News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 1st. November 2015

Air-Bus passenger jet that crashed shortly after take-off in Egypt

Registered and owned in Ireland


The plane was travelling from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia.

* A total of 224 people were on board, including 17 children, 200 adults and 7 crew

* Passengers were mainly holiday makers heading to the popular tourist destination

* Egyptian officials have said that there are no survivors from the crash

* Rescuers describe ‘tragic’ scene at crash site

* Wreckage of jet located in mountainous area south of Al-Arish

* The jet’s black boxes are also understood to have been found

* The Metrojet Airbus A321-200 (registration EI-ETJ) is listed as being owned by Wilmington Trust SP Services Dublin Ltd

* Airbus KGL-9268 was operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia

The passenger jet that crashed shortly after take-off in Egypt today was registered and owned in Ireland.

The Metrojet Airbus A321-200 (registration EI-ETJ) is listed in the Irish Aviation Authority’s (IAA) Register of Aircraft as being owned Wilmington Trust SP Services Dublin Ltd with offices in the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) at George’s Dock in Dublin.

It’s known the jet visited Shannon, Dublin and Cork Airports previously.

A Egyptian security officer who arrived at the mountainous scene in the Hassana area told Reuters most on board are feared dead.

It is understood that there were 224 travelling on board the plane – and 17 of those are believed to have been children.

Egyptian officials have said that there are no survivors from the crash – and that passengers had died still strapped in their seats.

The Metrojet’s Airbus A-321 with registration number EI-ETJ that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, is seen in this picture taken in Antalya, Turkey REUTERS/Kim Philipp Piskol

The passenger plane was mainly carrying Russian tourists and was travelling from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh towards St Petersburg.

A Russian website with close links to the security services has published a complete list of passengers, has reported.

Many of the surnames are the same, indicating dozens of families were on the plane.

Wreckage of the jet was later located in a mountainous area about 40 kilometres south of Al-Arish.

Dozens of bodies have been recovered while the jet’s black boxes are also understood to have been found.

Conflicting reports throughout the morning initally created some confusion as to what exactly occurred.

Earlier, Russia’s RIA news agency reported that the passenger jet had disappeared from radar screens in Cypriot airspace at an altitude of 31,000 feet.

Egypt’s air accident chief then confirmed the plane had made contact with Turkish air traffic control.

“The … Russian airline had told us that the Russian plane we lost contact with is safe and that it has contacted Turkish air traffic control and is passing through Turkish skies now,” Ayman al-Muqaddam, the head of the central air traffic accident authority in Egypt, said in a statement.

The 18-year-old jet was operating flight KGL-9268/7K-9268 from Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg in Russia.

The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya confirmed in a statement that flight KGL-9268 left Sharm el-Sheikh at 6:51am Moscow time (3:51am GMT) and was travelling to St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport.

It’s understood the crew had requested to make an emergency landing Al-Arish.

Experts have said that a mechanical failure is an unlikely cause because of the A321’s performance ranking and low incident rate.

Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. A statement from the prime minister’s office said Sherif Ismail had formed a cabinet level crisis committee to deal with the crash.

Poor weather conditions are reportedly affecting the efforts of the Egyptian search and rescue teams at the crash site.

Women reacts as they walk at Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg, Russia REUTERS/Peter Kovalev

Russian President Vladimir Putin expresses his deepest condolences to the families of victims of the crash of a Russian airliner in Egypt, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday citing the Kremlin press service.

Putin also ordered government ministries to offer immediate assistance to relatives of those killed.  Russia’s top Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case against airline Kogalymavia, Russian news agencies said, quoting the committee’s spokesman. The Airbus A321-200 jet was built in 1997 was formerly operated by Russian airline Kolavia as well as Onur Air and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Sell your kidneys for top health cover


Even if you think you need them, many top-tier health insurance plans are poor value,

Even if you think you need them, many top-tier health insurance plans are poor value

It seems unlikely that health insurance providers would ever try to cull the most expensive, top-of-the-range, ‘gold-plated’ plans from their product ranges altogether, but it’s hard to see what you get by paying up to five thousand euros more than what a good mid-range plan costs.

