Tag Archives: davy stockbrokers

News Ireland daily BLOG

Monday 29th September 2014

Irish economy set to bounce back sharply, says Davy Stockbrokers


A licence to print money should always trigger alarm bells

The economy could bounce back more sharply than expected in the coming years, Davy Stockbrokers has said.

It claimed suggestions that the country’s economy is operating at full capacity represents an “unduly pessimistic” view of growth prospects.

Institutions such as the European Commission argue that Ireland has one of the smallest so-called output gaps in Europe. An output gap is the difference between the actual output of an economy, and the output it could achieve when at its most efficient or at full capacity.

The Commission, by arguing that the output gap is almost closed, is stating that the budget deficit is almost entirely structural, and that the deficit will not be improved by growth in the economy alone.

“That is, the Government cannot rely on the economic cycle to naturally close a substantial portion of the remaining budget deficit and should press on with fiscal consolidation,” Davy said it in its latest economic monthly bulletin.

“Our view is that the output gap is probably well in excess of 1% of GDP and budgetary out-turns could still surprise favourably.”

Davy said it believes that Ireland’s output gap is far larger than 1pc and that the economy may “bounce back sharply in the coming years”.

It added it expects to upgrade its forecasts for growth this year towards 5%.

Irish salaries set to rise by 2% in 2015, A Mercer survey finds

Average wage could rise by up to €700 a year as economy continues to recover


The high-tech sector is forecasting the largest salary increase in 2015 at between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent, according to a survey from Mercer.

Irish salaries are set to rise by 2 per cent in 2015, with employees in the high-tech sector benefiting the most from a recovering economy with salary increases of as much as 3 per cent forecast.

According to a survey from Mercer, some 92 per cent of employers are planning to implement pay increases in 2015, with an average pay rise of 2 per cent expected.

The high-tech sector is forecasting the largest salary increase in 2015 at between 2.5 per cent and 3 per cent, followed by financial services, which is expected to see growth of 2 per cent. Executives in the sector however are only expected to grow their salaries by 0.8 per cent.

Other key sectors that expect to increase salaries in 2015 include; consumer goods, life sciences and manufacturing, which are each forecasting increases of 2 per cent, in line with the market overall.

Employees working in the energy and services (non-financial) sectors are set to fare the worst, with an average increase of 1.5 per cent forecast.

Noel O’Connor, Mercer talent consultant, said that the report “very much reflects the positive sentiment and improving performance of the Irish economy.”

“Ireland has expanded its position as a hub for hi-yech businesses in recent years. The competition for talent in this high-growth, high-value sector, is demonstrated by the above average salary increases forecasted for high-tech in 2015.”

Meanwhile, Cpl’s Employment Market Monitor pointed to continued year-on-year jobs growth for the 11th quarter in sectors which largely represent the FDI sector (IT & telecoms; science, engineering & supply chain; sales, marketing & retail; and accountancy, finance & banking). But, the report also shows an apparent slow-down in jobs listed in the last quarter (Q3).

“This is the most pronounced slowdown in two years and possibly indicates a softening of labour market conditions coming into autumn,” the report says.

Nonetheless, employers were very optimistic for the coming 12 months with 80 per cent expecting to recruit and 53 per cent planning to expand their operations.

A majority in Northern Ireland ‘want a border poll’


A survey has claimed a majority of people in Northern Ireland would favour a referendum on the Irish border. 

The study suggested there is strong support for a border poll.

However the study, published in Monday’s Belfast Telegraph, suggested that those surveyed don’t want to be part of a united Ireland – including one in five Catholics.

The poll was carried out by LucidTalk at the time of the Scottish independence referendum.

People were asked if a vote should be held on whether Northern Ireland should stay in the UK or to join with the Republic of Ireland.

With ‘don’t knows’ excluded, 56% said they wanted a referendum and 44% said they didn’t.

Support for a border poll was highest among young people, the survey found, with a comfortable majority of those in the 18-to-24 and the 25-to-44 age brackets.

Meanwhile, on the question of Irish unity, 59.8% said no, 7.7% said yes and 32.5% said yes in 20 years, not including ‘don’t knows’.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, the power to call a border poll in Northern Ireland lies with the Secretary of State.

Theresa Villiers can make the call at any time, but she would only be required to do so if there was clear evidence that a majority would back a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness renewed his party’s call for a vote on the border after Scotland held its referendum on independence, while First Minister Peter Robinson of the DUP said there are more pressing issues in Northern Ireland.

Last year, the Northern Ireland Office said that the UK Government had no plans to organise a referendum based on recent election results and opinion polls in the region.

Male Nurse who placed surgical tape over patient’s mouth

‘accepts’ incident amounts to professional misconduct


Bimbo Paden appeared before a Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness-to-practice hearing

A NURSE placed surgical tape over the mouth of a severely brain damaged patient, who could not speak, after a terminally ill cancer sufferer with memory loss became “distressed” by the “loud” noises he was making.

Bimbo Paden had worked at St John’s Community Hospital in Sligo since 2001, shortly after arriving in Ireland from the Philippines.

He appeared before a Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness-to-practice hearing this morning facing allegations of professional misconduct.

The inquiry was told that on June 26 last year he placed white surgical tape over the mouth of ‘Patient A’, a 49-year-old who was resident there for 13 years having suffered a brain haemorrhage.

“He knew or ought to have known that this was inappropriate,” the hearing was told.

