Tag Archives: Increase

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears

British leader is visiting Dublin as concerns increase over UK’s plan for leaving the EU

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British prime minister Theresa May plans to meet Enda Kenny in Dublin on today Monday.

British prime minister Theresa May meets the Taoiseach in Dublin on Monday amid growing concern in Government about the impact of a hard Brexit on the Border and on trade between Ireland and Britain.

The meeting comes two weeks after Ms May said Britain would leave the single market and key parts of the customs union when it withdraws from the EU.

Ms May has identified maintaining the Common Travel Area as a key objective in Brexit negotiations and the Government is confident that there is broad support in other EU member states for that position.

The prime minister’s decision to leave the customs union’s common commercial policy and common external tariff, however, has made some form of customs control along the Border difficult to avoid.

The EU is responsible for agreeing trade policy on behalf of all its member states and there is little enthusiasm in Brussels for a special trade arrangement between Britain and Ireland.


The focus for British and Irish negotiators is likely to be on ensuring that any customs controls on the Border will be as “frictionless” and unobtrusive as possible.

Last night, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the prime minister was aware of the concerns the Government had about the impact of Brexit on the island.

He said Ms May’s visit afforded an opportunity to hear her priorities and to discuss her response to the difficulties Ireland faced.

“Our priorities are well known to the British prime minister and I believe it’s important that [today] we hear her view on what again is a great challenge to the island of Ireland with particular reference to our economy, our trade with the United Kingdom and of course the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process and the need to ensure, in the context of the forthcoming negotiations that the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is fully adhered to,” Mr Flanagan said.

Before travelling to Dublin, Ms May will host a meeting in Cardiff of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) which co-ordinates the relationships between Downing Street and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

No veto

Britain’s supreme court ruled last week that the devolved administrations have no veto over the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts formal Brexit negotiations.

Ahead of the meeting in Cardiff, however, the prime minister said she remained committed to listening to the views of legislators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from the necessary conversations and I hope we will have further constructive discussions today,” she said.

“The United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, and the UK government has a responsibility to deliver on that mandate and secure the right deal for the whole of the UK.

“We all have a part to play in providing certainty and leadership so that together we can make a success of the opportunities ahead.”

Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016

A total of 5,626 residential units registered in year, says Construction Industry Federation

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The majority of housing units registered last year were in Dublin.

House building activity increased by more than 30 per cent in 2016, according to the latest figures from the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

A total of 5,626 residential units were registered to start construction in 2016, a 31 per cent increase on 2015.

The majority of housing units registered last year, or some 3,223 homes, were in Dublin, but house building activity is also strengthening elsewhere in Ireland, the federation said.

“All measures of house building activity and housing output show a strengthening trend as we begin 2017,” said CIF director general Tom Parlon.

“However, the planning environment and access to development finance will continue to be critical factors for all involved in the house building sector.”

Housing supply will remain “a key issue confronting industry and Government” throughout 2017, he said.

“Measures must be taken to provide finance to regional housebuilders in tandem with the recent measures taken at national level such as the local infrastructure fund and the help-to-buy initiative,” Mr Parlon added.

An increase

According to the CIF House Building Activity Report, a total of 11,320 residential units were commenced in the 11-month period January to November 2016.

This figure represents an increase of 46.5 per cent, or 3,593 units, on the total number of units commenced during the first 11 months of 2015.

Individual or one-off housing accounted for 36 per cent of total commencements.

Urban centres such as Cork and greater Dublin continue to experience the most concentrated levels of new housing supply with 1,419 and 6,209 new units commenced respectively last year.

A total of 13,376 residential units were completed in the 11-month period January to November 2016, which represents an 18.2 per cent increase in activity on the same period in 2015. The average monthly completion figure currently stands at 1,216 units.

In its last House Building Activity Report, the CIF estimated that circa 14,000 residential units would be completed by the end of 2016. But it said activity had increased near the tail end of the year and that the final figure would be closer to 14,500.

€500,000 to be invested in boosting tourism at Ireland’s national parks

The funding will focus on the five national parks and five nature reserves along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as Wicklow National Park.

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Failte IRELAND is set to invest some €500,000 in boosting tourism to Ireland’s national parks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today announced Fáilte Ireland’s new strategic partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS), which aims to increase tourism in the rural areas where the parks are located.

This initial funding will focus on tTourism Irl.,he five national parks and five nature reserves along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as Wicklow National Park.

Announcing the initiative in Ballycroy National Park, Co Mayo, Kenny said the money “will undoubtedly allow for the design of excellent tourism projects building on the strengths of each location, as well as further promoting our national parks and nature reserves for visitors and tourists”.

Michael Ring, Minister for State for Regional Economic Development, added: “While the last few years have been difficult in relation to exchequer funding, I am delighted that we are now in a position to invest further in our natural heritage”.

A bumper year in 2016.

Speaking about the project, Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Strategic Development Orla Carroll said: “We know from our own research that more and more visitors want to experience the Irish landscape up-close and personal.

Our national parks can do just that – by unlocking this potential we can give our visitors a real opportunity to get back to nature and get in touch with Ireland.

2016 was a record-breaking year for Irish tourism, with nine million visits taking place in the first 11 months. There were 8,919,700 million visits to Ireland up to the end of November, an 11% increase compared to the same period in 2015.

Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list

Opposition TDs criticise Coveney’s decision not to include Waterford and Limerick in list

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Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he was delivering on the commitment he gave when he published the Government’s rental strategy in December.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has confirmed rent caps are to be extended to Galway city and 23 towns.

They were declared “rent pressure zones” after the Government reached agreement with Fianna Fáil. Galway city, nine towns in Meath, seven in Kildare, three in Wicklow and four in Cork will have rent increases restricted to 4 per cent per annum for the next three years.

Mr Coveney said he was delivering on the commitment he gave when he published the Government’s rental strategy in December, naming Dublin and Cork as rent-pressure zones.

Opposition TDs have criticised the decision not to add Waterford and Limerick to the list.

A push for more towns?

Fianna Fáil spokesman on housing Barry Cowen said the party would continue to push for more towns to be included. He said they had sought the inclusion of 40 towns.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan said tenants in Waterford and Limerick would suffer as a result of the decision. “This is disastrous for tenants who are already struggling to pay and now face rises they can’t afford. Linking rent increases to the consumer price index as the Labour Party has proposed would have been a much fairer way to go.

“The people of Limerick, Waterford and other parts of the country are now left with no protection from steep hikes, which is a direct result of this legislation.”

Rent pressure zones

Mr Coveney said in drawing up the list of rent pressure zones, he was guided solely by information given by the Residential Tenancies Board.

“In rough speak there needs to be a sustained level of unsustainable rental increases for four of the last six months. There needs to have been at least seven per cent annual rental inflation in rental markets.

“Secondly, it needs to be a high rent in that area, it needs to be above the national average.

“I want to reassure people. This isn’t politicians making designations to be popular or to try and bring home good news to their areas.”

Towns to have rent caps:

Naas, Sallins , Celbridge, Leixlip, Rathangan, Kildare, Newbridge, Slane, Julianstown, Duleek, Laytown, Bettystown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin, Ratoath, Bray, Enniskerry, Wicklow, Douglas, Ballincollig, Carrigaline and Passage West

How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick

The cruel comments and mocking behavior can take a real physical toll, researchers say.

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The now President Trump is not without blame?

It’s a sad but true fact: Fat shaming is everywhere. Now, there’s evidence it can do more than damage self-confidence—it may also have serious health consequences. A new study found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies are at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who maintain a more positive body image.

The research, published in the journal Obesity, showed that higher levels of “weight-bias internalization”—the term for what happens when people are aware of negative stereotypes about obesity and apply those stereotypes to themselves—were associated with more cases of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health issues that raise the risk for heart disease and diabetes. This was true above and beyond the effects of body mass index (BMI), indicating that internalization isn’t just a result of weight or other issues, but a risk factor on its own.

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight,” says lead author Rebecca Pearl, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.”

The new study supports the idea that when people feel bad about themselves, it can affect their physical health as well as their mental health, Pearl says.

To study this effect, Pearl and her colleagues at Penn’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders focused on 159 obese women who were enrolled in a clinical trial to test the effects of weight-loss medication. (The study was funded by the drug’s parent company, Eisai Pharmaceutical Co.)

To determine their level of weight-bias internalization, the women indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, “I hate myself for being overweight.” The statements touched on stereotypes about overweight people being lazy, unattractive, or incompetent.

The women were also examined to determine whether they had metabolic syndrome, which includes risk factors like high triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

After the researchers adjusted for age, gender, race, and BMI, they found that women who scored in the top half for weight-bias internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome that those in the bottom half. They were also six times more likely to have high triglycerides, one aspect of high cholesterol.

The findings were also adjusted for depression, which is also associated with poor self-esteem and negative body image.

Most of the women in the study were African American. That’s important, says Pearl, because most weight-bias research to-date has included mostly white women. Internalization scores do tend to be lower for black women, Pearl says, “but that doesn’t mean it’s doesn’t affect some African Americans just as it affects white people or Hispanic people.”

The study was not able to show a cause-and-effect relationship, and Pearl says it’s also possible that people with more health problems feel worse about themselves as a result. But previous research helps support the researchers’ theory that bias can have a direct impact on health.

It’s been shown, for example, that fat-shaming experiences can lead to increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who feel bad about their bodies are also less likely to exercise, Pearl adds, and can have a harder time eating healthy.

It isn’t clear why some women internalize weight bias and others don’t, Pearl says—whether they’re in a supportive environment and exposed less to fat shaming, or are simply less vulnerable to its effects. But for many women, she says, these messages are hard to avoid.

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings,” she says.

It’s important for loved ones, and the general public, to be sensitive to this issue, Pearl says. “Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.”

As for women and men who are struggling with their own body image, Pearl recommends taking a good look at the stereotypes they’ve internalized—and then challenging them.

“A patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her”

“as just a psychiatric case”

Our health service must place a greater priority on the physical healthcare needs of people with mental illness, writes Dr Stephen McWilliams.

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Image result for Dr Stephen McWilliams  By Dr Stephen McWilliams

Some patient’s claim that, by virtue of their existing mental illness, they must work twice as hard to have their physical illnesses taken seriously by the health service.

In the waiting rooms of general hospitals, accident and emergency departments and outpatient clinics, they overhear themselves talked about primarily with reference to their anxiety, depression or psychosis, even when their reason for attending is purely physical.

One such patient told me she overheard a member of staff referring to her as “just a psychiatric case”. Another recalled being informed by a general nurse (in a private medical hospital), “we don’t do mental health here.” Such examples are not unusual.

These attitudes, where they exist, come at a cost

Psychiatric patients often feel marginalised in general medical settings. They receive less effective and often delayed care for their physical illnesses because such symptoms are frequently eclipsed by their psychiatric diagnosis.

My patients are not alone in experiencing this. The phenomenon – termed “diagnostic overshadowing” – has been highlighted as a real problem in the healthcare of individuals with psychiatric illness.

Diagnostic overshadowing is a major theme in a recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London entitled: “Whole person care: from rhetoric to reality – Achieving parity between mental and physical health.” In Ireland, the drive to reduce costs has seen funding for the treatment of psychiatric illness gradually shrink in comparison to that for physical illness.

This is despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimation that 350 million people worldwide have depression, making it the world’s leading cause of disability. Mental illness and physical illness are a long way from gaining parity of esteem. They simply are not seen as equally important. It is little wonder people with mental illness sometimes feel disenfranchised.

Separation of mental illness and physical illness is largely artificial

They often occur in the same people. A recent report by the UK think-tank QualityWatch examined 100 million hospital episodes annually over five years. They found that almost half of people with mental ill health have a concurrent physical condition. They are four times more likely to die of respiratory (lung) disease and 2.5 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

QualityWatch also reported that people with serious mental illness die 10 to 17 years younger, which echoes a WHO assertion that individuals with schizophrenia die 10 to 25 years younger.

Suicide accounts for some of this, but physical illness is the main reason. For example, people with schizophrenia are six times more likely to smoke heavily, while approximately half are significantly overweight. Up to 15% have diabetes and 58% have elevated blood pressure.

Meeting medical needs

As a general rule, meeting the medical needs of any patient will reduce the amount of emergency care they need relative to planned care. People with mental illness have 10% fewer planned medical admissions than the general population, according to QualityWatch.

Instead they have three times more A&E attendances and almost five times more emergency admissions. Less than one in five of these emergency admissions among psychiatric patients are to address their mental health needs; most are for the potentially-preventable complications of common illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, epilepsy and various infections.

Individuals with underlying mental illness are more likely to be admitted overnight and they generally remain longer in hospital.

Deaths that could be avoided

It is little wonder that the UK National Health Service has estimated that some 40,000 deaths might be avoided each year if individuals with serious mental illness were afforded the same amount of physical healthcare as the general population. The equivalent number of deaths annually based on Ireland’s population would be almost 3,000.

In the words of the WHO, the reduced life expectancy of individuals with serious mental illness is due to “a society socially and functionally biased towards the population living with severe mental disorder.”

They die earlier not because of their psychiatric illness per se, but “because of the discrimination and lack of access to good health services.” The WHO further asserts that stigma is the biggest barrier preventing people with severe mental illness from receiving effective care.

People with mental illness already get a raw deal

It behoves our health service (our Government and, indeed, society) to place a greater priority than it currently does on the physical healthcare needs of people with mental illness.

Mysterious UFO-shaped cloud appears above mountains in Sweden which baffles skiers

The mysterious cloud was spotted above the mountains in ski resorts in Sweden

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A mysterious UFO-shaped cloud appeared above mountains and baffled skiers who were stunned after seeing it in the sky.

The bizarre sight could be seen over the Duved ski resort in Sweden earlier this week and many stopped on the mountain to take photographs.

Nature photographer Sara Björkebaum spotted the cloud and uploaded a picture of it to her Instagram page, ‘bbaumish’.

Björkebaum, from Sweden, wrote, “Weird weather, cool clouds. I think I may jump on that spaceship.”

Experts have said that it was a “lenticular cloud”, which typically form over mountain peaks.

They usually appear when the air rises near the mountains, and as it cools, it creates a cloud.

