Tag Archives: Equality

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 14th November 2016

Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October

Building, orders and employment all rose rapidly last month,

Image result for Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October  Image result for Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October

Total construction activity in the Republic increased for the second successive month in October.

The construction sector in the Republic recorded a strong start to the final quarter of the year, with activity, new orders and employment all increasing at faster rates in October, according to the latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

Meanwhile, a similar survey by Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland showed that firms enjoyed a surge in export orders last month on the back of sterling’s continued weakness but their good fortune was mirrored by growing problems for local importers as costs continue to spiral.

In the Republic, the seasonally adjusted index, designed to track changes in total construction activity, increased for the second successive month in October to 62.3, up from 58.7 in September.

This represented a sharp monthly rise in total construction activity, and the fastest in seven months. Construction output has increased continuously since September 2013.

Commenting on the survey results, Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said: “Importantly, construction firms are continuing to benefit from robust increases in new business levels, with the new orders index rising to its highest level since February following a fifth consecutive monthly acceleration in October.

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“Firms continue to report a strengthening in client demand amid a general improvement in economic conditions as an important contributor to the ongoing uplift in new business volumes. In turn, the healthy expansion of new orders continues to underpin increased demand for construction workers. The employment index rose sharply last month, with the pace of hiring accelerating to its fastest in eight months as almost one-third of firms noted a rise in employment.”

Mr Barry said the mainly domestic-facing construction sector was less directly exposed to adverse Brexit impacts than more heavily trade-dependent areas of the economy.

Northern Ireland figures

In Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank’s PMI survey showed that although businesses are enjoying an export boost following the Brexit vote, the total number of new orders recorded by local firms remained largely unchanged during October.

The PMI survey also highlighted that while business activity demonstrated growth last month in the local economy, the pace of growth was sluggish and weaker compared to nearly every other UK region.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, said the survey reveals the stark differences between domestic and export markets.

“Overall, incoming orders stagnated in October and have failed to grow since June. However, export orders expanded at their second-highest rate since the survey began. This implies that domestic orders have been contracting at a significant rate.

“The converse seems to be the case within the construction sector. Given Belfast’s crane-cluttered skyline, it would appear that business conditions within the local construction market are relatively buoyant.

“However, despite this, and perhaps surprisingly, the PMI points to rapid rates of contraction in construction output orders and employment. This is largely due to subdued demand within a major external market, ie GB.”

Mr Ramsey said sterling’s current weakness was a “mixed blessing” for the North as the manufacturing and retail sectors are forced to bear the brunt of the input-cost inflation.

Donald Trump’s temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,

Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,  Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA, Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,

Donald Trump is known for his blunt speaking

President Barack Obama has warned there are “certain elements” of Donald Trump’s temperament that will not serve him well “unless he recognises them and corrects them”.

With just weeks left in office, Mr Obama said the president-elect understands that a candidate being reckless with his words can be less consequential than a president saying the same thing.

Mr Obama noted that markets move and foreign governments take note of a president’s rhetoric and stressed that national security “requires a level of precision” so that deadly mistakes are not made.

He said blunt-spoken Mr Trump “recognises that this is different – and so do the American people”.

In a White House news conference ahead of his final overseas trip as president, Mr Obama made the argument that immigration is good for the American economy.

He acknowledged that many Americans have grown sceptical about the “complex argument” in support of immigration, when they see factories closing at home and jobs going offshore. But he said “immigration is good for our economy” if it is “orderly and lawful”.

Mr Trump campaigned on a promise to limit immigration into the US and bring offshore jobs back home.

But Mr Obama maintained that it is still his “strong belief” that achieving a strong global economy does not mean “shutting people out”.

And he believes Mr Trump will seek to “send some signals of unity” to people alienated by his ferocious campaign.

He said he advised the president-elect “to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign” and “that’s something that he will want to do”.

But he added that Mr Trump is trying to balance commitments he made to “supporters that helped to get him here”.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump described Mexicans as rapists and criminals. He vowed to build a wall along the US’s southern border and make Mexico pay for it.

He appeared to mock a reporter with a physical disability and threatened to sue several women who accused him of assaulting them. Mr Trump also disparaged the Muslim American parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, and battled a former Miss America who is Latino about having gained weight.

Mr Obama stressed the need to give Mr Trump the “rope and space” for a “reset” once he takes over the reins of power.

Earlier it emerged that Mr Trump was considering a woman and an openly gay man to fill major positions in his new leadership team.

It would be seen as history-making moves that would inject diversity into a Trump administration already facing questions about its ties to white nationalists.

The incoming president is considering Richard Grenell as United States ambassador to the United Nations.

If picked and ultimately confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post.

Mr Grenell previously served as US spokesman at the UN under former President George W Bush’s administration.

At the same time, Mr Trump is weighing up whether to select the first woman to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

On his short list of prospective chairs: Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the former sister-in-law of Trump rival and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“I’ll be interested in whatever Mr Trump wants,” Ms McDaniel said, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again

Internal deliberations about staffing come a day after Mr Trump made overtures to warring Republican circles by appointing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsellor.


Will Mike Pence the US vice-president elect visit Ireland

Image result for Will Mike Pence the US vice-president elect visit Ireland  Image result for Mike Pence grandparent from Doocastle outside Tubbercurry co Sligo  Image result for Tubbercurry town co Sligo

The vice-President elect of the USA Mike Pence will be officially invited to the Co Sligo town of Tubbercurry where his grandfather hails from.

And the Chamber of Commerce in Tubbercurry believes Donald Trump’s running mate could himself end up in the top job in as little as four years’ time.

“Local people are delighted,” said chamber spokesman Roger McCarrick.

“We will be writing to him officially to invite him to the home of his ancestors. Regardless of policies he is still an ex-Tubbercurry man as far as we are concerned.

“There has been a sense of pride that a descendant of here could aspire to such high office. He has been Governor of Indiana since 2013 and it’s possible he could run for President in four or eight years’ time and he could be on the biggest political stage of all for the next 16 years.”

Governor Pence’s grandfather was Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated in 1923 to Chicago where he became a bus driver.

He is said to have hailed from the Doocastle area outside Tubbercurry.

Pence has spoken in the past on how his views on immigration were shaped by his grandfather’s entry from Ireland through Ellis Island in 1923.

Now, further details of Mr Cawley’s Sligo roots have emerged thanks to research carried out by New York native, Robert Theiss from Arlington, Virginia, a postgraduate in history who has a strong interest in genealogy.

Theiss said: “Passenger arrival records show Richard Cawley, aged 20, a miner, arriving in New York on April 11, 1923, on a ship called the Andania, which had set sail from Liverpool.

“The passenger arrival record shows Richard Cawley’s place of birth as Doocastle. The passenger arrival record shows his last place of residence as having been Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancs., England.”

Pence’s Irish granddad died on Christmas Eve 1980. He was 77. Pence was 21 at the time.

Richard Cawley’s wife, was Mary Elizabeth Maloney. She was born on March 22, 1907, in Chicago, Illinois. She died in Chicago on November 1, 1980, aged 73, just weeks before her husband Richard died.

She was the daughter of Irish immigrants. Her father, James Michael Maloney, was born on February 1, 1872, in Killaloe, Co. Clare, and her mother, Mary Anne Downes, was born on July 16, 1880, in Doonbeg, Co. Clare. James died in Chicago on October 10, 1916, aged 44. Mary Anne died in Chicago on December 23, 1955, aged 75.

Mike Pence and his family visited Ireland three years ago going to Co. Clare and Co. Sligo. Mike Pence met Moloney and Downes distant cousins, in Co. Clare.

