Tag Archives: cars

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 18th July 2013

Irish drivers boosted by recent fuel price cuts, A study reveals


Cash-strapped motorists have been helped by falling fuel costs at the pump

Drivers are set for a cash boost as fuel prices are falling, a study has revealed.

The cost of diesel and petrol has dropped significantly this month, a survey of prices at the pump by AA Ireland showed.

At the moment, petrol costs around 154.5c per litre – a drop of 2.9c since last month.

While the price of diesel has fallen even further, costing on average 144.4c per litre – 3.6c cheaper than June.

Conor Faughnan, director of policy at The AA, said: “While a drop in fuel prices is always welcome, filling up in Ireland is still extremely expensive.

“Tax plays a huge part in the cost of fuel in Ireland.

“The service station owners don’t reap much of the rewards for increased prices, most of what you’re paying is in tax.”

It emerged the cost of petrol and diesel started to drop in March.

Since then, petrol has decreased by 7.6c per litre and diesel by 10.7c.

Drivers pay out hugely through a combination of excise duties – carbon tax and VAT (57% of the price of diesel and petrol is tax).

An Irish car clocking up average mileage (12,000 miles per year) will use 1,800 litres of fuel per year or 150 litres a month.

With the price of fuel now, this means drivers will pay €231.75 this month for petrol, with €132.10 of this tax.

Mr Faughnan said yesterday: “Ireland is an island nation and we need road transport for business. The current policy of super-high taxes on fuels hits Irish businesses as well as ordinary motorists.

“It is in effect an anti-stimulus measure that increases transportation and business costs across the board.”

Although the news fuel prices are falling is welcomed, it may be short-lived as oil costs have started to rise amid political turmoil in the Middle East. Over the past week, there have been increases in fuel prices in the USA and a rise in European wholesale prices.

However, it has emerged diesel motorists are faring a little better than petrol drivers and there has been a big increase of diesel cars on the roads.

Mr Faughnan added: “There is much to be said for buying a diesel car especially if you are doing higher mileages. The lower tax and fuel cost is quite attractive.

“However, the price of the vehicle and the higher cost of maintenance may deter would-be buyers.”

Irish Cyclists to face on-the-spot fines for breaking traffic laws


New penalties to be introduced from 2014

On-the-spot fines for traffic violations will be extended to include cyclists from 2014, according to the Department of Transport.

While the list of traffic offences to which the fines will apply has not yet been finalised, they are likely to include breaking a red light, cycling on a footpath and failing to yield right of way at a ‘yield’ sign.

It is also expected that the fines, which are referred to as fixed charge notices, are likely to be €50 or higher.

The target date for introducing the fines is not until the second quarter of 2014. However, the department said they will be introduced earlier if possible.

The department said that while the penalties are lower than equivalent motor fines, they are sufficiently high to act as a deterrent.

The new measures will give cyclists the option of paying a fixed-charge penalty within 56 days instead of having the matter dealt with by the courts.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar insisted the move was not about targeting cyclists.

“It’s about ensuring that our roads are safe for all of us,” he said. “Roads are a shared public space and belong to everyone: drivers, cyclists, pedestrian and heavy vehicles. We all have to use them responsibly and obey the rules that protect us all.”

The department said extending the fixed charge notices was in line with the current Road Safety Strategy and that it would promote safe cycling practices.

Introducing the fines does not require primary legislation. Action 92 of the Road Safety Strategy states that: “Legislate for the extension of fixed charge notices to other offences including those related to cyclists and drivers’ hours.”

Gardaí have also said that the success rate of prosecuting cyclists in court has increased.

A range of measures to enforce safe cycling practices exist under current legislation, including the power, in extreme cases, to impound bicycles. However, as bicycles are not required to be registered, cyclists who commit an offence under the Road Traffic Acts are currently dealt with by the courts system.

Ireland is ready to leave bailout programme says NTMA head John Corrigan


The head of the National Treasury Management Agency says Ireland now has enough money to return to the bond markets.

Under the terms of the bailout, the Troika requires us to have one year’s cash in place before exiting the programme.

Speaking at the launch of the NTMA’s annual report, Chief Executive John Corrigan said that is now the case.

However, he said we may have to avail of a standard “precautionary” programme once we exit the bailout.

“In the event that … we couldn’t access the markets, we could tap into that [programme],” he said.

“But it is literally a backstop, and the intention would not be to draw on it.”

He said agreeing the terms of any such programme were likely to be the focus of the next Troika visit in October.

Ireland seeks credit line to help exit bailout programme


Ireland has said it wants to apply for a precautionary credit line to help it become the first Eurozone country to exit an international bailout programme successfully later this year.

But it is hopeful a deal can be reached with the international lenders – which could include the EU or the International Monetary Fund – that would not include any new onerous conditions.

“What I would like to see is a backstop arrangement which would give additional confidence to the market,” said Michael Noonan, Ireland’s finance minister, on Thursday.

“Preferably a backstop arrangement that we would never actually use,” he said.

Dublin wants a precautionary programme to help it qualify for the Outright Monetary Transactions programme (OMT), the ECB’s bond buying scheme, and gain access to a funding cushion when it makes a full return to bonds markets in December. The ECB has said to qualify, a Eurozone country must first apply to the Eurozone’s €500bn bailout fund for an “enhanced conditions” credit line.

However, the Fine Gael/Labour party coalition has campaigned on a platform of restoring Ireland’s economic sovereignty and is sensitive to agreeing any backstop that would come with new conditions or onerous surveillance following its bailout exit.

Following a meeting with troika officials in Dublin, Mr Noonan said there was no need to attach additional fiscal conditions in a precautionary programme because of existing fiscal commitments already agreed for all countries in the eurozone. He said Dublin had agreed to one extra measure following its bailout exit, which is to undertake a stress tests of its banks in the first half of 2014.

Just how many conditions would be placed on Ireland if it were to receive a credit line from EU lenders would depend on eurozone finance ministers. The precautionary programme Ireland would most likely be eligible for, called an “enhanced conditions credit line”, includes strict surveillance and quarterly reporting by Brussels and ECB monitors akin to its current bailout programme.

The only other country to avail itself of EU aid short of a full bailout, Spain, similarly resisted tough conditions, but was forced to accept bailout-like monitoring and reporting requirements at the behest of a German-led group of northern eurozone countries.

Craig Beaumont, IMF mission chief for Ireland, said it could see Dublin submitting a request for a precautionary credit line in October at the time of the next troika review of Ireland’s programme. But he said a decision on conditionality would have to wait until a request was made by the Irish authorities. It is not yet clear if the IMF will be involved.

Ireland is the eurozone’s best chance of achieving a bailout success given the difficulties faced by Portugal and Greece in meeting their programme targets. The latest review of Ireland’s programme, which was completed on Thursday by the troika, concluded Dublin remained on target to exit in December.

Over the past two years Irish bond yields have decoupled from those of Portugal and Greece and Dublin is raising money at cheaper rates than Spain or Italy. Yields on Irish five-year bonds fell to 2.91 per cent on Thursday, or 3.71 percentage points, lower than the rate on Portuguese debt of similar maturity.

But a troika statement on Ireland’s programme warned these “gains are fragile and need to be safeguarded by steadfast programme execution”. The slowdown in the eurozone pushed Ireland back into recession in the first quarter and its banking sector is fragile due to mortgage arrears, the prevalence of unprofitable tracker mortgages and the high cost of funding.

The IMF said tracker mortgages – loans that track the ECB’s benchmark rate – were a significant problem for the Irish banks, causing a profit drag equivalent to 0.4 per cent of their assets.

Talks are under way between troika and Irish officials on possible solutions to reduce the cost of funding these mortgages. An EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ESM, Europe’s new bailout fund, is one potential avenue to remove tracker mortgages from the balance sheets of Irish banks. Troika officials are also investigating the option of private sector investors becoming involved with options including securitisation, guarantees and other types of innovative financial engineering.

Some tips on how to get a good night’s sleep


If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep you are not alone. About one in 10 people has difficulty sleeping on three or more nights a week.

Most people experience some sleep disturbance at times of personal stress but may return to a good sleeping pattern when the situation has resolved.

However for others, the problem continues with often far reaching effects. Chronic sleep problems can lead to impaired cognitive performance, reduced ability to handle minor irritations and enjoy family/social life, poorer interpersonal relationships, lower work performance, and higher rates of errors and absenteeism.

While many of us complain about the discomfort of lying awake counting sheep this inconvenience may be the smallest price we may pay for losing out on regular shut-eye. Persistent lack of sleep can lead to irritability, tension, inefficiency and even car accidents. Research indicates that people who have poor sleep achieve less and keep jobs for a shorter time than those with undisturbed sleep.

It is essential to treat poor sleep patterns as a priority because they can affect and exacerbate all other problems and stresses, says Norman Warden, the director of Galway Counselling Studies and an accredited psychotherapist.

Fortunately there are a number of ways we can help ourselves sleep better. He says the key to solving sleeplessness problems may be found in our daily routine. By examining our sleep schedule, eating habits and lifestyle choices we may identify the culprits and go on to achieve quality sleep.

The following tips aim to help you optimise your sleep so you can face each new day rested, energised, mentally alert and in a positive frame of mind.

1. Cut down on caffeine and avoid it altogether in the evening.

Caffeine negatively impacts on our sleep when ingested in excessive amounts. Over 150mg per day (roughly two cups) reduces sleep time and increases the time it takes to get off to sleep, explains Mr Warden.

“Remember our bodies know how to sleep unless we do something that gives the impression we need to stay wake! Caffeine has a half-life of six hours meaning that six hours after drinking a cup of coffee, only half of the caffeine has left the bloodstream. Because it is metabolised slowly it can accumulate in the blood and brain during the day. It can cause restlessness, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, agitation, palpitations, insomnia, headaches and stomach upsets. Avoid consuming drinks containing caffeine after 6pm.”

2. Reduce screen time before bed.

Many of us are guilty of watching television (the programme determines when you go to sleep rather than your need to sleep!) and even worse, browsing the web, before bedtime. This is not a good idea.

A recent study showed that people who view electronic media just before bed report lower-quality sleep. “Using a light-emitting device before bed like a computer monitor, iPad or smartphone stimulates the brain in a different way than the way the body was intended to move towards sleep (gradually as the sun sets). The exposure to light stimulates the brain and creates a false alertness and stimulation,” he says.

Try listening to music instead or practising relaxing exercises.

3. Exercise to enhance sleep.

Physical activity in the morning or afternoon deepens one’s quality of sleep and reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. However, vigorous exercise leading up to bedtime has the reverse effect.

Norman Warden recommends exercising in the morning or afternoon, not at night. “Be sure to leave at least four hours between any form of exercise and bedtime to give the body time to wind down from the adrenaline aroused brain.”

4. Write down or share worries.

If you are worried or preoccupied about something share it and/or write down your concerns. Then include what action, if any, may be required to resolve the issue. This will help release what has been troubling you and help clear your head.

5. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.

Ensure your bedroom is not too bright, noisy, hot, cold, stuffy or cluttered. The atmosphere should be conducive to relaxation and sleep.

Make an effort to relax and unwind before bed, that way you have a better chance of falling asleep quicker and getting a better quality sleep.

Keep the room as dark as possible. Close curtains or blinds before going to bed. If necessary, buy thicker curtains. These are especially useful during summer when it gets bright earlier. Be sure to keep your bedroom at a cool (not cold) rather than too hot a temperature.

Do not sleep on an uncomfortable bed with a poor mattress or inadequate blankets.

Do something relaxing before retiring to bed: relaxation exercises, a warm bath or shower or listen to calming music.

Norman Warden claims that if you have chronic sleep problems one of the most successful treatments for improving sleep is Stimulus Control Therapy. This involves following the five guidelines below to return you to a healthy sleep routine by helping you associate bed with falling asleep only:

1.Use your bed for sleep only. Do not use it for reading, watching television, eating, making telephone calls, using a laptop, iPad or smartphone and even avoid worrying while lying there.

2. Lie down to go to sleep only when you are sleepy.

3. If you find yourself unable to fall asleep after five to 10 minutes get up and go into another room. Stay up as long as you wish and then return to bed only when you feel sleepy. Remember the goal is to associate your bed with falling asleep and falling asleep within minutes.

4. Set your alarm and get up at the same time every morning irrespective of how much sleep you got during the night. This will help your body acquire a consistent sleep rhythm.

5. Do not nap during the day.

Irish scientists at CERN at the top of their game

     A worker cycles through the Large Hadron Collider tunnel

Irish scientists (l-r) Dr James Keaveney, Dr Dermot Moran and Dr Ronan McNulty in the CMS cavern in CERN

In a corner of the CMS detector experiment control room at CERN, there sits a collection of empty champagne bottles. Each one tells its own story of celebration. Individual measures of success achieved over a five-year period in the cavern housing the gigantic CMS detector 100 metres below.

A similar collection also sits in a corner of the LHCb detector control room, and presumably in the control rooms of Atlas and Alice, the other two main experiments on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ring.

Because since the first proton beams were fired into the €5 billion LHC in 2008, the project has recorded scientific breakthrough after scientific breakthrough. Slowly unlocking the secrets of the dawn of the universe, the “Big Bang”, and the moments that followed. Painstakingly fleshing out our understanding of the mechanics of particle and nuclear physics, as well as adding significant new knowledge.

To non-physicists the LHC can appear a daunting technical morass. But in the simplest terms, the 27km long particle accelerator, which travels in a loop under the French-Swiss border, works like this.

Beams of hydrogen protons are created. The speed of those beams is gradually increased in a series of smaller accelerators before they are injected into the LHC where they zip around the loop at almost the speed of light, bent and directed by super-strong magnets. There are two tubes in the tunnel, and a single beam passes through each, but in opposite directions.

When they want to, those controlling the four detectors – CMS, LHCb, Atlas and Alice – can bring the beams together, causing them to collide with massive energy. The resulting spray of tiny shattered particles is recorded by the gigantic detectors – which are essentially exceptionally high speed cameras that can take millions of snaps every second. That data is then filtered, with information on the important collisions sent to the CERN computer centre where it is processed and stored by hundreds of servers there, and on a grid CERN has built around the world.

The aim is to recreate the fractions of a second after the “Big Bang” to see what particles existed, how they interacted and what the result was. To a significant degree the LHC experiments have already been successful in this regard. They have more or less definitively found evidence of the existence of a Higgs Boson particle – the strange elusive field which gives all matter mass, and without which nothing material would exist. They are also working hard to learn more about why there is more matter than anti-matter in the world, and to understand whether the theory of super-symmetry, for example, is more than just a theory.

