Tag Archives: Global warming

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 16th February 2016

DUP leader Arlene Foster to attend 1916 Rising event in Dublin

The first Minister Arlene Foster distinguishes between ‘commemoration’ and ‘considered discussion’


In agreeing to attend the event organised by the Church of Ireland Historical Centenaries Working Group, First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster was anxious to make the distinction between an “event” and a “commemoration”.

First Minister Arlene Foster is to attend an event marking the Easter 1916 Rising in Dublin on Wednesday night (Feb 17th).

In agreeing to attend the event organised by the Church of Ireland Historical Centenaries Working Group, M/s Foster was anxious to make the distinction between an “event” and a “commemoration”.

Last month, the DUP leader said she would not attend events commemorating the Easter Rising as she believed the rebellion gave “succour” to violent republicanism. She subsequently softened her stance to say she would be happy to attend a conference or symposium discussing Easter 1916.

  • Arlene Foster speaks of her ‘difficulties’ with Martin McGuinness.

She has now agreed to attend the event entitled “A State of Chassis – Ordinary People in Extraordinary Circumstances in Dublin in 1916” in Christ Church Cathedral at 7.30pm Wednesday night.

M/s Foster said the event, chaired by broadcaster and historian John Bowman, was “not a commemoration” but a “more considered discussion” about 1916.

Reflecting the sensitivity of her attendance, the Church of Ireland press office on Tuesday issued a clarification stating it had in an initial press release “inadvertently” used the word “commemorate” in the title of the release.

The Church of Ireland said that the event is “not a commemorative one but one which is designed to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising by exploring its historically”.

The event will feature contributions from historians Dr Fearghal McGarry of Queen’s University, Belfast and Dr Jason McElligott of Marsh’s Library, Dublin and also allow an opportunity for discussion and questions from the floor.

New Red C poll shows a further drop in support for Fine Gael

Down 10% on 2011 General election vote share?


Fine Gael is in crisis tonight as the party’s popular support has fallen for the third successive time as a new Red C poll has revealed.

According to the poll which was conducted for the Irish Sun, Fine Gael’s support has slipped to just 26%, which is drop of five points in ten days.

It is also a full 10% below of its 2011 General Election share of the vote.

The poll, which was conducted after the first televised debate of the campaign last week, is a major wake-up call for Enda Kenny who is seeking to be the first Fine Gael leader ever to be re-elected Taoiseach.

The poll shows support for the Labour Party is up one point to 9%. Despite this increase, support for the Coalition is nowhere near the required level to be re-elected.

Speaking in Dundalk at the launch of plans to help long term unemployed people back to work, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said despite growing suggestions no party or coalition will win the election he does not expect that we are heading towards a hung Dáil.

On Monday, after days of increasing speculation, the Fine Gael leader finally ruled out doing any deal with Fianna Fáil.

However, with a grand coalition now off the table, it is unclear what if any combination of parties could occur to ensure there is a stable government after the February 26 vote, increasing the possibility of a second 2016 election.

Meanwhile, support for Fianna Fáil is up one point to 19% and reflects the reasonably good campaign so far for the party.

Sinn Féin’s call for abolishing the Special Criminal Court is one of the factors which has seen the party’s support fall three points to 17%.

Overall, the independents and others group have seen their support increase to 29%, up three points.

Within that group, the Independent Alliance is at 5% an increase of 2 points.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit group are at 2% down one, while the Social Democrats are also down one point and now stand at 3%.

Lucinda Creighton’s Renua Ireland party are at 2% up one, while the Green Party are at 4% up 2 points.

Former Fine Gael director of elections Frank Flannery has questioned where the “young leaders” of Fine Gael are in the election campaign, as he criticised the party for being “complacent” in trying to get its message across to voters.

He questioned why young Fine Gael ministers, like Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, were not playing a “dominant role” in the campaign as opposed to the “ghosts of old battles and old wars”.

The ex-party strategist also told Newstalk’s Lunchtime Show that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil might have to go into government together for “the national interest”- despite both party leaders denying they would.

“There are lots of dynamic young politicians in Dáil Éireann but none of them are represented in the leadership we’re being presented in this election.”

“Where is Leo Varadkar, where is Simon Coveney, where is the young leadership of the party? Why aren’t they playing a dominant role in this debate, representing the new Ireland and the new generation that’s coming up?”

On a possible coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Mr Flannery said:

“The national needs have to come first and everybody has to revisit their perceptions when the counting is done. National interests must come first before all party considerations.”

Minister Leo Varadkar caught up in armed robbery while out canvassing

The Minister was walking into a shop in Carpenterstown after 8pm when the robbers were fleeing.


The minister for health Leo Varadkar got caught up in an armed robbery while out canvassing this evening in a shop in Carpenterstown co Dublin.

A spokesperson for his department said that the Minister was walking into a shop in Carpenterstown while the robbers were fleeing.

The two men, armed with a gun and a machete, threatened staff before making off with a sum of cash.

A garda spokesperson said they managed to escape on foot. It’s understood that nobody was injured in the robbery.

The spokesperson added that Varadkar spoke to the manager of the store after the incident.

Anyone who may have witnessed the robbery is asked to contact Blanchardstown Garda Station on 666 7000.

Donegal folk regard their county as the forgotten part of Ireland


Parts of the county are as far away as it is possible to get on Irish soil from our capital, but scenery like the above pictures  of it’s great coastline are the most beautiful you will ever see on the Island of Ireland?

Donegal folk regard their county as the forgotten part of Ireland.

There is good reason for all that.

Parts of the county are as far away as it is possible to get on Irish soil from our capital, yet there is no railway linking Donegal with Dublin.

Nobody in national authority bothers making a serious attempt to provide jobs inDonegal, but Dublin’s dole queues are daily growing shorter as new companies open and others expand.

The nearest of our eight so-called medical centres of excellence are in Dublin and Galway – around 330 kilometres by road from Donegal’s furthest reaches in Glencolmcille and Malin Head.

No matter how much Donegal shouts for national help, most of the rest of the country dismisses it as another grumble from far-flung cousins.

But it isn’t just a moan! Donegal, where I live, really believes it is the forgotten county.

What’s more, quite a bit of it is going to be even more neglected after the general election.

Permit me to explain.

Donegal runs alongside three northern Counties, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Derry, which are in another jurisdiction with no benefit to the neighbour in the Republic.

The only part of Donegal that that touches another county in the Republic is a strip of a few hundred metres where the River Drowse, which separates it from Leitrim, runs into the sea just south of Bundoran.

Bundoran, in the very south of Donegal, has much more in common with Malin more than 140 kilometres away than it has with Sligo, 30 kilometres to the south.

Bundoran and its neighbour Ballyshannon have councillors who sit in the county headquarters in Lifford.

The two towns – and neighbouring villages, Ballintra, Rossnowlagh and Cashelard – are serviced by council officials in Donegal town and Lifford and a Garda force whose ruling Chief-Supt is based n Letterkenny.

For years the county was quite happy to be divided into two constituencies – Donegal North-East and Donegal South-West – for the general election.

That’s not happening this year.

In their wisdom, constituency commissioners have redrawn the boundaries. Donegal is now just a single constituency returning five TDs instead of six.

But the real problem is for a wee bit of south Donegal – from Ballintra to Bundoran – where a population of 8,800 is being switched into the Sligo Leitrim constituency.

Every person with a vote in this part of Donegal knows more about Pat the Cope Gallagher, Thomas Pringle, Pearse Doherty, even Padraig MacLochlainn away up in Inishowen than they know about any candidate in Sligo-Leitrim.

I suspect it’s much the same in West Cavan where 13,200 voters have also been transferred into Sligo-Leitrim.

None of the candidates in the reformed constituency is from either west Cavan or south Donegal.

They are all either from counties Sligo or Leitrim.

Fat chance of either west Cavan or south Donegal getting much benefit from whoever is likely to represent them.

So far, there is very little door-to-door campaigning by Sligo-Leitrim candidates in their new areas.

By the middle of the three-week campaign just one candidate has called at my house, and he was an Independent from south Leitrim obviously desperately trying to bolster his odds by canvassing people he never met before.

There is a terrible feeling of political apathy in south Donegal.

The candidates are so little-known in this region that talk is widespread about not voting or spoiling votes.

Even if there was an election candidate based in either south Donegal or west Cavan, they would be unlikely to compete effectively with Sligo or Leitrim-based candidates.;

There’s a form of uniqueness about the way Irish people are so attracted to their own counties.

They proudly wear the jerseys when their sports teams are battling to get to Croke Park.

They have more in common with a town 40 or 50 kilometres away in their own county than with a village 10 kilometres distant if it is over the boundary of another county.

This is particularly so with Donegal which, because of its isolation in the north-west, has developed its own identity.

A boundary with the North on one side, the Atlantic all the way down the other and just a few hundred land metres linking it to another county in the Republic has the effect of creating a kind of state within a state.

That’s the way the people of Donegal like to be.

It doesn’t mean they like to be known as the lost people of Ireland.

It’s just that they are a community that doesn’t want to be ripped asunder by a faceless collection of constituency boundary commissioners.

‘An extraordinary’ 94% success rate reported in a recent cancer trial

Early experimental trial uses the immune system’s T-cells to target cancers


“This is unprecedented in medicine, to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients,” says researcher Stanley Riddell.

Scientists are claiming “extraordinary” success with engineering immune cells to target a specific type of blood cancer in their first clinical trials.

Among several dozen patients who would typically have only had months to live, early experimental trials that used the immune system’s T-cells to target cancers had “extraordinary results”.

In one study, 94% of participants with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) saw symptoms vanish completely. Patients with other blood cancers had response rates greater than 80% and more than half experienced complete remission.

Speaking at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement for Science (AAAS), researcher Stanley Riddell said, “This is unprecedented in medicine, to be honest, to get response rates in this range in these very advanced patients.”

To administer the T-cell therapy, doctors remove immune cells from patients, tagging them with “receptor” molecules that target a specific cancer, as other T-cells target the flu or infections. They then infuse the cells back in the body.

“There are reasons to be optimistic, there are reasons to be pessimistic,” said Mr Riddell, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washingtonstate. He added that the researchers believe that lowering the dose of T-cells can reduce the risk of side-effects.

“These are in patients that have failed everything. Most of the patients in our trial would be projected to have two to five months to live.”

Even more hopeful was researcher Chiara Bonini, a haematologist at San Raffaele University in Milan. Ms Bonini said she has not seen remission rates like those of recent trials in over 15 years. “This is really a revolution. T-cells are a living drug, and in particular they have the potential to persist in our body for our whole lives,” she said.

Tests so far have only targeted certain blood cancers, and the researchers acknowledged they needed to work on tumours and track how long patients would remain in remission. Cancer cells can sometimes hide unnoticed by the body’s defences, or simply overwhelm them and throw the immune system into overdrive.

T-cell therapy is often considered an option of last resort because reprogramming the immune system can come with dangerous side-effects, including cytokine release syndrome (sCRS), and overload defence cells. Twenty patients suffered symptoms of fever, hypotension and neurotoxicity due to sCRS, and two died, but the researchers noted that chemotherapy had failed in all the patients who participated in the new trials.

Mr Riddell hesitated to say when the work would move beyond limited trials, but Ms Bonini said: “I think we’re very close to some cellular product.”

She also expressed hope that the modified memory T-cells could eventually provide a long-term defence against cancer, using cells that “remember it from 10 years earlier, and kill it so quickly you don’t even know you’re infected”.

In the most promising study, about 35 patients with ALL were treated with Cars-modified T-cells; 94% went into remission, though symptoms could reappear.

More than 40 patients with lymphoma have also been treated, with remission rates of more than 50%. In a group with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, there was evidence of diminished cancer symptoms in more than 80% of cases.

“Much like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it’s not going to be a save-all,” Mr Riddell said of the new therapy. “I think immunotherapy has finally made it to a pillar of cancer therapy.”

Europe launches satellite to help track global warming


Europe has launched a satellite on yesterday Tuesday that will help predict weather phenomena such as El Nino and track the progress of global warming as part of the multibillion-euro Copernicus Earth observation project.

The Sentinel-3A satellite, part of a system of satellites that is to monitor Earth, blasted off on board a Rockot launcher from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Russia’s north-western Arkhangelsk region at 12:57 p.m. EDT (1757 GMT) on Tuesday.

It headed for orbit 815 km (506 miles) above Earth, from where it will collect data on sea surface temperature and height that will contribute to more precise weather forecasts and help forecast the impact of rising temperatures.

“When we speak about global warming we often focus on rising air temperatures, but 90 percent of the energy put out on our planet ends up in the ocean,” Volker Liebig, director of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation programme, told Reuters ahead of the launch.

Data from Sentinel-3A, which is to work in tandem with another satellite to be sent up in mid-2017, could also help shipping companies chart more efficient routes and may be used to monitor forest fires and oil spills and to forecast crops.

The Copernicus project, for which the European Union and the European Space Agency (ESA) have committed funding of more than 8 billion euros ($9 billion) until 2020, is described by the ESA as the most ambitious Earth observation program to date.

The launch of the Copernicus project became especially urgent after Europe lost contact with its Earth observation satellite Envisat in 2012 after 10 years.

Images taken by Sentinel-3A are lower-resolution than those from the first two satellites that the ESA sent up for Copernicus — Sentinel-1A and 2A — but the 3A will cover a wider swathe of Earth.

It can deliver images of the whole planet within about two days, which will be cut to less than a day once its twin 3B joins it next year. That compares with around six days for the two Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2 satellites, the ESA’s Liebig said.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 8th November 2015

Enda Kenny & Cameron hope for a Stormont deal soon?

‘This week sometime’


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he hopes a Stormont deal can be reached within days, to resolve the political crisis that is threatening power- sharing.

Talks began in September, aimed at tackling the dispute over welfare reform, paramilitarism, and budget matters.

British prime minister David Cameron recently met Stormont’s political leaders as the pace of negotiations stepped up. The Taoiseach said “I am very hopeful and happy that the reports I am getting are that a deal is on here.

“I do hope it can be concluded successfully in the next couple of days.”

A vexed budget wrangle has left the power-sharing administration in Belfast facing an unsustainable black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds.

A resolution to the long-standing impasse over the executive’s failure to implement the government’s welfare reforms in the North will be crucial to any breakthrough.

It is understood that Stormont’s leaders want the British government to commit extra funding to the power-sharing executive, both resource and capital, as part of any settlement.

The wider negotiations, which have been on-going for weeks, are also trying to find a way forward on other problems causing the current instability at Stormont, including the fallout from a recent murder linked to the IRA and a row over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr Kenny is meeting David Cameron at 10 Downing St this afternoon for bilateral talks.

Yesterday, Mr Kenny laid a wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen, 28 years to the day after the IRA bombed the annual Remembrance Day service.

Eleven people, who had gathered to pay their respects, were killed and dozens more were injured in the no-warning blast in 1987, just minutes before the event had been due to start.

In terrible weather conditions, Mr Kenny joined other dignitaries in laying a wreath at the foot of the memorial.

In Belfast, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan laid a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph.

He said: “I am pleased to represent the Irish Government for the second year at the Remembrance Sunday commemoration at Belfast City Hall.”

More than 200,000 Irish-born soldiers served in the British Army and Navy from 1914 to 1918.

Businessman Bobby Kerr announces cancer diagnosis

The broadcaster is receiving treatment for cancer of the neck and head


Businessman Bobby Kerr has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host of his Newstalk radio show. 

Businessman Bobby Kerr has revealed live on his own radio show that he has been diagnosed with cancer.

The self-made millionaire and owner of the Insomnia chain of coffee shops told listeners of his Down to Business show on Newstalk that he has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host to “make myself better”.

