Tag Archives: allegations

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 14th April 2016.

Almost 20% increase in Irish nursing home abuse allegations


The number of allegations of suspected or confirmed abuse of older people in nursing homes jumped by almost 20% last year.

According to the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (Hiqa) 2015 overview report of nursing home inspections in 2015, some 424 notifications of allegations of abuse were received, compared to 357 in 2014 — an increase of almost 19%.

Some 967 notifications of an unexpected death of any resident were received — up from 625 in 2014.

Hiqa received 4,155 reports of an injury to a resident that required medical and/or hospital treatment in 2015. However, it stressed there is evidence of over-reporting by centres, as just 54% required hospital treatment, while 95% of these were rated as of minor/moderate risk.

There were 137 reports of unexplained absence of a resident from a nursing home, up from 122 in 2014.

There is a total of 577 centres providing 30,106 residential beds here.

A total of 411 nursing home inspections were carried out last year in 343 registered residential centres across the country, with almost half of all inspections being unannounced.

Some 59% of all registered centres received an inspection in 2015. Of the centres that received an inspection, 84% received one inspection, 13% received two inspections, and 3% received three or more inspections.

The chief inspector with Hiqa, Mary Dunnion, said good levels of compliance with regulations relating healthcare, food, and nutrition and end-of-life care were found in the centres inspected.

“The provision of high-quality, safe service is found in centres where managers, providers, and persons in charge continually look for innovative ways to improve the evolving needs, preferences and rights of individual residents,” she said.

However, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action Ireland, Justin Moran, expressed concern at the substantial rise in reports of abuse in nursing homes.

“It is essential that all of these cases are reported to the HSE’s elder abuse caseworkers and properly investigated. We need a proactive approach to tackling elder abuse with more training for care staff and ensuring residents know how to report cases of suspected abuse,” said Mr Moran.

He also questioned why so many people are in nursing homes in the first place.

“Many older people need quality nursing home care, but thousands could be at home with their families and in their communities if the proper supports were provided,” said Mr Moran. “That’s what they want. It’s what the Government’s National Positive Ageing Strategy promises.”

“And it’s better value for money. The next government must prioritise investment in services that enable older people to stay home as long as possible and introduce a statutory right to community care.”

In a statement, Nursing Homes Ireland said the report highlighted high standards of care right across the nursing home sector which provides “reassurance for residents, their relatives and friends and wider public”.

“It is important to note the report focusses on areas requiring improvement and it states numerous specific examples of good practice in nursing home care are not documented within it, but published within individual inspection reports,” said a statement.

“It does provide an analysis of good practice, further endorsing high-quality care that is provided by dedicated, committed, and caring management and staff within nursing homes.”

Nursing Homes Ireland also highlighted the “critical issue” of adequate staffing levels in the sector and said it had recently engaged directly with Hiqa on the issue.

Dáil establishes an all party committee to deal with housing and homelessness


A new all-party committee to look at how to deal with the housing and the homelessness crisis has been established by the Dáil.

TDs are also making statements on housing tonight, saying there is an urgent need to find a fix.

Acting Environment Minister Alan Kelly says 31 actions were taken in the last 21 months, and he says no matter what is done now won’t fix the problem overnight.

Mr Kelly said: “I’ve sought to tackle this issue from every possible angle to improve the situation for everyone in this country.

“It has absolutely been my priority during my short term in the Department of the Environment.

“But the fruits of that work will take time to become apparent. We have laid the foundations, but the solutions will, like any house, take time to build and to bring forward.”

ESB workers set to receive a 5.5% pay rise


In addition to the 5.5% pay rise workers will receive a €2750 once off payment?

6000 ESB workers are set to receive a 5.5 % pay rise over two and a half years, as well as once-off lump sums worth around €2750, under new pay proposals.

The proposals, revealed in the journal ‘Industrial Relations News’, would see staff receive an increase of 2.75% from 1 April 2016, with a further 2.75% on 1 August 2017.

It is understood trade unions see the €2,750 lump sum as effectively retrospective compensation for a period when pay was frozen between 1 April 2014 and the end of March 2015.

Such arrangements are not common in the general workforce. At that point, a 2% pay rise was awarded.

This latest deal expires at the end of September 2018, when a new three year pay agreement will be negotiated.

The percentage increases would be seen as being in line with norms in the economy at present.