Last week CERN facilitated a visit by RTÉ News. We were afforded access to the CMS and LHCb caverns – massive holes in the ground filled from floor to ceiling with tiny components measuring even tinier particles. We were also brought down to the tunnel and shown the insides of the LHC as technical crews carried out repairs and maintenance. We were shown around the computer centre, met Irish researchers working on spin-off products and experiments and were given time with some of the senior management of CERN, including Belfast native, Dr Steve Myers, who is in-charge of the LHC.

CERN is unique in many ways. Although it straddles the Swiss-French border, it is actually considered international territory in diplomatic terms and so those working and living there enjoy certain immunities. It has its own police and fire services and on site accommodation for visitors. Its roads are all named after internationally renowned scientists, like Albert Einstein and even the Northern Irish physicist, John Stewart Bell. It has an annual operating budget of over €1 billion, paid for by its 20 member states.

It is an awe-inspiring place where everything is enormous. The ideas are big, the product of decades of theorising and experimentation by some of the most intelligent people ever to walk the earth. The machines and technology are big, on a mind-boggling scale that is hard to put into words. The spin-offs are big, like for example the World Wide Web, created there two decades ago. And the passion is big, as the campus is teaming with 2,500 physicists, technicians, engineers and support staff, who are all equally dedicated to answering these most fascinating of questions.

Many of those are visiting academics who spend most, if not all, of their spare and holiday time in CERN, away from their home institutions. Often they survive on a shoe-string, because their funding only goes so far in a country which has an extremely high cost of living. Why do they do it? Because they adore what they do, thrive on the collaborative atmosphere and feel they are fortunate to have the chance to work on a project that is truly amazing. And walking around the campus, you see that spirit of ideas and collaboration everywhere. The conversations, conducted through a plethora of different languages and accents, are dominated by new ideas and hypotheses.

Among those accents you might be able to pick out the odd Irish one. There are perhaps a dozen Irish scientists who either work permanently for, or are regular visitors to CERN. Ireland is not a member. So while researchers from Ireland can through networking and persistence get involved in collaborating on experiments there, there is no formal programme of involvement. Nor do we have any say in the direction that CERN evolves. That, it should be said, hasn’t stopped those few Irish scientists in CERN from having a significant impact. Indeed they have been and continue to be involved in many aspects of the LHC’s construction and operation.

But it was striking that of the Irish we met, while most were educated in Irish universities, they are now based abroad in institutions whose national governments have formal ties to CERN. One wonders if Ireland were a member, would they bring their knowledge, experience and contacts home? Membership fees are based on national economic output, so ironically right now, it would prove relatively inexpensive for us to join. Senior CERN managers estimate full membership would cost Ireland in the region of €12 million a year, associate membership one tenth of that.

In return Irish companies could compete for CERN contracts worth €500 million each year. Irish Government agencies would be able to have an input into CERN’s direction and operations. Our students would more easily be able to participate in CERN’s many education programmes. But perhaps most important of all, it would allow Ireland to be a part of an enormous movement of cutting edge science, and access ideas, knowledge and experience.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation says Ireland’s membership of international research organisations is reviewed on a regular basis and the value of membership in terms of support to Irish researchers, companies and jobs is considered to justify the costs of our membership. It says the question is whether we should divert very scarce, and in most cases committed, funding away from areas identified through in-depth analyses as having the best chance of contributing to our economic recovery.

It also adds that in addition to substantial fees for any type of membership, it is important to note that significant extra amounts of expenditure would be necessitated in order to ensure that Ireland benefits fully from membership. It says the matter will continue to be reviewed regularly on the basis of a consideration of how to use Ireland’s public research funding to best contribute to economic recovery and jobs.

In the meantime, CERN, and its handful of Irish scientists will continue to carry out extraordinary science.

News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Wed. 5th & Thrs 6th June 2013

Ireland’s live Register down by 700 for May to 426,100


On a seasonally adjusted basis the Live Register total recorded a monthly decrease of 700 in May 2013, bringing the seasonally adjusted total to 426,100. In unadjusted terms there were 421,737 people signing on the Live Register in May 2013.

This represents an annual decrease of 11,170 (-2.6%). The number of long term claimants (more than 12 months) on the Live Register in May was 191,997.

The standard unemployment rate (SUR) for May 2013 was 13.7%, unchanged from the revised April 2013 rate. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from the most recent Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) was 13.7% in the first quarter of 2013.

Net annual emigration is running at 30,000 and in April the IMF said that the broad rate of unemployment was 23%.

On a seasonally adjusted basis the Live Register showed a monthly decrease of 700 males in May 2013, while females saw no change over the same period.

The number of male claimants decreased by 11,842 (-4.2%) to 266,921 over the year while female claimants showed little change increasing slightly by 672 to 154,816. This compares with a decrease of 9,527 (-3.3%) to 278,763 for males and an increase of 1,487 (+1.0%) to 154,144 for females in the year to May 2012.

The CSO says the Live Register is not designed to measure unemployment. It includes part-time workers (those who work up to three days a week), seasonal and casual workers entitled to Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB) or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA). Unemployment is measured by the Quarterly National Household Survey and the latest estimated number of persons unemployed as of the first quarter of 2013 was 292,000.

Today’s Live Register data show the unemployment rate unchanged at 13.7% in May. This suggests the unemployment rate is unchanged from April and flat since the beginning of 2013. Total persons on the Live Register were 426,100 in May. This is the lowest level since August 2009. Of these, 68,900 were under the age of 25. Of course, reduced claims will reflect emigration and lower labour force participation in addition to higher employment. Nonetheless, today’s release suggests the downward trend in jobless claims is being maintained into Q2 2013.

That said, the Live Register release also provides data on numbers in government-run Job Activation programmes that are not included in the Live Register claimants data. Total numbers in these schemes were 86,042 in April 2013, up from 82,161 in April 2012. This is an increase of 3,881, or 4.7%, accounting for around one-third of the decline in Live Register numbers in the year to April.

The monthly unemployment series has been revised down substantially from the 14.0% first indicated for April to 13.7%. These revisions follow the release of the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS), which indicated that employment grew by 0.4% quarter-on-quarter in Q1 2013 and that the unemployment rate fell to 13.7%. So the 13.7% indicated for May in today’s release could in time still be revised substantially.

The Live Register data gave some indication that labour market trends were improving in Q1, although not to the extent revealed by the QNHS. The first vintages of the Live Register data showed the monthly unemployment rate declining from 14.3% in October to 14.0% in March. However, there are no clear signals for Q2 2013, with the Live Register unemployment rate flat in April and May at 13.7%, unchanged from Q1 2013. That said, jobless claims have continued their downward trend, which is somewhat encouraging.”

New motor tyre’s could be dangerous and a death trap


New tyre’s can be dangerous. Just because they have not been used doesn’t mean they are safe.

That is the warning now emerging after being highlighted by the Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI).

Its chief, Dermot Jewell, told Independent Motors it had reports of people buying new tyres only to discover, within two months, that they had perished. That is because they had been lying around unused for years and had begun perishing.

Mr Jewell says: “With money so scarce, people are not replacing tyres as often so they are being stockpiled and growing old. It is very dangerous. You could buy something that’s technically new but they could end up being dangerous.”

   Reputable dealers will check the date of manufacture for you. Dodgy ones won’t. That is the clear message from the Consumers Association.

The frightening verdict that unused tyres can become dangerously unfit for purpose without ever being on the road is another sharp reminder of just how little we know about four of the most important items on our cars.

But you should also know how to check for yourself – please see accompanying guide.

The central message is that tyres are susceptible to aging.

Like all rubber products, their physical and chemical properties change over time, components dry out, adhesion breaks down and that means tread can separate from other parts.

Mr Jewell told us: “Some consumers have bought what they believed to be new tyres. But they discovered they were in fact perished and needed to be replaced immediately for safety.

There is a recommendation that tyres should not be used if they have been in storage or unused for more than six years.

Now, in the absence of regulation on sell-by dates, the CAI is pleading with buyers to ask the age of any tyres they are thinking of purchasing.

“Although they may look new, they may in fact have been in storage for a significant period,” Mr Jewell says.

He admits it is a “new” issue for consumers who pay “significant” amounts for new tyres.

Mr Jewell says: “Reputable traders will have no difficulty in providing basic detail about the age of the tyre. If someone cannot or will not then we suggest consumers take their business elsewhere.”

Sometimes ageing cannot be detected by the naked eye and yet the tyre may be extremely unsafe. The CAI’s concerns come against the backdrop of new research which suggests that as many as 10 million tyres on UK roads could be dangerous – again not because of poor tread, but because of age.

Only 17pc of drivers know how to identify when their car’s tyres were manufactured.

The research, for Kwik Fit, says drivers may find their tyres reach the end of their safe life long before the tread nears the 1.6mm legal limit.

Nearly three-in-five (59pc) don’t know their tyres display the information needed to work out their age. One-quarter (24pc) know but can’t interpret the numbers.

More than six million drivers thought their car’s tyres were older than five years.

Low-mileage, older cars tend to be most at risk from premature ageing as their owners assume there is no problem if they can still see plenty of tread.

Irish Pharmacists legally obliged to replace branded medicines soon


Irish Pharmacists will be legally obliged to substitute branded medicines with cheaper, generic drugs within months.

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) said assessments are under way on the county’s top 20 active substances that make up approximately 1,500 individual medicines.

The cholesterol-lowering drug Atorvastatin (Lipitor) will be the first one available under the scheme, by mid August, with two to three following each month after.

Pat O’Mahony, IMB chief executive, said specialist staff have been preparing for the introduction of the generic substitution legislation in recent months.

“Generic medicines meet exactly the same standards of quality and safety and have the same effect as the original branded medicines,” he said.

The Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013 was signed by President Michael D Higgins last week and is expected to commence later this month, when consultations and assessments begin.

Under the system, the IMB will publish a list of interchangeable medicines on its website showing those medicines that can be safely substituted by pharmacists.

The first 20 active substances were selected by the Department of Health on the basis of overall cost to patients and the State, which forks out some 2 billion euro (£1.6 billion) on drugs each year.

A Department of Health spokesman said it is not possible to estimate the possible savings from the new legislation.

Meanwhile an IMB survey found eight out of ten consumers would accept a generic medicine if offered it by their doctor or pharmacist, while nine out of ten who previously used generic medicines said they had a positive experience.

It also revealed GPs (64%) and pharmacists (31%) are the most trusted sources of medicines advice.

However it also found one in four people were not familiar with the term ‘generic medicine’ and that 17% of respondents would not accept a generic if offered it by their healthcare professional.

“The main reason cited by those who would not accept a generic medicine is their lack of understanding of generic medicines,” added Mr O’Mahony.

“The increased focus on generics that is accompanying the introduction of the new legislation will help to address this.”

Unborn Babies learn & practice to grimace in the womb


Unborn babies “practice” facial expressions of pain while they are in the womb, scientists say.

Foetuses have been pictured using 4D scanning technology showing what appears to be pain.

The researchers, from Durham and Lancaster universities, suggest the ability to grimace is a “developmental process” which could help doctors assess the health of a foetus.

The study, published in the journal Plos One, found when the mother was 24 weeks pregnant, unborn babies were able to make simple expressions such as smiling. By 36 weeks the children were able to create “complex multi-dimensional expressions” such as pain.

Researchers, who examined video footage of 4D scans of 15 healthybabies, said the process was “adaptive” and helped the unborn baby to prepare for life after birth.

The study expands on previous research that suggests facial expressions of healthy foetuses develop and become more complex during pregnancy.

Researchers hope further investigation will examine whether the development of facial expressions in the womb is delayed if the mother smokes or drinks during pregnancy.

Lead researcher Dr Nadja Reissland, of Durham University’s Department of Psychology, said: “It is vital for infants to be able to show pain as soon as they are born so that they can communicate any distress or pain they might feel to their carers and our results show that healthy foetuses ‘learn’ to combine the necessary facial movements before they are born.

“This suggests that we can determine the normal development of facial movements and potentially identify abnormal development too. This could then provide a further medical indication of the health of the unborn baby.

“It is not yet clear whether foetuses can actually feel pain, nor do we know whether facial expressions relate to how they feel. Our research indicates that the expression of foetal facial movements is a developmental process which seems to be related to brain maturation rather than being linked to feelings.”

Rare monkeys start family at Dublin Zoo with twins


The newborn white-faced Saki monkey weighed about five ounces when born four weeks ago.

A pair of rare monkeys has started a new family at Dublin Zoo.

The tiny white-faced Saki was only 150 grams – about five ounces – when born four weeks ago and is only now just big enough to be seen by visitors.

Cradled by his protective mother, the unnamed male is one of the first new deliveries expected at the zoo over the summer. The Sulawesi-crested macaques also welcomed a new baby ape arrival recently.

Team leader Eddie O’Brien said it will be another four months before the young saki leaves his mother’s side and ventures out in to the South American House enclosure.

He said: “At the moment he is feeding from his mother and in about four weeks he will start to eat solids of mainly fruit and vegetables.

“For the next four months, his mother will carry the little guy close to her chest.

“In time, he will become stronger, gain more independence and start exploring the habitat on his own.”

While not endangered in the wild, white-faced Saki’s are a rare primate found in the tropical forests of Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. There are only three in Dublin Zoo, the newborn and his parents.

They have long furry coats with thick, shaggy hair with the male developing a white face and females having a bright stripe of golden hair from beneath each eye to the corner of her mouth or chin.

Staff said the Saki’s are normally shy monkeys, but are known to put on a real show of aggression to protect their territory by arching their backs, growling loudly and shaking their hair and the tree branches.

3-Inch Fossil holds clue to Human split from the Apes


The remains of a 55-million-year-old monkey found in China that could fit in the palm of one’s hand and had man-like feet and face, may offer a new timeline on when humans split from their primate cousins, scientists said.

An analysis of the nearly complete 3-inch (8-centimeter) skeleton concluded it was from the tarsiiforme family of primates, which includes lemurs, and shared characteristics of anthropoids, a group of higher primates that includes humans, according to a report in the journal Nature. The creature lived 10 million years after dinosaurs went extinct, scientists said.

