Tag Archives: IAG

News Ireland daily BLOG

Tuesday 18th August 2015

Renua Ireland not copying Fianna Fáil’s policies

   

The Renua Ireland deputy leader Billy Timmins has denied the party is “ripping off” Fianna Fáil policies.

Responding to accusations from Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary that Renua was sneakily repackaging the party’s ideas as its own, Mr Timmins said the two organisations could work together in government as they had such similar outlooks.

Making light of the allegations of plagiarism as he launched Renua’s drive to open up the pre-budget process, Mr Timmins declared: “I was going to say we are now going to launch policy number 41 belonging to Fianna Fáil! Fianna Fáil were in government for a long period in time. I thought they would have had all progressive policies implemented.

“When we launched the party on March 13 we had 16 policies. Three of them have been launched since in a fanfare by government. It may have been coincidental or it may have been otherwise but we don’t care once it’s progressive and once policies are implemented,” Mr Timmins said.

He said he would not close the door on a post-election coalition with Fianna Fáil, stating: “And according to Dara Calleary we are singing off the same hymn sheet anyway.”

Mr Timmins also joked about his party’s poor showing in the opinion polls, saying the rise from 1% to 2% in the latest survey showed a “100% increase”. “Maths wasn’t always my strong point but we were 1%, we went to two, so that’s 100% increase. If it goes up incrementally then we’ll be up to 4% next month and we’ll be somewhere around 16% come the election.

“On a serious note the way I look at it is politicians are unpopular at the moment, particularly political parties.

“Until such a time as the election is called — be that this October, be it next February — the public’s mind won’t concentrate on what they’re going to do with their vote,” Mr Timmins said.

The Wicklow TD said that voters had not fully engaged with how to vote in the next general election, as on current polling the most likely outcome would be a Sinn Féin/Fianna Fáil coalition, but he did not expect that to happen on polling day as the electorate would be more focused on the future then.

The TD was speaking as he launched Renua’s ‘Better Budgets and Modern Governance’ policy which includes a four-point plan to improve the “amateur” budgetary process.

Under the proposed changes, Dáil committees would be given legal powers of budgetary scrutiny as well as an oversight role.

Branding the current budgetary process as a “seasonal soap opera”, Mr Timmins called for a major overhaul of procedures.

“The budgetary process is a rubber-stamping exercise in which neither government TDs nor the opposition have any opportunity to contribute or exert influence. It does not serve the public interest and it needs to be modernised,” the TD said.

Renua also wants training and technical advisory support to help Oireachtas members carry out their duties more effectively on committees.

Mr Timmins said Renua would rule out any post-election deal with Sinn Féin.

Aer Lingus joins IAG as shareholders approve deal

End of an era as airline waves goodbye to Irish ownership

  

Aer Lingus will continue to fly with a shamrock on its tail but it will no longer have an Irish owner as it joins the British-Spanish group IAG.

It’s the end of an era as more than 95% of Aer Lingus shareholders vote in favour of an acquisition by British Airways owner IAG, thus formally bringing to an end almost 80 years of state involvement in the airline.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, IAG said that its €1.5bn acquisition of the Irish airline “is now wholly unconditional”, following the submission of Ryanair’s acceptance. The significance of this announcement is that the sale of Aer Lingus is now irreversible.

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said: “We’d like to welcome Aer Lingus into IAG. It will remain an iconic Irish brand with its base and management team in Ireland but will now grow as part of a strong, profitable airline group. This means new routes and more jobs benefiting customers, employees and the Irish economy and tourism”.

On Tuesday, the deadline by which shareholders had to vote, Ryanair submitted its form of acceptance, bringing shareholder approval for the deal above the 95% mark. IAG can now enforce compulsory purchase of the remaining amount.

Shareholders who accepted the offer by Tuesday’s deadline of 1pm, will be paid on or before 1 September 1st 2015. Shareholders will receive a cash payment of € 2.50 for each share held, and a cash dividend payment of 5 cents per share.

Those shareholders who have still not accepted the offer, can do so before the final closing date of 15.00 on September 1st 2015. They will be paid within 14 days of acceptance.

“Aer Lingus shareholders who have not yet accepted the offer are encouraged to do so without delay,” IAG said.

But there are still some steps remaining before Aer Lingus can claim to be owned by IAG. Firstly, the shareholders must receive payment, a process which is expected to take about two weeks. In addition, IAG will move to delist Aer Lingus from both the Dublin and London stock exchanges. IAG said that this will take effect “no earlier than 0800 (Irish time) on 17 September 2015”. The board of Aer Lingus must also officially resign.

AERL Holding, a subsidiary of IAG, will now acquire compulsorily any outstanding Aer Lingus shares and will then re-register Aer Lingus as a private company.