“Did you know 35,000 people hear the dreaded words every year ‘we have the results of your biopsy, you need to come in and see me’. Well folks, it’s 34,999 and one other- me,” he said, “because guess what, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck, and I’m currently receiving treatment to make myself better.

“I have a very serious disease, it’s been caught early, it’s only in one place, and because it’s been caught early my chances of beating this increase incrementally,” added the 55 year-old, who has been presenting the Saturday morning magazine show for six years.

Mr Kerr, who was previously an investor on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den series, said he wanted to broach the issue in such a public manner to raise awareness of Movember and Men’s Health Month in the hope that more people will get themselves checked out.

“So, why am I telling you this, what you might consider a very personal and private piece of news? The reason’s simple- it’s Movember, it’s Men’s Health Month. Get yourself checked out, I did.

“I’ve always considered myself a glass half-full type of person, always tried to take a positive attitude of whatever life throws at me, and I believe that life is absolutely for living,” he said.

He went on to mention the “arsenal of armoury” he has to beat the illness including support from his mother, brother, extended family and business colleagues alongside his wife Mary and their four daughters Meghan, Emily, Rebecca and Michaela.

He also paid tribute to co-workers and station management at Newstalk, as well as fellow presenters Jonathan Healy and Vincent Wall who will take over hosting duties for Down to Business until Mr Kerr’s expected return in the new year.

“God bless you all and thanks, and I’ll see you next year,” he concluded.

The perfect solution to stop office colleagues from stealing the milk?


Yes, we have all been in that situation where that pint of milk you lovingly bought and stored in the fridge at work has miraculously disappeared.

And you know all too well that your chances of catching these milk thieves at work are pretty slim.

After all, which colleague in his/her right mind will admit to the fact that they have made (and drank) several cups of tea using the milk that YOU bought?

But it seems someone may have found a rather passive aggressive solution to this problem by going to extreme lengths to keep their milk for themselves.

And it requires a lock… and the means to drill holes into the milk carton. (Either that, or they’ve gone to great lengths on Photoshop to put a padlock on the image).

Real or fake, this hilarious picture of the padlocked milk has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on Imgur.

The photo was posted on Reddit by a user called banginthedead with the caption: “The milk situation at work is starting to get a little serious.”

But the story doesn’t end here.

It seems banginthehead later posted a second image of a milk container with what looks like an explosive booby trap device on it saying: “The milk situation hasn’t improved.”

It’s hard to say whether this person really went and padlocked and booby-trapped their milk container, but it’s definitely a good laugh.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees go west for guaranteed Sligo surf waves

Surf Summit weekend event included talks from local and international surf champions


The web Summit attendess took part in a range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing at the Surf Summit in Strandhill Co. Sligo.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees made the break for the West lured by stand up paddling around the lake isle of Innisfree, kayaking on Lough Gill and making business deals on the waves alongside some of the world’ s top surfers.

Watching Peggy Johnson, one of Microsoft’s top deal makers, pulling pints at Sligo pub Shoot the Crows on Saturday evening was a bonus.

“There was a time when the golf course was synonymous with networking and deal making but a lot of people in the tech world are into activity sports,” explained local surfer and tech enthusiast Allan Mulrooney, one of the organisers of the Surf Summit.

He and his friend former Westlife singer Kian Egan were among the hosts who brought high profile guests including world record big wave surfer Garrett McNamara and Adam Berke of AdRoll, on a whirlwind tour of Sligo’s best known surfing and party locations.

About 300 people, most of them delegates from the Web Summit, attended talks by Mr McNamara, European surf champion Pauline Ado and local sufer Easkey Britton over the weekend.

Mr McNamara, who broke the world record when he surfed a 100 foot wave in Nazare in Portugal, had never been to Ireland before. “We took him to Mullaghmore and Bundoran and he told us he will be back to surf here next month,” said Mr Mulrooney.

A range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing kept delegates busy on Saturday.

“The weather was amazing. We even had a double rainbow,” said Easkey Britton, founder of Waves of Freedom whose lecture focussed on how surfing can be a tool for social change.

While guests sampled everything from locally brewed White Hag craft beer to traditional music in well-known Sligo bars Connollys and McGarrigles, there was also time for some business at the Surf Summit.

“ We had investors here from Singapore, the US and Australia and a few deals were clinched”, said Mr Mulrooney.

“The setting may have been unusual – some investors did not expect to be drinking hot whiskeys at a camp fire on the shores of Lough Gill listening to Dave O’Hara of SUP forAll reciting Yeats poetry but I think they enjoyed it”.

A bonus, he added, was that the Wifi worked well, there were no traffic jams and Peggy Johnson knows how to pull a pint of Guinness.


Lisbon’s Web Summit won’t be the same as Dublin

Ireland’s high-profile tech event packed its bags on Thursday and set sail for Portugal. But will it succeed there, and will Dublin rue its departure?


On the Dart to Sandymount they’re talking about angels and unicorns. Which is strange, as they’re not five-year-olds. In fact pretty much everyone in the carriage is a 25- to 45-year-old man wearing the same uniform: suit jacket, no tie, jeans. The chat is also of VCs and VR, pivots and platforms, bootstraps and wearables. You’d need an app to translate this stuff.

My phone pings – again – with a notification from the Web Summit app. “Hi Hugh! I’m a 20 year old girl from Australia, co-founder of ClosetDrop – Rent out your wardrobe. To put it simply, we’re basically the Airbnb of fashion. My best friend and I started ClosetDrop to help girls all around the world fulfil their expensive taste in fashion for just a fraction of the price. ClosetDrop is a global online market-place where girls can rent out their own clothes, shoes & accessories between each other . . .”

I’m still 10 minutes from the entrance, but I feel as if I’m already deep inside the forcefield of Web Summit. (The definite article is always absent, as with Fight Club or Electric Picnic, or Narnia). What is this strange place, and why does it exist?

Part evangelical prayer meeting, part digital flea market, it’s a mixture of the huckster and the hipster, and in its own way it provides a snapshot of a lot of the forces that, for good or ill, proclaim that they’re going to change your world.

And what exactly does the word tech mean? I like this description, by Nathan Heller: “Tech today means anything about computers, the internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design. At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture.”

Through some happy conjunction of luck, timing, brass neck, hard work and sheer pig-headedness, Web Summit’s founders,Paddy Cosgrave and Daire Hickey, tapped into that substrate over the past few years and built from scratch an international event that this year claimed an attendance figure of more than 40,000. Web Summit has grown and grown, and now it has grown too big for Dublin. Some might say it has grown too big for its bootstraps.

Irish media coverage this week has been as plentiful as ever – to the annoyance of those who regard the whole thing as overhyped in the first place – refracted through the prism of the absurd handbags that broke out between Cosgrave and the Government about who wanted what and who said whatever to whom in the months leading up to the announcement that Web Summit would be moving to Lisbon for the next three years.

It flared up again with rows about invitations and snarky interviews on radio and television.

Nobody came very well out of this small-town bickering, but it didn’t seem to have registered particularly with the international visitors I met this week. Talking to a cross section of them during the pub crawls organised across central Dublin on Monday night, one thing came across clearly, however. They did like being here.

It helped that the weather was better than it had been in August, but over and over I was told what a beautiful, interesting, friendly city I lived in. The impression was unavoidable that there’s a connection between Web Summit’s success and its location.

It’s something the Government would do well to pause and ponder, no matter how well the move to Lisbon works out. Because, whatever method you use to calculate the value of Web Summit to Dublin in cold, hard cash terms, and whether or not you buy into the proposition that it contributes to the growth of an indigenous tech sector, there is no doubt that these tens of thousands of people are highly educated, highly connected and potentially highly influential, which has to be worth something.

The people I talked to came from North and South America, from across Europe, the Middle East and (to a lesser extent) Asia. To my inexpert ear some of them seemed to be involved in substantial enterprises. One was helping to build a platform for the sale and distribution of education services and distance learning across the Indian subcontinent. Another was developing a digital marketplace for advertising inventory on digital billboards in Brazil.

Some of them, though, do fit the start-up cliche. Two young guys have an app that allows you to hook up and socialise with like-minded people when you’re away from your own country. “So it’s like Tinder for city breaks,” I say, but their faces darken. Someone must have got to that line first.

All this frenetic activity, all these tiny start-ups selling variations on a theme: does it really amount to anything substantial? Henry Hwong, a Palo Alto-based marketing consultant, tells me that cloud-computing platforms like Amazon Web Services andMicrosoft Azure mean there is a very low barrier to entry, which is the reason for the glut of “Uber for this” or “Airbnb for that” type of companies.

“It would be nice if there were more investment in really hard engineering projects that move technology forward,” Hwong says. “But that’s just technology capitalism, and Darwinism, at work – lots of investment in many companies that will go nowhere, but the ones that succeed could have a major impact on society.”

At the RDS over the succeeding three days the sheer scale of Web Summit now creates its own dynamic. With so many stages operating simultaneously, and so many different “summits”, each with its own rows of start-ups pitching for business from cramped plywood booths, this year’s event starts to feel as if it has split in two, with one Web Summit in the main RDS complex and the other across Anglesea Road in Simmonscourt.

As the Irish Times columnist Karlin Lillington pointed out, too many of the events are just too short, and therefore don’t go deep enough to yield anything truly interesting. But, despite all the self-aggrandisement and messianic claims of changing the world, there are plenty of thoughtful, impressive people with something to say.

Then there’s the Food Summit in Herbert Park. In previous years this was an impressively organised series of tents feeding thousands of people excellent Irish food, with front-of-house duties carried out with aplomb by the likes of Darina Allen – all included in the price of your ticket.

That you had to pay an extra €20 a day this year, and that the quality of the food seemed to have fallen significantly, provoked some angry reaction. The tents looked grim and empty compared with previous years, and the organisers stood accused of price-gouging – the very charge they had levelled at Dublin hotels.

Who knows what Web Summit will be like at the end of its three-year stint in Lisbon? Cosgrave seems to model it, and the spin-off events he now runs in other countries, on the digital-business model of scaleability, where rapid growth and the acquisition of new customers are the overriding imperatives.

He may be right – and there are other successful events internationally that outrank Web Summit in size. But human beings aren’t software, and the impersonality of a purpose-built conference facility on a city’s fringe could drain away some of the improvisational and occasionally ramshackle elements that made the whole thing work in the first place.

Rising temperatures could drive 100m people into extreme poverty,

The world Bank warns?


Efforts to curb climate change must be twinned with programmes to cut poverty, warns a study of the threat posed by global warming to food security.

A dead acari-bodó, a type of catfish that can remain alive for a couple of days out of water, lies before stranded floating houses on a dried out stretch of Brazil’s Rio Negro.

The world must pair efforts to stabilise climate change with programmes to eliminate poverty if vulnerable people are to be kept from falling back into hardship as rising temperatures wreak havoc on food security and livelihoods, a report has said.

As many as 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of rising temperatures, which are caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank report said. The bank’s most recent estimate puts the number of people living in extreme poverty this year at 702 million, or 9.6% of the world’s population.

Climate change has led to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty and pushing people at risk into destitution, according to Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, released on Sunday.

Efforts to stabilise climate change should incorporate strategies to eradicate poverty, said Stéphane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank’s climate change group and co-author of the report. “The policies, the investments, the financing, all of that should be integrated. Otherwise, we’re just less efficient.”

Poor people need social safety nets and universal healthcare to sustainably eradicate poverty, according to the report. Programmes to lessen the impacts of climate change should not create new vulnerabilities and they should inform development policies by taking into account future climate conditions.

Beating climate change is key to making nutritious food needed to beat hunger

Neven Mimica and Phil Hogan

“When we [build] infrastructure, for instance, [we need] to make sure it’s in a safe place today but also in a safe place with sea level rise and the change in rainfall and so on,” said Hallegatte.

He added that the world needs to take urgent action to reduce the impacts of climate change if the sustainable development goal on eradicating extreme poverty is to be met.

“We really want to reduce poverty before people get affected by even bigger climate impacts. It’s easier to get people out of extreme poverty now rather than doing it later,” said Hallegatte.

Without proper planning, efforts to stabilise the impacts of climate change can undo decades of progress in lifting vulnerable people out of poverty, the study warned. Environmental taxes, designed to reduce emissions, can raise the cost of fuel and food, which hit poor people hardest.

“These same policies can be designed to protect, and even benefit, poor people – for instance, by using fiscal resources from environmental taxes to improve social protection,” the report said.

Ethiopia’s social protection and Rwanda’s health coverage have boosted long-term poverty reduction efforts in both countries, making it less likely that poor people will fall back into poverty as a result of climate change.

“In most cases, what we want is a package of policies – the climate polices themselves and additional policies to smooth the transition and to support poor people in the transition,” said Hallegatte.

Hallegatte is optimistic that world leaders will take urgent action to stabilise climate change, which he says will boost efforts to eradicate poverty.

This year, a series of high-profile meetings took place, creating a sense of gathering momentum around the battle against global warming. A key step was the adoption of the global goals – which set a 2030 deadline for the eradication of poverty in all its forms and sought to galvanise action to combat climate change and its impacts – at the UN general assembly in September.

This growing migration crisis is the canary in the mine on climate change

Mahmoud Solh

Other milestones have included the Addis conference on financing for development and the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction, while next month world leaders will convene in Paris for the 21st session of the conference of the parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“You can see there is a convergence – these conferences have been designed as a package and you can feel the urgency,” Hallegatte said.

But many challenges remain. According to the report, the world needs to find $1tn (£645bn) more each year to boost key infrastructure if the goals are to be met. Climate summits have in the past been thwarted by the US and China, which have been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for reduced emissions.

Expectations for next month’s climate summit have been buoyed by fruitful talks held last year in Beijing, where China pledged to bring its emissions to a peak “around 2030”, and the US said it would cut its emissions by 26-28% of their 2005 level by 2025.

Hallegatte said: “Now there is the implementation, and that’s really the challenge – to translate this willingness to act into something that makes a difference on the ground.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 31st October 2015

Retiring central Bank governor Honolhan warns Irish Government over it’s growth

Patrick Honohan says multinational activities were boosting figures


Patrick Honohan, outgoing governor of the Irish Central Bank.

The rate of economic growth is being exaggerated and may be leading to overconfidence in planning for the future, the outgoing Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan has warned the Government.

The business activities of multinational companies were affecting the figures, he said, creating a risk that Government policy would not be based on a realistic view of future prospects.

In a letter sent to Minister for Finance Michael Noonanbefore the budget, Prof Honohan said the economy was still some way off its pre-crisis peak. This was a reason for caution in framing budgetary policy, he said.

He warned Mr Noonan it was imperative to avoid a return to the type of pro-cyclical fiscal policies observed in the past, and in particular not to base spending plans on windfall tax gains that could quickly disappear.

Separately, UCC economist Seamus Coffeyhas warned the Government against making long-term budgetary commitments on the back of temporary non-cyclical tax revenues.

Speaking at a conference in Dublin, Mr Coffey said several headline expenditure increases in the budget were predicated on a recent surge in corporation tax receipts, which remains unexplained and might well be temporary.

A cautious approach.

In his pre-budget letter to Mr Noonan, released under a Freedom of Information request, Prof Honohan repeated warnings from outside agencies such as the EU Commission and the IMF that the budget must be cautious and should aim to eliminate borrowing as quickly as possible.

The EU Commission is now examining Ireland’s budget and is expected to give a preliminary opinion by December on whether it is within fiscal rules.

Meanwhile, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council head John McHale has expressed concern about the budgetary stance. The council will issue its formal view on the budget shortly.

Prof Honohan, in a strong warning to the Government, said the interpretation of Ireland’s economic growth numbers were “seriously complicated” by the way in which the activities of multinationals were measured, noting that a significant part of the recent growth in production could be attributed to “distorting features”.

