Tag Archives: Brexit

News Ireland BLOG as told by Donie

Thursday 20th July 2017

Simon Coveney says he is happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations on Irish issues

Talks focused on avoiding a hard North-South border after Brexit

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The British Irish Chamber of Commerce held its first meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD in London today.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has expressed satisfaction at the direction of negotiations between Britain and the European Union over Ireland’s specific issues. Speaking in London after meetings about Brexit with academics, diplomats and business representatives, Mr Coveney said more work was needed on some areas.

“In particular, more detailed work is needed on how best to protect North-South co-operation, an essential aspect of the Good Friday Agreement. It has facilitated some of the most tangible benefits from the peace process and contributed directly to the normalisation of daily life in the border region. On the Common Travel Area, I welcome that both sides agreed that it should be maintained. It will now be for the UK side to confirm how it will ensure this,” he said.

The discussions in Brussels did not focus on the future of the Border but Mr Coveney said that talks between the British and EU teams this week about protecting the gains of the peace process were directly related to avoiding a hard Border after Brexit.

“My officials and I will continue to work closely with Michel Barnier and his team to ensure that sufficient progress is made on the Irish specific issues in phase one of the negotiations. Progress on these, on citizens’ rights and the financial settlement would allow parallel discussions to begin this autumn on the EU’s future relationship with the EU,” he said.

“This will require constructive engagement on all issues and a strong political willingness to achieve the best possible withdrawal agreement. Contrary to what some may think, no agreement would be disastrous for everyone. We must continue to work for the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK, facilitated by effective transitional arrangements.”

Theresa May on Thursday sought to reassure British business that its concerns would be considered as Britain continues its negotiations with the EU. The prime minister hosted representatives of big companies and business organisations at Downing Street for the first meeting of a new “business council”.

“The prime minister emphasised her desire to listen to the views of business, to channel their experience and to share with them the government’s vision for a successful Brexit and a country in which growth and opportunity is shared by everyone across the whole of the UK,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“On Brexit, the prime minister reiterated that the government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges.”

Brexit win for the West of Ireland as medical conference moves from London to Sligo

Firefly founder and medical director Martin McGeough and big-wave surfer Dr. Easkey Britton launch Firefly Summit 2017, which is moving from London to Sligo as a result of Brexit.

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The Firefly Summit, a conference of 200 podiatrists, mainly from London and the rest of the UK, will move to Sligo this year.

The summit will see 21 of the podiatry profession’s top minds deliver a series of quick-fire lectures, sharing their hands-on clinical practices.

Firefly, a custom-made orthoses company, made the decision to move the summit to Sligo as a result of the impact Brexit was having on its business.

“When sterling started devaluating on the back of the Brexit announcement, our margins were way down. We have managed to survive – but only just about. We had to decide how we were going to respond to it,” Martin McGeough, Firefly’s founder and medical director said.

While some companies are looking at how to reduce costs or increase prices, Firefly are looking at building relationships with customers who are podiatrists, and by moving the conference to Sligo the company hopes to cement existing relationships with customers and build more.

Firefly is also turning the concept of a medical conference on its head by taking speakers and delegates out of the lecture halls and into nature.

Surfing, hiking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), golf and other activities are built into the programme of the Firefly Summit, which takes place from September 29-30.

This will allow attendees to connect with the UK and Ireland’s most renowned podiatric consultants and practitioners in a relaxed setting by removing the barriers of traditional conferences, Firefly said.

Podiatry or podiatric medicine is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

It is expected that the conference will result in an economic boost of at least €320,000 to the local economy.

What makes a man’s best friend your dog ? It’s in their genes

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Two Saint Bernard dogs rest on a meadow as they make their way to the Great Saint Bernard mountain pass, near Bourg-Saint-Pierre, between Switzerland and Italy, on July 

Dogs that are extra friendly share certain genetic similarities with people who are born with a developmental disorder sometimes called the “opposite of autism,” which makes them hyper social, researchers said Wednesday.

The report in the journal Science Advances pinpointed changes in two genes that are related to extreme social behavior in dogs, and also in people who are born with Williams-Beuren Syndrome.

People with this condition tend to be highly outgoing, gregarious, empathetic, interested in prolonged eye contact, prone to anxiety and may have mild to moderate learning disabilities and intellectual impairment.

The findings offer new insights into how dogs became domesticated and split paths from their wolf ancestors thousands of years ago.

“It was once thought that during domestication dogs had evolved an advanced form of social cognition that wolves lacked,” said co-author Monique Udell, an animal scientist at Oregon State University.

“This new evidence would suggest that dogs instead have a genetic condition that can lead to an exaggerated motivation to seek social contact compared to wolves.”

Survival of the friendliest

Researchers studied 18 domesticated dogs and 10 captive gray wolves to see how social they were toward people and how they performed on problem-solving tasks.

Given the task of lifting a puzzle box lid to get a sausage treat, the canines were rated on how much they turned to a human in the room for help.

The wolves were more likely to figure out how to get the treat than dogs. The dogs were more likely to stare longingly at the nearby people.

“Where the real difference seems to lie is the dog’s persistent gazing at people and a desire to seek prolonged proximity to people, past the point where you expect an adult animal to engage in this behavior,” said Udell.

Then, researchers took blood samples and to see how the wolves’ and dogs’ genetic traits lined up with their personalities.

They found variations in two genes — GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 — “appeared to be connected to dog hyper sociability, a core element of domestication that distinguishes them from wolves,” said the report.

These genes have previously implicated in the hyper social behaviors of humans with William-Beuren Syndrome.

The changes weren’t identical in humans and dogs. For instance, in dogs, unique genetic insertions called transposons in these genetic regions were linked to a strong tendency to seek out human contact.

Some of these transposons “were only found in domestic dogs, and not in wolves at all,” said the report.

In people, the deletion of genes from this region in the human genome is linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome.

“We haven’t found a ‘social gene,’ but rather an important [genetic] component that shapes animal personality and assisted the process of domesticating a wild wolf into a tame dog,” said a statement by co-author Bridgett vonHoldt, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University.

How wolves became dogs

Adam Boyko, an assistant professor at Cornell University and expert in dog genetics, called the study “truly interesting and important.”

“It may be one of the first studies to ever identify the specific genetic variants that were important for turning wolves into dogs,” he said in an email.

“That said, the overall sample size in the study is small, so validating the association of these variants in a much larger cohort of diverse dogs would be needed to prove that these are, in fact, the variants in the region driving both the association and the signature of positive selection.”

The topic of just when and how dogs become domesticated thousands of years ago is a subject of much debate in the scientific community.

A separate study out earlier this week in Nature Communications suggested dogs first split from wolves about 40,000 years ago.

It’s unlikely that humans sought out to tame wild wolves. Rather, the process would have started with the animals approaching hunter-gatherer camps in search of food, researchers said.

“Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this” and more likely to befriend humans, explained the report.

The research by Udell and vonHoldt lines up with this theory — that sociability, rather than smarts, drove dogs to become man’s best friend.

“If early humans came into contact with a wolf that had a personality of being interested in them, and only lived with and bred those ‘primitive dogs,’ they would have exaggerated the trait of being social,” vonHoldt said.

Minerals firm plans market listing to fund Sligo zinc drill

Erris Resources is plotting a flotation on London’s AIM market

‘Potential investors have been told that the company is looking to have its shares admitted to trading as early as August.

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Minerals explorer Erris Resources is looking to float in order to raise funds for drilling a zinc prospect in Sligo.

The London-based company is plotting a potential listing on that city’s AIM market, raising as much as £5m (€5.7m).

Potential investors have been told that the company is looking to have its shares admitted to trading as early as August. Erris declined to comment.

The prospect is at Abbeytown in Co Sligo and was the site of a lead mine in the 1950s and 1960s.

Erris believes that zinc, lead, silver and copper are at the site, which it labels historically overlooked. Drilling work that the company has undertaken indicates that there is a potential new mineral zone at the site.

It has presented investors with two scenarios; one, in which it raises £3.5m, releasing just over £1.5m for work at Abbeytown, and another, where it raises £5m, with more than £2.8m for Abbeytown.

A £5m fundraise would give the company a market capitalisation of £9.7m on a fully diluted basis – meaning that share options are included in the calculation of the company’s value, as well as shares.

Meanwhile, another zinc explorer with interests in Ireland, Group Eleven Resources, has plans to float.

The company, which has been backed by former Davy corporate finance chief Hugh McCutcheon, is hoping to list in Canada in the autumn.

“The reason to go to Canada is that Vancouver is really the capital of the junior resource market in the world. But if it made sense for us, I’d love to be listed in Dublin at some stage in the not-too-distant future,” Group Eleven chief executive Bart Jaworski said.

Last week, the company announced a deal to buy 60pc of a prospect which covers areas of Co Longford and Co Westmeath.

It is buying the asset known as the Ballinalack prospect from the Canadian mining giant Teck. The other 40pc of the prospect is owned by a Chinese company. The asset is located 50km west of Europe’s largest zinc mine at Navan in Co Meath.

A big rise in the price of zinc has lifted activity in the Irish sector in recent months.

The island of Ireland is the biggest zinc producer in Europe.

Australian-listed Hannan Metals has been drilling at a prospect in Kilbricken in Co Clare and announced its estimates of the resource potential based on the results earlier this week.

Chief executive Michael Hudson said the result “ranks Kilbricken as one of the top 10 base-metal deposits discovered to date in Ireland. This is a significant initial achievement in a country that is ranked first in the world in terms of zinc discovered per square kilometre since the 1950s.”

He added: “While this resource is substantial, it is also lies open in all directions, with excellent potential for expansion.

“We currently have one drill rig operating a resource expansion programme and we will soon be mobilising additional drill rigs.”

Elsewhere, the mining giant Glencore has resumed drilling at its Pallas Green prospect in Limerick.

“The objective is to better understand certain aspects of the deposit,” a Glencore spokesman said, adding that any decision about building a fully fledged mine at the site was “a long way down the road”.

Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers

Collaboration with University of Barcelona aims to find cure for ‘relentlessly fatal’ condition

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Researchers at NUI Galway have discovered what they say are encouraging early signs for a potential treatment for Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes serious cognitive and movement defects.

Sometimes called Huntington’s chorea, it is “debilitating, untreatable and relentlessly fatal”, according to the researchers.

Prof Robert Lahue and his team at the Centre for Chromosome Biology and the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway collaborated with scientists at the University of Barcelona.

They targeted an enzyme called histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3), which is thought to alter important biochemical mechanisms in the brain of Huntington’s disease patients and thereby accelerate disease progression.

The study published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports shows that blocking HDAC3 with an experimental compound in a pre-clinical model of Huntington’s disease slows cognitive decline and delays the onset of molecular signs of neurodegeneration.

While these results are preliminary, the data shows that the onset of Huntington’s disease is delayed when HDAC3 is blocked in this pre-clinical setting. This is an encouraging first step because currently there are no effective treatments that target the root cause of the disease,” Prof Lahue said.

Prof Lahue noted the key role of the Spanish collaborators and co-authors, Dr Silvia Ginés and Nuria Suelves from the University of Barcelona.

Prof Lahue and Dr Ginés have applied for additional funding to develop the treatment further and to assess additional safety aspects.

Science Foundation Ireland and the European Huntington’s Disease Network supported the research in Ireland.

The Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland estimates, based on research in Northern Ireland and a population of 4.67 million in 2011, that there are about 500 people here with the condition and a further 2,500 at risk.

While Huntington’s disease is relatively rare, over 9,000 family members in Ireland may require support and information, according to the organisation.

Huntington’s Disease is a genetic condition with each child of an affected parent having a 50 per cent likelihood of inheriting the gene.

Both men and women have equal chances of being affected and most people develop the symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50. About 5-10 per cent of people have onset of symptoms before the age of 20 and 10 per cent after the age of 60.

The average survival time after diagnosis is about 15-20 years, but some people have lived 30 or 40 years with the condition.

Artefact find suggests earlier arrival of humans in Australia

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Digs at Madjedbebe have unearthed stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones

Humans arrived in Australia 10,000 years earlier than was previously thought, casting doubt on the theory that they killed off the giant kangaroo and other unique animals, scientists believe.

New artefact evidence suggests that the continent was first occupied about 65,000 years ago, long after the ancient ancestors of modern humans emerged in Africa.

The discovery challenges the theory that people caused the extinction of Australian megafauna including giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises which disappeared more than 45,000 years ago.

Lead scientist Dr Ben Marwick, from the University of Washington, US, said: “Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn’t be the central cause of the death of megafauna.

“It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna.

“It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution.”

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones.

A dating technique called optical stimulated luminescence (OSL) was used to determine the age of the oldest buried artefacts.

The process can show the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight up to 100,000 or more years ago.

This and other tests built up a picture of the environment and showed that when the first humans arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder than it is today.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, support the theory that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa before dispersing to other continents, Dr Marwick said.

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Monday 15th May 2017

Investment bank JP Morgan move cements Capital Dock as flagship development

Dublin docklands scheme to have 32,000sq m of office space and 190 residential units

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Kennedy Wilson, the development manager of the Capital Dock site, will ultimately own an 85% interest in the site, with Nama owning the balance.

Capital Dock, where JP Morgan has just acquired a 12,000sq m (130,000sq ft) building, is a development by Kennedy Wilson, an international real estate firm, in Dublin’s south docks. The 613,000sq m (660,000sq ft) development is a joint venture with the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) and Toronto-headquartered Fairfax Financial Holdings.

The US investment bank announced on Monday that it is to acquire a 12,000sq m building in a move that will provide it with the capacity to double its Irish work force to 1,000.

Kennedy Wilson confirmed that the bank would become the first major occupier of the Capital Dock development through a forward-funding sale agreement. It is understood JP Morgan will pay about €125 million for the building, about €10,400 per square metre or €961 per square foot.

“We are excited to welcome JP Morgan, through its acquisition of 200 Capital Dock, as the first major office occupier to commit to this best-in-class mixed-use campus development, to grow its existing business and meet its long-term plans in Ireland, ” said William McMorrow, chairman and chief executive of Kennedy Wilson.

Extending over 1.9 hectares (4.8 acres) on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, the development will include 32,000sq m (345,000sq ft) of office space and 190 residential units.

Partnership

The partnership between Kennedy Wilson, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and Nama began as the former sought to get zoning for the Capital Docks site. Part of that site was acquired in mid-2013 when Kennedy Wilson and its equity partner took ownership of a 3.4 acre plot.

Kennedy Wilson is reported to have paid €106 million to secure its interest in the site.

In December 2014, a joint-venture agreement was signed between Kennedy Wilson, its equity partner and Nama. The arrangement entailed Kennedy Wilson and Nama merging their adjacent sites at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

Kennedy Wilson, the development manager of the site, would ultimately own an 85 per cent interest in the site with Nama owning the balance.

Planning for the site was awarded in October 2015 and site-enabling works began a month later. The main contract was awarded to Sisk in July 2016 and was one of the biggest commercial development contracts awarded in the Irish market in recent years

Nama originally held an interest of 75% in the 22 hectares of undeveloped land in the docklands strategic development zone. It is estimated that about 370,000 sq m (four million square feet) of commercial space and more than 2,000 apartments will ultimately be delivered on the 15 sites originally held by Nama.

Some €250 million is being invested in Capital Dock, which is situated directly opposite the Three Arena in Dublin’s docklands and which will accommodate two large office blocks and a 23-storey residential tower.

In an interview with The Irish Times last year, Kennedy Wilson’s global chairman and chief executive Bill McMorrow said of Capital Dock: “In Los Angeles, that would be a very big development. We’re very proud of that particular project.”

The first of three office buildings is due to be delivered at Capital Dock in late 2017, followed by 190 high-quality residential apartments in mid-2018.

Last year, Alison Rohan, head of Ireland for Kennedy Wilson, said the scheme, which was designed by Irish architecture firm O’Mahony Pike, was the largest mixed-use development in Dublin’s south docks.

“As a campus location offering over 330,000sq ft of flexible office space in addition to on-site residential, leisure and retail amenities, we expect it will appeal to both Irish and international companies looking for a location in the heart of the capital, and from which to grow their business.”

Enterprise Ireland report reveals Brexit impact on Irish exports

Client companies record big drop in UK export growth in 2016 as sterling depreciates

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Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon: “We have to work on the basis that Brexit will create new barriers to Irish trade with the UK.”

Client companies of Enterprise Ireland have reported a major slowdown in the growth of Irish exports to the UK in the wake of Brexit.

In its latest report, the State agency responsible for helping Irish companies access international markets said export growth to the UK had slowed from 12% in 2015 to 2% last year.

The fall-off was largely due to a decline in food exports, which have been worst hit by the recent depreciation in sterling. The UK accounted for about a third of the €21.6 billion in exports from Enterprise Ireland-supported firms last year.

“The fact that the growth of exports to the UK has slowed suggests that the impact of Brexit on Irish companies has already started,” said Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon.

“Companies cannot afford to wait until the Brexit negotiations conclude – they must act now,” Ms Sinnamon said. “While diversifying from the UK might have been a desirable objective for Irish companies in the past, Brexit means that it is now an urgent imperative.”

New Euro-zone strategy

In response to the challenges posed by Brexit, Enterprise Ireland has launched a new euro-zone strategy, which aims to boost Irish exports to the bloc by 50% to €6 billion by 2020.

European Commission forecasts ‘robust expansion’ of Irish GDP

Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said helping companies to diversify into European markets was a significant plank of the Government’s overall Brexit strategy.

“Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Government immediately acted to ensure our enterprise agencies had additional resources in order to offer all available assistance to our exporters to prepare for the challenges posed by Brexit,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland said its strategy would see it partner some 600 client companies, about half of which are what it described as “euro-zone start” – ie relatively new to the euro-zone market and heavily reliant on the UK.

