News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 17th April 2016.

Fianna Fáil now open to supporting a minority Fine Gael/Labour government?

Micheál Martin says he wants his party to embrace change emerging in Irish politics.

     

Micheál Martin at the Easter Rising commemoration at Arbour Hill (left pic.) The challenges faced today are “nothing compared to the challenges faced and overcome by the heroes of 1916”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said his party could support a Fine Gael-Labour minority government.

“We are prepared to facilitate a Fine Gael-led minority government which would be led by Fine Gael, plus others,” he told reporters yesterday after Fianna Fáil’s annual 1916 commemoration at Arbour Hill in Dublin.

He confirmed his party could also support a minority government which would include the Labour Party: “Yes, I have said that is a reality,” he said.

Asked if it would be putting back in power the government Fianna Fáil had argued should be put out of office, Mr Martin said: “We cannot get the composition we sought as a government, because others have a higher number.

Making progress?

“We are very clear about that. There is a change emerging in Irish politics and we want to embrace that change and in terms of a new way Dáil Éireann is working .”

Earlier, speaking at the commemoration, he said the mistakes of the past, including the “Irish Water fiasco” could be blamed on the arrogance of a majority government.

Crises in health, housing “and many other areas” had developed because of the “policies of the strongest and most stable majority government in recent times”.

“It represents real progress to move to a system with a less arrogant and dominating government – and where all TDs have a right and obligation to contribute,” he said.

Addressing ongoing attempts to form a government, Mr Martin said: “We have been and we will continue to be flexible. We are willing to allow a new form of government to develop. It will end the old and discredited approach and it will certainly be more complex – however simply carrying on as in the past is not an option.”

He said the challenges faced today were “nothing compared to the challenges faced and overcome by the heroes of 1916. They inspired a national awakening and invigorated a republican spirit which still represents our country at its best”.

“We come here not simply to remember the past but to once again renew our allegiance to the republicanism of 1916.

“Since then our party has come to this place every year to honour those who did not live to see what their patriotism and their bravery achieved for our country.”

An outrage?

Mr Martin said it was “an outrage” that the Provisional Republican Movement had “sought to rewrite history and claim direct continuity from 1916”.

“In the middle of what has been a great national commemoration, there continues to be one deeply cynical and dangerous attempt to exploit the heroes of 1916.

“Provisional Sinn Féin was founded in 1970 to support a campaign rejected constantly by the mass of the Irish people in vote after vote for quarter of a century. The manner in which they have sought to rewrite history and claim direct continuity from 1916 is an outrage.

“Unable to achieve the electoral breakthrough they long claimed was inevitable, they are now using more underhand methods to legitimise themselves. In the very room where the Irish Volunteers first met they are today running an exhibition which claims to be about 1916, but it is solely about twisting history.

“Even though a Sinn Féin officer is running it out of Sinn Féin HQ, they pretend to the public that it is an independent exhibition. They claim that to honour Pearse, Clarke and Plunkett you must honour a sinister organisation which tried to destroy this State and continues to refuse to subject its members to the laws enacted by the Irish people.”

41,000 patient wait list for treatment in Galway University Hospital

  

It’s now official that Galway University Hospitals are the worst in the country for waiting lists.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures reveal that more than 41,000 patients are waiting for treatment in GUH, which includes University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital.

That represents ten per cent of the total 400,000 outpatients and inpatients waiting for treatment nationally.

“It is worrying . . . Galway is emerging as the poorest overall performer,” said Galway West Fine Gael TD, Hildegarde Naughton.

“Galway has both the highest number waiting for inpatient treatment, at 10,605, and outpatient treatment, with a staggering 30,464 waiting,” she said.

Deputy Naughton said the local waiting list crisis has existed for some time, since GUH was designated as a centre of excellence for several specialities. The hospitals serve the entire west and north west seaboard, she said, and so cannot cope.

The newly elected TD said in order to tackle the problem more consultants are needed – Ireland has fewer consultants than other developed countries. And she said Ireland needs more hospital beds – the number has fallen from 25,000 in 1995 to under 12,700 now.

Locally, she reiterated her solution of moving services from UHG to Merlin Park.

Deputy Naughton pointed out that GUH is presently building an extension and planning for a new Accident and Emergency Department at UHG.

This development, she said, is “on a site that is only 42 acres, landlocked and has severe traffic issues, whereas Merlin Park Hospital is vastly underutilised, sitting on a site of approximately 150 acres and with immediate access to the dual carriageway system.”

