Tag Archives: Coalition

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 25th November 2015

Ireland in ‘A coalition of devils’

Says an alleged Islamic State video

Department of Justice says terror threats being monitored as group vows it will ‘burn’ enemies


A new video allegedly from ISIS is asking the world to ‘bring it on’. The video features the Irish flag among what the booming American voice over describes as the ‘coalition of devils’.

A video claiming to have been issued by the Islamic State group has included Ireland as part of “a coalition of devils” that has formed against it, before threatening to “burn” its enemies.

The authenticity of the video – which models itself on a Hollywood film trailer – cannot be vouched for, but it bears a strong resemblance to others issued by the group over recent months.

Flags from a host of countries, led off by the United States and the United Kingdom, but including Ireland, are displayed, though no specific reference to Ireland is made in the accompanying voiceover.

“There’s your coalition of devils with Iran, Turkey and Russia joining the fray. That’s because the Millah of Kufr [unbelievers] will also unite you to fight the truth. So bring it on – all of you. Your numbers only increase us in faith.

“We’re counting your banners, which our prophet said would reach 80 in number and then the flames of war will finally burn you on the hills of death,” the American-accented voice declares.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice said international terrorism threats were kept under constant review: “The Minister and the Garda Commissioner maintain regular, ongoing contact on security matters,” said a spokesman.

People before Profit said the threat showed the need to block American military from using Shannon.

Labour party to seek a cross-party consensus on abortion legislation

Proposal to repeal eight amendment to be key demand for party after general election


Sinead Ahern, chair of Labour Women, and Senator Ivana Bacik during the launch by Labour Women of the General Scheme of the Labour Women Repeal the 8th Amendment Bill in Buswells Hotel,Dublin.

The Labour Party has published plans to scrap Ireland’s Eighth Amendment ban on abortion – which will form a key demand of the party in post-election coalition negotiations.

The 1983 amendment, which governs Ireland’s abortion laws, enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said Labour’s proposals would allow for abortion under four medically-certifiedgrounds: risk to life; risk to health; cases of rape; and fatal foetal abnormality.

It would also decriminalise abortion.

“The Labour Party is the party of social change and we are including a commitment in our manifesto to hold a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment if returned to Government,” Ms Bacik said.

“Labour Women have produced this framework for the scheme of a Bill which would be introduced by the Labour Party if the eighth amendment is repealed by way of referendum.”

Labour is seeking to build a cross-party consensus, she said. Consultant Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan, former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness and former Senator Dr Mary Henry attended the launch.

The chairwoman of Labour Women, Sinead Ahern, said an average of 12 women travelled from Ireland to the UK for abortions every day.

“Abortion is already a reality for women in Ireland and we cannot continue to export this issue. Nobody under the age of 50 has had a chance to vote on whether the eighth amendment should be in our constitution. It’s time we let the people have their say,” Ms Ahern said.

She insisted public opinion on abortion was changing, “and we know that the majority of voters want to repeal the eighth amendment”.

Describing Labour’s stand as “blinkered”, the Pro-Life Campaign’s deputy chairwoman Cora Sherlock said she believed some parents are coming under pressure to abort following the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition.

“The thing that stands out about today’s launch by the Labour Party is the complete absence of any mention of the unborn child’s right to life,” she said.

Ms Sherlock said abortion had “devastating effects” on many women.

Referring to Labour, she said: “Do they seriously think they can run and hide and ignore the grave injustice that abortion involves and its long-lasting effects?”

IFA to challenge former chief of on €2m severance package

IFA President Eddie Downey is stepping down   

Under deal Pat Smith (right pic) received the sum of €1m upfront and €100,000 a year for 10 years.

Eddie Downey (above left), president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), has resigned just hours after it emerged the organisation would legally challenge a €2 million severance package he is understood to have agreed with its former general secretary Pat Smith.

The executive council of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has voted unanimously against paying a severance package to its former general secretary Pat Smith.

The vote was taken during an all-day meeting of the national executive in Dublin which heard IFA president Eddie Downey had agreed a €2 million exit package with Mr Smith last week.

The deal, which involved €1 million up front, followed by €100,000 per year for 10 years, was agreed when Mr Smith resigned amid controversy over the size of his pay package.

The association was thrown into crisis this month by revelations Mr Smith received a total two-year pay package of nearly €1 million in 2013 and 2014. He resigned as general secretary in the face of outrage from many farmers at the scale of his pay, which the IFA had not previously made public.

Mr Downey last night announced his resignation as IFA president. He had earlier stood aside from the role pending a major review of corporate governance at the IFA, which is to be carried out by its former chief economist, Con Lucey.


Mr Lucey resigned last year as chairman of the IFA’s audit committee, claiming the committee was being frustrated in its work by Mr Smith.

In a statement, Mr Downey said he was stepping down in the best interests of the association. “I have always demanded the highest levels of governance and accountability within IFA and my clear understanding was that governance and management of IFA was a clear function and responsibility of the senior executive leadership with oversight from elected officers.”

He said it was well known he was determined to be a reforming president. He had worked to get an audit committee up and working.

He had met Mr Lucey and agreed with his proposed solutions to issues to be addressed by the committee, but unfortunately its work had been “frustrated.”

At an emergency meeting of the IFA’s executive council in Dublin yesterday, members were told Mr Smith’s severance agreement was signed by Mr Downey and Mr Smith, but not by IFA treasurer Jer Bergin, financial controller Ken Heade or deputy president Tim O’Leary. The latter three are understood to have opposed the deal.

Mr Smith had been general secretary for six years, but had worked for the IFA for 25 years in a variety of posts.

The IFA confirmed to The Irish Times it would mount a legal challenge to the severance package. Members at the meeting were also informed Mr Smith’s pension pot was worth €2.7 million 12 months ago when he transferred it out of the IFA and into his own possession.

At the meeting, the second in a week, members vented their anger at the board of the IFA over the ongoing pay controversy. Four resolutions from county executives in Galway, Mayo, West Cork and Cavan calling for the entire seven-man board to resign were tabled.

Earlier, the association announced its review of corporate governance, including remuneration, would be carried out by Mr Lucey, who will report back to the council with his recommendations on December 15th. The 53-member council unanimously welcomed Mr Lucey’s involvement, noting it was an “important step forward in rebuilding the trust of farmers”.

Mr Lucey said his recommendations would “reflect the fact that times and corporate governance standards have changed; businesses and organisations are now subject to greater scrutiny as regards how they operate”.


Mr O’Leary, who will undertake the functions of the IFA president during the review, confirmed Mr Lucey had agreed to examine all aspects of the remuneration package of the former general secretary from his appointment in 2009 until his resignation last week. “He will do the same for the president and the deputy president, in order to provide the membership with full transparency,” Mr O’Leary said, adding that the IFA would make all financial data available to Mr Lucey.

Mixing alcohol with diet soft drinks will “get people drunk faster”

According to a new study

  Intoxicated: When men and women were given vodka mixed with either ordinary lemonade or sugar-free lemonade, they became inebriated more quickly with the diet version   

On a boozy night out, many of us reach for diet mixers in the hope it will keep the calorie count down.

But while the artificially-sweetened drinks may not be as bad for our waistlines, experts now warn they could get us drunk faster – even taking us over the drink-drive limit.

US researchers from the Northern Kentucky University studied 20 men and women, breathalysing them after drinking either a vodka and lemonade or vodka and diet lemonade. While the amount of alcohol was the same, the readings were up by 25 per cent for those who’d had diet mixers.

It’s such a big difference that scientists want bars to warn staff and punters of the dangers of going diet.

As for why the readings were so different, it’s believed sugary mixers could act in the same way as food, slowing the passage of alcohol to the bloodstream, claims the research in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal.

The same US team has carried out similar research before, finding that diet mixers could take someone over the drink-drive limit. As test subjects who’d had the low-calorie drink didn’t feel any more inebriated, it could result in people accidentally drink-driving.

Their biggest worry is women, who are often the people who opt for diet drinks.

“While all alcohol consumers should be aware of this phenomenon, it appears more likely that women would select alcohol beverages with a diet mixer given that they are more likely to be conscious of calories in their drinks,” study author Dr. Cecile Marczinski warned.

“Young women may be particularly vulnerable as they frequently use diet mixers with alcohol and they also restrict food intake when drinking to control calorie consumption and, ultimately, body weight.”

Remember though it’s safer not to drink at all on nights when you’re driving.

Those from less well-off areas less likely to beat cancer


The rich-poor divide is continuing to leave people in the least well-off areas of the country facing lower odds of surviving cancer after five years.

Worrying new figures reveal a stark difference in survival rates for two common cancers.

The early data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, due to be officially published early next year, shows the five-year survival rates for bowel cancer is 56pc in poor areas. This compares to 64pc for patients with the same disease in more affluent regions.

Poorer patients with lung cancer have a 16pc survival rate.

But survival for the better-off who have lung cancer stands at 22pc.

“Where you live has a significant impact on how long you live,” said Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cancer Society.