“Neglecting these measurement issues has led some commentators to think that the economy is back to pre-crisis performance,” the governor said. Prof Honohan warned that total employment was still more than 10 per cent below the previous peak with the result that the unemployment rate has only just fallen below 10 per cent despite emigration.

Windfall gains

“All things considered, you will be alert to the danger of using windfall fiscal gains to justify long-lasting spending commitments,” he said in the letter dated August 16th.

“Distinguishing between revenue sources that can be considered as stable – such as taxes on personal income – and those which have a one-off or transitory characteristic is a challenge of which I am sure that your department is cognisant, especially given the speed at which transitory revenue sources associated with the housing bubble evaporated in 2009 and 2010,” Prof Honohan wrote.

At a seminar on the impact of austerity hosted by the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, Mr Coffey also warned of the dangers of basing budgetary measures on temporary tax dividends.

The Government’s levy on company profits is expected to generate about €6 billion in 2015, a 50% increase on last year. A jump of this magnitude in any tax stream is “very strange”, Mr Coffey said.

Denis O’Brien accuses Lucinda Creighton of ‘self-serving’ attacks

Businessman says Renua leader ‘failed to ascertain the facts’ about Topaz contract


Billionaire businessman Denis O’Brien has accused Renua leader Lucinda Creighton of “self-serving” attacks on him following a Dáil speech in which she demanded action on the findings of the Moriarty tribunal.

In her speech, Ms Creighton said five years had passed since the tribunal found it was “beyond doubt” that former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry had “imparted” substantive information to Mr O’Brien which was of “significant value and assistance to him” in securing Ireland’s second mobile telephone licence in the mid-1990s.

In a letter on October 23rd last, Mr O’Brien, who signed it himself and sent it from his Dublin office – “Seventh Floor, One Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2 – said Ms Creighton had raised an Irish Mail on Sunday report that claimed he had given a Topaz refrigeration contract to Mr Lowry’s company.

“It is most regrettable that you failed to ascertain the facts before making this statement. For the record, the factual situation is the process for this contract began in 2013; the appointment letter was issued on February 6th.

“Of critical importance is that I did not take ownership of Topaz until March 24th, 2014. The only inference I can draw from your reference to Topaz is an eagerness to sacrifice the facts for the purpose of self-promotion,” Mr O’Brien complained.

Challenging Ms Creighton’s description of the Moriarty tribunal report, Mr O’Brien said: “It is abundantly clear that your motivation again here is self-serving. I find it extremely curious that when I set out the full facts in a letter to you on March 28th, 2012, you clearly had no dispute with any of them.”

In that 2012 letter Mr O’Brien wrote to Ms Creighton: “I did not make any payments to Mr Michael Lowry TD.”

The tribunal, at paragraph 61.274, page 1152, part II, volume 2, stated Mr O’Brien was “a person who made payments to Mr Lowry”.

The 2012 letter went on to argue the tribunal findings – opinions, Mr O’Brien termed them – were “completely devoid of legal effect”.

October letter.

Mr O’Brien’s October 23rd letter returned to this theme.

“My position as to the findings of the Moriarty tribunal,” he wrote, “are the same as they were on the day the report was published – they are (as stated in my letter to you) opinions with no basis in fact.”

He continued: “It is regrettable that you, as both a public representative and a lawyer, prefer to misrepresent the fact for self-advantage.”

The letter is signed, “yours sincerely, Denis O’Brien”.

Ms Creighton’s office had no comment to make.

Mr O’Brien is currently engaged in several High Courtactions, including an action against a Dublin-based public relations consultancy, Red Flag, which he has claimed in court is at the centre of an unlawful conspiracy to defame him and undermine his businesses.

In a separate action against the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges, Mr O’Brien claims it failed to uphold his constitutional right to his good name by not reprimanding TDs for allegedly abusing Oireachtasprivileges.

Mr O’Brien objects to comments made about him by, among others, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, who raised questions about Mr O’Brien’s banking arrangements with IBRC, the successor bank to Anglo Irish Bank.

Central Bank was not involved in Army at ATM talks,

Honohan says Honohan was spinning yars?

Taoiseach questioned on banking comments as Opposition accuse him of spinning yarns


Speaking outside Leinster House, Gerry Adams has called An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny ‘a spoof’ after he claimed he did not receive a specific briefing about increasing security at ATMs during the economic crisis`.

The Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan has said all sorts of ideas were discussed when pressure came on the State’s banking system but having the Army on standby at ATM machines was “not territory the Central Bank is or was involved in”.

His comments came amidst controvsery over remarks made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Madrid last week. He told a European People’s Party (EPP) conference that Mr Honohan had told him to prepare to deploy the Army.

“The Governor of the Central Bank in Ireland said to me: ‘It looks like this weekend . . . you’ll have to put [the] Army around the banks and around the ATM machines and introduce capital controls like they had in Cyprus’,” he said.

Mr Kenny’s account was dismissed as a “fairy tale” by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Asked on Wednesday if he had received a specific briefing from the Central Bank to the effect that he might have to deploy the army, Mr Kenny said: “No, not specific, no.”

He said the Government did set up a taskforce comprised of a number of Departments and agencies of which the Department of Finance, the Taoiseach, and the Central Bank were involved.

“They considered all of these contingencies and clearly as was pointed out to you by the Minister for Finance [Michael Noonan] the question of security in the event of a break-up of the euro currency was one that was considered.”

Asked on Thursday if he regretted his Madrid remarks, Mr Kenny said: “I’ve tried to explain that when the taskforce was set up they had to consider all of the contingencies or possible options that might happen because there was a very serious situation arising right across Europe and there was a lot of talk within different Governments and so on that there might be an end to the euro currency per se.”

Asked to explain what had happened, Mr Honohan said the Taoiseach’s recent clarifications “put this story to bed, really. He talked about contingency planning exercises… sure… There was contingency planning, I absolutely agree”.

He added: “There was contingency planning and all sort of ideas were discussed. I wasn’t directly involved in most of those conversations. The Central Bank was. But we also do our own contingency planning that we don’t tell anyone about. But we also participated fully in the Government’s exercise.”

When questioned on whether he told Mr Kenny he needed to have the Army on standby Mr Honohan said he didn’t want to get into conversations he had with him. “I have no doubt that he had officials in other departments talking about contingencies of that type. That’s not territory the central bank is or was involved in. That’s clear now from what he is saying”.

Asked if this planning was related to a specific event Mr Honohan said “we are talking about 2012. There were a lot of concerns about the system, and we were talking about the system, not Ireland”.

Sinn Féin earlier this week accused Mr Kenny of standing in front of his European sister parties and spinning a yarn about the matter and now found himself in a “highly embarrsing” situation.

HSE says it may take weeks to clear chemotherapy delays


Five patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda had their treatment postponed

The Health Service Executive has said it may take weeks to clear delays in chemotherapy treatment caused by a shortage of a specific drug to treat cancer.

A number of cancer patients have suffered delays in chemotherapy treatment due to the shortage.

Some chemotherapy drugs were recalled two weeks ago, as a precautionary measure, following fears they may have been contaminated during manufacturing.

Dublin-based pharmacy Fannin Compounding, one of two companies supplying chemotherapy drugs to Irish hospitals, issued a safety alert after a machine it uses to manufacture the medicine was found to have been contaminated.

The bacteria, which can cause potentially life-threatening gastro-intestinal infections, was found in batches of drugs during routine testing.

In a statement this morning, the HSE said some hospitals throughout the country are currently experiencing difficulties in securing continuous supply of chemotherapy drugs due to the safety alert at Fannin Compounding.

The HSE would not give any details of the number of people affected by the shortage of the drug due to the contamination, but said that it was a “sub-set of cancer patients”.

Five patients who are treated at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda had their treatment postponed from Tuesday to Wednesday last week.

Delays of one or two days for the cancer treatment have been experienced at Cavan Hospital, while University Hospital Limerick has also confirmed that eight patients have been rescheduled for treatment next week due to a delay in receiving supplies.

The HSE moved to assure patients that hospitals are in contact with those affected to reschedule their appointments.

The HSE’s contingency plans to deal with this issue involve sending some cancer sufferers to different hospitals for treatment and sourcing the drug from another company in Ireland as well as the United Kingdom.

It says this is a temporary solution until operations resume at Fannin Compounding.

The HSE also said the precautionary recall has been completed.

It said: “There was no evidence of contamination of chemotherapy and, more importantly, no evidence of adverse clinical consequences for patients.”

Ozone hole gets bigger, Earth to bear more UV damage


The 2015 Antarctic ozone hole area was larger and formed later than in recent years, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have said.

The ozone hole is a severe depletion of the ozone layer above Antarctica that was first detected in the 1980s.

The Antarctic ozone hole forms and expands during the Southern Hemisphere spring (August and September) because of the high levels of chemically active forms of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere.

Earlier this month, on October 2, the ozone hole expanded to its peak of 28.2 million sq kms — an area larger than the continent of North America. Throughout October, the hole remained large and set many area daily records.

Unusually cold temperature and weak dynamics in the Antarctic stratosphere this year resulted in this larger ozone hole, scientists said.

In comparison, last year the ozone hole peaked at 24.1 million sq kms on September 11. Compared to the 1991-2014 period, the 2015 ozone hole average area was the fourth largest.

“During September we typically see a rapid ozone decline, ending with about 95 percent depletion in that layer by October 1. This year the depletion held on an extra two weeks resulting in nearly 100 percent depletion by October 15,” said Bryan Johnson, a researcher at NOAA laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.

The ozone layer helps shield the Earth from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer, cataracts and suppress immune systems, as well as damage plants.

The large size of this year’s ozone hole will likely result in increases of harmful ultraviolet rays at the Earth’s surface, particularly in Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere in the coming months.

Thanks to the montreal protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer, atmospheric levels of these ozone depleting compounds are slowly declining. The ozone hole is expected to recover back to 1980 levels in approximately 2070.1

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 14th September 2015

Irish government support rises, Sinn Fein fall’s as general election beckons


Support for Ireland’s governing parties has returned to the highest level seen in over a year as support for left-wing challenger Sinn Fein fell over the past two months, a leading poll said on Sunday.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has six months to call an election and his coalition government are pinning their hopes on voters starting to benefit from Europe’s best performing economy that grew by seven percent in the first half of 2015.

Kenny’s Fine Gael party is supported by 28 percent of voters, according to the Red C/Sunday Business Post poll, up from 25 percent in July. Junior coalition partner Labour was on 10 percent, up from 8 percent.

That put the parties back where they were in May, which had been the highest combined level since early 2014 before any credit for getting Ireland out of an international bailout was eroded by anger at the austerity measures applied to do so.

The two parties, who won a record majority in 2011 and want to be re-elected together, would still be 11 seats shy of the 80 needed to secure a parliamentary majority, according to Adrian Kavanagh, a politics lecturer at National University Ireland Maynooth who conducts constituency analysis on each poll.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan of Fine Gael has said the parties could form a government along with independents, whose support in the Red C poll is as high as Fine Gael’s at 28 percent, three percentage points lower than July.

Fine Gael’s nearest rival, the fellow center-right Fianna Fail party, were unchanged on 18 percent.

However support for Sinn Fein, who are close to Greece’s governing leftist Syriza party and running on a similar anti-austerity platform, fell to 16 percent from 18 percent and the party has fallen eight percentage points in a series of polls since briefly overtaking Fine Gael last December.

The dip coincided with a political crisis in Northern Ireland, where Sinn Fein share power, that “appears to have done them no favors” with voters in the Irish republic, according to Richard Colwell, chief executive of Red C.

“In order to re-gain lost ground, Sinn Fein need to move to settle matters in the North quickly, and re-focus voters’ attention on the local issues they are fighting for on their behalf,” Colwell said.

“The question then is if this re-focus will be enough to regain voters, with the backdrop of an increasingly positive economic outlook, and an electorate that broadly believes that the country is currently on the right track.”

A lack of sleep can having a devastating impact on your body – and love life


A range of studies reveal the impact on our ability to think, move and recover if you get 6 hours or less

Dangerous: Not having enough sleep can affect the human body in a number of ways

Recent reports suggest that anyone who gets less than six hours sleep is four times more likely to get a cold.

Experts revealed that sleep deprivation quadruples the chances of falling ill with the sniffles and stressed that seven hours sleep each night should be the target for ahealth body and mind.

But how else does a lack of sleep affect us?

We have all walked into work like a zombie after having not been able to sleep the night before thanks to a whirlwind of regrets and irrelevant thoughts racing through our mind.

Aside from looking like an extra from the Walking Dead, does this cause us any damage?

Dangerous for people who sleep less than seven hours a night risk falling ill

Speaking to Yahoo Health, Shalini Paruthi MD, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, revealed how serious an impact a lack of sleep can have on a person’s mental ability.

Dr Paruthi said those who have less than six hours sleep a night can find themselves having a harder time concentrating, making decisions and remembering things.

Headaches also plague those who do not sleep enough hours while people’s ability to react quickly, either mentally or physically, is hugely impacted.

Struggling leads t a lack of sleep that can affect our minds

Dr Paruthi said: “There are multiple studies that show being deprived — even if it’s four hours of sleep — can make someone have the same reaction time as someone who is driving under the influence. Driving while sleep-deprived is the equivalent of driving drunk.”

Many of us will have arrived at work after not sleeping much and been greeted by a cheerful co-worker questioning: “Get out the wrong side of bed this morning?”

Well, there is a strand of truth in this as our mood is also directly linked to how much we have slept the night before.

Relaxing for those who get more sleep live healthier lives

comes from our ability to regulate and control our emotions being affected – leading to ca severe case of a bear with a sore head.

According to Yahoo Health, recent research showed that having less than five hours sleep can make people more stressed, sad and angry.

This can leak into your love life, causing more arguments with your partner and less tolerance, patience and ability to resolve the conflict.

Some frightening statistics from the National Sleep Foundation showed that adults over the age of 45 who were having less then six hours sleep each night were TWICE as likely to succumb to a stroke or heart attack.

Illness: People who do not get enough sleep fall ill much more often

Coupled with the aforementioned report about how people are four times more likely to have a cold, and another report that claims people who do not sleep enough are 1.6 times more likely to have congestive heart failure, the reasons for trying to sleep more hours are building steadily.

Aside from the physical affect – a lack of sleep will also affect your blood sugar levels – people who are not in the land of nod of enough hours will also AGE quicker.

Red eyes with dark circles, wrinkles and fine lines will all be etched across your face if you struggle to drift off while a study also revealed how a surgery showed the public thought these people also looked physically sadder.

Please don’t ignore the signs of suicide


September is Suicide Prevention Month. When I began to count the number of people I know who have died by suicide, or those friends who have been affected by their own losses due to suicide, the number was much higher than I had previously realized. Suicide is incredibly prevalent and yet something we don’t often speak of.

How many individuals die by suicide is truly unknown. Many suicides are ruled accidents.

Someone dies by suicide in the U.S. approximately every 13 minutes.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students; Approximately 22 veterans die from suicide every day. Dentists, physicians and lawyers are among the professions with disproportionately high rates of suicide. Gay youth are said to be three times more likely to die by suicide than heterosexual youth. Between 30 and 45 percent of trans people attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

Suicide is a real, significant issue that needs to be talked about.

Below are important signs to be aware of and ways to support individuals who may feel suicidal.


If someone speaks about suicide, or of being “gone” or of being a burden, he may be considering suicide.

If someone is in extreme emotional or physical pain and speaks of “having enough” or “not being able to keep going” he may be thinking of suicide.

Ask him directly what he means, and if he is OK. Let him know you love him and will help him.

People often fear that if they bring up the topic they will somehow “plant” an idea; this is a myth. Be caring and direct and ask.


If someone shows a significant change in behavior, it’s important to pay attention.

Loss of enjoyment in things they previously enjoyed, changes in sleep, hygiene and eating can all be signs of needing assistance.

