independence of the ceann comhairle could extend to him or her giving discretionary speaking preference to TDs who attend and participate in debates, rather than those who arrive in to read a script.

“It will become a mark office of State, reflecting the constitutional tripartite separation of powers,” he said.

A secret ballot

Mr McDowell also said that the chairs and vice-chairs of Oireachtas committees should also be elected by secret ballot, with each new holder giving, and being given, assurances on security of tenure, impartiality and independence.

“We badly need committees that will hold ministers to continual and effective scrutiny,” he said.

The proposals were practicable and achievable, he said.

“I am not aware that any party has opposed or would oppose such changes. On the contrary, a number of these proposals have received expressions of support in principle from a wide variety of elected politicians and commentators, including the Constitutional Convention . . . which deserves at least some recognition for some of its efforts.”

Mr McDowell said that such changes were anything but “populist gimmickry”.

Referring to his own experience as a backbench TD, attorney general, minister and tánaiste, he said: “When I was not an office holder, the culture and procedures of the Dáil prevented me and my colleagues from holding the Executive to adequate account.

“When I was an office holder, the same culture and procedures prevented me and my colleagues from being held to adequate account.

“In both circumstances, the result was seriously wrong and damaging.”

Michael D Higgins warns climate failure will lead to:

‘The destruction of life’


President speaking at ‘Summit of Consciences for the Climate’ in Paris

President Higgins speaking to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan during the Paris Summit of Conscience for the Climate.

A failure to respond to the “scientific reality of climate change” may lead to the “destruction of life on our planet”, President Michael D Higgins has told a climate change conference in Paris.

President Higgins is addressing the “Summit of Consciences for the Climate” organised by President François Hollande.

The purpose of the day-long conference is to raise consciousness of the threat posed by global warming, in the run-up to the COP 21 UN conference on climate change, which will be held in Paris next December.

Speakers at Tuesday’s conference are an eclectic and colourful mix ranging from an astro-physicist to the former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger. They include religious leaders from all the world’s main faiths.

President Higgins said we must therefore “unequivocally reject the position of those who would obscure the scientific reality of climate change in their protection of any narrow and short-term self-interest. The first ethical test is in accepting that there can be no compromise with truth”.

“ Ours may be the final generation with the opportunity to effectively respond to the now urgent effects of climate change,” President Higgins said. “This year thus marks a defining moment for the future of humanity. In this year 2015 we will decide on what must be a shared universal response to climate change – and on a practical agenda for action.

We will also this year decide on what should be sought as ‘development’ in the wake of the Millennium Development Goals, in response to global poverty and increasing global inequality.”

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight targets introduced in 2000 aimed at halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and halting the spread of HIV-Aids by 2015 – will be replaced by Sustainable Development Goals.

“The political and technical decisions that are to be made over the coming months may be complex, but ultimately the great challenges of our time are ethical and intellectual in their nature.”

The President said humans “must acknowledge that the human causes behind climate change have identifiable historical contexts, grounded in forms of development and industrialisation that were based on the exploitation of fossil fuels, with an assumption of infinite growth.

“Would it not be the greatest of all human achievements if we were to succeed in delivering the benefits of science, the shared wisdom, instinct and intuition of diverse cultures, and the products of reason and faith; and in delivering all of these through new, balanced models of development, ecology and society?”

Irish Government sidesteps increasing charges for residential care

Long-term sustainability of Fair Deal scheme remains to be seen, given demographics


Minister for Social Care Kathleen Lynch said Government would seek to generate efficiencies from administrative reforms in the Fair Deal nursing homes scheme.

The Government has sidestepped the potentially explosive issue of increasing charges for people in long-term residential care. However, it remains to be seen how sustainable the Fair Deal nursing home scheme is in the long run, given demographic pressures.

The review of the scheme has forecast that the number of people it would have to support will rise by about 9,000, to 33,000, by 2024.

Over that period the number of people older than 65 will rise by about 200,000, to 802,000, while those older than 85 will increase by nearly 30,000, to just under 96,000.

The cost of long-term residential care is financed by a combination of direct State support under the Fair Deal scheme, costing nearly €1 billion a year, and contributions from residents based on their means, whether this be pensions, other income or assets. The average contribution amounts to about 25 per cent of the cost of care.

Minister of State for Social Care Kathleen Lynch immediately indicated that the Government had decided not to adopt any of the options set out in the review for increased contributions to pay for future long-term care. Instead, the Government would seek to generate efficiencies from administrative reforms.

Additional cost of €49m

The Department of Health said that, by 2018, it was projected that the number of people benefiting from the Fair Deal scheme would grow by up to 1,126, at an additional exchequer cost of €49 million over the three-year period.

However, the review also made clear that after that point the numbers covered were expected to accelerate.

Meanwhile, private nursing homes operating the Fair Deal scheme are pressing for reforms in the funding model to recognise what they see as the true cost of care. Such a review might look at allocating funds based on a resident’s needs, rather than a simple capitation payment.

The cost of the scheme is not the only problem facing the Government in the area of long-term care. Private investment in the nursing home sector is certainly not running at the levels of the past, while the State sector is facing challenges in some areas in meeting standards set by the regulatory body Hiqa.

The review pointed out that while the average weekly cost in a public facility was nearly €1,400, the figure for a private or voluntary centre was just under €900 at the end of last year. While it was likely that residents in public units might have higher care needs, the review said costs in these centres “appear to be in excess of what applies in private centres”.

Minister Noonan promises property tax freeze expected for 2017

Noonan pledges ‘no sudden shocks’ as Cabinet meets in Lissadell House Sligo


A property tax frieze, adoption rights and future budget cuts are topping the agenda at Lissadell House for the final cabinet meeting before the summer recess for the government. Harry McGee reports.

The Government has committed itself to an effective freeze in property tax when the next revaluation occurs in 2017.

As the Cabinet prepared to meet in Lissadell House, Co Sligo on Wednesday Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said there would be no sudden shocks for property owners in terms of increased property taxes.

When homes and properties were given valuations in 2013, the Government gave a commitment that the tax would remain unchanged until 2017.

Mr Noonan said that since the valuations were done, property prices in Dublin have increased by 40% and around 20% in the rest of the country.

“I am not going to be in a situation if we are back in Government get into a situation where there is a huge jump in the take on property tax.

“We are examining ways of keeping the tax take about the same as it is now.

“What I am committing to the people in advance is there will be no sudden shocks in advance of the property tax.”

