Tag Archives: CSO stats

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 28th July 2016

IMF cuts Irish growth forecasts due to post-Brexit risks

International Monetary Fund warns Irish banks could be hit by UK’s withdrawal


IMF managing director Christine Lagarde: Washington-based fund forecasts Irish gross domestic product expanding 3.2% next year.

The International Monetary Fund cut its Irish economic forecasts following the UK’s decision to quit the European Union and warned banks would be hit as Brexit weighs on their UK operations and prospects for companies, employment and investment.

The Washington-based fund now sees Irish gross domestic product expanding 3.2% next year, having previously estimated 3.6% growth, according to its main annual review of the country, published on Thursday. It trimmed its forecast for this year marginally, to 4.9% from 5%.

“The rebound of the Irish economy has been exceptional,” the IMF said. “The positive economic performance is expected to continue, but the UK vote to leave the EU amplifies downside risks.”

The IMF has chosen to ignore the Central Statistics Office’s recent upward revision of Irish GDP for last year to 26 per cent in its analysis and policy recommendations, as the data “would distort the true representation of the underlying economic developments”.

Staff at the fund recommended that Irish officials develop additional gauges that better reflect the country’s underlying activity.

Manageable impact

In a separate report on the country’s financial system, the IMF said the impact of Brexit “could be large, but should still be manageable”, adding the longer-term consequences will depend on the nature of the future relationship between the UK and the EU, especially regarding trade, financial flows and labour movement.

The report gave strong backing to the Central Bank’s introduction of mortgage lending limits last year, which the Irish regulator has insisted will remain a permanent feature of Irish banking even as it reviews the rules this year.

The caps are “well-justified, even though credit conditions have normalised and real estate prices are estimated to be close to equilibrium”, the IMF said.

House prices

The latest CSO data shows Irish house prices rose almost 7% in the year to May. However, values are still one-third off their 2007 peak. The country’s unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8% from a peak above 15.1% at the height of the financial crisis, in early 2012.

The IMF noted the Government has placed a “high priority” on boosting housing supply, having recently unveiled a plan aimed at delivering 25,000 new houses per year by the end of the decade.

The IMF said that households and companies have lowered their borrowings in recent years – they remain highly leveraged, with 100,000 home loans estimated to be in negative equity at the end of last year. While banks have lowered their non-performing assets as they restructure soured loans and the economy improves, the overall level of troubled loans remains a challenge, it said.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan welcomed the publication of the reports on Ireland’s economy and financial services landscape.

“The IMF also recognises that the Government is fully committed to sound budgetary policy in the years ahead and that Ireland’s financial regulatory and supervisory frameworks have been significantly upgraded and the financial soundness of the banking sector has improved,” he said.

However, the fund noted that “increased fragmentation” in the new Dáil, “reform fatigue” and Brexit may complicate the Government’s job.

The IMF also urged the Government to proceed with further bank share sales, even though Mr Noonan has effectively ruled out an initial public offering of Allied Irish Banks, which received a €20.8 billion bailout during the crisis, until the first half of next year at least.

Ireland’s office workers must exercise for at least an hour a day to counter death risk


Around one in four adults globally and 80% of school-going teenagers are failing to meet the World Health Organisation recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. 

Irish workers, who have sedentary jobs, may eliminate some of the harmful effects of sitting if they do one hour of physical activity daily, new research reveals.

The findings, in the ‘Lancet’, which are part of a series measuring global levels of physical activity since the last Olympics, also warn that lack of exercise is linked to one in 20 cases of dementia in Ireland.

Physical inactivity is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, leading to around five million deaths across the world annually.

Scientists said sedentary lifestyles were now posing as great a threat to public health as smoking, and were causing more deaths than obesity.

As more employees have no choice but to spend eight or more hours a day sitting down, the risks are on the rise.

However, the study from the University of Cambridge in the UK and the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, which looked at over one million people, said one hour of exercise such as a brisk walk or cycling for pleasure may eliminate the increased risk of death associated with prolonged sitting.