Increased use of substances like alcohol or drugs are also potential signs.

Giving away prized possessions and calling folks to say goodbye, are all serious behaviors and require attention.

Again – while scary, it is important to ask people how they are. Be honest and point out a behavior that concerns you. Something like, “I’ve noticed you’re not coming to lunch any more or spending time with friends. I’m feeling worried about you. How are you doing?”


  • What if you ask a friend and he does share he is feeling suicidal?
  • Offering to help find professional support is important.
  • Let him know you care and will help him connect.
  • Find other trusted individuals that can help support the individuals.
  • If needed, offer to help the person make an appointment to see a counselor; offer to go along the first time.

If someone shares that he has a plan to die by suicide or if you fear he is imminently dangerous to himself, (actively planning suicide), taking him to the nearest emergency room (if safe for you to do so) or calling 911 are both options.

Many people will say to me, “But what if I am wrong? What if my friend (or spouse or parent) becomes upset with me?” I always assure people that upsets and frustrations can be resolved at a later time. Upsetting a friend and being wrong is a risk I recommend taking.

For all those reading this who have lost someone to suicide, my thoughts and condolences are with you.

Support can be found with most mental health professionals but also at this website: http://www.aware.ie/suicide+helpline+ireland

4% of ‘mutant’ Grain Aphids are resistant to chemical controls in Ireland


Grain aphids developing resistance to chemical controls could have a negative impact on winter barley yields under Irish tillage systems, said Dr Michael Gaffney.

Speaking at the Teagasc National Crops Forum in Kildare recently the Teagasc Research Officer said that like the UK, there are increased numbers of chemically resistant aphids developing in Ireland, and at present it is evident in 4% of the population.

“The grain aphid has become increasingly difficult to control in the UK, it reduces grain yield through the transmission of the Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus (BYDV), which impacts greatly on the yield of winter sown barley crops,” he said.

Teagasc research shows this virus can reduce yield by as much as 3.7%, but according to industry sources, in severe cases it can reduce yield by as much as 3t/ha.

The aphid’s impact has worsened in the UK where 50% of the total population has developed resistance to the main control pyrethroids, he said.

“In 2009 the discovery of aphids with the knock down mutation was discovered in the UK. Initially, the frequency of these mutants were quite low, but the 2014 figures show that it is levelling out at about 50% of the population,” he said.

This mutation is heterozygous and is located on one set of the genes, this mutation reduces the chemicals effectiveness on the aphid’s nerve endings.

Dr Gaffney added that when no resistance is detected pyrethroids have 90% control of aphids, but this drops to 65-80% when the mutation has developed.

However, despite the reduced functionality of these chemicals in these mutant aphids, Dr Gaffney added that things could be a lot worse if the mutation was identified on both genes.

If super KBR develops it has full resistance to pyrethroids. If this happens the only viable recommendation is not to spray, as this method of control will be ineffective, he said.

Winter barley area increase

Eamonn Lynch, a Teagasc Consultant in Cork added that the problem has the potential to become a major problem in tillage crops in Ireland as the area of winter barley has increased substantially in recent years.

According to Lynch, the area of winter barley has increased by 40,000ha, which has caused a corresponding decrease in the winter wheat area (20,000ha).

Lynch added that many farmers have increased the proportion of winter barley grown due to the increased economic benefits of growing this crop.

“Winter barley is generally about a tonne to acre above spring in terms of yield, when the costs of production are considered you are getting a better return on your investment from the extra yield.”

However, Lynch added that the greater crop area will also lead to increased pressure at sowing time.

“Generally crops are sown in September and emerging in October, milder autumns and winters lead to higher BYDV which results in the typical symptoms such as stunted growth.”

High-risk areas of BYDV (Barley Yellow Dwarf Disease)

  • Coastal areas are at higher risk
  • More common in earlier sown winter barley crops
  • Thrives in mild autumns and winters
  • Less common in seed-treated crops
  • Continues winter barley crops are higher risk 

The pause in rising global temperatures to end soon


The world is likely to see a return to rapid warming in the next couple of years, scientists said, in what could signal the end of the “pause” in rising global temperatures. 

Experts said big changes were under way in the Earth’s climate system, with a natural phenomenon known as El Nino combining with the impact of greenhouse gases to push globaltemperatures to record highs.

But other changes in the Atlantic Ocean over the coming decades could make relatively cooler and possibly drier summers in the UK and northern Europe more likely.

Globally, the Earth’s climate system was at a “turning point”, with a number of major changes happening at once, the UK Met Office’s Professor Adam Scaife said.

In the run-up to key United Nations talks in Paris, at which it is hoped a new international agreement to tackle climate change can be agreed, “the signal is very clear” that global warming is happening.

The world has witnessed a slowdown or “pause” in rising temperatures in recent years, which sceptics pointed to as contradicting evidence of ongoing climate change.

The new report from the Met Officesuggests the world is warming again.

Prof Scaife said experts could not be sure it was the end of the slowdown.

However, rates of warming averaged over decades were likely to reach the high levels seen at the end of the 20th century, when the world was warming rapidly, within two years.

The years 2014, 2015 and 2016 are all likely to be at or near record levels, in part due to the influence of El Nino’s surface warming in the Pacific Ocean.

Scientists are very confident there is now a major El Nino under way, which is set to peak this winter, on the scale of an El Nino event in 1998 which helped drive global temperatures to record highs.

But Prof Scaife said natural variations such as El Nino were just the “icing on  the cake” on top of human activity which is putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and driving climate change.

The El Nino could help break records for global temperature as well as having impacts including making the Indian monsoon weaker and raising the possibility of a break in the Californian drought. The fall in temperatures could affect weather patterns in Europe, he said.

News Ireland Daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th July 2015

Ireland ranked as one of the best Countries in terms of reputation

New survey shows country’s standing has improved in recent years


Not such a bad spot: Ireland scored highly in terms of having friendly and welcoming people and a beautiful country

Charlie Taylor

Ireland has been ranked in 11th place out of 55 countries in a new survey ranking nations by their reputation.

The Republic was ranked ahead of the UK, Italy, Germany,Spain, Portugal and France and the US in the Country RepTrak study, which was compiled by the Reputation Institute and its Irish counterpart, the Reputations Agency,

Ireland moved up two spots in the latest study, having been ranked in 13th place last year. In addition, it improved its score by 5.2%, from 68.5 out of 100 in 2014 to 72 this year.

Canada regained top spot from Switzerlandin the 2015 survey with a score of 78.1.

It was followed by Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. With a score of just 22.5, Iraq was ranked as the country with the worst reputation followed by Iran, Pakistan,Russia and Nigeria.

The Country RepTrak study measures the reputation of 55 countries based on a number of factors including trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling.

The survey of 48,000 consumers from across the G8 was carried out via an online poll.

Of the 17 attributes measured, the most important attribute in driving the reputation of a country is “friendly and welcoming people”, where Ireland was ranked in ninth position, unchanged from 2014.

Having a “beautiful country” comes second in importance and here Ireland was ranked in sixth position, compared to ninth place last year. In addition, the Republic was placed 10th in the list of countries that consumers would like to visit.

“An increasingly globalised world with intensified competition makes country reputation matter more than ever,” said Niamh Boyle, managing director of the Reputations Agency.

“Attracting tourists, FDI and high-skilled workforce, improving international diplomacy, and being able to sell Irish products abroad, are all facilitated by having a strong country reputation.

“The G8 countries are important trading partners and sources of revenue for Ireland, so improving our reputation scores amongst these nations is great news for Ireland’s economy.”

Ireland’s budget targets queried by EU commission

Government’s plans for expansionary budget implicitly criticised by EU body


The EU Commission says the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2bn in expansionary measures.

The EU Commission has questioned the Government’s targets for the 2016 budget, saying they do not take full advantage of strong economic growth.

The commission’s intervention came as it said in a separate study that Ireland’s bailout between 2010 and 2013 was an effective recovery programme and argued the decision not to impose losses on senior bank bondholders was the correct one.

The comments on the October budget came in its review of a post-bailout inspection carried out in the spring.

It said the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2 billion in expansionary measures. While this is at the bottom of the €1.2 billion-€1.5 billion range in the Government plan for the budget, the commission implicitly criticised moves to prepare an expansionary budget.

Buffers: “Reaping the full benefits of the strong growth momentum would avert the risk of pro-cyclical fiscal policy and create the necessary buffers to address future challenges,” said the commission.

“Budgetary windfalls in 2016 and beyond should be used to accelerate debt reduction and prepare for future challenges.

“The stronger than expected economic momentum offers a unique opportunity to make progress with fiscal consolidation and debt reduction and averts the need to support aggregate economic activity.”

It went on to say past experience in Ireland and other countries pointed to a tendency to overestimate economic slack and underestimate overheating in real time.

Demographic pressures

“Moreover, Ireland is also facing considerable expenditure pressures linked to demographics in the medium term and remains vulnerable to economic and interest rate shocks, given the still very high level of public debt. All these elements stress the importance of building fiscal buffers.”

Of the water charges regime, it said the capacity of the Government and Irish Water to explain further the rationale for the reform and demonstrate that the public utility model is best will be critical.

“In turn, payment compliance will be key for the Irish Water’s ability to raise revenue and deliver upon its investment programme. Late payment penalties will be put in place, but only in cases where households are in arrears for a full annual billing period.”

In its report on the bailout, the commission said the rescue package was effective in helping Ireland regain access to financial markets and repair its broken banks.

Of the contentious decision not to “burn” senior bank bondholders, it said there was no legal framework and noted the legal and economic risks were considered too great in light of the potential benefits.

“The risks of spill-overs to the Irish and EU financial systems were highly uncertain and perceived to be very high, especially given the absence of a proper EU bank resolution framework,” the report said.

“The alternative of a burden sharing that only applied to the senior creditors of the institutions that were to be resolved, Anglo and INBS, would have had fewer benefits to the Irish exchequer but would still have entailed considerable risks.

Some 2,500 citizens sworn in as Irish at Convention Centre

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries have become Irish in last four years


Heba Alsharbaty (mother), Khilood Jaddoa (grandmother), Yousif Hussein (10 months) and Fadhil Alsharbaty (grandfather), originally from Baghdad in Iraq and now living in Rathfarnham show their joy on becoming Irish citizens. 

Some 2,500 candidates from 112 countries gathered to receive Irish citizenship at three ceremonies in the Dublin Convention Centre on Friday, these were the first of three citizenship ceremonies held at the Convention Centre, July 17th, 2015.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, attending on behalf of the Government, described his own childhood growing up in west Dublin, the son of an Indian migrant father and an Irish mother, who had herself been a migrant worker in England where they met.

“Growing up in west Dublin, I was the only child in school with sallow skin and a funny surname,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was encouraged now to see the diverse mix of backgrounds of children in Dublin and nationally “going to our gaelscoileanna and togging out for GAA”.

‘More tolerant’

Irish society had become “more tolerant, more inclusive and more open today than the leaders of the 1916 Rising could ever have hoped”, he said.

Among those sworn in on Friday was Iranian Javad Hasani, who has been living in Ireland for nine years, although he never intended to come here in the first place.

“I was on my way to Toronto and there was a stopover in Cork, and I got on a train to Dublin. I’m from a big city, so I couldn’t get over how beautiful the countryside was. I decided to change my flight and spend a couple of weeks travelling around.”

A trip to Kerry where he met a man he knew from Turkey cemented his decision to stay. He now has an Irish wife, Tracy, and “three babies”.

Ninfa Chacon Bendeck, a lawyer from Honduras, came to Ireland for St Patrick’s day in 2005, where she met Tony Byrne from Donegal.

“I knew the capital of Honduras was Tegucigalpa, which is where Ninfa is from, so I was able to impress her with that,” he said.

Kept in touch

Ninfa went back to Honduras after her holiday, but the two kept in touch. “Then I lived in Belgium were I was working as a diplomat, and after that we went travelling for a while.”

They’re now married for four and a half years and live in Donegal, where Ninfa works to rehome rescued dogs.

The 15 most represented countries at the ceremony were Poland, India, Romania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, Latvia, South Africa, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Hungary, Thailand, United States Of America, and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.

Particularly pleased

The presiding officer, retired Judge Bryan McMahon, said he was particularly pleased to see faces from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who he hoped “have brought their cricket bats and wickets” to help improve the fortunes of the Irish cricket team.

Similarly, he hoped those from Brazil would bring their soccer skills to bear on the Irish football team.

“Would it not be wonderful if some of these genes were brought into the Irish athletic pool of the future?”

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries had become Irish citizens over the last four years, Judge McMahon said.

“I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren lead the hurling, football or camogie teams onto the pitch at Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday, and I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren carry the Irish flag into an Olympic stadium.”

Irish teens are ‘unable to identify depression symptoms’


Suicide prevention in young Irish people is being hampered by misunderstood symptoms and the lack of treatment awareness, according to new research.

Many Irish teens are unable to identify symptoms or ways to help depression.

A study conducted by psychologists at Trinity College Dublin suggests that many Irish teenagers are unable to identify signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Out of a sample of 187 teenagers, aged between 15 and 19, only half could correctly identify depression in hypothetical cases.

Meanwhile, participants were also unable to identify appropriate treatment for peers.

At the same time, the report found that girls were more likely than boys to offer up ways to support a depressed friend.

According to Sadhbh Byrne, who carried out the research with Dr Lorraine Swords and Dr Elizabeth Nixon of the School of Psychology in Trinity College, the study paints a worrying picture of mental health awareness.

“While the majority of adolescents in our study showed great concern for a friend experiencing distress, their specific knowledge of the characteristics of mental disorders and potential suicidality was lacking,” she said.

She said identifying depression is critical in helping people receive appropriate help.

“Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide in Europe among 15 to 24 year olds. Our research points to the need to educate young people about the need to seek adult help for a friend experiencing emotional distress,” Ms. Byrne added.

2014 melted global records as hottest year yet recorded

2015 set to be in top 10 as overheated Pacific ocean releases rising amounts of energy


Climate change: 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

The relentless rise in global temperatures continues with scientists declaring 2014 the hottest year yet recorded. And they believe that 2015 will also land in the top 10 hottest given an overheated Pacific ocean that is releasing rising amounts of energy.

Last year was amongst Ireland’s hottest years, ranking in shared fourth place with 1997 and 1949, said Met Éireann climatologists.

Climate information of all sorts from 413 scientists in 58 countries was used to set 2014 as an international record-breaker in the 25th annual State of the Climate report prepared by the American Meteorological Society.

The numbers show that global warming continues apace with international initiatives to curb greenhouse gas release all failing to halt the ongoing march towards an overheated world, said Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University.

“The driver for all of this is the energy imbalance caused by the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and others,” said Prof Thorne in Maynooth’s department of geography and one of the report’s editors for the global figures.

“We are not on the great mitigation pathway. The accumulation is undoubtedly due to human activity,” he said.

Effectively the report is a “full annual health check of the Earth’s climate system”, he said. The scientist participants collected data from countries around the world, measuring everything from temperature and rainfall to the size of the glaciers and temperatures above and below the ocean surface.

Ireland is part of this effort, feeding data into regional reports for Europe. “The highlight of the regional chapter was 2014 was the warmest year on record for 25 European countries. By a long chalk in Europe, 2014 for some was the warmest experienced going back 200 years,” Prof Thorne said.

For Ireland it was fourth highest with the top three hottest in order being 2007, 2006 and 1945.

The report shows greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and for the 25th year in a row global glaciers have decreased in size, the report says.

There were record high sea levels, record ocean surface temperatures and more heat is building up in the deep oceans.

Three months of 2014 saw carbon dioxide levels surpassing 400 parts per million (400ppm), long considered a psychological threshold.

Levels in the first report 25 years ago stood at 354ppm and from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750 up until 1990 the average was just 270ppm, Prof Thorne said.

