Tag Archives: alcohol prices

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 19th June 2015

Irish regulations helping to reduce road death numbers,

Says Minister Donoghue


Paschal Donohoe announces new moves to arrest drivers who are banned by the courts.

Paschal Donohoe said 1,000 people a month were being disqualified from driving by the courts, yet about one in ten of these were subsequently detected by the Gardaí driving vehicles.

The number of people who have been killed on the State’s roads this year is 19 below the similar period last year – a statistic Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has ascribed to tighter rules of the road safety.

Announcing new measures which would allow gardaí to arrest those caught driving while disqualified, Mr Donohoe said certain types of behaviour were no longer acceptable.

Describing the new measure as “the next wave of efforts to make our roads safer”, Mr Donohoe said that from Monday, a person caught driving while disqualified may be brought immediately before the court if one is sitting, or may be detained until the next day’s court’s sittings.

Gardaí are currently obliged to issue a summons which can lead to difficulties with service of the summons through changes of address or the perpetrator leaving the country.

Mr Donohoe said 1,000 people a month were being disqualified from driving by the courts, yet about one in ten of these were subsequently detected by the gardaí driving vehicles which he described as “absolutely unacceptable”.

The penalty for driving while disqualified is a fine of up to €5,000 and and / or up to six months in prison.

“This year to date we have had about 590 prosecutions by the gardaí of people who were caught getting back into their car and driving the very roads they were banned from,” he said.

Mr Donohoe said he recognised the work of the gardaí in detecting and prosecuting those “who should not be on our roads”.

He said the move was one of a number of measures which had been put in place in recent months which he believed were making a difference to driver behaviour and a subsequent reduction in road deaths.

“We changed the number of penalty points that were applicable to certain kinds of offences and we have also had heightened road safety campaigns that have been run by the Road Safety Authority and other bodies in relation to the need to be safe on the roads.”

According to the Garda, 67 people were killed on the State’s roads up to 9am on Friday morning – some 19 less than the comparison figure for 2014.

However, Mr Donohoe said there were still difficulties with drivers speeding, using a mobile phone, drink-driving and not wearing a seat belt. He said there had been 3,000 arrests so far this year for suspected drink-driving.

Cost of bid to keep ill woman in UK would fund a unit in Ireland

Says a judge


Legal costs of HSE bid to keep a woman in a specialised unit estimated at well over €1m

When Mr Justice Seamus Noonan in the High Court observed the costs of the case of a woman with a severe personality disorder would fund a purpose-built unit in the Republic, Gerry Durcan SC, for the woman, said the legal costs of similar cases involving vulnerable young people over the last 20 years would pay for an entire “purpose-built system”.

A High Court judge has said the costs of legal proceedings by the HSE aimed at keeping an 18-year-old woman with a severe personality disorder in a specialised unit in Englandagainst her wishes would fund a “purpose-built” unit for her in Ireland.

The costs to date of various proceedings in Ireland and England concerning the woman are estimated to exceed well over €1 million.

It also costs £400,000 (€560,000) a year to keep her in St Andrew’s unit in Northampton, where other Irish children and adults are regularly detained .

The woman has been detained for 19 months in St Andrew’s. Before that, from age 14, she was treated in various units in Ireland for some two years.

When Mr Justice Seamus Noonan observed the costs of the case would fund a purpose-built unit for the woman here,Gerry Durcan SC, for the woman, said the legal costs of similar cases involving vulnerable young people over the last 20 years would pay for an entire “purpose-built system”.

Eleven barristers, including six senior and five junior counsel, and at least five solicitors are involved in the latest case, brought by the HSE, before Mr Justice Noonan.

It raises important issues, including whether the involuntary detention in St Andrew’s, when the Irish Mental Health Acts prohibit detention of adults with personality disorders, breaches the woman’s rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Most of the doctors agree that, as of now, she has capacity to make decisions about her treatment.

The HSE wants the woman to stay in St Andrew’s and she wants to return to Ireland, as provided for by the High Court in an order last March.

Voluntarily co-operate

It directed a care plan and other arrangements be put in place in time for the woman to return earlier this month. She has told the judge via videolink from Northampton she will voluntarily co-operate with treatment here.

The HSE claims circumstances have changed since the March order and has appealed that order to the Court of Appeal.

Pending that appeal, it has asked Mr Justice Noonan to vary the March order to keep the woman in St Andrew’s in the hope she will co-operate with a form of therapy considered the “gold standard” for her condition.

Doctors involved with her treatment have said they consider her a high suicide risk.

Lawyers for the woman, her estranged parents and her court-appointed guardian, all of whom are separately represented, accept she is a suicide risk but disagree her circumstances have changed materially since last March.

It has also been argued the HSE took no effective steps to put measures in place allowing for her treatment here.

The HSE argues she cannot be effectively treated here and her condition is best managed in St Andrew’s.

