Daily Archives: August 27, 2016

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 26th August 2016

Áras Attracta’s services criticised in a draft HSE report

The care home was the controversial subject of an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme.

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A draft Health Service Executive (HSE) report on the Áras Attracta care home in Co Mayo is believed to have identified numerous issues including low morale and fraught relations between management and staff.

The home was the controversial subject of an RTÉ Prime Time Investigatesprogramme in 2014, which examined care practices for adults with intellectual disabilities.

According to the broadcaster, a draft report of a review of services, which has been two years in the making and which is due to be published next month, has found failures throughout its management system.

In particular it found low staff morale, ineffective use of staff resources and weak governance, particularly in respect of “bungalow three” which featured in the documentary.

“Staff in Áras Attracta…describe bungalow three as the ‘forgotten bungalow’ where there was a culture of bad practices,” Prime Time Investigates reporter Barry O’Kelly said.

“Management are criticised under a number of different headings. It notes as well there were fraught relations between management and staff in Áras Attracta.

“However it also states that even today there are many relatives of people who are living in Áras Attracta, people with intellectual disabilities, who are happy with the services provided there. It also notes that the HSE has introduced quite sweeping changes since our programme almost two years ago.”

A spokesman for the HSE declined to comment other than to say the completed report would be published in the first week of September.

Minister Flanagan clarifies consular care policy in relation to Pat Hickey in Brazil


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The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan has responded to calls from the family of Pat Hickey for the Minister and Government to intervene in issues surrounding his detention in Rio de Janeiro.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Hickey family called on Minister Flanagan and Minister for Sport, Shane Ross to intervene urgently in addressing “extremely worrying” issues surrounding his arrest and detention and the effect it is having on his health.”

The family said they were “gravely concerned about the effect this degrading and humiliating ordeal has had on their father and grandfather and how it continues to affect his physical and mental health.”

Minister Flanagan responded by saying:-

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides consular care to Irish citizens who have been arrested or detained overseas.

“We are currently assisting two Irish citizens detained in Rio de Janeiro.

“In general it is Department policy not to comment in detail publicly on individual consular cases, of which there have been almost 1,500 already this year.

“Any Irish citizen who requests or avails of consular assistance is entitled to privacy and confidentiality.

“However, I wish to make certain points in response to today’s statement from the Hickey family.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing ongoing consular assistance to Mr. Hickey through the Irish Embassy and Consulate in Brazil.

“My officials are in ongoing contact with the family of this citizen and with legal representative acting on his behalf.

“Senior officials of the Department met with Mr Hickey’s Dublin-based solicitors on Wednesday, 24 August, and discussed the family’s concerns in detail, and explained the Department’s approach to this consular case.

“In general terms, the Department’s focus in cases of arrest or detention of Irish citizens overseas is on a number of specific issues including ensuring that the citizen has access to legal representation, that the citizen is not being discriminated against on the grounds of nationality, and that the host authorities are fulfilling their responsibilities in ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of our detained citizen.

“In this context my officials are in ongoing contact with the Brazilian authorities.

“The Department cannot however provide legal advice or interfere in any way in the judicial processes in another country.

“I have agreed to meet with the Hickey family and arrangements will be made for this meeting to take place in the coming days.

“ In the meantime, my Department is continuing to monitor developments in this consular case closely and is continuing to provide all appropriate consular advice and assistance to Mr. Hickey and his family.”

What are the highest paid jobs in Ireland in 2016?

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The average annual salary rose to just over €37,000 in the first three months of this year, before dipping slightly by the summer, figures now show.

Official data shows that the average weekly wage at the start of the year rose 1.5% on the same period in 2015, to €713.41.

But it dipped fractionally in the three months to the end of June to €703.83, according to the Central Statistics Office.

There were wide variations across sectors.

The best paid sector to be in is Information and Communications, which includes IT companies, publishing houses and telecommunications.

It recorded an average weekly wage of €1,063.39, which means, in theory, these type of firms had an annual average salary of around €55,296.

In close second was the financial, insurance and real estate sector, which had average weekly pay of €1,014.66.

At the bottom of the pack were the accommodation and food services sector, and the arts, entertainment and recreation and other services sector, with average weekly earnings of €331.81 and €467.77 respectively.

Average weekly earnings in the private sector showed an increase of 1.5pc from €635.52 to €644.98 in the year to the end of June.

Average earnings are falling in the public sector, but at €905.97, they’re still healthier than the private sector.

Average weekly earnings increased in nine of the 13 sectors in the economy up to the end of June.

The largest percentage increase was 5% in the professional, scientific and technical activities sector, which includes legal and accounting businesses, management consultants, architectural and engineering firms, and advertising – where average weekly earnings rose from €800.41 to €840.39.

The construction sector saw a near 4% hike in average wages to €734.49, while there was an increase of 2.5% in the financial, insurance and real estate sector.

The public administration and defence sector experienced the largest percentage sectoral decrease, falling from €933.00 to €900.88, a drop of 3.4%. The CSO said this was due to the recruitment of temporary Census field staff, who were on lower-than-average weekly earnings and weekly paid hours.