The trend towards a warming world is clear given the top 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1998.

In fact that year stands out in particular because of a very strong “El Nino”, a natural phenomenon which sees the release of excess heat from surface waters across the Pacific Ocean that in turn warms up the environment.

Separating 1998 means the top nine warmest years have all occurred since 2002.

The report expects that 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

“When an El Nino is occurring it is burping out energy into the atmosphere, while a La Nina is absorbing energy into the ocean,” said Prof Thorne.

They alternate in an irregular pattern but when an El Nino appears we can expect difficult weather, Prof Thorne said.

The report describes the El Nino during 2014 as being in a “neutral state” but already data from the Pacific shows that the El Nino has taken hold.

“There are record temperatures, particularly near the sea surface. The El Nino tried to appear last year but it has begun and this year is very strong,” he said.

It may be that because it stalled during 2014, that may make it particularly strong this year, he suggested. “This could be stronger than 1998 (when a record-breaking El Nino appeared) but those are based on model predictions so we will have to wait to see what happens.”

Records are being set year after year, but there is a very weak response internationally. But it is not a matter that there is nothing we can do, Prof Thorne said. “We need a mixture of sensible global policy that sets us on a low carbon path and it is about technological innovation, carbon neutral transport, changed behaviour, the use of things like solar panels. We need to make clean energy.”

News Ireland daily BOG by Donie

Tuesday 7th July 2015

The living wage must GO UP to a rate of €11.50 per hour


The Living Wage Technical Group in Ireland believes the current hourly rate of pay should be €11.45 increased by 5cents

Soaring rents and the rise in the cost of car insurance means the “living wage” must be increased to €11.50 per hour, according to an expert group.

The Living Wage Technical Group – which consists of trade unions, think-tanks such as TASC and NERI, as well as Social Justice Ireland and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice – believes the current hourly rate of €11.45 should be increased by 5c to match the rising costs of living.

The group, which was established last year, believes workers should be paid at least €11.50 per hour to make “a minimum acceptable standard of living” possible. They said the increase in housing costs, household goods and services, car insurance and rising rents are the main drivers for the need of an increase.

This rate is 33% higher than the minimum wage of €8.65 per hour currently paid.

Irish consumers need new insurance legislation,

A new report says


The Law Reform Commission warns of ‘vicious devices and traps’ in existing contracts and recommends that new legislation on insurance contracts is needed.

New consumer legislation designed to remove “vicious devices and traps for the unwary” from insurance contracts has been recommended by the Law Reform Commission.

In a report published today, the commission recommends warranties should be abolished from insurance contracts, changes should be made to the duty of disclosure and there should be proportionate remedies for innocent or negligent mistakes by consumers.

The aim of the Report on Consumer Insurance Contracts, part of the commission’s third programme of law reform, is to “reform and re-balance” the duties of insurers and consumers, including small businesses, the commission has said.

The commission president, retired High Court judge Mr Justice John Quirke, told The Irish Times it was “ridiculous” that an insurance company could refuse to pay out household insurance after a fire on the basis, for example, that the householder did not have a burglar alarm.

Abolished law.

Under current legislation, this is permitted where the requirement to have the alarm was a “warranty” or condition of the contract, but should be abolished.

“A number of English courts have described warranties as ‘vicious devices and traps for the unwary’; they are not very popular in the courts,” Mr Justice Quirke said.

He said insurance contract law caused problems for consumers mainly because most laws had their origins in the 16th and 17th centuries, when sailing ships were crossing the Atlantic and the contents were being insured.

They were “hammered out between people who had equal bargaining powers”, he said.

But in modern times, contracts are between multinational conglomerates and ordinary people, and there are not equal bargaining rights or bargaining capacities.

“We want to ensure these problems don’t cause injustice,” Mr Justice Quirke said.

The commission makes 105 recommendations, including changes to the law on disclosure, which dates back to 1776.

It imposes a duty on a consumer to disclose information that a hypothetical “prudent insurer” might rely on in deciding whether to insure that consumer.

If it is not disclosed, the insurer can refuse to pay a claim.

Mr Justice Quirke said the obligation of identifying this information should be placed on the insurer, and there should also be proportionate remedies for consumers if they fail to disclose.

“There can be an absolutely innocent failure to disclose something and if that is the case, then instead of the insurer being able to refuse completely to honour the agreement, the misrepresentation should be examined and investigated to discover whether it is innocent, negligent or fraudulent,” he said.

“If it is fraudulent, the contract should be voided completely, but if it is innocent or negligent, the insurer shouldn’t be allowed to just simply walk away and say we won’t cover this; they should be required to apply proportionate remedies for the consumer.”

The commission also recommends the abolition of a requirement of a consumer to have an “insurable interest” in what is being insured, which dates back to 1774, when gambling was disapproved of and people took out insurance policies on, for example, the life of King George III.

Mr Justice Quirke said that nowadays it referred to situations where, for example, a son or daughter took out a policy on their father’s home when the father was unable to.

The insurance company could accept the payment for such a policy. However, if a claim is made, the company may say the son or daughter has no “insurable interest” in the house and they can refuse to pay.


The commission also recommends third parties, who were intended to be the beneficiaries under an insurance contract, should be permitted to make a direct claim against the insurer.

This could benefit, for example, a person injured at work when the employer had an insurance policy, but where the business has since gone into liquidation.

The commission has included a proposed draft Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill in its report, which will be published this evening by Mr Justice Ronan Keane.

Acne scarring is ‘worse in smokers’

Scientists say? 


Smoking not only causes wrinkles — it can worsen the effects of acne, scientists have found.

Scarring associated with the condition is more severe in smokers, research shows.

The findings provide another reason for people, especially teenagers prone to acne, to stay clear of tobacco, say experts.

Acne results in unsightly spots that can burst and damage the skin, leaving scars in the form of craters, ‘ice-pick’ holes, or an uneven lumpy surface. Scarring also occurs when people pick or squeeze their spots.

The study looked at 992 sufferers afflicted by severe acne who were referred to a hospital dermatology department over an eight year period.

Scarring was observed in 91% of patients, and while smokers were not more likely to have acne scars, the damage to their skin was significantly more severe.

More than half (53.7%) of smokers had moderate to severe scarring compared with just over a third (35%) of non-smokers.

Dr Raman Bhutani, a member of the research team from Harrogate District Foundation Trust, said: “The correlation seen between smoking and severity of facial scarring could suggest that smoking can increase the severity of scarring in a susceptible person with acne.

“Further work is required to confirm this finding and to understand the mechanisms by which this may occur.”

The findings were presented at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference in Manchester.

Nina Goad, from the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “Acne affects a huge proportion of the population, with 80% of teenagers affected at some point. While for most people the disorder will eventually clear, some are left with scarring which can be for life. This can be hard to treat and can make people feel self-conscious and affect their self-esteem.

“We already know that smoking is bad for our health, so perhaps this latest finding will provide an extra impetus for people to quit.”

Acne occurs when oil-producing glands in the skin become over-stimulated by certain hormones. The build-up of oil creates an ideal environment for acne bacteria to flourish, producing inflammation and spots.

Ireland has the highest alcohol consumption during pregnancy


Alcohol use during pregnancy is “prevalent and socially pervasive” in Ireland and the UK, health experts have warned after carrying out a large-scale study.

Women across all socio-demographic groups were likely to drink – but those who smoked were up to 50% more likely to consume alcohol while pregnant, research led by the University of Cambridge found.

Researchers described the widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy as a “significant public health concern”.

Their analysis of almost 18,000 women in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia found drinking during pregnancy was commonplace in all four countries, ranging from 20% to 80% in Ireland and from 40% upwards in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland had the highest prevalence of any alcohol consumption pre-pregnancy (90%) and during pregnancy (82%), and the highest reported binge consumption before (59%) and during (45%) pregnancy.

Habits and guidelines

The amount of alcohol consumed dropped substantially for all countries in the second trimester, along with the level of binge drinking.

Non-white women were less likely to drink, along with younger women, those who were more highly educated, obese or already had children.

Researchers said the findings show there is low adherence to alcohol guidelines advising complete abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia.

Although most women who drink during pregnancy do so at low levels, those who drink heavily are putting their unborn baby at risk of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which affects their physical and mental development.

The team added that since most women who consume alcohol do so at lower levels, where the effects on the foetus are less well understood, the “widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy is a significant public health concern”.

Their analysis did not include women who miscarried or who had stillborn babies – and they said this meant they could have excluded the heaviest drinkers of all, and participants may also be more advantaged than the general population, which could have affected the results.

“The findings of this study have direct application to policy and practice,” the study authors concluded.

“Although low proportions of women engaged in heavy drinking, the adverse consequences of heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy on birth outcomes, long-term gross motor function, and social, cognitive, emotional and behavioural outcomes in offspring make heavy gestational alcohol consumption a high public health priority.

“Additionally, since most women who consume alcohol do so at lower levels where the offspring growth and development effects are less well understood, the widespread consumption of even low levels of alcohol during pregnancy is a significant public health concern.”

They added that healthcare professionals should advise pregnant women to abstain from alcohol during pregnancy, while dual targeting of smoking and alcohol consumption should potentially be increased.

“New policy and interventions are also required to reduce alcohol prevalence both prior to and during pregnancy,” they added.

The 52-year-old woman who really does look like she is in her twenties


This mother says sunscreen and coconut oil are the secrets to her very youthful looks. Pamela Jacobs, from Leeds, is 52 but appears to be in her late twenties

  • She says her secret is healthy eating and using coconut oil for everything
  • Mrs Jacobs, who has 21-year-old son, also exercises once a week

With her clear skin, enviable figure and thick, dark hair, Pamela Jacobs looks every inch the yummy mummy. But while she might look like someone in her late twenties or early thirties, Pamela Jacobs is 52 – and has a 21-year-old son.

So young does she appear, she has been offered student rail fares and is told she must be lying when she reveals her real age.

Much to her son’s horror, she also gets attention from younger men – and embarrassingly, has been mistaken for his girlfriend in the past.

‘A while ago someone my son knows thought I was his girlfriend,’ she chuckles. ‘And some people I know have thought the same in reverse.’

But Marley need not worry about her dating any of his friends because Mrs Jacobs, who is currently single after marrying and divorcing in her twenties, says she has no intention of dating a younger man.

‘It’s flattering but I prefer men of a similar age to me,’ she explains, pointing out that a 21-year-old son ‘puts that [dating a twenty-something] into perspective’.

Nicknamed Pharrell by family members after the enduringly youthful singer, Mrs Jacobs says the odd embarrassing situation notwithstanding, there are no real downsides to looking younger.

‘I can’t remember the last time I was ID’d  but a few years ago I was buying ticket to London and the cashier asked if I had my student rail card so I said I didn’t have one.

‘He then asked if I wanted to apply for one so I had to tell him that I wasn’t a student and what my real age is. He went a bit red.’

Another incident came during a health screening two years ago when a nurse refused to believe that she was 50 until seeing her medical notes.

‘She said she was amazed at how young I looked – and also that I still had a waist,’ she remembers.

Despite her youthful looks, Mrs Jacobs, who turns 53 next month, says she is starting to notice some signs of ageing such as being more tired than before.

Nevertheless, she continues to do a weekly body conditioning class and eats a healthy diet packed with leafy greens and coconut oil – crediting the latter with her glowing complexion.

‘I’m a big coconut oil lover,’ she explains. ‘My mother used it on our hair and skin when we were younger and I’ve carried on.

‘I use Biona Organic Coconut Oil for cooking, in coffee, for removing make-up, for hair treatments and on my body twice a day as a moisturiser.’

She avoids wheat products such as bread and pasta because of the bloating they cause and doesn’t eat fruit because of the high sugar content but says everything else is allowed.

‘I follow the 80/20 rule,’ she reveals. ’80 per cent eating well and 20 per cent sneaking in the odd pudding, a little alcohol or organic dark chocolate.’

Other tips include avoiding chemicals wherever possible and using pink Himalayan salt in the bath once a week to help banish toxins.

Regular body brushing – and lavish application of coconut oil – keeps her skin soft, as does an overnight mask once a week.

She has also begun investing in better quality cosmetics which, she says, work better and last for longer.

‘I use a little Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser in Golden which gives a dewy effect and By Terry Terribly Densiliss concealer because contains an eye treatment,’ she explains.

‘I love Nars Taos or Orgasm blusher, Sephora black or blue liquid eyeliner and By Terry Growth Booster Mascara which helps lashes grow and doesn’t clump up and a Bobbi Brown Long Wear Brow pencil.

‘Then for lips, I like Stila lip gloss in Cranberry, Nars lip glosses and also Lipstick Queen’s coral lipstick. Putting it all on takes about five minutes.’

Ultimately, Mrs Jacobs says looking young is all about outlook and says nothing beats a big smile when it comes to knocking 10 years off.

‘I think the secret of eternal youth is to smile every day,’ she says. ‘The best thing about looking young is that it makes me feel good and gives me confidence.

‘I’m not perfect and have flaws like everyone else but I am grateful for what I do have.’



Pamela, who is of South Asian origin, eats a super-healthy diet based largely on vegetables and topped up with good proteins such as salmon.

Fresh-faced: Pamela eats a daily handful of almonds and eats a vegetable-based diet

Many of the dishes she makes are Asian and are spiced up with ginger, cumin and turmeric, among others, which she says act a bit like food supplements in terms of the health benefits.

Breakfast is usually an organic boiled egg served with gluten-free toast or organic oatcakes and coconut yoghurt with fresh berries and nuts.

To finish off the meal, she has a glass of coconut water with added liquid iron, which she says is key for stopping her iron levels plummeting as she ages.

Lunch comes in the shape of a salad prepared at home in the morning and usually contains a mixture of organic spinach, kale, rocket, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, red peppers, advocado, beansprouts and sauerkraut [pickled cabbage].

Fresh basil and coriander add flavour while pumpkin and sunflower seeds add crunch. ‘For protein I’ll add some Arbroath salmon, eggs or chicken and dress the salad with organic olive oil and lemon juice,’ she adds.

‘I also add cayenne pepper and lots of black pepper.’

Dinner is equally healthy and usually consists of a portion of organic chicken, oily fish or a lamb steak served with a ‘mountain of vegetables’ – broccoli and courgettes are favourites.

She also eats a daily handful of almonds, snacks on celery and houmus and limits her coffee intake to one a day.

Most of what she eats is organic and she drinks water throughout the day, usually flavoured with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.


Pamela does a body conditioning class once a week and follows that with a fitness yoga session immediately afterwards.

While at the gym, she uses the sauna and steam room and does a whole body exfoliation. She also uses the time to use a hair mask – she likes Aveda’s Damage Remedy.

‘I’ll go in the sauna for 10 minutes then have a freezing cold shower until the water stops,’ she adds.

‘I love it – it makes me so feel invigorated and I’m convinced it has helped to tone my skin. Then I will have 10 minutes in the steam and repeat the cold shower.’


Pamela loves Aveda’s all-natural Damage Remedy range and alternates between that and the Inviati brand to keep her hair soft.

She protects her locks with Aveda’s Brilliant Hair protector and gets rid of flyaways with the help of Oribe Moisturising Cream and Moroccan Oil.

Cleansing is done either with Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish (‘It’s reasonably priced and effective’) or coconut oil.

To keep her skin in good shape, she uses Origins A Perfect World moisturiser which comes with SPF25 – a skincare essential according to Pamela.

She also uses Dermalogica Age Reversal eye cream and uses an Omorovicza deep cleansing facial mask once a week. Dermalogica’s Power Recovery Mask is another favourite.


Pamela moisturises her body with coconut oil twice a day and says it keeps her skin ‘incredibly soft and nourished’.

She also uses a body brush before showering and prefers paraben-free shower gel brands such as Sai Sei or Faith in Nature.