It is also alleged he placed a ‘hoist sling’ under the same patient without the assistance of another staff member in breach of HSE policy.

The man is a “vulnerable, maximum dependency patient”, who requires full care for all his daily needs, including personal hygiene and eating.

“He cannot speak but can make noises. The only way he can communicate verbally is through making sounds. These can be for a long or sustained period of time,” said Barrister Neasa Bird for the NMBI CEO.

Bimbo Paden, a 42-year-old male nurse, was extremely stressed and overworked at the time of the incident, Mr Paden’s barrister Noel Whelan said.

“Until this incident his care for Patient A was always proper, professional and appropriate.”

He said Mr Paden is a father-of-three and is the “sole earner” in his family.

He had worked as a nurse before he arrived in Ireland in 2000.

Mr Whelan said his client has “accepted” the placing of surgical tape across the patient’s mouth had occurred, and that it amounted to professional misconduct.

But he insisted “circumstances” surrounding the incident must also be taken into account.

“He was horrified when he realised what he had done. He is ashamed of his actions,” he said.

“It was inappropriate and not in accordance with the care plan for this patient.”

“From the outset nurse Paden has indicated his wish to apologise to the patient and the family of Patient A,” Mr Whelan said.

Mr Paden was given the Probation Act for assault earlier this year at Sligo District Court.

A previous court hearing was told a Health Service Executive (HSE) internal investigation found Mr Paden worked under serious stress,  and never complained about it.

Detailed investigations had shown the workload in the unit was inequitably distributed with Mr Paden carrying out an unduly high workload.

It is the first public fitness to practise inquiry by the NMBI, which has replaced An Bord Altranais.

World wildlife populations halved in 40 years – new report states


The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.

Severe impact

Compiling a global average of species decline involves tricky statistics, often comparing disparate data sets.

The Living Planet Index tracks more than 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010

The team at the zoological society say they’ve improved their methodology since their last report two years ago – but the results are even more alarming.

Then they estimated that wildlife was down “only” around 30%. Whatever the numbers, it seems clear that wildlife is continuing to be driven out by human activity.

The society’s report, in conjunction with the pressure group WWF, says humans are cutting down trees more quickly than they can re-grow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can re-stock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than oceans and forests can absorb.

It catalogues areas of severe impact – in Ghana, the lion population in one reserve is down 90% in 40 years.

In West Africa, forest felling has restricted forest elephants to 6-7% of their historic range.

In Nepal, habitat loss and hunting have reduced tigers from 100,000 a century ago to just 3,000.

In the UK, the government promised to halt wildlife decline – but bird numbers continue to fall.

The index tracks more than 10,000 vertebrate species populations from 1970 to 2010. It reveals a continued decline in these populations. The global trend is not slowing down.

‘New method’

The report shows that the biggest recorded threat to biodiversity comes from the combined impacts of habitat loss and degradation, driven by what WWF calls unsustainable human consumption.

The report notes that the impacts of climate change are becoming of increasing concern – although the effect of climate change on species until now is disputed.

WWF is keen to avoid despair. It points to conservation efforts to save species like:

  • A Gorilla Conservation Programme in Rwanda, promoting gorilla tourism
  • A scheme to incentivise small-scale farmers to move away from slash and burn agriculture in Acre, Brazil
  • A project to cut the amount of water withdrawn from the wildlife-rich River Itchen in the UK.

Previously, the Living Planet Index was calculated using the average decline in all of the species populations measured. The new weighted methodology analyses the data to provide what ZSL says is a much more accurate calculation of the collective status of populations in all species and regions.

A ZSL spokesman explained to BBC News: “For example, if most measurements in a particular region are of bird populations, but the greatest actual number of vertebrates in the region are fish, then it is necessary to give a greater weighting to measurements of fish populations if we are to have an accurate picture of the rate of population decline for species in that region.

“Different weightings are applied between regions, and between marine, terrestrial and freshwater environments. We are simply being more sophisticated with the way we use the data.”

“Applying the new method to the 2008 dataset we find that things were considerably worse than what we thought at the time. It is clear that we are seeing a significant long-term trend in declining species populations.”


Ireland daily News BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 21st May 2013

Mortgage lending in Ireland plunges by 66% in first quarter of 2013


The mortgage market slowed dramatically in the first three months of the year.

The number of new home loans approved by banks and the amount that was borrowed both dropped by around two-thirds from the levels seen in the previous three months.

The latest figures from the Irish Banking Federation (IBF) and accountants PwC show that in the early part of this year lending was running at lower levels than at any time in 2012.

There were just over 2,000 mortgages approved in the first three months of the year and the amount borrowed was €331m. It is down from 6,000 mortgages approved in the final three months of 2012, when the total borrowed was €999m.

In the first three months of 2012, which is a better comparison, 2,600 mortgages were approved and the total amount borrowed was €450m.

It’s the second recent blow to hopes that the housing market was emerging from a five-year slump. Data published at the end of April showed house prices declined nationally in the early part of the year, though they were up in Dublin.

The IBF’s Felix O’Regan said the latest lending figures reflect the decision to end mortgage interest relief for house buyers at the end of 2012. Earlier data showed a surge in mortgage lending at the end of last year as buyers snapped up houses before the tax break was scrapped. The latest figures also reflect the more normal slowdown in house sales at the start of each year, Mr O’Regan said. But while the first three months of the year are traditionally a quiet time for house sales, the 2013 figures show a 20pc drop even compared to the same period last year.