The remainder were “euro-zone scale”, meaning they were already exporting into the bloc, it said.

Additional resources use?

Ms Sinnamon said some of the additional resources would be used to fund euro-zone market research and feasibility grants.

“This strategy is about driving one of the most significant shifts in the footprint of our client exports in the euro zone,” she said. “We have to work on the basis that Brexit will create new barriers to Irish trade with the UK.

“On the other hand, euro-zone markets can provide currency stability, proximity and potential for growth and opportunities for Irish companies,” she added.

Despite the economic uncertainty hanging over world markets, exports from Enterprise Ireland client companies grew by 6% to €21.6 billion last year. The UK accounted for more than a third of the total.

Export sales grew across most territories, the agency noted, with growth in the United States and Canada jumping by 19% to €3.7 billion, followed by the Asia Pacific region, which was up 16% to €1.8 billion.

On a sector-by-sector basis, the strongest export growth globally was in software and internationally traded services. which grew by 16% to €4.3 billion.

Life sciences, engineering, cleantech, paper print, packaging and electronics exports rose by 10 per cent to €3.9 billion while construction, timber and consumer retail exports increased by 8 per cent to €2.9 billion.

Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan may go before special sitting of committee over Templemore

Fitzgerald backs Garda Commissioner to address ‘deep-seated issues’

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An old pal’s pact is being acted out in public?

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee may hold special sittings before the end of this month to re-examine Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on the extent of her knowledge of financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College.

The committee had originally invited the Garda Commissioner to attend its meeting on July 13th as part of its inquiry into the inflated Garda breath-test figures controversy.

However, at its meeting on May 4th, a senior civilian employee in the Garda – director of human resources John Barrett – gave an account of a meeting on the Templemore college issue that contradicted Ms O’Sullivan’s account of how and when she became aware of financial irregularities in the Garda training college.

Members of the PAC said on Monday they wanted the Garda Commissioner to come before it at a much earlier date to respond to that controversy.

Its chair, Sean Fleming (Fianna Fáil), said the committee would decide on Thursday what witnesses, besides the Garda Commissioner, it would recall and the programme of work that would be involved.

Two committee members, Alan Kelly (Labour) and Catherine Connolly (Independent) said they wanted the Garda Commissioner to attend as soon as possible.

Special sittings needed?

In Mr Kelly’s case, he said it should happen as early as next week if possible, and argued that the committee could convene special sittings if necessary.

Ms Connolly said she wanted the hearing to be held “as quickly as possible”. She said the committee “was not happy to wait until July given the urgency and import of the matter”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she continued to support the Garda Commissioner and had no objective evidence that Ms O’Sullivan had done anything wrong.

Ms Fitzgerald is facing increasing political pressure over her support for Ms O’Sullivan as the force remains dogged by a series of controversies.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have all strongly criticised Ms Fitzgerald for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s spokesman on justice Jonathan O’Brien confirmed they would consider tabling a motion of no confidence.

Political expediency

Ms Fitzgerald said “while of course the Opposition are going to ramp up the pressure and use the commissioner to ramp up pressure indeed on me, I would say that politics and political expediency aren’t going to sort out the very deep-seated issues in relation to An Garda Síochána”.

“I would also say that when you shine a light you see a lot of things that have been kept in the dark for a long period, and by previous governments indeed.

“The issues for example like Templemore and [phone] interception – the interception issues go back to the early 2000s with Fianna Fáil in government for 11 of the last 17 years.

“Templemore, we had reports in 2008, 2009; what action was taken then? And the idea that somehow you blame people who are trying to shine a light and do the current reforms is simply not the way that we are going to get real reform.”

Scientists find gene with key to bowel disorders

The gene, known as MDR1, governs an important extractor system for toxins in the gut, removing damaging substances from intestinal cells.

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Scientists have identified a key gene that helps to explain an underlying cause of incurable bowel disorders, which affect around 15,000 people in Ireland.

A study found that blocking the effects of the beneficial gene can harm vital parts of the cell, and lead to bowel disease.

The findings boost understanding of the cause of these lifelong conditions and could lead to new treatments, scientists say.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) includes disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The causes of these conditions are unknown and there is currently no cure.

The gene, known as MDR1, governs an important extractor system for toxins in the gut, removing damaging substances from intestinal cells, scientists said.

A research team, led by the University of Edinburgh, showed that MDR1 function was lower in people with inflamed IBD compared with those without inflammation.

Experts then showed that mice without MDR1 had faulty mitochondria, parts of the cell known as “batteries”, which play a vital role in energy generation and cell health.

This mitochondrial dysfunction then resulted in colitis, inflammation of the inner lining of the bowel – a defining feature of IBD.

Researchers involved in the study analysed genetic data from 90,000 people, 40,000 of whom had IBD.

The university study also revealed that a drug called Mitoquinone, which protects the mitochondria against toxins, can reduce colitis and promote bowel recovery in the mice lacking MDR1. Scientists have described this as a “significant step forward”.

Lead author Dr Gwo-Tzer Ho, of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, said: “IBD has a serious impact on quality of life. We have shown that MDR1 and mitochondrial function are important jigsaw pieces in the complex causes of IBD. Our studies highlight the importance of shielding the mitochondria from damage. This will open new approaches to drug targets that focus on the mitochondria to better design treatments for patients.”

The study, carried out with researchers at the University of Bristol, the USA and Japan, was published in the journal ‘Mucosal Immunology’.

Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials to be expanded

Increased scale of clinical research has benefited many Irish patients with better outcomes

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Norma Harte (left), Joan Jordan and Dr Fionnuala Keane at the HRB-CRCI seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day.

The scale of clinical research has improved dramatically in Ireland over the past five years, leading to better outcomes for patients and helping many avail of innovative treatments. But the health service needs to be better structured to facilitate trials and involve patients more to match achievements elsewhere in Europe, 200 delegates heard on Monday at a national seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day 2017.

“Without such trials medical progress becomes a matter of chance,” said Prof Joe Eustace chair of the Health Research Bureau Clinical Research Coordination Ireland (HRB-CRCI) which acts as a co-ordinating centre for Ireland’s involvement in clinical trials. While there was a dramatic improvement in the scale of research, it was not yet sufficient for Ireland to become a world-class trial location, he said. In Denmark, which has a similar population to Ireland, it has five times the number of trials in train compared to the Republic.

“Clinical research not only save lives but enhances patients’ lives in the longer term as new products come into the market. Those countries that have embraced research as part of their national healthcare system have also witnessed better outcomes for their patients,” Prof Eustace added.

New clinical trials

Since 2014, there has been a 37% increase in the number of sites conducting clinical research in Ireland. In 2016 there were 15 hospitals and almost 300 clinical investigators working with clinical research facilities and centres around the country. Over the past number of years, more than 100 new clinical trials have opened in Ireland, delegates heard at the event, which was hosted by the HRB-CRCI in Dublin.

Investments in physical infrastructure, researchers and research networks had been the springboard to the recent upsurge in clinical trials activity in our health system, noted Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, interim HRB chief executive. Between now and 2020, it is planned to spend a further €54 million to maintain and expand Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials and healthcare intervention studies, she added.

In practice, there was a need for all interested health professionals to have the capacity to test new innovative treatments, therapies and medical devices with their patients during their daily work, said Dr Pat O’Mahony chief executive of Molecular Medicine Ireland, a body set up by third-level institutions to help medical research yield benefits for patients. “It would mean greater and easier access for patients, and increased opportunities to collect research data… fundamentally increasing the clinical research scale we have in Ireland. Our ultimate aim should be that any patient who needs care, is suitable and has a desire to access novel treatments under development, could have the option to do so,” Dr O’Mahony added.

Paediatric research

Clinical trials were especially important in paediatric research as so many diseases originated during pregnancy or in early childhood, according to Prof Geraldine Boylan, director of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research based in Cork.

Young people were “protected from research” in the past, so much so very few drugs for children were developed. The reality is they cannot be treated as young adults and just given “a smaller dose”. Their make-up was different so they needed to be participants in research, including those at the earliest stages of life, to get the best possible outcomes. Where that involved a young baby, who was very ill at birth, or born prematurely, the whole family needed to be centrally involved, she said.

Prof Boylan outlined the circumstances of the birth of Tara-Lee to Norma and Jason Harte, who was born after a very difficult birth at Cork University Maternity Hospital, without a heartbeat having sustained a brain injury. She was treated in intensive care unit by cooling therapy where her core body temperature was brought down by several degrees over a 72-hour period. Now nearly 20 months old, Tara-Lee had benefited from a treatment which was developed by way of clinical research; her development since had been “absolutely perfect”.

Erin Dolan who lives in Lahinch, Co Clare, outlined how she participated in a clinical trial last year at University Hospital Galway during the months of her pregnancy as a consequence of having diabetes type 1 since she was 10. She had benefitted from continuous glucose monitoring, which accurately indicated her blood sugar level, and helped control high levels so it did not detrimentally affect her baby. While the trial required extra trips to hospital, “it was worth it as it benefited me and other women” in similar circumstances. Her daughter Maeve was born a normal, healthy baby, as a consequence.

User-friendly information

Patients needed to be more centrally involved in Irish clinical research to ensure a better success rate, said Dr Derick Mitchell of Irish Patient Organisations, Science and Industry, which supports delivery of health innovations to people with unmet medical needs.

Patients were trying to find out where clinical trials were happening, but they needed to make informed decisions. Having them centrally involved with user-friendly information of where trials were happening and how to get involved was essential. “Having them involved at the beginning can make a real difference in improving the quality of research,” he said.

For Ireland to be better recognised for its clinical research, where it can be done quickly and to the highest standard, Dr Mitchell said there was a need for clinicians in the health sector to be given “protected time” for their work, and for a central ethics committee to approve research rather than individual hospitals.

Scientists identify a 50-foot mystery sea beast washed up on Indonesian beach?

Image result for Scientists identify a 50-foot mystery sea beast washed up on Indonesian beach?  Image result for Scientists identify a 50-foot mystery sea beast washed up on Indonesian beach?

A giant sea creature, possibly with tusks, washed up on a beach in Indonesia last week, freaking out people on the island of Seram and launching a global guessing game to determine what, exactly, it used to be.

A giant sea creature washes up on a beach in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, cellphones come out and the image goes around the world, prompting thousands to ask: What is it? Meanwhile, Serum Island residents are asking: How do we get rid of this thing?

A giant sea creature, possibly with tusks, washed up on a beach in Indonesia last week, freaking out people on the island of Seram and launching a global guessing game to determine what, exactly, it used to be.

As images of the floating carcass rocketed around the Internet, the scientific community asked itself: What is it? How did it get to an Indonesian island? And what does its presence say about climate change and whale migration habits?

The people of Seram have a more pressing query: How do we get rid of it?

Asrul Tuanakota, a 37-year-old fisherman, initially thought he had discovered a boat stranded in shallow water, according to the Jakarta Globe. On closer inspection, he determined that it was the rotting corpse of a 50-foot-long dead sea creature, possibly a giant squid because the remains looked like tentacles.

Blood seeping from the dead sea beast had turned the water near the coastline a bright red, which didn’t stop locals from wading in for a closer look and snapping pictures.

George Leonard, the chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, told the Huffington Post that the rotting carcass was probably a baleen whale, judging by parts of a protruding skeleton and what appear to be baleen plates used to filter out food.

Decomposition gases bloated the whale into a very un-whale-like shape, and some of the noxious gases were seeping out.

Seram, the largest island in the Maluku Island group, is near the migration routes for baleen whales, so it makes sense that one would be nearby. Locals have asked the government to help remove the carcass, the Huffington Post reported.

But dead whales usually sink to the bottom of the ocean, providing a years-long buffet for the creatures that dwell there, according to Live Science. The publication theorized that the whale had a bacterial infection that produced more gases or that it possibly died in warm waters, allowing bacteria to accumulate and gases to expand its body. It also could have died an unnatural death after being clipped by a ship.

Of course, things die in the ocean all the time producing all kinds of weird phenomena. But now fishermen and villages and tourists — and their smartphones — are coming into contact with dead sea things as they go through the circle of life.

For example, fishermen off the western coast of Australia found a humongous floating balloon of flesh that looked as if it was the first sign of an alien invasion. At first, the father and son thought they had encountered a hot-air balloon.

“When we got closer we realized it had to be a dead whale because of the smell,” Mark Watkins told the West Australian.

They snapped photos of the whale balloon, then headed to shore. By then, they said, circling sharks had taken bites of the dead creature, causing it to deflate.

This year, a giant, hairy sea creature washed up on a beach in the Philippines, according to the Daily Mail. Locals believe the unusual occurrence was brought on by a recent earthquake.

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Tuesday 14th March 2017.

Irish complaint about rivals in Brexit race for London’s business

Dublin says other financial centres engaging in ‘regulatory arbitrage

Image result for Irish complaint about rivals in Brexit race for London’s business  Image result for Irish complaint about rivals in Brexit race for London’s business

Ireland has complained about Luxembourg’s conduct in the race to lure post-Brexit business away from the City of London in a sign of the intense competition among European financial centres.

Eoghan Murphy, the Irish financial services minister, has told the European Commission that rivals are engaging in “regulatory arbitrage”. Mr Murphy’s complaint was lodged on March 1, before Dublin lost out to Luxembourg in the race to be the location of choice for AIG. The US insurance company said last week it had decided to set up an operation in Luxembourg to secure its EU base after Brexit.

“We are hearing from various sources that companies are being offered certain incentives, that they are offering a back door to the single market, without the requirement to have capital to back up their entities in the European Union,” Mr Murphy told Reuters. Luxembourg dismissed Mr Murphy’s comments. “I didn’t expect the Irish to be sore losers,” said Nicolas Mackel of Luxembourg for Finance, the agency that markets the grand duchy as a financial centre. “There are plenty of good reasons that international institutions like AIG are choosing Luxembourg as their favoured location, including economic stability, international make-up, its central location and multilingual business culture.”

Mr Murphy raised concerns with Valdis Dombrovskis, the EU financial services commissioner, that there should be consistency in the way regulatory standards are applied across member states, against the background of the risk to stability in the European financial system. The heads of Esma and EIOPA, two key EU financial regulatory agencies, are believed to have raised similar concerns in recent days. In the aftermath of last year’s British vote to leave the EU, many in the insurance industry identified Ireland as a strong prospect for an alternative base to the City within the bloc.

Not only does Dublin have a similar legal system and is in the same time-zone, but it has long been considered a satellite of London for financial services. The Irish central bank increased its staff in anticipation of a deluge of interest from the industry. Beazley, one of the first groups to make its intentions clear, said that it would turn its Irish reinsurance subsidiary into a primary insurance business, and then use it as a base to sell products to the rest of the EU. Dublin is still on people’s radar.

The Central Bank of Ireland has been stricter than people thought it might be. They have moved from being a light touch regulator to being more serious Oliver Wareham Mr Murphy’s complaint suggests the Irish authorities are worried that their hopes of an influx of new insurance business to complement Dublin’s existing strengths in that sector may not materialise. “Dublin is still on people’s radar, but the Central Bank of Ireland has been stricter than people thought it might be. They have moved from being a light touch regulator to being more serious,” says Oliver Wareham, a partner at Slaughter and May, the law firm. Karel Lannoo, chief executive officer of the CEPS think-tank in Brussels, said he saw little legal scope for complaints, such as Ireland’s, for other countries to toughen up their own regulations.

“This is all about supervision,” he said. For insurers and investment funds, “regulation is harmonised in Europe, but supervision isn’t, and on these matters it’s up to the supervisor to judge”. Mr Lannoo also noted that the European Securities and Markets Authority, an EU agency in Paris working on “convergence” of supervisory standards, was not yet a powerful body. “They have peer pressure, nothing more,” he said, in comments echoed by an EU official.

Nama property deal ‘seriously deficient’, says watchdog

Image result for Nama property deal 'seriously deficient', says watchdog   Image result for Irish public accounts committee

The Public Accounts Committee said the 2014 transaction was not well-designed and adviser Frank Cushnahan should have been removed

The biggest property deal in Northern Ireland’s history was “seriously deficient”, an Irish watchdog said.

The cut-price sale of almost 1,000 properties by Ireland’s state-owned bank for bad loans following the economic crash, the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), cost the Irish taxpayer 185 million euro.

The Irish Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the 2014 transaction was not well-designed and Nama’s former adviser Frank Cushnahan should have been removed.

It also said key elements of the sale were influenced by one of the bidders, US firm Pimco, and the most active participants in the market for non-performing loans were not initially invited to compete.

The PAC report said: “The sales strategy pursued by Nama included restrictions of such significance that the strategy could be described as seriously deficient.

“Nama has been unable to demonstrate that by pursuing such a strategy that it got value for money for the Irish State in relation to the price achieved.”

Nama was established in 2009 to take control of billions of euro of bad property loans at home and abroad which were undermining the finances of the Irish banks.

The entire Northern Ireland portfolio was sold to Cerberus, a US investment fund manager, for £1.1 billion (1.23 billion euro) in a sale known as Project Eagle.

The report said Nama incurred losses on its Northern Ireland debts of 800 million euro from 2010 to 2014 and the state ultimately recovered only 36% of the original value of the loans.

A Nama statement disputed the suggestion an extra £162 million (185 million euro) could have been raised through Project Eagle and said the overall losses would have arisen whether the portfolio was sold or retained in 2014.

A spokesman said: “It was the Board’s commercial and considered judgment, in full knowledge of the financial implications, that the sale of the Project Eagle loan portfolio provided a better financial outcome than any alternative monetisation strategy.

“That was the Board’s view in 2014 and it remains the Board’s view today.”

Businessman Mr Cushnahan was a member of the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee (NIAC) to Nama.