Ireland’s Garda reserve membership has fallen 13% from June-Sept this year

Image result for Ireland's Garda reserve membership has fallen 13% from June-Sept this year  Image result for Ireland's Garda reserve membership down

Fianna Fáil has called on the Justice Minister to start recruiting more members onto the reserve force.

The number of Garda reserves across the country has fallen to under 800 in the past four months.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan showed how there were 1,179 reservists at the beginning of 2014. This number has now fallen a further 13% in the four-month period between June and September to 756.

Depleted reserves?

The biggest drop was in the Dublin South Central district where the number fell by a further 12% since May of this year.

O’Callaghan said: “Concerns have been expressed for some time on not utilising the significant potential of the garda reserve. This poses a much bigger challenge if the numbers continue to fall.

“The Garda Inspectorate report, published last December, indicated that despite receiving considerable training, reserves are not consistently or strategically maximised for operational purposes.

Just last month it was stated that there are plans afoot to more than double the number of Garda reserves nationally. This would bring the strength of the force up to 2,000. I am calling on the minister to kick start this process without delay.

NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University

Image result for NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University   Image result for NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University

The five female lecturers (right) who claimed NUIG overlooked them for promotion.

NUI Galway has refuted claims that it’s ‘punishing’ women who highlighted issues surrounding gender discrimination at the university.

In a statement, college authorities said accusations made by the Irish Federation of University Teachers are ‘ill-informed’ and ‘untrue’.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers claims NUI Galway has failed to address outstanding legal cases relating to gender discrimination.

It argues that the university is stalling and prolonging actions taken by four female staff members, which are currently before the Circuit and High Court.

It says the situation amounts to the ‘punishment’ of whistleblowers who have highlighted vital issues on the national stage.

It comes more than two years since the Equality Tribunal ruled against NUI Galway in a case involving Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington.

NUI Galway says the cases are subject to the remit and rules of the courts and it is actively seeking their progression.

It adds that the contention by the IFUT that the university is delaying or prolonging court cases is ill-informed and simply untrue.

A new search in depression area for life on Mars now being looked at

Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life  Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life  Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life

Scientists at the University of Texas have zeroed in on a depression that could possibly support life on Mars.

A newly discovered depression may breathe new life into the pursuit to find life on Mars.

A strangely shaped depression—likely formed by a volcano beneath a glacier—could be a warm, chemical-rich environment suited for microbial life, according to a study from the University of Texas at Austin.

“We were drawn to this site because it looked like it could host some of the key ingredients for habitability — water, heat and nutrients,” lead author Joseph Levy, a research associate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a research unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a statement.

The depression is located inside a crater perched on the rim of the Hellas basin and is surrounded by ancient glacial deposits.

The depression first came to light in 2009 when Levy noticed crack-like features on pictures of depressions taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looked similar to ice cauldrons formations found in Iceland and Greenland, which were made by volcanos erupting under an ice sheet. Levy and others also discovered another depression in the Galaxias Fossae region of Mars that had a similar appearance.

“These landforms caught our eye because they’re weird looking,” Levy said. “They’re concentrically fractured so they look like a bulls-eye. That can be a very diagnostic pattern you see in Earth materials.”

Earlier this year, Levy and his research team were able to more thoroughly analyze the depressions using stereoscopic images to investigate whether the depressions were made by underground volcanic activity that melted away surface ice or by an impact from an asteroid.

Timothy Goudge, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas- Austin, used pairs of high-resolution images to create digital elevation models of the depressions that enabled in-depth analysis of their shape and structure in 3D.

“The big contribution of the study was that we were able to measure not just their shape and appearance, but also how much material was lost to form the depressions,” Levy added. “That 3D view lets us test this idea of volcanic or impact.”

A closer analysis showed that both depressions shared an unusual funnel shape with a broad perimeter that gradually narrowed with depth.

“That surprised us and led to a lot of thinking about whether it meant there was melting concentrated in the center that removed ice and allowed stuff to pour in from the sides,” Levy said. “Or if you had an impact crater, did you start with a much smaller crater in the past and by sublimating away ice, you’ve expanded the apparent size of the crater.”

After running formation scenarios for the two depressions, researchers concluded that the debris spread around the Galaxias Fossae depression suggests that it was the result of an impact with the possibility it could be formed by a volcano due to the volcanic history of the area. However, the Hellas depression has many signs of volcanic origins, lacks the surrounding debris of an impact and has a fracture pattern associated with concentrated removal of ice by melting or sublimation.

According to Levy, the interaction of lava and ice to form a depression would show that it could create an environment with liquid water and chemical nutrients.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 20th November 2105

Irish Water staff vote to strike in row over job cuts

Unions balloted for industrial action after utility revealed plan for up to 1,500 job losses


Unions decided to ballot members for industrial action after Irish Water said it intended ‘to reduce the local authority workforce in the company by up to 1,500 by 2021’.

Local authority workers providing services for Irish Water have voted for industrial action in a dispute over proposed staffing cuts.

In ballots counted on Friday members of Siptu and the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) in local authorities, working under the management of Irish Water, supported industrial action up to and including work stoppages by 91 per cent and 84 per cent respectively.

The unions said they decided to ballot members for industrial action following an announcement by Irish Water in a new business plan last month that it intended “to reduce the local authority workforce in the company by up to 1,500 by 2021”.

unions said the unilateral move by Irish Water was in breach of a service level agreement reached between them and the company in 2013 which obliged it to consult in relation to any proposed changes in staffing numbers.

The unions maintained that the proposed move by the company could lead to existing water service staff being displaced by private contractors.

Siptu sector organiser Brendan O’Brien said: “The result of this vote represents a very strong mandate from our members to fight the creeping privatisation of the public water service. The concerns of local authority water workers about the threat to public water services has led their decision to take industrial action when and if necessary.

“We do not accept that the public water service can be adequately delivered with the planned reduction of frontline staff numbers which is in the order of 40 per cent.”

Teeu official, Paddy Kavanagh, said that union representatives would hold talks with Irish Water management next week.

“At this meeting we will set out the position of our members and depending on the response of the company, and following further consultation, decide on what course of action will be taken.”

Separately the trade union Impact is balloting its members for industrial action at Irish Water on the same issue of potential job losses.

“The local government and local services and municipal employees’ divisions of Impact have commenced a ballot for industrial action at Irish Water, following the announcement by the water utility that it will shed 1,500 jobs as part of its business plan published in October”, an Impact spokesman said.

The union said that only members involved in the direct provision of services to Irish Water, including those who worked in non-domestic water billing and water metering, were being balloted.

Impact national secretary Peter Nolan said the union would extend the ballot to other workers in the local authority sector if it became necessary.

In a letter to Impact members Mr Nolan said the company’s proposals constituted “clear breaches of understandings and agreements, negotiated by the union, that have facilitated the transfer of ownership, control and operation of water and sanitation services from local authorities to Irish Water”.

“The decision of both divisions to ballot members on industrial action is a prudent precautionary step. Industrial action will not take place as long as Irish Water and the local authorities abide by these agreements”, he said.

In a statement, Irish Water said they “noted the outcome of the SIPTU ballot of staff of local authorities that provide services to Irish Water through a Service Level Agreement with local authorities. There has been no breach of the Service Level Agreement.

“Any proposed action by local authority staff must comply with recognised practices and national agreements. There is a meeting of the consultative group next week which will be attended by union representatives, local authority management, DECLG and Irish Water.”

A national DNA database for Irish criminals is now launched


DNA samples will be stored within Forensic Science Ireland at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

A national DNA database has been launched that will see genetic samples kept for all criminals who receive a sentence of five years or more.

The database is launched under the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014, which was enacted today.

Similar databases already exist in the UK and many other European countries.

The genetic samples will be stored within Forensic Science Ireland, currently located at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park.