IAG first launched a €1bn bid for the airline in December 2014, which was rejected on the grounds that it “fundamentally undervalued” the airline. The group later upped its bid to €2.55 a share and ultimately succeeded in getting approval from the major shareholders in the airline, including the Government’s 29.7% stake.

The accuracy of evidence from drunk sex assault victims is not affected by intoxication

A study says

Rate of sexual assault on women between 16 and 24 four times higher than any other age

  

Drinks were labelled either “vodka and tonic” or “tonic water” and participants were not told the amount of alcohol they received.

The accuracy of evidence given by victims of sexual assault is not affected by alcohol intoxication, according to a British study.

Researchers at the University of Leicester found that participants who were drunk, reported fewer pieces of information about an assault but the information provided was as accurate as that of those who were sober.

Results from the research by the university’s Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour are now being applied in Britain in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service and Leicestershire police to develop national guidelines about the conduct of police interviews with intoxicated victims of sexual assault.

Eighty eight women aged between 18 and 31 were involved in the study after responding to an advertisement for “female social drinkers”.

According to the researchers the rate of sexual assault on women aged between 16 and 24 is four times higher than on any other age group

The study “Alcohol and remembering a hypothetical sexual assault: Can people who were under the influence of alcohol during the event provide accurate testimony?” was published in the journal Memory.

The research involved a placebo controlled trial to investigate the effects of alcohol on memory.

Drinks were labelled either “vodka and tonic” or “tonic water” and participants were not told the amount of alcohol they received.

A hypothetical rape scenario was described and participants read introductory information about the male portrayed including a physical description and photograph, and details about his occupation and possessions.

Participants were then presented with 24 sentences which appeared one at a time on a computer screen and they responded each based on whether or not they wished to remain in the hypothetical encounter.

The research team examined the influence of alcohol on remembering the interactive hypothetical sexual assault scenario in a laboratory setting.

All the participants completed an online memory test 24 hours later and four months later 73 per cent completed a recognition test.

Sober participants

The study indicated that participants reported less information if they were “under the influence” compared to women who were not.

But researchers found the accuracy of information from those who had been drinking did not differ from that of sober participants.

Study leader Dr Heather Flowe said “when a victim is intoxicated during the crime, questions about the accuracy of testimony are raised in the minds of criminal investigators.

“Out of these concerns, the police might forgo interviewing victims who were intoxicated during the offence. On the other hand, almost always in sexual offences, the victim is the only one who can provide information about the crime to investigators.”

Dr Flowe said a crime was unlikely to be solved without victim testimony.

“If they take into account that their memory has been impaired by alcohol, they should report information only when they believe it is likely to be accurate.

“Accordingly, intoxicated victims should report less information overall, but the accuracy of the information they do report might not be different from sober victims.”

The study was funded by Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council.

Couples trigger hunger hormone during fights,

A new study finds

  

Arguments are followed by a peak in the hormone that fuels hunger.

Couples are driving each other to the fridge, according to scientists who discovered an appetite-triggering hormone is released after hostile marital arguments.

A US study of “hostile” couples has revealed arguments are followed by a surge in the “I’m hungry” hormone ghrelin, as well as a link to poor food choices in period after their fighting.

The results of the University of Delaware research add weight to theories of why rejection and relationship difficulty can make people hungry.

Assistant Professor Lisa Jaremka said hostile couples had significantly higher amounts of ghrelin after -arguments, however there was no difference in levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin.

Writing in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, Prof Jaremka said the hunger ¬hormone only rose in people with a healthy weight or deemed overweight, but not in those who were obese.

“Right now, it’s one-size-fits-all — diet and exercise,” she said.

“I hope this will help us start to tailor interventions … a personalised approach would be beneficial in the long run.”

World’s oldest human-like hand bone sheds light on our evolution

  

Scientists have discovered the oldest known fossil of a hand bone to resemble that of a modern human, and they suggest it belonged to an unknown human relative that would have been much taller and larger than any of its contemporaries.

This new finding reveals clues about when modern humanlike hands first began appearing in the fossil record, and suggests that ancient human relatives may have been larger than previously thought, researchers say in a new study.

A key feature that distinguishes humans from all other species alive today is the ability to make and use complex tools. This capability depends not only on the extraordinarily powerful human brain, but also the dexterity of the human hand.

The OH 86 hominin manual proximal phalanx in (from left to right) dorsal, lateral, palmar (distal is top for each) and proximal views. Scale bar, 1 cm. M. Domínguez-Rodrigo

“The hand is one of the most important anatomical features that defines humans,” said study lead author Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, a paleoanthropologist at Complutense University of Madrid. “Our hand evolved to allow us a variety of grips and enough gripping power to allow us the widest range of manipulation observed in any primate. It is this manipulation capability that interacted with our brains to develop our intelligence.”

