Tag Archives: enterprise ireland

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Monday 15th May 2017

Investment bank JP Morgan move cements Capital Dock as flagship development

Dublin docklands scheme to have 32,000sq m of office space and 190 residential units

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Kennedy Wilson, the development manager of the Capital Dock site, will ultimately own an 85% interest in the site, with Nama owning the balance.

Capital Dock, where JP Morgan has just acquired a 12,000sq m (130,000sq ft) building, is a development by Kennedy Wilson, an international real estate firm, in Dublin’s south docks. The 613,000sq m (660,000sq ft) development is a joint venture with the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) and Toronto-headquartered Fairfax Financial Holdings.

The US investment bank announced on Monday that it is to acquire a 12,000sq m building in a move that will provide it with the capacity to double its Irish work force to 1,000.

Kennedy Wilson confirmed that the bank would become the first major occupier of the Capital Dock development through a forward-funding sale agreement. It is understood JP Morgan will pay about €125 million for the building, about €10,400 per square metre or €961 per square foot.

“We are excited to welcome JP Morgan, through its acquisition of 200 Capital Dock, as the first major office occupier to commit to this best-in-class mixed-use campus development, to grow its existing business and meet its long-term plans in Ireland, ” said William McMorrow, chairman and chief executive of Kennedy Wilson.

Extending over 1.9 hectares (4.8 acres) on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, the development will include 32,000sq m (345,000sq ft) of office space and 190 residential units.


The partnership between Kennedy Wilson, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and Nama began as the former sought to get zoning for the Capital Docks site. Part of that site was acquired in mid-2013 when Kennedy Wilson and its equity partner took ownership of a 3.4 acre plot.

Kennedy Wilson is reported to have paid €106 million to secure its interest in the site.

In December 2014, a joint-venture agreement was signed between Kennedy Wilson, its equity partner and Nama. The arrangement entailed Kennedy Wilson and Nama merging their adjacent sites at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

Kennedy Wilson, the development manager of the site, would ultimately own an 85 per cent interest in the site with Nama owning the balance.

Planning for the site was awarded in October 2015 and site-enabling works began a month later. The main contract was awarded to Sisk in July 2016 and was one of the biggest commercial development contracts awarded in the Irish market in recent years

Nama originally held an interest of 75% in the 22 hectares of undeveloped land in the docklands strategic development zone. It is estimated that about 370,000 sq m (four million square feet) of commercial space and more than 2,000 apartments will ultimately be delivered on the 15 sites originally held by Nama.

Some €250 million is being invested in Capital Dock, which is situated directly opposite the Three Arena in Dublin’s docklands and which will accommodate two large office blocks and a 23-storey residential tower.

In an interview with The Irish Times last year, Kennedy Wilson’s global chairman and chief executive Bill McMorrow said of Capital Dock: “In Los Angeles, that would be a very big development. We’re very proud of that particular project.”

The first of three office buildings is due to be delivered at Capital Dock in late 2017, followed by 190 high-quality residential apartments in mid-2018.

Last year, Alison Rohan, head of Ireland for Kennedy Wilson, said the scheme, which was designed by Irish architecture firm O’Mahony Pike, was the largest mixed-use development in Dublin’s south docks.

“As a campus location offering over 330,000sq ft of flexible office space in addition to on-site residential, leisure and retail amenities, we expect it will appeal to both Irish and international companies looking for a location in the heart of the capital, and from which to grow their business.”

Enterprise Ireland report reveals Brexit impact on Irish exports

Client companies record big drop in UK export growth in 2016 as sterling depreciates

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Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon: “We have to work on the basis that Brexit will create new barriers to Irish trade with the UK.”

Client companies of Enterprise Ireland have reported a major slowdown in the growth of Irish exports to the UK in the wake of Brexit.

In its latest report, the State agency responsible for helping Irish companies access international markets said export growth to the UK had slowed from 12% in 2015 to 2% last year.

The fall-off was largely due to a decline in food exports, which have been worst hit by the recent depreciation in sterling. The UK accounted for about a third of the €21.6 billion in exports from Enterprise Ireland-supported firms last year.

“The fact that the growth of exports to the UK has slowed suggests that the impact of Brexit on Irish companies has already started,” said Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon.

“Companies cannot afford to wait until the Brexit negotiations conclude – they must act now,” Ms Sinnamon said. “While diversifying from the UK might have been a desirable objective for Irish companies in the past, Brexit means that it is now an urgent imperative.”

New Euro-zone strategy

In response to the challenges posed by Brexit, Enterprise Ireland has launched a new euro-zone strategy, which aims to boost Irish exports to the bloc by 50% to €6 billion by 2020.

European Commission forecasts ‘robust expansion’ of Irish GDP

Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said helping companies to diversify into European markets was a significant plank of the Government’s overall Brexit strategy.

“Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Government immediately acted to ensure our enterprise agencies had additional resources in order to offer all available assistance to our exporters to prepare for the challenges posed by Brexit,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland said its strategy would see it partner some 600 client companies, about half of which are what it described as “euro-zone start” – ie relatively new to the euro-zone market and heavily reliant on the UK.

The remainder were “euro-zone scale”, meaning they were already exporting into the bloc, it said.

Additional resources use?

Ms Sinnamon said some of the additional resources would be used to fund euro-zone market research and feasibility grants.

“This strategy is about driving one of the most significant shifts in the footprint of our client exports in the euro zone,” she said. “We have to work on the basis that Brexit will create new barriers to Irish trade with the UK.

“On the other hand, euro-zone markets can provide currency stability, proximity and potential for growth and opportunities for Irish companies,” she added.

Despite the economic uncertainty hanging over world markets, exports from Enterprise Ireland client companies grew by 6% to €21.6 billion last year. The UK accounted for more than a third of the total.

Export sales grew across most territories, the agency noted, with growth in the United States and Canada jumping by 19% to €3.7 billion, followed by the Asia Pacific region, which was up 16% to €1.8 billion.

On a sector-by-sector basis, the strongest export growth globally was in software and internationally traded services. which grew by 16% to €4.3 billion.

Life sciences, engineering, cleantech, paper print, packaging and electronics exports rose by 10 per cent to €3.9 billion while construction, timber and consumer retail exports increased by 8 per cent to €2.9 billion.

Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan may go before special sitting of committee over Templemore

Fitzgerald backs Garda Commissioner to address ‘deep-seated issues’

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An old pal’s pact is being acted out in public?

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee may hold special sittings before the end of this month to re-examine Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on the extent of her knowledge of financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College.

The committee had originally invited the Garda Commissioner to attend its meeting on July 13th as part of its inquiry into the inflated Garda breath-test figures controversy.

However, at its meeting on May 4th, a senior civilian employee in the Garda – director of human resources John Barrett – gave an account of a meeting on the Templemore college issue that contradicted Ms O’Sullivan’s account of how and when she became aware of financial irregularities in the Garda training college.

Members of the PAC said on Monday they wanted the Garda Commissioner to come before it at a much earlier date to respond to that controversy.

Its chair, Sean Fleming (Fianna Fáil), said the committee would decide on Thursday what witnesses, besides the Garda Commissioner, it would recall and the programme of work that would be involved.

Two committee members, Alan Kelly (Labour) and Catherine Connolly (Independent) said they wanted the Garda Commissioner to attend as soon as possible.

Special sittings needed?

In Mr Kelly’s case, he said it should happen as early as next week if possible, and argued that the committee could convene special sittings if necessary.

Ms Connolly said she wanted the hearing to be held “as quickly as possible”. She said the committee “was not happy to wait until July given the urgency and import of the matter”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she continued to support the Garda Commissioner and had no objective evidence that Ms O’Sullivan had done anything wrong.

Ms Fitzgerald is facing increasing political pressure over her support for Ms O’Sullivan as the force remains dogged by a series of controversies.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have all strongly criticised Ms Fitzgerald for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s spokesman on justice Jonathan O’Brien confirmed they would consider tabling a motion of no confidence.

Political expediency

Ms Fitzgerald said “while of course the Opposition are going to ramp up the pressure and use the commissioner to ramp up pressure indeed on me, I would say that politics and political expediency aren’t going to sort out the very deep-seated issues in relation to An Garda Síochána”.

“I would also say that when you shine a light you see a lot of things that have been kept in the dark for a long period, and by previous governments indeed.

“The issues for example like Templemore and [phone] interception – the interception issues go back to the early 2000s with Fianna Fáil in government for 11 of the last 17 years.

“Templemore, we had reports in 2008, 2009; what action was taken then? And the idea that somehow you blame people who are trying to shine a light and do the current reforms is simply not the way that we are going to get real reform.”

Scientists find gene with key to bowel disorders

The gene, known as MDR1, governs an important extractor system for toxins in the gut, removing damaging substances from intestinal cells.

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Scientists have identified a key gene that helps to explain an underlying cause of incurable bowel disorders, which affect around 15,000 people in Ireland.

A study found that blocking the effects of the beneficial gene can harm vital parts of the cell, and lead to bowel disease.

The findings boost understanding of the cause of these lifelong conditions and could lead to new treatments, scientists say.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) includes disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The causes of these conditions are unknown and there is currently no cure.

The gene, known as MDR1, governs an important extractor system for toxins in the gut, removing damaging substances from intestinal cells, scientists said.

A research team, led by the University of Edinburgh, showed that MDR1 function was lower in people with inflamed IBD compared with those without inflammation.

Experts then showed that mice without MDR1 had faulty mitochondria, parts of the cell known as “batteries”, which play a vital role in energy generation and cell health.

This mitochondrial dysfunction then resulted in colitis, inflammation of the inner lining of the bowel – a defining feature of IBD.

Researchers involved in the study analysed genetic data from 90,000 people, 40,000 of whom had IBD.

The university study also revealed that a drug called Mitoquinone, which protects the mitochondria against toxins, can reduce colitis and promote bowel recovery in the mice lacking MDR1. Scientists have described this as a “significant step forward”.

Lead author Dr Gwo-Tzer Ho, of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, said: “IBD has a serious impact on quality of life. We have shown that MDR1 and mitochondrial function are important jigsaw pieces in the complex causes of IBD. Our studies highlight the importance of shielding the mitochondria from damage. This will open new approaches to drug targets that focus on the mitochondria to better design treatments for patients.”

The study, carried out with researchers at the University of Bristol, the USA and Japan, was published in the journal ‘Mucosal Immunology’.

Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials to be expanded

Increased scale of clinical research has benefited many Irish patients with better outcomes

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Norma Harte (left), Joan Jordan and Dr Fionnuala Keane at the HRB-CRCI seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day.

The scale of clinical research has improved dramatically in Ireland over the past five years, leading to better outcomes for patients and helping many avail of innovative treatments. But the health service needs to be better structured to facilitate trials and involve patients more to match achievements elsewhere in Europe, 200 delegates heard on Monday at a national seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day 2017.

“Without such trials medical progress becomes a matter of chance,” said Prof Joe Eustace chair of the Health Research Bureau Clinical Research Coordination Ireland (HRB-CRCI) which acts as a co-ordinating centre for Ireland’s involvement in clinical trials. While there was a dramatic improvement in the scale of research, it was not yet sufficient for Ireland to become a world-class trial location, he said. In Denmark, which has a similar population to Ireland, it has five times the number of trials in train compared to the Republic.

“Clinical research not only save lives but enhances patients’ lives in the longer term as new products come into the market. Those countries that have embraced research as part of their national healthcare system have also witnessed better outcomes for their patients,” Prof Eustace added.

New clinical trials

Since 2014, there has been a 37% increase in the number of sites conducting clinical research in Ireland. In 2016 there were 15 hospitals and almost 300 clinical investigators working with clinical research facilities and centres around the country. Over the past number of years, more than 100 new clinical trials have opened in Ireland, delegates heard at the event, which was hosted by the HRB-CRCI in Dublin.

Investments in physical infrastructure, researchers and research networks had been the springboard to the recent upsurge in clinical trials activity in our health system, noted Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, interim HRB chief executive. Between now and 2020, it is planned to spend a further €54 million to maintain and expand Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials and healthcare intervention studies, she added.

In practice, there was a need for all interested health professionals to have the capacity to test new innovative treatments, therapies and medical devices with their patients during their daily work, said Dr Pat O’Mahony chief executive of Molecular Medicine Ireland, a body set up by third-level institutions to help medical research yield benefits for patients. “It would mean greater and easier access for patients, and increased opportunities to collect research data… fundamentally increasing the clinical research scale we have in Ireland. Our ultimate aim should be that any patient who needs care, is suitable and has a desire to access novel treatments under development, could have the option to do so,” Dr O’Mahony added.

Paediatric research

Clinical trials were especially important in paediatric research as so many diseases originated during pregnancy or in early childhood, according to Prof Geraldine Boylan, director of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research based in Cork.

Young people were “protected from research” in the past, so much so very few drugs for children were developed. The reality is they cannot be treated as young adults and just given “a smaller dose”. Their make-up was different so they needed to be participants in research, including those at the earliest stages of life, to get the best possible outcomes. Where that involved a young baby, who was very ill at birth, or born prematurely, the whole family needed to be centrally involved, she said.

Prof Boylan outlined the circumstances of the birth of Tara-Lee to Norma and Jason Harte, who was born after a very difficult birth at Cork University Maternity Hospital, without a heartbeat having sustained a brain injury. She was treated in intensive care unit by cooling therapy where her core body temperature was brought down by several degrees over a 72-hour period. Now nearly 20 months old, Tara-Lee had benefited from a treatment which was developed by way of clinical research; her development since had been “absolutely perfect”.

Erin Dolan who lives in Lahinch, Co Clare, outlined how she participated in a clinical trial last year at University Hospital Galway during the months of her pregnancy as a consequence of having diabetes type 1 since she was 10. She had benefitted from continuous glucose monitoring, which accurately indicated her blood sugar level, and helped control high levels so it did not detrimentally affect her baby. While the trial required extra trips to hospital, “it was worth it as it benefited me and other women” in similar circumstances. Her daughter Maeve was born a normal, healthy baby, as a consequence.

User-friendly information

Patients needed to be more centrally involved in Irish clinical research to ensure a better success rate, said Dr Derick Mitchell of Irish Patient Organisations, Science and Industry, which supports delivery of health innovations to people with unmet medical needs.