In evidence to the court, a psychiatrist who dealt with the woman in Ireland said there is a tension between her liberty, her right to live in the land of her birth and her need for treatment.

He considered it was in her best interests to have her condition managed in St Andrew’s.

That facility was best placed to provide her with treatment and while she had declined it, it could be offered again.

If she continued to refuse it, she should, after a specific time, be permitted to return, he believed.

Kept alive

He agreed she had been detained in hospitals here and England effectively for the past four years, with little improvement in her condition. However, she has been kept alive, he said.

If permitted to return home, the woman should not be subject to imposition of in-patient admission, he said. Should she opt for treatment in Ireland, the services here would be offered to her, he said.

His concern is about staffing, he said. Ireland does not have the resources available to large countries, and does not have the most appropriate facility to treat people with this form of personality disorder.

When Mr Durcan said Ireland does not detain people with personality disorders, the doctor said other jurisdictions do.

The Irish psychiatric services can manage most people apart from a “tiny minority” being treated in England, he added.

Mr Durcan said a medical report of August 2014 set out a view on what was necessary to be put in place for when the woman turned 18 this year, but it seemed there was no contact between the Irish adult mental health services and St Andrew’s concerning the woman’s possible treatment in Ireland for some six months after that report was produced.

The psychiatrist said he disagreed the analytic therapy recommended in that report was appropriate for the woman.

The necessary specialist service is just not available here – he could not “conjure up” such a service and nor did he think such was a good idea.

In her evidence via videolink to the court last week, the woman said the “most important thing” for her was “to be returned back to my country”.

She said she would not take her own life and has many plans for the future.

The price of tobacco and alcohol in Ireland is ‘70% higher than the EU average


Alcohol and tobacco prices are higher here than anywhere else in the EU, official Eurostat figures have revealed.

The publication of the consumer price level report across the EUtoday showed that Ireland’s alcoholic beverages and tobacco prices (collectively) are 70% higher than the EU average.

The National Off-Licence Association has stated called on Government to reverse the budgetary hike on alcohol in Budget 2014.

Evelyn Jones, government affairs director of the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), stated: “Eurostat’s results highlight the disproportionate and unfair campaign the Irish Government alone is waging against the alcohol sector via excise duty, which places a severe drain on cash flow and jeopardises product quality.

“Eurostat correctly attributes the “large price variation” in price as “mainly due to differences in taxation”.

According to NOffLA, excise on wine is 624% higher than the EU average. Beer and spirits are 298% and 243% above average, respectively.

“Not only has this placed the 92,000 jobs associated with the sector to extreme peril, we can see from Ireland’s ranking in other categories that excise is inflating Ireland’s average prices to that of fifth [highest] in the EU,” she said.

Ireland ranks fifth highest in prices overall: we are fourth most expensive restaurants & hotels, fifth most expensive for personal transport equipment, sixth most expensive for food & non-alcoholic beverages, and tied-13th for most expensive consumer electronics.

“It is simply wrong to suggest high prices benefit anyone other than the Government,” said Ms Jones.

“Not only is it anti-consumer, the level of excise means there is very little left for the actual producer, let alone the wholesaler and retailer.

“65.2% of a bottle of spirits is tax, leaving 34.8% to pay the supplier, staff and overheads before any profit is seen.”

NOffLA released its pre-budget submission earlier this month calling on the Minister for Finance to reverse the 15% increase in excise duty imposed in Budget 2014, to restore parity to wine taxation in relation to domestic alcohol, to ban the below invoice cost selling of alcohol and regulate for out-of-state imports of alcohol to support the 1,850 independent off-licences and 5,800 jobs at serious risk of closure as a result of the past two excise duty increases on alcohol.

Irish state rules out fresh changes to oil firms exploration taxes


The Government has said there is no need to readdress last year’s altered fiscal terms for exploration firms active in Irish waters, despite this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices.

Following his address to delegates at Energy Ireland’s annual conference at Croke Park yesterday, Ciaran O’hObain, principal officer at the Department of Natural Resources’ Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD), was specifically asked whether energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, which advised the Government on last year’s tax changes, would advise differently if delivering its findings in the current oil price environment.

World oil prices have fallen from over $100 per barrel to $50-$60 in the last year and are not expected to rise past $70 per barrel in the long term.

Last year, the Government changed the tax framework for Irish offshore operators, with the top rate of tax on profits made from any future oil find in Irish waters increasing from 40% to 55% and a 5% royalty revenue also going to the State for each year of a producing field’s lifespan.

The new terms will only relate to new finds and will not be backdated to cover previous finds that have yet to be drilled.

Mr O’hObain said yesterday that there is no issue to address regarding the new fiscal terms. He said that Wood Mackenzie based its analysis on a $60+ oil price, not specifically on a $100 price tag.

He added that the analysis was based on “a longer term view” and on a number of issues, including competition, outside of the record high oil prices.

“It wasn’t based on a 2014 price footing, but a more longer-term view. There is no proposal to be revisited,” Mr O’hObain said.