Past analysis of fossils of hominins — the group of species that consists of humans and their relatives after the split from the chimpanzee lineage — has typically suggested that ancient hominins were adapted for a life spent in the trees. For instance, ancient hominin hands often possessed curved finger bones that were well suited for hanging from branches. Modern humans are the only living higher primates to have straight finger bones.

Scientists have often suggested that modern hands evolved to use stone tools. However, recent hominin fossil discoveries have suggested a more complex story behind the evolution of the modern hand. For instance, the hand bones of some ancient hominin lineages are sometimes more similar to modern hands than those of more recent lineages are.

To learn more about the evolution of the modern hand, scientists analyzed a newly discovered hand bone dated to more than 1.84 million years ago, dug up from Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. Previous excavations at Olduvai helped confirm that Africa was the cradle of humanity.

The new bone was probably part of the little finger of the adult left hand of an unidentified hominin lineage similar to Homo erectus, the first hominin known to regularly keep tools it made. The bone is about 1.4 inches (3.6 centimeters) long — “the same size as the equivalent bone in our hand,” Domínguez-Rodrigo said.

The straightness and other features of this new bone suggest adaptations for life on the ground rather than in the trees. It adds to previous findings suggesting that several key features of modern human body shape emerged very early in hominin evolution. (This unknown hominin was not, however, a modern human.)

Before this oldest known hand-bone fossil was discovered, scientists weren’t certain when hominin hands began looking like modern hands and became specialized for manipulation. “Our discovery fills a gap — we found out that such a modern-looking hand is at least 1.85 million years old,” Domínguez-Rodrigo said.

Advertisements

News Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th April 2015

Aer Lingus talks to conclude within weeks

  • Says Pascal Donohoe

Claims that IAG and Government close to deal on Heathrow guarantees

  

Shares in Aer Lingus rose 5.5% to €2.42 at lunchtime yesterday in Dublin

Discussions about the takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG should be concluded within coming weeks, the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe has indicated.

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the Minister said that the Government’s steering group on the takeover proposal and its advisers had engaged further over recent weeks and that this engagement had been “useful”.

He said talks had focused on matters previously outlined by him and that IAG had provided further details on “issues of concern” to the Government. In earlier statements on the proposed deal, Mr Donohue has highlighted employment prospects, expansion plans and commitments on the Aer Lingus Heathrow slots as being particularly significant.

“ Discussions are progressing and as I have indicated previously I do not want this process to be drawn out unnecessarily and I expect that it can be brought to a conclusion in the coming weeks,” he said on Thursday.

Shares in Aer Lingus surged in trading on Thursday following reports of a rapprochement between IAG and the Government, which controls 25% of the Irish airline. A deal on the Heathrow slots is seen as being most significant in the talks.

IAG is proposing to pay close to €1.4 billion for Aer Lingus. The stock was up almost 4% at €2.38 on Thursday afternoon, having climbed higher earlier in the day.

Youthful Ireland top country in Europe for stats on young people

     

Ireland is the most youthful country in Europe, according to new figures from Eurostat.

We have the largest proportion of children under the age of 15, at 22%.

France is next on almost 19%, followed by the UK.

Ruth Deasy of the EU office in Dublin, says the number of people in Ireland under the age of 30 is exceptional.

“Ireland stands out in this study as the most youthful country in the EU, where four out of 10 Irish people are aged less than 30 and this is really quite exceptional,” said Deasy.

“We also have the largest proportion of under-16s in the EU and by quite a large margin.

“Ireland’s fertility rate is high, it is the highest in the EU but it is still slightly below replacement level,” said Deasy.

12 months extension granted for charities to register with CRA

 

Only 200 of the estimated 4,000-plus charities in Ireland required to register with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) have registered, despite the threat of stiff fines for non-compliance.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald has announced a 12 month extension to the deadline after discussions with the Charities Regulatory Authority.

The one-year extension of the deadline risks undermining confidence in a sector which has been working to regain public trust after the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)  scandal 18 months ago.

In a statement Minister Fitzgerald said only 200 charities had registered when the original deadline expired.

NOT AFFECTED

The Minister said the move does not affect 8,500 other charities which have been automatically registered with the authority by virtue of the charitable tax status granted to them by the Revenue Commissioners before mid-October 2014.

The Authority was established by the Government last October almost a year after a series of financial scandals at the CRC involving a gold-plated pension for its retired Chief Executive, Paul Kiely, top-up payments to some executives and cross-directorships with a related company.

This and subsequent revelations about finances at the Rehab organisation led to a significant decline in public donations to most of the Republic’s charities.

