News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 29th. January 2016

Irish Labour party promises to slash taxes by a third if returned to power?


The Irish Labour has promised to reduce taxes for workers on €25,000 by as much as a third as part of a €3bn tax reform package if it is returned to power.

Workers on up to €50,000 would also see their taxes reduced by up to 15% under the promised reforms.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin unveiled the tax-cut promise yesterday evening in Mullingar, ahead of Labour’s conference here today.

The plan would put more than €1,000 a year back into the pocket of a worker on €25,000. However, a high earner on €120,000 or more would not see any reductions in their tax obligations.

As part of the pre-election promise, Labour says USC would be abolished on incomes up to €72,000. Workers would also pay less PRSI once their income amounts to less than €704 a week.

Any gains under the changes for higher earners would be clawed back by adjusting their tax.

Announcing the changes, Mr Howlin said the USC was the “most draconian of the charges” introduced during the recession. However, Labour still wanted to keep a broad tax base and would limit reductions.

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Under the proposals, a worker on €25,000 would see joint reductions in USC and PRSI result in a €1,132 saving annually, or €22 per week.

A worker on €50,000 would see €2,043 saved a year or €39 per week . Someone on a salary of €72,000 makes a saving of €3,302 or €63 per week.

Labour stressed that higher earners would see gains clawed back.

Someone on €120,000 might see USC reductions of €3,302 but these would be cancelled out by income tax-related increases.

Mr Howlin also responded to calls for the next government to have a “rainy day” fund, saying that Labour had financial plans, though this was an unallocated amount, if Ireland faced future economic challenges.

The minister would not be drawn though on what exactly these funds were, or how much.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council yesterday warned that the projections for increased spending by the next government were incorrect, and were several billion euro short of what was being promised by parties wanting to be in government.

With just days to go before the expected announcement of the election, Labour TDs and delegates will today discuss jobs and healthcare, among other issues, before party leader Joan Burton gives the main address at the conference tonight.

Minister Lynch rows back on inquiry into a contentious HSE sexual abuse case

Circumstance involves woman allegedly abused in southeast care home


Kathleen Lynch: “The setting up of a commission of inquiry would require a Government decision and a vote by the Oireachtas.”

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch has pulled back from apparently conceding that a commission of inquiry should take place into how the HSE handled allegations of serious sexual abuse at a foster home in the southeast.

In a statement last night she said serious consideration must be given before any decision was made about establishing a commission of inquiry to look at all aspects of what happened.

The Minister with responsibility for social care said a definitive judgment on this should not be made in advance of seeing a report by barrister Conor Dignam who she formally appointed on December 7th to undertake a review of two reports already completed on the matter.

“The setting up of a commission of inquiry would require a Government decision and a vote by the Oireachtas,” said Ms Lynch.

The Minister pointed out that, on first hearing of this matter in April 2014, her immediate concern was to ensure that no person was currently at risk. She received that assurance and was informed that no new admissions had been made to this private foster home since 1995, with the last resident being removed in 2009.

“The critical question of why this young vulnerable person was left in the foster home until 2009, even though the most serious concerns had been raised about her, remains the central issue.

“It is important to note that the Devine and Resilience Ireland reports, once published, may answer some of the questions that currently remain unanswered.

“The ongoing Garda investigation since 2010 has prevented publication of these two reports. It has not, however, prevented the HSE from implementing the recommendations in the Conal Devine report including a national foster care audit, which is welcome.”

In relation to the controversy about the issuing of an apology to this vulnerable person, Ms Lynch said the confusion and lack of clarity was very regrettable, and that it was important now to clearly establish the facts of what had occurred.

An in-depth investigation?

Earlier yesterday, in a radio interview, Ms Lynch said an independent inquiry into the issue might be required. She said that when she received correspondence from the Public Accounts Committee she had commissioned a “desktop review” by Mr Dignam.

Ms Lynch told RTÉ’s News at One that, after this review, Mr Dignam had suggested a more in-depth investigation take place. “I have never ruled out an independent inquiry and I do believe that’s where we are heading,” she said.

The controversy centres on how an 11-year-old girl with disabilities was placed in a foster home, despite the facility being subject to serious sex abuse allegations.

During the week the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) accused the HSE of lying to it in correspondence last December when it said a meeting had been arranged at which the alleged victim of over a decade of abuse in the foster home was to receive an apology.

HSE director general Tony O’Brien yesterday promised to give a comprehensive answer to PAC on Tuesday. Mr O’Brien said he had asked the HSE’s social care division to look very carefully at the accusations so it could “get to the bottom of it” and give a comprehensive answer to the committee.

Minister Donohoe refuses to rule out Fine Gael relying on Lowry to support a new Government

High Court found Tipperary TD engaged ‘a litany of falsification and deception’


The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly said he rarely saw the Tipperary TD Michael Lowry in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has again declined to rule out the possibility of relying on Independent TD Michael Lowry for support to form a coalition government.

Speaking on Thursday, following a High Court ruling that dismissed the former minister’s appeal against a decision by the Moriarty Tribunal to only award him one-third of his legal costs, Mr Donohoe said the Government’s position was that it did not want to have to do a deal with any independents after the general election.

Reports last week suggested that initial talks had been held by Fine Gael with a number of Independents , including the TD from Tipperary, about the possibility of supporting the next government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has repeatedly declined to rule out the possibility of a post-election agreement with Mr Lowry.

On Wednesday, the High Court found that Mr Lowry engaged in “a litany of falsification and deception” – including the falsification of a solicitor’s files – in his failure to co-operate with the tribunal.

