Tag Archives: Galway

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 21st August 2016

Ireland needs long-term vision but not higher taxes

Minister says he shares Taoiseach’s vision for a united Ireland


The Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar speaking at the Collins Griffith commemoration at Glasnavin Cemetery,

The Government needs to focus on building a social recovery and politicians should develop a long-term vision for the country, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said.

Delivering the oration at the Collins/Griffith Commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on Sunday, Mr Varadkar said increasing taxation would not be the solution to all of the country’s social deficits.

He said a “functioning tax system should both encourage business and reward individuals as well as providing for those who need protection.

“Increasing general taxation is not the solution to all of our social and problems and infrastructural deficits and increasing it too much creates a problem in itself,” he added.

“Collins recognised that ‘the essence of our struggle was to secure freedom to order our own life’. And that is the vision that should be at the heart of our thinking in the 21st century.

“We need to advance and expand the recovering economy so that more people are free to order their own life; they are free to achieve their ambitions and their dreams.”

The Minister said it is the role of the Government to make that happen and to “provide freedom and opportunity”. Mr Varadkar added: “Without economic freedom and prosperity we cannot have real independence.

“ And without freedom to order our own lives, any improvements in the economy will be meaningless.

“It is a difficult challenge. But it is achievable if we recognise that we need sound economic policies to achieve better living conditions for all our citizens and that social justice and inclusion, in turn, help to build a stronger more sustainable economy.

“A virtuous circle of sorts. Economic gains on their own, without a vision for society to accompany them, will result in a squandered prosperity that will ultimately be unsustainable. We had that during the boom years.

We must ensure that we do not have it again in the recovery years.”

In what is being perceived as a significant speech Mr Varadkar said the Government must build a true enterprise economy, where people are “rewarded for hard-work, innovation and excellence, and are supported, not hindered, by the state in providing for themselves and their families”.

He said a united Ireland can be achieved at some point in the future but not through a border poll. He said he shared “the vision of An Taoiseach that foresees a united Ireland at some point in the future, and I share his belief in how it should be achieved.

“Through respect and consent, by accepting the identity of the minority tradition and honouring their values by finding a special place for them to thrive, not through assimilation or the crude majoritarianism in a border poll,” Mr Varadkar said.

The issue of a border poll, a referendum on the future of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, emerged following the United Kingdom’s vote in June to leave the EU. Speaking at the MacGill summer school in Glenties Co Donegal in July, Mr Kenny departed from his prepared script to raise the prospect of a border poll at some point in the future. However he stressed that the conditions for such a vote did not exist at present, and he did not favour a vote at present.

In Glasnevin on Sunday, Mr Varadkar said: “The only way we will achieve real unity is by respecting the different traditions, identities and values on this island, not by trying to obliterate them.

“It was easy for some to jump on the Brexit result, and use it to make a land-grab for Northern Ireland. And it was counterproductive. Often the people who speak loudest about republican values, are the least when it comes to honouring them. The inclusive vision of Griffith is better than the opportunistic rhetoric of assimilation, and it is the only chance we have of securing lasting peace and achieving genuine unity on this island,” Mr Varadkar added.

The 94th annual commemoration remembered both Michael Collins andArthur Griffith. Collins, who served as minister for finance in the first Dáil in 1919 and who was a member of the Irish negotiating team and a signatory of the Anglo Irish Treaty, was shot dead in an ambush at Béal na mBláth in Cork on August 22nd, 1922. Griffith, founder of Sinn Féin and president of the Dáil from January to August 1922, died 10 days before Collins’s assassination and was buried at Glasnevin.

Bank of Ireland blames Europe for the new charges

Trend for charging firms for large deposits stems from low interest rates since the crash


Richie Boucher, chief executive of Bank of Ireland: the bank said its decision to charge large corporate and institutional customers for deposits is due to the European Central Bank’s decision to levy a negative interest rate of 0.4% on overnight deposits.

Richie Boucher has never been afraid to stand out from the crowd, which might explain Bank of Ireland’s decision to begin charging large corporate and institutional customers for holding deposits with the institution.

From October 10th, a rate of 0.1% will be charged to customers who hold deposits of €10 million or more with the bank or have multiple deposit accounts with it, regardless of the sums involved. It is thought to affect only a small number of customers.

Bank of Ireland has told customers that this is the result of the European Central Bank’s decision earlier this year to levy a negative interest rate of 0.4% on overnight deposits.

It turns out that Ulster Bank has been quietly charging large corporates in the Republic for holding deposits with the bank for some time now. This might have been its parent, Royal Bank of Scotland, testing the waters as it emerged on Friday that the institution plans to charge large corporates in the UK for their deposits from Monday.

And we know that some banks in Germany and other European countries have begun introducing negative interest rates.

This all stems from the ultra-low interest rate environment that we’ve been living with since the global financial crash in late 2008. Many central banks around the world are now charging negative interest rates in the hope of persuading investors and companies to put their money to other uses that might generate them a return and also stimulate economic activity.

It’s also a factor of the banks having ample access to liquidity at a time when lending in Ireland is sluggish. They arguably have too much money in their vaults at a time of muted lending demand.

Nonetheless, Bank of Ireland is setting itself out from AIB, its biggest rival in the Irish market. AIB, which is 99 per cent State owned, is not charging a negative interest rate on its deposits and says it has no plans to do so.

Will those corporates affected by the Bank of Ireland charge switch to AIB? Possibly but a lot will depend on the nature of the business relationship between the bank and the customer. It will certainly encourage them to interrogate their banking arrangements in some detail and possibly rationalise their accounts.

The fear among the business community is that this might be a slippery slope to the banks eventually charging us all for the privilege of housing our deposits with them. This seems unlikely in the case of personal customers, given the political storm that would most likely erupt given that taxpayers bailed out the sector to the tune of €64 billion.

But SMEs might yet find themselves in the firing line if the ECB’s effort to stimulate European economies continues to yield meagre results.

Galway leading the way on recycling


Galway has embraced electronic and electrical waste recycling and leads the way in Ireland.

Galway city and county is embracing the world of recycling by almost doubling the targets set by the EU for electrical and battery waste.

In all, over 1,850 tonnes of electrical waste was collected throughout the county for recycling – adding to Ireland’s growing reputation as a recycling champion.

An average of more than eight electrical items were collected for recycling from every household in the city and county in 2015 – that’s a 17% increase on the previous year.

That 1,850 tonnes works out at an average of 7kg of electrical waste being recycled per person in Galway in 2015, almost double the original EU target of 4kg per head, according to the latest figures from WEEE Ireland released this week.

And approximately 75% of Galway householders are now actively recycling their electrical and battery waste.

Irish consumers are now recycling 15% more than they did four years ago – putting the country on top of the EU table.

Over 250 tonnes of electrical waste came from WEEE Ireland collections days that were held throughout the whole county.

WEEE Ireland collected approximately thirteen million household appliances for recycling in 2015 alone.

Irish retailers account for over half of the waste collected showing a significant increase documented in the twelve-month period from 2014 to 2015.  This means that Ireland has the highest percentage take-back through retailers in the EU.

WEEE Ireland’s report also shows that an equivalent to 28 million AA batteries and three million lamps were collected for recycling during 2015.

“These results are hugely encouraging and show that Irish householders and retailers alike are well ahead of other European countries when it comes to recycling. Ireland can proudly say that more than any other EU country we have taken a lead in this area,” said WEEE Ireland CEO Leo Donovan.

WEEE Ireland also noted a number of recycling challenges. These included the fact that only 25% of small electrical and electronic waste items are being recycled.

Toys, tools, small appliances, energy saving light bulbs and portable batteries are being either hoarded or sent to the landfill, and this is where householders can make a real difference keeping recyclables out of refuse.

New study casts doubt on concept of ‘healthy obesity’


New research has indicated that previous assumptions that it is possible to be obese while remaining otherwise healthy may not be accurate.

The Karolinska Institutet study provided evidence that white fat tissue samples from obese individuals classified as either metabolically healthy or unhealthy showed nearly identical abnormal changes in gene expression in response to insulin stimulation.

Recent estimates suggest that up to 30% of obese individuals are metabolically healthy and therefore may need less vigorous interventions to prevent obesity-related complications. High sensitivity to insulin which promotes the uptake of blood glucose into cells to be used for energy, is considered a hallmark of metabolically healthy obesity.

However, this new research casts fresh doubt on whether any such thing exists, indicating that insulin-sensitive obese people may not be as metabolically healthy as previously believed.

Mikael Ryden of the Karolinska Institutet said: “The findings suggest that vigorous health interventions may be necessary for all obese individuals, even those previously considered to be metabolically healthy.”

Researchers will now examine the outcomes of these patients following bariatric surgery to determine whether weight loss normalises their responses to insulin.

This Bosnian pine tree in Greece is Europe’s oldest known living tree

An ancient Bosnian pine, nicknamed Adonis by researchers, has been dated to about 1,075 years old, making it the oldest known tree living in Europe. 


European history has had one continuous observer for more than a thousand years: a pine tree in Greece.

Dendrochronologists have calculated the tree’s age to be at least 1,075 years old, making it the oldest tree in Europe. This little pine, nicknamed “Adonis,” has seen world wars, a century of revolutions, the Protestant Reformation, the Crusades, and a good chunk of the Dark Ages.

“The tree we have stumbled across is a unique individual,” said Stockholm University graduate student Paul J. Krusic, according to the Washington Post. “It cannot rely on a mother plant, or the ability to split or clone itself, to survive.”

He’s referring to trees that repeatedly clone themselves, so a tree living now is genetically identical to one living more than 10,000 years ago. Tree systems like those have been called the oldest trees in the world, but the individual trees live only a few hundred years before asexually spawning a replacement clone.

This tree has, itself, lived through more than a thousand years of history.

“Cloning is a very effective evolutionary survival strategy,” said Mr. Krusic. “It’s cool, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same as you or I being left alone to our own devices and living for 1,000 years, like this tree.”

Some other trees have been estimated to be a lot older than Adonis, but therein lies the rub. Estimation does not make an ancient tree, at least in the eyes of scientists. This tiny tree creates one new trunk ring each year, making it comparatively easy for scientists to determine its age.

According to Mr. Krusic, who was part of the team that counted tree rings for the study, Adonis is actually more than 1,075 years old. The scientists who took the pencil-sized core samples from Adonis’ tree trunk didn’t reach the center of the tree, so it has more rings that they couldn’t count.

“I am impressed, in the context of western civilization, all the human history that has surrounded this tree; all the empires, the Byzantine, the Ottoman, all the people living in this region,” Krusic said, according to Phys.org. “So many things could have led to its demise. Fortunately, this forest has been basically untouched for over a thousand years.”

Elderly trees are rare in Europe, although they are relatively common in other parts of the world, including the United States. The reason has a lot to do with humans – the more human traffic there is in a region, the more likely a tree is to be chopped down for a human purpose, whether firewood or construction or to make room for development.

In Greece, Adonis and its neighbors are just a few miles from civilization, making their survival all the more unusual. Their proximity is very interesting to researchers, who plan to study fallen trees nearby to determine the what fingerprints humans have left on the region.

“That has a story in it. A story about climate change, about human influences,” said Krusic, according to the Washington Post. “That’s the real story we’re working on. This is just something we stumbled upon.”

Scientists say that many of the trees in the ancient Greek forest where Adonis was discovered are remniscent of elderly trees they have seen in the United States. And, as it happens, Adonis lives in nature’s version of a retirement home – several of Adonis’ neighbors are also around 1,000 years old.

Elsewhere, scientists are using trees to push back against human influence. In 2009, The Christian Science Monitor’s Andy Nelson reported on dendrochronologists in Vietnam, who use wood dating in ancient Vietnamese forests to monitor how forests have responded to monsoon seasons and precipitation.

“It’s not simply that we want to understand the rules of the climate system…. We want to understand how those rules interact,” said tree researcher Kevin Anchukaitis in 2009. “In chess, each move that a player makes in the game is going to influence the subsequent move, so there are long-term consequences of each individual move.”

More recently, in California, researchers seeking to understand how trees can combat drought and climate change have looked to the state’s famed sequoia trees, which have withstood extreme conditions while performing essential services to the environment, providing homes for countless animals and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 3rd August 2016

Ireland’s tax revenues lower than expected for last month of July due to VAT shortfall

Latest exchequer returns show tax revenue of €26.6bn collected in first seven months


At the end of July, the exchequer recorded a surplus of €862 million versus a deficit of €648 million for the same period last year.

Tax revenues came in below target in July due to a shortfall in VAT receipts, while corporation taxes and excise duties also came in lower than expected. The figures indicate that consumer spending growth may have slowed in the run-up to the Brexit vote.

Tax revenues remain ahead of target for the first seven months as a whole, but analysts and government officials will now be closely monitoring the monthly figures to see if weaker trends persist in the run up to the Budget. Official forecasts for next year will be finalised in October and will determine whether, as expected, there will be €1 billion available for additional tax and spending measures on Budget day.

The latest exchequer returns show tax revenue of €26.6 billion was collected in the first seven months of the year, up €2 billion or 8.5% versus the same period in 2015 and €644 million or 2.5% ahead of target.

However, total tax revenue for the month of July were down €98 million or 2.3% below expectations as VAT receipts came in €61 million or 3.3% below the €1.83 billion target.

On a cumulative basis, Vat receipts are now down €292 million or 3.5% below expectations. However, they are still 4.2% ahead in year-on-year terms for the first seven months. This suggests that consumer spending is running ahead of last year, but that the rate of growth may have slowed in recent months.

Income tax receipts of €1.5 billion were collected in the month of July, up €65 million or 4.5% versus the same month a year earlier and on target. This reflects rising employment and some increase in wages.

In a nutshell – what are the Exchequer Returns?

The monthly exchequer returns provide details of taxes collected by the Exchequer and government spending. They are one of the most up-to-date indicators of activity in the economy. The figures for each month are published on the second working day of the following month.

The figures give details of taxes collected in all the main areas – such as income tax, VAT, corporation tax and so on. They also show how much each Government department spent. The key comparisons are usually with the same month last year, and with the targets set by the Department of Finance.

