News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 8th November 2015

Enda Kenny & Cameron hope for a Stormont deal soon?

‘This week sometime’


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he hopes a Stormont deal can be reached within days, to resolve the political crisis that is threatening power- sharing.

Talks began in September, aimed at tackling the dispute over welfare reform, paramilitarism, and budget matters.

British prime minister David Cameron recently met Stormont’s political leaders as the pace of negotiations stepped up. The Taoiseach said “I am very hopeful and happy that the reports I am getting are that a deal is on here.

“I do hope it can be concluded successfully in the next couple of days.”

A vexed budget wrangle has left the power-sharing administration in Belfast facing an unsustainable black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds.

A resolution to the long-standing impasse over the executive’s failure to implement the government’s welfare reforms in the North will be crucial to any breakthrough.

It is understood that Stormont’s leaders want the British government to commit extra funding to the power-sharing executive, both resource and capital, as part of any settlement.

The wider negotiations, which have been on-going for weeks, are also trying to find a way forward on other problems causing the current instability at Stormont, including the fallout from a recent murder linked to the IRA and a row over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr Kenny is meeting David Cameron at 10 Downing St this afternoon for bilateral talks.

Yesterday, Mr Kenny laid a wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen, 28 years to the day after the IRA bombed the annual Remembrance Day service.

Eleven people, who had gathered to pay their respects, were killed and dozens more were injured in the no-warning blast in 1987, just minutes before the event had been due to start.

In terrible weather conditions, Mr Kenny joined other dignitaries in laying a wreath at the foot of the memorial.

In Belfast, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan laid a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph.

He said: “I am pleased to represent the Irish Government for the second year at the Remembrance Sunday commemoration at Belfast City Hall.”

More than 200,000 Irish-born soldiers served in the British Army and Navy from 1914 to 1918.

Businessman Bobby Kerr announces cancer diagnosis

The broadcaster is receiving treatment for cancer of the neck and head


Businessman Bobby Kerr has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host of his Newstalk radio show. 

Businessman Bobby Kerr has revealed live on his own radio show that he has been diagnosed with cancer.

The self-made millionaire and owner of the Insomnia chain of coffee shops told listeners of his Down to Business show on Newstalk that he has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host to “make myself better”.

“Did you know 35,000 people hear the dreaded words every year ‘we have the results of your biopsy, you need to come in and see me’. Well folks, it’s 34,999 and one other- me,” he said, “because guess what, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck, and I’m currently receiving treatment to make myself better.

“I have a very serious disease, it’s been caught early, it’s only in one place, and because it’s been caught early my chances of beating this increase incrementally,” added the 55 year-old, who has been presenting the Saturday morning magazine show for six years.

Mr Kerr, who was previously an investor on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den series, said he wanted to broach the issue in such a public manner to raise awareness of Movember and Men’s Health Month in the hope that more people will get themselves checked out.

“So, why am I telling you this, what you might consider a very personal and private piece of news? The reason’s simple- it’s Movember, it’s Men’s Health Month. Get yourself checked out, I did.

“I’ve always considered myself a glass half-full type of person, always tried to take a positive attitude of whatever life throws at me, and I believe that life is absolutely for living,” he said.

He went on to mention the “arsenal of armoury” he has to beat the illness including support from his mother, brother, extended family and business colleagues alongside his wife Mary and their four daughters Meghan, Emily, Rebecca and Michaela.

He also paid tribute to co-workers and station management at Newstalk, as well as fellow presenters Jonathan Healy and Vincent Wall who will take over hosting duties for Down to Business until Mr Kerr’s expected return in the new year.

“God bless you all and thanks, and I’ll see you next year,” he concluded.

The perfect solution to stop office colleagues from stealing the milk?


Yes, we have all been in that situation where that pint of milk you lovingly bought and stored in the fridge at work has miraculously disappeared.

And you know all too well that your chances of catching these milk thieves at work are pretty slim.

After all, which colleague in his/her right mind will admit to the fact that they have made (and drank) several cups of tea using the milk that YOU bought?

But it seems someone may have found a rather passive aggressive solution to this problem by going to extreme lengths to keep their milk for themselves.

