News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 29th September 2015

Irish Government shaves over €200m off initial National Broadband Plan spend, cut to €275m

Comreg quarterly report Q2 2015

The government is to spend €275m on an “initial stimulus” for the National Broadband Plan, just over half the sum originally pledged for the rural broadband scheme.

However, Minister for Communications Alex White said today that the sum “does not represent the full cost of the National Broadband Plan” and that a future government would “likely” spend more on the scheme in future years.

Ahead of a public tender on the issue which is expected “towards the end of 2015”, Minister White also said that the cost to the state of funding the National Broadband Scheme “would likely be spread over 20 years”.

The National Broadband Plan is a scheme to connect hundreds of thousands of rural homes and businesses to fibre broadband, based on mapping evidence which shows they are not served by any existing high speed providers.

The government had initially stated a plan to spend up to €510m on the project.

“The €275m will provide the initial stimulus for the early years of the state intervention under the National Broadband Plan,” said Minister White.

He said that the €275m allocated will be used to draw down EU funding of €75m, “which has already been agreed”. The Department of Communications, he said, is also at an advanced stage of exploring the scope for further European funding through the European Investment Bank and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

Minister White said the NBP was on course to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high-speed broadband by 2020, promising that 85pc of premises will be covered by 2018. He said that “formal procurement” will begin by the end of 2015.

However, it is not yet clear how many rural homes and businesses will now qualify for coverage by the National Broadband Plan. The government’s original estimate of 700,000 premises may be cut short by subsequent announcements from Eir and Siro, the joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB. Both companies have indicated that they will cover more rural homes and businesses than originally planned, thus reducing the size of the catchment area envisaged by the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan.

Alan Kelly to bring modular housing proposals to Cabinet

Minister ‘agrees’ with President’s comments about homelessness ‘failure’ in Ireland

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, said he agreed with a lot of the President’s comments about homelessness.Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has confirmed he will bring emergency proposals to fast-track the planning and procurement process for modular homes to Cabinet today.

The selection of sites for factory-built homes for Dublin’s homeless families has already begun in a bid to end the use of B&B and hotel accommodation.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Kelly said homelessness was a huge and complex issue.

“Certainly today I will be bringing forward proposals to Government in relation to the whole issue of modular housing and how we can expediate that as quickly as possible through fast-tracking planning and procurement as necessary,” he said.

President Michael D Higgins said homelessness in Ireland was “not acceptable” when he spoke in New York on Monday after the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit.

Mr Higgins told RTÉ it was a “failure” every time a homeless person in Ireland did not have shelter. Homelessness was a “great moral test”, he said, and added that it should be possible to deal with “issues of shelter and issues of housing”.

Asked about the President’s comments, Mr Kelly said he agreed with most of what Mr Higgins said.

“I think the President’s entitled to make his comments and by and large I obviously agree with him. I would be surprised if he didn’t make comments like that,” he said.

“Homelessness is a huge issue, I don’t deny that. It’s a very complex issue. It’s not an issue of just providing a roof over people’s heads alone. We can do that. But there are many different issues facing many of the people who end up rough sleeping.

“In some cases they are helped. In some cases they don’t take help. In some cases the intervention mechanisms are working. In some cases unfortunately they are not.”

He said different types of people became homeless but his priority was homeless families, particularly children.

“We are continuously looking for accommodation and we are finding accommodation to ensure that those people can be helped because really I think they are a massive priority, particularly where children are involved.”

Government to spend €3 billion on hospitals and health projects

Varadkar hopes work will begin on four new national hospitals within a year

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Primary Care and Social Care Kathleen Lynch at a briefing on health projects in the capital plan at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

The Government is to spend more than €3 billion over the next six years on building new hospitals, developing community nursing units for older people and constructing primary care centres under its new capital programme.

Minster for Health Leo Varadkar said the new funding meant that, subject to planning permission, work would begin within the next year on four new national hospitals.

He said these were the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital, the national rehabilitation hospital in Dún Laoghaire, the new national maternity hospital at St Vincent’s hospital and the new forensic mental health campus in Portrane in north county Dublin.

He said the new capital funding would permit work to progress on other programmes such as the national radiation oncology project with developments in Cork, Galway and Beaumont, up to an additional 80 primary care centres all over the country, and the replacement of community nursing units and disability accommodation.

The Minister said there would also be a major investment in information technology across the health service.

Coombe maternity hospital

He said funding was being provided to carry out planning and design and to begin construction on the transfer of the existing Coombe maternity hospital to St James’s and the Rotunda Hospital to Blanchardstown.

He said the Limerick maternity hospital would also be co-located on the University of LimerickHospital campus.

Mr Varadkar said it was expected work on the new children’s hospital, the rehabilitation hospital, the national maternity hospital and the forensic mental health service campus would get under way next year and for it to be completed before the expiry of the capital plan in 2021. He also said construction of the new maternity centre at the Connolly Hospital site in Blanchardstown – to replace the Rotunda – and the maternity unit in Limerick would get under way in this period.

St James’s campus

However, he said the replacement of the Coombe hospital on the St James’s campus could take slightly longer as work could not begin until construction of the children’s hospital was completed.

Minister of State at the Department of HealthKathleen Lynch said two of the hospital projects, the national rehabilitation hospital and the forensic mental health service campus had planning permission.

