Tag Archives: climate

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 21st December 2015

Almost all private sector staff will get a 2% pay increase next year according

To Mercer consultants


Almost all private sector staff, no matter where they work, can expect a salary increase of just over 2% next year, according to a major report published this morning.

The findings from consultants Mercer signal that after the long years of contraction and recession, pay increases are definitely back on the agenda.

Mercer said that surveyed 135 firms and almost all — 97% of the sample — have budgeted to pay out salary increases in 2016.

Workers can expect an average pay rise of 2.2% across most pay grades, and pay in the construction industry, which was particularly battered during the deep recession, is increasing too.

The average pay increases mask a wide range of pay increases which could in time open up big pay differentials for employees, depending on the profitability and growth prospects of their employers.

The survey found that the big winners are likely to be staff working for firms in life-science, high-tech and some non-banking service industries, who may strike pay increases of between 2.4% and 2.8%.

Possibly reflecting longer working hours and a pick-up in retail sales, retail and warehousing firms have “budgeted” for salary increases of 2.4%.

With salary increases of 2%, people working in the energy, consumer goods and manufacturing may fare less well.

Banking and financial services firms have budgeted to pay a 1.9% increase next year.

Noel O’Connor, a consultant at Mercer, said that the fall in unemployment was helping to push up pay.

“After a number of years of consolidation in the jobs market, we are beginning to see more activity as employees are increasingly tempted by new opportunities.

“The competition for talent seems to be particularly aggressive in the high-tech, life science and construction industries.”

CSO figures for average earnings and labour costs published late last month suggest pay may already be rising — but probably from a low base.

Average weekly earnings across many employment sectors rose in the third quarter 2.7% from a year earlier.

The CSO reported average weekly earnings increased in 11 of the 13 main sectors in the year with the largest earnings increases posted in the administrative and support services area, where weekly earnings rose 7.6%.

Over five years, average weekly earnings had fallen 10.6% in human health and social work, and had risen by almost 10% in administrative and support services.

Mr O’Connor said staff will likely also seek other non-income incentives to stay with an individual employer.

Unemployment has fallen sharply from its peak of over 15% in early 2012, but remains high.

The CSO said 191,700 people, 8.9% of the labour force, didn’t have jobs in November.

There are also many thousands of people on training courses who do not count toward the unemployment total.

In Britain, workers’ pay grew at a slower than expected pace in the three months to October, figures published last week by its Office for National Statistics showed.

Regular earnings of British workers — excluding bonuses — rose by 2% in the three months to October, its slowest since the three months to February.

PTSB to offer loans and overdrafts to small businesses

Move marks entry into new market as it seeks to diversify income stream


PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding said its aim was to offer “simple banking solutions” to small business owners.

Permanent TSB has launched a new offering targeted at small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and turnover of less than €10 million.

It marks the entry of the bank into the owner-managed small business market, a move that is aimed at diversifying its income stream away from personal lending and residential mortgages.

And it is the first suite of business banking products launched by PTSB since the financial crisis blew up in 2008.

The business products include overdrafts, loans and mortgages. Overdrafts will attract an interest rate of 8 per cent, loans will be available at 6.5 per cent and mortgages at 4.5 per cent.

PTSB has also launched a Visa business debit card for SME customers and an enhanced BUSINESS24 internet banking service, which will be available from the New Year. Killian O’Flynn has been appointed as head of business banking.

The services were launched today by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonanat its new branch and business centre on O’Connell Street in Limerick.

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding said its aim was to offer “simple banking solutions” to small business owners. “We now offer competitively-priced overdrafts and loans, specifically focused on small businesses, and our intention is to expand on these in the coming months,” he said, adding that advisers would be available in each of its 77 branches, supported by SME business managers and a central SME banking team .

Mr Noonan welcomed PTSB’s decision to expand its product range to support small businesses. “With the addition of Permanent TSB as a new lender to this sector, I welcome the benefits that increased banking competition will offer SMEs throughout Ireland,” he said.

PTSB is spending €1.7 million to reconfigure its Limerick branches, including a second new outlet in Castletroy.

New Cross-Border Garda/PSNI task-force will investigate organised crime

Body will tackle tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering, fraud, cyber crime, human trafficking


The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said issues of tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering, fraud, cyber crime and human trafficking will be dealt with in a more focused way by a new cross-Border taskforce.

A new cross-Border taskforce is to be established to investigate organised crime on both sides of the Border, including paramilitarism.

The new body will be funded by Governments in Dublin and Belfast and will be led by senior officials within An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said issues of tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering, fraud, cyber crime and human trafficking will be dealt with in a more focused way by the taskforce.

She said: “This arises from the Fresh Start agreement. This is a particular initiative to tackle cross-Border crime.

‘Criminals don’t respect borders’

“We know criminals don’t respect the borders, whether we are talking about in Ireland or internationally, and it is to deal effectively with the disruption to communities.”

The taskforce will work with the Revenue Commissioners and HM Revenue and Customs and will seek to end the exploitation of the borders between the two jurisdictions.

First Minister Peter Robinson said the taskforce will begin its work next month.

He said criminal gangs have used the Border for their benefit, adding that the taskforce would assist in ending paramilitarism.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the activities of those who attempt to “plunge us back into the past need to be confronted”.

He said: “Criminality is a scourge on our communities, North and South, and we must be both united and relentless in our pursuit of these criminals.

“This Joint Agency Task Force provides renewed energy, focus and additional mechanisms for us to work collectively for the greater good of people across the island of Ireland.”

SuperValu retains Irish grocery market share top spot

Dunnes closes gap on Tesco as Lidl continues to enjoy growth


Supervalu has 24.7% of the market compared to the 24.1% which Tesco has. Dunnes Stores has 23.8%.

Tesco is now just 0.3 per cent ahead of Dunnes Stores in the Republic’s grocery share wars and the retailer that once had a commanding lead of more than 5 per cent is now dangerously close to slipping into third place.

The latest supermarket share figures from Kantar Worldpanel show that SuperValu will be Ireland’s largest grocery retailer when Christmas Day dawns although less than 1 per cent now separates first and third.

Supervalu has 24.7% of the market compared to the 24.1% which Tesco has. Dunnes Stores has 23.8 per cent.

“It hasn’t all been plain sailing for SuperValu – over the past six months the retailer has seen falling shopper numbers, but in the past 12 weeks it has managed to get that issue under control,” said David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel .

“This has allowed SuperValu to strengthen its position at the top, posting impressive sales growth of 3.7% and increasing its share of the grocery market to 24.7% Alongside a strong performance in its traditional heartland – fruit and vegetables – the grocer also posted excellent sales in confectionery, crisps and snacks and soft drinks during the past quarter.

He said that while value sales may have dipped in Tesco there has been growth in the number of items shoppers are picking up on each trip. “The reduction in value sales is linked to the fact that these items are at a lower price point than last year, leading to a dip in the retailer’s value share of the grocery market.”

Dunnes’ sales continue to grow, with an increase of 3.6% this period to cap off a strong year – the retailer has seen non-stop sales growth for the whole of 2015 and has continually managed to encourage shoppers to spend more per trip, with its Shop and Save campaign helping to create a more loyal customer base and increase its market share to 23.8%.

Elsewhere, Lidl continues to post the strongest growth with sales increasing by 10.6% as 37,000 more shoppers visited the retailer compared with the same time last year.

Dublin has proved a particularly strong region for Lidl, with shopper numbers in the nation’s capital increasing by 10% this quarter. Aldi’s performance remains ahead of the overall market, with sales growth of 2.6% and market share holding at 8.4%.

“While the big Christmas shop has yet to take place there are signs that shoppers may have begun their preparations for the festive season earlier this year,” Mr Berry said.

“Confectionery, crisps and snacks have all seen double digit growth in shopper spend when compared with last year, helping to increase overall grocery sales by 2.5%. Such strong growth is an early indicator that Ireland’s retailers could be in for a bumper Christmas, and we’re sure to see grocers competing eagerly for the biggest slice of festive sales.”

Secret of why birds never grey revealed raising prospect of clothes that never fade

Scientists have disclosed for the first time why birds’ plumage never fades leading to hopes that ‘fade-proof’ clothes could be on the horizon


A jay (Left) with not even a hint of grey.

Scientists have discovered why birds never go grey – and the secrets of how our feathered friends fine-tune their plumage could be used to prevent our clothes fading in the wash.

New research has revealed birds use sophisticated changes to the structure of their feathers to create a multi-coloured appearance.

The discovery by Sheffield University could now pave the way for the creation of paints and clothing colours that retain their colour over time.

Examination of the blue and white feathers of the Jay showed rather than dyes and pigments that fade, the birds use well-controlled changes to the nanostructure to create their vividly coloured feathers.

The Jay is able to pattern these different colours along an individual feather barb – the equivalent of having many different colours along a single human hair.

“If nature can assemble this material ‘on the wing’, then we should be able to do it synthetically too.”

The Jay’s feather, which goes from ultra violet in colour through to blue and into white, is made of exactly the same kind of material as human hair and fingernails.

The researchers found that the Jay is able to demonstrate amazing control over the sponge-like structure, which determines the colour when exposed to light.

A flock of goldfinches, with their colourful plumage, will lighten up any garden  Photo: ALAMY

So birds never go grey as they age – unlike humans whose hair is coloured by pigments, which is not produced in the same quantities as we grow older.

If the colours were formed using pigments created from the bird’s diet, the feather colour would fade over time.

Dr Andrew Parnell, from Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy said: “If nature can assemble this material ‘on the wing’, then we should be able to do it synthetically too.

“This discovery means that in the future, we could create long-lasting coloured coatings and materials synthetically.

“Now we’ve learnt how nature accomplishes it, we can start to develop new materials such as clothes or paints using these Nanostructuring approaches.”

“By adjusting the size and density of the holes in the spongy like structure – that determines what colour is reflected.

“Current technology cannot make colour with this level of control and precision – we still use dyes and pigments.

“Now we’ve learnt how nature accomplishes it, we can start to develop new materials such as clothes or paints using these Nanostructuring approaches.

“It would potentially mean that if we created a red jumper using this method, it would retain its colour and never fade in the wash.”

The research was carried out in France and also used feathers selected from the extensive collection at the Natural History Museum in London.

The findings are being published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Researcher Dr Daragh McLoughlin of AkzoNobel, which makes Dulux paint, added: “This exciting new insight may help us to find new ways of making paints that stay brighter and fresher-looking for longer, while also having a lower carbon footprint.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Thursday 3rd December 2015

White Paper to address concerns over Ireland’s wind power

Minister Alex White denies ministerial rift with Alan Kelly over wind turbine regulations


Minister for Energy Alex White warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have on the issue

The Government’s White Paper on energy will be published next week and will address “tension” between energy policy and the “genuine concern” local communities have about wind turbines, according to the Minister for Energy.

Alex White also warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have.

They had to match that to “what we need to do as a country to have a renewable energy policy that meets the challenges of the future”.

Mr White has denied a ministerial rift between himself and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly over draft wind energy guidelines, published two years ago but still not decided on. A final decision had been expected in 2014.

The guidelines deal with turbine size, their shadow flicker, noise levels and the setback distance from dwellings. Planning applications for wind turbines are currently operating on guidelines from 2006.

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy had asked if talks between himself and Mr Kelly had broken down.

He said Mr Kelly favoured a distance of between 600m and 1.5km from dwellings but that Mr White was on record in disagreeing with long distances from housing because it would wipe out onshore wind energy in Ireland.

Mr White insisted: “Nothing has broken down between Ministers in relation to it. The departments are continuing to consider what would be the best set of guidelines. But we have guidelines in place at the moment.”

The Minister said there was a good argument to make the guidelines statutory with a very strong case for changing them to deal with the issue of noise and shadow flicker.

However, he said “the issue of having a setback distance that’s unconnected to the issue of noise or shadow flicker is more problematic in my view and I’ve been very honest about that.

“If we put in place a setback distance of the kind some people are advocating, it would wipe out onshore wind in this country as a renewable.”

International best practice

Mr Troy said Fianna Fáil had published its alternative policy and had visitedDenmark to consult the experts in a country that is held up for international best practice.

He said Denmark had moved away from onshore to offshore wind energy. His party was committed to meeting the European Union targets but the wind issue was one of huge concern.

“It might not be a big issue in the centre of Dublin but it is in my constituency of Longford-Westmeath,” he said in reference to Mr White’s Dublin South constituency.

Confirming the White Paper would be published next week, Mr White said a central element would be addressing the genuine tension between what needed to be done with renewable energy and the genuine concerns of citizens.

New draft provisions to regulate wind energy were published two years ago, which included noise limits of 40 decibels and a setback distance of 500m.

Over 3,500 HSE public patients waiting three months for colonoscopy

Irish Cancer Society warns disease will have advanced in some due to delay in diagnosis


More than 3,500 public patients have been waiting at least three months for a colonoscopy. Private patients can access the test within 12 days.

Some of the 3,510 patients currently waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy will have a cancer that may have advanced because diagnosis was delayed, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.

The number of patients waiting that long for the test peaked in October at 4,235 before dropping back to 3,510 by the end of November. This is an increase of 954 people on the same time last year.

The society said that colonoscopy waiting times are unacceptable and highlight the health gap between those who can pay and those who cannot. Private patients can access the test within 12 days.

The consequence of a person waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy could be that if they have bowel cancer, it may be diagnosed at a later stage. This means that there may be fewer treatment options available than if it had been caught earlier and the treatment prescribed could be more invasive. The survival rates also decrease the later the stage of the cancer at diagnosis.

“The Irish Cancer Society is deeply concerned by the large number of people waiting longer than three months for a colonoscopy,” the society said. “The HSE is a long way off meeting its target of performing 100 per cent of colonoscopies within 13 weeks.

“Currently, 41 per cent of patients are waiting longer than three months for the cancer test. The tragic reality is that we can expect some colorectal [bowel] cancers to be diagnosed when the patients on waiting lists eventually receive their colonoscopy.”


The organisation’s head of advocacy Kathleen O’Meara added that long-term solutions were required to solve the ongoing issues and called for investment to ensure enough radiographers and gastroenterologists were working in Irish hospitals.