Deputy Naughton added: “I am increasingly frustrated with the inability of medical service management in this country to see that the campus in GUH is overcrowded and no longer suitable. It is high time Merlin Park was considered as the site of a new state of the art acute hospital for the West. I intend to make this point forcibly to the incoming Government.”

The reason why us humans mate is not for love (maybe it’s STI’s)

  Gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia have been around for a long time   

Love may not necessarily conquer all. Humans being monogamous may have a practical reason to it and that it ain’t for love. Or so does this study claim?

This may sound less romantic but according to the new research published in the journal Nature Communications, monogamous relationships developed on the need to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A research duo from Canada and Germany said that germs are the answer which prompted our ancestors that it is better to mate for life.  The germs that caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) previously created havoc which resulted to socially imposing monogamy.

The researchers developed a mathematical model of hunter-gatherer demographics and how likely STI spread among them. They used it “to show how growing STI disease burden in larger residential group sizes can foster the emergence of socially imposed monogamy in human mating.”

The study, published in Nature Communications, further revealed that the society imposing human monogamy has long been considered an “evolutionary puzzle.”  Results said that it requires societies to put in place checks and structures like a police and court system to uphold societal mores.

Development in the community by large residential groups and the advent of agriculture led the study with the findings that the occurrence of STIs would have increased among continued multiple sexual partners.

Having no access to modern medicines, the number of infertility from syphilis, Chlamydia and gonorrhoea would have increased.  It then led to the transition in the mating behaviour from polygyny to monogamy.

Chris Bauch, a professor of applied mathematics at Waterloo University in Canada and an author of the study paper, said: “This research shows how the spread of contagious diseases can strongly influence the development of social norms.

“Our social norms did not develop in complete isolation from what was happening in our natural environment. On the contrary, we can’t understand social norms without understanding their origins in our natural environment.

“Our social norms were shaped by our natural environment. In turn, the environment is shaped by our social norms, as we are increasingly recognising.”

And in the time where open relationship is recognized, Bauch said that “Modern societies are more complicated…and there is probably more than one reason that explains socially imposed monogamy.”

He also adds, “I think it is premature to speculate that marriage will disappear or that polygyny will return, if we solve the problem of STIs.” Chances are, love may have conquered all? And so say all of us.

Chris Evans says Gerry Ryan changed his life

   

Chris Evans has recalled a “life changing” visit to Ireland which involved him becoming so inspired by Gerry Ryan that he bought Virgin Radio in 1997.

The new Top Gear presenter travelled around Kerry over the weekend with his co-presenter Matt LeBlanc as they begin filming for the new BBC series. Evans revealed that a previous trip to The Kingdom changed his life.

“I’ve been around the Ring of Kerry before and it changed my life. I listened to Irish radio in the car and [it inspired me] to get on a plane and go back to England because I missed the radio so much!” Evans stated.

“It was because I was listening to Gerry Ryan, he was amazing, and when I returned to England I bought a radio station because of him. So Kerry has so many fond and happy memories for me. Gerry was the best of the best, he’s sadly missed.”

In 1997 Evans and his Ginger Media Group bought Virgin Radio, reportedly paying Richard Branson $125 million for the station.

Gerry Ryan presented The Gerry Ryan Show on RTÉ 2fm until his tragic death in 2010. It was one of the highest rated shows on the station, described by the BBC as “a de facto forum for the nation”.

Ireland’s motorists will be hit harder for driving with bald tyres from Monday?

Fixed charged fines of €80 and penalty points will now be dished out for the offence.

    

From today Ireland’s motorists caught with bald tyres will face a tougher regulation regime.

While it is already illegal to drive with defective or worn tyres, those caught will now face a fixed charge of €80 and points on their licence.

This move was announced on Friday by acting minister for transport Paschal Donohoe who said that it is “intended to promote greater awareness among motorists of the hazards of driving with tyres that are not in roadworthy condition”.

“The penalty points system has played an important role in reducing fatalities and improving road safety,” he said.

We need to keep up the pressure to reduce road deaths, and I am confident that the measure I am introducing today will make an important contribution to achieving that.

The Road Safety Authority reported earlier this month that vehicle factors contributed to one in eight road fatal collisions between 2008 and 2012, with defective tyres being the most significant factor.

The introduction of this change to legislation follows consultation between the Department of Transport, the gardaí and the Road Safety Authority.

Scientists crack the mystery of migrating monarch butterflies navigation

   Monarch butterflies are seen at the El Roasario Butterfly Sanctuary outside Angangueo, Mexico.   

Monarch butterflies are seen here (middle photo) at the El Roasario Butterfly Sanctuary outside Angangueo, in Mexico. 

