News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 19th October 2015

More than half of drink drivers in Ireland escape conviction

Statistics contrast with 97% conviction recorded in courts in England and Wales


More than 20,000 people were in court for drink driving between January 2013 and May 2015.

Only 40%  of drink driving cases listed before the country’s District Courts since January 2013 resulted in convictions, new figures show.

And for the first five months of 2015, the figure was 28%, according to data released by the Department of Justice.

The conviction rate compares unfavourably with England and Wales, where 97% of drink driving cases brought before magistrates’ courts result in conviction.

Drink driving convictions Jan 2013 to May 2015

In one court in Ireland, not a single person accused of drink driving was convicted, and in another, there were convictions in only 10% of cases.

Of those convicted, only 20% had their licence numbers recorded in court for endorsement. In some areas, no one had their licences recorded. The Road Safety Authority and Garda need the licence numbers of those disqualified in court to help them easily identify people suspended from driving.

Over the limit

People are brought before the District Court after they have tested positive for being over the alcohol limit using breath, blood or urine tests. Overall, between January 2013 and May 2015, more than 20,000 people were due before District Courts for drink driving, and 6,709 were convicted.

Co Kerry courts had the lowest conviction rate, at 29 per cent. In Cahirciveen, six convictions resulted from 40 cases; in Kenmare the figure was 11 out of 40. And of 168 cases before Listowel District Court, 44 ended in conviction.

The highest conviction rate was in Offaly, at 68%.

In Castlerea, Co Roscommon, 68 people were listed over the 2½ years; only seven were convicted. And of 21 cases listed in Cill Rónáin District Court, on Inishmore, Co Galway, there was only one conviction.

In Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, eight people were due before the courts for the offence in 2013. There were no convictions. The court has since closed.

Road safety. Just over a quarter of drink driving cases at Newcastle West in Limerick, Lismore, Co Waterford, Carrick-on- Suir, Co Tipperary and Carndonagh, Co Donegal resulted in conviction.

In Ballyhaunis, Cill Rónáin, Kenmare, Ardee, Co Louth, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, and Edenderry, Co Offaly, of those convicted of drink driving, none had their licence numbers recorded.

The figures were supplied to Parc, a group that aims to raise awareness of road safety in Ireland, through a parliamentary question tabled by Tommy Broughan TD. They include some cases listed before the courts but not yet finalised, and some summonses that have not been served, the Department of Justice said.

Some of the cases have also been adjourned pending an appeal of a High Court decision, which found regulations required drivers to be given results of their breathalyser test in both Irish and English.

Susan Gray, founder of Parc, backed Mr Broughan’s call for an entire review of the penalty point system.

“We believe that this must include a root and branch examination of how the courts and the RSA follow up on the good work of An Garda Síochána,” she said. “We also call for a consolidation of the Road Traffic Acts to make it easier to follow and less prone to loopholes.”

Coin rounding to begin as 1c, 2c coins phased out

Irish consumers will receive change rounded off to nearest 5 cent from October 28th


1 cent and 2 cent coins will remain legal tender during the initiative and customers will be entitled to ask for exact change on cash payments

Irish consumers will begin receiving change in cash rounded off to the nearest 5 cent from Wednesday, October 28th as part of Ireland’s rounding initiative which aims to reduce the use of 1 cent and 2 cent coins.

The rounding will only apply to cash payments with the total amount of any bill being rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cent mark. Rounding will be conducted on a voluntary basis while 1 cent and 2 cent coins will remain legal tender.

Customers will still be entitled to ask for exact change.

The official rollout out day, which takes place on October 28th, follows the successful trial conducted by the National Payments Plan in Wexford in 2013 which showed 85 per cent of consumers and 100 per cent of retailers in Wexford welcomed the national rounding of cent coins in Ireland.

The Central Bank has distributed packs to 20,000 retailers across the State which will allow businesses to indicate whether they are taking part in the rounding process. Stickers, till wobblers and posters will also be on show in shops from October 28th.

Ronnie O’Toole of the Central Bank described the reaction to rounding as “fantastic” and said he expected Irish people would adapt well to the change.

“We migrated to the euro ahead of most other countries, and the indications so far are that consumers and retailers alike will embrace rounding,” he said.

Change for Charity and Make-A-Wish are calling on people to donate their hoarded 1 cent and 2 cent coins to charity.

Some 2,454,465,931 1 cent and 2 cent coins have been issued in Ireland since the introduction of the euro, with a total value of €37 million. The cost of producing these small coins exceeds their face value – a 1 cent coin costs 1.65 cent to produce while a 2 cent coin costs 1.94 cent.

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden have already adopted a symmetrical rounding policy on smaller coins.

Changes on a total bill will be rounded up or down to the nearest five cent on transactions, for example:

– A transaction of €10.21 or €10.22 will be rounded to €10.20

– A transaction of €10.23 or €10.24 will be rounded to €10.25

– A transaction of €10.26 or €10.27 will be rounded to €10.25

– A transaction of €10.28 or €10.29 will be rounded to €10.30

Arm mole count can predict skin cancer risk


Having more than 11 moles on one arm indicates a higher-than-average risk of skin cancer or melanoma new research suggests.

Counting moles on the right arm was found to be a good indicator of total moles on the body. More than 100 indicates five times the normal risk.

The study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, used data from 3,000 twins in the UK.

GPs could use the findings to identify those most at risk, it said.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer affecting more than 13,000 people in the UK each year.

It develops from abnormal moles, so the risk of being diagnosed with a melanoma is linked to the number of moles a patient has.