The question was posed by Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) chairman Pat Shannon.

Earlier this year, the IOOA suggested this year’s Finance Bill should include — as has been mooted by Government — incentives for marginal field operators, such as a lowering of the corporate tax rate (currently at 25% for explorers) and a removal of the 5% royalty fee for small and marginal field operators.

Mr O’hObain also suggested it is still too early to gauge how much interest is being shown in this year’s Atlantic Margin licensing round, which closes in September.

He said firms would be making “critical decisions”, regarding new investments this summer.

“Yes, there is interest. But we won’t know how this will translate into actual applications until September,” said Mr O’hObain.

He added that Ireland has many elements in place for a viable oil industry, including fiscal policy, industry engagement, joined-up thinking, and regulatory structure, but needed to see more drilling activity.

He said that Ireland remained under-explored, even though we are at a time of a record high number of licence and prospect authorisations.

Earlier this week, Deirdre Michie, the head of the UK’s oil sector representative, Oil & Gas UK, warned that the industry needed to get used to a future environment where long-term oil prices will hover around the $60 per barrel mark.

Britain’s once thriving North Sea-based exploration sector reached a 20-year low last year in terms of activity, with just 14 exploration wells drilled compared with 44 drilled in 2008.

Scientists discover that most kangaroos are ‘left-handed’


The study involved observing multiple species of marsupial in the wild for extended periods

Researchers have discovered that most kangaroos are left-handed, making them the only other species apart from humans to show a ‘handedness’ on a large scale.

The study, published in biology journal Current Biology, was conducted by a team of Russian scientists, who spent hours observing the behaviour of multiple species in the wild.

The scientists looked at the red kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, eastern grey kangaroo, and found that most animals of these species used their left forelimb far more often than their right.

The study says that two species of kangaroo and the wallaby displayed ‘population lateralisation’, meaning the animals showed a dominant use of one paw across a whole population.

The study also found that this left-handedness is consistent across different types of behaviour, for example when eating, grabbing things, and grooming.

The brush-tailed bettong, a tiny marsupial that resembles a squirrel, also showed a distinct left-handedness equal to that of the kangaroos.

Other marsupials observed in the study, such as Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, the sugar glider, and the grey short-tailed opossum, did not show a similar level of laterality.

These three creatures, unlike the larger marsupials, move on four feet instead of two – the study says this suggests that these postural characteristics are instrumental in whether the animal shows lateralisation.

Animals individually can be observed to show a preference for one side over another, as can be seen when asking a dog for a paw. However, lateralisation has never been proven at a population level before in a species other than humans.

Despite the popular misconception that polar bears are left handed (using their right paw to cover their black nose before killing their prey with their left), these few marsupials are the only non-human animals that mostly use one hand over the other.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 22nd October 2013

Ireland’s Pensioners protest over cruel Budget cuts


Up to 12,000 mostly older people descended on Leinster House to mount a noisy demonstration against multimillion-euro government cuts targeting the elderly.

Many who had travelled from throughout the country carried placards attacking the Fine Gael/Labour coalition and joined in chants of “shame, shame, shame” directed at the Dail.

At least three older people collapsed during the lunch-time rally in central Dublin, which had to be interrupted at one stage to secure medical help for one sick protestor.

Several speakers from the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament as well as from political and trade union backgrounds took to a makeshift stage to denounce austerity measures hitting medical care, telephone allowances and bereavement grants.

Cheered on by the huge crowd, Paddy Moran, of trade union Siptu, mocked Taoiseach Enda Kenny‘s pre-election promises to make Ireland a great country in which to grow old.

“One of the main boasts of this government is that the core State pension has been left untouched by this Budget,” he said.

“And, of course , they are right. That is, if you don’t suffer from any illnesses that require a visit to the doctor, that would require hospitalisation, or any kind of prescribed medicines.

“It was also a great budget as long as you or and your spouse or partner manage to stay alive forever – so you would not be in need of the bereavement grant.”

The veteran activist said the abolition of the telephone allowance  had condemned older people to a life of isolation.

Former junior health minister and Labour party rebel Roisin Shortall was briefly heckled by a small number of people in the crowd when she took to the podium.

But after a steward called for order, she urged the gathering to step up the fight against the Budget cuts.

“It’s a disgrace that you have to take to the streets again because of what this government is doing to older people,” she said.

Ms Shortall called on people to get on the airwaves, on the streets and on to government TDs to stop the “unfair” Budget.

“Once upon a time we had a country that stood by the older generation, where older people were listened to, looked after, loved and where older people were treated with respect and not treated like some kind of unwanted burden,” she added.

Robin Webster, chief executive of Age Action, said the Budget has hit the sickest, the most vulnerable and the poorest of older people.

A small number of protesters broke away after the demonstration to march on the GPO on O’Connell Street.

Gardai said there were no major incidents and put the turnout at the main rally at around 12,000 people.

