News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 31st march 2016

At last Martin and Kenny agree to hold government formation talks?

But is there a drop of water between them?


Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin have finally agreed to hold crunch government formation talks.

Discussions will take place after next Wednesday’s Dáil Taoiseach nomination vote.

Micheál Martin spoke to his rival in a 20-minute phone call today – the first time either has reached out to the other since the February 26 general election 33 days ago.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House this afternoon, Mr Martin confirmed he contacted the Fine Gael leader this morning amid Irish Examiner reports the April 6 vote may not take place because it is destined to end in a stalemate.

Mr Martin said Mr Kenny insisted the vote will still take place, at which point he is believed to have sought a meeting with the Fianna Fáil leader tomorrow.

However, Mr Martin said he told Mr Kenny if the vote takes place any meeting must be delayed until after Wednesday – a position both potential Taoiseach have now agreed.

“Just before lunchtime I rang the Taoiseach. In the first instance I told him I read reports there may be moves to defer the vote on Wednesday, the vote for Taoiseach,” Mr Martin said this afternoon.

“I made it clear I wouldn’t be supporting that, that I wanted it to go ahead next Wednesday and fall whatever way it falls.

“He confirmed that the vote would go ahead, and also that we are engaged in that negotiation process with the Independents and that we would be having (talks) sessions on Monday on Tuesday.

“We both agreed we would engage in the aftermath of that, and following conclusions on Wednesday,” he said.

Mr Martin said despite the development his party “wouldn’t be going into a grand coalition with Fine Gael”, and said he told Mr Kenny he was frustrated by acting Jobs Minister Richard Bruton’s comments yesterday that Fine Gael would not support a Fianna Fáil-led minority government, describing it as “intemperate language”.

Mr Martin also said he did not know if next Wednesday will end in stalemate or if another election will occur, but said if this happens “the responsibility is on the entire Dáil”.

Asked if Independents should now “pee or get off the pot” by explaining how they will vote because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have now committed to talking to each other, the Fianna Fáil leader joked:

“That might be the fastest way of losing a vote”.

It is understood Fianna Fáil wants to hold off on any talks with Fine Gael until after the April 6 vote because depending on the outcome two different conversations may take place.

Micheál Martin said he believed we were not going to have a new Government in place any time soon.

“I know people are anxious to know when a Government is going to be formed, but I think we’re some few weeks away from that yet,” he said.

Jake Brennan inquest jury recommends lower speed limits

Jury proposes 30km/h in housing estates after hearing of son’s death in mother’s arms


Jake Brennan: Said “mammy I don’t want to die; I don’t want to die” as his mother Roseann cradled him in her arms. 

The jury at an inquest into the death of a six-year-old boy who was struck by a car outside his home has recommended the introduction of a mandatory 30km/h speed limit in housing estates.

The inquest into the death of Kilkenny boy Jake Brennan in June 2014 heard how he lay dying in his mother’s arms after he was hit by a car.

The boy’s parents, Christopher and Roseann Brennan, subsequently launched a high-profile Jake’s Legacy campaign for lower speed limits in housing estates.

The jury at the inquest in Carlow also called for improved signage in housing estates after it heard emergency services had trouble finding the cul-de-sac where the Brennans lived. It took the ambulance crew four minutes to drive across Kilkenny city to the estate, but a further three minutes to find Lintown Grove. A garda described the area as “a maze”.

The boy died from crush injuries to his chest and abdomen as a result of being struck by a car, the jury decided in accordance with medical evidence.

Deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said the injuries were “consistent with being run over and dragged by the front bodywork of a vehicle”.

Coroner Dr Brendan Doyle is to write to the Department of Transport about the jury’s recommendation for lower speed limits in housing estates and improved signage.

Ms Brennan, the boy’s mother, said she and her three children had been in McDonagh Junction shopping centre in Kilkenny on the evening of June 12th, 2014, before returning home to her husband Christopher who was getting dinner ready. The children had ice-cream and played in the shopping centre’s play area. Jake had said it was the “best day of my life” she told the inquest.

At home he put on a little show for them and sang a song. The children had their dinner on a little table and chairs on the front lawn. Her brother-in-law Pat O’Hara arrived to return her husband’s lawnmower and they chatted for a few minutes.

Just as Mr O’Hara was about to leave, Jake asked her if he could go across the road to the green. She was going to say no, but said he could go for a few minutes.

