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The ruling on Irish Water is a minor setback?

   

The Health Minister Leo Varadkar’s description of the EU’s surprise ruling on Irish Water as a “minor setback” has come under fire for being out of touch with reality.

The utility’s plans for massive borrowing were thrown into disarray when the agency Eurostat insisted it was not independent of Government debt.

The ruling meant money raised on the markets in order to finance an ambitious repair programme would have to be lumped in with State debt.

However, Mr Varadkar insisted this was just a “relatively minor setback.”

Clare TD Michael McNamara — who hopes to stand again as a Labour candidate in the general election despite having the whip taken away from him for voting against Government policy on the Aer Lingus sell-off — warned Mr Varadkar was not facing facts.

“He is absolutely wrong. The only way you could take that view is if you were looking at the HSE everyday, then Irish Water might seem fine to you.

“Eurostat basically said this is doing nothing new, Irish Water is controlled by the State, and the Government is meddling in it,” Mr McNamara said.

Mr Varadkar claimed Eurostat would reverse its decision next year when more people had paid up.

“It’s still a work in progress. There’s no doubt that Eurostat’s decision was a setback. It’s probably a temporary one though,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I think Irish Water is the right thing to do. First of all because metering allows us to identify leaks and actually fix them now; it also promotes conservation, people using less water; it’s giving us the revenue stream that we need to invest more in water infrastructure which was neglected for decades.

“What’s gone against us is the way we account for it in public accounts and as I say that can change next year. As you know 48% of people have paid already and I do think that will rise.”

Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Barry Cowen said the Irish taxpayer was €785m worse off because of Irish Water.

“When the Government unveiled the Water Conservation Grant last year it was clearly designed to try and help Irish Water pass the Eurostat test. This plan has backfired spectacularly,” he said.

“The Government is wasting €5m per annum on administrating the Water Conservation Grant. This is money which could be spent on improving water infrastructure, but instead it is being spent on a pointless grant which has failed in its key objective of helping Irish Water pass the Eurostat test.

“The fact is that not an extra cent is being spent on water infrastructure above the €500m per annum Fianna Fáil spent in Government. The establishment of Irish Water has been a costly mistake for Irish taxpayers. The super quango is swallowing vast quantities of public money on a daily basis while giving little in return when it comes to improving the quality of our water infrastructure.

“Just what exactly is the purpose of the Water Conservation Grant considering it is unlikely to lead to water conservation and has not led to Irish Water passing the Eurostat test?

“Irish Water is set to cost the Government up to €70m this year alone. It is time to abolish the super quango instead of throwing more good money after bad,” Mr Cowen said.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty demanded more transparency on Irish Water’s finances.

Maíria Cahill calls on Dublin to examine abuse claims

 

Mairia Cahill who was abused by senior IRA man and later subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’.

Maíria Cahill arriving for talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings last year,

Maíria Cahill is calling for Dublin to appoint a legal expert to investigate the alleged cover up of the sexual abuse of children.

Ms. Cahill was speaking at the Gerry Conlon memorial lecture entitled “Justice for Victims of Abuse” she delivered on Saturday evening at St Mary’s University College on the Falls Road in west Belfast, as part of Féile an Phobail.

The festival event, chaired by SDLP MLA Alex Attwood, was organised to explore how victims can be let down by the justice system and their own communities.

Ms Cahill came to public attention during a BBC Spotlight programme where she alleged she had been sexually abused by a senior IRA figure and later subjected to a “kangaroo court” investigation by republicans.

The west Belfast woman, whose great-uncle Joe Cahill was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA, pursued the matter through the courts but the case collapsed when she withdrew her evidence after losing faith in the Public Prosecution Service.

In May, a report by Kier Starmer – former chief of the Crown Prosecution Service, now a Labour MP – concluded it was “almost inevitable” that Ms Cahill, and two other alleged victims decided to withdraw their evidence. Following the publication of the independent review the director of the PPS in the North, Barra McGrory, apologised to the three women.

“My case isn’t unique and I know this from speaking to people since I went public,” she told the Féile audience of around 100 people on Saturday.

“I am now calling on the Irish government to put in place, without delay, a person of legal standing to conduct a special investigatory report, more commonly known as a scoping exercise, to help uncover the IRA and Sinn Féin members actions when it came to the cover up of child sexual abuse.”