The discovery of the new primate, named Archicebus achilles because of its man-like heel bone, narrows the time frame when tarsiiformes and anthropoids diverged. It also backs the hypothesis that the earliest primates were small mammals active in the daytime, climbed trees, and ate mainly insects, researchers said in the June 5 paper.

“This creature is very bizarre, it has a combination of features from tarsiiformes and from anthropoids,” said study author Ni Xijun of the Beijing-based Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. “It also has nails on all its fingers and toes, a rounded face and brain case, very short snout, and front-facing eyes unlike with other small creatures.”

Very Long Tail

The new primate from the Eocene period, which lasted from 56 million to 34 million years ago, also has slender limbs and a disproportionately long tail when compared with its body. Absence of large eyes, which is common among nocturnal animals, mark it as a diurnal, or daytime, animal, according to the report.

The earliest anthropoid fossil found previously, also in China, is from about 45 million years ago, said Ni, citing an earlier study published in Nature in January 2000.

“We actually don’t know a lot about early anthropoids, but we now know quite a lot about tarsiiformes from this fossil, and we can deduce that the earliest anthropoid could be very similar,” said Ni, whose institute is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a telephone interview from Beijing.

The researchers had obtained the fossil in 2003 from a farmer, who found it while prospecting for relics in an abandoned paleontological site in central China’s Hubei province. The group then spent the next 10 years analyzing the petrified remains.

With an almost complete skeleton for the earliest primate found, scientists that find other fossils in future can use it as a reference, Ni said, adding this “will to help clarify a lot of theories about the origins of anthropoids.”

“From an evolutionary point of view, we know human beings belong to a large family of primates, but when did we separate from the other members?” he said. “Our finding sets up a milestone for that.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th May 2013

Mortgage approvals rise 23% in Ireland for April 2013


Latest figures from Irish Bankers’ Federation indicate renewed activity in mortgage market

New mortgage approvals rose by nearly 23 per cent in April compared with the previous month, according to the last figures from the Irish Bankers’ Federation (IBF).

A total of 1,433 mortgage with a combined value of €240 million were approved by lenders during the month.

The IBF’s mortgage approvals report indicated the vast majority (91 per cent) of approvals were for house purchase.

This segment of the market grew by 23 per cent in April on the previous month, and by 11.8 per cent on an annual basis.

With the total value of mortgage approvals for house purchases standing at €226 million in April, the average mortgage approval value for the purposes of house purchase was €167,418 – up 2.2 per cent on the same period last year.

The IBF’s director of public affairs, Felix O’Regan, said: “The increase in the number of new mortgage approvals recorded in April is welcome evidence of renewed activity in the mortgage market, a pattern which first emerged during the latter part of last year.”

“Following a more recent slowdown in activity in the first quarter of this year – due to seasonal factors and the expiration of mortgage interest relief – the latest approvals figures provide a firm indication of underlying growth in the market.”

Piba, the umbrella group which represents financial brokers, however, said the figures were “no cause for celebration”.

“Firstly it’s worth remembering that mortgage lending has dropped 95 per cent from peak. Secondly the figures are for approvals and the suspicion is that there may be quite a gap between approvals and drawdown,” Piba’s Rachel Doyle said.

“There is huge unmet need with the biggest impediment being a lack of lending. It is our experience that there has been a slight easing in the system of late and the April figure is likely to represent a further small improvement. However, it is not going even close to meeting current demand,” she said.

She said demand is being driven primarily by people believing that property prices are close to the bottom of the market (61 per cent) and the fact that it is as cheap to buy as rent (20 per cent).

“However, the biggest impediment to these people is the unnecessarily stringent conditions being imposed by lenders on people who do have the capacity to repay loans.”

Data collection for the IBF Mortgage Approvals Report began in August 2012 covering the period from January 2011.

Irish Men the biggest culprits for speeding on our roads


Half of all Irish drivers admit to breaking the speed limit – and men are the worst offenders, a new survey shows.

Research published today found 64pc of men admitted to speeding compared to 49pc of women.

Our top three bad habits are driving too fast, forgetting to dim lights when meeting on-coming cars and driving too close to the car in front.

Alarmingly, 10pc of drivers admitted to driving without a seatbelt in the past year, according to the survey carried for Liberty Insurance’s Safe Driver Campaign.

Both sexes are guilty of taking their eye off the road with almost one in five admitting to eating, shaving, applying makeup or brushing their hair while driving.

Almost half of Irish drivers have also experienced another driver forcing them to pull in to allow an overtake manoeuvre while only 4pc admitted to doing this.

Two-thirds of drivers have experienced another driver not using their indicator while overtaking but only 15pc admitted to this.

Most worryingly, only 1pc admitted to driving without a seatbelt while children were in the car while almost two in five drivers have said they observed this in the past year.

The research, conducted by Millward Brown, also saw men admit to suffering more from frustration on the road.

A total of 24pc of men admitted to unnecessarily beeping the horn compared to 16pc of women.

And a quarter of women admit to having taken more than three turns when trying to park compared to 17pc of men.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging motorists to think more about driver safety by examining their driver behaviour and that of others.

The top three bad habits that Irish drivers have admitted to are driving over the speed limit (56pc ), forgetting to dim lights when meeting on-coming cars (31pc ) and driving too close to the car in front (22pc).

Liberty Insurance head of marketing Annette Ni Dhathlaoi said: “ Many Irish drivers are guilty of bad habits such as tailgating, driving over the speed limit or taking our eye off the road which can lead to road accidents.”

Ireland will deploy ministers to counter ‘tax haven’ claims


Dublin will mount a diplomatic offensive to dispute claims made by a US Senate committee that it is a tax haven amid concern that last week’s congressional hearings with Apple executives have tarnished Ireland’s reputation.

Richard Bruton, the Irish business minister, said on Monday the government planned to write to the US Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations to counter claims it is a tax haven or had agreed a special deal with Apple enabling the company to avoid paying taxes.

“The government is absolutely clear: talk of Ireland being a tax haven is wrong,” he told reporters. “There are no special deals in Ireland.”

The Irish government plans to send senior ministers abroad to explain its tax strategy to officials and in media interviews in an attempt to repair some of the damage caused by the committee hearings. Eamon Gilmore, deputy prime minister, will begin the charm offensive this week when he meets officials at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. Lucinda Creighton, Europe minister, will also meet US officials in Washington.

Ireland is recovering from a deep financial crisis and is hugely reliant on foreign investment with 150,000 people in the country employed by multinationals. Dublin is alarmed that the attention given to claims made by Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate committee, could prompt international bodies such as the OECD and EU to force it unilaterally to change its tax code.

Last week the investigations committee accused Dublin of being at the centre of a complex tax avoidance strategy devised by Apple that enabled the company to save US tax on $44bn in “otherwise taxable offshore income”. The report also claimed Apple reached a special deal with Ireland to apply a tax rate of less than 2 per cent on any profits that are taxable in the country – well below the 12.5 per cent Irish corporate tax rate.

Also this month, a UK parliamentary committee focused attention on Ireland’s tax code when it highlighted how Google managed to reduce its tax bill using the so-called “Double Irish” tax avoidance strategy.

This mechanism relies on two Irish incorporated companies. The first is tax resident in Ireland and pays royalties to use intellectual property, which generates expenses that reduce the amount of tax it pays in Ireland. The other company, typically incorporated in Ireland but not tax resident in the country, collects the royalties in a tax haven such as Bermuda or the Caymans, thereby avoiding Irish taxes.

Mr Bruton said there were opportunities for aggressive tax planning for companies that sought to arbitrage through the tax codes of different countries and Dublin would support global efforts to stop this.

“Ireland supports initiatives to deal with such aggressive tax planning but they will be done through international forums such as the OECD,” he said.

Mr Bruton said other countries had special deals with companies and suggested moving unilaterally could hurt Ireland’s competitiveness.

“When I go into the boardrooms competing for mobile investment, I know there are companies coming in behind me from Switzerland or other countries with alternative offers who are going to be offering special deals. We don’t do that,” he said.

Property tax database will help flush out 32,000 rogue landlords


The property tax database is going to be used to chase down almost 32,000 rogue landlords who have previously escaped detection.

Their identities are being revealed due to the fact that their tenants are contacting the Revenue to tell them that they are not the owners of the house. Under the law, all landlords are required to have registered with the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

The Government is now going to change the law so that the Revenue can pass on the names and addresses of landlords identified by tenants to the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).

They are now facing the prospect of fines of up to €4,000 or six months in jail if they are found not to have fulfilled their obligation to register.

And they also face the prospect of a Revenue tax audit to discover if they have been avoiding paying tax on their rental income. Junior Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivansaid she would be bringing through legislation to allow the PRTB to get information from the Revenue’s property tax database.

“The vast majority of landlords are compliant but the small ‘rogue’ element need to wake up to the fact that non-compliance won’t be tolerated and they will face the music,” she said.

According to the PRTB, there were 308,750 households living in private rental accommodation in the 2011 Census. But it currently has 277,000 tenancies registered – meaning that there are up to 31,750 landlords who have not signed up.

Science-funding agencies to forge a deal to allow US researchers to study in Ireland


The head of the science-funding agency Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Prof Mark Ferguson today signed an agreement with Dr Cora Marrett from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to pave the way for US researchers to do a stint in Ireland at one of SFI’s research centres.

Ferguson was in Berlin, Germany, today for a meeting of the Global Research Council where he forged the new partnership with Marrett, who is the acting director of the NSF.

Under the agreement, selected researchers from the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship programme will be able to carry out research at one of SFI’s research centres for between three and 12 months.

Ferguson said the partnership will create new opportunities for young, talented researchers while also strengthening the academic ties between Ireland and the US.

Areas the US researchers will be involved in while they study in Ireland will include nanotechnology, big data, marine energy and medical technologies.

Marrett said graduate students being trained as scientists and engineers in the US will increasingly collaborate and compete with their peers from around the globe throughout their careers.

She said the Graduate Research Fellowship programme would prepare the NSF’s graduate research fellows to engage in the global research space by connecting them to scientists and research infrastructure in Ireland and around the world.

Besides Ireland, other countries that take part in this alliance with the NSF include Switzerland, Chile, Norway, South Korea, Denmark, Singapore, Finland, Japan, France and Sweden.

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 10th May 2013

One in five People killed on Irish roads as Pedestrian’s


Pedestrian Safety is theme for UN Global Road Safety Week (May 6th to 12th), as figures reveal that 37 pedestrians died on roads in North and South in 2012.

More than 5,000 pedestrians are killed on the world’s roads each week. To date this year 15 pedestrians have died on roads in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: “People have really embraced outdoor activities like walking and cycling. It’s healthy, it’s enjoyable and it’s a great alternative to the car. However, pedestrians also need to take great care on the roads, as they are among the most vulnerable road users.

Mr Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority added: “Last year, 28 people or one in five of all people killed on our roads was a pedestrian. While this is a reduction of 40% on the previous year, it is a reminder to us all that we cannot become complacent. Tragically 11 pedestrians have died on the south’s roads in 2013. Therefore, I would like to ask all road users to redouble their efforts to make our roads safer and to help ensure we have a fatality free week to mark UN Global Road Safety Week.”

The RSA is supporting UN Global Road Safety Week through a series of radio ads which will be aired on local and national radio stations. Visit facebook.com/RSAIreland for more details.

‘Big Brother Josephine Feehily our software will find tax cheats, she says


The taxman is cracking down on tax cheats thanks to new ‘Big Brother’ computer software, Revenue Commissioners boss Josephine Feehily has revealed.

Ms Feehily told a Dail committee that tax officials can now trawl through reams of data, including bank accounts and mobile phone numbers, to spot cheats.

The trawl is currently focused on VAT but will be widened to income tax and other taxes next year.

Results could also be shared with the Department of Social Protection in 2014 to prevent welfare fraud.

Ms Feehily said a probe into specific sectors such as the the car industry to tackle EU-wide VAT abuses found 18 car traders here needed to be investigated more deeply. Two have already been prosecuted and one jailed.

Welfare: Turning to the property tax, Ms Feehily said Revenue planned to force PAYE workers evading the property tax to cough up within weeks of next month’s payment deadline. Revenue will begin deducting the property tax from PAYE workers’ pay cheques in July, she added.

People receiving occupational pensions will be next in the firing line followed by social welfare recipients.

The self-employed will be hit once they file annual returns in October and a surcharge could be applied. She said the tax office would make efforts to communicate with people before the tax is deducted.

About 80pc of all taxes are paid but Revenue says it expects compliance with the property tax to be higher.

Around 638,000 returns had been filed by yesterday morning or 40pc of the total figure. The deadline is three weeks away.

“We’re very pleased with this,” Ms Feehily told the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

The fact that local authorities can raise or lower the property tax by as much as 15pc also got a lot of attention at the meeting. Local authorities can change the tax rate as early as 2015.

To collect the property tax, Revenue has been allocated a budget of €26m for 2013. Normally it is only allowed to spend 1pc of the overall value of a tax.

Since the Government estimates the property tax should generate around €500m a year, Revenue’s normal budget for this would be €5m a year.

However, it is permitted to bump this up to €10m for the first two years of the tax for start-up costs. It has already spent €9m this year, with postage a huge cost.

The HSE under the microscope for its expenditure and search for savings


Paul Mulholland reports on the HSE’s recent appearance before the Public Accounts Committee

The HSE was recently before the Public Accounts Committee to discuss the Controller and Auditor General’s report into the Executive’s 2011 financial statements, and also provide an update on its current financial situation.

The HSE’s gross expenditure in 2011 amounted to €13.9 billion. The outturn was approximately four per cent below the 2010 gross expenditure level and eight per cent below peak expenditure in 2009.

An additional €148 million through a Supplementary Estimate was required at the end of the year to balance its budget.

A total of €58 million was required due to a shortfall in funding in 2011 arising from a lower than anticipated uptake in the early retirement and voluntary redundancy schemes.

Some two-thirds of the additional provision was for increased spending on medical card schemes and community services. The outturn for these services was €2.58 billion, which was 6.8 per cent above the original Estimate for the year. The provisional outturn for 2012 indicates that spending in these areas continued to run ahead of the Estimate provision year, ending approximately nine per cent on the Estimate provision, which was one of the main reasons a Supplementary Estimate, amounting to a net €360 million, was also required.

Director General Designate of the HSE, Mr Tony O’Brien, told the PAC that developing a robust and fit-for-purpose financial system is a priority for both the HSE and the Department of Health. The Ogden review was commissioned by the Department of Health in May 2012 and was completed in July 2012. On the basis of the review and predicted continued financial deficits, further work was commissioned last year, and a report was completed in September 2012.