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has welcomed the launch.

Speaking after its commencement, Mr Shatter said “the DNA database will provide enormous help to the gardaí and will revolutionise the investigation of crime in this State, in particular, homicides, rape and other sexual offences, assaults and burglaries”.

“Based on experience elsewhere, DNA samples can help identify the perpetrators of up to 40% of all burglaries,” he added.

How long more until women are treated as equals?

A report from the World Economic Forum finds that true gender equality is still more than a century away?


There’s a name for why we give too much weight to the opinions of others? 

In 2006, the World Economic Forum developed the Global Gender Index—a means of measuring a country’s gender disparities for health outcomes and educational, political, and economic opportunities. After collecting a decade of data, the Forum has released a progress report on global gender equality—or rather, inequality, given that a gender gap remains in every single one of the 145 countries included in the report.

Globally, the disparity in health outcomes—a catch-all term for sex ratio and life expectancy—between men and women is 96 percent closed, and the gap in educational attainment is 95 percent closed. But the inequality in indices of political empowerment (measured by the ratio of men to women in high-level decision-making positions) and economic participation and opportunities (the number of women in the labor force and in high-level positions therein) remains wide. Just 59 percent of the economic gap and less than a quarter of the political gap has been closed.

A gender gap remains in every single one of the 145 countries included in the report.

That is not to say no progress has been made: Twenty-five countries fully closed the gap in educational attainment, 40 closed the gap in health outcomes, and a full 10 have closed the gap in both. But no country has fully closed the economic or political gaps. Pushback from men in the workplace may partly explain why it has proven more difficult for women to gain an equal number of spots in the highest-ranking positions of the labor force. Alana Massey reported for Pacific Standard earlier this year on several studies that found even men who outwardly support gender equality were inwardly threatened by female leadership:

A study published earlier this month in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that, across three separate experiments, even men ostensibly committed to gender equality in the workplace often feel threatened by female bosses and act accordingly. In a simulation of salary negotiation from a starting offer of $28,500, male participants dealing with a male manager counter-offered a mean figure of $42,870. In contrast, men dealing with a female manager counter-offered a mean figure of $49,400. Because it was unlikely that participants would admit to feeling threatened by a female manager, all participants took part in an assessment wherein words flashed on a screen for under a second and then reported on the words they saw. Men dealing with female managers were more likely to see words like “risk” and “fear” than those who dealt with male managers. “We found that men exhibited higher implicit threat, indicating that even if committed to equality in theory, they felt threatened by a female manager,” says Leah Sheppard, a co-author of the study.

There are innumerable reasons why closing the gender gap should be a top priority around the globe. Among them, a study covered by Tom Jacobs that found the countries with the most gender equality won more medals at the 2012 Summer and 2014 Winter Olympics, indicating that “equal rights for women may also boost the competitive prospects of men,” he wrote.

At the current rate of progress, however, it will be another 118 years before the gender gap is closed. At least my great-great-granddaughters will have something to look forward to.


IRELAND is ranked fifth in EQUAL PAY SURVEY

According to the latest survey, the world has seen only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace over the past nine years     

In a report commissioned by the World Economic Forumit was revealed that Ireland has placed 5th out of 145 countries surveyed in terms of wage equality between men and women. 

The report stated that: ‘No country in the world has achieved gender equality. The highest ranked countries—Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland —have closed over 80% of their gender gaps, while the lowest ranked country—Yemen—has closed a little less than half of its gender gap.’

It was also noted in the report that women are now being paid the equivalent of what their male counterparts were being paid 10 years ago, essentially meaning women are a DECADE behind men in terms of how much cash they make for the same amount of work.

The report called for businesses to make more of a concerted effort to create changes in their companies that would lead to more women employed, in higher leadership positions, and a better work life balance particularly in terms of childcare and maternity leave.

‘Leaders need to take a holistic approach that often leads to fundamental reforms on how to recruit and retain employees; how to mentor and sponsor high-potential women; how to sensitize managers to different leadership styles; how to manage work-life balance policies so that they don’t disadvantage women.’

Shockingly, it’s going to be another ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN YEARS until the gender gap is closed at the current rate we are going.

In some countries such as Iran, progress has stalled completely at 58%, the same figure as 2006. Croatia, Sri Lanka and Mali have also shown disappointing figures.

Have we finally found the ‘happy’ region of our brain?


Happiness is a subjective experience for most of us.

It could be anything from receiving that highly anticipated bonus, to finding love or even listening to Taylor Swift.

But one thing we’ve struggled to figure out is… which part of the brain is responsible for processing our joyous emotions?

Happiness is a subjective experience (Thinkstock)

It seems scientists at Kyoto University may have the answer.

According to their study, overall happiness is “a combination of happy emotions and satisfaction of life coming together in the precuneus – a region in the medial parietal lobe that becomes active when experiencing consciousness.”

But they haven’t been able to identify how the neural mechanism works to facilitate the feelings of happiness.

Scientists say the neural mechanism behind how happiness emerges remains unclear at present

Study leader Wataru Sato believes understanding that mechanism could help scientists quantify the levels of happiness objectively.

Researchers scanned the brains of research participants with MRI.

The volunteers were then asked about how happy they are generally and how satisfied they are with their lives as part of a survey.

The yellow area showing the precuneus region

Results revealed that those who scored higher on the happiness surveys had more grey matter mass in the precuneus.

“Over history, many eminent scholars like Aristotle have contemplated what happiness is,” said Sato.

“I’m very happy that we now know more about what it means to be happy.”

Meditation is associated with increased grey matter in the precuneus (Jillian/Flickr)

So how does it help us. Does this mean we will be able to train ourselves to be happy in future?

“Several studies have shown that meditation increases grey matter mass in the precuneus,” Sato adds.

“This new insight on where happiness happens in the brain will be useful for developing happiness programs based on scientific research.”

“Yes that’s correct” We now have got the first ever photo of a new planet LkCa15  being formed


The first ever photo of a planet being formed has been captured, even though the planet in question is a staggering 450 light-years away from Earth.

Using the world’s largest telescope, the aptly name Large Binocular Telescope, and the University of Arizona’s Magellan Telescope, graduates from the university took a “direct picture” of the forming planet.

LkCa15 is a young star with a protoplanetary disc around it – a disc of dense gas and dust created from the star’s left over materials, which then go on to create planets which will orbit the star. LkCa15′s disc contains a gap, usually created by forming planets. It was this that drew the researchers towards it.

“This is the first time that we’ve imaged a planet that we can say is still forming,” said Stephanie Sallum, a UA graduate student who, with Kate Follette, a former UA graduate student now doing post-doctoral work at Stanford University, led the research.

“No one has successfully and unambiguously detected a forming planet before,” Follette says. “There have always been alternate explanations, but in this case we’ve taken a direct picture, and it’s hard to dispute that.”

To make an already very impressive find even more impressive, of the 2,000 or so known exoplanets in the universe, only 10 have ever been imaged – and they were all fully formed.

“The reason we selected this system is because it’s built around a very young star that has material left over from the star-formation process,” Follette said.

“It’s like a big doughnut. This system is special because it’s one of a handful of discs that has a solar-system size gap in it. And one of the ways to create that gap is to have planets forming in there.”

The two graduates’ advisers verified the findings using Magellan’s adaptive optics system to capture the planet’s “hydrogen alpha” spectral fingerprint – the specific wavelength of light that LkCa15 and its planets emit as they grow.

Cosmic objects are extremely hot as they’re forming and because they’re forming from hydrogen they all glow dark red, which is a particular wavelength of light referred to as H-alpha by scientists.

“That single dark shade of red light is emitted by both the planet and the star as they undergo the same growing process,” Follette said.

