Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Sunday 20th September 2015.

Irish offered 1 million dollars to eat more potatoes


A new marketing campaign wants young Irish consumers to eat more potatoes. 

A new $1 million marketing campaign has been launched in an effort to boost potato consumption among Irish consumers.

Bord Bia will coordinate and manage the three-year campaign, which will be co-funded by the EU, Ireland’s potato industry and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The initiative will be run in conjunction with the British Potato Council, reports.

Over the 10 years, retail sales of fresh potatoes in Ireland have declined by 25 percent, according to Kantar WorldPanel.

Speaking at the campaign launch on Thursday, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said: “The potato is part of our culture like no other food, inextricably linked to Ireland’s story and part of who we are.

“This campaign will bring the different varieties and versatility of the Irish potato to a younger generation.”

The Minister welcomed the EU Commission’s decision to approve a total fund of €4.6m “to promote potatoes on the Irish and British markets over the next three years of which 50% will be funded by the EU.

“My department is also availing of the opportunity to grant financial support to the Irish potato industry for this positive promotional activity. Combined with industry funding the total campaign will be worth €1m over the three years in Ireland.

Said Mike Neary, Bord Bia’s Horticulture Manager,  said: “Potatoes are still Ireland’s preferred main meal carbohydrate, however shoppers under-45 account for only 33% of potato sales and these consumers will ultimately make up a major part of the total market in the years to come.

“Younger consumers view potatoes as a traditional, unexciting food and less convenient than modern carbs such as pasta and rice.”

The promotional campaign, entitled “Potatoes – more than a bit on the side,” will focus on younger consumers, in particular 22-44 year old females.

“We really need to challenge consumer perceptions of fresh potatoes – particularly amongst younger age groups – in order to combat declining consumption,” said Neary.

“This integrated campaign will highlight the fact that potatoes offer enormous potential within the world of modern cooking and build awareness of the added health and nutritional benefits of potatoes in comparison to competitor carbohydrates.”

The campaign kicks off with National Potato Day on Friday, October 2

LEO hosting seminar on the new Companies Act


The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow will be holding a free seminar next Tuesday, September 22, from 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., in the Parkview Hotel, Newtownmountkennedy.

The seminar covers a topic relevant to many small businesses in the county – the new Companies Act and the impact this will have on businesses that must convert to the new ‘DAC’ type of company.

It will also be relevant to anyone thinking of setting up a business now, or in the next few years, as new companies can now be set up with one Director (instead of two under the old system) and reduced filing of documents is now possible – all of which benefits small businesses, due to less compliance and fewer disclosures.

The Companies Act 2014 commenced on June 1 this year. It is the single biggest piece of legislation enacted in the history of the state.

The commencement of the Act brings over 15 years of consultation, preparation and work to a conclusion.

This LEO seminar has been designed to assist the ordinary businessperson orentrepreneur through the transition to The Companies Act 2014, avoiding the pitfalls and availing of the opportunities.

The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow is hosting this free seminar, which will feature guest speaker David O’Connor of Omnipro Corporate Consultants.

The seminar is specifically designed for small and micro businesses – from one-person operations to those with dozens of employees – however it is open to anyone to attend.

Although the seminar is free of charge, those wishing to attend must book in advance, online at

Alternatively, anyone wishing to reserve a place or find out more information can call the Local Enterprise Office Wicklow on (0404) 30800 or email

Pope Francis meets Fidel Castro in Havana


Pope Francis and Cuba’s Fidel Castro shake hands, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday,

What a day for the pontiff! Here’s are the key points from the first day of his tour, spent in Havana:

  • In an “intimate and familial” encounter, Pope Francis and former Cuban president Fidel Castro spoke about the environment and exchanged gifts. Pope Francis gave Castro books on spirituality by priests; Castro gave the pope a book of his own insights on spirituality. Well done, El Jefe.
  • At a papal megamass attended by thousands in Havana’s Revolution Square, the pope encouraged Cubans to serve one another, noting that service is never “servile” or ideological, “for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”. His homily was free of political messages but was nonetheless a strong statement. The liturgical music, a variation on Cuba’s Danzón, also a made a strong statement.
  • Prominent activists told the Guardian at least 31 protesters were arrested in a “repressive and aggressive” move to stop them attending the mass. This included members of a women’s group that campaigns for prisoner releases.
  • On the prospect of peace in Colombia between rebels and the government, Pope Francis said we do not have the right to another failure of reconciliation.
  • Cuban president Raúl Castro appears to have given Pope Francis the gift of a giant crucifix made out of oars.
  • Francis went “Pope Unplugged” for the afternoon, discarding his prepared speeches (to the chagrin of journalists and editors everywhere). He instead spoke from the heart on poverty, disability, and faith to clergy and young people.