“The report highlighted the need to take immediate action to improve the financial management systems in health,” according to Mr O’Brien.

“A key priority for me on my appointment in August 2012 was to stabilise HSE finances and to implement the actions outlined in the second review, the PA review, commissioned by the Department. The engagement of PA by the HSE is one of the first steps in the financial reform of the health service which is a central element of the overall reform programme.

This work is well under way and is due to be completed in the coming weeks and will lay the foundations for further financial reform. The appointment of a new chief financial officer to the HSE is also central to driving forward the changes needed to develop the finance function in the context of the wider health reform programme including: Money-follows-the-patient and universal health insurance. The selection process to fill this post is currently underway and is due to be completed shortly.”

Sinn Féin Deputy Mary Lou McDonald questioned Mr O’Brien about how the HSE will achieve the €721 million in savings earmarked for this year in light of the fact that the Executive already had a deficit of €13 million at the end of February.

“A big proportion of these savings is attributable to changes in the cost of providing service by way of workforce-related matters,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The substantial other component relates to changes in the cost of providing schemes, which are the product of changes in eligibility and co-payment issues with some reductions in costs, particularly under the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, IPHA, agreement, and a number of changes that we are pushing forward, for example, in the medicines management programme, which is designed to increase the number of lower-cost drugs that are prescribed as a proportion of the total.”

Mr O’Brien added that the HSE, in fact, had an €18 million surplus at the end of March. The figure takes account of a €25 million underspend on the capital side and an overspend of €7 million on the revenue side. Mr O’Brien said that the improvement in the financial position is due to a number of measures related to the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS), which is earmarked to deliver €323 million  savings this year.

“In this regard, however, I must caution that many of the challenges which relate to the saving targets … by their nature are timed to have their impact in the latter stages of the year,” he said.

“Some of those are already having a positive impact but the great proportion of them are not scheduled to have had an impact in the first quarter.”

Mr O’Brien expressed some concern about the impasse on Croke 2, through which €150 million in savings are due to be made. A further €106 million has also been specified as being related to pay and flexibility arrangements under Croke Park 1.

“Clearly, while the health service has proved to be an effective environment in which to extract flexibility issues in recent years under Croke Park 1, obviously I have some concern that, in the current environment, we would need to be certain of the industrial relations environment and the Croke Park 2 environment in order to be absolutely certain of delivery in that regard. However, for the present time, as the Deputy is aware, at a central Government level a process is now in place by central Government, which is designed to address the result of the Croke Park 2 ballots and until we know the outcome of that, it is difficult to be certain what will be the outturn in respect of those two issues.”

Deputy McDonald asked Mr O’Brien if the HSE had made contingency arrangements should these anticipated savings not arise. Mr O’Brien replied that the Government intends to deliver pay-related savings of that order and, therefore, it would be inappropriate for the HSE to begin examining other ways of reducing expenditure at that level because that would involve cuts in services.

“For the time being, it is not appropriate for the HSE to begin to consider alternative ways to leverage that kind of cost reduction,” according to Mr O’Brien.

“This is because first, this is not profiled until 1 July onwards or in other words is a second-half issue. Second, in the absence of measures that reduce our costs, it would be extremely challenging to begin to extract that level of saving from the direct provision of services. As it would have a highly negative effect on the provision of healthcare, for the time being it is appropriate for us to await the outcome of the process the Government has initiated.”

Connacht Gold to change brand name to Aurivo Co-operative


Chairman says time is right to invest in ‘new brand architecture’

Padraig Gibbons: “Today’s decision provides a new platform for innovation and growth

Connacht Gold will be renamed the Aurivo Co-operative Society after shareholders unanimously endorsed the change at a special general meeting in Claremorris yesterday.

Chairman Padraig Gibbons said the proposal followed discussions and market research over the past two years.

“With the growth in depth and breadth of our business in recent years, the board felt the time is now right to invest in new brand architecture. Today’s decision provides a new platform for innovation and growth which will benefit our businesses and the communities we serve,” said Mr Gibbons.

The co-operative’s 39 retail stores will be rebranded Homeland and Homeland Agri depending on the products available in the store. Animal feed will also be marketed under a new brand, Nutrias.

The rebranding will not affect the Connacht Gold dairy brands Donegal Creameries and the recently acquired Organic For Us brand.

Phone app tracks ladybird invasion


A new mobile phone app will help people monitor harlequin ladybird numbers

Scientists have launched a mobile phone app to monitor the impact of the invasive harlequin ladybird on the UK’s native species.

The free app, irecord ladybirds, was produced by scientists at the centre for ecology and hydrology working with the nature locator team at the University of Bristol.

it allows users to connect to the UK ladybird survey and input their own records of species across the country, which are used to track ladybird populations.

Data submitted to the survey, which launched in 1968, has already shown a decline in native species such as the two-spot ladybird in response to the arrival of the harlequin, which was first seen in England in 2003.

Conservationists hope the app will show whether native ladybird species will bounce back in 2013 and provide insight into the invasion process in the future.

Dr Helen Roy, from the UK ladybird survey, said: “i have been inspired by the number of people getting involved with the UK ladybird survey via email, online recording, twitter and traditional pen and paper – the observations they submit are invaluable.

“With the new app we now have a further opportunity to continue monitoring the harlequin ladybird alongside other species to further our understanding of the invasion process.”

More than 50,000 records, which are published online, have been submitted by members of the public since the survey’s launch in 1968. lower numbers of harlequin and native ladybirds were reported in 2012, though the number of records remained stable for the mildew-feeding orange ladybird.

Dave Kilbey, nature locator project manager at the university of Bristol, said: “smartphone apps like this one have the potential to transform the way we record and monitor wildlife populations owing to a combination of useful features such as GPS location fixing, help with making a correct identification and the ability to take and submit images with records.”

Each species has a distribution map and habitat information within the app, with photographs and a simple identification key also provided. information gathered by the survey is used by scientists to ascertain how wildlife is changing due to factors such as climate chance and the arrival of new species.

International Space Station is leaking ammonia but crew is safe


The International Space Station is leaking ammonia from its P6 truss structure but the crew is “in no danger,” NASA reported this week.

The Expedition 35 crew reported seeing “white flakes floating away from an area of the International Space Station’s P6 truss structure” on Thursday at around 11:30 a.m. Eastern, according to the space agency.

As of Thursday, NASA said that “the rate of the ammonia leaking from this section of the coolingsystem  has increased” but maintained that the “station continues to operate normally otherwise and the crew is in no danger.”

The leaking ammonia was coming from the same solar array cooling loop that sprung a leak last year. The ISS crew “attempted to troubleshoot” that leak on Nov. 1, 2012, according to NASA, which didn’t specify whether they had been successful.

“It is not yet known whether this increased ammonia flow is from the same leak, which at the time, was not visible,” the space agency said.

Mission Control and the ISS crew have apparently narrowed down the location of the leak but have not isolated its exact location. NASA said “[p]lans are being developed to reroute other power channels to maintain full operation of those and other systems normally controlled by the solar array that is cooled by this loop.”

NASA reported Thursday that its thermal control systems team was projecting a shutdown of the affected cooling loop in “about 48 hours” due to the leak.

“The team is looking at whether any additional imagery is needed to isolate the leak’s location,” the space agency said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 2nd April 2013

Savita’s husband Praveen says HSE report does not explain why she died


Praveen Halapannar sits with his wife Savita at their home in Galway

THE husband of Savita Halappanavar is not satisfied that a HSE report into her death has gotten to the bottom of why she died.

Praveen Halappanavar is said to be upset by the contents of the report into his wife’s death after a miscarriage, with his solicitor saying it contains just one reference to her request for a termination of the pregnancy.

Solicitor Gerard O’Donnell told the Irish Independent that Mr Halappanaver has refused an invitation to meet the report’s authors but said that he would go in his place with a family friend.

According to Mr O’Donnell, the issue of Ms Halappanavar requesting a termination “only arises once” in the report, adding: “My client has always said that this was requested on three occasions.”

Mr Halappanavar (34) has said that the couple repeatedly asked for a termination but were refused and has complained previously that there is no record of her requests in her medical records.

Ms Halappanavar later died from septicaemia.

Her death at the age of 31 caused a storm of controversy, reigniting the abortion debate, amid claims by her husband that doctors had said she could not have an abortion because Ireland is a Catholic country.

According to Mr O’Donnell, his client will respond to the report with a statement this week.

He said: “Clearly he just wants to know why his wife died and the report won’t specifically answer that.”

“He wants to find out why she died. He wants to find the truth”. Mr O’Donnell added.

A full coroner’s inquest into Ms Halappanavar’s death is scheduled to start next Monday April 8.

RTE pays 80 staff €10m that on top of €3m for star broadcasters


Cash strapped Irish broadcaster RTE forked out €10m on salaries for its 80 best paid staff members in a year – on top of the €3m it paid its stars.

The Irish Independent can reveal details of the lucrative wages available to RTE staff, which are separate to six-figure fees paid to presenters like Ryan Tubridy and Pat Kenny.

For the first time, RTE has disclosed the salary scales for dozens of jobs at the station, from newsreaders to camera men, from make-up artists to orchestra musicians.

The figures reveal:

• Some 83 staff members on pay of more than €100,000.

• Eighteen were paid over €150,000.

• Three had basic salaries of more than €200,000.

• One worker described as “part-time/casual” was paid between €100,000 and €150,000.

• Average pay at the station stood at €60,300, almost twice the average industrial wage.

The pay bill for RTE shows a minimum cost of €9.5m to the 83 staff on more than €100,000 in 2011. In contrast, new figures from TG4 show it paid its entire 86-strong staff a total €4.4m last year.

The details of salaries paid to RTE staff come amid outrage surrounding RTE’s announcement of what it pays its top stars – most of whom are contract workers. RTE said it was on course to pay €3.3m to its seven highest paid contract workers this year. Those include ‘The Late Late Show’ host Ryan Tubridy, whose 2011 pay was €723,000.

He accepted a 32pc pay cut last year bring his fee to €495,000.

Pat Kenny’s fees remained stable on €630,000 for the years 2010 and 2011 and his contract is up for renewal this year.

‘Liveline’ presenter Joe Duffy is paid €300,000, down 27pc from his pay in 2008, radio host Marian Finucane is on €295,000, down 48pc, and ‘Prime Time’ presenter Miriam O’Callaghan’s latest agreed fee stands at €211,167.

Director of news Andrew Hanlon at rival station TV3 has said the stars’ pay was “outrageously high”, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the fees as “quite extraordinary”.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Terence Flanagan – a member of the Oireachtas communications committee – described the fees as “grossly excessive”.

RTE, funded by a combination of licence fees and commercial revenue, is expected to show a €50m deficit for 2012.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said RTE was required “to break even at the end of this year”, adding “the advice I have is that that will be done”.

The RTE figures show 145 staff on between €80,000 and €100,000, 437 paid between €60,000 and €80,000, and 991 employees paid between 40,000 and €60,000.

There were 437 staff on less than €40,000, with more than half of these described as “part-time/casual” workers.

RTE paid almost €130m in basic salaries in 2011, employing an average of 2,150 staff during the year.

The figures for staff pay released to the Irish Independent by RTE show that all seven members of the broadcaster’s Executive Board were paid more than €150,000 in 2011.

Three of the senior executives – including director general Noel Curran – were paid more than €200,000. Mr Curran’s total pay package came to €287,000, including €58,000 in pension contributions.

RTE refused to name the other two executives whose pay exceeded €200,000 “as this is regarded as personal information”.

The 2011 board also included current managing directors of television and radio Glen Killane and Claire Duignan, RTE digital boss Muirne Laffan, and managing director of corporate development Brian Dalton. Former director of news Ed Mulhall and then-chief finance officer Conor Hayes made up the remainder of the board.

The RTE spokeswoman also refused to reveal the name or job description of the part-time/ casual worker paid as much as €150,000, again saying this was “personal information”.


She said she couldn’t get details on the part-time contract but said “part-time can constitute up to 95pc of hours” of a full-time staff member.

In a statement accompanying the release of the figures, RTE said: “To put these figures in context, please note that RTE staff have accepted pay cuts of between 8pc and 12pc (in 2009) with pay freezes and the suspension of increments for all staff on manager grade or above.”

RTE said it employed 1,858 staff at the end of December 2012, 11pc down on the same time the previous year. It said pay figures for 2012 were not yet available as they were “part of an ongoing year-end audit”.

Five things alzheimer’s caregivers should not consider doing


Let’s face it. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is hard work. You may have to deal with personality changes and difficult behaviors. You may be asked the same question over and over. You typically face issues with bathing, dressing and toileting. Your loved one may wander off if you aren’t careful.

Eventually, you may have to grapple with the decision to place your loved one in a long-term care facility. And the list goes on and on. But the most painful thing you will ever face as an Alzheimer’s caregiver is that you slowly lose the person you love.

If you read books, attend presentations and talk to experts about Alzheimer’s caregiving, you’ll get a seemingly unending string of advice. Some suggestions will be good; others won’t be very sound. What I want to achieve in this article is to offer some ideas about five things Alzheimer’s caregivers should never do.

Don’t Be in Denial

When a loved one shows signs of dementia it’s painful to acknowledge it. It’s common for their friends and loved ones to be in denial. It’s easy to ignore the symptoms, make excuses for the person, push the symptoms to the back of your mind and find other ways to avoid thinking even for a minute that the person may have dementia. I wrote more about this in an article entitled”Alzheimer’s and the Devil Called Denial.”

The problem with denial is it doesn’t lead you to take your loved one to a primary care physician or neurologist for a complete workup. And the problem with that is that sometimes dementia is caused by health issues other than Alzheimer’s. As I stated in another article, “What If It’s Not Alzheimer’s?” some of those problems can be treated or even reversed. And if it is Alzheimer’s the earlier treatment is started, the better.

Don’t Ask “Do You Remember?”

Asking a person with Alzheimer’s if they remember something is a common mistake that’s easy to make. It’s almost as though we think we can jog their memory. But we rarely do. They have probably forgotten the event in question. That’s what people with Alzheimer’s do. They forget. So it’s better to say, “I remember when…” and then tell them a story.