“We also want GPs to have clear guidelines for when they should refer a patient for a colonoscopy and when another investigation is better suited,” she said.

“Additionally, we are hopeful that hospitals working within the same hospital group will co-ordinate their colonoscopy workloads so that a situation where endoscopy suites in one hospital are under-utilised while a hospital in the same group is overburdened, is avoided.”

The November waiting list figures show an overall drop of 725 patients in the past month. “It is certainly a move in the right direction but given no one should be waiting more than 13 weeks and the fact that there are still 3,510 public patients waiting more than this time, the drop needs to continue and the underlying problem solved,” Ms O’Meara said.

Separately, research from the Lancet Oncology shows the price of new cancer drugs varies by 28 per cent to 388 per cent between high-income countries in Europe and Oceania .

The study reveals that overall the UK and Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal pay the lowest average unit manufacturer prices for a group of 31 originator cancer drugs (new drugs under patent), whereas Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany pay the highest prices.

The trial of mother for cruelty to eight children collapses

Jury told technical difficulties were to blame as video link evidence had not been recorded


The trial of a mother who faces charges of cruelty and neglect towards eight of her children (Not the above family) over a six-year period has collapsed due to technical difficulties at Galway courthouse.

It was discovered late on Wednesday evening that a live video link facility, which was used to allow a child give evidence from another room in the courthouse that afternoon, was not recording her evidence to the trial.

Judge Karen O’Connor explained to the jury on Thursday morning that, by law, evidence heard by video-link “shall” be recorded, but unfortunately, in this case, she said, this did not occur in relation to the girl’s evidence on Wednesday afternoon.

Judge O’Connor said she had no alternative but to discharge the jury “with regret”.

She told jurors a new trial will begin with a new jury in due course.

Judge O’Connor then listed the case for trial on January 12th.

The woman, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the children, pleaded not guilty to 44 charges before Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

The charges include child cruelty by wilfully assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting, or abandoning the children, or causing or allowing the children to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to their health or well-being.

The offences, contrary to section 246 (1) and (2) of the Children Act 2001, are said to have occurred on dates between September 1st, 2006, and May 12th, 2011.

Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, told the jury on Wednesday some of the children would be giving their evidence for the prosecution by either live videolink from a separate room in the courthouse or, in the case of the younger ones, by previously taped interviews with specially-trained Garda interviewers.

Physical abuse

Mr Costelloe said it would be the prosecution case that after the children were taken into care in May 2011, and were placed with foster parents, they began to tell of how their mother physically abused them over the years.

They recounted stories of how she used to assault them with wooden spoons, a leather belt and a bamboo back-scratcher, and hit their heads off the furniture. She would also pour washing-up liquid down their throats if they said a bad word.

Two of the boys recalled their mother threw them out of her car one day because they were messing and had spilled icecream in the back seat. They said she then drove the car at them and they had to jump up on a hedge to avoid being hit.

The eldest child gave evidence by videolink telling the court “she was not a proper mother”.

“She abandoned her children,” the girl said. The girl said that when her mother started drinking sessions in the house it would always end in violence for the children. “There would be violence towards me too. My mother came home from a concert once very drunk … her partner told her I said a bad word and my mother dragged me off the couch by my hair. She dragged me into the kitchen and put my face down into the sink.

“She started to choke me and she began filling the sink with water to drown me – just because of one word,” the girl said.

She recalled her mother leaving the home to go drinking around the time of her 14th birthday. She said the mother returned home the next day and slapped her across the face while saying “that is your birthday present”.

Urgent need now to educate Irish youth as HIV cases skyrocket


Deirdre Seery (above left), Cork Sexual Health Clinic, said a new generation of young people had not been targeted by safety campaigns.

A marked rise in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV has prompted calls for new information campaigns and a nationwide introduction of free test kits.

So far this year, there have been 427 new cases of HIV, compared to 342 this time last year, figures from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre show.

The statistics were discussed yesterday as part of a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee, held to mark World Aids Day.

“The age group of people most at risk of HIV is getting younger,” said Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “There is a real and urgent need to educate a new generation of young people, and young gay and bisexual men in particular, about HIV and the importance of knowing your HIV status.”

r Brady tsaid that, since 2005, the number of gay men diagnosed with HIV had increased by 210%.

“It is clear from the latest figures that HIV remains an issue of critical concern for gay and bisexual men,” he said. “The figures for 2015 show that gay and bisexual men are the group most likely to acquire HIV.”

CEO of the Cork Sexual Health Clinic, Deirdre Seery, called for a rise in rapid, free, community-based tests and new information campaigns.

“There are new, younger generations of people becoming HIV positive who would not have been exposed to the old safer sex and safer drug use campaigns,” she said.

Also yesterday, Health Minister Leo Varadkar unveiled HIV Ireland, formerly the Dublin Aids Alliance.

“This rebranding is a positive step which can only build on all the good work the organisation has performed so far,” he said, adding the Government would pilot a rapid HIV test service.

“Early detection allows treatment to start early, it minimises the long-term health implications, and reduces potential new infections,” he said.

Taller or bigger people might live shorter lives, according to scientific research


Bad news for big people – you might have a shorter lifespan than your smaller counterparts, research suggests.

A new study on wild house sparrows showed how changes in DNA that are linked to ageing and lifespan take place as body size gets bigger.

The research centred on telomeres, a special DNA structure which all animals, including humans, have at the ends of their chromosomes and are said to function like “the protective plastic caps at the end of shoelaces”.

Who needs such a good view anyway?

Growing a bigger body means cells divide more and part of our telomeres are eroded, making cells and tissues function less well, researchers say. So, you may be able to reach the milk at the back of the top shelf at the supermarket, tall people, but your DNA isn’t happy about it.

The study, conducted jointly by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine and the Centre of Biodiversity Dynamics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that skeletally bigger house sparrows had shorter telomeres.

Pat Monaghan, regius professor of zoology at the University of Glasgow, who supervised telomere analysis, said: “The reason why the bigger individuals have shorter telomeres might also be related to increased DNA damage due to growing faster. Being big can have advantages, of course, but this study shows that it can also have costs.”

Those tiny birds have nothing to worry about, really (Tomas Belka/birdphoto.cz/Univers)

Thor Harald Ringsby, associate professor in population ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said: “The results from this study are very exciting and broad-reaching. It is especially interesting that we obtained these results in a natural population.

“The reduction in telomere size that followed the increase in body size suggests one important mechanism that limits body size evolution in wild animal populations.”

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal. The study was funded by the European Research Council and the Research Council of Norway.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Irish consumers are saving not borrowing, survey finds

Household deposits jump in October by €1.1bn – the most since December 2008


Mortgage lending fell by €138 million, down by 2.4% on an annual basis, according to latest figures from the Central Bank.

Lending to Irish households fell again in October, as deposits rose sharply, showing that despite the nascent recovery, Irish consumers are continuing to save, rather than borrow, according to a Central Bank survey.

Lending to consumers fell by 2.5% on an annual basis, as consumers repaid more than they borrowed. During the month, loan repayments exceeded drawdowns by €253 million, as mortgage lending fell by €138 million, down by 2.4% on an annual basis, and loans for other purposes fell by €115 million, down 3% year on year.

While Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Capital, noted that an underlying problem is “as much about the lack of demand for credit as it is about the supply of credit”, he also said “ the real issue is the price of credit”.

“Even with record low Eurozone interest rates, small businesses are reporting that the cost of servicing loans here in Ireland has risen quite sharply, which is unsustainable in the long-run. As a result, individuals and firms are now disposing of assets and clearing their borrowings,” he said.

Deposits rose again during the month, up by €3.9 billion to €178 billion, driven by a sharp growth in household deposits.

These rose by €1.1 billion during the month, marking the largest month-on-month increase in this category since December 2008. Deposits grew by 2.6 per cent, on an annual basis, with consumers opting for overnight deposits over their fixed term alternative, with such deposits falling by €5.3 billion in October.

Repeat Irish offender criminals to be targeted under new strategy to tackle crime levels here


Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD

Two hundred criminals who are classified as ‘repeat offenders’ are to be targeted as part of new strategy involving Gardaí, the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service.

The Joint Agency Response to Crime initiative (J-ARC) will see offenders take part in programmes to help them reconnect with the families, receiving treatments for problems such as addiction and get help finding training or work placement.

Launching the scheme in Dublin today, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “I would also like to oversee a system which aims to reduce the number of victims by a reduction in offending”.

“The launch of J-ARC today is an endorsement of the work done by criminal justice agencies and community organisations together in challenging offending behaviour which has at its centre the needs of victims to feel safer in their communities.”

The J-ARC strategy prioritises certain prolific offenders and to develop specific initiatives which will address their behaviour and reduce crime thereby increasing community safety.

In Ireland it is estimated that 75pc of property crime is linked to 25pc of offenders.

“Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“While I believe that prison is the right place for serious and serial offenders, listening to the offenders who are participating in the J-ARC programmes clearly demonstrates the real benefit of providing support and hope to those who wish to change their offending ways.

“A change in a person’s offending ways has a direct effect on reducing the number of crime victims.”

Already three pilot schemes have been under way in the capital and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said she would like to see the initiative rolled out nationwide in the future.

In Ballymun, a pilot known as STRIVE has targeted prolific offenders within East Ballymun whose behaviour is undermining the community’s quality of life.

Another scheme known as ‘Bridge Change Works Programme’ is targeting adult male offenders living in Dublin with a history of violent crime.

And a third pilot, called Accer3, is for offenders charged with burglary.

Government job strategy targeting 28,000 extra jobs in the north west

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton will launch plans in Sligo and Drogheda. 


The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton will launch a job strategy for the north east and north west region today.

A Government job strategy for the north east and north west regions aims to create 28,000 jobs by 2020.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton will launch the plans in Sligo and Drogheda today.

The North East/North West Action Plan for Jobs is part of the Government’s € 250 million regional jobs strategy.

During the downturn, 31,600 jobs were lost in the region, which covers counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth,

The new strategy is targeting employment growth of 10-15% over and above current employment levels.

Key sectors targeted as part of the plan include traditionally strong sectors for the region like agri-food, manufacturing/engineering and tourism, as well as areas targeted for future growth like digital payments, clean tech and creative services.

Mr Bruton said: “Jobs are growing right across the country, but they are growing faster in some regions than in others.”

“That is why we have put in place the € 250 million regional jobs strategy, to support regions to play to their strengths and accelerate jobs growth in every area,” he said.

Electronic devices/games making children very ‘tired and cranky’

Children who watch too much TV at ‘significantly higher’ risk of language delay


Children under two years who spend a lot of time in front of electronic screens have a ‘significantly higher chance’ of suffering from language delays and poor sleeping habits.

Children are becoming increasingly angry, tired, passive and cranky after using electronic devices such as computers and smart phones, according to a survey into the attitudes of Irish parents.

The research from Early Childhood Ireland found two out of three parents believed it was okay for a young child to use technology freely but warned that by the age of seven the average child would have spent a year of their life watching television and using screen devices.

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, Early Childhood Ireland is recommending that parents turn off TVs and computers when not in use, establish “screen-free zones” in the home where there are no electronic devices and agree on set times for TV and computer use.

Based on 2013 recommendations from the US Department of Health, Early Childhood Ireland suggested that children under two years of age should not use screen devices at all and that children aged 2-5 years should not watch screens for more than one hour a day.

Parents should also set a good example to their children by restricting their own screen diet.

The Early Childhood Ireland survey, carried out among 332 parents from across the State earlier this year, found 20% of those surveyed felt smart phones made parenting easier, while 72% said the purpose of their child watching TV is relaxation.

It warned that children under two years who spend a lot of time in front of electronic screens had a “significantly higher chance” of suffering from language delays and poor sleeping habits.

Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney said the research showed a number of worrying trends and contradictions and also the need for parents to have clear parameters around screen time for young children, especially at bedtime.

Some 85% of Irish children under the age of 2 have been exposed to TV or DVDs, the research showed.

The survey also found that while 58% of Irish five-year-olds spend less than two hours in front of a screen, 14% are using screens for more than three hours every day.

UK-based psychologist Dr Aric Sigman warned that some children are spending more time watching TV than they spend in school. Dr Sigman said that by the age of seven, most children will have spent a full year of 24 hours days watching TV or using electronic devises.

Writing in an American Academy of Paediatrics scientific paper published in 2013, Dr Sigman warned that children’s reliance on TV, computers and screen games was causing developmental damage and highlighted the importance of eye-to-eye interaction between parents and young children during the first few years of their life.

The research also found 75% of parents believe technology has educational benefits for young children.

Early Childhood Ireland agrees that technology can be “engaging and empowering” for children over three but only when screen time is carefully monitored and quality content is viewed.

100 million-year-old dog sized dinosaur fossil discovered

Scientist says the teeth of the species curves downwards and outwards in a beak shape


An artist’s impression of a dog-sized horned dinosaur (left Pic.) which roamed eastern North America up to 100 million years ago. An aA scientist has uncovered the fossil of a dog-sized horned dinosaur that roamed eastern North America up to 100 million years ago.

The fragment of jaw bone provides evidence of an east-west divide in the evolution of dinosaurs on the North American continent.

During the Late Cretaceous period, 66 to 100 million years ago, the land mass was split into two continents by a shallow sea.

This sea, the Western Interior Seaway, ran from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.

Dinosaurs living in the western continent, called Laramidia, were similar to those found in Asia.

However, few fossils from the eastern “lost continent” of Appalachia have been discovered as the areas are densely vegetated, making it difficult to discover and excavate fossils.

Dr Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution based at the University’s of Bath’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry, studied one of these rare fossils.

The fossil, kept in the Peabody Museum at Yale University, turned out to be from a member of the horned dinosaurs, the Ceratopsia.

Dr Longrich was unable to identify the exact species accurately but it had a strange twist to the jaw, causing the teeth to curve downward and outwards in a beak shape.

The jaw was also more slender than that of Ceratopsia found in western North America, suggesting the dinosaurs had different diets and evolved along distinct evolutionary paths.

“Just as many animals and plants found in Australia today are quite different to those found in other parts of the world, it seems that animals in the eastern part of North America in the Late Cretaceous period evolved in a completely different way to those found in the western part of what is now North America due to a long period of isolation,” Dr Longrich said.

