Tag Archives: home repossessions

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 11th & 12th June 2016.

Why ‘Brexit’ really matters to the half a million Irish living in Britain


Irish people ‘have a good thing going’ in London and are ‘better off in a connected world’, according to a Dubliner who was recently voted Chef of The Year and runs four of the hottest restaurants in the British capital.

Chef Robin Gill and his wife Sarah – who works with him in their restaurants – believe a ‘Leave’ vote in Brexit could seriously affect their business.

‘Why we’re voting to remain’ – ‘Chef of The Year’ Irishman and owner of four London restaurants

“It looks like the economy could take a big hit if the vote is for leave. But more importantly for us, we employ over 60 people and a lot of them are from all over the EU,” Robin told Independent.ie.

“What happens if Britain votes to leave? Will they need work visas? Will they have to go home? London needs talented people to come here from all over the world, I really hope the vote is for staying in.

“We’ve lost really good people with the visa situation in Australia and Canada. I can’t imagine what it would do to our business,” he continued.

“We’re doing well, the economy is doing well, we’re better off in a connected, globalised world. We’re voting Remain”.

Brexit is the biggest political decision to face the UK in four decades – should they stay or should they go?

Upwards of half a million Irish citizens could have a big say on the referendum – on whether Britain should remain in the European Union – on June 23rd.

The Irish living in the UK are in a virtually unique position – they are the second biggest migrant group, standing at around 500,000 and only outnumbered by the 800,000 Poles.

And, due to the historical quirk which sees us still counted amongst former commonwealth or Empire dominions, only the Irish, Cypriots and Maltese get to vote in the referendum.

Irish economists, businessmen and politicians have already had their say, with Enda Kenny causing a bit of a stir when he arrived in London for a Mayo GAA game recently and took the chance to remind the Irish in the UK to vote ‘Remain’.

Bob Geldof and Michael O’Leary of Ryanair have also been loud pro-EU voices.

‘We don’t have a negative view of the EU like the Brits do’ – Irishman and owner of London pop-up bar Six Yard Box5

The Irish in London today are different from their parents and grandparents generation, those who came in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, often with low skills and low expectations.

The New London Irish are typically young, very well-educated and making the most of the city’s booming, globalised economy.

For Irish entrepreneurs like Seb O’Driscoll, a 35-year-old Corkman who runs The Six Yard Box, a hip, pop-up sports bar in Elephant & Castle, there’s no doubt how most Irish will vote.

“The Irish are everywhere in London, and most love it for being a multi-cultural city with huge diversity and a real international feel,” says Seb.

“The sense I get, from guys coming into the bar here, from my friends and the Irish you meet, they’ll all be voting remain. We don’t have a negative view of the EU in the way a lot of Brits do. And we don’t know what’s going to the happen to the economy if we leave”.

UK Chef of The Year Robin reiterated Seb’s comments and said the opportunities for Irish in London are endless.

“I’ve tried to leave eight or nine times and then another opportunity comes across. From that point, it’s just uncontrollable,” he said.

Brexit: The issues Ireland faces if Britain leaves the EU

If Brexit is the result of the referendum, there will be many unknowns for Ireland both economic and geopolitical.

One of the big issues for Ireland will be how the Republic and North of the country interact with the re-establishment of borders a possibility that has already been highlighted by British chancellor George Osborne.

Not since the long-fought for peace process has this issue arisen and we don’t know what the outcome would be.

From an economic perspective, while Ireland’s dependence on the UK as a trade partner has waned in the most recent past, depending on what kind of trade deal Britain would establish with the EU then that could have repercussions here.

Currently the UK, like other member states, has access to 500m people through the single market.

However, the remain side argues that there’s no guarantees that any kind of free trade agreement between the UK and the EU would be an option if Brexit were the outcome.

One of the upsides of a Brexit, of course, would be a likely influx of foreign direct investment with our low 12.5pc corporation tax rate already attractive for multinationals.

On the flip side, the spotlight is on Ireland’s tax treatment of many of these firms and if, for example, Donald Trump was elected US president he has already warned that countries like Ireland are outsmarting the US and taking jobs by attracting American firms here and he has vowed to stop this.

Investigation under way into discovery of ‘angel dust’ in cattle

Department of Agriculture confirms positive test result for illegal growth hormone clenbuterol


The Department of Agriculture is investigating a case of alleged unauthorised use of the illegal growth-promoting drug clenbuterol, or angel dust, in cattle.

The Department of Agriculture is investigating a case of alleged unauthorised use of the illegal growth-promoting drug clenbuterol, or angel dust, in cattle.

It confirmed the investigation followed a positive test result for one animal in a random sample but would not identify the location of the farm from which it had come.

The Sunday Times reported that a farm in Monaghan was under investigation and that the animal had been slaughtered at a meat processing plant.

Investigators are understood to be attempting to identify and trace products in which meat from the animal had been used.

In a statement, the department said the random sample was taken as part of the National Residue Control Programme, which tests sheep, pigs, cattle and poultry across the State to ensure they have not been given drugs that may be dangerous if consumed.

The department said it had placed all animals on the farm under restriction pending the completion of the investigation.

“The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is fully aware of the case and has concluded that there is no risk to public health from meat that is on the market.”


A single isolated incidence of the use of clenbuterol was uncovered during sampling in 2011 – the first time it had been found since 1999.

On that occasion, two beef cattle tested positive for the banned hormone during an investigation on a farm in Co Monaghan.

The farm was being investigated by customs officials looking into alleged diesel laundering when evidence of the substance was discovered.

The National Residue Control Programme is a component of the State’s food safety controls and is implemented under a service contract with the FSAI.

More than 19,000 samples were tested in 2014, across all eight food-producing species as well as milk, eggs and honey.

Just 42 (0.2%) out of 19,095 samples tested in 2014 were positive. The results were comparable to those returned in 2013, 2012 and 2011.

Last year the department said the “consistently low levels” of positive samples reflected the responsible approach adopted by the vast majority of farmers.

“The extensive testing under the NRCP indicates the absence of illegal administration of banned growth promoting hormones and other banned substances to food-producing animals in Ireland, ” it said publishing figures for the NRCP last year.

“Overall the small number of positives detected related mainly to residues of authorised medicines.”

Big upsurge in judgments and repossessions feared as ‘vulture funds’ close in on debtors


More than €4bn worth of court-ordered debts have been registered against 3,243 borrowers since 2010, with Danske Bank obtaining the largest value in judgments once non-bank entities such as Nama and the former Anglo Irish Bank are excluded.

Danske tops the league of banks pursuing Irish debtors in the courts.

Danske obtained almost €56m in registered judgments against 110 debtors in the first five months of the year alone according to credit agency Stubbs Gazette.

Danske was followed by Allied Irish Bank which obtained judgments valued at just over €38m against 34 debtors in the same period.

Since 2010, toxic loans agency Nama, which last week reported profits of €1.8bn in 2015, obtained just under €1bn judgments against 34 borrowers.

The agency’s annual report shows that it generated €9.1bn in cash during 2015, with €8.5bn coming from asset disposals.

It has registered judgments of almost €682m against 814 borrowers since 2010.

Bank of Ireland has pursued a larger number of borrowers (957) during that time, although the value of judgments is significantly less, at some €377.42m

State-owned AIB has pursued 523 borrowers since 2010, securing judgments valued at €422.43m, followed by Ulster Bank which secured judgments valued at some €344m against 211 debtors.

James Treacy, CEO of Stubbs Gazette, said that he anticipates a “huge upsurge” in judgments and repossessions over the coming years as vulture funds move on distressed borrowers whose loans it has bought.