Mr Noonan said the report by Don Thornhill of his examination of this issue will be made public closer to the Budget. At the same time he undertook that there would be no sharp increases in the tax.

He was speaking in advance of the last Cabinet meeting of the year in Lissadell House.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and most Ministers arrived by bus at the historic Co Sligo house after midday and were greeted by the owners of the house, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, as well as five of their seven children.

Tánaiste Joan Burton, who had an engagement in Sligo, arrived a short time later for the meeting, saying she was very glad to be a female Minister at the former home of Constance Markievicz, the first female Member of the Dáil and the first female cabinet minister.

The main items to be discussed at Cabinet are:

  1. A memo on the latest budgetary situation brought by Mr Noonan;
  2. A memorandum on a new childcare policy brought by Minister for Children James Reilly; and
  3. A new Bill allowing adopted children the right to trace their parentage, also brought by Dr Reilly.

Speaking in advance of the meeting, which is the last before the summer recess, Mr Noonan said the economic recovery was becoming deeper and was extending to more of the population.

Mr Noonan said that the income tax situation was good and that the April forecasts of €1 billion of additional taxation was now being revised upwards to €1.5 billion .

He said that “because of fiscal rules it does not give us any additional budget space” and he was still working on the basis that the adjustments in the budget would be between €1.2 billion and €1.5 billion.

However, he said the Government deficit for 2015 was now being projected at 2.3 per cent, lower than earlier estimates.

He accepted there would be a health over-run for this year but said it would not be anywhere near €1 billion, as has been predicted in some quarters.

Minister for Communications Alex White told reporters that Labour’s budgetary priorities were to bring in a budget that was “fair and ensure we spread the opportunities across the society in a fair way.”

Humans may be able to live on Moon in the next decade:

A study says


According to a Nasa-funded study, humans may be able to live on the moon in a little more than a decade from now. The study outlines a plan to again take human missions to the moon, media reported.

The announcement was made on July 20 – the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 crew’s first steps on the lunar surface – The Verge reported.

The, study, undertaken by NexGen Space LLC, lays out a detailed roadmap for when and how to take the next step for a landing.

A robotic return to the moon could happen as soon as 2017, if Nasa were to adopt the plan right away. Rovers would scout the lunar poles for hydrogen in 2018 and prospecting could begin by 2019 or 2020.

Robotic construction of a permanent base would begin in 2021 in anticipation of landing humans on the moon later that year, it said.

The study said the space agency can do it all within the existing budget for human spaceflights. The way for Nasa to do this is to adopt the same method that it is using for re-supplying the International Space Station – a public-private partnership with companies like SpaceX, Orbital ATK or the United Launch Alliance.

SpaceX currently charges Nasa about $4,750 (roughly Rs. 3,02,300) for every kilogram of supplies sent to orbit aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, far less than the cost by the Apollo-era Saturn V ($46,000, or roughly Rs. 29,27,530 per kilogram) or even the space shuttle ($60,000, or roughly Rs. 38,18,350 per kilogram).

While the study does use SpaceX’s next generation rocket, the Falcon Heavy, as an example in its plans to get to the moon, SpaceX claims the Falcon Heavy will be as cheap or cheaper per kilogram than the Falcon 9.

Nasa is already planning to go back to the moon with its next generation rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), but there are no plans to land.

By using commercial partners, Nasa could reduce the number of planned SLS launches from 12 to around three, reducing the cost of the programme while still developing the technologies necessary to support it, the study said.

The study was vetted by a 21-person independent review team made up of former members of Nasa’s administration, members of the commercial spaceflight community and four former Nasa astronauts.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 21st July 2015

We have files on suspected jihadis in Ireland

says Charlie Flanagan

He warns Ireland must remain vigilant against terror attacks


The Minister of Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan

Ireland needs to “remain vigilant” against Islamic State says Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, who admitted files were being kept on suspected jihadis in this country. The senior Fine Gael politician made the comments a week after gardaí released a man on suspicion of attempting to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

The man, who is a Syrian national living in Dublin, was sent back to Ireland by Turkish officials after he landed in Instanbul.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Flanagan said while Ireland was “very low in terms of threat”, the country needed to remain on “alert and be vigilant against threats.”

“There are files on jihadis in Ireland, of course there are… [but] I work closely with my colleagues in the Justice Department to ensure that any information we have is shared.”

Mr Flanagan was speaking a day after attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers, where recent terror developments, including the deadly attacks in Tunisia that left three Irish people died, were discussed.

It comes as the Turkish government has promised to increase security on its Syria border after 30 people were killed and over 100 wounded in a bombing yesterday linked to ISIS.

The Foreign Affairs Minister told Newstalk Breakfast that the Radicalisation Awareness Network – part of the European Commission – and the sharing of airline passenger data was an important part of the process of preventing any jihad-inspired attack in Ireland.

He also voiced support for the United Kingdom’s new anti-terror legalisation saying that “it was key that we remain in close contact with communities in order to prevent what we call radicalisation”.

“We need to remove the glamour that many of these groups have… and that involves the promotion of the rule of law and democracy… something I think we take for granted here in Ireland.”

Value of court judgments against consumers rises by 41% on 2014


Irish courts award more than €200 million in judgments against bad debtors

More than €200 million was awarded in court judgments against consumers in the first half of this year, according to figures from business and credit risk analyst

The value of consumer judgments awarded amounted to €202.8 million, which is a 41%  increase compared to the same period in 2014.

The average value of consumer judgments during the first six months of 2015 was €119,879, an increase of 33% or €29,925, on the same period in 2014.

In total, 1,692 judgments were awarded against consumers in the first six months of 2015, a 6% increase on the same period in 2014. More than half (52%) of all consumer judgments were awarded to the Revenue Commissioners.

The value of judgments against commercial entities declined, down 25%, from €22.9 million to €17.2 million.The average value of commercial judgments awarded for the first half of 2015 was €27,911, a decrease of 23% or €8,428 reduction, on 2014’s equivalent figure of €36,339.

Of the 616 commercial judgments awarded in the first half of 2015, 256 were awarded to local authorities.

Leitrim nursing home residents forced to go without bath/shower for weeks

Says a HIQA report


Residents in HSE-run nursing home were forced to go without a bath or shower for a month or more because of staff shortages, a damning inspection report has revealed.

St Patrick’s Community Hospital in Summerhill, Carrick-on-Shannon in Leitrim is home to eighty two residents over the age of 65 years, some of whom have dementia or are receiving palliative care.

