Tag Archives: Cyclists

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th May 2016

Fianna Fáil must explain decision to side with the Government on Irish Water, says Sinn Fein

     

Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Broin said Fianna Fáil has broken its promise to abolish Irish Water.

Sinn Fein has accused Fianna Fail of acting in coalition with Fine Gael by abstaining in a motion to scrap water charges.

This gave Fine Gael a comfortable winning margin to push through the deal reached with Fianna Fáil during negotiations to form a new minority government.

Under this deal – water charges will be suspend for the moment, to allow for the establishment of an independent commission.

“They’re supporting the Government and they’re supporting this Government’s policy, and they are supporting the continuation of Irish Water, despite clear election promises to the contrary,” he said.

“And they’re supporting a motion that leaves the door open to water charges in the future, so Fianna Fáil have to explain to their electorate why they promised to abolish Irish Water and water charges before the election and now are siding with the Government on these issues after the election.”

Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins defended the decision not to vote against the abolition of Irish Water., saying his party plans to support future legislation to abolish water charges.

“There will be, through legislation, a suspension of water charges and a commission to look into the whole issue of water in this country,” he said.

“So we’ve played a progressive part in this, unlike other political parties, and what we saw in the Dáil, spearheaded by Sinn Féin, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and indeed the People Before Profit was just simply petty politics.”

Leo Varadkar does a U-turn on child benefit

     

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has ruled out any linking of the payment of child benefit to school attendance, despite a commitment in the programme for government to do so.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar said while there is a requirement to disclose attendance records for children over the age of 16, at present there is no such requirement for those younger than that under current legislation.

He said the monitoring of children is beyond his remit and is a matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The programme for government states that monitoring of child benefit will be reformed by amalgamating two existing monitoring systems, to address poor attendance within some families.

This initiative has been spearheaded by Communications Minister Denis Naughten. However, Mr Varadkar yesterday ruled out any move to link the payment to attendance.

“Child benefit is a payment that is not means tested nor is it taxed and I have no intention of changing that. For those under 16 it is not linked to school attendance,” he said.

“I had some discussions with [Children’s Minister Katherine] Zappone and [Education Minister Richard] Bruton and our view is that those involved in monitoring truancy do not believe the further tool to enforce attendance would be useful. I see no reason in changing the law.”

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said concern had been raised following media reports about the inclusion of the measure in the programme for government, but that he welcomed Mr Varadkar’s ruling it out. “We are happy with that and I thank the minister,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was also pressed about the €2.5m cost to the taxpayer in meeting the statutory redundancies at Clerys in Dublin.

He said legal action could be instigated in order to reclaim the monies from the company, which was folded in controversial circumstances last year.

He said the redundancies were paid out of the Social Insurance Fund from PRSI contributions to 134 former employees at Clerys.

He said: “Arising from the Clerys liquidation, the Department of Jobs examined protection law for employees and unsecured creditors to see that limited liability or company restructuring is not used to avoid obligations to employees or creditors.

“It is my firm view that companies should stay true to the spirit and letter of company law. My department is now examining how the monies can be recouped.”

Mr Varadkar said legal action would have to take into account any burden of proof involved, the cost of taking such an action, and the level of assets in the company.

Labour TD Willie Penrose criticised the response, saying it reflects the conservative nature of bureaucracy. He called for Mr Varadkar to make the most of existing law to recoup monies for the taxpayer.

Mr Varadkar was also asked about his decision to scrap the Job-Bridge scheme. He told the Dáil he felt the scheme was now “out of date”.

Ten times more cyclists treated in Irish hospitals after crashes than official figures show

    

Today’s findings also showed far more people were hurt in road accidents

Ten times more cyclists are injured and treated in hospital than official figures show, it has been revealed.

Today’s findings also showed far more people were hurt in road accidents.

Researcher Brian Caulfield said: “New injury indicators are clearly needed since the existing data do not capture the gravity and extent of the problem.”

A team from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering combined data from the Road Safety Authority, hospital records and the Irish Injuries Board.

The study into figures from 2005 to 2011 found there were 88,000 traffic injuries. Hospital figures reveal RSA data only includes around 30% of an overlap with patients admitted for road crashes.

The researchers said: “The evidence the numbers are far greater than the official data indicate implies that reducing injuries needs to play a more important role in road safety strategy.

“Policy measures under consideration to reduce fatalities could obviously also contribute to reducing injuries. Among these are helmets for cyclists, lower urban speed limits, stronger measures to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.”

A spokesman for the RSA said its figures relating to collisions and injuries come from gardai and not hospitals or the IIB.

The lack of one comprehensive dataset has previously made it difficult to assess the extent of the problems in Ireland.