A SCANDAL?

Responding to the Minister’s announcement, the Irish Charities Tax Reform group (ICTR) has expressed concern that the announcement of an extension of the registration deadline for certain charities risks undermining confidence in the sector which has been trying to regain public trust after the CRC scandal of 18 months ago.

During that scandal it was revealed that the board of the long-established disability charity had approved the use of charitable donations to help fund a €740,000 annual pension for its former chief executive, Paul Kiely.

OVER-AMBITIOUS

A spokesperson for the ICTR group told RTÉ News it was “over-ambitious” of the 2009 Charities Act to set a deadline of six months for unregistered to register with the new Charities Regulatory Authority, as the law had not been fully enacted until 16 October last year.

The spokesperson for the 160-strong umbrella group, which represents some of the country’s largest charities, said that a shortage of resources in the newly-established Charities Regulator’s office compounded the problem.

The CRA website apologises to readers that “due to the high volume of queries we receive, it may take us some time to respond to your query”.

STAFFING

The ICTR has said that only four new additional full-time staff equivalents were allocated to the regulator last year.

It conceded that the regulator also inherited a further five full-time staff from the Commission for Charity Regulation and Bequests but said they continued to fulfill their established functions.

The group said a crunch meeting is scheduled soon with the Department of Justice and Equality on a request from the Charities Regulatory Authority for additional staff.

It said the Scottish regulator was given 50 staff a decade ago to service a population similar to the Republic of Ireland’s

The group estimates that the Republic of Ireland’s regulator needs approximately 11 extra staff to boost its complement to about 20.

AWARENESS RAISING

Meanwhile, an organisation representing over 1,000 charities, The Wheel, has called for big awareness raising initiative to ensure unregistered charities understand their obligation to register.

Welcoming Minister Fitzgerald’s 12 month extension of the deadline for unregistered charities to make themselves known to the Charities Regulator, The Wheel Director of Advocacy Ivan Cooper, said many of the mostly smaller organisations concerned seem to be unaware of their obligation.

The Wheel also called on the minister to ensure that the CRA is sufficiently resourced to communicate with, educate and support charitable organisations that have yet to apply to it for registration.

Mr Cooper also called on the Department to ensure that the CRA is given enough resources to support the other 9,000 or so registered charities that are currently completing their entry in the CRA’s Register.

He said it will be working closely with the CRA and other partners in the charity sector to raise awareness of the requirements facing unregistered charities.

Applications for inclusion on the Register of Charities can be made through the CRA’s website at the CRA’s website at www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie

24,000 Irish people could have un-diagnosed diabetes

   

The largest ever study into diabetes risk and cardiovascular risk, conducted by VHI Healthcare, has revealed that 24,000 people in Ireland could have un-diagnosed diabetes.

The research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Almost 30,000 people took part in the study from 2009 to 2013.

Of those, nearly 5,000 people (17%) were found to have abnormal initial fasting blood sugar levels.

Men were up to three times more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.

Research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Those with abnormal blood sugar levels were most likely to be older, men, smokers, with abdominal obesity, higher BMI and higher blood pressure.

Study findings included that the risk of undiagnosed diabetes went up by 89% for every 5kg increase in body mass index.

The author of the report and medical director at VHI Healthcare, Dr Bernadette Carr, said: “The results of our research suggest that the rate of undiagnosed type two diabetes and pre-diabetes is higher in Ireland than in similar European countries such as Britain and Holland.

“THESE RESULTS DEMONSTRATE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR INDIVIDUALS TO UNDERSTAND AND MANAGE THEIR OWN HEALTH RISKS.”

Dr Bernadette Carr, The author of the VHI diabetes report said “By making some very simple lifestyle changes, people can improve their outcomes and, in the case of pre-diabetes, can even delay or prevent progression to diabetes,”

Fitness apps will not improve your health  

And it could be harmful?

 

They are the latest health and fitness ‘revolution’, beloved of the fad dieters and the pilates obsessives and not to mention some of our leading politicians.

But what use, really, are increasingly popular health apps like Fitbit and Jawbone that monitor our activity levels, heart rate and even sleep patterns? None at all, according to one leading GP – and they could even end up doing harm.

Writing in the BMJ, Glasgow GP and health commentator Dr Des Spence warns that the products, which increasingly include wearable devices that link to computers and smartphones, providing 24-hour health monitoring, are “untested and unscientific” and could ignite “extreme anxiety” in a new generation of the “worried well”.

Warning that such apps could soon be “ubiquitous”, Dr Spence said that devices that could offer perpetual health monitoring risked giving rise to ‘over-diagnosis’ of health problems, with people unable to distinguish harmless variation or faulty readings from genuine signs of ill health.