However, shocked inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found a litany of risks and poor standards of care when they visited over two days in March.

Residents were only offered a shower once every two weeks but on occasions when they declined a bath or shower , or if there were no staff available on that particular day, they had to go for a month or longer without a proper wash.

The report revealed:

* Fire safety equipment had not been installed as per HSE’s response to previous actions.

* There were a significant number of falls in this centre and some residents had fallen repeatedly and were not adequately protected from further injury.

* In one unit the fire, doors were not connected to the fire alarm system and there was no magnetic door release them to ensure they closed and compartmentalised in the event of a fire. In addition; there were gaps in-between some fire doors that had existed since previous inspection, despite assurances that they would be addressed.

* Risks such as fire evacuation and personal evacuation plans were not in place

* Fire safety equipment had not been installed as per provider’s response to previous actions.

The inspectors found that since the last inspection some improvements had been  made.For  example; in two of the units staffing levels had been increased so that adequate staffing was available at the high support need times

But  there was no activities coordinator available to organise activities for residents.There were not sufficient staff with the right skills, qualifications and experience to meet the assessed needs of residents.

They also found that medication practices were not adequately supervised to ensure they were done safety.

More women in Irish politics is long overdue

says Tánaiste Burton


The Tánaiste has said that the day Ireland has more women in politics is ‘long overdue’.

Joan Burton was responding to former senior Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery, who told MacGill Summer School it’s ‘difficult’ for young men in the political arena who are ‘pushed aside’ in favour of female candidates.

Mr Flannery said some male candidates feel ‘aggrieved’ by the quotas – but he said that he does support them.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said that the quotas benefit both men and women, and they should not be regarded as anything other than positive.

“I think it’s good for everybody to have a critical mass of both women and men involved in politics. I think the day is long overdue in Ireland when we have more women in politics, and I’m sure Frank Flannery is very strongly in favour of that,” said the Tánaiste.

Divers recover four Spanish Armada cannons from Streedagh sea in Grange


Three more guns off Sligo coast to be brought ashore after lying submerged for 400 years.

One of the newly discovered cannon from the Spanish Armada shipwrecks in Streedagh is brought ashore and set down for a brief public viewing in Mullaghmore Co Sligo,

Two hundred locals gathered at Mullaghmore harbour in Co Sligo on Monday as four bronze cannons that had lain for more than 400 years in a Spanish Armada wreck at Streedagh were transferred to the National Museum.

As onlookers marveled at the detail on the artefacts, including one cannon apparently depicting a bearded St Peter holding the keys to heaven, it emerged that three more will be removed on Wednesday by divers from the underwater archaeology unit of the Department of Arts and Heritage.

One of these cannons is still in situ on the seabed at Streedagh where three Spanish Armada galleons were shipwrecked in 1588. Two others were recovered by divers in recent days from the wreck of La Julianaat Streedagh. They were placed in underwater storage in Mullaghmore pending transfer to the National Museum.

A campaign to establish a permanent Armada museum in Grange village close to Streedagh is gathering momentum. Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys, who visited the site of the wrecks in June said she was very much aware that the Grange Armada Development Association would like to see the material returned to the community to be exhibited locally when the conservation work was done.


“I know that the National Museum would not stand in the way of such a proposal,” added the Minister, who pointed out that it could take up to two years for the conservation process to be completed.

Donal Gilroy, a member of the local association, pointed out that as well as the canons, recently recovered artefacts included a bronze cauldron and a wheel from a siege gun. He said local people were acutely aware of the link with the 1,100 Spanish sailors who had lost their lives at Streedagh in 1588. “This is their graveyard,” he said.

The expert divers who were called in after local people recovered timbers from La Juliana following a violent storm last February, say the variety of artefacts illustrates its history.

Built as a trading vessel in 1570, it was later used as a warship during the ill-fated Spanish Armada campaign of 1588. The 860-ton La Juliana , which carried 325 soldiers and a crew of 70, was one of 26 ships from the Spanish fleet of 130 vessels that were lost around the coast of Ireland.


Two other Armada ships, La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vison are submerged in sand at Streedagh, but locals have expressed concern about the security of La Juliana, which has been partly exposed by storms .

Ms Humphreys described the quality of material being recovered as remarkable. “The gun carriage wheels, designed for siege warfare on land, paint a very clear picture of the scale and intent of the planned invasion ofEngland by King Phillip II of Spain, ” she said.

The most elaborate of the recovered cannon depicting St Peter has two ornate lifting handles in the form of dolphins with looped tails.

The Minister thanked the local development association and Sligo Sub-Aqua Club for maintaining a watch over the site at Streedagh.

Donal Gilroy pointed out that just 12 of the 32 cannon on La Juliana had been recovered so far – three in 1985, two last June, four on Monday, with three more due to be removed from the sea on Wednesday.

Making the case for a permanent museum in Grange, Mr Gilroy added: “If you wanted a centre for the Cliffs of Moher, there would be no point having it in Merrion Square.”

Stephen Hawking backs new initiative to find life beyond Earth


A new $100 million initiative, backed by a Russian entrepreneur and endorsed by physicist Stephen Hawking, has been launched in search of intelligent life beyond planet Earth.

Billionaire Yuri Milner announced his plans on Monday to fund the “Breakthrough Initiatives” project, a 10-year mission using powerful telescopes to examine nearly 100 galaxies for signals of intelligent life forms.

“Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps intelligent life may be watching these lights of ours, aware of what they mean,” Hawking said at the launch. “It’s time to commit to finding the answer to search for life beyond earth.”

The primary goal of “Breakthrough Listen” is banking on another potential civilization to send a signal that can be retrieved by the high-powered telescopes.

Some are saying this type of search for extraterrestrial life forms is not an entirely new venture. “I don’t think it’s all that big of a deal,” NBC contributor Jay Barbree said on Tuesday’s Rundown. “$100 million dollars isn’t all that much money when they’re already spending billions on it now.”

Barabree added that there are a slew of educational institutions and nationally-funded organizations, including NASA, dedicated to the same mission that Milner and Hawking are backing: finding life beyond Earth.

The push for the program from Hawking and the “Breakthrough Initiatives” team aims to reinvigorate that search by not only combing the galaxies, but by creating an international dialogue. Another aspect of the project, called “Breakthrough Message,” will launch an international competition with a $1 million prize to do just that—to create messages that best represent life on Earth to one day be used as a signal to other potential civilizations.

