Tag Archives: Hospital beds

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 15th September 2015

EU ministers fail to agree relocation scheme for growing numbers of refugees

Germany shifts stance as officials try to cope with large numbers crossing borders


French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve (left) and German interior minister Thomas de Maziere leave after an European Union interior and justice ministers emergency meeting on the migrants situation in Brussels.

EU immigration policy was in disarray on Monday night after ministers failed to reach agreement on a relocation scheme for refugees and countries began to introduce border checks within the union’s free travel area.

Following a prolonged meeting of justice minister in Brussels, member states failed to back a refugee relocation plan proposed by the European Commission last week. There was significant opposition from a number of central and east European countries to the idea of mandatory quotas.

Ministers will revisit the issue on October 8th but the development is a blow to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal to introduce the quotas, a move expected to set an important precedent for EU asylum policy.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday night after the meeting, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she was “disappointed” at the failure to reach agreement but she stressed a majority of ministers did back the plan.

“There is a large majority in favour of the figure of 120,000, and the legal instrument was agreed today for the 40,000 [relocation plan], but there are some member states that are not in a position to commit to that figure today,” she said.

‘Urgent and dramatic’

Luxembourg’s minister for foreign affairs Jean Asselborn, who chaired the meeting, said the situation facing Europe was “urgent and dramatic” but it was”too early” for a decision to be taken as “procedures have to be respected”.

The ministers also considered new proposals to tighten the EU’s external borders, including a plan to detain and potentially tag illegal immigrants in centres in an effort to shore up support from countries opposing relocation measures.

While the justice ministers grappled with the migration crisis in Brussels, the Schengen free-travel zone appeared to be unravelling.

Germany’s decision on Sunday to introduce border checks on its borders with Austria has triggered a wave of similar moves by other EU countries – Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands have all followed suit.

The European Commission denied that the Schengen convention- the free-movement zone that has been a cornerstone of EU policy for two decades – was under threat, pointing out that existing legislation permits countries to introduce temporary border controls in emergency situations.

Germany saidon Monday it now expects to receive 1 million refugees this year, up from a figure of 800,000 cited last week. Berlin has shifted its stance in recent days as its authorities struggle to cope with the numbers crossing its borders.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel took a lead role in welcoming refugees to the European Union by promising refuge to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said Germany is “reaching its limits” when it comes to migrants. There have been previous instances of countries introducing border checks within the common travel area, but Germany’s unexpected move is by far the biggest breach of EU free movement rules in its history.

Speaking from Jordan on Monday, British prime minister David Cameron defended his country’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, as he called on EU member states to increase aid to Syria. “Without British aid, hundreds of thousands more could be risking their lives seeking to get to Europe,” he said.

Meanwhile in Hungary, workers erected the final sections of a 4-metre-high steel fence topped with razor wire on the country’s frontier with Serbia, a centre-piece of prime minister Viktor Orban’s response to the migration crisis.

Police, backed by troops, stopped migrants walking into Hungary along a railway line from Serbia on Monday afternoon as the fence was completed.

From midnight to 4pm on Monday, 7,437 migrants entered Hungary from Serbia – beating a single-day record set on Sunday – and most were quickly put on trains and buses to the border with Austria, where they now face security checks.

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency said each country had the right to protect its borders but warned that it was “very important” that people fleeing war and persecution could find protection; most migrants now arriving in Europe are from conflict zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than half of Irish homes pay water bills after the second cycle

Compliance with water charges now stands at 51%.


The number of homes paying their water charges has passed the 50 per cent mark, as Irish Water nears the end of its second billing cycle.

Initial results released earlier this summer for the first bills sent by the company showed that 43 per cent of homes had paid their water charges.

The figures were seized on by anti-water charges protesters, while Eurostat also cited poor compliance rates as a reason to classify Irish Water on the Government balance sheet earlier this year.

The first billing cycle covered usage for January, February and March and 675,000 households, out of a total of 1.52 million, paid. The second billing cycle applied for usage over April, May and June, with these bills sent from July.