Don’t Argue With or Contradict the Person

If you’re caring for someone with dementia, it’s so easy to contradict or argue with them when they say things that are total nonsense. And they typically say a lot of things that fall into this category. For instance, they may think they are a child again or they may tell you stories that couldn’t possibly be true.

But the fact of the matter is that you can never win an argument with people who have dementia. They will stick to their guns to the bitter end! It’s much better to agree with them and then change the subject. This can prevent a nasty argument that would spoil your time with your loved one. For more detailed advice on this issue see my article, “The Contentious Alzheimer’s Patient – You Can Be Right or You Can Have Peace.”

Don’t Delay Nursing Home Placement When It’s Clearly Needed

At some point in the disease process it may (but not always) become evident that you can no longer care for the person at home. Later in the development of the disease, it takes a village to care for Alzheimer’s patients. They’ll likely need a nursing staff and aids 24 hours a day and a physician on call at all times. They also need a dietician, a cook, a housekeeper, an activity director and many more professionals. Another important thing they need is to have people around them to provide social stimulation.

As I stated in another article, “Nursing Home Placement for Alzheimer’s Patients — It Can Be the Most Loving Choice,” sometimes placing the person in a reputable institution is indeed the most loving choice for the patient — not to mention for you. When you no longer have to care for the person 24 hours a day you can relax, get some much-needed rest and really enjoy spending time with your loved one, all the while being assured he or she is getting the best care possible.

Don’t Stop Visiting When Your Loved One No Longer Recognize You

Many people think that there’s no reason to visit a loved one who no longer recognizes them, but I am firmly convinced that you should visit anyway. First of all, the person may enjoy being visited even if he or she doesn’t quite know who is visiting them. More importantly, it’s possible that the person does recognize you but simply isn’t able to say so.

We never know whom Alzheimer’s patients do and do not recognize somewhere deep down. Although there’s no way to know for sure, my conviction is that the person is really “in there” somewhere and we should always assume the person may know and feel more than he or she can express.

Do any of you have suggestions of other things an Alzheimer’s caregiver should never do.

Irish car sales down 14% over first three months of this year


The SIMI now expects 70,000 new cars to be sold over the year as a whole – slightly down on its original

Car sales for the first three months of the year are down 14% compared to the same period in 2012, according to figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.39,511 new cars were sold between January and March of this year, 6,329 lower than in the first quarter of 2012.Sales in March were 10% lower than in the same month of last year.

With car registrations now split into two six-month periods during the year, the motor trade industry will be hoping that some of the decline will be offset by increased activity in July.

According to SIMI the most popular car between January and March was the Volkswagen Golf, with the German car maker also the most popular brand overall.94% of the cars sold in the year so far fit into the two lowest CO2 emissions categories, while 72% of the vehicles sold were diesel.

Diabetes ‘health disaster’ warning


Fewer than 20 per cent of people with diabetes manage the condition properly, it has been claimed

Fewer than one in five people with diabetes in England and Wales have the potentially life-threatening condition under control, a charity has warned.

Diabetes UK said the number of those failing to manage the condition properly could lead to a “public health disaster” unless the Government steps in to support people. Without proper control, diabetes can lead to serious complications including kidney failure and stroke.

The charity’s analysis of National Diabetes Audit figures showed that 19.9% of people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes in England meet health targets for blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, with the number even lower in Wales at 18.5%. Out of those in England with Type 1 diabetes, which requires the daily administration of insulin, only 11.4% are meeting the recommended levels.

   Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “Given that diabetes is serious and can lead to early death if not supported to manage their condition, it is extremely worrying that so few people have it under control.

“When you consider that there are now three million people diagnosed with diabetes and this number is rising quickly, the fact that so many of them do not have good control over their diabetes means that unless something changes we face a public health disaster. Whether these people have high blood glucose levels, blood pressure or cholesterol, they are at increased risk of diabetes-related complications such as heart disease, amputation’s like man below left and stroke.

   Baroness Young accused the healthcare system of being “all too often not good enough”, and said that people with diabetes needed self-management support programmes, along with ongoing medical support and education if they were to avoid complications and reduce the risk of early death.

Diabetes UK is calling on the Government to increase the number of people with diabetes getting the nine annual health checks recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and to hold poor-performing areas of England and Wales to account.

“It is time to break the cycle of poor diabetes management and poor health outcomes,” said Baroness Young. “By investing in the healthcare and ongoing structured education to enable people with diabetes to manage their condition, we can ensure they have the best possible chance of a long and healthy life.

   “But this will not happen by itself. We need local services to take this seriously and to put in place the care that all people with diabetes deserve and we need the Government to finally make diabetes a priority and insist that everyone with the condition gets good quality healthcare.”

Some 24,000 people with diabetes die early every year in England and Wales, according to Diabetes UK. The NHS spends about £10 billion a year on diabetes, some 10% of its entire budget, the charity added, with 80% of that going on treating complications that could have been prevented in many cases.

Funky sea lions shows human-like ability to move to a beat


Ronan, a three-year-old sea lion demonstrates his love of disco and ability to keep time while listening to the strains of Boogie Wonderland.

It had previously been thought that only humans and animals that had an inborn vocal mimicry ability, such as parrots, were capable of being able to identify a song’s rhythm and responding to it.

But Peter Cook, a graduate student at the University of California,and his fellow researchers have managed to show that beat keeping does not necessarily go hand in hand with complex vocal learning by teaching sea lion bob its head to a range of songs.

Despite the sea lion’s never having heard Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind and Fire, the animal managed to synchronise its body movements to the five different tempos of the song.

Ronan, who is the first non-human mammal to exhibit this ability, also showed a liking for Everybody by the Backstreet Boys.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 25th March 2013

Landmark decision as Bewleys wins Irish test case in upward-only rent court case


Irish Business groups welcome court’s decision

A Dublin court has ordered a landlord owing money to Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency to reduce the rent it charges a commercial tenant in a ruling that could have vital implications for the country’s property sector.

The test case involves “upward-only rent reviews”, which are contentious clauses in leases that became popular during Ireland’s property boom and are now blamed for putting many companies out of business.

The Irish government initially pledged to outlaw upward-only rent review clauses when it assumed power. But it performed a U-turn over concerns this could undermine Nama, which bought loans with a face value of €74bn from the balance sheets of Irish banks in 2009.

The case pitted Bewley’s café, a landmark on Dublin’s main shopping street, against Ickendel Limited, a company controlled by developer Johnny Ronan which had its loans transferred to Nama, the bad bank set up to clear toxic loans from Irish lenders.

Bewley’s argued the 35-year lease it signed with Ickendel in 1987 should allow rents to fall in line with market values, as well as rise. It said securing a reduction in the €1.46m annual rent was of vital importance to its financial survival. The original rent was set at €213,000 in 1987 and had been subject to five-year reviews.

Ickendel said the lease meant rent should normally be ratcheted up every five years. But it accepted that in a situation where rents fell between reviews – by as much as 52 per cent for properties on Grafton Street – there should be no increase in the rent.

Dublin’s High Court ruled that to proceed with ever-increasing sums in rent every five years, while market rents were falling, would substitute an unreal figure for the rent.

It said the lease between Bewley’s and Ickendel stipulated that the rent was never to fall below the initial agreement of 1987. But the court ruled that an ambiguity in the wording of the lease allowed the rent to fall.

Property experts said the ruling would prompt thousands of commercial tenants struggling with upward-only rent review clauses to study their leases carefully to see if they could take advantage of the ruling. But they said it was unlikely to lead to wholesale abandonment of such leases.

“Where wording is not very clear there may be opportunities for tenants to secure reductions to the initial threshold rent but this would be on a case-by-case and only

Alan Shatter faces cool reception at AGSI Sligo conference


Members of the Garda representative bodies, GRA (Garda Representative Association) and Agsi (Association of Garda Sergents and Inspectors) protesting last week against proposed cuts in pay under the new Croke Park agreement.

Agsi annual conference set to be dominated by debate on ‘Government neglect’ of force

Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter appears set for a mixed reception at the annual delegate conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi), where debate is expected to be dominated by the perceived neglect of the force under the current Government.

The sergeants and inspectors are calling on the Government to desist from the threatened pay cut for Garda members. They will also discuss how they might withdraw from the reform of Garda work practices already underway as part of the original Croke Park agreement.

Any move to withdraw from the implementation of new Garda rostering currently being piloted under the agreement, for example, would represent a serious escalation to Agsi’s current protest over threats of further reductions to their salary and allowances.

In recent weeks sergeants and inspectors have joined their rank and file colleagues in refusing to use their personal property – including mobile phones, laptops and vehicles – for work purposes.

The decision to stop using their mobile phones has impacted on communication between Garda members, especially in circumstances where they would normally be available to be contacted off duty.

Alan Shatter is due to address delegates at the conference in Sligo town during the opening session this evening. He will reply to the address by Agsi president Tim Galvin which is expected to be critical of Mr Shatter and of Government policy towards Garda pay, depleted Garda resourcing and the lack of any recruitment.

Over the course of the conference, which runs until Wednesday afternoon, delegates will discuss a range of motions on pay and resourcing, with speakers set to call on delegates to direct Agsi’s national executive to resist any more pay cuts.

A motion by members from the Cork west division asks delegates to consider further ways to protest against and counteract proposed pay cuts, while also urging withdrawal from the reform process under way under the original Croke Park agreement.

Motions from the Clare division, the Cork City division and the Wexford division raise the prospect of withdrawing from the Croke Park reform process, or “revised action plan” for the Garda force.

Some of the programme for the conference is also taken up by the contentious issue of Garda premium payments, with a motion from the Wicklow division urging the Agsi national executive to have the payments included in basic pay.

Significant donation of €1million for NUI Galway scholarship research


It was announced this morning that NUI Galway is to receive the funding from the late Dr Tony Ryan Trust fund pictured above right. 

A “significant donation” of over €1m has been made to NUI Galway to support scholarship and innovation in environment, marine and energy.

A “significant donation” of over €1m has been made to NUI Galway to support scholarship and innovation in environment, marine and energy.

In addition to supporting the access programme, the significant philanthropic gift of over one million euro will specifically provide fully funded research scholarships for five PhD students. The Dr Tony Ryan Research Scholarships will offer opportunities to pursue a postgraduate degree in the key research areas of environment, marine and energy.

The scholarships will specifically focus on research priorities at The Ryan Institute in the University, including innovation in energy-efficient technologies and bio-energy, research and development in aquaculture, fisheries, offshore renewable energy resources and bio-discovery, and development of technologies for monitoring, modelling and mitigation of environmental pressures.

Speaking on behalf of the Trustees of the Dr Tony Ryan Trust, Emma Lane-Spollen said the group were “proud to support” Irish and migrant students to access NUI Galway’s degree programmes with a sum of €125,000 per year for four years.

“We also look forward to supporting the development of the marine industry and the exploration of marine ecosystems in Ireland by supporting Galway’s ability to attract the best PhD students through these five full scholarships, putting Galway at the forefront of marine research and innovation.”

Console to host suicide prevention programme in Galway


National suicide prevention and bereavement charity Console is holding a suicide prevention training programme in Galway to enable people to learn how to help save lives.

National suicide prevention and bereavement charity Console is holding a suicide prevention training programme in Galway to enable people to learn how to help save lives.

The one-day training programme, titled QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer), will take place in NUI Galwayon Tuesday 16 April, the first of three locations in Ireland for the course.

All participants will receive QPR Gatekeeper Certificate awarded by The QPR Institute. The Galway course runs from 10am to 4.30pm, and places are limited so early booking is advised. The fee is €75 per person.

Booking forms are available on http://www.console.ie or by ringing Console’s head office on 01-6102638. Console offers counselling services and 24-hour helpline support to people in crisis and those bereaved by suicide.

The charity has a full-time centre in Galway at Console House, 9A Elm Park, Renmore, Galway (091-769942) and is also in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Mayo and Kildare.

Counselling is available for any individual, couples, families or children who have been affected by suicide. Console can be reached at any time on Freephone 1800-201890 and many resources and useful information can be found at http://www.console.ie.

How long will you live to?  Maybe to a hundred


How long will I live? It’s a question more and more of us ask ourselves as 70 becomes the new 60, 80 the new 70 and so on.

The odds are still against getting to 100, but they are shortening all the time. In fact, it’s estimated that a third of all babies born in the past year are likely to still be alive in 2113.

So, what are your chances of living to 100? Take our quiz below to find out if your current lifestyle stacks the odds in your favour, or not … .

What Does Your Waist Measure?

a) 30in or under

b) 30.5in – 34.5in

c) 35in or above

Having a waist size greater than 32 inches for a woman or 37 inches for a man is a clear indication that a person is carrying excess weight, which puts them at an increased risk of developing serious illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. All excess weight is bad for health, but fat around the middle poses the most risk to health.

Do You Consume Your five-A-Day?

a) Yes, I get my five-a-day

b) Two or three portions a day

c) I rarely eat fruit & veg

On average, we consume 2/3 portions of fruit and veg a day in Ireland, which is well below the recommended amount. A recent report from The World Cancer Research Fund concludes that regular fruit and vegetable consumption can protect against cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and stomach and the report recommends that we all aim for at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

Do you regularly see family and friends?

a) Yes, often, relationships are a priority in my life

b) I have a few close friends, but I like my own company, too

c) I’m not that sociable and spend a lot of time alone

Our relationships have a huge impact on our mental heath and, therefore, on our physical health, too. In fact, research from Brigham Young University in the USA, found that when it comes to longevity, good relationships could improve your health chances by around 50pc because you’re less likely to feel stressed or get involved in risky behaviours and more likely to take good care of yourself.

How Many Units Of Alcohol do you drink a week?

a) 0 – 7 units

b) 8 – 14 units

c) 15 units or more

Drinking more than 14 units per week for a woman (approx seven glasses of wine) and 21 units for a man, puts you at greater risk of developing several life-shortening conditions, including liver damage, heart disease, stroke and breast cancer. Regular alcohol consumption is also associated with obesity, which in turn can lead to type two diabetes. According to Drinkaware, adding between two and three units of alcohol a day to your usual diet would see your weight shoot up by 4lb in four weeks.

How Much Exercise Do You Get?

a) I work out 3-5 times per week

b) I walk everywhere

c) None, or very little

Swedish and US research published in 2012, found that even up to 75 minutes of brisk walking a week will help you live 1.8 years longer. However, getting 150 minutes a week, (approx 20 minutes per day) which is the amount recommended by the Department of Health, can increase your life expectancy by up to four and a half years so it really is worth your while getting that little bit of exercise in each day.