Patients were trying to find out where clinical trials were happening, but they needed to make informed decisions. Having them centrally involved with user-friendly information of where trials were happening and how to get involved was essential. “Having them involved at the beginning can make a real difference in improving the quality of research,” he said.

For Ireland to be better recognised for its clinical research, where it can be done quickly and to the highest standard, Dr Mitchell said there was a need for clinicians in the health sector to be given “protected time” for their work, and for a central ethics committee to approve research rather than individual hospitals.

Scientists identify a 50-foot mystery sea beast washed up on Indonesian beach?

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A giant sea creature, possibly with tusks, washed up on a beach in Indonesia last week, freaking out people on the island of Seram and launching a global guessing game to determine what, exactly, it used to be.

A giant sea creature washes up on a beach in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, cellphones come out and the image goes around the world, prompting thousands to ask: What is it? Meanwhile, Serum Island residents are asking: How do we get rid of this thing?

A giant sea creature, possibly with tusks, washed up on a beach in Indonesia last week, freaking out people on the island of Seram and launching a global guessing game to determine what, exactly, it used to be.

As images of the floating carcass rocketed around the Internet, the scientific community asked itself: What is it? How did it get to an Indonesian island? And what does its presence say about climate change and whale migration habits?

The people of Seram have a more pressing query: How do we get rid of it?

Asrul Tuanakota, a 37-year-old fisherman, initially thought he had discovered a boat stranded in shallow water, according to the Jakarta Globe. On closer inspection, he determined that it was the rotting corpse of a 50-foot-long dead sea creature, possibly a giant squid because the remains looked like tentacles.

Blood seeping from the dead sea beast had turned the water near the coastline a bright red, which didn’t stop locals from wading in for a closer look and snapping pictures.

George Leonard, the chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, told the Huffington Post that the rotting carcass was probably a baleen whale, judging by parts of a protruding skeleton and what appear to be baleen plates used to filter out food.

Decomposition gases bloated the whale into a very un-whale-like shape, and some of the noxious gases were seeping out.

Seram, the largest island in the Maluku Island group, is near the migration routes for baleen whales, so it makes sense that one would be nearby. Locals have asked the government to help remove the carcass, the Huffington Post reported.

But dead whales usually sink to the bottom of the ocean, providing a years-long buffet for the creatures that dwell there, according to Live Science. The publication theorized that the whale had a bacterial infection that produced more gases or that it possibly died in warm waters, allowing bacteria to accumulate and gases to expand its body. It also could have died an unnatural death after being clipped by a ship.

Of course, things die in the ocean all the time producing all kinds of weird phenomena. But now fishermen and villages and tourists — and their smartphones — are coming into contact with dead sea things as they go through the circle of life.

For example, fishermen off the western coast of Australia found a humongous floating balloon of flesh that looked as if it was the first sign of an alien invasion. At first, the father and son thought they had encountered a hot-air balloon.

“When we got closer we realized it had to be a dead whale because of the smell,” Mark Watkins told the West Australian.

They snapped photos of the whale balloon, then headed to shore. By then, they said, circling sharks had taken bites of the dead creature, causing it to deflate.

This year, a giant, hairy sea creature washed up on a beach in the Philippines, according to the Daily Mail. Locals believe the unusual occurrence was brought on by a recent earthquake.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 6th January 2016

One-in-five (20%)now employed by foreign multinationals

Latest IDA numbers show employment in multinational sector rose to 187,000 in 2015


IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan left pic.

The State body said firms it supports created just under 19,000 jobs last year

One-in-five private sector workers in Ireland are now employed directly or indirectly by foreign multinationals, according to IDA Ireland.

The agency’s end-of-year report reveals IDA-backed firms created just under 19,000 jobs in 2015, bringing total employment in the sector to 187,000, the highest level in the IDA’s 67-year history.

Some 53 per cent of the new jobs were generated outside of Dublin, compared to 49 per cent in 2014, with technology, business services and life sciences highlighted as the best-performing sectors.

“While there is a global trend towards foreign direct investment (FDI) favouring large urban centres, IDA statistics continue to show the strength and resilience of FDI in regional locations,” the agency said.

Employment outside the capital currently accounts for 59 per cent of the total footprint.

The IDA estimates that for every 10 jobs created by FDI, a further seven indirect jobs are generated in the wider economy. This means about 318,000 jobs or one in five private sector jobs are supported by Irish-based multinationals.

The number of high-profile investments secured by the IDA during the year rose to 213 from 197 in the previous year, with “new name” investments rising to 94.

IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan acknowledged the strong performance was achieved against a backdrop of “favourable trading conditions”, which may change.

However, he noted the outlook for 2016 remained positive, with the pipeline for the first quarter “looking relatively strong”.

“Undoubtedly, the transparency, competitiveness and stability of Ireland’s tax regime has stood us in good stead against what has been global uncertainty,” he said.

Investment in infrastructure, greater commercial property space, particularly in Dublin, and more competitive personal income tax rates would also be key to securing future investment.

The IDA’s latest five-year strategy targets the creation of 80,000 new jobs by 2020.

Among the notable investment coups announced last year was Apple’s decision to invest €850 million in a new data centre in Athenry, Co Galway.

The centre, which will help run its online services like iTunes and Maps, alongside a similar investment in Denmark, represents Apple’s biggest-ever investment in Europe.

Social media giant Facebook also announced plans for a new €200 million data centre in Clonee, Co Meath.

More than 330 new jobs are also being created in Co Donegal by finance firmPramerica, which is building a new, high-tech campus in Letterkenny.

Software firm Slack was also one of a host of US companies to announce plans for a European base in Dublin’s tech hub.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said multinational companies had played a “massive role” in the State’s economic recovery.

“This consistent record of job-creation does not happen by accident, and is only made possible by careful implementation of good pro-jobs policies,” he said.

New space ESA business centre to help Irish start-ups reach for stars

Five-year mission for Enterprise Ireland as it signs deal with European Space Agency


European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton: Enterprise Ireland has signed an agreement with the ESA to develop an incubation centre for space businesses in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland has signed an agreement with the European Space Agency(ESA) to develop an incubation centre for space businesses in Ireland. The centre, when it is established, will bid to support more than 25 start-ups involved in space-related technologies by 2020.

The agreement was made during Enterprise Ireland’s trade and investment mission to the Netherlands and Germany, which is being led by TaoiseachEnda Kenny.

Some 45 Irish companies are currently working with ESA in the development of innovative technologies for the global market in space systems and space-related services and applications. The Irish space sector is estimated to have generated annual revenues of €76 million in 2015.

“This partnership between the European Space Agency and Enterprise Ireland will mean that Irish businesses and their innovators will be at the frontier of new space technologies,” Mr Kenny said at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (Estec) in Noordwijk, Netherlands.

“Ireland already has a proud record of building up a cluster of space technology companies and this new space incubator will take advantage of Government investment in research infrastructure in Ireland, the extensive network of technical facilities and expertise of the ESA, as well as the business development resources of Enterprise Ireland.”

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said the deal would support client companies that are developing new technologies in areas such as advanced materials, microelectronics, avionics and space-related services.

Client companies that participated in the mission to the Netherlands included Arralis, Curtis Wright, Radisens Diagnostics, Treemetrics and Enbio.

In 2015, Enbio opened a €1.5 million space technology centre in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, for the production of “sunscreen for satellites”, while other Ireland-based companies operating in the sector include sensor company SensL, laser manufacturer Elbana Photonics and Moog Dublin, which is working on protecting spacecraft from harsh vibrations on lift-off.

Dissident republican weapons becoming ‘more sophisticated’

Gardaí put mortars, rifles, and bomb making items seized over past five years on display.


A rifle seized from dissident republicans is shown by Gardaí.

Weaponry seized from dissident republicans has been growing steadily more sophisticated over the past five years, according to gardaí.

Assistant commissioner John O’Mahony, who leads the force’s crime and security division, told reporters there was also evidence of increased sophistication in the activities of dissident republicans.

He was speaking at Garda Headquarters in Dublin on Wednesday during a briefing on weapon seizures, and where a number of seized guns and bomb-making equipment was put on display.

During the briefing, members of the Garda ballistics unit showcased a range of weapons seized from dissident republicans.

They included a beer keg bomb recovered from Kilcurry in May 2014, mortars, sniper rifles, AK47 rifles, associated ammunition, a phone trigger circuit, timer power units, rockets and a sample of explosives.

Mr O’Mahony said the three main dissident groups operating in the Republican were the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, and Óglaigh na hÉireann.

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Some of the items on display were recovered in searches that took place in the latter part of 2015 in Co Monaghan and Co Louth. Other items were recovered earlier last year in searches in Wexford, Kildare and Louth.

“If you look at some of these devices and the way they are operated, it shows an increasing sign of the sophistication in relation to engineering,” said Mr O’Mahony.

“Over the last five years, we have seen a steady and gradual rise in the activities of dissident republicans becoming more sophisticated. We need the people of this jurisdiction to be very conscious that this sort of activity is still going on around the country.”


He said that while the number of dissident republicans is small, they are “very focused and very clear” in their objectives. “As a result of that, we spend a significant amount of time and resources combating their activities,” he said.

“What we are seeing from a ballistics perspective is a continued increasing capacity to develop and improve explosive devices so these devices are less and less crude as time goes on.”

Mr O’Mahony, who oversaw the security arrangements for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and US president Barack Obama in 2011, said there were concrete threats of attack during the visits. “Absolutely, I say that without hesitation,” he said.

“That’s something that is obviously of great concern to us. Last year we had the visit of Prince Philip and in 2011 we had the queen. On both occasions, we had significant disruption in relation to attacks that were being planned.”

Mr O’Mahony said that “idealism and peer pressure” were the most common mechanisms used by dissidents to recruit followers.

“We’ve seen in the history of this country that there will be somebody there to replace others,” he said.

“We are finding that as we disrupt one area, there are people ready to take over. I can tell you that in just the last two years, we have over 30 firearms seized, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition, a number of mortars and rocket-launchers. One very significant find in the last few years was in Co Dublin where we had a significant seizure of semtex explosive.”

The head of the Irish Farmers Association in Co Louth has called for criminals in Border areas to be tagged while they are before the courts for alleged offences. Mr O’Mahony said the force would “consider favourably” any measure that assists detectives to monitor individuals on bail.

Nursing home residents given sedatives “Unnecessary noise observed”

‘Woken as early as 6am the next morning’  A HIQA report shows


Some of the residents who were giving sleeping pills were woken early in the Waterford Nursing Home in Ballinakill Downs, Dunmore Rd in Waterford.

INSPECTORS who made an unannounced visit to a private nursing home found four residents were up and dressed as early as 6.05am in the morning before day staff arrived.

Some of the residents who were giving sleeping pills were woken early in the Waterford Nursing Home in Ballinakill Downs, Dunmore Rd in Waterford.

“Cleaning staff were observed by inspectors at 6.30am to be washing and polishing the floors with a machine, ” the report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) revealed.

“ At that time of the morning this machine could be heard throughout the ground floor. Inspectors also saw evidence of the communication carers books. These books were used by healthcare assistants to record on a daily basis which residents were washed and dressed by night staff.”

Inspectors also found that one resident had received two different types of psychotropic medication the previous night. Inspectors saw that this resident was washed, dressed and sitting in the dayroom at 6:10am.

“ Inspectors noted that a medication administration record indicated that a resident received a dose that was 50pc higher than the dose clearly prescribed on the medication prescription sheet”

They were not assured in the November inspection that nursing staff were administering medications from the prescription records. This error would not have occurred if nursing staff had administered medication from the prescription which clearly indicated that the medication dose had been altered.

They also noted a incident of alleged abuse of a resident was recorded on August  29 ,2015.” Inspectors saw evidence that the incident had been verbally reported by staff to the assistant director of nursing on the morning after the incident.

“ In addition, staff had provided written statements when requested by the assistant director of nursing.

“However, the Authority had only received a notification from the person in charge on 30 October 2015. Outcome 11: Health and Social Care Needs The person in charge outlined to inspectors that he had been made aware of a complaint regarding an allegation of poor wound care regarding a resident. Inspectors reviewed care plans and turning charts for a resident with pressure sores. Inspectors also spoke to staff regarding this allegation of neglect. Based on this initial review of care inspectors were not satisfied that wound care management was in accordance with evidence based practice.”

The nursing home was given an action plan by inspectors to address the issues.

A separate inspection of the HSE- Dungarvan Hospital found that despite it just being 6.30pm on a sunny Friday evening the majority of residents were in bed with the blinds closed. The home was understaffed and just one nurse and one care staff were on duty from 8am onwards.

Visible light from black holes detected for first time in our Galaxy


Scientists observing V404 Cygni discovered that even amateur telescopes are capable of capturing violent outburst from black holes closest to Earth.

A Nasa illustration of a supermassive black hole. Before the V404 Cygni observations, similar outbursts had only been seen as intense flashes of x-rays and gamma-rays, using high-spec telescopes.

Astronomers have discovered that black holes can be observed through a simple optical telescope when material from surrounding space falls into them and releases violent bursts of light.

The apparent contradiction emerges when a black hole’s gravity pulls in matter from nearby stars, producing light that can be viewed from a modest 20cm telescope.

Japanese researchers detected light waves from V404 Cygni – an active black hole in the constellation of Cygnus, the Swan – when it awoke from a 26-year-long slumber in June 2015.

Stephen Hawking: ‘If you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up. There’s a way out.’

Writing in the journal Nature, Mariko Kimura of Kyoto University and others report how telescopes spotted flashes of light coming from the black hole over the two weeks it remained active. The flashes of light lasted from several minutes to a few hours. Some of the telescopes were within reach of amateur astronomers, with lenses as small as 20cm.

“We now know that we can make observations based on optical rays – visible light, in other words – and that black holes can be observed without high-spec x-ray or gamma-ray telescopes,” Kimura said.

The black hole, one of the closest to Earth, has a partner star somewhat smaller than the sun. The two objects circle each other every six-and-a-half days about 8,000 light years from Earth.

Black holes with nearby stars can burst into life every few decades. In the case of V404 Cygni, the gravitational pull exerted on its partner star was so strong that it stripped matter from the surface. This ultimately spiralled down into the black hole, releasing a burst of radiation. Until now, similar outbursts had only been observed as intense flashes of x-rays and gamma-rays.

