News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

Irish doctors not happy with new health bill proposals published today


The IMO says it’s “appalled” at some of the proposals.

The Irish Medical organisation has said it’s “appalled” at some details of legislation for the new GP Contract.

Legislative proposals were published today by the Department of Health with the aim of overhauling the contractual relationship between GPs and the HSE.

The IMO said the proposals in the Health Bill 2014 would effectively force GPs to sign up to a new under sixes contract by removing existing medical card patients to the new scheme.

Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, Doctor Ray Walley, said “this legislation has nothing to do with GP visit cards for children.

It is nothing less than a unilateral attempt to replace the long-standing GMS Contract with a new, draconian contract which will destroy the very fabric of the GP service in Ireland.

Dr. Walley said that the new legislation would accelerate the departure of GPs from the Irish Health Services.

This legislation will effectively destroy General Practice and should not be enacted. It reflects an arrogant mindset by an arrogant Government that should know better.

New proposals

The IMO says the new contract as proposed would institutionalise the provisions of emergency legislation (FEMPI) in regard to GPs, allowing the Minister to unilaterally reduce, vary and change fees paid for GP services at any time.

The union claims it would force GPs to move to the new contract by removing existing GMS patients to the new scheme.

They also say it would abolish the right of the IMO to negotiate on behalf of its GP members and allow the Minister to vary the fees without any negotiation at any time Dr.Walley continued that,

On the one hand the Minister says he wants to talk to the IMO while on the other publishes legislation that appears to make talks a futile exercise.

The issue of free under-six care is set to dominate the IMO conference that will be held this coming weekend in Kildare.

The Minister for Health James Reilly will not be at this years event but the Minister of State with responsibility for Primary Care Alex White will be attending.

Vaccinations in Ireland at highest level in the State’s history


Childhood vaccinations are at the highest level ever recorded in Ireland.

New figures issued by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre to mark European Immunisation Week show that more children here are now vaccinated that ever before.

Altogether 92pc of children at 12 months have had the recommended three doses of the six in one vaccine which defends against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hib (haemophilius influenza causing meningitis) polio and hepatitis B.

A similar number have been given two doses of the PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) against 13 common strains of a bug that cause meningitis and septicaemia.


By two years of age 96pc of children are vaccinated with the six in one vaccine and 93pc of children have also had the MMR vaccine.

By between four and five years of age 90pc of children have received the recommended four in one vaccine booster dose for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio and 89pc have received an MMR second dose.

Public Health Medicine specialist with the HPSC, Dr Suzanne Cotter welcomed the high level of vaccination.

But Dr Cotter warned: “It is still important to remind parents that children need to fully complete the childhood immunisation schedule to be protected against a range of serious vaccine preventable diseases.”

Dr Cotter added that some children, teenagers and adults might still be vulnerable to these diseases because they were never vaccinated, incompletely vaccinated or had lost their immunity because of age, illness or the lapse in time since the injections.

“The fact that more children in Ireland are now protected against vaccine preventable diseases than ever before reflects the confidence parents have in vaccination to prevent what used to be the most common infectious diseases of childhood,” she stressed.

Dr Cotter also emphasised the need to identify areas where “there are inadequate levels of vaccination uptake, indicating an increased risk among some to these diseases and outbreaks.

“Reasons for under vaccination should be identified and any measures identified should be taken to address the underlying reasons,” she said.

Gardaí arrest 26 people for drink driving on last Good Friday


Special operation introduced to target drivers on mobile phones

Gardaí said today 153 people were arrested for drink driving over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey said 26 people were arrested on Good Friday, a day when “the vast majority of licensed premises are closed”.

Mr Twomey of the Garda National Traffic Bureau also outlined a recent drink driving enforcement operation which targeted ten rural towns and two areas within Dublin city where gardaí set up a series of mandatory alcohol checkpoints.

“We advertised it in advance to let people know we would be doing it. While we didn’t give them the specific locations, we did say that we would be out there targeting particular areas,” he said.

“In that hour between 12.30am and 1.30am, nine people were arrested for drink driving.”

The Assistant Commissioner also spoke about the upcoming special operation this week which will target motorists using mobile phones while driving.