And it requires a lock… and the means to drill holes into the milk carton. (Either that, or they’ve gone to great lengths on Photoshop to put a padlock on the image).

Real or fake, this hilarious picture of the padlocked milk has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on Imgur.

The photo was posted on Reddit by a user called banginthedead with the caption: “The milk situation at work is starting to get a little serious.”

But the story doesn’t end here.

It seems banginthehead later posted a second image of a milk container with what looks like an explosive booby trap device on it saying: “The milk situation hasn’t improved.”

It’s hard to say whether this person really went and padlocked and booby-trapped their milk container, but it’s definitely a good laugh.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees go west for guaranteed Sligo surf waves

Surf Summit weekend event included talks from local and international surf champions


The web Summit attendess took part in a range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing at the Surf Summit in Strandhill Co. Sligo.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees made the break for the West lured by stand up paddling around the lake isle of Innisfree, kayaking on Lough Gill and making business deals on the waves alongside some of the world’ s top surfers.

Watching Peggy Johnson, one of Microsoft’s top deal makers, pulling pints at Sligo pub Shoot the Crows on Saturday evening was a bonus.

“There was a time when the golf course was synonymous with networking and deal making but a lot of people in the tech world are into activity sports,” explained local surfer and tech enthusiast Allan Mulrooney, one of the organisers of the Surf Summit.

He and his friend former Westlife singer Kian Egan were among the hosts who brought high profile guests including world record big wave surfer Garrett McNamara and Adam Berke of AdRoll, on a whirlwind tour of Sligo’s best known surfing and party locations.

About 300 people, most of them delegates from the Web Summit, attended talks by Mr McNamara, European surf champion Pauline Ado and local sufer Easkey Britton over the weekend.

Mr McNamara, who broke the world record when he surfed a 100 foot wave in Nazare in Portugal, had never been to Ireland before. “We took him to Mullaghmore and Bundoran and he told us he will be back to surf here next month,” said Mr Mulrooney.

A range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing kept delegates busy on Saturday.

“The weather was amazing. We even had a double rainbow,” said Easkey Britton, founder of Waves of Freedom whose lecture focussed on how surfing can be a tool for social change.

While guests sampled everything from locally brewed White Hag craft beer to traditional music in well-known Sligo bars Connollys and McGarrigles, there was also time for some business at the Surf Summit.

“ We had investors here from Singapore, the US and Australia and a few deals were clinched”, said Mr Mulrooney.

“The setting may have been unusual – some investors did not expect to be drinking hot whiskeys at a camp fire on the shores of Lough Gill listening to Dave O’Hara of SUP forAll reciting Yeats poetry but I think they enjoyed it”.

A bonus, he added, was that the Wifi worked well, there were no traffic jams and Peggy Johnson knows how to pull a pint of Guinness.


Lisbon’s Web Summit won’t be the same as Dublin

Ireland’s high-profile tech event packed its bags on Thursday and set sail for Portugal. But will it succeed there, and will Dublin rue its departure?


On the Dart to Sandymount they’re talking about angels and unicorns. Which is strange, as they’re not five-year-olds. In fact pretty much everyone in the carriage is a 25- to 45-year-old man wearing the same uniform: suit jacket, no tie, jeans. The chat is also of VCs and VR, pivots and platforms, bootstraps and wearables. You’d need an app to translate this stuff.

My phone pings – again – with a notification from the Web Summit app. “Hi Hugh! I’m a 20 year old girl from Australia, co-founder of ClosetDrop – Rent out your wardrobe. To put it simply, we’re basically the Airbnb of fashion. My best friend and I started ClosetDrop to help girls all around the world fulfil their expensive taste in fashion for just a fraction of the price. ClosetDrop is a global online market-place where girls can rent out their own clothes, shoes & accessories between each other . . .”

I’m still 10 minutes from the entrance, but I feel as if I’m already deep inside the forcefield of Web Summit. (The definite article is always absent, as with Fight Club or Electric Picnic, or Narnia). What is this strange place, and why does it exist?

Part evangelical prayer meeting, part digital flea market, it’s a mixture of the huckster and the hipster, and in its own way it provides a snapshot of a lot of the forces that, for good or ill, proclaim that they’re going to change your world.