She saw a car and heard a bang, “and I knew.” She screamed “no!” and “Jake!” and saw him going up into the air and coming down again. “I knew by how far he went up that he was destroyed.”

She ran over to him and he was saying “mammy, mammy, I’m sorry”. And as she held him she told him it was not his fault. He said, “mammy I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die”.

His breathing became slower. The ambulance arrived but “I knew he was gone and never coming back”. The paramedics worked on him for some time at the scene, before bringing him to hospital in the ambulance with his parents accompanying them. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

‘Jake’s Law’?

M/s Brennan told her solicitor Michael Lanigan that she had since campaigned for speed limits in housing estates, currently at 50km/h, to be reduced to 20km/h and wanted this to be “Jake’s Law” and her son’s legacy.

Her husband Christopher said he made the 999 call after Jake was struck and said to the driver of the car involved that “you were speeding”. She denied it, he added.

The driver of the car that hit Jake, Katarzyna Biala (39) was not well enough to attend the inquest but a statement she gave to gardaí¬ was read out. She said she was not speeding and never saw Jake from the side, but just when her car hit him. “He just flew up in the air a bit. It happened so fast. I don’t know where he came from.”

She was “in shock” afterwards. She also told Gardaí she thought she was driving at about 20-30km/h.

The inquest heard that, after a Garda investigation and a file being sent to the DPP’s office, a decision was made by the DPP not to bring any prosecution.

Forensic collision investigator Garda Maurice Mahon said that, based on the point of impact outlined by Ms Brennan and the distance Ms Biala would have travelled from her own house nearby, the car was travelling at between 44km/h and 46km/h at the time.

A neighbour, Michael O’Keeffe, who saw the collision from his front room, told the inquest he felt the car was “going too fast”.

Mr O’Hara said he remembered the car “going fairly fast” and his passengerCarl Gleeson said he thought the car was “going a bit fast for an estate”. Mr O’Hara also said the car travelled up to another 70 yards before stopping and he saw Jake “staggering” towards his mother before collapsing to the ground.

Mr Gleeson said he saw Jake coming from “under the car” after the collision.

The coroner said Jake’s death had left “a huge space in the lives of a lot of people”, particularly his parents and family. But his legacy would serve as “a beacon to his memory”.

Speaking after the inquest, Ms Brennan said she had had a dream about Jake the previous night. “He was such a cuddly, funny, really loveable little lad.”

She said it was “very upsetting” to go back over details of his last moments. The family’s lives were “ruined”, she said. “Family days out start with visiting Jake’s grave. That’s not right. We had two little boys and a little girl. Before she [Jake’s sister] goes to bed at night, she kisses his picture and they say good morning to him. That’s not fair.”

The couple welcomed the jury’s recommendation for 30km/h speed limits in housing estates. “We feel our baby didn’t die in vain,” said Ms Brennan.

Response needed?

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the speed limit in housing estates currently stands at 50km/h, but local authorities have the option of lowering it to 30km/h.

The Road Traffic Bill 2016, which passed through the Seanad but did not come before the last Dáil before it was dissolved, would have given local authorities the option to lower the limit to 20km/h. The spokesman said local authorities were “best placed” to make such determinations.

There was cross-party support for the proposal to allow lower speed limits.

As much as 22% of Irish hospitals re-inspected over poor hygiene


More than one-in-five hospitals required a re-inspection due to poor hygiene last year, a HIQA report shows.

The overview of 39 unannounced inspections at 32 hospitals shows that there has been improvement in hand hygiene practices but poor levels of overall environmental cleanliness.

There was a significant increase in the need for re-inspections in 2015, with 22% of hospitals inspected requiring follow-up, compared to one-in-10 the previous year.

The inspections were carried out between January and December 2015, with the aim of assessing compliance against the National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections.

A total of 64 clinical areas were inspected, such as operating theatres, endoscopy suites, haematology, day infusion services, intensive care units and renal dialysis units.

Seven hospitals required re-inspections. They were: South Infirmary Victoria Hospital, Cork; Letterkenny General Hospital; Kerry General Hospital; The Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar; The National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street; Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda; and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe.

Of those, one hospital — Letterkenny General Hospital — showed no improvement in the standard of environmental hygiene.