An unidentified flying object, or UFO, in its most general definition, is any apparent anomaly in the sky that is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. Culturally, UFOs are associated with claims of visitation by extraterrestrial life or government-related conspiracy theories, and have become popular subjects in fiction. UFOs are often identified after their sighting. Sometimes, however, UFOs cannot be identified because of the low quality of evidence related to their sightings.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 3rd January 2017

Employment in IDA Irish backed firms reaches a record high

Almost 200,000 employed in multinationals but IDA warns of political uncertainty

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Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor: “That companies have continued to invest in Ireland is testament to the quality of the offering we have here,” he said.

IDA Ireland says the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ireland will remain strong in coming months after a record 2016, although the State enterprise agency warned against “complacency” over cost-competitiveness and potential threats in the global economy.

Employment in foreign multinationals backed by IDA reached a record high of almost 200,000 in 2016, with 244 investments during the year. This is up from a previous high of 213 in 2016.

At the publication of its annual statement on Tuesday, IDA said the number of investments from companies new to the Irish market went to 99 from 94 in 2016, with 11,842 additional jobs (net) created. Job losses were at their lowest level in 19 years.

In 2016, more than half (52%) of all jobs created by IDA clients were based outside Dublin. The mid-west experienced the fastest growth rate, of 10%, with some 1,500 jobs created during the year. The midlands fared the worst, with just 58 jobs created during the year.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, said he expected some US companies to delay investment announcements until details emerged of US president-elect Donald Trump’s trade policies.

He also said some London-based banks were close to choosing alternative locations, as Dublin fights to pick up business amid post-Brexit vote uncertainty.


Mr Shanahan said: “That companies have continued to invest in Ireland is testament to the quality of the offering we have here. That being said – we absolutely cannot be complacent about this success. We have to keep an eye on our competitiveness including costs.

“The contribution of the FDI sector has always been important to Ireland, but the 2016 results show that the contribution has never been greater. It is particularly welcome to see such a broad-based performance and all regions growing. International services, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and financial services all showed significant employment increases in 2016.”

On Brexit, the IDA said the UK’s planned departure from the European Union has led to “a significant volume of specific queries” to IDA offices from across the world, with Ireland among a small number of locations in Europe being considered. However the IDA also noted that Brexit brings with it some “adverse impacts”.


“FDI companies that depend heavily on the UK market have already been impacted by exchange rates and they may also need to consider their future access to the UK market in a post-Brexit environment.”

Looking ahead, Mr Shanahan said that “ongoing global political and economic uncertainty will continue to affect investor confidence in 2017”, while competition from other jurisdictions for FDI has “never been as strong”.

However, the outlook is still “promising”. “While there is significant uncertainty, the jobs pipeline for the first quarter of 2017 looks promising. In 2016, job losses within IDA client companies were at their lowest level since 1997. Given market turmoil, Brexit impacts and cost-competitiveness pressure, IDA does not expect this trend to continue,” Mr Shanahan said.

Irish property prices to rise by at least 8% this year 2017

Help-to-buy scheme will add ‘fuel to the fire’ and drive price rises, myhome.ie reports

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Irish property prices are set to rise by at least 8% in 2017, with double-digit growth a ‘distinct possibility’.

Property prices are set to rise by at least 8% in 2017, with double-digit growth a “distinct possibility”, as today’s launch of the new help-to-buy scheme, plus looser mortgage lending rules and constrained supply drive price growth across the country.

The prediction comes in a report from myhome.ie, the property website, and Davy, the stockbroking firm, which says the help-to-buy scheme will add “fuel to the fire” in driving price growth.

The scheme, which opens for applications today (January 3rd), will give first-time buyers of new homes 5 per cent back on the cost of their property.

According to the Central Statistics Office, property prices rose by 7.1% in the year to October, while full-year calculations from estate agent Sherry FitzGerald, also published today, estimate that prices rose by 5.2% for 2016 as a whole, a moderate increase on the 4% recorded in 2015.

Prices in Dublin increased by 3.7% in 2016, compared to 1.4% in 2015, according to Sherry FitzGerald with growth of 7.4%, 10.1% and 6.9% respectively in Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Despite recent price growth, however, average values are still about 40% off peak 2006 levels.

Big fall in supply?

Predictions of an acceleration in house-price growth next year comes as the number of properties for sale across the country has fallen to a 10-year low.

New figures from Daft.ie, also published today, show just 21,700 properties for sale nationwide on the property portal in December 2016, the lowest since January 2007.

Myhome.ie reports a similar picture, with just 20,875 properties listed for sale on the site, down 7.7% from last year.

This suggests that just 1% of the Irish housing stock is currently listed for sale – a normally functioning market would typically boast turnover levels of 4%.

“The lack of liquidity is particularly acute in Dublin where there are just 3,619 properties listed for sale.

“This is down 20% on last year and means just 0.7% of Dublin’s housing stock of 535,000 properties is currently listed for sale,” says Angela Keegan, managing director of myhome.ie.

Trinity College Dublin economist and author of the Daft.ie report Ronan Lyons warns that demographic trends, housing obsolescence and migration means that close to 50,000 new properties are needed each year but just about 14,000 were built in 2016.

“Without this kind of supply, we will all have to spend more and more of our income just to have a home,” he warns.

With fewer homes for sale, transaction levels are also slumping. While the full figures for Q4 are not yet available from the property register, early returns suggest a sharp fall in transactions in the final quarter of 2016, with sales down by 12% on the year, according to Daft.ie.

But the decline may also be due to the imminent arrival of the new help-to-buy scheme, as prospective purchasers postponed their decisions.

Asking prices rise.

The latest survey from Daft.ie for the fourth quarter of 2016 shows that asking prices across the country rose by 8% in the year, with prices continuing to rise at a faster rate outside the capital.

Asking prices in Dublin were 5% higher than in 2015, but in Cork, Galway and Kilkenny, inflation exceeded 10%, although the rate of growth has fallen since 2014.

The figures mean that the average national asking price has risen 34.3% or just over € 56,000 – since the property market reached its nadir in the third quarter of 2013.

In Dublin, however, the bottom was reached in the second quarter of 2012 and prices have risen by an average of 46.2% or €101,850 since that time.

In Limerick, prices have risen by 39% in the city (and by 19% in the county) since its low in 2014.

According to myhome.ie, while asking prices on new instructions fell by more than 2% in the fourth quarter, bringing the mix adjusted asking price for new sales nationally to €227,000 – prices on their site are still up 5.5% year on year.

In Dublin, the average asking prices for a newly listed property remained unchanged at €328,000, but this is still up 4.9% year on year, according to myhome.ie.

Flu, respiratory illness, and the winter vomiting bug on the rise in Ireland

Ireland is under the weather at the moment

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HSE Hospitals across IRELAND have reported a significant increase in the number of cases of winter-related illnesses, including influenza, respiratory illness and the winter vomiting bug.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which monitors the spread of infectious diseases, says that there has been a tripling in the numbers of people with norovirus (winter vomiting bug) over the past five weeks.

The HSPC also warned that this escalation is expected to continue until at least the end of February.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has described the outbreak of the infections as “a very challenging period of time” for Ireland’s health service.

The HSE has asked people with symptoms of the winter vomiting bug not to visit or attend hospitals or GP surgeries.

“This bug, while often unpleasant, rarely causes serious problems for otherwise healthy children and adults,” the HSE said in a statement.

It can, however, “be a serious problem in hospitals and residential facilities where it can lead to ward closures, postponed operations, and worryingly, can result in very serious illness for patients in hospital who are already weakened by other medical conditions.”

The comments were echoed by Minister Harris, who warned against spreading the flu:

We all as citizens have a role to play in terms of doing everything we possibly can to minimise the spread of what is a very significant outbreak of flu.

The HSE confirmed that there have been 21 outbreaks of flu and respiratory infections in healthcare settings such as hospitals, residential centres and nursing homes so far, this season, and a significant increase in people aged 75 and older seeking treatment.

All hospitals around the country have put in place contingency measures to manage the increased number of patients coming to Emergency Departments, with the HSE saying that the spike in demand is expected to continue over the coming weeks.

The HSE has urged at-risk people to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible.

“The winter tends to be a difficult period for the health service, and that is why we have put significant resources [into dealing with it] but the particular challenges we’re experiencing now are not just the challenges of a normal winter,”Minister Harris said at a press conference this afternoon.

The minister said that there has been almost a 20% increase in the number of people over the age of 75 attending Emergency Departments over this Christmas period compared to last year.

The HSPC said the increase in the winter vomiting bug has been due to new strains of the infection being reported in Ireland, which the population is not immune to.

The HSE’s ‘Winter Initiative’ has seen at least €15 million spent in recent months to deal with the increased demand for the health service, particularly in ensuring that people are discharged from beds once they have recovered from their illness.

Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans & it’s official

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Dr. J. Calvin Coffey above right pic, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick in Ireland, has concluded that the mesentery, which is a membrane found in the gut, is in its own an organ.

A mighty membrane that twists and turns through the gut is starting the new year with a new classification: the structure, called the mesentery, has been upgraded to an organ.

Scientists have known about the structure, which connects a person’s small and large intestines to the abdominal wall and anchors them in place, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, until now, it was thought of as a number of distinct membranes by most scientists. Interestingly, in one of its earliest descriptions, none other than Leonardo da Vinci identified the membranes as a single structure, according to a recent review.

In the review, lead author Dr. Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School in Ireland, and colleagues looked at past studies and literature on the mesentery. Coffey noted that throughout the 20th century, anatomy books have described the mesentery as a series of fragmented membranes; in other words, different mesenteries were associated with different parts of the intestines. [6 Strange Things the Government Knows About Your Body]

More recent studies looking at the mesentery in patients undergoing colorectal surgery and in cadavers led Coffey’s team to conclude that the membrane is its own, continuous organ, according to the review, which was published in November in the journal The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

What’s in a name?

The reclassification of the mesentery as an organ “is relevant universally as it affects all of us,” Coffey said in a statement.

By recognizing the anatomy and the structure of the mesentery, scientists can now focus on learning more about how the organ functions, Coffey said. In addition, they can also learn about diseases associated with the mesentery, he added.

“If you understand the function, you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease,” Coffey said.

The continuous nature of the mesentery, for example, may serve as a means for disease to spread from one part of the abdomen to another, according to the review.

In addition to studying disease, researchers may also look to the mesentery for new approaches to surgery, the authors said in the review.

More questions need answers

The authors noted in the review that many anatomical and other features of the mesentery still need to be described.

For instance, what body system should the mesentery be classified in? “Whether the mesentery should be viewed as part of the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular or immunological systems is so far unclear, as it has important roles in all of them,” the authors wrote.

While many organs have distinct functions in the body, the mesentery’s distinct function is still unknown, according to the review.

Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here’s why

Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why

The second rock from the sun has been even brighter than normal and it’s not too late to catch a glimpse.

Those with their eyes on the skies have been noticing that Venus, the second rock from the sun, has been even more stunning than normal recently.

Venus is always one of the brightest lights in our night skies but in recent days it has been especially luminous.

All over the country, people have been posting pictures on social media of Venus below the crescent moon. Particularly sharp-eyed observers could also see a ruddy red Mars close to the moon.

We answer some questions that people have been asking.

Have I missed it?

Not necessarily. Like yesterday, Venus will remain very bright tonight but unfortunately it could be obscured by cloud cover.

If there is a break in the cloud, the best time to see it will be in the hours just after sunset as Venus sets about four hours after the Sun this month.

Early January 2017 is a great time to see Venus. According to the Beckstrom Observatory, it will reach its peak height above the horizon this month.

It will also see the distance between Venus and Mars get smaller as Venus gets higher each night.

Why is Venus so bright?

Venus is the brightest of all the planets visible in the skies above Earth due to a highly reflective acidic atmosphere.

Over the last billion years Venus’ atmosphere has become incredibly thick. Scientists believe that this is because of a runaway greenhouse effect.

And with the atmosphere being so dense, it reflects 70 per cent of the sunlight that reaches it.

In comparison, the moon only reflects 10 per cent of the light that hits it. However, due to its close proximity to earth, the moon appears brighter than Venus to us.

Can I see Mars?

Yes! Mars was bright red in the sky in May and June last year but is no longer as bright. However, you can still see it with the naked eye, with it appearing a ruddy red colour.

As the Red Planet is not as bright as Venus you need to wait until total nightfall to see it. Bear in mind it won’t be visible immediately after sunset.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Wednesday 14th December 2016

It was obvious that Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue

Tensions with Fianna Fáil tackled as Minister for Housing attempts to call their bluff

Image result for Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue   Image result for Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue  Image result for Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has published his strategy for the private rental sector but the proposals could already be in jeopardy as party sources in Fianna Fáil have indicated that they will not support the strategy.

It was a fight that was coming, but it brought a cargo of subplots and consequence upon its arrival.

For weeks, if not months, resentment has been building in Fine Gael because of the belief of many in the party that Fianna Fáil has had it too good.

Thanks to the confidence and supply deal, Fianna Fáil has been able to dictate the shape of government policy while acting as a curious and at times appalled bystander.

Many in Fine Gael felt it was time Micheál Martin and his spokespeople were reminded who actually is in government, having cowered for so long. They were spoiling for the fight.

“We need to show some balls,” said one female member of the Cabinet at lunchtime in Leinster House yesterday.

When Simon Coveney outlined his plan for maximum annual rent increases of 4 per cent, to apply immediately for a three-year period in Dublin and Cork city and possibly be extended to other pressure points nationally, Fianna Fáil raised objections within hours.

Where the Minister for Housing wanted a maximum 4% annual increase, Fianna Fáil favoured 2%.

A further rollout of coverage?

Fianna Fáil also wanted the initial rollout of the rent caps to be extended beyond Dublin and Cork, and to take in Galway, Limerick, Waterford and commuter areas around the capital.

It seemed that the usual give and take between the minority Government and Martin’s party would apply. One wants 4 per cent, one wants 2 per cent: split the difference and move on.

Yet the Government had a different idea. The great irony was the person who put it up to Fianna Fáil was not the aspirant Fine Gael leader many expected to be at the centre of major disputes between the two parties.

Leo Varadkar is known to have little love for the current governmental arrangement and some in Fianna Fáil suspected it would be the Dublin West TD who would cause them most grief.