How Well Do You Sleep?

a) Like a log

b) Okay, most of the time

c) Not well, I always wake up tired

A recent sleep survey conducted by Lenor Fabric Softener has discovered that we’re a nation of insomniacs with 92pc of us claiming to be affected by poor sleep, which is not good news for health. But making simple changes to your sleep routine can help; avoid caffeine, alcohol and computer use before bed, go to bed at the same time every night and keep your bed linen fresh and clean – almost three quarters of those surveyed felt their quality of sleep was drastically improved by sleeping in freshly washed sheets.

Do You Smoke?

a) I’ve never smoked

b) I used to smoke, but stopped

c) Yes

Smokers typically die at least a decade earlier than non smokers. Cigarette smoking increases your risk of many life-threatening illnesses, including lung disease, cancer, heart disease and stroke. But the good news is, it’s never too late to give up. Quitting at any age gives you the potential to repair damage. For example, if you quit before you are 40, your increased risk of dying early falls by over 90pc.

Do you have a family History Of Cancer?

a) No close relatives diagnosed

b) A couple of close relatives diagnosed over 60

c) Yes, more than two close relatives diagnosed under 50

Family history does increase your risk and the younger your relatives were when diagnosed, and the more of them there are, the greater chance there is of a genetic component.

However, it’s not just down to the cards you get dealt with, it’s how you play them and that’s where a healthy lifestyle pays. Your DNA does not wholly dictate your destiny, how you live your life plays a huge part, so make sure you do everything within your power to build your body’s resistance to disease through diet, exercise and regular stress management.

How Did You Do?

Mostly Cs

Let this be your wake-up call. Your body is probably more like that of someone 10 years older. But don’t despair, there’s a lot you can do right now to reverse the damage. Start by tackling the unhealthy habits which have the potential to do the most damage such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption and remember that even small changes can make a big difference.

Mostly Bs, You’re doing pretty well, but look back over your answers to see if there are areas that you could improve on. Could you increase your exercise routine or your fruit and vegetable consumption?

Mostly As, Well done – if anyone has a chance of making it to 100, it’s you. By making positive lifestyle choices, you’ve probably knocked 10 years off your biological age. Now you just have to keep up the good work and hope your pension will last as long as you do.

News Ireland daily BLOG Monday

Monday 28th January 2013

Cabinet may be briefed on fast-tracked hospital projects


Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has said he expects Health Minister James Reilly to brief the Cabinet tomorrow on the fast-tracking of hospital projects in the constituencies of two colleagues.

Opposition parties have questioned how the two ministers concerned were able to announce the work before it had been formally approved by the Health Service Executive Board.

However, the Government has said the projects were decided by the HSE.

Documents show that Mr Reilly told the HSE to accelerate the projects at Wexford General Hospital and St Luke’s in Kilkenny, and that announcements about the work were made by local ministers Brendan Howlin and Phil Hogan before the HSE Board became aware of the change.

Today, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan accused Fianna Fáil of “trying to undermine” a new facility at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny.

Department of Health sources insist the projects were long planned and were progressed on the basis of need, while a spokesperson for Mr Howlin said details for the announcement came from the HSE.

Mr Hogan accused Fianna Fáil of trying to undermine the Kilkenny development, which was going ahead after the HSE identified savings and efficiencies to pay for it.

Ryanair’s third quarter profits better than expected


Ryanair has reported better than expected third quarter after-tax profits of €18.1m, a 21% increase on the same time last year.

The airline also raised its profits outlook for the full year.

The increase in quarterly profits in the three months from October to December came despite an €81m increase in fuel costs as the price of oil jumped by 22% from $84 a barrel to $102.

Ryanair said its revenues rose by 15% to €969m as traffic grew by 3% to 17.3 million passengers.

Its ancillary revenues performed ”strongly” and rose 24% to about €13 per passenger.

Ryanair said its third quarter profits were head of expectations due to strong pre-Christmas bookings at higher yields.

The airline said it has paid a second special dividend of €492m (0.34 cent per share) to shareholders in the third quarter, bringing to €1.53 billion the funds returned to shareholders over the past five years.

Looking ahead, Ryanair said its fourth quarter traffic – as previously guided – will drop by about 3% below last year as the airline is grounding up to 80 planes. It said this will limit the impact of high oil prices, high airport fees at Dublin and Stansted, and seasonally weaker fourth quarter demand.But ”on the basis of this improved Q3 result, our capacity cuts and limited visibility over Easter bookings and yields, we now expect our full year profits to exceed our previous guidance (of €490m to €520m) and rise close to €540m, a 7% increase on last year’s profits despite a 19% increase in our oil costs,” the airline said.Ryanair shares ended the day 2% lower on the Dublin stock exchange, finishing the day at €5.38.

Ryanair gives EU ”unique set of remedies’ for AL bid

Ryanair also said today that it remains confident of getting approval from the EU Commission to take over Aer Lingus.

A statement from the airline this morning confirmed reports last week that it has submitted a “radical and unprecedented remedies package to the EU”.

This plan involves two airlines basing aircraft in Ireland and taking over a substantial proportion of Aer Lingus’ short haul routes. Media reports have suggested that those airlines are Flybe and IAG.

”We believe these remedies address every current Ryanair/Aer Lingus crossover route and all other competition issues raised by the Commission in its Statement of Objections,” Michael O’Leary said.

Ryanair is making its latest offer to assuage the EU’s concerns about the impact of a takeover of Aer Lingus on competition for air travel between Ireland and the UK and on the ultimate impact on passengers from such a deal. The European Commission has knocked back Ryanair’s previous takeover bid on those grounds.

”We look forward to completing our offer for Aer Lingus subject to receiving approval from the EU competition authorities in early March,” Mr O’Leary added.

In its results statement, Ryanair said that its new routes and bases performed well in their first winter. Its 51st base at Maastricht opened in December and it will open six new bases from April in Eindhoven, Krakow, Sadar in Croatia, Chania in Greece and Marrakesh and Fez in Morocco.

”Significant capacity cuts by Legacy and other struggling EU carriers continue to offer us substantial growth opportunities across Europe,” Michael O’Leary said. He said he expects further capacity cuts and restructuring in Europe as high fare, low making carriers struggle to compete with Ryanair.

Investor’s confidence rises dramatically with Irish Economy 


Irish Economy: Investor confidence has shown a ‘dramatic’ rise according to the Dutch online bank, RaboDirect’s Investor Barometer, which measures sentiment among Irish investors and reached an all time high in January having entered positive territory* for the first time. The overall index now stands at 100.8, up from 86.9 in September 2012. (Zero to 100 signals a negative sentiment and 100 to 200 signals a positive.)

Results show that confidence amongIrish investors in both the national and global economic outlook has increased dramatically with 55% now confident about the outlook for the Irish economy over the next three months compared with 37% in September 2012. Meanwhile, confidence in the global economy has seen an even more marked rebound with 64% of respondents expressing confidence in the global outlook over the next three months (34% were confident in September 2012).

Despite this increased confidence in the economy, however, optimism among investors about their financial situation over the coming three months was down slightly at 74% compared with 76% who were optimistic in September.

Investors are becoming increasingly more favourably disposed to the global stock market with 80% saying they see value to be had in stocks compared with 72 per cent in September. This positive sentiment was reflected in investors’ preferred asset classes with 51 per cent indicating a preference for equities (Sept 2012: 41%) while 25% preferred cash (Sept 2012: 33%), 20% preferred bonds (Sept 2012: 21%) and only 3% preferred property (Sept 2012: 5%).

The emerging markets remain the region where most investors would consider investing (42%), followed by the USA (20%), Europe (19%) and Asia (19%).

The Clinton Doctrine of American Foreign Policy


The partisan political theatre, of course, was top-notch. Sen. Rand Paul’s declaration that he would have fired Hillary Rodham Clinton; her angry rebuttal of Sen. Ron Johnson’s insistence that the Obama administration misled the American people about the Benghazi attack; Sen. John McCain’s continued outrage at the slapdash security the State Department provided its employees.

Beneath the posturing, though, ran larger questions: what strategy does the United States have to counter the militant groups running rampant across North and West Africa? And what kind of secretary of state has Mrs. Clinton been? In her last Congressional hearing in that position, Mrs. Clinton expressed exasperation with Washington’s political trench warfare.

“We’ve got to get our act together,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton has been a very good but very cautious secretary of state, many analysts say — one who, for the most part, kept her distance from Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine and other seemingly intractable conflicts.

One State Department official, while praising Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, nonetheless looked forward to the arrival of Sen. John Kerry, her designated successor: “I came to admire Clinton as secretary of state, her focus on women and innovation in particular,” the official told me. “But am really happy to have someone in the job who does not retain political ambitions.”

In a recent assessment of Mrs. Clinton’s tenure, Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution argued that she had enjoyed some success, including restoring the United States’ image abroad, but she made no historic breakthroughs, he said.

Mr. O’Hanlon argued that Mrs. Clinton’s famed work ethic paid off. She made few mistakes, no major gaffes and did not “needlessly antagonize” friends or enemies. Mr. O’Hanlon called Mrs. Clinton’s role in the administration’s “pivot to Asia” and tough stance toward China arguably “her greatest and most memorable contribution.”

The problem, as last week’s hearing showed, is that the Middle East and the threat of terrorism continue to dominate American foreign policy. Even as the United States becomes more energy independent, terrorist attacks like the kidnappings in a remote oil facility in Algeria will make headlines andinfluence markets. Barring a massive shift in American domestic politics, Israel’s security will continue to be viewed as a vital interest of the United States.

Mrs. Clinton, to her credit, made forty trips to Europe that helped produce crippling new sanctions on Iran. Last fall, she helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But she failed to personally engage in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

To be fair, the Obama White House may have limited her options. After promising more open debate than occurred under President George W. Bush, the Obama White House tightly controlled the formulation of American foreign policy. Critics have also accused Mr. Obama of being overly cautious in foreign affairs.

With the exception of the Libya intervention and the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Mr. Obama was “coolly calculating and reluctant to engage” in his first-term foreign policy, The Economist magazine recently argued.

Mr. Obama, of course, is trying to avoid the over-reach his predecessor displayed in Iraq. He also faces enormous fiscal pressures at home. But there is a risk that the pendulum is swinging too far toward a smug isolationism in Washington.

As Mrs. Clinton departs, worrying trends are emerging in the way America engages with the world. The new U.S. weapon of choice is the drone strike — a tactic that carries zero political risk at home but spreads anti-Americanism abroad.

Complex foreign policy problems that threaten American security are increasingly seen as “entanglements” best avoided. There is a convenient view that there are no “good guys” in the power struggles now unfolding in the post-Arab-Spring Middle East.

The potential lesson of the bruising political battle over Benghazi is simple: Take few risks, turn embassies into bunkers and avoid political firestorms at home. In her testimony, Mrs. Clinton passionately argued against that approach.

Declaring Somalia and Colombia success stories, she said the United States could counter militancy in Africa and the Middle East by working with regional organizations and training local security forces. U.S. funding and training of an African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, Mrs. Clinton said, had slowly succeeded in driving back al-Shabaab and other Islamist forces. In Colombia, the government has driven back FARC rebels and narco-traffickers.

There have been setbacks and the efforts in both countries are imperfect. But local security forces trained and funded by the international community slowly gained ground in painstaking efforts over many years.

“What we have to do is recognize that we’re in for a long-term struggle here,” Mrs. Clinton said at the hearing. “And that means we’ve got to pay attention to places that historically we have not chosen to or had to.”

During their heated exchange, Mr. McCain criticized Mrs. Clinton and the Obama administration for not doing enough to train Libya’s security forces. Secretary Clinton replied that House Republicans had put a hold on the funding the administration requested to train Libyans.

“If this is a priority and we are serious about trying to help this government stand up security forces,” she said, “then we have to work together.”

Mrs. Clinton is right. And so is Mr. McCain. Congressional politicking hinders the State Department. The State Department executed terribly in Benghazi. But Mrs. Clinton, who I have criticized in the past, won the day.

“We are in a new reality,” she said, referring to the change sweeping across the Middle East. “We are trying to makes sense of events that nobody had predicted but that we’re going to have to live with.”

Mrs. Clinton called for the United States to show “humility” abroad and stop making national security issues “political footballs” at home. She said a Cold War style bipartisan agreement should be reached to launch a long-term American effort to strengthen local security forces and promote democracy across Africa and the post-Arab-Spring Middle East.

“Let’s be smart and learn from what we’ve done in the past,” she said. “Put forth a policy that wouldn’t go lurching from administration to administration but would be a steady one.”

“We have more assets than anyone in the world,” Mrs. Clinton added, “but I think we’ve gotten a little bit off track in trying to figure out how best to utilize them.”

A “little bit off track” is a euphemism for partisanship endangering national security. If the U.S. doesn’t get its act together, expect more Benghazis.

Edinburgh experts identify creature resembling ‘dolphin and crocodile hybrid’


Scientists examining fossil remains discovered more than a century ago have discovered a creature resembling a hybrid dolphin and crocodile.

The new species, named Tyrannoneustes lythrodectikos, was a marine “super-predator” that lived 163 million years ago.

It belonged to a group of ancient crocodiles with dolphin-like features.

An amateur fossil hunter found the reptile’s partial skeleton in a clay pit near Peterborough in the early 1900s.

Experts have only now been able to confirm the identity of the remains, housed at The Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow.

The animal had pointed, serrated teeth and a large gaping jaw suited to feeding on large-bodied prey.

It represents a missing link between marine crocodiles that fed on small prey and their super-sized relatives.

Dr Mark Young, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “It is satisfying to be able to classify a specimen that has been unexamined for more than 100 years, and doubly so to find that this discovery improves our understanding of the evolution of marine reptiles.”

Dr Neil Clark, palaeontology curator at The Hunterian, Museum, said: “Little research has been done on this specimen since it was first listed in 1919. It is comforting to know that new species can still be found in museums as new research is carried out on old collections.

“It is not just the new species that are important, but an increase in our understanding of how life evolved and the variety of life forms that existed 163 million years ago in the warm Jurassic seas around what is now Britain.”

News Ireland daily news BLOG Monday

Monday 14th January 2013

Ireland’s shortage of skilled workers see’s 36% of company bosses hire from abroad


Employers are mostly satisfied with Irish graduates but more than a third are still recruiting overseas because of skills shortages.