At 18.31 GMT on 15 June 2015, a gamma ray detector on Nasa’s Swift space telescope picked up the first signs of an outburst from V404 Cygni. In the wake of the event, Japanese scientists launched a worldwide effort to turn optical telescopes towards the black hole.

The flickers of light are produced when x-rays released from matter falling into the black hole heat up the material left behind.

Poshak Gandhi, an astronomer at Southampton University, said the black hole looked extremely bright when matter fell in, despite being veiled by interstellar gas and dust. “In the absence of this veil, V404 Cygni would have been one of the most distant objects in the Milky Way visible in dark skies to the unaided eye in June 2015,” he writes in the journal.

A Nasa animation demonstrates how a star would be ripped apart if it got too close to a black hole in space.

The discovery comes a day after astronomers reported two massive blasts of gas coming from a supermassive black hole in the heart of a galaxy 26 million light years away. Scientists believe that two arcs of x-rays spotted by Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory at the heart of the spiral galaxy, NGC 5195, are the remnants of huge outbursts of gas from the black hole.

“Astronomers often refer to black holes as eating stars and gas. Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal,” said Eric Schlegel who led the study at the University of Texas in San Antonio. “It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events.”

Christine Jones, a co-author at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: “We think these arcs represent fossils from two enormous blasts when the black hole expelled material outward into the galaxy. This activity is likely to have had a big effect on the galactic landscape.”

The eruptions of gas are thought to have been triggered by the smaller galaxy, NGC 5195, merging with its larger neighbour, the Whirlpool galaxy. The merging process drove gas towards the black hole and the material released energy as it fell inside. As the hot, x-ray-emitting gas poured outwards, it swept up colder hydrogen from the galaxy’s centre like a snowplough.

The work was presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomy Society in Florida.

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Sunday 20th September 2015.

Irish offered 1 million dollars to eat more potatoes


A new marketing campaign wants young Irish consumers to eat more potatoes. 

A new $1 million marketing campaign has been launched in an effort to boost potato consumption among Irish consumers.

Bord Bia will coordinate and manage the three-year campaign, which will be co-funded by the EU, Ireland’s potato industry and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The initiative will be run in conjunction with the British Potato Council,BreakingNews.ie reports.

Over the 10 years, retail sales of fresh potatoes in Ireland have declined by 25 percent, according to Kantar WorldPanel.

Speaking at the campaign launch on Thursday, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said: “The potato is part of our culture like no other food, inextricably linked to Ireland’s story and part of who we are.

“This campaign will bring the different varieties and versatility of the Irish potato to a younger generation.”

The Minister welcomed the EU Commission’s decision to approve a total fund of €4.6m “to promote potatoes on the Irish and British markets over the next three years of which 50% will be funded by the EU.

“My department is also availing of the opportunity to grant financial support to the Irish potato industry for this positive promotional activity. Combined with industry funding the total campaign will be worth €1m over the three years in Ireland.

Said Mike Neary, Bord Bia’s Horticulture Manager,  said: “Potatoes are still Ireland’s preferred main meal carbohydrate, however shoppers under-45 account for only 33% of potato sales and these consumers will ultimately make up a major part of the total market in the years to come.

“Younger consumers view potatoes as a traditional, unexciting food and less convenient than modern carbs such as pasta and rice.”

The promotional campaign, entitled “Potatoes – more than a bit on the side,” will focus on younger consumers, in particular 22-44 year old females.

“We really need to challenge consumer perceptions of fresh potatoes – particularly amongst younger age groups – in order to combat declining consumption,” said Neary.

“This integrated campaign will highlight the fact that potatoes offer enormous potential within the world of modern cooking and build awareness of the added health and nutritional benefits of potatoes in comparison to competitor carbohydrates.”

The campaign kicks off with National Potato Day on Friday, October 2

LEO hosting seminar on the new Companies Act


The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow will be holding a free seminar next Tuesday, September 22, from 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., in the Parkview Hotel, Newtownmountkennedy.

The seminar covers a topic relevant to many small businesses in the county – the new Companies Act and the impact this will have on businesses that must convert to the new ‘DAC’ type of company.

It will also be relevant to anyone thinking of setting up a business now, or in the next few years, as new companies can now be set up with one Director (instead of two under the old system) and reduced filing of documents is now possible – all of which benefits small businesses, due to less compliance and fewer disclosures.

The Companies Act 2014 commenced on June 1 this year. It is the single biggest piece of legislation enacted in the history of the state.

The commencement of the Act brings over 15 years of consultation, preparation and work to a conclusion.

This LEO seminar has been designed to assist the ordinary businessperson orentrepreneur through the transition to The Companies Act 2014, avoiding the pitfalls and availing of the opportunities.

The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow is hosting this free seminar, which will feature guest speaker David O’Connor of Omnipro Corporate Consultants.

The seminar is specifically designed for small and micro businesses – from one-person operations to those with dozens of employees – however it is open to anyone to attend.

Although the seminar is free of charge, those wishing to attend must book in advance, online at http://www.localenterprise.ie/Wicklow/Training-Events/Online-Bookings

Alternatively, anyone wishing to reserve a place or find out more information can call the Local Enterprise Office Wicklow on (0404) 30800 or email enterprise@leo.wicklowcoco.ie

Pope Francis meets Fidel Castro in Havana


Pope Francis and Cuba’s Fidel Castro shake hands, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday,

What a day for the pontiff! Here’s are the key points from the first day of his tour, spent in Havana:

  • In an “intimate and familial” encounter, Pope Francis and former Cuban president Fidel Castro spoke about the environment and exchanged gifts. Pope Francis gave Castro books on spirituality by priests; Castro gave the pope a book of his own insights on spirituality. Well done, El Jefe.
  • At a papal megamass attended by thousands in Havana’s Revolution Square, the pope encouraged Cubans to serve one another, noting that service is never “servile” or ideological, “for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”. His homily was free of political messages but was nonetheless a strong statement. The liturgical music, a variation on Cuba’s Danzón, also a made a strong statement.
  • Prominent activists told the Guardian at least 31 protesters were arrested in a “repressive and aggressive” move to stop them attending the mass. This included members of a women’s group that campaigns for prisoner releases.
  • On the prospect of peace in Colombia between rebels and the government, Pope Francis said we do not have the right to another failure of reconciliation.
  • Cuban president Raúl Castro appears to have given Pope Francis the gift of a giant crucifix made out of oars.
  • Francis went “Pope Unplugged” for the afternoon, discarding his prepared speeches (to the chagrin of journalists and editors everywhere). He instead spoke from the heart on poverty, disability, and faith to clergy and young people.

Thanks for tuning in! The blog will be running all week as the pope continues his tour through Cuba and the US.

It was not as easy as you might expect to find Catholics among the crowd waiting for the pope this evening. But there was not shortage of excitements and optimism about seeing a pontiff who has played a major role in improving relations between Cuba and the United States.

Many students here want to emigrate to their wealthier neighbour as soon as they graduate. Others hope that closer ties will help their own country become a more desirable place to live.

“I’m not Catholic, but I respect the pope. He’s an important man for the world and he has done a lot of good for Cuba,” said 21-year-old Xavier Alexander Rodríguez, a students of computer science.

“Young people in Cuba want change. The closer ties with the US are a great step towards that. I wish that we can walk like brothers with the US.”

Vivian Rodríguez (no relation), a 23-year-old lecturer in psychology at the University of Havana, said international support and a positive message were important for people like her who want to stay in Cuba.

“Cubans are very excited by the arrival of the pope. We’re grateful for the help he has given us in relations with other countries,” she said. “It’s always good to know that there is backing for unity in Cuba and closer ties with the United States. That helps people make personal decisions (about whether to stay or go).”

Among the world leaders visiting Cuba for the papal visit is Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who attended this morning’s mass in La Plaza de la Revoluciónwrites Angela Bruno.

Some Twitter users have raised their eyebrows at la presidenta’s expensive tastes – she arrived yesterday at Havana’s José Martí Airport sporting a Hermès bag which can cost up to at $22,000.

Such a display of wealth seems somewhat at odds with the Pope’s message: he has repeatedly criticised excessive consumption, warning in his homily this evening that “wealth makes us poor.”

The Pope and Kirchner have had their share of differences. Guardian correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner spoke to their once-rocky relationship in her coverage of the Pope’s trip to Latin America during the summer:

There was bad blood between them when Francis was still known as Father Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires and a fierce critic of corruption in Argentinian politics.

The icy relationship worsened after Fernández passed a law legalising same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010 when Bergoglio headed a march against the gay marriage bill.

‘Pity there is no ‘popess’; if not, I could compete for the post,’ Fernández said when she heard that Bergoglio had become pope.

Since then, however, the two have managed to improve their relationship: Relations have seemingly warmed and Fernández has become a frequent visitor at the Vatican.


Pope Francis gives an ‘unplugged’ homily on poverty and disability in the world


Pope Francis discarded his prepared homily and spoke off-the-cuff to the gathered priests and religious.

Pope Francis put his prepared homily aside and gave an extraordinary “unplugged” address on poverty, mercy, disability and service to Cuba’s priests, religious brothers and sisters and seminarians, during a Vespers service at Havana Cathedral.

“We always try to curtail poverty, as it were,” the pope said. “That’s a reasonable thing, but I’m talking about the heart.”

“Richness impoverishes you; it takes away from us the best we have. It makes us poor in the only richness which is worthy: trust in God.”

“Our holy mother church is poor. God wishes it to poor, as he wishes our holy mother Mary to be poor. Love poverty as a mother.”

The crowd smiled and some wiped away tears as the pontiff spoke. Cameras also caught some looks of consternation as the congregation grappled with Francis’s words, especially when he (jokingly) drilled in on the struggles of some religious and priests.

Nuns got it first: “May God spare us grey nuns, those who are always lamenting things! Saint Theresa used to say that to her nuns. Woe to that nun!”

Some nuns in the crowd (mainly the young ones) laughed. Others weren’t so amused.

Religious life as a consecrated brother or sister is, the pope said, about “burning” your life for the ones the world despises, the “disposable material” of humanity.

As an example, he mentioned those “who with new analytical methods, if it is discovered they have a degenerative sickness, the world wants to send them back before they are born”.

“Sometimes [a young religious sister] doesn’t know how good it is to see the smile of someone who is paralysed,” the pope said, smiling.

“The tenderness and mercy of God is like someone who is paralysed getting saliva all over your face. Or when a person with a disability gets angry and hits you!”

Priests were next: “Please to the priests,” the holy father said, “do not grow tired of forgiving.”

“Do not hide in fears or rigidities. Be like this nun [Sister Ponce, who spoke earlier in the service about her ministry], and those who are here. They are not angry when they find the sick person filthy; they just clean him. When the penitent comes to you, don’t feel bad. Don’t be neurotic. Jesus embraced them. Jesus loved them.”

“No corporation can be made, no money can be made from the least ones. In that place Jesus shines brightly,” the pope said.

The pope says he will give his printed homily to one of the cardinals to distribute and is going to speak off the cuff. This regular journalist quietly screams. Thanks, Frank.

The chanted psalms are sung beautifully by a choir. The pope is saving his voice, by the look of it.

The choir chants the psalms. Photograph: EWTN/Screenshot

Just a little church fact you might find interesting: the Catholic church’s communal prayer is the same around the world each day. I heard the same readings at mass this morning in New York as the pope heard in Havana, and in every other parish in the world.

In a sense, it’s like the church prays for you. That’s especially true of what’s called the Divine Office, the daily schedule of prayer, because few lay people perform it. Here’s the relevant bit for this particular service.

A Daughter of Charity, Sr Yaileny Ponce, speaks to the pope. She is is pouring her heart out about her ministry with the severely disabled. “I have to discern in a shout or a cry or a scream: Joy? Or pain?”

“[It’s] beautiful because there, in his weakest children, God lives and shows himself.”

“It is worth giving your life to serve these people because in them you find the kingdom of God.”

The congregation applauds her, and the pope begins the formal liturgical element of the service.

China’s new rocket carries a record 20 ‘micro’ satellites


The Long March-6 rocket blasting off yesterday in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

The smaller rocket may make China more competitive in the market for commercial satellite launches.

China has launched a new, smaller type of rocket from its “Long March” family which will be used primarily for carrying satellites aloft, state media reported, as the country races ahead with an ambitious space programme.

The Long March-6, a newly developed carrier rocket which uses liquid propellant, took off from a launch base in northern Shanxi province yesterday morning carrying 20 “micro” satellites, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The rocket climbed into bluish-grey skies, footage aired by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed.

One Chinese official suggested that the smaller rocket will make China more competitive in the lucrative market for commercial satellite launches.

“We believe it will greatly boost the competitiveness of Chinese carrier rockets in the international market,” said Mr Zhang Weidong, chief designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

“The new model will also significantly improve our ability to access space,” he told Xinhua.

China launches its own satellites as it continues to build a navigation system, but also carries out launches for other countries and commercial companies.

The rocket is 29.3m high, shorter than others actively used in China’s space programme, reports said. Long March-6 uses fuel composed of liquid oxygen and kerosene, which is said to be free of toxicity and pollution.

State media hailed the achievement, saying the launch marked a record for the number of satellites carried by a Chinese rocket and its first time with the “environmentally friendly” fuel.

The small satellites will be used for “experiments” in technology and new products, CCTV said, but gave no details.

China’s space programme, which has potential military applications, is shrouded in secrecy.

“The separation control for 20 satellites required high accuracy, precision and reliability,” Mr Hao Yao- feng, a technician at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre, told CCTV.

A 2011 policy paper issued by the State Council, or Cabinet, said the Long March-6 would be capable of placing a tonne of payload into orbit at a height of 700km.

State media publicly announced plans for the Long March-6 in 2009, but said at the time that the first launch was scheduled for 2013.

Chinese scientists earlier this month said the country is planning to land a lunar probe on the dark side of the Moon before 2020, according to state media.

In 2013, China landed a rover dubbed Yutu on the Moon, making it only the third nation after the US and the Soviet Union to land on the Earth’s natural satellite.

China completed its first return mission to the Moon last year with an unmanned probe landing successfully back on Earth.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 10th July 2014

Enterprise Ireland firms commit to creating over 3,750 jobs


Julie Sinnamon, (right picture) chief executive of the State agency charged with helping Irish businesses grow their exports. 