“This adds to the theory that these two land masses were separated by a stretch of water, stopping animals from moving between them, causing the animals in Appalachia to evolve in a completely different direction, resulting in some pretty weird looking dinosaurs.

“Studying fossils from this period, when the sea levels were very high and the landmasses across the Earth were very fragmented, is like looking at several independent experiments in dinosaur evolution.

“At the time, many land masses — eastern North America, Europe, Africa, South America, India, and Australia — were isolated by water.

“Each one of these island continents would have evolved its own unique dinosaurs — so there are probably many more species out there to find.”

Ceratopsia is a group of plant-eating horned dinosaurs that lived in the Cretaceous period.

The fossil Dr Longrich studied comes from a smaller cousin of the better known Triceratops, the leptoceratopsids — about the size of a large dog.

His study, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, highlights it as the first fossil from a ceratopsian dinosaur identified from this period of eastern North America.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 29th November 2015

France stress the urgency of saving the Earth in climate change issue

Struggles against climate change and terrorism two greatest issues of the 21st century,


The COP21 United Nations conference on climate change which begins today is being presented by French media as “two weeks to save the Earth”.

The gathering of 150 heads of state and government is the largest ever hosted by France. “Their presence en masse shows the necessity and urgency of action,” said the French foreign minister and president of COP21, Laurent Fabius.

President François Hollande will begin greeting the heads of state and government in the Le Bourget exhibition park – usually the site of an air show – at 8am today.

The conference will formally open at 11.00am, with a minute of silence in homage to the victims of the November 13th attacks.

After the “family photo,” the heads of state and government have been asked to limit their speeches to three minutes each. Because their number is so great, they will speak in two different conference rooms.

The speeches will be interrupted for an all-organic lunch prepared by five leading French chefs.

Mr Fabius said the meal “will reflect environmental and French excellence, since diplomacy does not exclude conviviality – au contraire. We wanted to promote our gastronomy.”

All this week, the 1,500 negotiators who have hammered out a 50-page draft agreement will meet in groups and spin-off groups, behind closed doors. Their text will be finalised by Mr Fabius and the heads of 195 delegations between December 5th and 11th.

At the same time, leaders will stage symbolic media events to launch initiatives intended to curb global warming.

The three most important events today will be “Mission Innovation” led byBill Gates and President Barack Obama. It will commit the 19 developed countries who represented 80 per cent of clean energy research to double their research and development budgets.

The White House is uneasy about security within the UN zone and has chosen to hold events involving Mr Obama off site. He will be the guest of honour at dinner at the Élysée Palace tonight.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi will launch a “solar alliance” of countries lying between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

More than 100 countries enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine annually, and believe they can lower the cost of solar energy through economies of scale.

Finally, the World Bank will host a press conference with Mr Hollande and the heads of state of Canada, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany and Mexico to emphasise the importance of setting a price on carbon pollution.

Mr Fabius has said “the struggle against climate change and the struggle against terrorism are the two greatest challenges of the 21st century”.

France has been called upon to play a role in both,” he added. “Is it an accident of history?”

Ireland’s restaurants to hit diners with €1 charge for glass of tap water


Diners set to be charged for tap water

A glass of tap water with your carvery lunch will cost €1 next year – as restaurant owners pass on massive commercial rate increases to diners, Restaurant industry experts say a tap water charge is likely to be introduced in line with anticipated hikes in water charges for businesses next year.

Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants’ Association of Ireland, says a reasonable charge on tap water is “only fair” as he claims Irish Water has repeatedly “flagged” plans to increase commercial water rates.

“They have flagged the issue to us and it’s my opinion that they are softening us up. They are getting us ready for a rise in rates and it’s going to have a major knock-on affect on our industry,” he said.

“Businesses are going to get hit with the cost so we need to look at how to recoup that cost and we feel a small charge on good quality tap water is a fair and equitable way of doing it,” he said. Mr Cummins expects many restaurants, pubs and coffees shops, that already pay hefty water bills to local authorities, to apply a €1 tariff on filtered tap water.

He says some restaurants will be looking at it more seriously than others.

“Some will say they’ll provide filtered water at a charge of €1 for a bottle, and that’s it – customers can have as much water as they want throughout the night,” he said, adding that sparkling and still water will be made available.

“From a logical perspective, if you invest in equipment that provides good quality, filtered, good-tasting drinking water then restaurants will probably add a charge to the bill,” he said.

“Some people think it’s carte blanche but we’re not a public service – it’s a business and people need to respect that,” he said.

However, he said it’s unlikely a uniform system will be implemented for all establishments.

“Those who feel they should be charging for tap water will be on a case-to-case basis. A lot of restaurants are already putting in that type of a system,” he said.

According to Irish Water, there are approximately 500 separate tariffs for non-domestic water customers around the country.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water described the current system as “a legacy of the historic provision of water services by more than 30 separate local authorities”.

These tariffs were carried forward to Irish Water and will remain in place until a new tariff structure is approved by the regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

“The CER will undertake a process to define and agree the appropriate and enduring tariff arrangements for non-domestic customers of Irish Water in the future. This process is likely to take a number of years and will involve extensive public consultation,” said the spokeswoman.

However, the Restaurants’ Association of Ireland is concerned the new system will be introduced sooner rather than later and will have lasting ramifications for the industry.

“We are being softened up now for all of this,” said Mr Cummins, adding that consumers need to be aware of the situation.

“We’re not like the households where you pay a flat fee, you pay per consumption so the more you consume the more you pay. We have to educate consumers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland says diners won’t appreciate a charge on tap water.

Dermott Jewell, policy advisor at the consumer body, said: “Tap water is viewed by customers as part of the standard charge of provision of service.

“It’s a bad charge, it’s poorly thought out and it’s going to hurt them.

“Even if it’s filtered, not all water is of the same quality from every tap and that needs to be considered.

“We understand a rise in rates is a cost to business but tap water has always been deemed part of general service and a move away from that will indirectly backfire,” he said.

ICMSA members told low interest 15-year loans for farmers ‘in pipeline’


Irish Farmers may be able to avail of low-interest 15-year loans backed by the European Investment Bank by mid-2016, ICMSA members have heard at its AGM in Limerick.

In a week dominated by salary issues at its IFA rivals, the ICMSA event also featured news of a possible softening in the Russian embargo on EU food imports, and talk that EU may support food producers in their battles with retailers.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan told the ICMSA’s members that market indicators pointed to an improvement in the milk price towards the end of 2016. Both would continue to seek EU supports such as storage aid and measures to improve volatility controls.

They also told dairy farmers the proposed EIB loans would give farmers more competitive options than those available with the two main Irish commercial banks.

Mr Hogan said: “I want to make it possible for people to have access to 15-year or even 20-year money rather than the present three-year loan arrangements.”

Dairy farmer Lorcan McCabe said farmers are paying 4.5% or 5% interest on loans versus the 0.5% being paid by farmers in Austria.

“Irish farmers are paying too much to banks in terms of interest rates on short term loans,” said Mr Coveney.

“We are trying to intervene. The banks see farmers as a good bet.”

As to why fertiliser prices have stayed stubbornly high despite falling fuel costs, Mr Hogan urged farmer groups to gather any data indicative of a cartel among fertiliser companies. He said the EU has been successful in stamping out anti-competitive practices in the past.

Mr Hogan also offered some support for ICMSA calls for EU measures to ensure greater fairness in the food supply chain, a matter which is up for review in 2016.

IMCSA president John Comer said the farm gate milk price has fallen up to 40%, while EU retail prices have only fallen by 2% this year.

Mr Comer said: “Whenever the supply situation permits them, retailers just wipe out the margins of everyone behind them all the way back to the cow. And they’re allowed to do it.

“No-one seems to find anything wrong with this grotesque abuse of their dominance. Control of indigen-ous EU food production has got to be taken back from the greedy clutches of multinational retail corporations.”

Mr Comer welcomed Mr Hogan’s commitments to address the multiple retailer power. He said retailers would use their dominant position to sell below-cost vegetables over Christmas. He called for a floor of 28c per litre payable to milk producers, noting the current 24cpl price from processors is below the cost of prodction.

However, while very much a side issue on the day, the ICMSA did address the controversy on salary scales at the IFA. While the ICMSA’s annual wage bill for its 11 Limerick staff comes to about €577,000, members still called for transparency.

My toughest fight of all?

Boxing champion Frank Bruno on his lifelong battle with bipolar disorder


Former heavyweight boxer Frank Bruno (centre & with Daughter Rachel right pic.)

Frank Bruno is making a recovery, with the support of his friends and family – has spoken out about his relapse for the first time since being hospitalised this autumn.

FRANK Bruno has spoken out about his bipolar disorder relapse for the first time since being hospitalised this autumn.

Now making a recovery, with the support of his friends and family, the former world boxing champion said: “I know I’ll have this illness for the rest of my life. But I’ll never, ever, let it beat me.

“Bipolar is not nice to live with. But I’ve work to do, money to make, bills to pay, four kids to raise.”

Bruno has been sectioned under the mental health act three times since quitting boxing in 1996.

But when he suffered a relapse in September after the Great North Run, he asked to be ¬admitted to ¬hospital.

He said: “I tried doing six months work in one month and I hit a brick wall. I started to get irritated, grumpy, I needed to rest. But I chose to go back into hospital.”

His comments came as figures from watchdog Equality and Human Rights Commission show a 40 per cent rise in male suicides since 2008. Charities say rising numbers of men suffer from depression and ¬bipolar in silence.

Frank said: “I can ¬understand that. It is a big issue for a man to talk about. Many think they have to be the king – so it’s hard for them to say they are struggling. It shouldn’t be that way.

“Bipolar is there for life. In boxing at least you can see your opponent. They hit you, you hit them back. But with mental illness you can’t always see it. It comes from the shadows and, all of a sudden, bang, you are down.”

Thousands brave storm for climate marches around Ireland

About 5,000 people march through Dublin to pressure leaders ahead of COP21 summit


Protesters watch during the climate change march in Dublin as a steam train hoots its way across the Liffey on Sunday. 

About 5,000 people marched in a good-natured but determined fashion through Dublin on Sunday in a bid to put pressure on the Government and world leaders ahead of the COP21 climate change summit in Paris.

Hundreds of people joined other marches in Belfast, Cork and Galway as part of a global day of action.

The Dublin march was organised by Stop Climate Chaos – a coalition of 28 organisations including Friends of the Earth, Oxfam and Trócaire – and the crowds braved some harsh and stormy conditions to make their presence felt as they made their way from Custom House Quay to Dáil Éireann.

The march was led by a dozen or so members of the Dublin Cycling Campaign. Just before it got under way, a coal-burning steam train thundered over the protesters on the Loop Line Bridge – to hoots of derision from the crowd.

“I’m here for my little boy,” said broadcaster Jonathan McCrea, nodding in the direction of his four-year-old son sitting on a bench waiting for the march to start.

“I turn 40 next year and when he turns 40 the world will be a much different place. There is very little I can do. I feel useless – but at least by marching we can show our Government this is an issue we care about.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said climate change was an issue the Government “doesn’t care about” . He accused the Coalition of “shaming our country” and paying lip service to the will of the people who want real action to be taken to curb emissions.

“I think there will be a deal in Paris,” he said. “Everyone is moving in the right direction in lowering their emissions, except us. Ours are actually increasing. We are becoming a pariah in Europe. ”

Friends of the Earth director Oisin Coghlan was similarly scathing of the official response to the climate change crisis, but not as upbeat as Mr Ryan about the prospects of a deal being struck in Paris.

He said people had come onto the streets of cities all over the world because they “no longer trust our leaders to grasp the urgency of climate change or the opportunities of action”.

  • Planet Earth: The time to act is now
  • Anarchists throwing bottles set off Paris clashes with police
  • COP21: Mary Robinson ‘hopeful’ of climate agreement in Paris

He told the crowd that the central issue was “our future, us, our friends and family, and the human family around the world, where climate change is already intensifying storms, floods and droughts, undermining livelihoods, exacerbating conflict and creating refugees”.


In Cork, a teenager who won the BT Young Scientist of the year competition for her research on solving the global food crisis was among close to 400 people who attended the climate change rally in Cork city centre on Sunday.

Sophie Healy Thow (17) from Kinsale, Co Cork, who was named by Timemagazine as one the most influential teenagers in the world, said it was important to build momentum prior to the meeting in Paris.

“My particular area of interest is food security. To make sure the world is food secure, we need 50 per cent more food by 2015 – and that is a crazy amount.

“We need everybody to get together to achieve these goals,” she said.

Attendees at the rally on Grand Parade held placards with slogans such as System Change not Climate Change, Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground and There is No Planet B.

Organisers and supporters of the march in Cork included Cork Environmental Forum, Trócaire, the Social Health & Education Project, People’s Climate Ireland, UCC Green Campus, Transition Town Kinsale and UCC Environmental Society. There was also a strong turnout from members of the Quaker movement.


In Belfast, the threat of Storm Clodagh was not enough to keep about 300 protesters from gathering at Writers’ Square.

Amandine Chesnel (8), from Belfast, was among the young activists. Carrying an Act Now – There Is No Plan B banner made with the help of friends, she explained her motivation for joining the day of action. “I don’t think that the world should be overheating,” she said.

Demonstration organiser Niall Bakewell, from Friends of the Earth, said: “It is a very important gathering of world leaders and we need around the world to give a message that they now are running out of time to get the right deal.”

Green Party leader in Northern Ireland, Steven Agnew MLA, said Stormont had a responsibility to take part in the international effort to tackle climate change.

“We have had mixed messages from the government in terms of investment in renewables, and that is disincentivising investment – but there are real actions we can take.

“We have got fantastic wind, wave and tidal power, we can retrofit our housing and really make a difference for people’s lives in Northern Ireland and climate change globally.”


In Galway, several hundred people including performers and drummers braved heavy downpours of rain and a southwesterly gale to take part in Sunday’s Carnival for the Climate.

Chanting reworked lyrics to the tune of the Italian civil war anthem Bella Ciao, the participants set off from Eyre Square to the Spanish Arch.

