News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 15th March 2016

Fine Gael waiting on Fianna Fáil to see if they are serious or just tactical on forming a Government

It seems inevitable that the two big parties will have to talk to one another

      

Micheál Martin TD, leader of Fianna Fáil, and acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael.

“The music has started, but nobody wants to dance yet,” was the verdict of one senior Fine Gael figure on the process of government formation that has been stuttering into life over the past 10 days and will continue this week in a quiet Leinster House.

All sides say the process will eventually move to a more decisive phase; all agree that it’s not there yet.

Everyone says a government will be formed eventually, but they do not know who will do it, or how.

Ultimately, it seems inevitable Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have to talk to one another – if not about a grand coalition, then about the conditions under which a minority government led by either party would function.

Neither side – especially Fianna Fáil – is ready for that stage yet.

But politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. And so a process of talks between both parties and the Independents and smaller parties will recommence in Leinster House today to explore common policy positions, to build relationships, and – frankly – to give people something to do, and something to talk about.

But even those who are engaged in the process know it is unlikely to be decisive, one way or another.

One Fine Gael Minister insists he and his colleagues are trying to win votes for Enda Kenny to be elected Taoiseach and the more common ground his party can establish with Independents and small parties, the greater the chance that Kenny can put together a minority administration.

But equally, he acknowledges Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will have to strike some agreement if a minority administration is feasible. Jobs Minister Richard Bruton acknowledged the same thing on Monday.

Crucially, the Dáil numbers say the same thing. The formation of a Coalition is a process whose parameters are defined in the first instance by the numbers.

Fianna Fáil’s 43 votes (44 minus Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Feargháil) and Fine Gael’s 51 votes (50 plus Michael Lowry) are so far away from a bare Dáil majority of 79 that, even if this week’s talks with Independents and small parties were to deliver all the votes around the table for either Micheal Martin or Enda Kenny, the two men would still need to talk to one another.

One Independent TD who is not part of the talks summed up this mathematical fact succinctly when asked about his fellow Independents’ contacts with the two big parties: “Sure there’s not enough of them.”

All of this means the talks in Leinster House this week take place in a somewhat unreal atmosphere. The big parties have so far been solicitous, but noncommittal. That will probably continue.

“I thought that at this stage we would be down to concrete things – we need this done in six months, and that legislation passed, and so on. But we’re nowhere near that,” says one Independent participant. “The lack of a sense of urgency from both parties is striking.”

Another participant says the engagement on policy issues with the Fine Gael representatives has been very good. “But I don’t think they’re really trying to get our votes on April 6th.”

That process is unlikely to happen until after the Dáil meets on April 6th, and fails once again to elect a Taoiseach, as all sides expect.

The process will then enter a new and — perhaps more urgent – phase.

At that stage, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will probably have to be a bit clearer on their intentions.

Right now Fine Gael is waiting to see if Fianna Fáil is serious or merely tactical in ruling out a grand coalition. One senior party source summarises the current approach. “Be nice to Fianna Fáil. Let them get this, ‘we won the election’ stuff out of their system. And then we’ll talk to them in a month.”

Irish employees are the fourth happiest in the world  “A new study states”

Dublin workers rank as the happiest in Europe as Colombia tops the global list

    

Dublin came top for employee happiness in Europe, beating London, Stockholm, Rome and Madrid.

Irish employees are among the happiest in the world, according to a new survey which ranks Ireland fourth place globally and Dublin coming first among cities in Europe.

The survey of 35 countries ranks Colombia top for job happiness, followed by Mexico, Russia and Ireland. China is in last place.

Dublin came top for employee happiness in Europe, beating London, Stockholm, Rome and Madrid.

The study, conducted by recruitment website Indeed. com, shows that demographic appear to impact on performance with countries that have more older employees among the unhappiest.

Japan, where the median age in 45, ranked 26th in the survey, while Germany, with a median age of 46, came in 27th place. Ireland’s median age is 36 years, while the overall winner, Colombia, had a median age of just 28.

The top ranking jobs for happiness in Ireland included carpenter, builder, secretary and childcare assistant.

“Those concerned about the prospects of Ireland continuing to attract foreign direct investment should be reassured by the findings of the index, which indicate that Ireland has the happiest workforce in Europe which is an attractive feature for any company looking at setting up here,” said Mariano Mamertino, an economist working for Indeed.

The study was based on an analysis of five different elements contributing to job happiness, namely: work-life balance, quality of management, office culture, job security and advancement, and compensation and benefits.