The so-called “vulture funds” own over 40,000 principal homes and investment properties here in Ireland.

It is understood that a fifth of mortgages sold to ‘non-bank’entities are in arrears.

To date, only two judgments valued at 1.8m were secured by one such fund, Goldman Sachs, through Ennis Property Finance, one of its special purpose vehicles, according to Stubbs data.

However, this is expected to rise now that loans are being actively managed.

“The funds have a reputation for being very tough but pragmatic when it comes to doing deals,” said Mr Treacy.

“Presently it would appear that their preferred approach is to negotiate deals outside the courts but that is not to say that this will not change if they are not achieving their forecasted return on investment.

“If their pre-legal strategies are not profitable I would expect to see a huge upsurge in both judgments and repossessions over the coming years.”

David Hall, Director of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association, said that borrowers including professionals such as lawyers, doctors and accountants whose loans have been transferred to vulture funds have been operating under a “false sense of security” for the last 18 months.

“It will be carnage,” said Mr Hall, who said dealing with vulture funds will be a “nightmare” for many borrowers.

“It’s like fighting with Conor McGregor with your hands tied behind your back”.

As much as 4,500 diagnosed with diabetes every week, warns a charity


Every week 4,500 people are diagnosed with diabetes across the UK, the charity Diabetes UK has said.  it said that in the last year 235,000 people have been diagnosed with the condition.

The figures, released to mark Diabetes Week, highlight the scale of the “crisis” surrounding the illness, charity chief executive Chris Askew said.

He warned that many people are not aware of the seriousness of the condition.

“This Diabetes Week we are setting the record straight and focusing on the realities of living with the condition,” said Mr Askew.

“There is still a lack of understanding when it comes to people being aware of the seriousness of diabetes and this worries us at Diabetes UK.

“There are over four million people living with the condition in the UK. The fact that 4,500 people will discover they have diabetes over the next seven days is deeply concerning, and highlights the current scale of the crisis.

“Diabetes Week is a time to share our concerns about the scale and seriousness of diabetes, but it is also a fantastic opportunity to highlight that with the right healthcare, support and management, diabetes doesn’t have to hold anyone back.”

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. There are two forms of the condition – Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body cannot produce insulin. Around one in 10 people with diabetes have Type 1 and it usually affects children or young adults.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not work properly. Type 2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight.

If diabetes is not properly managed it can lead to serious consequences such as sight loss, limb amputation , kidney failure and stroke.

This is how Nasa thought we would be living in 2100


IF you believe that dreams of moving to another planet to escape to impending doom of our dying Earth is something knew, then you’re wrong.

Nasa thought we would be living in outer space by 2100

Recently resurfaced images shows how in 1975, space agency Nasa thought we would be living in 2100.

Illustrations commissioned by the US agency, and carried out by Don Davis and Rick Guidiceto, show several different concepts of how humans might live in the now-near future.

Following 10 weeks of research, led by Princeton professor Gerard O’Neill, the team came up with three possible scenarios as to how we might be living at the end of the century.

One idea is the Cylindrical Colony which would be similar to that shown in the 2014 Christopher Nolan movie Interstellar could be home for up to one million people.

  • NASA launches spacecraft to STOP Earth-bound KILLER asteroid
  • Hubble telescope captures baby star BURNING through gas cloud

Another idea is the Bernal Sphere which would be a structure rotating around a large spacecraft and finally the Toroidal Colony.

All three of the designs had artificial gravity that was created from centrifugal force, and powered by solar energy.

Professor O’Neill had hoped that work on these structures would begin in the 1990s, but that time has passed without it happening, and he has since passed away.

  1. Artificial greenery was also a concept
  2. The colony might have looked cylindrical
  3. A circular tunnel may have revolved around Earth

However, Nasa contractor and space settlement expert Dr Al Globus said that it will be possible to do so in the future.

He said: “Whether it will happen or not is really hard to say. Whether it can happen, absolutely.

“If we as a people decide to do it, we can do it. We have the scientific capability, financial capability, there is simply no question we can do it.

“In two or three decades we might have a couple of small hotels [in orbit], and people moving in on a regular basis.

“All that is on a time scale measured in decades, or in the worst case centuries.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Monday 22nd February 2016

Not much space left for long-term capital investment vision in 2016 election promises


Electioneering is all about snappy promises and clever sound bites. There is little space for setting out a long-term vision. There are few votes in talking about sewers, drains or reservoirs, yet our capital investment spending is likely to determine the country’s prosperity 10 or 20 years down the line.

Spending on infrastructure all but collapsed after the 2008 crash.

This, in turn, delayed the roll-out of flood-relief programmes, the consequences of which have been there for all to see in recent months.

The housing crisis is another consequence of years of capital starvation at local government level.

This Government has been playing catch-up.

The economic recovery has resulted in much heavier demands on existing capital resources and in extra funds becoming available.

Late last year, the Government unveiled a €27bn capital investment programme, covering the six-year period to the end of 2021.

The plan looks good on paper, but it has been criticised for lacking ambition.

Economist Paul Sweeney, of Tasc, says the State should be spending an additional €15bn, to take advantage of historically low borrowing rates. Last December, he suggested that funds could come, in part, from the proceeds of a privatisation of Irish banks.

However, the recent collapse in bank shares has hit the prospect of any bank flotation in the short term.

The pensions industry could play a greater part in funding a roll-out of infrastructure. This is a natural fit. The funds invest for the long term and seek security, as opposed to stellar short-run returns.

But the industry needs to tackle its own conservatism, which is a product, in part, of law, with tight restrictions or duties of care imposed on trustees.

If the funds were to flow, we could begin to take the chance on a low-interest rate environment to start tackling gaps in our capital network.

Engineers Ireland, which represents 24,000 engineers, is critical of the neglect of key areas of infrastructure. It is seeking a doubling in investment, to 4% of national output.

Its director, Caroline Spillane, points to Ireland’s relatively low ranking, of 27th place, on infrastructure in the Global Competitiveness Index.

In its ‘State of Ireland’ report, last year, it awarded low grades, Ds, to the rail network, to non-primary roads, and under the heading of ‘sustainable transport’.

The country’s water and waste services received a ‘C’ grade, along with flood defences. The energy sector, and our airports, received a ‘B’, along with the communications network (a surprising accolade, given the state of our rural broadband).

In its upcoming report, the body is likely to focus on investment in energy (with flooding, presumably, also getting more attention).

Boosting the spend will be of little use if the funds are scattered like confetti.

The punters will be looking for cash for sexy local projects (such as football stadia).

Those demands must be resisted. Priorities must be established, such as motorways connecting provincial cities, decent nationwide broadband, water, and flood relief.

In Britain, a new Infrastructure Commission has been set up to ensure proper, long-term planning and resource allocation.

Tasc favours this approach, while Engineers Ireland goes further, seeking a super junior ministry for infrastructure.

British expert, John Armitt, believes that inter-agency co-operation is vital, saying that this approach explains the success of the London Olympics.

A change in political culture is required. Under General Charles de Gaulle, 1960s France led the way in the development of capital projects.

There was real direction at the top. The continent of Europe, in the post-war period, had no choice but to invest to rebuild.

As a result, it stole a march on a UK that was obsessed by a succession of balance-of-payments crises.

Britain fell behind, while impoverished Ireland languished in the slow lane, with a road network largely geared to the horse and cart.

However, we did find the resources to fund TB hospitals and an ambitious programme of public housing.