The event was organised by Transition Galway, and was supported by representatives of a number of groups including NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights and Amnesty International.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 28th November 2015

Fine Gael’s new vote gain plan to lure 70,000 emigrants back with proposals to include tax breaks


Some of the proposals being put forward by Fine Gael to attract more than 70,000 emigrants home by 2020 include tax breaks; plans to help parents register children in schools from abroad; and recognising time abroad as time served in public service jobs.

However, doubts have been cast over the ability of the party to deliver the plan given the chronic shortage of suitable housing.

Details of the proposals, obtained by the Irish Examiner, are being drafted by Finance Minister Michael Noonan along with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Richard Bruton and junior minister Simon Harris. The trio has been asked by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to form the party’s economic team ahead of the election.

Mr Noonan and many within Fine Gael had hoped to announce a wide-ranging package of measures for emigrants to return home in last month’s budget, but they hit a snag and were omitted. Despite the setback, the party remains deeply committed to bringing forward a package of measures to help the move home become much easier.

The party is still examining a range of “practical logistical measures” which could ease the transition home, especially for young families. It is understood the party is seeking to deliver a plan that would enable parents register their children in schools here before they move home, which they cannot do at present.

Another proposal being developed is to allow public servants factor in time served abroad as part of their service should they move back home to work for the State. This would have significant ramifications for public pay and pensions policy, but party sources have said such a move could help fill gaping holes in the skill set.

“Helping bring emigrants home is a big thing for us in Fine Gael and we are examining ways to help the move home, particularly with many practical logistical issues,” said one minister.

“But we all have family members abroad, be they sons, daughters, brothers whatever who we want to see come home,” the minister added.

Mr Kenny said that next year, for the first time since the economic crisis began, Ireland could expect to welcome home more people than will leave.

Earlier this year, the HSE began a campaign aimed at encouraging Irish nurses and midwives to return home. They hope to recruit 500 workers by offering a relocation package of up to €1,500, paying first-time nursing registration fees and funding postgraduate education.

Fintan McNamara of the Residential Landlords Association said there is already a chronic shortage of homes in the rental sector with many landlords leaving the industry. “People returning home will find it difficult [and] they may have to move home for a while. There is just not enough supply there,” he said.

Meanwhile: –

Staff-starved Central Bank allowing it’s best staff to transfer to the ECB in Europe?


Left the Central Bank headquarters in Dublin and right the ECB in Germany.

The Central Bank is allowing staff to transfer to the European Central Bank, despite claiming it has too few employees in Dublin to supervise the banks, the Irish Independent has learned.

Financial Regulator Cyril Roux said the Bank will lose more of its supervisory staff to the ECB next year, placing further stresses on the strength of banking supervision in Ireland.

Mr Roux said staff are attracted by the move to the new pan-European supervisory unit in Frankfurt in part because of the “much better” terms and conditions.

Add public sector pay restrictions in Ireland into the mix and the challenge of replacing those who have left, and it leaves the Central Bank under pressure, Mr Roux said.

The claims come amid controversy over retention schemes at the Central Bank put in place to ensure key staff do not leave.

“They [staff moving to Frankfurt] have been attracted by the exciting challenge of working abroad, in helping establish the SSM (Single Supervisory Mechanism), and the much better financial terms and employment conditions offered to them,” Mr Roux told the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland Banking Union conference.

“A second wave of supervisors is expected to leave the Central Bank and other national competent authorities next year, as the ECB will be increasing its SSM headcount by 25pc,” he said.

“Combined with the familiar constraint of FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest), this will bring further stresses to the bench strength of banking supervision in the Central Bank, and to the challenge of replenishing once more our ranks.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Central Bank confirmed that those who have gone to the SSM are essentially on secondment as they will be able to return to the Central Bank. She said 20 staff overall have left.

“Their positions here are filled on a specified-purpose basis until they return from SSM – none have permanently left as such,” the spokeswoman added.

She confirmed that Dame Street is not obliged to agree to these secondments, but suggested it will not block them, despite the alleged staffing pressures.

“While we’re not obliged to let staff take secondments, the Central Bank values secondment opportunities for staff and views them as an enabler to gaining valuable experience and enhanced skills,” she said.

The claims come as staff at the Central Bank are to vote on a motion of no confidence in the management of the organisation amid the controversy over retention payments for certain staff. The Central Bank has denied it is paying bonuses in breach of Government policy, insisting there are two retention payment schemes.

75% of Ireland’s GPs suffer from high stress,

A new survey reveals

New review shows high level of demoralisation and risk of burnout among doctors


Three out of four Irish family doctors suffer from high stress, according to a new survey. 

Stressed, depressed and often unable to take a break, even for a short period – a new survey reveals the extent of disillusionment and demoralisation among Irish GPs

Three out of four family doctors said they suffered from high stress and almost half reported poor or very poor morale, according to the survey by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP).

Three-quarters of those responding said morale had worsened over the past five years.

The impact of manpower shortages on general practice is evident in a finding that more than half of GPs who tried to recruit a sessional doctor or assistant in the past year were unable to do so.

Locum recruitment

Only 44 per cent of GPs seeking to recruit a locum were able to do so on more than half the occasions they tried.

Rural GPs were least successful at recruiting cover, the survey found.

The ICGP, which holds its winter meeting in Athlone today, said it had been warning of manpower shortages and risks to the viability of the profession for years as large numbers of trainees and graduates are attracted to better conditions abroad.

After a year of often bruising interactions between the Government and the profession, the survey finds 90 per cent of doctors feel communication between the Government and GPs has failed both doctors and patients.

ICGP medical director Dr Margaret O’Riordan said the survey showed for the first time the extent of falling morale among members caused by worsening underinvestment in general practice.

Professional burnout

“Research shows that factors such as work overload, lack of control over work demands and insufficient reward for work volume and complexity are risks for professional burnout.

“The high prevalence of these risk factors among Irish GPs would suggest that this is a high probability for many,” she said.

Promoting job satisfaction and morale, in addition to addressing issues such as administrative demands, would help to retain the current workforce, she said.

Most of the 815 GPs who responded to the survey felt free GP care to under-sixes and over-70s would impact on waiting times for patients, though one-third said free care for over-70s would result in improved monitoring of patients’ health needs.

Although the Government has placed great emphasis on the development of primary care, only 13 per cent of GPs felt they were working in a well- functioning primary care team, and less than a quarter indicated a preference for co-locating with a primary care team.



A follow up study to assess the effects of personally tailored diabetes care in general practice has revealed that such care reduces mortality in women, but not men, according to a report published on The Lancet.

After six years of tailored treatment, no effect was seen on mortality and other anticipated non-fatal effects. However, the observed effect of structured personal care on reducing glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c – a standard method for measuring blood glucose control) measured 6 years after diagnosis was present only in women.

For the latest study, the authors followed the same participants until 2008. Of these, 478 were women and 492 were men. Women given specific recommendations about diet and exercise were 30 per cent less likely to die from diabetes-related causes than those given routine care, Danish scientists found.

The results showed women given personal care plans were 26 per cent less likely to die of any cause and 30 per cent less likely to die of a diabetes-related cause than women given routine care. Women given the personal care intervention were also 41% less likely to suffer a stroke, and 35% less likely to experience any diabetes-related endpoint. According to Dr Marlene Krag from the University of Copenahgen, the structured form of care provides women with much needed attention and support, which helps them adhere to treatment plans. She said:

‘Women accept disease and implement disease management more easily, which might affect long-term outcomes’. But when it comes to men, the daily consideration and lifestyle changes that diabetes demands can challenge masculinity. Essentially, the structured approach of such diabetes care goes against “men’s tendency to trust self-directed learning instead of self-management”.

“We propose that the improved outcomes in woman may be explained by complex social and cultural issues of gender”. And added we need to re-think how care is provided to men and women ‘so that both sexes benefit from intensified treatment efforts’.

Snakes lost their limbs when they started living in Burrows!


An ancient skull (Right Pic.) shows the secret as to why snakes lost their legs.

A new study carried out by researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Edinburgh claims to have solved a long-term puzzle related to evolution of snakes.

Scientists usually have different opinions about why and how snakes went from walking to slithering. Many scientists believe snakes lost their legs after they started living in the sea or water. However, the latest study reveals that the limbs of snakes became redundant when they started living and hunting in burrows.

In this study, researchers analyzed CT scans of a 90-million-years old fossil of Dinilysia Patagonica snake and compared them with scans of modern reptiles. Dinilysia Patagonica was a 2-metre long stem snake closely related to modern snakes. Researchers analyzed scans of the bony inner ear of this snake and found that bony canals and cavities of this snake controlled its balance and hearing. Three-dimensional virtual models were created to compare the inner ears of Dinilysia Patagonica with those of modern snakes and lizards.

A distinctive structure was found within the inner ears of reptiles/animals that live in burrow, and according to scientists, this distinctive structure most likely helped animals in detecting prey and predators. This structure is however not found in modern snakes that live in sea or above ground.

“How snakes lost their legs has long been a mystery to scientists, but it seems that this happened when their ancestors became adept at burrowing.” said Dr Hongyu Yi, the lead author from Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences.

“The inner ears of fossils can reveal a remarkable amount of information, and are very useful when the exterior of fossils are too damaged or fragile to examine.” he explained.

The findings also confirmed that Dinilysia patagonica is the largest burrowing snake ever known. The results also indicate about a hypothetical ancestral species (of all modern snakes) that was likely a burrower.

“This discovery would not have been possible a decade ago – CT scanning has revolutionised how we can study ancient animals.” said Mark Norell, of the American Museum of Natural History, who took part in this study.

“We hope similar studies can shed light on the evolution of more species, including lizards, crocodiles and turtles.”

The results of this study have been published in journal Science Advances.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 27th November 2015

Enda Kenny promises to review abortion ban

Taoiseach pledges constitutional review of Eighth Amendment if he is re-elected


Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks at a press conference in central London,

The odds that Ireland is facing its fourth referendum on abortion in little more than 30 years have significantly shortened after Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a constitutional review would begin within six months if he is re-elected.

Speaking in London, he announced that a citizens’ convention to debate changes to the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which bans abortion, will be set up within six months of the general election.

The body would provide for a debate to be held in a “thorough, broad, respectful and comprehensive manner”, following which Fine Gael TDs will have a free vote in the Dáil.

Labour Party leader Joan Burton claimed it was her party that had forced Mr Kenny to move on abortion.

Fine Gael Ministers rejected charges that Mr Kenny’s surprise declaration to his parliamentary party on Wednesday that TDs and Senators would enjoy a free vote on abortion was prompted by pressure from two Cabinet colleagues, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.

However, both Ministers, along with Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, had earlier argued the party could not enter the election campaign without laying down a clear position.

‘The X case’

  • Kenny made decision on Eighth Amendment alone, Donohoe says
  • Kenny pledges citizen’s convention on abortion if FG is re-elected

Denying he had “bounced” Mr Kenny into making a decision, Mr Donohoe said: “This is the Taoiseach who dealt with the X case, a matter that no other taoiseach, no other party leader wanted to deal with.

“He dealt with it because he understood the sensitivities involved in this matter. The Taoiseach has now outlined a similar process will be put in place to deal with this matter,” he declared.

Regardless of their attitudes to abortion, Fine Gael TDs support Mr Kenny’s constitutional convention, believing that he has largely neutralised the abortion question for next year’s election campaign.

However, a convention report, if one is agreed, will create pressure by midterm on a Fine Gael-led administration to hold a referendum on its recommendations.

Speaking last night to Labour councillors, Ms Burton said: “Yet again, we have seen other parties begin to slowly come round to our agenda.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, in their own ways, have effectively acknowledged the growing momentum for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment in the next government term.”

Labour had, yet again, led from the front on this issue, “and we’ll lead from the front in delivering a referendum in our second term”.

An Irritation.

Mr Kenny’s irritation with his deputy leader, James Reilly, who opened up the debate by saying that women carrying foetuses with fatal abnormalities should be able to have abortions in Ireland, was still evident yesterday, even though he said that he had “no difficulty” with Dr Reilly.

“Dr Reilly is perfectly entitled to his personal views. My issue was that it would be impossible to have an early referendum on an issue that is as complex as this, without the people understanding fully what is involved in it.”

Saying previous governments had shied away from the issue, Mr Kenny said: “No government in the intervening period had the courage or the resolution to do what they were required to do, that is to legislate for what the law says, to clarify the law. My Government did.

“I’m very well aware of the many stories that were told to me, arising from the difficulties women have obviously had in this and I feel the sensitivity of that.

“That’s why this has to be a thorough, comprehensive, empathetic and sensitive discussion.”

Electricity and gas prices to fall for some households in Ireland

Low international energy prices see Electric Ireland and SSE Airtricity cut rates


Electricity and gas prices for hundreds of thousands of Irish households is to fall marginally in the New Year some companies start passing on some of the savings made as a result of low international energy prices.

Electricity prices for SSE Airtricity customers will fall by 2 per cent from the middle of January which will see €23 knocked off the average annual bill of more than 340,000 customers. It could spark a price war as other providers will be under pressure to follow suit.

The price cut, which applies to the company’s unit rates and standing charges, comes on the back of a similar cut in April which means that in the last year it the average prices of an Airtricity bill has fallen by around €50.

Meanwhile, Electric Ireland announced that it will reduce its standard gas unit prices for residential and SME business customers by 2.5 per cent from the beginning of next year.

The reduction will see residential gas customers save an average saving of €20.22 It is Electric Ireland’s second residential gas price decrease this year.

Minister of Energy Alex White welcomed the two announcements and said it was “an indication that competition is working for customers.”

He said it was “hugely important that consumers shop around to ensure that they get the best possible price and service deal and I would encourage them to do so. There are many value offers in the market from suppliers, including significant discounts.”

Minority Irish Communities urged to join Gardaí as recruitment opens

Additional 600 members of force to start training at Templemore in 2016


Members of minority Irish communities have been encouraged to apply to become gardaí so the force can better reflect the diversity of Irish communities.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced the opening of a campaign to recruit an additional 600 members of An Garda Síochána in 2016.

“In particular, I urge members of minority and new communities to consider applying so that the membership of An Garda Síochána will reflect the diverse communities that it serves,” she said.