On Thursday Eoghan Murphy, The Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, said he is not contemplating requesting the support of Independents. Mr Murphy said he agreed with Taoiseach’s belief that returning the Fine-Gael and LabourCoalition was the best option for the country.

Earlier in the week, Fine Gael Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagansaid his party should not deal with any Independents, while Labour Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly launched an attack on Mr Lowry, saying he rarely saw the TD in either the Dáil or their shared constituency.

Mr Kelly said he did not believe it would be necessary to do any business with Independent TDs after the general election. “My ambition is to see this Government re-elected and I believe it will be re-elected,” he said.

Asked what his objection to Mr Lowry was, Mr Kelly said: “I don’t pay much attention to Deputy Lowry. I note I rarely ever see him in the constituency and I rarely ever see him in the Dáil, so I don’t pay much attention to him whatsoever.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton of Labour said earlier in the week that she believed Mr Lowry’s involvement in supporting the next government was “not appropriate”.

Our attitudes to ageing are impacting on our health

Negativity linked to poorer cognition.


How people feel about ageing appears to have a direct impact on their health, a new Irish research has shown.

According to the findings, those with a negative attitude to ageing have poorer mental and physical health.

The research was based on the latest data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) in Trinity College Dublin. TILDA is an ongoing study of people over the age of 50 in Ireland.

The study found that over a two-year period, those with a positive attitude to ageing had better cognitive abilities. However, those with a negative attitude had worse cognitive abilities and a slower walking speed.

These results stood even when others factors were taken into account, such as health changes which took place during the two years, medication, mood and other changes in life circumstances.

The study also found that a negative attitude towards ageing affected the interaction of different health conditions. The researchers pointed out that frail older adults have an increased risk of many health problems, including cognitive issues.

However, they found that among participants in this study, frail adults with a negative attitude had worse cognition compared to non-frail participants, but frail participants with a positive attitude had the same cognitive abilities as their non-frail peers.

“The way we think about, talk about and write about ageing may have direct effects on health. Everyone will grow older and if negative attitudes towards ageing are carried throughout life, they can have a detrimental, measurable effect on mental, physical and cognitive health,” commented lead researcher, Dr Deirdre Robertson.

How our plastic planet waste is the scourge of the whole World

Scientists warn that the ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming


Humans have made enough plastic since the Second World War to coat the Earth entirely in cling film, an international study has revealed.

This ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming, say scientists – for it confirms that human activities are now having a pernicious impact on our world.

The research, published in the journal Anthropocene, shows that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste.

Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps. The impact is often highly damaging.

“The results came as a real surprise,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, of Leicester University.

“We were aware that humans have been making increasing amounts of different kinds of plastic – from Bakelite to polyethylene bags to PVC – over the last 70 years, but we had no idea how far it had travelled round the planet. It turns out not just to have floated across the oceans, but has sunk to the deepest parts of the sea floor. This is not a sign that our planet is in a healthy condition either.”

Marker for a new epoch?

The crucial point about the study’s findings is that the appearance of plastic should now be considered as a marker for a new epoch.

Zalasiewicz is the chairman of a group of geologists assessing whether or not humanity’s activities have tipped the planet into a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, which ended the Holocene that began around 12,000 years ago.

Humans causing catastrophic ecosystem shifts: study.

The hot topic of climate change.

World’s oceans clogged by millions of tonnes of plastic trash.

Most members of Zalasiewicz’s committee believe the Anthropocene has begun and this month published a paper in Science in which they argued that several postwar human activities show our species is altering geology.

In particular, radioactive isotopes released by atom bombs left a powerful signal in the ground that will tell future civilisations that something strange was going on.

In addition, increasing carbon dioxide in the oceans, the massive manufacture of concrete and the widespread use of aluminium were also highlighted as factors that indicate the birth of the Anthropocene. Lesser environmental impacts, including the rising use of plastics, were also mentioned in passing.

But Zalasiewicz argues that the humble plastic bag and plastic drink container play a far greater role in changing the planet than has been realised.

“Just consider the fish in the sea,” he said. “A vast proportion of them now have plastic in them. They think it is food and eat it, just as seabirds feed plastic to their chicks. Then some of it is released as excrement and ends up sinking on to the seabed. The planet is slowly being covered in plastic.”

In total, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is manufactured every year, states the paper, The Geological Cycle of Plastics and Their Use as a Stratigraphic Indicator of the Anthropocene.

“In 1950, we virtually made none at all. It is an incredible rise,” added Zalasiewicz. “That annual total of 300 million tonnes is close to the weight of the entire human population of the planet. And the figure for plastic manufacture is only going to grow. The total amount of plastic produced since the Second World War is around 5 billion tonnes and is very likely to reach 30 billion by the end of the century. The impact will be colossal.”

As the paper makes clear, plastic is already on the ocean floor, remote islands, buried underground in landfill sites and in the food chain.

Even the polar regions, generally considered still to be pristine zones, are becoming affected. In 2014, researchers found “significant” amounts of plastic granules frozen in the Arctic Sea, having been swept there from the Pacific Ocean.

In some cases, wildlife adapts to the spread of plastic. For example, on islands such as Diego Garcia, hermit crabs have taken to using plastic bottles as homes. However, most of the impact on wildlife is harmful.

Creatures ranging from seabirds to turtles become entangled in plastic and drown or choke to death. “The trouble is that plastic is very slow to degrade, so we are going to be stuck with this problem for a long time,” said Zalasiewicz.


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