They had not anticipated that Simon Coveney would be the one to play hardball. Fianna Fáil TDs around Leinster House looked rattled for the first time in months.

So many issues were at play: the rental strategy itself and its core proposals, the dynamic in the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael relationship and Coveney’s leadership prospects, and his standing in the parliamentary party.

A leadership challenge?

He is considered to be behind Varadkar among TDs, but should Coveney stand up to Fianna Fáil and win, his leadership chances will surely be enhanced.

He has staked his ambitions on tackling big issues like housing and water and the rental plan is a huge element of what he hopes will be his calling card as a serious contender.

The Cork South Central TD has expended a huge amount of political capital on rent predictability, overcoming the concerns of the most significant players around the Cabinet table: Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan, Paschal Donohoe and Varadkar himself.

As he prepared to attempt to face down Fianna Fáil, the only question yesterday was whether Coveney had the backing of the Taoiseach.

Kenny gave his clear answer at the outset of the weekly meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, amplifying Coveney’s tactic by telling TDs and Senators in his leader’s statement that the Government would withdraw the strategy unless Fianna Fáil backed it.

Fine Gael had called the bluff of Martin and Barry Cowen, his housing spokesman, gambling that Fianna Fáil would be blamed if private rental tenants suffered. Even if that gamble fails, Coveney has still won in one crucial way: he has given his TDs the fight with Fianna Fáil they were pining for.

Irish fishermen now face wipe-out unless fishing rules are changed

Analysis: Ireland should use Brexit as basis to renegotiate EU fish policy, The industry says?

Image result for Irish fishermen now face wipe-out unless fishing rules art changed  Image result for Irish fishermen now face wipe-out unless fishing rules art changed

Fishing boats as seen in Cobh harbour in Co Cork. Fishermen’s representatives have called for a review of EU fishing rules.

Ireland’s fishing industry has breathed a sigh of relief, after Minister for Marine Michael Creed and his negotiating team in Brussels secured an overall six per cent increase for 2017 on last year’s share of quotas.

The outlook had been “dire”, as one representative said, with an initial 68 per cent cut in cod and nine per cent cut in prawns averted.

It was Creed’s first “red-eye” council, where EU fisheries ministers use sleep deprivation as a tactic to haggle for quotas for their fleets.

However, sleep may be in even shorter supply at such negotiations in years to come if Britain leaves the EU.

Oblivious to Brexit, fish know no boundaries, with some 40 different stocks moving between these two islands.

Creed acknowledged on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland on Wednesday that British withdrawal would have a serious impact on the Irish fishing industry – “38 per cent of volume and 36 per cent of value of Irish fishing is in British territorial waters”, he said.

If Britain “attempts to establish a wall around their territorial waters”, this would pose “a significant challenge” he said.

“It would mean the entire fishing network will be displaced to a smaller area,” he said – as in Irish waters, already under severe pressure from Spanish, French and Dutch fleets.

“We will raise questions with the Commission about Ireland’s unique position,” he added, but industry organisations don’t believe the Government has given that “position” sufficient punch.

With 22% of all EU waters off Irish coast, and just two per cent of EU fleet capacity to catch it, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue has stressed the urgency of taking a strong stand.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, whose members have felt the impact for years of Spanish and French fleets, says Ireland should use Brexit to renegotiate the entire Common Fisheries Policy, or face a “wipe-out”.

There are already ominous rumblings about the near future. Britain did not support Ireland at the talks in defending the “Hague Preferences”, which recognise the particular case of coastal communities in allocating quotas.

Also, British Secretary of State James Brokenshire recently reasserted London’s claim over Lough Foyle in response to a parliamentary question in the House of Commons last month. After the Belfast Agreement peace deal, a cross-border body known as the Loughs Agency took responsibility for the Foyle, which was a key strategic naval base during the second world war.

The Department of Foreign Affairs immediately rejected Mr Brokenshire’s assertion that “the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK.”

A recent Supreme Court decision held that Northern Ireland fishing vessels could not legally fish or harvest mussel seed in the Republic’s territorial waters – under an arrangement known as “voisinage”.

However, it is understood that the Government wants to introduce legislation which would effectively reverse the Supreme Court ruling. At a recent seafood conference hosted by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, British National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) chief executive Barrie Deas forecast three possible scenarios in relation to Brexit.

The first was unilateral action by Britain to set its own quotas and control its own waters, the second involved bilateral and trilateral negotiations on shared stocks with coastal states, including Ireland and Norway.

The third was a move to a regional management structure by coastal states, a type of “super-regional advisory council”, expanding on the regional councils established as part of the revised Common Fisheries Policy, he said.

This latter scenario could benefit all EU coastal states, he suggested. The rights of coastal states to manage their own stocks – a type of regional management recognised in the most recent EU fish policy – is likely to gain greater currency as those stocks come under event greater pressure.

World demand for seafood is only going up, and the Irish industry is worth 1 billion euro in annual landings. However, foreign landings, transhipped back to Spain with no added value, are also on the increase here.

In an interview with The Irish Times in 1996, then EU fisheries commissioner Emma Bonino gave the most honest description of the community’s vision for “fewer, larger vessels”, spending longer periods of time at sea – such as the Dutch factory ships filmed in Irish waters for the recently released documentary Atlantic (italicss) directed by Risteard Ó Dómhnaill. This would fulfil the European Commission’s aim of providing cheaper fish for the consumer, but at the expense of coastal communities depending on the activity.

Birdwatch Ireland’s representative Sinéad Cummins, who was in Brussels for the fish talks, has urged EU ministers to think of the long term future of communities on the coastline by sticking to scientific advice – and allowing greater public access to the late night deliberations behind firmly closed doors.

Armed units will not change the Garda image, says Nóirín O’Sullivan

A new 55-strong unit will tackle terrorism and serious organised crime in Dublin. Says Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD as she inspects the new Garda Armed Support Unit (ASU) for the Dublin region, at Garda HQ in Phoenix Park.

Image result for Armed units will not change the Garda image, says Nóirín O’Sullivan  Image result for Armed units will not change the Garda image, says Nóirín O’Sullivan

A new command structure for armed Garda units is to be rolled out early next year, but Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has insisted it will not undermine the force’s unarmed status.

Speaking at the launch of the new Dublin armed support unit, Ms O’Sullivan accepted the manner of its deployment may further marginalise some communities if not managed properly.

“No, I don’t believe people want to see armed police,” she said, when asked if an armed unit would be welcomed on residential streets.

“I think when the units are deployed in their normal operating mode, it’s a softer approach. But when they have to deploy in overt mode they can do that as a tactical deployment.”

The new 55-strong unit will combat the threat from terrorism and serious organised crime in the capital. Plans for its establishment were accelerated when the Kinahan-Hutch feud erupted in Dublin during the general election campaign in the spring.

The gangland activity?

As well as providing an armed Garda presence at Dublin Airport and port, it will also conduct patrols and checkpoints in areas with significant gun feuding or other gangland activity.

The unit represents the final strand of rolling out armed support units in all regions of the country to complement the work of the Emergency Response Unit.

Ms O’Sullivan said all the units specialising in providing an armed response to flashpoint incidents as well as back-up for uniformed unarmed gardaí would now be drawn under a more centralised command.

The new structure represents the first time the armed response specialisation in the Garda has been considered large enough to warrant a dedicated command and training structure.

The commissioner said the establishment of regional support units around the country, and now the armed response unit for Dublin, was “the first step towards allowing us develop the armed response capability that we need right around the country.

“By the first quarter of next year we will establish a National Firearms Command which will mean the Emergency Response Unit and all of the armed response units in the regions will be trained [centrally].”

She said she would be making the case to Government for the creation of a number of senior posts to command the armed teams, all headed by a detective chief superintendent.

A proud tradition?

However, she did not believe the developments represented a move away from the Garda as an unarmed force. “It’s something we’re very proud of; it’s a tradition and a legacy we’ll never give up.”

However, the Garda also needed to “recognise the challenges” of modern policing in the Republic and “have a response commensurate with that”.

The new armed response unit for Dublin will work in the same way as the regional support units around the country. They will patrol in high-powered vehicles – new BMWs and Audi Q7 utility vehicles – dressed in uniforms unique to their unit.

When the need to switch to armed mode arises, they will switch into tactical clothing, comprising black overalls and ballistic vests, helmets and goggles and other protective wear.

They will unlock the firearms secured in the boots of their vehicles and arm themselves with MP7 machine guns, stun guns or a range of pepper sprays. The sprays vary in size and can be used to overpower one suspect at close range or a large group of people over a greater distance.

The vehicles are also kitted out with telescopic ladders, battering rams for breaking in doors and hooligan bars for taking doors off hinges.

The armed units were first recommended by the Garda Inspectorate, led by Kathleen O’Toole, 10 years ago, and the first two were rolled out in Limerick and Cork cities in 2008.

The inspectorate reviewed the report of the Barr tribunal of inquiry into the fatal shooting of John Carthy by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in Abbeylara. Its review concluded that second-tier armed response teams were needed to contain incidents involving firearms pending the arrival of the ERU

A decline in top three male cancers as lung cancer rates continue to rise among our women

Image result for A decline in top three male cancers as lung cancer rates continue to rise among our women  Image result for A decline in top three male cancers as lung cancer rates continue to rise among our women

One in three men, and one in four women, will get invasive cancer during their lifetime?

Prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer rates amongst Irish men are falling or steadying off, latest figures from the National Cancer Registry show.

These three cancers are the most common in Irish men and from 1994 until now, the likelihood of developing them had been increasing steadily.

However the research, completed by analysing data over 21 years, also shows lung cancer rates amongst women continue to rise “significantly”. Lung cancer is now the second most common cancer in Irish women, says the National Cancer Registry 1994-2014.

According to the NCR, current lung cancer rates reflect the prevalence of smoking in previous decades.

“Lung cancer incidence rates in males declined steadily over 1994-2014, while the female rate increased significantly over the same period. As in other developed countries, it is likely that the period of peak smoking prevalence in females occurred some years later than that in males, which would help explain the contrasting lung cancer trends,” the report said.

The chances of men being diagnosed with any kind of cancer has also plateaued however, after nearly 20 years of increases.

But overall, the risk of developing cancer still remains higher for men than for women. There have been significant decreases in breast cancer rates in women, since 2008. The latest figures show this fall continuing in 2014.

Overall, the number of cancers continues to rise nationwide because of an ageing and growing population. Up to 37,600 new tumours were registered annually in 2012-2014. Of these, 30,700 were malignant. There were 16,800 cases of non-melanoma cancer of the skin which, while the most common cancer, is rarely fatal.

Despite improving survival rates, cancer is the second most common cause of death in Ireland, after diseases of the circulatory system — 30% of deaths in Ireland are due to cancer. About 8,700 cancer deaths per year occurred during 2011-2013.

Lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death, about 21% of the total.

The risk of dying from cancer was about 36% higher for men than for women.

Over four consecutive periods, five-year net survival for all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) increased. Between 1994 and 1998, 44% survived. Between 1999-2003 that rose to 51%, by 2004-2008 to 57% and by 2009-2013 to 61%. Ten-year survival figures show a similar trend. At the end of 2014 there were 139,526 persons still alive whose cancer had been diagnosed over the previous 21 years (1994-2014), equivalent to 3% of the Irish population.

The largest number of cancer survivors over the past 21 years had been diagnosed with breast, prostate, bowel cancer, and melanoma of the skin.

Director of the registry and professor of cancer epidemiology at University College Cork, Kerri Clough-Gorr said: “ The incidence trend in male cancers is encouraging, as we no longer see an increase in rates for the three main male cancers. Whether these improvements will be sustained remains to be seen. There is a large and growing number of cancer survivors in our community which will need to be facilitated by expansion of cancer support services.”

Some cancer facts?

– The risk of an invasive cancer diagnosis, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, in anyone aged up to 75 is one in three for men and one in four for women.

– The invasive cancer rate in Irish men was 10% higher than the EU average — partly due to increased diagnosis of prostate cancer. Our diagnosis rate is 52% higher.

– The top five most common invasive cancers in men were prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer, lymphoma and melanoma.

– The top five cancers in women were breast, lung, colorectal cancer, melanoma and uterine cancer.

‘A devastating loss to everyone’ As Tributes paid to man as he dies in a landslide incident

The Gardai and the HSA are investigating the man’s death?

Image result for 'A devastating loss to everyone' As Tributes paid to man as he dies in a landslide incident   Image result for 'A devastating loss to everyone' As Tributes paid to man as he dies in a landslide incident

Patrick McCaffrey & his beloved wife Helen. 

The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a as a result of a landslide at the construction of a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo.

Investigations are underway after a man died in a workplace accident.

The victim, who worked for Tralee based firm Moriarty Civil Engineering, has been named locally as Patrick McCaffrey (37) from Co Leitrim.

His manager Colin Scott told Independent.ie that everyone connected with the firm is devastated by his tragic death.

He said: “It is absolutely devastating the tragedy which occurred last night.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr McCaffrey’s family. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

“It’s a devastating loss to everyone.”

Local reports indicate that the man died after a landslide incident in the Ballyfarnon area on the Roscommon Sligo border.

The man in his 30s was working on a site in the area when the accident occurred at 6.30pm yesterday evening.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Search and rescue operations were hampered by the adverse weather. The coastguard were unable to respond to a request for helicopter assistance shortly before 9pm last night due to foggy weather conditions.

The Gardai and the HSA are investigating the incident.

A seahorse gene study reveals evolution of bizarre features?  like male pregnancy

 Image result for A tiger tail seahorse, which has evolved several unique traits, including male pregnancy  Image result for A tiger tail seahorse, which has evolved several unique traits, including male pregnancy  Image result for A seahorse gene study reveals evolution of bizarre features?  like male pregnancy

Seahorses have evolved at a galloping pace compared with their close relatives, a study has now shown.

As a result the creatures have acquired a bizarre body shape, eyes that can look in different directions at once, toothless snouts for sucking in prey, and – strangest of all – male pregnancy.

Scientists who mapped the complete genome, or genetic code, of the tiger tail seahorse, Hippocampus comes, identified numerous unique features that had evolved within a short time.