Mr Varadkar said he was confident planning permission for the new national maternity hospital at St Vincent’s could be sought by the end of the year. Work had been put on hold earlier this year after a dispute emerged between St Vincent’s and the existing National Maternity Hospital and the HSE over management and governance issues.

Ms Lynch said there were facilities in relation to older people that would need to be replaced while many others would need reconfiguration.

She said the additional money in the plan would allow for much of that work.

She said new forensic mental health units would be established outside Dublin for the first time. She said a lot of parents and friends of patients in the Central Mental Hospital were anxious they could be treated and cared for nearer their own homes.

Mr Varadkar said a lot of the country’s healthcare infrastructure was very old.

He said 200 years of infrastructure could not be replaced in six years but the new capital plan would allow for a very good start to be made.

Increasing numbers plan to rely only on State pension

Around 44% of those without private pension plan to just have State income in retirement

A total of 44% of those without a private pension say they will rely solely on the State.That’s up from 40% last year and equates to around 890,000 people

Irish people are relying increasingly on the State pension as their only income in retirement – just as doubts grow about the sustainability of the weekly retirement payment.

Although a growing number of people report that household finances are improving, 44 per cent of those without a private pension say they will rely solely on the State for their income in retirement.

Up from 40%

That’s up from 40 per cent last year, and equates to around 890,000 people.

A further third say they haven’t thought about what they will live on in retirement, according to the annual Pensions Index survey by Friends First.

Asked what they would do if their disposable income increased, just one in 10 said they would invest in a pension, compared to 15 per cent who would spend the money on a holiday and 25 per cent who plumped for home improvements.

Despite this, just over three-quarters of all respondents said they were not confident that they would have sufficient income in retirement.

Among those who do have pensions, the survey found that the recession era trend of reducing contributions appears to be at an end, with 20 per cent increasing their premiums.

“The postponement of financial planning for the future is still a concern,” said Simon Hoffman, pensions and investments director at Friends First.

‘Huge strain’

“The number of people opting to rely on the State pension will put a huge strain on the State in the coming years as those without a private pension may struggle financially in their retirement and will be depending on a pension that is less than the current minimum wage.”

One age group reported growth in pension provision – the 25-34-year-old cohort, where 39 per cent now have a private pension plan, up from 36 per cent last year.

Scientists have warned women about the higher risk of breast cancer

If they face if they go through menopause later in life.

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Following research that found postmenopausal women need to do more exercise to ward off breast cancer, a new study has found women who go through the change later are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.

Scientists from 177 universities, institutions and hospitals examined the DNA of almost 70,000 European women. Researchers found for each year after a woman turns 50 and is premenopausal, her risk of breast cancer rises by six per cent. They believe the delay increases how long a woman is in contact with oestrogen. This sex hormone has been known to fuel tumours, making it a big health factor.

The study was helmed by Cambridge and Exeter University experts, who warned older females yet to start the menopause need to be extra careful in checking for early warning signs of breast cancer.

During their study, scientists found 44 genes that determined when ladies’ menopauses start. While many of the genes repaired damaged DNA in the eggs, it was found a faulty gene could lead to eggs perishing. This would result in an earlier onset of the menopause.

This means the research also affects younger women, as it could see a new test to indicate when they will go through the menopause. It would allow couples who want children to know when to start trying by.

With more examination of the genes, drugs could be created to help protect the eggs and prevent women going through the early menopause.

“If you have a late menopause, it might help to know about this slightly increased risk of breast cancer and help you keep on top of it,” Dr Anna Murray of the University of Exeter explained of the findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Dr Edward Morris, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added that these results are “reassuring”.

Sky/Moongazers across the world catch a glimpse of super Blood Moon

  

But what was happening in pop culture the last time a “supermoon” made an appearance? Reindeers are seen silhouetted against the “blood moon” during a lunar eclipse near the village of Yavterishki, some 250 kilometers north from Minsk on September 28, 2015.

The eclipse coincided with a ‘supermoon, ‘ which means the moon was about as close to Earth as it gets. There have been just five such events since 1900 (in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982). In Europe, the action unfolded before dawn Monday. In Los Angeles, a large crowd filled the lawn of Griffith Observatory while many others staked tripods with telescopes around the hilltop landmark in anticipation of the rare celestial sight.

The next total lunar eclipse that we will be able to see from Birmingham and the rest of the United Kingdom is on July 27, 2018. Hundreds of millions of people caught a glimpse of the lunar eclipse Sunday night. On its elliptical path around the Earth, moon sometimes comes closest to the earth, the portion being called perigee.

It was the first time that both a supermoon and lunar eclipse have simultaneously appeared since 1982, and they won’t again until 2033. The moon is full and moves into the shadow of the Earth. It’s the fourth one we’ve had within two years and the last one we’ll see around here until 2019. “Lunar eclipses are fun to watch since you really don’t need any special equipment to observe them”, Eakins said in an email.

To add to the show, the supermoon turned orange during the eclipse in what’s known as a blood moon. “There’s no physical difference in the moon”, Petro said. For more than an hour, the Earth came between the sun and the moon and its shadow almost swallowed up the lunar disc. The Unison of these 2 occurrences causes the formation of a “Blood-Moon”.

Renata Arpasova from Swindon, England, stayed up into the early morning hours Monday to photograph the copper-colored moon shining among the glittering stars. The first occurred in 2014 and this is the last to take place in the tetrad, with each eclipse taking place about six months apart. The blood moon occurs when a shadow is cast by the Earth, back-lit by the sun, onto a larger-than-usual moon.

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