Speaking to reporters, she said the interest that had been shown and the experience that had been built up by serving Garda reserve members would be taken into account as part of the new recruitment drive.

The 600 new gardaí will bring to 1,150 the total number of new recruits since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014.

The existing recruitment campaign that began in 2013 is ongoing and successful candidates will continue to be called from that in the New Year.

It is expected that successful candidates from the 2016 campaign will enter the Garda College from mid-2016.

Ms Fitzgerald said the opening of the campaign was an important day for the force.

“It marks the formal announcement on www.publicjobs.ie of the commencement of the 2016 recruitment campaign for new members of An Garda Síochána.”

She said that because of the recession Ireland had effectively stopped investment in the Garda but that with the economy now stabilised investment had resumed, and this would mean more safety for the public.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan said the Garda always attracted more applications than there were available positions.

“We want to build on that, attracting people from every strand of Irish life to help us renew our culture while retaining our best traditions.”

“When I joined An Garda Síochána in 1981, I was one of a tiny minority of women,” she added.

“Now, over a quarter of gardaí are women. I hope that trend continues, just as I hope we get lots of applications from every strand of Irish society.”

She continued: “We already have different nationalities and backgrounds represented in An Garda Síochána, but not enough.

“I want people of every background, right throughout the country, to think about joining us and help to make us a beacon of modern policing.”

Successful candidates undergo a two year training programme leading to a BA in applied policing.

The two year programme comprises a 32 week block of tuition at the Garda College in Templemore for phase one with the remaining 72 weeks training taking place predominantly at selected Garda divisions with specific periods of tuition built in.

Recorded sex offences up 36% over five years.  CSO reports

Caution advised on interpretation of figures after review of Garda crime data’s accuracy


The CSO said care should be taken in interpreting the crime statistics, following its earlier review of Garda systems for recording crimes.

The number of sexual offences recorded increased by more than a third over a five-year period, but the Central Statistics Office warned that care should be taken in interpreting the statistics.

A total of 2,010 sexual offences were recorded in the State in 2013, representing a drop of 5 per cent on the 2,116 recorded the previous year.

The number of such offences recorded in 2013 was, however, over 36 per cent higher than the recorded number of offences in 2009.

Publishing crime statistics recorded by An Garda Síochána between 2009 and 2013, the CSO said its findings in a review published in June into how gardaí record crimes should be taken into account.

Caution applies

It recommended in particular that caution be applied to detection rates, given the issues cited in its June report.

Seventy-two of the 80 people convicted in sexual assault categories in 2013 were guilty of rape or sexual assault, including five convictions for defilement of a child under 17.

The other eight convictions were for offences related to child-abuse material. There were 16 convictions for murder and one for manslaughter in 2013. Eight people were convicted of dangerous driving causing death, five of whom were men in the age 25-44 bracket and two men aged 18-24. There were also 28 crimes of dangerous driving causing death recorded in 2013.

Most convictions in 2013 were of men and women in the age 25-44 category, with the majority of those (1,237 or 94 per cent) being for assaults

Some 83 homicide offences were recorded in 2013 – an increase of nearly 5 per cent on the number recorded in 2012. But the CSO said this represented a fall of over 6 per cent on the 88 homicides in 2009.

Threats to murder

There were 14,502 attempts or threats to murder, assaults, harassments and related offences recorded in 2013 – a decrease of nearly 8 per cent on the 15,710 recorded offences in 2012.

The CSO said the vast majority of these were assaults.

A total of 103 instances of kidnapping and related offences were recorded, including 81 related to false imprisonment and 81 concerning the abduction of a child under 16. A total of 53 of those abductions (65 per cent) were detected by gardaí, the figures show.

Publication of recorded crime statistics was resumed by the CSO in June 2015 after a comprehensive review of the accuracy of An Garda Síochána crime data. The review was carried out on foot of the Garda Inspectorate report on Crime Investigation published last November.

The CSO’s analysis found issues with the quality of the crime statistics recorded by gardaí, with incidents being incorrectly categorised or incorrectly classified as ‘detected’.

The statistics body said in June it would repeat its analysis at regular intervals in the future.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates to start multi-billion-dollar fund for clean energy


Climate change is starting to have a personal impact on billions of people and we need to cut back on greenhouse gases and adapt to a warmer world.

Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of the Paris summit meeting intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The fund, which one of the people described as the largest such effort in history, is meant to pay for research and development of new clean-energy technologies. It will include contributions from other billionaires and philanthropies, as well as a commitment by the United States to double its budget for clean energy research and development, according to the people with knowledge of the plans. French government sources also confirmed the launch plans.

The announcement of the Clean Tech Initiative fund, which has the joint backing of the governments of the United States, China, India and other countries, the people said, is intended to give momentum to the two-week Paris climate talks.

Bill Gates, philanthropist and co-founder of Microsoft, hopes to turbocharge the Paris climate talks with a massive investment. Photo: AP

Negotiators hope to strike a deal committing every nation to enacting policies to reduce fossil fuel emissions. Mr Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, will join more than 100 world leaders, including President Obama, in Paris on Monday to begin the talks.


The pending announcement was first reported by ClimateWire, an online news organisation. A spokesman for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

Fundamental shift

If successful, the Paris meeting could spur a fundamental shift away from the use of oil, coal and gas to the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. But that transition would require major breakthroughs in technology and huge infrastructure investments by governments and industry.

Where that money would come from has been a question leading up to the Paris talks. Developing countries like India, the third-largest fossil-fuel polluter, have pushed for commitments by developed nations to pay for their energy transition, either through direct government spending or through inexpensive access to new technology.

India has emerged as a pivotal player in the Paris talks. The announcement by Mr Gates appears intended to help secure India’s support of a deal.

As US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton pledged that developed countries would send $US100 billion ($139 billion) annually to poor countries by 2020 to help them pay for the energy transition. Indian officials have demanded that the Paris deal lock in language that the money would come from public funds — a dealbreaker for rich countries.

This summer, Mr Gates pledged to spend $US1 billion of his personal fortune on researching and deploying clean energy technology, but the people with knowledge of his plans said the new fund would include larger commitments.

In a blog post in July, Mr Gates wrote: “If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently and saving lives by reducing pollution.”

New solutions

Mr Gates met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. In a June meeting in Paris, Mr Gates told President François Hollande of France that the Paris deal should include robust provisions on clean energy research and development.

“Bill’s been making that point for years, and he’s going to make it more emphatically in Paris,” said Hal Harvey, chief of Energy Innovation, an energy consultancy.

Mr Harvey noted that at the core of the emerging Paris agreement are plans and pledges already put forth by more than 170 countries detailing how they will reduce emissions.

“If you tote up the plans, you see a very significant demand signal, and Bill wants to see that we meet that cheaply,” he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 17th August 2015

A technical error sees Revenue ask foreign businesses for millions of euro

The issue relates to the new ‘VAT Moss’ system.


The Irish revenue has said that a “technical error” resulted in around 2,000 overseas businesses being sent incorrect invoices.

These were supposedly for the new VAT Moss system that has been put in place to allow businesses to pay tax abroad without having to register in each jurisdiction.

Revenue has said that it is working to update the system to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Traders who received the invoices took to social media to express their disbelief, with the error being covered on the WebDevLaw blog. Earlier Alastair Houghton, a member of the HMRC/SME VAT Moss Working Group in the United Kingdom, said that the letters had come from the Irish Revenue Commissioners but had been sent in error.

There has been no financial impact on those who received the invoices and Revenue has issued an apology for the incident.

Earlier letters were asking some individuals for amounts in excess of €1 million.

Invoices were mostly sent to customers in the United Kingdom. Other correspondence is known to have been sent to the Netherlands and possibly the United States.

The letters sent out were addressed from Michael Gladney, the collector-general with the Revenue. Individuals were given instructions on where to transfer money to.

Irish Water staff start calling customers who fail to pay first bills


Irish Water Staff now calling customers who have not made a payment after first two bills, and they remind customers to pay the bill and the charges due.

Irish Water has started calling customers who have failed to make any payments on their first two utility bills to remind them to pay the charges.

Irish Water spokeswoman Elizabeth Arnett said call centre staff last week began phoning customers who had yet to make any payments 21 days following the issuing of their second water bill.

The company had stated five weeks ago that it intended to take this step, which was normal practice “in every single utility company”, she said. Ms Arnett denied suggestions made in some media that there was any targeting of older customers by the call centre staff.

“There is no age profiling, no targeting of older people. I absolutely categorically refute that, it is absolute nonsense.”

She also emphasised the calls were being made by the company’s call centre, and the debts had not been passed on to a debt collection agency. Suggestions made by anti-water charge protesters that some elderly people had been told their water supply would be cut were also false, she said.

“We record every single phone call, this would not and could not happen.”


Call centre staff offer customers the opportunity to pay over the phone, and outline the different payment methods to those who do not wish to pay at that time, she said.

Figures released by Irish Water in mid-July showed 46 per cent of water charges issued for the first three months of the year had been paid, €30.5 million of the €66.8 million due

This equates to about 675,000 households or 43 per cent of the estimated 1.5 million households on the public water network.

While follow-up calling for non-payment of utility bills may be a common practice, the decision represents yet another public relations blunder for Irish Water. There have been a succession of incidents that have plagued the utility.

Questions were raised over executive remuneration and bonus payments. Head of Irish Water John Tierney revealed on RTÉ that the company had paid €50million to consultants. Then within weeks it emerged that 29 staff members earned more than €100,000 each.

The ESRI economist John FitzGerald calculated that the extra 2,000 staff the company absorbed from local authorities would cost Irish Water up to €2 billion by 2025.

Two weeks ago Eurostat raised a number of concerns about the Government’s considerable control of the utility company. The EU statistics agency confirmed the company had failed the Market Corporation Test which means it must remain on the exchequer balance sheet in the coming years. It also took issue with Government control regarding board appointments and operations.

A third of us have spotted people shaving or putting on make-up while driving


Almost a third of drivers say they regularly see people applying make-up or shaving while driving.

The figure comes from a survey by the AA, which also says that 83% of us have seen people using a phone while behind the wheel.

56% of those polled said they had seen people texting while driving, while another regular experience was witnessing people not indicating properly on roundabouts (84%).

Personal grooming – applying make-up or shaving – are not explicit offences, but the AA warned it could be considered “driving without reasonable consideration.”

“It is worrying to think that people are still taking risks despite the fact that everyone with an ounce of sense knows the dangers. There are stricter provisions on mobile devices that will soon become law and there are really no excuses,” said Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs at AA Ireland. “Certainly not for personal grooming; that’s ridiculous behaviour.”

The AA also collected anecdotal evidence by positioning a fieldworker on a busy intersection to observe traffic. They reported that, out of 415 vehicles observed passing the intersection during one hour, 10 motorists – including two taxi drivers – were using mobile phones. Another four used their phones while first in the queue at lights.

Researchers target early warning system signs of concussion

Leinster Rugby and TCD have linked up in two promising brain injury studies.


Ulster’s Stuart Olding above picture left leaves the field after a head injury sustained against Munster at Thomond Park in last season’s Pro12 competition.

Concussion continues to hang over rugby like an unwelcome cloud. We can expect the World Cup to highlight the dangers and see how far the sport has travelled on what has been a steep learning curve. But the threat of brain trauma is becoming less sinister and more understood as academics in Trinity College Dublin begin to make inroads and promote some optimism.

In recent months researchers at the university doing work involving blood examinations, as well as using cadavers to see how body movement behaves on impact, have joined forces with Leinster Rugby for two innovative projects into the diagnosis and analysis of the injury.

Early warning system

Ultimately, the teams hope to identify incidences of concussion and predict when a player should be taken out of a match. They are not at that stage yet, but initial findings have moved both projects closer to the main objective of an early warning system that would increase player welfare.

One of the projects is based on studying the movement of human bodies in car accidents to help understand what positions and actions cause brain trauma in sports collisions.

The other is a simple blood test that shows up proteins that are associated with concussion. In time they hope a pin-prick test can be used to determine head injury. They have already identified what they call metabolic patterns that indicate trauma has taken place.

“Every activity in the body leaves a map,” says Dr Fiona Wilson, a former Irish rowing team physiotherapist, who along with physiologist Áine Kelly, is conducting the research into blood.

“The fluids of your body tell you a lot. It’s a protein and shouldn’t appear in the general circulation unless the blood brain barrier has been compromised. We are looking at these metabolites and early stages show we may have a map.”

Brain trauma

They have studied the blood from people with severe brain trauma and examined the proteins. They then took blood from rowers, who do not have any collisions in their sport but their metabolic systems work as hard as professional rugby players.

This was to determine that the proteins found in rugby players were from multiple collisions and not physical exercise. From the injured patients they knew what “brain damage” proteins would appear in the blood.

“It’s the same as having a heart attack,” adds Wilson.”You go in to hospital with a pain in your chest and they measure cardiac enzymes. It’s like a brain injury. We know patients with brain injury so we can match our players against that.

“Our initial findings indicate that we have made significant progress in identifying the blood test. Collaboration with Steno Diabetes centre in Denmark means progress can be made towards a finger-prick blood test already familiar to diabetes management.”

In time, debates like those around Irish outhalf Johnny Sexton and Welsh winger, George North – should they or shouldn’t they return to play – will be measurable, a sort of Hawkeye for head injury.

The movement patterns, of bodies involved in collisions may appear ghoulish, but in scientific endeavour there’s no such thing as squeamish and dead people can often keep the living alive for longer.

Associate professor Ciarán Simms and bioengineering PhD student Gregory Tierney are using multi-angled videos to look at collisions. They take real footage of rugby incidents and superimpose a model skeleton image on the players.

Based on previous knowledge from experiments conducted on cadavers and studies of pedestrian crashes, they use mathematics to conclude what forces are in play and identify various tolerance thresholds.

From a database compiled over years of research, they can look at the kind of body movements and collisions that cause concussion. It takes several weeks to do a study, but with automation the goal is for real time use during rugby matches.

“The aspiration is to have a real time use. But we’re at early stages,” says Simms. “We are also reconstructing collision cases with ‘what if’ scenarios. For coaches, for example, you could ask what could a player do to effect a tackle without getting injured.”