“The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty,” he writes. “Make no mistake: diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people. We must reflect on what we might lose here, rather than what we might gain.”

Thousands of health apps are now available and some are even endorsed by the NHS.

George Osborne raised eyebrows when he was seen wearing one – a Jawbone ‘UP’ wristband – at a committee hearing two years ago. It is unclear whether the device played an important part in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s subsequent weight loss, but he did confirm at the time that former Education Secretary Michael Gove was also using one.

George Osborne sporting the Jawbone wristband
Despite their rising popularity, there is no evidence that smartphone-connected health apps can actually improve health, although two randomised trials of weight loss apps for old-style ‘handheld PC’ devices did show they worked better than paper or web-based fitness programmes.

Not all doctors are convinced health apps are a cause for concern. Also writing in the BMJ, Iltifat Husain, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, USA, said that apps which encouraged more exercise and a better diet could well carry benefits.

He said that while tests of Fitbit and Jawbone devices had not found evidence they could improve health outcomes or exercise compliance, there was also no evidence they could do harm.

“Healthy people may well benefit from using some health apps…but doctors need to be proactive about telling people which metrics matter and which apps they should buy,” he writes.

Daily brisk walking good for prostate cancer survivors

 

Brisk walking a key for prostate cancer survivors.

Brisk walking for about three hours a week is enough to help prostate cancer survivors reduce damaging side effects of their treatment, according to a promising study.

“Non-vigorous walking for three hours per week seems to improve the fatigue, depression and body weight issues that affect many men post-treatment,” said Siobhan Phillips, lead author from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“If you walk even more briskly, for only 90 minutes a week, you could also see similar benefits in these areas,” he added.

Phillips used data from the health professionals follow-up Study. She focused on prostate cancer survivors who were diagnosed with non-advanced disease prior to 2008 and responded to a health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaire.

Common HRQOL symptoms included urinary and bowel problems, sexual function issues, fatigue, depression, increased body weight and erectile dysfunction.

The men reported the average time spent during a week walking to work or for exercise as well as time spent jogging, running, cycling, swimming and playing sports.

They also reported their usual outdoor walking pace as easy, average, brisk or very brisk.

The findings indicate that higher duration of brisk walking were associated with better hormone/vitality functioning (affecting fatigue, depression and body weight).

“Those who are able to walk should be encouraged to start an easy walking routine or engage in other non-vigorous activities soon after a prostate cancer diagnosis,” Phillips noted.

The benefits could help manage symptoms such as fatigue, depression and body weight – and improve overall health.

Walking may also potentially increase survival and impact their quality of life by preventing the onset of those other conditions.

The only surviving male northern white rhino is put under armed guard 24 hours a day

  

Rangers in Kenya risking their lives to keep the above 43-year-old rhino safe.

Sudan is the last hope for this Rhino species now on the verge of being wiped out for ever.

But ivory is now fetching as much as £47,000 per kilo as demand grows

Animal sanctuary Ol Pejeta trying to raise money to help pay for guards

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino – stripped of his horn for his own safety – is now under 24-hour armed guard in a desperate final bid to save the species.

Sudan is guarded day and night by a group of rangers who risk their lives on a daily basis as they try to keep the rhino from poachers lured by the rising price of ivory.

But even without his horn, keepers in the Kenyan reserve of Ol Pojeta in fear for his safety.

Guard: The rangers keep an armed watch around Sudan at all times to deter poachers after his horn

Northern white rhinos at the Ol Pojeta reserve in 2012

The 43-year-old rhino – who could live until his 50s – is the last chance for any future northern white rhino calves.

Sudan was moved, along with two female rhinos, from a zoo in the Czech Republic in December 2009.

The reserve, which specialises in the conservation of rhinos, was chosen because of its successful breeding programme with black rhinos.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 11th February 2015

Syriza member says the rise of Sinn Féin’s ‘is the best help’ for Greek government.

    

Senator David Cullinane says their party wants to lead anti-austerity government in south

The rise of Sinn Féin in opinion polls in Ireland and a similar surge of support for Podemos in Spain is “the best help” that can be given to the newly-elected Syriza government in Greece, a leading member of Syriza said tonight.

Speaking at a Sinn Féin meeting in the House of Commons, Stathis Kouvelakis said: “This shows that the political landscape can change dramatically; that Greece is not an anomaly; that what happened in Greece can happen elsewhere.”

Tens of thousands of Greeks have gathered at rallies throughout the country in support of the “perfectly reasonable” demands made by the Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis at today’s meetings with his EU counterparts in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Waterford-based Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane said that Sinn Féin, unlike some people involved in the anti-austerity movement in Ireland, is preparing to be part of the next government.“We are on an election footing. The very clear message that we are articulating very clearly is that we are prepared for government. We are going to stand the maximum number of candidates that we can possibly stand to take advantage of our increasing popularity.