The deal emerged from a mediation process after a previous pay offer was comprehensively rejected.

Under a separate cost reduction programme including significant job cuts, savings of €140 million were secured.

The ESB said negotiations between the company and the Group of Unions had concluded on 7 April resulting in the development of a proposal issued for the consideration of both parties by the independent facilitator on Monday.

It said it had no further comment to make at this time.

The ESB confirmed that the average salary for ESB employees at present is €62,000, rising to €72,000 when overtime and expenses are factored in.

Binman life was saved by hero schoolgirl Victoria is presented with bunch of flowers


Victoria Williamson Gaine pictured with Panda Waste Employee, Florin Popa at her school.

THIS is the first meeting between hero student Victoria Williams-Gaine and Florin Popa, since she saved his life.

Mr Popa (39) today surprised the transition year student at her school St Joseph of Cluny, in Killiney, and presented her with a mixed bouquet of flowers.

Victoria Gaine, 16, and her mother Viv outside their house in Shankhill where they helped save life of binman. Shankhill, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Victoria (16) performed lifesaving CPR on Mr Popa, after he collapsed outside her home in Shankill on March 23.

The Panda Waste employee thanked Victoria for saving his life, while the company also donated a defibrillator to the school as a sign of gratitude.

He has not yet returned from work and is continuing his recovery from the heart attack he suffered.

Transition Year student Victoria Williams-Gaine (16), from Shankill, Co Dublin,  was hailed as a hero after she saved Mr Popa’s life outside her home

Victoria learned how to administer life-saving CPR in school just weeks before the Panda Waste worker (39) collapsed outside her house.

Mr Popa, originally from Romania, would have died if not for the quick intervention of the teenager. His work colleagues have described Victoria as a “superstar” and said Mr Popa was very grateful to her for saving his life.

The incident happened on March 23 just before Victoria and her family were due to fly to New York.

Victoria’s mother Viv Gaine saw the bin lorry outside the house at around 9am and went out, hoping to empty some bits of rubbish before the workers collected the bins.

“When I went out, the truck was outside and I could see the man on the ground.

“I dialled 999 and I shouted up to Victoria. The ambulance man asked if he was breathing and I said no.

“Victoria got down and she started to do CPR on him,” Ms Gaine said.

Within four or five minutes, the first ambulance arrived.

Victoria’s work was not finished, however – when the medics saw she was competently administering the lifesaving procedure, she was asked to continue.

“The ambulance men realised that she knew what she was doing and it allowed them to set up,” Ms Gaine said. A second ambulance soon arrived and Mr Popa was placed into it.

Both Victoria and her mother could hear the medics saying that he had no pulse, before confirming that it had returned.

Within 30 minutes, he was transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital on Merrion Road.

Ms Gaine said that her daughter became very upset when she realised what a close call it was.

Ms Gaine said the crucial factor was that her daughter had learned CPR in her school St Joseph of Cluny, in Killiney.

A spokesman for Panda praised Victoria and described her as a “superstar”.

Greenland ice sheet sets new record with shocking early melt


Greenland’s earliest recorded melt shocked scientists this week, while at the same time, a new report ultimately confirms the 97% consensus that human activity is responsible for recent changes in our climate due to global warming.

Greenland’s earliest major melt is a record?

As this week started, scientists monitoring the Greenland ice sheet experienced a shock – over 10% of the island’s ice sheet surface was experiencing melting of over 1 millimetre. As this started on April 11, this surpasses the previous record for early melt of more than 10 per cent of the ice sheet surface – from May 5, 2010 – by more than three weeks.

Maps showing melting on April 10 and 11, 2016. Graph of percentage of total ice sheet area experiencing at least 1 mm of melting – Jan 1 to Apr 11 1990-2013 average and year-to-year daily variation.

This situation was so unusual, so anomalous, that the scientists doubted what they were seeing, at first.

“We had to check that our models were still working properly,” Peter Langen, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), told Polar Portal. “Fortunately we could see from the PROMICE.dk stations on the ice sheet that it had been well above melting, even above 10oC. This helped to explain the results.”

What’s the cause of this? An unusual warm spell over Greenland during the past week, along with warm onshore winds bringing rain to the southwest coast of the island.
Temperature anomalies (from 1979-2000 average) for April 8-14, 2016 show a patch of unusually warm air over Greenland.

DMI forecasters say that temperatures will cool throughout the rest of the week, but this event has already taken its toll.