Corporation tax receipts were 16.5% or €23 million lower than forecast for the month. However, on a cumulative basis, corporation receipts are up €482 million or 17.2% higher than expected at €3.3 billion. Corporation taxes have been very volatile, and some large one-off payments boosted figures in earlier months.

Also suggesting some weakness in spending, excise duties were €25 million or 5% below target in July. Duties of €3.6 billion were recorded at the end of the month, this is €376 million or 11.5% ahead of target and up €723 million or 24.7% in year-on-year terms.

Stamp duties receipts were €3 million above expectations at €114 million. In cumulative terms, stamp duties of €581 million at the end of July were down €35 million or 5.7% against target but up 11.8% versus the same period a year ago.

The exchequer returns show €21 million was collected in local property tax receipts last month, bringing the total for the year to date to €315 million.

At the end of July, the exchequer recorded a surplus of €862 million versus a deficit of €648 million for the same period last year. The Department of Finance attributed the improvement to a year-on-year rise in tax revenue, which was partially offset by increased expenditure and reduced non-tax revenue.

The latest returns show non-tax revenue of €2.27 billion at the end of July, were down €224 million or 9.1% versus last year. The decrease was largely due to a one-off dividend of €203 million received by the Exchequer from ESB early in 2015.

A mixed bag?

Conall Mac Coille, chief economist at Davy described the latest returns as a “mixed bag.”

“On balance, the weakness in the month probably reflects volatility and the unwinding of some of the strength in corporation taxes earlier in the year,” he said.

Elsewhere, Peter Vale, tax partner at Grant Thornton said the exchequer figures would reassure the Government that there will be some fiscal space in October’s budget, notwithstanding the impact of Brexit.

“Slightly worryingly, the figures show VAT receipts continuing to lag behind target. If this trend accelerates post Brexit, we could see the VAT figures falling further behind at the end of September. A resultant drop in VAT receipts could impact on the scope for tax cuts or spending increases in the Budget,” said Mr Vale.

“On the positive side, income tax figures remain on track, reflecting the strong labour market. Again, it will likely be some time before we see the impact of Brexit flowing through to the tax numbers, he added.

Philip O’Sullivan, chief economist at Investec said he saw little reason to quibble with the Department of Finance’s cautious guidance of a full-year deficit of €2 billion versus a deficit of €1.5 billion for the first seven months of 2016. for the same period a year earlier, a € 3.1 billion deficit was recorded.

Ireland’s youth unemployment rate rises to 16% for month of July

CSO figures show overall unemployment unchanged from June, but down from last year


The number of people unemployed in Ireland in July was 169,000, a rate of 7.8%, down by 29,800 from July 2015, according to CSO data.

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8% in July versus June, but was down from 9.2% compared to the same month a year ago.

New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the number of people unemployed last month was 169,000. This marks a decline of 29,800 compared to July 2015.

The youth unemployment rate rose to 16% from 15.4% last month, the latest data show.

The number of males unemployed fell by just 100 from June to July to 107,900. The number of women unemployed rose by 100 versus the previous month to 61,200.

Overall, the unemployment rate for men stood at 9.1% at the end of last month, unchanged from June and down from 10.6% for July 2015. The unemployment rate for women was unchanged versus June at 6.2% but declined from 7.6 per cent compared to the same month a year earlier.

Davy economist Conall Mac Coille said that while the latest figures should be taken as evidence of a slowdown in the labour market, initial estimates tend to be revised heavily. He added that it is too early to discern any negative impact from Brexit on hiring patterns.

Leo Varadkar wants new sugar tax in next October’s Irish Budget


Leo Varadkar believes the measures should be included in next October’s Irish Budget.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has said he is in favour of introducing a so-called ‘sugar tax’ in the Budget.

A ten cent levy on a can of fizzy drink would yield the exchequer €100m, according to pre-budget documents published by the Department of Finance.

While Mr Varadkar said he believes the measures should be included in October’s Budget, he warned that a sugar tax is not the complete solution to tackling obesity.

“Yeah. I think a sugar tax is a good idea. I don’t think it’s the solution to obesity. A lot of different measures are going to be required to get on top of obesity,” he said.

The Dublin West TD also acknowledged Independent.ie reports that the drinks industry is considering legal action to stave off such a tax.

“I suppose when you introduce any change, any new tax, or any change to the law, there’s always the risk it could be challenged legally by those who don’t agree with it,” Mr Varadkar said.

Mr Varadkar made the remarks at the launch of the 23rd edition of the ‘Working for You’ handbook by the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU).

At the event in Dublin City on Wednesday, INOU chairperson Ann Fergus called on Mr Varadkar to fully restore the Christmas Bonus in the budget.

The minister told reporters the issue will be considered during discussions with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Galway City sets sights on All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil for 2020


Pictures from Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Sligo 2015.

Galway may host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann for the first time in 2020.

Galway will be applying to host Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2020, a festival that could boost city coffers to the tune of €50m.

Never before held in Galway City, the massive event was only ever staged in County Galway in 1955 when it took place in Loughrea.

The application to host the event in the city is being made by the Moycullen branch of Galway Comhaltas. The chairman of the Moycullen branch, Caomhan Ó Fatharta, told the Galway City Tribune they were laying the groundwork for their application by manning a stand at the All-Ireland Fleadh in Ennis from August 9, urging other counties to throw their support behind the bid.

The branch has received a commitment from NUI Galway to host the event in three years’ time after successfully holding the county final last year, with plans to hold the Connacht finals there next year.

“Galway never had the facilities to apply for this before but now the university has two big halls – the Bailey Allen and the Kingfisher – that can hold 2,200 people. We will possibly need a third venue such as the Big Top which holds 1,000,” explained Caomhan.

“We have a lot of work done on this in the Moycullen branch. We’re trying to sort out meetings with the City Council, County Council and councillors to all get behind this as well as the 2020 team because of the enormous cost implications of staging this – it costs €800,000 to run.

“But we plan to definitely submit an application for 2020 after this year’s All-Ireland.”

The spin-offs are huge. In 2013 the jamboree of music, song and dance went north for the first time to Derry City, which staged the biggest event ever held in Comhaltas’ history when 430,000 attended.

There is no reason why Galway could not be even bigger.

Ennis will stage the event this year and next 2016-17, with a destination yet to be decided for 2018 and 2019. Sligo was the venue for the past two years where it was claimed by those in the know that it was one of the most successful Fleadh Cheoil’s ever.

The venue is decided by votes from branches from across the county and internationally. The week before the Fleadh – which generally takes place on the second or third week of August – is also a hive of activity as young musicians undertake week-long tutoring.

Peadar Brick, chairperson of the Galway Comhaltas, declined to comment ahead of a meeting on the issue next week.

He did point out that NUIG boasted the most appropriate facilities in the county as they were compact, capable of holding large crowds with 20 venues on site for different competitions.

The event is generally held in a location for two years in a row. Due to its timing, it will not clash with the other flagship events in the city such as the Galway International Arts Festival or the Galway Races.

Recently the head of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann told the Galway City Tribune that he would welcome an application to host a future Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Galway City.

Labhrás Ó Murchú, director-general of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, remarked: ”Galway City is a wonderful place, it’s such a vibrant city in so many ways because of the language and being so close to the Connemara Gaeltacht and it’s so compact – that’s why Derry was so successful, everything was near together.

“Personally, I spent my younger days in the Connemara Gaeltacht and we used to come into Galway City. I’ve often thought, gosh, wouldn’t this be a great location for the Fleadh Cheoil. The fact that Galway is well used to holding big events like the Galway Races is another Brownie point for Galway that it could well handle large crowds.”

Dwindling prey putting big cats and other carnivores on the brink of extinction


While direct interference by humans is still a major reason why large carnivores are under threat, prey depletion could prove their ultimate killer.

A new report into prey species across hundreds of different animals makes for worrying reading, with large carnivores’ dinner menu shortening by the day.

An widespread issue?

Noting the clouded leopard, tiger, dhole and Ethiopian wolf in a particularly worrying state, each have at least 40% of their prey classified as threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Replace the Ethiopian wolf with the leopard and the collection have over 50% of their prey in decline. Other carnivores like snow leopards are seeing prey declines, too. Sadly protected areas won’t do the job, with just 6.9% of the 494 prey species studied actually traversing in protected zones.

Of course of the carnivores that themselves are on the IUCN Red List, a higher rate of prey depletion was apparent.

The Ethiopian wolf has less prey now than in years past,

An endangered species

“There is a strong relationship between prey and carnivore abundance,” reads the study, led by Christopher Wolf from Oregon State University College of Forestry.

“Approximately 10,000kg of prey supports about 90kg of large carnivore biomass, regardless of species.

“When sufficient prey is unavailable, large carnivore populations will decline, possibly becoming locally extinct. This can be compounded by large carnivore conflicts with livestock, which increase as carnivores search for alternative food sources.”

The study shows just how complicated conservation is, with numerous stakeholders – some unwitting, some not needed to come together and try to thrash out a plan to aid big cats and other predators.

Tigers and wolves

Earlier this year a report into tiger habitats around the world found that a doubling (and even trebling) of numbers in the wild is possible, as long as the remaining forested areas where they live survive.

Last summer we spoke with Mike Balzer, an Englishman charged with heading up the WWF’s Tigers Alive initiative. At the time, he was hopeful that the drop in the number of wild tigers around the world – which has gone from 100,000 at the start of the 20th century, to just 3,200 now – had stopped.

Tigers need significant amounts of prey to survive,

National, rather than international, approaches can work on occasion, too. For example Yellowstone National Park in the US has worked wonders on wolf populations.

Though in many examples of numbers bouncing back, human intervention is a common ingredient.

Large predators are said to be “ecologically important” in Wolf’s prey report. As well as keeping crop-damaging herbivores in check, they played a vital role in attracting tourists to developing countries.

“These results show the importance of a holistic approach to conservation that involves protecting both large carnivores directly and the prey upon which they depend,” reads the report.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 12th November 2015

J-1 students must now find jobs here before travelling to US

Irish officials fear numbers participating may drop by up to 80%


Students seeking to travel to the US on J1 work visa will be obliged to find jobs before they travel under changes announced on Thursday.

Students seeking to travel to the US on J-1 work visa will be obliged to find jobs before they travel under changes announced on Thursday.

Irish officials – who had been lobbying against the changes – have expressed fears the numbers may drop as much as 60 or 80 per cent. Some 7,000 J1 visas were issued this year.

In a statement on Thursday, the US embassy in Ireland confirmed that prospective Irish J-1 participants will need to provide evidence of a pre-arranged job as part of their application.

The embassy said the requirement was designed to ensure “greater safety and security of participants, greater compliance, and a more rewarding cultural experience”.

Lauren Lovelace, the embassy’s director of public diplomacy and public affairs, said the decision was a global one and affected other visa-waiver countries such as the the UK and Germany.

“This has nothing to do with any recent experiences. It’s making global a pre-placement policy which has been in effect for some time in almost every other country in the world, and which has seen success in those countries,” she said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, however, has expressed concern that the new rules may impact on the numbers of students participating in the programme.

“It was with some concern that I learned of the proposal to require applicants to arrange employment in advance of travel in order to obtain their J1 visas,” he said on Thursday.

“I raised the matter with very senior members of the US Administration during my visit to the US last month and I have in recent days also written to Secretary of State Kerry outlining my concerns,” he said

He said the J1 experience has been a rite of passage for many young Irish students and hoped it would continue to play an important and positive role in strengthening the Ireland-US relationship.

The embassy said the decision to change the policy was taken by independent US sponsoring agencies who vet and sponsor J-1 participants, supported by the US State department.

Irish-based programme sponsors such as Usit and Sayit are already advising students via their websites on the changes and the path to application.

Some of these organisations have said the new arrangments will, on a positive note, provide greater certainty for students and their families.

Ms Lovelace encouraged students to be “proactive” and explore their options in accessing support and organising a job.

She said US authorities were fully committed to working with young people and their parents to ensure students continue to have full opportunity to benefit from the J-1 programme.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently voiced concern that paperwork involved in the proicess could lead to a significant reduction in the number of visas granted.

On a recent visit to the US, he said that it could result in Irish students travelling on holiday visas instead and choosing to work illegally.

“I am not keen on a situation where there could be an abrupt ending to the J1 system as we know it, through the dramatic introduction of a requirement for pre-employment,” Mr Kenny said, during his visit.

He said he had sought to convince authorities to introduce a transition period for the new procedures.

Gardaí investigate sex abuse claims against former politician

Female alleges the suspect behaved inappropriately to her when she was a child


The Garda National Protection Services Bureau is investigating a claim of sexual abuse made against a former politician.

Gardaí are investigating sexual abuse allegations levelled against a former politician.

It is understood that a female complainant initially came forward in recent months and alleged the suspect had behaved inappropriately towards her and sexually abused her when she was a child more than 20 years ago.

It is also understood other complainants have since come forward.

Sources said the level of alleged abuse outlined is at the lower end of the scale, though the victims had still been traumatised.

The former politican was involved in politics for all of his adult life though the allegations relate to the period before he was a public representative.

The female victim outlined her allegations to the Garda and also nominated the names of others who knew the suspect at the same time she did.

When members of the Garda National Protection Services Bureau went to some of those people it is understood they also gave information to the investigation.

Some of those have provided background information sought by gardaí to test the veracity of the initial complainant’s account. However, others have now lodged their own complaints alleging abuse similar to that outlined by the first woman who came forward.

The victims are both male and female and were all young children at the time of the alleged abuse.

The former politician at the centre of the case has not yet been interviewed by the investigating team.

However, gardaí were expected to continue their probe and then approach the man with the findings.

Any statement from him or replies to questions gardaí put to him would be included in the case file to be sent to the DPP, whose office will decide whether the man should face criminal charges.

Enda Kenny outlines plan to create 220,000 jobs

Irish Government to create 1,300 jobs a week says Kenny as he launches Enterprise 2025


Taoiseach Enda Kenny: he said the Government’s record on job creation is a “positive one”, citing the announcement this week of 1,000 new jobs from Apple and 300 from recruitment website Indeed.