And what exactly does the word tech mean? I like this description, by Nathan Heller: “Tech today means anything about computers, the internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design. At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture.”

Through some happy conjunction of luck, timing, brass neck, hard work and sheer pig-headedness, Web Summit’s founders,Paddy Cosgrave and Daire Hickey, tapped into that substrate over the past few years and built from scratch an international event that this year claimed an attendance figure of more than 40,000. Web Summit has grown and grown, and now it has grown too big for Dublin. Some might say it has grown too big for its bootstraps.

Irish media coverage this week has been as plentiful as ever – to the annoyance of those who regard the whole thing as overhyped in the first place – refracted through the prism of the absurd handbags that broke out between Cosgrave and the Government about who wanted what and who said whatever to whom in the months leading up to the announcement that Web Summit would be moving to Lisbon for the next three years.

It flared up again with rows about invitations and snarky interviews on radio and television.

Nobody came very well out of this small-town bickering, but it didn’t seem to have registered particularly with the international visitors I met this week. Talking to a cross section of them during the pub crawls organised across central Dublin on Monday night, one thing came across clearly, however. They did like being here.

It helped that the weather was better than it had been in August, but over and over I was told what a beautiful, interesting, friendly city I lived in. The impression was unavoidable that there’s a connection between Web Summit’s success and its location.

It’s something the Government would do well to pause and ponder, no matter how well the move to Lisbon works out. Because, whatever method you use to calculate the value of Web Summit to Dublin in cold, hard cash terms, and whether or not you buy into the proposition that it contributes to the growth of an indigenous tech sector, there is no doubt that these tens of thousands of people are highly educated, highly connected and potentially highly influential, which has to be worth something.

The people I talked to came from North and South America, from across Europe, the Middle East and (to a lesser extent) Asia. To my inexpert ear some of them seemed to be involved in substantial enterprises. One was helping to build a platform for the sale and distribution of education services and distance learning across the Indian subcontinent. Another was developing a digital marketplace for advertising inventory on digital billboards in Brazil.

Some of them, though, do fit the start-up cliche. Two young guys have an app that allows you to hook up and socialise with like-minded people when you’re away from your own country. “So it’s like Tinder for city breaks,” I say, but their faces darken. Someone must have got to that line first.

All this frenetic activity, all these tiny start-ups selling variations on a theme: does it really amount to anything substantial? Henry Hwong, a Palo Alto-based marketing consultant, tells me that cloud-computing platforms like Amazon Web Services andMicrosoft Azure mean there is a very low barrier to entry, which is the reason for the glut of “Uber for this” or “Airbnb for that” type of companies.

“It would be nice if there were more investment in really hard engineering projects that move technology forward,” Hwong says. “But that’s just technology capitalism, and Darwinism, at work – lots of investment in many companies that will go nowhere, but the ones that succeed could have a major impact on society.”

At the RDS over the succeeding three days the sheer scale of Web Summit now creates its own dynamic. With so many stages operating simultaneously, and so many different “summits”, each with its own rows of start-ups pitching for business from cramped plywood booths, this year’s event starts to feel as if it has split in two, with one Web Summit in the main RDS complex and the other across Anglesea Road in Simmonscourt.

As the Irish Times columnist Karlin Lillington pointed out, too many of the events are just too short, and therefore don’t go deep enough to yield anything truly interesting. But, despite all the self-aggrandisement and messianic claims of changing the world, there are plenty of thoughtful, impressive people with something to say.

Then there’s the Food Summit in Herbert Park. In previous years this was an impressively organised series of tents feeding thousands of people excellent Irish food, with front-of-house duties carried out with aplomb by the likes of Darina Allen – all included in the price of your ticket.

That you had to pay an extra €20 a day this year, and that the quality of the food seemed to have fallen significantly, provoked some angry reaction. The tents looked grim and empty compared with previous years, and the organisers stood accused of price-gouging – the very charge they had levelled at Dublin hotels.

Who knows what Web Summit will be like at the end of its three-year stint in Lisbon? Cosgrave seems to model it, and the spin-off events he now runs in other countries, on the digital-business model of scaleability, where rapid growth and the acquisition of new customers are the overriding imperatives.

