Tag Archives: Former Ministers

News Ireland daily BLOG

Wednesday 10th December 2014

Ray MacSharry seeks Ansbacher dossier from PAC


Ray MacSharry is one of five former politicians named in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald as having been in a dossier of alleged offshore account holders. All five have rejected the claims.

Former Fianna Fáil finance minister Ray MacSharry’s lawyers have written to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) seeking the so-called Ansbacher dossier in which he is named.

Mr MacSharry is one of five former politicians named in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald as having been in a dossier of alleged offshore account holders. All five have rejected the claims.

Contacted by The Irish Times this morning, Mr MacSharry said: “My lawyers are dealing with matters”.

The law firm Arthur Cox, acting for Mr MacSharry, has written to the PAC requesting access to papers given to individual members of the committee.

However, it is understood that the Ansbacher dossier is not considered to be a committee document and therefore the committee is expected to respond that it is not in a position to hand over the dossier.

Mr MacSharry previously described the allegations as “absolutely outrageous” and last week said: “I have never had an Ansbacher account, I never was the beneficiary of one.”

He said he would be consulting his legal representatives to see what recourse he has, both against Gerry Ryan, the whistleblower who submitted the dossier about tax evasion to the Dáil Committee on Public Accounts, and Ms McDonald.

Ms McDonald last Wednesday also named under privilege on the Dáil record former PD leader Des O’Malley, former Fianna Fáil politicians Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Gerard Collins, an ‘S Barrett’, assumed to be former Fianna Fáil TD Sylvie Barrett, and former Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan.

Mr MacSharry’s tough persona while overseeing public spending cuts while Charles Haughey’s minister for finance in the late 1980s earned Ray MacSharry the title “Mack the Knife”.

He became an MEP in 1984, before returning as a TD and minister for finance in 1987 in another Haughey-led government and he was appointed Ireland’s European commissioner in 1988.

Donegal people are most likely to die at home says IHF


A new report commissioned by the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) has found that the chances of dying at home or in hospital are dictated by where you live in Ireland, with those in Donegal nearly twice as likely to die at home than those living in Dublin.

Launched last week (December 4) by Senator Prof John Crown, the report — ‘Enabling More People to Die at Home; Making the Case for Quality Indicators as Drivers for Change on Place of Care and Place of Death in Ireland’ — sets out the case for key quality indicators on place of care and death, and calls for health policy to focus on providing more care in the home and in communities.

Supported by a paper written by social and economic research consultant Dr Kieran McKeown, the report draws on data published by the CSO that shows people living in Donegal are more likely to die at home (34 per cent), followed by Kilkenny and Kerry (33 per cent), Mayo (32 per cent), and Leitrim and Wexford (31 per cent).

Despite findings of a recent national survey showing that 74 per cent of Irish people want to die at home, only 18 per cent of people in Dublin do so, followed next by Sligo (26 per cent), and Roscommon and Galway (26 per cent — the national average).

The report finds that areas with no hospice that deliver specialist palliative care services through home care teams — including the South East, the Midlands and the North East — have a higher proportion of deaths in the usual place of residence (home or long-stay places of care) compared to areas with a hospice.

Irish Hospice Foundation CEO Sharon Foley said that quality indicators on place of care and death would show how well the health services were meeting the deepest wishes of people approaching the end of life. “It may be that those areas without hospices have better developed homecare teams. Other reasons may be at play, such as urban/rural differences in allocation of community supports. But we need to find out.”

She added: “The IHF believes that enabling people to fulfil their wish to die at home is not just a matter of effective health services and flexible, responsive, people-centred systems.

“It is fundamental to the very basis of humanity in an evolved society. Allowing choice and dignity in end-of-life care, and in the experience of dying, is a strong indication of how we care for Irish society as a whole.”

Regional airports get €2M funding boost for core services 


The approved funding brings the total financial support by the Exchequer under the Regional Airports Programme to just under €13 million in 2014

More than €2 million in funding is to be given to regional airports to compensate them for costs incurred in providing core services that cannot be fully recovered.