A new 10-year employment strategy will see the creation of 220,000 jobs within the lifetime of the next government, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

The Coalition on Thursday launched a long-term jobs plan, called Enterprise 2025, and Mr Kenny said the Government is creating 1,300 jobs a week. The plan was launched by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, as well as junior ministers Ged Nash and Damien English.

Mr Kenny said the Government’s record on job creation is a “positive one”, citing the announcement this week of 1,000 new jobs from Apple and 300 from recruitment website Indeed.

“With the addition of Enterprise 2025 as a guiding framework for new policies, we expect to be able to lower the unemployment rate down to 6 per cent by 2020,” the Taoiseach said.

“This will see an additional 220,000 new jobs throughout the country based on the latest job creation figures.”

Ms Burton also mentioned the Apple and Indeed announcements, adding the Government’s priority is getting people back to work.

Protection against poverty

“As Labour Party leader, I attach singular importance to that objective – because fairly paid and secure work is the single best protection against poverty – the single best way to a better life.

“We need to continue to restore all the jobs lost during the downturn and to build a recovery that can benefit all in our society. Enterprise 2025 will assist on that front.”

Ireland now ready for first arrival of allocated refugees

Frances Fitzgerald underlines difficulties at refugee ‘hot spots’ in EU during Malta visit


The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald (above right) meets with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi prior to the start of the second day of the Valletta migration summit in Malta.

Ireland is ready to begin accepting its allocation of refugees under the EU’s relocation plan by the end of this year, but challenges still remain in building up capacity at the EU “hot spot” areas where migrants are arriving, the Minister for Justice has said.

Speaking at the headquarters of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) office inMalta on Thursday, Frances Fitzgerald said that Ireland intended to accept 20 refugees by December, part of a broader commitment to accept 4,000 refugees in total.

“We’re certainly ready to begin to take people in Ireland, we have the organisation in place, we have the accommodation . . . hopefully we will see the first people arriving in Ireland by the end of the year”. But she added that the broader issue of capacity-building at the EU locations where migrants are received and registered remains an issue.

“It’s about . . . establishing the hot spots in the right places, making sure that the European Asylum Support Office has the capacity to build up the hot spots where they are needed so the registration can take place, and then we can begin to see more orderly migration, that’s the goal.”

The European Commission established “hot spots” in frontline countries such as Italy and Greece to help deal with the asylum needs and relocation requirements of people disembarking from boats, but the system has been struggling to cope with the numbers arriving.

Agency support

The EASO is centrally involved in the hot spot system, including deciding where migrants are assigned under the EU relocation plan. While the EASO requested member states to provide 374 experts and personnel to support the agency in the wake of the refugee crisis, only 177 have been pledged, including two from Ireland. The capacity issues mean that just under 150 people have been relocated under the scheme since October.

Ms Fitzgerald met senior officials from the EASO on Thursday, including Ireland’s refugee applications commissioner, David Costello, who is Ireland’s representative and deputy chairman of the EASO management board. Speaking after the meeting, Mr Costello said that challenges still remained in establishing the hot spot system.

“The big challenge is going to be building up the hot spot infrastructure. For example, we need office space in Greece in particular. We need other infrastructural supports such as IT and computers. The EASO is working very closely with the Greek authorities to put that infrastructure in place and the staff can move over from Ireland and other member states to do the registration process.”

He said that while Ireland would be prioritising family groups, each member state had limited say over which people would participate in the relocation scheme. “Effectively it is for the EASO, Italy and Greece, and the member states they are travelling to, to work together to bring the people over . . . It’s not really a question of selection.”

Ms Fitzgerald also said that the problem of “secondary movement” whereby relocated migrants simply move on to other member states once they are relocated, would not be tolerated. “There is a very clear agreement that that’s not going to be acceptable in the second country, so that simply can’t be part of the approach.”

Seahorse Aquariums Galway — Why seahorses?


Dating back as far as 13million years, seahorses are one of the ocean’s most special creatures. They have many traits unique to Seahorses and their cousins. Seahorses have no teeth, no stomach and are the only known species where the male becomes pregnant. Indeed many species pair for life. Seahorses range in size from the tiny 11mm Pygmy Seahorse to the largest, the 35cm Australian Pot Belly Seahorse. Ireland has it very own Seahorse species, found as close to Galway City as Connemara, the Spiny Seahorse (Hippocampus histrix ).

Seahorse reproduction is unique in the animal kingdom. Each morning a seahorse pair strengthens their pair bond by performing a mating dance for up to one hour. During spawning the female transfers the eggs into the males pouch. Over the next few weeks the male incubates the eggs until he gives birth to up to a few thousand fry which drift in the surface currents until settling to the bottom a few weeks later.

Believe it or not we always have Seahorses in stock at Seahorse Aquariums Galway and all are welcome to come down to the shop to view our seahorses or visit the reception the G Hotel to view the special 900l Natural Seahorse Lagoon Aquarium designed and maintained by us. This tank is rather special and also contains seahorses and is the only one of its kind in Europe. We even breed seahorses in our hatchery in Seahorse Aquariums Dublin.

Seahorses are threatened or nearing extinction in many parts of the ocean. The Asian medicinal trade, the curio trade and habitat destruction are the main threats facing Seahorses. Check out http://www.saveourseahorses.org for more information.

For many decades keeping seahorses alive in aquaria was extremely difficult. Now thanks to better knowledge and availability of captive bred seahorses, almost anyone can have a seahorse aquarium. Seahorse Aquariums sells seahorse starter packs priced from €400. At Seahorse Aquariums we like to make aquarium keeping simple, so we include all you need to start your aquarium in the pack. Anyone looking for something that bit different or special as a Christmas gift will be surprised at the range of items available to the public at Seahorse Aquariums Galway.

Seahorse Aquariums, Unit 2, Kilkerrin Park 1, Liosban Industrial Estate, Tuam Road, Galway, opening hours Monday to Saturday 9.30am – 6pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays, 11am – 6pm, 362 days/yr http://www.seahorseaquariums.com.

Scientists create World’s first ‘Porous Liquid’

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have created the world’s first “porous liquid,” a solution that looks solid to the naked eye but actually contains emply space.


The ability of a porous liquid to absorb large amounts of gas into its molecular structure give it plenty of potential benefits for industrial applications.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have managed to create the world’s first porous liquid, an invention that is being hailed as a major breakthrough. Porous materials are those that look solid to the human eye but actually contain empty space at the molecular level, . In scientific applications, they are useful as catalysts and molecular separators and are often used in industrial industries.

The liquid created in the team’s study was a solution that possessed many organic “cage molecules,” which are designed to enclose empty space. The final product contained hundreds of times more empty space in its molecular structure than a standard fluid such as water.

A porous liquid poses plenty of potential benefits. For example, it is ideal for soaking up methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas, and could potentially be used to create a liquid circulation system for power plants that sucks up carbon, according to a press release. These benefits stem from the solution’s ability to absorb large amounts of gas into its porous molecular structure.

“A few more years’ research will be needed, but if we can find applications for these porous liquids they could result in new or improved chemical processes,” said Stuart James, co-author of the study. “At the very least, we have managed to demonstrate a very new principle – that by creating holes in liquids we can dramatically increase the amount of gas they can dissolve. These remarkable properties suggest interesting applications in the long term.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th September 2015

The Taoiseach opens New Research Centres to benefit front-line patient care in Galway


NUI Galway have opened the Lambe Institute for Translational Research and HRB Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Galway.

The co-location of these two facilities in one building on hospital grounds will mean basic laboratory research conducted in the translational research facility can be evaluated in clinical trials in the clinical research facility and ultimately benefit patients faster.

Some examples of the types of studies undertaken in the two facilities will include: Predicting risk of breast cancer due to inherited characteristics. Stem cell trials to help improve blood flow in legs of diabetic patients and prevent amputation. Clinical trials in blood cancer patients to establish whether new treatments can be combined with existing treatment for better outcomes. How implantable medical devices can provide new solutions for patients.

Officially opening the building, An Taoiseach said, “I am delighted to celebrate the opening of this new clinical and translational facility made up of the Lambe Institute for Translational Research and the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility. This project represents a truly innovative partnership between NUI Galway, Health Research Board, Saolta University Health Care Group, and HSE supported by private philanthropy through Galway University Foundation.

Ireland is recognised as an emerging global hub for the ‘medtech’ sector. Galway is at the very heart of this development and NUI Galway is the powerhouse for much of this progress.”

NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne, said,“Today is a milestone in the development of medicine at NUI Galway.

NUI Galway has given strategic priority to the development of biomedical engineering science. Over the past two decades we have invested heavily in this area, with major new research facilities on our campus. Our researchers advance scientific knowledge to address health challenges. Here in this building that scientific knowledge is being developed into novel treatments, which are then carefully applied in the clinical setting and tested in clinical trials led by NUI Galway.”

Commenting, Maurice Power, CEO, Saolta University Health Care Group said, “This exciting new facility brings together leading-edge medical research directly to the bedside of patients at University Hospital Galway and the wider Hospital Group.  For our patients, the facility will provide inpatient and outpatient beds, a minor operations room, endoscopy, endocrine and cardiorespiratory suites, a phlebotomy room and a biometrics unit.  As well as its primary function in benefiting our patients it will also allow our Hospital Group attract and retain the highest calibre of medical professionals.”

Speaking at the launch Dr Ronan Lambe, said, “It is a great privilege for my wife and I to be associated with such a state of the art facility which will enhance the reputation of NUI Galway as a centre of excellence for Bio Medical Research.”

The proximity of the University to UHG will enable direct patient access and collaborative trial input from the hospital Oncology/Haematology Clinical Trials Unit. The CRF will ensure that patients in the West and North West of Ireland have access to a number of new cancer therapies that would otherwise not have been available to them. Clinical trials are active in the treatment of melanoma, multiple myeloma, mantel cell lymphoma, breast, prostate, lung, care

Latest statistics show an increase in Ireland’s gun crime

Sharp drop in murders but 28% increase in car hijackings and related crimes


Possession of a firearm increased by 21%t to 214 cases in the 12-month period to the end of June. Many forms of serious crime have increased, though the murder rate has fallen significantly in the Republic.

Burglaries were up by 9%, to 27,890 cases reported to the Garda, in the latest 12-month period for which crime trends are now available.

The latest data, published by the Central Statistics Office, also revealed further increases in the level of those offences most closely associated with organised crime gangs.

Possession of a firearm increased by 21% to 214 cases in the 12-month period to the end of June, compared to the 12-month period to the end of June last year.

It may suggest resurgence in gun crime after a sharp decline since the 2007-2008 period when the drugs trade collapsed along with the wider economy.

However, the latest data also reveals cases of discharging a firearm were down by 2%.

Controlled drugs offences overall were down by 1.2% to 14,488 crimes.

Cultivation of drugs and possession of drugs for personal use were down, by 19% and 1% respectively.

However, the crime of drug dealing – possession of drugs for sale or supply – increased by 1%, to 3,448 cases.

There was a very sharp decline in murders; down by 37% to 38, from 60 cases in the previous periods

Sexual offences increased by 3% and within that rise was a jump of 7% in the crime of rape of a male or female, to 478 cases. Other sexual assaults were also up, by 7%.

Driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs and drink were both down; by 13 per cent and 4% respectively.

Some 6,450 motorists were detected driving over the legal alcohol limit in the 12-month period while 232 were caught driving under the influence of drugs.

Car hijackings and related crimes increased by 28%, to 110 cases. There were 7,392 cars stolen in the period, three crimes lower than the previous year.

Homicide offences – of which murders are but one category – have decreased to 60 from 93, a fall of 36%.

Attempts of threats to murder, assaults and harassments are up 10%, to 16,054 offences.

Kidnapping and related offences have decreased by 4%, to 131 offences.

Fraud and other deception related crimes have shown an increase of 6%, to 5,337 crimes. Public order crime has decreased by 5%, to 32,866 offences.

Bullied obese children miss long periods of school year


Aoife Brinkley, a senior clinical psychologist at the child obesity service at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, said seven out of ten children at the clinic reported bullying, with one tenth self-harming as a result, and suffering with depression and anxiety disorders.

With a quarter of Irish children classed as overweight or obese, it is thought more and more will be psychologically affected by bullying as a new international report pinpointed weight as the most common form of playground teasing.

Dr Brinkley said children with obesity can be so affected by bullying they can no longer face going into the classroom. “We see kids refusing to go to school. We would have a little group that have struggled or missed a huge amount of school because of the bullying they have experienced.”

The leading psychologist said she has seen bullying resulting in children becoming so socially anxious they can’t go outside their house.

“We would have a lot of children who have attempted to hurt themselves and harm themselves. We would have children with depression, symptoms of anxiety.

“There is a lot of social anxiety where children or teenagers are struggling to go outside the house because they feel so self-conscious.

“It can become a vicious cycle where a young person teased or bullied doesn’t want to leave the house and is gaining weight because they are not leaving the house.”

She said bullying can begin to have much more serious consequences towards the end of primary school.

“Maybe they have been bullied on and off from third class and fourth class but maybe things continuing into fifth class and sixth class, so it means that transition to secondary school is particularly difficult for those kids.”

She said a survey carried out among children with obesity attending the W82GO Healthy Lifestyles Programme in Temple Street, which sees an average of 150 children a year, showed 57% of children experienced moderate bullying with 11% subjected to severe bullying.

“With girls it tends to be name-calling, left out of games. As they get older it tends to be more of a serious nature. Targeted exclusion over a period of time, repeated comments and we have had some children where there has been quite serious cyber bullying on social media.”

She said there are also a lot of misconceptions around childhood obesity in Ireland. “A lot of the stigma is that people think that it’s simple — that they need to eat less or be more active. That is true to some degree but sometimes there are barriers to stop them doing that which are absolutely insurmountable whether it’s parents’ substance use or mental health within the family.

“I’d like to break down the myth that it is a simple thing or it is the parents’ fault. It is very complex and a really difficult thing to change.”

VHI policies are to rise by average of 2% from November

Health insurer says price rise is required to cover the increasing cost of customer claims


The Insurer says the increase is the first in 20 months.

The State’s largest health insurer VHI is to introduce an average premium price increase of 2% from November.