The organisation will unveil the sharp divide in cancer survival rates at a conference in Dublin today.

“Cancer affects all parts of Irish society, but some people are more at risk than others,” she pointed out. “The data shows that those in the poorest communities in Ireland have a reduced chance of surviving their cancer diagnosis.

“The new data highlights again that, if you come from a poorer community, you are less likely to survive cancer.

“This is hugely unfair. All communities and backgrounds should have equal access to diagnostics and fast treatment.”

She suggested one of the contributory factors is the ongoing risk of delayed diagnosis by those who cannot afford to pay for scans themselves to find out if their symptoms are cancerous.

This is one of the barriers which is helping to maintain the ‘cancer gap’, where those from the most deprived communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer as those who are the least deprived, she warned.

“The reasons for the gap are multiple, but often the people in these communities have the greatest difficulties in accessing healthcare. Late diagnosis can lead to late treatment and to worse outcomes. In some deprived Dublin areas, there are not enough primary care resources – for instance, in North Dublin there is one GP for every 2,500 people. Nationally, this figure is one for every 1,600.

“It’s going to take a big effort on the part of government, the HSE and organisations like the Irish Cancer Society to take action in closing this worrying divide. But it can be done.”

Betrayals forced early humans to spread across the world


Moral disputes motivated by broken trust and a sense of betrayal motivated early humans to put distance between them and their rivals

Betrayals of trust resulting from moral disputes were a significant reason for such risky dispersals into apparently unwelcoming environments with a desire to avoid physical harm from disgruntled former friends and allies being a key motivation. Photo: iStock

London: Betrayals of trust resulting from moral disputes forced early humans to cross major geographical barriers, including deltas such as the Indus and the Ganges, and spread across the world about 100,000 years ago, a new study has found.

Penny Spikins from the University of York in the UK said that the speed and character of human dispersals changed significantly around 100,000 years ago.

Before that movement of archaic humans were slow and largely governed by environmental events due to population increases or ecological changes. Afterwards populations spread with remarkable speed and across major environmental barriers. Spikins relates this change to changes in human emotional relationships.

Researchers said that neither population increase nor ecological changes provide an adequate explanation for patterns of human movement into new regions which began around 100,000 years ago.

They suggest that as commitments to others became more essential to survival, and human groups ever more motivated to identify and punish those who cheat, the ‘dark’ side of human nature also developed. Moral disputes motivated by broken trust and a sense of betrayal became more frequent and motivated early humans to put distance between them and their rivals.

Larger social networks made it easier to find distant allies with whom to start new colonies, and more efficient hunting technology meant that anyone with a grudge was a danger but it was human emotions which provided the force of repulsion from existing occupied areas which we do not see in other animals.

Early species of hominin were limited in distribution to specific environments such as grasslands and open woodland.

The expansion of Homo erectus out of Africa into Asia around 1.6 million years ago appears to have been caused by the need to find more large scale grasslands.

By contrast, Neanderthals occupied cold and arid parts of Europe. All archaic species adapted slowly to new opportunities for settlement and were often deterred by environmental and climatic barriers.

After 100,000 years ago, dispersal into distant, risky and inhospitable areas became relatively more common compared with movements into already occupied regions. Humans moved into cold regions of Northern Europe, crossed significant deltas such as the Indus and the Ganges, deserts, tundra and jungle environment and even made significant sea crossings to reach Australia and the Pacific islands.

Spikins said that betrayals of trust resulting from moral disputes were a significant reason for such risky dispersals into apparently unwelcoming environments with a desire to avoid physical harm from disgruntled former friends and allies being a key motivation.



News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday/Wednesday 22nd & 23rd September

Lowering the USC rate could cost Irish exchequer some €364m


Lowering the cost of the Universal Social Charge by a percentage point for 1.28m taxpayers earning over €17,575 would cost the exchequer €364m, or over half of all the amount that Finance Minister Michael Noonan has indicated would be available for tax cuts in his pre-election budget next month.

Increasing the €12,012 threshold for paying the USC charge to €14,000 would benefit 80,000 taxpayers and cost the exchequer €22m.

And increasing the same €12,012 entry point for paying the USC by €1,000 and re-aligning the 1.5% band would benefit all 1.74m taxpayers who pay the USC, or 72% of all income earners. That measure alone would cost €49.7m.

The estimates come from the Irish Tax Institute which yesterday published a host of figures on the costs of the fiscal options facing the finance minister in the budget.

Since last April, Minister Noonan has repeatedly said the Coalition plans to unveil an expansionary budget of between €1.2bn and €1.5bn. The measures would be evenly split between tax cuts and spending increases.

But analysts say the Tax Institute figures reveal the dilemma facing the minister.

Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Merrion Capital, said that cutting income tax or announcing other personal tax measures would likely be more beneficial because cutting the USC rates appears very costly.

“There are no easy options,” Mr McQuaid said. “I think they will focus on low income workers this year ahead of the election” because there are likely to be more votes in cutting income tax rates or thresholds.

“It does underline that €750m [in tax cuts] is not a lot of money, but of course they may raise money on petrol because oil prices are low, to compensate,” Mr McQuaid said.

Philip O’Sullivan, chief economist at Investec Ireland, predicted that the minister’s tax changes would cost about the same as the tax measures he introduced in the 2015 budget.

Mr O’Sullivan said there would be probably tax cuts of over €600m benefiting workers. There would however unlikely be any increase in the Vat rate for the hospitality industry because the election is looming, he said.

On possible income tax measures, the Irish Tax Institute says that increasing the 40% income tax band by €1,000 to €34,800 would benefit all single persons earning more than €33,800. That measure would cost the Exchequer €72.4m.

Increasing both 40% income tax bands for married two income earners by €1,000 would cost €74.3m.

On taxes on capital, lowering the 33% tax on gift and inheritance taxes would cost €12m for each percentage point reduction.

The Institute says its research shows that Irish taxpayers on €75,000 pay more personal tax than in Sweden, Spain, the UK and the US.

It says that it is accepted globally that the best way to boost innovation in the economy is to “keep down tax on internationally mobile activities as to attract the key executives who contribute to the economy.”

The country needs “talent to grow our start-ups, our SMEs and to continue attracting international companies to Ireland.”

The Institute argues that other countries, including Scotland, Australia and Belgium, have been eager to tackle the “key issue” of attracting highly-skilled overseas’ staff through the use of personal tax incentives.

Ireland regains it’s top 10 rank at eighth in the list of innovative economies


Switzerland holds onto the top spot as Ireland advances three places in Global Innovation Index 2015

Ireland has moved into the top ten of the world’s most innovative economies. Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the index.

Ireland has moved into eighth position in a list of the world’s most innovative economies, moving past Luxembourg and Denmark in the Global Innovation Index 2015. Last year it fell back three places to 11th in the benchmarking survey.

The annual report, released by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, surveys 141 economies around the world, using 79 indicators to determine innovation capacities and measurable outputs.

Simon Harris, Minister of State for International Financial Services, welcomed the result.

“Ireland’s rise three places into the Top 10 is a welcome acknowledgement that our hard won recovery is recognised internationally, and speaks to this Government’s commitment to rebuild our reputation on the global stage. A continued focus on innovation-supporting policies is key to translating our recovery into a sustainable economy and prosperous society into the future”.

Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the index, while China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda are among a group of countries outperforming their economic peers.

Spanish Armada dead remembered in Streedagh Grange Sligo ceremony

1,100 died when, in violent storms in September 1588, three ships from the Armada were driven ashore and wrecked

Spanish lives marked + in memory of 1,1000 Spanish Soldiers lost at Streedagh Grange, Co. Sligo.    Laying the wreath in watery grave.

The Spanish Armada shipwrecks in 1588 at Streedagh, Grange Co Sligo, The lives  lost some 427 years ago were marked as above picture and the laying of a wreath show in the watery grave on the golden sands of Streedagh beach last Saturday the 22nd September 2015.

A ceremony to remember the 1,100 soldiers from three Spanish Armada ships who perished at Streedagh, Co Sligo, more than four centuries ago has been held on the beach there. Hundreds of local people stood for a minute’s silence as the Last Post was played and a wreath carried to the sea by members of the Sligo Sub Aqua Club on Saturday afternoon.

Eddie O’Gorman, chairman of the Grange Armada Development Association, said it was important to mark the spot where so many lost their lives 427 years ago. “Those people got neither a wake nor a burial,” he said.

Locals and tourists etched 1,100 crosses into the sand on the beach to mark each life lost when, in violent storms on September 25th, 1588, three ships from the Armada were driven ashore and wrecked there. La Lavia, La Juliana and the Santa Maria de Vision were part of Philip II of Spain’s failed attempt to invade England.

Attention has focused on the wrecks since the discovery in February of timbers from La Juliana. In June and July, divers from the underwater archaeology unit of the Department of Arts,Heritage and the Gaeltacht recovered several cannon.