Revenue to contact Irish homeowners over 2014 property tax


One million Irish people are to be asked how they intend to pay local property tax next year

Revenue said in a statement that those who paid in one lump sum – whether by credit or debit card, cheque, postal order or cash – as well as those who made regular payments in cash, will receive a letter outlining options for the coming year.

  The Revenue Commissioners are to write to nearly one million individuals seeking details on how they intend to pay their local property tax next  year.

Thousands who paid through various deduction options as well as those who received exemptions will not be contacted.

However, Revenue said in a statement that those who paid in one lump sum – whether by credit or debit card, cheque, postal order or cash – as well as those who made regular payments in cash, will receive a letter outlining options for the coming year.

“All you need to do is decide how you want to pay for 2014,fill in  the payment instruction either online or in paper and send it to Revenue by the deadline. You don’t need to value your property,”it said in a statement.

“Revenue will not be writing to you if you paid your 2013 LPT by phased payment method (direct debit or deduction at source from your salary, occupational pension or certain Government payments). Your phased payment method will continue to apply  in 2014 and you don’t need to contact Revenue.

“Similarly, Revenue  will not be writing to you if you claimed a full deferral or were exempt as the deferral or exemption carries forward to 2014.”

Further details for the forthcoming year and details on how to change payment methods can be found at revenue.ie.

Minimum price for alcohol to be introduced in Ireland


Cabinet decides to proceed with range of measures but proposed sports sponsorship ban kicked to touch

The Irish Government has shelved plans to ban the sponsorship of sporting events by drinks companies but it will proceed with the introduction of a minimum price regime for alcohol.

The cabinet  today decided to proceed with a range of measures to try and control the abuse of alcohol but the proposed sports sponsorship ban which was due to come into force in 2020 has been kicked to touch.

Instead, a working group under the Department of the Taoiseach will report back in 12 months on the implications of the ending of sports sponsorship.

An outright ban will only be considered if and when other means of funding sport have been identified and secured.

The cabinet decided to press ahead with a range of other measures designed to curb the abuse of alcohol, particularly by under-age drinkers.

The main element of the plan is the introduction of minimum prices for alcohol. The new pricing  structure will be calculated on the sale price per gram of alcohol.

The system will be introduced after consultation with theNorthern Ireland authorities to ensure that there are no major differences  in the price structure on both sides of the border.

The is a question mark over whether a minimum price arrangement will be legal under EU competition law but the Government has decided to press ahead.

Another element of the plan  will be a ban of drinks advertising on television during the day and early evening and it is expected that a watershed time limit of 9 pm will be introduced.

There will also be a ban on drinks advertising in cinemas during films that are screened for people aged under 18.

New regulations for the display of alcohol in supermarkets and other retail outlets will also be introduced. A strict code for separating alcohol from other products will be policed by environmental inspectors.

A new labeling regime for alcohol products with health warnings and a clear statement of the alcohol strength andcalorie count  also features in the plan.

How you can inherit dangerously high cholesterol

and not know about it until it’s too late


Getting ready for a night out with friends, Kate Kear (above pictured with her son & daughter) was carefully applying her make-up when she spotted a strange yellowish white mark under her right eye. 

  • High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol can build up in artery walls
  • This triggers inflammation and the formation of plaque, restricting blood flow
  • If a blood clot forms, this can cause a heart attack or stroke
  • Risks factors are smoking and an unhealthy diet, but it can be a genetic fault
  • For these people, cholesterol levels rise sharply as they age
  • But only 15% of those with the defect have been diagnosed

‘It was like a small squashy spot, around 2-3 mm across. I’d never noticed it before,’ says Kate, 34. Rushing to get ready, she covered it up with concealer. But the lump then began to grow. 

‘It was just getting bigger all the time. After two weeks, it was about half a centimetre across.’

Kate went to her GP, who sent her for a series of blood tests. These revealed she had alarmingly high cholesterol: 9.8 millimoles per litre of blood, almost double the normal level of five millimoles per litre.

‘I’d barely heard of cholesterol before,’ says the mother-of-four from Castleford in Yorkshire, ‘but when the GP explained that it can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease, I started to worry. There is a lot of heart disease in my family – in fact, we used to say we’ve all got bad hearts.’

Kate’s mother, Alison, had been diagnosed with high cholesterol in her early 30s, and needed bypass surgery to replace blocked arteries at 54. She died aged 60 in April 2005 after a blood vessel in her brain burst.

And her father, Kate’s grandfather, died of a heart attack aged 44.

Kate’s GP explained that the strange lump beneath her eye was a deposit  of cholesterol, and can often be a warning sign of high cholesterol. These lumps appear around the eyes for reasons doctors don’t fully understand. Lumps can also grow on tendons in the body and form on the knuckles, elbows and the back of ankles, on the Achilles tendon. In some people, they can also appear for no reason.

Kate’s high cholesterol was caused by a genetic fault, passed down through her family. Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced naturally in the liver, though it can also be found in some foods, and is vital for cells to function.