In a statement the company said the increases would range from between 1% and 5% depending on the cover.

Declan Moran, VHI’s director of marketing, said the increase was the first in 20 months and was necessary to cover the rising cost of claims.

Lovely Letterkenny scoops tidy towns of Ireland top spot


Clonegal, Co Carlow, Listowel Co Kerry and Westport among other category winners

Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has been named Ireland’s Tidiest Town for 2015 in the annual Supervalu National Tidy Towns Awards competition.has been named Ireland’s Tidiest Town for

Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has been named Ireland’s Tidiest Town for 2015 in the annual Supervalu National Tidy Towns Awards competition.

It beat 860 villages and towns across the State to become the eighth town in Donegal to win the award since the competition began in 1958. Letterkenny was also named as Ireland’s tidiest large urban centre.

Other winners included: Clonegal, Co Carlow, which was named tidiest village; Listowel, Co Kerry, which was named tidiest small town and Westport, Co Mayo, received the award of tidiest large town,

Evidence of water makes issue of life on Mars a hot topic

New discovery takes scientists tantalisingly close to uncovering actual life on Red Planet


Portions of the Martian surface shot by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many channels on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin, in this photograph taken January 14th, 2011 and released by Nasa on March 9th, 2011. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet’s summer months, a paper published on Monday showed.

The answer to a question which has troubled scientists, science fiction writers and rock singers for generations has taken a giant leap forward with the discovery of liquid water flowing freely on the Red Planet.

While past Martian probes have revealed hints of rivers, lakes and even oceans which dried up a long time ago on the planet far, far away, this new discovery offering concrete evidence of water still flowing freely there – at least during the planet’s summer months – takes scientists tantalisingly close to uncovering actual life on Mars.

Nasa’s discovery of water running hundreds of metres down the planet’s canyons and craters has been hailed across this world as a scientific breakthrough of huge importance.

“It is the first verification of liquid flow on Mars and it is very significant,” said Kevin Nolan of the School of Applied Science at the IT in Tallaght. “It is so hard for liquid water to form on the Martian surface, so if we are finding it on the surface then it is very likely there are significant quantities underground too.”

He said it was an accepted scientific fact on Earth that “where there is water, there is life, there is no exception – and that is why Nasa has been following the water on other planets for decades”.

The Martian water only flows when the surface of the planet rises above -23C. Despite the freezing conditions, it can still flow because a high salt content drops the point at which it freezes far below zero degrees Celsius.

Scientists have yet to establish the source of the water but are working off theories that it rises up from underground ice or condenses out of the thin Martian atmosphere.

The newly discovered trickles will most likely by used by space explorers to map the best sites to seek out life on Mars and to establish landing spots for future human missions.

“If we find there is life on two of eight planets in our solar system then it suggests that life is widespread throughout the universe,” Mr Nolan said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 27th May 2015

Aer Lingus sale will create jobs, so says the Minister for Transport


Opposition sharply critical of move to sell 25.1% State stake in Ireland’s airline.

Minister for Trasport Paschal Donohoe: “It is envisaged that by the end of 2016, a new net 150 jobs will have been created in Aer Lingus , rising to a new net total of 635 jobs by 2020.”

The sale of the State’s Aer Lingus share would create jobs, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe told the Dáil. “It is envisaged that by the end of 2016, a new net 150 jobs will have been created in Aer Lingus , rising to a new net total of 635 jobs by 2020,” he said.

The Minister said the Aer Lingus brand would be protected and its head office retained in Ireland. The airline would operate all its scheduled international air transport services under the Aer Lingus name, he added.

Mr Donohoe said the sale would strengthen Aer Lingus’s competitive positions, reduce risk to the company and provide it with the opportunity with a larger group to face the challenges in a changing aviation environment.

It would promote Ireland’s wider connectivity, he added, and could bring growth to our airports. It was anticipated the move would bring benefits to both Aer Lingus’s long-haul and short-haul networks within the IAG group.

“There will be a focus on sustaining and growing routes from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Knock,” Mr Donohoe added.

He said Aer Lingus was no longer our national flag carrier. That decision was taken nine years ago when 75 per cent of the shareholding was sold.

“Nor is the State the majority shareholder in the company. We own a minority 25.1 per cent shareholding and I want to use the opportunity now to maximise the benefit of that residual shareholding to put the company on a firm footing for the future while protecting key general national interests.”

Fianna Fáil spokesman Timmy Dooley said he could not get his head around the necessity, from the Minister’s perspective, to sell the remaining stake in the airline. A decision was taken in 2006 to change Aer Lingus’s semi-State status and trade it publicly, thereby ensuring it would be run on a commercial basis in the best interest of all, including workers, passengers and the country, he added.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand how the Government has failed to realise the importance of retaining the shareholding and having control, although not absolute control, over the direction of the company or an input into it,” Mr Dooley said.

Aer Lingus had successfully emerged from the worst financial crisis in the State’s history, or one of the deepest in the OECD, as a lean and growth-oriented company with very significant cash reserves to take on the kinds of challenges that would arise.

Sinn Féin spokesman Dessie Ellis said it was very sad to express an opinion on what was a done deal that nobody outside of IAG and Fine Gael wanted.

“The Government has made its decision behind the closed doors in a shrewd media operation which shows blatant disregard for the Oireachtas and its role in dealing with issues of such importance,” he added. “No matter what anyone says, the Government will seek to sell its share in Aer Lingus and the weak and cowed Labour Party members will go along with it.”

Diversity of opinion’ not welcome in mainstream political parties

Says Lucinda Creighton on Averil Power’s treatment


Lucinda Creighton left & Averil Power.

Fianna Fail’s treatment of senator Averil Power illustrates that “diversity of opinion” is not welcome in the mainstream political parties, according to former minister Lucinda Creighton.

The Renua leader today said the events surrounding Ms Power’s departure from Fianna Fáil “sums up everything I know about politics”.

And Ms Creighton admitted that her new party “wouldn’t shut the door” to Ms Power but said they have had no conversations about her joining Renua.

“To my mind it sums up everything I already know about politics or at least the old political establishment, which is that diversity of opinion on really sensitive social issues, that different people have strong opinions on, that diversity of opinion is just not welcome in the old parties,” Ms Creighton said.

“The passion of individuals like Averil Power is something to be welcomed in politics, not something to be feared. So that’s my view on the matter,” she added.

Separately today, Ms Creighton criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny over conduct towards other deputies in the Dail.

During ‘Leaders’ Questions’ today, Mr Kenny accused Independent TD Clare Daly of going on a “rant” about the proposed sale of the Government’s 25.1pc stake in Aer Lingus.

Later, Ms Creighton said the Taoiseach should “show a suitable respect for our parliament”, adding that Mr Kenny spoke in a “patronising way”.

She added: “I think certainly the Taoiseach does not do himself any justice in speaking to people in that way.”

Earlier in the Dail, Ms Creighton expressed frustration after the Taoiseach did not respond to her claims that Independent TD Catherine Murphy was being “silenced” by Siteserv.

It was reported this week that Siteserv wrote to the Ceann Comhairle seeking tat the Dail record be amended to address what it described as “unfound” and “false” accusations in recent speeches by Ms Murphy.

Ms Creighton called on the Taoiseach to “reject attempts to silence members of the House” by Siteserv and businessman Denis O’Brien.

Ireland’d HSE patients are too frightened to complain ?

Warns the Ombudsman


Patients also believe complaining wouldn’t make a difference?

Irish patients are afraid to complain about how they are treated by hospitals over concerns their standard of care will be affected.

An investigation by the Ombudsman found that many people refused to lodge complains against hospital staff because they feared repercussions for themselves or their loved ones.

The report, from Ombudsman Peter Tyndall, calls for an independent complaints service for patients.

“I wonder if the tragic events seen in Aras Attracta and Portlaoise hospital could have been avoided if those complaints were dealt with properly,” he said.

A large proportion of those surveyed also believed complaining made no difference.

Speaking at the launch of the report, the Ombudsman recommended that the HSE and each hospital put an action plan in place to “ensure that people have access to an effective independent advocacy service.”

The survey was carried out because Mr Tyndall was concerned that his office was receiving fewer complaints compared to other health service ombudsmans in other countries.

“Despite the high number of interactions with our hospitals, relatively few people complain when they are unhappy with the service they receive. Compared with other jurisdictions, complaints to the HSE and to my Office are very low. I want to find out why this is,” he said in 2014.

Complaints to the ombudsman about healthcare represent 20% all complaints received. In Northern Ireland this figure is over 60%, while in the UK it is closer to 80%.

Galway locals build a raft to help swans raise their cygnets


Five cygnets have now survived

Hundreds of people in Co Galway have been following the progress of five cygnets born in Oranmore a few days ago.

Locals assisted in the process, by installing a special raft to allow a pair of swans to breed safely.

Engineer Peter Butler led the effort after hearing about how high tides had submerged the swans’ nest year after year.

Using recycled materials, including plastic bottles and wooden pallets, he designed a raft that would withstand tidal fluctuations and allow swans the 40-day window they need to hatch their eggs.

The birds took to the structure and have been nesting on it since early April.

The first cygnet hatched last week, followed by seven others since then. So far, five have survived.

Their parents have been keeping a close eye on their offspring and fending off gulls, herons and wild animals.

It has emerged that the pen, or mother swan, was herself rescued six years ago by volunteers from the local swan sanctuary.

She was cared for by Mary Joyce of the Galway and Claddagh Swan Rescue group for a number of months, before being tagged and released  in October 2009.

The organisation has appealed to people not to feed the swans or the cygnets, as they are able to fend for themselves and do not need human assistance to eat.

The baby swans will spend the next few months on the estuary at the edge of Oranmore before setting off on their own.

Locals hope to leave the raft in place to give the swans a chance to repeat their successful mating next year.

Ireland’s inbound visitor numbers show a big increase


The volume of people travelling to Ireland was significantly higher between February and April this year than the same period last year, according to official figures on Wednesday.

The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that an extra 212,000 trips to Ireland took place during the three-month period.

Overseas visitor numbers were 13.5% higher than between February and April 2014.

Inbound visitors primarily came from Britain and other European countries. Trips by North Americans were up 20.2%, or 237,600, in the period.

Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors and has significant potential to play a further role in the country’s economic revival. In 2014, tourism was responsible for a 12% increase in earnings and a 9% increase in overseas visitor numbers.

For 2015, Ireland projects an increase of 6% in overseas tourists.

The Earth’s Ozone is now in Good Shape, say Scientists 

  The arctic ozone without the Montreal Protocol (left) and following its implementation (right) on 26 March 2011.

Earth’s ozone is in good shape, according to scientists, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, which has helped us avoid severe ozone depletion.

After years of dangerous depletion that left a giant hole over Antarctica, our ozone is finally recovering. Once scientists realized that bromine-containing halons and chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were eating away at the Earth’s protective layer, leaders enacted the 1987 Montreal Protocol banning such chemicals.

Now we are reaping the rewards, with the ozone layer in much better shape than it would have been without the United Nations (UN) treaty.

“Our research confirms the importance of the Montreal Protocol and shows that we have already had real benefits. We knew that it would save us from large ozone loss ‘in the future’, but in fact we are already past the point when things would have become noticeably worse,” lead author Professor Martyn Chipperfield, from theSchool of Earth & Environment at the University of Leeds, said in a press release.

Concentrations of these harmful substances can survive in the atmosphere for many years. However, the good news is that concentrations peaked in 1993 and have subsequently started shrinking.

In the new study, the researchers used a state-of-the-art 3D computer model of atmospheric chemistry to investigate what would have happened to the ozone layer if the Montreal Protocol had not been put in place.

The researchers suggest that the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic would have grown in size by an additional 40 percent by 2013. Their model also suggests that had ozone-depleting substances continued to increase, the ozone layer would have become significantly thinner over other parts of the globe.

Such would have been the case especially during extreme events like the exceptionally cold Arctic winter of 2010-2011.

Without the Montreal Protocol, the new study reveals that a very large ozone hole over the Arctic would have occurred during that cold winter and smaller Arctic ozone holes would have become a regular occurrence.

According to the team behind this new study, scientists must continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure all potential threats to the ozone layer are mitigated.

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 17th February 2015

Ireland fifth most expensive country in EU,

A CSO report finds

Only Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg dearer in 2013.

A graphic taken from the Measuring Ireland’s Progress 2013 report by the CSO.

Ireland remains one of the most expensive countries of Europe, ranking as the fifth most expensive state in the EU in 2013.

Only Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg are more expensive according to Measuring Ireland’s Progress 2013, a report released by the Central Statistics Office this morning.

This was despite Ireland having the lowest increase in inflation in the EU between 2009 and 2013.

The report, which examines comparative data from across the European Union across 58 indicators; covering population, social cohesion, crime, finance, employment and housing found that prices in Ireland were 20 per cent above the EU average in 2013.

However, it notes this actually represents an improvement on the 2009 figures when price levels in Ireland were the second highest in the EU at 26 % above average.

Ireland had one of the highest public balance deficits in the EU at 5.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), the fifth largest in Europe, but a fraction of the 32.4% deficit recorded in 2010.

The country ranked among the four worst countries for government debt which stood at 123.3% of GDP in 2013, the fourth highest debt to GDP ratio in the EU. Ireland’s government debt was 62.2% in 2009.

Ireland recorded the seventh-highest unemployment rate in the EU in 2013 at 13.9%, above the EU average of 10.8%.

In Austria, where the lowest unemployment rate was recorded, the comparative figure was 4.9% while Greece fared worst in the EU at 27.5%.

The employment rate in Ireland stood at 60.2% in 2013, the tenth lowest in the EU and below the EU average of 64.1%.

The highest employment rate in the EU was in Sweden at 74.4% while the lowest was recorded in Greece at 48.8%.

The level of people in consistent poverty increased between 2012 and 2013 rising from 7.7% to 8.2% of the population.

However, children were more likely than the general population to find themselves in consistent poverty with one in eight children, or 11.7% of under-18s, in consistent poverty in Ireland in 2013 compared to 9.9% a year earlier.

Irish primary school class sizes stood at 24.4% on average in 2013, the second highest in the EU (these figures related to 2012), with only the UK faring worse.