But the Trinity researchers got around this problem by linking figures from three separate sources.

Dr Jack Short, ex-secretary general of the International Transport Forum at OECD, said: “The total social costs of road traffic injuries are greater than the cost of fatalities, so this subject merits increased policy attention and a higher priority in the Irish Road Safety Strategy.”

€500,000 fintech start-up fund announced by Enterprise Ireland

L-R: Geraldine Gibson, Managing Director, AQ Metrics; Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager ICT & International Services, Enterprise Ireland; Brett Meyers, CEO, Currency Fair  

Enterprise Ireland has created a new €500,000 fund for fintech start-ups, with ten spots to be filled as part of the IFS-2020 strategy.

Announcing a new start-up fund for fintech start-ups today, Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O’Connor claimed the support was a “key part” of the current government’s push to help key sectors.

Providing €50,000 in equity to ten selected start-ups in the fintech area, applications open at the start of June, closing after just two weeks.

Open to early stage companies that can either be providing technology into the financial services industry, or consumer end-market solutions, blockchain, IoT, AI and ‘data intelligence’ are area encouraged.

Aside from the equity fund on offer, successful applicants will also receive membership to Dogpatch Labs, access to the Ulster Bank Innovation Solutions team, as well as talks from members of the FinTech and Payments Association of Ireland (FPAI).

“By introducing a specific start-up fund targeting the fintech sector,” said Enterprise Ireland’s Leo McAdams, “[we are] leveraging our strong international financial services reputation and our world-class start-up ecosystem to allow ambitious entrepreneurs to start, scale and succeed – providing valuable jobs here into the future”.

Enterprise Ireland has been fairly active of late, pouring €2.5m into ArcLabs at Waterford Institute of Technology in a move that will double the capacity of the incubation hub.

The expansion is hoped to help achieve the goal of a 30pc increase in the number of start-ups in the south-east.

Meanwhile last November a €500,000 specifically aimed at female-led start-ups was created.

Mars is emerging from an ice age that ended about 400,000 years ago

Climate change affects the Red Planet as well as us on earth?

the-red-planet  marsnasa.jpg  NASA-9.jpg

Mars is emerging from an ice age, according to a new study. Studying the Martian climate and how it changes over time can help scientists better plan future missions to Mars and even understand climate change here on Earth, the study authors goes on to say.

Models had already predicted that Mars underwent several rounds of ice ages in the past, but little physical measurements ever confirmed those predictions. Today’s study, published in the journal Science, is the first to map the ice deposits on the north and south pole and confirm that Mars is emerging from an ice age, in a retreat that began almost 400,000 years ago. The researchers also calculated just how much ice accumulated over the poles; the amount is so big that if it were spread throughout Mars, the entire planet would be covered by a 2-foot thick layer of ice.

STUDYING CLIMATE CHANGE ON MARS IS IMPORTANT FOR MULTIPLE REASONS?

Studying climate change on Mars is important for multiple reasons, says study co-author Isaac Smith, who studies sedimentary systems on Mars at Southwest Research Institute. By understanding ice ages, we can get a better understanding of how ice — and water — behaved through time on the Red Planet. It can help us figure out how Mars went from being a wet world to the barren, frigid land it is today. And it can tell us where ice deposits can be found. That’s key if we plan to send humans on Mars. “We want to know the history of water,” Smith says. “At some point, we’re going to have some people there and we’d like to know where the water is. So there’s a big search for that.”

The Martian climate can also inform scientists about climate change here on Earth, Smith says. Mars is the most similar planet to Earth in the Solar System and it provides a good testing ground for climate research, because there are no people burning fossil fuels and pumping global warming pollutants into the atmosphere. “Mars is a very good laboratory for what happens on Earth,” Smith says. “Climate science actually has a very simple but perfect laboratory in Mars, where we can learn about the physics of climate change and then apply what we learn to Earth.”

Ali Bramson, a planetary scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Arizona, who did not work on the study, agrees. “I think it’s a really great study and I think it’s very timely,” she says. “I was really excited to see it. … Climate change is obviously a very salient topic on Earth, but understanding the distribution of water-ice on Mars is also something that’s of great interest because there’s a lot of interest in sending humans one day to Mars. So if we know where there are reservoirs of water-ice, that could potentially be useful for future human exploration.”

MARS “IS NOT A DEAD, STATIC WORLD. THINGS ARE GOING ON AND CHANGING.”