Not only is this the earliest substantial melt on record, but the refreezing of the rain and meltwater soaking into the ice sheet sets it up for even more melting in the future.

Prof. Jason Box, of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), explained to Polar Portal: “Meltwater refreezing releases heat into the snow at depth, reducing the amount of heating needed for melt to start and forming ice layers that can help melt water run off the ice sheet earlier with climate warming.”

Needless to say, DMI and GEUS scientists will be closely monitoring the ice sheet going forward.

Consensus of the 97% of climate experts?

“97% of climate experts agree humans are causing global warming.” 

This statement, which came about as a result of the Consensus Project in 2013, has come under persistent attack from those who deny the link between fossil fuel burning and the current state of global warming and climate change we are observing around the world.

In response to these attacks, John Cook, from the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and the founder of SkepticalScience.com, gathered a team of over a dozen colleagues, all of whom had been part of other consensus studies, to go over the data and put the arguments to the test.


“We have shown that the scientific consensus on AGW is robust, with a range of 90%–100% depending on the exact question, timing and sampling methodology,” Cook and his colleagues wrote in the new study. “This is supported by multiple independent studies despite variations in the study timing, definition of consensus, or differences in methodology including surveys of scientists, analyses of literature or of citation networks.”

“From a broader perspective, it doesn’t matter if the consensus number is 90% or 100%,” they concluded. “The level of scientific agreement on AGW is overwhelmingly high because the supporting evidence is overwhelmingly strong.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 3rd May 2014

Sinn Fein leader Adams may be charged in connection with 1972 murder of Jean McConville


Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, will learn later today whether he will be charged or released in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of 10, from her Belfast home in 1972. Mr Adams, 65, denies he was involved in the widow’s abduction and murder.

As detectives continued to question Mr Adams, Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, claimed the arrest was politically motivated. Speaking in Belfast yesterday, he said that an “embittered rump of the old RUC” force were “cynically exploiting the awful killing” of Mrs McConville – accused by the IRA of collaborating with the British authorities in the early 1970s.

Mr Adams is alleged by former republican colleagues to have ordered Mrs McConville’s murder and secret burial in 1972. The IRA later admitted killing her and her body was found on a beach in County Louth in 2003.

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein Assembly member, said yesterday the party would not stop supporting the Northern Irish Police Service, but would “monitor and review” its relationship with the force.

Northern Ireland’s Justice minister, David Ford, called Mr Adams’s arrest “entirely appropriate”. “Given the scale of the concerns expressed, of the information – which I accept is not yet evidence – it was entirely appropriate that should be followed up.”

Thousands protest in Dublin against Ireland’s abortion law


Pro-Life Campaign aims to ‘dismantle’ legislation introduced by Government last year

About 4,500 people rallied in Dublin today at a Pro-Life Vigil, which organisers said would be “the first step in a campaign dismantle the abortion law”.

While gardaí on the scene put the crowd at what the organisers described as a ‘National Vigil For Life’ at about 3,000, the organisers said there were 15,000. The crowd filled about a third of one side of Merrion Square.

Organised by the Pro-Life Campaign, the rally heard recommendations that people should not vote for candidates from parties who had “broken their pro-life promise”.

There was also strong criticism of the media which, speakers said, had helped push the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act through last summer without critically analysing it.

Cora Sherlock, deputy chairwoman of the Pro-Life Campaign, said the passage of the legislation last July was a “shocking example of the tragic breakdown in Irish politics”. There had been no honest debate about the legislation, she said.

“The politicians and the abortion lobby said there was a real need for abortion legislation to save women’s lives. We know there was never any need for this legislation. Essential life-saving medical treatment is there that was always legally available.

“The media failed abysmally to ensure the content of abortion law and the Government’s claims about it were critically examined. The media were pushing the law instead of critically examining it,” she said.

“Most seriously the tragic death of Savita Halappanavarwas misused by major players in politics and the media.”

She said they were more concerned with getting abortion legislation passed than accurate reporting.

Such journalists, she said, were more concerned with setting the agenda than reporting on it.

“There is something rotten at the heart of Irish public debate.” She said this was as a result of “corruption” and the pro-life movement could not “sit back and tolerate this any longer”.

It was important the pro-life electorate be “mindful” of the parties that had let the movement down when casting their votes, she said.