The findings from a survey of more than 400 Irish and foreign-owned companies were welcomed by the Higher Education Authority, which commissioned the study to help inform changes needed in the third-level sector. 

   Three-quarters of companies were confident that graduates have the right workplace and transferable skills, and have knowledge of the relevant subjects or disciplines for their jobs. Despite many public concerns from industry leaders of recent years, more than 80% of firms said they were satisfied with the calibre of science and maths graduates. 

However, half of the companies surveyed want to see more engagement between higher education and industry, and 36% said they have recruited graduates from non-Irish colleges. Many blamed an insufficient number of Irish graduates, particularly in computing, as the main reason for doing so. 

Concerns were identified about graduates’ abilities to effectively communicate, especially in writing, and about graduates having the “right attitude”.  The report for the HEA was designed with the help of employers’ bodies Ibec, Isme, Small Firms’ Association, Chambers Ireland, and American Chamber of Commerce Ireland. 

HEA chairman John Hennessy, also chair of telecoms company Ericsson Ireland, said the results indicate the Irish education system is producing the kind of skilled people needed to underpin future development.  “It is particularly welcome that industry recognises this, but we can’t be complacent and it is clear that higher education and industry must find more and better ways for communication and collaboration between the sectors,” said Mr Hennessy. 

The findings emerge as future graduates weigh up their options for the completion of CAO forms ahead of the Feb 1 deadline. With thousands likely to apply for college courses by next Sunday to avail of a reduced fee of €25,

the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals is advising them to pick carefully.  “Students should choose courses that best suit their skills and interests, rather than opting for high-points programmes to impress family and peers and even courses that offer the most direct route to today’s jobs market,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne. 

“In three or four years, the jobs market could be very different so, unless students are especially interested in specialist courses, a more generalist programme such as humanities or science can keep their options open at this stage.”

Wave of aggravated burglaries across rural Ireland targeting the elderly


An elderly woman was pushed to the ground while her rural home was ransacked for the second time in two months.

The 78-year-old Donegal pensioner was targeted on Saturday night by three hooded men who fled in the direction of Pettigo, close to the border with Northern Ireland. A spate of aggravated burglaries have been carried out on older people across the county in recent weeks, including on a 96-year-old woman punched and gagged in her home near Buncrana last weekend.

Similar attacks have also happened in Raphoe, Donegal town and Convoy. Sinn Fein’s Padraig MacLochlainn said gangs are putting terror in pensioners across the north west, and appealed to householders not to keep large sums of money in their home. “Clearly, we have different gangs of scumbags who are targeting the most vulnerable of people in their home,” the TD said.

“That’s not a term I like, but if the shoe fits. They are willing to punch a 96-year-old woman and leave her to die, only for she hit a panic alarm button. “It’s causing terror throughout the county.” MacLochlainn said some of the attacks have been carried out by a cross border gang.

“The gardai and the PNSI have a joint responsibility protect us,” he added. Gardai in Ballyshannon have appealed for information on the latest incident, which happened shortly after 10pm in the townland Belault on the outskirts of Pettigo. Three thieves, aged in their 20s, threw the woman to the ground and raided her home before they fled in a car with cash. The victim made her way to the road and flagged down a passing motorist who took her to a neighbour’s house and raised the alarm.

Elsewhere campaign groups and opposition parties said a Government U-turn not to make cuts to the senior alert scheme will come as a relief to older people nationwide. Fianna Fail‘s Barry Cowen said it would have been an incredibly cruel and potentially dangerous cut when rural garda stations are closing. “It would have been completely wrong to take security supports from older people who are already feeling more vulnerable than ever in their homes,” he said.

Burglary Protection Tips for Ireland’s elderly


14 Tips to protect and make your home Burlgar-Proof

Don’t make your home an easy mark for burglars. Take simple steps to keep your home secure: Here are some tips for protecting your home and property from common burglaries:

  1. Keep doors locked. Whether you are home or leaving the house to run a quick errand, it’s a good practice to keep doors locked.
  2. Walk around your house, and go room to room to look for easy ways for intruders to gain entry. Opportunity and access can make your home a target.
  3. Buy timers that automatically switch lamps and radios on and off when you’re not at home. Install a motion detector light over your garage, and at entryways. At night, the lights will go on when you arrive home, or if someone walks up to your house.
  4. When you move into a new home, have the locks changed immediately. Get a deadbolt lock system. Your installer will provide a lock system for all doors that use the same key.
  5. Avoid giving copies of your house keys to service providers, such as housekeepers or dog walkers.
  6. Trim overgrown trees and shrubs around your house that may shield an intruder from view.
  7. It’s never a good idea to allow a stranger into your home, whether the person is asking you to sign a petition or offering to trim your trees. The person may be trying to “case” your home and return later to steal valuables.
  8. If you are going on holidays, make sure you stop the newspaper and mail delivery, or ask a trusted neighbor to collect the items, so they do not pile up at your house.
  9. Add an alarm system that has sensors you can place on windows. If a ground floor window is opened, a siren will go off.
  10. Elderly people and single women may be perceived as vulnerable by burglars. Don’t make it known to strangers that you live alone.
  11. Drip solders the screws of window locks, which will prevent a burglar from removing them.
  12. Consider installing a burglar alarm, whether it’s a simple device with a siren or a monitored system. Amateur burglars seek quick and easy targets. They will not try to break into homes if they think they will be caught. Amateurs look for opportunity — an open window or a door that is ajar.
  13. Semi-professional burglars case houses. They may drive back and forth for a week, or bicycle through a neighborhood to pick the “right” house — a property that seems vulnerable to break-in or forced entry.
  14. Burglars don’t waste time. Thefts occur in a matter of minutes, so lock your doors and arm your security system, even if you are leaving the house for a short time or run a quick errand.

Disposable income for Irish household’s rises by 2.2% for third Quarter of 2012


Irish households’ disposable income rose by 2.2 per cent in the third quarter of 2012, when compared with the same period in 2011.

This was an increase of €487 million, according to quarterly institutional sector accounts published today by the Central Statistics Office. Household spending climbed by €127 million in the third quarter when compared with the same period in 2011.

However, spending levels in the third quarter of 2012 were lower than they had been during the previous six months. The institutional sector accounts, which brings together information on the activities of households, businesses and the Government, show that the gross amount of household savings was €11.92 billion for the first three quarters of 2012.

This is more than the €9.3 billion of total savings recorded during 2011. The derived gross savings ratio increased by 14.5 per cent in the second quarter to 16 per cent in the third quarter last year. This ratio expresses household savings as a percentage of gross disposable household income.

Meanwhile, Government borrowing has fallen from €10.4 billion in third quarter 2011 to €5 billion in the same period in 2012. This represents a reduction of 52 per cent, in net borrowing. Meanwhile an Irish survey finds:

Irish peoples attitudes to saving getting worse


Some 48 per cent of Irish people are not putting any money aside for emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. Irish consumers are becoming less optimistic about their personal finances, with some 48 per cent of people not putting any money aside for emergencies or unforeseen circumstances.

This figure has increased by 6 per cent since November, when some 42 per cent of people were not saving, according to the latest Nationwide UK (Ireland) Savings Index.

The savings index fell from 98 to 81 in December, the lowest ever level since the index’s inception in April 2010, as increased negative sentiment towards the economic environment discouraged saving.

Some 65 per cent of people believe that they are saving less than they should while only 13 per cent say they are saving more than they think they should. A record 60 per cent of Irish people said government policy discourages saving.

The environment for savers has become more negative, according to Brendan Synnott, Managing Director of Nationwide UK (Ireland). “During 2012 people have found it increasingly difficult to save while at the same time, deposit interest rates have fallen thereby reducing their return for saving.”

Ireland’s health inflation third-lowest in the EU’


Ireland recorded the third-lowest rate of inflation in the health category in the EU in November, according to Minister for Health Dr James Reilly. Greece and Portugal were the countries that recorded lower figures, he revealed.


The type of prices included in the health category included medical products, appliances and equipment, hospital charges and outpatient services supplied by doctors, dentists, opticians, physiotherapists and practitioners of alternative and complementary medicine.

The Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for November 2012 indicated that Ireland had the second-lowest inflation rate in healthcare costs in the EU, behind the Netherlands, over the past six years. Figures for the UK are not available, but it is normally slightly better than Ireland, which would indicate that Ireland has the third-lowest rate.

The HICP is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) survey, which is designed to measure the change in the average level of prices (inclusive of all indirect taxes) paid for consumer goods and services by all private households in the country and by foreign tourists holidaying in Ireland.

Therefore it did not reflect price changes in the cost to the HSE of providing treatment, Dr Reilly said in response to Dáil questioning prior to the Christmas break.

News Ireland daily BLOG Saturday

Saturday 5th January 2013

Supermodel Naomi Campbell mugged by motorbike gang & left in a wheelchair


Supermodel Naomi Campbell has been injured in a mugging in Paris. Ms Campbell (42) was attacked while she travelled through an upmarket area of the city in late November.

The supermodel was targeted by two people on a motorbike who tried to grab her handbag as she sat in her car.

She was reportedly left with a torn ligament in her leg following the attack, which took place just off the Rue de Rivoli, in the heart of the French capital.

The catwalk model was later pictured sitting in a wheelchair with her left leg in a brace and it has been reported that she may need surgery to help her injuries heal fully.

French police have confirmed that two men on a motorcycle tried to grab her handbag as she sat in a car in the trendy Marais neighbourhood on November 21.

A spokesman for Ms Campbell has declined to comment on the incident and Paris police could not give details of any injuries, saying Campbell had declined an offer to be examined by doctors at the police station.

Surgeon: A police source said: “On November 21, two people on a motorbike attempted to steal Ms Campbell’s handbag as she sat in a vehicle on Rue de Moussy. She filed a complaint with police in the 4th arrondissement but she did not agree to a medical examination.”

According to reports, her billionaire Russian boyfriend Vladimir Doronin had her flown by private jet to Colorado, where she was cared for by a leading orthopaedic surgeon.

Mr Doronin is also believed to have stepped up security around the model since the mugging attempt.

There have been no arrests in connection with the case.

It is not the first time Ms Campbell (42) has encountered trouble on the road.

In 2010 she was accused of assaulting a driver from the back seat of a luxury 4×4.

The man went to the police but later apologised to Ms Campbell saying the incident was “blown out of proportion”. He did not press charges.

Ms Campbell has been convicted herself of assaults on her staff and on police officers and was ordered by one judge to attend anger management classes.

HSE employed chef in €8.8m centre has no kitchen in Galway to work in


The HSE is employing a fulltime children’s chef who has no kitchen to cook in and is paying a local bar to provide the meals instead.

The chef was transferred from the old children’s mental health unit in Galway to a new €8.8m centre. But the kitchen in the unit was not equipped for cooking hot food.

An investigation has revealed that the HSE has continued to pay the chef his €46,000 annual salary.

At the same time, it has paid a total of €155,000 to a local bar to supply breakfast, lunches, dinners and snacks to the 20 children in the unit.

The bizarre situation has been ongoing in the child mental health unit in Merlin Park Hospital in Galway for the past two years.

The HSE denied that the chef ’s only role in the child mental health unit was to serve food.

The health agency said the chef ’s other duties included taking daily orders for food, keeping daily food safety records, maintaining three kitchenettes (small food areas) in the wards in the unit and keeping the wards tidy.

But even though local HSE managers know the solution to the problem, no action has been taken so far.

The original aim was to allow the chef to cook in the Merlin Park Hospital kitchen, which is on the same grounds as the child mental health unit.

The HSE has confirmed that the chef has “no objection” to using the hospital kitchen.

But two years on, negotiations on getting the chef into the hospital kitchen have yet to start. The two sides involved – the management of the child mental health unit, and the management of the Merlin Park Hospital – must agree on what food will be provided from the kitchen and how much it will cost.

Negotiations are due to start on moving the chef into the main hospital kitchen when a new catering manager is appointed for Merlin Park Hospital.

But the revelation of the €155,000 food bill over the past two years while a full-time chef was employed on the payroll will raise questions about why local management in the Merlin Park unit are taking so long to solve the problem.

It comes at a time when mental health services for children and teenagers are under severe pressure, with more than 2,000 of them waiting for appointments. Almost 10,000 young people were referred to the mental services last year.

The unit as in Merlin Park Hospital, which has 20 beds for children aged between 10 and 18, has “almost 100pc” occupancy at the moment.

Previously, children with mental health problems in the west were cared for at St Anne’s Children’s Centre in Taylor’s Hill in Galway city.

But this was shut down once the new purpose-built unit was opened in the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital, 8km away, at a cost of €8.8m.


The HSE denied that having a “satellite kitchen”, which can only be used for the cold storage of foods instead of a full kitchen, was a planning oversight.

According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the HSE put the contract for supplying meals to the children in the unit out to tender in 2010.

The contract was awarded to Bodkins Bar in the Kingvalley Hotel on the Dublin Road, which is located just one kilometre away. It cost the HSE €106,855 in 2011.

But after the HSE decided to limit the variety of food offered on the menus, the cost was reduced by more than 50pc to €48,342 last year.

The bar is required to provide healthy food, with fresh fruit every day and fish twice a week.

Irish breakfasts are only available at the weekend.

There are also detailed requirements on the contract for the food to be transported at the correct temperature from the bar to the child mental health unit.

The quality of the food provided under the contract was praised by the Inspector of Mental Health in its 2011 inspection – which was carried out without prior warning.

“There was a menu and choice of food at mealtimes. Meals were obtained from a local hotel and were of good quality,” it said.

The HSE has insisted that it has secured value for money for taxpayers by negotiating down the cost of the food contract.

It denied that the situation was complicated by the fact that the child mental health unit was in its community care section, whereas the hospital kitchen was part of its acute care (hospital) section.

Gerry Adams underwent laser surgery on prostate problem during US trip


Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams underwent laser surgery to deal with a prostate problem in New York last summer.

The previously undisclosed visit emerged in documents filed by the party’s support group in the United States.

Mr Adams underwent the “surgical procedure” in early August, was kept overnight and then spent a further nine days recovering at a friend’s apartment in Manhattan.

Sinn Fein declined to give precise details of Mr Adams’s prostate problem. But it confirmed that it was “not cancer” and that the treatment he received had been a success.

The party said he had attended a medical consultation while he was in New York. It said a successful procedure followed which required him to stay in hospital overnight.