Just like Earth, Mars undergoes cycles of climate change and ice ages. But unlike Earth, climate change on Mars is affected primarily by how “tilted” the planet is. Every planet has an axis around which the planet rotates. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees and it’s pretty stable, varying only a couple of degrees over time. Mars’ axis is currently tilted 25 degrees, but it wobbles between from 10 to 40 degrees. That happens for two reasons: first, Mars doesn’t have a moon as big as ours to stabilize its orbit; second, it’s much closer to Jupiter, and Jupiter’s gravity affects Mars’ rotation. When the Red Planet’s axis is more tilted, the poles receive more sunlight and get warm — so the ice to redistributes to the mid-latitudes, just above the tropic. That’s when Mars undergoes an ice age. “The impact is pretty dramatic,” says Peter Read, a physics professor at the University of Oxford.

Today’s study was based on predictions that 400,000 years ago such a shift in the planet’s axis took place. The researchers used radar instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a NASA spacecraft that’s orbiting Mars. They analyzed the radar images of the ice deposits within the planet’s polar ice caps, looking out for signs of erosion and other features, like so-called spiral troughs that are created by the wind. Tracing these features can reveal how ice accumulated and retreated through time. The researchers confirmed that around 400,000 years ago an ice age ended. Since the end of that ice age, about 87,000 cubic kilometers of ice accumulated at the poles, especially in the north pole. That’s exciting, because 400,000 years is pretty recent when talking about planets in the Solar System.

The study is “another bit of evidence that climate is still actively changing on Mars,” says Stephen Lewis, a senior lecturer at the Open University, who didn’t work on the study. Mars “is not a dead, static world. Things are going on and changing.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 1st July 2015

Former Finance Minister McCreevy not saying whether a property bubble existed

 

Charlie McCreevy has denied that he was reckless with the public finances, and resisted answering whether he thought a property bubble existed in Ireland during the boom.

The former Finance Minister says his record in office has been misrepresented , and he stands by it.

The former Fianna Fáíl TD began his evidence at the Banking Inquiry this afternoon with a vigorous defence of his record running the country’s finances.

“Since the recent national downturn, critics are suggesting that we should not have spent all of this money,” he said.

“If we had spent less, it would have meant larger budget surpluses. Some of us have gone on to say we should have built up further rainy day funds … are these people for real?”

However, the inquiry went into private session for some time after the former minister was accused of failing to answer questions.

Mr McCreevy would not give a direct answer when he was asked if he thought Ireland had experienced a property bubble.

The former minister said he wouldn’t answer questions that didn’t relate to his time in office – to the frustration of Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty.

“You are avoiding answering a very simple question which is very relevant,” Doherty said.

After being reminded of his legal obligations by the inquiry chairman, Ciaran Lynch, McCreevy responded that he did not believe there was a property bubble “during my time”, and said he did not believe his policies had fuelled it.

On-the-spot fines for dangerous cyclists to be introduced

Minister says fines will come in this month and crack down on cycling on footpaths

    

Bike-users will soon be faced with on-the-spot fines for dangerous cycling on footpaths, according to the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohue

Kirstin Campbell

Bike-users will soon be faced with on-the-spot fines for dangerous cycling on footpaths, according to the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohue.

The new fixed fine penalties for reckless cycling are expected to come into effect by late July this year.

Prior to the new fine system, dangerous cyclists would have received a court summons for carrying out any of 36 different cycling offences.

The fines will be enforced by An Garda Síochána, following the update of the PULSE system for the cycling offences.

Mr Donohue acknowledged certain circumstances in which some cyclists may use footpaths due to road traffic, but said that would be left up to the discretion of gardaí.

“I don’t want to move to a situation where any kind of an adult feels they can’t be on a footpath, for example when they might be taking their kids to school,” the minister said on RTÉ Radio.

“What I do want to see change, and we are going to make that change, is where people are cycling dangerously on a footpath at risk to themselves and other people”.

The minister also announced on Wednesday the free use of leap cards for children between July 6th and 19th on any form of public transport where the card is accepted, following the recent sale of the one millionth leap card.

Men lose ability to think rationally around beautiful women

 

Research in China has shown that attractive women are able to manipulate men into making unfair deals by clouding their judgement. Should men never do business with a beautiful woman?

A long story

If your brain turns to mush around beautiful women rest assured, it’s a scientific inevitability.

In a study at Zhejiang University in China, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, 21 male students looked at 300 photographs of women — half had  been classified by another group of men as attractive, half as unattractive.

The participants then played a computer game where they had to come to do a financial deal with the women in the pictures, splitting a small sum of pretend money.

Researchers found that the men were much more likely to accept an offer from the ‘attractive’ women and accepted unfair offers far more readily. They also accepted a fair offer from an attractive woman faster.

Scans of the hapless males’ brains showed greater activity in the reward areas of the brain when they dealt with ‘attractive’ women and more sensitivity to the areas of the brain that deal with dissatisfaction when an unfair offer was table by a woman rated as ‘unattractive.’