Even if you want to be guaranteed access to the best in private hospital care, why would you opt for a plan costing up to nearly €7,000 a year when you could have a plan costing half that, but offering what looks like very much the exact same in terms of hospital in-patient benefits?

Only about 5% of people who have health insurance are on the top-of-the-range plans, like VHI’s Plan E or Laya’s HealthManager Gold or Aviva I Plan Level 5, according to broker Dermot Goode of “The percentage is very small and it’s shrinking,” he said.

But who buys them aside from the very well-off who want the top medical plan simply because they can afford it or who can’t fathom the idea of sharing with riff-raffs in semi-private rooms?

Some of them might include those who had family plans in the past but, when their kids left home, they invested the savings in better cover, said Mr Goode.

“But there are people who are on these plans not because they want to be but because they have a very serious underlying medical condition,” he added.

For example, they might want plans that cover them for the Mater Private or the Blackrock Clinic, the two top centres for cardiac procedures. “You could have somebody who had a quadruple by-pass in their late 30s or early 40s and for whatever reason they want to make sure that they get back into Blackrock or the Mater Private if any complications arise.

“There are a lot of people on those top plans unnecessarily because they don’t realise that some of the benefits they are paying all that money for, they can get them on the lower plans,” continued Mr Goode.

“A lot of people assume that to be covered for major heart procedures you must be on the top plan, but what they don’t realise is that with pretty much all the mid-level plans costing €1,200 and upwards, they usually provide full cover for the 50 major heart procedures that can be carried out at Blackrock and the Mater Private, and they also cover day-case procedures there.”

Indeed, much of the competition in the health insurance market over the past year has been at the more affordable end of the market, particularly with the introduction of stripped-down, high-excess plans to attract new members over-35 fearful of the age-related loadings that would apply after Lifetime Community Rating was introduced last April.

Roisin Lyons of Meath-based health insurance broker Lyons Financial said: “We tend to see a lot more competition between the lower to middle-range plans as the majority of the market would be on a more affordable level of cover, but there are some plans at the higher end of the scale that are more competitive than others.”

For example, VHI’s HealthPlus Platinum (Plan E) at €4,843.25 and GloHealth’s Ultimate Plan at €3,399 offer similar levels of inpatient cover.

“Members generally tend to be on these plans as they value cover for the Mater Private and the Blackrock Clinic. There may be differences in relation to what members can claim back on their outpatient expenses but these plans are mainly focusing on in-patient cover.

“If members value or want increased cover for outpatient or day-to-day claims, add-on packs can be purchased.” Whichever of the top plans you might be on, if you’ve been on them more than two years, you are in what Mr Goode describes as a “high-risk category” for over-paying.

He said the majority of his clients are people in their 50s or older who have been insured for years on the older plans. Some are recently retired and so find themselves on fixed incomes, so they’re reviewing their cover and asking themselves if they really need it.

Mr Goode added that older couples in good health are definitely more mobile in being able to switch cover to equivalent-but-cheaper plans, but if they have underlying medical conditions, they fear that switching might result in a reduction or a downgrading of what they consider to be vital cover. “They are willing to look at lower-cost equivalents, but they don’t want to start taking their chances and reduce their cover, which is understandable,” he said.

The decision in Budget 2014 to introduce a cap of €1,000 on the amount of premiums that qualified for 20pc tax relief on health (€500 for children) was a big blow to many of those on top plans, said Mr Goode.

“Up until then if you were paying €3,350, you got 20pc tax relief, which means nearly €700. Now this is capped at €200. The increase was effectively €700 for those on the very top plans. That caused an awful lot of people to reduce their cover down.”

Even for those on a mid-level plans costing just over €2,000, like VHI’s HealthPlus Extra (Plan B Options), the tax relief was halved, he added.

But by switching or even downgrading slightly they can still keep their gold-plated plans and potentially halve their costs, said Mr Goode.

For instance, Laya’s Essential Secure costs €3,556, yet not only does it offer the identical in-patient benefits as VHI’s HealthPlus Platinum (Plan E) at €4,843 – around €1,300 more – it also has better outpatient cover, according to the Health Insurance Authority’s plan comparison website (

You could also downgrade slightly from VHI’s HealthPlus Platinum to HealthPlus Premium (Plan D) costing €3,350, save €1,500 per annum and still be covered for the same hospitals. “The only difference is that they are not covered for a private room in the private hospitals, they’ll be semi-private,” said Mr Goode.

