News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Thursday 3rd December 2015

White Paper to address concerns over Ireland’s wind power

Minister Alex White denies ministerial rift with Alan Kelly over wind turbine regulations


Minister for Energy Alex White warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have on the issue

The Government’s White Paper on energy will be published next week and will address “tension” between energy policy and the “genuine concern” local communities have about wind turbines, according to the Minister for Energy.

Alex White also warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have.

They had to match that to “what we need to do as a country to have a renewable energy policy that meets the challenges of the future”.

Mr White has denied a ministerial rift between himself and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly over draft wind energy guidelines, published two years ago but still not decided on. A final decision had been expected in 2014.

The guidelines deal with turbine size, their shadow flicker, noise levels and the setback distance from dwellings. Planning applications for wind turbines are currently operating on guidelines from 2006.

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy had asked if talks between himself and Mr Kelly had broken down.

He said Mr Kelly favoured a distance of between 600m and 1.5km from dwellings but that Mr White was on record in disagreeing with long distances from housing because it would wipe out onshore wind energy in Ireland.

Mr White insisted: “Nothing has broken down between Ministers in relation to it. The departments are continuing to consider what would be the best set of guidelines. But we have guidelines in place at the moment.”

The Minister said there was a good argument to make the guidelines statutory with a very strong case for changing them to deal with the issue of noise and shadow flicker.

However, he said “the issue of having a setback distance that’s unconnected to the issue of noise or shadow flicker is more problematic in my view and I’ve been very honest about that.

“If we put in place a setback distance of the kind some people are advocating, it would wipe out onshore wind in this country as a renewable.”

International best practice

Mr Troy said Fianna Fáil had published its alternative policy and had visitedDenmark to consult the experts in a country that is held up for international best practice.

He said Denmark had moved away from onshore to offshore wind energy. His party was committed to meeting the European Union targets but the wind issue was one of huge concern.

“It might not be a big issue in the centre of Dublin but it is in my constituency of Longford-Westmeath,” he said in reference to Mr White’s Dublin South constituency.

Confirming the White Paper would be published next week, Mr White said a central element would be addressing the genuine tension between what needed to be done with renewable energy and the genuine concerns of citizens.

New draft provisions to regulate wind energy were published two years ago, which included noise limits of 40 decibels and a setback distance of 500m.

Over 3,500 HSE public patients waiting three months for colonoscopy

Irish Cancer Society warns disease will have advanced in some due to delay in diagnosis


More than 3,500 public patients have been waiting at least three months for a colonoscopy. Private patients can access the test within 12 days.

Some of the 3,510 patients currently waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy will have a cancer that may have advanced because diagnosis was delayed, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.

The number of patients waiting that long for the test peaked in October at 4,235 before dropping back to 3,510 by the end of November. This is an increase of 954 people on the same time last year.

The society said that colonoscopy waiting times are unacceptable and highlight the health gap between those who can pay and those who cannot. Private patients can access the test within 12 days.

The consequence of a person waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy could be that if they have bowel cancer, it may be diagnosed at a later stage. This means that there may be fewer treatment options available than if it had been caught earlier and the treatment prescribed could be more invasive. The survival rates also decrease the later the stage of the cancer at diagnosis.

“The Irish Cancer Society is deeply concerned by the large number of people waiting longer than three months for a colonoscopy,” the society said. “The HSE is a long way off meeting its target of performing 100 per cent of colonoscopies within 13 weeks.

“Currently, 41 per cent of patients are waiting longer than three months for the cancer test. The tragic reality is that we can expect some colorectal [bowel] cancers to be diagnosed when the patients on waiting lists eventually receive their colonoscopy.”


The organisation’s head of advocacy Kathleen O’Meara added that long-term solutions were required to solve the ongoing issues and called for investment to ensure enough radiographers and gastroenterologists were working in Irish hospitals.

“We also want GPs to have clear guidelines for when they should refer a patient for a colonoscopy and when another investigation is better suited,” she said.

“Additionally, we are hopeful that hospitals working within the same hospital group will co-ordinate their colonoscopy workloads so that a situation where endoscopy suites in one hospital are under-utilised while a hospital in the same group is overburdened, is avoided.”

The November waiting list figures show an overall drop of 725 patients in the past month. “It is certainly a move in the right direction but given no one should be waiting more than 13 weeks and the fact that there are still 3,510 public patients waiting more than this time, the drop needs to continue and the underlying problem solved,” Ms O’Meara said.

Separately, research from the Lancet Oncology shows the price of new cancer drugs varies by 28 per cent to 388 per cent between high-income countries in Europe and Oceania .

The study reveals that overall the UK and Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal pay the lowest average unit manufacturer prices for a group of 31 originator cancer drugs (new drugs under patent), whereas Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany pay the highest prices.

The trial of mother for cruelty to eight children collapses

Jury told technical difficulties were to blame as video link evidence had not been recorded


The trial of a mother who faces charges of cruelty and neglect towards eight of her children (Not the above family) over a six-year period has collapsed due to technical difficulties at Galway courthouse.

It was discovered late on Wednesday evening that a live video link facility, which was used to allow a child give evidence from another room in the courthouse that afternoon, was not recording her evidence to the trial.