The bureaucracy has lost much managerial expertise in recent years.

Rebuilding this will take time. Our planning system is also in need of overhaul. While citizens must retain a role in decision-making, the ability of individuals to hold up projects appears to be excessive.

Engineers Ireland favours the creation of a national infrastructure unit within the Department of the Taoiseach.

A similar approach worked well in the late 1980s, at the time of the launch of the IFSC financial centre.

The unit would attract senior officials from key spending departments and from the Department of Finance.

Locating it in the Taoiseach’s department would ensure that Merrion Street — while having a guardianship role — would not be allowed to smother project proposals at birth.

Correctly, Engineers Ireland believes that projects should be independently assessed by an expert (who would, presumably, operate at arm’s length from the well-financed special interests pushing their pet projects).

Britain’s Andrew Adonis, a member of the House of Lords, has led the way in pressing for new approaches to capital projects. He talks about the science of delivery of public projects.

Such a delivery unit was set up by the Blair government, with a tight focus on well-designated targets.

The recession there caused public net investment to crash to just 1.5% of GDP. Among the results of this: crowded trains and congested highways.

However, John Armitt believes — somewhat controversially — that it would all be a lot worse had not Britain’s railways been privatised.

As a result, vital investment, not otherwise available, was attracted in.

A key problem, in the past, has been that people have not been able to invest in long-term projects with the assurance that the rules would not be changed halfway through the game, by an incoming government or cabinet minister.

Armitt singles out Chancellor George Osborne’s recent crackdown on the solar industry for criticism.

Two-thirds of the funds for capital projects in the UK come from private finance. Investors require a climate of confidence.

They need to be able to take a 20-30-year view on their investments, not a two-three year one. Ireland, too, will require private finance, but the taxpayer will have to stump up, at the same time.

This message needs to be spelled out.

We simply cannot get proper infrastructure on the cheap, whatever certain politicians might have one believe.

Beware of slick promoters promising the sun, moon and stars, but slipping-in the small detail with some long-lasting financial stings.

Ireland’s home repossessions increased by a massive 80% for 2015


Home repossessions rose by a massive 80% last year with an extra 1,500 people declaring themselves homeless.

Some 758 repossession orders were granted by the Irish court service for the first nine months of 2015.

And there was a total of 1,088 repossessions occurring over the same period.

The Peter McVerry Trust say Dublin had the second highest number of ‘primary’ home repossessions – 86 homes in the capital were repossessed.

Reacting to the figures CEO of the Trust, Pat Doyle, told the Irish Independent that there is no chance of long-term homelessness being eliminated in 2016, with yesterday being three years to the day since the homelessness policy statement.

“Mortgage arrears is an issue that has been regularly highlighted,” said Mr Doyle.

“The signs are there to suggest that repossessions by financial institutions are leading to increasing numbers of sitting tenants being evicted into homelessness.

“The repossessed homes and rental units are then left empty until such time as the financial institutions see fit to make use of them.

“This practice goes unchallenged, despite the most acute housing shortage on record and ever increasing homelessness.”

“The overall homeless figure continues to rise despite a record number of people leaving homelessness in 2015.

“even though an estimated 2,000 people left homelessness last year, there were still 5,400 people homeless at the year end – a net increase of 1,500 people,” Mr Doyle said.

Ireland’s student nurses and midwives to receive a pay rise from March 1st this year

INMO general secretary Liam Doran welcomes the pay rise, which arises from the Lansdowne Road Agreement


INMO general secretary Liam Doran (above left) said pay restoration for student nurses and midwives went “some way” to correct a serious wrong done to young nurses and midwives in 2011/12. 

Pay rates for student nurses are to be increased from the beginning of March under a new deal agreed between the Government and the nursing unions.

About 1,400 student nurses and midwives a year will benefit from the pay rise, which arises from the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Pay for student nurses during their final-year placement is being increased from 55% of the first point of the staff nurse salary scale to 70%. As a result, pay for student nurses will rise from between €6.49 per hour and €7.79 per hour at present to €9.49 for the period they spend working in hospitals or a clinical setting.

In future, the 36 weeks that student nurses work in hospitals will also be recognised officially as they move along the incremental scale. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said this would result in a new graduate moving to the second point of the scale, worth over €2,000, after 16 weeks.

The position of those who graduated since 2011 will be considered in a further review. The union said it would pursue retrospective incremental credit for the graduate classes in 2011 and 2015.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran welcomed the pay restoration and said it went “some way” to correct a serious wrong done to young nurses and midwives in 2011/12.

“We also acknowledge the recognition, by Ministers Kathleen Lynch, Brendan Howlin and Leo Varadkar, that this issue had to be addressed and that paying young nurses/midwives less than the minimum wage was wrong and could not be continued.”

“The INMO will continue to pursue the outstanding issue of granting incremental credit to recent graduates. We believe that this is necessary in our continuing effort to recruit, and retain, young graduate nurses/midwives to our health service which remains severely understaffed”.

The Union of Students in Ireland also welcome the announcement and said it hoped few young nurses and midwives would emigrate as a result.

An improving economy?

Ministers Lynch and Varadkar said it was a reflection of the improving economic circumstances that the health service was now in a position to improve the rate of pay for students and to restore recognition of the duration of the placement for incremental credit purposes into the future.

This is the fifth measure introduced in recent months to boost recruitment and retention of nurses, they said. Other measures include: a first stage of pay restoration; a cut in the Universal Service Charge; a €1,500 vouched education bursary for new recruits;, more permanent contracts and relocation payments, and payments for taking on duties from doctors.

The number of nurses employed by the HSE since last year has increased by 900, according to the Department.

More than 200 jobs to go as Brinks ceases operations in Ireland


A spokesperson for Brinks today said that the Irish cash-in-transit market has not been profitable in recent years

More than 200 jobs are to be lost after cash-in-transit firm Brinks confirmed that it is to cease its operations in Ireland.

Trade union Siptu said it is very angry with the decision after reaching a major restructuring deal with the company as recently as last month to safeguard Brinks’ future.

However, a spokesperson for Brinks today said that the Irish cash-in-transit market has not been profitable in recent years, and they do not see opportunities for growth going forward.

The job losses will affect staff in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Siptu Organiser Brendan Carr said staff at the firm are extremely disappointed.

“Unfortunately, despite the sacrifices of its workforce and their willingness to adapt to the company’s demands it has still decided to end its operations,” said Mr Carr.

“These jobs have been endangered, in part, due to the operation of low cost employers in the security industry.

“The workers are extremely disappointed by this announcement.”

Mr Carr said he hoped the staff would be able to find new employment but he criticised Brinks one month after it reached a deal with staff to secure their jobs.

“These workers are licensed to work in the cash in transit industry and where possible it is hoped that they can transfer to a new employer along with the contracts that are currently being serviced by Brinks Ireland.

“Only last month, union representatives finalised an agreement with management on a major restructuring deal which we were ensured would safeguard the company’s future in Ireland.

“These companies do not adhere to the established terms and conditions of employment in the cash in transit sector.”

Global sea levels could rise to up to four feet by year 2100?


Global sea levels rose faster in the 20th century than at any time in the previous 2,700 years, research has shown. And scientists believe that without global warming sea levels might actually have fallen in the last 100 years.

Instead they are said to have increased by an average 14 centimetres (5.5in) between 1900 and 2000.

Without a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide sea levels are on course to rise by between one and four feet by the end of this century, it is claimed.