It’s a bit of a lottery as to whether you can get a private room if you end up in a public hospital, so a policy that covers you for private hospital is the only way to guarantee privacy, but this is where the premiums start to rocket.

“Blackrock Clinic only has private rooms so you will get a private room there in any case, but in Mater Private, you’ll get a semi-private room at worst,” said Mr Goode. “But you have to ask, is it worth over grand a year extra?”

But what if you are on a mid-level plan but want to upgrade rather than downgrade?

There are the waiting periods to consider. You may have to wait up to two years for any higher benefits on an upgraded plan depending on your insurer, your age and whether or not you have a pre-existing condition. For instance, if you are over 65, VHI’s waiting period for higher benefits is two years, compared with 26 weeks for those under-55 – as long as you don’t have a pre-existing condition.

“This rule prevents members upgrading their plan to access a higher benefit and, once the treatment is over and the claim has been paid, downgrading to a cheaper plan,” said Ms Lyons.

But even the number of people upgrading is said to be falling off as prices continue to rise.

“People are now choosing the level of cover that meets their needs,” said Mr Goode. The majority of top plan members are trying to reduce their costs, which might mean taking on an excess, reducing day-to-day expenses or switching to a corporate plan. “They know that if they reduce or downgrade their cover, they know where the reductions are. It’s all about what fits your ‘care pathways’,” said Mr Goode.

If switching or upgrading, he advises consumers to ask insurance brokers or agents to explain to them exactly what the differences are, and where exactly the extra cover might be.

Beer ‘can make you better in bed’, scientists say

Drinking darker beers can act as an aphrodisiac, boosting the libido


Probiotics and B vitamins in beer can make you feel ‘less sluggish’ during sex.

Men who favour a pint as their regular tipple will be pleased to hear science has made a compelling argument that drinking beer could make you perform better in bed.

According to sex expert Dr Kat Van Kirk, beer provides men with four different benefits beneath the sheets, Medical Daily reports.

Firstly, sloshing down a couple of brews can delay premature ejaculation. Phytoestrogens in alcohol overload the body and are proven to delay orgasm, according to Dr Van Kirk.

Drinking darker beers can also act as an aphrodisiac, boosting the libido and giving longer, more intense erections. The iron in darker beer helps red blood cells create haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. This improves circulation and gives a stronger erection says Dr Van Kirk.

The third benefit of beer drinking is an increase in sexual stamina, according to research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology. The study found 31 per cent of moderate beer drinkers had reduced risk of cardiovascular disease compared to non-drinkers. This means beer drinkers are less likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes or heart disease, according to the study, and when paired with exercise, beer helps keep your heart healthier, giving you more cardio endurance.

Finally, Dr Van Kirk says probiotics and B vitamins in beer “can help fortify your overall health” and settle the stomach meaning men are less likely to “feel sluggish during sex” after a cold one.

Brewers have even concocted a pint specifically aimed to get you feeling frisky. Named “50 Shades of  Green” and developed earlier this year by Scottish brewers Innis & Gunn, it is made up of 50 kinds of hops as well as other ingredients claimed to have stimulating properties.

The beer also contains ginseng which the brewers claim will “get your sex drive firing on all cylinders”; ginkgo to “get blood pumping to all the right places”; and nerve damiana “to help hit the sweet spot”, The Grocer reports.

Beer-lovers should be warned, however, that in order to reap the rewards of your pints in the bedroom, beer should only be drunk in moderation.

Euro falls against Dollar in October on Central Bank signals


Against the dollar, sterling was up 0.7% at $1.5418, retreating from an earlier gain of more than 1%. The euro fell to $1.0969 from $1.0990.

The Dollar continues slide after brief bump, on GDP numbers.

The BOJ lowered its forecasts for economic growth and inflation, due to the slowdown in global growth.

Moody’s: High-yield issuance in Latin America hits record low. A drawdown in inventories weighed on the overall figure.

The common currency shed 1.4% against the dollar over the month, falling to $1.1025.