Interestingly, the men realized that they would never meet any of the women when playing the game but still bent over backwards to please those they found more attractive.

This isn’t the first study to demonstrate how powerless men are in the presence of female beauty.

A recent study from University College London and the University of Bristol, quoted in the Huffington Post, found that men donate more generously to charity when the fundraisers are attractive women. Interestingly, women didn’t show the same pattern with attractive men.

So the next time you are faced with a beautiful woman over the boardroom table, maybe it’d be best to take a cold shower before you sign anything.

Own The Conversation

Ask The Big Question: Do men have a crucial Achilles heel when it comes to doing business with women?

Disrupt Your Feed: Men are so easy to manipulate, they really shouldn’t be allowed to do business at all.

A study in Finland showed that better looking political candidates of both sexes did 20 percent better than those candidates rated as less attractive.

Former ghost estate turned into homes for people on housing list

 

The development in Dublin 13 was officially opened today.

The housing charity CLÚID took over a ghost estate on Dublin’s Northside over six years ago and they have now refurbished over 200 units there.

Speaking at the official opening today Karen Kennedy from Clúid said, “When we first visited this development over six years ago, there were high rates of anti-social behaviour, rubbish was piled up on the streets, and there were derelict buildings everywhere.

“Today, almost all the properties are occupied, houses have been turned into homes, and there is a growing sense of community everywhere you look.”

Resident Helen Maguire said: ‘I am just beyond happy.

Before moving here, me and my son were living in a one bed emergency accommodation hotel room. My landlord moved back into the property I was living in and I had been extremely anxious ever since. We were totally unsettled.

“Having a long-term lease is a massive relief for me. The service Clúid provides is very reassuring and I always have a point of contact when I need one. The whole process has been life-changing for me. Belmayne is my home now.”

Transformation 

In 2009, Clúid partnered with two other Approved Housing Bodies to purchase 75 complete but unsold dwellings. At the same time, Dublin City Council purchased 59 units and appointed Clúid as management agent.

In 2014, Clúid signed a lease agreement with NARPS for a further 125 properties.

Belmayne is located in an area of Dublin with a high demand for all types of housing, so Clúid proposed a mixed tenure community that would cater for people with a range of needs and incomes.

60% of the 125 units acquired in 2014 are social rented dwellings for people on Dublin City Council’s housing waiting list.

Of these, one third is reserved for people who have experienced homelessness. The remaining 40% are let at market rents to those who can afford to pay a higher rent.

Karen Kennedy commented: “We are absolutely delighted to be providing long-term housing for people on the social housing waiting list in this area.

“Belmayne has been transformed from an underutilised, unfinished development into a thriving community.”

Plankton found with human-like eye

   

The miniature multi-cellular eye is similar to that of humans, scientists have discovered

A single-celled blob of marine plankton has evolved a miniature multi-cellular eye similar to that of humans, scientists have discovered.

The “ocelloid” so surprised researchers that originally they mistook it for the eye of an animal the organism had eaten.

Lead scientist Greg Gravelis, from the University of British Columbia in Canada, said: ” It’s an amazingly complex structure for a single-celled organism to have evolved.

“It contains a collection of sub-cellular organelles that look very much like the lens, cornea, iris and retina of multicellular eyes found in humans and other larger animals.”

Experts are still not sure exactly how the plankton organisms, called warnowiids, use the eye. They are known to employ harpoon-like structures to hunt plankton prey, which is often transparent.

One theory is that the eye helps warnowiids to detect shifts of light passing through the bodies of their prey, showing them in which direction to hunt.

Dr Brian Leander, also from the University of British Columbia, said: “The internal organisation of the retinal component of the ocelloid is reminiscent of the polarising filters on the lenses of cameras and sunglasses. It has hundreds of closely packed membranes lined up in parallel.”

The researchers collected samples of warnowiids off the coasts of British Columbia and Japan and used a 3D microscope technique to analyse the eye-like structure.

The study, reported in the journal Nature, sheds light on how very different forms of life can develop similar traits in response to their environments, a process called convergent evolution.

“When we see such similar structural complexity at fundamentally different levels of organisation in lineages that are very distantly related, then you get a much deeper understanding of convergence,” said Dr. Leander.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 18th July 2013

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New penalties to be introduced from 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland seeks credit line to help exit bailout programme

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Reduce screen time before bed.

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

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

Try listening to music instead or practising relaxing exercises.

3. Exercise to enhance sleep.

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

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

4. Write down or share worries.

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

5. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Do not nap during the day.

Irish scientists at CERN at the top of their game

     A worker cycles through the Large Hadron Collider tunnel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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