During 2011 and 2012 he admitted providing financial consultancy services, mainly on a non-fee basis, to six Nama Northern Ireland debtors.

PAC chairman Sean Fleming noted: “These debtors’ connections accounted for approximately 50% by value of the Project Eagle loans.

“It is the opinion of the committee that Nama’s failure to effect Mr Frank Cushnahan’s removal from NIAC, following his disclosures in relation to consultancy services on behalf of a number of Nama’s Northern Ireland debtors, was a failure of corporate governance by Nama.”

Mr Cushnahan has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

According to the PAC chairman, when the Nama board was deciding to set its minimum price for the sale, it already had an indicative offer on the table from Pimco.

He said: “I believe that Nama was influenced by the Pimco offer when deciding on the minimum reserve price and key elements of the sales process.”

Have the Irish given up on owning their own homes?

The number of people buying rather than renting has fallen to a near 50-year low

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Berlin, where just about 14% own their own homes compared to about 60% in Dublin.

We may look to Boston when it comes to business, but when it comes to home ownership, it’s another story. While we might not be looking to emulate Berlin yet, we have definitely become more akin to a small German state. An analysis of home ownership trends shows that the Irish are becoming ever more European, as the number of people buying rather than renting a home has fallen to a near 50-year low.

According to unpublished figures from the Central Statistics Office, which it compiles as part of its Quarterly National Household Survey, Irish society has changed significantly in the past 16 years. People are turning away from the dream of owning their own homes in favour of the flexibility – and uncertainty – of the increasingly tough rental market.

But why have the Irish scaled back their dreams of owning their own plot of land? Should we care about this? And what is the future likely to hold?

Home ownership figures?

Irish people’s living arrangements have become decidedly European in recent years. Home ownership reached a peak at about 80.1% in 1991, one of the highest rates of home ownership in western Europe at the time, with just 8% of households renting privately in that year.

However, soaring property prices in the boom years, a sharp rise in the demand for rented accommodation on the back of tax breaks and an influx of investors into urban regeneration projects means that ownership figures have been on a downward trajectory since. And the years of dicing with economic collapse followed by a slow recovery have done nothing to reverse the trend.

Back in 2000, for example, four out of every five people in Ireland lived in a home they owned, with just 7% of the population renting privately, and the remainder largely renting from a local authority.

Fast forward to the epoch of the crash, 2008, and a sharp increase in property prices meant that the figure had fallen to just three in every four people living in a home they owned. By 2015, this had slumped to 71%, and to 69.7% by the end of 2016.

The last time we saw figure this low was in the late 1960s, a time when studies show that State incentives meant that almost a third of the cost of a standard suburban house could be recouped from grants, helping to boost home ownership levels in the subsequent years.

Given such a downward trend, it’s possible that within a few years, as few as two-thirds of the Irish population could live in a home they own – a stark contrast to the years when home ownership was a legitimate goal for most Irish people.

At the same time, the population of renters has soared, driven by immigration and population trends as well as home ownership trends. The figure has jumped from 7%, or 270,000 people in 2000, to 18%, or 843,000 people by 2016.

With an extra 573,000 people looking to rent, it’s little wonder we are in the midst of a rental crisis.

Dublin renters

This trend is most notable in the capital. Back in 2000, almost 75% of people living in the capital lived in a home they owned, while just 10% of people rented a property. Since then however, the numbers of homeowners has fallen substantially, dropping beneath 60% for the first time in 2016. Just 59.6% of Dublin-based residents owned their own home in the third quarter of 2016.

This means that the numbers looking to rent have multiplied – up from 10% of population (110,000 people) in 2000 to 25% (328,000 people) as of end 2016.

For John McCartney, an economist with Savills, some of the demand for housing was funnelled from home ownership into rent. This is especially so as immigration into Ireland increased. Migrants typically opted to rent, rather than buy, a home.

The International trend?

But Ireland is not alone in seeing home ownership rates decline. It’s a trend that is happening elsewhere. Last year home ownership in the US fell to the lowest in more than 50 years, down to 63%, while home ownership in Britain is at a 30-year low of 64%, the lowest figure seen since 1986. PwC suggests that the rate is expected to drop to less than 60% by 2025 in Northern Ireland.

In an Irish context, it means, for example, that more people now own their own homes in parts of Germany, which is known as a nation of renters, than in Dublin. In coal-rich Saarland, for example, which has Saarbrucken as its capital, some 63% own their own home, compared with fewer than 60 per cent in Dublin, although we’re not yet anywhere near a city like Berlin, where as few as 14% of residents own their own homes.

The question is whether or not people are choosing to stay in rented accommodation or whether a combination of uncertain jobs and rising house prices is keeping them out of the housing market.

What is driving the trend?

A number of factors appear to have combined to make it more difficult to secure home ownership.

Younger buyers constrained by insecure jobs, inadequate savings and mortgage rules are taking longer to get on the ladder. The average age of today’s first-time buyer is 34 – a big advance on the typical age of 29 a decade ago.

Access to credit and mortgage-lending rules, introduced in 2015, have also been a factor.

“Mortgage lending restrictions weren’t binding in other parts of the country but they were binding in Dublin, so it was harder to buy houses in Dublin,” notes McCartney.

Also, more people are single today than in previous generations, which in itself makes it more difficult to get on the housing ladder. For example, the number of “small” household units of one to two persons rose significantly between 2009 and 2013, and most of this increase was noted in Dublin.

Given that owning your own home is cheaper than renting in many parts of the State, even in Dublin, one might expect the slide not to be so significant.

Affordability, for example, has remained stable in recent years; the EBS DKM affordability index shows that a working couple now needs to spend 21% of their after-tax income on mortgage repayments, down from 32% in 2007.

Moreover, a survey from Daft.ie last year found that, in the capital, owning a one- or two-bedroom property was cheaper than renting, as is a three-bedroom home in west Dublin. So one possible conclusion could be that people are finding it difficult to get the funds together for a deposit on a home, rather than the wherewithal to pay the mortgage itself.

Of course it could also be a case that people have fallen out of love with the ideals of home ownership. Younger people may prefer the flexibility that renting offers; their older counterparts may have been burned by negative equity and arrears in the fall-out of the boom years.

Should we as a society care?

The question then, if home ownership rates are slipping, should we, as a society, as an economy, care? The main economic argument for home ownership is that, in the words of Thomas Shapiro of Brandeis University, “it is by far the single most important way families accumulate wealth”.

A US survey in 2013, for example, found that a typical homeowner’s net worth was $195,400 (€184,280) while that of renter’s was just $5,400.

This is particularly true in Ireland. As McCartney notes, Irish people have a relatively low savings ratio because the mortgage has proven a de facto method of accumulating wealth over time.

This approach sees someone buy a house in their 20s or 30s, paying off their mortgage and retiring at the age of 60 to 65, then living rent free for the rest of their lives on a pretty modest pension.

“It’s pretty deeply embedded and is a pretty good workable system,” he says. “But this gets disrupted if you’re going to be renting for a longer portion of your life. How will you pay for accommodation costs when you retire?”

Those of us dependent on defined-contribution pensions to fund our retirement will struggle to live on these as it is, given current inadequate funding levels. If we have to pay rent as well, many of us could be looking at poverty in our senescence.

“We’re not really set up for long-term renting; there would need to be some pretty fundamental cultural shifts in terms of how ordinary households plan their finances through their life cycle before it could become a mainstream possibility,” says McCartney.

In countries such as Germany, rental markets are subject to much greater regulations which can help protect pensioners.

On the other side, given experiences post-boom, it could be argued that home ownership is only really beneficial when it is able to withstand shocks.

The outlook:- “An improvement”?

It could be that, to pardon the pun, a floor has been reached in falling home ownership figures. Mortgage approvals have jumped in the wake of the Governments’ Help to Buy scheme and looser lending rules, increasing by 41% in the three months to the end of January, as first-time buyers flocked to get loans.

“There is a distinct possibility that the size of rental market has peaked,” says McCartney. If this is the case, we could expect to see the overall trajectory of home ownership trends reverse once more.

Your kids aren’t killing you because one day they may actually help you live longer?

Image result for Your kids aren’t killing you because "one day they may actually help you live longer"?  Image result for Your kids aren’t killing you because "one day they may actually help you live longer"?

Sometimes and a lot of times it does feel as if being a parent is shaving years off your life, but a new study suggests that’s not the case.

In fact, just the opposite may be true?

In a paper published Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a team of Swedish researchers report that having kids is associated with an increase in life expectancy, especially as we age.

According to the new work, 60-year-old women with children had a remaining life expectancy of 24.6 years, compared with 23.1 years for those who do not have children.

For men, the difference was even greater.

Sixty-year-old men with children were expected to live for another 20.2 years on average, whereas those without children were expected to live for an additional 18.4 years.

That’s nearly a two-year difference.

To come to these conclusions, the researchers used national registry data to track the life spans of more than 1.4 million Swedish men and women who were born between 1911 and 1925.

The researchers were also able to determine the marital status of the participants as well as how educated they were, and the number and sex of their children if they had any.

Previous studies had indicated that people who have daughters have a longer life expectancy than those who have just sons. To see if that was true, the researchers compared the life spans of participants with just one daughter to those who had just one son. According to their analysis, there was no difference in life expectancy between the two groups.

The authors also wondered if having an adult child who lives nearby would increase one’s life expectancy in older age. After crunching the numbers, they discovered this was not the case.

Indeed, it seems that parents 60 and older who live more than a 30-minute drive away from their children had a slightly smaller risk of dying within the year than those who lived closer to their children.

This finding may seem counter-intuitive, but the authors note that previous studies have shown that highly educated children are more likely to live farther away from their parents. They suggest that it is possible that having a well-educated child might have a greater effect on one’s chances of survival than proximity.

The results of this work are purely observational and cannot be used to draw any conclusions about why they see the effects reported in the study, the authors said.

They also said it is possible that adult children may offer various types of help to their aging parents. For example, physical, social and emotional support all might increase a person’s life span.

The study may be particularly significant in places such as Sweden and other Nordic countries where childlessness is on the rise, the authors said. By understanding what it is that having a child offers an aging parent, it might be possible to provide similar services to those who chose not to have children.

‘It frightened the life out of me’: Mary Boyle’s mother has been sent hate mail

Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of Mary Boyles’s mysterious disappearance.

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Mary Boyle as she looked at six years?                       Anne Boyle today.

Mary Boyle’s Mother Anne has renewed her appeal for information about her daughter’s death on the 40th anniversary of her disappearance.

Mary was just six years old when she vanished while visiting her grandparents in Cashelard, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal on 18 March 1977. No trace of her has ever been found since.

Her disappearance is Ireland’s longest-running missing person case.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time tonight, Mary’s mother Ann Boyle said she believes her daughter made it to the nearby road which links the townland of Cashelard with Belleek in Co Fermanagh on the day she disappeared.ary Boyle

Mary’s twin sister Ann Doherty has previously said she believes Mary was murdered and has called for an inquest to be held, while her mother – also called Ann – does not want this. Prime Time said Ann Doherty declined to be interviewed for tonight’s programme.

“I’ve begged to know for 40 years what happened to Mary. I don’t want an inquest that Mary is dead. I want to believe that Mary is still alive somewhere. I have to live that way,” her mother said.

Ann’s granddaughter Mary Duffy also spoke to Prime Time.

“It’s very sad to think this is the place Mary went missing. It’s sad because I never got to meet Mary, and you just feel a sense of loss because this is where she was,” she said.

Ann also spoke about receiving hate mail in recent times, recalling:

One was a Christmas card and the other was a letter, and the stuff that was in it was shocking – that threatened my life, and frightened the life out of me. One of them started off like it was from Mary. I mean, my God. That made me ill … I wasn’t able to cope with it, I just threw it away.

Her granddaughter Mary said the hateful mail was very distressing for her grandmother, stating: “It’s horrible and nanny’s afraid to be in her own home and no one should be left like that, it’s horrible.”

Images of clothing.

Gardaí have released images of clothing similar to that worn by Mary when she disappeared four decades ago, a lilac-coloured cardigan and black wellington boots.

Her twin sister Ann wore identical clothes that day, and those images were shown on Prime Time tonight.

Chief Superintendent Walter O’Sullivan of the Serious Crime Review Team said a full review of the case is currently being undertaken, and seeks to identify every person who was in Cashelard on the day Mary disappeared.

“Although a rural area, there would have been a number of people in the area, living there, farming, visiting, driving through.

When a child goes missing it goes right into the heart of a community, it struggles to understand why this has been visited on their community. The community has provided information confidentially, anonymously and through making statements.

“I believe there is further information to be obtained and I am appealing for people to come forward ” O’Sullivan said.

The oldest fossil plants on Earth discovered in India.

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The origins of plants may go back hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought, according to fossil evidence.

Ancient rocks from India suggest plants resembling red algae lived 1.6 billion years ago in what was then shallow sea.

The discovery may overturn ideas of when relatively advanced life evolved, say scientists in Sweden.

They identified parts of chloroplasts, structures within plant cells involved in photosynthesis.

The earliest signs of life on Earth are at least 3.5 billion years old.

The first single-celled microscopic life forms evolved into larger multi-cellular eukaryotic organisms (made up of cells containing a nucleus and other structures within a membrane).

Therese Sallstedt of the Swedish Museum of Natural History discovered some of the fossils. She described them as “the oldest fossil plants that we know of on Earth in the form of 1.6 billion year old red algae”.

“They show us that advanced life in the form of eukaryotes (like plants, fungi and us humans/animals) have a much deeper history on Earth than what we previously have thought,” she told BBC News.

The tree of life

The scientists found thread-like fossils and more complex “fleshy” colonies in sedimentary rock from central India. Both have characteristics of modern red algae, a type of seaweed.

Co-researcher Prof Stefan Bengtson of the Swedish Museum of Natural History added: “You cannot be 100% sure about material this ancient, as there is no DNA remaining, but the characters agree quite well with the morphology and structure of red algae.”

The oldest known red algae before the present discovery date back 1.2 billion years. The Indian fossils are 400 million years older, suggesting that the early branches of the tree of life began much earlier than previously thought.

Claims of ancient life are always controversial. Without DNA evidence, confirmation must rest on whether more fossils can be found.

There is also debate over whether red algae belong in the plant kingdom or in a class of their own.

Modern red algae is perhaps best known for two commercial products – gelatinous texturing agents used in making ice cream – and nori – the seaweed used to wrap sushi.

News Ireland daily BLOG byonie

Sunday 12th February 2017

The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,

Image result for The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,  Image result for The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,  Image result for The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,

The Irish leader who helped secure the Good Friday agreement says he fears the consequences of a border dividing north and south.

Bertie Ahern at a press conference in Dublin in 2008, announcing his resignation as taoiseach.

Theresa May has been accused of putting Northern Ireland’s peace process in jeopardy by the Irish leader who helped to secure the Good Friday agreement.

In a sign of growing fears about May’s vision for Brexit, Bertie Ahern took aim at the prime minister over her recent white paper, in an interview with the Observer. Ahern, who served three terms as taoiseach between 1997 and 2008 and helped to deliver power-sharing in Belfast, said that the British government appeared to have resigned itself to the establishment of a border between the north and south once the UK leaves the EU in 2019, with potentially devastating results.

“[May] seems to be switching her language,” he said. “She’s saying not that there’ll be no border, but that the border won’t be as difficult as to create problems. I worry far more about what’s going to happen with that. It will take away the calming effects [of an open border]. Any attempt to try to start putting down border posts, or to man [it] in a physical sense as used to be the case, would be very hard to maintain, and would create a lot of bad feeling.”

In its Brexit white paper published last month, the government stated its aim to have “as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland”.

The secretary of state for exiting the EU, David Davis, has suggested that the arrangements between Norway and Sweden could be a model to copy, where CCTV cameras equipped for automatic number-plate recognition are in place. However, in an interview with the Guardian on Saturday, the European parliament’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt appeared to scorn such a model, given that there would need to be customs checks and restrictions on the free movement of people.

Ahern said he, too, was unconvinced that the current technology could do the job. There are 200 crossing points on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, with 177,000 crossings by lorries a month, 208,000 by vans and 1.85m by cars.

“I haven’t found anyone who can tell me what technology can actually manage this,” Ahern said, adding that he feared the furious reaction of the unionist communities in the mid-1980s when the Republic was given an advisory role in the government of Northern Ireland could be repeated on the nationalist side if controls were reinstated. “Any kind of physical border, in any shape, is bad for the peace process,” he said.

“It psychologically feeds badly into the nationalist communities. People have said that this could have the same impact on the nationalist community as the seismic shock of the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement on unionists, and I agree with that.

“For the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, the Good Friday agreement was about removing barriers, integrating across the island, working democratically in the absence of violence and intimidation – and if you take that away, as the Brexit vote does, that has a destabilising effect.

“With so many other issues, there is a real concern … the only way [of] doing this will be a hard border. When people talk about hard borders, they’re talking about the borders of the past – but now any kind of border with checkpoints and security constitutes a hard border.”

Ahern’s comments were made as an EU document leaked to the Observer appeared to dash May’s hopes that the two states can come to a bilateral agreement. The British prime minister has repeatedly suggested that the 1923 Common Travel Area deal can be the basis for the future, although it was signed before either state joined the EU.

However, a memo from the European parliament’s legal affairs committee, which is helping shape the negotiating position of the European commission and the red lines of the European parliament, rebuffs that suggestion: “The [Good Friday] agreement makes it abundantly clear that the fact that both parts of Ireland and the UK are within the EU is a basis for the agreement. Moreover, the fact that Brexit could result in the reintroduction of border controls and controls on the free movement of persons between Ireland and Northern Ireland means this is a question for the EU, and not only Ireland the UK.”

Boom in new Irish construction jobs as figures soar to near record levels?