Expenditure per student in Ireland increased over the period between 2004 and 2013 by 10% at primary level and by 6% at secondary level.

However there was a decrease of a fifth at third level in the same time period.

Public expenditure on health care in Ireland averaged at €2,973 per person in 2013, consistent with the 2012 figures, and a 7% increase when compared to 2004.

Life expectancy at birth in Ireland is 83.2 years for women and 78.7 years, both of which are above the EU average.

A 65-year-old man in Ireland can now expect to live a further 16.6 years, while a woman of the same age can expect to live a further 19.8 years.

In 2012 Ireland had the highest fertility rate in the EU at 2.01, far higher than the EU average of 1.58.

In 2013, Ireland had the highest proportion of young people (those aged 14 and under) in the EU, and the second lowest proportion of old people (those aged 65 and over).

The divorce rate in Ireland was 0.6 divorces per 1,000 population in 2012, the lowest rate in the EU.

551 people on hospital trolleys as flu outbreak worsens

A record 55 patients on trolleys awaiting admission in University Hospital Limerick


More than 500 people are awaiting admission to hospital on trolleys in emergency departments around the country.

Overcrowding in some hospitals is at record levels, as the number of patients on trolleys nationally remains high.

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) was the worst hospital in the State for overcrowding, with 55 patients waiting for admission in the emergency department and on wards. This is believed to be the highest figure recorded for the hospital.

Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown had 45 patients waiting for admission, while there were 46 patients on trolleys atBeaumont Hospital in Dublin – which has had a chronic overcrowding problem since the New Year.

The total number of patients waiting for admission was 551 nationally, slightly up on the 543 recorded on Monday and the fifth highest figure recorded since records began a decade ago.

UHL blamed its overcrowding on the older age profile of patients and the complexity of their cases, and a small number of winter vomiting bug cases.

A spokeswoman said an escalation plan was underway and patients were being transferred to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals. Non-urgent elective surgery has been cancelled this week and extra rounds put on to identify patients who are fit for discharge.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has attributed the high figures to a big increase in the number of older people requiring admission and the enforced closure of beds in some hospitals because of a flu outbreak.

The Mater Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin,Naas General Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda all had more than 30 patients waiting for admission to each yesterday. In contrast, the State’s largest hospital, St James’s in Dublin, had just five people on trolleys.

Mr Varadkar has called on people to use minor injury units rather than hospital emergency departments where possible.

Hundreds of students queue at Galway pub for Donegal event


Event part of unofficial rag week and not connected to NUIG, says student union president.

Hundreds of students gather outside the Hole in the Wall pub in Galway city for the annual ’Donegal Tuesday’ event.

Hundreds of students queued outside a Galway city pub on Tuesday morning ahead of an annual Donegal themed event.

Donegal Tuesday, held on the second day of the unofficial rag week, was one of the events set up after students at theNational University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) voted to abolish rag week in 2011.

Students, many wearing Donegal GAA jerseys, began queuing near the Hole in the Wall pub in the city centre from early in the morning. Hundreds lined the footpath leading from Eyre Street to Woodquay Street by the time the pub opened its doors at 10.30am.

A large number of students are believed to have travelled from outside Galway to take part.

An Garda Síochána used its Twitter account to call on students to act responsibly during rag week and remind them that local gardaí would be on the streets enforcing the Public Order Act.

A second message posted on the @gardainfo account reminded students in Galway not to be the one that ruins it for everyone and to have fun while being safe.

NUIG students’ union president Declan Higgins said the Donegal Tuesday event was not connected with the university.

“Members of the student body voted in 2011 to discontinue rag week,” said Mr Higgins, adding that many of the former rag week events badly affected the welfare of students in NUIG.

He said an agreement was signed between the university and the student body which brought an end to the annual rag week events in return for a series of concessions from the college.

These concessions included an almost-trebling of the university’s contribution to the student assistance fund from €33,000 to €93,000, and a guarantee that the campus health unit would not introduce charges.

The decision to end the festival and accept the concessions was passed by 95 per cent of the vote in 2011.

A Facebook account set up for the event in 2013 writes that Donegal Tuesday is a chance to celebrate Daniel O’Donnell, Football Special and Jim McGuinness.

It continues: “In honour of our fine county we’re gonna wreck the Hole, wreck Ardara and pull up Brian’s trousers. Pints at the ready and shots on standby. Dust off your finest of the green and gold as the ultimate day of celebration approaches.”

31 new cases of cancer each week in Galway


Jay (6) and Zoe (9) O’Toole from Salthill enjoying Daffodil Day last year.

There are 31 people in Galway diagnosed with cancer every week – as cancer rates have increased by 4% over the past three years.

That is based on cancer incidence figures taken from the National Cancer Registry from 2010-2012, and released this week as the Irish Cancer Society and Dell launched Daffodil Day 2015 in Galway.

Daffodil Day will take place in Galway on Friday, March 27 – marking the 28th running of Ireland’s longest running and biggest fundraising day.

The Society announced a growth in cancer incidence that is sure to have a direct impact on its services – increasing the need for the people in Galway to support Daffodil Day so they can reach their fundraising target of €3.5 million for 2015.

Speaking at the launch of Daffodil Day, John McCormack, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Cancer Society acknowledged that every family in Galway is touched by cancer – and these new figures confirm that cancer rates are growing.

“As cancer is increasing so are our efforts to fight it. As the national cancer charity we are working harder to ensure that every family in need of support in Galway has access to our services. To meet the increased demand for help as more people get and survive cancer we need to raise even more money this year on Daffodil Day,” he said.

Funds raised on Daffodil Day by thousands of volunteers across Ireland go directly to fund the work of the Society across support, prevention, research and advocacy.

Night Nursing is one service funded by Daffodil Day. Last year the Society was able to fulfil 96% of requests for a night nurse.

Three in every four cancer patients wish to die at home surrounded by family – yet only 25% get to do so. The Irish Cancer Society provides the only night time care service for cancer patients in their own homes.

In 2014 the Society’s nurses provided 334 nights of care to 87 patients in Galway and this service is fully funded by the people of Galway who consistently support the work of the Society.

“We won’t give up until every person affected by cancer in Galway has the support they need and we need the support of everyone in Galway to make this possible,” added Mr McCormack.

“We still have some way to go to fully support patients who will die from their cancer. We won’t give up until we reach that future without cancer – and I know the Irish public won’t either,” he said.

Daffodil Day has set an ambitious fundraising target of €3.5 million in order to continue to provide and expand this service and others – and they need public support on Friday, March 27 to achieve that.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer as a collector, organise a Daffodil Day event in the community or workplace or donate directly can do so on CallSave 1850 606060 or by visiting http://www.cancer.ie.

Is climate change spreading infectious disease?


A recent article by Daniel Brooks and Eric Hoberg concluded that climate change could cause viruses such as the West Nile virus and Ebola to mutate or spread to new places and new hosts, be they animals, plants, or humans.

The article’s key observation is that climate change has been driving these species to look for new habitats, which puts them in contact with parasites that they may not be able to fight because they have never been exposed to them, or because the parasites may have mutated to a new form to adapt to the species or to climate change.

Brooks, who is a zoologist with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, argued that we are not doing enough to stop the spread of new infectious diseases. He added that, “We’re not anticipating them. We’re not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced.”

Brook’s research focuses primarily on parasites in the tropics. Hoberg, who is a zoologist with the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, has been focusing his research on parasites in the Arctic regions. They both observed that some of their respective areas’ species have left and that some new species have arrived. In an interview last week, Brooks confirmed that “Even though I was in the tropics and he was in the Arctic, we could see something was happening.”

According to Brooks, it is not uncommon for parasites to move from one host to another; Brooks argues that we have seen such occurrences in the past when hunters in Costa Rica targeted capuchin and spider monkeys until these animals disappeared from the area. These animals’ parasites quickly switched hosts and began to live off howler monkeys. In the Canadian arctic, some lungworms have recently migrated north and left their caribou hosts for muskosen. These and other observation led Brooks to conclude that, “Even though a parasite might have a very specialized relationship with one particular host in one particular place, there are other hosts that may be as susceptible.”

These conclusions challenged an century-old assumption by scientists that parasites do not switch habitat quickly from one species to another.

Referring to Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Stain novel, Brooks said that, “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet. There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”

Even with the speed at which parasites can switch hosts, emerging diseases are still rare because of the way hosts adapt to parasites and vice versa. This is the “parasite paradox” that the article discusses while documenting the zoologists’ concerns that we are likely to see more of these emerging diseases because of the above concerns with regards to climate change.

The article calls for doing a detailed analysis of the world wide distribution of harmful pathogens and the way they are migrating across the planet and across species. This analysis would allow public health professionals to devise strategies for reducing the exposure of humans to high risk areas and animals. Such strategies were employed in the past to keep individuals away from mosquitoes that are known to live in certain areas to protect them against malaria and yellow fever.

Brooks and Hoberg’s paper is titled “Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease.” It was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society’s B issue on “Climate change and vector- borne diseases of humans.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 28th January 2015

Opposition party TD’s go walkie’s in Dáil over Garda malpractice motion

Now Lads and Lassies can we put on a good show for the General Election?


Taoiseach says Ceann Comhairle’s sub judice ruling preventing debate irreversible?

What now Taoiseach:-

Opposition TDs have staged a walkout from the Dáil chamber over the cancellation of a debate on the Guerin Report.

Opposition TDs walked out of the Dáil in a row over the ruling out of a debate on a motion setting up a commission of investigation into claims of Garda malpractice.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett ruled earlier this week that the matter could not be debated because it was sub judice and would contravene the Dáil’s standing orders.

Before Wednesday’s walkout, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said a ruling made by the Ceann Comhairle was not reversible. “The Ceann Comhairle, in his utter independence, has made a ruling that a debate is not allowed,’’ he added.

The commission is to investigate allegations of malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan division of An Garda Siochana and follows the findings of a report by Sean Guerin SC into claims made by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Mr Guerin’s report led to the resignation ofFine Gael TD Alan Shatter as minister for justice.

When the vote was called today, TDs on the Opposition benches left the chamber. A note issued to TDs by Mr Barrett’s office on Tuesday indicated that while the motion could be moved today, there could be no debate as it was currently sub judice.

This is understood to refer to a High Courtaction taken by Mr Shatter to overturn some of Mr Guerin’s findings.

The HSE unveils its new advisory group on medical card eligibility


Team tasked with developing ‘more compassionate apporach’ to awarding cards

Leo Varadkar: Group would widen discretion further to take into account medical hardship and burden of an illness on an individual and their family, regardless of income.

The HSE has announced the membership of a group tasked with developing “a more compassionate and supportive approach” to the awarding of medical cards.

The clinical advisory group on medical card eligibility has been asked to see how the burden of a medical illness can be accommodated in the award of a card, over and above financial hardship.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the group would widen discretion further to take into account medical hardship and the burden of an illness on an individual and their family, regardless of income.

‘Health outcomes’

It will have three months to draw up revised guidelines around which officials and medical officers can decide to disregard the means test, he said.

The group, which is chaired by GP Mary Sheehan, will meet monthly and provide an interim report within three months. Peter Fitzpatrick of Our Children’s Health, which is campaigning for a medical card for all sick children, has been appointed to the group.

The group has been told to develop a framework that considers all stakeholders, “ takes account of health outcomes in the context of a finite health budget” and is “sufficiently flexible and attentive to the most vulnerable individuals and those with critical needs”.

Following controversy over the awarding of medical cards and a row-back by the Government last year, the number of discretionary cards issued has increased from 50,000 to 75,000 in a year.

Other members of the group are:

  • Dr Jerome Coffey, Director National Cancer Control Programme;
  • Dr Denise Mc Donald, Paediatrician, Tallaght Hospital;
  • Ms Virginia Pye, Director Public Health Nursing, Longford Westmeath;
  • Dr Mary Stains, Medical Director, Stewart’s Hospital;
  • Dr Margo Wrigley, National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead, Psychiatry;
  • Ms Emma Benton – Therapy Professions Advisor;
  • Dr Margaret O’Riordan, Medical Director of ICGP;
  • Mr Mel Cox, Pharmacist;
  • Patricia Ryan, Patients for Patient Safety Ireland.

Investigations to examine why farmers’ files are found on Galway roadside


Thousands of documents were strewn along a 10km section on the Athenry Road

Thousands of documents from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food were found on Athenry Rd out of Tuam, Co Galway.

Three investigations are now underway into how thousands of documents containing farmers’ personal details ended up on a roadside outside Tuam, Co Galway. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner andGalway County Council both said they were investigating the incident. The Agricultural Consultants’ Association also said it was trying to get to the bottom of the incident.

The documents strewn along a 10km section on the Athenry Road, were first noticed on Sunday evening. Many of the documents relate to the Rural Environment Protection Scheme which was run by the Department of Agriculture. They contain details such as farmers’ names, addresses, herd numbers, payment details and maps of farms. Many of the farmers appear to be from the local area.

Discarded documents also included letters from farmers to the Department, laboratory results on soil samples and breakdowns of farmers’ entitlements and payments. One document contains a signature with a 1991 date while another detailing the breakdown of a farmer’s payments was dated 2010.

The Department of Agriculture said it understood the papers were the property of a private agricultural consultant, not the department, and said the county council is dealing with the matter.

A spokesman for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said the office had not received any breach notification under the code of practice in relation to the incident. If someone handling personal data believes the code of practice regarding data protection has been breached, they are obliged to inform the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has now commenced an investigation into the matter,” he said.

A spokesman for Galway County Council said the council had been alerted to the matter on Sunday evening. “The community warden service responded to the call and visited the location, confirming the presence of a range of documentation,” he said.

“The documentation was removed early on Monday 26th January 2015 by Galway County Council and an investigation by the environment unit of Galway County Council is currently ongoing. The outcome of the investigation will determine the appropriate course of action to be taken.”

The Agricultural Consultants’ Association, which represents independent agricultural consultants, said it too was trying to establish the facts of the situation. Its president Tom Dawson said he did not know where the documents had come from. “Our members abide by a code of ethics,” he said. “This flies in the face of our code of ethics but I cannot say any more until we have established what happened.”