“We were able to separate the light of the faint planet from the light of the much brighter star and to see that they were both growing and glowing in this very distinct shade of red.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 20th February 2015

The figure of 76,666 is the exact number of people waiting for hospital treatment right now


A figure of 76,666 the exact number of people waiting for hospital treatment right now,

Waiting list figures released today show there has been a significant increase in the number of people waiting for treatment in hospitals.

Of the 41 acute hospitals, a worrying 33 reported a rise in waiting lists for adults and children.

In total, there are 76,666 patients now waiting for either inpatient, day case or gastrointestinal procedures – up 28% on the figure a year ago.

The data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund shows the majority of people are waiting for inpatient, or day case treatments and this number has risen by more than 16,000 compared to January last year.

Galway University Hospital has the highest number of patients on waiting lists for these procedures.

At the two children’s hospitals – Temple Street and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, there are waiting lists totalling 2,769. Some 888 children who are patients of the hospital in Crumlin have been waiting more than six months for their procedure.

Wrong direction

In response to the figures today, Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he acknowledges that waiting times are “going in the wrong direction”.

“This has been compounded by Emergency Department overcrowding in recent weeks which has caused some operations to be postponed. My plan is to alleviate the overcrowding first in the interests of patient safety, and ramp up hospital activity later in the year to get waiting times down.”

It is a very difficult and deteriorating situation but I can assure you that everyone in Health is working as hard as we can to get on top of things.

The Irish Medical Organisation has claimed the rising numbers on waiting lists will only be countered by a significant investment in hospital capacity and increased beds.

“The cuts in health budgets over successive years have had a direct, negative impact on the quality of services which our system now provides,” commented Professor Trevor Duffy, President of the IMO. “The cuts in the numbers of acute hospital beds, nursing home beds, rehab facilities and in resources for General Practice are all financial cuts and the response has to include providing additional financial resources.”

Can the (non team) left become a unified political force in Ireland?


Too many chiefs, not enough Indians. This could be the biggest problem facing Ireland’s hard left today as it tries to become a force that can really rattle the Leinster House establishment.

The movement is full of strong debaters, powerful protesters and massive egos – who seem to be completely incapable of working as a team.

Following the stunning victory of Syriza in Greece last month, many Irish Marxists dream of pulling off a similar coup here. The trade unions involved in Right2Water have just announced a two-day conference for early May, aimed at forming some kind of left-wing alliance before the next general election.

Earlier this week, Gerry Adams dropped a strong hint that Sinn Fein would be quite happy to lead such an alliance – even though many socialists refuse to see the Shinners as left-wing at all.

There is, however, one nagging difference between Ireland and Greece. Syriza are blessed with a charismatic figurehead in Alexis Tsipras, who rides a motorbike, goes to Panathinaikos soccer matches and looks cool in suits without a tie.

Whatever you think of the new Prime Minister’s economic policies, nobody can deny that the man is a born leader.

To put it politely, if there is an Irish Tsipras then he or she is keeping themselves well hidden.

Our own left-wing luminaries appear to be in their comfort zones when addressing marches through a megaphone, not so much when asked to provide a realistic alternative to the Government.

So who are the leading figures of Ireland’s left today – and which of them are ready to make the leap from protest to power?

Joe Higgins the Socialist Party

The grand-daddy of them all. Higgins is a former trainee priest from Kerry who still preaches socialism like an old Bible-thumper. Once a member of the Labour Party, his Trotskyist Militant group was expelled in 1989 and went on to become the Socialist Party.

Higgins is a witty speaker who enjoys huge credibility within the movement, partly because he once went to Mountjoy Prison for his role in an anti-bin charge campaign. He has a bad relationship with Sinn Fein and does not want them to be involved in any left-wing partnership.

Now 65, he will not fight the next election but has promised to stay active in the socialist struggle.

Clare Daly United Left party

The iron lady. Daly cut her political teeth as a Siptu shop steward in Aer Lingus and was a strong ally of Joe Higgins. However, she fell out with the Socialist Party after failing to call for the resignation of her tax-dodging friend Mick Wallace.

Although the Dublin North TD is tough and articulate, there is a bitter edge to some of her public comments. She once yelled “f**king pigs” at a press photographer, accused the media of “slobbering” over Michelle Obama and called Fine Gael TDs “nodding donkeys” for voting down her abortion bill.

Paul Murphy the Socialist Party

The enfant terrible. Murphy lost his European Parliament seat last May, which turned out to be a blessing as he won the Dublin South West by-election just a few months later.

Since then, the privately educated 31-year-old has made quite an impact – not always in a good way. He was part of the mob that trapped Joan Burton in her car in Jobstown, then claimed, “I was elected to break the law”.

Arrested under controversial circumstances last week, Murphy is a formidable operator but prone to making rash statements.

Richard Boyd Barrett People Before Profit party

The baby face. Boyd Barrett is the birth child of actress Sinead Cusack and clearly inherited some of her speaking skills. He made his name as an anti-Iraq War protester in 2003, becoming a TD for Dun Laoghaire eight years later.

Boyd Barrett often appears more human than some of his colleagues and recently gave a moving Dail speech about having to bury a daughter born with a fatal foetal abnormality. He is also keener than most on building a left alliance, but with little success so far.

Ruth Coppinger the Socialist Party

The loose cannon. A schoolteacher from Mulhuddart, Coppinger is another of Joe Higgins’s proteges. She won last May’s Dublin West by-election after serving eleven years on Fingal County Council.

Coppinger has a melodramatic style and predicted that last December’s anti-water charge protest in Dublin “could sink the Government”, which turned out to be a little optimistic. Last week she caused uproar in the Dail by appearing to call the gardai “dogs”, although she later claimed to be merely quoting Shakespeare.

Brendan Ogle of the Right2Water

The revolutionary. ‘Public enemy number one’ is how Ogle was described back in 2000 when he led a train driver strike that left thousands of commuters stranded. Today he is still a militant trade unionist, a leading Right2Water campaigner and a chief organiser of the left-wing conference planned for May.

His strategy was summed up in a fiery speech he gave to the extreme republican group Eirigi in 2011: “It’s going to require more than marches… burning cars and smashing up buildings. It’s going to require militant industrial action, no holds barred.”

A cynic might say that the Irish left never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Unless these people can change the habits of a lifetime, the movement may be about to miss its biggest opportunity of all.

Michael D Higgins to become a ‘champion’ for women’s rights

President accepts UN invitation to be involved in HeforShe equality campaign


President Michael D Higgins addressing the gender equality conference A Woman’s Place is in the World! Mr Higgins told the conference he had accepted an invitation from the UN to join its HeforShe campaign.

President Michael D Higgins has accepted a United Nationsinvitation to be a global champion for the rights of women and girls.

Addressing a conference in Dublin today to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Beijing Platform for Action on women’s rights, the President said he was to be one of ten world leaders involved in the UN HeforShe campaign, which seeks to engage men in the campaign for gender equality.

The UN Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality was adopted by 189 countries, including Ireland, in Beijing in September 1995. It addresses 12 areas of concern for women globally, including education, work, health and reproductive rights, and violence against women,

The Beijing plan is due to be reviewed next month. Ireland will take part in that review process.

The President said all men should be feminist. Quoting Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Mr Higgins said:

“We should all be feminists. A feminist is a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. A feminist is a man or woman who says, ‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today and we must fix it and we must do better’.”

Mr Higgins said the suppression of the realisation by women of their full potential – whether in education or employment, whether due to violence or sexist thinking – was bad, not only for women, but for men and the whole of society too.

Current economic analyses of society too often reinforce the oppression of women, as they treat women as “invisible”. Mr Higgins said these views must be challenged.

