News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 25th March 2016

The words of 1916 Proclamation on which modern Ireland was built

 

One hundred years after the Easter Rising, specialist Thomas Venning examines a copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic  and meets a descendent of one of its signatories.

On Easter Monday, 1916, Patrick Pearse stepped into the streets of Dublin to read from the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a document that sparked the six-day Easter Rising, effectively laying the foundations for modern Ireland.

Thought to have been composed by Pearse, with contributions from James Connolly and Thomas MacDonagh, the Proclamation outlined the shape of a new Republic. From the first line, Irish men and women were placed as equals, with ‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities’ guaranteed to all — the Rising placed within the context of Ireland’s 300-year struggle for independence.

Composed on Good Friday, the Proclamation was printed on Easter Sunday at Liberty Hall. The fighting that followed lasted for six days from Easter Monday, with Pearse — facing vastly superior numbers — issuing an order for surrender on Saturday 29 April.  In the subsequent weeks, 15 of the Rising’s leaders, including all seven of the signatories to the Proclamation, had been executed under martial law — James Connolly whilst tied to a chair, his ankle having been shattered by a bullet in the fighting.

‘What’s incredible here is that this text was written one day, printed the next, and put into action the day after that,’ says specialist Thomas Venning. ‘Then, within a few days, every signatory was executed’. The letters of the proclamation confirms the speed of events, improvised from type collected from foundries across the city, in the 24 hours that preceded printing.

Though approximately 1,000 copies of the Proclamation were originally printed, the majority were destroyed in the chaotic events of Easter Week — indeed, by 11 May, the Dublin Metropolitan police were struggling to find a single example. This is one of only 50 surviving copies — its crisp folds suggesting that it was folded immediately after printing.

For Joe MacDonagh, great-nephew of signatory Thomas MacDonagh, the significance of the document is ‘hard to put into words’. ‘This is something which will live on. It embodies something greater — a sense of aspiration that every country would want in its forebears. It’s something of which I’m very proud’.

Brexit the EU would hit Ireland almost as hard as the UK

  

ING has found that Britain leaving the EU could knock 1.1% points off the Irish GDP

An exit of Britain from the European Union would have almost as bad an economic impact on Ireland as it would on the UK, according to Dutch bank ING.

ING said Ireland would suffer an economic loss in the event of a Brexit, estimating that it could cost the economy an amount equal to knocking 1.1 percentage points off GDP growth before the end of 2017. It estimates that it could cost the UK economy 1.2 percentage points over the same period.

Economists at ING said Malta, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg would also experience a substantial hit if a Brexit happened, suffering GDP losses of between 0.7 and 1 percentage points. Germany, the euro zone’s largest economy, is forecast to experience a GDP loss of half a point.

“If the UK were to vote in favour of Brexit, further turmoil seems guaranteed with significant negative effects on the British economy … From our baseline forecast we estimate that the initial hit to euro zone GDP could by a cumulative 0.3 per cent by end-2017”, ING said.

Fianna Fáil

Sepatately, Fianna Fáil jobs and enterprise spokesperson Dara Calleary said on Friday that the possibility of a Brexit represents one of the biggest threats to Irish exports and SME jobs. He pointed out that Brexit could lead to a significant weakening of sterling against the euro.

“The euro’s recent rise of over 10 per cent against sterling is reflective of this uncertainty. This will damage the competitiveness of our exports to the UK and the relative attractiveness of our goods in markets in which we compete with UK firms.

“Irish exporters are heavily dependent on the UK market, with almost half of all Irish exports to the UK coming from indigenous Irish companies. A Brexit would present a direct threat to continued jobs in this vitally important sector,” he said.

“In a worst case scenario, a British exit from the EU could lead to the introduction of tariffs on trade activity with European states,” he added.

Border

He said the possibility of new border controls between North and South raises an array of concerns as it would have implications for trade and tourism.

“The Irish Government must ensure that steps are taken to safeguard the integrity of the single market and maintain a strong trade link between Ireland and the UK”.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has estimated that bilateral trade flows between the UK and Ireland could fall by as much as 20 per cent in the event of Brexit.

The AIB and BoI have repaid 31% of bailout funds by end of 2015

Total value of Irish Strategic Investment Fund rose almost 11% over first year

  

AIB and Bank of Ireland had repaid 31% of the bailout funds that they received from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund by the end of last year, according to figures published yesterday.

Isif’s fourth quarter performance and portfolio update shows that the two banks had returned €6.4 billion in receipts to the State agency, by the end of last year, of the €20.7 billion they received between 2009 and 2011 from the former National Pensions Reserve Fund, which Isif has replaced.