Caroline Simons, legal advisor to the Pro-Life Campaign, said after last year’s “setback”, they had no idea how many people would turnout today.

“We realise it’s going to be a difficult road back but we are massively encouraged that so many people are ready to get on board at this stage to help turn things around.

“Senior members of Fine Gael assured their backbench TDs that once the abortion bill passed through the Dáil they would have nothing to worry about because the pro-life movement would be crushed and beaten. How wrong they were.

“Your presence here today is proof that we are wasting no time in starting to rebuild. It’s going to take time, but when the public comes to realise the full horror of what the new legislation involves support for the repeal of the law will gather pace.”

Lynn Coles of the Women Hurt told the vigil that in recent weeks she had counselled a woman who had been considering an abortion. She decided to proceed with it.

“She took her own life on Tuesday. Abortion took not only her baby’s life but her own. She leaves behind a husband and grieving extended Irish family on both sides of the Irish Sea. The media will not cover her story. This is the reality of abortion.”

Over 160 new allegations of clerical sex abuse in last year


A total of 164 new allegations of sexual abuse were reported to the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog between April last year and the end of March 2014.

This is according to the annual report of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) which was published yesterday. The report notes that allegations of abuse are down from the 242 the previous year and most of the complaints relate to alleged abuse between the 1940s and 90s.

The biggest number of allegations relate to the 60s, 70s and 80s. The board said all of these complaints have also been passed to gardaí or the PSNI and where appropriate to the Child and Family Agency.

The watchdog has undertaken reviews of safeguarding practices in all 26 dioceses and initiated a three-year training programme, according to the annual report.

Teresa Devlin, who took over last year as CEO of NBSCCCI, said the board’s small team is committed to ensuring “past mistakes are not repeated”.

In its report, the board said the Church needs to have clear standards regarding support and supervision of priests and religious out of ministry.

“This means we need to develop a framework for assessment, clarity around canonical processes, good supervision, and support place so that we can reduce the likliehood of re-offending and therefore safeguard future children,” it said.

Ruairi Quinn Minister happy to take abuse from ignorant Irish teachers


Ruairi Quinn has criticised some teachers’ actions at the recent ASTI conference as “ignorant, ill-judged and bad-mannered”.

The Education Minister was commenting on the raucous reception he received at last week’s conference, and said certain members had done “a disservice” to their union as a result of their actions.

Mr Quinn was heckled and booed by a number of delegates throughout his speech at the event in Wexford, with some teachers shouting to drown out his speech.

One delegate even used a megaphone while the minister spoke, and others shouted “lies” and “rubbish”.

Mr Quinn admitted that such attacks were hurtful, but insisted it was all part of living in a democracy.

“It hurts, of course. Some people say you must have a very thick skin to which I say, yeah, but it’s still skin,” he told Galway Bay FM.

However, despite the reception he received, he insisted that the protests showed that true democracy is in place here and that everyone has a right to their voice.


Mr Quinn stressed that he had never thought of giving up politics as a result of the abuse, and that he was not facing a situation like politicians in Ukraine. “I live in a democracy,” he added.

“No matter how ignorant, ill-judged or bad mannered they were – and I think some of them were – I think that’s a price a democratic open society is prepared to pay.

“There are very few countries in the world where, not Ruairi Quinn but the Minister for Education will go to a conference where a minority of teachers in a very disrespectful way will express their anger and disgust.

“Nobody died, nobody got injured. It’s called democracy and I’m very happy to say that I live in this country.

“I’m proud to live in this Republic and I’m proud to think that citizens can come and say what they said and how they said it.”

China and US in crucial talks on cutting carbon dioxide emissions


Tentative moves to reduce pollution could be the most hopeful single development in tackling global warming for almost 20 years

“Just a patch of blue sky big enough “to make a sailor a pair of trousers”, my parents’ generation would say, may herald a break in dismal weather. Against all expectation, rather more than that seems to be opening up amid the dark clouds that have so far shrouded the prospects of the world agreeing a new treaty to combat climate change.

China and the United States – by far the world’s greatest emitters of carbon dioxide – have started far-reaching, if little-noticed, talks on how to cut the pollution, in what is being described as the most hopeful single development in tackling global warming for almost 20 years.

Both are accelerating their efforts to control their own emissions, a considerable change for the two nations, which together account for more than two in every five tons of the greenhouse gas spewed into the atmosphere worldwide each year. The US’s refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol was long the major obstacle to progress, while China – exempted from that limited treaty – has increased its emissions to exceed those of the US and the EU combined.