‘Expression of solidarity’

Mr Higgins said: “As an expression of solidarity and in a spirit of a commitment to women’s rights, I am pleased to tell you that I have accepted the invitation of UN Under-Secretary General and executive director of UN Women, [Phumzile] Mlambo-Ngcuka, to become one of the group of ten champion world leaders for the UN HeforShe campaign.”

Mr Higgins described the HeforShe campaign as a “solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half . . . a global effort that aims to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent the other half of humanity from achieving their potential.”

Mr Higgins said we had reached a point where all issues affecting the rights of women were open for discussion: “There is much to be done to achieve real equality and there are so many areas where real respect for the rights of women remains an aspiration rather than a reality.

“The realisation of those rights is one of the great ethical challenges of our age – for women and for men who share an ethical commitment to equality and universal respect for rights.”

The conference in Dublin Castle is hosted by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and by the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

Women’s top ten life regrets revealed


Ending up with the wrong person and failing to shift the pounds are some of the biggest regrets experienced by women throughout life a new study has revealed.

Research found that many women regret not pushing themselves further educationally and a large proportion are disappointed that they didn’t travel enough before embarking on their careers.

The study polled over 1000 women and found that although one in ten would do things differently, 75% believe that life experience has built character.

The research, conducted by Diet Coke, found that 20% of women wish they had been a better daughter while one in ten felt that they could have been a better mother.

The survey also found that 7% of women regret not having had an affair at some point in their lives, while 5% believe they did not marry or settle down soon enough.

One in five women also felt they were not spontaneous enough, while 21% regretted not spending the night with someone they shouldn’t have.

The top ten life regrets experienced by women

Not trying hard enough (34%)

 Not losing weight on a diet (34%)

Choosing the wrong career path (32%)

Not getting on the property ladder (22%)

Spending the night with someone they shouldn’t have (21%)

Not being spontaneous enough (20%)

Not being a good enough friend (20%)

Not being a better daughter (18%)

Not travelling before starting a family (13%)

Not having children (11%)

Not being a better mum (10%)

Texting someone they shouldn’t have after a night out (9%)

Not having a dream wedding (8%)

Having an affair (7%)

Getting married/settling down (5%)

Focusing too much on my career (4%)

IAA investigation after claim that a drogue hit a building in Roscommon


The Irish Aviation Authority has confirmed it’s investigating a claim that a piece of survey equipment from a small plane struck a building in Co Roscommon early today.

The IAA received a call from Gardaí reporting that an object being towed by a low flying aircraft struck the farm building this morning.

While the IAA has confirmed they received a report and are investigating the claim, no apparent damage was found to have been caused to any building at the property.

The authority has confirmed that it received a report from gardaí about an aircraft towing a drogue allegedly striking a farm building.

It’s known that there were two small Cessna aircraft undertaking a survey in the area at the time.

The planes have been flying low over the landscape, about 90 metres (295 feet) above the ground, in recent months collecting information about the physical properties of soils and rocks underground.

The low level airborne and ground based survey is being carried out mostly in the Roscommon, Longford and Westmeath areas but also in adjacent areas of Mayo, Galway, Offaly, Kildare, and Meath.

“The event is being examined by the IAA to establish the full facts,” the IAA has said.

Scientists invent ‘anti-ageing’ chocolate called Esthechoc


Experts harnessed the antioxidant which makes a flamingo pink

In good news for gluttons, scientists have developed a chocolate bar which slows the signs of ageing.

By using the antioxidant which keeps flamingos pink, a Cambridge University affiliated lab behind ‘Esthechoc’ claims the chocolate improves the skin’s physiology, and brought skin biomarkers of a 50 to 60-year-old back to the levels of a 20 or 30-year-old.

Clinical trials showed that volunteers who ate the chocolate daily for four weeks had less inflammation in their blood and an increased blood supply to skin tissue, according to scientists.  These affects were thanks to a boost in the level of antioxidants and increased blood circulation, which prevents wrinkles.

As each bar contains 38kcal, the makers believe it is also suitable for diabetics.

But Esthechoc won’t be replacing Dairy Milk bars at your local newsagent anytime soon, with its brochure describing its target audiences as: “elegant, educated and affluent’ city-dwelling women in their 30s, and businessmen “to support their appearance in a stressful environment and on their business travels.”

The product, which is also called Cambridge Beauty Chocolate, will hit shelves at upmarket retailers from next month. The makers have not yet revealed its likely hefty pricetag.

However, other academics are less convinced by the chocolate’s powers.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 1st February 2015

Some 20,000 march in Dublin anti-water protest as a man is arrested & charged


Thousands march in protests across the country ahead of Irish Water deadline.

Saturday’s water charges demonstration has brought parts of Dublin to a standstill as protesters converge on the GPO.

A man arrested and charged following an anti-water charge protest in Dublin yesterday afternoon has been released.

The arrest occurred after a group of several hundred anti-water charge protesters broke away from a peaceful march in central Dublin and sought to gain entry to Leinster House.

The man in his 40s was questioned at Irishtown Garda station. He is due in court on February 26th. This was the only arrest during more than 20 anti-water charge protests around the country on Saturday, including events inCork, Limerick, Galway, Sligo and Waterford.

The demonstration in Dublin caused disruptions and led to traffic diversions around O’Connell Street and the Liffey quays as buses and Luas traffic were curtailed and roads closed to traffic.

There were reports of a flare being fired and some pushing and shoving in Dublin, but gardaí outside Leinster House said they were happy with how the demonstration proceeded.

“There was a feeble attempt to pull open the gates but there was no great assault on the place. There was a flare but there was no major incident,” a source said.

According to Garda sources, a man with a camera who had climbed on top of the Dáil gates for a panoramic view of the demonstration slipped and fell inside the railings but was not believed to have been badly hurt.

Estimates of the number of protesters vary, with organisers of the Dublin protests claiming around 20,000 people attended, while Gardaí at the scene said the number was less than half that. The Garda press office declined to give an estimate.

Protesters had assembled at various locations around Dublin city including Christ Church Cathedral, Rialto and Connolly and Heuston stations, before marching along the quays and converging on O’Connell Street from 3pm.

The crowds were addressed by various non-political anti-water charges activists, including one young man who reiterated claims made by Derek Byrne of the Dublin Says No campaign group that President Michael D Higgins was a “parasite”, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the rest of the political establishment.

Several protesters sported “Je suis Derek” signs, with Greek flags also in evidence following anti-austerity party Syriza’s election victory last weekend.

It was one of a number of protests which took place across the country yesterday.

In Cork, an estimated crowd of about 3,500 took to the streets, and similar demonstrations were held in Galway, Waterford and Sligo among other locations.

Protesters unfurled a 2.5 metre flag saying “We won’t pay” above the 13th century King John’s Castle during a march which was held in Limerick earlier.

Local groups

The marches were organised by local groups, as opposed to last December’s gathering outside Government buildings which was overseen by the Right2Water central organising committee and political parties such as the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit.

“I think it’s about the people, there shouldn’t be any political element,” said Siobhán Andrews (44) from Raheny who took part in the Dublin march.

“We’re not sure how we feel about politicians, because we’ve been let down by them a lot . . . Some of them have been supportive but, then again, we don’t know who to trust. If Sinn Féin or whoever gets in, how do we know they’re going to fix the problems?,” she added.

Arklow native Freddie Trevaskis Hoskin disagreed that a chasm is opening up between anti-Government politicians and grassroots protest movements.

“I think that’s a bit of a false dichotomy. I think people are out on the streets on a political issue, on an issue that affects them,” said 21-year-old Trevaskis Hoskin.