The approved funding brings the total financial support by the Exchequer under the Regional Airports Programme to just under €13 million in 2014.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said the funding is to cover so-called “subventible losses,” that is costs for services that can’t be recovered from non-core income coming from activities such as restaurants, bars and parking.

Under the Regional Airports Programme, which is due to end this year, financial support has been provided to Kerry, Knock,Waterford and Donegal airports under three main schemes, including the Public Service Obligation Scheme, which provides funding to airlines to operate essential services.

Earlier this month, Mr Donohoe confirmed that regional air services from Donegal and Kerry to Dublin would continue to be subsided under the PSO scheme. Stobart Air, the former Aer Arran, was awarded the contracts to operate the two routes until 2017. It currently runs the Kerry to Dublin-subsidised service while Loganair operates the Donegal route.

The Regional Airports Programme is due to end this year and the Government has submitted a new proposal for a replacement scheme to the EU commission for consideration.

‘The Government’s aim is to give regional airports the opportunity beyond 2014 to grow to a viable, self-sustaining position, particularly considering the contribution that they make to their regional and local economy. As a result, Exchequer support for the four regional airports will be continued beyond 2014,” said Mr Donohoe.

“The decision to continue providing these necessary supports will facilitate the airports in developing and implementing new business plans leading to self-sufficiency within a ten year period. Central to these will be the need for regional and local business investment,” he added.

Irish Men at Risk of Ill Health Because of Diet, Claims Study


Men often have a preference for larger portions, according to the study

A new report launched by safefood has found that Irish men’s food behaviour puts them at a disadvantage health-wise compared with women.

The safefood report, Men’s Food Behaviour, gives an overview of research on men and food behaviour across the island of Ireland and illustrates the need to help change how men interact with food.

The report highlights that men are generally less engaged with food both in terms of food hygiene and healthy eating. It also finds men have less healthy diets, eat more fat and salt, less fruit and vegetables, and tend to see food as fuel.

Men also show greater preference for larger portions of food, are less likely to be aware of healthy eating guidelines and are less likely to regard healthy eating as an important factor influencing their long-term health. And although more men than women are overweight or obese in Ireland, they are less likely to attempt to lose weight or to monitor their diet.

At present, 70% of Irish men are overweight or obese, compared with 50% of women.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said: “When it comes to food skills such as planning, purchasing, shopping, cooking and cleaning, women are more likely to be skilled in this area and still do most of this work. This report identifies how men view themselves and their relationship with food and is of importance for men’s health given their levels of overweight and obesity.”

Report places Ireland 25th in Europe for drink-driving related deaths


Ireland has come in 25th place in Europe for drink-driving related deaths.

One in ten fatal car crashes globally are caused by alcohol, with men more likely than women to drink drive, according to a new report by Allianz.

When it comes to Europe, alcohol-related fatalities are highest in eastern countries, while Italy has the lowest number.

In most countries men are twice as likely to be killed in drink-driving crashes as women and Ireland is no exception.

Almost 20% of fatal accidents involving men are down to alcohol consumption while the figure for women is just 8%.

Fathering offspring is more than just a race to the egg


The chance of a male fathering offspring may not be a simple race to the egg, but is influenced by the length of the male’s sperm, say scientists from the University of Sheffield.

Using a captive population of zebra finches, the researchers carried out sperm competition experiments between pairs of males, where one male consistently produced long sperm and the other male always produced short sperm. These experiments showed that more long sperm reached and fertilised the eggs compared to short sperm. The long sperm advantage was evident even when the short sperm males mated with the females first, and were effectively given a ‘head start’.

The findings demonstrate that in birds, in a competitive scenario, the fertilisation success of a male can be influenced by the length of his sperm. The results also suggest that the final outcome of sperm competition may be partly dependent on the female bird.