Conservative estimates say seas off the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida will rise five to eight inches by the 2050s – but that could become 21 to 24 inches if ice sheets continue melting at current rates (AP)Even if the ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to manage climate change are adopted, sea levels are still projected to rise by as much as two feet.

The evidence is contained in two separate US and German research papers published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Both used new statistical approaches to assess sea level trends.

For the first, a US team led by Dr Robert Kopp, from Rutgers University, analysed data from a host of geological indicators spanning almost 3,000 years. The database included records from marshes, coral atolls and archaeological sites from 24 locations around the world.

The results showed that global sea levels fell by about three inches between the years 1000 and 1400, which coincided with a planetary cooling of around 0.2C.

Sea levels aren’t falling around the island village of Kivalina, an Alaska Native community of 400 people already receding into the ocean (Andrew Harnik/AP)In contrast, today’s global temperature is about 1C higher than it was in the late 19th century.

Without global warming, it is likely that sea level change during the last century would have ranged between a fall of 1.2 inches and a rise of 2.8 inches.

Dr Kopp said: “The 20th century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia – and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster.”

What does the future hold for coastal cities and towns? (John Minchillo/AP)The German study used a new prediction model that combined physics-based calculations of changes, such as ice sheet melting and heat-induced expansion of sea water, and recorded data from observations made during the last century.

Feeding the information into simulations for three greenhouse gas scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change revealed a rise in sea levels of between one and four feet by the year 2100.

This was broadly in line with the US study, which forecast a rise of between 1.7 and 4.3 feet if the world continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels.

The World Bank says Sri Lanka is one of the South Asian countries likely to be hit hard by rising sea levels (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)Lead scientist Dr Anders Levermann, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “With all the greenhouse gases we already emitted, we cannot stop the seas from rising altogether, but we can substantially limit the rate of the rise by ending the use of fossil fuels.

“If the world wants to avoid the greatest losses and damages, it now has to rapidly follow the path laid out by the UN climate summit in Paris a few weeks ago.”

More than 600 million people live in vulnerable coastal areas less than 10 metres (32 feet) above sea level. Two thirds of cities with populations of more than five million are located in these high-risk areas.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 26,000 square kilometres (10,000 square miles) of land would be lost if global sea levels rise by two feet.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 10th May 2015

Ex-FF TD and sons among 126 repossession cases in Limerick

PTSB pursuing Noel O’Flynn and two sons in connection with Limerick buy-to-let property


Former Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn and his sons Gary and Kenneth O’Flynn have a mortgage debt of almost €117,000 on a buy-to- let property in Limerick, the court heard

Members of a well-known Cork political family were among the 126 repossession cases heard before the Limerick County Registrar’s Court yesterday.

Former Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn and his sons Gary and Kenneth O’Flynn have a total mortgage debt of almost €117,000 on a buy-to- let property in Limerick, the court heard.

Mr O’Flynn was a TD for the Cork North Central constituency from 1997 until 2011. Gary O’Flynn, a former Cork city councillor, was jailed last month for three years for soliciting someone to kill a garda, a Revenue official and an accountant. Kenneth O’Flynn was co-opted on toCork City Council in December 2008, and is the current deputy Lord Mayor of Cork.

A solicitor representing Permanent TSB told Limerick County Registrar’s Court the initiation of proceedings had been halted because the bank had difficulty serving notice on the parties.

She also claimed that “various games were being played” by the borrowers.

Solicitor Conn Barry told the court the defendants were from a “well-known family in Cork”.

Mr Barry, who was acting as agent for a Cork solicitors’ firm, said it was the first time the case had come before the court.

County registrar Pat Wallace was told the last repayment on the buy-to-let property was in July 2013. No member of the O’Flynn family was present in court and the case was adjourned by consent until July 3rd.

Eleven homes were repossessed at the sitting of the court, many of them primary residences.

Among the orders granted by the registrar included a mother who told the court she could not meet the full amount of her monthly payments after separating from her husband.

Single mother

She said she was able to afford only half the mortgage and she had just returned to health from a three-month illness.

The Lithuanian mother of one said she could not claim from her home insurance to repair dampness and mould that was causing her sickness because the insurance company required her ex-husband’s signature on documents.

In excess of €191,000 was owing on the mortgage, with more than €60,000 in payments in arrears.

Mr Wallace granted the repossession order but put a stay on the bank executing it for 12 months.

“No one will throw you out in the street yet,” he told the woman. “Given your predicament, this might not be a bad outcome.”

In two cases, orders for repossession were granted to Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB after the borrowers had failed to turn up for any court hearing or engage with their lenders.

In one case, the borrower owed more than €301,000 and had not made a payment in 51 months.

Thousands take part in Darkness into Light walks in Ireland & worldwide


12,000 people turned up at 4.15am in Phoenix Park to walk 5km for suicide prevention

The 5km Darkness into Light walk/run, which kicked off at 4.15am on Saturday, was held at 80 locations in Ireland and around the world, and is believed to have attracted an estimated 100,000 participants.

More than 12,000 early risers descended on Phoenix Park this morning to take part in the annual Pieta House Darkness into Light mental health awareness event.

The 5km walk/run, which kicked off at 4.15am on Saturday, was held at 80 locations in Ireland and around the world, and is believed to have attracted an estimated 100,000 participants.

The first Darkness into Light walk was held in 2009 with just 400 participants.

“Pieta House’s intention has always been to save lives and to change the social fabric and the conversation around suicide and self-harm,” said Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House, this morning in Phoenix Park. “It’s been nine years and we’ve come a long way towards reaching that goal. However, people are still afraid to face the reality that they may know someone who’s at risk of suicide or self-harm.

“You, the people, are the most important component of all in the fight against suicide.”

From Wicklow to Washington, Chicago to Perth, friends, families, children and pets turned out to walk together for suicide prevention. An estimated 4,000 people walked in Melbourne and Perth, which were among the first cities to kick the morning off, followed by almost 1,500 people walking in London, Manchester and Glasgow. The final walks of the day will take place in New York, Toronto and Chicago where 1,700 people are expected to turn up in support of Pieta House.

In celebration of the theme ‘connecting’ for this year’s Darkness into Light walk, Dublin Bus provided a free shuttle service connecting Heuston Station to the flagship walk in Phoenix Park in the early hours of Saturday morning. Elsewhere around Ireland, local businesses showed their support by opening early and providing weary walkers with complimentary teas, coffees and refreshments.

Jim Dollard, executive director of Electric Ireland which supported this year’s walks, congratulated all participants around the globe, thanking them for their support.

“This year has been the biggest year yet and there’s no doubt that it has captured the imagination of Irish people at home and abroad, including in Electric Ireland, where a large number of our staff walked with thousands of other people in venues across the country this morning.”

Pieta House is a suicide and self-harm crisis organisation and works with ten centres across the State. Pieta House is set to open its first overseas centre in Queens, New York this summer as it begins to reach out to members of the Irish diaspora who may be in need of support.

Europe’s Digital Single Market needs to foster tech startups and a global view


Europe has launched its strategy for a Digital Single Market throughout its member countries. The success of this strategy relies on the ability of European lawmakers and politicians removing barriers to digital trade and creating an environment to foster the growth in digital platforms and skills necessary to support a fast growing digital economy.

It is easy for others, especially the US, to see the Digital Single Market strategy as a pretext to regulate and restrict the popularity and pervasiveness of foreign companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix. Certainly, the European Commission will need to demonstrate that its focus is more on enabling rather than simply protecting a future industry.