Agency clients exported products worth €17.1 billion last year, up 8%.

Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland have committed to creating 3,755 jobs so far this year, many of them in the food sector, it emerged yesterday. The commitments over the first six months, which were up 20% on the same period of 2013, were made within business plans submitted to Enterprise Ireland, with such plans usually covering a three-year period.

Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of the State agency charged with helping Irish businesses to grow their exports, said the food sector is in expansion mode as it pre-empts the end of the milk quota system next year. She said this meant the “brakes were off” for many companies in the area, with a boost in activity also rooted in the likely impact of forthcoming changes to state aid rules.

M/s Sinnamon was speaking at the launch of Enterprise Ireland’s annual report for 2013, which showed that the agency’s client companies grew exports by 8% to €17.1 billion last year, with the strongest increase (20%) recorded in sales to the Asia/Pacific region.

Food accounted for 55% of total exports in 2013, growing by 9.6%, or €830 million, over the 12 months.

M/s Sinnamon described last year’s performance by Enterprise Ireland companies as “tremendous” and said Purchasing Managers’ Index data pointed to a positive outcome for this year too. The PMI was the first indicator that had suggested “things were going south” as the economy headed into recession, she said.

The 2013 report also confirmed earlier data showing that Enterprise Ireland companies created a net 5,442 jobs during 2013, the biggest increase in a decade. At the end of the year, according to the agency, its clients were supporting more than 300,000 jobs, either directly or indirectly, in the economy.

“These figures are really impressive,” said Richard Bruton, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the launch, adding that the 2013 performance was “well ahead of what was happening in world markets”.

Enterprise Ireland took in dividends of €3 million from companies in which it held investments over 2103, marking a 65% increase on 2012. The agency had also been due to collect €2.2 million in dividends from companies that were liquidated or dissolved during the year, while some €11 million was written off on such ventures.

“As a development agency, you have to accept there will always be a level of failure in start-up,” said Ms Sinnamon, describing the total as “a low level of write-offs”. Many would argue the agency should be prepared to take greater risks with “disruptive” investments that could win or lose to a greater extent, she said.

She also said the State needs to grow its population of middle-sized companies to allow more firms to achieve scale internationally.

Enterprise Ireland data suggests that for every 10 jobs created in an Irish exporting company, 13 additional jobs are created elsewhere in the economy, through supply or service relationships. These Irish firms account for €20.28 billion in domestic spending, according to the same analysis.

The annual report details 18 minister-led trade missions organised by Enterprise Ireland last year and attendance at a further 67 international events, with more than 1,000 client companies involved. The agency opened offices in Istanbul in Turkey and in the US city of Austin, Texas.

It also brought more than 1,100 “targeted” international buyers to Ireland to meet client companies and established a new sourcing team to help clients to win a greater share of the procurement spends of multinationals operating here.

New Tanaiste Joan Burton wants the Jobs Ministry from Fine Gael


Joan Burton celebrates becoming Labour Party leader with her daughter Aoife Carroll after the count at the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday. 

NEW Tanaiste Joan Burton will demand concessions for low-paid working families when she goes into fresh coalition talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Ms Burton will also trade off the European Commissioner’s post in negotiations on the carve-up of cabinet posts.

The new Labour leader wants her party to secure the jobs portfolio, currently held by Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton, and will fight hard for it.

Fine Gael wants the EU position, with Environment Minister Phil Hogan strongly indicating last night that he will be leaving his department in the reshuffle.

Joan Burton elected as new Labour Party leader

Joan Burton won the Labour leadership by a huge margin, gaining 77.5% of the vote compared with the 22.5% secured by her only rival Alex White.

With a cabinet reshuffle now just days away, speculation about new faces is intensifying. Labour senator Ivana Bacik is being linked with a dramatic elevation to the Cabinet.

Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe is being tipped to take over the high-profile junior finance ministry.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is said to be keen to have him in his department.

And defeated Labour leadership candidate Alex White is uncertain of a full Cabinet post, but is viewed as a possible super junior minister, who sits at the Cabinet table.

Labour’s new deputy leader Alan Kelly is a certainty for Cabinet, possibly in the Jobs, Education or Communications portfolio.

Labour’s Kathleen Lynch is also a favourite for promotion to Cabinet level.

After securing a huge mandate in the Labour leadership race, taking more than three-quarters of the votes, Ms Burton will meet with Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Monday to discuss the new shape of the Coalition.

Alongside the reshuffle, the Government is expected to relaunch the Programme for Government.

Ms Burton immediately insisted on the setting up of an independent body, which would make recommendations to the Government on pay for lower earners.

The Low Pay Commission would examine whether the minimum wage should be increased and other related issues.

She indicated that wage changes will form part of a “renewed set of policy priorities” which she will present to the Taoiseach.

Ms Burton also renewed her calls for the introduction of a ‘living wage’ – a system that operates in London and aims to ensure that workers can afford to cover basic needs such as food and housing.

Fine Gael ministers have voiced their opposition to prioritising wage increases as they will create a barrier to job creation and damage competitiveness.

Ms Burton also said the issue of housing will form the basis of a major focus now that she is Tanaiste.

Over the weekend, advisers to Mr Kenny and Ms Burton are expected to be in contact on the new Coalition deal.

Mr Kenny’s staff and Ms Burton’s aides were already using back-channels over recent weeks to tease out each other’s positions.

The parties have identified housing, mortgage arrears, political reform, including the justice sector, and tax, including low pay, as the priorities as well as jobs.

After her comprehensive victory, Ms Burton said the Coalition had in the past governed “too much with the head and not enough with the heart”.

Meanwhile, Mr Kelly said Labour wanted to pick Ireland’s next European Commissioner.

He said everything was up for grabs in terms of the looming reshuffle of senior Cabinet and ministerial posts, but also the position of commissioner.

Outgoing Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has increasingly been linked with the post in recent weeks.

But Mr Hogan is the long- believed frontrunner for the post and party colleagues say he appears to be increasingly confident.

Last night his officials said “the general feeling is that he will not return to this department either way” after the reshuffle.

Mr Kelly said he expected to be in Cabinet, where he would be an outspoken defender of “Labour values”.

Ms Burton said her predecessor, Eamon Gilmore, was “eminently well qualified” for Ireland’s EU Commissioner post. She refused to accept Fine Gael’s claims that the job will go to Environment Minister Phil Hogan.

Elderly people in Ireland ‘die’ waiting for home care funding


Older people have died while waiting for financial support under the Nursing Home Support Scheme, a study claims.

A survey of private and voluntary nursing homes by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) found that the delays were causing a deterioration in older people’s health.

The survey of 122 private and voluntary nursing homes, conducted earlier this month, involved the extraction of information on typical waiting times for Fair Deal applications. NHI said it showed there was a crisis in older person care that must be a priority for the Minister for Health. There were 96 homes that were collectively aware of 364 successful applicants awaiting financial support — about four persons for each facility. Over half of the nursing homes (51.6%) said waiting time exceeded 10 weeks and almost half (48.1%) said waiting time was 12 weeks or more.

One home in Leinster said it was aware of 29 successful Fair Deal applicants awaiting financial support.

A nursing home in the south said up to 20 persons were awaiting funding, while other nursing homes were aware of between seven and nine persons. The delays, according to the survey participants, is leading to extended, unnecessary hospital stays — some people had died waiting for financial support.

A nursing home in the west is aware of a family of a 92-year-old that had Fair Deal approval but opted to avail of the HSE’s home help scheme so the person could remain at home.

A year later, when the person needed to be in a nursing home, the family were told to make a fresh application for Fair Deal financial support.

The family now feels penalised for opting to provide care at home for a full year.

NHI chief executive, Tadhg Daly said their fears over the Budget 2014 cut in Fair Deal funding were being realised.

Shannon Airport records a 15% increase in passengers in first half of this year


Shannon Airport records 15% increase in passengers in the first half of the year.

Shannon Airport has recorded a 15% increase in terminal passenger numbers in the first half of the year, according to figures revealed at a joint Shannon Aiport-Ryanair Travel Clinic.

Passenger numbers on European routes have enjoyed a 54% uplift in the year to date.

This was partly driven by nine new Ryanair routes to Munich, Paris, Faro, Warsaw, Krakow, Nice, Poitiers, Berlin and Fuerteventura launched in April.

Overall, passenger numbers through the Shannon terminal in the first six months of the year were 653,894, up from 568,133 in the same period last year.

UK passengers are also showing a return to growth with a 5% increase, while transatlantic passengers increased by 11%.

“We are really happy with the passenger numbers so far this year,” Shannon Airport’s chief commercial officer Andrew Murphy said.

“We worked hard with our airline partners to secure the new services and there has been a really positive response from the public,” Mr Murphy added.

Irish-linked merger deals up 18.5% for 1st half of year


A spate of takeover activity in the pharmaceutical sector pushed Irish-related acquisition values to a 20-year high in the first half of 2014 and saw the country account for nearly 18% of European merger activity, in value terms.

New merger and acquisition & figures from global information Services Company, Experian show that the volume of Irish-related deals grew by 18.5%, year-on-year, in the first half, with 147 transactions agreed or concluded.

While the volume growth was seen as “steady progress”, the rise in combined deal value  from just €14.8bn in the first half of 2013 to €97.4bn this year — ranked as the highest half-yearly total recorded in the Republic since Experian’s survey began in 1993.

According to Declan Murphy, commercial director at Experian Ireland, the new figures make welcome reading for Irish deal-makers.

“The first half of the year saw encouraging activity across a wide range of sectors and value segments with pharmaceutical, IT and resource deals returning particularly strong results,” he added.

The two big pharma deals that drove first-half activity were Dublin firm, Actavis’s €18bn takeover of US company, Forest Laboratories and US firm, Medtronic’s agreed purchase of Dublin firm, Covidien for over €30bn.

The number of large deals — measured as being over €120m in value terms — grew by 83.3%, year-on-year, to 22.

Mid-market deals, or ones in the €12m-€120m price bracket, rose from 26 to 35. Meanwhile, there was a 63.2% increase in the number of small deals (with a value of less than €12m) to 31.

Every one of the three categories saw significant combined value increases, also.

Activity in the large deal category represented the busiest period in a decade.

In all, Ireland represented approximately 3.3% of the total volume of European merger and acquisition & activity during the first half of 2014 and accounted for 17.7% of total value.

The manufacturing sector represented more than 30% of all Irish-related deals in the first half, but still saw a 33% annualised decline in its volume of deals.

Offsetting this, transaction activity grew in areas like financial services, IT, mining and pharmaceuticals.

Chimpanzees raised by humans no cleverer than those raised by their mother’s


Chimps raised by humans are no more intelligent than those raised by their primate mothers, research shows

Chimpanzees raised by humans turn out to be no cleverer than those given an ape upbringing, research has shown.

Genes largely determine a chimp’s intelligence, a study has shown – and human intervention makes no difference to it at all.

Research into chimp intelligence could help scientists get a better handle on human IQ, say scientists.

This is because while genes also play a major role in human intelligence, factors such as schooling, home life, economic status, and the culture a person is born in complicate the picture.

Previous studies have suggested that genetics account for around a quarter to a half of variations in human intelligence.

The new research involving 99 chimpanzees from a wide range of ages showed that genes explained about 50% of the differences seen in their intelligence test scores.

Chimps raised by human caretakers did no better in the tasks than individuals brought up by their chimpanzee mothers.

Study leader Dr William Hopkins, from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, US, said: ”Chimps offer a really simple way of thinking about how genes might influence intelligence without, in essence, the baggage of these other mechanisms that are confounded with genes in research on human intelligence.

”What specific genes underlie the observed individual differences in cognition is not clear, but pursuing this question may lead to candidate genes that changed in human evolution and allowed for the emergence of some human-specific specialisations in cognition.

”It is also intriguing to consider what changes in cortical organisation might be associated with individual differences in cognition and whether common genes might explain their common variance.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 7 & 8th June 2014

Top US politician launches assault on Irish tax laws 


The Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Silicon Valley’s best young whizz kids were left embarrassed as California Governor Jerry Brown took a sledgehammer to the Irish tax laws that lure US corporations here.

The Enterprise Ireland event in San Francisco was held to celebrate Irish-American links and the new wave of Irish entrepreneurs heading to the west coast in search of a fortune in new technologies.

Instead there was barely concealed hostility as California’s most senior politician gave a withering attack on our tax system and the US corporations who benefit.

He said his state of California would become an “independent country” if it had the same tax regime as Ireland.

It was one of several jibes about Irish taxation made after Taoiseach Mr Kenny had heralded the relationship between Ireland and the US.

And Mr Brown said that Apple was now an “Irish company” that benefited from what he described as “creative accounting”.

“I don’t know how you got to have Apple to have so much of their business in Ireland, we thought they were a Californian company, when you look at their tax returns they’re really an Irish company… it’s called creative accounting,” Governor Brown said.

The no-holds barred assault on fiscal policy caused deep unease among the Irish contingent in the boardroom.

His speech was met with gasps after he remarked about the relationship between Ireland and Britain.

After stating that both the Irish and Californians swim “against the stream”, he added: “The Irish have had to live next door to the English for all these centuries.”

Governor Brown then alluded to the number of Irish barmen working on the very street where he was making his controversial remarks.

“We have a lot of your countrymen that come to San Francisco, they run a lot of establishments here, on Geary Street you see a number of them,” he said, to polite laughter. But it was his continued focus on Irish tax laws that raised most eyebrows, even among the officials from the Government, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland.

The event – designed to assist Irish start-up firms seeking to break into the US market – was also attended by Irish ambassador to the US, Anne Anderson, several IDA officials including chief executive Barry O’Leary and dozens of Irish business people.

Governor Brown’s outspoken remarks come as the European Commission is poised to launch a formal probe into allegations that the Revenue Commissioners have offered special deals to multi-national companies.

The probe, which may begin as early as Wednesday, could result in businesses being asked to repay money.

When asked about the matter during his visit to Silicon Valley, Mr Kenny said: “Clearly when the Commission decide to make a statement on the matter, Ireland will react to it.

“We believe our legislation is robust, that the application of that legislation is ethical and obviously we will be prepared to defend that very strongly in the event of any further statement or requirement from the European Commission.”