Declan Bruen from Streedagh discovered the timbers on the beach. He was among those taking part in the weekend ceremony, the highlight of the Celtic Fringe Festival. “I was with the divers when they brought up the cannons and it was remarkable to think that no one had seen them for 427 years,” said Mr Bruen. “But it was very important not to let the 1,100 people who died here be forgotten in all the excitement about the artefacts.”

Local man Seán Gilmartin (86) from Moneygold said the cannons, which were transferred to the National Museum, should find a permanent home near Streedagh. “I grew up near the beach and it was my playground and somewhere I fished,” he said, “but it was also a graveyard for many and we should remember that locally.”

Target to reduce mortality missed


A study from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) led by UNICEF on progress to reduce child mortality has revealed that although there has been substantial progress globally during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Target period of 1990-2015, only 62 of 195 countries with available data have met the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality (U5MR) by two thirds over these 25 years.

The research, published in The Lancet, by Dr Danzhen You and co-authors on behalf of the UN IGME, is the first to include U5MR estimates up to the MDG target year (2015) and to construct scenario-based projections from 2016 to 2030 to provide insights into the burden of under-five deaths over the next 15 years based on the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of 25 or fewer under-five deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.

The global U5MR has fallen from 91 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 43 in 2015. During the same period, absolute under-five deaths worldwide dropped from 12.7 million to 5.9 million. In total, an estimated 236.3 million children under age five died in 1990-2015. The poorest global region of West and Central Africa continues to have the highest U5MR in the world.

Globally, U5MR reduced by 53% in the past 25 years and therefore missed the MDG 4 target (of two-thirds). The data show that two regions — East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean — achieved the MDG 4 target. At the country level, 62 countries achieved the MDG 4 target. Among them, 24 are low- and lower-middle income countries, from a variety of world regions — including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Georgia, El Salvador, Bolivia, Egypt, Cambodia, Nepal and Yemen.

Encouragingly, for 102 countries, the data suggest a faster decline in 2000-2015 as compared to 1990-2000. This acceleration since 2000, when the MDGs were established, resulted in about 18 million fewer under-five deaths globally, as compared to a scenario where the pace of decline would have remained the same as in the 1990s.

While there is no doubt that some countries have fared better than others, the data show that there is room for improvement, even in the 116 countries which already, in 2015, have a U5MR lower than 25. Should 2015 rates continue to 2030, a further 6 million children will die in these nations; yet if all of them reached the current lowest U5MR of 2.3 per 1,000 live births recorded among countries with more than 10,000 live births (Finland), then this would be reduced to 2 million.

Should the SDG target be met, this would save the lives of an extra 38 million children under five than if 2015 U5MR are maintained through to 2030. If current mortality rates are maintained, 94 million children will die during 2015-2030; if the rate of progress from 2000-2015 is maintained from 2015-2030 then 69 million will die, while if the SDG target above is met, the death toll in under fives will be 56 million.

In order to achieve the SDG goal on under-5 mortality, a total of 47 countries need to accelerate their U5MR progress, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa along with two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) in South Asia. The authors highlight that, even with progress in U5MR, the actual numbers of child deaths may remain stagnant or even increase in sub-Saharan Africa, since in the region the under-five child population is likely to increase by around 42 million from 2015-2030.

Thus reduction in under-five mortality rate must outpace increases in under-five child population to continue the decline in total deaths.

300m-year-old volcanoes discovered in Ireland near Mullingar

Geological Survey’s Tellus Programme unearths highly magnetic volcanic rocks


An image generated from the aircraft survey showing results of the airborne survey over counties Offaly, Kildare, Meath, rural Dublin and northern parts of Wicklow and Laois.

Geographically, Ireland is often likened to a saucer: upturned at its mountainous edges and flat in the middle. But that reading doesn’t take account of newly discovered volcanoes south of Mullingar.

The Geological Survey’s Tellus Programme has unearthed aspects of the long buried history of counties Roscommon, Longford and Westmeath.

The maps reveal new detail of 300 million-year-old volcanoes on the Westmeath/Offaly border, which appear in the new airborne geophysical data as a cluster of small magnetic bodies.

The survey, conducted using low flying aircraft, also shows prominent bands of highly magnetic volcanic rocks several kilometres deep near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, which are associated with a major geological fault that can be traced through Ireland to Scotland.

The researchers say these structures are considered important in the development of mineral deposits and their location will be of considerable interest to exploration companies.

The survey aircraft, use technology that effectively sees through Ireland’s often deep glacial deposits and extensive peat cover.

“Tellus continues to reveal extraordinary new detail in Ireland’s geological landscape buried beneath our feet, building upon existing data gaps and developing natural resource opportunities,” said Geological Survey of Ireland principal geologist Ray Scanlon.

The fourth phase of Tellus is underway across the east of the country where the airborne survey over counties Offaly, Kildare, Meath, rural county Dublin and northern parts of Wicklow and Laois is almost 60 per cent complete.

Attention is currently focused on county Dublin.

The aim of the programme is to complete the geological ‘jigsaw’ of Ireland which will support better environmental decision making, radon mapping, smart agriculture and increased investment in mineral exploration.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 23rd August 2015

“Coalition Government” working yet Irish voters want rid of them


Despite presiding over Europe’s fastest-growing economy, everything in the garden is not rosy for Enda Kenny and his inner circle,

‘For Enda Kenny and Fine Gael, being replaced as the leading party would feel like the equivalent of taking over as manager of a team that has just been relegated, winning promotion, and then being sacked the following year’

The Central Statistics Office recently confirmed that economic output in Ireland grew by a spectacular 6.5% in the first quarter of 2015, from a year earlier, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it by far and away the fastest-growing economy in Europe.

However, Eurostat’s ruling (issued one day before the CSO’s news) that Irish Water will have to remain on the State’s balance sheet, allied to concerns raised about the new utillity’s commercial status, stole the limelight – something that has become a feature of the current Government.

Positive developments at a macro level, the big-picture view of the economy over the last four years (resurgent economic growth, reduced unemployment, record low borrowing costs etc) have been continuously overshadowed by government mismanagement at a micro level on the provision of social services and the growing sense of inequality. The haphazard implementation of Irish Water is the classic example – a stream of negative headlines, distraction after distraction, all of which could have been avoided.

Irish Water was doomed from the outset when water charges were linked to the bailout deal with the Troika. In this context, instead of being viewed as a payment for the provision of public water and waste-water services, it came to be seen as a payment to bail out the bankers, the bondholders and the elite.

Of course, it was made worse by the Government’s lack of strategic direction and reports of excess when the utility was being set up. Hence, they were never going to be able to change opinion on the true agenda behind Irish Water, as much as a proper functioning national water utility makes sense.

I have no political bias, nor am I inspired by many of our political leaders. But it is worth remembering that when the Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government came to power in 2011, the economy was on the rocks, almost every economic indicator was flashing red and the outlook looked bleak. We were effectively on financial life support from the Troika.

After serving as Fine Gael leader since 2002, it is clear that handing Enda Kenny his debut as Taoiseach was not so much a reflection of the people’s confidence in his leadership skills, rather it was an indictment of the previous government’s failings. People had just had enough of Fianna Fáil.

Four years on, presiding over the fastest-growing economy in Europe, with GDP surpassing the pre-crisis peak, one could be forgiven for thinking the Government should be riding high.

The recovery we have seen in Dublin has not reached all parts of the country in the same way yet – but rebalancing an economy so skewed to the construction sector prior to the crash was always going to take time.

Of course, GDP has its flaws in measuring the health of an economy, but it is difficult to find one economic indicator that can encompass the inner complexities of all its stakeholders.

Looking from outside the country, the perception of Ireland as a place for doing business continues to be strong based on our ability to continue to attract multinational companies, albeit helped by our favourable corporate tax rate.

Certainly, the approval ratings from the international bond markets are high. The rate at which the State can borrow at over 10 years has fallen from near 15% in 2011 to 1.26%. The ECB has played its part – but as we saw in Greece, yields can rise sharply when a member state’s financial position deteriorates, even in an ECB-inspired low-rate environment.

Yet many people can’t wait to get rid of the current Government. What explains this disconnect between approval ratings at home and abroad? Domestically, the issue is the same issue that plagues all governments – their failure to efficiently allocate tax revenue for the provision of a sustainable and high-standard public service.

Pension levies, income levies, property taxes – and people are still wondering what is there to show for it. The healthcare system is still sub-standard, health insurance costs are soaring and public waiting lists are longer.

Private pensions were raided while our tax revenue is being used to fund massive public service pensions. Perhaps most galling of all was the recent announcement of pension increases for the likes of Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern – the political leaders who failed in their duties leading up to the crisis.

Irish Water was just the tipping point. The explicit non-payment of water charges is simply the means by which the people of Ireland are expressing their loss of faith in the political establishment. It is not about paying for water. There is a feeling that not much has really changed under the current Government, the same old politics reign supreme: a system that bails out the banks and wealthy elite and where money and power are intertwined.