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins welcomed the news that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner was investigating the matter. “At this point I would advise farmers to be wary of any unsolicited communications, by phone, text or otherwise that they receive,” she said.

“They should be particularly vigilant of getting letters or phone calls out of the blue or people contacting them with some of their details and hoping to elicit more information from them.”

Stem cell breakthrough could lead to a baldness cure


Scientists have successfully used human stem cells to generate new hair, paving the way for a potential new cure for baldness. 

The study from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) in US represents the first step towards the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss, researchers said.

“We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” said Alexey Terskikh, associate professor in the Development, Ageing and Regeneration Programme at Sanford-Burnham.

“Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles,” said Terskikh.

The research team developed a protocol that coaxed human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells.

They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle.

Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture.

“In adults, dermal papilla cells cannot be readily amplified outside of the body and they quickly lose their hair-inducing properties,” said Terskikh.

“We developed a protocol to drive human pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into dermal papilla cells and confirmed their ability to induce hair growth when transplanted into mice,” said Terskikh.

“Our next step is to transplant human dermal papilla cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells back into human subjects,” Terskikh added. The research was published in the journal PLOS One.

Skull fragment find sheds light on Neanderthal and human interbreeding


Skull found in a cave in Israel suggests humans and Neanderthals met 55,000 years ago

The partial skull of a modern human (Homo sapiens) (C) is placed between a Neanderthal (L) skull and a complete modern human skull (R) on display outside the Manot stalactite cave in northern Israel. Photo: EPA

A skull from one of the earliest known Europeans has been found in an Israeli cave, shedding light on the migration of modern humans out of Africa.

The discovery of the skull suggests humans and Neanderthals were interbreeding 55,000 years ago, 10,000 years before they were thought to have met.

The expansion of modern humans out of Africa to Europe and Asia was a key event in human evolution.

The first steps out of Africa are estimated to have happened 60,000 years ago, marking the beginning of humanity’s colonisation of the world, but the harsh climate hampered the invasion across Europe.

Eventually the modern human replaced their less civilised ancestors, and it had previously been thought the two species met 45,000 years ago somewhere in Europe.

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But the scarcity of human fossils from this period has meant these ancestors of all present-day non-African modern populations have remained largely enigmatic.

Now it seems both were occupying Western Galilee at the same time and could have met during foraging trips – explaining how modern Europeans came to inherit about 4 per cent of their genes from Neanderthals.

Israel Hershkovitz, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, said: “It’s amazing. This is the first specimen we have that connects Africa to Europe.”

Neanderthal fossils dating back to the same period have been found at other sites in the eastern Mediterranean – placing the two species in the same area.

The prehistoric cave is located in the region where Neanderthals periodically lived – perhaps when ice sheets in Europe forced them to migrate to warmer places like the Levant.

It is also situated along the only land route available for ancient humans to travel out of Africa to the Middle East, Asia and Europe.

The partial skull of the adult was discovered in 2008 during construction work which damaged the roof of the cave that was blocked by natural rockfall about 30,000 years ago – sealing it from further disturbance.

The findings published online in Nature provides the earliest evidence modern humans co-inhabited the area with Neanderthals and may have mated at least as far back to when the skull was dated.

Professor Bruce Latimer, of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, said: “It’s been suspected modern man and Neanderthals were in the same place at the same time – but we didn’t have the physical evidence. Now we do have it in the new skull fossil.

“Modern humans and Neanderthals likely encountered each other foraging for food.”

The skull was preserved by wet conditions in the cave which allowed researchers to use mineral dating techniques to show it is around 55,000 years old.

Prof Latimer said it contained a relatively small brain of around 1,100 milliliters. The modern human brain averages around 1,400 milliliters.

Several features of the cranium resemble modern man’s skull – in particular a bony formation called the occipital bun on the back.

Its purpose is unknown but the Neanderthal’s looks much like a bony ‘hot dog’ bun with a groove down the centre – a feature absent in the cave fossil and also typically missing in modern humans.

The fossil’s gender is unknown because it’s missing the brow ridge – a tell-tale sign. Younger human teeth and bones have also been found in the cave and it’s believed there are probably more fossils in the cave linked to the skull.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 26th May 2014

Public hospital outpatient waiting lists show a 230% increase


Public hospital outpatient waiting list numbers are continuing to spiral – the number of patients waiting over a year for an appointment has increased by 230% since the end of 2013.

The latest performance report from the HSE shows that there were 16,295 patients waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment as of the end of March, compared to only 4,937 waiting this period at the end of last year.

There were 13,438 patients waiting over a year for outpatients at the end of February.

The total number of patients on outpatient lists is now 331,281, compared to 300,752 at the end of 2013.

Health Minister Reilly aimed to have no-one waiting over a year for an outpatient consultation by the end of 2013. The numbers were cut by over 50,000 between the end of November and the end of December last.

This was mainly achieved through buying services from private hospitals for a once-off clearance of the lists before the end of 1913, However, the lists after they were cut substantially, almost immediately started rising again.

Latest figures also show that public hospital waiting lists for operations and procedures are continuing an upward spiral that started in January.

Only four adult patients were waiting over nine months for treatment at the end of December last but by the end of March the numbers waiting over eight months (the new maximum wait target) had risen to 4,350.

Total numbers on treatment waiting lists now stand at 50,537, compared to 44,870 at the end of December and 49,147 at the end of February.

The continuing increase in waiting lists, coupled with the growing financial crisis in the HSE, is increasing the pressure on Health Minister James Reilly, especially in the wake of the Government parties’ poor local and European election results.

New Sligo County manager says ‘door now open’ to Lissadell estate owners


New Sligo County manager Ciaran Hayes says the council would try to facilitate the owners if seeking to host more concerts at Lissadell House.

The Sligo county manager has said his door is open to the owners of the Lissadell estate, and that he was hopeful the “fantastic facility” would reopen to the public.

At a special meeting today to discuss the fallout from the legal battle over rights of way at the Co Sligo estate, Ciaran Hayes also said the council would do its best to facilitate the owners if, for example, they wanted to have more concerts on the estate.

He told councillors he could not give a guarantee that such a dispute would not happen again. Mr Hayes said the issue had implications for every local authority in the State and implications for legislation. Councillors were told there was a legal onus on the council to defend rights of way.

Building bridges

After a number of councillors urged that the council be more proactive in building bridges, Mr Hayes said he would have no problem in approaching the owners, and a motion urging him to do so was passed.

The meeting was held following the release of a statement from owners Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy that described a report prepared by officials on the legal background to the case as “a whitewash”.

Last November, the Supreme Court found in favour of the owners and overturned a High Court ruling that rights of way existed on four avenues through the estate, the ancestral home of 1916 leader Constance Markievicz.

Mr Hayes told the meeting the council’s costs in the matter were likely to exceed €2 million and some legal bills had been paid from an overdraft. He said the owners would furnish a legal bill to the council, which is liable for 75 per cent of their costs, estimated at up to €7 million. In the absence of agreement it would be referred to the taxing master and could take up to two years to be finalised.

The estate was regarded as one of the leading tourist attractions in the northwest, but it has been closed since 2009. Today, the couple said no decision had been made about its future.

Labour councillor Jim McGarry said the family deserved an apology from Sligo County Council. They were parents and children who had made Lissadell a home, he said. “They put their heart and soul into creating something for the good of the people of Sligo and were treated appallingly,” he said.

What had happened was heartbreaking, Mr McGarry said. “Lissadell is now closed, and has been for the past five years,” he said, adding that it had been a tourist attraction that brought more than 40,000 visitors a year to Sligo.

In December 2008 the county council had passed a motion to amend its county development plan aimed at protecting public rights of way along four routes at Lissadell.


Fine Gael councillor Joe Leonard, who had proposed the motion, was heckled by Mr McGarry as he told colleagues his conscience was clear.

“I did the right thing. I would do exactly the same again,” said Mr Leonard, adding he had acted in the interests of the local community.

“I applaud the strenuous and repeated efforts by Sligo County Council to achieve a negotiated settlement,” he said.

Mr Leonard told the sometimes heated meeting the Supreme Court’s decision to completely reverse the High Court ruling was “in the eyes of the community, and in my own opinion, unbelievable”. He said the ruling on costs was “equally mystifying to any reasonable observer”.

Seán MacManus of Sinn Féin said the council could not wait for an approach from the owners but had to “extend a hand to the Walsh-Cassidy family, even at this late juncture”.

Galway in shock at five suicides in one weekend


Families and friends gather at the Walk of Life event in Galway city, after a weekend where at least five suicides were recorded. Walk of Life creates awareness around depression and suicide and remembers loved ones who have been lost to suicide.

Hundreds of people joined a remembrance walk after confirmation by gardai that there were at least five suicides in Galway in the space of just a few days.

Cork hurler Conor Cusack, who has made no secret of his own battle with depression, spoke at the Walk of Life event in Galway city organised by Niall McDonagh and his mother Mary.

Their family is among thousands across the country who have experienced the tragedy of suicide – with the five deaths in Galway coming the previous weekend.

“It is so shocking and tragic for anyone touched by it and after the numbers in Galway – if that is not an epidemic, I don’t know what is,” said Niall.

Ireland has exceptionally high rates of suicide among young people, with 600 deaths of people under the age of 25 recorded in Ireland in 2012.

“We need to change the way society looks at suicide,” said Supt Gerry Roche, one of the founders of suicide prevention and support group Galway East Life Support.

“It is a huge problem. Here in the West it is probably the single biggest issue.”

Stem cell research Products, Opportunities, Tools and Technologies


Dominate the Stem Cell Product Market by Making Smarter Decisions Faster

Stem cells are still a relatively new discovery, as the first mouse embryonic stem cells were derived from embryos in 1981, but it was not until 1995 that the first successful culturing of embryonic stem cells from non-human primates occurred and not until 1998 when a technique was developed to isolate and grow embryonic stem cells from human blastocysts.

Soon after, mesenchymal stem cells, neural stem cells, and hematopoietic stem cells became popularized. Groundbreaking experimentation in 2006 then led to the introduction of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

To facilitate research resulting from these far-ranging discoveries, a large and rapidly growing stem cells products market has emerged. There are now over one million stem cell researchers in 179 countries worldwide. In addition, there were only 17 stem cell product companies as of 2006 and that number has expanded to include over 100 today (more than a 5-fold increase). Not surprisingly, trend analysis also reveals rapid increases in stem cell research activity over the past five years.

Revealing new 2014 data, the industry report “Stem Cell Research Products: Opportunities, Tools, and Technologies” addresses these trends by strategically positioning research supply companies to expand, profit, and outmaneuver the competition.

A distinctive feature of the report is the findings discovered as a result of surveying researchers that identify as having stem cells as their core focus. This 2014 survey reveals stem cell researcher needs, technical preferences, key factors influencing buying decisions, and more. It can be used to make effective product development decisions, create targeted marketing messages, and produce higher prospect-to-client conversion rates.

To benefit from this lucrative product market, you need to anticipate and serve the needs of your clients, or your competitors will.

Key Findings Include:

•           Charts, Timelines, and Financials for the Stem Cell Product Market

•           Trend Data for Stem Cell Grants, Scientific Publications, and Patents

•           5-Year Market Size Projections (2014-2018)

•           Competitive Environment Analysis, Including Identification of Market Leaders

•           Preferred Species for Stem Cell Research

•           Breakdown of Stem Cell Product Categories

•           Identification of Crucial Trends and Unmet Market Needs

•           Breakdown of the Marketing Methods Used by Industry Participants

•           End-User Survey of Stem Cell Researchers

In summary, this is a must-read industry report for companies to optimally position themselves to sell stem cell products and technologies. To profit from this lucrative and rapidly expanding market, you need to understand your key strengths relative to the competition, intelligently position your products to fill gaps in the marketplace, and take advantage of crucial stem cell trends.

Currently, the following product categories compose the majority of global stem cell product sales:

• Primary antibodies to stem cell antigens

• Bead-based stem cell separation systems

• Fluorescent-based labeling and detection

• Stem cell protein purification and analysis tools

• Tools for DNA and RNA-based characterization of stem cells

• Isolation/characterization services

• Stem cell culture media and reagents

• Stem cell specific growth factors and cytokines

• Tools for stem cell gene regulation

• Stem cell services and mechanisms for in vivo and in vitro stem cell tracking

• Expansion/differentiation services for stem cell media and RNAi

• Stem cell lines

Furthermore, to sell products in the stem cell market, it is critical to understand the research applications for which stem cells are being studied. One area of study is the use of stem cells to understand and treat birth disorders. However, of greater interest to researchers is the potential for use of stem cells in regenerative medicine to treat conditions ranging from diabetes, to cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.

Pharmaceutical companies have intense interest in the ability to use stem cells to improve drug target validation and toxicology screening. Therefore, it is important for companies interested in stem cell therapy applications to understand underlying market forces, and in particular, to consider progressive areas of stem cell research as opportunistic areas for drug and therapy development.

This report presents a range of topics of interest to these companies as well, including how advances in stem research can reveal potential new drug targets, improve methods of drug delivery, and provide personalized treatment strategies.

The key areas that account for the majority of applied stem cell research include:

• Regenerative Medicine – Reversal of injury or disease

• Drug Target Validation and Drug Delivery – Treatment of disease

• Toxicology Screening – Drug safety and efficacy assessment

• Understanding and Treatment of Birth Disorders – Natal repair

This 2014 report provides detailed information on both basic and applied stem cell research and research applications and includes an updated list of global stem cell research centers by region.

Furthermore, it is crucial for stem cell companies to understand the funding environment that supports stem cell research. Currently, the U.S. federal government is an important, although not dominant, source of funding for stem cell research. The reason is that U.S. states are spending almost as much as the federal government on stem cell research and are actually spending more than the federal government on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. Private sources also contribute a huge amount of funding, with analysis of recent large gifts summing to over $1.7 billion.

Growth in stem cell research has exploded in the past decade, and so the market to supply stem cell research products has grown to meet this huge demand. There are now over one million stem cell researchers worldwide. In addition, there were only 17 stem cell product companies as of 2006, and that has expanded to more than 100 today, a 6-fold increase.