Judge Karen O’Connor explained to the jury on Thursday morning that, by law, evidence heard by video-link “shall” be recorded, but unfortunately, in this case, she said, this did not occur in relation to the girl’s evidence on Wednesday afternoon.

Judge O’Connor said she had no alternative but to discharge the jury “with regret”.

She told jurors a new trial will begin with a new jury in due course.

Judge O’Connor then listed the case for trial on January 12th.

The woman, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the children, pleaded not guilty to 44 charges before Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

The charges include child cruelty by wilfully assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting, or abandoning the children, or causing or allowing the children to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to their health or well-being.

The offences, contrary to section 246 (1) and (2) of the Children Act 2001, are said to have occurred on dates between September 1st, 2006, and May 12th, 2011.

Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, told the jury on Wednesday some of the children would be giving their evidence for the prosecution by either live videolink from a separate room in the courthouse or, in the case of the younger ones, by previously taped interviews with specially-trained Garda interviewers.

Physical abuse

Mr Costelloe said it would be the prosecution case that after the children were taken into care in May 2011, and were placed with foster parents, they began to tell of how their mother physically abused them over the years.

They recounted stories of how she used to assault them with wooden spoons, a leather belt and a bamboo back-scratcher, and hit their heads off the furniture. She would also pour washing-up liquid down their throats if they said a bad word.

Two of the boys recalled their mother threw them out of her car one day because they were messing and had spilled icecream in the back seat. They said she then drove the car at them and they had to jump up on a hedge to avoid being hit.

The eldest child gave evidence by videolink telling the court “she was not a proper mother”.

“She abandoned her children,” the girl said. The girl said that when her mother started drinking sessions in the house it would always end in violence for the children. “There would be violence towards me too. My mother came home from a concert once very drunk … her partner told her I said a bad word and my mother dragged me off the couch by my hair. She dragged me into the kitchen and put my face down into the sink.

“She started to choke me and she began filling the sink with water to drown me – just because of one word,” the girl said.

She recalled her mother leaving the home to go drinking around the time of her 14th birthday. She said the mother returned home the next day and slapped her across the face while saying “that is your birthday present”.

Urgent need now to educate Irish youth as HIV cases skyrocket


Deirdre Seery (above left), Cork Sexual Health Clinic, said a new generation of young people had not been targeted by safety campaigns.

A marked rise in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV has prompted calls for new information campaigns and a nationwide introduction of free test kits.

So far this year, there have been 427 new cases of HIV, compared to 342 this time last year, figures from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre show.

The statistics were discussed yesterday as part of a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee, held to mark World Aids Day.

“The age group of people most at risk of HIV is getting younger,” said Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “There is a real and urgent need to educate a new generation of young people, and young gay and bisexual men in particular, about HIV and the importance of knowing your HIV status.”

r Brady tsaid that, since 2005, the number of gay men diagnosed with HIV had increased by 210%.

“It is clear from the latest figures that HIV remains an issue of critical concern for gay and bisexual men,” he said. “The figures for 2015 show that gay and bisexual men are the group most likely to acquire HIV.”

CEO of the Cork Sexual Health Clinic, Deirdre Seery, called for a rise in rapid, free, community-based tests and new information campaigns.

“There are new, younger generations of people becoming HIV positive who would not have been exposed to the old safer sex and safer drug use campaigns,” she said.

Also yesterday, Health Minister Leo Varadkar unveiled HIV Ireland, formerly the Dublin Aids Alliance.

“This rebranding is a positive step which can only build on all the good work the organisation has performed so far,” he said, adding the Government would pilot a rapid HIV test service.

“Early detection allows treatment to start early, it minimises the long-term health implications, and reduces potential new infections,” he said.

Taller or bigger people might live shorter lives, according to scientific research


Bad news for big people – you might have a shorter lifespan than your smaller counterparts, research suggests.

A new study on wild house sparrows showed how changes in DNA that are linked to ageing and lifespan take place as body size gets bigger.

The research centred on telomeres, a special DNA structure which all animals, including humans, have at the ends of their chromosomes and are said to function like “the protective plastic caps at the end of shoelaces”.

Who needs such a good view anyway?

Growing a bigger body means cells divide more and part of our telomeres are eroded, making cells and tissues function less well, researchers say. So, you may be able to reach the milk at the back of the top shelf at the supermarket, tall people, but your DNA isn’t happy about it.

The study, conducted jointly by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine and the Centre of Biodiversity Dynamics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that skeletally bigger house sparrows had shorter telomeres.

Pat Monaghan, regius professor of zoology at the University of Glasgow, who supervised telomere analysis, said: “The reason why the bigger individuals have shorter telomeres might also be related to increased DNA damage due to growing faster. Being big can have advantages, of course, but this study shows that it can also have costs.”

Those tiny birds have nothing to worry about, really (Tomas Belka/

Thor Harald Ringsby, associate professor in population ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said: “The results from this study are very exciting and broad-reaching. It is especially interesting that we obtained these results in a natural population.

“The reduction in telomere size that followed the increase in body size suggests one important mechanism that limits body size evolution in wild animal populations.”

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal. The study was funded by the European Research Council and the Research Council of Norway.



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