However, one of the central “pillars” of the strategy is to remove barriers to international online trade. This means removing the practice of “geo-blocking” which restricts content to certain countries, or places extra costs on those accessing these services from outside those boundaries. Achieving this will require a levelling between countries of their different regimes of value added tax, laws for consumer protection and copyright, and a host of other legislative and commercial idiosyncrasies.

Setting aside the hurdles of the Digital Single Market outlined in the agenda document, the largest real challenge is in the fact that 54% of e-commerce traffic in Europe is with services based in the US whereas only 4% of traffic in one European country is for a service in another European country. Creating a Digital Single Market is all well and good but if it mainly benefits US companies it is going to be far less strategic for Europe.

In the light of the dominance of US services in Europe, the fear held by the US that Europe’s Digital Single Market will essentially try and restrict this dominance are possibly not unfounded. The simple fact is that those firms succeed because that is what European consumers want. Making it simpler for those services to operate in Europe still has advantages to the EU because it enables firms like Amazon and Apple to operate more seamlessly across all of Europe, helping to keep costs down.

To truly benefit from the efficiencies of opening up the digital markets in Europe, what actually needs to happen is to apply this strategy globally. All of the points made within the Digital Single Market strategy are valid steps to removing barriers to online trade. The limitation of the strategy is that it stops at Europe’s borders, when the Internet that underpins the online world recognises no such boundary.

For a global Digital Single Market to be successful, in addition to the goals outlined in Europe’s strategy, there would need to be agreement on tax avoidance schemes that US companies in particular are carrying out when doing business globally. Ironically, these practices operate in Europe by leveraging different transfer pricing schemes between parts of their company set up in different countries. Allowing foreign multi-nationals to dominate in a local market is one thing but it adds insult to injury that tax revenue from business carried out in one particular country could be lost to another, or not collected at all.

Of course, the main aim of the European Commission in proposing the Digital Single Market agenda is to provide a platform that is conducive to surfacing digital entrepreneurs and growing new companies based in Europe. The entire world outside of Silicon Valley wants to emulate the success of that area by creating innovation centers that foster startups and the next Google or Uber. The trouble is that despite cities around the world trying to do this, they have so-far largely failed to bring together the ingredients that exist in California. At the heart of this though, it may simply be a case of not enough money being invested in seeding startups. Startups in London, which is considered the most successful of European startup locations, still only attract 6% of the funding amounts that startups in Silicon Valley do.

In the normal tech company life-cycle, successful companies produce a large number of wealthy individuals who not only have a specific set of skills in creating tech startups but have the money to invest either in their own projects or others. The conditions for this were driven by the opportunities created by stock markets and the insatiable appetite for tech stocks. Reproducing this elsewhere, is going to take time, money, an appetite for risk and the acceptance of failure. Unfortunately, none of that is part of the European Digital Single Market strategy. Whilst the aims of their agenda may be a good start, even if successful, it is still a long way from actually seeing any benefits result from it.

Craft Butchers of Ireland ambassador to make world’s largest gluten free pancake


Chef Adrian Martin is pictured on the left with Ethne Reynolds, Stephen Schmidt and championships organiser Brid Torrades at the World Irish Stew Championship, St Angela’s College, Co Sligo.

Adrian Martin, Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland ambassador, plans to break a world-record in association with the Irish Coeliac Society by making the world’s largest gluten free potato pancake.

The ambassador of the Associated Craft Butchers of Ireland, chef Adrian Martin, who has trained and worked under chef Neven Maguire for six years, is planning to make the world’s largest gluten-free potato pancake at an event held in Smithfield in Dublin on Monday, 11 May.

The event is being held to mark the beginning of Coeliac Awareness Week, organised by the Coeliac Society of Ireland.

Chef Adrian is planning to break a world record at the event at Smithfield, which is open to the public from 10.30 am on Monday morning.

Sonya Shiels from the Coeliac Society of Ireland said the pancake, if it is to break the world-record, will measure a metre and a half and will help raise the profile of the rest of the week’s events.

These events include a series of cookery demonstrations held in certified craft butchers in Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick and Galway where chef Adrian will cook gluten free recipes involving meat.

Adrian, 23, has been the Craft Butchers of Ireland ambassador for the past two years and said he is “hopeful” about breaking the world record on Monday.

“I’ve never baked one of that size before obviously, so I’m going to have a practice run on the Sunday in my own kitchen to see how it goes,” he said.

If the pancake is made to the specified world-record breaking requirements of five feet, Adrian says it will be able to feed between 150 and 200 mouths.

“So if you know anyone who wants to try a gluten-free potato pancake, send them down here on Monday,” he said.

Coeliac Awareness Week

Coeliac Awareness Week is being promoted by the Coeliac Society of Ireland nationwide from 11 to 17 May. In particular the society wishes to encourage anyone who thinks they may be affected by coeliac disease to contact their GP.

Commenting in advance of Coeliac Awareness Week, Gráinne Denning, CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, said, “When people are diagnosed with coeliac disease, they may feel overwhelmed. We’re encouraging people with coeliac disease to come along to the events we have organised during Awareness Week to meet the wider gluten-free community, learn some new recipes, and enjoy healthy walks and delicious food.

“For anyone with coeliac disease, or with a family member or friend affected by the disease, we hope Awareness Week events will help them embrace and live their gluten-free life to the full.”

The auto-immune disease is estimated to affect 46,000 people in Ireland and it can manifest itself at any stage in a person’s lifetime. The only treatment for the disease is a gluten-free diet.

Spectacular Martian sunset in a blue-tinged sky recorded by Curiosity’s Mast Camera

  Watch The Sun Go Down On Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Mascam (Mast Camera) to record the sun dipping to the horizon in a blue-tinged sky. The spectacular images, that were captured on 15 April, 2015, were sent home to Earth this week.

The photographs were taken between dust storms, but some dust was still floating high in the red planet’s atmosphere.

Scientists say the sunset observations help them assess the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere.

Mastcam sees colors very similarly to what our eyes do, although it is actually slightly less sensitive to blue than humans are.

Curiosity science team member, Mark Lemmon, of Texas A&M University, College Station, who planned the observations, said:

“The colors come from the fact that the very fine dust is the right size so that blue light penetrates the atmosphere slightly more efficiently.”

“When the blue light scatters off the dust, it stays closer to the direction of the sun than light of other colors does. The rest of the sky is yellow to orange, as yellow and red light scatter all over the sky instead of being absorbed or staying close to the sun.”

Martian sunset blue, daytime rusty

Just as with sunsets on Earth, when reddish colours are made more dramatic, on the red planet sunsets make the blue near the Sun’s part of the sky stand out much more, while normal daylight makes the dust’s rusty colour more prominent.

The Mars Curiosity Rover has been studying the planet’s ancient and modern environments since it landed inside the Gale Crater in August 2012.

Curiosity’s Mastcam was built and is operated by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, California. NASA”s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

News Ireland daily BLOG update

Sunday 15th September 2013

Expelled parliamentary TDs and Senators hold meeting’s

The Reform Alliance photographed outside Buswells Hotel this afternoon. From left: Billy Timmons, Paul Bradford, Peter Matthews, Fidelma Healy Eames, Lucinda Creighton and Terence Flanagan. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times  

A group of TDs and Senators expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party have met in Dublin in advance of the new Dáil and Seanad terms.

Ahead of the think-in, former Minister of State Lucinda Creighton again insisted the Reform Alliance had no plans to form a political party.

Ms Creighton said that she was seeking to secure speaking rights in the Dáil.

She said the group had already had a couple of meetings, but that today was its first day-long meeting.