Most of us will spend hours on the couch watching the world’s fittest athletes during TV coverage of the Olympics, which begin in Brazil next week.

But since the last Games four years ago there has been little progress in increasing levels of physical activity.

Around one in four adults globally and 80pc of school-going teenagers are failing to meet the World Health Organisation recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Physical activity is a valuable part of any overall body wellness plan and is associated with a lower risk of brain decline.

In order to reduce the risk of dementia, we should engage in cardiovascular exercise to elevate the heart rate.

This increases the blood flow to the brain and body.

It reduces potential dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The researchers also looked at time spent watching television all day and found sitting for over three hours looking at the goggle-box was associated with increased risk of death, except in the most active.

The authors said: “For many people who commute to work and have office-based jobs there is no way to escape sitting for prolonged periods of time.

“For these people in particular, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting exercise, whether it is getting out for a walk at lunchtime, going for a run in the morning or cycling to work.

Ideal activity an hour a day?

“An hour of physical activity per day is the ideal, but if this is unmanageable, then at least doing some exercise each day can help reduce the risk.”

Overall, the ‘Lancet’ reported that while in the past four years more countries have been monitoring progress in physical activity, the evidence of improvements is scarce.

Earlier this year, Ireland launched its first National Physical Activity Plan, with the aim of increasing the number of people taking regular exercise by 50,000 a year over the next decade. Seven out of 10 adults are too inactive and fail to get the necessary 30 minutes a day of moderate activity five days a week, which is recommended for 18- to 64-year-olds.

The plan involves supporting more community walking groups, getting doctors to prescribe exercise for patients and encouraging employers to bring in standing desks to avoid staff having to sit all day.

The plan, which comes with €5.5m funding, also involves introducing a new school subject, Well-being, from September as part of the new Junior Cycle.

Dolly’s cloned sheep ‘twins’ alive and kicking well

Dolly the cloned sheep ‘twins’ alive and kicking: study   sheep1

Four genetically-identical copies of Dolly the famous cloned sheep, which suffered ill health and died prematurely in 2003, are going strong at the advanced age of nine, a study said Tuesday. 

Debbie, Denise, Dianna and Daisy — identical sisters of Dolly, though born 11 years later — were “in pretty good health”, according to researchers who studied whether cloned animals can live long, healthy lives.

The quadruplets were made from the same mammary gland cell line that yielded Dolly — the first mammal cloned using a technique called somatic-cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).

Born 20 years ago on July 5, 1996, Dolly developed crippling knee arthritis aged five and died of lung disease at the age of six — about half the life expectancy of her breed of Finn-Dorset sheep.
Dolly’s ill health and early demise raised red flags that clones may be sickly and age prematurely compared to naturally-conceived peers.

Cloned lab mice, too, have shown a propensity for obesity, diabetes, and dying young.

Kevin Sinclair of the University of Nottingham and a team conducted thorough medical exams on the four “Dollies” born in July 2007, as well as nine other sheep clones from different cell cultures.

All 13 animals, aged seven to nine, were the product of lab studies seeking to improve the efficiency of SCNT.

Experts measured the sheep’s glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and muscle and bone strength, in what they said was the first comprehensive assessment of age-related disease in animal clones.

A few of the sheep had mild osteoarthritis, the team found, and one a “moderate” form of the ailment — though this was not unusual for their age. None of the sheep were lame, as Dolly was.
– Ageing ‘normally’ –

Despite their “advanced age”, none of the sheep were diabetic, and they had normal blood pressure.

The data, said the team, was “compelling, indicating no detrimental long-term adverse effects of SCNT on the health of aged adult offspring.”

SCNT involves removing the DNA-containing nucleus from a cell other than an egg or sperm — a skin cell, for example — and implanting it into an unfertilised egg from which the nucleus had been removed.

Once transferred, the egg reprogrammes the mature DNA back to an embryonic state with the aid of an electric jolt, and it starts dividing to form an embryo.