Thanks for tuning in! The blog will be running all week as the pope continues his tour through Cuba and the US.

It was not as easy as you might expect to find Catholics among the crowd waiting for the pope this evening. But there was not shortage of excitements and optimism about seeing a pontiff who has played a major role in improving relations between Cuba and the United States.

Many students here want to emigrate to their wealthier neighbour as soon as they graduate. Others hope that closer ties will help their own country become a more desirable place to live.

“I’m not Catholic, but I respect the pope. He’s an important man for the world and he has done a lot of good for Cuba,” said 21-year-old Xavier Alexander Rodríguez, a students of computer science.

“Young people in Cuba want change. The closer ties with the US are a great step towards that. I wish that we can walk like brothers with the US.”

Vivian Rodríguez (no relation), a 23-year-old lecturer in psychology at the University of Havana, said international support and a positive message were important for people like her who want to stay in Cuba.

“Cubans are very excited by the arrival of the pope. We’re grateful for the help he has given us in relations with other countries,” she said. “It’s always good to know that there is backing for unity in Cuba and closer ties with the United States. That helps people make personal decisions (about whether to stay or go).”

Among the world leaders visiting Cuba for the papal visit is Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who attended this morning’s mass in La Plaza de la Revoluciónwrites Angela Bruno.

Some Twitter users have raised their eyebrows at la presidenta’s expensive tastes – she arrived yesterday at Havana’s José Martí Airport sporting a Hermès bag which can cost up to at $22,000.

Such a display of wealth seems somewhat at odds with the Pope’s message: he has repeatedly criticised excessive consumption, warning in his homily this evening that “wealth makes us poor.”

The Pope and Kirchner have had their share of differences. Guardian correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner spoke to their once-rocky relationship in her coverage of the Pope’s trip to Latin America during the summer:

There was bad blood between them when Francis was still known as Father Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires and a fierce critic of corruption in Argentinian politics.

The icy relationship worsened after Fernández passed a law legalising same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010 when Bergoglio headed a march against the gay marriage bill.

‘Pity there is no ‘popess’; if not, I could compete for the post,’ Fernández said when she heard that Bergoglio had become pope.

Since then, however, the two have managed to improve their relationship: Relations have seemingly warmed and Fernández has become a frequent visitor at the Vatican.


Pope Francis gives an ‘unplugged’ homily on poverty and disability in the world


Pope Francis discarded his prepared homily and spoke off-the-cuff to the gathered priests and religious.

Pope Francis put his prepared homily aside and gave an extraordinary “unplugged” address on poverty, mercy, disability and service to Cuba’s priests, religious brothers and sisters and seminarians, during a Vespers service at Havana Cathedral.

“We always try to curtail poverty, as it were,” the pope said. “That’s a reasonable thing, but I’m talking about the heart.”

“Richness impoverishes you; it takes away from us the best we have. It makes us poor in the only richness which is worthy: trust in God.”

“Our holy mother church is poor. God wishes it to poor, as he wishes our holy mother Mary to be poor. Love poverty as a mother.”

The crowd smiled and some wiped away tears as the pontiff spoke. Cameras also caught some looks of consternation as the congregation grappled with Francis’s words, especially when he (jokingly) drilled in on the struggles of some religious and priests.

Nuns got it first: “May God spare us grey nuns, those who are always lamenting things! Saint Theresa used to say that to her nuns. Woe to that nun!”

Some nuns in the crowd (mainly the young ones) laughed. Others weren’t so amused.

Religious life as a consecrated brother or sister is, the pope said, about “burning” your life for the ones the world despises, the “disposable material” of humanity.