Irish teens some of the least able to talk to parents about problems that bother them

     

Irish teenagers are among the least able to talk to their parents about problems that interest or bother them and many feel they do not have high levels of family support.

Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found just 42% of Irish 11-year-olds, 33% of 13-year-olds, and 23% of 15-year-olds enjoyed a high quality of communication within their family.

The study of 42 countries and regions, including EU member states, places Ireland fourth from bottom in terms of young people feeling high levels of family support, with the only notable exception being that girls tend to feel more supported the more affluent their family.

It says the number of Irish children having family meals is below average, with 54% of 11-year-olds having dinner daily with one or both parents, falling to 49% for the 13-year-olds and 42% of the 15-year-olds. At breakfast, the rate falls further to 31% at age 11; 19% at age 13; and just 13% at age 15.

The study is the latest in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) research project, which is updated every four years.

It questioned more than 219,000 children aged 11,13, and 15 years, including 4,000 from Ireland, on a range of health-related subjects including diet, exercise, mood, social media use, smoking, drinking, and sex, and analysed the results for trends relating to age, gender, and family wealth.

Ireland was ranked 15th out of the 42 countries for family affluence and had one of the highest proportions of non-nationals among the interview group with 69% of the children being Irish-born to Irish parents; 17% Irish-born to one or two non-Irish parents; and 14% being first-generation immigrants who were born abroad.

The group had one of the highest rates of traditional family type, with 77% of the children living with both parents; 16% living with a single parent; and 6% living in a stepfamily.

They were among the most active texters, but had below-average daily computer use and gaming time. However, they also reported suffering some of the highest levels of cyberbullying.

The proportion classed as overweight or obese was about average: 17% of 11-year-olds, 14% of 13-year-olds, and 15% of 15-year-olds.

There was a marked decrease in mental wellbeing the older the children were, with 16% of 11-year-olds reporting having trouble sleeping more than once a week, rising to 28% at age 15.

At age 11, 10% reported feeling nervous more than once a week. This also rose to 28% by age 15, and while 6% of 11-year-olds said they felt low at least once a week, the same was true for 23% of 15-year-olds.

The Irish group ranked average for exercise levels, better than average for daily vegetable consumption, and below average for alcohol intake and smoking.

Researchers from the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway were among the international team compiling the study, which will be published in full today.

The team said many patterns of behaviour established during adolescence would continue through adult life so it was essential for policymakers to know how to cultivate good habits and understand how gender, age, and affluence influenced outcomes.

“Increased attention to, and more investment in, programmes that support positive parenting during adolescence are necessary,” said the team.

Sligo-Fest celebrates it’s 15 years of Irish tradition

Festival is on next Saturday 19th @ 11 a.m.

    

Sligo-Fest began in 2001 and in the past 15 years has grown to a St. Patrick’s Day tradition in Sligo and surrounding areas. Hundreds of people attend each year to enjoy Irish fare, crafts, music and fellowship.

In 2001, the old Sligo School, which the community uses as a multi-purpose building, was in need of repair. Sligo United Methodist Church, which stands adjacent to the school, was also in need of repair and funds were limited. A fundraising project was born.

“Since Sligo originated from the Sligo Furnace Company from Sligo, Ireland, we took the theme of St. Patrick’s Day. Starting with 50 pounds of corn beef and 10 pounds of cabbage, we prayed that people would show up and help us,” said Vivian Fritzinger, a longtime organizer and volunteer.

The first year saw about 50 people attend. It took two additional years to raise enough money to begin work on the buildings.

The rest is history, as each year more and more people return to SligoFest. The group now prepares 200 pounds of corn beef, on average, for about 300 people. Craft booths and entertainment line the area between the two buildings. Featured musicians are Kathy Summers, of Bourbon, and her old time country, gospel, and bluegrass fiddle music; and John Ross and Ross Reed, known as Ross and Ross, who provide a variety of guitar and trombone music.

With the help of some of the men in the community and the church, funds raised from the annual event have been used for a variety of projects, including remodeling the kitchen into a nice, workable area to accommodate the large menu each year.

About six years ago, Gavin Walsh, Sligo, Ireland, began writing a book on the Sligos in the U.S. About 12 or 13 were present, with some no longer called Sligo. Walsh has attended three SligoFests and hopes to be present for the 15th anniversary this year.

“Aside from the food and crafts and music SligoFest is a time for everyone to enjoy some of the history of Sligo. The school walls have pictures of the history of Sligo Furnace Company and many of the visitors have come to SligoFest as a homecoming,” said Fritzinger.