She added: “There are many victims of abuse who never make it to the media to tell of their experiences.

“Those victims hurt just as much and in some cases more by suffering in silence but when victims and survivors go public we know that, as in my case, calls to rape crisis centres increases and other victims feel compelled to speak out about their cases.

“We should always encourage them to do so.”

Ms Cahill was critical of the criminal justice system, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and other party figures, members of her extended family and elements of the republican community.

She claimed Sinn Féin could not speak with credibility on the issue of child sexual abuse until it went beyond addressing sexual abuse by republicans in general terms.

“They need to admit that the IRA investigated my abuse against my wishes,” she said.

“They need to confirm explicitly that I was brought into a room with my rapist and three individuals from the IRA and that is my bottom line.

“And until they admit that they can never speak credibly on the issue of child sexual abuse again.”

Ms Cahill spoke of a “cover up” and also said that before and since speaking publicly about her life experience she had been made aware of allegations of people being raped at gunpoint and threatened with death, as well as alleged abusers being “moved on without a thought for the next child”.

Following the event Ms Cahill told The Irish Times some IRA members were among the audience at St Mary’s. “They kept themselves fairly quiet,” she said. “They will bring it back again. That’s the way it goes.”

She also said speaking at Féile had helped “lay ghosts to rest” and brought her some comfort. “It was important to do,” she said.

Being a perfectionist may stress you out!

  

Perfectionists who constantly worry about making mistakes and letting others down may sabotage their success at work, and even develop health problems, a new study has found.

In the first meta-analysis of the relationship between perfectionism and burnout, researchers analysed the findings from 43 previous studies conducted over the past 20 years.

They found that concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school or on the playing field, leading to stress, burnout and potential health problems.

Researchers, however, said that perfectionism is not all bad. One aspect of perfectionism called “perfectionistic strivings” involves the setting of high personal standards and working toward those goals in a pro-active manner.

These efforts may help maintain a sense of accomplishment and delay the debilitating effects of burnout, the study found.

The dark side of perfectionism, called “perfectionistic concerns,” can be more detrimental when people constantly worry about making mistakes, letting others down, or not measuring up to their own impossibly high standards, said lead researcher Andrew Hill, an associate professor of sport psychology at York St John University in England.

Previous research has shown that perfectionistic concerns and the stress they generate can contribute to serious health problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, fatigue and even early mortality.

“Perfectionistic concerns capture fears and doubts about personal performance, which creates stress that can lead to burnout when people become cynical and stop caring,” Hill said.

“It also can interfere with relationships and make it difficult to cope with setbacks because every mistake is viewed as a disaster,” Hill said.

The study found that perfectionistic concerns had the strongest negative effects in contributing to burnout in the workplace, possibly because people have more social support and clearly defined objectives in education and sports.

“People need to learn to challenge the irrational beliefs that underlie perfectionistic concerns by setting realistic goals, accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and forgiving themselves when they fail,” Hill said.

“Creating environments where creativity, effort and perseverance are valued also would help,” Hill said.

Most people display some characteristics of perfectionism in some aspect of their lives, but perfectionistic strivings or concerns may be more dominant.

The development of a personality profile that identifies perfectionistic concerns might be a valuable tool in detecting and helping individuals who are prone to burnout, the study noted.

The future kitchen in an age of scarcity

  

Americans these days line up to buy iPhones, but half a century ago, they were flocking to see gleaming, futuristic prototypes of kitchen appliances. General Motors’ Kitchen of Tomorrow, part of a traveling exposition of the company’s products, featured an Ultrasonic Dishwasher and an Electro Recipe File.

Cooking technology was a matter of geopolitical importance. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev argued about whose nation had better dishwashers during the president’s 1959 visit to Moscow.

Things that seem mundane now excited our parents and grandparents’ imaginations. Their enthusiasm is understandable:

Rapid technological progress had made their lives easier, as new inventions eliminated hours and hours of menial labor. Many of them would have been used to hauling and chopping firewood for cooking. Stoves and electricity gradually entered U.S. homes over the first half of the 20th century, according to data compiled by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm in The New York Times. The refrigerator transformed the American kitchen even more quickly, replacing the icebox. In 1930, fewer than 10 percent of households had a refrigerator. Nearly all did by 1960.

