News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 16th March 2016

The ESRI says mortgage rules should be modified to increase & build more Irish houses


The ESRI says the number of mortgages in negative equity have fallen below 100,000 for the first time since 2008

The Economic and Social Research Institute has said the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules should be modified to ensure more housing is built.

However, it also recommends that a modified rule would work to prevent an oversupply of housing, as happened during the last decade.

The ESRI supports the Macro Prudential rules the Central Bank introduced to reduce house price inflation and stop risky lending practices.

But it argues the policy should be implemented by a different type of rule that would ease borrowing requirements under certain conditions – such as now – and tighten them up if there were signs of trouble.

In particular it argues that the housing supply situation should be an explicit factor in setting lending loan-to-value and loan-to-income rules.

With housing supply not expected to meet the annual demand of 25,000 new units until 2018, the ESRI thinks tough rules now could hold back the supply of houses and apartments.

But it thinks the rules should automatically become harder, choking off credit, if there was a danger that builders started to produce more homes than the market could handle, as happened in the middle of the last decade

In its latest quarterly economic commentary the ESRI also says the number of mortgages in negative equity have now fallen below 100,000 for the first time since 2008.

It expects the economy to grow by around 5% this year.

ESRI Associate Research Professor Kieran McQuinn said the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules have had a tempering effect on house price inflation.

However, he also said the rules also had a negative on housing supply.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland he said: “Certainly those measures in principle will have an effect on house price inflation but they will also have an impact on housing supply.

“In fact they would, if you like, result in a further contraction of housing supply or they would restrict the growth of housing supply because of the impact that they have.”

He said we do not have enough supply at the moment and a broader view needs to be taken when looking at the Central Bank measures.

Ireland’s two bumper weeks ahead will see tourist’s spend up to €150m


Fáilte Ireland expects a significant increase in travellers from abroad for the festivities, and says a price tag cannot be put on the economic impact made from the publicity the country will receive for both St Patrick’s Day and the Easter Rising Commemorations the following week

Ireland will be “front and centre” across the globe over the next two weeks with more than 370,000 people expected to descend on the country for the St Patrick’s Festival alone.

Fáilte Ireland expects a significant increase in travellers from abroad for the festivities, and says a price tag cannot be put on the economic impact made from the publicity the country will receive for both St Patrick’s Day and the Easter Rising Commemorations the following week.

Some 125,000 tourists are anticipated to arrive into the country, with another 250,000 Irish coming home for the weekend.

Among the droves of visitors will be close to 150,000 adults, according to estimates by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

This would bring at least €100m to the economy but could reach as high as €150m, a spokesman for the chamber told the Irish Independent.

“There’s a fantastic mix with the weather, Scotland coming over for the rugby, and the Easter Rising commemorations, so it’d be a very good couple of weeks without factoring in Paddy’s Day,” he said.

“A conservative estimate would be €100m – but having a look at recent years, there will be 150,000 adults in the country and they’re probably going to spend an average of €700 while they’re here.

“It’s pretty good numbers and it’s good for the economy. It’s going to be a bumper couple of weeks,” he added.

The visitor spend will spread across hotels, pubs, shops and tourists attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol.

Fáilte Ireland’s Alex Connolly told the Irish Independent that the Emerald Isle would be the “envy of the world” over the coming weeks.

“Ireland is going to be front and centre across the world,” Mr Connolly said.

“It’s going to be an intense few weeks of tourism, with a very large footfall coming in from overseas.

“Paddy’s Day is a global calling card and I don’t think any country in the world has a day like this – everybody has an aspiration to be Irish.

“However, it’s impossible to quantify the impact of the commemorations because it’s never happened before.”

It is expected that close to 650,000 people will line Dublin’s streets for the centrepiece of the festival, tomorrow’s parade.

Nurses to be hired “as matter of urgency” to reduce HSE emergency department overcrowding

The decision was made at the Workplace relations Commission today.


Recruitment is to begin for new nurses in an effort to stem the current emergency department crisis.

The agreement was made during crisis talks at the Workplace Relations Commission involving the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) and the HSE/Department of Health.

Overcrowding has been an ongoing issue for Irish hospitals, with an ED taskforce being convened by the Department of Health to deal with the situation.

Late last year, new rules introduced a “zero tolerance” policy towards patients waiting more than nine hours to be seen.

The first review of the Emergency Department agreement to ease overcrowding took place today, where the HSE and Department reaffirmed their absolute commitment to implement all strands of the agreement.

The INMO said that at the meeting today, management reaffirmed:

  • The need for senior management and clinicians, at hospital and group level, to meet on a weekly basis with INMO Emergency Department representatives to monitor and review the 24/7 operation of the agreement and the escalation policy
  • That all nursing posts which are vacant – and other posts required to deal with admitted patients – either in Emergency Departments or on wards, will be advertised and filled as a matter of urgency
  • Discussions will begin next week on the establishment of the taskforce on nurse staffing in Emergency Departments

“That’s critical in terms of safe practice for our members, manageable workload for our members, and safe care for the patients presenting,” said INMO General Secretary Liam Doran.