No human is known to ever have been created in this way.

In spite of recent improvements, the technique remains inefficient, and expensive, with a small percentage of cloned embryos surviving to birth.

“For those clones that survive… however, the emerging consensus, supported by the current data, is that they are healthy and seem to age normally,” said the study in the journal Nature Communications.

Animal cloning is used in agriculture, mainly to create breeding stock, as well as in the business of “bringing back” people’s dead pets.

Despite initial high expectations, it has not found a place in the field of medical therapy for humans.

Women with later start to periods, menopause more likely to reach age 90

Women who start menstruation later may have increased chances of surviving nine decades, scientists found   

Women with later menarche and later menopause are more likely to reach age 90 than those whose reproductive milestones come at earlier ages, suggests a new study.

“People have always wondered whether the timing of reproductive events affect longevity, but no study to date has evaluated that relationship,” said lead author Aladdin Shadyab, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

The research team used data collected from 16,251 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, starting between 1993 and 1998 and continuing until August 2014.

All the women were born before September 1924; 8,892, or 55%, survived to age 90.

Women who were at least 12 years old at menarche were about 9% more likely to reach age 90 than those who were younger.

And women who were at least 50 when their periods stopped were about 20% more likely to reach age 90 than women who entered menopause before age 40. This was true whether menopause was natural or surgical.

A longer reproductive lifespan was also tied to longevity. Women who menstruated for more than 40 years were 13% more likely to reach age 90 than those who had less than 33 reproductive years, the authors reported in a paper released July 27 by the journal Menopause.

Shadyab and colleagues can’t say why later periods and later menopause are tied to longer life, but the link could be related to lifestyle factors and genetics.

“It is possible that those who begin menstruating later and those who experience menopause at older ages are in better health long term,” Shadyab told Reuters Health.

There could also be genes that affect both the start of periods and menopause and a woman’s length of life, he added.

“Further studies are needed to determine why reproductive factors predict living to age 90 in women,” he said.

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who is executive director of The North American Menopause Society, agrees that lifestyle factors and genetics are likely behind the link between later reproductive milestones and longevity.

Pinkerton, who was not involved in the study, said research suggests that hormones that may protect women’s hearts are lost during menopause.

Also, she said some behaviors, such as smoking, have an impact on overall health and on the timing of menopause.

Look at the size of this jellyfish that was washed up on Portmarnock beach Dublin

 PIC: Look at the size of the jellyfish that washed up on Portmarnock beach  

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

Thanks to the warm weather we’ve been experiencing so far this summer, thousands of people who wouldn’t go near the water in the depths of winter have been dipping their toes in the sea off the Irish coast.

The need to stay safe in the water is paramount and those heading to the beach should be aware of the dangers before going in for a swim.

The Lion’s Mane jellyfish (giant jellyfish) is the largest known species of jellyfish and is commonly found in cold waters like the Irish Sea; certainly anyone walking along Portmarnock beach yesterday evening could hardly have missed the one that had washed up on the shore.

Karen Purdy spotted the jellyfish at approximately 9.30pm last night and told us it was still moving when she came across it.

If you ever happen to be stung by a jellyfish or are providing first aid for someone who has, check out the advice issued by Irish Water Safety here.

Meanwhile back in the UK.

Beach users urged to report jellyfish

Barrel (very mild sting): Blooms largely restricted to the Irish Sea, Solway Firth and the Firth of Clyde, but strays can be recorded futher south throughout the year     

The Lion’s Mane jellyfish is often found off the Northumberland coast.

Beach users are being urged to report jellyfish finds on beaches, including the Lion’s Mane which has the most painful sting in the UK and is rarely seen south of Northumberland.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS), the UK’s leading marine charity, says the number of jellyfish blooms – when jellies mass together – in UK coastal waters is on the increase as our seas start to warm up.

Every summer hundreds of reports of jellyfish sightings are made to the MCS National Jellyfish Survey – now in its 14th year. The survey is providing valuable information about where and when jellyfish occur in UK seas amid global reports of a rise in jellyfish numbers.