Economic utopia does not exist, but the current Government has missed a massive opportunity to set a new standard in terms of how the country is run. Can politics change? I am not convinced.

Still, if Fine Gael and Labour can shift the focus to the big picture, the improvement in the broad economy and away from the usual political shenanigans and the likes of Irish Water, they have a strong case for being given an opportunity to lead what should hopefully be the next stage of recovery.

For Enda Kenny and Fine Gael, being replaced as the leading party would feel like the equivalent of taking over as manager of a team that has just been relegated, winning promotion, and then being sacked the following year.

Think of Chris Hughton. He took over as caretaker manager of Newcastle United in 2009 following relegation, gained promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship and was sacked the following December with the team sitting in 12th place.

However, in the case of Fine Gael, the leading replacement is Fianna Fáil – the party that led us into relegation.

Only five out of 13 homeless charities have applied for funding, says agency


Hundreds of millions of euros are lying unclaimed by homeless charities.

The Government’s Housing Finance Agency (HFA) claims that just five out of 13 charities registered as approved housing bodies, have applied to it for funding.

The current homeless problem has been labeled as a “national emergency” by Focus Ireland, but according to today’s Sunday Times the charity still has not sought funding from the HFA, despite qualifying as an applicant earlier this year.

Chair of the Housing Finance Agency Michelle Norris, said: “Some of the subsidies they get from Government are a bit too complicated and the Government have moved to address that.

“The rest of the problem is that some of the organisations are very go-ahead and entrepreneurial and keen to use new sources of funding. Questions need to be raised with the organisations that are not drawing down the source of funding, about what they are planning to do.

“We need a really pro-active approach and we need to ask hard questions.”

Ireland is becoming a haven of talent for Silicon Valley giants


As more and more of Silicon Valley’s tech giants open European operations in Ireland, one thing becomes more and more clear that Ireland is becoming a haven for tech talent.

Just last week, it was announced that Ireland is experiencing a huge surge in inbound tech talent.

And that talent is most definitely needed. In July alone, more than 2,200 tech jobs were announced, and the fact remains that there are more job vacancies than people to fill them.

It stands to reason, therefore, that Ireland would become a destination for tech talent seeking opportunities on new shores.

A vast number of those moving to Ireland for tech jobs are from countries in Eastern Europe.

And they clearly like it here.

Over the last few years, Siliconrepublic.com has been speaking to people who have moved to Ireland for work.

In those conversations, we have heard people from Eastern Europe describe Ireland as “the easiest country to emigrate to and still feel part of the community”, “a small cosy country with great opportunities”, and a country full of “charm and spirit”.

Others say “life is more simple here”, that it is full of warmth, and strangers who will greet you on the street, and that the Irish people are good and genuine.

Though there are some naysayers, if the worst that can be said about Ireland is that no one here distils their own whiskey (not publicly, at least), then maybe it’s not such a bad place.

Sweet chestnut tree leaves could be used to ‘disarm’ the MRSA superbug


Scientists are excited about the range of potential applications for the compound, and have already filed a patent.

As bacteria become more and more resistant to drugs, scientists are increasingly looking towards traditional remedies to help cure infections. Sweet chestnut tree leaves, traditionally used by rural people in southern Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean to treat skin infections, have been found to contain chemicals capable of taming the MRSA superbug.

The compounds “disarm” Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and stop them producing harmful toxins, say scientists – yet they do not appear to boost levels of drug resistance.

Traditional folk remedies based on chestnut leaves inspired the US team at Emory University.

Lead researcher Dr Cassandra Quave said: “We’ve identified a family of compounds from this plant that have an interesting medicinal mechanism.

“Rather than killing staph, this botanical extract works by taking away staph’s weapons, essentially shutting off the ability of the bacteria to create toxins that cause tissue damage. In other words, it takes the teeth out of the bacteria’s bite.”

The chestnut extract was even effective against the superbug Staphylococcus strain MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), healing mice with serious skin infections.

For years the Emory team had investigated the traditional remedies of rural people in southern Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean.

Detective work by the researchers led them to the European sweet chestnut tree, Castanea sativa.

“Local people and healers repeatedly told us how they would make a tea from the leaves of the chestnut tree and wash their skin with it to treat skin infections and inflammations,” said Dr Quave.

In the laboratory, the scientists steeped chestnut leaves in solvents to extract 94 chemicals including the anti-bacterial ursene and oleanene compounds.

A single 50 microgram dose of the extract cleared up MRSA skin infections in laboratory mice, halting damage to tissue and red blood cells.

Lab dish tests showed that the compounds did not harm skin cells or bacteria that live harmlessly on the skin, the researchers reported in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

The university’s Office of Technology Transfer has filed a patent on the extract’s unique properties. The scientists are now looking at its individual components to see if they work best in combination or alone.

Potential applications include a protective spray for athletic equipment, coatings for medical devices and personal products such as tampons, and as a treatment for MRSA.

Dr Quave said: “Many pharmaceutical companies are working on the development of monoclonal antibodies that target just one toxin. This is more exciting because we’ve shown that with this extract, we can turn off an entire cascade responsible for producing a variety of different toxins.

“It’s easy to dismiss traditional remedies as old wives’ tales, just because they don’t attack and kill pathogens, but there are many more ways to help cure infections, and we need to focus on them in the era of drug-resistant bacteria.”

It is now official as US confirms marijuana or cannabis does kill cancer cells


After a series of laboratory tests and speculations, scientists from the National Cancer Institute (US Department of Health) have confirmed that cannabis, or marijuana, does kill cancer cells.

In its website, the institute wrote, “cannabis and cannabinoids may have benefits in treating the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer therapies” and also that “cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.”

The website also records that “cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in the laboratory and the clinic for relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite.”

Having said that, the researchers also stressed that marijuana has only shown these effects on mice, and are not yet ready to recommend the drug for human use in fighting cancer.

Although Cancer Research pointed out that there is not yet enough evidence to determine whether cannabis can be effectively used for cancer treatment, but this could be a big moment in the battle against the disease.

This new development could also pave the path for a nationwide legalisation of marijuana!

Doomsday not near as NASA denies Asteroid impact with Earth report

NASA makes it absolutely clear that the world ending Asteroid impact will NOT take place next month


Recently various web postings as well as blogs were claiming that a huge asteroid will impact Earth somewhere around 15 till 28 September 2015.

The predictions had originated from the prophesy of the much famous Reverend Efrain Rodriguez, who also claimed that on the doomsday, the impact will take place near Puerto Rico which will result in causing “wanton destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America”.

Some blogs even blamed the U.S. government for covering up the news with an aim to prevent unnecessary panic in public.

Mid of this week, the U.S. space agency, NASA, was forced to make a statement denying the rumors that went viral on the social media predicting the occurrence of world-ending asteroid impact in September.

NASA made it quite clear that the rumors are totally baseless and they convinced public that there will NOT be any such occurrence of the world-ending asteroid impact next month. In addition NASA also provided some vital facts that supported the denial.

NASA said: “There is no scientific basis — not one shred of evidence — that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, manager of Nasa’s Near-Earth Object office, in an official statement which seemed to be somewhat in anger.

He continued: “In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”

NASA, accepted that asteroid impacts is a common thing; however it also noted that all the “Potentially Hazardous” rocks which are known to NASA have been classed and at least till next century there are rarest chances, mere 0.01 percent, that Earth should be hit by some such asteroid which would result in a ‘Doomsday’.

Chodas added: “If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now.”

He continued: “Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth. In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”

This is not the first time that NASA was forced to deny some such absurd rumor that indicated the “end of the world situation” which has gone viral in the world of social media. In its official website, NASA said that ‘Doomsday theorists’ had made similar predictions earlier also which were not backed by scientific facts and we can see that none of them turned out to be true.

Way back in 2011, there were rumors that Comet Elenin was going to hit Earth and NASA had to intervene and make a statement to deny this prediction.

Next, in  2012, there were various prophetic conspiracies for which NASA had to issue multiple denials and to be very frank, none of these prophesies occurred in reality including the Mayan calendar!

Chodas said: “Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth.”

Some facts about asteroids:

Currently, NASA and other space agencies have confirmed that there are no such huge asteroids detected yet; however it is also a fact that the current methods and techniques which our present space agencies use to identify and track any such potentially dangerous objects in space is not enough.

It is a fact that the Nasa’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program (‘Spaceguard’) is able to track and detect the asteroids which are only within 30 million miles. Other agencies including ESA too have similar projects.

On the other hand, as per the ‘Asteroid Day project’, which was set up with an aim to increase the awareness of asteroid impacts, one can find huge asteroids which measure around one kilometer in their diameter, lying in the Asteroid Belt that falls between Jupiter and Mars. Besides, this belt also comprises of more than millions of smaller rocks and pieces of debris.

It has been estimated that there are around 1,00,000 asteroids which are large enough to cause the impact and destroy Earth on the scale of the Tunguska event.