“The risk and the dangers posed by holding and using a mobile phone while driving are such that you put yourself and others at risk,” he said, adding that research shows there is a four-fold increase in the risk of having a collision when using a mobile phone.

“Unfortunately, the use of mobile phone while driving is becoming a real challenge to An Garda Síochána and is now the second-highest offence that has been detected.” The highest is speeding.

Almost 10,000 drivers have been detected holding a mobile phone while driving in the first three months of this year.

In 2013 there were more than 28,000 people detected.

Provisional figures from a national phone operation carried out in March 2014 found there has been a 300 per cent increase in the number of people using their phones while driving.

This week’s operation, which will be conducted by gardaí this Thursday and Friday, will issue fixed charge notices of €60 and penalty points to those caught on their phones while driving.

“Our message is there’s no call or no text that is that important that you should put your own life or the life of other road users at risk,” said Mr Twomey.

“The risks and the dangers are there for everybody to see, we need to become aware and we need to address this.”

“I’m asking all of your listeners to be aware of the dangers and the risks,” he added. “We will be out there enforcing the road traffic act and will continue to work tirelessly to improve road safety,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

EU’s resistance to GMOs is holding Irish farmers back says the IFA


Europe’s resistance to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is holding farmers back, according to the IFA.

Irish farmers must be able to compete on a level playing field and the current EU stance on GMOs does not allow that, IFA General Secretary Pat Smith has said. “It has to be a level playing field in relation to GMOs and hormones. These issues are stifling EU agriculture and our hands are tied. It is costing EU agriculture all the time.” He was speaking at the launch of the IFA’s manifesto for local and european elections.

He said EU policies were ruled by politics, not science. “Politics is superimposed on science in the EU.”

“We are five to 10 years out of date with regard to licensing, as what Europe is legislated to import is not being grown any more.” He said this means EU importers have to choose varieties that are less efficient but are approved by Europe. Countries which have adopted technologies such as GMOs, he said, have seen gains of 2-3% in their agricultural output in the past 10 years.

Because of this, our competitiveness is becoming an issue. “Science should dictate what is safe and what isn’t safe and that goes for growing GM crops in Ireland too. How can we compete when we can not use technologies others can use?”

He went on to say that Irish farmers are the most efficient producers of food in Europe, yet will have to increase their production levels to meet increasing demand for food. There is also a shortage of protein in Europe, he said, so farmers have to import soybeans which is an issue because of the GMO regulations in Europe. Sourcing non-GMO soybeans, he said, is becoming more and more difficult as less people are growing less of these varieties as they make less economical sense than GM varieties of soybean.

Illegal cigarette smugglers take to the high seas from Africa & Asia


The routes map of Illicit cigarettes that arrive in Ireland on planes and trucks from various countries.

This map shows the major tobacco smuggling routes into Ireland and reveals that cigarettes made in Asia and Africa generally come into the country by sea.

However, from mainland Europe the illicit products mostly arrive here on planes and trucks.

It is a trade that costs Irish retailers €450m a year.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of illegal tobacco trade in Europe, and 25pc of cigarettes smoked here are not taxed, according to figures released by major tobacco manufacturing company JTI.

From the Baltic countries, Russia and Spain, illegal tobacco is arriving by plane.

GANGSTERS: It comes in cargo ships from the Suez Canal and the Canary Islands, while smugglers from mainland Europe favour the main motorways before travelling by ship to the UK and again by sea to Ireland.

Sources say a small number of Irish criminals have made millions of euro from the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into the country.

One of the most prominent Irish gangsters involved in this activity is a veteran Ballyfermot criminal who controls illegal smuggling of cigarettes into Ireland in an operation that is believed to be worth over €10m.

He is now mostly based on Spain’s Costa del Sol, and his son plays an increasingly prominent role in the business.

The gangster – a long-term target of the Criminal Assets Bureau – has made millions from smuggling illegal cigarettes over the past two decades.

He cannot be named here for legal reasons.

“We are committed to fighting this highly damaging and unregulated trade. This is costing retailers and the taxpayer hundreds of millions, and continues to fuel crime in communities across Ireland,” said John Freda, general manager of JTI Ireland.

CHILDREN: “The illegal tobacco trade has huge societal impacts. Criminals and gangs use children to sell products and channel the profits into other illegal activities.