In his own speech at the Enterprise Ireland event on Saturday, Mr Kenny spoke about his aims for Ireland to become “the greatest small nation on Earth”. He added that Dublin was “becoming a magnetic attraction for young people from all over the world”.

The Taoiseach said these young people were “changing the frontiers up ahead”.

Galway cancer survivor’s medical card withdrawn without any notice


A Galway carpenter who had a bone marrow transplant and aggressive chemotherapy treatment for a rare cancer nearly 22 years ago that left a legacy of side effects, was among those whose medical card was withdrawn out of the blue.

Now James Mullen, 59, is among tens of thousands hoping they will get their medical card back after the Government’s U-turn forced by their humiliation at the ballot box in last month’s local and European elections.

In 1993, James, from Clifden, Co Galway, underwent a bone marrow transplant that saved his life.

Back then, the chemotherapy regime that accompanied his successful cancer treatment was extremely aggressive – unlike the carefully targeted therapy available today.

It left James with a legacy of medical issues. At one stage he was on 22 tablets a day to treat blood pressure, stomach problems and other side-effects of his cancer treatment.

He told the Sunday Independent: “It’s a small price to pay. I’m glad to be rid of the cancer. Without the bone marrow transplant and the treatments I was told in 1993 that I would be dead within five years.”

Since then James has had a discretionary medical card – until about eight weeks ago.

He received no official notification. He found out that his medical card had been withdrawn by the HSE when he went to his pharmacist to pick up his prescription.

“I had to pay €140 for my medicines,” James added.

It is a large monthly bill the married father of four can ill afford.

“I rang the HSE and was talking to someone in there. I told them I was a cancer patient on twice yearly check-ups in Galway and Dublin. The chap said to me that back in the Nineties it was easy to give out medical cards because cancer patients didn’t live that long, but that has changed now,” James said. He has still not got his medical card back and has written to the HSE stating his case.

“They did send me a GP visit card to replace the medical card but that is not worth anything to me, I never go near a GP,” he said. “If I have a problem I have to see the specialist in hospital. What I need is help meeting the bill for medicines and drugs.”

The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) and other groups representing patients who had medical cards withdrawn in the latest health fiasco have been promised by Minister James Reilly that the mess will be sorted out before the Dail rises for Summer.

An emotional Dr Reilly was joined by Junior Minister Alex White for meetings with a number of groups on Friday, including Down Syndrome Ireland, the Jack & Jill Foundation, ICS and the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association.

The Our Children’s Health group, which has been campaigning for the return of cards and also met the Minister said: “We would like to acknowledge Minister Reilly’s sincerity and commitment to expedite the introduction of the new framework while also moving quickly to deal with those that have lost their medical cards.”

The group said the minister had “committed to identify and reinstate medical cards for all those affected” and added that this would be undertaken by the time the Dail breaks for the summer recess on July 17.

A spokesman for the group said Dr Reilly became “quite emotional” as he spoke to them.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “On the issue of those persons who lost a discretionary medical card through the review process, the groups were advised that the goal of the Government is to resolve that issue before the summer.”

It has now emerged that both Dr Reilly and the HSE furiously opposed the “medical cards probity” savings of €113m in 2014 advocated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Eventually, after that battle, the savings sought under the heading “Medical Card Probity” were reduced to €23m and approved by cabinet.

On Wednesday, Dr Reilly apologised to his Fine Gael colleagues for the way the medical card issue had been handled, but appeared to cast some blame on cabinet colleagues for forcing unrealistic savings on his department.

A range of options to treat prostate problems

Half of men over 60 have symptoms of enlarged gland


As they age, an undeniable aspect of men’s health involves beginning to think the prostate.

According to Men’s Health Network, more than 50 percent of men in their 60s and as many as 90 percent of men age 70 or older have symptoms of an enlarged prostate. More than 230,000 men each year are diagnosed with prostate problems and 30,000 men a year will die.

The prostate is part of a man’s sex organs. It is a small gland that produces semen. The walnut-sized organ surrounds the urethra, a tube that takes urine from the bladder to the penis, and also carries semen during ejaculation. In men, the prostate gland grows in puberty and then stops until about age 40 when it starts to grow again. In some men, the prostate gland does not stop growing after that.

There are three conditions associated with prostate growth. It can result in an enlarged prostate, a non-cancerous condition that can lead to frequent urination, difficulty going and an incomplete emptying of the bladder. This condition can lead to pain, sleep disorders, incontinence, bladder stones, kidney infections or damage to the bladder, kidneys or urethra.

Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate and can have complications related to infections, including fever, and illness.

Physicians advise a prostate exam at about age 50, earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

“When we do the exam, we are looking to gauge the size of the prostate,” said Dr. Cullen Jumper of Core Physicians’ Atlantic Urology Associates in Exeter. “We check for hard spots (nodules) which might be concerning. If we need to, we biopsy and discuss the results. Once they reach this age group, all men should at least be discussing this test with their primary care physician. If they have concerns, they need to ask the questions. Many men do not, and they should.”

Dr. Steven Kahan of Atlantic Urology Associates said benign prostate hyperplasia, BPH, is the common term for the condition where the prostate grows to the point that it begins to interfere with urinary function.

“Traditionally, in the past this was treated with surgery, called TURP (transurethral resection of prostate), and that may still be done if needed, but there are also a variety of medications now to treat this,” Kahan said. “Some of the medications used were designed to treat high blood pressure, but we discovered they work well for this condition, too. Now we treat with medication and only consider surgery if that does not work.”

Besides the TURP surgery, Kahan said options include green light laser and ablation of prostate surgical methods.

Cancer of the prostate is treatable if caught early. A physical exam by the physician and possible biopsy tests are required to diagnose prostate cancer.

Dr. Gary Proulx is medical director of radiation oncology at Exeter Hospital’s Center for Cancer Care. He said that even if cancer is detected, treatment may be postponed in favor of “active surveillance” because prostate cancer is usually a very slow-growing disease.

“It is a typical misconception that men die from prostate cancer and that is usually not the case,” Proulx said. “Active surveillance means we simply monitor the cases where there such a low volume of the disease, where it is early grade cancer. We will generally biopsy it one year after discovery, to gauge the growth. Of course, if it is progressing we will treat it.”

Treatment of prostate cancer can involve surgery to remove the cancer followed by radiation treatments. Proulx said there used to be a push to treat immediately, but thinking has changed.

“It was thought that the prostate was generally being overtreated, and I would tend to agree,” Proulx said. “We are leaning the other way because sometimes it is just not necessary. Obviously, if the cancer is in the intermediate to high grade, we will act. Autopsies of men in late age, in their 80s, will often show the presence of prostate cancer, where the men never had any prostate issue in their lives.”

While there are no specific lifestyle changes recommended for prostate health, Proulx believes diet is a factor.

“Japanese men living in Japan never get prostate cancer,” Proulx said. “They eat a lot of fish and a generally lean diet. When they come here and take on a fatty diet, they get prostate cancer.”

A new ‘solitary’ dolphin’s moved to Irish waters

swimmers are being urged to keep their distance


Clet, who originated in French waters, is described as a “non-social solitary dolphin who does not seek out and engage with swimmers”.

Some people may remember a series of warning being issued last summer after a number of swimmers were injured while interacting with a dolphin off Co Clare.

As many as five people were injured by the mammal known locally as ‘Dusty’. Warning signs were placed around Doolin harbour, a favourite spot for the animal.

Well — as we head into the summer swimming season once again, a new warning’s being issued concerning another dolphin who’s recently relocated to Irish waters.

The dolphin in question, known has Clet, has been spotted recently in scenic West Cork — in particular, Glandore, Schull and Baltimore harbours.

According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, the mammal — who originated in French waters — recently moved the southwest coast from the Isles of Scilly.

According to the IWDG’s Paul Kiernan he is a “non-social solitary dolphin who does not seek out and engage with swimmers”.

In an article on the group’s website this week, Kiernan set out the dangers posed by swimming with any wild dolphin, pointing out that the practice poses “significant potential to increase the risk to the health and safety of swimmers”.

He writes that while many dolphins “spend long periods of time in shallow waters facilitating encounters with small groups of people” their behaviour often changes as more and more people seek to share the experience — especially if they grab at the mammal or attempt to be towed along…

Natural, normal behaviours such as diving, feeding and resting behaviours decline in frequency in the presence of humans.

The animal seeks out interactions, becomes increasingly forceful in these interactions and begins to exhibit behaviour hazardous to swimmers in the water.

Documented behaviours include preventing swimmers from leaving the water by repeatedly swimming in front of them to intercept their exit, increased activity levels and force of activity, tail slapping and breaching in close proximity or on top of swimmers.

Dolphins have also been shown to bite or butt swimmers.

As humans, we do not possess the power to communicate with these animals and therefore we cannot understand how our actions will be interpreted by a wild dolphin, regardless of whether that dolphin is seeking contact with humans or not.

Clet was spotted swimming around sail boats in Glandore harbour on Thursday. The IWDG is encouraging people to get in contact if the spot the mammal, as hope to monitor his movements around Irish waters.

Great white shark EATEN by even larger mystery animal 


The 8-foot-long shark was eaten, possibly by an even bigger shark, think researchers.

Scientists are baffled after they discovered that 8-foot long great white shark has been eaten by even bigger “mystery sea monster.”

Researchers have no idea what animal could be responsible for killing and eating the shark.

The only theory they have so far come up with is that was attacked by a “colossal cannibal white shark.”

Researchers had tagged the healthy shark to track its movements.

But the tracking device washed up on an Australian beach four months later.

Data shows there was a rapid temperature rise along with a sudden 2,000-foot plunge, That, scientists believe, proves it eaten by something much bigger, saying the records indicate the shark went inside another animals’s digestive system.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 10th February 2014

UK and Ireland team up for first time in joint Singapore trade mission


Ireland and the UK will undertake their first ever joint trade mission at the Singapore Airshow – Asia’s largest airshow and one of the most important in the world due to the Asia Pacific region’s position as the world’s biggest air travel market.

The trade mission is part of a programme of cooperation to strengthen relations over the next decade led by UK prime minister David Cameron and Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny.

It is being led by Ireland’s jobs minister Richard Bruton, UK transport minister Stephen Hammond and Northern Ireland enterprise minister Arlene Foster with support from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI),Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland and UKTI’s shared exhibition stand is jointly branded and set up as a working lounge and business-to-business meeting space for use by delegates on the joint mission.

Talking ahead of the mission, Hammond said: “The UK and Ireland both have open and globalised economies and we share a commitment to boosting growth as the cornerstone of economic recovery and job creation.

“The UK aerospace sector is a global success story. Half of the world’s commercial aircraft fly on wings made in the UK, and every 2.5 seconds an aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce engines takes off or lands somewhere in the world. This week’s trade mission will encourage greater collaboration and partnership between UK and Irish aerospace companies strengthening our offer to international buyers.”

Bruton said the mission was an important part of a “wider programme of cooperation between Ireland and the UK”.

“The aerospace industry is one of Ireland’s most valuable and technically advanced industries. Today, Ireland is recognised as a leading location for aviation, MRO, technology, engineering and aviation finance.

“This first joint mission has attracted an impressive list of companies from Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK that will demonstrate our considerable combined strengths in the aerospace sector at Asia’s largest air show.”

Foster added: “In Northern Ireland, aerospace generates revenues in excess of £1bn and employs over 8,000 highly qualified staff.

“There are approximately 50 companies active in the sector with core strengths in precision engineering; supplying critical components and services to all of the major aerospace programmes in the world. This contributes to ensuring the UK remains Europe’s number one aerospace manufacturer and second only to the US globally.”

Other business in Singapore

During his time in Singapore, Hammond will also attend an international aviation summit, where he will be meeting with counterparts from the region to continue discussions on an aviation agreement that would cut the cost of flying and improve connectivity between the EU and South East Asia.

Hammond will seek to maintain the UK’s status as a leading global maritime hub by strengthening ties with the government of Singapore, who are expanding the world’s second-largest port. He will also meet representatives from business and industry to discuss opportunities for transport which include rail, metro and bus operations.

Irish workers could be forced to pay 15% of their wages into a private pension


Every worker in the country could be forced to contribute up to 15% of their gross income into a mandatory pension scheme, according to a proposal by the Society of Actuaries in Ireland.

Only half of the working population has a private pension scheme, which will put huge pressure on the State pension in the future, according to the SAI’s Cathal Fleming.

In a major review of pensions in the country, the SAI recommends that a system of mandatory pensions for public and private sector workers, as well as the self-employed, should be introduced from 2019 onwards. It recommends that initially employees contribute roughly 2%-3% of their gross salary to the pension scheme, but that this would grow to an average of between 10%-15% over a 15-20 year period.

The Government would also make contributions to each pension either in the form of tax relief or a direct cash contribution similar to the SSIA savings scheme, although this may not be politically palatable over the near term because of the state of the national coffers, said Mr Fleming.

“It is important that every pension scheme is in the form of an individual account so that each person can see how much they have built up at the end of every year and it is not seen just as another form of taxation,” he added.

It is envisaged that the pensions would be managed by a combination of a government body and three or four private fund management firms.

The report found that auto-enrolment pensions would be less effective because international experience shows that there is a high level of exemptions and opt-outs with these schemes.

Ireland and New Zealand are the only two OECD countries that do not have mandatory pension schemes. The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton announced last year that a mandatory or quasi-mandatory pension scheme could be introduced once the economy picks up.

The SAI said that it is releasing this paper to assist policymakers and contribute to the debate.

Irish college fee increases back on the menu in funds row


The area of higher Irish college fees is looming again as universities prepare to put pressure on the Government to tackle the issue of who will foot the growing bill for third-level education.

Universities are to launch a new campaign warning the Education Minister that he faces a stark choice: give more Exchequer money to third-level colleges or raise fees substantially from 2016.

Under Ruairi Quinn, the charge for students has been rising by €250 a year, to a maximum of €3,000 in September 2015. At the same time, Exchequer funding for third-level institutions has been falling.

A new Government will be in place by September 2016, and Mr Quinn has shown no appetite to pursue the debate over funding of third-level beyond 2015.

If full fees are introduced, students could end up paying at least €6,000-€7,000 a year – and more, depending on the course. A loan system would involve students paying back some or all of the cost after they graduate.

The State currently contributes about €1.1bn a year to third-level, but it is estimated that much more is needed – almost half as much again, €500m, by 2020.