Irish Water has yet to send out all bills for this period.

In a statement to The Irish Times, Irish Water said 100,000 more homes had so far paid their water bills than had initially done for the first three months of billing.

The company said the number of homes now paying bills is “at least” 775,000, which gives a compliance rate of 51 per cent. The company also said some people were paying their first bill at the same time as their second.

Government sources have expressed hope the compliance rate will rise to 60 per cent by the time of the general election.

During the second billing cycle, Irish Water issued reminders for the first time to homes which had not paid their bills. The reminders included letters, text messages and telephone calls.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey said the “momentum is building” on compliance. “We won’t have the full cycle until the end of October but the indications are good and as time will pass compliance will grow,” he said. “Obviously nobody likes new charges but there are no alternatives.”

Irish hospitals facing heavy penalty fines for failing to cut waiting lists

Penalties for non-performing hospitals expected to run into millions of euro


Heavy fines are to be imposed from this month on low-performing hospitals that fail to meet Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s targets for cutting waiting lists.

The fines are being levied in respect of almost 8,000 patients who were on waiting lists for over 18 months in August.

Mr Varadkar had previously promised there would be such no long-term waiters from the middle of this year.

As part of a carrot-and-stick approach, the Minister is also releasing €25 million to the HSE so that hospitals can meet his second target of nobody waiting for more than 15 months for appointments or treatment by the end of the year. This is in addition to the €26 million already provided this year to fund the 18-month target.

The level of fines to be imposed is currently being calculated based on the cost of the procedures and appointments involved, but are expected to run into millions of euro.

The money involved will be diverted from non-performing hospitals to other hospitals or clinics where the work can be performed.


Exceptions will be made for a small number of specialities where the targets could not be met because of a shortage of specialist staff or pre- and post-surgical supports.

Alternatives such as outsourcing to the private sector will be used in these cases.

Among the hospitals likely to be fined are Galway University Hospital, where 2,320 patients are waiting over 18 months, and Tallaght and Cork University hospitals, with 1,000 long-term waiters each. The mechanism for sanctioning hospitals that fail to meet targets was devised during discussions between the HSE and theDepartment of Health over the summer.

It is intended the fines will continue to be levied on a monthly basis until hospitals reach the targets set by the Minister.

Started to rise

The number of long waiters has started to rise again since the Minister’s target date of last June. Figures published by The Irish Times last weekend showed the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an outpatient appointment was up 465 per cent, while the number waiting for inpatient procedures soared by 7,100 per cent.

The fines are being put in place to stop the figures from slipping back.

In September, fines will be imposed in respect of 6,800 outpatients and 1,000 inpatients still on the list after 18 months. Fines are not being imposed where appointments have been made.

Specific action plans are being put in place for some procedures, such as removal of wisdom teeth, varicose veins, urology and some spinal surgeries. Eleven additional scoliosis patients will have been treated by the end of this month in the Blackrock Clinic and another 56 will be treated in Dublin or London by the end of the year.

Hospitals have been told to carry out urgent colonoscopies within the target time of four weeks, with a zero tolerance policy applying to breaches.

Separately, Mr Varadkar will today attend a meeting of the emergency department taskforce dealing with the trolley crisis.

Despite the provision of extra funding, trolley numbers were up 40 per cent last month compared to the previous August.

Archaeologists find bones of man killed about 1,000 years ago

Skeleton of teenager who suffered violent death discovered in tree roots in Co Sligo


The man’s lower leg bones in his grave left pic & right the fallen beech tree.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a young man who suffered a violent death almost a millennium ago at Collooney, Co Sligo.

The teenager had two stab wounds to the chest and one to his left hand, presumably from trying to ward off his attacker.

The skeletal remains were found among the roots of a massive beech tree which toppled over after more than 200 years.

The National Monuments Service commissioned a rescue excavation to recover the remains before further damage was caused.

“As excavations go, this was certainly an unusual situation,” said Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services.