Tunguska event is the 10-15 megaton explosion that occurred in Siberia in 1908 and destroyed the entire city. It seems with the current equipment available the space agencies all over the world can detect and track only 10,000 asteroids, so what about the rest 90,000 asteroids……is definitely a very BIG question!

It is also a fact that the 2013 major impact, which occurred above Chelyabinsk in Russia, which was accompanied with severe explosion with a kinetic force of 500 kilotons of TNT and injured about 1,500 was noticed only after it took place!

Right now, none of our space agencies have any methods to either deflect or destroy the hazardous asteroid which is coming towards Earth, nor are there any fool proof methods to track them.

For now, NASA has ensured the public that there will be NO asteroid impact between the specified dates next month. Well, that means for now people can definitely chalk out their plans for October and even beyond, smartphone lovers can wait the next release of their most favorite high tech phone while the Earth continues its existence?

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 6th June 2015

Eircom ordered to reveal identity of the anonymous Emailer


Letterkenny waste firm plans defamation action over letter sent to media and politicians

The High Court has ordered Eircom to disclose the name and address of an anonymous emailer who distributed an allegedly defamatory letter about a waste collection company.

James Ferry and his company, Ferry’s Refuse Collection Ltd, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, obtained the order for an intended defamation action against a person who, for the moment, is referred to as “John Doe with a username of concerneddonegalresidents@gmail.com”.

The order was sought under the 2011 Communications (Retention of Data) Act which allows service providers divulge information on foot of a court order.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he was satisfied to grant the order after Eircom had said its attitude to the application was neutral. There was no allegation of wrongdoing against Eircom or Google Ireland, the judge said.

The court heard Ferrys has been in the waste business since 2003, and in 2013, a letter containing allegedly defamatory statements against the company was sent toDonegal County Council officials, elected representatives, a government department and national and local media.

The judge was told Eircom will comply with the order within a week.

Lucinda Creighton rules out coalition with just about everybody


None of the four main parties would suit Renua, according to its leader.

Lucinda Creighton has ruled out Renua going into coalition with any of the four main political parties after the next election.

Creighton does not believe her party would be available to support the existing Fine Gael/Labour coalition if it falls short of an overall majority at the next general election.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie this week, the former Fine Gael minister said that she could not see any circumstances where Renua would be available to “prop-up a government that’s been rejected by the people”.

I just think it’d be very difficult. What we intend to do is publish very clear and very explicit red line issues before the general election and we will only negotiate on that basis and we will only enter government on that basis.

On Fianna Fáil, she said there was no difference between Micheál Martin’s party and her former colleagues in Fine Gael. She described them as “Tweedledum and Tweedledee”.

Creighton added that her party has “nothing in common” with Sinn Féin.

William Butler Yeats silver proof coin launched in Dublin by Central Bank

of Ireland


As a tribute to William Butler Yeats, one of Ireland’s best known poets, playwrights, authors as well as a Nobel Prize winner for literature, the Central Bank of Ireland launched on the 3rd June, their latest collector coin very fittingly at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, which was co-founded by Yeats in 1904. As the portrait of Yeats was seen in the backdrop during the presentation, guests were reminded of the great impact Yeats had on the country’s awareness on national identity and consciousness during the years leading up to an independent Irish state.

William Yeats is credited with making a significant contribution to this achievement through his writings and as the country moves ever close to celebrations marking Ireland’s 100th anniversary of nationhood, the contributions of many of its noteworthy personalities are gaining in importance.

The latest silver proof coin which honors the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Poet & playwright William B. Yeats.

The coin is pictured along with the previous £20 banknote which was also issued with Yeats’.

Born in 1865 in Dublin, the coin is issued in honor of Yeats’ 150th anniversary of birth and is partly released in tribute to the man whose birth anniversary will not only be celebrated in Ireland but in many countries around the world. Yeats’ plays, poems and stories were translated into many languages not just during his lifetime but almost continuously since their publication, his many works still widely admired internationally.

William B. Yeats was nationally honored in 1980 when his image was included on the £20 banknote. This note remained in circulation until 1992 with the issue of the country’s third and final series. The Punt was replaced with the Euro single currency in 2002.

The launch was opened by Dave Fleming of the Abbey Theatre who welcomed invited guests to the landmark theatre in Dublin. Previously known as the National Theatre, the original structure was badly damaged in a fire in 1951. As a result, the theatre was re-located to another location until 1966 when the Abbey Theatre was rebuilt on its original site and has enjoyed success as one of the city’s premier performance venues since. Mr. Fleming also introduced Des Geraghty, Central Bank Commission Member who hosted the event. Mr. Geraghty spoke admiringly of Yeats by highlighting his many accomplishments in both the literary world as well as service to the Irish state as a new nation.

Mr. Geraghty was happy to remind his audience that Yeats’ special connection with the Bank of Ireland span back to the very early years of Ireland’s independence since Yeats played a significant and influential part on Ireland’s first coinage advisory board and whose recommendation to depict barnyard animals was a suggestion by Yeats himself.

Invited guests were addressed by Simon Harris, Minister of State whose department oversees the issuance of Ireland’s coinage – both circulation and commemorative. Mr. Harris also spoke of Yeats’ contribution to both literature and in service to the nation during the critical early years of statehood. As Yeats was appointed a Senator for two terms in 1923, his connection and contributions to the government were substantial and still remembered.

The coin’s launch was hosted by Central Bank of Ireland Commissioner Des Geratherty who also made presentations of the first three coins produced.

It was pointed out during the evening’s launch that the coin would have not been issued had it not been for the efforts of and a suggestion by current Senator Susan O’Keefe whose constituency includes County Sligo, a part of the country which Yeats had a very close bond with and where his resting place is.

Senator O’Keefe, a great admirer of Yeats and his work highlighted the connection of the Yeats family to County Sligo and also spoke of the influence the region had to both his life and works. Senator O’Keefe was pleased to introduce a short video of poetry verses and short stories entitled “The song of Wandering Aengus” which was narrated by actor Michael Gambon and produced as part of the national celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Yeats’ birth.

Poet Declan Collinge recites some of Yeats’ more well-known works during the launch which delighted his audience.

Included in the evening’s program, was a recital of some of Yeats more well-known and recognizable stories and poems were read by Irish poet Declan Collinge who read both in English and in a very moving moment also in Gaelic much to the sheer delight of invited guests.

Singer Noel O’Grady performs a song synonymous with Yeats’ memory during the launch and receives a rapturous applause from the audience for his rendition of “The stolen Child”

A tribute to Yeats was also performed by award-winning singer Noel O’Grady who performed the song “The stolen Child” composed by Yeats himself while the audience were spell-bound by his emotional and sentimental rendition.

Artist Mary Gregoriy arrives to receive the second strike and describes her latest coin to invited guests.

Commissioner Geraghty then proceeded with presentations of the coin during the event with the first strike being presented to Caitriona Yeats, Granddaughter of William Yeats who accepted the coin on behalf of her family. Ms. Yeats, a concert harpist traveled from Copenhagen, her home to receive the first strike and to represent the Yeats family.

The second strike of the evening was presented to the talented designer of the central Bank’s latest silver coin, the artist Mary Gregoriy, a COTY winner for her James Joyce collector coin who spoke of her inspiration in the design, mentioning his “run-away” poet’s hair which is a feature of the design but also of the birds present on the design and their symbolic meaning to Yeats during his lifetime.

The third strike coin was presented to Fiach MacConghail, the Director of the Abbey Theatre.

The third coin was presented to the Yeats society whose activities include a scholastic program now in its 55th year as well as a comprehensive library where the works of Yeats are read and recited daily. The society is located in county Sligo, where the Yeats has a very close connection with the area.

Simon Harris Minister of State along with Caitriona Yeats and Des Geragherty pose after the presentation with the new silver Yeats coin.

Commissioner Geragherty also took a moment to specially thank the makers of the coin, the Pobjoy Mint and to Taya Pobjoy who was present for the occasion representing the Mint. Ms. Pobjoy took the opportunity to speak with Ms. Yeats as well as meet with Central Bank officials who were present for the presentation. This is the third coin produced by the Pobjoy Mint, the first two are part of the Irish Science and Inventions series introduced last year.

Senator Susan O’Keefe is pictured during the presentation along with Caitroina Yeats, artist Mary Gregoriy and Pobjoy Mint Director Taya Pobjoy with the backdrop of the Yeats promotional placard.

The presentation was concluded with many guests commenting on the jovial approach to Yeats’ portrayal and many in attendance purchasing the coin for their own collection or as a gift. The Central Bank confirmed the very positive reaction from collectors to the coin with an above average level of pre-orders placed. The coin is currently available direct from the Collector coin department of the Central Bank of Ireland.

Dunne’s Stores protest hears calls for a new collective bargaining Bill


Dublin rally attended by about 3,000 hears calls for Government action to help workers

Some people taking part in the protest rally in Dublin on Saturday last in support of a campaign for improved conditions of employment for workers at Dunne’s Stores.