What’s more, it was a clash between the two countries that did more than anything to cause the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit to end in disappointment. So the prospect of them co-operating in paving the way to the next one, in Paris at the end of next year, is significant.

This week, moreover, another unexpected development brightened the skies even further. The conservative-majority US Supreme Court – which has generally opposed Barack Obama’s environmental policies – backed, by a surprisingly large 6-2 majority, his attempt to crack down on pollution from the power stations that emit 40 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gases.

Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow conservative, Anthony Kennedy, joined the court’s four liberals to reject a vigorous challenge by polluters to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations designed to clamp down on smog from coal-fired plants that drifts across state boundaries, helping to cause an estimated 34,000 deaths a year.

True, the measure does not directly address global warming. But it is expected to cause the closure of the most polluting plants, which are also the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. And, much more importantly, the court’s decision appears to endorse Obama’s strategy of making combating climate change one of the main themes of his second term of office.

Frustrated by Congress in his attempt to introduce climate legislation, the President dropped his issue in his first four years, while privately regarding it as his biggest first-term failure. Now – partly at the prompting of his daughters – he is making a much more determined bid to tackle it, this time by trying to bypass Capitol Hill.

His strategy is to rely on executive presidential orders to reduce emissions, implemented by the EPA; next month he is due to issue some to cut carbon dioxide from power plants. His opponents have been hoping the courts would stop him, hence the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision. If it had ruled against Obama, his climate strategy would have seemed severely damaged; instead it appears to have cleared the path for it to progress.

In China, too, action against conventional pollution, largely from power plants, is presaging measures on climate change. So- called “airpocalypses” in Chinese cities, with concentrations of deadly particles up to 20 times higher than international safety limits, are causing the country increasingly to move away from coal, which provides 70 per cent of its electricity. Most of the new Chinese generating capacity installed last year relies on renewable energy; old coal plants are being closed, and some experts expect national carbon emissions to peak by the next decade.

A year ago China and the US agreed to phase out production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, and the world’s fastest-growing climate threat. The hope was that this would presage wider co-operation, and the signs that this is beginning are being hailed as the most important development since the Kyoto Protocol was concluded in 1997.

It does, however, leave Europe – hitherto leading the attack on global warming – on the sidelines, perhaps deservedly so, as its leaders have grown increasingly timid since failing to make enough of a difference in Copenhagen.

David Cameron, however, has – since the winter floods – begun to re-emphasise the importance of what he initially made his trademark issue. This September he will have a chance to show whether he means it at a special summit called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to try to put momentum behind a new international treaty. And, since voters formed their first impressions of him as environmentally concerned, crucial credibility – in an election year – may hang on his performance.

News Ireland daily blow by Donie

Thursday/Friday 19th & 20th December 2013

NAMA executives deny deliberate loan undervaluation allegations at PAC


NAMA has denied a series of serious allegations made to Gardai by one of its former portfolio managers.

Speaking at the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee, NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh denied sensitive information relating to developer Paddy McKillen was leaked to third parties.

He has also rejected allegations, made to Gardai by former portfolio manager Enda Farrell, that loans were deliberately undervalued by the agency.

“In relation to allegations of which it has become aware, NAMA is satisfied that they are unfounded,” said Mr McDonagh.

“If they are submitted to us formally and in sufficient detail, I assure the committee that we will deal with them individually and robustly.”

The NAMA chief executive claimed the agency was the victim of “a carefully orchestrated operation targeted at a small number of media outlets and Oireachtas members”.

“Its intended purpose is clear – to damage NAMA and thereby undermine the financial institutions of the State,” he said.

“Presumably, if enough mud is thrown, some of it will stick,” he added.

Earlier this week the Irish Independent revealed Mr Farrell’s allegation that he had passed confidential information to a third party, specifically highly sensitive material relating to Mr McKillen’s private and business affairs.

Mr Farrell handed a dossier to Gardai containing emails and other correspondence which he claims proves leaking was rife within the secretive agency.

He also alleges he was encouraged to deliberately undervalue property loans.

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has submitted a file to the DPP recommending that Mr Farrell be charged with leaking sensitive commercial data to outside companies.