“The upper part of the skeleton was raised into the air trapped within the root system. The lower leg bones, however, remained intact in the ground. Effectively as the tree collapsed, it snapped the skeleton in two.”

Analysis of the bones by osteoarchaeologist Dr Linda Lynch revealed the remains were those of a 17-20 year old man. He was over 5ft 10in in height making him taller than the average medieval person. Mild spinal joint disease suggests he was involved in physical labour from a young age.

Radiocarbon dates indicate the young man died in the 11th or 12th century, between 1030 and 1200 AD.

He was given a Christian burial. While historical records state the presence of a church and graveyard in the area, no above-ground trace survives and no other skeletons were encountered during the excavations.

“This burial gives us an insight into the life and tragic death of a young man in medieval Sligo,” Dr Dowd said.

Emaciated polar bear pictures raise global warming concerns


Photographs of underweight polar bears have gone viral on social media and raised concerns about the effects of climate change

Photographs of emaciated polar bears have gone viral on social media, and raised concerns over the effects of global warming.

One, taken by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, shows a dead polar bear lying on a pile of rocks in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Last summer I traveled with a group of friends to Svalbard, Norway in search of polar bears. We went to my favorite spot where I have always been able to find bears roaming around on sea ice throughout the summer. On this occasion, however, we didn’t find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive. We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears.

These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals. In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear. It is now becoming much more common. Through @sea_legacy and @natgeo we will continue to shine a light on our changing planet to convince the unconvinced. Please follow me on @paulnicklen to learn more about the effects of climate change. #polarbear #nature #wildlife #arctic #seaice @thephotosociety

A photo posted by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on Sep 6, 2015 at 12:35pm PDT

Mr Nicklen is trained as a biologist and has worked in the Arctic for decades. He says that on a trip to Svalbard last summer he was unable to locate any live bears, but did find two that appeared to have starved to death.

“These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals,” he wrote in an Instagram post accompanying the photograph.

Paul Nicklen, a scientist at the University of Alberta who studies polar bears, agreed with the assessment that the bear had starved to death.

“You can’t say 100 per cent that it starved to death, but that’s probably what happened,” he told Mashable. “It certainly looks to me like it has starved to death.”

Another photograph taken on Svalbard, a Norwegian territory, has raised similar concerns.

It was taken by photographer Kersten Langengerger and shows an unusually thin polar bear floating on ice.

Ms Langenberger said it was just one of several underweight female bears she had spotted on Svalbard.

An estimated 3,000 polar bears live in the Barents Sea, of which many reside on Svalbard and are a primary source of tourism. A British student from Eton College was killed by a polar bear in 2011 in Svalbard.

Polar bear populations are believed to have declined in recent decades due in large part to global warming, though populations are difficult to track due to the bears’ remote habitats.

An assesment from the Norwegian government said that the loss of sea ice was of “great concern” for polar bears in the Berents Sea.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 19th June 2015

Irish regulations helping to reduce road death numbers,

Says Minister Donoghue


Paschal Donohoe announces new moves to arrest drivers who are banned by the courts.

Paschal Donohoe said 1,000 people a month were being disqualified from driving by the courts, yet about one in ten of these were subsequently detected by the Gardaí driving vehicles.

The number of people who have been killed on the State’s roads this year is 19 below the similar period last year – a statistic Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has ascribed to tighter rules of the road safety.

Announcing new measures which would allow gardaí to arrest those caught driving while disqualified, Mr Donohoe said certain types of behaviour were no longer acceptable.

Describing the new measure as “the next wave of efforts to make our roads safer”, Mr Donohoe said that from Monday, a person caught driving while disqualified may be brought immediately before the court if one is sitting, or may be detained until the next day’s court’s sittings.

Gardaí are currently obliged to issue a summons which can lead to difficulties with service of the summons through changes of address or the perpetrator leaving the country.

Mr Donohoe said 1,000 people a month were being disqualified from driving by the courts, yet about one in ten of these were subsequently detected by the gardaí driving vehicles which he described as “absolutely unacceptable”.