Dunne’s Stores workers have promised to continue their campaign for improved conditions of employment and have called on the Government to introduce planned new legislation on collective bargaining rights without delay.

About 3,000 people took part in a protest rally backed by the trade union movement outside the head office of the retailer in Dublin city centre on Saturday in support of the workers’ campaign.

Staff from more than 100 Dunne’s Stores outlets, who are members of the Mandate trade union, staged a one-day strike just before Easter as part of campaign which seeks secure hours and incomes, job security, fair pay and the right to representation.

Dunne’s Stores has said it does not engage with trade unions. In February it accused Mandate of engineering a row on issues that did not exist to pursue an agenda of securing union representation rights.

Last month Dunne’s Stores granted staff a 3% pay rise. The company has also said that staff has received two other salary increases in recent years.

Mandate said at the time that the retailer would also need to put in place secure, banded hour contracts for staff if the pay rise move was to be “meaningful”.

‘Staff were punished’

Addressing the rally, Dunne’s Stores worker Muireann Dalton said staff had been “punished” for taking part in the recent strike. She said people who had held posts for 20 or 30 years suddenly had been moved to other areas.

She said workers had faced a backlash after the work stoppage and had to hold a march to show Dunne’s Stores management that they were not backing down.

M/s Dalton urged politicians to pass the planned collective bargaining legislation.

“We don’t have to wait on (Dunne’s Stores chief ) Margaret Heffernan to change things for us. We can change the world around Margaret Heffernan,” she said.

“We are not numbers. We are people. We are people who want to earn a decent wage, a living wage. We want to pay our bills. We want to send our children to school. I want to pay for my son to go to college. I want to pay my taxes. I want to work . I want 40-hours per week. I want a wage.”

M/s Dalton urged politicians not to “fob off” workers by delaying the introduction of the collective bargaining legislation until October or November.

“A day in day in Dáil Eireann is a lifetime on a Dunne’s Stores shop floor.”

A shameful low standard.

The general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King strongly criticised directors of Dunne’s Stores and argued that by any moral measurement, they had descended to a shameful low.

“No human being deserves to be treated in the manner in which you instruct on a regular basis.”

She said Dunne’s Stores used its power to own and control the lives of its workers.

“If those workers do not comply with those demands, they threaten disciplinary action or re-assignment and they deny those workers trade union representation.

Mandate said on Saturday that thousands of workers in Dunne’s Stores “do not know what hours they’ll have on a week-to-week basis and consequently their income can fluctuate from approximately €144 per week to €400 per week. Mandate said workers need certainty of earnings.”

Gerry Light, Mandate assistant general secretary said: “It is totally unacceptable that a local manager in Dunne’s Stores can pick and choose which individual members of staff will be able to provide for their families at the end of a week.

“There are many Dunne’s workers who have been with the company for up to 10 years doing 35 hours per week, only to have their hours slashed overnight and the company then hires new staff on lower wages. This is a complete abuse of power and it must be stopped.”

Healthy profits at Dunne’s?  Mr Light said that Dunne’s Stores generated up to €350 million in profit annually and the owners had accumulated an estimated €1.78 billion in wealth.

“This is not about the inability of Dunne’s to treat their workers fairly; it’s about their unwillingness to do so. Today, Dunne’s workers, members of the wider trade union movement and the public will send a strong message to Dunne’s Stores and all other unscrupulous employers.

“We want decent work and a living wage for all.”

Dunne’s Stores has not commented publicly on its dispute with Mandate. The retailer employs almost 10,000 workers in 114 stores in the Republic of Ireland.

How an escaped lioness in Dublin became world news


Fortune’s Wheel tells the story of a celebrated incident in Fairview Dublin in 1951

Lion tamer Bill Stephens: keep three lions in a cage at the back of a suburban Dublin garage

In our health and safety obsessed age it seems implausible that anybody would keep three lions in a cage at the back of a suburban Dublin garage.

In the early 1950s there was no prohibition in Ireland on keeping wild animals so Bill Stephens kept his lions in a Nissen hut off Merville Avenue, Fairview. He lived in a caravan on site.

Stephens was a lion tamer at a time when they were an integral part of every circus and circuses were big business. Dublin was also world-renowned for breeding lions in captivity especially ones with luxuriant manes – most famously the MGM lion which came from Dublin Zoo.

Stephens would take his lions for a walk on a chain through Fairview Park. At first locals were astonished but they soon became used to it.

On Sunday November 11th, 1951, one of his lionesses escaped from her cage and roamed around Fairview. The incident became world-famous after it was picked up by the Reuters News Agency, the 1950s equivalent of Twitter.

The story of the escaped lioness has been made into a documentary Fortune’s Wheelby filmmaker Joe Lee.

His friend Bill Whelan, who produces the documentary documentary and grew up in the area, was haunted by the folk memory of the incident though he was just a toddler at the time. As a child he dreamt of being eaten by a lion.

The escaped lioness mauled a teenager, Anthony Massey, who was fixing the wheel of a car. “It was a lion,” he told a Radio Éireann reporter. The reporter was puzzled: “I thought it was a lioness?”

Massey replied: “Listen mister, if you were putting up a wheel and something hit you, you wouldn’t care if it was a lion or a lioness.”

Stephens rescued the teenager by hitting the lioness with a lump of horse meat, but she escaped down Merville Avenue. By now news of the incident had spread.

Her owner tried to corner her but the lioness mauled him severely and jumped a high wall just as children were coming out of the local cinema. They had been to see, of all films , Jungle Stampede about a lion mauling a hunter. The children were locked into the cinema.

By this time the Gardaí had arrived. Stephens pleaded with them not to shoot her as “it’s my main source of livelihood”.

He cornered and tried to tame her. She lay down for him, but the lioness was startled by youngsters shouting and jeering. The lioness attacked her trainer and dragged him eight foot with his legs in her mouth. Stephens knew the game was up as the lioness had now scented blood.

She was shot with a Lee Enfield. 303, but it took seven shots to kill her. Later a photograph appeared in the newspapers with dozens of excited children gathered around the dead animal. Many snipped off her hair to take away as souvenirs.

Stephens was taken to Jervis Street Hospital where he was photographed sitting up in bed reading The Irish Times account of the incident.

After he recovered, he was determined to cash in on his fame. He bought himself a notoriously unpredictable lion from Dublin Zoo called Pasha, but Stephens believed the whiff of danger would make his show more popular. His circus act included sticking his head in a lion’s mouth.

He dreamed of making it in the United States. While auditioning for two American visitors, he was killed by Pasha in January 1953. He was just 29. His funeral was attended by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Alfie Byrne and much of the Irish showbiz and circus fraternity at that time.

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Sunday 3rd May 2015

irish Junior Finance Minister says new plans to tackle mortgage arrears crisis will be announced within next two weeks


The Junior Finance Minister says the Government will announce new plans to tackle the mortgage arrears crisis within the next two weeks.

Simon Harris claims the measures will specifically target people in long-term arrears.

Currently a third of all those who’re behind on their payments are in mortgage arrears of 720 days or more.

The details of the plans have yet to be finalised. However on The Sunday Show today Junior Minister Harris said he wants to include an alternative to the banks’ veto on personal insolvency arrangements:

You can listen back to the full interview with Simon Harris below:

In the Spring Statement earlier this week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, “the Government is actively considering a range of options to strengthen the mortgage arrears framework in order to ensure that families in long term arrears can find a solution.

“The Government intends making an announcement on this issue in the coming weeks. A particular focus will be on enhancing the role of the Insolvency Service and the range of solutions that become available through an insolvency arrangement,” he added.

Over-hype of Irish Government’s ‘rhetoric’ not realistic for returning emigrants

Experts criticise the Irish Coalition of ‘rhetoric’


The Irish Government is overestimating how quickly Irish emigrants will return home and the boost they will bring to the economy, experts have now warned.

The Government is overestimating how quickly Irish emigrants will return home and the boost they will bring to the economy, experts have warned.

Specialists say an influx of emigrant couples, individuals and families over the next couple of years will put increasing pressure on the housing and rental market.

Previous homeward migration trends also suggest that returning emigrants will face many psychological challenges upon their return.

Dr Mary Gilmartin, who specialises in migration research at Maynooth University and is the author of a new book, Ireland and Migration in the 21st Century, said she is not seeing any pragmatic evidence that the Government is prepared for return migration.

She told the Sunday Independent: “I see rhetoric about wanting to get people to return, but I don’t see any evidence of any practical things that are directed towards making it easier for people to return.”

Dr Gilmartin says she believes emigrants will have difficulties accessing mortgages and other loans without a credit history. “I don’t think the rate of return will be as high as predicted and I don’t think the economic situation is as positive as Government suggestions indicate.”

Last week, as part of the Government’s Spring Statement, Finance Minister Michael Noonan pledged to lure tens of thousands of emigrants home with more favourable tax measures.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the new proposals are “an important step” in returning to net inward migration by 2017. However, Dr Gilmartin argues a lot more must be done before emigrants living in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States book flights home.