Dr Clair Bennison from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said: “We know that in the zebra finch, long sperm swim faster than short sperm, so we might expect longer, faster swimming sperm to simply reach the egg first. However, this reasoning does not explain why long sperm outcompete short sperm in our study. Long sperm win at sperm competition, by fertilising more eggs, even when short sperm are given a head-start.”

Scientists at the University allowed each pair of male zebra finches to mate with a female bird so that the long and short sperm from the males could compete to fertilise the female’s eggs. Female birds store sperm inside their bodies for many days, and this is one way that the females themselves could influence the fertilisation success of the males. It is possible that long sperm are better at reaching and and staying inside these storage areas than short sperm. Long sperm may even be ‘preferred’ by the female, by some unknown process.

Dr Bennison, added: “Our findings are important because they demonstrate for the first time in birds, using a controlled competitive scenario, that sperm length can influence the fertilisation success of a particular male. The results also add to the body of evidence suggesting that the final outcome of sperm competition may be partly dependent on the female, and that the chance of a male siring offspring may not be an outcome of a simple ‘race to the egg’.”

Scientists believe that a better understanding of how sperm length influences fertilisation success in non-human animals such as the zebra finch may point us in new directions for investigation in human fertility research.

Researchers now plan to investigate if sperm storage duration in female birds varies according to the length of the male’s sperm, and the possible mechanisms responsible for this.

News Ireland daily BLOG update

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

Five various former politicians deny offshore accounts claims


The names of former politicians investigated for alleged tax evasion read into Dáil record

Names in a dossier of former politicians who allegedly held offshore accounts have been read into the Dál record by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Former European commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former Progressive Democrat and Fianna Fáil minister Des O’Malley, former Fianna Fáil ministers Ray MacSharry and Gerard Collins, and former Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan have all denied ever having Ansbacher accounts.

M/s McDonald today read the names of Mr O’Malley, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry, Mr Collins, “an S Barrett’’, Mr Ryan as well as “others” whom she did not identify into the Dáil record as allegedly having held offshore accounts.

She said they featured in a dossier compiled by a public servant who investigated tax evasion claims as part of his work in the Department of Enterprise.

Ms McDonald said it was not a case of her making allegations, “and I emphasise these are allegations’, but they had come from a very credible source.

Ansbacher accounts were funds lodged inIreland by the Cayman Islands bank, Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd. They were at the core of an unauthorised financial service run in secret by the late Des Traynor. They allowed account-holders to lodge money with Guinness Mahon Bank in College Green which was then held offshore. The money would be accessed through Mr Traynor in Dublin. They ran from 1971 and the Irish operation was finally wound up in the mid-1990s.

Mr MacSharry, a former minister for finance, described the allegations as “absolutely outrageous”.

“I have never had an Ansbacher account, I was never was the beneficiary of one,” he said, adding he never had a Guinness and Mahon account either.

Mr MacSharry said he would be consulting his legal representatives to see what recourse he has, both against Gerry Ryan, the whistleblower, as well as Ms McDonald to see whether they “have the protection” they think they have.

“None of these wildcats should be able to sully my good name,” he said.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, a former Fianna Fáil minister, said in a statement: “I have never had an Ansbacher account. Neither have I had an account with Guinness Mahon Bank”.

In a statement, Mr Collins, a former Fianna Fail minister for justice, said: “I have never had or held an Ansbacher Account or Guinness and Mahon Bank Account and I would welcome any investigation into this matter.”

Mr Ryan, a former finance minister, told RTÉ he “emphatically denied” ever having an Ansbacher account or an account with Guinness and Mahon. He said he was “a total stranger” to the allegations.

Mr O’Malley said the reason for his being on the list was because he had “a particular form of account with Guinness Mahon Bank” which at the time was viewed as “a perfectly respectable bank”.

“The list, and allegations of tax evasion have been extensively investigated already by the Revenue Commissioners, the Gardai and the Moriarty Tribunal several years ago. Despite this it is being raised again,” he said in a statement.

Mr O’Malley said that on his appointment as minister for industry and commerce in 1977 he was aware that he had a share in some of the companies he would be dealing with.