“It might not be a politics with a capital P, it might not be high political theory, but it’s actual, on-the-ground politics, which is far more important,” he added.

Following today’s marches, another major protest is being planned for Dublin in March.

‘People are angry’

Meanwhile, Derek Byrne, the water protester who sparked controversy with his verbal assault on President Michael D Higgins, has refused to retract his description of the head of State being a “parasite”.

Mr. Byrne, who took part in today’s protest in Dublin, said: “The people are angry and the people have every right to be angry in this country because the people of this country have been sold out by the so called political leaders,” he told RTÉ radio.

However, he refused to express any contrition for his abuse of the President at a recent protest which saw a visibly angry crowd lock horns with gardaí after his entourage had left.

“As I said, it was regrettable that he was called a ‘midget’,” Mr Byrne said of his own language.

“But I stand by everything else because at the end of the day President Higgins was a man I voted for and was someone that was very outspoken on human rights issues. We have a very serious human rights issue going on in this country at this moment in time and President Higgins has not spoken out for the people.”

The Right2Water campaign, which spearheaded the mass rally in Dublin late last year attended by more than 100,000 people, had urged members of the public to attend the latest protests. However, it distanced itself from the organiser’s.

In a statement, the campaign said: “The campaign against these unjust water charges continues. Last year, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets all over the country, and wrung significant concessions from the Government. “But as we said at the time – people marched for abolition, not concessions.”

Varadkar considers legal means to reduce cost of medicines


Ireland pays more for its medicines that other European countries

A spokesperson for the Minister for Health has said he may have to consider using existing legislation to achieve savings in the cost of medicines.

It follows reports in the Sunday Business Post that Leo Varadkar was considering using legislative powers to impose a price cut on pharmaceutical firms.

The newspaper carried out a sample survey of a number of prescription drugs, which found Ireland was paying more for its medicines than other European countries.

The minister’s spokesperson said Mr Varadkar was determined that the State would have the funds to ensure patient access to effective new therapies, and that to do this, savings must be achieved in the existing cost of medicines.
The spokesperson said the minister was keen to do this in cooperation with the industry.

However, the spokesperson said should this not prove possible, all alternatives, including the use of provisions of existing legislation, would have to be considered.

Discussions on a mid-term review of a pricing agreement between the Government and the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association, which represents the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland, have been taking place since the final quarter of last year.

Responding to news that the minister was willing to consider using legislative powers to impose price cuts, the IPHA said its members companies had played a major role in assisting the Government in controlling health expenditure.

In a statement, the IPHA said ten separate price reductions had been provided by its member companies in the past seven years, and that savings of €800 million had been delivered between 2006 and 2012.

The IPHA said a further €400 million in savings was set to be delivered under the current supply agreement this year.

It also said these price cuts had occurred in the context of a big increase in medical cards.

Not bad looking woman has worst attendance record in Dail


Valerie O’Reilly absent for 37% of meetings in 2014

Valerie O’Reilly, who was described as ‘not bad looking’ by Michael Lowry TD.

Valerie O’Reilly, the “not bad looking” woman at the centre of the Michael Lowry Dail note scandal, had the worst attendance record last year on the State board she is seeking to be re-appointed to.

Ms O’Reilly, Mr Lowry’s former press adviser, received at least €55,000 in fees over five years from the National Transport Authority board to which the controversial TD lobbied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have her re-appointed.

But the Sunday Independent has discovered that Ms O’Reilly was absent for three of the eight disclosed board meetings in 2014, or 37pc.

No other board member missed as many meetings in 2014 as Ms O’Reilly, who had a far better attendance record in 2013 and 2012. In both years, she missed two out of 12 meetings, or 16pc.

Last week the Sunday Independent revealed how Mr Lowry passed a note to Mr Kenny in the Dail seeking to have Ms O’Reilly re-appopinted to the board of the NTA, ending the note saying: “She’s not bad looking either!”

The note, published by the Sunday Independent, said: “Taoiseach, would you please consider reappointing Valerie O’Reilly to the board of the NTA. A woman, bright intelligent and not bad looking either! Michael Lowry.”

Speaking in the wake of the controversy, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe insisted that the only basis upon which Ms O’Reilly’s request to be re-appointed will be considered based on merit.

Ms O’Reilly, managing director of Unicorn PR, turned down several requests for comment on the controversy from the Sunday Independent.

Despite Government statements that all appointments to state boards are done through the public appointments system, it has emerged that the rules allow ministers scope to appointments “other than strictly in accordance with the process”.

Guidelines issued by Minister Brendan Howlin’s department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) state there are a number of specific exceptions to the rules permissible. Mr Lowry declined to comment on the ongoing controversy when contacted by the Sunday Independent this weekend.

But he has caused some tension within the Government by suggesting the note was given to the Sunday Independent by a Labour member of the coalition.

He said that the note was passed on with the “full knowledge” of Environment Minister Alan Kelly, his constituency rival. Mr Kelly has strongly denied he had anything to do with the note’s surfacing.

However, considerable efforts have been taken to reveal the identity of the person who picked up the note from the Government benches.

Ms O’Reilly has been sitting on the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA) – where members get €11,970 a year in fees – for almost five years. Mr Lowry’s comments on Ms O’Reilly’s “not bad looking” appearance has sparked anger among his female colleagues in the Dáil.

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said she was concerned that such a “shallow view” of women still existed in Irish politics. “Handing a note over in the chamber is very peculiar and the contents, I think, didn’t do her justice,” Ms Corcoran Kennedy told the Irish Independent.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy questioned why Mr Lowry felt it was an appropriate way to lobby the Taoiseach.

“I wonder what type of a relationship he has with the Taoiseach that he can send that type of note,” Ms Murphy said.

“I think it’s done her a serious disservice and you think these type of things are over and then they crop up again.”

Former Fine Gael minister Lucinda Creighton said she believes the exchange between the Taoiseach and Michael Lowry was proof that the “nod and a wink” culture was an “attitude that still persists” throughout Government.

Ms O’Reilly has been running her business, Unicorn Public Relations, for more than a decade and clients include Clerys department store in Dublin and the Irish Heart Foundation.

Before setting up her own company, she worked with Chris Roche Publicity, where she handled various accounts including for Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.

Mr Lowry is currently facing High Court action over alleged unpaid taxes to the Revenue Commissioner.

Mr Lowry personally approached Mr Donohoe about the reappointment of his former press adviser to a State board. Mr Lowry pulled Mr Donohoe aside outside the Seanad chamber last Wednesday week and informed him “out of courtesy” that he intended to “pass a note to the Taoiseach” seeking the re-appointment of Valerie O’Reilly to the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Later in the Dail, the former minister handed the note to an usher who proceeded to pass it on to Enda Kenny.

NUIG appoints a leading woman as head of equality task force


A university forced to pay a lecturer €70,000 for failing to promote her because she was a woman has appointed a leading female academic to help shape its gender equality policies.

NUI Galway has asked Professor Jane Grimson of Trinity College Dublin to head up a new gender equality task force with a remit to help prevent future gender discrimination cases.

Prof Grimson, a computer engineer with a strong commitment to promoting the involvement of women in engineering and technology, is a former Dean of Engineering at TCD and helped establish that college’s Centre for Women in Science and Engineering.

President of NUI Galway Dr Jim Browne said the appointment was sanctioned by the college’s governing authority, which had stressed the need for an external, independent chairperson.

“We fully acknowledge the issues here for NUI Galway and are committed to addressing them. This appointment marks a milestone for the university in tackling gender equality.”

The move to set up a task force followed a ruling by the Equality Tribunal late last year which found in favour of a claim by now retired botany lecturer Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington that she had been unfairly overlooked for promotion for 20 years.