“It’s a very patchy recovery. Some areas are doing well, but other areas are still struggling. The upheaval of moving a family is such that I can’t see people engaging in that kind of upheaval to move a family back again quite so quickly,” she said.

Dr David Ralph, assistant professor of sociology at Trinity College Dublin, warned many emigrants may be attracted back under false pretences. “They wouldn’t want to be luring people home with various false guns that there has been this sort of major upswing in the economy,” he said. “The reality can be quite different and I think people are more realistic about the slow nature of the recovery.”

Last month, as part of his St Patrick’s Day address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said 2016 will be the year where the number of our people coming home “will be greater than the number of people who leave”.

However, Dr Ralph, who did extensive research on Irish returning from the US during the Celtic Tiger, contests this prediction. “Will there be a rush? I don’t think so, I don’t think the economy is necessarily buoyant enough to create the return seen during the boom years,” he said.

Dr Ralph also anticipates problems with welfare entitlements as access to certain social assistance payments, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, partly depends on length and purpose of any absence from Ireland.

He believes slower, organised return is more sustainable. “If we have a housing crisis in Dublin as it stands and up to 50,000 Irish people return, then we are going to have an even bigger housing crisis because they will move to urban areas,” he said, adding that part of the over-heating of the economy from 1996 to 2006 was due to the rush of return migrants.

“The rate of return migration during the boom further fuelled the property frenzy, so if it does happen, we need to keep an eye on the property market.”

Thousands of Ireland’s drivers wrongly identified as having failed to pay their car insurance


A close-up of the ANPR system in traffic corps vehicles.

Hundreds of thousands of drivers have been wrongly identified as having failed to pay their car insurance – forcing Gardaí to suspend the use of one of their key IT systems.

The computer network was acquired by the gardai for about €6m and is part of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition, or ANPR, system.

But database errors led to the incorrect designation of the drivers involved.

Difficulties were highlighted in a meeting between officials at the Departments of Transport and Justice and Gardai.

A handwritten note, which was recorded by a senior official in the Department of Transport, appears to blame motor insurance companies for failing to update the database properly.

It said that there was an issue “with insurance companies not notify [sic] of part payment of cover. Database had to be pulled – members not managing data properly. Getting 1.1 million hits for no insurance – this is not logical.”

It is unclear how many drivers were monitored by garda patrols as a result of the incorrect data information.

It is also not known for what length of time the database was suspended, or what was the financial cost of the error for the various parties involved.

Garda HQ replied to a series of questions submitted by RTÉ’s ‘This Week’ programme, which obtained the note.

“An Garda Siochana is aware of an issue in relation to certain insurance related data on the ANPR system. We are working with all the partner stakeholders to resolve the issue,” it said.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show there are about 2.4 million licensed vehicles in the State.

This meant the number of hits for non-payment of insurance on the garda IT system was almost half the entire number of vehicles on Irish roads.

Insurance industry studies suggest the number of uninsured vehicles is around 6pc of the total number, which would mean that around 900,000 of those hits for non-payment were false.

The body which represents motor insurers said it had no comment to make. ANPR systems are generally considered to be valuable enforcement tools when managed correctly.

Madeleine McCann breakthrough for police as ten break-ins at holiday apartments probed


Madeleine McCann

The police investigation into the disappearance of toddler Madeleine McCann is gathering pace after the discovery of further information.

It was eight years ago today that Madeleine vanished from her holiday apartment in Portugal.

No trace of the toddler has ever been found, despite an intensive police hunt and campaign by her parents.

Detectives had previously been probing 18 burglaries at tourist apartments in Praia da Luz which matched the circumstances by which they believe Madeleine was taken.

These burglaries had seen the thief gain entry to the premises via a window.

However after intensive police investigation in the case, a further ten apartments have now been included in the investigation.

Forensic evidence from these apartments is now being compared to evidence from the apartment Madeleine was staying in.

The development was revealed in new book ‘Looking for Madeleine’.

Last week her parents won a libel payout against Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral.

He had been on trial over claims he made in a book that the couple were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Irish campaigners hold a march to legalise MARIJUANA


The National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is holding a demonstration in Dublin this afternoon calling for the drug to be decriminalised. 

The group said it would benefit to the Irish economy if cannabis were legalised and sold through reputable outlets. 

The rally started in the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square and is making its way towards Leinster House.

Director of NORML Ciarán Maher said: “The issue of cannabis in our society isn’t one that’s going to go away. It’s the third highest used drug in the country after alcohol and tobacco.

“Criminal gangs are making massive profits off this. For society as a whole it would be far better if it were taken away from the criminals and into the legitimate tax economy.”

The extinction of large Herbivores could lead to ‘Empty Landscapes’


New research shows the decline of some of the world’s largest herbivores like Rhino’s could lead to “empty landscapes” in our most diverse ecosystems.

New research shows the decline of some of the world’s largest herbivores could lead to “empty landscapes” in our most diverse ecosystems.

The recent analysis focused on 74 large herbivore species, especially those from Africa and Asia, Oregon State University reported.

“Without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs,” said William Ripple, Oregon State University distinguished professor in the College of Forestry. “I expected that habitat change would be the main factor causing the endangerment of large herbivores. But surprisingly, the results show that the two main factors in herbivore declines are hunting by humans and habitat change. They are twin threats.”

Kent H. Redford, then a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida, first used the term “empty forest,” which suggested that while fauna may appear plentiful, its loss imposed a long-term threat to ecosystems.

“Our analysis shows that it goes well beyond forest landscapes,” Ripple said, “to savannahs and grasslands and deserts. So we coin a new term, the empty landscape.”

The findings showed 25 of the largest wild herbivores now occupy only about 19 percent of their historical ranges. This is primarily due to competition from livestock production, which has tripled globally since 1980 and reduced the amount of accessible land. Hunting is also believed to play a significant role in the species’ decline.

“The market for medicinal uses can be very strong for some body parts, such as rhino horn,” Ripple said. “Horn sells for more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine.”

The effects of this devastating species decline is predicted to include a reduction in food sources for large carnivores, diminished seed dispersal for plants, more severe and frequent wildfires, slower soil nutrient cycling, and habitat changes for smaller animals.

“It is essential that local people be involved in and benefit from the management of protected areas,” the researchers wrote. “Local community participation in the management of protected areas is highly correlated with protected area policy compliance.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 6th April 2015

Austerity and the Verdict of the Squeezed Middle people of Ireland

Angry voters want their money back and tell Noonan to slash taxes USC now toxic as hated water charges.


Angry voters are demanding their money back after eight years of hard austerity,

The recent Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll has found.

The economic recovery has so far failed to clearly boost the Government’s standing with the electorate, according to the poll.

Dissatisfaction with the Coalition has actually increased a little at a time of higher than expected economic growth.

Exchequer returns for the last three months show €545m more tax than anticipated has been collected.

Now voters are demanding a financial dividend after almost a decade of increased taxes and charges.

With the economic recovery taking hold, a clear message in the poll is that people want more money in their pockets.

The Government’s performance has satisfied one-in-four, a three-point increase drawn from the undecided, but the level of dissatisfaction has also increased a point to 69%.

The poll was conducted in 971 interviews between March 24 and April 2. Among the key findings are that the Universal Social Charge (USC) is hated as much as water charges.

Voters want austerity taxes and charges, such as the USC and water charges, to be cut first ahead of the Coalition’s preferred option to reduce income tax. The poll has also found demand for pay hikes has increased, with a reversal of wage cuts in the private sector being favoured over the public sector.

After undecided voters (20%) are excluded, the state of the parties is: Fine Gael (25%) unchanged; Sinn Fein (24%) down two points; Fianna Fail (19%) unchanged; Labour (8%) up two points; Greens (3%) up two points; Independents/others (20%) down three points. Sinn Fein’s fall in support confirms findings in other polls and shows the party has been damaged by recent scandals related to child sex abuse.

The level of public disillusionment in general is illustrated by an increased level of dissatisfaction with all party leaders.

Although satisfaction with the Government (26%) has improved somewhat, the level of dissatisfaction has also increased, up a point to 69%, the same level as a year ago and within the margin of error from two years.

Today’s poll will add to the pressure on Finance Minister Michael Noonan after a week which saw a surge in anger at the banks’ imposition of high mortgage variable interest rates and industrial action on zero-hour contracts.

The average variable mortgage rate for new customers in Ireland is 4.2%, compared with a rate of 2.09% in the rest of the Eurozone.

This means the holder of a €200,000 mortgage here is paying €350 a month more than mortgage holders in Europe. The Coalition’s economic Spring Statement was initially scheduled for April 21, but is to be delivered on April 28 instead at the insistence of Labour, which wants to concentrate on the mortgage arrears crisis first.

The Coalition intends to use the statement to outline a five-year tax reform plan to secure a second term after the Budget in October.

However, today’s poll illustrates the level of voter expectation with which the Coalition must now contend.

The poll finds support for wage hikes has increased for both the private and public sectors but that voters still believe the public sector may have to wait.

