News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Ireland’s bankruptcy term to be cut to one year


The term of bankruptcy could be reduced from three years to one if a new bill is passed by cabinet today.

It is widely expected that the bill, which will bring Irish bankruptcy laws in line with the United Kingdom, will be approved when it’s put to Cabinet.

It iis being proposed by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald but the proposals were spearheaded by Labour TD Willie Penrose.

Other proposals in the bill include increasing penalties for those who try to hide assets  and for those already in the process, the timescale for bankruptcy will be 18 months.

In cases of serious non co-operation, the period will be extended to 15 years – the maximum at the moment is eight.

In addition, the window in which income payment orders apply will be cut from from five to three years.

These orders  apply when bankrupt individuals are pursued for income surplus that is considered to be in excess of reasonable living costs.

Speaking about the proposed bill this morning minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin told Newstalk that it would help people recover from previous mistakes.

“Bankruptcy is not an easy option for anybody. It is the last option for somebody. The stigma of bankruptcy will still exist. The problems in relation to the court orders and paying back will continue for years after the bankruptcy,” the minister said.

“So it certainly won’t be an easy option for anyone. Anybody who is facing into bankruptcy will know how difficult and challenging it is for themselves and their family.”

It is currently unclear as to what will happen to those who are already bankrupt should the bill be passed however, it is understood that those who have been so for one year could be cleared after three months.

Homeless to sleep in Garda stations, A&E units ‘at Christmas’

Peter McVerry tells Dublin protest Government must declare a homelessness emergency.


Demonstration on housing and homeless crisis with housing activists from across Dublin, which started at the GPO, O’Connell Street and concluded outside Leinster House, Kildare Street, December 1st, 2015.

Homeless families will end up sleeping in Garda stations and emergency departments at Christmas, a protest in Dublin heard on Tuesday night.

Several hundred people attended the demonstration, which called for action on the homelessness crisis and marked the first anniversary of the death of Jonathan Corrie, who was found dead in a doorway on Molesworth Street near Leinster House.

Campaigner Fr Peter McVerry told the crowd the Government must declare a homelessness emergency.

Some 40 families were being made homeless each month this time last year, but now the average is 73 a month, he said.

“Homeless families will end up having to sleep in Garda stations and hospital emergency departments for Christmas,” Fr McVerry said.

The demonstration was organised by the National Homeless and Housing Coalition. It began outside the GPO on O’Connell Street, and participants marched across the city centre to Leinster House.

Some scuffles

Barricades blocked demonstrators from marching up Kildare Street, which resulted in some scuffles between gardaí and those marching.

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive has said more than 2,100 adults and almost 1,300 children are accessing emergency accommodation every night. It has opened up an additional 175 extra beds for the winter.

Pat Green, of the Simon Community, said modular homes were not a long-term solution to housing the homeless.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has promised 500 such homes would be provided to temporarily accommodate homeless families. The first 22 of these are scheduled to be in place before Christmas, with another 128 to follow shortly afterwards under a fast-tracked procurement process.

“Modular homes are a short-term measure to move families out of B&Bs and hotels. It is not a long-term solution,” Mr Green said.

“The extra 270 beds last Christmas and the additional 300 promised by December is a short-term measure and it does not solve homelessness. All it does is stop people sleeping rough on the street.”

Mr Green said the State was in a deep emergency crisis response.

‘Not enough’

“The reaction from Government is too little, too late and it is not enough,” said Mr Green.

Tony Geoghegan, chief executive of Merchant’s Quay Ireland Homeless & Drugs Services, said homelessness was not an issue confined to drug users.

Blaming drug users.

“In this homeless crisis there is a tendency to blame it all on drug users as if all the people who are homeless, are homeless because of using drugs. We know that’s not the case,” he said.

“There are over 3,000 people in emergency accommodation, and when people have problems, drug, mental or alcohol problems get filtered down to the bottom. They become the most difficult people to try and get into private or emergency accommodation.”

Mr Geoghegan questioned how people could receive the help they need to treat drug or alcohol issues if they were sleeping on the streets.

“It is untenable for this crisis to keep going on as it is because the numbers are increasing, and it can’t be beyond the wit of the Government if they want to do something about it,” he said.

“Housing is a right. Just because someone has an issue with drugs or alcohol or a mental health problem, that does not mean they should have to sleep on the street. Everyone is entitled to somewhere to live and that’s a basic right.”

Quitting the smokes might be down to our genes,

 A Group at Zhejiang University of Hangzhu in China have identified the  gene that may be linked to quitting smoking.


Development of nicotine dependence is associated with the release of the brain-signalling chemical dopamine, which is also associated with the “reward system” in the brain that drives addiction and pleasure.

January will see the usual round of exhortations to quit smoking, but new research suggests success in kicking the habit may in part depend on your genes.