Doctors distinguish between two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol.

High levels of bad cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, triggering inflammation and the formation of plaque. This narrows the blood vessel, restricting blood flow to the heart, brain and body, which can cause symptoms such as chest pain – it can also cause leg pain if the arteries supplying the limbs become blocked. If plaque breaks off, it can create a clot and cause a heart attack or stroke.

The good and the bad: LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol (as opposed to HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol) can build up in artery walls, triggering inflammation and the formation of plaque

The usual risk factors for high cholesterol are an unhealthy diet , smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, but doctors recognise that some people, like Kate, are unlucky enough to be born with a genetic fault that places them at risk of high cholesterol from a very young age.

These people have slightly elevated levels of cholesterol even from birth. As they age, their levels rise sharply, irrespective of diet , smoking and lifestyle. The condition, known as familial hypercholesterolemia, affects as many as 120,000 Britons, but is often undiagnosed, and experts warn that many of those affected are walking around at high risk of a sudden heart attack or stroke without any inkling of the dangers (the condition doubles the risk of a sudden heart attack from the age of 20).

‘Having this genetic defect makes an enormous difference,’ says Mark Signy, consultant cardiologist at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

‘This faulty gene means that people have high cholesterol from a young age and are exposed to the harmful effects of high cholesterol for much longer. This brings forward the onset of heart disease by several decades, and people can have heart attacks in their 20s and 30s.’

And yet, worryingly, only 15 per cent of those with the condition have been diagnosed, explains Alan Rees, consultant physician at University Hospital Wales in Cardiff and a trustee of the charity Heart UK. ‘That means that 85 per cent of those with the condition are oblivious to the fact that they have it, and are not receiving appropriate treatment, which means a healthy lifestyle, taking exercise, not smoking, and taking cholesterol-lowering statins.’

Many people are only diagnosed when they have already developed heart disease, says Mark Signy. ‘Although some people have lumps around the eyes or tendons, many are only diagnosed when they develop heart disease or have a relative who died young from heart disease.

‘I would like to see routine screening for cholesterol perhaps as early as when people are in their 20s and 30s, and even earlier in those with a family history of familial hypercholesterolemia or very early heart disease.’

  ‘This faulty gene means that people have high cholesterol from a young age and are exposed to the harmful effects of high cholesterol for much longer. This brings forward the onset of heart disease by several decades.’

Identifying and treating the 100,000 Britons undiagnosed with the condition could prevent more than 2,500 heart attacks every year, says Heart UK. When Kate was diagnosed in 2004 she was immediately put on statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, and was recommended to eat a healthy diet and take more exercise.

Two more lumps appeared beside her eyes, and the first lump was by now 1 cm across. They were unsightly, but the GP warned that removing them could leave scarring. Kate’s doctor didn’t explain the seriousness of the condition, or offer to test her children for high cholesterol, so she put it out of her mind.

But three years ago, Kate’s sister, Laura, sent her a story that highlighted the severity of familial hypercholesterolemia, and explained how cholesterol can start to build up in youngsters.

‘I was terrified for my children,’ recalls Kate. ‘I started reading stories of people who’d died young because they had never been diagnosed. It was horrible to think my children could already have high cholesterol, and risk heart attacks in their 20s or 30s.’

Horrified, she changed GPs – her new doctor immediately doubled her dose of statins (from 20mg to 40mg) to get her cholesterol as low as safely possible, and tested her children. These tests, which were performed two years ago, showed that her son Jack, now 15, has normal cholesterol of around 5.5 – but Lewis, 13, and Isabel, nine, had abnormally high levels, with readings above nine.

Isabel takes a daily 10mg dose of statins, and Lewis takes 20mg – a full adult dose (Dr Rees explains studies have shown statins are safe from the age of nine or ten). They now have normal cholesterol levels – three-year-old Caleb will be tested before he turns ten.

Kate and her children were lucky to be diagnosed early, says Dr Rees: ‘Not everyone with high cholesterol has symptoms such as fatty deposits around the eyes. But anyone with these signs, or a family history of heart disease, should have their cholesterol tested by their GP and if necessary be offered family screening.’

Life-changer: Kate is campaigning for genetic screening to be made more easily available on the NHS

Kate is campaigning for genetic screening to be made more easily available on the NHS.

‘Having that diagnosis changed our lives. Knowing that a genetic defect runs in the family means we have to be extra careful – we now have a gym in our basement, including a running machine, and the children do a lot of sports.

‘We eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and pulses, which is fantastic for reducing cholesterol, and have homemade soups, too.’

But Kate still worries. ‘Watching what the children eat when they’re at a friend’s house is not easy, though their school is great and offers salads and baked potatoes.

‘And when they’re older and thinking of a family, their partner will need testing too so their children don’t risk inheriting two copies of a faulty gene, which can make people very ill and shorten their lives.’