Ms Creighton said members would be discussing welfare reform, job creation, and the challenges facing the small and medium enterprise sector.

She added that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss new policy ideas and matters of concern to the Irish people.

Dublin North-East TD Terence Flanagan also insisted the Reform Alliance was not a new party.

He said he still wished to return to the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.

Wicklow TD Billy Timmins has said the Reform Alliance will put down a motion in the Dáil calling for its members to be allowed sit on Oireachtas committees.

Mr Timmons said the group would be developing new policies over the coming weeks and months.

He said the Alliance would be calling for Dáil reform, adding that the group felt that all elected representatives should be treated equally and have speaking rights in the chamber.

On the Seanad referendum, Mr Timmons said the Alliance would not be adopting a group position on the issue and that members would be voting individually.

New Anglo Tapes revelation’s:  ‘We’ve f**king let the world down’


Anglo’s Bowe laments lack of dinner party invites while Ireland’s wealthy elite transfer €500 million in two days into Germany

A prominent British banker told Anglo Irish Bank Head of Treasury John Bowe that the banking industry had “totally fucking let the world down”, but it was politicians such as then Taoiseach Brian Cowen who would lose their jobs.

Mr Bowe replied “Yeah”, but added that the politicians in charge had to take responsibility for the crash because “you pay the piper, you call the tune”.

In fresh revelations from the Anglo Tapes, Matt Pass, a senior executive in Merrill Lynch, which advised the State on the bank guarantee, admitted he felt “quite guilty” about the banking industry’s conduct.

He said that what had been “handed” to politicians meant that Mr Cowen and then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown “are going to lose their jobs”.

However, Mr Bowe did not absolve politicians, telling the UK banker that “if he [Gordon Brown] did not have banks handing out credit during the New Labour years, people would not have spent money, the economy would not have been as prosperous”.

The Merrill Lynch executive also suggested to Mr Bowe, in a conversation in October 2008, that political leaders could have told the banks in the years before the crash that they “shouldn’t have been doing the kind of lending they were doing”.

But he added that if they had done that, “there would have been an almighty stink”.

In the course of only two days, the bankers speculated that Ireland’s wealthy could have put as much as €500m into Germany.

Mr Bowe also told Mr Moran how Anglo worked with Irish Life & Permanent to prop up its balance sheet.

“Permo [Irish Life & Permanent] were on to us, they were short a billion, em, and kind of caught short – it sounds like all the corporate stuff [deposits] has left Permo, so the Central Bank is obviously aware of that, but they got 300 [million] on Friday and they got another, I think it was 850 [million], today from us and we just have to see what happens, but they’re paying it back tomorrow, that’s the basis on which we did it,” Mr Bowe told Mr Moran.

“So it feels a bit better, Matt – I suppose that’s the best way of putting it – and in terms of our days, days to disaster, you can kind of stretch that, stretch that out, y’know?”

Mr Moran laughed before replying: “Yeah.”

Mr Moran hit the head-lines last week when it emerged he had been granted immunity from prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions for all matters relating to Anglo Irish Bank. He has previously featured several times in the Anglo Tapes, as well as in Anglo emails in which he refers to contacts during the crisis with then Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who he calls “Enda K”, and then Fianna Fail TD, Beverly Flynn.

In another recording, in April 2008, while talking to Anglo CEO David Drumm, Mr Bowe described Sean Quinn as “like a cancer, this is like a cancer growing on the bank”.

He said at this stage the bank was “in a spiral, and I want the spiral to go away”.

In another conversation around that time – a month after the bank guarantee – Mr Bowe is again talking to Mr Drumm, who is complaining that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has made a statement about the importance of systemic banks. Mr Drumm claims that in doing so “he just made a balls of it. He killed us”.

Mr Bowe told Mr Drumm that Anglo (and Irish Nationwide) were not considered systemic banks – and therefore worth saving – because “we don’t give, pay people’s wages and have ATMs and do stuff like that”. Mr Drumm replies: “Oh, yeah, the cash out of the wall.”

Mr Drumm then suggested that the Government was “trying to kill us”. “I think they have been trying to force us into a tougher spot”… so that they could… “act under the Central Bank Act, y’know, to protect the stability of the system”.

New children’s hospital boss ‘will not tolerate medical politics’


Eilish Hardiman: (pic above) new CEO tasked with driving forward long-delayed hospital

The Health Minister James Reilly has said “medical politics” would not be tolerated at the new national children’s hospital, which he is confident will be built by 2018.

He was speaking after announcing that Eilish Hardiman has been appointed chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Group, whose task is to drive forward the long-delayed hospital.

Ms Hardiman previously oversaw the proposed development when it was due to be built on the Mater hospital campus but left to take over the running of Tallaght Hospital.

The new facility, for which planning permission has yet to be obtained, will see the merging of the existing children’s hospitals in Crumlin, Temple Street and Tallaght into one complex. It will be built on the grounds of St James’s hospital.

The row over where it should be built has already delayed its progress by many years and exposed deep divisions between the three hospitals which will eventually have to work as one.

Dr Reilly said the bad experiences of previous new hospitals – where existing facilities had merged – would not be repeated.

He did not specify any names but many of the problems experienced by Tallaght hospital were linked to the failure of the Adelaide and Meath hospitals to let go of their previous independence and work together.

Dr Reilly said there would have to be cohesion when the new complex opened. Asked about funding, he declined to say how much it would cost.

However, he said he was “absolutely committed” to ensuring it was funded and pointed to the indicators that Ireland was recovering. Some of the funding is due to come from the sale of the

National Lottery funding.

It will be early summer next year before a planning application is submitted and this will take another six months before a decision is made by An Bord Pleanala.

If planning permission is granted, the next step is to tender for construction companies to build the several-storeys-high complex – but it could be the end of 2015 before it is “shovel ready”. Building is likely to take three years, so it is not expected to be completed until late 2017 or early 2018 and it will then take more time to fit it out and make it ready to accept the child patients.

Dr Reilly said he was confident that lessons had been learnt since planning permission to build it at the Mater site was turned down.

People of major experience in the construction and building industry were now on the boards overseeing its development, he said.

Allsop & IMHO agrees a deal to prevent ‘unnecessary home repossessions’


Mr. David Hall of IMHO says a repossessed family home should not be put up for sale unless all parties agree

The Irish Mortgage Holders’ Organisation (IMHO) has secured a written agreement from Allsop Space that it will not offer repossessed family homes for auction in cases where banks have failed in advance to strike an acceptable deal with the properties’ former owners over their outstanding mortgage debt.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent following the conclusion of the deal last night, IMHO director David Hallsaid the commitment from Allsop would help to prevent the “unnecessary repossessions” while providing those who had to surrender their family homes with a “definitive outcome” that allowed them to move on with their lives.

Commenting on the importance of the deal, Mr Hall said: “It’s hugely significant that two weeks after the banks were before the finance committee 15,000 repossession letters went out. We’re saying there is a need for repossession, and some family homes will need to be repossessed and sold. But we’re saying the system should be changed, and for those properties where it’s agreed by advisers, the bank and the customer that the family home should be sold at auction or wherever; that prior to that auction, a full debt deal should be negotiated and an agreement reached with the bank.”

Asked what kind of debt deal the IMHO expected to be reached by distressed borrowers with their banks before their homes could be repossessed and put up for auction, Mr Hall said: “Once the hammer comes down on the property, there needs to be a definitive outcome. For residential family homes, under no circumstances should any home be sold unless it’s agreed by all parties that it needs to be sold in a voluntary manner and with a full deal done on the balance of the debt. There are circumstances, unfortunately, in the real world where family homes will need to be sold, but what we’re saying is that there are more sustainable solutions.”