Wall Street was mixed in mid-afternoon trading.

The euro weakened against the dollar in October as central bank messages raised expectations for additional stimulus in the Eurozone and higher interest rates in the USA, underscorina g the divergence in monetary policy between the two economies.

There is also speculation that Japan’s central bank may expand its stimulus measures when it meets on Friday.

Among other major currencies, the pound rose on bets the Bank of England could raise interest rates earlier than previously expected. To the upside, immediate resistance can be seen at 1.5337. The Nasdaq composite picked up 65.55 points, or 1.3%, to 5,095.69.

Data since last month “suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace”, the statement said. FTSE China A50 Index futures traded in Singapore retreated 0.2%t as well.

In response, the pound rose for the second successive session against the dollar, up 0.54% exchanging at $1.5392 at 1447 GMT, while the euro was up 0.80% changing hands at €1.11065. To the downside, immediate support level is located at 1.3147levels.

The data stoked fears that the USA labour market may be vulnerable to weakness from overseas and reduced the probability of a 2015 rate hike.

MSCI’s leading global equity index was up 0.15% on Friday, bringing its monthly gain up to around 8%, its biggest since October 2011.

USA stocks ended slightly lower on Thursday, after data release from United States showed disappointing readings on gross domestic product and pending home sales.

As Fed officials debate when to tighten policy, the recent turmoil in emerging markets has prompted investors to pare back prospects of an increase in U.S. interest rates this year.

The stronger dollar accounts for about 0.5 percentage points of this drag, a phenomenon that will persist beyond this year and peak in the early part of 2016, Deutsche said. Government bond yields also slipped back after two days of Fed-fuelled increases.

USA crude settled up 12 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $46.06 a barrel, after trading between $45.16 and $46.79. It had rallied almost $3 the previous session. Germany’s DAX was down 0.2% at 10,812.77.

“We don’t rule out further BOJ easing next year, but for now dollar/yen should be largely driven by the dollar side of the equation, with the cross being very sensitive to the Fed’s rate outlook”, said ING currency strategist Petr Krpata in London.

32 Irish pubs feature as Michelin good food locations serve up its latest guide


Some 32 Irish pubs spread across 15 counties, north and south, have secured listings in the 2016 Michelin Eating Out In Pubs Guide which has just been published.

Toddies at the Bulman, Kinsale, Co Cork, received an ‘Inspectors’ Favourites’ commendation.

Of the 25 pubs in the Republic, two are new listings — Old Spot in Ballsbridge and Harte’s in Kildare.

In the north, amongst the seven pubs listed is one new entry from Co Down — Balloo House in Killinchy.

In overall terms, Co Down leads the way with six listings followed by Cork with five, Clare with four, and Kildare with three.

Cronins in Crosshanven, Co Cork, has also made the prestigious Michelin guide

Dublin, Galway, and Mayo each received two listings with Antrim, Kerry, Leitrim, Louth, Sligo, Tipperary, Wexford, and Wicklow each having one listing.

Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna, and Toddies at the Bulman, Kinsale, both received an ‘Inspectors’ Favourites’ commendation, described in the guide as “establishments found to be particularly charming and which offer something extra special.”

Aidan McGrath of Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna. The restaurant received an ‘Inspectors’ Favourites’ commendation

The Bulman was voted Best Gastro Pub in Cork in 2010 in the Irish Restaurant Awards, the same year it was also judged the Best Tourist Pub in the Fáilte Ireland Awards. It won the award for the best in Munster this year.

The pub’s Toddies Restaurant has also won Bridgestone and Georgina Campbell awards.

The husband and wife team of Pearse and Mary O’Sullivan’s very popular restaurant is located in Summercove, near Charles Fort.

“We are absolutely delighted,” said Pearse, who is also head chef at the restaurant.

Mary Ann’s in Castletownshend has made the grade with Michelin inspectors

“We heard about it a while ago but we were in France visiting my parents and when I turned on my phone today at Dublin Airport it went mental with messages of congratulations.”

Pearse and Mary put their success down to using local fresh produce. “We are very seafood based,” said Pearse.

“We have a lot of oyster-based food and we are well known for our grilled lobster.

“We do good food, simply cooked and straight from the sea.”