NASA spacecraft discovers a new big crater on Mars


A NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has found a new gigantic crater on the surface of the Red Planet

A NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has found a new gigantic crater on the surface of the Red Planet.

The crater is the largest new impact site ever seen on Mars with orbiter photos, according to The Huffington Post.

Photos of the crater were taken after it appeared suddenly in March 2012. They were taken by the space agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The crater stretches half the length of a football field, The Economic Times reported.

The largest crater spans 159 by 143 feet.

“The biggest crater is unusual, quite shallow compared to other fresh craters we have observed,” said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) of the University of Arizona.

NASA officials said a large asteroid impact, similar to the meteor explosion that occurred in Chelyabinsk, Russia last year, could have likely created the crater. The impact in Russia shattered windows, caused damage to hundreds of buildings and injured over 1,000 people, The Huffington Postreported.

The Red Planet’s new crater was found by Bruce Cantor, a scientist with Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), almost two months ago. While Cantor was looking for dust storms and other weather events, he found a dark spot uncommon on Mars. He took images of the spot with the Mars Color Imager (MARCI), a weather-monitoring camera made by MSSS on board the MRO.

“It wasn’t what I was looking for,” Cantor said. “I was doing my usual weather monitoring and something caught my eye. It looked usual, with rays emanating from a central spot.”

Cantor studied earlier images, skipping back months to find that the spot existed a year ago, The Economic Times reported.

He then checked images from 40 different dates and was able to pinpoint the date the impact took place. The spot was not present through March 27, 2012, but appeared before the imaging on March 28.

McEwen estimated that the crater was likely created from an object that was 10 to 18 feet long, which is less than a third of the asteroid that landed near Chelyabinsk,The Huffington Post reported.

However, the atmosphere of Red Planet is much thinner than Earth’s which makes Mars more vulnerable to strikes from asteroids. A study released last year discovered that Mars likely gets hit with over 200 asteroids every year.

Thurs/Fri. 7th & 8th March 2014

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praises Ireland’s bailout exit in Dublin


The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny pictured during a news conference at Government Buildings in Dublin on Friday.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described Ireland’s exit from its bailout programme as a “tremendous success story”.

She made her comments after meeting the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in Dublin on Friday.

It was the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders since Ireland exited its EU bailout in December.

Chancellor Merkel was visiting Ireland for the European People’s Party Congress, which took place in the city.

She also met the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Eamon Gilmore during her meeting with Mr Kenny at Government Buildings.

Speaking at a press conference after their meeting, M/s Merkel said it was important that lessons were learned from the past and, she said, Europe had to work closely on the banking union.

Ireland was the first Eurozone member state to complete its exit from the European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout programme.

The country will still remain under “enhanced supervision” until three quarters of the 85bn euro loans are paid off.

The Irish economy is emerging from one of the deepest recessions in the Eurozone, having sought an international bailout in November 2010.

Ireland’s Minister Simon Coveney introduces new animal welfare act


Ireland on Friday introduced a new legislation on animal welfare to outline in clear legal terms the responsibility people have when they own an animal.

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, which came into effect on Friday, strengthens the already existing protections for animals in Irish law.

“The Animal Health and Welfare Act is an important piece of legislation, bringing together and modernizing many existing laws in the area of animal health and welfare and I am delighted to bring it into effect,” said Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.

He said that the act brings the areas of both animal health and welfare together under one legislative framework for the first time.

“While in the past animal welfare and animal health may have been seen as separate issues, the act recognizes that they are closely related and in many cases inter-dependent and that synergy can be gained by bringing them together under one legislative roof. Where either health or welfare breaks down, it often has consequences for the other,” he added.

The Irish minister said the act, by placing the concepts of prevention, risk assessment and biosecurity at the heart of Irish legislation relating to animal health and welfare, puts the country to the fore of best international practice.

Under the act, judges for the first time will be granted specific powers to prevent persons convicted of cruelty to, or failing to protect the welfare of animals from owning or working with animals. In the case of dog fights, the range of evidence which courts can consider has been expanded to include attendance at a dog fight, which should make conviction easier.

Remants & roots of Irish history exposed in Galway by the winter storms


Part of a drowned forest (pic above left) that once spanned a vast swathe of the west coast of Ireland has been exposed by recent storms. Remnants of the drowned forest have been exposed by winter storms

The forest dates back thousands of years and was lost to the sea as water levels rose over the centuries.

It was reported recently that strong winds and big waves had moved sand, rocks, and other debris from the north Galway coast to unearth what is left.

“We always knew it was there but it took the storms to expose it” said geologist, Prof Mike Williams.

“Folklore tales, passed down through thousands of generations, spoke of disappearing land and islands. It’s extraordinary to see”.

The sight, however, will be short-lived because “It will all disappear again as the sand is pushed back over it by the sea during the summer months,” added Prof Williams.

The storms that resurrected some of the island’s wooded history also killed large parts of living forests.

Up to 7.5 million trees were felled by one of the strongest storms to batter Ireland during the winter season.

Storm Darwin, as it became known, struck on 12 February knocking more than a quarter of a million homes and businesses into darkness as the electricity network dealt with thousands of faults.

Gusts of wind reached almost 100mph (160km/h) at Shannon airport in County Clare, while gusts of 93mph (150km/h) were recorded at Waterford airport.

The south and west of the country was worst affected with police declaring a major emergency in County Kilkenny.

Following the storm the Windblow taskforce was set up by the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Agriculture to assess the damage caused by the storm.

Early indications from the taskforce show that between 5,000 and 7,000 hectares of forest have been blown down, mainly in Munster.

Some 120+ Clare/Galway stolen manhole covers will cost NRA €100,000 to replace them


Thieves are targeting manhole covers for their scrap value

More than 120 manhole covers had to be replaced on a single road at a cost of €100,000 after being targeted by thieves.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) has confirmed that there have been 126 manhole covers taken on the M18 since last summer.

It’s believed that the wrought-iron covers were removed from drainage shores by thieves who sell them on to scrap metal dealers.

The NRA said while the problem appears to be confined to a section of the M18 that links counties Clare and Galway, they are now checking the entire motorway network for missing covers.

The scale of the problem was only realised after the NRA assumed responsibility for the motorway network and established a maintenance depot in Ennis adjacent to the route last September.

Since last summer, the cost of the thefts and damage caused during the removal of the wrought-iron covers has been estimated at around €100,000.

NRA spokesman Sean O’Neill said: “This is something we have been monitoring since a previous incident, and we wanted to see if that was a one-off. Since we took over the network and established a motorway maintenance base in Ennis, routine patrols and inspections by crews uncovered the extent of the problem.

“This problem appears to be confined to a specific section of the M18 but we are undertaking a survey of the entire network to ensure this is not happening anywhere else.”


Clare councillor Johnny Flynn, an engineer and former chief fire officer for Co Limerick, said: “This is really serious and the consequences of a vehicle driving into an uncovered shore at motorway speeds could lead to a catastrophic situation.

“This is not just anti-social behaviour; it’s also criminally neglectful and I would remind scrap metal dealers the onus is on them to verify the ownership of any covers offered to them.”

40% of young women In 2012 had completed tertiary education compared with 32% of men


Who are more likely to leave school early – women or men? What proportion of young women have a degree?

Which fields of tertiary education are the most popular among women and which are the least? Are a higher or a

lower proportion of women than men in employment? Do women or men more often work part time? What is the

difference in earnings between women and men? How have fertility rates changed over the last decade?

Answers to these questions can be found in this News Release, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of

the European Union on the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2014. The tables in this News

Release only show a small part of the large amount of gender based data available at Eurostat. A dedicated

section on the topic of gender equality is available on the Eurostat web site1.

A smaller proportion of early leavers from education and training among women

There was a smaller proportion of early leavers from education and training among women (10.9%) than among

men (14.4%) in the EU28 in 2012. While the extent of leaving school early differs considerably between Member

States, this gender pattern was the same for all except Bulgaria. The largest differences between women and men

for early leavers from education and training were observed in Portugal (14.3% for women and 27.1% for men),

Malta (17.6% and 27.5%), Cyprus (7.0% and 16.5%), Latvia (6.3% and 14.7%) and Spain (20.8% and 28.8%),

and the smallest in Austria (7.3% and 7.9%), Bulgaria (13.0% and 12.1%), Croatia (3.6% and 4.6%), the Czech

Republic (4.9% and 6.1%) and Romania (16.7% and 18.0%).

Smallest differences between women and men having completed tertiary education in Austria,

Luxembourg and Germany:

A higher proportion of young women than men have a degree in the EU. In 2012, 39.9% of women aged 30 to 34 in

the EU28 had completed a tertiary level of education, compared with 31.5% of men. The largest differences in the

rates between women and men were observed in Estonia (50.4% for women and 28.1% for men), Latvia (48.1%

and 26.2%), Slovenia (49.6% and 29.5%) and Denmark (52.6% and 33.7%), and the smallest in Austria (26.6%

and 26.0%), Luxembourg (48.9% and 50.4%), Germany (32.9% and 31.0%) and Romania (23.2% and 20.5%).

Almost 80% of graduates in education in the EU28 are women, compared with 27% for


The fields of study chosen within tertiary education vary greatly between women and men. In the EU28 in 2011,

79.1% of tertiary education graduates in education & training and 76.0% of graduates in health & welfare were

women. On the other hand, only 26.6% of graduates in engineering and 40.8% in science & mathematics were

female. The share of female graduates in the different fields varied significantly between Member States, ranging

from 74.4% in Denmark to 95.1% in Romania for education & training, from 59.7% in Cyprus to 93.7% in Latvia

for health & welfare, from 25.2% in the Netherlands to 60.7% in Romania for science & mathematics and from

16.9% in Ireland to 50.4% in Cyprus for engineering. Skeletons from old cemetery reveal early settlers’ diet

Skeletons from the oldest cemetery in Pacific Islands

show a preference for free-range food & it is not a modern phenomenon.


In a paper published in this week’s PLOS One, the international research team, including Australian scientists, reveals insights into the diet of the Lapita people, who colonised Oceania.

The findings are based on an analysis of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes in bone collagen of 49 adults buried at the Teouma archaeological site on Vanuatu’s Efate Island.

It shows the first Lapita colonials ate reef fish, marine turtles, fruit bats, pigs and chickens rather than primarily relying on crops for human food and animal fodder.

Dr Stuart Bedford, from the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University, says the analysis reveals the broad mix in the diet of the first settlers in the last 10 – 15 years before they died.

Bedford says the finding helps clear up debate about how the early Lapita colonisers sustained themselves as they spread across the Pacific islands around 3000 years ago.

The debate over the survival strategy

The Lapita people appeared in the Bismarck Archipelago, on the east coast of Papua New Guinea, around 3000 years ago before moving east to colonise the islands of remote Oceania with a “transported landscape” of domestic plants and animals.

However, debate has long ranged over how the Lapita settlers adapted to the local ecology of each new island in order to obtain enough food for survival.

One theory suggests the transported plants and animals were the critical food items, while competing theories have favoured that the interlopers focused on gathering local resources.

This study, led by Dr Rebecca Kinaston at the  University of Otago, reveals the likely truth lies somewhere between.

Bedford says it appears the new colonists practiced a mixed subsistence strategy consuming wild marine and land animals and local flora as well as eating pigs and chickens.

The lack of significant amounts of C3 plants such as tubers in the human diet supports the idea crops were still being established at this time and could not be heavily relied upon.

“It’s not a planned strategy,” says Bedford. “When they arrive they have to survive off the local fauna and flora while they establish gardens. It’s logical, but at the same time having the direct evidence is satisfying.”

Analysis of ancient pig bones found at the site suggests the domestic animals foraged for food “reducing the competition between pigs and humans for the limited horticultural plant foods likely being grown”, the researchers write.

The researchers add this could be “the first direct evidence of a ‘low-cost free-range system’ of animal husbandry.

Unpublished data on the site shows the diet of both humans and pigs changes as gardens become established, says Bedford.

Men versus women

The study also reveals males ate more protein than women.

While the paper suggests this indicates males had a higher status in the communities, Bedford says this is just one “potential scenario”.

He says because males were the primary hunters, the find might just reflect they had more access to meat.

Bedford points to modern-day hunting practices in island communities to illustrate his point: “Men are the ones that essentially go off and hunt and sometimes when they do that they will sit down and cook what they kill, and eat on the spot.”

He says excavation at the site, just 10 minutes north of Port Vila, has uncovered more than 2000 tortoise bones.

Hunting endemic animals to extinction “is a key indicator of first arrival”, says Bedford, as the tortoise was not known to be present in the area prior to the discovery of these bones.

He says the discovery of the Teouma site is critical to understanding colonising communities.

“It is extraordinarily rare that these sites are found,” says Bedford. “This discovery helps us to understand how these communities arrived, adapted and survived.”

A high-protein Diet in people in their 40’s and 50’s may Increase the risk for Diabetes & Cancer?


But for those over 65, a higher protein intake may be very beneficial?

Morgan E. Levine, PhD, of the Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California, and colleagues assessed data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which followed 6,381 adults aged at least 50 years for nearly 2 decades. The mean age of the study participants was 65 years.

Researchers defined high-protein intake as a diet deriving at least 20% of calories from protein, both plant- and animal-based. A diet including 10% to 19% of calories from protein was considered moderate, and a low-protein diet included less than 10% protein.

Overall, participants with high- and moderate-protein intake had higher risks for diabetes-related mortality compared with the low-protein intake group.

Researchers used Cox proportional hazard models to assess associations between protein consumption and age. They divided study participants into two groups: those aged 50 to 65 years and those aged at least 66 years. Among those in the younger group, higher protein intake increased the relative risk for death by 74% (HR=1.74; 95% CI, 1.02-2.97).

They were four times more likely to die of cancer compared with participants who had a low-protein diet (HR=4.33; 95% CI, 1.96-9.56). Further, participants in the younger age group who ate a moderate-protein diet were three times more likely to die of cancer than those with a lower protein intake (HR=3.06; 95% CI, 1.49-6.25).