Meanwhile, she still has the distinctive lumps under her eyes. Kate, who two years ago married Jonathan, 28, who runs his own property maintenance business, considered having laser treatment to remove them, but decided against it. ‘That little yellowish white lump could have saved my life, and saved my children from a high risk of an early heart attack or stroke. It’s terrifying to know there are often no signs – this really is a silent killer.

‘Now if I see people in the street with those same lumps I want to warn them to get their cholesterol checked. It’s a life saver.’

Jellyfish kill up to 20,000 Clare Island salmon


Jellyfish have more than sting in their tails for Clare Island salmon

Weeks after a Clare Island man ended  up in hospital due to jellyfish stings, it has emerged that up to 20,000 farmed salmon, situated in cages off the north-east coast of Clew bay outpost were lost because of the same marine species.
Marine Harvest, the aquaculture company that runs Clare Island Sea Farms Ltd, has confirmed the massive losses occurred in recent days and were due to warmer sea temperatures, which have led to similar incidents in fish-farms across Europe.
There have already been reports of strandings of jellyfish ‘blooms’ (groups) along the coast with thousands of Pelagia Noctiluca or Mauve Stinger occurring off Ballyferriter, Dingle, in late August and off Donegal early in September.   This species inflicted losses of over €1 million at a fish farm in Glenarm Bay, County Antrim, back in 2007 when a reported 120,000 fish died.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Dr Peter Gill, a retired Professor of Education in the University of Gavle in Sweden and a longtime resident of Clare Island, revealed that he ended up in a Swedish hospital after a recent encounter with jellyfish while swimming at The Cove on Clare Island.
“It’s funny  now but it was a shock to dive into The Cove about three weeks ago, thinking that the ‘brown stuff’ I thought I could see in the ripples was seaweed that had been blown in by the easterly wind.  Little did I know, that  from the top of my head  to my big toes,  I was inundated with jellyfish stings.  I was stung and scratching when I got out of the water and got into a warm bath when I got home.  It itched here and there but I thought no more of it,” Peter Gill said.
“A week later, I was in Sweden, and had to go to A&E.  I was beginning to scar and swell. Purple lines kept popping up along my arms, eyelids, earlobe, backside, legs and feet..  An intensive course  of antihistamines and I was okay after 24 hours,” he continued.
Adding: “Now I know how the poor salmon feel.  I am still scratching scabs a month later.”

Saturn from above is a pretty awesome sight


This view of the planet Saturn from above, including its surrounding rings, is pretty unique.

In fact, it’s one that could not possibly have been taken from Earth.

The picture, a composite ‘image mosaic’, is made up of shots earlier this month by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn, and shows the right side of the planet and the corresponding shadow cast across Saturn’s rings.

It was made by amateur image processor and Cassini fan Gordan Ugarkovic, and shows a side of the planet never before seen, as no Earth-based camera could possibly view the right side of Saturn.

“Since Earth is much closer to the Sun than Saturn, only the day side of the ringed planet is visible from the Earth,” according to NASA.

“The beautiful rings of Saturn are seen in full expanse, while cloud details are visible including the polar hexagon surrounding the north pole, and an extended light-colored storm system.”

It’s not the first time the Cassini spacecraft has offered us incredible images from its Saturn mission. The below shots taken in July capture not only the rings of Saturn but also the Earth, some 898 million miles (1.44bn kilometres) in the distance.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th September 2013

Growing numbers of Irish teenager’s being gang-raped

“Says a report”


Cari said it was alarmed by the dramatic rise in reports of attacks by multiple perpetrators in 2012, which doubled to 41.

Mary Flaherty, chief executive, said staff also recorded a 162% increase in rape and sexual assault allegations on under 18s, from 132 to 351.

She revealed teenagers told volunteers they often felt culpable in attacks, were witnessed or sometimes encouraged by others, and left traumatised by recordings which were viewed or discussed on social media sites.

“The sexualisation of children and young people and easy access to pornographic imagery plays a vital role in how young people perceive sex and sexuality,” she said.

“The nature of our calls has changed so much in the past 20 years that this issue needs to be addressed.

“Social networking sites also need to play a role in child welfare and protection – which to date they have not done.”

Ms Flaherty said a 13% cut in State funding last year impacted severely on services, leading to the closure of its service in Cork and all staff being laid off for a month.

Therapy hours had to be cut by 7% nationwide, from 2,650 hours in 2011 down to 2,474, leaving more than 50 children who were sexually abused on a waiting list for therapy by the end of the year.

Ms Flaherty said it was an appalling indictment on the nation that some of the 3,300 youngsters who report abuse to health chiefs each year are being let down.

“Children in Ireland continue to be sexually abused every day and we continue to fail them,” she said.

“If you are an adult who has experienced abuse, either in the last 24 hours or as a child, you have access to counselling in every health board area. You also have rape crisis and domestic violence units nations.

“If you are under 18 you only have support two children’s hospitals in Dublin and a service in Limerick which we run.”