Researchers from King’s College London studied a large group of female twins over a period of eight years, collecting information on skin type, freckles and moles on their bodies.

After repeating the exercise on a smaller group of around 400 men and women with melanoma, they came up with a quick and easy way to assess the risk of skin cancer.

Moles, freckles and melanoma

  1. Freckles are small usually pale brown areas of skin, which are often temporary and are usually linked to sun exposure
  2. Moles are small coloured spots on the skin made up of cells called melanocytes, which produce the colour (pigment) in your skin. They are long-lasting and are not directly linked to sun exposure, but excess sun exposure will increase your risk of skin cancer and can make a mole turn malignant
  3. Moles can be flat, raised, smooth or rough and may have hair growing from them
  4. They are usually brownish in colour and are circular or oval with a smooth edge
  5. Most moles are completely harmless
  6. If you notice any changes to your moles or a worried about them, see your GP

Things to look for: Uneven colouring, uneven or ragged edges, bleeding, itching, enlargement.

Females with more than seven moles on their right arm had nine times the risk of having more than 50 on their whole body.

Those with more than 11 on their right arm were more likely to have more than 100 on their body in total, meaning they were at a higher risk of developing a melanoma.

The findings could help GPs to identify those with an increased risk of developing a melanoma.

What sun protection factor should I use?

The higher the sun protection factor (SPF), the more protection you get. Use sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15. Use broad-spectrum sunscreens, which protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays.

How long can I stay in the sun?

No longer than you would without sunscreen. Sunscreen should not be used as an excuse to stay out in the sun – it offers protection when exposure is unavoidable. The summer sun is most damaging to your skin in the middle of the day.

What should I do if I get sunburn?

Paracetamol or ibuprofen will ease the pain by helping to reduce inflammation caused by sunburn. Sponge sore skin with cool water, then apply after sun or calamine lotion. If you feel unwell or the skin swells badly or blisters, seek medical help. Stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.

Should I cover up my mole when I’m in the sun?

If you have lots of moles or freckles, you’re more likely to develop skin cancer, so you need to take extra care. Avoid getting caught out by sunburn. Use shade, clothing and sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Keep an eye out for changes to your skin and report these to your doctor without delay.

RTÉ revamps the daily Angelus with new films and a public vote


One-minute broadcast is one of Ireland’s longest-running programmes

RTÉ television has revamped its daily Angelus broadcast with new films and a public vote to determine the nation’s favourite Angelus episode.

The one-minute Angelus broadcast on RTÉ One is one of Ireland’s longest-running programmes, having aired daily at 6pm since the start of RTÉ television in 1962.

New films which the broadcaster says will be “conducive to prayer or reflection for people of all faiths and none” have been commissioned to “create a reflective space for all in the peak-time schedule”.

Contributors, who range from a sand sculptor to a carer, were filmed in locations all over Ireland, from the Islandbridge Memorial, Dublin, to the Holy Well at Tobernalt, Co Sligo, and a traditional bookbinder’s workshop in Athlone to a topiarist’s garden in Malahide. The six new films will be shown in daily rotation.

In addition to these professional films, RTÉ has designated one slot per week, on Fridays at 6pm, as “The People’s Angelus” slot, showcasing the work of aspiring filmmakers and artists.

Submissions have come from a number of second and third level colleges, and ranged from animation to stills photography, and include “abstract work” and contemplative shots of landscape and the natural environment.

The public will be invited to vote for a favourite, which will receive an award and be shown again on RTÉ One.

UCC scientists discover probiotic that reduces stress

Cork researchers find bacteria helps improve memory and mental function


The probiotic has potential use as a way to reduce mild forms of anxiety and stress, say the researchers, based at the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork.

Scientists in Cork have discovered a live bacteria probiotic that can reduce stress and improve mental function and memory in humans.

The probiotic has potential use as a way to reduce mild forms of anxiety and stress, say the researchers, based at the APCMicrobiome Institute at University College Cork.

Details of the work were presented on Sunday in Chicago atNeuroscience 2015, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. The research was led by Prof John Cryan and Ted Dinan at the institute and presented in Chicago by Dr Gerard Clarke.

The bacterium, Bifidobacterium longum 1714, was one of many bacteria retrieved and cultured from a variety of human sources and held at the institute. Many probiotic bacteria offering health benefits come from the nappies of babies, said Prof Dinan.

Tested in mice

The stress-reducing potential of this bacterium had already been tested in mice, he said. “We published one or two preclinical studies in animals over the past three or four years in which we found if given to animals it made them less anxious and helped their memory response,” Prof Dinan said.

They decided to carry this forward into humans, setting up a trial with 22 healthy male volunteers. They received probiotic and placebo but didn’t know which was which.

Subjectively the subjects reported a reduction in their perceived daily stress levels. Objective measurements were also taken of their cortisol stress hormone levels and these were reduced when receiving the probiotic, he said.

Visual memory test

“They also underwent an international intellectual test battery to see if there was any improvement in intellectual function,” Prof Dinan said. The test group performed better on a visual memory test when taking the probiotic compared with the placebo.

“There was a statistically significant improvement in cognitive function, particularly memory,” he said.

They also mapped the subjects’ brains using an electroencephalogram and found that the probiotic actually modified brain activity. “These findings could be taken forward into people with psychological disorders related to stress, such as generalised anxiety disorder or major depression,” said lead author Dr Andrew Allen of the institute.

“This was one of the few studies where we have managed to find in humans exactly what we found in animals,” Prof Dinan said.


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