Once a week, she detoxes by soaking in a bath topped up with pink Himalayan salt crystals and scrubs her feet each day while showering.

Heatwaves are here to stay the summers will be warmer and drier for next 30 years


New research from the Met Office shows that summers are going to get hotter and drier over the next 30 years

If you’re loving the 35C temperatures we’ve had in the UK this summer then you’ll be pleased to hear that sweltering summers are here to stay.

Not only that, but winters are going to get less cold – although they’ll also be a lot wetter.
New research from the Met Office shows that summers are going to get hotter and drier over the next 30 years.

Lead scientist Dr David Sexton, head of scenarios development at the Met Office, said: “The future UK climate can now be described in terms of the extreme hot, cold, wet or dry seasons which could associate with floods, droughts, heatwaves and cold spells that impact society.’

While ice cold winters and wet summers are looking increasingly unlikely as each year passes, there is still the chance of them happening in individual years.

Still, while all this might be exciting news for sun worshippers, to really feel the affects you’ll have to live until at least the year 2100.
By the end of the century the likelihood of experiencing a blazing hot summer of the kind now seen every 20 years rises to 90%, making scorchers the norm.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows the odds of having a colder than average winter in the UK dropping from around 20% in 2020 to just 4% by the end of the century.
Very cold winters such as the one that occurred in 2009/10 will become almost non-existent. The chance of experiencing one of these is less than 1% by 2100.

Over the next two decades there was still a 35% to 40% likelihood of summers being wetter than average, but the odds fall to about 20% by 2100.

The chances of a very wet summer – defined as 20% more rain than the 1961-1990 average – were expected to fall from 18% in 2020 to 10% eight decades later.

The Met office senior scientist Dr Glen Harris, who co-authored the research, said: “While there is a trend towards warmer winters and drier summers, there will still be a lot of variations in weather from year to year.
‘Cold winters and wet summers just become less likely, and we will still have to be prepared for them.’
Anyone else wishing they were born in 2080?

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Friday 15th May 2015

Ireland’s export values for March 2015 hit their highest level since 2002


Export-led sectors (such as technology, software, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and green technology) continue to show growth

The value of exports hit their highest levels since 2002 in March, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

A rebound in medical and pharmaceutical exports has helped largely drive the positive figures, along with the weaker euro.

Preliminary data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show that Ireland’s crucial exports were valued at €9.1bn in March. The last time it broke through the €9bn barrier was in May 2002.

Analysts also hailed the fact that exports have surged since the start of the year, thanks in part to improved competitiveness gains from the weaker euro.

Davy Stockbrokers said good exports are up 17.4% in the first three months of this year compared with 2014, thanks to a rebound in pharmaceuticals, which are up 21% on the year.

“Nonetheless, excluding this sector, Irish goods exports are up 9.1% year-to-date,” said Davy economist Conall Mac Coille.

“This suggests that Irish export performance is benefitting from stronger demand and from the competitiveness gains, vis-à-vis the UK, from the weak euro.”

The CSO data shows that while exports decreased 2% in March and imports rose 4%, the trade surplus narrowed by 10% to €3.43bn.

The value of exports for March was €9. 1bn representing an increase of €1.6bn, or 21%, when compared with March of last year.

The last time the value of exports was above €9bn was in May 2002 when it reached €9.1bn.

The CSO said the main driver behind the increase was a 58% surge in exports of medical and pharmaceutical products.

“The underlying narrative is one of broad based growth in exports, propelled by favourable currency moves and the improved economic performance of a number of Ireland’s key trading partners,” said Philip O’Sullivan, economist with specialist bank Investec.

“Elsewhere, the upturn in investment and personal consumption here has led to an increased appetite for imports. We expect to see more of the same in the months

€10m Irish Government funding announced for start-ups


The Jobs Minister said a €10 million initiative to support more start-up businesses will be led by people in local and regional areas.

The initiative comprises of two funds, with the closing date in mid July.

A €5 million fund will be open to groups of Local Enterprise Offices, and another €5 million Community Enterprise Initiatives fund will be open to groups and organisations in every county who come together with ideas for projects to create employment.

Minister Richard Bruton said this new initiative will be driven from the bottom-up.

“They are aimed at the local enterprise offices, which are now embedded in the local authorities … there are many ways in which groups could collaborate within the regions to develop initiatives,” he said.

“This is about bottom-up growth – you can’t expect someone in government buildings at Merrion Street or Kildare Street to know the environment in Kerry, and get the best ideas and people to drive them forward.”

NTMA sells €750m of seven-year bonds


In February of this year, the NTMA raised €500m through the auction of a 15-year bond.

The National Treasury Management Agency has sold €750 million of seven year government bonds at a yield of 0.81%.

The total bids received amounted to €1.99bn, which was 2.7 times the amount on offer. The NTMA has raised €10.25bn in the bond markets so far this year.

In February, the NTMA raised €500m through the auction of a 15-year bond.

Some €4bn was raised by the NTMA the previous week with the issuing of the first 30-year bond. The NTMA is looking to raise €12bn-€15bn in long-term bonds this year.

Meanwhile, there was much movement on the currency front yesterday, with sterling regaining its losses in the week heading into the British general election, while the US currency has slid to its lowest levels in almost four months a day after stagnant retail sales became the latest data to undermine prospects for Federal Reserve interest-rate increase.

The greenback climbed nine straight months through March on speculation the first hike in almost a decade was looming.

The dollar’s decline brought it to the lowest level in almost three months against the Euro.

And yet across the Atlantic, not even a reduction in the Bank of England’s quarterly growth forecasts was enough to derail sterling’s rebound.

People don’t realise severe obesity is as dangerous as smoking

  •  The new study also said that 20% of people who describe themselves as healthy are in fact overweight.


An expert group that looks into how obesity impacts on health has said that “widespread misconceptions” about its danger persist.

The European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), has released a new study entitled ‘Obesity: an underestimated threat’.

In it the group shows that obesity can reduce life expectancy at a comparable level to smoking tobacco.

What are the main points of the report?

Speaking about the report, Chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity on the Island of Ireland (ASOI), Dr Grace O’Malley, highlights seven key findings within the report.

These include the fact that less than 50% of the population realise that it is a disease; that many people are unaware of the link between obesity and serious illness; that over 60% do not think obesity surgery should be paid for by the national health system; and that over 80% of individuals underestimate the importance of an overall approach to maintaining a healthy weight.

It also mentions that more than half of people asked think that obesity is less dangerous than smoking. On this Dr O’Malley, said:

Studies have shown that moderate and severe obesity (BMI 30-35 kg/m2 and >40 kg/m2 respectively) can reduce life expectancy by between 5 and 20 years which is comparable to the impact of tobacco smoking (10 years). Despite this, less than 50% recognised obesity as being as dangerous as smoking.

Interestingly, it was also found that many people who consider themselves healthy are in fact overweight.

Dr O’Malley, said, “in this study 20% of those describing themselves as a healthy weight were technically overweight and 30% of those who described themselves as overweight were technically obese.”

One positive take away from the study was that most participants thought that diet and exercise were almost always the best way to treat obesity. Dr O’Malley does make the point however, that “in certain cases – particularly for people with severe obesity – additional treatments are needed.”

A growing problem in today’s society

Recent statistics have shown that obesity is a ‘growing threat’ – with a 2014 model estimating that 89% of of Irish men could be overweight by 2030, with 48% of these being obese.

The study released today carried out by the group looked at 14,000 people in seven European countries and aimed to build a better understanding of how the public perceives obesity.

Christopher an Irish student just got an asteroid named after him


This Irish student above just got an asteroid named after him

Of all the things that could happen in life, getting an asteroid named after you has to be one of the coolest.

Lucky sixth-year student Christopher Carragher from Our Lady’s Secondary School in Castleblaney can say just that, after winning a major $1,500 prize in the US.

The Co Monaghan student had an asteroid named after him after he came second in the world award in the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics category at ISEF 2015 which was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this week.

Carragher got to Pennsylvania after winning the SciFest 2014 national final last November. His project was about aiding people with memory loss.

Around 1,700 students from over 75 countries compete at Intel ISEF for a prize fund totaling $4million.

After becoming concerned about the signs of short-term memory loss in a family member, he decided to design an automated system called Memory Buddy.

Memory Buddy

Memory Buddy uses Google Calendar to alert the person about appointments and medication via flashing lights, sound and also via the TV.

It also includes a remotely controlled medicine drawer to give the appropriate medicine at a specific time – there’s even a feedback facility to notify a carer when medicine has or has not been taken.

An organiser for care rotas and appointments also comes with Memory Buddy.

Carragher said the whole experience has been “amazing”

I met students from all over the world, and heard speeches from famous scientists like Nobel laureates Sir Harold W Kroto and Martin Chalfie. It’s been great to see all the projects that other students from around the world have been working on and it has been brilliant to spend a week together sharing our ideas.

Sheila Porter of CEO of SciFest said that Christopher Carragher’s project “demonstrates that great science is characterised not by rote-learning and memorisation but by creativity and investigation”.

Christopher was representing Ireland at ISEF and come second in the world in his category is an impressive achievement not only for him, his teacher and school but for Ireland too, and it is testament to the very high quality of science education in Ireland. To continue producing the highest calibre of science students in Ireland, we need to celebrate their achievements more, to promote inquiry based learning and encourage students to take their learning beyond the classroom.

Music is being used to help sick children, who sometimes can’t speak, to express themselves

Huge ice shelf in Antarctica to collapse by year 2020


The last remaining section of Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf, which partially collapsed in 2002, is quickly weakening and likely to disintegrate completely by 2020, said a new study out today.

Ice shelves are permanent floating sheets of ice that connect to a landmass, such as Antarctica, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

When it goes, the ice shelf will shatter into hundreds of icebergs. Since it’s already floating ice, the collapse of the ice shelf will not directly contribute to global sea-level rise.

However, ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean, according to NASA. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise.

The remaining section of the Larsen B ice shelf is roughly the size of 27 Manhattan islands.

“These are warning signs that the remnant is disintegrating,” said study lead author Ala Khazendar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement.

“Although it’s fascinating scientifically to have a front-row seat to watch the ice shelf becoming unstable and breaking up, it’s bad news for our planet,” he said. “This ice shelf has existed for at least 10,000 years, and soon it will be gone.”

The Larsen B Ice Shelf is on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, the part that looks like an arm reaching out toward South America. The peninsula has warmed 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950, making it one of the fastest-warming places on Earth.

Scientists think that the recent ice shelf collapses in both the Arctic and Antarctica are related to climate change.

Ice shelves are different from ice sheets. An ice sheet, which covers more than 97% of Antarctica, has built up over thousands of years as snow falls but never melts. As ice piles up, it slides slowly toward the continent’s edge to form ice shelves attached to the ice sheet, but are floating in the ocean.

“This is certainly a warning,” said Khazendar.

The study appeared in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and was written by researchers from NASA and the University of California at Irvine.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday/Saturday 28th & 29th November 2014

Ireland set to repay the first installment of €9 billion to IMF next month


Money will be paid from cash balances held by the National Treasury Management Agency.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: “All bilateral lenders have now confirmed the waiver in respect of their loans to us”.

The Government expects to repay €9 billion of the State’s loans with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December, in what will be the first instalment of the early repayment of our bailout funds from the Washington DC-based body.

This has been confirmed by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in a reply to a question from Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

“The early repayment [of the IMF loans] will take place in tranches, with the first tranche of approximately €9 billion planned for next month,” Mr Noonan said.

It is understood this money will be paid from existing cash balances held by the National Treasury Management Agency on behalf of the State.

Ireland intends to repay €18.3 billion of our €22.5 billion IMF loan, which dates back to the financial assistance programme agreed with the fund and the EU in late 2010.

Mr Noonan said this is the portion of the loan subject to the highest rate of interest. The intention was to replace it, in a “measured way”, with “less expensive market funding”.

A clause in our loan agreements with the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), and with bilateral lenders the UK, Denmark and Sweden meant that waivers from them were required to repay the IMF loans early.

“All bilateral lenders have now confirmed the waiver in respect of their loans to us, in accordance with their national approval procedures,” Mr Noonan said.

“The most recent of these was the Swedish government’s agreement on November 20th … following the Swedish parliament’s approval the previous day. The EFSF and EFSM can now complete the waiver process, which will facilitate the first early repayment.”

Garda Reserve close to full strength 10 years after inception


Journalists absent from Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan first passing-out ceremony at Templemore

The Garda Reserve is on course to achieve its target strength next year, some 10 years after the part-time unpaid element of the force was established.

It was intended that the reserve would reach 10 per cent of the full-time Garda number. But nine years after the first intake, that figure is yet to be reached.

The latest class of reservists graduated at the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday when 62 men and women from home and abroad were officially welcomed into the reserve after completing their training.

In total, 62 reservists passed out: 41 men and 21 women. While most were from the Republic, there were also reservists fromFrance, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Target in sight

The passing out brought to 1,173 the full strength of the reserve, with 1,091 fully attested and 82 in training.

If current intake trends continue, the number of reservists will reach some 1,250 next year, or 10 per cent of the full-time force.

The reserve was introduced under theGarda Síochána Act 2005, with the first intake of reservists inducted the following year.

Some organisations that represent full-time Garda members were dissatisfied with what they considered efforts by then minister for justice Michael McDowell to introduce free policing.

Yesterday’s ceremony was the first passing-out event at Templemore over which Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has presided since her appointment this week.

However while the ceremony is usually open to journalists, who are afforded an interview opportunity with the commissioner and minister for justice of the day, only photographers were invited to yesterday’s passing out.

Media absence

Senior sources said the commissioner had already taken questions from the media at several events since her appointment on Tuesday. And they added that there was “little point” in another media event just days into her term.

The same sources said the commissioner remained committed to creating a more open and transparent force and the exclusion of journalists “should not be misinterpreted in any way”.

In September, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and then interim commissioner O’Sullivan faced a barrage of questions at a passing-out in Templemore relating to allegations that gardaí continued to cancel penalty points without reason.

Senior sources at the time believed the allegations had been leaked just before the event in an effort to put Ms O’Sullivan at a disadvantage.

Ireland’s GPs ‘unaware of their medical card powers’

Says the HSE


The ability of doctors to extend a medical card for four months was one of the measures included in the package announced earlier this week

Some GPs in Ireland have not been made fully aware they could temporarily save a patient from losing their medical card in special cases, the Health Service

A spokeswoman was commenting after the National Association of General Practitioners said doctors encountered a wide range of problems with this facility.

Others were unaware they could extend a card via the HSE computer system even though it has been in place for two years, the GP body said.

The HSE spokeswoman said the HSE and GP representatives worked collaboratively to develop the facilities which are available to family doctors today. “It is clear that not all GPs are fully aware of all of the facilities available and the HSE will be writing again to clarify the situation with them.

“However, many GPs are aware of the facilities and currently reinstate medical cards, extend the expiry date for sensitive renewals and add babies to medical cards.


“To date GPs have reinstated 2,008 medical cards, completed 384 sensitive renewals, removed 19,189 medical cards and added 21,770 babies to the GMS register,” she added.

She pointed out there are “controls in place”. In instances where a family has been fully assessed and it has been established that they are not eligible for a medical card, this decision cannot be overturned by a GP. “However, if a family did not engage with the review process, for reasons of illness for instance, the lapsed eligibility for this family can be re-instated by their GP.

“The HSE will work with GPs to strengthen the facilities available to them.”

The ability of doctors to extend a medical card for four months was one of the measures included in the package announced earlier this week to reform the discretionary medical card scheme.

If the patient has a mental illness, it may be extended by the GP for a year after notifying the HSE.

Ireland records second highest fertility rate in the EU


Significant developments and trends noted in 2012 CSO Vital Statistics report

A report on Vital Statistics 2012 published by the Central Statistics Office notes that France had the highest fertility rate at 2.01, Ireland was next at 1.99.