Image result for Boom in new construction jobs as figures soar to near record levels  Image result for Boom in new construction jobs as figures soar to near record levels

The PMI noted that activity in the Irish construction sector continued to rise sharply in January – prompted by an increase in new orders.

A surge in new construction jobs reached near record levels in Ireland last month, new figures indicate.

The number of firms reporting workforce expansions (27%) in the latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index was second highest recorded since the monthly survey was first run over 16 years ago.

The PMI noted that activity in the Irish construction sector continued to rise sharply in January.

This was prompted by an increase in new orders.

On the price front, the rate of input cost inflation quickened to the sharpest since February 2007.

The PMI provides a seasonally adjusted index that tracks changes in total construction activity.

Simon Barry, Chief Economist Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said: “Irish construction activity continues to grow at a healthy pace according to the latest results of the Ulster Bank Construction PMI.

“The headline PMI index remained comfortably in expansion territory in January, albeit that the pace of growth eased for the third month running consistent with a modest loss of momentum early in 2017 after a robust end to last year.

“Very encouragingly, residential activity remains a particular bright spot with housing activity continuing to rise at a rapid pace, while commercial activity also very much remains in expansion mode, though the pace of growth has eased in recent months.

“Civil engineering continues to lag behind the other sectors, with respondents reporting a third consecutive monthly decline in activity.

“Respondents continue to judge the Irish construction outlook to be very favourable. Confidence about future activity prospects remained strongly positive in January amid further solid gains in new orders, despite some easing in the rate of increase.

“Indeed, buoyed by the ongoing increase in work volumes, last month saw a substantial and accelerated rise in staffing levels with the rate of job creation picking up to its second-fastest in the survey’s 16-and-a-half year history.

“One note of caution stems from further evidence of building cost pressures with the rate of input cost inflation picking up to its quickest in almost 10 years.

“Respondents reported higher prices for oil-related products and for items sourced from UK suppliers, the latter effect consistent with growing signs of Brexit-related price and costs increases in the UK economy.”

A motorway to Dublin should not be the only priority project for Sligo

Northwest gateway town also needs better infrastructure and regional connectivity

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Knock airport: needs more regular flights and quicker connections to Sligo City.

A Sligo-Dublin motorway would support Sligo city as a hub for the growth of the wider region around it, stretching into Donegal, but there are greater priorities.

Economic development in Ireland over the past 20 years has been unbalanced. Economic activity and population growth has increasingly been concentrated in a select number of city regions.

The northwest, on the other hand, has experienced slower growth and rural decline. Regional and rural development requires a sizeable urban centre, and the northwest currently lacks such a centre.

The recently abolished National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020 recognised this. It selected Sligo as one of eight regional “gateways”, envisaging that it would be developed to such a scale that it would have the critical mass necessary to sustain strong levels of job growth in the region.

Critical mass is needed. In the new “informational economy”, the absence of a centre with sufficient scale is important. Otherwise, some businesses will not come and some workers will not stay.

One criticism repeatedly levelled at the National Spatial Strategy is that it picked too many gateways. Consequently, Sligo might lose its status in the new National Planning Framework now in gestation.

Given its strategic location, however, Sligo is likely to be accorded an important role in supporting local development. But the gateway concept is more sophisticated than the idea of a traditional growth centre.

The operative word today is “connectivity” between urban centres. A gateway requires strong connectivity not just to major centres at home and abroad, but also to smaller destinations closer to home.

A necessary element.

A motorway to Dublin is one necessary element. However, other key pieces of infrastructure are needed first. It currently takes two and a half hours to drive from Dublin to Sligo, which is not bad compared with the times to other regional centres.

However, one needs to be able to get into Sligo when one gets there. Traffic congestion there is already too heavy for a relatively small town, so other forms of connectivity might require more attention.

Rail services must be upgraded, since they are at least as important as a motorway to Dublin, both for the town, its hinterland and international visitors. Commuters, for example,must be able to get into Sligo to work.

Quality bus services to Sligo’s hinterland are crucial. Internationally, so are better flight services. Knock airport helps greatly, but it is an hour away. That connecting journey needs to be cut, and quickly.

Meanwhile, Knock airport should have regular services to London and Brussels, not just the ones that it has at present. It is important for international connectivity that Sligo must also have high-capacity broadband.

All of this, if combined with a strengthened third-level institute and a stronger Industrial Development Authority presence, will bring important investment to Sligo. If properly backed, Sligo could be the spark to set the northwest alight.

Experts warn of safety fear as patients are given the right to use medicinal cannabis

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Experts have now stressed there are many “unknown truth’s” around the safety of medicinal cannabis despite the fact patients with specified conditions will be able to access it later this year.

The Health Minister Simon Harris is to proceed with the legislation and regulations which would allow a “compassionate access” programme. Experts have stressed, however, there are still questions around the safety, quality and effectiveness of the products.

The specified medical conditions are:

  1. Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis;
  2. Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy;
  3. Epilepsy which is resistant to treatments.

The breakthrough emerged following a report from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) .

It was asked to carry out a scientific assessment of its therapeutic use by the minister.

It followed pressure from patients and personal testimonies of gaining relief from symptoms including pain and seizures.

“I understand this is a matter of great concern to many patients, to many colleagues in the Oireachtas and to members of the general public who have contacted me,” Mr Harris said.

“I believe this report marks a significant milestone in developing policy in this area. This is something I am eager to progress but I am also obligated to proceed on the basis of the best clinical advice.”

Prof Tony O’Brien, a consultant in palliative medicine who chaired the group, said that making it available for a limited number of conditions would be a significant first step that recognised patient need.

It would also provide patient protection with oversight from consultants. The legislation should also allow for a registry to be set up to collect medical information and provide insight into the future use of cannabis products for medical purposes.

Cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits, but there is a need for robust evidence to be generated through clinical research in patients.

The group looked at the relevant scientific reviews and publications available worldwide, as well as the international approaches to cannabis for medical use.

There is limited scientific data available, the report has added.

“The safety of cannabis as a medical treatment is also not well characterised. For these reasons, and because most cannabis products available under international access schemes do not meet pharmaceutical quality standards, it is not possible to authorise such products as medicines,” it said.

NASA picks three potential drill sites for Mars 2020

All three could have supported life in ancient Mars.

Image result for NASA picks three potential drill sites for Mars 2020   Image result for NASA picks Jezero crater, which got the most votes, was once an ancient lake comparable to Lake Tahoe  Image result for Northeast Syrtis, which got the second highest number of votes

When the Mars 2020 rover reaches the red planet, it will quickly begin drilling for samples from its surface. NASA hasn’t picked the exact drill site yet, but it has narrowed its choices down to three during a workshop with scientists in Monrovia, California.

The group consulted images and data sent by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter before voting for easily accessible locations they believe could have supported life. Jezero crater, which got the most votes, was once an ancient lake comparable to Lake Tahoe. It was connected to a large river that fed it water and sediments, making it an ideal site for the rover’s search for signs of life.

Northeast Syrtis, which got the second highest number of votes, used to have hot water circulating under its crust. Finally, there’s Columbia Hills — the group’s third and most controversial choice where the Spirit rover used to roam. Spirit found silica rocks in the site resembling hydrothermal mineral deposits on Earth. Some of the people who attended the workshop didn’t think Mars 2020 would be able to shed light on whether the rocks could truly be linked to life.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 6th February 2016

Irish Government Ministers divided over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland?

Kenny to go ahead with White House trip but declines to clarify if he will invite Trump here

Image result for Irish Government Ministers divided over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland?   Image result for Irish Government Ministers

US president Donald Trump: Ministers are at odds over whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny should invite the US president to Ireland.

Government Ministers are divided over whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny should invite US president Donald Trump to visit Ireland.

Mr Kenny has confirmed he will proceed with his trip to the White House on St Patrick’s Day despite protest from Opposition parties.

However, the Taoiseach has declined to clarify whether he will issue an invitation to Mr Trump to come here.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath have both said they would not support such a proposal being made.

“I’m not sure what purpose it would serve,” Mr Varadkar said. “An invite will be the Taoiseach’s decision. I wouldn’t invite him.”

Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan have indicated they would back a visit from the president.

  • Ministers at odds over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland
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  • Hundreds attend protest against Trump at US embassy

‘Appalling policies’

Mr McGrath, an Independent Alliance Minister, told The Irish Times: “I do not think we should invite him. His statements and policies are appalling and have to be rejected.”

Mr Varadkar questioned what purpose a visit would have, insisting he would not issue such a request.

Speaking last week, the Taoiseach declined to rule out an invitation to Mr Trump, saying that he would consider the question of an invitation when he was in Washington for St Patrick’s Day.

However, newspaper reports on Sunday said Mr Kenny had decided not to invite Mr Trump.

A Government spokesman then followed up stressing that Mr Kenny’s remarks still stood, but that the Taoiseach would be concentrating on raising the plight of illegal Irish immigrants in the United States when he meets Mr Trump.

Government sources stressed the importance of the meeting with the US president went beyond the occupant of the White House at any one time.

The Minister for Finance said an invitation should not be ruled out but insisted the timing must be right. Mr Noonan was strongly criticised when he welcomed Mr Trump to Ireland previously.

Strong links

While Ms O’Connor claimed Ireland needed to actively work to maintain the strong links with the United States. She said she fully supported Mr Kenny in his decision to travel to meet Mr Trump.

“There are over 150,000 Irish people employed in US companies here in Ireland and I would like to make sure that there is US investment into the country,” Ms O’Connor said.

“I want to see US investment so I want to see a good collaborative environment and a good collaborative relationship between Ireland and the US.”

Mr Trump had planned a visit to Ireland during the election campaign but it did not proceed.

Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds

Up to 58% of respondents from Britain’s biggest firms see negative impact

Image result for Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds   Image result for Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds

“Business in this country is already feeling the pain of the economic upheaval of leaving the EU,” said Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori.

Business is already suffering from Brexit, according to some of Britain’s biggest companies, lending weight to a cross-party effort by MPs this week to avert the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Despite a stream of positive economic data, an Ipsos Mori survey of senior executives from more than 100 of the largest 500 companies found 58 per cent felt last year’s vote was already having a negative effect on their business.

Just 11 per cent found the Brexit decision had meant a positive impact while nearly a third – 31 per cent – thought it had made no difference to their company.

“Business in this country is already feeling the pain of the economic upheaval of leaving the EU,” said Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori. “There is no sign that this is likely to ease this year.”

Company bosses have voiced concern about losing competitive advantage against European rivals if tariffs rise after Brexit, adding to the cost of producing and exporting goods.

Investors also appear to be waiting for greater clarity about the outcome of Brexit negotiations before committing funds to longer-term projects.

Theresa May will this week face a rebellion by pro-European Tory MPs who fear that she could walk away from the negotiating table in Brussels without a deal, with potentially serious effects for business.

The prime minister has said she would prefer “no deal to a bad deal”, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU to fall back on World Trade Organization rules, including tariffs.

Steve Baker, a Tory Eurosceptic MP, said up to 27 Tory MPs could this week back a “wrecking amendment” in the committee stage of the bill authorising Mrs May to invoke Article 50 and trigger Brexit.

The amendment would give parliament a say if Mrs May concluded that no deal was possible, in effect requiring her to go back to Brussels to seek better terms. She will order Tory MPs to oppose the measure.

For Labour, the agony over Brexit continues, with Jeremy Corbyn facing the prospect of losing two of his closest allies – Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis – if they defy him and vote against the Article 50 bill on its third reading on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn said he had yet to decide whether to impose a three-line whip requiring Labour MPs to back Brexit, but hinted that he would show clemency to rebels in any event: “I am a very lenient person,” he told Radio 4’s The World this Weekend.

The Commons battles over Brexit have been played out against a benign economic backdrop, confounding those who predicted a downturn after a Leave vote.

The Office for National Statistics reported last month that the UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, and was not yet showing any signs of the slowdown that many economists predicted would follow the vote to leave the EU in June.

But the less rosy sentiment from business is supported by economic forecasters, with Sir Charlie Bean of the Office for Budget Responsibility and former deputy governor of the Bank of England saying last week that the strong consumer spending seen after the Brexit vote in June was likely to fall away in coming months.

Bank of England figures show that consumer borrowing growth in December slowed to its lowest in more than two years, while consumer confidence has also dipped.

Two-thirds of the 114 FTSE 500 business leaders surveyed believe the business environment will become more negative over the next 12 months, while only 13 per cent believed the opposite.

A large majority – 84 per cent – said that it was “vital” to their business that the government handled Brexit negotiations well. But half said they were not confident in the government’s ability to negotiate the “best deal possible” with the EU for UK companies.

An even larger majority – 96 per cent – was confident their business could adapt to the consequences of leaving the EU, and more than two-thirds had already taken action in response to the referendum result. A tenth were moving business outside the UK.

In terms of their priorities for the forthcoming negotiations, the business leaders said movement of labour and access to skilled labour came the highest, followed by securing free trade or retaining the single market with the EU and passporting rights.

Nurses’ union talks break down & are now likely to give notice of industrial action

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Talks between the HSE and nurses’ unions that have been ongoing for three weeks ended this evening without agreement.

Now, unions will meet to discuss potential industrial action.

The INMO told Health Service management that proposals have to be “radically improved” before any further discussion can take place.

The talks were focused on staffing, recruitment and retention.

They were aimed at restoring the current nursing/midwifery workforce to “at least 2007 levels”.

  1. In a statement issued to the media, the INMO said HSE management,
  2. “Refused to allow Directors of Nursing and Midwifery fill all posts which become vacant during 2017;
  3. Refused to guarantee that sufficient funding would be made available to allow the permanent employment of all Irish trained nurses and midwives graduating in 2016/17; and,
  4. Refused to guarantee replacement of maternity leave vacancies on a one for one basis.”

A 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Image result for 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland  Image result for live insects# complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland  Image result for 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

A live insect in a dessert, a human nail in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips were among thousands of complaints made by the public to the Food Safety Authority.

New figures from the FSAI show its advice phoneline received 3,202 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises, and food labelling last year. That was an increase of 17% on the 2015 figure of 2,739.

Meanwhile, the number of complaints about food poisoning jumped by 45% last year compared to 2015.

A total of 1,126 complaints were made relating to unfit food, 864 to hygiene standards, 741 to suspect food poisoning, 221 to incorrect information on food labelling, and 60 related to non-display of allergen information.

Grievances about poor hygiene standards were up 34% on the previous year, while complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 15% and those on unfit food was up 7%.

Edel Smyth, FSAI’s information manager, said Irish people are far more likely to complain about hygiene standards than they may have been in the past.

“The statistics from our advice line service continue to show an upward trend, with consumers expressing much more concern and being more conscious about the food they consume, and are being increasingly vigilant about food safety issues,” she said.

“There is a culture developing among consumers, which indicates zero tolerance towards poor hygiene standards and, in particular, food that is unfit to eat.”

The FSAI report says contamination of food with foreign objects was also frequently reported by consumers.

In 2016, reports included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects.

Examples included a live insect found in a packaged dessert, a long black hair in garlic sauce, a human nail in a takeaway meal, glass in a dessert, plastic rope in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.

Other complaints in relation to poor hygiene standards referred to dirty customer toilets, rats observed on the premises, and dirty tables and floors.

In one case, a consumer complained about a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.

All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by its enforcement officers throughout the country.

Its advice line received a total of 10,497 queries in 2016 from not only consumers but people working in the food service sector, such as manufacturers, retailers, researchers, and consultants.

The most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements, allergens, and additives, as well as requests for FSAI publications.

FSAI chief executive Pamela Byrne said the advice line, as well as the agency’s website are important resources for the food industry where its experts are available to assist food business owners and managers to fully understand their legal requirements.

Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users

Laws would exempt drug users from prosecution if found with certain drugs at centre

Image result for Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users  Image result for Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users  Related image

The proposed injection centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

The Government will on Tuesday discuss legislation which would exempt drug users from prosecution if found with certain illegal drugs in a supervised injection facility.

Minister for Drugs Catherine Byrne will seek approval to proceed with plans which would open such a facility in Dublin’s city centre.

The centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

Government sources stressed the Misuse of Drugs Act, which controls the possession of substances, will still apply.

Exemption from prosecution will only be applicable to authorised users when on the premises and injecting with the licence holder’s permission.

A Government source stressed: “In all other circumstances, inside and outside a supervised injecting facility, the offence of possession of a controlled drug still applies.

“The possession of a drug for the purpose of selling and supplying it to another is unaffected and remains a crime.”

A concern?

Gardaí will be able to enter the premises without a warrant but they will not be able to arrest those inside.

There has been some concern that Gardaí may be unable to adequately enforce the law while reflecting the Government policy.

Ministers have said the law must be clear and insisted there can be no ambiguity which would affect the powers of the Gardaí.

The legislation will also provide an exemption for licence holders to allow them to possess or prepare a controlled substance on the premises.

The initiative, which was first proposed by the former Labour Party minister of state Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has caused some concern.

However, Ms Byrne will stress the facility will not become a free-for-all for those who want to inject drugs.

Government sources say the aim is to minimise the harm associated with injecting drugs by providing a controlled environment.

The Health Service Executive will be asked to run the facility and will consult with An Garda Síochána and community groups before its establishment.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has requested that the centres do not open near schools.

Debated

Mr Bruton has asked that proximity to children must be considered as part of the discussion on location and called for schools to be consulted ahead of any decision being made.

The legislation proposed by Ms Byrne is not prescriptive in terms of location but sets out policies which should be considered.

The level and the nature of drug use, paraphernalia and incidents of overdose or death should be factors, according to the Minister.

The legislation, if passed by Cabinet, will be debated in the Dáil and the Seanad.

It is expected the facility may be open by September. It will not be a new building but one that is unused at present.