The findings are ready to be peer reviewed, with a draft of findings expected to be ready within a month. The perfect outcome would be that for each match a TMO equivalent could look at impacts and use the technology to instantly tell whether a concussive impact has occurred or not. In tandem with the blood markers and the other battery of neurological tests there is excitement about bringing the lab to the pitch.

“Leinster is very supportive of the research,” says Wilson. “They have been so invested in making sure this happens. Every time the players give blood it’s a favour because there is no immediate benefit to them. It’s unusual for athletes, because they are usually being pulled in all directions by different people, to be so helpful.”

The research is being funded from America by the NFL’s Head Health Challenge, a fund for the development of new materials and technologies that can detect early-stage mild traumatic brain injuries and improve brain protection. As collaborators, they are committing up to $20 million to a variety of projects.

Owls use a ‘stealth technique’ to capture their prey


Owls are equipped with sophisticated ‘stealth technique’ to help them swoop on prey undetected, according to new study that unveils the secret behind the nocturnal bird’s silent flight.

Owls are equipped with sophisticated ‘stealth technique’ to help them swoop on prey undetected, according to new study that unveils the secret behind the nocturnal bird’s silent flight.

Scientists have long been puzzled by the owl’s ability to flap its wings hard enough to rise into the air without a sound while swooping silently on swift-moving rodents out of the still night.

The researchers crowned the owl the “king of acoustic stealth” after discovering that its wings absorbed the energy of flight vibrations and converted it to heat much more efficiently than other birds they examined.

Generating enough thrust to get aloft involves a large amount of force and disturbs a lot of air. Yet most owl species manage to do it at frequencies below 2 kilohertz (kHz), well out of their prey’s hearing range, ‘The Times’ reported.

Researchers used the feathers of a long-eared owl, a golden eagle and a pigeon.

Simulating wing-beats, they measured the vibrations and found that the owl feathers trapped much more of the energy as heat than the others.

Scientists could copy the owl’s noise-reduction mechanisms to quieten machine noises such as the thrum of onshore wind turbines, said Jinkui Chu, professor of mechanical engineering at Dalian University of Technology in China.

“The owl’s silent flight ability is even more superior than we thought,” said Jinkui.

“It not only manages to suppress aerodynamic noise when gliding, but also mechanical noise caused by vibration during flying. This is remarkable, considering the noise that creates for other birds,” he said.

News Ireland Daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th July 2015

Ireland ranked as one of the best Countries in terms of reputation

New survey shows country’s standing has improved in recent years


Not such a bad spot: Ireland scored highly in terms of having friendly and welcoming people and a beautiful country

Charlie Taylor

Ireland has been ranked in 11th place out of 55 countries in a new survey ranking nations by their reputation.

The Republic was ranked ahead of the UK, Italy, Germany,Spain, Portugal and France and the US in the Country RepTrak study, which was compiled by the Reputation Institute and its Irish counterpart, the Reputations Agency,

Ireland moved up two spots in the latest study, having been ranked in 13th place last year. In addition, it improved its score by 5.2%, from 68.5 out of 100 in 2014 to 72 this year.

Canada regained top spot from Switzerlandin the 2015 survey with a score of 78.1.

It was followed by Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. With a score of just 22.5, Iraq was ranked as the country with the worst reputation followed by Iran, Pakistan,Russia and Nigeria.

The Country RepTrak study measures the reputation of 55 countries based on a number of factors including trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling.

The survey of 48,000 consumers from across the G8 was carried out via an online poll.

Of the 17 attributes measured, the most important attribute in driving the reputation of a country is “friendly and welcoming people”, where Ireland was ranked in ninth position, unchanged from 2014.

Having a “beautiful country” comes second in importance and here Ireland was ranked in sixth position, compared to ninth place last year. In addition, the Republic was placed 10th in the list of countries that consumers would like to visit.

“An increasingly globalised world with intensified competition makes country reputation matter more than ever,” said Niamh Boyle, managing director of the Reputations Agency.

“Attracting tourists, FDI and high-skilled workforce, improving international diplomacy, and being able to sell Irish products abroad, are all facilitated by having a strong country reputation.

“The G8 countries are important trading partners and sources of revenue for Ireland, so improving our reputation scores amongst these nations is great news for Ireland’s economy.”

Ireland’s budget targets queried by EU commission

Government’s plans for expansionary budget implicitly criticised by EU body


The EU Commission says the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2bn in expansionary measures.

The EU Commission has questioned the Government’s targets for the 2016 budget, saying they do not take full advantage of strong economic growth.

The commission’s intervention came as it said in a separate study that Ireland’s bailout between 2010 and 2013 was an effective recovery programme and argued the decision not to impose losses on senior bank bondholders was the correct one.

The comments on the October budget came in its review of a post-bailout inspection carried out in the spring.

It said the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2 billion in expansionary measures. While this is at the bottom of the €1.2 billion-€1.5 billion range in the Government plan for the budget, the commission implicitly criticised moves to prepare an expansionary budget.

Buffers: “Reaping the full benefits of the strong growth momentum would avert the risk of pro-cyclical fiscal policy and create the necessary buffers to address future challenges,” said the commission.

“Budgetary windfalls in 2016 and beyond should be used to accelerate debt reduction and prepare for future challenges.

“The stronger than expected economic momentum offers a unique opportunity to make progress with fiscal consolidation and debt reduction and averts the need to support aggregate economic activity.”

It went on to say past experience in Ireland and other countries pointed to a tendency to overestimate economic slack and underestimate overheating in real time.

Demographic pressures

“Moreover, Ireland is also facing considerable expenditure pressures linked to demographics in the medium term and remains vulnerable to economic and interest rate shocks, given the still very high level of public debt. All these elements stress the importance of building fiscal buffers.”

Of the water charges regime, it said the capacity of the Government and Irish Water to explain further the rationale for the reform and demonstrate that the public utility model is best will be critical.

“In turn, payment compliance will be key for the Irish Water’s ability to raise revenue and deliver upon its investment programme. Late payment penalties will be put in place, but only in cases where households are in arrears for a full annual billing period.”

In its report on the bailout, the commission said the rescue package was effective in helping Ireland regain access to financial markets and repair its broken banks.

Of the contentious decision not to “burn” senior bank bondholders, it said there was no legal framework and noted the legal and economic risks were considered too great in light of the potential benefits.

“The risks of spill-overs to the Irish and EU financial systems were highly uncertain and perceived to be very high, especially given the absence of a proper EU bank resolution framework,” the report said.

“The alternative of a burden sharing that only applied to the senior creditors of the institutions that were to be resolved, Anglo and INBS, would have had fewer benefits to the Irish exchequer but would still have entailed considerable risks.

Some 2,500 citizens sworn in as Irish at Convention Centre

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries have become Irish in last four years


Heba Alsharbaty (mother), Khilood Jaddoa (grandmother), Yousif Hussein (10 months) and Fadhil Alsharbaty (grandfather), originally from Baghdad in Iraq and now living in Rathfarnham show their joy on becoming Irish citizens. 

Some 2,500 candidates from 112 countries gathered to receive Irish citizenship at three ceremonies in the Dublin Convention Centre on Friday, these were the first of three citizenship ceremonies held at the Convention Centre, July 17th, 2015.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, attending on behalf of the Government, described his own childhood growing up in west Dublin, the son of an Indian migrant father and an Irish mother, who had herself been a migrant worker in England where they met.

“Growing up in west Dublin, I was the only child in school with sallow skin and a funny surname,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was encouraged now to see the diverse mix of backgrounds of children in Dublin and nationally “going to our gaelscoileanna and togging out for GAA”.

‘More tolerant’

Irish society had become “more tolerant, more inclusive and more open today than the leaders of the 1916 Rising could ever have hoped”, he said.

Among those sworn in on Friday was Iranian Javad Hasani, who has been living in Ireland for nine years, although he never intended to come here in the first place.

“I was on my way to Toronto and there was a stopover in Cork, and I got on a train to Dublin. I’m from a big city, so I couldn’t get over how beautiful the countryside was. I decided to change my flight and spend a couple of weeks travelling around.”

A trip to Kerry where he met a man he knew from Turkey cemented his decision to stay. He now has an Irish wife, Tracy, and “three babies”.

Ninfa Chacon Bendeck, a lawyer from Honduras, came to Ireland for St Patrick’s day in 2005, where she met Tony Byrne from Donegal.

“I knew the capital of Honduras was Tegucigalpa, which is where Ninfa is from, so I was able to impress her with that,” he said.

Kept in touch

Ninfa went back to Honduras after her holiday, but the two kept in touch. “Then I lived in Belgium were I was working as a diplomat, and after that we went travelling for a while.”

They’re now married for four and a half years and live in Donegal, where Ninfa works to rehome rescued dogs.

The 15 most represented countries at the ceremony were Poland, India, Romania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, Latvia, South Africa, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Hungary, Thailand, United States Of America, and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.

Particularly pleased

The presiding officer, retired Judge Bryan McMahon, said he was particularly pleased to see faces from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who he hoped “have brought their cricket bats and wickets” to help improve the fortunes of the Irish cricket team.

Similarly, he hoped those from Brazil would bring their soccer skills to bear on the Irish football team.

“Would it not be wonderful if some of these genes were brought into the Irish athletic pool of the future?”

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries had become Irish citizens over the last four years, Judge McMahon said.

“I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren lead the hurling, football or camogie teams onto the pitch at Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday, and I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren carry the Irish flag into an Olympic stadium.”

Irish teens are ‘unable to identify depression symptoms’


Suicide prevention in young Irish people is being hampered by misunderstood symptoms and the lack of treatment awareness, according to new research.

Many Irish teens are unable to identify symptoms or ways to help depression.

A study conducted by psychologists at Trinity College Dublin suggests that many Irish teenagers are unable to identify signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Out of a sample of 187 teenagers, aged between 15 and 19, only half could correctly identify depression in hypothetical cases.

Meanwhile, participants were also unable to identify appropriate treatment for peers.

At the same time, the report found that girls were more likely than boys to offer up ways to support a depressed friend.

According to Sadhbh Byrne, who carried out the research with Dr Lorraine Swords and Dr Elizabeth Nixon of the School of Psychology in Trinity College, the study paints a worrying picture of mental health awareness.

“While the majority of adolescents in our study showed great concern for a friend experiencing distress, their specific knowledge of the characteristics of mental disorders and potential suicidality was lacking,” she said.

She said identifying depression is critical in helping people receive appropriate help.

“Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide in Europe among 15 to 24 year olds. Our research points to the need to educate young people about the need to seek adult help for a friend experiencing emotional distress,” Ms. Byrne added.

2014 melted global records as hottest year yet recorded

2015 set to be in top 10 as overheated Pacific ocean releases rising amounts of energy


Climate change: 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

The relentless rise in global temperatures continues with scientists declaring 2014 the hottest year yet recorded. And they believe that 2015 will also land in the top 10 hottest given an overheated Pacific ocean that is releasing rising amounts of energy.

Last year was amongst Ireland’s hottest years, ranking in shared fourth place with 1997 and 1949, said Met Éireann climatologists.

Climate information of all sorts from 413 scientists in 58 countries was used to set 2014 as an international record-breaker in the 25th annual State of the Climate report prepared by the American Meteorological Society.

The numbers show that global warming continues apace with international initiatives to curb greenhouse gas release all failing to halt the ongoing march towards an overheated world, said Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University.

“The driver for all of this is the energy imbalance caused by the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and others,” said Prof Thorne in Maynooth’s department of geography and one of the report’s editors for the global figures.

“We are not on the great mitigation pathway. The accumulation is undoubtedly due to human activity,” he said.

Effectively the report is a “full annual health check of the Earth’s climate system”, he said. The scientist participants collected data from countries around the world, measuring everything from temperature and rainfall to the size of the glaciers and temperatures above and below the ocean surface.

Ireland is part of this effort, feeding data into regional reports for Europe. “The highlight of the regional chapter was 2014 was the warmest year on record for 25 European countries. By a long chalk in Europe, 2014 for some was the warmest experienced going back 200 years,” Prof Thorne said.

For Ireland it was fourth highest with the top three hottest in order being 2007, 2006 and 1945.

The report shows greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and for the 25th year in a row global glaciers have decreased in size, the report says.

There were record high sea levels, record ocean surface temperatures and more heat is building up in the deep oceans.

Three months of 2014 saw carbon dioxide levels surpassing 400 parts per million (400ppm), long considered a psychological threshold.

Levels in the first report 25 years ago stood at 354ppm and from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750 up until 1990 the average was just 270ppm, Prof Thorne said.

The trend towards a warming world is clear given the top 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1998.

In fact that year stands out in particular because of a very strong “El Nino”, a natural phenomenon which sees the release of excess heat from surface waters across the Pacific Ocean that in turn warms up the environment.

Separating 1998 means the top nine warmest years have all occurred since 2002.

The report expects that 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

“When an El Nino is occurring it is burping out energy into the atmosphere, while a La Nina is absorbing energy into the ocean,” said Prof Thorne.

They alternate in an irregular pattern but when an El Nino appears we can expect difficult weather, Prof Thorne said.

The report describes the El Nino during 2014 as being in a “neutral state” but already data from the Pacific shows that the El Nino has taken hold.

“There are record temperatures, particularly near the sea surface. The El Nino tried to appear last year but it has begun and this year is very strong,” he said.

It may be that because it stalled during 2014, that may make it particularly strong this year, he suggested. “This could be stronger than 1998 (when a record-breaking El Nino appeared) but those are based on model predictions so we will have to wait to see what happens.”

Records are being set year after year, but there is a very weak response internationally. But it is not a matter that there is nothing we can do, Prof Thorne said. “We need a mixture of sensible global policy that sets us on a low carbon path and it is about technological innovation, carbon neutral transport, changed behaviour, the use of things like solar panels. We need to make clean energy.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 2nd January 2015

Lucinda Creighton joined by Eddie Hobbs in a new Irish party


Former Fine Gael junior minister calls for a ‘reboot’ of Ireland.

Former Fine Gael Minister Lucinda Creighton, Independent Offaly Councillor John Leahy and financial commentator Eddie Hobbs at the announcement of the new party in Dublin.