The Chop House in Ballsbridge

The Wild Honey Inn also believes in using the freshest produce cooked by chef- proprietor Aidan McGrath.

Wild Honey Inn dates from 1860 in Lisdoonvarna, and has a wealth of old world charm. Kate Sweeney and Aidan McGrath combine modern comforts for the traveller with the intimacy of a family-run inn.

Poacher’s Inn, Bandon, Co Cork

“We are extremely proud for our achievements and delighted for our hardworking team,” said Kate.

The Michelin Eating Out In Pubs Guide 2016 is now available in bookshops and online priced at €16.99.

Marine wrecks offer us a glimpse into ancient civilization


In the Fourni archipelago of the Greek Aegean region, towering underwater cliffs descend into the darkness of the deep sea.

Marine archaeologists comb these murky depths for objects made by human hands – a ceramic shard encrusted with sea sponges, or an ancient vase that an eel has claimed for its home.

Through the centuries here, human handiwork has been absorbed by its natural aquatic surroundings, with rock and reef steadily growing around any remnants of life from early Western civilization.

The seeming improbability, then, of finding substantive artifacts in the patchwork makes discovery all the more exciting.

“You’re constantly scanning in any direction,” Peter Campbell, an underwater archaeologist at the University of Southampton, told The Washington Post. “There’s this moment that you see something, a straight line that doesn’t look natural, and your eye kind of flips over. You realize it’s an ancient pot or ancient anchor, then you notice this stuff is everywhere.”

While undertaking a survey of possible wreckage around Fourni last month, Campbell and his team experienced this sense of wonder an unprecedented 22 times over.

When Campbell and the expedition’s co-director, Greek archaeologist George Koutsouflakis, arrived at the collection of the thirteen islands and islets in mid-September, they had heard some rumblings of artifacts from ancient ships to be found in the area.

As luck would have it, they came across a shipwreck on their very first dive, which the team took to be “a good omen.” Over the course of less than two weeks – the duration of their survey permit – they would have been content to find three or four wrecks in total.

After the first five days, that number hit ten. Then, on a single day, they found an additional six.

At this point, overwhelmed with the unexpected fortune, they decided to stop looking for wrecks so they could focus on adequately recording information from the ones they had already encountered. But even this decision didn’t stop them from finding a few more by the expedition’s end, making the sum uncovered in just 13 days an astounding 22 shipwrecks.

During this short period, Campbell and Koutsouflakis’s crew of marine archaeologists, local fishermen, sponge divers and the occasional robot increased the total number of known ancient shipwrecks in Greece by 12 percent.

An announcement this week revealed that the survey, a collaborative effort between the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and the Florida-based RPM Nautical Foundation, yielded shipwrecks dating from the Archaic Period (700-480 B.C.) through the Late Medieval Period (16th century), including some wrecks that are more than 2,500 years old.

The small and relatively obscure region may be “the ancient shipwreck capital of the world,” the release says.

While a comparable number of wrecks have been discovered in major harbor sites like Pisa, Copenhagen and London, Campbell said, this find is significant because there was no major settlement or port in Fourni, which was merely a popular passing-through point.

These shipwrecks, however, illustrate just how crucial a passageway the small archipelago was for seafaring merchants of the ancient times. The storms that ravaged the neighboring islands of Samos and Icaria were so fierce that sailors often took refuge in Fourni’s abundance of gentle bays. The archipelago lies along a major east-west crossing route, as well as the primary north-south path from the Aegean to the Levant.

The large number of shipwrecks found suggests not that Fourni was an uncommonly dangerous locale, but rather that it welcomed an immense volume of sea traffic over a long period of time. Campbell estimates that there was likely no more than one wreck every hundred years.

By the time scientists can reach wrecks of this kind, any organic materials – wood, clothing, bodies – have long been eaten away by their environment. A shipwreck, then, is comprised of several hundred pieces of pottery, indicating the bulk of a ship’s cargo, that fan out from a distinct area.

Campbell said all the wrecks they found were from typical merchant sailing vessels and not from any warships.

“That suits us pretty well,” he said. “These shipwrecks tell the story of the every day person, and we’re really interested in what life was like for the average sailor in 400 B.C.”


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