Jellies to look out for in UK waters include the Lion’s Mane (Cyanea capillata), which has the most powerful and painful sting of the UK species. It blooms during the summer but is rarely seen south of the Irish Sea, or south of Northumberland, with most reports coming from Scottish waters.

According to the MCS, Lion’s Mane have been spotted in Northumberland in July, as well as in Aberdeenshire, Hebrides, Orkney, Angus and Ceredigion.

Up until July, it’s been a relatively quiet year for jellyfish reports, unlike the last two years when record numbers of barrel jellyfish were reported around UK seas through the spring and summer.

But jellies are starting to pick up as the waters around the UK warm up, with mass strandings of both species in South West England and Wales.

Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Biodiversity and Fisheries at the MCS, said “There’s evidence that jellyfish numbers are increasing in some parts of the world, including UK seas.

“Some scientists argue that jellyfish numbers increase and then decrease normally every 20 years or so, however, others believe and these increases are linked to factors such as pollution, over-fishing and possibly climate change. The MCS jellyfish survey helps provide some of the information we need to understand more about these ancient creatures.

“We still know relatively little about jellyfish and what drives changes in their numbers, so reporting even a single one can help. One thing we do know is that Leatherback turtles travel to UK waters to feed on jellyfish and are usually recorded along the west coast of the UK between May and October – this year we’ve already heard of sightings from the south west of England and the Irish Sea.”

MCS says that anyone who comes across a jellyfish at sea or on the beach should look but don’t touch, but report their sightings via the MCS website.

Jellies to look out for in UK waters:

Moon (very mild sting) – most widespread species, occurring all around the UK coast from May.

Blue (mild sting) – less common than the moon but can turn up anywhere.

Barrel (very mild sting) – can grow up to 1 metre in diameter and weigh up to 40kgs, totally harmless despite its size and is largely limited to the Irish Sea and adjacent waters to the north. Can be spotted all year round, even in winter, but blooms tend to start in March.

Lion’s Mane (powerful sting) – has the most powerful and painful sting of the UK species. It blooms during the summer but is rarely seen south of the Irish Sea (west coast), or south of Northumberland (east coast), with most reports coming from Scottish waters.

Compass (mild sting) – has bizarre compass-like markings and is found throughout the UK coast.

Mauve Stingers (powerful sting) – occasionally recorded from the southwest in early spring, but large numbers were reported off Britain’s west coast during November 2007, 2008 & 2009.

Portuguese Man-of-War (dangerous sting) – rare in UK waters but MCS received many reports from beaches in south-west England in the summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 10th January 2015

Irish industrial production surges some 33% year-on-year


Ireland’s manufacturing sector is set for its fastest pace of growth since 1998

Industrial production surged by a third in November compared to the same month last year, paving the way for the fastest pace of growth in the sector for 17 years.

Output was up 4% in November, but jumped a massive 33% year-on-year.

Analysts said the data pointed to a surge in output in the second half of last year.

“All in all, Ireland’s manufacturing sector is set for its fastest pace of growth since 1998,” said David McNamara, analyst with Davy Stockbrokers.

“A flat December would leave output up 20% in 2014. Much of this is related to the multinational sector, with little feed-through to the real economy.

“However, the ‘traditional’ sector is also set for the fastest pace of growth since 2000 at about 9pc for 2014, with surveys pointing to continued growth in 2015.”

The data from the Central Statistics Office shows that the so-called modern sector, made up of a number of high-technology and chemical sectors, showed a monthly increase in production for November 2014 of 9.3%. There was a monthly decrease of 4.4% in the more employment-intensive traditional sector.

In the year-to-date, industrial production has now expanded by 22% on 2013, driven by a bounce-back in the pharma-dominated modern sector, which was up 33.9%, and an 8.1% rise in the traditional sector.