A group led by Yunlong Ma and colleagues at Zhejiang University of Hangzhu, China, have identified a particular gene that may be associated with quitting smoking.

Their work, published on Tuesday in the Nature Group journal Translational Psychiatry, combines the data from 22 studies involving 9,487 Caucasian people.

They found a gene of interest that comes in several forms, and people with one form are more likely to be able to stop than those with the other forms.

The development of nicotine dependence is associated with the release of the brain-signalling chemical dopamine, which is also associated with the “reward system” in the brain that drives addiction and pleasure.

Dopamine release

For this reason, the researchers targeted a gene, Taq1A, because this gene is involved in dopamine release.

A number of smaller studies examined this link but were “controversial”, the authors say.

Their larger study hoped to find something more definitive and they now believe they can show the gene variant is “significantly associated with smoking cessation”.

Even so, the researchers say their results should be “interpreted with caution due to certain limitations”, for example the person’s use of drugs that might affect the Taq1A association with smoking.

Our sex differences are of one mind after all


MIXED DOUBLES: The volumes (green = large, yellow = small) of brain regions in 42 adults, showing the overlap between the forms that male and female brains can take 
It has long been an accepted mantra that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

But, if you look at the overall structure of the brain, those of both sexes are generally the same, a new study suggests.

Although specific parts show sex differences, an individual brain only rarely has all “male” traits or all “female” traits, researchers say.

The human brain is usually a mixture of the two, with some aspects more common in women, some more common in men, and some common to both. This contradicts the idea that brains can be neatly divided into two sex-based categories, the authors of the research say.

Daphna Joel, of the School of Psychological Sciences, and the Sagol School of Neuroscience at Tel Aviv University, said: “It is a very popular belief, even among scientists, that brains have a male and female form. What we were interested in is looking at the entire brain.

“Even if there are differences, does it mean brains come in two different forms?”

Their research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved taking MRI scans of more than 1400 brains, focusing on anatomy more than how brains work.

They analysed brain features such as tissue thickness and the volumes of different parts of the brain. They focused on traits that showed the biggest sex differences, dividing the scores into a predominantly male zone, a predominantly female zone, and an intermediate range.

Researchers found that it was rare for brains to fall into one of these three distinct categories – only 6% of the brains they examined could be placed in one particular group. It was far more common for an individual brain to score in both the male and female zones.

The researchers used a similar approach to analyse psychological and behavioural scores from two prior studies that covered more than 5000 participants, and again they had similar results.

Overall, the results show that “human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories”, male and female, the researchers concluded.

Larry Cahill, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, who did not participate in the new study, said he agreed that brains contain various combinations of male and female anatomical traits.

But that does not rule out differences in how the brains of the two sexes work, he said.

There is “a mountain of evidence proving the importance of sex influences at all levels of mammalian brain functioning”, he said, adding that evidence shows that sex does matter “even when we are not clear exactly how”.

In the past, scientists have suggested that gender differences emerge only through environmental factors and are not innate.

Neuroscientist Gina Rippon, of Aston University, Birmingham, has said that any differences in brain circuitry come about only through the “drip, drip, drip” of gender stereotyping.

Here’s why the climate change talks in Paris are important to every Irish farmer


147 heads of state and government have descend on Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to take action on climate change.

Central to an agreement will be efforts to limit global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This will be achieved through pledges by the Parties. Next year, individual targets for EU Member States will be agreed within the overall EU target.

To reach this target, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050 and that carbon neutrality (zero emissions) needs to be reached by the end of the century at the latest.

The EU’s contribution to the new agreement will be a binding, economy-wide, domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 40% by 2030.

The target for the EU-wide non-emissions trading sector (NETS), which includes agriculture, will be 30% by 2030, the Department of Agriculture stated.

Why Its Outcome Will Be Important For Farmers

This time around agricultural emissions are set to form part of the debate. This is a major problem for Ireland and in particular for Irish agriculture.

Agriculture Emissions are seen by some as important because they are dominated not by CO₂ but by methane, NO₂, etc, which are so-called “short lived” gases.

Some experts have said that we can get a much faster response – in terms of re-stabilising climate – from reducing agricultural emissions than from CO₂ reductions.

As impacts of climate change become more severe, the pressure to find “fast” interventions will grow, so agricultural emissions will be particularly scrutinised.

Agriculture in Ireland accounts for 32.6% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture makes up 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and the fourth highest sector that contributes to emissions.

An Taisce recently said that the science is clear that “universalising” the “western” dietary mix is not remotely compatible either with global nutrition, global heath, or rapid climate change mitigation.

Should this view win support among the majority of decision makers it may not spell good news for Ireland’s beef and dairy industries which have placed significant hopes in boosting exports to developing countries.

The current view of the Irish Government is that the EU’s policy in relation to climate change and agriculture must do three things to Promote Ireland’s sustainable emission reduction target under the new global target will be part of the overall EU target, according to the Department.


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