If the pilot project is successful, it is envisaged a number of others will be opened across the country.

However, funding has only been set aside for one facility and the Department of Health has been advised any additional spend must come from within expenditure allocations.

The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn

Image result for The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn Image result for The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn

Stargazers set out the grim destiny of our planet’s satellite, which will plough into humanity’s home world in the very distant future

The moon is locked into a death spiral which will eventually cause it to smash into Planet Earth, an astronomer has warned.

This apocalyptic event is likely to be so devastating that it will turn the surface of our home world into a seething pit of red hot lava.

The moon will plunge into Earth, although humans may not be around to see it

“The final end-state of tidal evolution in the Earth-Moon system will indeed be the inspiral of the Moon and its subsequent collision… onto Earth,” Jason Barnes, a planetary scientist at the University of Idaho, told Forbes.

“The energy released in the merging would re-melt the Earth into a magma ocean.”

Sadly, humans won’t be around to see this disaster – because they will probably have been wiped out in another one like?

According to the Global Catastrophic Risks 2016 report, the biggest threats humanity should prepare for are climate change-related catastrophes, natural pandemics and nuclear war.

These were all listed as high priority and had the highest likelihood of occurring in the next five years.

However, other threats to look out for include pandemics from man-made pathogens, failure of geo-engineering projects, and catastrophic disruption from artificial intelligence.

In terms of mitigating risks, the report draws comparisons with fatal car accidents, where governments have mandated basic safety features, such as seatbelts and air bags.

It states that while the risk of human extinction is small, at 0.1% each year, it means that a person is five times more likely to die in an extinction event than a car crash.

Catastrophic climate change poses such a high risk due to the cumulative effects of rising carbon dioxide levels, feedback loops in the carbon cycle, and lack of action and financial investment.

The report states of the need for the international community to take strong action to avoid the upper limits of global temperature change, which could have devastating impacts on food security and human life.

The sun will one day swell to a huge size and fry everything on Earth

The moon will crash into Earth in about 65 billion years, which is about 59 billion years after everything in our planet has been burned alive in the death throes of the sun.

If our species manages to avoid being wiped out by nuclear war, doomsday space rocks or apocalyptic epidemics, we may live to see the day our closest star swallows up much of the solar system.

“Five billion years from now, the Sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size,” Professor Leen Decin from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy said last year.NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, last man to walk on the moon, dead at 82

Earth will be hit by an asteroid that will wipe out life as we know it today… but not for a million years, say boffins

 

“It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, 7 billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears

British leader is visiting Dublin as concerns increase over UK’s plan for leaving the EU

Image result for Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears   Image result for Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears

British prime minister Theresa May plans to meet Enda Kenny in Dublin on today Monday.

British prime minister Theresa May meets the Taoiseach in Dublin on Monday amid growing concern in Government about the impact of a hard Brexit on the Border and on trade between Ireland and Britain.

The meeting comes two weeks after Ms May said Britain would leave the single market and key parts of the customs union when it withdraws from the EU.

Ms May has identified maintaining the Common Travel Area as a key objective in Brexit negotiations and the Government is confident that there is broad support in other EU member states for that position.

The prime minister’s decision to leave the customs union’s common commercial policy and common external tariff, however, has made some form of customs control along the Border difficult to avoid.

The EU is responsible for agreeing trade policy on behalf of all its member states and there is little enthusiasm in Brussels for a special trade arrangement between Britain and Ireland.

‘Frictionless’

The focus for British and Irish negotiators is likely to be on ensuring that any customs controls on the Border will be as “frictionless” and unobtrusive as possible.

Last night, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the prime minister was aware of the concerns the Government had about the impact of Brexit on the island.

He said Ms May’s visit afforded an opportunity to hear her priorities and to discuss her response to the difficulties Ireland faced.

“Our priorities are well known to the British prime minister and I believe it’s important that [today] we hear her view on what again is a great challenge to the island of Ireland with particular reference to our economy, our trade with the United Kingdom and of course the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process and the need to ensure, in the context of the forthcoming negotiations that the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is fully adhered to,” Mr Flanagan said.

Before travelling to Dublin, Ms May will host a meeting in Cardiff of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) which co-ordinates the relationships between Downing Street and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

No veto

Britain’s supreme court ruled last week that the devolved administrations have no veto over the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts formal Brexit negotiations.

Ahead of the meeting in Cardiff, however, the prime minister said she remained committed to listening to the views of legislators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from the necessary conversations and I hope we will have further constructive discussions today,” she said.

“The United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, and the UK government has a responsibility to deliver on that mandate and secure the right deal for the whole of the UK.

“We all have a part to play in providing certainty and leadership so that together we can make a success of the opportunities ahead.”

Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016

A total of 5,626 residential units registered in year, says Construction Industry Federation

Image result for Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016  Image result for Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016

The majority of housing units registered last year were in Dublin.

House building activity increased by more than 30 per cent in 2016, according to the latest figures from the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

A total of 5,626 residential units were registered to start construction in 2016, a 31 per cent increase on 2015.

The majority of housing units registered last year, or some 3,223 homes, were in Dublin, but house building activity is also strengthening elsewhere in Ireland, the federation said.

“All measures of house building activity and housing output show a strengthening trend as we begin 2017,” said CIF director general Tom Parlon.

“However, the planning environment and access to development finance will continue to be critical factors for all involved in the house building sector.”

Housing supply will remain “a key issue confronting industry and Government” throughout 2017, he said.

“Measures must be taken to provide finance to regional housebuilders in tandem with the recent measures taken at national level such as the local infrastructure fund and the help-to-buy initiative,” Mr Parlon added.

An increase

According to the CIF House Building Activity Report, a total of 11,320 residential units were commenced in the 11-month period January to November 2016.

This figure represents an increase of 46.5 per cent, or 3,593 units, on the total number of units commenced during the first 11 months of 2015.

Individual or one-off housing accounted for 36 per cent of total commencements.

Urban centres such as Cork and greater Dublin continue to experience the most concentrated levels of new housing supply with 1,419 and 6,209 new units commenced respectively last year.

A total of 13,376 residential units were completed in the 11-month period January to November 2016, which represents an 18.2 per cent increase in activity on the same period in 2015. The average monthly completion figure currently stands at 1,216 units.

In its last House Building Activity Report, the CIF estimated that circa 14,000 residential units would be completed by the end of 2016. But it said activity had increased near the tail end of the year and that the final figure would be closer to 14,500.

€500,000 to be invested in boosting tourism at Ireland’s national parks

The funding will focus on the five national parks and five nature reserves along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as Wicklow National Park.

Image result for €500,000 to be invested in boosting tourism at Ireland's national parks Related image  Image result for Ireland's wildlife national parks

Failte IRELAND is set to invest some €500,000 in boosting tourism to Ireland’s national parks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today announced Fáilte Ireland’s new strategic partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS), which aims to increase tourism in the rural areas where the parks are located.

This initial funding will focus on tTourism Irl.,he five national parks and five nature reserves along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as Wicklow National Park.

Announcing the initiative in Ballycroy National Park, Co Mayo, Kenny said the money “will undoubtedly allow for the design of excellent tourism projects building on the strengths of each location, as well as further promoting our national parks and nature reserves for visitors and tourists”.

Michael Ring, Minister for State for Regional Economic Development, added: “While the last few years have been difficult in relation to exchequer funding, I am delighted that we are now in a position to invest further in our natural heritage”.

A bumper year in 2016.

Speaking about the project, Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Strategic Development Orla Carroll said: “We know from our own research that more and more visitors want to experience the Irish landscape up-close and personal.

Our national parks can do just that – by unlocking this potential we can give our visitors a real opportunity to get back to nature and get in touch with Ireland.

2016 was a record-breaking year for Irish tourism, with nine million visits taking place in the first 11 months. There were 8,919,700 million visits to Ireland up to the end of November, an 11% increase compared to the same period in 2015.

Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list

Opposition TDs criticise Coveney’s decision not to include Waterford and Limerick in list

Image result for Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list  Image result for Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he was delivering on the commitment he gave when he published the Government’s rental strategy in December.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has confirmed rent caps are to be extended to Galway city and 23 towns.

They were declared “rent pressure zones” after the Government reached agreement with Fianna Fáil. Galway city, nine towns in Meath, seven in Kildare, three in Wicklow and four in Cork will have rent increases restricted to 4 per cent per annum for the next three years.

Mr Coveney said he was delivering on the commitment he gave when he published the Government’s rental strategy in December, naming Dublin and Cork as rent-pressure zones.

Opposition TDs have criticised the decision not to add Waterford and Limerick to the list.

A push for more towns?

Fianna Fáil spokesman on housing Barry Cowen said the party would continue to push for more towns to be included. He said they had sought the inclusion of 40 towns.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan said tenants in Waterford and Limerick would suffer as a result of the decision. “This is disastrous for tenants who are already struggling to pay and now face rises they can’t afford. Linking rent increases to the consumer price index as the Labour Party has proposed would have been a much fairer way to go.

“The people of Limerick, Waterford and other parts of the country are now left with no protection from steep hikes, which is a direct result of this legislation.”

Rent pressure zones

Mr Coveney said in drawing up the list of rent pressure zones, he was guided solely by information given by the Residential Tenancies Board.

“In rough speak there needs to be a sustained level of unsustainable rental increases for four of the last six months. There needs to have been at least seven per cent annual rental inflation in rental markets.

“Secondly, it needs to be a high rent in that area, it needs to be above the national average.

“I want to reassure people. This isn’t politicians making designations to be popular or to try and bring home good news to their areas.”

Towns to have rent caps:

Naas, Sallins , Celbridge, Leixlip, Rathangan, Kildare, Newbridge, Slane, Julianstown, Duleek, Laytown, Bettystown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin, Ratoath, Bray, Enniskerry, Wicklow, Douglas, Ballincollig, Carrigaline and Passage West

How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick

The cruel comments and mocking behavior can take a real physical toll, researchers say.

Image result for How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick   Image result for How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick   Image result for How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick

The now President Trump is not without blame?

It’s a sad but true fact: Fat shaming is everywhere. Now, there’s evidence it can do more than damage self-confidence—it may also have serious health consequences. A new study found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies are at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who maintain a more positive body image.

The research, published in the journal Obesity, showed that higher levels of “weight-bias internalization”—the term for what happens when people are aware of negative stereotypes about obesity and apply those stereotypes to themselves—were associated with more cases of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health issues that raise the risk for heart disease and diabetes. This was true above and beyond the effects of body mass index (BMI), indicating that internalization isn’t just a result of weight or other issues, but a risk factor on its own.

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight,” says lead author Rebecca Pearl, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.”

The new study supports the idea that when people feel bad about themselves, it can affect their physical health as well as their mental health, Pearl says.

To study this effect, Pearl and her colleagues at Penn’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders focused on 159 obese women who were enrolled in a clinical trial to test the effects of weight-loss medication. (The study was funded by the drug’s parent company, Eisai Pharmaceutical Co.)

To determine their level of weight-bias internalization, the women indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, “I hate myself for being overweight.” The statements touched on stereotypes about overweight people being lazy, unattractive, or incompetent.

The women were also examined to determine whether they had metabolic syndrome, which includes risk factors like high triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

After the researchers adjusted for age, gender, race, and BMI, they found that women who scored in the top half for weight-bias internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome that those in the bottom half. They were also six times more likely to have high triglycerides, one aspect of high cholesterol.

The findings were also adjusted for depression, which is also associated with poor self-esteem and negative body image.

Most of the women in the study were African American. That’s important, says Pearl, because most weight-bias research to-date has included mostly white women. Internalization scores do tend to be lower for black women, Pearl says, “but that doesn’t mean it’s doesn’t affect some African Americans just as it affects white people or Hispanic people.”

The study was not able to show a cause-and-effect relationship, and Pearl says it’s also possible that people with more health problems feel worse about themselves as a result. But previous research helps support the researchers’ theory that bias can have a direct impact on health.

It’s been shown, for example, that fat-shaming experiences can lead to increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who feel bad about their bodies are also less likely to exercise, Pearl adds, and can have a harder time eating healthy.

It isn’t clear why some women internalize weight bias and others don’t, Pearl says—whether they’re in a supportive environment and exposed less to fat shaming, or are simply less vulnerable to its effects. But for many women, she says, these messages are hard to avoid.

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings,” she says.

It’s important for loved ones, and the general public, to be sensitive to this issue, Pearl says. “Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.”

As for women and men who are struggling with their own body image, Pearl recommends taking a good look at the stereotypes they’ve internalized—and then challenging them.

“A patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her”

“as just a psychiatric case”

Our health service must place a greater priority on the physical healthcare needs of people with mental illness, writes Dr Stephen McWilliams.

 Image result for patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her with mental illness Image result for patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her with mental illness  Image result for patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her with mental illness  

Image result for Dr Stephen McWilliams  By Dr Stephen McWilliams

Some patient’s claim that, by virtue of their existing mental illness, they must work twice as hard to have their physical illnesses taken seriously by the health service.

In the waiting rooms of general hospitals, accident and emergency departments and outpatient clinics, they overhear themselves talked about primarily with reference to their anxiety, depression or psychosis, even when their reason for attending is purely physical.

One such patient told me she overheard a member of staff referring to her as “just a psychiatric case”. Another recalled being informed by a general nurse (in a private medical hospital), “we don’t do mental health here.” Such examples are not unusual.

These attitudes, where they exist, come at a cost

Psychiatric patients often feel marginalised in general medical settings. They receive less effective and often delayed care for their physical illnesses because such symptoms are frequently eclipsed by their psychiatric diagnosis.

My patients are not alone in experiencing this. The phenomenon – termed “diagnostic overshadowing” – has been highlighted as a real problem in the healthcare of individuals with psychiatric illness.

Diagnostic overshadowing is a major theme in a recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London entitled: “Whole person care: from rhetoric to reality – Achieving parity between mental and physical health.” In Ireland, the drive to reduce costs has seen funding for the treatment of psychiatric illness gradually shrink in comparison to that for physical illness.

This is despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimation that 350 million people worldwide have depression, making it the world’s leading cause of disability. Mental illness and physical illness are a long way from gaining parity of esteem. They simply are not seen as equally important. It is little wonder people with mental illness sometimes feel disenfranchised.

Separation of mental illness and physical illness is largely artificial

They often occur in the same people. A recent report by the UK think-tank QualityWatch examined 100 million hospital episodes annually over five years. They found that almost half of people with mental ill health have a concurrent physical condition. They are four times more likely to die of respiratory (lung) disease and 2.5 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

QualityWatch also reported that people with serious mental illness die 10 to 17 years younger, which echoes a WHO assertion that individuals with schizophrenia die 10 to 25 years younger.

Suicide accounts for some of this, but physical illness is the main reason. For example, people with schizophrenia are six times more likely to smoke heavily, while approximately half are significantly overweight. Up to 15% have diabetes and 58% have elevated blood pressure.

Meeting medical needs

As a general rule, meeting the medical needs of any patient will reduce the amount of emergency care they need relative to planned care. People with mental illness have 10% fewer planned medical admissions than the general population, according to QualityWatch.

Instead they have three times more A&E attendances and almost five times more emergency admissions. Less than one in five of these emergency admissions among psychiatric patients are to address their mental health needs; most are for the potentially-preventable complications of common illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, epilepsy and various infections.

Individuals with underlying mental illness are more likely to be admitted overnight and they generally remain longer in hospital.

Deaths that could be avoided

It is little wonder that the UK National Health Service has estimated that some 40,000 deaths might be avoided each year if individuals with serious mental illness were afforded the same amount of physical healthcare as the general population. The equivalent number of deaths annually based on Ireland’s population would be almost 3,000.

In the words of the WHO, the reduced life expectancy of individuals with serious mental illness is due to “a society socially and functionally biased towards the population living with severe mental disorder.”

They die earlier not because of their psychiatric illness per se, but “because of the discrimination and lack of access to good health services.” The WHO further asserts that stigma is the biggest barrier preventing people with severe mental illness from receiving effective care.

People with mental illness already get a raw deal

It behoves our health service (our Government and, indeed, society) to place a greater priority than it currently does on the physical healthcare needs of people with mental illness.

Mysterious UFO-shaped cloud appears above mountains in Sweden which baffles skiers

The mysterious cloud was spotted above the mountains in ski resorts in Sweden

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A mysterious UFO-shaped cloud appeared above mountains and baffled skiers who were stunned after seeing it in the sky.

The bizarre sight could be seen over the Duved ski resort in Sweden earlier this week and many stopped on the mountain to take photographs.

Nature photographer Sara Björkebaum spotted the cloud and uploaded a picture of it to her Instagram page, ‘bbaumish’.

Björkebaum, from Sweden, wrote, “Weird weather, cool clouds. I think I may jump on that spaceship.”

Experts have said that it was a “lenticular cloud”, which typically form over mountain peaks.

They usually appear when the air rises near the mountains, and as it cools, it creates a cloud.

An unidentified flying object, or UFO, in its most general definition, is any apparent anomaly in the sky that is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. Culturally, UFOs are associated with claims of visitation by extraterrestrial life or government-related conspiracy theories, and have become popular subjects in fiction. UFOs are often identified after their sighting. Sometimes, however, UFOs cannot be identified because of the low quality of evidence related to their sightings.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 3rd January 2017

Employment in IDA Irish backed firms reaches a record high

Almost 200,000 employed in multinationals but IDA warns of political uncertainty

Image result for Employment in IDA Irish backed firms reaches a record high  Image result for The IDA   Image result for Employment in IDA backed firms reaches a record high

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor: “That companies have continued to invest in Ireland is testament to the quality of the offering we have here,” he said.

IDA Ireland says the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ireland will remain strong in coming months after a record 2016, although the State enterprise agency warned against “complacency” over cost-competitiveness and potential threats in the global economy.