Former Fine Gael minister Lucinda Creighton has said a new political party will be launched “within eight weeks”, with candidates running in every constituency at the next General Election.

M/s Creighton was joined by financial commentator and advisor Eddie Hobbs at the announcement of the new party in Dublin.

M/s Creighton said the new party, which does not yet have a name, would be “hugely ambitious, bold and brave” and had the potential to win “many, many seats”.

Appealing to others to get involved, she said she wanted to harness a spirit of volunteerism that, she argued, no longer existed in other parties. Ms Creighton said 100 volunteers, including actuaries, barristers and people working in the community sector, were already helping.

Candidates, policy advisors, advocates and supporters were required. She stressed members would be free to adopt their own positions on matters of conscience, such as the upcoming marriage equality referendum.

Mr Hobbs cast himself in the role of recruiter for the party, but said he may consider running. He said approximately 200 people were needed.

“I am here because I believe Irish people deserve a genuine choice at the next election. It is my intention to provide that choice,” M/s Creighton said.

“Since last April I have been working with an ever-expanding group of highly motivated professional volunteers so that we can radically change how we run this country.”

Independent Offaly-based councillor John Leahy, who was also present at the event in the Marker Hotel in Dublin, will be joining the party.

Mr Leahy, who was elected to Offaly County Council in 2009 and represents the Ferbane area, said he wanted to tackle the demise of rural Ireland. “I, like many others in this political movement, see the demise of rural Ireland unfold before our very eyes. A modern Ireland should be proud of its rural traditions,” he said. “This new movement will embrace the views of rural Ireland. We will act on the issue of rural demise in a focussed and determined manner.”

M/s Creighton said the four founding principles of the party would be:

* Building an economy for entrepreneurs across the social, private and public sectors

* Make the public sector public

* Giving politics back to the people

* Measuring Government with a clear social target

She said she wanted a party that served the people. “I am pleased to announce that we will launch a new political party this spring. Between now and then I am inviting ordinary Irish citizens the length and breadth of this country to get involved,” she said.

“We want to ‘Reboot Ireland’ and we want those who are as passionate about this country as we are to join us on this mission.”

A website – rebootireland.com – has also been launched, along with a hashtag #rebootireland Responding to the announcement, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said “the last thing Ireland needs is yet another conservative political party”.

“There is little in the background, outlook or policies of Lucinda Creighton or those aligned with her that offers the type of political change that citizens now seek,” he said.

Irish SME’s urged not to increase wages


ISME cautions against unrealistic pay expectations as it argues that outlook for smaller businesses remains ‘precarious’

SME representative association ISME has warned its members about following the lead of larger companies by increasing wages

Irish small and medium sized enterprises are being urged to hold wages level, despite growing momentum favouring wage hikes.

In its wage rate expectation survey ISME, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said that almost three quarters (71%) of SMEs expect to leave employee wage rates unchanged in 2015, as it cautioned against unrealistic pay expectations.

A survey from business and employers group Ibec today showed that more than one in two of its member companies expect to increase their employees’ salary levels in 2015.

Mark Fielding, ISME CEO, said that while there are signs of stability and possible growth in the domestic economy, the situation for SMEs “remains precarious”.

“They have been struggling to stay afloat and owner-managers in particular have borne the brunt of the pain by taking huge pay cuts, and in some cases no salary at all, in an effort to keep their businesses afloat,” he said, adding that the majority of SMEs “will not be in a position to increase wages during 2015 and in a small percentage of cases further reductions will be necessary”.

Referring to the IBEC survey results, Fielding advised caution. “The headline figures have created an unrealistic pay expectation and cannot be used across the economy as the more recent ISME survey of almost 1,000 SMEs proves.”

The survey from ISME shows that of the 26% who anticipate wage increases in 2015, the increase averages at just above one per cent. Some 70%  of SME owner-managers do not expect to change their own wage rate, while 15% believe they will have to further decrease their salaries in the coming year.

Number of organ donations down by a quarter in Ireland


Key to enhancing organ donation is through specialist nurses and doctors, says professor

Liver transplants have fallen by 20 per cent to 44, while for the second year in a row, the Irish Kidney Association failed to reach its target of 50 living donor kidney transplants in the State.

The number of organ donors in the State dropped by a quarter last year, making 2014 one of the worst in recent years for organ donations.

Preliminary figures from Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI) show the number of deceased organ donations dropped from 86 in 2013 to 63 in 2014.

Liver transplants have fallen by 20 per cent to 44, while for the second year in a row, the target of 50 living donor kidney transplants in the State was not achieved.

Initiatives focused on reducing road accidents and the rate of strokes has led to a downward pressure on organ donation internationally, Professor Jim Egan from the ODTI said.

“It’s a very rare event that someone might die in circumstances that allows organ donation so we’d ask people to be aware of the benefits of organ donation and discuss their wishes with their family because lives can be saved,” Prof Egan told RTÉ.

“Life can be one’s legacy if one dies in circumstances that allow organ donation,” he said.

Rather than applying a “soft opt-out system”, the key to enhancing organ donation is through the deployment of specialist nurses and doctors, he said. This month, five new organ procurement coordinators are scheduled to begin working in Irish hospitals, followed by six specialist nurses and intensive care doctors in the spring.

These organ donor specialists will support family and local staff when dealing with the difficult circumstances surrounding death and organ donation, said Prof Egan.

Despite the low level of deceased organ donors in 2014, the Mater hospital in Dublin recorded a record number of transplants last year with 31 lung and 18 hearts.

The lowest figure for donations from deceased donors in recent years was in 2010 with only 58 donors. This figure rose in 2011 with 93 deceased donors. According to the ODTI, kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organ, followed by the liver and the heart.

In a statement, the Irish Kidney Association (IKA) raised concerns that Beaumont Hospital did not have the infrastructure in place to increase the number kidney transplants and said the hospital was in short supply of transplant surgeons. The hospital has also failed to commission an extra operation theatre, it said.

The HSE said transplant services at Beaumont Hospital had been “prioritised” and the hospital was “actively pursuing a number of options” to develop the existing donor team.

Prof Egan says the HSE should look internationally to countries like Spain for advice on the type of infrastructure need to improve organ donation levels.

“The key component of the Spanish system is specialist doctors and nurses involved in organ donation throughout the healthcare system,” he said other countries like the UK and Australia have replicated that and invested in that area.”

Spain is the top European country for deceased organ donors where there are 35 donors per million of the population. Ireland comes 14th in Europe with 18 donors per million.

Prof Egan hopes the upcoming specialist donor recruits in 2015 will play an important role in relaying the benefits of organ donation to the public.

“We have to continue to try and make the public aware of the large number of people awaiting organs,” he said, adding that 650 Irish families are currently waiting for life-saving transplant treatment.

“We don’t want people to be donors, we want them to drive carefully and mind themselves. But in the unlikely circumstance that something was to happen, we’d ask them to give the gift of life.”

For organ donor cards freetext DONOR to 50050 or visitika.ie

How you can stick to your new year’s resolutions


By the end of the cold, dull month of January, 92% of resolutions are dead on arrival.

That is not some bubblegum statistic – that is according to a survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology by the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Researcher Dr John Norcross, who also published his research in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, found that about 50% of people make resolutions each New Year and top of the list are ones relating to weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking and better money management.

As with most things in life it is not what we do but how and why we do it that can make the difference between success and failure.

We have looked at some of the most popular resolutions; stopping smoking, losing weight, sticking to a hobby, sorting out your money woes and taking a digital detox and spoke with experts about how to turn your words into action.

  Weight loss

As is the certainty of death and taxes, dieting is also a confirmed lose-lose game. Reaching one’s set-point weight comes about because of a well-maintained metabolic rate, which is generated by keeping the fire stoked – in other words, eating regularly.

Dieting works off deprivation as opposed to eating well and having a life.

What is more, it can lead to obsessive thoughts about food and worse eating disorders.

Marie Campion, author of Hope: Understanding Eating Distress (Eating Disorders) and Director of the Marino Therapy Centre in Dublin, says that dieting leads to “trouble.”

“Generally with dieting the more we do it the more trouble we are in.

“In the New Year it creates a sort of double disappointment because dieting never works. And in the New Year there’s an emotional excitement to it and then you get disappointed in yourself,” explains Ms Campion.

Instead she advises balance and the simple act of listening to your body.

“Dieting creates obsessions because you are depriving yourself. It’s all about balance.

“On the mental level, even with the language, we say ‘I won’t do that’, or ‘I can’t have that,’ and on a physical level, we are depriving ourselves and destroying our metabolic rate instead of listening to the body,” she adds.

Ms Campion notes that as opposed to vowing to weight loss people should commit to respecting their bodies all year around.

“See the New Year as a time to get excited and not to punish the body. If you want to make a resolution, decide to treat your body respectfully for the whole year, if you want to be slim you need to listen to your body,” she says.

Digital detox

You fall asleep with your phone in your hand and it is not because of a late-night call to your nearest and dearest. You step out into oncoming-traffic because you are checking how many people liked your ‘selfie’ from this morning’s bus journey. And instead of listening to your friend tell you about their up-coming job interview over coffee you are too busy texting your other friend to arrange another coffee date.

It is time to step out of the online world and back into reality.

Child psychotherapist Joanna Fortune has witnessed the rapid growth of our internet use firsthand through her work with young clients.

“The average teenager is checking their social media between 60 and 120 times a day, which may sound shocking, but this is not just a teenage phenomenon, with many studies citing adults spending in excess of ten hours a week on social media,” explains the psychotherapist.

She says that internet addiction is now a recognised addiction.

“We are becoming tech-obsessed with over 500 million tweets sent each day and 1.28 billion people declared regular Facebook users. Addiction to social media is now a recognised condition with many addiction clinics offering treatment programmes for it,” adds Ms Fortune.

Addiction or over-use – she advises that everyone can do with a bit of time-out and cooling off from their smart phones in the New Year.

“Whether you think you are addicted or not I think we could all do with switching our phones off a bit more and switching our real life engagement on a bit.

“When I do school talks I issue a challenge to teens that I would encourage people to take on this year as a New Year’s Resolution: turn your phone off (or disable internet access) from 8pm to 8am or 8am-8pm (depending on your lifestyle), each day for a month and take note of how your mood, sleep and overall behaviour changes as a result,” advises Ms Fortune.

 Quit smoking now

Smoking is a chemical addiction to nicotine but it does not stop there unfortunately. There are also a rainbow of myths that keep you smoking.

Apparently the one cigarette simultaneously relaxes you and relieves boredom too. While stopping smoking can seem like hell on earth if you go cold turkey, withdrawals from nicotine are actually so mild that they do not even wake the heaviest of smokers up at night.

You do not need to smoke, you just think you do. Allen Carr invented the Easyway to Stop Smoking and published his book, with the same name, 30 years ago this year.

It has sold 13 million copies so far.

Director of the Irish branch, Brenda Sweeney, says that stopping smoking does not have to be hard.

“Stopping smoking is easy if you go about it the right way, Allen Carr’s Easyway has a different approach in that we don’t use any aids or gimmicks, we do remove the myths and illusions surrounding smoking and more importantly we remove the fears associated with stopping smoking,” she says.

“Other methods like NRT (nicotine-replacement therapy), beware they contain nicotine, and cold turkey may get cigarettes out of your mouth but not out of your head, whereas Easyway does,” she adds.

  Sticking to a sport

Another popular New Year’s resolution can be to take up a sport or acquire a new skill but often we book ourselves in for class but fail to show up on the day.

Fitness consultant and motivational speaker Pat Henry (below) advises people that if they want to take up a new sport, then slow and steady will win the race.

“There are three things I would recommend if you want something to stick. If it’s exercise, then do the exercise in the morning. Exercise gets shoved down the priority list. Get exercising early in the morning, get it finished early and you will have increased energy,” he explains.

In terms of taking up a new sport, for example, the second thing he recommends is to find a buddy.

“The only way to do it, say someone wants to take up rowing, get a training partner, make a committment, that’s the motivation you need to get out on the Liffey early in the morning. Find someone you know, or go to one of the clubs, everyone’s looking for a good training partner,” says the fitness expert.

And the third thing he advises is to not declare your goal to the world at large as it only sets you up for failure.

“They tell people they’re going to do x, y, z and then people say: ‘oh that will last a week.’ Don’t go around telling people what you’re doing, people can be negative. Let your mind alone focus on your goal,” says Pat.

  And finally, get a life.

“Slow and steady is the way to do it, people who are training three and four hours a day don’t have any advantage. Get your job done and get a life. Do your own thing and don’t be spending half an hour looking in the mirror,” he adds.

  Sort finances

Whether your taste is more expensive than the value of your wallet or whether you are as frugal as possible but you always find yourself stretched to the pin of your collar on the eve of pay-day – financial planning can ease the stress when it comes to money woes.

“Planning is the fundamental backbone of any project in which you wish to succeed,” says John Lowe, author of the best-seller the Money Doctor and Personal Insolvency Practitioner.

“Budgeting is an essential part of that planning process and especially at the start of the year for singles and families.

“Remember if your expenditure exceeds income, you have three choices: cut costs, earn more or prioritise,” he advises.

If you know you’ll spend later in the year (birthdays, holidays, Christmas) why not start saving now and include it as part of your monthly outlay,” he adds.

In terms of tips the money expert says that checking in regularly on your current account will help you stay on the straight and narrow.

“Planning and budgeting is a marathon not a sprint.

“Regularly checking your monthly cash flows will in itself keep you on track or if you have to adjust, allow pre-planned options come into play,” he states.

Exotic animals who are putting our ladybirds and other native species in danger


Exotic pets released into the wild are putting native animals at risk by spreading disease and competing for resources.

A new report has warned that a lack of information on the types of species traded in Ireland means that a proper risk assessment cannot be carried out. It also called for a national database of traded pets to be set up.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre said that invasive species cost the economy as much as €261m a year. Worryingly, one in four ‘high risk’ species have been recorded in the last decade.

Pets which grow very large, reproduce easily or require specialised care are the most likely to be introduced into the environment.

They can prey on native wildlife, compete with plants and animals for resources, and introduce and spread diseases.

Even pets not considered exotic, such as cats, rabbits, goldfish and other fish species, can have major negative impacts on native biodiversity.