“Mr Adams was advised that the procedure he required – which involved laser treatment – was best done in New York,” it said in a statement.

Only men have a prostate gland. Around one in eight men in Ireland will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. But there are also other non-cancerous prostate problems such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, an enlargement of the prostate gland.

But it can be addressed with laser treatment.

Mr Adams had already been in the US for a number of days before the operation, arriving on July 30 ahead of a medical consultation the following day.

Details of his US trip emerged in documents filed by Friends of Sinn Fein, which raises large amounts of money in the US but is not allowed to send any back to Ireland.

Sinn Fein said that the issue of cost of the medical treatment, which is notoriously expensive in the US, was a matter for Mr Adams himself.

“Friends of Sinn Fein did not pay any costs toward this treatment nor was there any cost to the Irish taxpayer,” it said in a statement.

In the 12 months to October 31, Friends of Sinn Fein raised close to $500,000 (€383,000), from individuals, companies and unions across the US.

Mr Adams had one engagement during his time in the US, a dinner at the famous Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in Manhattan, hosted by the restaurant’s president, Joseph Smith.

He stayed at the home of Mr Smith before and after the operation and Mr Adams talked about job creation and investment at the dinner.

Donegal Old Age Pensioner gagged and punched during burglary raid


A 96-year-old woman has been taken to hospital after being gagged and punched in the ribs during a terrifying overnight burglary

A 96-year-old woman has been taken to hospital after being gagged and punched in the ribs during a terrifying overnight burglary on her home.

The elderly pensioner lives on her own in Aghilly in Buncrana, Co Donegal.

A masked man dressed in dark clothing broke into her home through a kitchen window and entered her bedroom at around 12.30am on Saturday morning, gardai said.

The attacker threatened the elderly woman, disarmed a panic alarm attached to her wrist and held a gag to her mouth while demanding money.

She was also punched in the ribs during the brutal ordeal.

The burglar, who had an accomplice waiting outside, then made off with the pensioner’s handbag, which contained cash and bank cards.

The woman managed to find her panic alarm and activated it, alerting gardai, who rushed to the scene.

She was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital for observation.

It is believed her injuries are not life-threatening.

Neighbours told gardai that two men dressed in dark clothing and with local accents were seen making off from the area in the direction of Tullydish.

U’2 leadman Bono’s eyes are deteriorating

Bono’s eye condition is deteriorating  and getting worse.

The U2 frontman has revealed in the past that he wears his ever present sunglasses because his eyes are sensitive to light but his close friend Julian has confirmed that the the condition is deteriorating.

“Bono actually has a condition with his eyes. I don’t know the exact issue but the brightness of the sun hurts them and it’s a deteriorating issue.”

However, Julian Lennon admitted the sunglasses have now become an integral part of Bono’s image too.
He added: “It’s part of his image so in some senses it was lucky but nor really of course.

“Maybe it’s part of his process now and without the image he can’t be Bono.”

Speaking about his eye condition previously, Bono, 52, admitted he has to be careful when being photographed by fans and paparazzi.

He said: “I have very sensitive eyes to light. If somebody takes a photograph, I will see the flash for the rest of the day. My right eye swells up.”

Organisers agree not to release helium balloons at Dublin Castle


The Dublin Castle launch of Ireland’s EU presidency on New Year’s Eve was altered at the last moment when an environmental group objected to the release of 40 helium-filled balloons on the basis that they could end up as “lethal marine debris”.

After Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) contacted both the Taoiseach’s office and the EU’s Blue Star education programme, it was agreed that the balloons would be secured by long string and taken home by schoolchildren involved in the launch.

FIE director Tony Lowes told the organisers: “It has been well established since a Canadian marine conference in 1989 that the release of gas-filled balloons is an environmental hazard.

“The fragments can become lethal ‘marine debris’, a hazard for sea turtles, dolphins, whales, fish and seabirds who mistake them for jellyfish or other natural prey.”

Neale Richmond, Blue Star Project Manager, said: “Following consultation with the Department of the Taoiseach, the ceremony was rearranged to include a “secure balloon release”, not a general balloon release.

“All of the 40 balloons had extra long string attached.”

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 4th January 2013

NAMA generates cash & pays off debts of €4.75bn


NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh and chairman Frank Daly

Nama has generated €10.5bn in cash and paid off €4.75bn in senior debt since it was set up in 2009, the agency has stated.

Nama has yielded €6.9bn through asset disposals and a further €3.5bn through rental incomes. Moreover, it ended 2012 with €3.6bn in cash balances. It is on course to meet its target of €7.5bn in senior bond redemption by the end of this year, it said in a statement.

Nama was set up in 2009 by the then finance minister Brian Lenihan to take over the large land development loans held by the domestic banks. Similar to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the agency is scheduled to run down its loanbook by 2020. It issued €32bn in bonds for €74bn of property loans.

According to its latest update, Nama made a €247m net profit in 2011, and a €222m net profit for the first six months of last year. When it was established, Mr Lenihan said the agency could make a €5bn profit. The target is now to break even over its lifetime.

Nama’s chief executive Brendan McDonagh said: “The generation of €10.5bn in cash in the 33 months since the first loans transferred to Nama reflects a strong performance in terms of asset disposals and also shows the importance for Nama of capturing the rental income from assets under the control of debtors.”

In May 2012, Nama announced it would make a €2bn capital investment in Irish property assets. Under this programme, it has approved €1.7bn in financing with just over €1bn of this drawn down so far.

Nama also announced last May that it was making available €2bn in vendor finance for potential buyers of assets under its control. It said the first transaction under this arrangement was made over the course of last year with a number of further potential transactions in the pipeline.

The agency has so far sold 3,900 individual properties and has €1.5bn of Irish assets currently on the market. A total of 3,879 properties have been earmarked for social housing. It is up to local authorities to determine whether these units are fit for social housing. So far 1,484 have been used for this purpose while another 841 are being evaluated.

Nama has sale agreed 100 of the 295 properties made available through the 80:20 deferred payment initiative. A total of 750 houses will made available under this programme during 2013.

Nama also yesterday appointed William O’Riordan and Declan MacDonald from PwC as receivers to five Treasury Holding companies — Treasury Holdings, Haybrook Ltd, Diamond Bay Ltd, Harrisrange Ltd and Streamglen Ltd.

‘Anna the heartbroken fiancée’ says I can’t imagine life without Ian McKeever

  Ian McKeever on the summit of Everest

Ian McKeever on the summit of Everest right and Ian McKeever pictured with heartbroken fiancee Anna O’Loughlin left photo.

Anna O’Loughlin, who was on Mount Kilimanjaroin Tanzania where her partner was struck and killed by lightning on Wednesday, said she would miss him terribly.

They had been looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of their first meeting, which falls today.

In an emotional statement, she said the couple knew they were “soul mates” from the moment they first met.

“I met Ian exactly a year ago, as was typical of Ian, so much was lived in this time,” she said. “From the moment we met we knew we were soul mates.

“We spent so much time together, Ian was never off duty when it came to his charity work and climbing, so we did that together, climbing, trekking and meeting and making friends from Carrauntoohil to Lugnaquilla.

“Ian, I love you dearly, I miss you terribly, I cannot conceive what to do next without you, but yet I know you will always be with me.”


Further details of the last moments of the 42-year-old mountaineer and adventurer have emerged, with Tanzanian authorities saying he was en route to hospital when he died.

It also emerged that three Irish climbers in his party were struck with the same bolt of lightning which killed Mr McKeever, but they survived with minor injuries.

The well-known charity fundraiser was leading an expedition of 24 climbers to the summit of Kilimanjaro when he was struck by lightning at about 12.30pm.

A spokesman for Tanzania National Parks, Pascal Shelutete, told the Irish Independent that four of the party were treated in hospital.

“There was quite a lot of rain, and about 24 people were on their fifth day climbing the mountain,” he said.

“They were about to reach the point where they were supposed to stay overnight, but at midday huge rains accompanied by thunderstorms and lightning occurred and unfortunately Mr McKeever was hit by that.

“Lightning is not common, it happens rarely; this is the first time we have experienced this calamity.”

Each route to the summit is covered by a rescue team, which was at the scene shortly after he was struck.

“He was still alive when the rescue team arrived there. On the way down, that’s where things went wrong and that’s when he passed away.”

Mr McKeever’s remains are expected to be repatriated next week.

The expedition began their ascent the day before New Year’s Eve.

Mr McKeever, from Roundwood in Co Wicklow, mentored hikers, including schoolchildren, and formerly held the record for scaling the seven highest peaks in the world.

Tributes were paid by family, friends and Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday.

Mr McKeever was “extremely passionate” and had helped countless young people believe they could achieve their potential, the Taoiseach said.

His sister, Denise (40), said the family was “absolutely devastated” at his untimely death. He is survived by Denise and his parents Niall and Aideen, who live in Wicklow.

“We were so proud of Ian. He died doing what he loved,” she said. “Ian was always on the go so he was a constant worry for my parents and myself. He absolutely loved Kilimanjaro and he climbed it hundreds of times. He loved teaching first-timers on the mountain and he thrived on all of that.”

HSE takes control of the Mulross Nursing Home in Leitrim


A HIQA report in May 2012 found several issues at the Mulross Nursing Home

The Health Service Executive has agreed to take control of the Mulross Nursing Home in Leitrim from this evening.

In a statement, the Health Information and Quality Authority said the registered provider of the home has agreed to HIQA’s decision to cancel his registration.

The HSE will make alternative arrangements for the management of the home.

Mulross Nursing Home in Kilclare, Carrick-on-Shannon, wrote to residents at the end of December saying it was to close and alternative accommodation would have to be found.

The home has operated since 1987 and has capacity for around 30 residents, with 32 staff.

Stephen Buckley, the registered provider, said that the home will not be able to meet the requirements of the 2009 Health Act by January 2014 and had to give notice to residents and staff.

Mr Buckley said that the physical structure and room sizes were issues and the building would not be compliant with regulations.

In recent weeks, Brindley Healthcare was engaged to help manage the home. It is leased from owner Patricia Foley.

Ms Foley today said that the physical structure issues can be dealt with by 2014.

The last HIQA inspection report on the home in May 2012 found that some actions required since the last inspection had not been implemented.

Among the issues of concern were the management of medicines, staffing and recruitment, maintenance of records, notification of incidents and the complaints procedure.

A HSE inspection in 2007 found the home was not complying with certain regulations, including the prevention of infection.

Irish consumers score a victory with Bruton’s new law on debit/credit card fees rip-off’s


Irish consumers will gain a small victory over rip-off retailers who charge high rates for credit and debit card transactions.

The Government is to target controversial handling charges imposed on cards when consumers shop online for items like airline or concert tickets.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton plans to introduce new legislation early this year to crackdown on the contentious charges on foot of an EU consumer directive.


The European Commission, EU governments and consumer groups have expressed concern that handling fees, like those imposed by Ryanair and Aer Lingus for airline tickets, have increased substantially in the last few years, despite a lack of evidence that the cost of processing the card payments has risen significantly.

Examples include Ryanair’s administration fee, which has jumped from €2.50 in 2006 to €6 today, while the Aer Lingus charge for handling credit card payments was €3 in 2008 compared with €6 now.

Mr Bruton’s plans to introduce the measures have missed their original deadline.

He promised last year that measures to improve consumer rights regarding fees imposed for the use of cards would be in place by the end of 2012.

His Department had been forced to seek further legal advice from the European Commission and the Attorney General as a result of an issue which emerged during a consultation process last Autumn, a department spokesman said.

It is understood credit card companies made last minute efforts to have some of the proposed measures changed at both national and EU level.

It’s not clear yet when consumers will get legislative protection against the charges as an EU directive on the issue does not have to be applied until June 2014. But Mr Bruton intends to introduce such legislation early in 2013, the spokesman said.

The Consumers Association of Ireland said the proposed changes were “critically important” due to continuing growth in online shopping.

“Handling charges were often used as a licence to print money which caused immense frustration for consumers,” chief executive Dermot Jewell said.

Government officials say average service charge for small businesses in Ireland for credit card transactions is between 1.5pc and 2.5pc of the total charge and 15c-50c for Laser and debit cards.

Bug outbreak leads to visiting restrictions at four west of Ireland hospitals


Parents have been advised to keep children away from the hospital

Visiting restrictions are in place at hospitals in Sligo, Letterkenny, Galway and Limerick following outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug.


Letterkenny, Galway and Limerich hospitals where a ban on visiting remains in place in an attempt to curb an outbreak of the bug.

Visitors to wards are prohibited, with the exception of agreed visits to critically ill patients.

Parents are also being advised to keep children away from all areas of the hospital.

People have been advised that they should only attend the Emergency Department if there is a genuine emergency.

Visiting restrictions have also been imposed at Sligo General Hospital.

Members of the public have been asked to visit only in essential or exceptional circumstances.

Immediate relatives are asked to visit only during the designated visiting times, 2pm-4pm and 6.30pm-8.30pm.

A statement says that children should not be brought in to visit. Restrictions are also in place in one ward at Cavan General Hospital.

Nine pot-bellied pigs found abandoned on a Irish mountain in Wexford


One of the pot-bellied pigs rounded up by South East Animal Rescue

Nine pot-bellied pigs have been found abandoned on a mountainside in the Republic of Ireland.

The piglets were discovered two days ago by a woman who was walking her dogs on Mount Leinster in County Wexford.

Volunteers from the south east animal rescue team rounded up the piglets and have appealed for help to re-home them.

They said they believed the animals, which are all male and 12-16 weeks old, were bred for Christmas presents and then dumped when they were not sold.

Heather Wall from the South East Animal Rescue said it took a team of volunteers two days to catch all the pigs and bring them off the mountain.

“They are very fast and they can hide,” Ms Wall told the Irish state broadcaster, RTE.

“We actually had to use dogs to sniff them out, to find them for us, because we didn’t have a hope,” she said.

“We were trying to look for them and the only thing you can do is, when you see one, just try and grab it because they squeal and they run around everywhere”.

All nine pigs are currently being given shelter by a foster family just outside Enniscorthy, County Wexford.

Ms Wall said she believed they were abandoned because they were male piglets, which are usually more difficult to sell as they are sometimes perceived as being more aggressive than females.

She added South East Animal Rescue has received a lot of interest and were hopeful that they could find permanent homes for all the animals.

The pot-bellied pig is a domesticated breed that originated in Vietnam.