Employment in foreign multinationals backed by IDA reached a record high of almost 200,000 in 2016, with 244 investments during the year. This is up from a previous high of 213 in 2016.

At the publication of its annual statement on Tuesday, IDA said the number of investments from companies new to the Irish market went to 99 from 94 in 2016, with 11,842 additional jobs (net) created. Job losses were at their lowest level in 19 years.

In 2016, more than half (52%) of all jobs created by IDA clients were based outside Dublin. The mid-west experienced the fastest growth rate, of 10%, with some 1,500 jobs created during the year. The midlands fared the worst, with just 58 jobs created during the year.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, said he expected some US companies to delay investment announcements until details emerged of US president-elect Donald Trump’s trade policies.

He also said some London-based banks were close to choosing alternative locations, as Dublin fights to pick up business amid post-Brexit vote uncertainty.

Success

Mr Shanahan said: “That companies have continued to invest in Ireland is testament to the quality of the offering we have here. That being said – we absolutely cannot be complacent about this success. We have to keep an eye on our competitiveness including costs.

“The contribution of the FDI sector has always been important to Ireland, but the 2016 results show that the contribution has never been greater. It is particularly welcome to see such a broad-based performance and all regions growing. International services, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and financial services all showed significant employment increases in 2016.”

On Brexit, the IDA said the UK’s planned departure from the European Union has led to “a significant volume of specific queries” to IDA offices from across the world, with Ireland among a small number of locations in Europe being considered. However the IDA also noted that Brexit brings with it some “adverse impacts”.

Access.

“FDI companies that depend heavily on the UK market have already been impacted by exchange rates and they may also need to consider their future access to the UK market in a post-Brexit environment.”

Looking ahead, Mr Shanahan said that “ongoing global political and economic uncertainty will continue to affect investor confidence in 2017”, while competition from other jurisdictions for FDI has “never been as strong”.

However, the outlook is still “promising”. “While there is significant uncertainty, the jobs pipeline for the first quarter of 2017 looks promising. In 2016, job losses within IDA client companies were at their lowest level since 1997. Given market turmoil, Brexit impacts and cost-competitiveness pressure, IDA does not expect this trend to continue,” Mr Shanahan said.

Irish property prices to rise by at least 8% this year 2017

Help-to-buy scheme will add ‘fuel to the fire’ and drive price rises, myhome.ie reports

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Irish property prices are set to rise by at least 8% in 2017, with double-digit growth a ‘distinct possibility’.

Property prices are set to rise by at least 8% in 2017, with double-digit growth a “distinct possibility”, as today’s launch of the new help-to-buy scheme, plus looser mortgage lending rules and constrained supply drive price growth across the country.

The prediction comes in a report from myhome.ie, the property website, and Davy, the stockbroking firm, which says the help-to-buy scheme will add “fuel to the fire” in driving price growth.

The scheme, which opens for applications today (January 3rd), will give first-time buyers of new homes 5 per cent back on the cost of their property.

According to the Central Statistics Office, property prices rose by 7.1% in the year to October, while full-year calculations from estate agent Sherry FitzGerald, also published today, estimate that prices rose by 5.2% for 2016 as a whole, a moderate increase on the 4% recorded in 2015.

Prices in Dublin increased by 3.7% in 2016, compared to 1.4% in 2015, according to Sherry FitzGerald with growth of 7.4%, 10.1% and 6.9% respectively in Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Despite recent price growth, however, average values are still about 40% off peak 2006 levels.

Big fall in supply?

Predictions of an acceleration in house-price growth next year comes as the number of properties for sale across the country has fallen to a 10-year low.

New figures from Daft.ie, also published today, show just 21,700 properties for sale nationwide on the property portal in December 2016, the lowest since January 2007.

Myhome.ie reports a similar picture, with just 20,875 properties listed for sale on the site, down 7.7% from last year.

This suggests that just 1% of the Irish housing stock is currently listed for sale – a normally functioning market would typically boast turnover levels of 4%.

“The lack of liquidity is particularly acute in Dublin where there are just 3,619 properties listed for sale.

“This is down 20% on last year and means just 0.7% of Dublin’s housing stock of 535,000 properties is currently listed for sale,” says Angela Keegan, managing director of myhome.ie.

Trinity College Dublin economist and author of the Daft.ie report Ronan Lyons warns that demographic trends, housing obsolescence and migration means that close to 50,000 new properties are needed each year but just about 14,000 were built in 2016.

“Without this kind of supply, we will all have to spend more and more of our income just to have a home,” he warns.

With fewer homes for sale, transaction levels are also slumping. While the full figures for Q4 are not yet available from the property register, early returns suggest a sharp fall in transactions in the final quarter of 2016, with sales down by 12% on the year, according to Daft.ie.

But the decline may also be due to the imminent arrival of the new help-to-buy scheme, as prospective purchasers postponed their decisions.

Asking prices rise.

The latest survey from Daft.ie for the fourth quarter of 2016 shows that asking prices across the country rose by 8% in the year, with prices continuing to rise at a faster rate outside the capital.

Asking prices in Dublin were 5% higher than in 2015, but in Cork, Galway and Kilkenny, inflation exceeded 10%, although the rate of growth has fallen since 2014.

The figures mean that the average national asking price has risen 34.3% or just over € 56,000 – since the property market reached its nadir in the third quarter of 2013.

In Dublin, however, the bottom was reached in the second quarter of 2012 and prices have risen by an average of 46.2% or €101,850 since that time.

In Limerick, prices have risen by 39% in the city (and by 19% in the county) since its low in 2014.

According to myhome.ie, while asking prices on new instructions fell by more than 2% in the fourth quarter, bringing the mix adjusted asking price for new sales nationally to €227,000 – prices on their site are still up 5.5% year on year.

In Dublin, the average asking prices for a newly listed property remained unchanged at €328,000, but this is still up 4.9% year on year, according to myhome.ie.

Flu, respiratory illness, and the winter vomiting bug on the rise in Ireland

Ireland is under the weather at the moment

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HSE Hospitals across IRELAND have reported a significant increase in the number of cases of winter-related illnesses, including influenza, respiratory illness and the winter vomiting bug.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which monitors the spread of infectious diseases, says that there has been a tripling in the numbers of people with norovirus (winter vomiting bug) over the past five weeks.

The HSPC also warned that this escalation is expected to continue until at least the end of February.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has described the outbreak of the infections as “a very challenging period of time” for Ireland’s health service.

The HSE has asked people with symptoms of the winter vomiting bug not to visit or attend hospitals or GP surgeries.

“This bug, while often unpleasant, rarely causes serious problems for otherwise healthy children and adults,” the HSE said in a statement.

It can, however, “be a serious problem in hospitals and residential facilities where it can lead to ward closures, postponed operations, and worryingly, can result in very serious illness for patients in hospital who are already weakened by other medical conditions.”

The comments were echoed by Minister Harris, who warned against spreading the flu:

We all as citizens have a role to play in terms of doing everything we possibly can to minimise the spread of what is a very significant outbreak of flu.

The HSE confirmed that there have been 21 outbreaks of flu and respiratory infections in healthcare settings such as hospitals, residential centres and nursing homes so far, this season, and a significant increase in people aged 75 and older seeking treatment.

All hospitals around the country have put in place contingency measures to manage the increased number of patients coming to Emergency Departments, with the HSE saying that the spike in demand is expected to continue over the coming weeks.

The HSE has urged at-risk people to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible.

“The winter tends to be a difficult period for the health service, and that is why we have put significant resources [into dealing with it] but the particular challenges we’re experiencing now are not just the challenges of a normal winter,”Minister Harris said at a press conference this afternoon.

The minister said that there has been almost a 20% increase in the number of people over the age of 75 attending Emergency Departments over this Christmas period compared to last year.

The HSPC said the increase in the winter vomiting bug has been due to new strains of the infection being reported in Ireland, which the population is not immune to.

The HSE’s ‘Winter Initiative’ has seen at least €15 million spent in recent months to deal with the increased demand for the health service, particularly in ensuring that people are discharged from beds once they have recovered from their illness.

Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans & it’s official

Image result for Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans  Image result for Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans

Dr. J. Calvin Coffey above right pic, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick in Ireland, has concluded that the mesentery, which is a membrane found in the gut, is in its own an organ.

A mighty membrane that twists and turns through the gut is starting the new year with a new classification: the structure, called the mesentery, has been upgraded to an organ.

Scientists have known about the structure, which connects a person’s small and large intestines to the abdominal wall and anchors them in place, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, until now, it was thought of as a number of distinct membranes by most scientists. Interestingly, in one of its earliest descriptions, none other than Leonardo da Vinci identified the membranes as a single structure, according to a recent review.

In the review, lead author Dr. Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School in Ireland, and colleagues looked at past studies and literature on the mesentery. Coffey noted that throughout the 20th century, anatomy books have described the mesentery as a series of fragmented membranes; in other words, different mesenteries were associated with different parts of the intestines. [6 Strange Things the Government Knows About Your Body]

More recent studies looking at the mesentery in patients undergoing colorectal surgery and in cadavers led Coffey’s team to conclude that the membrane is its own, continuous organ, according to the review, which was published in November in the journal The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

What’s in a name?

The reclassification of the mesentery as an organ “is relevant universally as it affects all of us,” Coffey said in a statement.

By recognizing the anatomy and the structure of the mesentery, scientists can now focus on learning more about how the organ functions, Coffey said. In addition, they can also learn about diseases associated with the mesentery, he added.

“If you understand the function, you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease,” Coffey said.

The continuous nature of the mesentery, for example, may serve as a means for disease to spread from one part of the abdomen to another, according to the review.

In addition to studying disease, researchers may also look to the mesentery for new approaches to surgery, the authors said in the review.

More questions need answers

The authors noted in the review that many anatomical and other features of the mesentery still need to be described.

For instance, what body system should the mesentery be classified in? “Whether the mesentery should be viewed as part of the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular or immunological systems is so far unclear, as it has important roles in all of them,” the authors wrote.

While many organs have distinct functions in the body, the mesentery’s distinct function is still unknown, according to the review.

Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here’s why

Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why

The second rock from the sun has been even brighter than normal and it’s not too late to catch a glimpse.

Those with their eyes on the skies have been noticing that Venus, the second rock from the sun, has been even more stunning than normal recently.

Venus is always one of the brightest lights in our night skies but in recent days it has been especially luminous.

All over the country, people have been posting pictures on social media of Venus below the crescent moon. Particularly sharp-eyed observers could also see a ruddy red Mars close to the moon.

We answer some questions that people have been asking.

Have I missed it?

Not necessarily. Like yesterday, Venus will remain very bright tonight but unfortunately it could be obscured by cloud cover.

If there is a break in the cloud, the best time to see it will be in the hours just after sunset as Venus sets about four hours after the Sun this month.

Early January 2017 is a great time to see Venus. According to the Beckstrom Observatory, it will reach its peak height above the horizon this month.

It will also see the distance between Venus and Mars get smaller as Venus gets higher each night.

Why is Venus so bright?

Venus is the brightest of all the planets visible in the skies above Earth due to a highly reflective acidic atmosphere.

Over the last billion years Venus’ atmosphere has become incredibly thick. Scientists believe that this is because of a runaway greenhouse effect.

And with the atmosphere being so dense, it reflects 70 per cent of the sunlight that reaches it.

In comparison, the moon only reflects 10 per cent of the light that hits it. However, due to its close proximity to earth, the moon appears brighter than Venus to us.

Can I see Mars?

Yes! Mars was bright red in the sky in May and June last year but is no longer as bright. However, you can still see it with the naked eye, with it appearing a ruddy red colour.

As the Red Planet is not as bright as Venus you need to wait until total nightfall to see it. Bear in mind it won’t be visible immediately after sunset.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 5th November 2016

ESRI report predicts Ireland will find it difficult to be a magnet as a corporate tax friendly country after Brexit

Big demand for mortgage finance underlines need for foreign banks to operate in the Irish market

Image result for ESRI report predicts Ireland will find it difficult to stand out as a corporate tax friendly country after Brexit  Image result for ESRI report predicts Ireland will find it difficult to stand out as a corporate tax friendly country after Brexit

In a world of increasing political and economic uncertainty, making meaningful medium to long-term economic forecasts is difficult. Nevertheless, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in publishing its outlook for the Irish economy has tried to chart a potential path for the domestic economy to 2025, and to identify some of the major policy challenges ahead.

The ESRI presents a relatively optimistic outlook. It regards a 3% growth rate for the domestic economy as sustainable, underpinned by a growing labour force and an expanding working age population – bolstered by net immigration. Much, however, will depend on the growth in global trade and on what form an hard or soft Brexit agreement ultimately takes.

The institute’s second concern is how the introduction of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCTB) in the EU might affect foreign direct investment in Ireland, by hitting employment growth and tax revenue. The CCTB does not change Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate. Instead the tax payable by a company would reflect the location of its actual activities, and the profits earned there.

Since Ireland’s low rate would thereby apply to a smaller share of the profits of multinationals, the country would become a less attractive investment option to such companies; securing overseas investment would be harder, and corporate tax revenues would be depressed.

The ESRI suggests that under CCTB, which the Government opposes, economic output could decline by 1.5%, foreign direct investment would drop by some 5% and revenues from corporation tax decline by a similar figure.

The British government’s aims to lower its corporate tax rate from now 20% to 15% over time. President-elect Donald Trump is planning to lower the US rate to 15% within months.

The ESRI identifies another concern: the likely inability of the banking sector to supply adequate mortgage finance to meet the rising demand for housing. An additional €50 billion may be needed by 2024, it suggests. Irish banks may be unable to provide the loans, creating the need for foreign banks to re-enter the market.

Almost 40% of Irish consumers will overspend this Christmas

Image result for Almost 40% of Irish consumers will overspend this Christmas   Image result for Almost 40% of Irish consumers will overspend this Christmas

New research commissioned by Ireland’s leading gift card company One4all shows that close to 40% of Irish consumers expect to spend more than they can afford this Christmas. Under 35s are the group most likely to go over their Christmas budget, with 45% of respondents in this age group anticipating an overspend. This correlates with research undertaken last year by One4all, which showed that 54% of us do not save for the Christmas period.

The survey was undertaken nationally by RedC in November, with 1,000 respondents overall.

Overspending is not the only thing getting Irish workers down about the holiday season, according to the nationally representative survey. 40% of respondents stated that they do not get enough time off at Christmas. Again, under 35s are the most affected by this lack of time off – more than half (51%) in this age group complained about their short Christmas holidays. However, only one third (33%) of Irish workers have used up all of their holiday entitlements for this year.

With Christmas traditionally being a ‘stay at home’ holiday, it is surprising to learn that 30% of respondents would rather spend Christmas abroad than here in Ireland. This rises to 37% in under 35s, and drops to 25% in over 55s, who would be more likely to want a traditional Christmas.

One4all also asked respondents who they think should be awarded a Christmas bonus this year. Our president Michael D. Higgins won out, with 39% thinking he deserved a bonus, followed closely by Robbie Brady at 33%. Only 20% of Irish adults reckon their boss deserves a Christmas bonus. Interestingly, women are more likely than men to feel their boss should get a bonus, with over one quarter saying they believe it’s deserved.

21% of adults feel that Donald Trump’s Campaign Manager deserves a Christmas bonus – and this is before the President elect won his election campaign.

New eagles have landed to bench with a record number of solicitors for 2016

Brexit ‘uncertainty’ prompts 800 solicitors from England and Wales to join Irish roll call?

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Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society of Ireland, said that solicitors’ firms are coming on the roll to ensure they maintain the status of EU membership.

A record number of new solicitors will be added to the Law Society of Ireland roll by the end of the year due to Brexit, the society has said.

There will be 1,347 new solicitors by the end of 2016, 500 more than the previous record set in 2008 and almost four times as many as in 2015.

More than 800 of the new solicitors are from England and Wales, from where only 70 transferred last year.

But that does not mean they will actually set up practice in Ireland; so far very few have taken out practising certificates.

Unlike solicitors from other EU countries, practitioners from England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not required to go through a transfer test. But once on the roll, they must apply for a practising certificate annually.

There are 462 new Irish trainees on the roll this year and 34 barristers. Both of these figures have doubled on 2015, which was a particularly low year for new entrants.

By the end of 2016, it is expected there will be more than 16,300 solicitors on the roll.

A ‘Tsunami’ of new solicitors

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, said the “tsunami of new solicitors” has been caused by the “Brexit-driven” transfer decisions made by solicitors qualified in England and Wales to take out a second jurisdictional qualification in Ireland.

“This they have been perfectly entitled to do since the mutual-recognition regime between the two jurisdictions was first put in place in 1991,” he said.

“The single word that dominates all assessments of the potential impact of Brexit is ‘uncertainty’. So far, the Law Society of Ireland has no knowledge that any of the England-based firms intend to open an office in this jurisdiction.”

He said solicitors’ firms are coming on the roll to ensure they maintain the status of EU membership.

More than 110 solicitors from one firm, international practitioners Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, one of the 10 largest law firms in the world, have joined. And 86 have joined the roll from Eversheds, which already has an office in Ireland.

Mr Murphy said he had spoken to Freshfields and it had unambiguously stated it would not be setting up an office in Ireland. He also said only anti-trust, competition and trade law specialists from the company had transferred to the Irish roll.

He also said there will be no real boost to the society’s finances as a result of the increase in numbers as the €300 per solicitor fee for admission to the roll only covers administration costs.

A handful of nuts can cut your heart disease and cancer risk

Image result for A handful of nuts can cut your heart disease and cancer risk  Image result for A handful of nuts can cut your heart disease and cancer risk  Image result for A handful of nuts can cut your heart disease and cancer risk

Nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals

“People consuming at least 20 grams of nuts daily less likely to develop potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and cancer,” The Independent reports. That was the main finding of a review looking at 20 previous studies on the benefits of nuts.