Mr McDonagh said some of the allegations “appear to to be the personal views of Mr Farrell on various organisational matters on which he would not have a complete perspective nor could he be expected to have, given the position he held.”

He said Mr Farrell’s claim he provided a “full file” relating to Mr McKillen to a third party “directly contradicts his previous sworn statements”.

NAMA had, over the past 36 hours, requested its own internal auditors review all emails between Mr Farrell and the third party.

“There is no evidence from the search to date that any information relating to Mr McKillen was transmitted electronically,” he said.

The NAMA chief executive also said the agency had held “very little information” about Mr McKillen.

“Financial information would ordinarily be expected to include sworn statements of affairs, lists of unencumbered assets, borrowings with non-NAMA institutions and so on,” said Mr McDonagh.

“NAMA has never possessed this information in relation to Mr McKillen.”

Mr McDonagh confirmed the allegations that a second former employee leaked “a single document” was referred to gardai in February.

He said there was no link between this case and that of Mr Farrell.

On the property undervaluation allegations, Mr McDonagh said that at no stage did NAMA itself determine property valuations.

These were done by the banks and independent valuers.

“The process was subject to extensive auditing, including audits by KPMG,” he said.

“The process was also audited thoroughly by Ernst & Young and PwC.”

Mr McDonagh said any suggestion that the NAMA valuation process resulted in systematic undervaluation had been “thoroughly disproved” it had a €3.6bn impairment on its loans.

He added: “NAMA is involved in a very difficult business with a lot at stake, both for the taxpayer and for others.

“In seeking to do its job professionally, it inevitably finds itself in dispute with various parties. Some of those will inevitably seek to intimidate or discredit NAMA for their own purposes.”

NAMA chairman Frank Daly told the committee claimed the agency was the victim of a campaign to undermine it.

“NAMA will not be intimidated, influenced or distracted by the efforts of whoever may be behind it,” he said.

New dual carriageway to replace 30 white crosses stretch of Sligo road


Campaigners have erected 30 white crosses – each marking the scene of a fatality

A Co Sligo stretch of the main Dublin-Sligo road which is often described as the most dangerous section of roadway in the country on account of 30 deaths on it in recent years is set to be replaced by almost 15kms of dual carriageway.

Campaigners who have erected 30 white crosses on the verges of the existing 12km stretch of road, each one marking the scene of a fatality, have welcomed the “major breakthrough”.

Sligo County Council yesterday confirmed that it had submitted the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin proposed road development to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval.

Local pressure group

This follows a marathon campaign by the N4 Action Group which has drawn national attention to the stretch of road, dubbed “the most dangerous in the country” by Sligo coroner Dr Desmond Moran.

Bernard Mulhern, a spokesman for the group, predicted that the new dual carriageway would become a reality within five or six years.

Anthony Skeffington, senior engineer with the council, said the development was “one of the biggest and most complex infrastructural projects ever proposed for the county”.

Earlier this month the National Roads Authority gave the local authority approval to publish the compulsory purchase order and environmental impact statement documentation and to submit the project to An Bord Pleanála for planning approval.

It has been estimated the project could cost €60 million.

Irish people add 4 more years to their life span

now among EU’s longest living people


Irish people now have added four more full years to their lives in the past 13 years, making Ireland one of the countries with the longest lifespans in Europe.

An assessment of the nation’s health shows that not only are we living longer but we see ourselves as extremely healthy up to the age of 65 and we have the highest fertility rate in the EU.

The country also has a declining suicide rate and we are smoking and drinking less.

On the downside, however, Irish people are more likely to die of cancer, suffer from a chronic illness in old age, and one-in-five of our children under the age of five are either overweight or obese.

The latest ‘Health in Ireland: Key Trends’ report published by the Department of Health shows that life expectancy here has grown “rapidly and unexpectedly” by four years and is now above the EU average.

Death rates from all major causes have also declined significantly during that period but the death rate from cancers is 2.2pc above the EU average.

The five-year survival rate for many cancers also remains lower here than the average for OECD countries with the exceptions of breast and colorectal cancers.

The number being treated for drug problems has increased by 45pc since 2004.

The report says the overall picture of the nation’s health is one of “continuing progress but at a reduced rate, set in a context of very significant financial constraints”.

Health Minister James Reilly welcomed the report, saying “the key challenge and opportunity will be to ensure that scarcer resources are carefully targeted to deliver services in the fairest, most efficient and most effective ways possible”.