The penalty for driving while disqualified is a fine of up to €5,000 and and / or up to six months in prison.

“This year to date we have had about 590 prosecutions by the gardaí of people who were caught getting back into their car and driving the very roads they were banned from,” he said.

Mr Donohoe said he recognised the work of the gardaí in detecting and prosecuting those “who should not be on our roads”.

He said the move was one of a number of measures which had been put in place in recent months which he believed were making a difference to driver behaviour and a subsequent reduction in road deaths.

“We changed the number of penalty points that were applicable to certain kinds of offences and we have also had heightened road safety campaigns that have been run by the Road Safety Authority and other bodies in relation to the need to be safe on the roads.”

According to the Garda, 67 people were killed on the State’s roads up to 9am on Friday morning – some 19 less than the comparison figure for 2014.

However, Mr Donohoe said there were still difficulties with drivers speeding, using a mobile phone, drink-driving and not wearing a seat belt. He said there had been 3,000 arrests so far this year for suspected drink-driving.

Cost of bid to keep ill woman in UK would fund a unit in Ireland

Says a judge


Legal costs of HSE bid to keep a woman in a specialised unit estimated at well over €1m

When Mr Justice Seamus Noonan in the High Court observed the costs of the case of a woman with a severe personality disorder would fund a purpose-built unit in the Republic, Gerry Durcan SC, for the woman, said the legal costs of similar cases involving vulnerable young people over the last 20 years would pay for an entire “purpose-built system”.

A High Court judge has said the costs of legal proceedings by the HSE aimed at keeping an 18-year-old woman with a severe personality disorder in a specialised unit in Englandagainst her wishes would fund a “purpose-built” unit for her in Ireland.

The costs to date of various proceedings in Ireland and England concerning the woman are estimated to exceed well over €1 million.

It also costs £400,000 (€560,000) a year to keep her in St Andrew’s unit in Northampton, where other Irish children and adults are regularly detained .

The woman has been detained for 19 months in St Andrew’s. Before that, from age 14, she was treated in various units in Ireland for some two years.

When Mr Justice Seamus Noonan observed the costs of the case would fund a purpose-built unit for the woman here,Gerry Durcan SC, for the woman, said the legal costs of similar cases involving vulnerable young people over the last 20 years would pay for an entire “purpose-built system”.

Eleven barristers, including six senior and five junior counsel, and at least five solicitors are involved in the latest case, brought by the HSE, before Mr Justice Noonan.

It raises important issues, including whether the involuntary detention in St Andrew’s, when the Irish Mental Health Acts prohibit detention of adults with personality disorders, breaches the woman’s rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Most of the doctors agree that, as of now, she has capacity to make decisions about her treatment.

The HSE wants the woman to stay in St Andrew’s and she wants to return to Ireland, as provided for by the High Court in an order last March.

Voluntarily co-operate

It directed a care plan and other arrangements be put in place in time for the woman to return earlier this month. She has told the judge via videolink from Northampton she will voluntarily co-operate with treatment here.

The HSE claims circumstances have changed since the March order and has appealed that order to the Court of Appeal.

Pending that appeal, it has asked Mr Justice Noonan to vary the March order to keep the woman in St Andrew’s in the hope she will co-operate with a form of therapy considered the “gold standard” for her condition.

Doctors involved with her treatment have said they consider her a high suicide risk.

Lawyers for the woman, her estranged parents and her court-appointed guardian, all of whom are separately represented, accept she is a suicide risk but disagree her circumstances have changed materially since last March.

It has also been argued the HSE took no effective steps to put measures in place allowing for her treatment here.

The HSE argues she cannot be effectively treated here and her condition is best managed in St Andrew’s.

In evidence to the court, a psychiatrist who dealt with the woman in Ireland said there is a tension between her liberty, her right to live in the land of her birth and her need for treatment.

He considered it was in her best interests to have her condition managed in St Andrew’s.

That facility was best placed to provide her with treatment and while she had declined it, it could be offered again.

If she continued to refuse it, she should, after a specific time, be permitted to return, he believed.