The uncanny mechanisms that monarch butterflies use to navigate thousands of miles each year, back and forth from their wintering grounds in Mexico has long baffled scientists. A new study suggests how they may process information to determine which way to go.

Monarch butterflies migrate thousands of miles from the northern United States and southern Canada to spend the winter in more temperate climates in southern Mexico. The insects may not have a GPS to navigate their way south, but they do have a compass of sorts. 

Previous research found that the insects use the position of the sun in the sky combined with an internal clock to determine which way is south, in what’s called a time-compensated sun compass.

But scientists puzzled over how this information was integrated and turned into action inside the butterfly’s brain. So a team of researchers set out to create a model that might explain the neurological mechanism. That modelis described in a paper published Thursday in the journal Cell Reports.

  The monarch brain uses its large, complex eyes to track the Sun’s position in the sky. 

The reason behind the slashing of the population of monarch butterflies is a reduction in the larval food source – milkweed. “Their numbers are decreasing, so we want to keep this insect – the only one that migrates these huge distances – with us for many years”.

“We have the pieces. They have to connect someplace,” one of the researchers, Steven Reppert, a neurobiologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. Now, “we have an idea of how those connections should potentially occur.”

As a monarch butterfly flies along on a sunny day, its eyes are constantly registering where the sun is in relation to the horizon. Although the sun travels east to west, the butterfly needs to be able to determine which is which at a given moment. That’s where the circadian clock comes in.

Embedded within the insect’s antennae are these biological clocks. They help the butterfly determine what time it is. So if the sun is close to the horizon, these clocks indicate whether it is rising or setting and therefore if it is in the east or west.

Then, if the sun is in the east, for example, the butterfly flies with the sun on its left to go south.

But how those two sets of data work together to create a directional adjustment in the butterflies has been unclear, and that’s where this new research comes in.

“This work provides a big step forward in thinking about how these different pieces of information that we knew had to talk to each other are likely to do that,” Marcus Kronforst, an ecologist at the University of Chicago who was not part of this study, tells the Monitor in a phone interview.

These two senses feed into the center of the butterfly’s brain, into a sort ofcompass. But what are the signals that enter the brain and how do they interact?

The researchers fed the data they already knew about how this whole navigation system works into their computational model. Using those parameters, they developed what might be the neural mechanism.

As the receptive fields in the eyes detect the sun’s position, an oscillating neuronal signal is sent through to the brain. Meanwhile, the circadian clock is also sending oscillations.

The rate and combination of these neuronal signals tell the brain what signal to send to the body to adjust course. It dictates how much of an angle to change and whether it should turn left or right.

And if a butterfly is blown too far away from the necessary southerly direction, they adjust in a more dramatic way.

The researchers found that if the butterflies are pushed off course past a certain angle (which changes throughout the day), they will actually rotate their bodies around in a full circle as a sort of resetting method. Interestingly, that angle is tighter to the southerly track during the morning and evening, so the researchers suggest these rotational corrections likely occur more frequently then.

This phenomenon didn’t just appear in the model, the first author of the study, Eli Shlizerman, an applied mathematics researcher at the University of Washington, tells the Monitor in a phone interview. When they tested the actual butterflies, they would see them perform similar rotations to adjust.

But that’s not all. What happens when the butterflies need to return north for the summer?

When the researchers were investigating what different arrangements of neuronal wiring might fit the data to explain how the butterflies navigate, they found just two viable options. One helps the monarchs fly southwest, and the other helps it return northeast.

And, as Dr. Kronforst explains, the butterflies don’t fly around aimlessly to find their initial direction when it is time to migrate. Instead, they set off in the right direction right away. So these two wirings likely appear somehow in the neurobiology of the monarch butterflies.

This model doesn’t explain all the mechanisms likely involved in monarch migration navigation, admits Dr. Reppert. This model just looks at the mechanism for when the sun is in clear view in the sky. But the butterflies are known to be able to use polarized light on partly cloudy days to calculate the position of the sun. And they still fly in the right direction on completely overcast days. This is likely thanks to a sort of magnetic compass also in the insect’s brain, Reppert says.

It’s still unclear how these different mechanisms work together, Reppert says, but the sun compass is likely the primary cue that the butterflies use to determine direction.

To confirm their model, the researchers will next need to dig into the biology of butterflies and see if the model matches the structures actually in their brains.

“It is really an incredible feat that these little butterflies are able to make that amazing long-distance migration,” Kronforst says. “That’s why it’s important for people to try and understand how this happens.”

This research won’t just help scientists understand monarch migrations, he adds. It also could yield clues into the navigational tools of other migratory animals too.

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