WORRYING: Conall Mac Coille of Davy Stockbrokers said the end of mortgage interest relief had distorted the market. But he said taking in the whole six-month period from the start of October to the end of March, mortgage approvals were up about 20pc compared to a year earlier.

Yesterday Trevor Grant, who is the chairman of Expert Mortgage Advisors, which represents brokers, said the latest decline in mortgage market activity is “really worrying.”

Irish Credit unions struggling to get a reasonable return on investments


Lending is down and interest rate on savings is dropping

The low level of loans being issued by the credit union movement was identified as a key point at a recent conference in Dublin held to discuss the sector.

Credit unions are putting a lot more money into investments, including bank deposits, than they are directing towards new loans. And the low returns on money not being loaned out to members is a problem.

Yet any move to increase the return from investments will inevitably carry with it a heightened level of risk.

Lack of expertise 
Many credit unions do not have the expertise necessary for entering into such waters and so the sector is faced with the possibility of an extended period of low returns.

The issue feeds into the overall debate about the restructuring of the sector and the change that is coming down the tracks. New forms of control could allow some credit unions look at different categories of loans and services that they could offer.

Asked about the loans issue, Irish League of Credit Unions chief executive Kieran Brennan is anxious to put it in perspective.

“Better to be in our position than the one the banks are in. At least we didn’t lend out multiples of our deposits.”

And if the banks were lending out at the sort of ratio to assets the credit union sector is, he adds, the economy as a whole would be a lot better off. Point made, Brennan is prepared to accept that the ratio of the credit union loans to total assets is not as healthy as it needs be.

At the end of 2012, the league’s member credit unions in the Republic had assets of €12.23 billion, essentially the same as at the end of 2011.

The figure for total loans was €4.25 billion, 2.6 per cent down on the figure for the end of the previous year.

At the Dublin conference, economist Alan Ahearne produced figures showing that, for credit unions overall, the loan to asset ratio had fallen to 36.6 per cent last year from 52 per cent in 2008.

The reasons behind it are easily identified. A lot of people are overburdened with debt, and many are finding it hard to get by in an environment of increased unemployment, reduced incomes and higher taxes. Concern about how the economy will perform over the coming years is persuading people to hold off taking out sizeable loans.

“It is the size of the average loan that is down, rather than the number of loans overall,” says Brennan. The fall in the ratio has been steady, and steep for the sector overall since 2008, according to Ahearne’s figures, though Brennan says that, for league members, the fall has eased somewhat in more recent times.

Red Carnation UK buys Ashford Castle the priciest Hotel in Ireland


Red Carnation Hotels U.K. Ltd. agreed to buy Ashford Castle, Ireland’s most-expensive hotel per night, for an undisclosed price.

The landmark 83-room property, where parts of “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne were filmed, was sold on behalf of receiver Ernst & Young Ltd. through broker Savills Plc (SVS), according to a statement by E&Y today.

The average room rate was about 315 euros a night last July, Tom Barrett, head of Savills’s hotel and leisure unit in Ireland, said in October, citing data compiled by STR Global. Income-producing properties in Ireland have lost about two-thirds of their value on average since 2007, according to Investment Property Databank Ltd.

“Ashford Castle is the jewel in the crown of Irish hospitality,” Savills’s Barrett said in the statement. “It is a strong vote of confidence in the future of the industry from a leading international hotel and travel group.”

Ashford Castle, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of Dublin near the village of Cong, attracted bidders from the U.K., Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Australia, according to the statement. Carnation is a closely held hotelier that runs 14 four and five-star properties including the closest hotel to London’s Buckingham Palace, according to its website.

A plan to develop 13 penthouse bedrooms, 30 lodges and extend the 9-hole golf course to 18 holes at Ashford Castle was drawn up and never completed, London-based Savills said in a statement when the hotel was put up for sale in October.

Irish developer Gerry Barrett bought the hotel, on 365 acres (148 hectares) of land, in 2007 for 50 million euros, according to the Irish Times.

Lloyds Banking Group Plc’s (LLOY) Bank of Scotland (Ireland) unit appointed a receiver to Ashford Castle Properties Ltd. and Ashford Castle Estate Ltd. in November 2011, according to Iris Oifigiuil, the Irish State Gazette.

Half of all young suicide deaths in Ireland may be part of a cluster


Up to half of young men under the age of 18 who commit suicide may have known someone else who ended their own life.

So-called ‘suicide clusters’, particularly among younger people, are becoming a worrying issue in this country, according to a new report.

The new Suicide In Modern Ireland survey has identified, for the first time here, the possible true extent of suicide clusters, which involve a number of cases of suicide deaths in a particular area.

The report, authored by Professor Kevin Malone of UCD, has identified “very fragmented communities in the aftermath of a suicide event or events”.

Across all ages, it found as many as 10pc of suicide deaths in this country may be part of a cluster.

Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide amongst young males in the EU and now Turn The Tide On Suicide is calling for a Suicide Prevention Authority to reverse this trend.

On average, every 18 days, a child under 18 in Ireland dies by suicide.

In total, over 500 people a year commit suicide, with men accounting for 84pc.

Younger men are particularly at risk, which prompted Kerry teenager Donal Walsh, who died from cancer last week, to publicly appeal to young people not to end their lives.