Kept alive

He agreed she had been detained in hospitals here and England effectively for the past four years, with little improvement in her condition. However, she has been kept alive, he said.

If permitted to return home, the woman should not be subject to imposition of in-patient admission, he said. Should she opt for treatment in Ireland, the services here would be offered to her, he said.

His concern is about staffing, he said. Ireland does not have the resources available to large countries, and does not have the most appropriate facility to treat people with this form of personality disorder.

When Mr Durcan said Ireland does not detain people with personality disorders, the doctor said other jurisdictions do.

The Irish psychiatric services can manage most people apart from a “tiny minority” being treated in England, he added.

Mr Durcan said a medical report of August 2014 set out a view on what was necessary to be put in place for when the woman turned 18 this year, but it seemed there was no contact between the Irish adult mental health services and St Andrew’s concerning the woman’s possible treatment in Ireland for some six months after that report was produced.

The psychiatrist said he disagreed the analytic therapy recommended in that report was appropriate for the woman.

The necessary specialist service is just not available here – he could not “conjure up” such a service and nor did he think such was a good idea.

In her evidence via videolink to the court last week, the woman said the “most important thing” for her was “to be returned back to my country”.

She said she would not take her own life and has many plans for the future.

The price of tobacco and alcohol in Ireland is ‘70% higher than the EU average


Alcohol and tobacco prices are higher here than anywhere else in the EU, official Eurostat figures have revealed.

The publication of the consumer price level report across the EUtoday showed that Ireland’s alcoholic beverages and tobacco prices (collectively) are 70% higher than the EU average.

The National Off-Licence Association has stated called on Government to reverse the budgetary hike on alcohol in Budget 2014.

Evelyn Jones, government affairs director of the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), stated: “Eurostat’s results highlight the disproportionate and unfair campaign the Irish Government alone is waging against the alcohol sector via excise duty, which places a severe drain on cash flow and jeopardises product quality.

“Eurostat correctly attributes the “large price variation” in price as “mainly due to differences in taxation”.

According to NOffLA, excise on wine is 624% higher than the EU average. Beer and spirits are 298% and 243% above average, respectively.

“Not only has this placed the 92,000 jobs associated with the sector to extreme peril, we can see from Ireland’s ranking in other categories that excise is inflating Ireland’s average prices to that of fifth [highest] in the EU,” she said.

Ireland ranks fifth highest in prices overall: we are fourth most expensive restaurants & hotels, fifth most expensive for personal transport equipment, sixth most expensive for food & non-alcoholic beverages, and tied-13th for most expensive consumer electronics.

“It is simply wrong to suggest high prices benefit anyone other than the Government,” said Ms Jones.

“Not only is it anti-consumer, the level of excise means there is very little left for the actual producer, let alone the wholesaler and retailer.

“65.2% of a bottle of spirits is tax, leaving 34.8% to pay the supplier, staff and overheads before any profit is seen.”

NOffLA released its pre-budget submission earlier this month calling on the Minister for Finance to reverse the 15% increase in excise duty imposed in Budget 2014, to restore parity to wine taxation in relation to domestic alcohol, to ban the below invoice cost selling of alcohol and regulate for out-of-state imports of alcohol to support the 1,850 independent off-licences and 5,800 jobs at serious risk of closure as a result of the past two excise duty increases on alcohol.

Irish state rules out fresh changes to oil firms exploration taxes


The Government has said there is no need to readdress last year’s altered fiscal terms for exploration firms active in Irish waters, despite this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices.

Following his address to delegates at Energy Ireland’s annual conference at Croke Park yesterday, Ciaran O’hObain, principal officer at the Department of Natural Resources’ Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD), was specifically asked whether energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, which advised the Government on last year’s tax changes, would advise differently if delivering its findings in the current oil price environment.

World oil prices have fallen from over $100 per barrel to $50-$60 in the last year and are not expected to rise past $70 per barrel in the long term.