The event is held 18 miles north of Salem, off Highway 19. Turn on Hwy. TT and follow the signs. Music and craft booths begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and the meal is served from noon until 4 p.m., or until the food is gone. On the menu is corned beef and cabbage, Reuben sandwiches, and desserts.

“SligoFest has weathered many changes over the years and we have swept snow off the porch and people have graciously come. Last year there was the fear of high water and I spent the night on the west side of the creek so that I could be there to help in the morning. This year the 100 Acre Wood Road Rally will be out our way, and we invite everyone to enjoy the rally then come and visit SligoFest,” said Fritzinger.

Oldest known Neanderthal DNA reveals clues to their origins

      
Researchers have sequenced the oldest Neanderthal DNA yet discovered, adding another layer of complexity to an emerging understanding of these ancient humans.The oldest Neanderthal DNA yet has been extracted and studied, highlighting the shift among anthropologists away from seeing Neanderthals as primitive humans.

The DNA comes from 28 individuals found inside a Spanish cave, which anthropologists believe is home to a 400,000-year-old burial site. The researchers’ findings from the site, called Sima de los Huesos,appeared Monday in the journal Nature.

“Sima de los Huesos is currently the only non-permafrost site that allow[s] us to study DNA sequences from the Middle Pleistocene, the time period preceding 125,000 years ago,” Matthias Meyer of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and lead author said in a press release.

Dr. Meyer praised the care taken in removing the samples from the cave, as technology had not yet advanced sufficiently for the limited DNA to be sequenced. The analysis of their mitochondrial DNA, obtained from a tooth, shoulder blade, and femur, revealed a relationship between the individuals and the Denisovans, an extinct Neanderthal group in Asia, wrote Ewen Callaway in an accompanying commentary.

“It’s fascinating and keeps us all on our toes trying to make sense of it all,” Chris Stringer, a palaeoanthropologist at the Natural History Museum in London, told Nature. “Instead of just being stuck with trying to resolve the last 100,000 years, we can really start to put some dates from DNA further down the human tree.”

The study sheds light on where different lineages may have diverged – and how long ago such divergences may have occurred.

“DNA sequences of the [Sima de los Huesos] hominins diverged more than twice as far back along the lineage from the Altai Neanderthal genome to its ancestor shared with the Denisovan genome than DNA sequences of the Late Pleistocene Neanderthals from Europe and the Caucasus,” according to the study.

This study deepens understanding of Neanderthal history, but it also comes amid a growing shift in anthropological thought. A series of such finds are leading scientists to reject their original view that Neanderthals were very primitive ancestral humans.

“The evidence for cognitive inferiority is simply not there,” Paola Villa, Colorado University-Boulder researcher and co-author of a 2014 paper on the cognitive abilities of Neanderthals, said in a press release. “What we are saying is that the conventional view of Neanderthals is not true.”

Anthropologists are shifting our popular stereotype of an underdeveloped, even crass, Neanderthal as they discover more about these ancient humans’ capabilities, Sudeshna Chowdhury wrote for The Christian Science Monitor:

Microfossils found in their teeth show that Neanderthals had a diverse diet that included aquatic foods, small and fast game such as birds and rabbits, date palms, and grass seeds.

Recent information available on “Neandertal use of ochre and manganese as well as on Neandertal production of pitch, the presence of transported and ochre-smeared shells, of ornaments such as eagle claws and perhaps bird feathers,” goes to show that they had cultural rituals.

The earliest efforts to sequence the Neanderthal genome concluded in 2010 and suggested, as The Christian Science Monitor’s Pete Spotts wrote, “We have met Neanderthals, and they are us – or about 1 to 4 percent of each of us.” The genome, then only 60 percent complete, provided evidence that Neanderthals mated with human ancestors, thus preserving parts of the same genome that researchers found in a state of ancient preservation in Sima de los Huesos, Spain.

Since then, scientists have suggested that Neanderthals’ intelligence led them to create art. Controversial evidence emerged in 2012 that paintings in another Spanish cave were too old to be the product of ancient Homo sapiens, Seth Borenstein wrote for the Associated Press. Although conflict exists among researchers, Neanderthals may have even created sculpture.

Such paintings are “one of the most exquisite examples of human symbolic behavior,” Joao Zilhao, an anthropologist at the University of Barcelona, told the AP. “And that, that’s what makes us human.”

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