“In order to avoid a conflict of interest and allegations of acting in my capacity as Minister for personal benefit, I followed a practice that is standard in other countries and put my assets into a blind trust. I was advised at the time that Guinness Mahon Bank had experience of operating such trusts,” he said.

Mr O’Malley said the nature of such a trust was for the owner of the assets in trust giving power of attorney for control of his relevant assets to trustees and that as the beneficiary he had no knowledge of the stocks and shares bought on his behalf.

“I received dividends annually through Guinness Mahon Bank and I paid tax on these in Ireland,” he added. “My tax affairs remain in full compliance with the Revenue Commissioners. I have never availed of a tax amnesty and indeed opposed it when the Fianna Fail/Labourgovernment introduced one in 1993.”

He said he had never had any dealings with Mr Traynor or held an Ansbacher account, adding that he believed “that such an account would have been a breach of trust by the bank in its dealings with me”.

Alan Kelly defends the €100m increase in estimated cost of the water meters


Sinn Féin Brian Stanley queries jump from €431m to €539m in cost and why the costs have increased

The initial estimated cost of €431 million for water metering was based on the best available information at the time, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly told the Dáil.

He was replying to Sinn Féin spokesman Brian Stanley, who asked why the cost had increased to €539 million.

Mr Kelly said the initial estimate was based on data relating to non-domestic usage.

“It is not entirely accurate to suggest there was a big jump from €431 million to €539 million in a short period. While that figure was cited a number of times in the months prior to completion of the tendering process, it was the last estimate available.’’

Mr Stanley said the estimated cost of installing meters had increased by 20 per cent. That represented a huge proportion of the taxpayer and public money that had been soaked up thus far by Irish Water for the metering programme. “I must assume that the consultants who came up with this estimate were the same people who were paid €85 million last year. There is considerable anger about that.’’

He said a survey by local authorities, which would have been more accurate, came up with a figure of €539 million.

He asked whether Mr Kelly found it “unusual’’ that the figure happened to correspond with the estimated cost of the contracts for installing the meters arrived at six months earlier. Mr Kelly repeated that the initial figure was an estimate arrived at a long time before the tendering process.

Green vegetables are always good for the heart


Researchers confirm that green vegetables are good for the heart.

UK researchers have found that eating green vegetables may help the heart pump more efficiently.

Scientists say eating nitrate-rich leafy green vegetables will help protect against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Eating up your greens may help the heart pump more efficiently and reduce the risk of obesity and heart attacks, UK research has recently shown.

Scientists say nitrate, found in leafy green vegetables, prevents the blood thickening, improves circulation, and protects against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Nitrate can also help blood vessels to widen and change harmful white fat cells into brown calorie-burning fat cells that may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Andrew Murray, from Cambridge University, says they have shown that nitrate from the diet can help regulate the delivery of oxygen to cells and tissues and its use, matching oxygen supply and demand.

“This ensures cells and tissues in the body have enough oxygen to function without needing to over produce red blood cells, which can make the blood too thick and compromise health,” Murray said.

“Lowering the blood’s thickness without compromising oxygen delivery may also help prevent blood clots, reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.”

The team, whose findings are published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, found that eating more nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach reduces levels of a hormone made in the liver that helps control blood thickness.

Co-author Professor Martin Feelisch, from the University of Southampton, says the findings suggest simple dietary changes may offer treatments for people suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases that cause too many red blood cells to be produced.

“It is also exciting as it may have broader implications in sport science, and could aid recovery of patients in intensive care by helping us understand how oxygen can be delivered to our cells more efficiently.”

Two other papers published in The Journal of Physiology, and Diabetes, showed how consuming nitrate promoted blood vessel dilation and the conversion of white fat cells into the brown version.

All three studies were part-funded by the British Heart Foundation.

‘Why can’t we speak Irish’ say’s Mayo college students?


Mayo students seek answer to the language question.