Last year, the Government changed the tax framework for Irish offshore operators, with the top rate of tax on profits made from any future oil find in Irish waters increasing from 40% to 55% and a 5% royalty revenue also going to the State for each year of a producing field’s lifespan.

The new terms will only relate to new finds and will not be backdated to cover previous finds that have yet to be drilled.

Mr O’hObain said yesterday that there is no issue to address regarding the new fiscal terms. He said that Wood Mackenzie based its analysis on a $60+ oil price, not specifically on a $100 price tag.

He added that the analysis was based on “a longer term view” and on a number of issues, including competition, outside of the record high oil prices.

“It wasn’t based on a 2014 price footing, but a more longer-term view. There is no proposal to be revisited,” Mr O’hObain said.

The question was posed by Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) chairman Pat Shannon.

Earlier this year, the IOOA suggested this year’s Finance Bill should include — as has been mooted by Government — incentives for marginal field operators, such as a lowering of the corporate tax rate (currently at 25% for explorers) and a removal of the 5% royalty fee for small and marginal field operators.

Mr O’hObain also suggested it is still too early to gauge how much interest is being shown in this year’s Atlantic Margin licensing round, which closes in September.

He said firms would be making “critical decisions”, regarding new investments this summer.

“Yes, there is interest. But we won’t know how this will translate into actual applications until September,” said Mr O’hObain.

He added that Ireland has many elements in place for a viable oil industry, including fiscal policy, industry engagement, joined-up thinking, and regulatory structure, but needed to see more drilling activity.

He said that Ireland remained under-explored, even though we are at a time of a record high number of licence and prospect authorisations.

Earlier this week, Deirdre Michie, the head of the UK’s oil sector representative, Oil & Gas UK, warned that the industry needed to get used to a future environment where long-term oil prices will hover around the $60 per barrel mark.

Britain’s once thriving North Sea-based exploration sector reached a 20-year low last year in terms of activity, with just 14 exploration wells drilled compared with 44 drilled in 2008.

Scientists discover that most kangaroos are ‘left-handed’


The study involved observing multiple species of marsupial in the wild for extended periods

Researchers have discovered that most kangaroos are left-handed, making them the only other species apart from humans to show a ‘handedness’ on a large scale.

The study, published in biology journal Current Biology, was conducted by a team of Russian scientists, who spent hours observing the behaviour of multiple species in the wild.

The scientists looked at the red kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, eastern grey kangaroo, and found that most animals of these species used their left forelimb far more often than their right.

The study says that two species of kangaroo and the wallaby displayed ‘population lateralisation’, meaning the animals showed a dominant use of one paw across a whole population.

The study also found that this left-handedness is consistent across different types of behaviour, for example when eating, grabbing things, and grooming.

The brush-tailed bettong, a tiny marsupial that resembles a squirrel, also showed a distinct left-handedness equal to that of the kangaroos.

Other marsupials observed in the study, such as Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, the sugar glider, and the grey short-tailed opossum, did not show a similar level of laterality.

These three creatures, unlike the larger marsupials, move on four feet instead of two – the study says this suggests that these postural characteristics are instrumental in whether the animal shows lateralisation.

Animals individually can be observed to show a preference for one side over another, as can be seen when asking a dog for a paw. However, lateralisation has never been proven at a population level before in a species other than humans.

Despite the popular misconception that polar bears are left handed (using their right paw to cover their black nose before killing their prey with their left), these few marsupials are the only non-human animals that mostly use one hand over the other.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Central Bank to impose limits on home loans

  • Regulator said to be preparing to publish a consultation paper on its proposals


The Central Bank plans to impose limits for the first time on how much banks can lend home buyers as property values in Ireland soar, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The Central Bank plans to impose limits for the first time on how much banks can lend home buyers as property values in Ireland soar.

The regulator is said to be preparing to publish a consultation paper on its proposals within weeks.

Banks and lobby groups will have a chance to comment on the plans, which center on introducing loan-to-value and loan-to-income restrictions.

A spokesman for the Central Bank declined to comment.

House prices are surging even as banks grapple with the aftermath of mortgage crisis that forced the government to bail out most of the nation’s lenders.