The focus of a new campaign by the country’s seven universities is the academic year starting September 2016, when the current Transition Year orJunior Cert students start college.

It’s a debate that will not be welcomed either by Government or parents/students – one or both of which will end up paying more.

If ongoing constraints on national finances limit how much more the State can pay, the result is likely to be higher fees, a student loan system or a mixture of both.

But the Irish Universities Association (IUA) believes that, difficult though the choices may be, the debate cannot be put off any longer.

IUA chair and Trinity College Provost, Dr Paddy Prendergast, told the Irish Independent that a lack of public investment in higher education was endangering social and economic development.

The IUA has finalised plans for a campaign aimed at putting the funding issue centre-stage on the political agenda.

As part of the campaign, they are gathering information on the situation in other countries, and will host a symposium in September to debate options.

Dr Prendergast said that the development of Irish higher education would be “resource intensive”.

He warned that “the serial scaling back of public investment in higher education is damaging our competitiveness and imperilling our social and economic development in the medium to longer term”.

“It is important that Government works with the universities to develop an agreed funding model that is sustainable into the future, and gives the higher educator sector greater financial certainty so it can plan,” he added.

Millions of euro have been cut from the university budgets in recent years, at the very time that student numbers are on the rise.

Applications for college entry this year have, to date, topped 73,000 – almost 10,000 more than they were in February 2008.

Those figures will continue to increase as a result of the baby boom that started in the late 1990s and the need for a third-level qualification in order to get a job in the so-called smart economy.


Universities are increasingly concerned about their ability to maintain quality and to compete in the global market in which they now operate.

The funding cuts, and their effect for instance, on staffing levels, are among the factors blamed for the slip by Irish universities in international rankings of third-level colleges.

Such global rankings are increasingly dominated by high spending universities in Asia and the US – putting them in a better position to catch the eye of research investors and the lucrative international student market.

The dramatic fall in Exchequer support means that the State is now contributing less than half the total income that universities generate.

Much of the rest comes from research grants and endowment, which raises another thorny issue for the universities – public sector employment controls inhibit their freedom to recruit staff and pay the market rate to attract necessary talent.

25% of Irish people at risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


Doctors urge people to avail of free national screening programme

One in 25 Irish people are at risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to a combination of inherited genes and exposure to cigarette smoke, a new study has found.

The study, by researchers from the Alpha One Foundation, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) and Harvard University, is published this month in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The debilitating lung condition is linked to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (alpha-1), an inherited condition affecting almost 250,000 people in this country.

Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a protein which protects the lungs and people with lower than normal amounts of this protein are at an increased risk of developing COPD.

The research proves for the first time that the estimated one in 25 people in Ireland who have inherited a combination of one normal (M) and one abnormal (Z) alpha-1 antitrypsin gene have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Prior to this study, the increased risk of developing COPD as a result of alpha-1 deficiency was only definitively known to affect people who inherit two abnormal (ZZ) alpha-1 genes.

Cigarette smoke is the most influential factor in determining whether people who carry this combination of genes (MZ) are at a greater risk of COPD compared to those who have two normal alpha-1 genes (MM).

Doctors leading the research are urging people diagnosed with COPD – an estimated 440,000 people – to get tested for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency through a free national screening programme.

Professor Gerry McElvaney, Professor of Medicine at RCSI, principal investigator and chairman of the Alpha One Foundation Ireland said the research was a major breakthrough in understanding the heightened risk of COPD for people with have the combination of one normal and one abnormal alpha-1 antitrypsin gene.

“If people know that they have a genetic predisposition to developing COPD, it allows intervention at an earlier age, encourages smoking cessation and prevents a further decline in lung function in a disease that is otherwise preventable. It also provides an opportunity for other family members to get tested for alpha-1.”

Dr. Kevin Molloy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the lead author of the study said Alpha-1 deficiency is massively underdiagnosed both in Ireland and internationally.

“As this research has an impact on a large number of people who have the MZ gene combination, the research will greatly increase awareness and diagnosis of alpha-1. Knowing that you have a genetic predisposition to developing COPDshould e ncourage people to avoid exposure to cigarette smoke if they definitively know they have a higher risk of developing this debilitating lung condition.”

The alpha-1 screening programme is funded by theDepartment of Health and Children and run by the Alpha One Foundation. It can be diagnosed by a simple blood test.

For more information on how to be tested contact the National Centre for Alpha-1 at Beaumont Hospital or visit http://www.alpha1.ie

The charity Irish Guide Dogs today announced that a record number of people were trained in its services during the course of last year.

The services include the charity’s guide dog programme, assistance dog programme for children with autism, its mobility programme, including long-cane training and independent living skills for people who are vision impaired, and its child mobility training.

Some 197 people were trained last year and the charity said it is planning to increase this number to 240 this year.

The charity also said it had raised more money through fundraising in 2013 compared with 2012.

Irish Guide Dogs chief executive Pádraig Mallon said the figures would “change lives for the better”.

“This is a great achievement in challenging times and it is reassuring that the public continue to value our work and trust us to deliver much needed services for people who are vision impaired and for families of children with autism,” he said.

Record number’s of Irish people trained in guide dog services last year


Roy Keane right picture who has promoted Guide Dogs for the blind for a good number of years now.

Irish Guide Dogs raised more money in fundraising in 2013 than 2012.

The charity Irish Guide Dogs today announced that a record number of people were trained in its services during the course of last year.

The services include the charity’s guide dog programme, assistance dog programme for children with autism, its mobility programme, including long-cane training and independent living skills for people who are vision impaired, and its child mobility training.

Some 197 people were trained last year and the charity said it is planning to increase this number to 240 this year.

The charity also said it had raised more money through fundraising in 2013 compared with 2012.

Irish Guide Dogs chief executive Pádraig Mallon said the figures would “change lives for the better”.

“This is a great achievement in challenging times and it is reassuring that the public continue to value our work and trust us to deliver much needed services for people who are vision impaired and for families of children with autism,” he said.

Is the Loch Ness Monster now dead?


No sightings have been reported this year

Is Nessie dead? Reports suggest the iconic Loch Ness Monster has not been spotted in over a year.

This is the first time in about 90 years that there has been such a long absence of sightings,  BBC News has reported.

Gary Campbell, who keeps records of sea monster sightings, said nobody has claimed to have spotted Nessie in 18 months.

“It’s very upsetting news and we don’t know where she’s gone,” Campbell told the BBC. “The number of sightings has been reducing since the turn of the century but this is the first time in almost 90 years that Nessie wasn’t seen at all.”

Loch Ness Monster sighting only really began less than a century ago. The monster gained its fame in 1933, when a local newspaper published a story on the rumored creature lurking in the dark body of water, LiveScience reported. Some believe Nessie was first spotted back in A.D. 565; a Catholic Church-based legend claims St. Columba scared off a monster that was threatening a man in the loch.

Some believe Nessie is a long-necked aquatic dinosaur, while others don’t think the creature exists at all. Past photos taken of the beast have been deemed hoaxes, depicting thins such as ducks splashing in the water or waves. One picture was believed to have not been taken on Loch Ness at all.

The creature has been allegedly spotted on numerous occasions throughout the past several decades.

The loch is 20 miles long and about a mile wide in most areas. If monsters did exist in the loch they would be trapped as no waterways lead from the body of water to the ocean.

“So far 1,036 reported sightings have been recorded and there were some in 2012,” Campbell told the BBC. “I’m convinced that Nessie has just taken some time out and will be back with a vengeance this year.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 5th January 2014

Taoiseach Kenny & Co heads to Gulf for trade and diplomatic mission


Over 80 Enterprise Ireland linked firms on trip to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to arrive in Saudi Arabia today to lead an Enterprise Ireland trade mission in Riyadh, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai (pictured).

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is to arrive in Saudi Arabia tonight ahead of a trade mission and a series of diplomatic engagements in the Gulf region.

Mr Kenny and Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Richard Bruton are joining more than 80 companies on a five-day Enterprise Ireland mission aimed at creating deeper economic links between Ireland and the region.

The visit will see the Taoiseach visit the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh as well as Doha in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The four economies have a combined annual GDP of some €1.2 trillion.

The Gulf region will continue to see significant investment in the coming years ahead of big ticket events such as theWorld Cup in Qatar in 2022 and the World Expo in Dubai in 2020.

There is also significant construction work being carried out in the region, a growing agricultural industry and likely opportunities in areas such as healthcare, software and ICT which Irish firms and officials hope can lead to investment, trade and jobs.

Mr Kenny is to meet dignitaries such as Saudi Arabia’s deputy prime minister Crown PrinceSalman, Qatari prime minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

He will also meet Abu Dhabi’s minister for foreign affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nayhan, and UAE prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum in Dubai.

“This visit will strengthen our economic, political and cultural ties with these key priority markets for Ireland as well as providing an opportunity to explore new commercial opportunities and build on the strong educational links that exist between Ireland and the Gulf States,” the Taoiseach said in a statement.

Irish companies with backgrounds in areas such as agriculture, energy, construction and audio visuals products are among those taking part in the mission.

Goods worth some €626 million were exported from Ireland to Saudi Arabia in 2012 with chemicals, food and livestock, and machinery the main areas of trade, according to Central Statistics Office figures.

The United Arab Emirates (which includes Dubai and Abi Dhabi) purchased Irish goods worth €373 million in 2012 and exports worth more than €58 million were dispatched to Qatar.

Mr Bruton said he hoped the diplomatic and trade visit could deliver “tangible results for the Irish economy”.

“The Gulf offers huge opportunities for Irish business and this mission of 87 companies led by the Taoiseach demonstrates our commitment to delivering on that,” he said.

Mr Kenny is also due to visit the historic Al Masmak Fortin Riyadh and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure in the world at 829.8 metres, during the missions which continues until Thursday.

Reform Alliance to hold conference at the RDS


Billy Timmins says event will focus on policy and is not a step towards the launch of new party

Reform Alliance member and Wicklow TD Billy Timmins who said the conference would focus on political, economic and health reform.

The Reform Alliance, comprised of breakaway Fine Gael TDs and Senators, is to hold its first conference on January 25th, at the RDS in Dublin.

Wicklow TD Billy Timmins said the one-day event would focus on three policy areas of primary concern to members of the grouping; political, economic and health reform.

Mr Timmins said the conference would not focus on political ideology and was not intended as a step towards the establishment political party, he told RTÉ.

Last month it emerged that the Reform Alliance, which was formed by five TDs and two Senators expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party for voting against the party whip, has registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission as a “third party”.

The move allows the group to raise funds and accept donations, but “third party” registration does not mean a separate political party is being established.

Roscommon deputy Denis Naughten, a member of the group, said registration was primarily a device that will allow the group raise funds to carry out political research.

He said the group receives no exchequer funding under the leader’s allowance, unlike political parties and independent TDs and Senators. That is because all were elected as members of Fine Gael but the party still receives funding for each of the seven parliamentarians despite them being outside the parliamentary party.

Another leading member of the group Lucinda Creightonalso emphasised that the Reform Alliance was in the process of registering as a “third party” and not as a political party.

Pope Francis to visit Holy Land in May


The Pontiff will visit Jerusalem, Bethlehem in the West Bank and also Amman in Jordan

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic palace in Saint Peter’s Square today.

Pope Francis this morning confirmed he will visit the Holy Land in May.Speaking at his Sunday Angelus in a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said: “God willing, I will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from May 24th to May 26th next”.The Pope outlined some details of his itinerary, saying he would visit Amman in Jordan, as well as Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

He also indicated one of the key moments of the trip will be an Ecumenical Meeting at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, a meeting due to be attended by Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, as well as representatives of other Christian Churches in Jerusalem.

For some time, there had been speculation the Pope would announce this trip during the Christmas-New Year period.

In the end, Francis chose to make the announcement on the day that marks the 50th anniversary of an historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagorasin Jerusalem on January 5th, 1964.

The Pope said one of the main reasons for making the trip now is to commemorate the visit made by his predecessor.

The Pope’s trip to Israel may not be his only international visit this year since Vatican insiders suggest he is also very keen to visit Asia, with the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and Sri Lanka indicated as possible destinations.

French Scientists find a natural hormone (Buzzkill) that counteracts marijuana high


Pregnenolone might be released by the body to fight the nice feelings created by pot. At least that’s what French scientists believe.

They’re dancing slowly in the streets of Colorado.

Why would anyone want to dampen their joy at being able to legally buy pot?

Yet along comes a bunch of French researchers to suggest that the brain has natural defenses against the nice feelings generated by the very popular plant.

As Agence France-Presse reports, the researchers probed with lab rats and discovered that the naturally occurring hormone pregnenolone seems to counteract the high delivered by marijuana.

The research, published in Science magazine, explained that initially pregnenolone was thought to be “the inactive precursor of all steroid hormones.”

However, in this experiment, “pregnenolone antagonized most of the known behavioral and somatic effects of THC.”

Science did, though, offer a prognostication that might numb more than a few. It suggested that this research “could lead to new approaches to treating marijuana intoxication and addiction — and it may allow researchers to isolate the medicinal properties of cannabis while blocking its behavioral and somatic effects.”

Wait, do these people really think they’re going to make all those medicinal marijuana cards actually be used only for genuine medicinal purposes?

Pier Vincenzo Piazza of the French Institute of Health and Medical Research told the AFP that the rats in this research were very high. They were given 3 to 10 times the amount of pot than a normal Coloradan.

On discovering that the pregnenolone inhibited the effects of rats’ highness, the researchers began to experiment on human cell lines. Similar results were achieved. The next step will be a full-scale clinical trial.

Their aim, they say, is to combat marijuana addiction. This is a concept with which some might argue, as they believe that, well, there is no such thing.

“These researchers weren’t trying to be buzzkills,” Science explained.

I wonder whether the world’s marijuana lovers will come to revere this potential breakthrough.

An emigrant of Ireland 92 frozen in time

 Meeting Lane, Athy, 1968. Photograph:  William Muldowney

(Left photo) William Muldowney in 1956 & Meeting Lane, Athy town, 1968.

Photos of 1960s Ireland taken by William Muldowney (92) have gained a following on Facebook

“I think we are lonely for a world that is gone,” says Irish-born emigrant William Muldowney (92) by way of explanation for the “astonishing” reaction to his old photographs of his childhood locality posted on Facebook.