The WRC has also agreed to meet again with the parties on Friday 15 April.

Doran said that the INMO is satisfied that the HSE/Department of Health remain fully committed to implementing all aspects of the Emergency Department agreement to ease overcrowding.

“The INMO will now meet directly with the Department of Health/HSE, on Monday, to finalise circulars with regard to the implementation of these critically important issues,” said Doran.

Innovative new lung transplant procedure takes place at Mater Hospital Dublin

Development means donor organs previously classed unsuitable now safe for recipients


The new lung transplant recipient Leigh Bagnall {above left), with her consultant thoracic lung transplant surgeon M/s Karen Redmond at the Mater hospital in Dublin on Wednesday.

Surgeons at the Mater hospital in Dublin have performed an innovative new lung transplant procedure on a woman with cystic fibrosis, making it the first such operation of its kind in the country.

Leigh Bagnall (20), from Drogheda, Co Louth, received donor lungs which were reconditioned outside her body before transplant to improve the quality of the organs.

Known as ex vivo lung perfusion transplantation (EVLP), the procedure makes donor lungs previously classed as unsuitable safe for transplant. It was performed by consultant thoracic and lung transplant surgeon Karen Redmond and her team.

The Mater hospital said the conversion rate for lungs that are successfully reconditioned and transplanted using the procedure is at least 50 per cent.

This means that for every two organ donors currently deemed unsuitable for lung transplant, the processes can restore the lungs of one, dramatically increasing the size of the current donor pool.

Ms Bagnall and her surgeon spoke to media at the Mater hospital on Wednesday morning.

Ms Redmond said the surgery marked “a hugely significant milestone in the history of the transplant programme in the Mater hospital and for the Ireland East Hospital Group”.

She said the practice of ex vivo lung perfusion to recondition lungs was still in its infancy, but had the potential to significantly increase the availability of donor lungs for transplantation in Ireland.

“With appropriate resources, the lung transplant group has the potential to perform more and more lifesaving procedures year on year, with record high numbers for 2015 already achieved.”

The EVLP process takes about four hours to complete using a ventilator.

Throughout the process, the lungs are maintained at normal body temperature and perfused with a bloodless fluid known as Steen solution, which contains high levels of Albumin, Dextran and an electrolyte composition.

There are approximately 30 people currently on the waiting list for lung transplants.

Ms Redmond said there were a a “huge shortage” of viable lungs available in comparison to the number of patients awaiting transplants, however.

“If you couple this with the fact Ireland has among some of the most severe phenotypes of cystic fibrosis and the highest incidence (per head of population) of CF in the world, this first successful transplantation using EVLP is a huge step forward for both the treatment of CF and the potential of the lung transplant programme in Ireland.”

Ms Bagnall thanked all the surgeons and staff at the Mater hospital and her donor and their family.

“I am forever indebted to them. Since undergoing the surgery I have felt absolutely fantastic; it really has given me a new life. It was only two years ago I was forced to drop out my college course and was on full time oxygen. Fast forward post-surgery and I am now off oxygen and fully intend on returning to college in September to study make up artistry.”

She was eight and a half weeks on the waiting list for her transplant.

Ms Bagnall said the EVLP procedure gave her hope for the future of CF treatment in Ireland.

The heart transplant programme in the Mater began in September 1985 and the hospital is the national heart and lung transplant centre.

In May 2005 the first lung transplant procedure undertaken in the state took place in the Mater, closely followed by the first double lung transplant in 2006.

Pigeons wearing backpacks are monitoring air pollution in London


A flock of pigeons complete with sensor-carrying lightweight backpacks are helping consumers track air pollution in London.

The birds have technology on-board to not only monitor air quality, but are also reporting on it live by tweeting what they find in the skies above the capital.

Users can also tweet the birds giving their location and receive a report back on the air quality in that area.

The three day scheme has been created by Plume Labs, a technology firm that specialises in helping people track and reduce exposure to air pollution, has created where London residents can view a live map.

Romain Lacombe, the CEO at Plume Labs said: “Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing 10,000 people every year in London alone. Putting air sensors on the back of pigeons goes beyond raising awareness of this problem and helps Londoners understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way.”

Lacombe added that a device for humans to wear that monitors air quality was also being planned.

“DigitasLBi is also helping us to recruit beta testers who will be the first to access our devices, to build a collaborative, human-powered air quality monitoring network across London,” he said.

Twitter is also involved in this aspect of the scheme, and their head of creative agency development in the UK, Helen Lawrence, said: “Twitter brings you closer to what matters to you the most, in real time.

“Over the last 10 years Twitter has been used in ways that we would never have imagined – rivers that Tweet when the water level rises, sharks that Tweet when they’re swimming near shore and now pigeons that Tweet live pollution information. Real time information, direct to your mobile is hugely useful, but add pigeons into that mix and you’ve got something really powerful.”


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