“Looking ahead, the manufacturing PMI points to continued growth in early 2015, with employers taking on new recruits at the fastest pace in 15 years, signalling positive output expectations for the year ahead,” Mr McNamara added.

Alan McQuaid of Merrion stockbrokers said the data underlined how well the Irish economy is doing compared with the rest of the Eurozone.

“Based on the figures up to November and on the strong PMI data, we are now looking for manufacturing output for 2014 as a whole to be around 23pc higher than 2013, following a decline of 2.1pc in the previous year,” he said.

“Another strong double-digit rise is envisaged for 2015.”

Mr McQuaid said that it was crucial that the economy remains competitive as the recovery takes hold.

Separate data from the CSO shows the monthly services sector had a more modest annual rise in November, increasing 5.5%. But it was down on October by 1.1%.

Irish road deaths are on the rise – it is time we looked to Sweden for a safety inspiration?


The CEO of the RSA said, ‘We saved more lives than ever before in 2012 we can do it again in 2015’.

After a rise in the amount of road deaths reported for 2014- the first week of 2015 has proved no different.

Six people were killed on our roads in the first 7 days of this year – while figures released for 2014 showed an increase in road deaths from the year previous.

A total of 196 people died last year – compared to 190 in 2013. However, that number was down to 162 in 2012.

The Road Safety Authority has expressed serious concern following the rise in road deaths last year and an equally tragic and poor start for road safety in 2015. CEO of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, said:

It’s been an appalling start to the year and mirrors exactly the situation at the same time last year.

Ireland’s road record?

It’s important to note that the latest European Transport Safety Council’s (ETSC) Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) report showed that Ireland, Sweden, Norway and the UK had the lowest death rates across Europe based on journeys taken.

Based on 2013 figures, it found Ireland to be well below the EU average of 51 deaths per million population- with 41. The lowest rate was in Sweden at 27, and the highest was in Romania at 93.

Sweden’s roads have become the world’s safest with other places such as New York trying to copy it’s success.

‘Vision Zero’

Three Swedes in every 100,000 die on the roads each year – compared with 11.4 per 100,000 in America and 40 in the Dominican Republic, (which has the world’s deadliest traffic).

In 1997, the Swedish parliament wrote into law a “Vision Zero” plan, promising to eliminate road fatalities and injuries altogether. Deaths have now reduced by half since 2000.

It’s “2+1″ roads – where each lane of traffic takes turns using a middle lane to overtake – is said to have saved over 145 lives over the first decade of the plan.

Sweden also has low speed limits in urban areas, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate bikes from cars.

It’s believed that strict policing has also helped – with less than 0.25% of drivers tested now over the alcohol limit.

Road deaths of children have plummeted—in 2012 only one child was killed, compared with 58 in 1970.

That’s a stark difference to Ireland where there was a doubling in the number of fatalities among children last year.

Sixteen children aged up to 15 years lost their lives in 2014, eight were pedestrians and eight were passengers.

What needs to be done?

A report by the White Roads EU project, showed that good road design, the presence of adequate maintenance programmes, the installation of reliable homogenous traffic signage, road markings and appropriate lighting are among the key aspects that lead to low accident rates on sections of roads.

However, an EU report on road surfaces shows that Ireland drastically reduced its road maintenance budget between 2008 and 2011 due to the economic crisis.

Ireland South MEP and member of the European Parliament Transport Committee Deirdre Clune, said:

The decision to drastically slash our road maintenance budget between 2008 and 2011 has had enormous economic and safety repercussions and was extremely short sighted.

“I understand that budgets were and continue to be limited but there are economic costs associated with poor road maintenance, not to mention an increased risk of accidents on our roads.”

Clune said she met with the European Road Safety Council, ETSC, during the week and that they’re trying to secure a number of new initiatives at European level “including seat belt reminders for the back seats, alcohol interlocks on the ignition and enhanced safety design for cars”.

The CEO of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, appealed for road users to be extra vigilant, “I would appeal to all road users, as a New Year’s resolution, to please make safer choices when using the road.