Bank of Ireland had repaid €4.2 billion of the €4.7 billion it received while AIB had paid €2.2 billion out of €16 billion it was given. The funds from AIB were received last year and related to €1.9 billion for the conversion of some of the State’s preference shares and a dividend payment on those shares.

Isif said the State’s holding in AIB was worth €11.7 billion at the end of 2015. This was the same figure as the previous year but the mix was different.

Preference shares

The 2014 valuation included the value of the preference shares – breaking down as €7.2 billion for the ordinary stock and the balance in preference shares.

A reorganisation of AIB’s capital last year has altered that mix. In addition to receiving a cheque from AIB the State also received 155 billion ordinary shares as part payment for the conversion of the preference stock. This resulted in its holding in the bank increasing marginally to 99.9%.

AIB also consolidated the number of shares in issue, as a precursor to a potential flotation this year. Taking this consolidation into account, AIB’s shares were worth€3.43 each in 2014 with Isif valuing them at €4.33 at the end of last year, an increase of 26%.

The Isif figures estimate that, in total, the remaining stakes in AIB and Bank of Ireland are worth €13.5 billion. This compares with €15 billion in the previous year when the AIB preference shares were still in issue.

The payment from AIB for the preference shares was remitted to the exchequer under direction by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and will be used to pay down the State’s national debt in due course.

The AIB holding is part of the €13.5 billion directed portfolio of investments made by Isif, which is under the direction of the minister and also includes public policy investments in Bank of Ireland (the State still owns close to 14% of its shares) and Strategic Banking Corporation, which has received €240 million.

The portfolio generated a 15.3% return on its investment over the year.

An discretionary portfolio?

The fund also includes a discretionary portfolio that comprises equity investments, government bonds and has €7.9 billion at its disposal.

That generated a 1.5% return since the fund’s investment on December 22nd 2014.

Overall, the value of the fund’s holdings rose almost 11% in its first year since taking over from the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Isif is also developing a connectivity fund that will work to enhance physical and virtual connectivity both within and for the State, with €335 million at its disposal.

Isif was set up as a successor to the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2014, aimed at investing on a commercial basis to support economic activity and employment in the State. By December 2015, it had committed €2 billion to investments in Ireland, and was close to completing on six investments with a value of €200 million.

New study links caffeine consumption to increased risk of miscarriage

  

Women have an increased risk of miscarriage if they or their partner consume more than two caffeinated drinks a day in the weeks leading up to conception, a new US study found.

Women who drink more than two caffeinated beverages per day during the first seven weeks of pregnancy were also more likely to have a miscarriage, according to the study published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

But rates of miscarriage are reduced for women who take a daily multivitamin before and after conception.

The study, carried out by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University, was based on data from the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study.

That study followed 501 couples in Michigan and Texas from 2005 to 2009, examining the relationship between fertility, lifestyle and exposure to chemicals in the environment.

The current study compared cigarette use, caffeinated beverage consumption and multivitamin use among 344 couples when the woman was carrying a single offspring. Of these pregnancies, 98 or 28% ended in a miscarriage.

The researchers’ conclusions were based on a statistical concept called hazard ratio, which estimates the chances of a particular outcome occurring during the study period.

A ratio greater than one indicates increased risk for miscarriage each day following conception, while a ratio less than one indicates reduced daily risk.

The risk of miscarriage was 1.74 when the woman consumed more than two caffeinated drinks a day, the study showed.

However, the risk was almost as high as 1.73 — if the male partner drank that much caffeine or more.

“Our findings also indicate that the male partner matters, too,” said lead author Germaine Buck Louis, director of the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at the NIH.

“Male preconception consumption of caffeinated beverages was just as strongly associated with pregnancy loss as females’.” The study also found that taking a daily multivitamin significantly reduced chances of miscarriage.

Taking a vitamin in the weeks leading up to conception had a hazard ratio of 0.45, a 55% reduction in risk for pregnancy loss.

Women who continued to take multivitamins through the early stages of pregnancy had a hazard ratio of 0.21, a risk reduction of 79%.

Just one fruit juice can exceed a child’s daily sugar intake?

Just one juice or smoothie may exceed a child’s maximum daily sugar limit, with smoothies among the worst offenders, it has emerged.

  

Research published in the journal BMJ Open found more than 40% of the fruit juices, smoothies and fruit drinks assessed contained the entire daily maximum sugar intake of 19g or almost five teaspoons.