Barbree worries that the biggest factor is time, given that it could take years to send and receive signals from far away galaxies. Still, he acknowledges the importance of exploration.

“We have to get off this planet. When? That’s the big question,” Barbree said.

All data generated by “Breakthrough Initiatives” will be made available to the public.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday/Monday 19th & 20th July 2015

Renua Ireland will crack down on white collar crime if elected

Says Lucinda Creighton


Lucinda Creighton

Renua founder Lucinda Creighton has vowed that her party will make reckless lending by bankers a crime, if her party gets into government after the next election.

“It happens in other jurisdictions and we are unique in how difficult it is to prosecute people who behave recklessly in the corporate sphere, whether it’s in banks or in other corporate environments,” she said.

Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties, she described as “extraordinary” that nothing has changed in Ireland when it came to jailing white-collar criminals.

“Seven or eight years on the from the banking collapse in this country, nothing has changed.

“Most of the people who have been prosecuted have either gotten off or managed to frustrate the judicial system, so we need not just to put in a crime of reckless lending, but also equip the office of the director of corporate enforcement (ODCE) and the Regulator to do their job properly.”

She added that the party will be launching their policy on white collar crime on Friday, and will also roll out more policy initiatives over the next few weeks, including what she described as “a very radical tax policy” in September.

  Lucinda Creighton with her daughter Gwendolyn (15 months).

Ms Creighton also criticised the declaration by new party the Social Democrats that they would abolish water charges.

“I think it’s disingenuous fo any political movement to say they want to achieve Scandinavian standards of public services, but they don’t believe that people should pay for it,” she said.

Commenting on former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s assertion during a radio interview last weekend that he didn’t believe that the Mahon Tribunal’s judgment that he had been untruthful were correct, Ms. Creighton said, “We either believe in our justice system, or we don’t. It’s a bit rich for the former Taoiseach to simply say that he doesn’t believe them, or criticise the judge who presided over the tribunal.

Irish Water denies cold calling people who have not paid their bills


Irish water is being accused of cold calling people who have not yet paid their bills.

The accusation was made by socialist TD Paul Murphy who told that he has heard of cases where elderly people are being called by the utility.

However, Irish Water says that no calls requesting payments have yet been made.

The utility stated that the process of seeking unpaid payments from customers over the phone will not start until 21 days after the second unpaid bill has been issued.

Speaking at an Anti-Austerity Alliance press conference, Murphy advised people who received calls not to feel intimidated, to politely explain their position on why they are not paying and then hang up.

A spokesperson for Irish Water told that Irish Water has not yet made calls to customers who have not paid and a follow-up call would only be made to registered customers at this time if there was an error with information given for a direct debit.

“All utility companies issue reminders to customers when unpaid bills extend beyond a certain period. Irish Water will be contacting our customers in the most cost efficient manner and depending on the contact details we have for customers.

We may send reminder letters or text messages to customers initially and as the payment follow-up process evolves, Irish water may then contact customers by phone.

‘Scare tactics’

It comes as Irish Water revealed last week that just under half of Irish Water customers have paid their water charges so far.

Paul Murphy said, “The next step for Irish Water and the government will be to try to once again engage in scare tactics to frighten some more people into paying. This is likely to focus on tenants who are one of the most vulnerable groups.

We are calling on landlords not to act as enforcers for Irish Water.

He also added that the tenant is liable for the bill so the landlord has nothing to gain by trying to enforce the charge.

TD Ruth Coppinger said, “The biggest step forward for the boycott campaign would be if those opposed to the tax who haven’t explicitly called for a boycott such as Sinn Fein and the unions affiliated with Right2Water now called for one”.

Right to Water are organising a protest against the water charges in Dublin on 29 August.

The cost price of a family home in Ireland on the rise


The cost of buying a family home has rocketed across the country, despite a marked fall in the number of properties being sold.

Analysis in today’s Irish Independent from the Property Price Register shows a 10% fall in houses and apartments being sold in the second quarter of this year.

Over 8,000 houses and apartments were sold, a drop of 10.5% compared with the first three months.

Yet prices have actually risen by as much as 14%.

The lack of properties on the market is also said to be pushing prices up with a rise in sales of million euro homes.

A call for the hunt and cull of vicious seagulls after killing of a dog


FF Senator says David Cameron highlighted gull dangers after dog killed.

A call has been made for a cull of seagulls who are “endangering society” and “invading towns”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Denis O’Donovan said “they’ve actually killed lambs, they’ve killed rabbits.”

He echoed the sentiments of his party colleague Ned O’Sullivan who this time last year said seagulls “have lost the run of themselves completely”.

Mr O’Sullivan got some abuse for his comments about the gulls being raucous and keeping people awake and for describing them as vermin and scavengers.

But in the Seanad on Monday Mr O’Donovan pointed out that “no less a person than prime minister of Great Britain, our neighbours – David Cameron – has come out publicly to record his concern and his worry about the way seagulls are behaving”.

Last week Mr Cameron called for a “big conversation” about seagulls after attacks by gulls in Cornwall, England last week.

Mr O’Donovan said Mr Cameron made his remarks “because a tortoise and a child’s pet, a terrier dog, had been killed in the recent past by seagulls”.

Mr O’Donovan, Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Seanad said “it’s coming to the stage where they’re actually endangering society. Their behaviour is coming to the stage, to be realistic now, it’s like a rabbit with myxomatosis or a cow with mad cow disease.”

Mr O’Donovan said they should consider a cull of “this vicious seabird. Seagulls usually live at sea and nest on cliffs, but they are now invading towns and villages.”

He said the normal food supply for seagulls was fish. “That product is getting scarce whether we like it or not. It’s probably one third of what it was 30 or 40 years ago.”

He added: “Seagulls have actually killed lambs, they’ve killed rabbits,” and he described them as a nuisance and a pest.

Labour Senator Denis Landy quipped that “there’s a seagull looking in the window at you” and warned Mr O’Donovan that he’d want to be careful.

But the Cork Senator said it was a very serious issue and calling for a debate, he said: “You see a child eating fish and chips and a seagull attacks the food that that child is eating”.

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) said he did not believe the issue of seagulls was a “flight of fantasy”. He added: “It is an important issue if seagulls are stealing the food from children and damaging animals. I heard on the radio earlier that a lady in the Botanic Gardens had her telephone taken by a seagull.”