If you strip those workers out, the sector had average weekly earnings of €928.90, a fall of 0.4%.

In the five years up to June, average weekly earnings rose by 2.1pc, from €689.32 in June 2011 to €708.83 five years later.

Across the public sector, average weekly earnings fell 1.2pc to €905.97, but if you exclude the temporary census staff, the fall is just 0.3%.

Three of the seven public sector sub-sectors had annual increases in average weekly earnings, with Gardaí recording the largest rise of 4.7% from €1,245.30 to €1,304.11 in the year to June. That means, according to the CSO, the average annual Garda pay in June was €67,813.

The CSO said the education sector recorded the highest average hourly earnings in the year of €37.89, while also showing the lowest hours worked of 23.9 hours.

The Gardaí had the next highest earnings, with average hourly earnings of €30.52. But they worked the longest, at 42.7 hours.

First official estimates put overall 2016 Irish cereal harvest down by 15%

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Harvest is approximately 30-50% complete, depending on the area of the country, according to Teagasc’s latest crop report.

It says significant areas are still to be harvested in the midlands, north east and north of the country.

According to Teagasc, larger growers are now being forced into harvesting at higher moistures to reduce the amount to be harvested.

It says yields of winter barley and oilseed rape have been largely disappointing, whereas winter wheat and spring barley harvested so far are reporting good yields and quality.

Overall the tonnes harvested this year is predicted to be 15% lower than last year in its first provisional estimate of harvest 2016.

The decrease is a combination of reduced areas (-7%) and lower yields. The main trends are that yields are mixed with winter barley and winter oilseed rape generally disappointing whereas winter wheat and earlier sown spring barley yields are holding well.

Grain quality has been mixed with low hectolitre weights in many winter barleys and skinning (loss of some of the grain hull) reported in malting barleys.

Prices remain depressed due to supply exceeding demand and high worldwide stocks of small grains and maize.

Teagasc says the poor yield combined with lower prices is resulting in negative margins for many crops this year with poor prospects for an increase in grain price due to an expected very large world harvest.

Faces of murderers could be recreated from DNA left at crime scenes after science breakthrough

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Scientists have identified the genes that shape facial features including nose size and face width, according to a new report

New findings may also help researchers to learn how facial birth defects arise

The faces of murderers or rapists could be ‘recreated’ from DNA left at the scene of the crime, according to new research.

Scientists have identified the genes that shape the extraordinary variation in the human face.

Many features, such as nose size and face width, stem from specific mutations, say researchers.

Previous studies have suggested they are controlled by genes , but this is the first to shed light on how variants contribute to the range of different forms we see.

The findings published in PLOS Genetics may also help researchers to learn how facial birth defects arise.

And they could even have applications in forensics, helping police construct more accurate faces of dangerous criminals being hunted for murders, rapes and robberies.

The discovery of the genes that determine human facial shape could provide valuable information about a person’s appearance using just DNA left behind at the scene of a crime.

They are based on a DNA analysis of 20 facial characteristics measured from 3D images of 3,118 healthy volunteers of European ancestry and almost a million mutations, or SNPs (single base pair) variations.

Dr John Shaffer, of the University of Pittsburgh , said: “There is a great deal of evidence genes influence facial appearance.

“This is perhaps most apparent when we look at our own families, since we are more likely to share facial features in common with our close relatives than with unrelated individuals.

“Nevertheless, little is known about how variation in specific regions of the genome relates to the kinds of distinguishing facial characteristics that give us our unique identities, e.g., the size and shape of our nose or how far apart our eyes are spaced.

“In this paper, we investigate this question by examining the association between genetic variants across the whole genome and a set of measurements designed to capture key aspects of facial form.

“We found evidence of genetic associations involving measures of eye, nose, and facial breadth.

“In several cases, implicated regions contained genes known to play roles in embryonic face formation or in syndromes in which the face is affected.

“Our ability to connect specific genetic variants to ubiquitous facial traits can inform our understanding of normal and abnormal craniofacial development, provide potential predictive models of evolutionary changes in human facial features, and improve our ability to create forensic facial reconstructions from DNA.”

Facial width, the distance between the eyes, the size of the nose and the distance between the lips and eyes all had statistically significant associations with certain SNPs.

The researchers also considered results from two similar studies and confirmed certain previous findings.

Until recently, virtually nothing was known about the genes responsible for facial shape in humans.

Added co author Dr Seth Weinberg: “Our analysis identified several genetic associations with facial features not previously described in earlier genome wide studies.

“What is exciting is many of these associations involve chromosomal regions harbouring genes with known craniofacial function.

“Such findings can provide insights into the role genes play in the formation of the face and improve our understanding of the causal factors leading to certain craniofacial birth defects.”

Several of the genetic regions contributing to face shape detected contain genes known to play a role in facial development and abnormalities.

In the future, the scientists hope to identify genetic risk factors that lead to anomalies such as cleft lip and palate.

But they warned it is important to keep in mind these findings likely represent only a small fraction of the genes influencing the size and shape of the human face.

Many of the genes influencing facial features are likely to have small effects, so successfully mapping a large number of these genes will require much greater sample sizes and a more comprehensive approach to quantifying those of interest.