Both the loss and duplication of genes contributed to the rapid changes, said the researchers led by Professor Byrappa Venkatesh from the Agency for Science Technology and Research (ASTAR) in Singapore.

The seahorse owes its unusual appearance to bony plates that reinforce its body and allow it to stand and swim vertically.

A key feature is the absence of pelvic fins, which share the same evolutionary origins as human legs.

The scientists found that an important limb gene called tbx4, common to nearly all vertebrates, was missing from the seahorse genome.

When the same gene was deactivated in zebrafish, the fish also lost their pelvic fins.

Gene duplication, that can give genes entirely new functions, was thought to be how male pregnancy developed in the seahorse.

Males carry developing embryos in a “brood pouch” from which the offspring eventually hatch.

Regulatory elements of DNA that control gene activity are also believed to have played a key role in shaping the seahorse.

Loss of regulatory elements may have taken the brakes off evolution and allowed the seahorse skeleton to be so greatly modified.

Writing in the journal Nature, the authors concluded: “Our genome-wide analysis highlights several aspects that may have contributed to the highly specialised body plan and male pregnancy of seahorses.

“These include a higher protein and nucleotide evolutionary rate, loss of genes and expansion of gene families, with duplicated genes exhibiting new expression patterns, and loss of a selection of potential … regulatory elements.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 14th November 2016

Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October

Building, orders and employment all rose rapidly last month,

Image result for Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October  Image result for Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October

Total construction activity in the Republic increased for the second successive month in October.

The construction sector in the Republic recorded a strong start to the final quarter of the year, with activity, new orders and employment all increasing at faster rates in October, according to the latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

Meanwhile, a similar survey by Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland showed that firms enjoyed a surge in export orders last month on the back of sterling’s continued weakness but their good fortune was mirrored by growing problems for local importers as costs continue to spiral.

In the Republic, the seasonally adjusted index, designed to track changes in total construction activity, increased for the second successive month in October to 62.3, up from 58.7 in September.

This represented a sharp monthly rise in total construction activity, and the fastest in seven months. Construction output has increased continuously since September 2013.

Commenting on the survey results, Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said: “Importantly, construction firms are continuing to benefit from robust increases in new business levels, with the new orders index rising to its highest level since February following a fifth consecutive monthly acceleration in October.

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“Firms continue to report a strengthening in client demand amid a general improvement in economic conditions as an important contributor to the ongoing uplift in new business volumes. In turn, the healthy expansion of new orders continues to underpin increased demand for construction workers. The employment index rose sharply last month, with the pace of hiring accelerating to its fastest in eight months as almost one-third of firms noted a rise in employment.”

Mr Barry said the mainly domestic-facing construction sector was less directly exposed to adverse Brexit impacts than more heavily trade-dependent areas of the economy.

Northern Ireland figures

In Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank’s PMI survey showed that although businesses are enjoying an export boost following the Brexit vote, the total number of new orders recorded by local firms remained largely unchanged during October.

The PMI survey also highlighted that while business activity demonstrated growth last month in the local economy, the pace of growth was sluggish and weaker compared to nearly every other UK region.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, said the survey reveals the stark differences between domestic and export markets.

“Overall, incoming orders stagnated in October and have failed to grow since June. However, export orders expanded at their second-highest rate since the survey began. This implies that domestic orders have been contracting at a significant rate.

“The converse seems to be the case within the construction sector. Given Belfast’s crane-cluttered skyline, it would appear that business conditions within the local construction market are relatively buoyant.

“However, despite this, and perhaps surprisingly, the PMI points to rapid rates of contraction in construction output orders and employment. This is largely due to subdued demand within a major external market, ie GB.”

Mr Ramsey said sterling’s current weakness was a “mixed blessing” for the North as the manufacturing and retail sectors are forced to bear the brunt of the input-cost inflation.

Donald Trump’s temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,

Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,  Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA, Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,

Donald Trump is known for his blunt speaking

President Barack Obama has warned there are “certain elements” of Donald Trump’s temperament that will not serve him well “unless he recognises them and corrects them”.

With just weeks left in office, Mr Obama said the president-elect understands that a candidate being reckless with his words can be less consequential than a president saying the same thing.

Mr Obama noted that markets move and foreign governments take note of a president’s rhetoric and stressed that national security “requires a level of precision” so that deadly mistakes are not made.

He said blunt-spoken Mr Trump “recognises that this is different – and so do the American people”.

In a White House news conference ahead of his final overseas trip as president, Mr Obama made the argument that immigration is good for the American economy.

He acknowledged that many Americans have grown sceptical about the “complex argument” in support of immigration, when they see factories closing at home and jobs going offshore. But he said “immigration is good for our economy” if it is “orderly and lawful”.

Mr Trump campaigned on a promise to limit immigration into the US and bring offshore jobs back home.

But Mr Obama maintained that it is still his “strong belief” that achieving a strong global economy does not mean “shutting people out”.

And he believes Mr Trump will seek to “send some signals of unity” to people alienated by his ferocious campaign.

He said he advised the president-elect “to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign” and “that’s something that he will want to do”.

But he added that Mr Trump is trying to balance commitments he made to “supporters that helped to get him here”.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump described Mexicans as rapists and criminals. He vowed to build a wall along the US’s southern border and make Mexico pay for it.

He appeared to mock a reporter with a physical disability and threatened to sue several women who accused him of assaulting them. Mr Trump also disparaged the Muslim American parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, and battled a former Miss America who is Latino about having gained weight.

Mr Obama stressed the need to give Mr Trump the “rope and space” for a “reset” once he takes over the reins of power.

Earlier it emerged that Mr Trump was considering a woman and an openly gay man to fill major positions in his new leadership team.

It would be seen as history-making moves that would inject diversity into a Trump administration already facing questions about its ties to white nationalists.

The incoming president is considering Richard Grenell as United States ambassador to the United Nations.

If picked and ultimately confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post.

Mr Grenell previously served as US spokesman at the UN under former President George W Bush’s administration.

At the same time, Mr Trump is weighing up whether to select the first woman to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

On his short list of prospective chairs: Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the former sister-in-law of Trump rival and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“I’ll be interested in whatever Mr Trump wants,” Ms McDaniel said, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again

Internal deliberations about staffing come a day after Mr Trump made overtures to warring Republican circles by appointing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsellor.


Will Mike Pence the US vice-president elect visit Ireland

Image result for Will Mike Pence the US vice-president elect visit Ireland  Image result for Mike Pence grandparent from Doocastle outside Tubbercurry co Sligo  Image result for Tubbercurry town co Sligo

The vice-President elect of the USA Mike Pence will be officially invited to the Co Sligo town of Tubbercurry where his grandfather hails from.

And the Chamber of Commerce in Tubbercurry believes Donald Trump’s running mate could himself end up in the top job in as little as four years’ time.

“Local people are delighted,” said chamber spokesman Roger McCarrick.

“We will be writing to him officially to invite him to the home of his ancestors. Regardless of policies he is still an ex-Tubbercurry man as far as we are concerned.

“There has been a sense of pride that a descendant of here could aspire to such high office. He has been Governor of Indiana since 2013 and it’s possible he could run for President in four or eight years’ time and he could be on the biggest political stage of all for the next 16 years.”

Governor Pence’s grandfather was Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated in 1923 to Chicago where he became a bus driver.

He is said to have hailed from the Doocastle area outside Tubbercurry.

Pence has spoken in the past on how his views on immigration were shaped by his grandfather’s entry from Ireland through Ellis Island in 1923.

Now, further details of Mr Cawley’s Sligo roots have emerged thanks to research carried out by New York native, Robert Theiss from Arlington, Virginia, a postgraduate in history who has a strong interest in genealogy.

Theiss said: “Passenger arrival records show Richard Cawley, aged 20, a miner, arriving in New York on April 11, 1923, on a ship called the Andania, which had set sail from Liverpool.

“The passenger arrival record shows Richard Cawley’s place of birth as Doocastle. The passenger arrival record shows his last place of residence as having been Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancs., England.”

Pence’s Irish granddad died on Christmas Eve 1980. He was 77. Pence was 21 at the time.

Richard Cawley’s wife, was Mary Elizabeth Maloney. She was born on March 22, 1907, in Chicago, Illinois. She died in Chicago on November 1, 1980, aged 73, just weeks before her husband Richard died.

She was the daughter of Irish immigrants. Her father, James Michael Maloney, was born on February 1, 1872, in Killaloe, Co. Clare, and her mother, Mary Anne Downes, was born on July 16, 1880, in Doonbeg, Co. Clare. James died in Chicago on October 10, 1916, aged 44. Mary Anne died in Chicago on December 23, 1955, aged 75.

Mike Pence and his family visited Ireland three years ago going to Co. Clare and Co. Sligo. Mike Pence met Moloney and Downes distant cousins, in Co. Clare.

Ireland’s Garda reserve membership has fallen 13% from June-Sept this year

Image result for Ireland's Garda reserve membership has fallen 13% from June-Sept this year  Image result for Ireland's Garda reserve membership down

Fianna Fáil has called on the Justice Minister to start recruiting more members onto the reserve force.

The number of Garda reserves across the country has fallen to under 800 in the past four months.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan showed how there were 1,179 reservists at the beginning of 2014. This number has now fallen a further 13% in the four-month period between June and September to 756.

Depleted reserves?

The biggest drop was in the Dublin South Central district where the number fell by a further 12% since May of this year.

O’Callaghan said: “Concerns have been expressed for some time on not utilising the significant potential of the garda reserve. This poses a much bigger challenge if the numbers continue to fall.

“The Garda Inspectorate report, published last December, indicated that despite receiving considerable training, reserves are not consistently or strategically maximised for operational purposes.

Just last month it was stated that there are plans afoot to more than double the number of Garda reserves nationally. This would bring the strength of the force up to 2,000. I am calling on the minister to kick start this process without delay.

NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University

Image result for NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University   Image result for NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University

The five female lecturers (right) who claimed NUIG overlooked them for promotion.

NUI Galway has refuted claims that it’s ‘punishing’ women who highlighted issues surrounding gender discrimination at the university.

In a statement, college authorities said accusations made by the Irish Federation of University Teachers are ‘ill-informed’ and ‘untrue’.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers claims NUI Galway has failed to address outstanding legal cases relating to gender discrimination.

It argues that the university is stalling and prolonging actions taken by four female staff members, which are currently before the Circuit and High Court.

It says the situation amounts to the ‘punishment’ of whistleblowers who have highlighted vital issues on the national stage.

It comes more than two years since the Equality Tribunal ruled against NUI Galway in a case involving Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington.

NUI Galway says the cases are subject to the remit and rules of the courts and it is actively seeking their progression.

It adds that the contention by the IFUT that the university is delaying or prolonging court cases is ill-informed and simply untrue.

A new search in depression area for life on Mars now being looked at

Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life  Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life  Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life

Scientists at the University of Texas have zeroed in on a depression that could possibly support life on Mars.

A newly discovered depression may breathe new life into the pursuit to find life on Mars.

A strangely shaped depression—likely formed by a volcano beneath a glacier—could be a warm, chemical-rich environment suited for microbial life, according to a study from the University of Texas at Austin.

“We were drawn to this site because it looked like it could host some of the key ingredients for habitability — water, heat and nutrients,” lead author Joseph Levy, a research associate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a research unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a statement.

The depression is located inside a crater perched on the rim of the Hellas basin and is surrounded by ancient glacial deposits.

The depression first came to light in 2009 when Levy noticed crack-like features on pictures of depressions taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looked similar to ice cauldrons formations found in Iceland and Greenland, which were made by volcanos erupting under an ice sheet. Levy and others also discovered another depression in the Galaxias Fossae region of Mars that had a similar appearance.

“These landforms caught our eye because they’re weird looking,” Levy said. “They’re concentrically fractured so they look like a bulls-eye. That can be a very diagnostic pattern you see in Earth materials.”

Earlier this year, Levy and his research team were able to more thoroughly analyze the depressions using stereoscopic images to investigate whether the depressions were made by underground volcanic activity that melted away surface ice or by an impact from an asteroid.

Timothy Goudge, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas- Austin, used pairs of high-resolution images to create digital elevation models of the depressions that enabled in-depth analysis of their shape and structure in 3D.

“The big contribution of the study was that we were able to measure not just their shape and appearance, but also how much material was lost to form the depressions,” Levy added. “That 3D view lets us test this idea of volcanic or impact.”

A closer analysis showed that both depressions shared an unusual funnel shape with a broad perimeter that gradually narrowed with depth.

“That surprised us and led to a lot of thinking about whether it meant there was melting concentrated in the center that removed ice and allowed stuff to pour in from the sides,” Levy said. “Or if you had an impact crater, did you start with a much smaller crater in the past and by sublimating away ice, you’ve expanded the apparent size of the crater.”

After running formation scenarios for the two depressions, researchers concluded that the debris spread around the Galaxias Fossae depression suggests that it was the result of an impact with the possibility it could be formed by a volcano due to the volcanic history of the area. However, the Hellas depression has many signs of volcanic origins, lacks the surrounding debris of an impact and has a fracture pattern associated with concentrated removal of ice by melting or sublimation.

According to Levy, the interaction of lava and ice to form a depression would show that it could create an environment with liquid water and chemical nutrients.


News Ireland daily blog by Donie

Thursday 8th September 2016.

Insurance Companies in retreat over lack of information about Ireland’s claim costs

Motorists more concerned about price of cover than road safety, committee hears

Image result for Insurance Companies in retreat over lack of information about Ireland's claim costs  Image result for Insurance Companies in retreat over lack of information about Ireland's claim costs

Motor insurance premiums have risen dramatically and could rise by a further fifth, says Conor Faughnan of the Automobile Association.

Insurance companies are pulling out of Ireland because of the lack of information about the costs of meeting claims, the Automobile Association warned on Thursday.

“Competition should be attracted into our market, but, in fact, insurers are in active retreat from Ireland,’’ Mr Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs of the Automobile Association (AA Ireland) told an Oireachtas committee.

The “book of quantum’’, the document that describes in detail the appropriate level of financial compensation for injuries of a given severity, is hopelessly outdated and is effectively useless as a guideline to the courts, he said.

Meanwhile, the courts are not bound to abide by it. Seven out of every 10 cases are settled directly by the insurance companies to avoid a court case, but the detail of settlements are not shared.