Sinéad O’Connor becomes a grandmother


The 48-year-old singer Sinead O’Connor &  her eldest son Jake pictured right with his mum, welcomed a little boy on Friday with his girlfriend.

Irish performer Sinéad O’Connor has become a grandmother for the first time.

The 48-year-old singer’s son Jake welcomed a little boy on Friday with his girlfriend. Sinéad was quick to update her fans of the happy news, taking to her Facebook page to share her delight.

“Don’t mess with abuelita. (sic)” she wrote alongside a cartoon which spelled out ‘It’s a Boy’.

Sinéad has four children and Jake is the eldest, from her first marriage to music producer John Reynolds. The Nothing Compares 2 U singer has been married a further three times, most recently to Irish therapist Barry Herridge, who she met on the Internet.

Sinéad had posted on Thursday that her son’s partner had gone into labour.

I Am literally hours away from the greatest dream of my life coming true! #Granny! (sic)” she wrote. “This for Lia and Jake and their little angel, who flew about with me in Vegas last week as I was singing the Foggy Dew for .”

Sinéad first confirmed the news of her impending grandparent duties in March on the social networking site. However she had to quickly clarify that it wasn’t her 18-year-old daughter who was expecting, but Jake.

“It’s my 27-year-old son Jake and his beautiful girlfriend, Lia! Am so delighted!!! Always wanted to be a granny. In fact that’s the only reason I had kids (joking). Baby will be arriving in July.(sic)” she wrote.

Sinéad is a prolific user of Facebook, and earlier this week she took to the site to launch a bitter tirade against Rolling Stone magazine, which had put reality star Kim Kardashian on the front cover of its latest issue.

“What is this **** doing on the cover of Rolling Stone? Music has officially died. Who knew it would be Rolling Stone that murdered it? (sic)” she raged.

Papers confirm bones sent to Sligo were not the poet’s remains?


French records suggest coffin sent to Ireland after poet’s death held others’ bones

The purported remains of the poet, WB Yeats, who died in January 1939 and was buried at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in south-eastern France, was brought by sea from Nice to Galway in September 1948 for reinterring in Drumcliffe Churchyard in Co Sligo.

There were doubts about the authenticity of WB Yeats’s bones even before they were transferred from France for reburial in Drumcliffe churchyard in September 1948.

Aware that the poet’s remains had been scattered in an ossuary in 1946, Yeats’s friends attempted to dissuade his widow, George, from going through with the repatriation. At the ceremony in Co Sligo the poet Louis MacNeice protested that the shiny new coffin transported by the Naval Service was more likely to contain “a Frenchman with a club foot”.

Recently discovered French documents have driven the last nail into the coffin. They constitute compelling evidence that the bones gathered in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the Riviera town where he died in 1939, were little more than a haphazard assemblage.

A letter to The Irish Times, October 6th 1988

Bernard Cailloux, the French diplomat who was sent to Roquebrune to locate Yeats’s missing remains early in 1948, nine years after the poet’s death, reported that it was “impossible to return the full and authentic remains of Mr Yeats” and proposed askingDr Rebouillat, the local sworn pathologist, “to reconstitute a skeleton presenting all the characteristics of the deceased”.

At best, Cailloux wrote, it might be possible to find “an iron corset, a skull, and perhaps a Bible”. Yeats had an unusually large skull, so it is conceivable that his skull was actually found and sent to Ireland.

Alfred Hollis, an Englishman who died around the same time as Yeats, and who was initially buried next to him, wore a steel corset for spinal tuberculosis. In his certificate of exhumation from March 20th, 1948, Rebouillat based his reconstitution of Yeats’s skeleton on “the presence of a thoracic corset”. Yeats’s son, Michael, said he wore a leather truss for a hernia.

Hollis’s family have long claimed that it was he, not Yeats, who was sent for burial in Sligo. The French documents indicate it’s more likely that the remains were those of several people, chosen for their size from bones that were sorted by type into piles of, for example, skulls, fibulae and tibiae.

Subsequent diplomatic correspondencerefers to Cailloux’s report, strongly implying that his recommendation to assemble a skeleton, from bones that Cailloux described as “mixed pell-mell with other bones”, was followed. The operation received the tacit acceptance of the Yeats family and the minister for external affairs, Seán MacBride, the son of Yeats’s great love, Maud Gonne.

“We can be assured of the discretion of the family and the Irish authorities,” Stanislas Ostrorog, the head of the French legation to Ireland, wrote to Jacques Camille Paris, the Europe director of the French foreign ministry, on August 12th, 1948.

Ostrorog added that “certain precautions must be taken on our side to avoid any indiscretion about the procedure undertaken a few months ago to obtain the remains of the poet . . . so that no administrative difficulties arise giving cause for suspicion; so that no inopportune explanation is given to the Irish present at the ceremony”.

Yeats died at the Hôtel Idéal Séjour in Roquebrune on January 28th, 1939. “If I die, bury me up there” – in the churchyard at Roquebrune – “and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo,” he instructed his wife.

The second World War prevented George from carrying out Yeats’s instructions. In June 1947 the poet’s last lover, the journalist Edith Shackleton Heald, and her lover Hannah Gluckstein, the painter known as Gluck, decided to visit Yeats’s tomb. They were appalled to learn from the local curate that Yeats had been disinterred the previous year and his bones mixed with others in the ossuary.

In her 1988 biography of Gluck, Diana Souhami recounted how Heald crouched on the floor of their hotel in Monte Carlo, sobbing and saying, “I would know his bones anywhere.” Gluck and Yeats’s friend Edmund Dulac conspired to cover up the dispersal of Yeats’s remains. “All it would take would be an excessively curious tourist for the press to batten on to this with avidity and we must at all costs avoid the scandal that would arise from such a revelation,” Dulac wrote to the curate, Abbé Biancheri.

The publication of Souhami’s book led to bitter exchanges via newspaper columns between the Hollis and Yeats families, who eventually called a truce to avoid mutual distress.

In January 1948 the Times announced that George Yeats intended to repatriate the poet’s remains. Dulac and Gluck both wrote to her in protest. Gluck recounted the painstaking research she had conducted and concluded that “these remains would be almost impossible to find, and if found, identity would be open to doubt”.

Ostrorog, the French ambassador in Dublin, wrote to Paris, the Europe director at the foreign ministry: “A few months ago, the poet’s son came to see me to tell me, under the seal of secrecy, that they are unable to find the poet’s remains in the Roquebrune cemetery where the inhumation had taken place in 1939.”