The report – ‘Ireland’s invasive and non-native species – trends in introductions’ – noted that with increased globalisation there was an increase in movement of non-native species across the world.

“Invasive non-native species are a threat to our biodiversity ecosystem functions and have a cost to our economy,” it said.

“Of the 377 recorded non-native species in Ireland that were risk assessed, the majority (66%) are at risk of low impact, 21% ranked with a risk of medium impact and 13% ranked as having a risk of high impact.

“The trend in introductions has increased dramatically since the beginning of the 20th Century and has accelerate further in the last decade. Most of the species are native to North America and Asia.”

It added that the vast bulk of species were plants, and that most (67pc) were on land, followed by 21pc in freshwater environments and 12pc in marine.

The implications are “immense, insidious and usually irreversible”, said the World Conservation Union, because of their impact on wildlife, economic activity and human health.

Among the species listed as high risk were the American mink, Asian clam, grey squirrel, harlequin ladybird, giant hogweed and feral ferret.

The report also found:

Some 377 species were assessed as being recorded up to 2012. Another 342 have not yet been recorded in Ireland, but were considered likely to arrive in the future;

127 species are assessed as being high or medium risk;

Of the 48 high-risk species, 12 were recorded in the last decade. Another three medium-risk species were also recorded since 2000;

The highest number of high-impact species are from Asia (29pc), followed by North America (20p), Europe and the UK (16pc), Eurasia (15pc) and Australia (8pc);

‘Citizen science’ is key to detection, with members of the public reporting many new species found in the last decade.

The report found that the “process of biological invasion” was changing constantly with new species arriving to our shores on a regular basis.

The initial response is crucial, including early detection and early warning systems.

While a rapid eradication programme is needed in many cases, prevention of the spread of some species including the Harlequin ladybird “may not be feasible once the species becomes established”.

The report makes 10 recommendations, but said the “reality” for policy-makers was that “limited resources” were available to prevent and respond to threats.

It also warned about the need for a database of invasive species, including exotic pets.

“One significant recent development has been the increased reporting in the wild of traded pet species that have the potential to become invasive in Ireland.

“An openly accessible database of these traded species should be available to better assess the risk of future introductions to the wild.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday/Saturday 28th & 29th November 2014

Ireland set to repay the first installment of €9 billion to IMF next month


Money will be paid from cash balances held by the National Treasury Management Agency.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: “All bilateral lenders have now confirmed the waiver in respect of their loans to us”.

The Government expects to repay €9 billion of the State’s loans with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December, in what will be the first instalment of the early repayment of our bailout funds from the Washington DC-based body.

This has been confirmed by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in a reply to a question from Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

“The early repayment [of the IMF loans] will take place in tranches, with the first tranche of approximately €9 billion planned for next month,” Mr Noonan said.

It is understood this money will be paid from existing cash balances held by the National Treasury Management Agency on behalf of the State.

Ireland intends to repay €18.3 billion of our €22.5 billion IMF loan, which dates back to the financial assistance programme agreed with the fund and the EU in late 2010.

Mr Noonan said this is the portion of the loan subject to the highest rate of interest. The intention was to replace it, in a “measured way”, with “less expensive market funding”.

A clause in our loan agreements with the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), and with bilateral lenders the UK, Denmark and Sweden meant that waivers from them were required to repay the IMF loans early.

“All bilateral lenders have now confirmed the waiver in respect of their loans to us, in accordance with their national approval procedures,” Mr Noonan said.

“The most recent of these was the Swedish government’s agreement on November 20th … following the Swedish parliament’s approval the previous day. The EFSF and EFSM can now complete the waiver process, which will facilitate the first early repayment.”

Garda Reserve close to full strength 10 years after inception


Journalists absent from Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan first passing-out ceremony at Templemore

The Garda Reserve is on course to achieve its target strength next year, some 10 years after the part-time unpaid element of the force was established.

It was intended that the reserve would reach 10 per cent of the full-time Garda number. But nine years after the first intake, that figure is yet to be reached.

The latest class of reservists graduated at the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday when 62 men and women from home and abroad were officially welcomed into the reserve after completing their training.

In total, 62 reservists passed out: 41 men and 21 women. While most were from the Republic, there were also reservists fromFrance, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Target in sight

The passing out brought to 1,173 the full strength of the reserve, with 1,091 fully attested and 82 in training.

If current intake trends continue, the number of reservists will reach some 1,250 next year, or 10 per cent of the full-time force.

The reserve was introduced under theGarda Síochána Act 2005, with the first intake of reservists inducted the following year.

Some organisations that represent full-time Garda members were dissatisfied with what they considered efforts by then minister for justice Michael McDowell to introduce free policing.

Yesterday’s ceremony was the first passing-out event at Templemore over which Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has presided since her appointment this week.

However while the ceremony is usually open to journalists, who are afforded an interview opportunity with the commissioner and minister for justice of the day, only photographers were invited to yesterday’s passing out.

Media absence

Senior sources said the commissioner had already taken questions from the media at several events since her appointment on Tuesday. And they added that there was “little point” in another media event just days into her term.

The same sources said the commissioner remained committed to creating a more open and transparent force and the exclusion of journalists “should not be misinterpreted in any way”.

In September, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and then interim commissioner O’Sullivan faced a barrage of questions at a passing-out in Templemore relating to allegations that gardaí continued to cancel penalty points without reason.

Senior sources at the time believed the allegations had been leaked just before the event in an effort to put Ms O’Sullivan at a disadvantage.

Ireland’s GPs ‘unaware of their medical card powers’

Says the HSE


The ability of doctors to extend a medical card for four months was one of the measures included in the package announced earlier this week

Some GPs in Ireland have not been made fully aware they could temporarily save a patient from losing their medical card in special cases, the Health Service

A spokeswoman was commenting after the National Association of General Practitioners said doctors encountered a wide range of problems with this facility.

Others were unaware they could extend a card via the HSE computer system even though it has been in place for two years, the GP body said.

The HSE spokeswoman said the HSE and GP representatives worked collaboratively to develop the facilities which are available to family doctors today. “It is clear that not all GPs are fully aware of all of the facilities available and the HSE will be writing again to clarify the situation with them.

“However, many GPs are aware of the facilities and currently reinstate medical cards, extend the expiry date for sensitive renewals and add babies to medical cards.


“To date GPs have reinstated 2,008 medical cards, completed 384 sensitive renewals, removed 19,189 medical cards and added 21,770 babies to the GMS register,” she added.

She pointed out there are “controls in place”. In instances where a family has been fully assessed and it has been established that they are not eligible for a medical card, this decision cannot be overturned by a GP. “However, if a family did not engage with the review process, for reasons of illness for instance, the lapsed eligibility for this family can be re-instated by their GP.

“The HSE will work with GPs to strengthen the facilities available to them.”

The ability of doctors to extend a medical card for four months was one of the measures included in the package announced earlier this week to reform the discretionary medical card scheme.

If the patient has a mental illness, it may be extended by the GP for a year after notifying the HSE.

Ireland records second highest fertility rate in the EU


Significant developments and trends noted in 2012 CSO Vital Statistics report

A report on Vital Statistics 2012 published by the Central Statistics Office notes that France had the highest fertility rate at 2.01, Ireland was next at 1.99.

Ireland recorded the second highest fertility rate in the EU in 2012, the figures released by the Central Statistics Office show.

A report on Vital Statistics 2012 published by the Central Statistics Office notes that France had the highest fertility rate at 2.01, Ireland was next at 1.99 followed by the UK with a rate of 1.94. Portugal had the lowest rate at 1.28.

Referred to as the Total Period Fertility Rate (TPFR) the fertility figure represents a theoretical average number of children who would be born alive to a woman during her lifetime.

A 2.1 score is considered to be the population replacement rate – the number of births necessary to maintain current population levels.

Ireland’s TPFR has fallen by 33 per cent in the last 30 years, from 2.96 in 1980 to 1.99 in 2012. It has been below the replacement level since 1991.

The number of births to women aged 30 to 34 in 2012 was 26, 028, the highest number of all 5-year age groups and representing over a third of all births (36.3 per cent).

The percentage of births to teenage mothers remained the same in 2012 as in 2011, at 2.3 per cent (1,616) of births to mothers under 20 years of age.

Excluding 2011, it was 1963 since the percentage of births to mothers below 20 was this low.

As the decline in the rate births to mothers under 20 might suggest, Irish women are choosing to have their babies later in life and the rate of births to mothers over 40 is increasing.

In 2012, 5.6 per cent (4,007) of births were to mothers over 40. This was the highest percentage of births to this age group since 1971 when it was 5.7 per cent.

In 2012, 7 per cent of females in their 20s gave birth while 11 per cent of those in their 30s gave birth.

The average age of mothers at maternity in Ireland in 2012 was 32.0 years. This compares with 30.0 in Northern Ireland and 29.8 in England and Wales.

In 2012, 71,674 children born in Ireland. This represents a fall of 3.2 per cent (2,359)from 2011. Despite recording a fall, 2012 still saw the fifth highest number of births in Ireland since 1980.

The birth rate was 15.6 per 1,000 of the population compared with 16.2 in 2011 and 15.5 in 2002.

The report also highlights some other significant developments and trends. In 2012, just over 23.2 per cent of births were to mothers of non-Irish nationality.

The number of births outside marriage/civil partnership in 2012 was 25,179 or 35.1 per cent of all births.

Wednesday the 4th of July saw the highest number of babies born on one day (269). The lowest number of babies born on the one day was 107 on April 22nd.

There were 29,186 deaths recorded in Ireland in 2012, of which 14,945 were males and 14, 241 were females. This equates to 6.36 deaths per 1,000 total population compared with 6.22 in 2011 and 7.58 in 2002.

There were 541 deaths due to intentional self-harm in 2012 of which 445 were male and 96 female.

The risk from extreme weather is set to rise


The UK is comparatively resilient to extreme events – but vulnerable because of high population density

Climate change and population growth will hugely increase the risk to people from extreme weather, a report says.

The Royal Society warns that the risk of heatwaves to an ageing population will rise about ten-fold by 2090 if greenhouse gases continue to rise.

They estimate the risk to individuals from floods will rise more than four-fold and the drought risk will treble.

The report’s lead author Prof Georgina Mace said: “This problem is not just about to come… it’s here already.”

She told BBC News: “We have to get the mindset that with climate change and population increase we are living in an ever-changing world – and we need much better planning if we hope to cope.”

The report says governments have not grasped the risk of booming populations in coastal cities as sea level rises and extreme events become more severe.

“People are increasingly living in the wrong places, and it’s likely that extreme events will be more common,” Prof Mace says.

“For most hazards, population increase contributes at least as much as climate change – sometimes more. We are making ourselves more vulnerable whilst making the climate more extreme.

“It is impossible for us to avoid the worst and most unexpected events. But it is not impossible to be prepared for an ever-changing world. We must organise ourselves right away.”

The report’s team said the UK was comparatively resilient to extreme events – but still vulnerable because of the high density of people living in areas at risk.

The report says governments have not grasped the risk of booming populations in coastal cities

The report advises all levels of society to prepare – from strategic planning at an international and national level to local schemes by citizens to tackle floods or heatwaves.

Its scenarios are based on the assumption that the world stays on the current trajectory of emissions, which the authors assume will increase temperature by 2.6-4.8C around 2090. It assumes a population of nine billion.

They say they have built upon earlier work by calculating the effects of climate change coupled with population trends. They warn that the effects of extremes will be exacerbated by the increase in elderly people, who are least able to cope with hot weather.

Urbanisation will make the issue worse by creating “heat islands” where roads and buildings absorb heat from the sun. As well as building homes insulated against the cold, we must also ensure they can be properly ventilated in the summer, the report says.

The authors say cutting greenhouse gas emissions is essential. But they argue that governments will also need to adapt to future climatic shifts driven by climate change.

They suggest threats could be tackled through a dual approach. The simplest and cheapest way of tempering heatwaves, they say, is to maintain existing green space. Other low-cost options are planting new trees, encouraging green roofs, or painting roofs white to reflect the sun.

The authors say air conditioners are the most effective way of keeping cool – but they are costly, they dump heat into city streets and their use exacerbates climate change.

Flooding is another priority area, the report says. It finds that large-scale engineering solutions like sea walls offer the most effective protection to coastal flooding – but they are expensive, and when they fail the results can be disastrous.

Urbanisation creates heat islands which can exacerbate the effects of hot weather

The ideal solution, the authors think, may be a combination of “hard” engineering solutions like dykes matched with “soft” solutions like protecting wetlands to hold water and allow it to seep into the ground.

A scheme at Pickering in Yorkshire previously featured by BBC News is held as an example. The report concludes more research is needed to measure the effectiveness of these ecosystem solutions.

It insists that governments should carefully prioritise their spending. They should protect major infrastructure like electricity generation because of its knock-on effect on the broader economy. They should expect some lower-priority defences to fail from time to time, then work to minimise the consequences of that failure .

The authors identify excess heat as another potential threat to economies and agriculture if temperatures climb too high for outdoor workers.

They examine projected rises in the “wet bulb” index used by the US Army and others to measure the temperature felt when the skin is wet and exposed to moving air.

Some areas may experience many weeks when outdoor activity is heavily restricted, they fear – although the trend of agricultural labour loss may be offset through the century as more and more people move to cities.

It puts a figure on those at greatest overall risk: populations in poor countries make up only 11% of those exposed to hazards but account for 53% of the disaster deaths.

Some economists argue this shows that poor nations should increase their economies by burning cheap fossil fuels because that will allow them to spend more later on disaster protection.

The authors also call for reform of the financial system to take into account the exposure of assets to extreme events.

They say: “Unless risks are accurately evaluated and reported, companies will have limited incentives to reduce them. And valuations and investment decisions will continue to be poorly informed.”

One author, Rowan Douglas, from the Willis Research Network, said he suspected this might be the most significant contribution of the report.

The authors want organisations to report their maximum probable losses due to extreme events, based on a 1% chance of the event on any given year.

“The 1% stress test is not as extreme as it might sound – it implies a 10% chance of an organization being affected once a decade,” they say.

They say decisions made over the next few decades as the world builds vast urban areas will be key to the resilience of people by the end of the century.