A quarter of the country’s owner-occupier home loans are in arrears or had their terms eased.

Loans granted during the boom for more than 85 per cent of the property value were most likely to default in the wake of the crash, central bank economists said today.

“There is no evidence the current price increases are credit driven, but the number of mortgage approvals, a potential measure of new mortgage credit demand, rose sharply in the first seven months of 2014,” said central bank economists Niamh Hallissey, Robert Kelly and Terry O’Malley in a report published today.

“This is therefore a key time to investigate the tools available to policy makers to safeguard future lending.”

Irish home prices soared 15 percent in the year through August, driven by a 25 per cent jump in Dublin values amid a shortage of properties in the Irish capital, the Central Statistics Office said on September 24.

Still, values remain 41 per cent off their 2007 peak both for Dublin and nationally. Any limits would particularly affect first-time buyers, according to one of the people.

Irish mortgage approvals rose by 54 per cent in value to €462 million in July compared to the same month last year, according to Banking and Payments Federation Ireland.

In 2006, mortgage lending surged to €40 billion. Davy, Ireland’s largest securities firm, said that some lenders are beginning to relax lending criteria as the property market recovers.

“It appears some banks are willing to lend 4.5 times combined income to higher-rated borrowers, but this is at the upper end of what is typically deemed responsible internationally,” Davy said in a report yesterday.

“Typically a limit of 3-4 times is considered a more acceptable level. The onus is on the central bank to put limits on the amount of money that can be borrowed to help keep house prices in check.”

Thirteen children have died on our roads so far this year,

  • 7 were killed in the whole of 2013


Deaths on Irish roads have remained high this year, after increasing for the first time since 2005 last year.

140 people have been killed so far this year  on Irish roads.

The Road Safety Authority has expressed concern about the high numbers of vulnerable road users being killed.

Thirteen children under the age of 14 have died in road traffic accidents so far this year, compared to seven children who were killed on the roads in the whole of 2013.

Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the Road Safety Authority said: “This year, for the second year in a row, we are seeing a marked increase in deaths on our roads when compared with previous years, where great strides were made to reduce deaths.

Vulnerable road users are most at risk this year – the old and the young, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists.

“We really need to redouble our efforts to try and reduce what was the worst year on our roads in seven years last year.”

Irish Road Safety Week is on from October 6 to 12, the RSA is urging people to get involved in this national drive to save lives.

Sharp fall in number of critical care hospital beds

  • The number of Irish Hospital critical care beds has fallen from 289 to 233


An intensive care unit: none of the Republic’s 19 maternity units has an intensive care unit

The number of critical care hospital beds has fallen sharply over the past six years despite a recommendation to double capacity.

The shortage of intensive care beds was highlighted this week at the inquest of Dhara Kivlehan, who died in September 2010 after giving birth a week earlier in Sligo Regional Hospital.

Ms Kivlehan was moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after no bed could be found in the intensive care units of three hospitals in the Republic.

A year before her death a HSE-commissioned report recommended a 45 per cent increase in the number of critical care beds from 289 to 418. Prospectus Consultants said a further increase to 579 beds was needed in the years up to 2020. However, far from increasing, the number has fallen from 289 to 233 at the present time.

The HSE sought to provide an extra 10 critical care beds in the service plan for this year, at a cost of €3 million a year, but was forced to scrap the plan because of funding cuts in last year’s budget, correspondence between the HSE and the Department of Health shows.

Bed occupancy

The HSE says it is implementing a “critical care bed bureau” to optimise utilisation of beds nationally by providing live information on bed occupancy in all units.

However, Ms Kivlehan’s husband Michael said an internal report a few weeks after his wife’s death in 2010 recommended such a national system be put in place.

The HSE was unable to say yesterday why there was such a delay in implementing this recommendation.

None of the Republic’s 19 maternity units has an intensive care unit.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said while Ireland needed more obstetricians than the 120 available, this was more per head than Canadaand New Zealand.