Each one of us has the power to make a difference on the road. We did it before, in 2012 when we saved more lives on the road than ever before. We need to do it again in 2015.

Eating Blueberries can help to keep high blood pressure away


Eating whole fresh fruit, especially blueberries, grapes, apples and pears, is linked to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, but drinking fruit juice has the opposite effect, says a new study.

Eating blueberries on a daily basis could lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in just eight weeks, according to researchers at Florida State University.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the effects of blueberries on arterial function as was done in this study, as well as in this study population,” says corresponding author Dr. Bahram H. Arjmandi of FSU. “These findings suggest that blueberries may prevent the progression to full-blown hypertension.”

Postmenopausal women were selected for the study because their incidence of high blood pressure exceeds that of men, and participants were considered to be in the early stages of hypertension.

Working with 48 participants, the research team randomly assigned them to receive either 22g of freeze-dried blueberry powder, the equivalent to approximately one cup of fresh blueberries, or 22g of control powder.

Upon conclusion of the eight-week study, the blueberry group’s collective systolic blood pressure (SBP) was lower by 5.1% and their mean diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was lower by 6.3%.

Arterial stiffness was measured using non-invasive pulse wave velocity technology, and the blueberry group showed improvement, for which researchers believe nitric oxide is to credit since levels increased from 9.11 to 15.35 micrometers (μM).

The placebo group saw no corresponding lowering of their blood pressure, and their nitric oxide levels did not increase.

Aortic stiffness was measured using carotid femoral pulse wave velocity (cfPWV) technology and showed no change in either group, indicating that dietary changes could have more effect on small, peripheral arteries than they do on central ones.

“The recommended intervention for controlling blood pressure in pre- and stage 1-hypertensive individuals is not pharmaceutical interventions, but rather lifestyle modifications including dietary approaches and there is evidence that many cases of HTN can be prevented and treated through diet and lifestyle changes,” says lead author Dr. Sarah A. Johnson of FSU. “Considering the prevalence of HTN in the U.S., preventive strategies such as dietary modifications (e.g. functional foods and dietary supplements) that aim to improve HTN and its related complications are warranted.”

Recently, a Finnish study concluded that wild blueberries could neutralize a high fat diet, which is thought to occur due to the high concentration of polyphenols they contain.

Good bacteria found in beer may help to fight diseases


A recent study led by Harry Gilbert, professor of biochemistry at Newcastle University, Eric Martens of the University of Michigan’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Wade Abbott, research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has identified the complex machinery that targets yeast carbohydrates.

The study was published in the journal Nature and explains how our stomach has a certain bacteria that help us digest yeast and other complex carbohydrates. The bacteria is also found in beer and breads and is responsible for the bubbles in beer. This study shows that certain microbes in our digestive tract have evolved over the years to become capable of breaking down complex carbohydrates. It is these complex carbs that make up the yeast cell wall.

The research has unraveled the mechanism by which B thetaiotaomicron has learned to feast upon difficult to break down complex carbohydrates called yeast mannans. Mannans, derived from the yeast cell wall, are a component in our diet from fermented foods including bread, beer, wine and soy sauce.

“One of the big surprises in this study was that B thetaiotaomicron is so specifically tuned to recognise the complex carbohydrates present in yeasts, such as those present in beer, wine and bread,” said Martens.

“However, these bacteria turned out to be smarter than we thought: they recognise and degrade both groups of carbohydrates, but have entirely separate strategies to do so despite the substantial chemical similarity between the host and yeast carbohydrates,” added Martens.

The new findings provide a better understanding of how our unique intestinal soup of bacteria – known as the microbiome – has the capacity to obtain nutrients from our highly varied diet. The results suggest that yeast has health benefits possibly by increasing the Bacteroides growth in the microbiome.

Experts believe that the discovery of this process could accelerate the development of prebiotic medicines to help people suffering from bowel problems and autoimmune diseases.