In addition to requiring that Dr Sheehy Skeffington be retrospectively promoted and compensated financially, the tribunal also made strong criticisms about the university’s promotions record and interview process.

Five other female academics who also applied unsuccessfully for promotions in 2009 announced they would be taking legal action against the university and Dr Sheehy Skeffington has donated her compensation payment to help fund their case.

Members of the university’s governing authority were greeted by a student demonstration as they gathered for their meeting yesterday. The students are calling for Dr Sheehy Skeffington’s five colleagues to be automatically promoted.

Rare protected bird shot dead in Kerry


Rare protected bird shot dead in Kerry

An investigation has been launched by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, after the young female hen harrier was discoveredThe Gardaí are also investigating the incident.

A protected species

Killing a hen harrier is an offence under the Wildlife Act, as the birds are listed as a protected species. The penalties include significant fines and/or imprisonment.

The bird had been followed by thousands of people online as part of a satellite tracking project run by the NPWS and local community group IRD Duhallow.

Dr. Barry O’Donoghue of the NPWS, who oversaw the satellite tracking project, said it gave people an insight into the life of this bird and her progress.

He said the tracking system showed that the bird visited Meath, Louth, Monaghan and Armagh and rested by the shores of Lough Neagh, before making a long distance journey all the way to the Atlantic cliffs of South County Cork.

The bird stayed there for most of her first winter with a number of other harriers. From these older birds, she would have learned of good hunting places and safe places to spend each night.

In late 2014 she returned to South Kerry, back to the very site where she was born. It seems likely that she might have returned to breed there this summer, but unfortunately her life has been cut short.

A survey of breeding hen harrier reported that 128 to 172 breeding pairs were recorded in 2010. However, the breed has been in decline in recent years due to hill farming, coupled with an increase in forestry.

News IRELAND daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 29th January 2015

Thousands lose power across Donegal as strong winds hit the Northwest of Ireland.


 Met Eireann has issued an orange wind weather warning for Donegal with conditions set to worsen overnight.

Gusts are expected to reach up to 110kmph in Co Donegal tonight Thursday, while temperatures will also drop, which will bring some wintry showers.

A spell of rain and sleet will move down across the country from the northwest early tonight, falling as snow in parts of Ulster and Leinster.

Gardaí are advising motorists to take caution on the roads. Meanwhile thousands of homes and businesses lost power in Co Donegal.

Power was lost on Arranmore Island with over 500 affected. The ESB hopes to have the outage resolved by 00.45 on Friday. A further 37 were affected in Dungloe.

1246 homes and businesses lost power in Kilcar with service due  back at 00.45

302 lost power in Milford with the ESB predicting service to be returned by 11pm. Stranorlar was also affected, 550 without electricity, power is expected to be returned by 22.45.

96 lost power in Bundoran.

A number of homes and businesses also lost power in Ballyshannon, Kilcar and on Inch island..

Teachers’ group calls for equality review at NUI Galway


Right picture the teachers who brought Legal proceedings against NUIG: Adrienne Gorman, Sylvie Lannergrand, Roisin Healey, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington,

Female academics have filed action against university over failure to be promoted.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has added its voice to demands for an independent external review of gender equality in NUI Galway (NUIG).

The Irish Federation of University Teachers has added its voice to demands for an independent external review of gender equality in NUI Galway (NUIG).

The federation issued its call ahead of today’s special meeting of NUIG’s governing body on Friday, at which details of a taskforce to review practices on equality are expected to be discussed.

However, a group of female academics, who have filed a legal action against NUIG over their failure to be promoted, have contacted governing body members to express their disappointment at the issue not being resolved internally.

The women, shortlisted for senior lectureships in 2008/2009 and again in 2013/14, had understood the university intended to try and reach an “amicable” solution.

Recent correspondence between them and the university indicates that it intends to pursue a legal route, according to college sources. The group met NUIG president Dr Jim Browne on December 16th last, when they informed him they had were under a deadline to file a circuit course case in relation to the 2013/2014 round.

It is understood that they made it clear that they would put a stay on the court proceedings, pending a promised senior counsel review on NUIG’s behalf of the Equality Tribunal report on the Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington case.

The tribunal found in favour of Dr Sheehy Skeffington and directed that she be promoted and awarded €70,000. She has pledged to use the funds to assist the women in their legal action.

Separately, the university is appealing an €81,000 award which the Equality Tribunal directed that it pay lecturer Mary Dempsey last summer, after it found that she was discriminated against by the university on the grounds of gender, family status and disability.

A protest organised by students with Dr Sheehy Skeffington’s support is due to take place outside the governing body meeting, while federation members are also gathering to discuss ways to ensure that gender equality issues are “highlighted in collective bargaining and industrial relations talks and initiatives generally”.

“NUIG’s proposal to establish a task force on the matter is welcome, but task force membership should be agreed jointly with staff unions and engage directly with staff, to ensure full confidence in, and maximum effectiveness of the process,” IFUT deputy general secretary Joan Donegan said.

“The board of NUIG should set clear time deadlines for completion, which should be agreed at the beginning of the investigation.”

Earlier this month, NUIG said it had written to the Irish University Association and the Higher Education Authority to request that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) be approached to carry out an equality review of the entire sector. It had no comment to make on the issue on Thursday.

Almost 2,000 elective Irish Hospital procedures are cancelled


Close to 2,000 elective procedures have been cancelled in order to ease pressure on Emergency Departments (EDs) — a move described as “necessary” by Minister for Health Dr Leo Varadkar, who stressed that “patient safety comes first”.

“Given the level of overcrowding in some of the Irish hospitals, most of which had to be done. Elective activity is always less in January. We will need to ramp up activity: generally wards are closed during the summer. That won’t be possible this year. We will need to keep wards open, in order to catch up on elective activity,” he said.

Some 150 people were on trolleys for more than nine hours on January 23, which was still “pretty bad, even for January”, the Minister added. “We need to focus on this. It will need constant attention throughout the year.” However, he indicated that the latest numbers on influenza, which the health service had been very concerned about, did not suggest infections were increasing.

The intention was to extend Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) opening times this year to seven days per week, the Minister elaborated. AMAUs, he said, “work well and are being rolled out across the country”.

Most AMAUs are now only open five days per week and Prof Garry Courtney, the HSE’s Acute Medicine Programme Clinical Lead, is to direct the roll-out. Kilkenny and St James’s pioneered AMAUs — units where patients may be sent in directly by the GP or come in through the ED. They are sent to a special ward, where all the investigations are done in one day. The patient can then either be admitted or discharged.

The target is to reduce delayed discharges to fewer than 500 by the end of the year, Dr Varadkar has stated. “That would be the lowest ever recorded,” said the Minister. Delayed discharges are now down from 850 to near 750. He accepted that there would always be a certain number of delayed discharges — those who are in hospital and going through the application process for a nursing home.

But delayed discharges were “not really the hospitals’ fault”, the Minister said. The problem was a matter for social care and community and how these elements linked, said Dr Varadkar. “The Irish health service is not good at mainstreaming ‘best practice’ and that is a big challenge. St James’s has a reputation as an extremely well run hospital. It rarely has patients on trolleys.”

Patients on trolleys should not be a “year-round phenomenon” — as occurs in some hospitals  though there would always be surges, in the Minister’s view. Yet no patient should ever have to spend more than nine hours on a trolley waiting for a bed. “Aside from the discomfort, loss of privacy and dignity, it is a patient safety risk particularly for the frail elderly,” Dr Varadkar added.

“Even though the situation is much improved, we are, of course, not out of the woods yet and looking back at previous years we have seen peaks in trolleys and overcrowding at various points in the year, including February 2011, March 2012 and May 2013,” said Dr Varadkar during Oireachtas Private Members business. “It is clear that a sustained focus will be required throughout the winter and into the summer.”