ANECDOTES: According to Prof Malone, their findings have identified the possible true extent of suicide clusters.

“I think this has been previously under-estimated. If you just rely on anecdotes, you will only see part of the problem. We systematically examined for clustering in every case,” said Prof Malone.

“Our findings suggest that up to 50pc of our under 18 suicide deaths in Ireland may be part of couplets or clusters.

“A young suicide death is a very powerful and destabilising social force. It can reverberate intensely in smaller closed communities, such that the whole community is at increased risk for at least a year, and also at anniversaries,” he said.

“We have to place cluster-busting in our suicide prevention agenda. We need a national, year-round real-time early-warning system – it can’t just be in schools, as several of these young suicide deaths occur in kids who have left the school system,” he said.

Meanwhile, the report has called for an early detection adolescent depression screening programme to be considered.

Alcohol, mental illness and bullying are all highlighted as factors contributing to suicides among young people

The report urged that there should be a “deeper understanding of the role and culture of alcohol and its consumption in teens and young adults”.

Letterkenny Gardai say they are winning the war on crime


Crime in the Letterkenny area has fallen by 15 per cent in the last year, new figures suggest.

The figures were presented to the Letterkenny Joint Policing Committee by Supt. Vincent O’Brien and show that most types of crime in the Garda district are indicating a fall in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year.

Robberies from the establishment have fallen by 33 per cent while robberies from the person fell by 100 per cent. Aggravated burglary increased by 300 per cent though Supt. O’Brien stressed that the figure has increased from four incidents to seven.

Burglary fell by 2 per cent and theft fell by 10 per cent although theft from shops increased by 34 per cent which Supt. O’Brien said was a significant increase for Letterkenny.

Theft from vehicles increased by 15 per cent while other theft fell by 18 per cent.

The figures also showed that assaults causing harm fell by 52 per cent while assault was down by 13 per cent.

Supt. O’Brien said Gardaí in Letterkenny had targeted key offenders and three of them “are out of commission because they are in prison”. He also said recent robberies could be connected to a number of high dependency drug users who had moved into the Letterkennny area. He said they had been detected, arrested and charges were being brought.

Penguins evolution from wings to fins saved them energy


 A study of winged and diving birds shows there was an advantage to learning to swim underwater and abandoning flight: less energy expended. 

Flight might make some aspects of penguins’ Antarctic life much easier. The grueling march of the emperor penguins, for example, might take only a few easy hours rather than many deadly days. Escaping predators like leopard seals at the water’s edge would also be easier if penguins could take flight, so scientists have often wondered why and how the birds lost that ability.

The march of the penguins seems to mock evolution. If Emperor penguins just got up and flew 40 miles, they could get to their mates in no time flat. Why would evolution abide a tedious waddle across the ice?

It turns out there’s method in the seeming madness of these blubbery short-winged pedestrian birds. Penguins long ago faced a steep trade-off between the high calorie costs of flight and low energy expenditure of using their wings to swim. They dived into an “adaptive fitness valley” of evolution that fly-and-dive ocean birds such as murres and cormorants still straddle, according to a team of Canadian and American zoologists.

This biomechanical theory for winged flightlessness emerges from a study that measured energy efficiency in thick-billed murres – seabirds also known as guillemots, in the Auk family – and in cormorants.

Murres resemble penguins in their diving and swimming – “flight-based” propulsion by strong wings. But murres can still fly.

That lingering multi-tasking costs murres and other diving sea birds in ways that penguins don’t pay. The metabolic cost of flight for murres is the highest ever recorded for vertebrates, according to the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Murres operate at 31 times their base metabolic rate while flying, placing them at the outer edge of energy efficiency among vertebrates.

Dive costs for murres were lower than those for cormorants, another fly-dive species that uses a “drag-based” paddle, like ducks. But the penguin still beats both in diving energy efficiency.

“Like many people, I have been fascinated by films of penguins walking across the Antarctic ice, and wondered, why on earth they lost the ability to fly?” said University of Aberdeen zoologist John Speakman, a member of the research team. “The lack of flight in penguins has been an enigma, because it leads to some seemingly poorly adapted behavior.”

But penguins are well adapted for finding food in water – adaptions that progressively made flying impossible: Their wings became shorter, with stouter bones. Their body mass increased, both to optimize muscle contraction rates for the slower wing beats, and to allow them to store more energy for longer dives.

These compromises are lacking in the murres, a chubby-bodied flier that has the highest wing loading of any flying bird, according to the study. It needs a whopping 146 watts per kilogram of weight to take flight, more than the record held by a bar-headed goose. A cormorant needed 87 watts per kilogram.

And dive costs increase rapidly with body mass for flying divers such as the murre, compared with flightless divers, such as the penguin. That places the murre at the edge of the “fitness valley” separating winged fliers and their flightless swimming avian cousins, the researchers suggest.

The penguins, however, pay a price for their efficiency: they became the favored prey of leopard seals while in the ocean.

That should be motivation enough for penguins to become even better swimmers.

News Ireland daily Blog by Donie

Saturday 18th August 2012

Liquidator appointed to Sean Quinn Group holding company


A liquidator has been appointed to the former holding company behind the Quinn group of businesses previously owned by the five adult children of businessman Seán Quinn.

Quinn Group (ROI) Ltd was wound up last month by the share receiver, Kieran Wallace of KPMG, appointed to the company by the former Anglo Irish Bank, which is owed €2.88 billion by Mr Quinn and his family.