Asked if there had been sufficient economic improvement to merit wage increases in the private sector, 45% said no (up one point) but 43% said yes (up five points) while 12% did not know (down six points).

Half of voters (50%), down one point, did not believe there should be public sector pay increases, while 37% (up six points) believed there should and 12% (down six points) did not know.

If exchequer money is to be given back, 61% said water charges should be reduced; 60pc said USC should be cut; 54% said reduce income tax; 47% want a cut to property tax; and 38% wanted PRSI reduced.

Dissatisfaction with all the party leaders has also increased: Enda Kenny (67%) up three points; Joan Burton (65%) up four points; Micheal Martin (57%) up eight points; Gerry Adams (56%) up six points.

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has recorded a satisfaction rating of 20% and dissatisfaction of 44%; while 36% said they did not know.

The government might cap the Property Tax


The Tánaiste says that there has to be a reaction to rising property prices.

The Irish Government could consider capping the amount payable in Property Tax.

Speaking at a 1916 commemoration today, Tánaiste Joan Burton said that the government was “aware that house valuations are rising steeply” in parts of the country.

She said that the government is awaiting a new report and will act on it.

The tax is currently based on property valuations as of 1 May 2013, but that will be recalculated next May, with some householders potentially hit for €180 or €270 more from 2017 on.

Today’s Sunday Times reports that Finance Minister Michael Noonan told the Fine Gael party that it would be “absolute madness” to allow those whose property prices were inflating to be hit for bigger bills.

Already, over 7,000 properties have had their tax revised upwards.

It’s now time for a new Proclamation?


As the Centenary of the 1916 Rising draws near, we invite six people – a journalist, an artist, activists and economists – to write a new Proclamation for today’s Ireland

The Proclamation of 1916 is among Ireland’s best known historical documents. Almost 100 years after its publication, it continues to exercise a profound effect on the Irish imagination. In some ways it has not dated but, 99 years on, does it work for 21st-century Ireland?

The Irish Times has asked six people – journalist Fintan O’Toole; disability activist Joanne O’Riordan;  theatre maker Grace Dyas, environmentalist Oisin Coghlan; economist Constantin Gurdgiev; and author Gerard O’Neill – to compose new proclamations for today’s Ireland.

We’ve borrowed the idea from the official State Centenary Programme for 2016, launched this week. Its “Proclamation for a New Generation” project begins in schools in the next academic year, and will invite primary and secondary students to write a new proclamation that reflects the “values and aspirations of the generation of 2016”.

Seriously ill man travelled on an icebreaker and through rough seas for help


The Aurora Australis at anchor at Davis station

A seriously ill man reached an Australian hospital more than two weeks after he suffered a medical emergency at a remote Antarctic base.

The patient was admitted to hospital in Hobart, Australia’s mostly southerly city.

He had travelled aboard an icebreaker 3,000 miles through rough and ice-jammed seas from Australia’s Davis Station on the coast of Princess Elizabeth Land.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s chief medical officer Jeff Ayton said the patient was transferred by ambulance from the icebreaker, Aurora Australis, to the Royal Hobart Hospital where he remained in serious but stable condition.

“He will require ongoing medical treatment, but we are very pleased he has travelled well over the past couple of weeks and his condition has not deteriorated,” Mr Ayton said.

The authorities have released no personal details about the man, who is a tradesman. They have not revealed the nature of his medical emergency, other than to say it was not the result of an accident.

The man arrived at the Australian base in November and was supposed to spend the approaching southern winter there.

He became ill on March 18 only days after the Aurora Australis had resupplied the station and begun its voyage back to Hobart.

When the icebreaker returned to the station, officials had to wait for a break in snow showers so that the patient could be flown across sea ice on March 22.

The icebreaker rolled heavily in swells up to 23ft and winds gusting at 70mph while navigating the treacherous Antarctic Ocean toward Hobart.

The patient was cared for by the ship’s doctor with the help of distant specialists using telecommunications equipment designed for remote medical examinations.

Small farmers under threat from falling food prices & Euro red tape



Traditional British farming will soon be replaced by international investors and creation of mega farms to feed China


Centuries of traditional small family farming in Britain is under threat from a collapse in the price of food and European red tape, industry leaders have warned.

David Handley, chairman of the lobby group Farmers for Action said: “If you look at the exodus now from the industry, the small British tenant farmer is under threat. Tenant dairy farmers like ourselves are being crucified at the moment.”

Dairy prices in the UK have hit multi-year lows as China’s softening demand for milk and a Russian embargo on European imports sends shock waves through the British farming industry.

According to Mr Handley, the collapse in prices has left many farmers who were already operating on tight margins in financial difficulty.

He claims that for many farmers, a litre of milk is now costing more to produce than it is to sell to a commercial buyer. International milk prices as measured by the GlobalDairyTrade index fell by 48% and the market has shown little sign of recovery since.

Milk is now cheaper to buy than bottled water due to a fierce supermarket price war, recent figures showed.

When bought in a four-pint bottle, the price per litre of milk has dipped to 43p, compared with 44p for bottled still water.

In January, Asda cut the price of four pints of own- Label milk from £1 to 89p.

A collapse in profits could see many small farmers giving up the occupation altogether, either selling their farms or handing the keys back to landowners in a shift that could end centuries of tradition in the countryside.

There are around 10,000 dairy farmers left in England and Wales, half the number they were in 2002. That could fall to 5,000 in the next 10 years, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned.

Many experts expect traditional, small family-run British farms to be replaced by bigger operations owned and managed by large investors. “It’s part of a process of continuing evolution in the agricultural industry,” said Phil Bicknell, head of food and farming at the NFU.

“The trend is for farms to get bigger. If you want to make more you have got to farm a bigger area.”

Last month, the NFU warned that Britain’s food security was in danger and that just 53pc of the nation’s food needs will be produced from domestic farms by 2040.

Farming continues to make an important contribution to the UK economy, bringing in more than £8bn last year. Although George Osborne, the Chancellor, offered British farmers some relief in the Budget, Mr Bicknell said that the UK lacks a clear “vision for agriculture”.

Farmers will now be able to average profits for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to counter volatile commodity markets.

Allan Wilkinson, HSBC Bank’s head of agriculture, has also warned that average farm incomes in the UK will drop this year amid a global oversupply of food and softer demand in Asia. British farmers have been hit by falling international food prices and the ban on dairy, meat and fish exports to Russia, which came into force last year.

“Incomes will fall this year,” said Mr Wilkinson. “The impact of the struggling pound is a bigger challenge than Russia because so much of UK farming revenues are from Europe.”

Last week, the European Milk Board (EMB) warned that dairy farmers can expect a severe loss in market power, plus chronic milk price slumps as the European milk quota system came to an end last Tuesday.

The EMB said that dairy farmers across the EU will step up production, driving down prices as producers look to offload their supplies.

Farm gate food prices have fallen to the lowest level recorded in the past five years according to the United Nations (UN), while the pound has appreciated by more than 12% against the euro over the past year.



A leading genetecist claims a towering woman named Zana (artist’s representation) who lived in 19th Century Russia – and appeared to be ‘half human, half ape’ – could have been the fabled yeti

Over the centuries the legend of North America’s Bigfoot and the Hemolayan Yeti have continued to crop up.

Here in Canada, there are still many Bigfoot sightings each year. Now, scientists may finally be able to say that the giant creature was not a myth.

Bryan Sykes, emeritus ¬professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford, has identified a strain of west African DNA on the Georgian-Russian border that he believes could ¬belong to a sub-species of modern humans.

Sykes claims to have found the best evidence that a woman who lived in 19th century Russia could have been a yeti.

According to accounts, she was described as resembling a wild beast, and “the most frightening feature of which was her expression which was pure animal”, one zoologist wrote.

Analysis of her DNA showed that while she was “100% African”, she bore little physical or genetic resemblance to any modern African group.

Experts believe the wandering ‘Wild Woman’ was found lurking in the remote region of Ochamchir in the Republic of Abkhazia.

According to Yahoo News, her resemblance has been described as that of a wild beast, and “‘the most frightening feature of which was her expression which was pure animal”, one Russian zoologist wrote in 1996 according to a report in the Times.

The man who organised various eyewitness accounts of Zana wrote: “Her athletic power was enormous.

“She would outrun a horse and swim across the Moskva river, even when it rose in violent high tide.’”

Zana was eventually “tamed” by the nobleman who bought her as a servant and kept her on his estate in Tkhina in the Republic of Abkhazia, according to local accounts.

Some of the professor’s colleagues remain doubtful given his previous findings – which include a claim that an unknown species of bear might account for yeti sightings in Bhutan.

Sykes has been involved in a number of high-profile cases dealing with ancient DNA, including those of Ötzi the Iceman and Cheddar Man, and others concerning people claiming to be members of the Romanovs, the Russian royal family. His work also suggested a Florida accountant by the name of Tom Robinson was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, a claim that was subsequently disproved