In September his daughter, Maureen Flooks, set up a page on the social networking site called Carlow Memories to connect her father, long living in Southampton, England, to home. She did this because last year, for one of the first summers since he emigrated, he was unable to visit the boyhood locality he left in 1944.

Since then she has posted more than 100 photographs her father took during visits in the 1960s around counties Carlow, Laois and Kildare. The page has gained more than 3,000 followers.

The photos taken by this long-departed emigrant have stirred the memories and “likes” of the more recent generation, as Flooks has received messages from Irish emigrants in Mexico and Australia.

Among the images are intimate portraits of towns and villages standing still in time from Carlow and its surrounds: the last thatched house in Ballylinan; Bambrick’s shop in Moneenroe; the church at Killeshin; the view of the sugar factory from Rossmore; a horse and trap in Graiguecullen; an overgrown playground at theArles national school; and two women looking out a half-door at Meeting Lane in Athy.


Muldowney, who celebrates his 92nd birthday today, emigrated to England during the second World War when British Rail came to Carlow offering free passage to Irish workers for the railways. He settled in Southampton, married and had three children, and lives there to this day. But his “heart has always been in Ireland”, Flooks says.

He began taking the photographs on his annual visits from 1967 of places and things that reminded him of what he was doing “when very innocent”, he says.

“I really enjoyed my youth in Ireland. They were the happiest years of my life. We were poor but very happy. I expected nothing and did not get very much,” he says of his childhood as part of a family of nine in Ballinagore near Ballickmoyler and Arles, Co Laois.

He also took them as solace for his parents, who followed their children and emigrated to England in 1956. “They were quite lonely for Ireland . . . They had a difficult life in every way and didn’t cope well with old age.”

When he returned with the photographs that first summer his parents were “astonished”. “My mother cried,” he recalls.

After the railways, Muldowney began working at electrical retailer Currys, where he manned the camera counter and received some training in photography. When he first brought his camera to Ireland and returned armed with shots of Arles and Ballylinan his colleagues were taken aback by the clarity of the photographs – the lack of air pollution in Ireland made everything look “as clear as crystal”, he says.

The uniqueness of his photographs is heightened because few good-quality cameras were in the hands of amateurs in Ireland at the time. One summer he took a super-8mm movie camera home. “People looked at me as if I was from Radio Éireann or the BBC,” he says.


The father and daughter have been “absolutely overwhelmed” by comments and messages about the photographs on Facebook from people from the locality in Ireland or recent and long-departed emigrants from the area.

Flooks was going to put one of her father’s stories and memories with each photo but decided “if people comment it becomes their story”. And so it has happened as people have added their layers of memory.

“I never dreamed that people would find them that interesting, this interest now – I can’t explain,” says Muldowney.

He has hundreds of photos of the locality and has even been offered a possible book deal as a result of the Facebook page.

“It is something about the past that is more mysterious now because of the way the world is at the moment,” he says. “You look at a photo and you think, ‘Didn’t it look perfect back then?’”

Risk of super-volcano eruption big enough to ‘affect the world’

Far greater than thought say scientists


Scientists have analysed the molten rock within the dormant supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park and found that eruption is possible without any external trigger

The eruption of a “supervolcano” hundreds of times more powerful than conventional volcanoes – with the potential to wipe out civilisation as we know it – is more likely than previously thought, a study has found.

An analysis of the molten rock within the dormant supervolcano beneath Yellowstone National Park in the United States has revealed that an eruption is possible without any external trigger, scientists said.

Scientists previously believed many supervolcanic eruptions needed earthquakes to break open the Earth’s crust so magma could escape. But new research suggests that this can happen as a result of the build-up of pressure.

Supervolcanoes represent the second most globally cataclysmic event – next to an asteroid strike – and they have been responsible in the past for mass extinctions, long-term changes to the climate and shorter-term “volcanic winters” caused  by volcanic ash cutting out the sunlight.

The last known supervolcanic eruption was believed to have occurred about 70,000 years ago at the site today of Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. It caused a volcanic winter that blocked out the sun for between six to eight years, and resulted in a period of global cooling lasting a thousand years.

A supervolcano under Yellowstone Park in Wyoming last erupted about 600,000 years ago, sending more than 1,000 cubic kilometres of ash and lava into the atmosphere – about 100 times more than the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines in 1982, which caused a noticeable period of global cooling.

Following Pinatubo’s eruption, the global average temperature fell by about 0.4C for several months. Scientists predict that a supervolcanic eruption would cause average global temperatures to fall by about 10C for a decade – changing life on earth.

Scientists have analysed magma from the Yellowstone caldera, a 55-mile-wide underground cavern containing between 200 and 600 cubic kilometres of molten rock, to see how it responds to changes in pressure and temperature.

Using a powerful X-ray source at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, the researchers found that the density of the magma decreased significantly at the high temperatures and pressures experienced underground.

Density variations between magma and the rock surrounding it means that the lava within the supervolcano’s caldera can produce big enough forces to break through the earth’s crust, allowing the molten rock and ash to erupt from the surface, the scientists said.

“The difference in density between the molten magma in the caldera and the surrounding rock is big enough to drive the magma from the chamber to the surface,” said Jean-Philippe Perrillat of the National Centre for Scientific Research in Grenoble.

“The effect is like the extra buoyancy of a football when it is filled with air underwater, which forces it to the surface because of the denser water around it,” Dr Perrillat said.

“If the volume of magma is big enough, it should come to the surface and explode like a champagne bottle being uncorked.”

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, was possible because the X-ray machine at Grenoble was able to take accurate density measurements at temperatures of up to 1,700C and pressures 36,000 times greater than normal atmospheric pressure.

“The results reveal that if the magma chamber is big enough, the overpressure caused by differences in density alone are sufficient to penetrate the crust above and initiate an eruption,” said Professor Carmen Sanchez-Valle of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, who led the study.

Preventing a supervolcanic eruption is not possible, but scientists are currently trying to devise methods of monitoring the pressure of underground magma in order to predict whether one is imminent.

Dr Perrillat said there are no known supervolcanoes that are in danger of erupting in the foreseeable future, and it would take at least a decade or so for the magma pressure within a caldera to build up to a point where an eruption is likely.

News Ireland daily BLOG Monday

Monday 4th November 2013

Girl now identified 

Teenage girl found on O’Connell Street identified by Gardaí tonight

Gardai have released photographs of a young girl who found in a distressed state on O’Connell Street in Dublin on October 10th. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times 

Officers will be liaising with the Australian police after assistance from the public

Gardaí said tonight they have identified the girl found on O’Connell Street in Dublin last month .

They are now following a definite line of enquiry after assistance from the public.

While they have not released the girl’s name or where she is from, they say they will be liaising closely with the Australian police and the HSE to “finalise the matter.”

Gardaí today released a photo of the girl after reaching “an impasse” in their enquiries.

The High Court last week granted Gardaí permission to release information about the teenager, believed to be aged 14 or 15, who was found in a distressed state outside the GPO on October 10th.

One line of enquiry is the possibility that the girl may have been trafficked into the country.

Superintendent David Taylor said today gardaí have established the clothes she was found wearing were purchased in “major Irish retailers”.

The girl is described as 168cm (5ft 6in) in height, of slim build, and having long blonde hair. When found, she was wearing a purple hooded top, tight dark coloured jeans, flat black shoes, and a grey woollen jumper.

“We understand that the clothes were purchased in major Irish retailers,” said Supt Taylor. “We have carried out extensive enquiries but we have been unable to determine when these clothes were bought.”

The girl has been fitted with braces on her teeth and gardaí said they have canvassed paediatric orthodontists acrossIreland for information. “Maybe she got treatment in another jurisdiction so we’re hoping some professional might come forward and say they treated the child,” said Supt Taylor. He added there is “nothing particularly characteristic” about the braces.

Gardaí have “engaged” with the girl, who has limited English, but they have been unable to identify her or her country of origin. Specialist child interviewers have been utilised by investigators.

Supt Taylor said the Garda investigation into the matter – dubbed Operation Shepard – had been “huge”. It has involved over 2,000 man hours and been conducted in collaboration with a number of agencies including Interpol, the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit.

Some 115 lines of enquiry have been followed up on, including the canvassing of airports, ports, and train stations. Guesthouses and B&Bs in the city centre have been contacted and checked for individuals who made bookings and failed to turn up.

CCTV footage from the area the girl was found as well as from around the city have been trawled through – while the Garda Pulse system and missing persons list have also been examined.

As a result of these enquiries, 15 possible names were provided to investigators – but all of these were checked and proved fruitless.

“The child’s welfare is paramount,” said Supt Taylor. “We don’t take [releasing the girl’s photo] lightly. We conducted a huge investigation – engaged with everybody – but we’ve come to the point where we’re unable to identify her.

“Obviously the child is in an interim care order with the HSE at the moment. Anybody who comes forward, a full investigation will be conducted to confirm the veracity of information.

The HSE was against a picture of the girl being published. Its lawyers said professionals who have been working with her believe publication could have “a disturbing effect on her”.

Gardaí now publish the photograph of the unknown 14-15 yr old girl found in O’Connell St. Dublin

Gardaí investigating the discovery of an unidentified girl on O’Connell Street in Dublin last month have released a photograph of her.The girl was found in a distressed stated on October 10th.Despite several weeks of investigation, and following 115 lines of inquiry, detectives have yet to identify her. It is believed she is either 14 or 15 years old and European. She has been taken into State care.

At a press briefing today, Superintendent Dave Taylor said she has limited English and has drawn some sketches in an attempt to communicate her ordeal, which remains a mystery.

“This investigation has involved over 2,000 hours, engaging with all the relevant authorities and all the relevant specialists in this area, but unfortunately we have been unable to identify her,” he said. “At the moment we need to find out who this child is.”

The High Court last week granted gardaí permission to release information about the teenager.

On Friday afternoon, Mr Justice George Birminghamgranted gardaí an order under Section 31.2 of the 1991 Child Care Act allowing them, in the excercise of their operational discretion, to release information concerning the girl to print and broadcast media.

On Thursday, lawyers for the Garda Commissioner, in seeking the order, told the court the investigation had “hit a brick wall”.

Gardaí had reached “a deadlock” in their efforts to identify the girl and every possible avenue had been exhausted.

Despite their intensive efforts gardaí were unable to establish who the girl is, where she comes from or who her family are.

They believe that a criminal offence has been committed against the girl, who is currently receiving treatment and is in the care of the HSE.

The girl’s court-appointed guardian supported the Garda application. Felix McEnroy SC on behalf of the guardian said it was in the girls best interests that steps be taken to identify her.

The HSE was against a picture of the girl being published. Its lawyers said professionals who have been working with her believe publication could have “a disturbing effect on her”.

New €125 million fund to boost Irish small and medium businesses


The funding will assist businesses that need capital for expansion.

An investment fund of €125 million for small and medium businesses was announced today by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton.

The capital fund aims to address the equity gap for companies that need capital for expansion and will be managed by the London based MML Growth Capital.

Enterprise Ireland has committed €25 million under the Government’s Development Capital Scheme, with AIB, the European Investment Fund, Gold Point Partners, and two United States subsidiaries of the Cigna Corporation making up the balance.

Create and innovate

The Irish Software Association (ISA) welcomed the funding announcement stating that while the fund will not solve the funding gap, it will help tech businesses “create” and “innovate”.

Edel Creely, ISA Chair and Managing Director of Trilogy Technologies, said it will give some SMEs access to funding to finance potential new revenue streams and to export globally.

She said it also gives a strong signal to Ireland’s SME community that the government recognises the potential of the SME sector to deliver jobs and an innovation-intensive economy.

Minister Bruton said that today’s announcement will mean that the first funds under this scheme will now start flowing into the market which will mean that more companies will be able to access the required development capital, enabling them to expand into export markets and create new jobs.

Early to bed kids could help towards preventing obesity


Putting children to bed earlier may be a simple way to keep their weight down, research has shown.

Childhood obesity is not only caused by poor diet and lack of exercise, the findings suggest. Lack of sleep also appears to be an important factor.

Scientists made the discovery after adjusting the sleep patterns of 37 children aged eight to 11, more than a quarter of whom were overweight or obese.

For the first week of the study, children were asked to sleep their typical amount. During the second week, they randomly had their sleep time either reduced or lengthened. Over the course of the third week, they were given the opposite sleep schedule.

When children increased their sleep, they reported consuming an average 134 fewer calories per day and 227g in weight.

Tests revealed lower fasting levels of the hunger-regulating hormone leptin.

“Findings from this study suggest that enhancing school-age children’s sleep at night could have important implications for prevention and treatment of obesity,” said Chantelle Hart from Temple University in Philadelphia. “The potential role of sleep should be further explored.”

The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics. Now, Dr Hart is working on a follow-up study to find if increased sleep produces significant changes in eating patterns, activity, and weight.

“Given all of its documented benefits, you can’t lose in promoting a good night’s sleep,” she said.

Connemara Mining group awarded 10 licences to look for Gold etc.


John Teeling’s Connemara Mining Company to look for gold in Donegal

  Connemara Mining Company has been awarded 10 prospecting licences covering gold, silver and base metals in the Stranorlar region of Donegal. The mining company, which is led by executive chairman John Teeling, founder of Cooley Distillery, will focus its exploration on gold.

According to the company, the Donegal ground was selected by Connemara’s geologists following a “rigorous review of gold opportunities in Ireland”. Historical records of the Donegal area show certain anomalies consistent with gold while the geology shares similarities with the major gold discoveries by Dalradian Resources and others in Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

“The geology of Donegal lies within the highly prospective Dalradian terrane which is also home to the Curraghinalt Gold Deposit in Northern Ireland and the Cononish Mine in Scotland. Traces of gold have been discovered in earlier exploration in Donegal. We were delighted that the Tellus data issued in recent days re-enforces our findings. This is early stage prospecting but the potential is good,” said Mr Teeling, adding that Connemara is “actively involved in the gold renaissance in Ireland”.

Irish School inspectors find weakness in teaching of Irish language and maths


Significant weaknesses exist in the teaching of Irish, and to a lesser extent, math’s, have been found in Irish schools.

Communications with parents is another area where schools must do better, according to a new report.

The most comprehensive picture ever of what is happening in Irish schools was published today.