A spokesman for Quinn Group described the liquidation as a move to “tidy things up”. A new holding company, Quinn Group Holdco, has been set up to take control of the group and its ultimate beneficial owners are the syndicate of banks and financial investors which were owed €1.3 billion by the Quinn Group and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the new name for Anglo.

The lenders to the Quinn Group and IBRC seized control of the Quinn Group from the Quinn family on April 14th, 2011. Mr Quinn’s five adult children and his wife have issued legal proceedings over the appointment of the share receiver to Quinn Group (ROI) and claim that €2.34 billion of the loans provided by the former Anglo Irish Bank are invalid as they were advanced to prop up the bank’s share price.

In a statement, Mr Quinn’s four daughters – Colette, Ciara, Aoife and Brenda – said they were “truly shocked and outraged” at the liquidation. They described it as a “calculated and sinister plan to ensure we will not be in a position to regain control of our businesses”.

“The actions are horrific in circumstances where the very legality of the takeover of our companies is currently awaiting determination before the High Court,” they said.

Quinn Group (ROI) was the ultimate holding company of 95 firms which comprise the Quinn Group which was involved in a diverse range of businesses, from the manufacture of cement and concrete products, glass and radiators and plastics, to insurance, hotels, property and financial services.

The Quinn Group spokesman said this company was no longer connected to Quinn Manufacturing Group Holdco, the firm behind Mr Quinn’s former manufacturing businesses, which was restructured on December 2nd, 2011.

Mr Quinn was declared bankrupt in Dublin in January after IBRC secured a judgment of €2.16 billion against him on personal guarantees he had given on loans advanced by Anglo to Quinn Finance, one of the main companies in the Quinn Group.

The Quinn Group spokesman said its former holding company in Northern Ireland, which is also called Quinn Group Ltd and was previously owned by the Quinn family, has also been wound up as a members’ voluntary liquidation.

A statement posted on the Quinn Group’s website yesterday said Quinn Group (ROI) Ltd and Quinn Group Ltd were shell companies with no commercial activity.

“A number of other shell companies with no trading activity are expected to go through the same process in the coming months,” the statement said. “This has no impact whatever on our trading manufacturing companies.”

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Brazilian worker survives 6ft bar through his skull 


This tomography scan shows the skull of Eduardo Leite pierced by a metal bar in Rio de Janeiro

A 24-year-old construction worker in Brazil survived after a 6ft metal bar fell from above and pierced his head, doctors said.

Luiz Alexandre Essinger, chief of staff of Rio de Janeiro’s Miguel Couto Hospital, said doctors successfully withdrew the iron bar from Eduardo Leite’s skull during a five-hour surgery.

“He was taken to the operating room, his skull was opened, they examined the brain and the surgeon decided to pull the metal bar out from the front in the same direction it entered the brain,” Mr Essinger said.

He said Mr Leite was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and told him what had happened. He said Mr Leite was lucid and showed no negative consequences after the operation.

“Today, he continues well, with few complaints for a five-hour-long surgery,” Mr Essinger said. “He says he feels little pain.”

The bar fell from the fifth floor of a building under construction, went through Mr Leite’s hard hat, entered the back of his skull and exited between his eyes, Mr Essinger said, adding that “it really was a miracle” that Mr Leite survived. The accident and surgery took place on Wednesday.

“They told me he was laying down (in the ambulance) with the bar pointing upwards”, said Mr Leite’s wife, Lilian Regina da Silva Costa. “He was holding it and his face covered in blood. His look was as if nothing had happened. When he arrived he told the doctors he wasn’t feeling anything, no pain, nothing. It’s unbelievable.”

Ruy Monteiro, the hospital’s head of neurosurgery, told the Globo TV network that Mr Leite escaped by just a few centimetres from losing one eye and becoming paralysed on the left side of his body.

He said the bar entered a “non-eloquent” area of the brain , an area that does not have a specific, major known function.

Mr Leite is expected to remain in hospital for at least two weeks.

Brains and not brawn, the key for a successful knockout karate punch scientists say’


Brain power, not brute strength, may explain how karate experts can break bricks with a bare-handed strike, according to scientists who say years of martial arts training alter the organ’s wiring.

Researchers in Britain compared the short-range punches of a dozen karate masters to those of 12 physically fit novices and found the black belts’ secret lay not in muscle power but an ability to coordinate the peak velocity of their shoulder and wrist.

This allowed higher acceleration and a bigger impact force, the scientists say in the latest issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex.

The scientists then scanned the two groups’ brains, and found that those who threw the bigger punch had changes in the structure of their white matter, which transmits signals between the brain’s processing regions.

The longer they had been training, the more changes.

“The karate black belts were able to repeatedly coordinate their punching action with a level of coordination that novices can’t produce,” study co-author Ed Roberts of Imperial College London’s medicine department said in a statement.

“We think that ability might be related to fine tuning of neural connections in the cerebellum (the part of the brain that governs motor control), allowing them to synchronise their arm and trunk movements very accurately.”

Scientists believe that through the process of learning a skill, patterns of brain activity adapt as performance improves.

Now they believe they have also found proof of changes to the actual brain structure.

“This has implications for our understanding of the role of white matter connectivity in motor coordination,” said the paper.