“We have to be prepared to want to go into government, to lead an anti-austerity government in the south. There are people on the left who won’t be part of that, but we are certainly organising,” he told the meeting.

Criticising Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s refusal to support Greek calls for a debt conference, Mr Cullinane said: “It is crazy that a country which was forced to put into place a banking guarantee that signed us up to billions [in] debt is afraid to agree to a debt conference.

“[Ireland] has not even asked for a debt write-down. If they are not prepared to show solidarity with their own citizens, I don’t see Irish government showing solidarity with the Greeks.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy rejected a call that Sinn Féin should take up its seats in the House of Commons after the May election in a bid to ensure that the Conservatives are denied power.

Mr Murphy said: “We stand on the mandate of not taking our seats.”

Irish banks were concerned about the weakness & poor scrutiny in their sector

Some two and a half years before the collapse

  

Professor John FitzGerald pictured above left who gave evidence before the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry yesterday.

Irish banks were concerned about the poor scrutiny of their own sector a full two and a half years before the collapse, the Banking Inquiry has been told.

AIB got in touch with Prof John FitzGerald who was a research professor at the ESRI in early 2006 because of these concerns, he said.

A senior bank economist phoned him and “my understanding was they felt the stress-testing was not stressful enough – kind of ironic,” he added.

He described how he met with the senior economist and another staff member and he believed their approach was coming from “a more senior level than the economists” and it had “first primed me to be concerned in this area.”

Prof Fitzgerald said he had explained to the bankers that the ESRI had already put together a series of macro-economic scenarios on CD which were publicly available and he referred them to this.

He told Fianna Fail deputy Michael McGrath he was subsequently approached by Ulster Bank and PTSB for a similar assessment.

On foot of these concerned he approached the Central Bank by email in 2007 saying he wanted to talk to them about it but despite emails over several months  “for various reasons” the meeting never happened.

Of the ESRI he added “clearly we had put out our warnings. Nobody in the political system seemed to be interested.

“My impression was that people weren’t interested in taking the punch bowl away.”

“What we do know is that the Regulator and the Central Bank were asleep on the job and did nothing,” he said.

He took responsibility for not examining bank data before the “catastrophic” collapse of the financial sector at the end of 2008.

“It is regrettable” he added. “Not seeing the unsound nature of the banking sector and it was a bad mistake”

“I made a mistake.  I thought that at that stages house prices had turned the corner, they were coming down gradually and I thought the odds were that we would reach a soft landing.  I was completely wrong.”

He felt if the ESRI had properly scrutinised the balance sheets they would have detected a problem.

Referring to the property bubble as  a “tumour which grew and grew and squeezed the rest of the economy” he said the number of houses being built was running ahead of the population and this had led to the bubble.

At the time, however, “the people of Ireland did not want to change. The information was out there. You couldn’t miss what we were saying” but people went ahead and bought houses and the government behaved as if there was no tomorrow.

On the Bank Guarantee while it was not something he had researched “we now know it was the wrong decision”.

He described it as “not the best outcome for Ireland but  something had to be done”.

No-one from the Department of Finance had consulted him personally or the ESRI about the guarantee. Relations with the department were “frosty’ at the time, he added.

Prof FitzGerald’s view of Nama was: “I think it has done a pretty good job.  It looks as if the State, instead of losing money, is going to get it back.  I think it has helped in terms  of the recovery and sorting out the problem.

He also said concerns about Nama had “turned out to be totally wrong”.

The bailout was something “we have got broadly right” in that Ireland, unlike Spain had “under-promised and over-delivered”

He stressed that when it became clear that €64billion was needed by the banks “a bailout became essential”.

Luckily interest rates were so low “the burden of the debt has turned out tho be much lower than anticipated.”

His assessment of the current situation is that “we are in a structured surplus” and “we do not need further cuts”

He was concerned that there was a need to improve the method of assessing fiscal policy to provide better guidance in the future.

Asked by Sen Susan O’Keeffe if he had every considered resigning when the financial crisis hit he responded: “No I felt I had done a reasonable job over the previous 30 years I looked at the fact that nobody else had done a better job.”

IAG’s Willie Walsh to meet Minister Donohoe to discuss Aer Lingus bid

  

Pascal Donohoe says Government will weigh proposed offer on price and international access?

Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of International Consolidated Airlines Group is to discuss his Aer Lingus bid with Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.

International Consolidated Airlines’ Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh will discuss his company’s €1.36 billion bid for Aer Lingus with the Minister for Transport,Paschal Donohoe, on Wednesday.