Motorists are now more concerned about the cost of insurance than road safety, fuel costs, taxation and road maintenance, Mr Faughnan told the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.

Premiums have risen dramatically and could rise by a further fifth, he warned, adding that new car sales have themselves jumped by 20 per cent so far this year.

Motorists who had made an insurance claim, or acquired penalty points, were unable to shop around and had to absorb whatever increases there were with their insurance company.

Mr Faughnan said there was a lack of clear information and data on issues surrounding proper claims’ costs. “So if you are a foreign insurance company, and you want to come into Ireland, you are at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the people already here because our data is so murky and so difficult to understand,’’ he added.

Chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association Mark Fielding said there was a continuous line of complaints from members on the handling of what they would regard as questionable claims.

Members complained insurance companies continued to settle without the consent and knowledge of the insured businesses, he added.

Director of the Small Firms Association Patricia Callan said rising costs and competitiveness were issues for her members, ranking second only to labour costs.

Pension gap is sickening news for anyone retiring in Ireland over the next 40 years

 Image result for Pension gap is sickening news for anyone retiring in Ireland over the next 40 years  Image result for Pension gap is sickening news for anyone retiring in Ireland over the next 40 years  Finance Minister Michael Noonan (left) and Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) are 73 and 65 years old respectively. Most workers must retire at 65.

(Right pic above) Finance Minister Michael Noonan (left) and Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) are 73 and 65 years old respectively. Most workers must retire at 65?

This is not the kind of news that any young professional in Ireland wants to hear.

Ireland’s pension gap is now the second largest in Europe, according to Aviva, behind only that of the UK.

Aviva’s report on the Irish pension system has advised that people hoping for an adequate income post-retirement must save an additional €1,000 per month – something that virtually anyone who is earning anything like the average wage in Ireland will tell you is utterly impossible.

The news gets worse the older you are, with people in their 60s being told they need to save an extra €28,000 a year. Short of winning the lottery, it’s hard to see where that is going to come from for most.

The report notes that there has been a decline in pension savings, meaning that a pushback on the age of retirement or an increase in state pensions would not entirely alleviate the problem.

According to media sources, two of the biggest factors that have widened that pension gap are longer life expectancy and lower returns on investments.

The number of workers with pensions has dropped by 5% since the start of the economic crash in late 2008.

5% increase in support for a united Ireland

A five-point increase in backing for unification, now at 22% which is up from 17% in 2013.

Image result for 5% increase in support for a united Ireland  Image result for 5% increase in support for a united Ireland  Image result for 5% increase in support for a united Ireland

According to the data there is still a significant percentage of people in favour of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

There has been a significant statistical increase in support for a united Ireland among people in the North, according to a new survey conducted by Ipsos Mori.

The face-to-face survey of more than 1,000 people carried out across Northern Ireland on behalf of BBC political programme The View, between August 16th and September 2nd, indicates a five-point increase in support for a United Ireland (22%), from 17% in 2013 . This is regarded as a significant change.

More than four out of 10 people with a Catholic background (43 per cent) would back a United Ireland, up from 35% in 2013, an increase regarded as statistically significant.

When respondents from across the North were asked if the government should call a referendum on the Border, 33% of people said No and 52% said Yes, while 15% were don’t know.

A majority of Protestants were against the idea, with 72% No and 53% of Catholics Yes.

According to the data there is still a significant percentage of people in favour of Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.

A referendum.

When asked how they would vote if there was a referendum on the Border, 63% of respondents said they would vote to stay in the UK, down 2% on 2013.

From 2013 there has been a 5% increase to 22% among those who said the would vote to join the Republic of Ireland.

When the 2016 results are broken down by religion, 88% of Protestants and 37% of Catholics said they would vote to stay in the UK, while 5% of Protestants and 43% of Catholics said they would vote to join the Republic of Ireland.

Some 83% said the Brexit decision had not altered their position, while 17% indicated it had changed their thinking.

Those whose views had been influenced by the EU result were slightly more likely to be female, from a Catholic background and drawn from the affluent AB social classes.

Positive ageing perception ‘You are as young as you feel’

Irish research now shows that how people perceive their age affects their overall health condition.

Image result for Positive ageing perception ‘You are as young as you feel’  Image result for Positive ageing perception ‘You are as young as you feel’

The Tilda study found older adults with negative attitudes towards ageing had slower walking speeds and worse cognitive abilities compared to those with more positive attitudes towards ageing.

“The saying” You really are as old as you feel, a leading expert on ageing has confirmed.

Prof Rose Anne Kenny, principal investigator with the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda) said their research shows that how people perceive their age affects their overall health.

Uncovering the Secrets of Successful Ageing is an analysis by Tilda of 10 years of its study of older people.

Its findings, published today, include health, social, and economic factors.

The study found older adults with negative attitudes towards ageing had slower walking speeds and worse cognitive abilities compared to those with more positive attitudes towards ageing.

This was true even after participants’ medications, mood, life circumstances and other health changes were accounted for. Negative attitudes towards ageing also seemed to affect how different health conditions interacted.

Hundreds of participants from all over Ireland gathered at Trinity College Dublin today for the 10th birthday of Tilda.

Sattie Sharkey said she volunteered herself to be part of the study because she tended to fall.

“It is very important this research has taken place as it will play such a large role in policy and decision-making, and researchers have gained a real insight into the issues facing older people in Ireland,” she said.

“I used to fall regularly in my home. Falls are debilitating. They not only hurt you physically but they take your confidence away too. My falls were due to a tumour in the back of my head and I had to have an operation.”

Living independently?

Ms Sharkey said she enjoyed being interviewed by the Tilda researchers and has more confidence living independently.

“I’d also like to say, I’m younger than the two people who want to be the president of the United States,” she said to laughter and applause from the audience.

Dr Colm O’Reardon, deputy secretary for strategy and policy at the Department of Health, said Tilda’s findings will help to dispel myths about older people and ageing.

“The common portrayal of older people in our society is often that people over 65 have no meaningful contribution to society and it becomes part of the myths about ageing,” he said. “This study will change the assumptions decision-makers will bring when it comes to making policy.”

Dr Graham Love, chief executive of the Health Research Board, said “the time has come to stop HSE-bashing” and to focus on how to improve our health service.

He said the recent RTÉ documentary on the HSE called Keeping Ireland Alive had a positive reaction on social media and from the general public.

“It’s a small turning point in the collective ambition for our health service at a time when collective energies are switched from HSE-bashing to actually defining what ambition we have for our health service here,” said Dr Love.

“I believe that through initiatives like Tilda we can turn our health service into a national treasure.”

Researchers discover there are not just one  but four species of giraffe

Discovery of genetic differences, using DNA analysis, could boost efforts to save declining populations.

Image result for Researchers discover there are not just one  but four species of giraffe  Image result for Researchers discover there are not just one  but four species of giraffe  A Masai giraffe, one of the four newly recognised species, grazing inside Nairobi national park

Four giraffe species: top left: reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), top right: west African giraffe.

Researchers have discovered there are not just one but four distinct species of giraffe, overturning two centuries of accepted wisdom in a finding that could boost efforts to save the last dwindling populations.

Analysis of DNA evidence from all of the currently recognised nine sub-species found that there is not just one species of giraffe but enough genetic differences to recognise four distinct species. Experts said the differences are as large as those between brown bears and polar bears.

Giraffe have suffered a decline in number from around 150,000 across Africa three decades ago to 100,000 today, as their habitat has been turned over to agriculture. But as a single species the giraffe is currently listed as of least concern on the red list of endangered species, leaving the tallest living animals a relatively low conservation focus compared to rhino and elephant.

“People need to really figure out that giraffes are in danger. There are only 100,000 giraffes left in Africa. We’ll be working closely with governments and big NGOs to put giraffes on the radar,” said Dr Julian Fennessy, lead author of the new study which saw genetic testing in Germany on 190 giraffe.

The four recommended new species are the southern giraffe, with two subspecies, the Angolan giraffe and South African giraffe; the Masai giraffe; the reticulated giraffe; and the northern giraffe including the Kordofan giraffe and west African giraffe as subspecies.

If formally recognised as four separate species, three of those four would suddenly be deemed more seriously threatened by the red list, Fennessay said, which would hopefully catalyse greater efforts to protect them.

A Masai giraffe, one of the four newly recognised species, grazing inside Nairobi national park.

While the southern giraffe was increasing markedly in number, populations in east and central Africa were in trouble, he said.

“It’s all habitat loss, fragmentation and a lot of that is, let’s be honest, linked to human population growth – increasing land for agricultural needs, whether for commercial or for subsistence farming,” he said, speaking from Windhoek, Namibia. “In some of these countries though there is illegal hunting or poaching causing the decline.”

Co-author Axel Janke, a geneticist at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre and Goethe University in Germany, said: “This has huge implications for conservation. It’s also significant from an evolutionary aspect: the giraffe is a very young species and we see evolution, becoming species, in real time, happening in front of our eyes.”

Both said they were surprised at the number of genetically distinct species, because the currently recognised nine subspecies are relatively similar-looking. The most obvious differences are in the shape of their patterns and how far they extend, and how many horns the creatures have.

The study also suggested that the four species do not mate with each other in the wild, an unexpected finding given giraffe move far and wide, and have been shown to interbreed in captivity.

The historically accepted definition of one species of giraffe was based on a description in 1758 by the Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus, who examined a Nubian giraffe (now to be considered as a northern giraffe). The new study’s discovery that there are in fact four will not come as a a total surprise to those who study giraffe closely – previous research has suggested some subspecies appeared genetically distinct enough to be considered separate species.

The conclusions of the study, which took five years, will be now be reviewed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s specialist group on giraffes.

West African giraffe, a subspecies of northern giraffe, in southern Niger.

In a statement, the IUCN said: “The number of species of giraffes has come in for much discussion and debate in recent years. The findings of this latest study will need to be carefully evaluated, as it could – as the authors note – have considerable implications for their conservation. We know that giraffes, while widely distributed, are declining nearly across their range, with some narrowly distributed populations in serious trouble.

“If the findings of the current study are accepted, then it may well be that some species would be listed in threatened categories on the IUCN red list. This would hopefully flag the need for increased attention on a species that is otherwise normally considered common.”

Fennessy, who is also co-director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, said: “I would just hope that as the IUCN reviews this, they look at the fact 200 years ago people looked at giraffe coat patterns from samples sent from Africa and made a decision to call it one species and nine subspecies. And now, using nuclear mitochondrial and genomic DNA, I think more science can help us answer the mystery.”

The new study, Multi-locus Analyses Reveal Four Giraffe Species Instead of One, was published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th August 2016.

17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland

Warning of increased premiums as more claims recorded during first seven months

Image result for 17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland   Image result for 17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland

Overall, there were 688 claims recorded in Dublin, up 78 on the 610 claims seen during the first seven months of 2015

The number of motor insurance claims involving uninsured or untraced drivers jumped by 17% between January and July, according to new figures.

The data show there were 1,644 claims involving such drivers during the first seven months of 2016, up by 235 versus the 1,409 claims lodged during the same period a year earlier.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) figures show 42% of such claims were made in Dublin with the capital also showing a big spike in general claims made compared to last year.

Overall, there were 688 claims recorded in Dublin, up 78 on the 610 claims seen during the first seven months of 2015. The next highest number of claims were in Cork (129) and Galway (92).

Between January and July, claims increased in 20 counties, with the largest percentage change being in Roscommon, which recorded an increase of 500% as the number of claims rose from 2 to 12.

A decline in four counties.

Four counties experienced a decline in the number of claims, the largest drop being in Limerick which had 80 claims, down from 95 in 2015.

The number of claims in Clare and Kildare were the same across both years.

MIBI, which was established by the Government and the insurance industry in the 1950s, pays out approximately €60 million a year on claims involving uninsured or untraced drivers. David Fitzgerald, the body’s chief executive, warned that the jump in claims involving such drivers would likely impact on premiums in the future.

“An increase of 17% represents a significant jump in the number of claims being lodged. It showcases the increased pipeline of payments facing the MIBI. While no sums are yet attached to these claims, unfortunately more claims generally means higher levels of payments coming from the MIBI and ultimately, that will impact on motor insurance premiums,” he said.

Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services

Peer abuse, failure to investigate complaints and mismanagement among findings

Image result for Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services   Image result for Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services

Hiqa inspectors found that some staff felt they were being troublemakers if they raised concerns about the quality of disability services.

Major patient safety concerns have been raised in a series of critical reports into HSE-run disability services around the country.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) noted incidents of peer-to-peer abuse, misadministration of medications and failures to adequately report complaints of alleged mistreatment following visits to a number of large disability centres in Cork, Kilkenny and Donegal.

During an unannounced visit to the St Raphael’s Campus in Youghal, Co Cork, it was found that a resident had not been given adequate food and nutrition for a period of more than 18 hours.

Those working at the centre said there were not enough members of staff on duty on that particular day to get the resident out of bed and feed them appropriately.

The Youghal campus, which had court-applied restrictive conditions placed on its registration last year due to previous negative findings by Hiqa, also came in for criticism for incorrect use of seizure and antimicrobial medicines which could have “potentially catastrophic” or even fatal impacts on patients.

The facility is currently in the middle of a winding-down process and is due to close next year, but inspectors recorded an ongoing “lack of clarity for staff around the reporting of allegations of abuse”.

One resident alone had made 15 complaints of physical abuse by one of his peers over the space of less than a month, but none of these incidents were properly investigated, inspectors said.

Serious failings in governance and management were identified at an unnamed disability service in Donegal during another unannounced inspection in March.

Despite initially being told by the person in charge that there had been no “incidents, suspicions, allegations or investigations of abuse” there since 2013, Hiqa officials later found that such allegations had indeed been made and investigations were instigated.

Inspectors said the person in charge subsequently handed over documents relating to the alleged incidents of abuse, and they concluded that “there was a significant risk to the safety of residents as a consequence of seriously inadequate safeguarding arrangements in the centre”.

Speaking to inspectors, some members of staff felt they were being seen as “troublemakers” if they highlighted problems with safeguarding measures or instances of possible mistreatment.