Ireland’s house prices undervalued by as much as 5%

     says the ‘Economist’ magazine


Irish residential property prices are undervalued, according to the latest edition of The Economist magazine, published today.

During the boom the influential London-based publication repeatedly warned that Irish house prices were overvalued and at risk of crashing.

In the latest of its regular surveys of house prices internationally it said that Irish prices are 5 per cent lower than they should be.

The estimate is based on the long-run relationship between house prices on the one hand and incomes and rents on the other.

Of the 21 countries covered in the index, prices are undervalued in only six other countries, said The Economist.

Irish prices have fallen further than those in any of the other 20 countries, when measured against both 2007 and 2011.

While average Irish prices have halved over the past five years, the next worst performing market was the US, where prices fell by more than one-quarter.

Spain was in third place, with prices down by slightly less than one-quarter over five years.

This follows predictions that more mortgage holders are set to go into arrears, according to a report by Davy Stockbrokers.

The Davy research, published yesterday, predicts that mortgage arrears among owner-occupiers in Ireland could peak at 16.5 per cent, from 13.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The report also raises concerns about arrears on buy-to-let mortgages, which Davy projects running at more than twice the rate of the owner-occupier category.

The Central Bank plans to publish details of arrears on buy-to-let mortgages for the first time.

These will appear alongside regularly published arrears figures on owner-occupier mortgages in the next set of figures on the performance of mortgages in the third quarter of this year.

  The figures are due in November.

The bank also plans to provide more detailed information about the number of mortgages that were restructured to help borrowers meet repayments but that have fallen into arrears again.

These details will be in the arrears figures for the fourth quarter of this year, which will be published in February 2013.

The additional information is an attempt by the Central Bank to provide greater understanding about the state of the Irish mortgage books and to show whether the forbearance measures taken by the banks on distressed cases – under their mortgage arrears resolution strategies – are resolving distressed loans cases and leading to a slowdown in the increasing rate of arrears.

In an analysis of the mortgage arrears situation, the Davy report said banks needed to move beyond short-term measures.

“Restructured mortgages have had limited success in restoring loan performance, with interest-only and principal payment modifications prevalent.

“A remarkable feature of the Irish housing market bust is the lack of principal write-downs and repossessions,” the report said.

Irish banking mortgage losses will exceed the €9 billion assumed in the worst-case scenario used in last year’s stress test, according to the Dublin-based securities firm.

“Eventual losses of €10 billion to €11.5 billion could be absorbed within the remaining €8.5 billion of unused capital from deleveraging requirements,” Davy said in a note.

“Tactical delinquency, increased bankruptcy, further property price falls and macroeconomic developments pose risks to this view.”

Legal rights group Flac said the Davy report was a “stark indicator” of the need to ensure lenders were more realistic and reasonable in their proposals around mortgage debt for Irish consumers.

James Reilly signs new deal to deepen co-operation with China

who want to have more collaboration and exchange of information


Minister for Health Dr James Reilly: China’s top pharma firms interested in exploring opportunities in Ireland.

MINISTER FOR Health James Reilly has signed a deal to deepen co-operation with China on healthcare education during an official visit.

Dr Reilly, who is on a week-long trip to China, said the country’s top pharmaceuticals company had expressed an interest in exploring opportunities in Ireland.

“There is a great willingness on both sides for more collaboration and exchange of information and exchange of personnel,” the Minister said in Beijing yesterday.

Dr Reilly signed an expanded memorandum of understanding on education and training with his Chinese counterpart, Chen Zhu.

“Minister Zhu was very interested in training more GPs and we set up a working group to bring that forward. We moved things on in a very real way,” Dr Reilly said.

He said there was also interest in training nurses, and Maura Pidgeon, chief executive of An Bord Altranais, was travelling with the delegation.

Health reform is a big issue in China, which has a population of 1.34 billion. The country has a high savings ratio because people need to put money aside for healthcare in the absence of a working state healthcare system. Rising incomes have seen the major causes of death shift from infectious diseases to lifestyle illnesses such as hypertension and obesity, requiring more preventive care.

Hospitals and doctors are financially dependent on medicine sales, and there are occasional riots in hospitals and attacks on doctors due to over-prescription or perceived inequality. It is an area ripe for reform and the government is prepared to invest in the sector.

Dr Reilly met Sinopharm, the biggest pharmaceuticals firm in China and fourth-biggest in the world, which is interested in research and development in Ireland. “Sino-pharm expressed great interest in coming to Ireland and looking for suitable partners,” he said.

He also held talks with Yin Li, commissioner of the State Food and Drug Administration, following which the Irish Medical Board was invited back to China in December for a conference.

The Minister delivered a keynote address to the China Health Forum in Beijing, which this year focuses on healthcare reform.

“Despite the fact that we face serious economic challenges and have had to cut 15 per cent of our health budget over the last few years, we have managed through reform to reduce the number of patients waiting for both inpatient and emergency services,” he told the audience.

Dark chocolate ‘may lower your blood pressure’


There may be good news for people looking for an excuse to munch on a couple of squares of chocolate after a review showed the treat could reduce blood pressure.

An analysis of 20 studies showed that eating dark chocolate daily resulted in a slight reduction in blood pressure.

The Cochrane Group’s report said chemicals in cocoa, chocolate’s key ingredient, relaxed blood vessels.

However, there are healthier ways of lowering blood pressure.

The theory is that cocoa contains flavanols which produce a chemical in the body called nitric oxide. This ‘relaxes’ blood vessels making it easier for blood to pass through them, lowering the blood pressure.