The helpline took 1,493 calls during the year, up 4%.

They included 1,182 where a child spoke about their ordeal, 208 silent calls which were seen as a victim’s first step for help and 104 that went unanswered due to resources, a 30% drop on 2011.

The majority of allegations involved a family member and some parents raised concerns over the sexualised behaviour of their teenagers, although no abuse had taken place.

Cari, which also supported 64 children or family members through the criminal courts, also criticised the three to four year delays in cases which impact on a child’s life and healing process.

Majella Ryan, acting national clinical director, said the long term effect of child sexual abuse on children when they do not receive the appropriate interventions is well documented.

“Children as young as eight years old present with thoughts of suicide, self-harm and mental health issues,” she added.

“Many struggle at school as a result of their experiences.

“When left untreated, they can go on to develop problems with addiction, social skills and many other things that can make life difficult and unbearable.

“When these children are made safe and receive the right intervention, they can move on and the abusive experience does not have to define them.”

Number of tourists visiting Ireland up by 142,000 6.7% increase


THE number of tourists visiting Ireland this summer increased by 142,000 over the same time last year to over two million, according to the latest figures from the CSO released this morning.

A total of 2,264,800 return trips were made between June and August – an increase of 6.7% over the same period last year.

Visitors from the UK represented the largest group of visitors here who made 879,500 visits during the peak summer months of June, July and August, an increase of  4.7pc.

But the key North American market showed impressed gains of close to 20pc over the same period last year with visitors from Canada and the USA making 437,900 return trips.

Visitors from Eastern Europe, Switzerland, Turkey and other European countries were the third largest group who made 172,600 visits, followed by Germany at 169,100, France at 136,900, other areas – including Africa, Asia and theMiddle East – at 86,000 followed by Benelux countries at 79,500, Italy at 77,400, Australia and New Zealand at 66,700 and Scandinavia at 63,400.

The figures, especially for North American visitors, reveal that The Gathering tourism initiative is paying off.

There were almost 300,000 overseas visitors here by the end of August, which is close to The Gathering’s target of 325,000 overseas visitors by the end of the year.

“There are still gatherings taking place until the end of the year so we are very confident we’ll hit the target,” a Failte Ireland spokeswoman said.

Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn added: “For us in Fáilte Ireland, these figures are clear evidence that The Gathering is providing tourism with the ‘jump-start’ we always imagined it would. The North American performance is very impressive and the European markets are bouncing back. The increase in British visitors is particularly welcome as that market has been challenged for some time. The trick for tourism going forward will be to maintain the momentum created by the Gathering and build on this performance.”

The statistics also reveal that Irish residents took slightly more trips abroad and within Ireland for business and leisure this summer than last.

Some 4.4 million trips were taken over the summer – an increase of 4.9pc over the same time last year.

Failte Ireland attributed the heatwave in July and Gathering events for a slight increase in the number of Irish people making last-minute getaways within Ireland.

There was also a slight increase in the number of overseas trips taken (3.9pc) to 2.1 million, including holiday and business travel as well as visiting family.

Irish ploughing championships pull in record attendance’s this year


The number of people attending this year’s National Ploughing Championships has broken all records.

Almost 230,000 people visited the three day event in Ratheniska near Stradbally in Co Laois.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was the guest of honour on the third and final day of the 2013 Ploughing Championships in Co Laois, which are drawing to a close this evening.

A recording breaking 228,000 people turned out in Ratheniska near Stradbally since Tuesday morning – 43,000 more than last year’s figure.

“We knew that we’re in the cross roads of Ireland here, and we’re in between two major motorways … [and] the weather was a major, major factor,” said Anna May McHugh, Managing Director of the National Ploughing Association.

The organisers confirmed this evening that next year’s event will also take place in Ratheniska.

Irish Carbon Monoxide awareness Week 2013


Most Irish people are unaware of the connection between burning fossil fuels and the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, new research has found.

CO is a poisonous gas, however, it is colourless and odourless. It is produced when fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, do not have enough oxygen to burn completely.

If inhaled into the body, CO combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person inhales CO over a period of time, they are at risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying. Around six people die every year in Ireland as a result of accidental CO poisoning.

However, a survey of 1,000 adults released as part of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, revealed low levels of consumer awareness when it comes to the connection between CO and the burning of fossil fuels.

For example, just one in three people are aware that oil and gas can produce CO when burned, while only one in four are aware that coal, kerosene and bottled gas can produce it.

Meanwhile, just one in five people know that charcoal, peat and turf can produce the poisonous gas, while only one in seven know that burning wood and wood pellets can produce it.

In order to prevent CO, fuel burning appliances, such as gas boilers, should be serviced on an annual basis and chimneys, vents and flues should be kept clear.

According to the research, almost three in four people are aware of the importance of regular servicing of these appliances, however for almost six in 10 people, the cost of such a service is a prohibiting factor.