Elsewhere, Hiqa was not satisfied that the requisite improvements had been made to service provision at St Patrick’s Centre in Kilkenny which was taken over by the HSE in October 2015 following “significant failings” by the previous care provider.

Incidents of peer-to-peer aggression had continued since the handover, and there were still “significant concerns regarding the lack of suitable governance and management arrangements to oversee the quality and safety of care provided to residents” which had “direct negative outcomes for residents”.

A smaller community-based facility for six residents in Westmeath failed to demonstrate compliance for any of the nine standards tested during a visit in March, and the two-story house had no overall evacuation plan in the event of a fire.

It was also found to be deficient as regards safeguarding measures, as the member of staff designated to deal with complaints told inspectors they were “not aware that they had been assigned this responsibility” and said they did not have time to carry out managerial roles alongside their frontline duties.

The findings came in a raft of 11 inspection reports released by Hiqa on Monday. Other centres visited managed to demonstrate more consistent compliance with regulations, and there was evidence of a good quality of life for residents within these services.

The State’s health watchdog also provided an update on two autism care centres which are operated by Gheel Autism Services on behalf of the HSE after it took over control from the Irish Autism Society following negative inspection outcomes published in July.

Inspectors found that significant improvements had been made in safety and quality of life of residents at both premises.

Ireland’s retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016

Big jump in car sales accounts for the overall boost?

Image result for Ireland's retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016    Image result for Ireland's retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016

The volume of retail sales increased by 12.6% in July when compared with June and there was an increase of 6.3% in the annual figure.

If car sales are excluded, there was a decrease of 0.5% in the volume of retail sales in July when compared with June and there was an increase of 2.7% in the annual figure.

The sectors with the largest month on month volume increases were motors which were up 12.5%, furniture and lighting, up 5.3%, and books, newspapers and stationery, up 2%.

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were clothing, footwear and textiles which were down 2.5 per cent.

Other retail sales are down 2.4% and food, beverages and tobacco are down 0.9%.

There was an increase of 4.5% in the value of retail sales in July when compared with June and there was an annual increase of 3.9% when compared with July 2015.

The genetics of Type 2 Diabetes is in a mess

A recent study shows why genetic advances in medicine are so challenging.

Image result for The genetics of Type 2 Diabetes is in a mess Image result for The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success Image result for The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success

The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success and a frustrating disappointment. It has revolutionized the science of biology and spawned a multi-billion dollar industry. It has alsofailed to deliver on the ambitious promise that genome science will, as President Bill Clinton stated 16 years ago, “revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all human diseases.”

But hype springs eternal. The human genome is now old news; today scientists study tens or even hundreds of thousands of human genomes. We now hear promises about the imminent benefits of personalized medicine, medicine that is tailored to an individual’s unique genetic make-up. President Barack Obama hopes that “10 years from now we can look back and say we have revolutionized medicine,” from cancer to Alzheimer’s. To achieve this, the White House has launched another large research effort: the Precision Medicine Initiative, which will devote hundreds of millions of dollars to advance the use of genomics and other cutting-edge science in medical practice.

It’s an admirably ambitious vision, but in 10 years we shouldn’t expect to look back and see a revolution. Scientifically, this is the right direction — over the long-term, genomic discoveries will certainly drive major medical advances. But it’s going to be a long slog. The major challenges that lie ahead are laid bare in a recent genetic study of Type 2 diabetes. This study, published inNature earlier this month, shows that the genetics of diabetes is a mess — and it illustrates why the big promises of genetic medicine won’t be realized any time soon.

Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the major diseases that biomedical scientists hope to conquer with genomics. It’s one of our most common diseases — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 10 percent of all Americans have it. Diabetes is also expensive: It accounts for an estimated $176 billion in medical costs each year. And while most of us have the impression that diabetes is something you prevent with a healthy diet and exercise, the disease also has a strong genetic component.

By understanding the genetics of diabetes, we hope to combat the disease in three big ways. First, we’ll be able to identify people with a high genetic risk, and make them the focus of prevention efforts. Second, we might recognize and specifically treat different molecular forms of the disease — different people likely have different underlying genetic mutations, which means that not all diabetics respond the same way to a one-size-fits-all therapy. And third, genetics will help us understand the disease’s molecular underpinnings, and guide us toward better treatments that directly target those molecules. If we achieved all three goals, we would indeed revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.

And so, for the past decade, researchers have conducted large genetic studies, involving at first thousands, and now tens of thousands of diabetics. The results have been somewhat disappointing: Though researchers have linked dozens of mutations with diabetes, we’re clearly still missing much of the picture. Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

To find the missing mutations in diabetes, scientists of two large international research consortia performed a deeper DNA analysis of a large set of study subjects. Earlier studies used a lower-cost, coarse-grained scan of the subjects’ DNA. These scans only had the power to detect mutations that are relatively common in the population. In this most recent study, the researchers decided to survey the subjects’ genomes much more comprehensively.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Leo Tolstoy’sfamous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way. In other words, although diabetes is a common disease, its genetic component might not be caused by a set of relatively common mutations. Rather, each person’s genetic risk could be the result of distinctly different, and relatively rare, mutations.

If that were true, this new, more comprehensive study should have turned up many of these hypothetical rare mutations. But that’s not what the researchers found. After analyzing the DNA of over 100,000 diabetics and healthy volunteers, the researchers largely re-discovered the same set of common mutations that had been previously found. They discovered few rare mutations.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Tolstoy’s famous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way.

Why is this bad news? Because it means that finding the genetic risk factors for diabetes is going to be very hard. If rare mutations were important genetic drivers of diabetes, then the task of understanding diabetes genetics would likely be easier. Rare mutations are expected to have larger effects, and therefore a person’s individual genetic risk for the disease would come down to just one or a few mutations. If we knew what mutations to look for, we could easily test for them in a routine, clinical genetic test.

Mutations that are common in the population, on the other hand, tend to have smaller effects on disease. (Mutations with large effects tend not to become common, thanks to natural selection.) This latest study suggests that the genetic basis of diabetes involved the combined effects of many mutations, each one only making a small contribution. These small contributions are statistically challenging to detect in a scientific study, and much harder to evaluate in a clinical genetic test. This is why the study authors argue that “Genome sequencing in much larger numbers of individuals than included in the current study are needed.” As one scientist put it: “Once dubbed ‘a geneticist’s nightmare,’ diabetes seems to be living up to its reputation.”

Fortunately, with today’s technologies, very large genetic studies are becoming feasible. Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative proposes to put together a study cohort of one million Americans over the next several years. And given the hundreds of billions of dollars that diabetes costs America each year, such large studies, if successful, are clearly worth the expense.

The challenging genetics of diabetes and other common diseases, however, means that the benefits of such studies will mostly arrive in the long term. We are laying an important foundation for the medicine of the future — but people also need care today. Fortunately, even without the genetics, we understand a lot about how to prevent diabetes though lifestyle changes. Investing in large efforts to help people change their diet and exercise habits may not sound as exciting as high-tech genetic medicine. But, just as we shouldn’t overhype the near-term prospects of genetics, we shouldn’t undersell the value of the effective care we can provide today.

Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross

Bacteria is apparently rife there?

Image result for Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross  Image result for Bartender asks would you like a lemon slice with your cold drink  Image result for Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross

Bartender asks would you like a lemon slice with your cold alcoholic beverage? Your reply “That sounds bloody marvellous” – stick it right in. Thanks kind sir for supplying me with alcohol and a lovely bit of citrus fruit that perfectly compliments my beverage.

There’s nothing wrong with that Friday night (tad overly enthusiastic) exchange right? Wrong. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health the lemons and limes given out at bars are actually rife with all kinds of bacteria. That’s just not what you want. Plus we just found out that water bottles can be pretty rank too. Can someone just cut us some slack.

The research team swabbed lemon slices that were on their drinks at 21 different restaurants, and they discovered that almost 70% of the samples had some sort of microbial growth, including 25 different microbial species. Ewwwww. But also I wonder if they got to expense all those drinks. Not a bad life despite the germs.

“The microbes found on the lemon samples in our investigation all have the potential to cause infectious diseases at various body sites, although the likelihood was not determined in this study. Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes.”

Wow – way to ruin the humble lemon guys. Elle magazine spoke to Philip Tierno, PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine and author of The Secret Life of Germs who explained why they can be so gross.

“People are touching the lemon in your glass, handling it, cutting it, placing it in a container or a cup, or a glass; and then picking up those slices at a later point in time and dropping them into a drink and putting them on the rim of a glass. You can easily see how those lemon slices and lemon wedges can be contaminated.”

But here at Cosmopolitan we deal with solutions, not problems. What you’re gonna need to do is eyeball your bartender as he prepares your drink, and then send it back if you see the bartender put their fingers all over the rim of the glass or use a dirty rag to clean the glass. Thanks for the tips Tierno.

“Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior

Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed light on mysteries of Earth’s interior

The rarely-detected S-waves from a “weather bomb” storm may help scientists uncover the Earth’s hidden structure

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have uncovered a rarely detected type of seismic wave deep inside of the Earth stemming from a “weather bomb,” an extratropical storm that is small, fast-developing and possesses central pressure that rapidly increases in intensity. The findings could help scientists map out the hidden, deeper structure of the Earth.

Despite their rapidly intensifying central pressure – typically more than one millibar per hour for the course of 24 hours – weather bombs are fairly small storms. However, their fast-moving nature creates steep pressure gradients, leading to the formation of strong winds.

In the current study, the weather bomb occurred between Greenland and Iceland in 2014, creating a pressure pulse that spread to the seafloor and transformed into microseismic waves – tremors deep inside of the Earth that stem from natural phenomena – that rippled through both the surface and interior of the Earth.

Microseismic waves are detectable as both surface and body waves. Although it is typically not possible for surface waves to be observed past the coast, body waves make their way deep into the Earth’s interior and can be detected by land-based seismic stations, making them ideal for deconstructing the internal structure of the Earth.

Body waves can be split into two categories: P-waves and S-waves. P-waves contain particles that move parallel to the direction of the waves’ motion, whereas the particles in S-waves move perpendicular to the direction of the waves’ motion. While seismologists frequently detect P-waves, the detection of S-waves by seismic stations is not a common occurrence.

Thanks to the Atlantic weather bomb, the current study is one of the first ever to detect S-waves, a feat that was accomplished through the use of 202 wave-detection stations. These stations were able to trace the movement and direction of the microseismic waves created by the weather bomb using “Hi-net arrays.”

Hi-net arrays work by taking the information gathered by seismometers that pick up the “noise” created by microseismic waves as they move through the various layers of the Earth and transforming it into electronic data that can be charted and analyzed in the lab.

The successful detection of rare S-waves provides seismologists with a novel method of uncovering the Earth’s deeper structure. S-waves are of particular use due to the fact that they are more sensitive to liquids than other waveforms, meaning scientists can use them to determine areas of the Earth’s interior where solids turn into liquids.

“This [study] demonstrates the connection of the solid Earth to the atmosphere and ocean climate system,” said Peter Bromirski, a geophysical oceanographer who co-authored a perspective on the current study. “New discoveries of any kind are always exciting, particularly when multiple fields of study are involved.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 3rd August 2016

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a nutshell – what are the Exchequer Returns?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mixed bag?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pictures from Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Sligo 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

An widespread issue?

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

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

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

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

An endangered species

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

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

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

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

Tigers and wolves

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

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

Tigers need significant amounts of prey to survive,

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

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

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

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


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 25th May 2016

Ireland’s TDs set to take three months’ holidays from work/Dáil

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin says proposed period is too long


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he thinks a period of Dáil holidays proposed by Fine Gael is too long.

TDs are set to get around three months’ holidays from the Dáil this summer because of renovations to the Leinster House.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party was told on Wednesday night the Dáil will rise on July 7th and will return later than usual due to repair works being carried out on the building.

The Dáil usually resumes from the summer recess in mid September, which means a later that usual return could ensure that TDs are away from Leinster House for almost three months.

Government chief whip Regina Doherty said a final decision has not yet been made and said “any schedule will be based around works to be carried out”.

She also said it will not affect the sittings of Oireachtas committees, which are expected to continue their business even as the renovations take place.

The renovations to Leinster House will focus on the old, Georgian part of the building which houses the Seanad, but not the Dáil chamber. However, it is understood that access to the chamber and the building will be curtailed during this period.

Speaking at a Fianna Fáil event on Wednesday night to celebrate the centenary of the Easter Rising and the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the party in 1926, Mr Martin said he felt the proposed period for the Dáil to rise is “too early and it is too long”.

“It is a surprise because that hasn’t been communicated to me, although I did speak with the Ceann Comhairle and the Clerk of the Dáil two weeks ago and they were indicating it would be the middle of July, around the 18th.

“The clerk did explain about the structural problems with Leinster House, the old part of Leinster House from his perspective, required urgent remedial works, in terms of securing it and so on. That is something we will have further discussions on.”

He said Fianna Fáil will be discussing the matter with other parties in the Dáil.

An invitation to tender for the renovations published this week said the “proposed works comprise full rewiring of historic Leinster House to current standards”.

This will include the “carrying out of structural strengthening to some existing floors” and other works.

Average Irish house prices climb 7.1% to end of April 2016


Rate of increase significantly lower than 15.8% reported 12 months previously

House prices in Dublin are now 33.1% lower than at their highest level in early 2007 while apartments in the capital are 41.5% lower than they were at the peak of the boom.

The average cost of buying a home in the Republic climbed by 7.1% in the 12 months to the end of April, new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show.

While the figures suggest that the recovery in the property sector is continuing, the price increases over the last 12 months are significantly lower than 12 months previously when a year-on-year rise of 15.8% was reported.

Around the State, residential property prices increased by 0.3% in April compared with no change in March and a climb of 0.6% in April of last year.

The new figures show that after recording four successive monthly declines to the end of April, the market in Dublin has rebounded somewhat with an increase of 1.6% recorded last month.

Dublin residential property prices are now 4.6% higher than they were a year ago.

The price of residential properties outside Dublin fell by 0.6% in April compared with an increase of 0.3% in the same month last year. However, prices are still 9.5% higher than they were 12 months previously.

House prices in Dublin are now 33.1% lower than at their highest level in early 2007 while apartments in the capital are 41.5% lower than they were at the peak of the boom.