He added that the ageing population, with those over 65 increasing by 20,000 each year, along with the problems presented by smoking, alcohol and obesity were “significant challenges”. The report shows that 40pc of the population is now covered by a medical card which is a rise of 60% over the decade.

Meanwhile, the number of people employed in the health service — which stands at 100,000 — is at its lowest level since 2004.

Immunisation rates are at 95%, but infant mortality, which was lower than the EU average, has been climbing.

Just over 80pc of men and women regard their health as good or very good and this is the highest figure in the EU, but by the time they reach 65 years, well over half are suffering from a chronic illness.

SUICIDE: In the 75-plus age group, 43% of men and 50% of women report severe limitation of their daily activities due to health problems.

Deaths from diseases of the circulatory system have dropped since 2003 and deaths from suicide are down 10% in the same period — down almost 9% between 2011 and 2012.

When it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, the consumption has dropped over the past 10 years but a higher number of adults in young age groups binge drink at least once a month.

Smoking and drinking among 15 and 16 year olds was lower than the average for other countries but binge drinking was slightly higher.

The number of children in care increased by 3pc and the percentage of these in foster care rose to almost 92pc between 2011 and 2012.

In terms of hospital services, there has been a 93pc increase in the number of day cases due to improved and less invasive medical procedures.

Prescribed items under the General Medical Services have increased by 7% and while there has been a drop in the numbers covered by private health insurance, the exception is the over-70’s age group where the numbers have risen.

An estimated €200m had been chopped off the public health bill this year, with expenditure dropping from €14.1bn in 2012 to an estimated €13.9bn this year.

A smart bra that detects emotional overeating & mood changes


An international team has developed a prototype ‘smart bra’ designed to detect changes in mood and prevent ‘emotionally-triggered’ overeating in women.

According to project partners at Southampton University, the prototype contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity. The data collected is processed via a model to determine the emotional state and the intervention is sent to the wearer via a smartphone app.

M.c. schraefel, a professor in computer science and human performance design from Southampton University helped design the system.

Ms Schraefel said that there are two types of hunger…one is homeostatic, which means we are eating to get our bodies back into balance: basically, we’re hungry because we need fuel and nutrients. The other is referred to as hedonic, its eating that nothing to do with physiological requirements at the time.

‘There’s an area of work…that talks of emotional eating, where we tend to eat at times of stress. Some people will eat when they get into that…state as a comfort food response – and some people will not eat at all – so there’s a complexity in terms of responses to the same kinds of stimulation.’

The aim of the project, published in a study entitled ‘Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating,’ was to develop a system that could distinguish between states and make interventions when appropriate.

Schraefel said: ‘the question is: if you’re feeling triggered and there’s an emotional response and its physiologically based…then is that signal, the physiological change, distinct enough for us to be able to say, “this is the type of emotional signal – or signature – for emotional eating versus the physiological signature for [being happy]” Are they sufficiently distinct when…a machine’s looking at them to be able to tell the difference?’

To build their model the team, including researchers from Microsoft Research and the University of Rochester, US, had users log their emotions and what they had eaten every hour via the app.

‘The accuracy of the model was about 75 per cent in terms of detecting an appropriate kind of emotional state,’ said schraefel.

The smart bra then added physical data to the emotions so they can be detected without prompting the user to log every hour.

According to the paper, the system used GRASP (Generic Remote Access Sensing Platform), a custom-build real-time device made up of a sensor board, firmware, software libraries, and an API. GRASP also incorporated an MSP-430 microprocessor and is powered by a 3.7V Lithium-Ion polymer battery. In use, GRASP can sample up to eight bio-signal channels simultaneously.

The GRASP boards in the study were configured to capture heart rate and respiration with an electrocardiogram (EKG) sensor; skin conductance with an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor; and movement with a three-axis accelerometer and a two-axis gyroscope.

Schraefel said the batteries struggled with the amount of data that needed processing in real-time. She said similar systems might record signals for a period of time, log them, then burst send them to a device to save on the battery power.

‘In this case we weren’t doing that…a steady stream of information is being passed to the circuit board, which has to be on to process this information, and is then sending regular updates by wi-fi to phones that are on the person,’ she said. ‘We’re trying to save some energy but there are probably efficiency gains to be made.’

She added: ‘To really be able to help people…it would need to be tried with a much larger population. The challenge of doing that is…trying to build an apparatus that is robust enough and cheap enough to produce to be able to distribute it to a [number] of people.’