Mr Walsh will be spending the next two days bidding to convince the Government and Oireachtas members to support IAG’s proposed €2.55 a-share offer for the Irish airline.

The Government holds a 25.1% stake in the business on behalf of the State, while the Dáil has approve any sale of that interest.

Mr Donohoe confirmed earlier that he is meeting Mr Walsh on Wednesday afternoon.

The minister has already said that the Government will not only consider the price on offer, but also the implications of a takeover for the Republic’s access to international markets.

He stressed that the coalition would evaluate IAG’s proposed bid on the basis of those criteria and all the information available to it.

IAG is offering the Government and business groups a legally-binding veto over the sale of the airline’s landing and take-off rights at Heathrow Airport, which are seen as critical to international access.

It is also willing to guarantee that they will be used exclusively to service Irish routes for five years.

13% of Irish internet users have suffered some online fraud

  

Nearly a third of Irish respondents have discovered malicious software on their device

An estimated 40% of Irish internet users have received emails or phone calls trying to get access to their computer or personal details such as banking information, according to a Eurobarometer survey.

More than 1,000 people were interviewed in Ireland for the survey on cyber security.

Nearly a third of Irish respondents said they have discovered malicious software on their device, but just over half of them have installed anti-virus software. This compares with an EU average of 61% who have taken this precaution.

The survey found 13% of Irish Internet users have experienced online fraud where goods purchases were not delivered, counterfeit or not as advertised, a little above the EU average of 12%. Experience of online fraud was highest in Poland (19%) and lowest in Greece (4%).

Some 9 per cent of Irish Internet users say that they have experienced or been a victim of identity theft, above the EU average of 7%. Experience of identity theft was highest in Romania and Hungary (both 11%) and lowest in Bulgaria and the Netherlands (both 3%).

Sixteen per cent of Irish respondents – the third highest in the EU – said they have had experience of their social media or email account being hacked.

While internet access in Ireland has never been higher at 80 per cent, we are still behind Sweden (96%) the Netherlands (95%) and Denmark (94%).

Greece, Portugal and Romania had the lowest rates of internet access in Europe.

The overall EU-wide survey saw more than 27,000 people interviewed on the topic of cyber security, with the majority of respondents concerned their personal information is not being kept secure by public authorities and websites.

A total of 67% said they worried about information not being safely held by public authorities, while 73% said they were concerned over website security.

Approximately two in three Internet users in the EU said they were concerned about experiencing identity theft (68%) and about discovering malicious software on their device (66%).

More than half are concerned about being the victim of bank card or online banking fraud (63%); having their social media or email account hacked (60%); scam emails or phone calls (57%) or online fraud (56%).

EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said cybercrime undermines consumer confidence in the use of Internet, hampering both our digital economy and our online lives.

“Our priority is to create a safer Internet for all users by preventing and combating cybercrime in all its forms, to enable users to reap the full benefits of the digital internal market and to exercise their fundamental rights online,” he added.

The figures come as EU officials call on internet telecommunication companies to share encryption keys with EU authorities as part of a wider crackdown on terrorism.

A new procedure in stroke treatment is a ‘major breakthrough’

   

A new stroke treatment has been shown to be so effective that Canadian researchers say they believe it will be used as part of standard stroke care.

The results of a new study, led by scientists at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute and published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found a clot-retrieval procedure, called endovascular treatment, significantly decreased the incidence of disability or death among those who experienced acute ischemic stroke.

The treatment, which involves removing blood clots in the brain with a retrievable stent, also nearly doubled the percentage of patients who experienced positive outcomes from 30% to 55%.

“That’s a massive jump with people going home, people going back to work, people being independent, people not having to live in nursing homes,” says the study’s co-principal investigator Dr. Mayank Goyal, a professor of radiology and clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. “It’s a major, major breakthrough in the disease.”

Dr. Rick Swartz, a study collaborator, medical director of the stroke program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an acting spokesman for The Heart and Stroke Foundation, says he thinks “Canada will be one of the first countries in the world to incorporate this treatment into our best practice guidelines.”

Best practices for stroke care are developed by stroke experts across the country with funding from the foundation, which was one of the sponsors of the study.

The Canadian sites involved in the study, which already have the equipment and expertise, can begin using the procedure immediately, Dr. Goyal says.

In severe cases of ischemic stroke, blood clots block larger arteries at the base of the brain. Until now, the standard treatment has been to give patients a clot buster drug, known as tPA or tissue plasminogen activator, which dissolves clots and restores blood flow. For larger clots, this can be time-consuming – and in stroke care, “time is brain.” For every minute the brain is starved of fresh oxygenated blood, it’s believed about two million neurons die.

