News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 6th September 2016.

Volkswagen company representatives walk out of Mayo court emissions case

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Legal representatives for Volkswagen walked out of court in Mayo today after labelling an ongoing court case regarding emissions as “entirely inappropriate and unfair”.

Barrister Paul Fogarty and two instructing solicitors from A&L Goodbody walked out of Castlebar District Court after Judge Mary Devins ruled that she would continue with the case.

Earlier Mr Fogarty told Judge Devins that his clients, Volkswagen Group Ireland and Volkswagen AG had obtained legal advice that the court had no jurisdiction to take the case.

He said that as a result representatives were not present in court and the defence would be calling no witnesses.

Mr Fogarty said his clients also took the view that there were serious issues in relation to orders previously made by the court in the case and raised concerns about the manner in which evidence would be given by witnesses for the claimant. He said the manner of the case was “highly unconventional”.

He informed Judge Devins that the respondents would be seeking a judicial review in the matter.

Judge Devins said the case would continue “without Hamlet” and later referred to the actions of the legal team as a “spectacular walk out”

The case, before Castlebar District Court is being taken by mother of three Eithne Higgins Croghan, Boyle, Co Roscommon.

She is seeking compensation after Volkswagen admitted cheating on emissions tests last year.

The case will deal with whether there was an issue with carbon dioxide (CO2) and / or oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions on the vehicle in question.

Ms Higgins’ claim states that there may be implications in respect to the payment of Vehicle Registration Tax or road tax as a result of incorrect emissions data.

The court heard that after the emission revelations emerged she attempted to trade in her car at three different garages, each time unsuccessfully.

Evan O’Dwyer, representing Ms Higgins criticised the respondents and their legal representation, stating that he and his client had been ‘bullied’. He also criticised the manner in which the respondents had treated the court by arriving late on one occasion, failure to make a witness available, failure to provide adequate data and the failure of the respondents to attend court. He also claimed he had received letters from A&L Goodbody threatening him with contempt while Ms Higgins had received three letters stating the company would pursue her for costs if she proceeded with the case.

“There has been a system of bullying going on in this case from the beginning. Bullying of Ms Higgins, myself and laterally this court. Attempts have been made to goad this court so that a judicial review could be sought.

“They are trying to set-up this court for a judicial review,” he added.

He added that the quality of information provided by Volkswagen “belittles” the court.

A statement from Volkswagen Group Ireland’s technical services manager Stephen McDonnell was read into the record. Mr McDonnell did not attend despite having been directed by the judge to do so.

His statement stressed that CO2 emissions were not linked to the NOx emissions.

However, this was dismissed by emissions expert Horace Calvert Stinson who said it didn’t stack up with theory, practice or experience.

He stressed the issue of CO2 and NOx could not be separated adding they were “intimately related” and were completely interdependent on each other.

Dr Calvert Stinson said the data provided by Volkswagen was not sufficient in this case and was not fit for purpose.

This was also the view of Michael Lehmann who was involved in the Volkswagen litigation in the US. He said the level of information provided to the court fell well below the data provided for similar cases in the US adding that there was a “complete absence of hard data”.The case continues tomorrow Wednesday.

Bruton says Irish universities must agree to reform if they want more money

Education minister responds to colleges’ demands after fall in rankings

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Richard Bruton: he dismissed suggestions by some university leaders that a proportion of corporation tax should be set aside exclusively for the third-level sector

Universities must agree to a series of reforms in return for any increases in funding, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said.

Mr Bruton conceded that universities were under funding pressure following the publication of global rankings that saw all but one of the State’s universities fall, but said “virtually every part of the public service” was experiencing similar problems.

He was “absolutely” considering reforms in return for additional funding, but also suggested that any such increases – which university heads say are vital to sustain the system – would only come about as part of a longer-term plan.

“I made it absolutely clear that any new money, whether it comes from students, employers or, indeed, it comes from the State, it has to be locked into policy tools that deliver the priorities that people would expect,” Mr Bruton said in response to calls from heads of universities and third-level teachers for more funding for their institutions.

Skills gaps

“That means meeting the skills gaps and the requirements of the war for talent in the enterprise world, meeting our needs to bring through from areas of disadvantage and disability and seeing them participate to the full, and showing that we can drive innovation to high standards.

“So I would be very keen to see a reform in the funding mechanism as well as the amount of funding so that we can leverage more impact from our higher education system.”

Heads of universities said the fall in the global rankings of Irish universities was the consequence of a decade of cutbacks to the sector, and third-level representatives warned of a crisis in the colleges caused by growing student numbers and a lack of investment.

Trinity is the only Irish university ranked in the top 100 international universities, and it and all other universities here except NUI Galway are rated lower than last year in this year’s world university rankings.

Crisis

However, Mr Bruton avoided conceding there was a crisis in the sector, and spoke of the necessity for a longer-term plan for reforming the funding of higher education.

He dismissed suggestions by some university leaders yesterday that a proportion of corporation tax should be set aside exclusively for the third-level sector.

Two months ago a major report into the funding of higher education by former trade union leader Peter Cassells said the sector needed a long-term funding solution, and laid out options, including increased State investment and a student-loan system.