As an example, he mentioned those “who with new analytical methods, if it is discovered they have a degenerative sickness, the world wants to send them back before they are born”.

“Sometimes [a young religious sister] doesn’t know how good it is to see the smile of someone who is paralysed,” the pope said, smiling.

“The tenderness and mercy of God is like someone who is paralysed getting saliva all over your face. Or when a person with a disability gets angry and hits you!”

Priests were next: “Please to the priests,” the holy father said, “do not grow tired of forgiving.”

“Do not hide in fears or rigidities. Be like this nun [Sister Ponce, who spoke earlier in the service about her ministry], and those who are here. They are not angry when they find the sick person filthy; they just clean him. When the penitent comes to you, don’t feel bad. Don’t be neurotic. Jesus embraced them. Jesus loved them.”

“No corporation can be made, no money can be made from the least ones. In that place Jesus shines brightly,” the pope said.

The pope says he will give his printed homily to one of the cardinals to distribute and is going to speak off the cuff. This regular journalist quietly screams. Thanks, Frank.

The chanted psalms are sung beautifully by a choir. The pope is saving his voice, by the look of it.

The choir chants the psalms. Photograph: EWTN/Screenshot

Just a little church fact you might find interesting: the Catholic church’s communal prayer is the same around the world each day. I heard the same readings at mass this morning in New York as the pope heard in Havana, and in every other parish in the world.

In a sense, it’s like the church prays for you. That’s especially true of what’s called the Divine Office, the daily schedule of prayer, because few lay people perform it. Here’s the relevant bit for this particular service.

A Daughter of Charity, Sr Yaileny Ponce, speaks to the pope. She is is pouring her heart out about her ministry with the severely disabled. “I have to discern in a shout or a cry or a scream: Joy? Or pain?”

“[It’s] beautiful because there, in his weakest children, God lives and shows himself.”

“It is worth giving your life to serve these people because in them you find the kingdom of God.”

The congregation applauds her, and the pope begins the formal liturgical element of the service.

China’s new rocket carries a record 20 ‘micro’ satellites


The Long March-6 rocket blasting off yesterday in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

The smaller rocket may make China more competitive in the market for commercial satellite launches.

China has launched a new, smaller type of rocket from its “Long March” family which will be used primarily for carrying satellites aloft, state media reported, as the country races ahead with an ambitious space programme.

The Long March-6, a newly developed carrier rocket which uses liquid propellant, took off from a launch base in northern Shanxi province yesterday morning carrying 20 “micro” satellites, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The rocket climbed into bluish-grey skies, footage aired by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed.

One Chinese official suggested that the smaller rocket will make China more competitive in the lucrative market for commercial satellite launches.

“We believe it will greatly boost the competitiveness of Chinese carrier rockets in the international market,” said Mr Zhang Weidong, chief designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

“The new model will also significantly improve our ability to access space,” he told Xinhua.

China launches its own satellites as it continues to build a navigation system, but also carries out launches for other countries and commercial companies.

The rocket is 29.3m high, shorter than others actively used in China’s space programme, reports said. Long March-6 uses fuel composed of liquid oxygen and kerosene, which is said to be free of toxicity and pollution.

State media hailed the achievement, saying the launch marked a record for the number of satellites carried by a Chinese rocket and its first time with the “environmentally friendly” fuel.

The small satellites will be used for “experiments” in technology and new products, CCTV said, but gave no details.

China’s space programme, which has potential military applications, is shrouded in secrecy.

“The separation control for 20 satellites required high accuracy, precision and reliability,” Mr Hao Yao- feng, a technician at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre, told CCTV.

A 2011 policy paper issued by the State Council, or Cabinet, said the Long March-6 would be capable of placing a tonne of payload into orbit at a height of 700km.

State media publicly announced plans for the Long March-6 in 2009, but said at the time that the first launch was scheduled for 2013.

Chinese scientists earlier this month said the country is planning to land a lunar probe on the dark side of the Moon before 2020, according to state media.

In 2013, China landed a rover dubbed Yutu on the Moon, making it only the third nation after the US and the Soviet Union to land on the Earth’s natural satellite.

China completed its first return mission to the Moon last year with an unmanned probe landing successfully back on Earth.


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