The report said more than half of hospitals (59%) needed to greatly improve the preparation, labelling and storage of intravenous medication in the clinical area. Observations that fell below best practice and were deemed unsafe included pre-prepared syringes of anaesthetic and other medicines not prepared in aseptic compounding facilities that were: unlabelled or insufficiently labelled; inappropriately stored; or left unattended and unsecured.

Re-occurring issues identified related to infrastructural deficiencies, outdated units with inadequate infrastructure and overcrowding with limited space between beds.

HIQA’s Head of Healthcare, Susan Cliffe, said a greater culture of compliance with hand hygiene had begun to emerge in most hospitals. “This observation is supported by the reported findings from the HSE national audits that have shown steady improvement over time,” she said.

The 2015 inspection programme involved the assessment of infection prevention ‘care bundles’ for the first time. These are a set of routinely applied evidenced-based actions that, when applied consistently, have been proven to reduce the incidence of infection and protect patients.

HIQA said that while some hospitals had made significant progress in embedding the use of care bundles into everyday practice, implementation was not as advanced as other hospitals. Letterkenny General Hospital was identified as one of the sites that had made progress.

“While effective implementation was identified in some hospitals, care bundles need to be implemented in all acute hospitals where they are not already in place. Good practice includes the reliable application of care bundle steps, accompanied by audit and feedback to staff on compliance with care bundle measures, and device-related infection surveillance,” Cliffe said.

Electric Ireland issues a phishing scam warning to it’s customers?

Watch out for the “” emails????


Electric Ireland is warning its customers to exercise caution when dealing with supposed emails from the energy company.

Cyber criminals are now targeting people with high-tech ESB phishing emails?

Scammers are using addresses such as “” to trick customers into giving them their details.

The emails refer to “electric bills”, offer refunds and come complete with links to websites closely mimicking the ESB page.

Electric Ireland’s on-line billing system has not been compromised and customers’ personal data has not been obtained any other way.

An Electric Ireland spokesman said today: “This is an ongoing thing over the last number of months.

“It is incredible how sophisticated that latest mail is. These are not just rudimentary scams anymore.

“These emails have nothing to do with Electric Ireland. The instructions on these emails vary, often seeking a response, they may provide a link or attachment and request personal data.

“Please ensure you do not enter any of your details. If you have entered your Electric Ireland online username and password, we urge you to reset your password immediately”.

Irish scientist recreates fossil in full colour for the first time

UCC’s Dr Maria McNamara makes breakthrough using the skin of a fossilised snake


Dr Maria McNamara (above), of University College Cork, with Bertie the boa constrictor.

An Irish scientist has been able to reconstruct a fossil in full living colour for the first time.

Dr Maria McNamara, of University College Cork (UCC), has found a way to show the full colouration of the skin of a fossilised snake by studying the position of individual fossilised pigment cells in the skin surface.

Previous attempts to show the original skin tones of a fossil have only proved successful for brown, black or dark red.

The work by the palaeobiologist also shows skin surfaces that were iridescent in the living snake.

The fossil came from a sulphur mine near Libris in northeastern Spain.

“I saw the fossil 14 years ago and realised it included fossilised skin. I asked for and was given a sample and I tucked it away,” Dr McNamara said.

The 10 million-year-old fossil looked like a piece of stone, but Dr McNamara was able to reproduce the original colours once she started to study it in detail.

“I realised I had fabulous tissue preservation. I got more samples and realised that I could see many types of pigment cells preserved,” she said.

“Different pigment cells make different colours. We were able to identify thepigment colour by its size, shape and where it occurs in the skin.”

Fossil formation process?

The thing that makes this possible relates to how the fossil was formed.

The buried soft tissues were turned into fossilised stone by a mineral, calcium phosphate.

This forms tiny crystals to replace the original tissue, but the crystals are so small they preserve everything, even structures inside a cell, Dr McNamara said.

“The crystals take on the form of the original tissue in 3d.”

She realised that she could identify the different pigment cell shapes to reproduce the original colours.

In this case, there were tans and greens similar to those seen in a modern boa constrictor, she said.

“The type of patterning was very like camouflage, so this snake was trying to keep itself hidden.

“What is really significant about this study is it is the first instance of colour reconstruction from mineralised fossils.”

Her findings are published on Thursday evening in Current Biology.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Research Council and EU Marie Curieprogrammes funded the research.


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