According to the paper, there are ‘several future research directions that are essential to building an integrated system for just-in-time support.

Schraefel stressed that work in this area includes investigating interventions for men with similar eating anomalies.

Neanderthals had ability to speak like humans

A study suggests


Neanderthals may have had complex language

An analysis of a Neanderthal’s hyoid bone – a horseshoe shaped structure in the neck – suggests they had the ability to speak.

Until now the strongest support came from a 1989 Neanderthal hyoid fossil, the same shape as those of humans.

But computer modelling of how it works has shown their hyoid bone was also used in a very similar way.

 The hyoid bone is crucial for speaking as it supports the root of the tongue. In non-human primates it is not placed in the right position to vocalise like humans.

An international team of researchers analysed a 1989 fossil Neanderthal throat bone using 3D x-ray imaging and mechanical modelling.

This model allowed them to see how the hyoid behaved in relation to the other surrounding bones.

Stephen Wroe from the University of New South Wales, Australia, said: “We would argue that this is a very significant step forward. It shows that the Kebara 2 hyoid doesn’t just look like those of modern humans – it was used in a very similar way.”

He told BBC News that it not only changed our understanding of Neanderthals, but also of ourselves.

“Many would argue that our capacity for speech and language is among the most fundamental of characteristics that makes us human. If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human too.”

It was commonly believed that complex language did not evolve until about 100,000 years ago and that modern humans were the only ones capable of complex speech.

But that changed with the discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid bone in 1989. It was found in the Kebara Cave in Israel and is very similar to our own,

Much older hyoid fossils have also recently been discovered, attributed to the human and Neanderthal relative Homo heidelbergensis. They were found in Spain and are over 500,000 years old.

These have yet to be modelled but Prof Wroe said they were likely to be very similar to those of modern humans and Neanderthals, so could bring back the origins of speech still further.

He added that his work would not necessarily be accepted as proof that Neanderthals spoke.

“We were very careful not to suggest that we had proven anything beyond doubt – but I do think it will help to convince a good number of specialists and tip the weight of opinion.”

Neanderthals were stockier and shorter than humans, with no chin and backwards sloping foreheads. They are not regarded as direct human ancestors but DNA analysis has revealed that between 1% and 4% of the Eurasian human genome seems to come from Neanderthals.

Dan Dediu, from the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics, Netherlands, published a review article earlier this year suggesting that Neanderthals and modern humans shared a similar capacity for language.

He said that the current study brought more weight to the conclusions that Neanderthals had very similar hyoid bones to us, “not only in form but also in what concerns their mechanical properties”.

“The authors themselves are understandably cautious in drawing strong conclusions but I think that their work clearly supports the contention that speech and language is an old feature of our lineage going back at least to the last common ancestor that we shared with the Neanderthals.” Dr Dediu told BBC News.

But he added that this work was only a first step and that future studies of other living primates were necessary to better understand the range of variation within modern humans.

Ireland still behind their EU counterparts in access to broadband


Close to one out of every five Irish people cannot access the internet according to a new report from Eurostat. The study found that 82% of households have internet, however 40% do not use the internet each day. Ireland comes in 11th place for internet accessibility.
A Eurostat survey on internet usage and penetration finds 82% of Irish households

Ireland still lags behind its European counterparts in terms of access to broadband, a Eurostat survey on internet usage and penetration has found.

The survey indicated 67% of Irish households had a broadband connection in the second quarter of 2013, below the EU average of 76%.

The study found 82% of households here had some form of internet access compared with an EU average of 79%.

The survey also suggested that 62% of Irish people used the internet every day or almost every day, the same as the EU average.

The Netherlands had the highest number of people using the internet on a daily basis at 83% while Romania had the lowest at 32%.

Another significant finding was that 41 per cent of Irish people use the internet to interact with Government authorities, below the EU average of 45%.

Reasons for this interaction reported by e-government users across the EU were income tax declarations (44 per cent), requests for personal documents (20 per cent), claiming social security benefits (16 per cent) and enrolment in higher education or university (9 per cent).

The survey suggested internet access and use was widespread amongst the EU population.

Among the 28 member states, 79 per cent of households had access to the internet in 2013 and 76 per cent had a broadband internet connection, compared with 55 per cent and 42 per cent respectively in 2007.