The study described the sugar content of the drinks as “unacceptably high” and said manufacturers must stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories to the products.

Increasing public awareness of the detrimental effect sugar-sweetened drinks have on children’s teeth and waistlines has prompted many parents to opt for seemingly healthier fruit juice and smoothie alternatives.

Among the 158 fruit juice drinks analysed, the average sugar content was 5.6g/100ml but rose to 10.7g/ 100ml among the 21 pure fruit juices tested and to 13g/100ml among the 24 smoothies assessed.

Some 78 products contained non-caloric sweeteners, such as aspartame. While safe, health experts believe the overall sweetness of products should be reduced so children get used to having less sugar in their diets.

Dietary guidelines recommend a serving of fruit juice, fruit drink or smoothie should be no more than 150ml, but only six of the products assessed matched this portion size. The labels on all of the products contained a reference intake that was in line with European law but applied to an average-sized adult woman.

This was wholly inappropriate for children, said the researchers. Experts from the University of Liverpool and Queen Mary University of London examined the sugar content of fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies sold by seven major supermarkets in Britain, including Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Only products specifically marketed towards children were included. Cordials were excluded even though they are marketed towards children because they do not come in single-serve portions, the focus of the survey.

The researchers said that drinks with a high sugar content should not count as one of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and fruit should be consumed in its whole form, not as a juice.

“Parents should dilute fruit juice with water, opt for unsweetened juices and only give them during meals. Portions should be limited to 150ml a day,” said the researchers.

The researchers said manufacturers needed to stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories to the products now; otherwise, the sugar content would have to be regulated. A food scientist at the Gunter Kuhnle, said the drinks – fruit juices, fruit drinks and smoothies, were often seen as a healthy alternative and their sugar content was ignored.

A recent report by health watchdog, Safefood, found some brands of energy drinks contained more than 16 teaspoons of sugar.

Scientists discover 19 ancient retroviral DNA in human genome

  

Retroviral DNA that first invaded the humans hundreds of thousands of years ago still can be found in some of the genes today. Scientists have found 19 new pieces of DNA in about 50 of the 2,500 studied genomes. The newly discovered group of DNA contains an intact ancient virus.

A study, which led to the discovery, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study adds on to the already understanding of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). HERVs have contributed to more than 8% of the human genome. The ancient infectious virus got inserted into a DNA-based copy of their own RNA genetic material into the genomes of human ancestors.

The virus is similar to the virus that includes the modern human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. The virus passed from generation to generation and can still be found in our DNA. The new HERVs are part of the endogenous retrovirus family called HERV-K. The virus is named provirus Xq21, found on the X chromosome and second to be found intact hiding in human DNA.

“This is a thrilling discovery. It will open up many doors to research”, said study lead author Dr. Julia Wildschutte, from the University of Michigan Medical School. No one yet knows whether the virus replicate, or reproduce. However, other studies have found claimed that the virus can affect the humans who carry it.

Dr. Wildschutte and co-authors analyzed entire span of DNA from people from around the world, including the places from where ancestors of modern humans originated and later spread to other parts of the world. They used sophisticated techniques to compare key areas of each person’s genome to the “reference” human genome.

In a report published by the Pulse Headlines, “The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to what researchers already know about human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). That’s the name for the ancient infectious viruses that inserted a DNA-based copy of their own RNA genetic material into the genomes of human ancestors.”

They’re part of the same type of virus that includes the modern human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

According to a report in ScienceAlert by BRENDAN COLE, “The virus’s genes then switch on once they’re in the new cell and turn it into a virus-making factory. These new viruses go on to shove their genes into other cells, and the process repeats.”

Eventually (hopefully), your body fights off the viruses that are floating around and infecting new cells, but it can’t get rid of the bits of virus that are already stuck in your DNA. So it does the next-best thing and switches those bits of DNA off.

“In the current era of microbiome research, we humans are already having to come to grips with the fact that `I’ is actually `we’. Instead of our bodies constituting a single life-form, we are each composed of complex and diverse ecosystems of microbes that have a profound influence on our existence. Our health and wellbeing are not just determined by what our own cells do, but what our trillions of invisible inhabitants do, too. And the genetic blueprints that govern our biology are partly carried in those microbial inhabitants, as well as in our own cells,” according to a news report published by ArsTechnica.

“This one looks like it is capable of making infectious virus, which would be very exciting if true, as it would allow us to study a viral epidemic that took place long ago,” senior author and virologist John Coffin, of the Tufts University School of Medicine, said in a press release.

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