He may be right – and there are other successful events internationally that outrank Web Summit in size. But human beings aren’t software, and the impersonality of a purpose-built conference facility on a city’s fringe could drain away some of the improvisational and occasionally ramshackle elements that made the whole thing work in the first place.

Rising temperatures could drive 100m people into extreme poverty,

The world Bank warns?


Efforts to curb climate change must be twinned with programmes to cut poverty, warns a study of the threat posed by global warming to food security.

A dead acari-bodó, a type of catfish that can remain alive for a couple of days out of water, lies before stranded floating houses on a dried out stretch of Brazil’s Rio Negro.

The world must pair efforts to stabilise climate change with programmes to eliminate poverty if vulnerable people are to be kept from falling back into hardship as rising temperatures wreak havoc on food security and livelihoods, a report has said.

As many as 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of rising temperatures, which are caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank report said. The bank’s most recent estimate puts the number of people living in extreme poverty this year at 702 million, or 9.6% of the world’s population.

Climate change has led to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty and pushing people at risk into destitution, according to Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, released on Sunday.

Efforts to stabilise climate change should incorporate strategies to eradicate poverty, said Stéphane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank’s climate change group and co-author of the report. “The policies, the investments, the financing, all of that should be integrated. Otherwise, we’re just less efficient.”

Poor people need social safety nets and universal healthcare to sustainably eradicate poverty, according to the report. Programmes to lessen the impacts of climate change should not create new vulnerabilities and they should inform development policies by taking into account future climate conditions.

Beating climate change is key to making nutritious food needed to beat hunger

Neven Mimica and Phil Hogan

“When we [build] infrastructure, for instance, [we need] to make sure it’s in a safe place today but also in a safe place with sea level rise and the change in rainfall and so on,” said Hallegatte.

He added that the world needs to take urgent action to reduce the impacts of climate change if the sustainable development goal on eradicating extreme poverty is to be met.

“We really want to reduce poverty before people get affected by even bigger climate impacts. It’s easier to get people out of extreme poverty now rather than doing it later,” said Hallegatte.

Without proper planning, efforts to stabilise the impacts of climate change can undo decades of progress in lifting vulnerable people out of poverty, the study warned. Environmental taxes, designed to reduce emissions, can raise the cost of fuel and food, which hit poor people hardest.

“These same policies can be designed to protect, and even benefit, poor people – for instance, by using fiscal resources from environmental taxes to improve social protection,” the report said.

Ethiopia’s social protection and Rwanda’s health coverage have boosted long-term poverty reduction efforts in both countries, making it less likely that poor people will fall back into poverty as a result of climate change.

“In most cases, what we want is a package of policies – the climate polices themselves and additional policies to smooth the transition and to support poor people in the transition,” said Hallegatte.

Hallegatte is optimistic that world leaders will take urgent action to stabilise climate change, which he says will boost efforts to eradicate poverty.

This year, a series of high-profile meetings took place, creating a sense of gathering momentum around the battle against global warming. A key step was the adoption of the global goals – which set a 2030 deadline for the eradication of poverty in all its forms and sought to galvanise action to combat climate change and its impacts – at the UN general assembly in September.

This growing migration crisis is the canary in the mine on climate change

Mahmoud Solh

Other milestones have included the Addis conference on financing for development and the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction, while next month world leaders will convene in Paris for the 21st session of the conference of the parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“You can see there is a convergence – these conferences have been designed as a package and you can feel the urgency,” Hallegatte said.

But many challenges remain. According to the report, the world needs to find $1tn (£645bn) more each year to boost key infrastructure if the goals are to be met. Climate summits have in the past been thwarted by the US and China, which have been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for reduced emissions.

Expectations for next month’s climate summit have been buoyed by fruitful talks held last year in Beijing, where China pledged to bring its emissions to a peak “around 2030”, and the US said it would cut its emissions by 26-28% of their 2005 level by 2025.

Hallegatte said: “Now there is the implementation, and that’s really the challenge – to translate this willingness to act into something that makes a difference on the ground.”


Comments are closed.