The Chief Inspector’s Report 2010-12 gives a detailed overview of the quality of teaching and learning, based on visits by inspectors to 93pc of primary and post-primary schools over the period.

It also includes the findings of surveys of parents and pupils on their experiences of the system.

The report expresses particular concern about the teaching of Irish at both primary and post-primary level.

It also points to weaknesses in maths teaching at post-primary level – but there is a hope that the new Project Maths syllabus will overcome those problems.

Department of Education chief inspector Harold Hislop said a “very significant” 24pc of Irish lessons in primary schools were less than satisfactory.

Similarly, in post-primary schools the quality of teaching was “satisfactory or better” in only 72pc of lessons, and in some cases teachers’ own skills in the language were deficient.

It found that the quality of learning in Irish was problematic in 32pc of cases – as many as one in three students.

The report also highlighted issues around maths in post-primary schools.

In 20pc of schools there were deficiencies in planning and preparing for teaching the subject, the quality of  teaching was only “satisfactory or better” in 77pc of classes and the quality of learning was less than satisfactory in 26oc of lessons.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said while the report acknowledged all the good practices taking place on a daily basis in schools, it also showed a system “screaming for reform” in some areas.

Trophy Hunting of Wolves and Bears Is Changing Their Behavior and Habitats


A top predator that must constantly look over its shoulder for fear of human hunters may not be a top predator any more.

Humans have probably been hunting big, scary predators for as long as we have been human, and for the obvious reasons: They are big. They are scary. And they are competition. The fear goes deep in our culture— the Big Bad Wolf was appearing in folk tales in the early middle ages. When I spent a little time on foot in lion habitat a few years ago, the fear felt even more deeply rooted, down somewhere in my gut. Hunting helps restore our precious illusion of control.

Even today, and even among people who may privately loathe the practice, trophy hunting of top predators can seem like a useful tool. The theory is that trophy fees—$10,000 for a lion, say—help pay to protect habitat and keep out poachers. These fees can also provide economic benefits to local communities. In theory, that increases tolerance among people who still live with large, dangerous animals outside their garden gates. Hunting some species may thus serve as the means to increase their numbers— killing predators in order to save them.

But a new study in the journal Biological Conservation asks whether what’s actually happening is the opposite: These methods may be saving large carnivores numerically, but altering their role as apex predators. A top predator that must constantly “look over its shoulder” for fear of human hunters, Andrés Ordiz and his co-authors suggest, may not be a top predator any more. And the effects of that subtle shift can reverberate through entire ecosystems.

As hunters tend to know too well, even white-tailed deer or Canada geese know what to do and where to avoid when hunting season starts. It’s the same for predators, according to the new study: Brown bears tend to shift their daily foraging and resting routines when human hunters arrive. So do lions. Wolves may actually relocate their breeding sites.

These animals’ natural ecological function as predators is to instill “the landscape of fear” in their prey. But they become victims of that landscape instead, spending more time and energy being vigilant, and less out hunting. That means they may not be as effective at controlling numbers of prey species like moose or elk, according to Ordiz and his co-authors. And that can lead in turn to overgrazing and a cascade of other effects on the habitat.

Over the long-term, persistent hunting may also make the predators themselves less big and bad. The long history of hunting and persecution in Europe may be one reason, the study suggests, that European brown bears are not nearly as fierce as grizzlies in North America, though they are the same species, Ursus arctos. “Long-term, human-caused selection may explain the reduced aggression of brown bears towards people, their nocturnal behavior, and their higher investment in reproduction,” the authors write.

News Ireland Blog Friday by Donie

Friday 27th July 2012

Some 900 Irish jobs will be created in 53 start-ups companies


More than 900 jobs will be created over the next three years in 53 new start-up companies.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton announced the positions will open by 2014 as the new firms set up shop across the country, following a Government and Enterprise Ireland initiative to support start-ups.

“What we must also do if we are to create the jobs we need is to create a base of indigenous companies that match that level of success,” said Mr Bruton.

“As I have said before, our aim is not only to attract the next Google or Microsoft to Ireland, but to make it possible for the next Google or Microsoft to start-up in Ireland.”

The 53 companies delivering the jobs come from different sectors including financial services, ICT, digital games, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

Among them is games developer Digit Games Studio Ltd, which will create 47 jobs, and digital marketing company Digital Marketing Institute, which will open 39 positions. Both companies have bases in Dublin.

Others include financial services software firm Nomoseire, which will create 14 positions in Cork, and abrasives manufacturers Kerry Abrasives, opening nine jobs in Listowel, Co Kerry.

The firms were given support during the first six months of the year under Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) programme. The idea was to invest in indigenous businesses that have strong export potential.

“The new Government has already delivered a series of measures aimed at better supporting indigenous companies to succeed in export markets,” said Mr Bruton. “We have established a new potential exporters division in Enterprise Ireland to provide new supports for exporters. We have delivered new mentoring and management support programmes to help companies improve their performance.”

Head of HPSU and scaling at Enterprise Ireland Greg Treston said the organisation’s aim was to meet the needs of fledgling companies to help them grow.

Four out of every 10 people 15 to 25 years old are without work


Four IN ten young people under the age of 25 were unemployed at the time of the 2011 census, according to figures released by the Central Statistics Office yesterday.

The latest CSO data, which concentrates on people at work, shows that more than 82,000 people between 15 and 24 were not working in April 2011.

The rate of youth unemployment rose by 74 per cent between the 2006 and 2011 censuses, with 39 per cent of those aged 15-24 recorded as being without work in April last year.

Unemployment among men in this age category almost doubled in that period to 50,440 from 26,448, meaning the unemployment rate among young males stood at 45 per cent last April.

Among women in the same age group, unemployment increased from 20,674 in 2006 to 31,713 – yielding an unemployment rate of 32 per cent.

Limerick city and Co Donegal had the highest levels of youth unemployment, with rates of 50 and 49 per cent respectively, while the jobless rate in Co Wexford stood at 47 per cent.

Almost 70,000 of those 15-24-year-olds out of work had finished their education. However, there was significant variation in unemployment levels depending on the level of education completed.

For the 4,732 people who were educated to primary level only, the unemployment rate was 70 per cent. For those who had completed lower secondary level (Junior Cert), the rate stood at 65 per cent. Those with an upper secondary education had an unemployment rate of 39 per cent, while the rate for the 7,534 people with third-level qualifications was significantly lower at 18 per cent.

The lowest youth unemployment rate, 27 per cent, was recorded in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, while Fingal, Cork county and Galway city were also at the lower end of the spectrum.

A total of 34,166 people were looking for their first regular job in April 2011, more than 60 per cent of whom were 15-24. Of the 8,622 15-19 year olds in this category, 5,424 were male.

Just over a quarter of first-time jobseekers were foreign nationals, the majority from Eastern Europe, while British, Nigerians, Brazilians and Indians also featured.

Of the 6,941 people with a third-level qualification looking for their first job, almost one in five had a qualification in business and administration. A further 9 per cent had an arts qualification. Almost 400 people with a third-level qualification in architecture were looking for their first regular job.

The wider census results show that, although the labour force grew by 5.8 per cent in the past five years, the numbers at work declined by over 6 per cent to 1,807,369 in the same period.

The number of people unemployed increased dramatically from 150,084 to 390,677 between 2006 and 2011. Combined with people looking for their first job, the total number out of work stood at 424,843 in April 2011.

The unemployment rate jumped from 8.5 per cent in 2006 to 19 per cent in 2011.

The rate of unemployment among foreign nationals in 2011 stood at 22 per cent compared with an unemployment rate of 18.5 per cent among Irish people.

The census pointed to a much higher employment rate among people who spoke English well or very well than those who had inferior English-language abilities; almost one-third of the 67,531 people who either could not speak English well or could not speak English at all were unemployed.

Of the more than 35,000 people in employment who did not speak English well or at all, the largest group (4,149 people) were cleaners, followed by 6 per cent who worked as kitchen or catering assistants. A similar cohort worked as food, drink or tobacco operatives.

New ‘wonder drug’ JD5037 to tackle obesity


A new drug that combats “the munchies” could provide a long-lasting solution to weight loss, researchers have claimed.

The drug, known only as JD5037, increases sensitivity to a natural hormone in the body that suppresses appetite.

It acts by blocking the same brain pathways responsible for feelings of hunger after taking cannabis. But, crucially, it does not penetrate far enough into the brain to cause psychiatric problems.

A similar anti-obesity drug, rimonabant, had to be withdrawn after it was linked to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

JD5037 affects the way the body reacts to leptin, a hormone that promotes feelings of satiety, or “fullness”.

Attempts to boost leptin levels have failed because the body becomes desensitised to the hormone and stops responding to it. JD5037 does not increase levels of leptin, but enhances its effect.

“By sensitising the body to naturally occurring leptin, the new drug could not only promote weight loss, but also help to maintain it,” said lead scientist Dr George Kunos, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the United States.

“This finding bodes well for the development of a new class of compounds for the treatment of obesity and its metabolic consequences.”

The research, reported in the journal Cell Metabolism, was conducted on overfed obese mice.

Scientists found that giving the mice the drug caused weight loss and improved metabolic health. The animals showed no signs of anxiety or other behavioural side-effects.

Satellites reveal sudden Greenland ice melt


The first image shows Greenland’s ice sheet on 8 July, the second, taken four days later, shows the area where ice has melted at the surface

The surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet has melted this month over an unusually large area, Nasa has said.

Scientists said the “unprecedented” melting took place over a larger area than has been detected in three decades of satellite observation.

Melting even occurred at Greenland’s coldest and highest place, Summit station.

The thawed ice area jumped from 40% of the ice sheet to 97% in just four days from 8 July.

Melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time”

Although about half of Greenland’s ice sheet normally sees surface melting over the summer months, the speed and scale of this year’s thaw surprised scientists, who described the phenomenon as “extraordinary”.

Nasa said that nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland, from its thin, low-lying coastal edges to its centre, which is 3km (two miles) thick, experienced some degree of melting at its surface.

Until now, the most extensive melting seen by satellites in the past three decades was about 55% of the area.

According to ice core records, such pronounced melting at Summit station and across the ice sheet has not occurred since 1889.

“When we see melt in places that we haven’t seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what’s happening,” Nasa chief scientist Waleed Abdalati said.

“It’s a big signal, the meaning of which we’re going to sort out for years to come.”

Watch this space

He said that, because this Greenland-wide melting has happened before – in 1889 – scientists are not yet able to determine whether this is a natural but rare event, or if it has been sparked by man-made climate change.

The observation is in my view much more important than the recently reported break up of a large iceberg from Petermann Glacier”

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” said Lora Koenig, a glaciologist from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and a member of the research team analysing the satellite data.

“But if we continue to observe melting events like this in upcoming years, it will be worrisome.”

Prof Eric Wolff, from the British Antarctic Survey (Bas) told BBC News: “There have clearly been some very warm days in Greenland this month. As a result, the surface snow has melted across the whole ice sheet.

“This is confirmed by some of my international colleagues who are on the ground at the NEEM ice core drilling site in north Greenland – they are reporting several days with temperatures above zero, and ice layers forming in the snow.

“While this is very unusual, as always we cannot attribute any individual extreme event to climate change: We will have to wait and see if more such events occur in the next few years to understand its significance for both the climate and the health of the ice sheet.”

Dr Poul Christoffersen, a glaciologist and engineer at the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge, told BBC News: “The melting seen in the satellite data is unprecedented, as it extends all the way across the ice sheet including the summit, which is located 3,200 m above sea level. Melting is usually limited to less than 2000m elevation.”

The news comes just days after Nasa satellite imagery revealed that a massive iceberg, twice the size of Manhattan, had broken off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland.

“The observation [from Greenland] is in my view much more important than the recently reported break up of a large iceberg from Petermann Glacier,” Dr Christofferson added.

Nasa’s Tom Wagner said: “This event, combined with other natural but uncommon phenomena, such as the large calving event last week on Petermann Glacier, are part of a complex story.”

Scientists said they believed that much of Greenland’s ice was already freezing again.

Shift work has link to ‘increased risk of heart problems’


Working night shifts can disrupt the body’s clock and lead to health problems

Shift workers are slightly more at risk of having a heart attack or stroke than day workers, research suggests.

An analysis of studies involving more than 2m workers in the British Medical Journal said shift work can disrupt the body clock and have an adverse effect on lifestyle.

It has previously been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Limiting night shifts would help workers cope, experts said.

The team of researchers from Canada and Norway analysed 34 studies.

In total, there were 17,359 coronary events of some kind, including cardiac arrests, 6,598 heart attacks and 1,854 strokes caused by lack of blood to the brain.

These events were more common in shift workers than in other people.

The BMJ study calculated that shift work was linked to a 23% increased risk of heart attack, 24% increased risk of coronary event and 5% increased risk of stroke.

But they also said shift work was not linked to increased mortality rates from heart problems and that the relative risks associated with heart problems were “modest”.

Ensuring workers have a minimum of two full nights sleep between day and night shifts can help people to cope with shift work.”

The researchers took the socioeconomics status of the workers, their diet and general health into account in their findings.

No rest

Dan Hackam, associate professor at Western University, London Ontario in Canada, said shift workers were more prone to sleeping and eating badly.

“Night shift workers are up all the time and they don’t have a defined rest period. They are in a state of perpetual nervous system activation which is bad for things like obesity and cholesterol,” he said.

The authors say that screening programmes could help identify and treat risk factors for shift workers, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

They add that shift workers could also be educated about what symptoms to look our for, which might indicate early heart problems.

Jane White, research and information services manager at the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, said there are complex issues surrounding shift work.

“It can result in disturbed appetite and digestion, reliance on sedatives and, or stimulants, as well as social and domestic problems.

“These can affect performance, increase the likelihood of errors and accidents at work, and even have a negative effect on health.

She said the effects of shift work needed to be well-managed.

“Avoiding permanent night shifts, limiting shifts to a maximum of 12 hours and ensuring workers have a minimum of two full nights sleep between day and night shifts are simple, practical solutions that can help people to cope with shift work.”

Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the increased risk to an individual shift worker “was relatively small”.

“But many Brits don’t work nine to five and so these findings becomes much more significant.

“Whether you work nights, evenings or regular office hours, eating healthily, getting active and quitting smoking can make a big difference to your heart health.”