The 100g of chocolate that had to be consumed daily in a number of the studies would also come with 500 calories – that’s a quarter of a woman’s recommended daily intake”

However, studies have thrown up mixed results. The Cochrane analysis combined previous studies to see if there was really an effect.

There was a huge range in the amount of cocoa consumed, from 3g to 105g a day, by each participant. However, the overall picture was a small reduction in blood pressure.

A systolic blood pressure under 120mmHg (millimetres of mercury) is considered normal. Cocoa resulted in a 2-3mmHg reduction in blood pressure. However, the length of the trials was only two weeks so the longer term effects are unknown.

Lead researcher Karin Ried, from the National Institute of Integrative Medicine in Melbourne, Australia, said: “Although we don’t yet have evidence for any sustained decrease in blood pressure, the small reduction we saw over the short term might complement other treatment options and might contribute to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

High blood pressure is both common and deadly. It has been linked to 54% of strokes worldwide and 47% of cases of coronary heart disease.

However, chocolate packs plenty of fat and sugar as well as cocoa so is not the ideal way of lowering blood pressure.

Dark or milk?

There has also been a warning in the Lancet medical journal that dark chocolate may contain fewer flavanols than you might think. Dark chocolate contains a higher cocoa count than milk chocolate so should contain more flavanols, however, they can also be removed as they have a bitter taste.

Victoria Taylor, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s difficult to tell exactly what sort of quantities of flavanol-rich cocoa would be needed to observe a beneficial effect and the best way for people to obtain it.

“With most of the studies carried out over a short period of time it’s also not possible to know for sure whether the benefits could be sustained in the long term. The 100g of chocolate that had to be consumed daily in a number of the studies would also come with 500 calories – that’s a quarter of a woman’s recommended daily intake.

“Beans, apricots, blackberries and apples also contain flavanols and, while containing lower amounts than in cocoa, they won’t come with the unhealthy extras found in chocolate.”

News Ireland Blog as told by Donie

Tuesday 26th June 2012

‘Ireland’s property price index’ records its first increase in five years


Ireland’s residential property prices across the country fell by 15.3 per cent in the year to the end of May but also recorded their first monthly rise in nearly five years.

Overall, prices were up 0.2 per cent in the month, compared with a decline of 1.1 per cent in April and a drop of 1.2 per cent in May last year.

In Dublin, overall prices rose by 0.2 per cent in the month but were 17.5 per cent lower than a year ago.

The latest residential property price index published by the Central Statistics Office shows house prices in the capital were up by 0.5 per cent in May but were down 17.7 per cent compared with a year earlier. Apartment prices in Dublin fell by 1.6 per cent in May and were 16.3 per cent lower than a year earlier.

In the rest of the country, prices were up by 0.1 per cent in May compared with a decline of 2.1 per cent in May 2011. Overall, prices outside Dublin were 14.2 per cent lower than in the same month last year.

The CSO said house prices in Dublin were now 55 per cent lower than at their highest point in early 2007. Apartment prices in the capital are 61 per cent lower than they were in February of that year.

Residential property prices in Dublin are some 57 per cent lower than at their highest level at that time. In the rest of Ireland, the fall in residential property prices is 47 per cent.

The national index is some 50 per cent lower than at its height in 2007, the CSO said.

Davy stockbrokers said the index understated the true peak-to-trough decline in house prices and that it was “already close to 60 per cent”.

Davy noted the CSO index excluded cash purchases, which made up “at least 25 per cent of the market” and which were likely to be sold at “particularly distressed levels”.

It said a lack of transaction data had also probably “pushed up” on the CSO index.

“The lack of transactions may be evident in the split the CSO provides for properties in Dublin and the rest of the country,” the stockbroker said in a briefing note.

It said a period “below long-term equilibrium levels” now appeared likely.

“Credit constraints and the uncertain outlook for employment and economic growth are the principal factors that will hold back any recovery in the Irish housing market.”

Merrion Economics noted the 0.2 per cent increase in prices in May was the first overall monthly increase since September 2007, which it said was “an encouraging sign”.

Glas Securities said the May figures represented the slowest rate of decline since October last year. It said the figures would “provide encouragement that the time of steep falls in property prices may have given way to less dramatic price movements and even some price stabilisation in the market, particularly in the Dublin region”.

“However, the longer-term outlook for property prices remains uncertain in the context of wider economic issues and depressed mortgage lending.”

The CSO property index is compiled using data on mortgage drawdowns provided monthly by eight of the main mortgage lenders.

Let’s Operate ‘Cloud computing player’ is recruiting 25 Irish resellers to introduce the service

Cloud computing player Let’s Operate is recruiting 25 Irish resellers 

Cloud computing player Let’s Operate is recruiting 25 Irish resellers

Cloud computing player Let’s Operate, which works in the hosted virtual desktop space, is in the process of recruiting 25 Irish resellers to roll out its service.

Let’s Operate, which was founded in 2008 by former UCD Quinn School of Business lecturer in information systems, David Owens, has won the exclusive rights to distribute Nasstar’s hosted desktop service in the Republic of Ireland.

Let’s Operate already has 20 Irish customers, including Home Instead Senior Care and Headhunt International Recruitment. Having identified the demand in the market, Let’s Operate has decided to operate solely in the future through channel vendors in order to maximise the opportunity.