If not handled carefully, Ostrorog warned, the case “risks causing us serious trouble . . . I was most anxious to resolve the issue, for if the family and the Irish legation were obviously guilty of negligence, the French authorities could also be taken to task if it were known that this great foreign poet, who had spent so many years of his life in France, had been thrown into a communal grave.

“As you know,” Ostrorog continued, “an investigation was first carried out by Mr Cailloux, sent specially by the cabinet. Following this, the remains were collected and placed in a coffin.”

On March 20th, 1948, Cailloux went with five other men to the ossuary for the exhumation. Cailloux had suggested that Dr Rebouillat reconstitute a skeleton. When Rebouillat drafted the certificate of exhumation he wrote that “recognition was established with certainty and precision  These bones were placed in the coffin which was closed, soldered and sealed in our presence.”

Ostrorog then “summoned the young Yeats to inform him, without giving any details, that following an investigation, the mortal remains of his father had been collected and were currently in a coffin in Roquebrune cemetery. He thanked me wholeheartedly, avoiding asking for any other explanation.”

A few weeks later, Ostrorog continued, he met MacBride, who “expressed to me personally in the warmest terms his thanks for the care with which this affair had been resolved . . . We understood each other without it being spelled out. MacBride’s mother was formerly extremely close to the poet. There was obviously an interest that no incident would happen that could give rise to a press campaign.”

Philippe Benoist, described in correspondence as a young, intelligent and discreet diplomat who was “aware of the whole affair”, was selected to represent France at the removal. A French army honour guard escorted the coffin from Roquebrune cemetery to the town square for a lying-in-state. Draped in the Irish Tricolour, the coffin was carried on to the Irish corvette the LE Macha, in the port of Nice, to the strains of La Marseillaise and A Nation Once Again.

“It should notably be understood that if, by chance, the Irish were surprised to find themselves in front of a new coffin, we would explain that these measures were taken for the transport to Ireland,” Ostrorog advised. “The Irish ambassador in Paris will, no doubt, attend the ceremony. But he is not aware of anything. What purpose would it serve?”

Jacques Camille Paris classified his correspondence with Ostrorog, Cailloux’s report and Rebouillat’s certificate of exhumation as “personal correspondence”, an indication that he realised how sensitive they were. Paris took these documents with him to Strasbourg when he became the first secretary general of the Council of Europe.

When Paris died, in 1953, the trunk containing the documents was given to his widow, Reine, the daughter of the French writer Paul Claudel. She stored it in the Claudel family chateau, in Brangues, in southeastern France, where it was recently opened by Daniel Paris, the son of Jacques Camille and Reine.

Daniel Paris turned the documents over to the Irish Embassy in Paris in a discreet ceremony last month. The Embassy entrusted them to French foreign-ministry archivists, who will send high-quality facsimiles to theNational Library of Ireland later this year.

The fact that the documents were kept in Claudel’s chateau adds an ironic twist to the story. Yeats and Claudel had met in the early 20th century at the Tuesday literary salon of the poet Stéphane Mallarmé. Both writers were interested in symbolism and Japanese Noh theatre. Yeats referred several times to Claudel in his works.

A verse in WH Auden’s poem In Memory of WB Yeats said that Kipling and Claudel, who like Yeats held right-wing political views, would be forgiven because they had written well. Auden later deleted the verse.

The French diplomats who organised the sham remains in the hope of pleasing the Yeats family and the Irish government wove a tangled web. The facts so long hidden in Jacques Camille Paris’s trunk sit uneasily with the visit of reconciliation that Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, made to Yeats’s grave in Drumcliffe churchyard in May.

The Yeats family, the Church of Ireland and the Sligo tourism industry are unlikely to welcome the news, especially amid celebrations of the sesquicentenary of Yeats’s birth.

Contacted by The Irish Times, the poet’s granddaughter and closest surviving relative, Caitriona Yeats, did not wish to comment, and referred us to the letter to the editor of the newspaper by Yeats’s children, Anne and Michael, published on October 6th, 1988.

In her book George’s Ghosts: A New Life of WB Yeats, from 2000, Brenda Maddox suggested that “an analysis of the DNA of the bones buried at Drumcliffe would swiftly settle the matter with absolute finality”. Irish officials shudder at the mere mention of DNA. For as Prof Warwick Gould, of the Institute of English Studies at the University of London, says, Yeats’s grave is a shrine, and “shrines are about stones, not bones. Their symbolic significance designedly outlives human remains, which rot.”

When Yeats wrote Under Ben Bulben, in the last month of his life, Gould says, the poet intended that his grave should provoke thought. The original draft read:

Draw rein; draw breath

Cast a cold eye

On life, on death:

Horseman, pass by.

So Yeats placed himself in the tradition of the siste viatorsigns on Roman roadside tombs. “The Latin words mean ‘Stop, traveller,’ ” Gould says. “They invite private reflection on what is graven upon funerary stones.”

Devout Yeatsians say it doesn’t really matter whose bones lie beneath Benbulbin; no one doubts he wrote the poems. “I feel Yeats’s soul is in Thoor Ballylee,” says the US lawyer, Yeats scholar and benefactor Joseph Hassett, referring to the poet’s former home in Co Galway. “It’s less important where the body is.”

New Horizons probe successfully completed it’s fly-by of Pluto last week. 

With a high resolution cameras on board taking amazing pictures


It is cold and snowy and has polar ice caps as above photo left shows.

It sent back some amazing images of the dwarf planet, and now scientists are hard at work analysing all the data.

But, already, we’ve learned lots of amazing new things.

Here’s Newsround’s run-down of some of the coolest info New Horizons has helped us discovered about Pluto.

It’s got a heart

This image, captured by the New Horizons probe, show a newly discovered heart shaped crater on Pluto’s surface.

The high resolution cameras on board New Horizons have shown Pluto to have a distinctive heart shaped crater on it’s surface.

The shape is believed to have been caused by an impact at some point in the past. One side of the heart is smoother than the other, and researchers believe the crater is filled with frozen gases from the atmosphere – namely nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide.

It is a red planet!

The new images suggest that Mars may not be the only red planet in our solar system.

The initial image released by Nasa showed Pluto to be reddish in colour. But, this doesn’t mean it’s the same as the other famous red planet, Mars.

Both planets are red, but for different reasons, due to the ways chemicals react in their atmospheres.

It’s bigger than we thought

New Horizons has provided more accurate information about Pluto’s size, and we now know it’s about 80km wider than previously predicted. To give you an idea what that means the Nasa experts say it’s around two thirds the size of our moon.