Though endovascular treatments have been evolving for two decades, the latest generation of stent retrievers are game-changers. Medical teams involved in the study – conducted at 11 sites across Canada and another 11 around the world, including the United States, Britain, Ireland and South Korea – were able to identify the blood clots and their location in the brain using advanced imaging, and then quickly extract them using stent retrievers, in some cases, within minutes.

The Canadian study, which involved 316 patients, is the first to show a decline in patient mortality: to one in 10 patients, compared with two in 10 patients when current standard treatment was used alone.

Because the results demonstrated an “overwhelming effect” during an interim analysis, the study was stopped early, Dr. Goyal says.

It closely follows a previous study showing beneficial patient outcomes from endovascular treatment, conducted in the Netherlands and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine in December, and a separate study published Wednesday by Australian researchers that also demonstrated positive results.

Performed under X-ray guidance using injectable dyes, the procedure involves inserting a thin tube into the artery in the groin area, then threading a thinner tube, about two to three millimetres in diameter, into the neck. From there, an even thinner tube, about one millimetre in diameter, is guided into the brain to the site of the clot. A retrievable stent, which looks like a tiny mesh coil attached to the tip of a wire, is then routed through the tube and captures the blood clot, collapsing as it is pulled back out.

Dr. Goyal credits the success of the treatment, in part, to the speed at which participating medical teams were able to identify patients for whom endovascular treatment was appropriate and then carry out the procedure. The goal for getting from “picture to puncture” – imaging the brain, moving the patient and inserting the tube – was a median time of 60 minutes or less.

Not everyone who experiences ischemic stroke will fit the criteria for endovascular treatment, however. The treatment is for those who experience a moderate to severe stroke, whose symptoms are recent, and whose brain images show a large clot in an artery. The imaging must also show that some blood is able to detour around the blockage, buying doctors enough time for them to carry out the procedure.

Endovascular treatment does have some risks, including a very low risk of infection and bruising, as well as the risk of scraping or pushing the blood clot along the blood vessels, Dr. Swartz says. But, he says, “we know that people who get the procedure are doing much, much better than the people who don’t. So even with those risks, the outcomes are better.”

Did giant reservoirs of CO2 locked in the oceans end the last ice age?

    

Scientists have discovered that oceans spewing carbon dioxide played a big part in warming up our planet tens of thousands of years ago.

Arrogant species that we are, humans tend to think global warming is a very man-made problem. But the natural world is equally capable of spewing huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere all by itself, as new research into the end of the last ice age recently revealed.

How was the CO2 released?

It issued forth from the briny deeps… specifically the briny deeps of the Southern Ocean.

The study shows how a vast isolated reservoir of carbon stored deep in the cold waters off the Antarctic managed to re-connect with the atmosphere.

The sudden change in CO2 levels in the atmosphere stoked an increase in global temperatures, marking the end of the last ice age.

How important is this discovery?

Scientists say this gives an important insight into how the oceans affect the carbon cycle. Joint lead author Miguel Martínez-Botí, from the University of Southampton, said: “The magnitude and rapidity of the swings in atmospheric CO2 across the ice age cycles suggests that changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations.”

As humanity tries to get its head around climate change, this kind of knowledge could prove essential. It is estimated that the oceans have soaked up around 30% of the CO2 that our cars, planes and factories have been spewing out over the last 100 years.

How does this carbon-ocean relationship work then?

CO2 levels in the atmosphere fluctuate from about 185 parts-per-million (ppm) during ice ages, to around 280 ppm during warmer “interglacial” periods like today.

The oceans currently contain approximately 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere, but that carbon can exchange rapidly (at least from a geological perspective) between the oceans and the atmosphere.

During ice ages the interaction between the deep-sea and the atmosphere is reduced, locking carbon into vast reservoirs in the abyss. The opposite happens during interglacial periods.

How do scientists work out the carbon levels in oceans tens of thousands of years ago?

The answer lies in the shells of tiny marine creatures that lived near the ocean’s surface at the time.

The international team (which included academics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Australian National University) studied the composition of the calcium carbonate shells of ancient marine organisms that lived thousands of years ago. These revealed the ocean’s carbon content.

Joint lead author Gianluca Marino, from the Australian National University, said: “We found that very high concentrations of dissolved CO2 in surface waters of the Southern Atlantic Ocean and the eastern equatorial Pacific coincided with the rises in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the last ice age, suggesting that these regions acted as sources of CO2 to the atmosphere.”

Does more research need to be done?

Of course! The more research the merrier – especially since this is just one part of the bigger picture that marked the end of the ice age.

Co-author Gavin Foster, also from the University of Southampton, said: ”While our results support a primary role for the Southern Ocean processes in these natural cycles, we don’t yet know the full story and other processes operating in other parts of the ocean, such as the North Pacific, may have an additional role to play.”