“We view this as a major opportunity for Irish resellers as most SME client companies are now talking about implementing cloud even if they haven’t done it so far. Our service, which can be own branded by the reseller, will be a valuable addition to their offerings,” said Owens, managing director, Let’s Operate.

Nasstar is ranked in the top 3 cloud service providers (CSPs) in Europe, according to Nine Lives Media’s second annual Talkin’ Cloud 100 report. Nasstar increased the number of subscribers by 37pc in the first half of its fiscal year to March 2012.

“Our route to market in the UK has been through the channel and we have had huge interest from resellers because it gives them a profitable and cost-effective way to take advantage of the exponential growth in SME and small enterprise demand for cloud computing services,” said Charles Black, CEO, Nasstar.

Lonesome George 100 yrs old the last tortoise of his kind dies on the Galapagos Islands


Lonesome George, the last remaining tortoise of his kind and a symbol of conservationism, died on Sunday of unknown causes, the Galapagos National Park said. He was thought to be about 100 years old.

Lonesome George was found in 1972 and had become a symbol of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, which attracted some 180,000 visitors last year. “This morning the park ranger in charge of looking after the tortoises found Lonesome George. His body was motionless,” the head of the Galapagos National Park, Edwin Naula, said.

Giant Galapagos tortoises, which can live up to 200 years, were among the species that helped Darwin formulate his theory of evolution. Scientists had been trying to get George to mate since 1993, when they introduced two female tortoises of a different subspecies into his pen. They laid eggs twice, but they were not fertilised.

Tortoises were hunted almost to extinction by sailors and fishermen for their meat, while their habitat has been eaten away by goats. Some 20,000 giant tortoises still live on the Galapagos.

Proud & joyous Westport community celebrates after ‘Irish Times’ honour


The beautiful Westport house and canoeing on the river Carrowbeg river that runs through he town of Westport.

One proud local person said winning the Irish Times award for the nicest place to live in has added “a further diamond in Westport’s already sparkling crown”.

Joy was palpable on the bustling streets of the tourist favourite, which won the national Tidy Towns award in 2006, after news came through that it had now been named by The Irish Times as the nicest place to live in Ireland.

“This is a brilliant achievement, unexpected but certainly welcome,” declared shoe-shop owner Michael O’Donnell as he fetched down a pair of sandals for a Danish visitor.

Like many others in the seaside town, which was described by the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray in 1842 as having “the most beautiful view I ever saw in the world”, Mr O’Donnell thinks the award represents a boost for industry as well as tourism.

“Executives from the largest companies in the world will want to base themselves here because of the scenery, the cleanliness and community spirit which contribute to a fantastic quality of life,” he said.

The point that industry in Westport will further benefit from the “best place in Ireland to live” tag was echoed by the Mayo county manager Peter Hynes.

“The quality of life in Westport and in Co Mayo generally gives us a competitive advantage,” he said. “Industrialists want to come here.

“I would like to compliment the local Tidy Towns committee, the town council and the many organisations that contribute to making life in Westport so good.”

The Irish Times sold out early in Westport yesterday on foot of the good-news story.

Local TD and Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Michael Ring, said: “Everybody works together for the benefit of the town. They pull together.”

The celebration of Westport’s good news has even gone international.

Marilyn Dearden, who is back in Rochdale, England, having enjoyed “a wonderful week” with her mother, Irene, and sister, Jackie, in Westport, posted a comment on local boards last night saying that the people of the town were to be congratulated for their part in achieving the latest honour.

“Everybody is so friendly, the service is excellent, and the streets of the town are so clean you could eat your dinner off them,” said Ms Dearden, who plans to return in September for a second holiday.

Domestic violence scheme in Ireland came to the aid of 107 women in six months


A new pilot scheme dealing with domestic violence based in the family law District Court in Dolphin House, Dublin, supported 107 women over a six-month period in seeking court orders to protect them from violence.

The evaluation of the scheme, a partnership between Women’s Aid, the Dublin 12 Domestic Violence Service, Inchicore Outreach Centre and the Courts Service, was launched by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, yesterday. The scheme offers a free and confidential drop-in service for women while helping them prepare for court and referring them to other domestic violence services for support.

  Launching the report, Mrs Justice Denham said the service was a fine example of the State and non-governmental organisation sectors joining to provide a better service, which showed that, at a time of pressure on resources and with some lateral thinking, a better service could be delivered with very little extra cost.

Mr Shatter said: “The work being done at the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service is a shining example of co-operation and co-ordination in working to assist victims of domestic abuse.”

Margaret Martin, director of Women’s Aid, said: “This service makes a real difference to women’s lives. We know that for 107 women the Dolphin House Support and Referral Service made their journey through the legal system easier.”

She gave the example of “Annie”, a woman who made contact with the service when pregnant with her third child. Her husband was beating her and burning her with cigarettes, telling her she was a terrible mother.

Annie tried to get a protection order but each time she applied she did not go through with it because her husband threatened to kill her. On one occasion he physically blocked her from leaving the house so she would miss a court hearing.

Through the service she was able to apply for orders under the Domestic Violence Act and other orders, such as custody, access, maintenance, guardianship production of infants and HSE care hearings.

“She and her children are now protected and are building a safer, happier life, free from her husband’s abuse and control. It is safe to say that without the help of the service, Annie and her children would still be living in an abusive home,” Ms Martin said.