Although the study findings show that high-protein intake during middle age can be harmful, high-protein intake may be beneficial for older adults. Protein controls insulin-like growth factor I, whose levels dramatically decrease after age 65 years and can lead to frailty and muscle loss, according to researchers.

Data showed that participants aged at least 66 years who consumed high or moderate levels of protein vs. low levels of protein had a reduced risk for mortality of 28% (HR=0.72; 95% CI, 0.55-0.94) and 21% (HR=0.78; 95% CI, 0.62-0.99), respectively. Additionally, high-protein consumption reduced risk for cancer mortality by 60% (HR=0.4; 95% CI, 0.23-0.71).

In a press release, study researcher Eileen Crimmins, PhD, the AARP chair in gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, said, “The research shows that a low-protein diet in middle age is useful for preventing cancer and overall mortality, through a process that involves regulating IGF-I and possibly insulin levels.” “However, we also propose that at older ages, it may be important to avoid a low-protein diet to allow the maintenance of healthy weight and protection from frailty.”

Researchers found an association between the type of protein participants consumed and elevated risks for diabetes, cancer and all-cause mortality. Controlling for calories from animal-derived protein significantly diminished the correlation between total protein intake and all-cause and cancer mortality among participants aged 50 to 65 years. This suggests that high levels of animal proteins increase risk for mortality. Further, one’s risk may be decreased if protein comes from a plant-based source, according to researchers.

News Ireland daily BLOG

Saturday 21st September 2013

Ireland no longer playing catch-up with rest of the eurozone


Figures released on Wednesday by the Central Statistics Office showed Ireland’s economy has now exited its second recession since 2008, driven by a jump in exports coupled with a pick-up in personal consumption.

Exports increased by €1.5bn between the start of April and the end of June, while personal spending jumped 0.7pc on the previous quarter. The country’s construction industry is finally beginning to show signs of growth too, expanding by 4.2pc in the same period.

We’ve now caught up on the eurozone as a whole, which officially pulled out of an 18-month recessionat the end of June.

In fact, Irish growth actually exceeded the eurozone average in the most recent quarter.

Yesterday, the European Commissionsaid investor confidence in the single currency trading bloc had reached a two-year high in September.

The eurozone’s recovery, however, remains fragile. While Ireland has finally found itself in growth mode, other countries are still mired in recession – two consecutive quarters of economic contraction – and those conditions persist in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Slovenia. That list could be longer; not all countries, including Greece, report quarterly GDP figures.

In some of these countries, a return to growth looks unlikely to happen any time soon.

Italy cut its growth forecasts yesterday and will probably need further austerity measures to bring its budget deficit to below the European Union’s 3pc threshold, as promised this year.

But even though we can’t be sure of its quarterly GDP performance, the news still looks more positive for embattled Greece.

Unofficial estimates released this week said the country’s battered economy expanded from April to June on a quarterly basis, for the first time since its crisis erupted four years ago.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Thursday that the economy was inching towards recovery, as unemployment registered its first quarterly fall in almost four years. “Signs of a recovery are now evident,” he said.

These greenshoots of hope could provide a boost to government revenues that would help Athens avoid further, painful austerity measures to meet the fiscal targets under its international bailout. Encouraged by the figures, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras urged lenders not demand any more cuts to jobs, wages and pensions.

The troika begins an inspection tomorrow that will assess the country’s compliance with reforms and establish any further financing Athens needs before it regains market access.

Cork, Limerick and Galway to get bikes for hire next year


THE hugely successful Dublin bikes-for-hire scheme will be available in three other cities from next summer and could be rolled out to other towns in the near future.

Public Transport minister Alan Kelly has unveiled plans to have 700 bikes installed in Cork, Limerick and Galway by next July, but told the Irish Independent that other towns and cities could also benefit.

Sponsored by Coca Cola Ireland, the bikes will be branded ‘Coke Zerobikes’, with 315 for Cork, 200 in Limerick and 185 in Galway.

There will be 31 docking stations in Cork, 23 in Limerick and 19 in Galway, with the locations to be decided over the coming months.

The schemes, which will be the first of their kind outside the capital, will allow cyclists to use bikes for either free or at a low cost and take or leave them at various docking stations throughout the cities. “This is a breakthrough day for cycling in Ireland,” Mr Kelly said.

“Cork, Galway and Limerick will be joining the likes of Paris, London,Barcelona and Dublin as the cities which have their own public-bike schemes.

“We would estimate that an additional 700,000 cycling trips will be taken per annum because of this scheme. This project has been over two years in the making.

COST: “I’m quietly confident we will be able to do something in Waterford in the future and in areas including Kilkenny, Letterkenny, Athlone and Clonmel.”

The bike stations and bikes will be funded by the Department of Transport, through the National Transport Authority (NTA), at a cost of €4m to install. It will cost another €900,000 a year to operate and maintain the service.

It is understood that Coca Cola Ireland has paid €3m over five years to secure the branding rights – much of this will go on maintenance, with the balance to be made up by councils and the €250,000 expected to be generated in subscriptions.

The cost has not yet been decided, but is expected to be the same as Dublin, where it costs €10 per year to subscribe, with the first half-hour of a bike hire free. After that, charges range from 50c per hour.

The number of cyclists in Dublin has grown by 40pc since 2009. The NTA is currently in the process of competitive tendering for companies to supply,install and maintain the bikes as part of the scheme.

The tender process is expected to be completed by December 2013, and the bikes will be available by next July.

The NTA also plans to extend the Dublin Bikes scheme from 550 bikes at present to 1,500 over the next year.

Praveen Halappanavar begins right for life action against hospital, doctor


Proceedings allege negligence and breach of Savita’s right to life by hospital and clinicians

Praveen Halappanavar alleges medical negligence and a breach of wife Savita’s right to life, by Galway hospital and the team of clinicians.

The husband of the late Savita Halappanavar has served legal proceedings against Galway University Hospital and the consultant who treated her in the week before her death.

  Praveen Halappanavar’s solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, said the proceedings, against hospital and Dr Katherine Astbury, were served to the hospital’s solicitors in the city yesterday. He said the proceedings alleged medical negligence and a breach of Ms Halappananvar’s right to life, by the hospital and the team of clinicians led by Dr Astbury.

Ms Halappanavar died at the Galway hospital on October 28th last. She had been 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying when she was admitted to the hospital on October 21st. She had requested a termination of the pregnancy after being told she was miscarrying but this was refused as the foetal heartbeat was still present. She contacted septicaemia and went into septic shock, particularly after October 24th, after she delivered the foetus. She suffered multi-organ failure and died at 1.09 am in intensive care a week after she arrived at the hospital.

A inquest into her death in April returned a verdict of death by medical misadventure, while a HSE investigation into her care found there was an overemphasis on the welfare of the unviable foetus and an under emphasis on Ms Halappanavar’s deterioration. An investigation by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) is ongoing.

The proceedings relate to the care she received between October 21st and the morning and early afternoon of October 24th. Mr Halappanavar has no issues with the care his late wife received in the high dependency and intensive care units between the afternoon of October 24th and the time of her death, at 1.09 am on October 28th.

Speaking to The Irish Times today, Mr O’Donnell said his client was “pleased” the proceedings had now been served. The decision to take legal action against the hospital was first reported in The Irish Times in July.

“He is anxious to get things moving,” said Mr O’Donnell. “This is another strand in achieving accountability. That is what my client wants and it is what her family wants.”

Canada has plenty of jobs but Ireland is my home


My Canadian and Irish friends thought I was mad to move back after two years in Toronto but I’m happy, writes Claire O’Keefe

I’m writing this at home, in the family sitting room with its high ceilings, abandoned webs and familiar ripe scent of ancient wood. I’m home after spending nearly two years living and working in the great city of Toronto. I had adapted to the Canadian culture, the way of life, like every other emigrant and landed a permanent job in my field of work, but two years in, I made the big decision to return home to Ireland.

My own choice was made, my future was decided but my circle of friends, both Canadian and Irish, had interesting reactions to my choice.

I’m not going to pretend the decision-making process was easy. It was a tough undertaking, over the past few months, to weigh up the pros and cons of living in a rich, vibrant city like Toronto, with so much diversity and so many opportunities. Honestly, there is a real sense that the impossible can be achieved in Canada. But the cons won out in the end.

I had reached the point when my work permit was set to expire and the next step was to apply for permanent residency, which is one step away from citizenship. The truth is I wasn’t enamoured enough with Canada – despite all its treasures – to consider living there long term. There is also the issue of wanting to be near the people you love. When your heart feels heavy for home, and has felt that way for a long time, there’s no diet for that; there’s no cure until the Visa card is whipped out and the plane tickets are booked.

I booked mine in June. Now that I’m home (I got back in early September) I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve felt nothing like regret since I clicked the ‘book now’ button on that warm evening in our apartment’s small kitchen. I’m also glad that I’ll be armed with close to two years of professional experience. But looking at my decision to move back to Ireland through other peoples’ eyes was a little extraordinary.

“You’re not serious.” This was generally the reaction I got from my Irish friends living in Canada when I told them my news. The eyebrows raised; the eye-to-eye stare endured and then, seconds later, the pity arrived. You could see it in their expressions, leaking empathy with their Puss ‘n Boots eyes. “It’s because you’re homesick is it?” they said. “Ah you’re right girl, it’s hard work living in Canada.”

The compassion was not meant to antagonize or annoy, but to help me to justify a hard decision. That’s nice, but no justification is necessary.

The Canadians had a different reaction altogether. “I’m leaving Canada for Ireland,” I’d say to my Canadian friends. “What?” they’d ask. “I’m leaving for Ireland,” I’d say again because they don’t believe me. “You’re going home?!” they say with absolute incredulity. Over and over again, I repeated the decision and explained the reasons why it was made. Over and over again I was met with astonishment.

“But why is she going to Ireland,” I heard my Canadian friend ask my Irish friend, “does she really want to go back?”… as if I had a gun to my head.

It’s a comical reaction. It may be founded in the Canadians’ patriotism, clearly evident from the word ‘CANADA’ and the Maple Leaf emblazoned on clothes, bags, and hats. It may be hard to process the notion that someone would want to leave such a great and wonderful country as theirs.

It also may be founded in the belief that I might be mad. Why would I go back to a near-beaten country with Cute Hoors and white collar criminals roaming free? Why would I dismantle and destroy a life I’ve built in a safe, secure and regulated country like Canada, to return to chaos in a nation that can be called Europe’s Whipping Boy?

Because it’s Ireland. Because it’s unique. Because it’s home.

Transcending climate catastrophe: hopeful answers from the Great Spiritual Traditions


This year’s droughts, floods, and horrific wildfires all come after a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit of global warming over the 20th century. With a projected 9 degrees of warming by 2100, how do we deal with the potential extinction of civilization?

Personal Death, the great mystics tell us, is always on our minds, even if buried deep in the psyche. If you think otherwise, notice your response the next time you’re crossing the street, intently talking on your cell, when a bus suddenly bears down on you at 60 mph.

Human-caused climate change is just such a bus.

We’ve recently seen 65 % of the nation gripped by drought, record Western wildfires, more than 26,000 heat records shattered, the U.S. corn crop withered, herds of cattle slaughtered for lack of water. 2011 saw the record Mississippi River and Midwest floods, and Texas drought. 2010 saw Russia’s wildfires and Pakistan’s floods. This happened with just 1 degree Fahrenheit global warming over the 20th century. The horrific impacts of 9 degrees warming – likely by 2100 on our current course – is unimaginable.

Clearly, the potential demise of our civilization, our species, of hundreds of thousands of other species, of the world of tigers and maple trees and temperate weather is underway. It is equally on all our minds at all times, and yet buried as deep down as we can bury it.

The denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance being displayed by everyone – from politicians to pundits to parents, plumbers and poets – is indicative of this now innate but forbidden knowledge.

For those of us who are activists and journalists, who do bring it to the surface, we hold out the irrational bargaining chip of carbon taxes, solar power, or better light bulbs, as if these elixirs will save us. In so doing, we invoke the denial and wrath of the right wing pundits and politicians, who irrationally insist our collapsing global ecosystems are a hoax perpetrated by Al Gore and the UN to gain world domination. None of us is bad or evil in our assertions – rather we all stand at different stages of the grieving process.

This year’s record Arctic meltdown – ignored by the media and presidential candidates –likely sounded a death knell for all we hold dear: our world, country, community, our families, ourselves. It is clear that our well-meaning scientists got it wrong with their models. The extreme weather that wasn’t supposed to happen until after 2050, the Arctic meltdown that wasn’t supposed to begin until after 2070, the Greenland and Western Antarctic Ice Sheet meltdown that wasn’t to begin until after 2100, are all under way now.

The rate of damaging global change is turning exponential, even as the rate at which the world burns fossil fuels rises. Like a chain smoker, diagnosed with terminal cancer, we can’t stop.

Those alive in 2100 will likely be living on a very different, hostile planet. Monster heat waves, droughts, deluges, sea level rise, die off of fisheries and forests, destruction of industrial agriculture, water shortages, famine, plague, war… all likely await those of us who live into the 2020s, 2030s and beyond.

So where do we begin? What do we do?

The best and healthiest response may be surrender (this does not mean inaction!). We are personally powerless to stop this terrible thing from happening. Though hard to swallow, surrender is the only means to serenity and sanity.

Of course, this will be hard. Few of us has surrendered to the inevitability of our own deaths – I, for one, have not. Surrendering to the death of civilization, and possibly humanity and much of life on earth comes even harder. But it is the only way to avoid the bitterness and desolation that await otherwise.

How should we act from within surrender? As mystics tell us, by preparing for a good death with a good life.

This means embracing love instead of hate, peace instead of war, joy instead of despair. It means giving up selfish separateness for selfless unity with the planet and all living beings. It means surrender to service over personal gain.

The great spiritual teachers of every tradition tell us: we personally are transitory. This world is transitory. All this will pass. To avoid the pain and suffering at such a great loss, the only solution is to live fully into the present moment, to surrender and bless it all.

For today, we can be bigger and better people than we were yesterday. Change the light bulbs for sure. Change the world to be a better place too. But also, try to change your life to be full of hope, love, meaning, charity, peace and equanimity in the face of all the possibilities to come.