Ireland recorded the second highest fertility rate in the EU in 2012, the figures released by the Central Statistics Office show.

A report on Vital Statistics 2012 published by the Central Statistics Office notes that France had the highest fertility rate at 2.01, Ireland was next at 1.99 followed by the UK with a rate of 1.94. Portugal had the lowest rate at 1.28.

Referred to as the Total Period Fertility Rate (TPFR) the fertility figure represents a theoretical average number of children who would be born alive to a woman during her lifetime.

A 2.1 score is considered to be the population replacement rate – the number of births necessary to maintain current population levels.

Ireland’s TPFR has fallen by 33 per cent in the last 30 years, from 2.96 in 1980 to 1.99 in 2012. It has been below the replacement level since 1991.

The number of births to women aged 30 to 34 in 2012 was 26, 028, the highest number of all 5-year age groups and representing over a third of all births (36.3 per cent).

The percentage of births to teenage mothers remained the same in 2012 as in 2011, at 2.3 per cent (1,616) of births to mothers under 20 years of age.

Excluding 2011, it was 1963 since the percentage of births to mothers below 20 was this low.

As the decline in the rate births to mothers under 20 might suggest, Irish women are choosing to have their babies later in life and the rate of births to mothers over 40 is increasing.

In 2012, 5.6 per cent (4,007) of births were to mothers over 40. This was the highest percentage of births to this age group since 1971 when it was 5.7 per cent.

In 2012, 7 per cent of females in their 20s gave birth while 11 per cent of those in their 30s gave birth.

The average age of mothers at maternity in Ireland in 2012 was 32.0 years. This compares with 30.0 in Northern Ireland and 29.8 in England and Wales.

In 2012, 71,674 children born in Ireland. This represents a fall of 3.2 per cent (2,359)from 2011. Despite recording a fall, 2012 still saw the fifth highest number of births in Ireland since 1980.

The birth rate was 15.6 per 1,000 of the population compared with 16.2 in 2011 and 15.5 in 2002.

The report also highlights some other significant developments and trends. In 2012, just over 23.2 per cent of births were to mothers of non-Irish nationality.

The number of births outside marriage/civil partnership in 2012 was 25,179 or 35.1 per cent of all births.

Wednesday the 4th of July saw the highest number of babies born on one day (269). The lowest number of babies born on the one day was 107 on April 22nd.

There were 29,186 deaths recorded in Ireland in 2012, of which 14,945 were males and 14, 241 were females. This equates to 6.36 deaths per 1,000 total population compared with 6.22 in 2011 and 7.58 in 2002.

There were 541 deaths due to intentional self-harm in 2012 of which 445 were male and 96 female.

The risk from extreme weather is set to rise


The UK is comparatively resilient to extreme events – but vulnerable because of high population density

Climate change and population growth will hugely increase the risk to people from extreme weather, a report says.

The Royal Society warns that the risk of heatwaves to an ageing population will rise about ten-fold by 2090 if greenhouse gases continue to rise.

They estimate the risk to individuals from floods will rise more than four-fold and the drought risk will treble.

The report’s lead author Prof Georgina Mace said: “This problem is not just about to come… it’s here already.”

She told BBC News: “We have to get the mindset that with climate change and population increase we are living in an ever-changing world – and we need much better planning if we hope to cope.”

The report says governments have not grasped the risk of booming populations in coastal cities as sea level rises and extreme events become more severe.

“People are increasingly living in the wrong places, and it’s likely that extreme events will be more common,” Prof Mace says.

“For most hazards, population increase contributes at least as much as climate change – sometimes more. We are making ourselves more vulnerable whilst making the climate more extreme.

“It is impossible for us to avoid the worst and most unexpected events. But it is not impossible to be prepared for an ever-changing world. We must organise ourselves right away.”

The report’s team said the UK was comparatively resilient to extreme events – but still vulnerable because of the high density of people living in areas at risk.

The report says governments have not grasped the risk of booming populations in coastal cities

The report advises all levels of society to prepare – from strategic planning at an international and national level to local schemes by citizens to tackle floods or heatwaves.

Its scenarios are based on the assumption that the world stays on the current trajectory of emissions, which the authors assume will increase temperature by 2.6-4.8C around 2090. It assumes a population of nine billion.

They say they have built upon earlier work by calculating the effects of climate change coupled with population trends. They warn that the effects of extremes will be exacerbated by the increase in elderly people, who are least able to cope with hot weather.

Urbanisation will make the issue worse by creating “heat islands” where roads and buildings absorb heat from the sun. As well as building homes insulated against the cold, we must also ensure they can be properly ventilated in the summer, the report says.

The authors say cutting greenhouse gas emissions is essential. But they argue that governments will also need to adapt to future climatic shifts driven by climate change.

They suggest threats could be tackled through a dual approach. The simplest and cheapest way of tempering heatwaves, they say, is to maintain existing green space. Other low-cost options are planting new trees, encouraging green roofs, or painting roofs white to reflect the sun.

The authors say air conditioners are the most effective way of keeping cool – but they are costly, they dump heat into city streets and their use exacerbates climate change.

Flooding is another priority area, the report says. It finds that large-scale engineering solutions like sea walls offer the most effective protection to coastal flooding – but they are expensive, and when they fail the results can be disastrous.

Urbanisation creates heat islands which can exacerbate the effects of hot weather

The ideal solution, the authors think, may be a combination of “hard” engineering solutions like dykes matched with “soft” solutions like protecting wetlands to hold water and allow it to seep into the ground.

A scheme at Pickering in Yorkshire previously featured by BBC News is held as an example. The report concludes more research is needed to measure the effectiveness of these ecosystem solutions.

It insists that governments should carefully prioritise their spending. They should protect major infrastructure like electricity generation because of its knock-on effect on the broader economy. They should expect some lower-priority defences to fail from time to time, then work to minimise the consequences of that failure .

The authors identify excess heat as another potential threat to economies and agriculture if temperatures climb too high for outdoor workers.

They examine projected rises in the “wet bulb” index used by the US Army and others to measure the temperature felt when the skin is wet and exposed to moving air.

Some areas may experience many weeks when outdoor activity is heavily restricted, they fear – although the trend of agricultural labour loss may be offset through the century as more and more people move to cities.

It puts a figure on those at greatest overall risk: populations in poor countries make up only 11% of those exposed to hazards but account for 53% of the disaster deaths.

Some economists argue this shows that poor nations should increase their economies by burning cheap fossil fuels because that will allow them to spend more later on disaster protection.

The authors also call for reform of the financial system to take into account the exposure of assets to extreme events.

They say: “Unless risks are accurately evaluated and reported, companies will have limited incentives to reduce them. And valuations and investment decisions will continue to be poorly informed.”

One author, Rowan Douglas, from the Willis Research Network, said he suspected this might be the most significant contribution of the report.

The authors want organisations to report their maximum probable losses due to extreme events, based on a 1% chance of the event on any given year.

“The 1% stress test is not as extreme as it might sound – it implies a 10% chance of an organization being affected once a decade,” they say.

They say decisions made over the next few decades as the world builds vast urban areas will be key to the resilience of people by the end of the century.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 28th October 2014

Irish paid too high a price for the banks bailout says Bono and Larry


The U2 singer Bono says bond holders should have been burnt in ‘grim’ times

U2 singer Bono has revealed he saw world famous investor and philanthropist George Soros “go for” Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, over the issue of Ireland being forced to pay off all our bondholders. The singer also says that Ireland should have burnt bondholders when the country went through the troika bailout.

“They are all big boys and they could have afforded a haircut and a new suit and some underwear if that was necessary,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent.

The singer went on to say: “That was a grim, grim moment in our history. Our people paid far too high a price.”

The singer says he saw investor and philanthropist George Soros, “go for Van Rompuy”, over the matter, “and it was embarrassing because George Soros knew more about the details of the Irish bond market than I did”.

Bono says the whole thing was “just very, very unfair”. But he did say he was, “amazed at the subtlety of the response [of the Irish people] because we could have thrown a monumental tantrum – it just wouldn’t have made things any better.”

Bandmate Larry Mullen agreed, saying: “When the truth comes out, and it will, I think, Europe and the European banks – we’ll be astonished by what they did to Ireland.”

Bono agreed that “it will emerge”, and that “it wasn’t a nice moment”.

Despite the furore in certain quarters around the release of U2’s new album Songs of Innocence for free on iTunes, the album has been downloaded and listened to by tens of millions of people and is the band’s most popular and critical success in years.

Five years in the making and heralding a return to old-fashioned songwriting, after what Larry Mullen now calls the “incomplete” No Line On The Horizon, the new album is a stunning return to form and the band have been hugely re-energised by getting out and playing the new songs on the radio and TV shows, including Friday Night’s Late Late Show.

Bono also spoke of his respect for Enda Kenny, with whom he has worked on bringing tech businesses to Ireland. “I’ve a lot of time for him,” Bono said of Enda, “and I’ve seen him deal with tough crowds.”

Bono laughed that he did not mean the Irish public, but Enda Kenny’s “contemporaries and the high fliers at meetings in Davos and things like that, and it gives me pride that he can speak off the hoof, and not just poetically. He can actually get down to brass tacks, and I’ve seen him go after companies to get them to Ireland. I witnessed him headlock Brian Cheskey from Airbnb to get their headquarters into Dublin, and I was working on this too.”

Bono got to know the Taoiseach when they collaborated on bringing companies like Google and Facebook to commit to Ireland. He also praised the work of the IDA, saying they are “unbelievable, like the Jedi”.

Bono and Larry stressed, however, that Bono’s work wouldn’t change if there was a new government. He would work with whoever was there.

Bono also expressed concern that Labour has not been given enough credit for pulling the country out of recession. “I don’t think it would have been possible without Labour,” he said, “It was a two-headed monster”. Asked if he worried that Labour would be in trouble in the next election, he said: “I don’t know, but I fear that people might not understand how just what an Armageddon we were facing, and how these two parties did very well.”

The singer added that he was, “sure Fianna Fail will renew itself very well too,” while stressing, “I’m not taking a party political position. I had to give that up when I became a campaigner for One.”

Talking about the band’s own tax situation, which has been the subject of some controversy over the last few years after the band moved a part of their business to Holland, Bono also clarified that he did not, as widely reported last week, say he supported the so-called ‘Double Irish’ tax scheme and that he welcomed its phasing out.

“We can understand why people, at first glance, get upset with U2 if they mistakenly think we don’t pay tax. We do. Millions of euro in Ireland. But isn’t it absurd if Ireland as a country can have a culture of tax competitiveness but Irish companies cannot? This doesn’t make sense, what also doesn’t make sense are abuses such as the so-called ‘Double Irish’, which is being phased out and rightly so.

We have been misquoted as being in favour of it, we are not and never have been. It is also true to say that the 12.5pc corporate tax rate would mean nothing to the companies that have availed of it were it not for the talented, savvy workforce here. That is our greatest resource and that should be what gives us most pride. It’s rough out there and we need to be so smart to make it through even the next few years.”

Bono also pointed out that the only people whose opinion U2 really values are the fans. “We’re not politicians,” he said. “We don’t need the popular vote. Our audience is a tiny minority. We just need to speak to them and they know through the songs who we are.”

Most parents in child-care cases are not married


In most courts outside Dublin, child-care cases are heard on a general family law day, when there can be up to 70 or 80 cases on the list.

Most parents involved in child-care cases in the courts are not married and one in six has mental problems, a new report reveals.

The majority of them are single or separated and parenting alone, according to the study of cases involving over 800 children.

The report, to be launched today, finds nearly one in three children has special needs and one in four child-care cases involve a parent from an ethnic minority, including travellers.

The Child Care Law Reporting Project said there is little consistency in the reasons for removing children from parents around the country.

In one case, a judge refused long-term care orders for a number of children despite the fact that a doctor gave compelling evidence of severe physical abuse.

The judge granted short orders instead and planned to give the younger children back to the mother.

In another case, the Child and Family Agency sought a care order for a baby after a mother tested positive for cannabis after being hospitalised with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

The order was sought although the woman denied using the drug and her baby did not show evidence of neglect.

“I’m not criticising the judge in the first case particularly but saying there appears to be different thresholds for removing children from parents,” said the Director of the project, Carol Coulter.

“The whole system has grown up in an ad hoc way.”

She called for a dedicated family court to be set up.

The report finds children can be at particular risk of abuse and neglect when parents are poor, have a mental illness, and a child with special needs.

Most cases involve parents who are vulnerable due to mental issues, drugs or alcohol abuse, and have little family support. Most are claiming social welfare.

Ms Coulter said it is urgent that those coming to our shores understand what is expected of them as parents due to the disproportionate representation of non-Irish parents in the courts.

She said social workers need intensive training to deal with cultural differences, while this also made fostering more complicated.

In most courts outside Dublin, child-care cases are heard on a general family law day, when there can be up to 70 or 80 cases on the list.

If a case is contested it could be repeatedly adjourned over many months.

Ms Coulter said it is not possible for child-care cases to receive the attention they need and deserve if there is no consent to the orders.

“These cases alone make a compelling case for the establishment of a special family court as soon as possible,” she said.

“But the courts alone are not the answer to the problems of vulnerable families.

“Society as a whole must take responsibility for supporting them so that taking children into care is a last resort.”

European Women paid 36% less than Men for doing similar jobs


Bar graph above right showing the gender pay gap in European countries.

European women are paid, on average, 36% less than men for doing similar jobs, according to analysis of figures from this year’s Global Gender Gap Report.

The report, an annual survey which has been carried out by the World Economic Forum since 2006, aims to analyse and highlight persisting gender gap divides around the world. The report ranks nations based on gender disparities in economic participation, healthcare, education and political representation.

Norway comes top of the European wage equality rankings, with women receiving 79% of what men receive for similar labour, followed by Finland, Albania and Iceland, all in the mid seventies.

The UK comes in at 15th place, with female workers receiving 69% of their male counterparts’ wages. Ireland comes in significantly higher than its neighbour, in 7th place (74%).

By contrast, Italy ranks at 129th place for wage equality out of 131 countries worldwide, making it the worst in Europe after France (126th) and Hungary (127th), with Italian women receiving only 48% of what men earned for similar work.

According to the authors of the report, “the findings… reveal only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace” since 2006. The report’s researchers predicted that according to current trends, total equality will not be achieved until 2095.

Overall, Scandinavian countries lead the way for gender equality, with Iceland at the top of the general rankings of the index for the sixth year running. Finland ranks in second position, with Norway, Sweden and Denmark coming in at third, fourth and fifth respectively. Malta was the lowest-ranked European country overall, in 99th place.

For the first time in the report’s history, the United Kingdom fell below the top 20, slipping to 26th place, behind such countries as Nicaragua, Rwanda and Moldova. The report stated that Britain’s lower position could be “mainly attributed to changes in income estimates”, although the UK also fared badly in the political empowerment category. Less than a third of members of the UK parliament are women, and women hold only 19% of ministerial positions.

Meanwhile Yemen, Pakistan and Chad retained their 2013 positions at the bottom of the 142 nations surveyed.

Although India ranked at 15th place for female political representation, with many key government positions occupied by women, overall it slipped 13 places from its 2013 ranking to 114th place, and was among the bottom 20 according to income, literacy, economic participation and infant survival.

Daughter of Donegal couple told those with mental health issues should seek help


Daughter describes Jimmy and Kathleen Cuddihy above left pic. as ‘loving, kind and beautiful people’

The funeral of Kathleen and Jimmy Cuddihy en route to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Carndonagh, Co Donegal.

People with mental-health problems must seek professional help, said the daughter of a couple killed in their Co Donegal home.

Maureen Cuddihy was speaking at the funeral of her parents Jimmy and Kathleen at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Carndonagh today.