The future of internet big data could be good for your health


Exploiting today’s information mountain is not all about online commerce: one of Europe’s largest analytics centres is advancing the area of ‘connected health

The Internet of Things is attempting to join together your television, car, computer and just about anything else that can generate or use data.

The world is in data overload. The information superhighway was built and we are now struggling to handle the big data mountain that it delivered.

But what started as a problem has now become an opportunity. Researchers and companies have realised that if you mine that data, you get useful information with an inherent value.

Finding novel ways to exploit this morass of big data is the challenge faced by the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. The centre, established in July 2013, was formed from five existing research centres that were set up several years ago.

Through a combination of good people, good planning and a degree of good luck, these five were all working on different aspects of big data, explains Prof Mark Ferguson, director-general of Science Foundation Ireland, the body that funded these centres.

So it was an easy decision to pull them together into a single research entity under one banner. Insight includes four university partners: University College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Cork and Dublin City University. It attracted €58 million from Government coffers and another €30 million from industrial partners, making it the largest investment in a single research centre in the history of the State.

We swim through a deepening ocean of data, collected from cinemas, supermarkets, websites, social-media companies and businesses. The Internet of Things is attempting to join together your television, car, computer and just about anything else that can generate or use data.

“There is data everywhere. We have gone from a data-poor to a data-rich society and you need to analyse and create value out of it. It is a huge opportunity,” says Prof Ferguson.

At the Google level

Insight is now one of the largest data analytics centres in Europe. It involves the work of 350 researchers; with a team like that, “we are at the Google level” for data analytics, says Prof Barry Smyth, a director of Insight and investigator based at UCD’s school of computer science and informatics.

“It is not just big data for big companies; it is about empowering the citizen,” he says. “But individuals need to have the right to control the data and how it is used.”

Certainly mining this data helps online retail, advertising and commerce. But big data also holds much promise in “connected health”, he says. “This involves helping people to live healthier lives. This taps into wearable devices, activity monitors. They are counting steps, watching sleep patterns.”

Imagine a visit to the GP who has details from that day but also a year’s worth of stored activity data. The picture changes from a snapshot to a proper portrait and improves the doctor’s assessment.

Dr Brendan Marshall is a biomechanist at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Dublin, a company involved with Insight. He analyses how people move and how that relates to the injuries they develop.

“We can look at injury risk factors and are looking to Insight to analyse our data in novel ways,” he says. He can analyse single aspects of movement, but with data mining and mathematics from Insight he can get the big picture. “It is real-world stuff and it is happening now. It is not just for the future,” he says.

Prof Smyth gives another scenario of how connected health might work. You visit your physiotherapist, who gives you pages describing exercises. But what if, instead, you were given a computer game in which you were the main character, and the movements you make in the game equate to the movements necessary to achieve the goals of the exercises?

For years, scientists at DCU and elsewhere have been tracking movements using wearable sensors, GPS locators and accelerometers. Our rugby internationals are wired up with some of this technology, which also monitors physical performance and radios it back to a central system even as they play.

Mathematics is the tool used to extract useful information from raw data, says Prof Smyth. “We are using statistical techniques, machine learning and data mining. We start with numbers and then begin to see correlations and patterns,” he says. “It can help you make predictions and make better decisions.”

Big data is here to stay. “There were seven billion smart devices in the world last year, but this is expected to reach 14 billion this year,” says Oliver Daniels, chief executive of Insight. “This could hit 150 billion by 2020. There are issues around the privacy and ownership of that data. People are concerned about ‘big brother’ as well as big data,” he says.

Even so, Ireland will have to get ahead of the curve and make predictions about where big data will go in the future, he says. “Insight wants to help shape how we go forward and how our economy will benefit.”

Dementia care in Irish Nursing Homes severely lacking


(right picture) Kathleen Lynch TD Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality & Defence with responsibility for Disability,Older People, …

Almost 90% of nursing homes in Ireland have no dedicated dementia care units, despite the increasing number of people living with this condition, a major new survey has found.

According to a new report based on the survey findings, dementia is currently ‘one of the biggest challenges facing global healthcare and health economies’.

Around 48,000 people in Ireland have dementia and this figure is expected to increase significantly in the coming years,

Yet little information on the state of dementia care nationally is available. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) decided to survey the country’s nursing homes to see what dementia services they offered.

Just over 600 nursing homes were approached to take part and almost eight in 10 participated. However among these, just 54 (11%) stated that they offered dementia-specific care in specialist care units (SCUs). In other countries such as Norway and the Netherlands, some 33% of nursing homes offer this type of care.

The survey also revealed that SCUs have developed in ‘an arbitrary, fragmented and uncoordinated manner’, with half of all SCUs located in just five counties and some counties, including Sligo, Carlow and Kilkenny, offering no specialist provision at all.

Meanwhile, the average number of residents with dementia living in SCUs was 19, ‘a figure way in excess of best practice norms’.

For people waiting for admission to an SCU, there were big variations depending on the location, with waiting times particularly long in Leinster where there are far fewer SCUs.

The survey also found that over 60% of specialist dementia services were provided by private nursing homes, yet the private sector received significantly less funding for the care of older people from the National Treatment and Purchase Fund.

Furthermore, private nursing homes were more likely to report that all staff had received specialist dementia training. In HSE-operated facilities, just one-third of staff were specially trained.

The report stated that ‘a new funding model is required if the private sector is to be further incentivised, with more funding allocated to private nursing homes in recognition of the specialist services needed to support people with dementia’.

“Of some concern is the fact that only 11% of all the Irish facilities surveyed have dedicated dementia units and, despite an expected increase in demand for long-term dementia care arising as a result of population ageing, only a small minority of Irish nursing homes intend opening dementia units,” said the report’s lead author, Associate Prof Suzanne Cahill, of TCD.

Commenting on the findings, Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland, said that this survey should act as an ‘eye-opener’ for the Government and various policy stakeholders.

“We wholeheartedly welcome the research findings that the complex and high-dependency needs of persons with dementia need to be realistically reflected in better resource allocation,” he added.

Megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) discovered by fishermen on the shores of Barangay Marigondon


Fishermen use a stretcher with steels bars to carry a rare 15-foot (4.5-m) megamouth shark (Megachasma Pelagios), which was trapped in a fishermen’s net in Burias Pass in Albay and Masbate provinces, central Philippines January 28, 2015.

A megamouth shark can reach to a maximum length of 17 feet (5.2 metres) with a life span of 100 years. It resides in deep waters but rises towards the surface at night to feed or eat plankton. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Albay province will investigate to determine the cause of the shark’s death.

A 15-foot shark with a gaping mouth washed up on a Philippines beach, giving scientists a rare glimpse at a species normally found deep in the ocean.

The megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) was discovered by fishermen on the shores of Barangay Marigondon earlier this week. Officials with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources later told the Inquirer newspaper that there were wounds on the shark and it was missing a tail. The shark is currently on ice awaiting an examination from veterinarians.

An environmental group called Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines was the first to publicize the discovery, putting photos of the shark on its Facebook page.

The incredibly rare megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) is considered the most significant shark species discovered in the 20th century, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Only about 20 specimens have ever been spotted.

As such, little is known about the shark’s numbers, behavior and where it can be found. The IUCN said it is believed the shark’s range could include waters around Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Senegal and the United States. It has been found in bay waters as shallow as 16 feet and recorded offshore at depths of 15,000 feet.

Nonie Enolva of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources told the Inquirer that the cause of the shark’s death was unknown, and that the bureau plans to stuff the animal and put it on display.