Furthermore, when asked when was the last time they had their heating appliance serviced, 8% said that to their knowledge, it had never been serviced, while 15% said they did not know.

“This research shows that everyone needs to be more aware that every fossil fuel when burned has the potential to produce CO. CO poses a very real threat to people’s lives. Regular appliance servicing and keeping vents, flues and chimneys clear are extremely important to ensure the safety of family members and loved ones,” commented Dr Paul McGowan of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which organises this event.

As part of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, which runs until September 29, people are being reminded of the importance of installing a CO alarm in their homes.

Symptoms of CO poisoning can include cold-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, chest pains, diarrhoea and lack of energy. For more information on CO, click here

IMO calls for Irish minimum alcohol prices structure to reduce abuse


The Irish Medical Organisation is calling for a minimum unit pricing structure for alcohol across the country.

The group says the introduction of a minimum price would effectively reduce the problem of alcohol abuse on future generations in Ireland.

The President of the IMO, Dr Matt Sadlier, said they were seeking an all-island policy including the North to help to tackle the issue.

“Our reason for looking for minimum pricing for alcohol is that where minimum unit pricing has been introduced, it has been shown to reduce consumption – and thus reduce the social difficulties with alcohol,” he said.

The IMO is also urging the government to ensure that young people are not exposed to alcohol marketing and to introduce a complete ban on drinks advertising and promotion.

First pair of Okapis arrive at Dublin Zoo


Dublin Zoo has announced that the first okapis in Ireland have become its newest residents.

Males Kamba, aged 14, and Kitabu, aged six, arrived from Rotterdam Zoo this month.

Dublin Zoo said: “The okapi is originally found in the Ituri Rainforest, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in central Africa.”

Dublin Zoo continued: “It is one of the last species of mammals to be described by western science and even today the okapi largely remains a mystery to the outside world.

“For most people living in Ireland this will be their first opportunity to see these extraordinary animals.”

Dublin Zoo added: “Okapis are the only living relative of the giraffe. The okapi has a dark red-brown-coloured coat with horizontal, white-striped markings on their hind quarters and at the tops of their legs. Its long, black tongue is prehensile, meaning that it is able to strip leaves from the branches above.

“Unfortunately, due to deforestation and hunting, their numbers are declining rapidly.”

Director of Dublin Zoo Leo Oosterweghel said: “It is a privilege to see such a rare and beautiful animal. They are a shy and sensitive animal and are still settling in so may not be visible every day.”

Curiosity findings show 2% of Mars soil contains water


The first analysis of soil dug up by the Curiosity rover reveals new insights into the red planet’s propensity for retaining water beneath its surface.

After examining fine-grained soil particles extracted by the Curiosity rover from beneath the surface of Mars, scientists have concluded that roughly 2 percent of the Martian surface soil is made up of water. While showing no indication of organic material besides Earth-transported microbes, the results bode well for future manned missions to Mars, wherein astronauts could mine the soil for water, and advance scientists’ understanding of Mars’ history.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, are part of one article in a five-paper special section on the Curiosity mission that began in August 2012. “One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil,” lead author Laurie Leshin, dean of the School Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said in a NASA press release.

The tool Curiosity used to analyze the sample was a collection of instruments called Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, that contains a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer, and a tunable laser spectrometer.

The rover first scooped up dirt, dust, and finely grained soil from a 2.5-inch-deep hole it dug in a patch of Mars’ soil referred to as Rocknest back in February. Then a tiny, pill-size portion of the sample was fed into SAM, where it was heated to 1,535 degrees Fahrenheit.

The gases that were released — which included significant portions of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and sulfur compounds — were analyzed, and gaseous carbonite was found in a quantity that suggests the water presence in Martian soil.

The Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite prior to installation inside Curiosity.

“This work not only demonstrates that SAM is working beautifully on Mars, but also shows how SAM fits into Curiosity’s powerful and comprehensive suite of scientific instruments,” said Paul Mahaffy, a lead investigator for SAM at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

These findings come on the heels of disheartening news last week that Curiosity has yet to crack the methane mystery that has persisted around Mars since 2003, when scientists observed methane plumes and the public and professional interest in finding life on the red planet soared.

The lack of methane thus far indicates that the rover has little chance of finding active microbial life on the planet, but the existence of water in such great quantities in the surface soil brings scientists one step closer to piecing together the planet’s past potential for harboring life.

“By combining analyses of water and other volatiles from SAM with mineralogical, chemical, and geological data from Curiosity’s other instruments, we have the most comprehensive information ever obtained on Martian surface fines,” added Mahaffy. “These data greatly advance our understanding surface processes and the action of water on Mars.”

Given the renewed interest of late in manned missions to Mars — from non-profit organizations like Mars One, privatized transportation companies like SpaceX, and the unofficial plans in the works over at NASA — these findings are reassuring. Leshin confirmed a cubic foot of soil, as opposed to the tiny sample Curiosity analyzed, could yield nearly 2 pints of condensation when heated.