This mean that Pluto is likely to be made of less rock and more ice beneath its surface according to members of the mission team.

It definitely has a polar ice cap

This image helped prove that there are polar ice caps on the dwarf planet.

One of the definite things we learned, is that Pluto does have a polar ice cap. Scientists had thought this before but couldn’t prove it until they saw the new images beamed back from the probe.

It is cold and snowy.

Temperatures on Pluto are extremely cold! They range from -172 to -238 degrees Celsius depending on where it is on its orbit. Experts had assumed that the dwarf planet was cooling but the new data shows that this isn’t happening.

An artists impression of Pluto’s snowy surface.

Data is coming back very sloooowly

The New Horizons probe is 5 billion kilometres from Earth and has a radio transmitter that can only output the power of a small LED bulb.

This means it can only send back its data at a very slow rate. So, just one black and white picture of Pluto would take over three hours to transmit back to earth.

Getting all the data from its flypast of Pluto last week will take almost 16 months.

So, we can look forward to lots more new discoveries about the far away dwarf planet over the next year or so.

News Ireland Daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th July 2015

Ireland ranked as one of the best Countries in terms of reputation

New survey shows country’s standing has improved in recent years


Not such a bad spot: Ireland scored highly in terms of having friendly and welcoming people and a beautiful country

Charlie Taylor

Ireland has been ranked in 11th place out of 55 countries in a new survey ranking nations by their reputation.

The Republic was ranked ahead of the UK, Italy, Germany,Spain, Portugal and France and the US in the Country RepTrak study, which was compiled by the Reputation Institute and its Irish counterpart, the Reputations Agency,

Ireland moved up two spots in the latest study, having been ranked in 13th place last year. In addition, it improved its score by 5.2%, from 68.5 out of 100 in 2014 to 72 this year.

Canada regained top spot from Switzerlandin the 2015 survey with a score of 78.1.

It was followed by Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. With a score of just 22.5, Iraq was ranked as the country with the worst reputation followed by Iran, Pakistan,Russia and Nigeria.

The Country RepTrak study measures the reputation of 55 countries based on a number of factors including trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling.

The survey of 48,000 consumers from across the G8 was carried out via an online poll.

Of the 17 attributes measured, the most important attribute in driving the reputation of a country is “friendly and welcoming people”, where Ireland was ranked in ninth position, unchanged from 2014.

Having a “beautiful country” comes second in importance and here Ireland was ranked in sixth position, compared to ninth place last year. In addition, the Republic was placed 10th in the list of countries that consumers would like to visit.

“An increasingly globalised world with intensified competition makes country reputation matter more than ever,” said Niamh Boyle, managing director of the Reputations Agency.

“Attracting tourists, FDI and high-skilled workforce, improving international diplomacy, and being able to sell Irish products abroad, are all facilitated by having a strong country reputation.

“The G8 countries are important trading partners and sources of revenue for Ireland, so improving our reputation scores amongst these nations is great news for Ireland’s economy.”

Ireland’s budget targets queried by EU commission

Government’s plans for expansionary budget implicitly criticised by EU body


The EU Commission says the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2bn in expansionary measures.

The EU Commission has questioned the Government’s targets for the 2016 budget, saying they do not take full advantage of strong economic growth.

The commission’s intervention came as it said in a separate study that Ireland’s bailout between 2010 and 2013 was an effective recovery programme and argued the decision not to impose losses on senior bank bondholders was the correct one.

The comments on the October budget came in its review of a post-bailout inspection carried out in the spring.

It said the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2 billion in expansionary measures. While this is at the bottom of the €1.2 billion-€1.5 billion range in the Government plan for the budget, the commission implicitly criticised moves to prepare an expansionary budget.

Buffers: “Reaping the full benefits of the strong growth momentum would avert the risk of pro-cyclical fiscal policy and create the necessary buffers to address future challenges,” said the commission.

“Budgetary windfalls in 2016 and beyond should be used to accelerate debt reduction and prepare for future challenges.

“The stronger than expected economic momentum offers a unique opportunity to make progress with fiscal consolidation and debt reduction and averts the need to support aggregate economic activity.”

It went on to say past experience in Ireland and other countries pointed to a tendency to overestimate economic slack and underestimate overheating in real time.

Demographic pressures

“Moreover, Ireland is also facing considerable expenditure pressures linked to demographics in the medium term and remains vulnerable to economic and interest rate shocks, given the still very high level of public debt. All these elements stress the importance of building fiscal buffers.”

Of the water charges regime, it said the capacity of the Government and Irish Water to explain further the rationale for the reform and demonstrate that the public utility model is best will be critical.

“In turn, payment compliance will be key for the Irish Water’s ability to raise revenue and deliver upon its investment programme. Late payment penalties will be put in place, but only in cases where households are in arrears for a full annual billing period.”

In its report on the bailout, the commission said the rescue package was effective in helping Ireland regain access to financial markets and repair its broken banks.

Of the contentious decision not to “burn” senior bank bondholders, it said there was no legal framework and noted the legal and economic risks were considered too great in light of the potential benefits.

“The risks of spill-overs to the Irish and EU financial systems were highly uncertain and perceived to be very high, especially given the absence of a proper EU bank resolution framework,” the report said.

“The alternative of a burden sharing that only applied to the senior creditors of the institutions that were to be resolved, Anglo and INBS, would have had fewer benefits to the Irish exchequer but would still have entailed considerable risks.

Some 2,500 citizens sworn in as Irish at Convention Centre

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries have become Irish in last four years


Heba Alsharbaty (mother), Khilood Jaddoa (grandmother), Yousif Hussein (10 months) and Fadhil Alsharbaty (grandfather), originally from Baghdad in Iraq and now living in Rathfarnham show their joy on becoming Irish citizens. 

Some 2,500 candidates from 112 countries gathered to receive Irish citizenship at three ceremonies in the Dublin Convention Centre on Friday, these were the first of three citizenship ceremonies held at the Convention Centre, July 17th, 2015.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, attending on behalf of the Government, described his own childhood growing up in west Dublin, the son of an Indian migrant father and an Irish mother, who had herself been a migrant worker in England where they met.

“Growing up in west Dublin, I was the only child in school with sallow skin and a funny surname,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was encouraged now to see the diverse mix of backgrounds of children in Dublin and nationally “going to our gaelscoileanna and togging out for GAA”.