Since the introduction of the microwave in the 1970s and 1980s, though, kitchens have changed little, despite the advertisers’ promises. Industrial designers are still thinking about the future of the kitchen, but the contrasts between their prototypes and older ones show how much Americans’ outlook has darkened.

A case in point is IKEA’s Concept Kitchen 2025, which went on display earlier this year in Milan. The designers incorporated a 40 percent increase in the cost of food into their prototypes, along with constraints on energy, water and living space. They wonder whether the world will be able to sustain its eating habits, especially its taste for meat. General Electric’s designers had similar concerns in mind when they unveiled a model kitchen two years ago. Instead of a world of leisure, these corporations are preparing for a hungry, thirsty, crowded future.

The Swedish furniture manufacturer collaborated with design students and the design firm IDEO to design a sink that separates wastewater for the sewer from gray water for reused for washing dishes and irrigation. Their miniature refrigerators communicate with transmitters printed on the food’s packaging to regulate the temperature, so that the appliances don’t waste energy keeping food inside colder than necessary.

Like the Kitchen of Tomorrow of an earlier generation, some aspects of IKEA’s Concept Kitchen seem disconnected from real cooking. The most precious resource in any household isn’t food or water, but time. Convenience is an important reason that families eat so much meat and processed food, even though they require more resources to produce and are more expensive as a result. Vegetables require soaking, washing and careful planning — they don’t keep well, no matter how intelligent your refrigerator. If they spoil, a family will have to make another trip to the grocery store.

And a kitchen that is designed to help save money on food, water and energy might not change the kinds of foods that families buy, unless the design saves them time as well. Research and survey data suggest that families with more material resources do not spend much more on produce than those with less means.

IKEA’s answer to this problem is the digitized “Table for Living,” which uses a camera to identify ingredients placed on it and suggests recipes. The design seems about as useful as General Motors’ Electro Recipe File. Looking up a recipe online might be easier, or even just using the index in a cookbook. And the designers expect that drones will solve the problem of fresh produce by delivering groceries quickly and in minutes, which is optimistic.

That said, one crucial point of progress is evident in IKEA’s kitchen. American manufacturers previously assumed that women would be the ones using their prototypes in the kitchen, and women were the targets of their advertising. “What we want to do is to make more easy the life of our housewives,” Nixon told Khrushchev, who denigrated “the capitalist attitude toward women.” IKEA’s design, by contrast, imagines the kitchen as a place that members of the family share, with parents working from home.

Refrigerators and dishwashers made women’s drudgery in the kitchen obsolete. Yet economists argue that instead of spending that extra time with their children or twirling around in dance shoes, as commercials from the period implied, women instead entered the workforce.

Economists debate how technology will change the ways we spend our time in the future. Some say that technology is saving us more time than ever, even if the changes are hard to measure. Others argue that the most important inventions — the ones that, along with changes in the law and the culture, allowed women to work outside the home — are all in the past. On this view, our children’s lives will resemble our own more than our grandparents’ lives resembled our great-grandparents’, and the kitchens of 2025 might not look that different from those of 1985. And we won’t be well equipped to deal with the environmental challenges reflected in IKEA’s design.

Beluga whale seen off County Antrim coast near Dunseverick

    

Marine researchers have said a beluga whale has been sighted off the County Antrim coast near Dunseverick.

It is believed to be the first time the Arctic species has been recorded in Northern Irish waters.

Dr Peter Evans, director of the Seawatch Foundation, said a fall in sea temperatures could be why the whale strayed so far from its usual habitat.

“A beluga whale is extremely unusual,” he said.

“It’s the first record that we know for Northern Ireland and in fact there’s only been about a dozen in 50 years for the whole of Britain and Ireland.

“On the whole, over the last sort of 10 years, certainly the sea temperatures have been generally warming, but at the same time there have been a number of anomalies where you’ve got actually significantly cooler waters and that seems to be the case here.”

There are just two records of beluga whales off the coast of the Republic of Ireland – one off Clare Island, County Mayo, in 1948 and another at Cobh, County Cork, in 1988.

“This is not the first arctic species to occur in Britain this year. Back in February, the first European sighting of a bowhead whale was captured on a smart phone in the Isles of Scilly,” Dr Evans said.

“In that instance it was thought that the fragmentation of floating ice may have resulted in whales typically associated with pack ice, straying much further south.

“Whether the same has occurred in the case of this beluga is not clear but sea temperatures have been unusually low this summer.”

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