Language students – Christopher Hunt (left); Paul Flynn and Aaron Hannon

Three students from St Muredach’s College, Ballina – Aaron Hannon, Christopher Hunt and Paul Flynn – have entered a project called, “Why Can’t We Speak Irish?”, for this year’s BT Young Scientist Exhibition. The project aims to find out why the majority of Irish people “do not, and cannot, speak their native language”.

The idea came from the three of them comparing and contrasting their experiences of learning Irish in, for example, Gaeltacht summer colleges. Says Aaron Hannon: “We also found that there were a lot of common beliefs among people about the Irish language which we wished to dispel.”

To that end, the Mayo men have divided their project into five sections: 1) Is there a fear factor in speaking Irish?; 2) Are teaching methods adequate?; 3) What effect do Irish colleges in Gaeltacht areas have?; 4) Is the Irish language just difficult and are we better at learning other languages?; 5) Are we just not bothered? Is it a pride issue?

They are looking for people to complete an online survey to help them answer those questions and complete their project. They need over 1,500 replies for the survey to be accurate. However, says Aaron, it only takes 10 minutes to finish and, he hopes, “It will cast light on the subject and promote the use of our native language”.

The survey is at http://goo.gl/forms/HfIWDWlHCM and the students are also setting up a blog at http://www.whycantwespeakirish.wordpress.com which will also chart their progress.

Kenny visits Panti Bar with friends for Xmas party


Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer, Dr James Reilly and Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael LGBT event in Panti Bar

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dropped into one of the country’s best known gay bars tonight for what was described as a Christmas party.

Mr Kenny was in Panti Bar, run by Miss Panti, the drag queen alter ego of Rory O’Neill.

Mr O’Neill is originally from Ballinrobe in Mr Kenny’s home county of Mayo.

The Taoiseach and Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly attended the Christmas drinks of the Fine Gael Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group.

The group met in Leinster House and then went on to Pantibar.

Young Fine Gael President Dale McDermott said Mr Kenny was in Pantibar for the Fine Gael LGBT Christmas party.

“That’s a first,” he said.

But Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said the “get together” was not a party.

The chairman of Fine Gael LGBT said Mr Kenny dropped in to show his support for the group.

Mr Buttimer said the Taoiseach was recognising their work on the gender recognition bill, the family relationship legislation and the gay marriage referendum.

“It wasn’t a party per se,” he said only his his way of acknowledging the work of the group,” he added.

Tissint meteorite could be proof of life on Mars, study claims


An International team of researchers say they have found evidence of biological activity inside a meteorite that fell to Earth from Mars three years ago — in other words, possible evidence that there was once life on the red planet.

But other scientists are not convinced.

The meteorite in question is the “Tissint” specimen, which famously fell on the Moroccan desert on July 18, 2011.

As the team of researchers — including scientists in China, Japan, Germany, and Switzerland — report in a new paper, chemical, microscopic, and isotope analyses show traces of organic carbon within tiny fissures in the space rock, and that the carbon had to have been deposited before the rock left Mars.

“I’m completely open to the possibility that other studies might contradict our findings,” Dr. Philippe Gillet, director of the EPFL Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland and a co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. “However, our conclusions are such that they will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity on Mars — at least in the past.”

And contradiction was not long in coming.

As Dr. Marc Fries, a scientist with NASA’s curation office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston who was not involved in the meteorite research, told The Huffington Post: “The research group claims that this carbonaceous material is evidence of past life on Mars. I do not agree, and it is not the current consensus of the scientific community that their claim is valid.”

NASA Finds Dramatic Crater Blast Zone on Mars

Fries said the meteorite could have been contaminated with carbon from terrestrial sources, even if the carbon did come from Mars.

“A biological origin is not the only possible explanation for the carbon found in Tissint,” he said in the email. “Other possibilities include volcanic and/or hydrothermal activity on Mars which could permeate Tissint with carbon-bearing fluids … Regardless of whether this particular meteorite contains evidence of life, the implications are more complicated than any simple yes or no answer to whether there is or was life on Mars.”

The study was published online in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science on November 26, 2014.