“Cigarettes are at least 50pc cheaper on the streets than the ones sold by legitimate retailers, which encourages minors to buy illegal tobacco in unregulated markets and back alleys.”

The JTI report claimed non-duty-paid tobacco is costing the exchequer more than €250m and the retail trade €450m a year.

How common bacteria found in soil & water talks to each other


Bacteria communicate by sending chemical signals

Common bacteria found in soil and water “talk” to each other using a language in some ways as sophisticated as our own, say scientists.

The bugs display a level of “combinatorial” communication previously thought to be unique to humans and certain other primates.

It involves using two signals together to transmit a message that is distinct from them both.

A human example would be the word “boathouse” which does not invoke separate independent thoughts of a “boat” and a “house”, but something different – a boathouse.

This type of communication has never been observed before in species other than humans and their closest relatives.

Yet the lowly microbe Psuedomonas aeruginosa appears to be capable of it, using chemicals instead of words.

The bugs exchange dual chemical messages to signal when to produce certain proteins vital for their survival.

By blocking one signal and then the other, scientists found that if the signals are sent separately, the effect on protein production is different from when both are sent together.

Lead researcher Thom Scott-Phillips, from the University of Durham, said: “We conducted an experiment on bacterial communication, and found that they communicate in a way that was previously thought to be unique to humans and perhaps some other primates.

“This has serious implications for our understanding of the origins of human communication and language.”

The findings are published in the online journal Public Library Of Science ONE.

Brain size plays a major role in self-control and restraint 


An animal study revealed that brain size plays a major role in displaying self-control and self-restraint, according to a team of University researchers.

This study, conducted on 36 species of mammals ranging from orangutans to zebra finches, is the first large-scale investigation into the evolution of self-control. Study authors found that chimpanzees had more self-control than foxes and squirrels. They also found that brain size has a lot to do with the level of self-control these animals displayed.

The researchers noted that species with larger brain volume had more superior cognitive powers than species with larger body size. Additionally, species that were not particular about what they included in their diet showed better self-restraint.

Findings of the new study debunk previous statements that suggest “relative” brain size is a more accurate predictor of intelligence than “absolute” brain size.

  Species included in the study were bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, olive baboons, stump-tailed macaques, golden snub-nosed monkeys, brown, red-bellied and aye-aye lemurs, coyotes, dogs, gray wolves, Asian elephants, domestic pigeons, orange-winged amazons, Eurasian jays, western scrub jay, zebra finches and swamp sparrows.

One experiment included training big and small creatures to access food inside a cylinder through a side entrance. In the first part of the experiment, researchers placed food items in an opaque cylinder and trained the creatures to gain access to the food by entering the cylinder through a side entrance. Once the creatures grew familiar with how to enter the cylinder, the food was moved to a transparent cylinder.

Researchers wanted to observe whether the animals would directly dash into the cylinder to grab the food or will use the previously learnt technique to enter the cylinder and eat the food.

The results showed that gorillas and other large-brained animals utilized the previously learnt technique to attain the “bait.” The smaller brained animals showed mixed results.

“About half of the squirrels and gerbils did well and inhibited the direct approach in more than seven out of 10 trials,” UC Berkeley doctoral student Mikel Delgado said in a statement. “The rest didn’t do so well.”

Another test included placing three cups (A, B and C) in a row with food in one of the cups (usually cup A). At first the animals were allowed to see which cup the food was placed in. After a while the cups were turned upside-down and the animals were made to identify which cup contained the food. If an animal could tap the correct cup three times, it proceeded to the next round. In the next round, the food was moved from cup A to cup B.

“The question was, would they approach cup A, where they had originally learned the food was placed, or could they update this learned response to get the food from a new location?” Delgado said. “The squirrels and gerbils tended to go to the original place they had been trained to get food, showing a failure to inhibit what they originally learned.”

The study authors went on to highlight a possible explanation as to why species with bigger brains had better self-control. The researchers assume that because bigger brains can accommodate more number of neurons, the brain becomes more modularized, facilitating the development of “new cognitive networks.”

Researchers said that this experiment also delivers a useful message to humans too recommending people should stop and think for a while before making any decisions or snatching a reward.