Researchers found consistent evidence that a 28 gram daily serving of nuts – which is literally a handful (for most nuts) – was linked with around 20% reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause.

However, as is so often the case with studies into diet and health, the researchers cannot prove nuts are the sole cause of these outcomes.

It’s hard to discount the possibility that nuts could be just one component of a healthier lifestyle pattern, including balanced diet and regular physical activity. It could be this overall picture that is reducing risk, not just nuts.

The researchers tried to account for these types of variables, but such accounting is always going to be an exercise in educated guesswork.

Also, many non-lifestyle factors may be involved in any individual’s risk of disease. For example, if you are a male with a family history of heart disease, a healthy diet including nuts can help, but still may not be able to eliminate the risk entirely.

The link between nuts and improved health is nevertheless plausible. As we pointed out during a discussion of a similar study in 2015: “Nuts are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals … Unsalted nuts are the healthiest option.”

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, Imperial College London, and other institutions in the US.

It was funded by Olav og Gerd Meidel Raagholt’s Stiftelse for Medisinsk forskning (a Norwegian charitable foundation), the Liaison Committee between the Central Norway Regional Health Authority and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and Imperial College National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

The study was published in the peer reviewed medical journal BMC Medicine on an open-access basis, so it is free to read online.

The UK media presents the results reliably but without discussing the inherent potential limitations of the type of observational evidence examined by the researchers.

What kind of research was this?

This was a systematic review that aimed to examine the link between nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and death.

Previous studies have suggested an intake of nuts is beneficial, and some have found it could be linked with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other studies though have found no link. The researchers consider the possibility that there is a weak link and that’s what they aimed to look at.

A systematic review is the best way of compiling all literature on a topic available to date. However, systematic reviews are only as good as the underlying evidence. Studies looking at dietary factors are often observational and it is difficult to rule out the possibility of confounding variables from other health and lifestyle factors.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers searched two literature databases to identify any randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or prospective cohort studies that had looked at how nut intake in adults was linked with cardiovascular disease, cancer and death from any cause.

Studies had to report information on nut intake specifically (ideally by dose and frequency). Researchers assessed the quality of studies for inclusion.

Twenty prospective cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. Nine studies came from the US, six from Europe, four from Asia, and one came from Australia. All studies included adult populations; five were in women only, three in men only, and 12 in a mixed population.

The researchers did not find any suitable RCTs to include in their analysis. This is not especially surprising as RCTs involving diet are notoriously difficult to carry out. You could never be sure that everyone who was randomised into the “eat no nuts” group would stick to the plan, or vice versa.

Also they’d need large samples and long follow-up times to capture disease outcomes, so are not usually feasible.

What did they find?

Cardiovascular disease

Twelve studies (376,228 adults) found nut consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Each 28 gram/day serving was linked with a 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (relative risk [RR] 0.79, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.70 to 0.88).

This was for any nut intake, but risk reductions were also found when analysing peanuts or tree nuts separately. Increasing intake was associated with reduced risk up to 15grams/day, above which there was no further risk reduction.

Looking at specific outcomes, 12 studies also found a 29% reduced risk of heart disease specifically (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.80).

However, 11 studies didn’t find a significant link with the outcome of stroke specifically (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.05).

Cancer

Nine cohorts (304,285 adults) found that one serving of nuts per day reduced risk of any cancer by 15% (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.76 to 0.94). By separate analysis, the risk reduction was slightly higher for tree nuts (20%) than peanuts (7%).

All-cause death

Fifteen cohorts (819,448 people) recorded 85,870 deaths. One serving of nuts a day was linked with a 22% reduced risk of death during study follow-up (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.84).

Looking at specific causes of death, each serving of nuts a day was linked with reduced risk of respiratory deaths (0.48 (0.26–0.89); three studies) and diabetes deaths (RR 0.61, 0.43 to 0.88; four studies).

There was no link with deaths from neurodegenerative diseases, and inconsistent links with deaths from kidney disease and infectious diseases. No other disease-related causes were reported.

Overall, the researchers estimate that 4.4 million premature deaths in 2013 across America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific could be attributable to nut intakes below 20 grams/day.

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers conclude: “Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.”

Conclusions

This systematic review finds evidence that nut intake may be linked with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and death.

The systematic review has several strengths. It identified a large number of studies with a large total sample size. It also included only prospective cohorts assessing nut consumption and then followed up later disease outcomes.

It excluded cross sectional studies, which assess diet and disease at the same time, and so can’t show the direction of effect. It also excluded cohorts that have retrospectively questioned diet when the person already has the disease, which could be subject to recall bias.

However, there are still a number of inherent limitations which mean these studies cannot easily prove that nuts are the magic dietary ingredient that are solely and directly responsible for these outcomes.

There were no randomised controlled trials of nut consumption. All studies were observational where people were choosing their own diet.

The researchers took care to include studies that only looked at nut consumption as an independent factor and looked at results that had adjusted for any confounders. However, the factors that the studies adjusted for, and how well they were assessed, will have varied across studies.

As such it’s very difficult to prove that nuts alone are the causative factor and they are not just one component of a generally healthier lifestyle pattern, including balanced diet, regular physical activity, not smoking, and moderating alcohol.

When it comes to frequency or quantity of intake, it is likely there is an element of inaccuracy when people report how much they eat. For example, most people wouldn’t weigh out how many nuts they’re eating each day.

The review also provides limited information about specific types of nuts. Considering peanuts in particular, the studies included in the review didn’t specify whether these are plain nuts, or whether they could have added salt and oils.

It is also likely that cardiovascular and cancer outcomes were not assessed the same way in all studies, for example whether by participant self-report or by checking medical records.

Overall there does seem to be a link between nut consumption and health, but nuts alone won’t reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancers, if your lifestyle is still generally unhealthy.

If you want to live a long and healthy life then you should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, while avoiding smoking and moderating your consumption of alcohol.

Nuts are high in “good fats” and can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Unsalted nuts are best as excessive amounts of salt can raise your blood pressure.

Emotions high as Sligo Borough Council closes its books & is no more

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A chapter in Sligo’s proud history came to a close on May 6th 2014. Sligo Borough Council, which had been in existence for 400 years, was no more.

It was part of a move that summer whereby one county council would be in place after the local elections.

Sligo Champion reporter Michael Moran was there to capture the sombre mood in City Hall in what was a poignant day for the council and also a day to reflect on those who had played such a vital role down through the years and paving the future of Sligo. The Borough Council may be no more, but their stories will remain.

Michael revealed it was an historical and emotional day: “Four hundred years of Sligo Borough Council brought to an end in 77 minutes.

“City Hall had seen many momentous occasions over the Centuries. None ever like this.

“Freemen of the Borough, former Mayors and Councillors, past and present staff and invited guests were in the packed Council Chamber for the last ever meeting of the local authority.”

Members dealt with a number of issues on the Agenda before the final Mayor, Councillor Marcella McGarry, ruled that a number of deferred motions would remain so to allow Councillors have their say at the end of an era. “They did it with dignity, some sadness and sincerity,” Michael added.

Many expressed the hope that a Borough Council would return in the future.

Others reflected on the past. At the end and with the sound of a Piper echoing in the background, the Mayor concluded the meeting at 5.32pm. The Minute book was closed for the final time.

There was spontaneous applause as the concluding chapter was written.

Michael said: “The Chamber was then the scene for a celebration of the Borough Council.

Then, in an act to underline the sense of occasion, two symbols of Sligo Corporation,silver Maces presented in 1842 were handed by the Mayor to Council CEO Ciaran Hayes for exhibition in Sligo Museum. He then presented an inscribed souvenir to each serving Councillor.

“The curtain came down on the Borough Council with performances by representatives from Feis Shlighigh and Feis Ceoil.

“Earlier in the day, children from St Brendan’s NS, St John’s, Gael Scoil Chnoc na Re and St Edward’s were among the many visitors to City Hall to view the Sligo 400 Exhibition and view the Council Chamber.

Mayor Marcella McGarry said: “We reflect on 400 years of local history and pay tribute to the men and women who served this town; people who gave of their time and their toil for the community. They served with distinction over many generations.”

“”The presence among us of our Freemen and former Mayors and other distinguished guests bestows a palpable sense of occasion.

“It highlights the historical significance, the political importance and social and economic legacy of 400 years of Sligo Borough Council.”

Meanwhile, as the Borough Council was winding down, there were rumbles going on as what to do with the now-defunct Mayor’s chain. That summer saw Sligo host the All-Ireland Fleadh, with President Michael D Higgins being welcomed by the Mayor of Sligo Municipal District, Cllr Tom MacSharry. who was without a chain, as The Sligo Champion remarked.

“It was as formal an occasion you could have, the country’s President being welcomed to officially open the All Ireland Fleadh. Apparently Clr MacSharry can’t use the old mayoral chain, which had been in use by the now abolished Borough Council since 1882. It has now emerged that the outgoing Borough Council met in the mayor’s parlour prior to holding their last formal public gathering.

“At this private session the issue of what to do with the historic mayoral chain came up. Councillors voted that they would donate the chain along with the deputy’s mayor’s chain and ceremonial maces to the County Museum.

“The thinking behind the move was that the mayoral chain was presented to the Borough Council/Sligo Corporation in 1882 and as this body was being scrapped so too should the use of the chain. The situation leaves Clr MacSharry without a chain and he won’t have one unless a new one is commissioned. The other question, of course, is: does the present title deserve one?”

Antarctica glows blue as NASA AIM spacecraft observes early noctilucent cloud season

Over the Southern Hemisphere

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Night shining clouds arrived early in the sky above Antarctica and are shining blue. The early arrival of the clouds has triggered suspicion that the warming of the Arctic region could be a reason. 

The sky above Antarctica glowing in electric blue has made big news after NASA updated about the arrival of noctilucent, or night-shining clouds, in the Southern Hemisphere.

In terms of looks, the luminescent clouds are looking wispy as in a blue-white aurora borealis when seen from the ground. The same looks like a blue gossamer haze when seen from space.

The data and images sent by NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft (AIM) above the Antarctic sky showed the sky as radiating bright with electric blue color.

What makes it special this year is their early arrival, stumping scientists who suspect it as yet another manifestation of the warming of Arctic region.

Some scientists hold the view that this corresponds to an earlier seasonal change at lower altitudes. NASA spokesperson Lina Tran explained that the clouds were seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors.

AIM spacecraft analysis?

Since its launch in 2007, AIM spacecraft has been monitoring the atmosphere. Data show that changes in one region of the atmosphere also affect another region in what is called as “atmospheric teleconnections”.

The spacecraft’s evolving orbit has come handy in measuring the atmospheric gravity waves that are contributing to these teleconnections.

“AIM studies noctilucent clouds in order to better understand the mesosphere, and its connections to other parts of the atmosphere, weather and climate. We observe them seasonally, during summer in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes,” NASA explained in a statement.

The early arrival of Noctilucent Clouds

As mentioned, the early start of blue shining clouds this year — from Nov. 17 instead of late November or early December — has baffled scientists. So there is more mystery in the early start of the shining clouds season in the Southern Hemisphere.

Considered the highest and coldest clouds of Earth, Noctilucent clouds are normally spotted around 50 miles above the Earth’s surface in the mesosphere region.

The blue shine happens when ice crystals formed from the interaction of water vapors with the dust, and micro-debris from meteors start reflecting when sunlight falls on them.

Methane Concentration

One pivotal explanation to the phenomenon was offered by James Russell, a principal investigator of AIM. He said growing methane content in the atmosphere could be responsible for the phenomenon as it allows more water vapor to be loaded into ice crystals leading to these clouds.

Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado, calls noctilucent clouds a relatively new phenomenon.

“They were first seen in 1885,’ about two years after the powerful eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which hurled plumes of ash as high as 80 km into Earth’s atmosphere,” he said. But even after the ash dispersed, the clouds persisted.

The onset of night-shining clouds coinciding with the early arrival of summer in the Antarctica is a matter of concern for climatologists and NASA.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 6th October 2016

Sterling slump less a problem for State than in past, Central Bank says

Risks to economy remain ‘clearly tilted to the downside’, says report from regulator

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The Central Bank maintains that demand for products and services in trading-partner countries outweighs everything, including foreign-exchange rates.

Ireland’s economy is better able to deal with a slump in sterling than it has been in the past, the Central Bank has said, as the euro hovers at a five-year high against the British currency as a result of the UK Brexit vote.

The euro has surged by more than 14% since the UK referendum on June 23rd to more than 88p and some, including analysts in Investec and UBS, see the exchange rate reaching 90p by the end of the year.

The Central Bank’s latest economic forecasts, published on Thursday, which see Irish gross domestic product expanding by 4.5% this year and 3.6% in 2017, is based on a euro-sterling rate of 84p, said John Flynn, the head of Irish economic analysis at the bank.

Mr Flynn said that if the current rate persisted it would have some impact on future forecasts.

However, he added: “We’ve seen over a long period of time the economy demonstrate considerable flexibility and it’s able to deal with the sterling rate at quite different levels. The Irish economy is a much more flexible economy now than it was at various times in the past, when sterling was a challenge for us.”

The demand?

The Central Bank maintains that demand for products and services in trading-partner countries outweighs everything, including foreign-exchange rates. While recent UK economic data suggested the British economy was faring better than many had feared following the Brexit vote, the Central Bank’s chief economist, Gabriel Fagan, said it was “far too early” to determine the real impact of the decision on the world’s fifth largest economy.

Meanwhile, Mr Flynn noted that the euro-sterling rate was much more important to companies in the food, clothing and footwear sectors, as well as tourism, than elsewhere in the economy.

“And the exchange rate is generally more important for indigenous firms because the UK accounts for a greater share of export markets for those groups,” he said.

The comments follow the Central Bank’s publication of its latest quarterly bulletin in which it shaved its forecasts for personal consumption, exports and overall economic growth for this year and warned risks to these projections “remain clearly tilted to the downside” as a result of Brexit.

The organisation lowered its forecast for gross domestic product growth for this year by 0.4% points to 4.5% and left its 2017 projection unchanged at 3.6%, having downgraded its estimates more materially in July in the wake of the surprise Brexit vote.

Mixed signals confusing?

“Signals in relation to consumer spending have become more mixed, although the balance of evidence across a range of indicators points to only a marginal slowdown, with consumer spending supported by solid gains in employment and rising earnings,” the Central Bank said.

The Central Bank lowered its forecast for personal spending growth, which rebounded two years ago following years as consumers showed the first signs of recovery from the financial crisis, to 3.8% for this year from 4% previously. Its 2017 forecast has come back to 2.2% from 2.3%.

It sees underlying domestic demand, a measure of the economy preferred by some analysts given how multinationals’ activities can skew the headline figures, slowing to 4% this year from 5% in 2015, before easing further to 2.7% in 2017. It has raised its forecasts for the economic contribution from activity in aircraft leasing and multinationals moving intellectual property.

Export growth is likely to slow to 5.6% this year from a previous projection of 6.4%, before easing back to 4.4% in 2017, according to the Central Bank.

With an eye on the unveiling of Budget 2017 next week, the Central Bank said “a prudent fiscal strategy remains essential, given the negative loops between fiscal stability, financial stability and macroeconomic stability.”

It also said the Government set long-term targets that were “robust to statistical issue”, clearly a reference to the 26% GDP growth rate for 2015 that had little to do with the underlying economy.

Uncertainties

“While the uncertainties in relation to the measurement of economic growth make it more difficult to calculate the underlying path for tax revenues, it would be prudent to assume that some fraction of the recent surge in corporation tax revenues might be temporary in nature,” it said.

Corporation tax rose to €4.16 billion for the first nine months of the year from €3.9 billion for the same period in 2015, according to the latest exchequer return figures, published earlier this week.

Nóirín O’Sullivan ‘doing so much damage to An Garda Síochána’, says Mick Wallace

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The Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is doing “so much damage” to the force that it is in “turmoil”, the Dáil has heard.

Revelations in this week’s Irish Examiner, about a campaign by senior officers to destroy a whistle-blower, dominated leaders’ questions yesterday

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald came under serious fire over the scandal from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, as well as Independents.

The Dáil heard claims that Ms O’Sullivan had given some members of An Garda Síochána carte blanche to hound and discredit whistle-blowers.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace, in a heated exchange, pleaded with Ms Fitzgerald to remove the commissioner.

Mr Wallace said he and his colleague, Clare Daly, have met with the two whistle-blowers who made the latest protected disclosures. he said Ms O’Sullivan has failed to end the persecution of whistle-blowers in the force.

“The Garda is in turmoil. There is a split in it with two camps. The Garda commissioner has promoted a ring around her. It is corrosive,” said Mr Wallace.

Nóirín O’Sullivan

“She is doing so much damage to An Garda Síochána that there are many good gardaí shocked at how she is operating. The Tánaiste and minister for justice and equality cannot leave her in position.”

Asked if she had any other protected disclosures on her desk, Ms Fitzgerald said: “There are no other protected disclosures on my desk.”

Mr Wallace informed the Dáil that whistle-blower Nick Keogh has written to the minister four times, but received only one reply.

“Nicky Keogh wrote to the minister four times and she replied once,” said Mr Wallace. “When he told the minister about the harassment and that he could not have been suffering without the commissioner’s knowledge, the minister wrote back to him to say she was looking for an urgent report from the Garda commissioner.

“That was May this year. The minister says she follows things up quickly. May was a long time ago.”

Ms Fitzgerald said while details of the disclosures are in the public domain, she is precluded by law from commenting. She said those involved are entitled to due process and that she would not be rushing to judgment.

“I will follow the legislation, passed in this House, where people have a right to confidentiality and due process,” she said.