Staff Lieut Gen. Surprise at soldiers sleeping in cars claim

Says Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle


Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle: “I would encourage any soldier that has had to sleep in his or her car to talk to the officer in charge in the barracks they’re working in. We do have accommodation”

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Conor O’Boyle has said he was surprised at Pdforra’s suggestion this week that some soldiers were sleeping in their cars at barracks because they did not have the money for the fuel needed to drive home and back the following morning.

He said anyone sleeping in their car should bring it to the attention of the chain of command and accommodation would be provided for them in their barracks.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said he planned to establish the full facts.

“If people are sleeping in their cars, I am very uncomfortable with that and it shouldn’t be happening.

“I would encourage any soldier that has had to sleep in his or her car to talk to the officer in charge in the barracks they’re working in. We do have accommodation . . .

“If there’s one thing the Defence Forces do very well it’s they stick together, they work together and they look after each other.”

Moon’s hidden valley system now revealed


The Moon as we see it (L), in terms of height variation (C), and from surface gravity variations (R)

Scientists have identified a huge rectangular feature on the Moon that is buried just below the surface.

The 2,500km-wide structure is believed to be the remains of old rift valleys that later became filled with lava.

Centred on the Moon’s Procellarum region, the feature is really only evident in gravity maps acquired by Nasa’s Grail mission in 2012.

But knowing now of its existence, it is possible to trace the giant rectangle’s subtle outline even in ordinary photos.

Mare Frigoris, for example, a long-recognised dark stripe on the lunar surface, is evidently an edge to the ancient rift system.

“It’s really amazing how big this feature is,” says Prof Jeffery Andrews-Hanna.

“It covers about 17% of the surface of the Moon. And if you think about that in terms relative to the size of the Earth, it covers an area equivalent to North America, Europe and Asia combined,” the Colorado School of Mines scientist told BBC News.

“When we first saw it in the Grail data, we were struck by how big it was, how clear it was, but also by how unexpected it was.

“No-one ever thought you’d see a square or a rectangle on this scale on any planet.”

The full Moon as seen from the Earth, with the Procellarum border structure superimposed in red

So how was this extraordinary feature produced?

Andrews-Hanna and colleagues note that the Procellarum region contains a lot of naturally occurring radioactive elements, such as uranium, thorium and potassium.

On the early Moon, these would have heated the crust, which, when it cooled would have contracted.

Mare Frigoris is evidently an edge to the ancient rift valley system

This shrinking, they propose, would have ripped the surface, opening deep valleys. The geometry is the giveaway.

On Earth, cooling and contraction will preferentially produce hexagons containing 120-degree angles.

The famous Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is a classic example on the small scale, but even in bigger settings, such as in East Africa’s rift valleys, geological lines tend to intersect in this way.

Procellarum’s giant rectangle does the same, too – because the entire feature is draped over a sphere. This means the angles at the corners are wider than 90 degrees.

“What we’re seeing is a clever trick of spherical geometry. For structures on this scale, a polygon with 120-degree angles at the corners actually has four sides instead of six,” explained Prof Andrews-Hanna.

The team cannot tell when the rifting occurred, but the dating of Moon rocks brought back by Apollo would suggest the valleys were filled by volcanic lavas about 3.5 billion years ago.

Giant’s Causeway: Cooling basaltic rock naturally fractures into hexagons

The Grail satellites sensed very subtle variations in the pull of gravity across the Moon’s surface

The new study goes some way to resolving arguments over the origins of Procellarum, which looks different to other, more circular mare (dark regions) on the Moon’s surface.

For these regions, big asteroid impacts were more important in sculpting their forms.

The study is also further proof of the value of the Grail mission, led from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This comprised two, near-identical satellites that chased each other around the Moon over the course of a year.

They mapped changes in the pull of gravity as they flew over areas of differing mass.

Big mountains will have a different signal to deep depressions, obviously. But the data also reveals those locations that have different rock types and densities.

In the case of Procellarum, the pair sensed an excess of mass stemming from the presence of all the basaltic lava filling the rift valleys.