BT Young Scientist top award won by teen alcohol project


Ian O’Sullivan and Eimear Murphy from Colaiste Treasa, Cork win the overall prize at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2015 with their project Alcohol Comsumption: Does the apple fall far from the tree?

A group project by Cork students looking at teenage alcohol consumption has claimed top prize at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS.

The best individual prize went to a Co Louth student for her development of a wrist support for boxers.

The top four awards in the exhibition were announced Friday evening, with Ian O’Sullivan and Eimear Murphy being declared the 2015 Young Scientists.

Alcohol consumption. 

Their project looked at whether parental alcohol consumption has an impact on the drinking habits of their teenage children, explained the 16-year-old transition year students at Coláiste Treasa in Cork.

“We wanted to see if there was a parental effect on their kids’ consumption of alcohol,” says Eimear.

The two put together a survey and distributed it to fifth and sixth year students from schools around the Mallow area, she explains. “We wanted to assess hazardous drinking habits.”

This involves consuming too much alcohol or drinking too frequently, habits that have an impact on health, Ian says.

The two found parental drinking habits, particularly that of the father, had a major impact on their children’s drinking.

They also discovered that parents who believe it is acceptable for their children to drink alcohol on special occasions were up to four times more likely to engage in hazardous drinking than other adolescents.

Perpetual trophy

They receive the BT young Scientist perpetual trophy, a cheque for €5,000 and a chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists taking place later this year in Milan.

The award for best individual project went to Rachel Ní Dhonnachadha (16), a fifth-year student at St Vincent’s Secondary School in Louth.

Wrist injuries

Wrist injuries are a common problem in boxing, and as a former boxer, Rachel decided to do something about it.

She discarded the current approach of binding up the wrist with a cloth bandage, a method introduced in the 1920s.

Instead she designed a glove-like wrist support that could reduce wrist deflection, and so cut injuries. “It is comfortable to wear and supports the wrist without restricting normal movement,” she says.

She asked Irish boxer Katie Taylor to try out the wrist support and the champion found it very good, says Rachel.

She also collected a considerable amount of data to show that her device really made a difference.

“It gives you a competitive advantage,” she says. It slightly increases punching force and reduces down time as a result of injuries, she adds.

Rachel has applied for a patent for her design and has plans to bring it to the International Boxing Association.

She receives a perpetual trophy and a cheque for €2,400.

The runner-up group prize went to transition year students Patrick Sweeney, Chloe Daniels and Annette Moran.

Traditional music

Their novel study looked at whether birdsong may have been the inspiration that caused similarities between African and Irish traditional music.

Migrating swallows and other species spend time in Ireland and Africa, and musicians looking for inspiration could have picked up melodies from the birds, according to the theory proposed by the three students from Carrick-On-Shannon Community School, Leitrim.

All three are traditional musicians and so would have an ear for a tune.

Patrick came up with the idea and presented it at last year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. He came back again this year with his two collaborators.

They began studying birdsong, comparing it with melodies in Irish and African music. They made this easier for themselves by investigating the frequency waves of the music, which allowed them to look at any similarities in great detail.

They also believe they can open up a source of new inspiration by using recordings of birdsong from the isolated Galapagos Islands.

They receive a perpetual trophy and a cheque for €1,200.

The runner-up individual prize went to Jack O’Sullivan (16), of Kilkenny College, Kilkenny.

He developed a way to turn an ordinary smartphone into a fully functional desktop computer.

“The power of smartphones is increasing all the time and is now approaching that found in PCs,” he said.

A considerable challenge

It took a considerable amount of work to achieve this – a blend of hardware development and software development. The fact the phone only has a charging point as a way to connect to the outside world represented a considerable challenge, Jack said.

It would be for the phone manufacturers to decide whether they wanted to include a second connection point that would make it easier to use the smartphone in this way.

“The ultimate goal would be a phone with built-in applications like this,” he said. It would convert the phone into a single device for all of a person’s information technology requirements, he said.

He receives a perpetual trophy and a cheque for €1,200.