The couple were found dead at their home in Churchtown last Thursday morning. An axe was found at the scene by gardaí

Their youngest son Julian (42) has been charged with their murders and Judge Kevin Kilrane has ordered a psychiatric report on him.

Their daughter Maureen appealed to people with depression or other mental-health issues to tell somebody.

“Please seek help. There are are so many brilliant services available and I’d urge anyone feeling low to talk. Don’t wait. Get help before you do something that will cause such great pain to your family,” she said.

She described her parents as loving, kind and beautiful people. “When they worked together on a project they were like a force of nature. As both captain and president of the golf club they strived to make it the best club it could be.

“Over the last five days we’ve come to realise how popular and much-loved our parents were and just how many people they actually helped.

“Mum [a nurse] must have had half of Inishowen in the back of the ambulance and Dad has taught so many people maths over the years and given them grinds.

“They were wonderful parents to all of us and when money was tight in the house there was always money for education. Education would set us free, they told us.

“They were so kind and caring. Mum always gave us supplies when we went away. Even when we were getting a plane to London, she’d be trying to give us bags of turf and food,” she said.

An eerie silence hung over the Inishowen market town as the couple were taken to their final resting place. Businesses closed and people lined the streets of the town on the Inishowen Peninsula.

The coffins of Jimmy (77) and Kathleen (73) were carried from their home at Churchtown for about 200m along the Buncrana Road followed by hundreds of people and led by a Garda escort.

The mourners were led by three of the couple’s four children: James, Delilah and Maureen. The two hearses were given a guard of honour by local ambulance staff – a reflection of Kathleen’s years of dedicated service as a nurse.

At the entrance to the church, teachers and staff fromCarndonagh Community School, where Jimmy had taught maths, also gave a guard of honour.

Hundreds of people stood outside the church beneath a bright October sun. Inside Fr Con McLaughlin led the funeral Mass assisted by the Bishop of Derry, the Most Rev Donal McKeown.

Fr McLaughlin recalled how Jimmy had taught him metalwork many decades ago. He said the couple had touched the lives and hearts of everyone in the community through their work and personal lives.

Cold winters have been caused by global warming

New research tells us


Climate sceptics often claim that recent icy winters show that global warming is not happening. New research suggests the opposite is true

New research suggests that the icy weather is indeed evidence of change but that, counter-intuitively, it reinforces the case for global warming rather than the reverse

It’s been a frequent debating point from climate sceptics. Recent cold winders in Britain and Europe, they often say, undermine the case that the world is growing warmer. Scientists have tended to reply that that is to mix up the short-term effects of weather in a particular region with long term climate change, and that the cold winters therefore are of little significance.

But now new research suggests that both are wrong – that the icy weather is indeed evidence of change but that, counterintuitively, it reinforces the case for global warming rather than the reverse.

Research at Tokyo University and Japan’s national Institute of Polar Research – published in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience – has linked the cold winters with the “rapid decline of Arctic sea ice”, caused by warming, over the past decade.

The most comprehensive computer modelling study on the issue to date, it concludes the risk of severe winters in Europe and Northern Asia has doubled as the result of the climate change.

It works like this, say the scientists. As the ice melts it exposes open water which, being very much darker, absorbs more heat. The warmer water then warms the air above it which in turn, weakens the jet stream, the high level river of air which does much to determine the weather.

As the jet stream slows down it meanders more, causing weather systems to get stuck in place with a “blocking pattern” that pulls cold, Arctic air down over Europe and northern Asia for long periods at a time. And, sure enough they say, recent cold winters have occurred in years when the amount of Arctic sea ice was especially low.

“The origin of frequent Eurasian severe winters is global warming,” says the lead author of the paper, Prof Masato Mori, unequivocally. He expects it to result in a greater number of cold winters for several decades yet, though eventually the world will heat up so much as to overwhelm this effect.

Dr Colin Summerhayes of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge adds that the “counterintuitive” occurrence of cold winters “makes some people think that global warming has stopped. It has not. Although average surface warming has been slower since 2000, the Arctic has gone on warming rapidly throughout this time.”

So maybe sceptics should start arguing that it is milder winters, not colder ones, that refute global warming after all.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 19th & 20th July 2014

No referendum on abortion in lifetime of this Government’s  says the new Tánaiste


Mistakes of the past will be repeated if 31-year-old decision not revisited, says Independent TD

Catherine Murphy: said “we stand to repeat the mistakes of the past if we do not act to address the grossly discriminatory laws that govern abortion”

Tánaiste Joan Burton has effectively ruled out the possibility of a referendum, in the lifetime of this Government, on abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

Ms Burton said that while she personally would like to see a situation where it was possible to address fatal foetal abnormalities, “we do not have agreement on that in the programme for government”.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy said “we stand to repeat the mistakes of the past if we do not act to address the grossly discriminatory laws that govern abortion”.

Referring to the UN Human Rights Committee hearings this week in Geneva, Ms Murphy said the UN confirmed that Ireland was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by denying women the option to avail of abortion in circumstances of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormalities and where a woman’s health is in danger.

The Kildare North TD said Ireland was in breach of basic humanity in denying an abortion to a woman who had been raped, suffered incest or whose baby would not survive after birth.

She added: “I found it profoundly chilling to listen to the remarks of the principal officer in the Department of Health who told the committee that denying these women the right to abortion was the will of the people.”

Ms Murphy said the eighth amendment to the Constitution was introduced more than 30 years ago and attitudes had changed significantly since then as recent polls had shown. “It is inhumane and we cannot rely on a 31-year-old referendum decision.”

The Tánaiste said that “as a democrat, the Deputy must recognised that the people voted” in the 1983 referendum. The Government had dealt with issues from the X case.

The Irish language is not a natural speak for us so it has to be learned


No amount of campaigning can transform the situation of a weak language

According to an old joke circulating in the Department of Foreign Affairs,                                                                                                               if somebody spoke French well they were sure to be posted to China, while Chinese speakers would probably end up in Turkey.

The same spirit seems to have informed Enda Kenny’s decision to appoint Heather Humphreys and Joe McHugh, neither of whom speak Irish well, to ministerial posts in the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Predictably enough there was the usual flurry of protests from Irish-language organisations and Sinn Féin Deputies. Their reasoning is that the State recognises Irish as the first official language, and encourages its citizens to speak it. At the same time the State has deprived its public servants and Gaeltacht citizens of the opportunity to use Irish when communicating with the Minister of State. Once again there is a yawning chasm between statements of intent and actual practice.

Kenny was quick to calm the fears of the Irish-language lobby. McHugh, he told the Dáil, actually is an Irish speaker, all appearances to the contrary. “He’s got the language inside of him, but it’s rusty.” After a crash course in the Gaeltacht he “‘will be fluent in the language”.

This reply incensed his critics even further, but the attitude it expresses is not at all uncommon among the populace.

There is a widespread belief that Irish is somehow encoded in our DNA, and all that is needed is to discover this language gene, and we’ll all start speaking Irish as competently as we speak English.

The bad news for Kenny and for the Irish people is that Irish is not “part of what we are”. It is a language that needs to be learnt from scratch.

Furthermore, it is a difficult language, and one for which few modern teaching-materials exist.

The situation is not helped by the fact that the last handful of native speakers are nearly all bilingual, and prefer to use English for official purposes and when talking to non-Irish speakers.

And, finally, like our fellow Anglophones in Britain and America, we Irish are not renowned for our ability to learn other languages.

‘Too much grammar’

There is no shortage of theories about why we don’t speak Irish: “800 years of British oppression” and “too much grammar”.

In a way the reasons are unimportant. The fact is that most of us don’t speak Irish with any great degree of proficiency. That applies to the enthusiasts just as much as to those who hate Irish. One of the placards carried by a protest group had the inscription “Níos deirge, níos feirge”, which is not comprehensible from a linguistic point of view.

That is not to say that Irish cannot be learnt. Every year a few dozen students graduate from third-level institutions with an impressive command of the language, and I know many foreigners who speak Irish really well. But most people simply don’t have the time, dedication and plain linguistic ability to achieve that level. No disrespect to McHugh, but a few weeks in Glencolmcille is unlikely to release the inner Gaeilgeoir in him.

Ireland’s pharmaceutical sales hit the €40bn mark


Pharmaceutical and chemical items accounted for almost half of the products made and sold in Ireland last year

Pharmaceutical and chemical items accounted for almost half of the products made and sold in Ireland last year.

Official data shows almost €90bn worth of products were manufactured and marketed here in 2013- up 4.6% on 2012.

But 44.6%, or €40.1bn, of sales were classed as chemical or pharmaceutical products, highlighting the importance of the sector to the economy.

And although exports have been dented by the so-called pharmaceutical patent cliff, yesterday’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) data showed that the value of basic pharmaceutical products and preparations increased 7.2% to €29bn.

It is understood the rise in value is attributed to a range of factors, including the fact that new entrants were included in the data and that a blockbuster drug came off patent only halfway through the year.

In addition, only products that were actually sold are included in the CSO survey, not products that were simply manufactured but not bought.

The food and beverages sector accounted for €21.5bn or 23.9% of all Irish product sales while computer, electronic, optical and electrical equipment amounted to €9.6bn or 10.7% of all Irish product sales for the same period.

The data was part of the European Union’s Prodcom survey, which provides statistics on the production of manufactured goods. It contains nearly 3,800 products, of which about 41.4pc are produced and/or sold by enterprises based in Ireland

The term comes from the French “PRODuction COMmunautaire” (Community Production) for 
mining, quarrying and manufacturing.

Government health warning: we can’t make you skinny


80% of people in ireland over 50 are now either overweight or obese. 

The Irish Government cannot make the staggering number of Irish people who are overweight and obese “skinny”, the new Health Minister Leo Varadkar warned.

The minister signalled a “tough love” approach to our escalating crisis of bulging waistlines – although he said he was committed to outlawing cheap alcohol.

Commenting on figures showing four in five over-50s are overweight or obese he said: “The Government is there to help and there are a lot of measures there to help.

“But the Government can’t make you skinny. At the end of the day it is important people modify their lifestyle,” he said, adding that he will be putting emphasis on exercise.

The minister, a trained GP and a self-confessed fitness fan, said he was not in favour of a sugar tax despite the figures.

Earlier, obesity expert Dr Donal O’Shea warned that around 100 people a day were dying from diseases caused by being overweight and Ireland would be the fattest country in Europe by 2030.

The minister said: “At the end of the day it is important people modify their lifestyle.” Four out of five are obese.

“People who are overweight or obese put themselves at greater risk of illness, particularly in later life.

“Ultimately, the vast majority of people can address obesity and being overweight through lifestyle change, through eating healthily and taking a lot more exercise.”

Mr Varadkar said that his predecessor, Dr James Reilly, who is now Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, would continue with his crusade against tobacco.

He himself would be “totally involved” in public health and the logistics of elements that will be shared by Dr Reilly’s department were being worked out, he added.

When questioned on his plans to give medical cards to people on the basis of their medical condition, rather than their means, he conceded that it would be difficult to draw up an “hierarchy” of illness and decide which people should be left out.

Mr Varadkar continued: “There is also severity within those illnesses. Obesity and being overweight are considered illnesses, too, so in that case you would be extending the medical card to almost the entire population, which would not be realistic.”


He said that he would let the review group – which is drawing up the list – do its work and report in the autumn.

Asked about the latest figures, which show a rise in the number of people facing delays for outpatient appointments and operations this year, he said they were an improvement on this time last year.

Mr Varadkar said he believed hospitals could not cut back on services because that would reverse the progress that had already been made.

But the HSE supplementary health budget for this year could be as high as €500m, he conceded.

The minister said he planned to have “realistic” pre-Budget discussions to draw up funding for the health service.

Alzheimer’s rate now decreasing throughout the whole world


Alzheimer’s rate findings show that the disease is now declining in developed countries such as the United States and Germany.

The drop in the Alzheimer’s rate was highlighted at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen by aging expert Dr. Kenneth Langa from the University of Michigan.

According to Langa, the good news for those in the U.S. comes probably as the result of “more education and control of health factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure.”

An American over age 60 today has a 44 percent lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago… More than 5.4 million Americans and 35 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. It has no cure and current drugs only temporarily ease symptoms.

A drop in rates is a silver lining in the so-called silver tsunami — the expected wave of age-related health problems from an older population. Alzheimer’s will remain a major public health issue, but countries where rates are dropping may be able to lower current projections for spending and needed services… Recent studies from the Netherlands, Sweden and England have suggested a decline, and the new research extends this look to some other parts of the world.

In the U.S., the federally funded Framingham study monitored new dementia cases using data from several thousand people over the age of 60.

The study examined five-year periods starting in 1978, 1989, 1996, and 2006. “Compared with the first period, new cases were 22 percent lower in the second one, 38 percent lower in the third and 44 percent lower in the fourth one,” Yahoo! reports.

The average age of diagnosis also rose from 80 to 85 during the 30-year period.

“The results bring some hope that perhaps dementia cases might be preventable, or at least delayed” by improving health and education, said Claudia Satizabal of Boston University, the study’s leader.

National Institute on Aging epidemiology chief Dallas Anderson agreed.

“For those who get the disease, it may come later in life, which is a good thing. Getting the disease in your 80s or 90s is very different than getting it in your early 70s.”

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases researchers add that claims data from Germany’s largest public health insurance company indicate new cases of dementia declined significantly between 2007 and 2009 in men and women.

With news like this and recent breakthroughs in cause, treatment, and prevention, do you think the Alzheimer’s rate will continue to drop? Share your thoughts in our comments section.

The world is getting warmer, a global climate report says


The world is getting warmer, as greenhouse gases reach historic highs and Arctic sea ice melts, making 2013 one of the hottest years on record, international scientists said on Thursday. 

The annual State of the Climate Report 2013 is a review of scientific data and weather events over the past year, compiled by 425 scientists from 57 countries.

The report looks at essential climate variables, much like a doctor checks a person’s vital signs at an annual checkup, said Tom Karl, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.

While Karl declined to give a diagnosis for the planet, he said the report shows some surprises but an ongoing trend that continues the warming pattern seen in recent decades.

“If we want to do an analogy to human health, if we are looking at our weight gain and we are trying to maintain an ideal weight, we are continuing to see ourselves put on more weight from year to year,” Karl told reporters.

“The planet — its state of the climate — is changing more rapidly in today’s world than in any time in modern civilization.”

Global temperatures were among the warmest on record worldwide, with four major datasets showing 2013 ranked between second and sixth for all-time heat, the report found.

“Australia observed its warmest year on record, while Argentina had its second warmest and New Zealand its third warmest,” said the report.

Sea surface temperatures also rose, making last year among the 10 warmest on record.

The Arctic marked its seventh warmest year since records began in the early 1900s.

Arctic sea ice cover was the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979.

Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice has been increasing — particularly at the end of winter when it is at its maximum — about one to two per cent growth per decade.

“This is a conundrum as to why the Arctic ice cover is behaving differently than the Antarctic,” said James Renwick, associate professor in the school of geography at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

“We love questions like this because it creates more important research questions that need to be addressed.”

Renwick said the growth relates to sea ice in Antarctica, not the glacial ice mass on the continent, which was the subject of recent studies finding that the loss of ice in the Western Antarctic may be unstoppable.

Meanwhile, methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that come from burning fossils fuels “continued to rise during 2013, once again reaching historic high values,” said the report.

For the first time, the daily concentration of C02 in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm), as measured by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, a year after observational sites in the Arctic observed C02 at 400 ppm in spring 2012.

On average, global sea levels also rose, keeping pace with a trend of adding about three millimeters per year over the past two decades, it said.

“In 2013, global average sea level reached a new record high,” said Jessica Blunden, climatologist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

“It was one and a half inches (3.81 centimeters) higher than the 1993 to 2010 average.”