Mr Bruton has not yet indicated his preferences, but said he wanted to build a political consensus on the issue. He said the report would soon be discussed by the Oireachtas education committee.

However, he also indicated that higher education was only one of a number of sectors that would be seeking priority in the forthcoming budget, citing especially pressures in housing and health.

Emergency treatment for severe low blood glucose is recalled by drugs watchdog

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A recall of certain batches of GlucaGen HypoKits, used for the emergency treatment of severe low blood glucose, was ordered by the country’s drugs’ watchdog today.

The reason for the recall is that in a small number of units (0.006% approx.) the syringe needle has become detached from the syringe. Units with a detached needle cannot be used to prepare the medicine for administration.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said it is  advising patients and carers to check the batch number on any GlucaGen Hypokit units they may have at home or in their possession and to return any of the affected product to their pharmacist where a replacement will be provided.

GlucaGen HypoKit is packaged with a syringe containing sterile water for injection which is used to prepare the medicine for use.

They are used in emergency situations to treat severe hypoglycaemia in children and adults with diabetes mellitus.

While a very small number of units are likely to be impacted, a delay in emergency treatment could have significant health consequences and, therefore, units from affected batches should not be used and should be returned to the dispensing pharmacy where a replacement will be provided.

Two batches of Novo Nordisk GlucaGen HypoKit and two batches of PCO Manufacturing GlucaGen Hypokit are being recalled in Ireland and this represents a total of 8,064 units.

The affected batch numbers, which are printed on the product label along with an expiry date, are as follows:

Patients and carers who have a GlucaGen Hypokit with a batch number which is not mentioned above, do not need to return the unit to their pharmacy.

The HPRA will closely monitor the recall and provide further updates as necessary on http://www.hpra.ie

How to Identify the Batch Numbers:- Novo Nordisk GlucaGen HypoKits:

  1. Firstly check if you have a GlucaGen HypoKit which has a marketing authorisation no. PA218/31/2.
  2. If the GlucaGen HypoKit has this authorisation number, then next check the batch number to confirm if it is one of the batches being recalled. The batch number can be found on the part of the label highlighted by the red box below.
  3. If the batch number is FS6X249 or FS6X592, then please contact your pharmacist to return the unit and to receive a replacement unit.

PCO Manufacturing GlucaGen HypoKits:

  1. Firstly, check if you have a GlucaGen HypoKit which has a marketing authorisation no. PPA465/331/1.
  2. If the GlucaGen HypoKit has this authorisation number, then next check the batch number to confirm if it is one of the batches being recalled. The batch number (which is a combination of BN and PC numbers) can be found on the parts of the label highlighted by the red boxes below.
  3. If the batch number is BN: FS6X718 / PC: 206 or BN: FS6X718 / PC: 208, then please contact your pharmacist to return the unit and receive a replacement unit.

New Head of Environmental Science at IT Sligo

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Dr Frances Lucy (pictured) has been appointed as the new Head of Department of Environmental Science at Institute of Technology, Sligo.

She succeeds Dr Billy Fitzgerald who has recently retired from the role.

Dr Lucy is a native of Cork, and has been living in Drumkeerin, County Leitrim since she first joined the Institute in 1992.

During that time she has immersed herself in a wide range of teaching, course development and research in the Dept. of Environmental Science.

She is also Director of the Institute’s Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS), and has over twenty years experience in the areas of invasive alien species (IAS) management and freshwater ecology.

She carried out her PhD while working in the institute, and her topic area was on the dynamics of zebra mussel populations in Lough Key.

“I am very proud to be appointed as Head of the Department of Environmental Science,” said Dr Lucy. “Our students are the future guardians of the environment and we work hard to give them the best student experience that is achievable.

“At IT Sligo, they get the education, skills and work experience they need to walk straight into the workplace. There are extremely good job prospects for graduates from our environmental, occupational safety and health and archaeology courses,” she said.

Dr Lucy is currently the lead Principal Investigator for a new three-year Irish EPA research project on ‘Prevention, Control and Eradication of Invasive Alien Species’ (2016-2019).

Beyond her IT Sligo roles, she is chairperson of the Environmental Sciences Association of Ireland and a Board Member of the Irish state agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland.

New Scientific study reveals changes to our taste buds.

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Researchers at Oregon State University in Corvallis conducted a study published in the New Scientist that suggests foods rich in carbohydrates have a uniquely distinct taste, revealing that “starchy” could be a noteworthy taste in its own right. Researchers found that the human taste palette can distinguish carbohydrates in certain foods like pasta, potato and bread.

“Every culture has a major source of complex carbohydrates. The idea that we can’t taste what we’re eating doesn’t make sense,” Juyun Lim at Oregon State University said, according to the New Scientist.

The team gave volunteers a range of different carbohydrate solutions during the experiment. “They were able to detect a starch-like taste in solutions that contained long or shorter carbohydrate chains. They called the taste ‘starchy,'” said Lim. “Among the participants, Asians indicated a “rice-like” flavor whereas Caucasians described the taste as being “bread like” or “pasta like.”

“Like eating flour,” she added. Researchers have not yet identified the taste buds that specifically differentiate between starchy and non-starchy foods but studies are ongoing. The five basic tastes – sweet, sour, bitter and salty – might be making room for another one “umani,” a savory taste that was also identified during the study.

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