Asked if the IMHO would seek a similar agreement from other estate agents and auctioneers, Mr Hall said: “We will be seeking an identical commitment from every single auctioneer throughout the country. We will be saying clearly that sales of repossessed family homes will only take place where everyone agrees that the property must be sold. It can only be done in ourview when a deal has been done on the entire debt by consent. Only then can it be sold. We want the entire deal to be triggered at the moment the property is sold when it is done by agreement.”

Mr Hall said in cases where that commitment was not forhcoming, the IMHO would publicly identify properties offered for auction where it believed that there had been a “reasonable alternative to repossession”.

Contacted by the Sunday Independent and asked for comment on its agreement with the IMHO, Allsop Space director of auctions Robert Hoban said: “We’ve had detailed discussions with the Irish Mortgage Holders’ Association and with David Hall and we’ve made a commitment not to sell any repossessed family homes defined as principal private residences. We understand the difficulties out there in the market and we understand that people have concerns. We as a firm don’t have any interest in getting involved in those kind of sales. We’re very sensitive about it.”

Exercise reduces depression symptoms


Exercise does appear to reduce symptoms of depression, new research suggests.

Around 120 million people suffer from depression worldwide, including 280,000 people in Ireland. Antidepressant medication and psychological therapies are both seen as effective treatments for the condition.

However, medication can cause unwelcome side-effects and not everybody has access to psychological therapies.

Exercise is also recommended for people with depression as it can change the hormone levels affecting mood and can act as a distraction from negative thoughts.

However previous research has found only limited evidence linking exercise with less depression.

As more trials in this area have recently been carried out, Scottish researchers decided to look into this further. They carried out a review of 39 trials involving over 2,300 people with depression.

In 35 of the trials, the researchers found that exercise had a moderate benefit when it came to depression. Furthermore a few small trials found that exercise was as effective as psychological therapy and taking antidepressants.

“Our review suggested that exercise might have a moderate effect on depression. We can’t tell from currently available evidence which kinds of exercise regimes are most effective or whether the benefits continue after a patient stops their exercise programme,” the researchers from the University of Edinburgh explained.

However, they acknowledged that the link between exercise and depression was weaker when they focused on six high quality trials.

“When we looked only at those trials that we considered to be high quality, the effect of exercise on depression was small and not statistically significant. The evidence base would be strengthened by further large scale, high quality studies,” the team added.

News Ireland daily BLOG

Tuesday 9th July 2013

Martin fears home repossessions will be ramped up by Irish banks


Michael Martin of Fianna Fáil says the Government has failed to deal with the mortgage crisis

The Government has handed the banks a charter to repossess family homes and failed to grasp the scale of the mortgage arrears crisis, Fianna Fáil  claimed this morning.

The party has published a private members bill on mortgage arrears which is being debated in the Dáil today and tomorrow.

It wants a clear definition of what constitutes a sustainable mortgage to be included in the Central Bank’s code of conduct on mortgage arrears and believes a minimum income level should be protected as part of all negotiations.

It also seeks the reintroduction of a ceiling of unsolicited contacts a bank can have with a borrower in arrears and wants a new clause put into the code which would forbid a bank from moving a borrower off a tracker mortgage unless they were given independent financial advice from a third party.

The bill also wants a 12 month moratorium on home repossessions to be reinstated and a new rule put in place which would force banks to record all calls made to borrowers and given the Central Bank access to those recordings .

Describing the arrears crisis as a “major economic and social issue” which had created a “paralysis” across the wider economy, party leader Micheál Martin accused the Government of repeatedly failing to deal with the issue and described the banks’ engagement with distressed borrowers as “pitiful”.

He said he was “very fearful repossessions will be ramped up” over the next six months.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the Government had given increased powers to the banks through changes to the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears which was published late last month and he said the banks had been given a “charter for the repossession of family homes”.

He said repossession was supposed to be used as a last resort but suggested that banks were becoming increasingly aggressive and repossession was becoming the “solution of choice” for many lenders.

“There are now 70,000 family homes where banks have been given carte blanche to repossess,” Mr McGrath said. “It is very difficult to understand the deferential approach to the banks.”

He said the number of real alternatives being offered by the banks to distressed borrowers was inadequate and lacked consistency. He pointed out that the banks had offered fewer than 150 split mortgages to borrowers in arrears and said that while AIB did not charge interest on the warehoused portion of such loans, Bank of Ireland did which meant “they were not a sustainable solution.

Fianna Fáil has already published a number of proposals on mortgage arrears since 2011 which have been ignored by Government and both Mr Martin and Mr McGrath did not indicate that things would be any different on this occasion.

“We have a platform and we will continue to make the case,” Mr Martin said.

“We are being constructive rather than populist and we have been repeatedly told by groups such as New Beginnings, the Irish Mortgage Holders Association and the Free Legal Advice C entre not to underestimate the power of the pressure we are applying.”

165 different amendments to Irish abortion bill tabled by TD’s & various other groups


The amendments will be discussed prior to the final vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

A List of all of the amendments tabled regarding the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 has been published.

The 165 amendments come from a range of TDs and cross a number of different aspects of the bill. They will be discussed in the Dáil tomorrow.

TDs will cast their votes on the bill tomorrow in the Dáil, and the document released this evening is a compilation of amendments tabled by the deputies over the past few days.

There is likely to be heated discussion over which of the 165 amendments do get discussed, given that there could be time constraints tomorrow evening.

Some of the most contentious amendments have related to Section 9 of the bill, which concerns suicide grounds as a means to obtain a lawful termination.

In her amendments, Fine Gael Minister Lucinda Creighton seeks the removal of the suicide section, and sets out a line of care for women who present as suicidal.

Deputy Terence Flanagan also seeks the removal of the suicide section.

Meanwhile, an amendment jointly tabled by TDs Clare Daly and Joan Collins would allow for lawful terminations in cases of rape and incest.

In the first Dáil vote, 24 TDs voted against the legislation. This led to four Fine Gael members losing the party whip.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told RTÉ today that the amendments discussed by Cabinet won’t involve any “fundamental or substantial change” to the bill.

He said that there will be no change to the issue of suicidal ideation in the bill.

Non-payers of water charges face having pressure reduced


The Government has confirmed plans to limit the water pressure in homes who don’t pay their water charges.

The Department of the Environment says the measure will be included in legislation to be published in the autumn.

The measure is intended as an alternative way of punishing homes without having to cut off their supply.

Water charges are due to take effect in October 2014, with the first bills due in January 2015.

Leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan said the approach would not work.

“The way Phil Hogan has set this up, it’s pushing for revenue, it’s done in a way that I fear could be privatised in the long run,” he said.

“Everything about having one single Irish water company which they’ve set up rather than, I think, a regional structure which would make more sense.

“It would connect to the river basin districts where our water actually comes from, it would connect to the planning systems.

“Everything that’s been done by Phil Hogan is driven by a revenue-raising, finance-led approach. I think that’s not going to work.”

‘A Dead’ woman opens her eyes on operating table as her organs are about to be removed


A woman in New York state was pronounced dead and about to have her organs removed for transplant when she awoke and opened her eyes.

Colleen Burns had been taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre in Syracuse after taking a drug overdose in 2009. She was thought to have passed away, a victim of “cardiac death”, and so her family agreed to turn off the 41-year-old’s life support machine and donate her organs.