“I would not be doing my job as minister for justice and equality if I did not follow due process and the law laid down regarding protected disclosures, a law on which we have all agreed should be followed.”

In response to Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Ms Fitzgerald said Ms O’Sullivan is entitled to her full confidence.

“I want to be very clear about one thing: No findings of wrongdoing of any kind have been made against the Garda commissioner and I believe in those circumstances she is entitled to our full confidence,” said Ms Fitzgerald, adding that she would not be slow in establish a full inquiry into the allegations should it be merited.

Fianna Fáil’s Charlie McConalogue asked Ms Fitzgerald to state whether it was true that the two people behind the disclosures are likely to refuse to co-operate with any pending inquiry.

“The dysfunctionality of the Garda Síochána because of perceived system and management failures — it is hard to see beyond the saying, ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’,” said Mr McConalogue.

People are sheltering in libraries as they cannot afford fuel, claims Willie O’Dea?

Varadkar hopes to increase fuel allowance in budget but ‘cannot guarantee it at this stage’

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Willie O’Dea of Fianna Fáil: “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.

People are using public transport or sheltering in libraries because they cannot afford to heat their homes during the day, according to Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea.

Appealing to Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to increase the fuel allowance in next week’s budget, he said organisations representing the elderly had conducted surveys showing “people who do not light a fire until the afternoon and who go to bed early in the winter to save fuel”.

“Other people resort to taking public transport or taking shelter in public libraries and other public buildings because they simply cannot afford to heat their homes properly for a sufficient period of time to enable them to live comfortably in their homes.” The Limerick city TD said, “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.”

Mr Varadkar said the fuel allowance was increased 10 per cent last year from €20 to €22.50, and he hoped they could continue “in the same direction” next year “but I cannot guarantee that at this stage”.

The allowance is given for 26 weeks to 380,000 households at a cost of €224 million, along with an electricity or gas allowance at a cost of €228 million.

Mr O’Dea said recent research found that the island of Ireland “has the highest rate of excess winter mortality in Europe, with an estimated 2,800 excess deaths each winter”, and fuel poverty was a factor in this.

Sligo Food train leaves Dublin for the Wild Atlantic Way

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L-R: Anthony Gray, Sligo Food Trail; Eva Dearie of Failte Ireland; Finbar Filan, Sligo BID; and Marguerite Quilann, Beltra Country Market.

Fáilte Ireland is partnering with Iarnród Éireann and the Sligo Food Trail to bring a group of VIP writers to Sligo, as part of a series of new initiatives to stimulate regional dispersion and seasonal extension along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The media VIPs will board a Sligo Food Train from Connolly Station to Sligo, where passengers will get to sample food from Sligo and also receive information on the Sligo Food Trail as they make their journey to the Wild Atlantic Way. Fáilte Ireland will also give a brief talk on the coastal route to the media as the train progresses towards Sligo.

The focus for Failte Ireland is to help businesses and regions broaden the so-called ‘shoulder seasons’ immediately prior to and following the main summer season in tourist destinations. This is especially important along the Wild Atlantic Way, where many businesses close outside of the peak months.

To this end Failte Ireland is supporting the Sligo Food Trail by partnering with Iarnród Éireann and bringing food writers and bloggers by train from Connolly Station to Sligo, where they will be treated to a 24 hour foodie experience in and around Sligo for this Sligo Harvest Feast event.

Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, Fiona Monaghan said: “The Wild Atlantic Way has been incredibly popular with the domestic market and we believe there is great potential to grow activity outside of the summer season. We have been working with hundreds of businesses along the route – who have traditionally experienced a short tourism season – to help them become ‘autumn-ready’ and grow their trading season. With an emphasis on some of the quieter places, we are working to boost visitor traffic all along the route and especially beyond the usual hotspots throughout this autumn.”

For older women, caffeine could be pill needed in warding off dementia

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Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

Could drinking coffee be linked to a reduced risk of dementia?

Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications,” said Ira Driscoll, PhD, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “What is unique about this study is that we had an unprecedented opportunity to examine the relationships between caffeine intake and dementia incidence in a large and well-defined, prospectively-studied cohort of women.”

The findings come from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Driscoll and her research colleagues used data from 6,467 community-dwelling, postmenopausal women aged 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption. Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea, and cola beverage intake, including frequency and serving size.

In 10 years or less of follow-up with annual assessments of cognitive function, 388 of these women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or some form of global cognitive impairment. Those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine for this group (with an average intake of 261 mg per day) were diagnosed at a lower rate than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64 mg per day). The researchers adjusted for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

A 7,000 year-old York dog is forcing experts to rethink on Stonehenge

Image result for A 7,000 year-old York dog is forcing experts to rethink on Stonehenge  Image result for A 7,000 year-old York dog

Evidence of the earliest journey in British history has been uncovered and a pet dog came along for the gruelling 250-mile trip from York to Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Archaeologist David Jacques has found evidence that Mesolithic man’s best friend was an Alsatian – and bones found nearby suggest the dog would have feasted on salmon, trout, pike, wild pig and red deer.

The domesticated dog tooth was dug up at Blick Mead, a site a mile from the World Heritage Site and scientific tests have shown the dog most likely came from the York area.

Mr Jacques said the findings were significant because archaeologists did not know people travelled such long distances 7,000 years ago and the journey adds to the weight of evidence of people coming to Stonehenge 2,000 years before the monument was built.

He said previous excavations uncovered a slate tool from Wales and stone tools from the Midlands and the West of England.

As the Ice Age had just ended, one of the attractions of Blick Mead would have been a natural spring in which the only puce stones in the country could be found.

It would also have been relatively easy to reach because the nearby River Avon was the M1 of its time. Large numbers of deer and aurochs – extinct massive prehistoric cattle – grazed there.

Burnt stones, wood and auroch bones from the site indicate that it was popular for feasting, an important ritual activity.

Mr Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, said at that time prehistoric people were starting to tame dogs and keep them as pets and the Alsatian may even have been brought to Stonehenge to exchange.

“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” he said.

“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was.”

Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said: “These amazing discoveries at Blick Mead are writing the history books of Mesolithic Britain.

“A dog tooth from York, a slate tool from Wales and a stone tool from the Midlands show that this wasn’t just the place to live at the end of the Ice Age, but was known by our ancestors for a long time widely across Britain. They kept coming here.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 4th October 2016

Irish Cabinet agrees to set up all-Ireland group to prepare for Brexit next Spring

Trade unions, non-governmental organisations and business groups will meet next month

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny said an all-island civic group would meet next month to discuss Brexit after the Cabinet agreed to set up an “all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit”, with the first meeting in Dublin on November 2nd.

It will be hosted by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and a broad range of “civic society groups, trade unions, business groups and non-governmental organisations as well as representatives of the main political parties on the island” will be invited , according to a Government statement issued on Tuesday.

The Cabinet also agreed to intensify a series of initiatives to prepare for the British exit, after the Taoiseach brought a memorandum to Tuesday morning’s meeting.

These include a series of discussions with interested groups in particular sectors, such as agriculture, education, etc, and measures to “Brexit-proof” next week’s budget.

The Government also reiterated its intention to continue its programme of intensive diplomatic engagement with EU institutions and other EU member states. The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, is expected to visit Dublin shortly.

The decision to go ahead with the all-island dialogue flies in the face of thepublic rejection of the idea by the Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council during the summer.

On Monday, the DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson again criticised the Taoiseach’s determination to push ahead with the forum, suggesting it was driven by domestic political reasons.

It is understood that the First Minister’s office had not been briefed in detail in advance of the Government’s announcement.

The dialogue will be asked to produce a report and recommendations which will be used to help inform the Government’s position on issues related to the UK’s exit negotiations, according to the Government statement.

It is expected that business groups, trade unions, community and voluntary NGOs from North and South will be invited in the coming days, along with organisations such as the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of European Affairs and the European Movement.

Local authorities in Border areas are also likely to be invited, as well as some Government agencies and universities and higher education institutions. The main political parties North and South will also be asked to attend.

New Garda whistle-blower disclosures made to Tánaiste

Officers claim concerted campaign to discredit previous Garda whistle-blower?

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Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed that disclosures have been made to her under whistle-blower provisions in recent days.

Allegations of a concerted campaign within An Garda Siochana to discredit a whistle-blower have been made by two other members of the force.

It is understood of the two Garda officers who have now come forward, one has said he took an active part in targeting the whistle-blower because he had been ordered to do so.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has confirmed in response to queries from the media that disclosures have been made to her under whistle-blower provisions in recent days.

However, while she has not disclosed their content, it is understood they centre on allegations of a concerted campaign to discredit a previous whistle-blower.

It is alleged efforts were made to monitor the whistle-blower, including his activity in the Garda’s PULSE database and to discredit him by negatively briefing journalists and politician and that intelligence about him was gathered.

The veracity of the claims, made last week, has yet to be tested.

However, with two Garda officers having turned whistle-blower about efforts to undermine a previous whistle-blower, questions will be raised about whether the Garda culture has absorbed the impact of recent controversies.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has previously said that anybody coming forward with complaints or allegations about the Garda would be listened to and their complaints acted on.

In reply to queries on the latest allegations, which emerged in the Examiner Newspaper, Commissioner O’Sullivan reiterated that stance.

‘’I have on numerous occasions expressed my support for any employees who have issues and concerns,” she said. “As Commissioner I have actively asked employees to bring forward issues and concerns. We learn by listening.”

The Tánaiste confirmed the disclosures have been made under the Protected Disclosures Act, 2014, under which Garda members must be protected from any negative reaction to their coming forward.

A statement from her office added: “Any such disclosures will, of course, be fully considered to determine what further action may be appropriate.

“The maintenance of confidentiality in relation to protected disclosures is fundamental and, in line with the statutory obligations under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, it is not possible to make any further comment.”

In the past when complaints or disclosures have been made they have been examined, usually by a barrister appointed by the Department of Justice, before a full investigative process has been begun.

New RTE boss to be open to working with Irish media rivals

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Dee Forbes left pic, the new director general of RTE. and Pat Kenny right pic.

RTE is to put an emphasis on creating more original Irish drama and increasing its international footprint, new director general Dee Forbes has said.

She also opened the door to working with the station’s rivals as the Irish media landscape becomes more “busy”.

“RTE has a duty to develop and encourage more great Irish talent. For me Irish drama is something we’re looking at to see how can we do more of it.” She added: “There was a time when every broadcaster had to go it alone, I don’t think that’s the case any more nor is it the prudent thing to do because there are times where partnering with your rival is the right thing to do.”

Ms Forbes was speaking at the tenth annual Women Mean Business (WMB) Awards, where she spoke of her plans for her new role.

“I hope I’ll bring a more international and external facing aspect to the role because I do think we’re a small nation, we’re a small media landscape, and really it’s getting very busy here in terms of the media landscape.”

She also touted the idea of a centralised Irish media hub, but said it was merely a thought. The Cork native will also look to capitalise on the Irish diaspora, of which she said only five million out of 40 are engaged with Irish media.

Ms Forbes has enjoyed a hectic start to life at the Montrose station with potential losses set to reach €20m this year. Last month the former Discovery executive was also told by Communications Minister Denis Naughten that she must deal with the station’s weakening finances without the help of an increase in the licence fee.

RTE has had to deal with the departure of four senior staff members over the last number of months, including former head of news and deputy director general Kevin Bakhurst.

Six awards were presented at the WMB conference in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin yesterday.

Complete Laboratory Solutions founder Evelyn O’Toole scooped the overall businesswoman of the year award, while Polar Ice’s managing director Alison Ritchie received the WMB entrepreneur of the year award.

Other winners included FoodCloud co-founders Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien, who received the Newstalk social entrepreneur award.

Space Technology Ireland founder Professor Susan McKenna-Lawlor picked up the FEXCO woman in technology award while Silicon republic co-founder Ann O’Dea received the Boots empowering women accolade.

Dublin Cookie Company founders Elaine Cohalan and Jenny Synnott scooped the Sodexo newcomer award.

Ben Stiller reveals how prostate cancer diagnosis (PSA Test) saved his life.

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Ben Stiller said the PSA test “saved my life”

Hollywood star Ben Stiller has revealed he was diagnosed with prostate cancer but is now cancer-free.

The Zoolander star was diagnosed with a growing tumour in 2014 and now wants to share his story in support of the controversial test that saved his life.

In an essay on the website Medium, Stiller described the moment of his diagnosis as “a classic Walter White moment, except I was me, and no one was filming anything at all”.

He wrote: ” I got diagnosed with prostate cancer Friday, June 13 2014. On September 17 of that year I got a test back telling me I was cancer free. The three months in between were a crazy roller coaster ride with which about 180,000 men a year in America can identify.”

He said straight after he was diagnosed he immediately researched high-profile men who had survived and died of the disease.

He added: ” As I learned more about my disease (one of the key learnings is not to Google “people who died of prostate cancer” immediately after being diagnosed with prostate cancer), I was able to wrap my head around the fact that I was incredibly fortunate. Fortunate because my cancer was detected early enough to treat. And also because my internist gave me a test he didn’t have to.

“Taking the PSA test (prostate-specific antigen test) saved my life. Literally. That’s why I am writing this now.”

Stiller said he was not offering a scientific point of view on the test but said without it he would not have been diagnosed as quickly as he was.

He wrote: ” The bottom line for me: I was lucky enough to have a doctor who gave me what they call a “baseline” PSA test when I was about 46. I have no history of prostate cancer in my family and I am not in the high-risk group, being neither – to the best of my knowledge – of African or Scandinavian ancestry. I had no symptoms.

“What I had – and I’m healthy today because of it – was a thoughtful internist who felt like I was around the age to start checking my PSA level, and discussed it with me.

“If he had waited, as the American Cancer Society recommends, until I was 50, I would not have known I had a growing tumour until two years after I got treated. If he had followed the US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines, I would have never gotten tested at all, and not have known I had cancer until it was way too late to treat successfully.”

The actor said the test is criticised because it can lead to unnecessary “over-treatment” but argued men should at least be given the option so they stand a chance of early detection.

Angela Culhane, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “There are over 300,000 men in the UK who, like Ben Stiller, are living with or after prostate cancer. However, despite the numbers, it’s a disease that, due to its nature, is often swept under the carpet. We applaud Ben for his courage in talking openly about his personal experience.

“The disease kills one man every hour in the UK but if it is caught early, it can more often than not be treated successfully, which is why awareness like this is so important. It is crucial for every man to acknowledge the threat that prostate cancer can pose to his life.

“Some men in particular face a higher than average risk and so if you are over 50, black, or have a family history of prostate cancer, it’s important that you to speak to your GP about the disease.”

Irish women who reach the age of 80 are likely to live another 9 years

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Mother and daughter in the right picture?

New statistics show that if an Irish woman reaches the age of 80, she is likely to live an extra nine years. A man is likely to live another seven years.

The figures from Eurostat show that people in France have the longest life expectancy and can expect to live an extra 11 years if they reach the 80 mark.

Spanish nationals were close behind in the study with an extra 10.4 years.

Ruth Deasy of the EU office in Dublin says the Eurostat figures reveal that women across the European Union are living longer than men.

“Well it shows if you reach 80 years of age you’ve a very good chance of living several more years, almost nine if you are a woman in Ireland and almost seven if you are a man.

“But if we look at the European figures, about two thirds of the over 80s are women and just one third are men.”

Dinosaur footprint among the largest on record discovered in the Mongolia’s Gobi Desert

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Professor Shinobu Ishigaki (above left) lying next to a dinosaur footprint in the Mongolian Gobi Desert.

Scientists have unearthed in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert one of the biggest dinosaur footprints ever recorded, measuring over a metre in length.

The enormous print, which measures 106cm (42 inches) in length and 77cm in width and dates back more than 70 million years, offers a fresh clue about the giant creatures that roamed the earth millions of years ago, scientists from the Okayama University of Science said.

One of several footprints discovered in the vast Mongolian desert, the huge fossil was unearthed in August by a joint Mongolian-Japanese expedition in a geologic layer formed between 70 million and 90 million years ago  in the late Cretaceous Period, researchers said.

A drawing illustrating the dinosaur that may have left a footprint in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.

It was naturally cast, as sand flowed into dents that had been left by the creature stomping on the once muddy ground, news agency AFP reported.

“This is a very rare discovery as it’s a well-preserved fossil footprint that is more than a metre long with imprints of its claws,” said a statement issued by Okayama University of Science.

The footprint is believed to have belonged to a Titanosaur, a group of long-necked herbivore sauropods that lived in the Late Cretaceous period, and could have been more than 30 metres long and 20 metres tall, according to Shinobu Ishigaki, a professor from the Okayama University of Science, and the leader of Japan’s research team.

“A whole skeleton of a giant dinosaur that left such a massive footprint has yet to be uncovered in Mongolia,” professor Ishigaki told the Asahi Shimbun. “A fossilised skeleton of such a dinosaur is expected to be eventually discovered.”

“Footprints are living evidence of dinosaurs,” Masateru Shibata, a researcher with the Dinosaur Research Institute at Fukui Prefectural University, told the Japanese daily.

“There is a lot of information that can be obtained only from footprints, including the shape of dinosaur feet as well as the ways in which they walked.”

Titanosaurs were the most diverse and abundant large-bodied herbivores in the southern continents during the final 30 million years of the Mesozoic Era.

Titanosaurs species range from the weight of a cow to the weight of a sperm whale or more, according to scientists.

One of the paleontologists lies next to the femur of sauropod discovered in Argentina in 2014.

Several Titanosaur species are regarded as the biggest land-living animals yet discovered.

In 2014 remains of a gigantic Titanosaur were discovered in southern Patagonia, Argentina. According to palaeontologists, the Dreadnoughtus schrani, as the species was named, was the biggest dinosaur ever to walk the planet.