‘More tolerant’

Irish society had become “more tolerant, more inclusive and more open today than the leaders of the 1916 Rising could ever have hoped”, he said.

Among those sworn in on Friday was Iranian Javad Hasani, who has been living in Ireland for nine years, although he never intended to come here in the first place.

“I was on my way to Toronto and there was a stopover in Cork, and I got on a train to Dublin. I’m from a big city, so I couldn’t get over how beautiful the countryside was. I decided to change my flight and spend a couple of weeks travelling around.”

A trip to Kerry where he met a man he knew from Turkey cemented his decision to stay. He now has an Irish wife, Tracy, and “three babies”.

Ninfa Chacon Bendeck, a lawyer from Honduras, came to Ireland for St Patrick’s day in 2005, where she met Tony Byrne from Donegal.

“I knew the capital of Honduras was Tegucigalpa, which is where Ninfa is from, so I was able to impress her with that,” he said.

Kept in touch

Ninfa went back to Honduras after her holiday, but the two kept in touch. “Then I lived in Belgium were I was working as a diplomat, and after that we went travelling for a while.”

They’re now married for four and a half years and live in Donegal, where Ninfa works to rehome rescued dogs.

The 15 most represented countries at the ceremony were Poland, India, Romania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, Latvia, South Africa, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Hungary, Thailand, United States Of America, and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.

Particularly pleased

The presiding officer, retired Judge Bryan McMahon, said he was particularly pleased to see faces from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who he hoped “have brought their cricket bats and wickets” to help improve the fortunes of the Irish cricket team.

Similarly, he hoped those from Brazil would bring their soccer skills to bear on the Irish football team.

“Would it not be wonderful if some of these genes were brought into the Irish athletic pool of the future?”

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries had become Irish citizens over the last four years, Judge McMahon said.

“I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren lead the hurling, football or camogie teams onto the pitch at Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday, and I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren carry the Irish flag into an Olympic stadium.”

Irish teens are ‘unable to identify depression symptoms’


Suicide prevention in young Irish people is being hampered by misunderstood symptoms and the lack of treatment awareness, according to new research.

Many Irish teens are unable to identify symptoms or ways to help depression.

A study conducted by psychologists at Trinity College Dublin suggests that many Irish teenagers are unable to identify signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Out of a sample of 187 teenagers, aged between 15 and 19, only half could correctly identify depression in hypothetical cases.

Meanwhile, participants were also unable to identify appropriate treatment for peers.

At the same time, the report found that girls were more likely than boys to offer up ways to support a depressed friend.

According to Sadhbh Byrne, who carried out the research with Dr Lorraine Swords and Dr Elizabeth Nixon of the School of Psychology in Trinity College, the study paints a worrying picture of mental health awareness.

“While the majority of adolescents in our study showed great concern for a friend experiencing distress, their specific knowledge of the characteristics of mental disorders and potential suicidality was lacking,” she said.

She said identifying depression is critical in helping people receive appropriate help.

“Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide in Europe among 15 to 24 year olds. Our research points to the need to educate young people about the need to seek adult help for a friend experiencing emotional distress,” Ms. Byrne added.

2014 melted global records as hottest year yet recorded

2015 set to be in top 10 as overheated Pacific ocean releases rising amounts of energy


Climate change: 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

The relentless rise in global temperatures continues with scientists declaring 2014 the hottest year yet recorded. And they believe that 2015 will also land in the top 10 hottest given an overheated Pacific ocean that is releasing rising amounts of energy.

Last year was amongst Ireland’s hottest years, ranking in shared fourth place with 1997 and 1949, said Met Éireann climatologists.

Climate information of all sorts from 413 scientists in 58 countries was used to set 2014 as an international record-breaker in the 25th annual State of the Climate report prepared by the American Meteorological Society.

The numbers show that global warming continues apace with international initiatives to curb greenhouse gas release all failing to halt the ongoing march towards an overheated world, said Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University.

“The driver for all of this is the energy imbalance caused by the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and others,” said Prof Thorne in Maynooth’s department of geography and one of the report’s editors for the global figures.

“We are not on the great mitigation pathway. The accumulation is undoubtedly due to human activity,” he said.

Effectively the report is a “full annual health check of the Earth’s climate system”, he said. The scientist participants collected data from countries around the world, measuring everything from temperature and rainfall to the size of the glaciers and temperatures above and below the ocean surface.

Ireland is part of this effort, feeding data into regional reports for Europe. “The highlight of the regional chapter was 2014 was the warmest year on record for 25 European countries. By a long chalk in Europe, 2014 for some was the warmest experienced going back 200 years,” Prof Thorne said.

For Ireland it was fourth highest with the top three hottest in order being 2007, 2006 and 1945.

The report shows greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and for the 25th year in a row global glaciers have decreased in size, the report says.

There were record high sea levels, record ocean surface temperatures and more heat is building up in the deep oceans.

Three months of 2014 saw carbon dioxide levels surpassing 400 parts per million (400ppm), long considered a psychological threshold.

Levels in the first report 25 years ago stood at 354ppm and from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750 up until 1990 the average was just 270ppm, Prof Thorne said.

The trend towards a warming world is clear given the top 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1998.

In fact that year stands out in particular because of a very strong “El Nino”, a natural phenomenon which sees the release of excess heat from surface waters across the Pacific Ocean that in turn warms up the environment.

Separating 1998 means the top nine warmest years have all occurred since 2002.

The report expects that 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

“When an El Nino is occurring it is burping out energy into the atmosphere, while a La Nina is absorbing energy into the ocean,” said Prof Thorne.

They alternate in an irregular pattern but when an El Nino appears we can expect difficult weather, Prof Thorne said.

The report describes the El Nino during 2014 as being in a “neutral state” but already data from the Pacific shows that the El Nino has taken hold.

“There are record temperatures, particularly near the sea surface. The El Nino tried to appear last year but it has begun and this year is very strong,” he said.

It may be that because it stalled during 2014, that may make it particularly strong this year, he suggested. “This could be stronger than 1998 (when a record-breaking El Nino appeared) but those are based on model predictions so we will have to wait to see what happens.”

Records are being set year after year, but there is a very weak response internationally. But it is not a matter that there is nothing we can do, Prof Thorne said. “We need a mixture of sensible global policy that sets us on a low carbon path and it is about technological innovation, carbon neutral transport, changed behaviour, the use of things like solar panels. We need to make clean energy.”