It was not until she was wheeled into the operating theatre and opened her eyes in response to the lights that doctors called off the procedure.

Lucille Kuss, Ms Burns’ mother, told Syracuse’s The Post-Standard newspaper that the doctors never explained what went wrong.

“They were just kind of shocked themselves,” she said. “It came as a surprise to them as well.”

Ms Burns, a mother of three, was discharged from the hospital a fortnight after the operation, but committed suicide less than two years later.

“She was so depressed that it really didn’t make any difference to her,” said her mother.

The family did not sue but the hospital was fined $6,000 (£4,000) by the state health department in September – the case only came to light after the newspaper made requests through the Freedom of Information Act.

“These sorts of things do happen,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union Safe Patient Project. “It’s pretty disturbing.”

Mrs McGiffert said there is no way of knowing how often near-catastrophes like the Burns case happen because in the US there is no system in place to collect information from hospitals about medical errors.

The state started investigating the case in March 2010 in response to an inquiry from The Post-Standard.

The investigation revealed a catalogue of errors in the handling of Ms Burns’ case.

The drugs overdose had sent her into a deep coma, the state health department found, and hospital personnel misread that as irreversible brain damage without doing enough to evaluate her condition.

Furthermore, the day before her organs were to be removed, a nurse had performed a reflex test – scraping a finger on the bottom of her foot. The toes curled downward – not the expected reaction of someone who’s supposed to be dead.

Outside the operating theatre, her nostrils appeared to show signs of breathing, and her lips and tongue moved.

“Dead people don’t curl their toes,” said Dr Charles Wetli, a forensic pathologist from New Jersey. “And they don’t fight against the respirator and want to breathe on their own.”

Twenty minutes after those observations were made, a nurse gave Burns an injection of the sedative Ativan, according to records.

In the doctors’ notes, there’s no mention of the sedative or any indication they were aware of her improving condition.

“If you have to sedate them or give them pain medication, they’re not brain-dead and you shouldn’t be harvesting their organs,” said Dr David Mayer, a surgeon and an associate professor of clinical surgery at New York Medical College.

St. Joseph’s submitted a plan to correct problems identified in the investigation to the state health department in August 2011.

The state fined St. Joseph’s and ordered it to hire a consultant to review the hospital’s quality assurance program and implement the consultant’s recommendations.

The hospital also was ordered to hire a consulting neurologist to teach staff how to accurately diagnose brain death.

Kerri Howell, spokeswoman for the hospital, told the newspaper: “St. Joseph’s goal is to provide the highest quality of care to every patient, every time.

“These policies were followed in this case, which was complicated in terms of care and diagnosis.

“We’ve learned from this experience and have modified our policies to include the type of unusual circumstance presented in this case.”

Irish drinks industry is willing to work with Government to combat misuse of alcohol


There is no evidence a ban on sponsorship of sporting events will impact on problem drinking

Tourists come to Ireland and hope to visit places connected with our beer and whiskey industries just as they would want to visit a vineyard in France.

I work in the alcohol industry. I work so that people can share a drink with colleagues in the pub on a Friday evening. I work so that people can invite friends over for Sunday dinner and enjoy a drink with their meal. Working for Irish Distillers also means that I promote the craftsmanship and tradition of Irish whiskey – a product that is experiencing a global renaissance and is an important part of Ireland’s food and drink success in recent years.
This is what it means to be part of the drinks industry.I very much welcome the current debate on alcohol and society, and want to be very clear on behalf of the industry that we are absolutely committed to tackling misuse. However, I also want to be clear that to suggest otherwise is not only untrue but unfair to more than 62,000 people who work in our sector.I am not blind to the problem of alcohol misuse. Working in this industry without commitment to promoting responsible drinking would be like working in the car industry and not caring about seat belts and brakes. Drinking too much or too often has negative consequences for individuals, for their families and for wider society. We value our customers and wish them long, happy and healthy lives.

We in the Irish drinks industry agree with the vast majority of the proposals in the National Substance Misuse Strategy. However, some parts of Government do not appear willing to engage with us on this topic. If they would engage they would see how committed we are to promoting responsible drinking.

When considering the problems with alcohol, it is important we acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly. It is a fact that alcohol consumption in this country has fallen by more than 19 per cent since 2001, and our consumption levels are fast approaching European norms.

A Unicef report of 29 countries, published earlier this year, found the percentage of young people who reported having been drunk on more than two occasions has fallen in Ireland. Irish consumption is falling and youth consumption is declining.

Scientific proof

It is, of course, still vital that we implement policies that are scientifically proven to combat alcohol misuse. There are many such examples, some of which are very well-articulated in the current proposal from the Department of Health. However, I would like to see further initiatives explored, specifically in the area of young adult education.

For example, I know from my own experience in my home country of Sweden how effective education can be and I would be happy to share independent Swedish research with anyone who would like to discuss this science-based approach. But some of the proposals being considered by the Irish Government will be completely ineffective in combating alcohol misuse and at the same time bring with them many negative economic consequences for this important industry.

I would like to give two examples.

First, let us consider the proposed ban on sponsorship. While initial reports indicated that all sporting, cultural and arts events would be banned from using alcohol sponsorship by 2020, recent media reports seem to imply that this ban would now only apply to major sporting events. As was noted by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications in its Report on Sponsorship of Sports by the Alcohol Drinks Industry, there is no evidence to show that banning the sponsorship of sporting events will have an impact on reducing alcohol misuse.

It would, however, remove a significant source of funding from our sporting organisations. Also, I do not believe that this is where the ban on sponsorship will end. Next in line will be undoubtedly be events related to the arts, culture and music.

Nasa’s next Mars rover will advance the hunt for past life


This view obtained on July 9, 2013 from the left Navigation Camera (Navcam) of Nasa’s Mars Rover Curiosity looks back at wheel tracks made during the first drive away from the last science target in the ‘Glenelg’ area.

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The next robotic rover to explore Mars in 2020 should scour the surface of the red planet more closely than ever for signs of past life, a Nasa science team said Tuesday.

The US space agency’s science definition team (SDT) released a 154-page document containing its proposals for the next Mars rover, after five months of work.

The mission would use microscopic analysis for the first time, collect the first rock samples for possible return to Earth and test ways to use natural resources on site for a future human trip, it said.

The Mars 2020 mission would build on the work being done by Nasa’s Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the red planet since August 2012 and has already found evidence of potentially habitable environments.

The mission would present “a major step toward seeking signs of life,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at Nasa headquarters.

The next step is for Nasa to analyze the recommendations and issue a call for scientific instruments, which could include higher resolution imaging devices, microscopes, fine scale minerology, chemistry and organic carbon detection tools to scan for biosignatures on the surface of Mars.

“To combine this suite of instruments would be incredibly powerful,” said Jack Mustard, SDT chair and professor of geological sciences at Brown University.

The rover would collect about 31 samples that might someday be returned to Earth, representing “a legacy for understanding the development of habitability on the planet,” he told reporters.

The US space agency has not yet devised the technology to bring the cache back to Earth without disturbing its contents, and no plans have been set for any potential sample-return.

The next Nasa mission to Mars is a November launch of MAVEN, an orbiter that will study how Mars interacted with the solar wind and lost its atmosphere.

The European Space Agency will follow in 2018 with its ExoMars rover.

John Grunsfeld, Nasa’s associate administrator for science, said the 2020 Mars rover would get the US space agency to the next step in the “quest to answer the grand questions,” before a planned human mission in the 2030s.

“Do we see any evidence of past life in those habitable environments?” he said, alluding to the aims of the future missions.