National index

The price of residential properties in the rest of Ireland is 35.8% lower than their highest level in September 2007.

Overall, the national index is 33.3% lower than its highest level in 2007.

The managing director of Myhome.ie, Angela Keegan, said the latest statistics indicated that momentum was returning to the Dublin market as it enters the traditional busy buying season.

“On the face of it the fact property prices went up 1.6% in April and house prices went up almost 2% in Dublin is a surprise,” she said. “But March was quieter than usual and it looks as if a lot of people put off making decisions on property until after St Patrick’s Day and Easter. As a result, the market appears to have surged ahead.”

She said the question was now if it would “carry through into the summer. Our view is that while prices increases will continue in positive territory it won’t continue at this level.”

Temporary slowdown

“This is exactly what we predicted,” said Savills’ director of research Dr John McCartney. “Price growth slowed in Dublin last year as tighter mortgage lending forced people into renting. However, this slowdown was always going to be temporary; the shift to renting has forced up rents, attracting investors who are now scrapping to buy properties and driving up prices.”

He warned that “the Dublin market may become increasingly like London, with expensive properties, many of which are owned by investors”.

President Higgins highlights gender inequality at Turkish summit

Michael D Higgins delivers address to World Humanitarian Summit


President Michael D Higgins said it is not sufficient to make statements about the need for change. Gender equality is a right, he told the summit.

President Michael D Higgins has strongly condemned global leaders for their failure to address the growing problem of gender inequality.

In a powerful speech at the World Humanitarian Summit Mr Higgins said the divide is worsening and continuing as we are is not an option.

The President said the conference, attended by 150 political leaders, must ensure commitments “constitute much more than compassionate words on a page yet again”.

He said: “At this moment, rape continues to be persistently used and has increased as a weapon of war; shameful rates of maternal and infant malnutrition persist in many countries; in others, women have no rights or means to control their own fertility.

“The position of women in transit and their acute vulnerability to exploitation and violence, as well as the vulnerability of their children to denial of basic rights to health and education – in Europe and elsewhere – is a cause for the greatest concern.”

Mr Higgins said it is not sufficient to make statements about the need for change.

Gender equality is a right, he told the summit, and a healthy society is not achievable if women and girls are marginalised. Mr Higgins said every nation has a role to play in achieving gender equality, including Ireland.

“Ireland specifically commits to promote the empowered participation of women, in particular in situations of fragility and protracted crises.

“We will ensure that the promotion of universal access to reproductive healthcare is included in our humanitarian action,” he said.

Mr Higgins did not wish to be drawn on whether that should stretch to changing the eighth amendment of the Irish Constitution.

The President’s wife, Sabina, made a strong intervention in the debate but when asked Mr Higgins said it would not be appropriate for him to discuss the issue.

Abuse allegations

Mr Higgins also expressed his revulsion at allegations women and children were abused by United Nations peacekeepers. The UN said it has received 44 reports of sexual abuse by staff in UN missions involving 40 minors.

Mr Higgins said this violence is being perpetrated by those sent to protect and support the most vulnerable of our sisters.

He will travel home today after the two-day summit, where his contributions have been widely praised.

Despite initial hesitations about attending, Mr Higgins said it had been a worthwhile experience.

British prime minister David Cameron, United States president Barack Obama, French president François Hollande and Russian president Vladimir Putin did not attend. Mr Higgins said their absence provided space for others to challenge them.

He said: “The point is, an advantage was taken of the absence of the big figures. If the big five had been there they might have distracted from what turned out to be valuable contributions. There were clear challenges put to the five. Some of them, including myself, included in these the abuse of the veto.

“How could you justify using the veto when you hear what is being told to you about what are basic threats to humanitarian law and the right to live in any kind of dignity.”

The Minister for Health Simon Harris signs European Tobacco products directive into Irish law


The Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D., has signed the Regulations transposing the Tobacco Products Directive into Irish law. The European Union (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco and Related Products) Regulations 2016 came into force on 20 May 2016.

The Regulations provide for more stringent rules for tobacco and related products and, from a public health perspective, focuses on limiting their appeal, in particular to young people. The Regulations include measures for labelling, ingredients, tracking and tracing, cross border distance sales and the regulation of electronic cigarettes, refill containers, herbal products for smoking and novel tobacco products.

More than ten years have passed since the adoption of the first Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) making it necessary at EU level to bring it in line with market, scientific and international developments in the tobacco sector. The aim of the Directive is to harmonise laws on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, to facilitate the smooth functioning of the internal market while assuring a high level of public health protection. [Irish presidency]

The Regulations include the following measures: –

1.       A ban on cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours such as fruit flavours, menthol or vanilla;

2.      A ban on tobacco products containing certain additives;

3.      A ban on any misleading labelling (such as “natural” or “organic”);

4.      Increased size for combined health warnings and a requirement to place them on the front and back of the product;

Some additional reporting requirements for tobacco products;

Notification requirements for electronic cigarettes, refill containers, herbal and novel tobacco products;

Registration requirement for cross-border distance sales of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes or refill containers;

  1. The introduction of a tracking and tracing system;
  2. Regulation of electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
  3. Stricter rules on advertising/sponsorship for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
  4. Mandatory safety and quality requirements for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;

The Minister in welcoming these Regulations stated “These measures will further complement the tobacco control initiatives already in place and will help to drive down consumption of tobacco and protect public health. I also welcome the clarity provided on the regulation of e-cigarettes, which will give confidence to users in the safety and efficacy of these products”.

“In the area of tobacco control, I am delighted to hear that the UK Government has successfully defended their Standardised Packaging legislation in the courts. I look forward to progressing our Standardised Packaging Regulations in the near future”.

Transposing the Tobacco Products Directive will improve the functioning of the internal market for tobacco and related products, while ensuring a high level of health protection for Irish citizens.

The Regulations include a number of measures as such:

A ban on cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours such as fruit flavours, menthol or vanilla;

1.       A ban on tobacco products containing certain additives;

2.      A ban on any misleading labelling (such as “natural” or “organic”);

3.      Increased size for combined health warnings and a requirement to place them on the front and back of the product;

Additional reporting requirements for tobacco products;

Notification requirements for electronic cigarettes, refill containers, herbal and novel tobacco products;

Registration requirement for cross-border distance sales of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes or refill containers;

  • Introduction of a tracking and tracing system;
  • Regulation of electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
  • Stricter rules on advertising/sponsorship for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;

Mandatory safety and quality requirements for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;

Certain provisions of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 have been commenced in order to the transpose the measures relating to Articles 13 and 14 of the Directive.

What about an ice-cream that cures your hangover?


Ice-cream is already a go-to ‘cure’ for many of who struggle with hangovers – all that sugar and stomach-settling coolness can ease the trauma of the morning/afternoon/evening after.

However, the South Koreans have gone one step further, with an ice-cream specifically designed to soothe your sorry hungover state.

The Gyeondyo-bar translates as “hang in there”, is grapefruit-flavoured (refreshing), and contains oriental raisin tree fruit juice which is a traditional hangover remedy in South Korea.

There’s science behind it too – a 2012 article in the Journal of Neuroscience found the extract reduced the symptoms of drunkenness in rats.

A press release from the chain of stores selling the ice-cream, Withme FS, said the ice-cream’s name “expresses the hardships of employees who have to suffer a working day after heavy drinking, as well as to provide comfort to those who have to come to work early after frequent nights of drinking”.

We don’t advocate drinking to excess on school nights, but this ice-cream sounds amazing.

Unfortunately, there are no plans as yet to ship the product to

A shocking but awesome find in a Neanderthal cave in France

A rock structure, built deep underground, is one of the earliest hominin constructions ever found.


In February 1990, thanks to a 15-year-old boy named Bruno Kowalsczewski, footsteps echoed through the chambers of Bruniquel Cave for the first time in tens of thousands of years.

The cave sits in France’s scenic Aveyron Valley, but its entrance had long been sealed by an ancient rockslide. Kowalsczewski’s father had detected faint wisps of air emerging from the scree, and the boy spent three years clearing away the rubble. He eventually dug out a tight, thirty-meter-long passage that the thinnest members of the local caving club could squeeze through.

They found themselves in a large, roomy corridor. There were animal bones and signs of bear activity, but nothing recent. The floor was pockmarked with pools of water. The walls were punctuated by stalactites (the ones that hang down) and stalagmites (the ones that stick up).

Some 336 meters into the cave, the caver stumbled across something extraordinary—a vast chamber where several stalagmites had been deliberatelybroken. Most of the 400 pieces had been arranged into two rings—a large one between 4 and 7 metres across, and a smaller one just 2 metres wide. Others had been propped up against these donuts. Yet others had been stacked into four piles. Traces of fire were everywhere, and there was a mass of burnt bones. 

These weren’t natural formations, and they weren’t the work of bears. They were built by people.

Recognizing the site’s value, the caver brought in archaeologist Francois Rouzaud. Using carbon-dating, Rouzaud estimated that a burnt bear bone found within the chamber was 47,600 years old, which meant that the stalagmite rings were older than any known cave painting. It also meant that they couldn’t have been the work of Homo sapiens. Their builders must have been the only early humans in the south of France at the time: Neanderthals.

The discovery suggested that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than anyone had given them credit for. They wielded fire, ventured deep underground, and shaped the subterranean rock into complex constructions. Perhaps they even carried out rituals; after all, there was no evidence that anyone actually lived in the cave, so what else were the rings and mounds for? 

Rouzaud would never know. In April 1999, while guiding colleagues through a different cave, he suffered a fatal heart attack. With his death, work on the Bruniquel Cave ceased, and its incredible contents were neglected. They’ve only now re-entered the limelight because Sophie Verheyden went on holiday.

“When I announced the age to Jacques, he asked me to repeat it because it was so incredible.”

A life-long caver, Verheyden works at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, where she specializes in stalagmites. She treats them as time capsules, using the chemicals within them to reconstruct the climate of past millennia. So when she learned about Bruniquel Cave, while visiting the region on holiday and seeing a display at a nearby castle, she had only one thought: Why hadn’t anyone dated the broken stalagmites themselves?”

She knew that Rouzaud’s date of 47,600 years was impressive but suspect. Carbon-dating is only accurate for samples younger than 50,000 years, so the Bruniquel material was hitting the technique’s limits. They could well have been much older. To get a better estimate, Verheyden assembled a team including archaeologist Jacques Jaubert and fellow stalagmite expert Dominique Genty. In 2013, they got permission to study the site and crawled into it themselves. “I’m not very big, and I had to put one arm before me and one behind to get through,” says Verheyden. “It’s kind of magical, even without the structures.”

After drilling into the stalagmites and pulling out cylinders of rock, the team could see an obvious transition between two layers. On one side were old minerals that were part of the original stalagmites; on the other were newer layers that had been laid down after the fragments were broken off by the cave’s former users. By measuring uranium levels on either side of the divide, the team could accurately tell when each stalagmite had been snapped off for construction.

Their date? 176,500 years ago, give or take a few millennia.

“When I announced the age to Jacques, he asked me to repeat it because it was so incredible,” says Verheyden. Outside Bruniquel Cave, the earliest, unambiguous human constructions are  just 20,000 years old. Most of these are ruins—collapsed collections of mammoth bones and deer antlers. By comparison, the Bruniquel stalagmite rings are well-preserved and far more ancient.

And if Rouzaud’s work made it unlikely that modern humans built the rings,Verheyden’s study grinds that possibility into the dust. Neanderthals must have been responsible. There simply wasn’t any other hominin in that region at that time.

“When you see such a structure so far into the cave, you think of something cultural or religious.”

Why did they build the rings and mounds? The structures weren’t foundations for huts; the chamber contains no stone tools, human bones, or any other sign of permanent occupation, and besides, why build shelter inside a cave? “A plausible explanation is that this was a meeting place for some type of ritual social behavior,” says Paola Villa from the University of Colorado Museum.

“When you see such a structure so far into the cave, you think of something cultural or religious, but that’s not proven,” adds Verheyden. Indeed, despite some fanciful speculations about cave bear cults, no one really knows.

Nor is it clear how the Neanderthals made the structures. Verheyden says it couldn’t have been one lone artisan, toiling away in the dark. Most likely, there was a team, and a technically skilled one at that. They broke rocks deliberately, and arranged them precisely. They used fire, too. More than 120 fragments have red and black streaks that aren’t found elsewhere in the chamber or the cave beyond. They were the result of deliberately applied heat, at intensities strong enough to occasionally crack the rock. “The Neanderthal group responsible for these constructions had a level of social organization that was more complex than previously thought,” the team writes.

These discoveries are part of the Neanderthals’ ongoing rehabilitation. Since their discovery, scientists have tried to understand why they died out and we did not, with the implicit assumption that they were inferior in some important way. Indeed, to describe someone as a Neanderthal today is to accuse them of unsophisticated brutishness.

But we now know that Neanderthals made tools, used fire, made art, buried their dead, and perhaps even had language. “The new findings have ushered a transformation of the Neanderthal from a knuckle-dragging savage rightfully defeated in an evolutionary contest, to a distant cousin that holds clues to our identity,” wrote Lydia Pyne in Nautilus.

And now, we have Bruniquel Cave with its structures that are unprecedented in their complexity, antiquity, and depth within the darkness. We know that 400,000 years ago, some ancient hominins chucked their dead into a cave at Sima de los Huesos, but there’s no evidence of the careful constructions in Bruniquel. There’s evidence of painting and sculpture within caves, but none older than 42,000 years. There are signs that Neanderthals used caves, but nothing to suggest that they frequently ventured deeper than sunlight.

“I think we have several lines of evidence showing that the cognitive abilities and behaviors of Neanderthals were complex,” says Marie Soressi from Leiden University. “But we had no direct evidence of their ability to build. That changes the picture for me. It’s puzzling to find such structures so deep inside the cave.”

To solve these puzzles, Verheyden wants to start cutting into the cave’s floor. It has been covered by layers of calcite, which may conceal specimens that hint at the chamber’s purpose. Verheyden also notes that the entrance they’ve been using cannot possibly have been the only one. “We’re crawling through this small thing and there are bear hollows in the cave. I don’t think the bears went in that way!” she says. “There must have been some other passage that collapsed.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 10th April 2016

Calls for cool heads and space as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael start to talk

Paschal Donohoe says written agreement needed from discussion on minority government.


The Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has called for space and cool heads as negotiating teams from both parties prepare to begin substantive talks on the formation of a new government.

Mr Martin said on Sunday that Fianna Fail are “committed” to taking a responsible role to ensure that a minority government will have the support needed in the Dáil.

He and acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have “overseeing” roles while the negotiations are going on and that the parties’ respective teams will report on their progress to the party leaders, he said.

Mr Martin was speaking in Newcastle, Co Tipperary, where he gave the keynote speech at the 93red annual commemoration for Liam Lynch, one of the local IRA officers during the War of Independence.

He was welcomed to the area by local independent TD, Mattie McGrath, one of the so-called “rural five” who have been engaged in discussions with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael over the formation of a new government.

The Fianna Fail leader welcomed the initiation of the substantive talks process, as announced in tandem by the two largest parties on Saturday evening, on how a minority government could work.

“I think space is now required and I think we need cool heads and I think we need to focus on achieving this and realising this and certainly Fianna Fail are very committed to taking a responsible role here and ensuring that we can bring about the formation of a minority government,” Mr Martin told reporters.

“Democracy is changing, the nature of our parliamentary system is changing and I think we need to embrace that and that basically can be best reflected in the formation of a minority government.”

Frances Fitzgerald statement:

Fine Gael TD and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Sunday it was possible to do a deal by the time the Dáil reconvenes on Thursday.

“But there is a lot of work to be done and huge commitment is needed between now and Thursday. But if not Thursday shortly after that,” she told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

Ms Fitzgerald said there would need to be agreements in place to form a minority government.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said there would need to be a written agreement from the talks between the two parties. A minority government led by Fianna Fail would not be stable, he told RTÉ’s This Week.

Independent TD Dr Michael Harty dismissed reports that the rural Independent TDs would not support Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.

Nearing a conclusion

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said the process of forming a government was nearing a conclusion. He did not know if would happen by Thursday. “But I do think we are moving into an end game. We all want to put a government in place. We all want to get down to the work that the people expect us to do”.

Mr Martin said that he made it clear in his Dáil speech last Wednesday, before “events subsequently overtook” that speech, “that we were prepared to support a Fine Gael-led minority government if they had the numbers in terms of the independents’ preferences, but likewise that Fine Gael should equally offer that similar view that they would be prepared to support a Fianna Fail-led minority government if the numbers fell in that direction.

“I actually articulated that in the Dáil and that remains my view but I think the fact that we now have initiated a process involving our negotiators, I think we should take it forward now and leave it at that and just give space and room to try and move it forward.”

Dáil reform is a must?

He said Dáil reform is “well under way” under the chairmanship of Ceann Comhairle Sean Fearghail, and predicted “significant change” in how the Dáil does its business.

“The Dáil will be much more in command of its destiny now than it would have been heretofore when governments of the day tended to rule every single item on the agenda and determine what happened in the Dáil.”

Independent TDs spoken to by Fianna Fail in recent weeks gave negotiators a “very good reception,” he said.

“Obviously the independents were very anxious that both parties would get into the process that we are now in, in terms of ascertaining and working towards how would a minority government work.

“That has now happened and I’m not going to get into speculation as to who’s going to support who but what I can honestly say is that we’ve put forward very succinct, clear policy positions ranging from the health and housing issues right across of course to the issues of justice and transparency about how we appoint judges, for example, and I think we had very precise proposals and the independents welcomed that.”

Mattie McGrath, who was a Fianna Fail TD before leaving the party during the FF-Green coalition term, said it was “a pity” that his former party had ruled out a partnership government with Fine Gael, but welcomed the beginning of talks between the two parties.

“Before we can support a minority Government we have to have some idea about what the rules of engagement are — how many budgets will be passed and how will votes be held. It is not rocket science,” the independent TD said

The signs are good for Irish tourism?

Says Fáilte Ireland chiefs


Irish Tourism chiefs have hailed an exceptional start to the year for the industry but warned of the unravelling of competitiveness as the euro strengthens against sterling.

Fáilte Ireland, responsible for co-ordinating marketing of the tourism industry, also said the “omens are good” for the rest of the year as it unveiled its annual holidaymakers’ survey ahead of an annual trade fair.

The number of airline seats into Ireland this summer will be up 10% from last year, while Dublin hotels report “extremely high occupancy levels”; tourism businesses all along the Wild Atlantic Way say domestic visitors contributed to a very busy Easter; while an influx of French, German, Dutch, and Swiss travellers is helping to extend the early season.

Despite some weakening of the strength of sterling against the euro in recent months, visitors from the North are boosting business in counties Sligo and Donegal, while businesses in South Kerry say enquiries have increased because of the effects of the filming of Star Wars on Skellig Michael, according to the tourism authority.

 And Fáilte Ireland says in another of its promoted regions “the Ancient East” that US tourists and the “UK retiree market” are boosting accommodation bookings.

However, the tourism body warns that the favourable currency exchange rate that had helped make the Republic so attractive to tourists holding sterling and dollars last year, could be ending.

“The signs look good and there is great cause for optimism within tourism this year but there are also good reasons not to be too complacent,” said Shaun Quinn, chief executive at Fáilte Ireland.

“The recent weakening of sterling in relation to the euro means we have to remain vigilant with regard to competitiveness.

“Furthermore, recent incidents in Paris and Brussels have the potential for undermining travel confidence, particularly from the US. In Fáilte Ireland we are taking nothing for granted,” Mr Quinn said.

Its latest survey of overseas tourists’ experiences of Ireland, published yesterday, showed that a majority of visitors last year believed their holidays provided good or very good value.

Friendly people; security; the scenery; the range of attractions and sights; and history and culture were given as the top reasons for deciding to travel in Ireland.

Some 5% thought they got poor value for their money.

Two thirds of holidaymakers said that they would be back soon, while 39% hoped to return at some time. “While the research is very encouraging, with regard to how visitors perceive their time here, we still have to work hard to get people here in the first instance,” Mr Quinn said. “A strong level of competitiveness ensures that we attract visitors here in the first instance.”

Irish doctors urged to speak out on sexual harassment at work


Ireland’s Junior doctors want to break the silence around sexual harassment of female medics in Irish hospitals.

They have called on acting health minister Leo Varadkar to set up an expert group to investigate the extent to which female trainees may be afraid to complain because it will hurt their careers.

Fears that blowing the whistle on sex pests on the hospital wards will hamper career development is a very real one, delegates at the Irish Medical Organisation’s (IMO) AGM in Sligo were told.

Dr John Duddy, a neurosurgical specialist registrar in Beaumont Hospital, who is the new president of the IMO, said the problem came to the surface in Australia last year and the view of experienced medics here is that it is no different in Ireland.

Doctors in male-dominated hospitals in Australia said they had experienced everything from inappropriate jokes to sexual advances from senior staff who could make or break their careers.

Some said they would not trust the complaint mechanisms in place at hospitals and colleges where there was an established culture of “untouchables”.

Dr Duddy said: “We don’t know what is happening in Ireland but it is something that needs to be looked at.”

Irish hospitals continue to be “hierarchical” institutions and a trainee must rely on a good reference from a senior doctor when they seek a job.

The Australian probe found female surgical trainees had to give sexual favours.

Junior doctors at the AGM unanimously backed a motion calling on Mr Varadkar to set up a working group to find out the prevalence of sexual harassment across the health service. Dr John Donnellan, a trainee paediatric radiologist in Temple St Hospital said: “It is foolish for the HSE to presume that this is not an issue, when every other industry and profession recognises this, as that causes problems for their employees.

“There is no mention of support or facilities within hospitals with information on where to go,” he added.

The junior doctors also want the minister to set up a task force to tackle the scourge of bullying.

It follows a survey by the Medical Council, the doctors’ regulator, showing that one in three trainees is subjected to bullying at work.

Dr Duddy said the Medical Council referred to bullying as part of a “culture”.

However, he said: “I do not agree with that. If you are bullied at work you are more likely to leave the health service.”

He said there is silence around “doctor-on-doctor” bullying and he himself experienced it early on in his career.

“I know what it is like to have my performance in the operating theatre undermined.”

Dr Duddy also condemned the low number of women in senior medical posts.

He said there needs to be a change in medical training and working hour regimes in order to make some medical posts more attractive to female doctors.

Women must play bigger role in church, A Synod hears

Limerick Diocesan Synod hears call for lay-led liturgies without priests on weekdays


A motion to establish a working group to explore and scope out how and where women can play a leadership role in the governance of the church received the highest number of priority votes at the Limerick Diocesan Synod.

Women need to play a much more important role in the church, the first Synod in Ireland in 50 years has been told.

Some 400 delegates spent three days at the Limerick Diocesan Synod where they voted on 100 proposals to help map out the future of the church and how it serves the local community in a time of falling vocations.

A motion to establish a working group to explore and scope out how and where women can play a leadership role in the governance of the church received the highest number of priority votes at the Synod.

A proposal to develop and support lay-led liturgies and the celebration of sacraments was supported by more than 90 per cent of delegates.

Lay-led liturgies

Speaking at the Synod Fr Eugene Duffy, a lecturer in theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College, recommended that occasional lay-led liturgies without priests should be introduced on weekdays as a way of preparing for the reality of priests not being available to every parish in the years ahead.

“If we can get used to having lay-led liturgy on week days first then people will begin to appreciate it, understand it, grow in their own acceptance of it and see the value of it,” he said.

“In the absence of a priest that’s what they will have to do on a Sunday. We have to start by doing it on a week day and then people become familiar with it. The foundational thing that people have to do is to gather on a Sunday to worship, however we do it.

Fr Duffy also said that the Catholic Church can learn from the Church of Ireland in this regard.

“The Church of Ireland has readers who look after the liturgy on a Sunday if an ordained minister cannot be present. We are going to have to get used to this situation and have no option to prepare for it. Otherwise there is going to be a trauma some Sunday.

The role of women in the church was also discussed as part of the universal themes which could not be voted on but were discussed on the final day of the Synod.

Vincent Hanley, a delegate from Knockaderry/Clouncagh, Co Limerick, said the issue of women priests was a popular theme during the three-year listening process which took place before the Synod.

“Up to now we have been very pragmatic in our discussions but there are elephants in the room and especially the situation around women priests. This issue came up again and again in our listening process, in the questionnaires and our assemblies,” said Mr Hanley.

Marian Wallace, a delegate from Ardpatrick, Co Limerick, said women, in particular mothers, were tired of “religious apartheid”.

“Mothers are the backbone of the church, we teach our children we bring them to church but we are tired of inequality we are tired of religious apartheid,” she said.

Wild tiger population rising for first time in a 100 years


The world’s count of wild tigers roaming forests from Russia to Vietnam has gone up for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted by conservation groups and national governments in the latest global census, wildlife conservation groups said Monday.

The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum.

India alone holds more than half of them, with 2,226 tigers roaming reserves across the country, from the southern tip of Kerala state to the eastern swamps in West Bengal, according to its last count in 2014.

But while experts said the news was cause for celebration, they stopped short of saying the number of tigers itself was actually rising. In other words, it may just be that experts are aware of more tigers, thanks to the fact that survey methods are improving and more areas are being included.

Still, this is the first time tiger counts are increasing since 1900, when there were more than 100,000 tigers in the wild.

“More important than the absolute numbers is the trend, and we’re seeing the trend going in the right direction,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF.

The global census, compiled from national tiger surveys as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was released a day before ministers from 13 countries meet for three days in New Delhi as they work toward doubling the world’s wild tiger population from the 2010 low by 2022.

Not all nations are seeing progress, though. While Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal all counted more tigers in their latest surveys, Southeast Asian countries have struggled. They are also behind the others in conservation measures, and do not yet conduct a tiger census on their own.

“When you have high-level political commitments, it can make all the difference,” Hemley said. “When you have well protected habitat and you control the poaching, tigers will recover. That’s a pretty simple formula. We know it works.”

Cambodia is looking at reintroducing tigers after recently declaring them functionally extinct within its borders, meaning there are no longer any breeding tigers in the wild. Indonesia has also seen a rapid decline, thanks to having the world’s highest rate of forest destruction to meet growing demand for producing palm oil as well as pulp and paper.

Tigers are considered endangered species, under constant threat from habitat loss and poachers seeking their body parts for sale on the black market. They are also seeing their habitats rapidly shrinking as countries develop.

The global tiger count is based on data from 2014. Here is the tally broken down by country:

Bangladesh, 106; Bhutan, 103; Cambodia, 0; China, more than 7; India, 2,226; Indonesia, 371; Laos, 2; Malaysia, 250; Myanmar, no data available; Nepal, 198; Russia, 433; Thailand, 189; Vietnam, fewer than 5.

The experts said the Myanmar government’s count of 85 tigers in 2010 was not included because the data was considered out of date.


In 2011, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane was granted access to some rare pictures of tigers in the wild. Taken by cameras hidden deep in the jungles of Thailand, the video showed the endangered animals as they’ve rarely been seen.

The footage was made available only to CBS News by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Hidden camera footage provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society shows tigers in their natural environment.


“It’s the first time that technology has gotten to the stage where we can take videos,” Elizabeth Bennett said in 2011. Bennett is with the WCS, which runs New York City’s Bronx Zoo. The laser-triggered camera traps capture video of the tigers “behaving naturally,” she said. “Completely away from humans — there are no humans anywhere near them.”

The cameras were set up along Thailand’s border with Burma. The images all come from within a special protected zone roughly the size of Rhode Island.


Saturday 13th February 2016

Garda may be issued with new weapons after Dublin killings

Heightened Garda presence in city as first of two funerals takes place on Monday


Armed detectives and specialist units including the ERU will form part of the operation to deter any further attacks around the funerals.

Members of the specialist Garda unit leading the response to armed crime gangs are seeking new weapons that would give it some of the capabilities of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Regional Support Unit (RSU).

Members of the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau are concerned they are not properly equipped to deal with the volatile criminals they encounter during searches and other anti-gang operations.

And after two significant factions launched separate gun attacks over the last eight days that left four men wounded, two of them fatally, sources said members of the bureau want “immediate progress” on their demands.

They are requesting taser stun guns and MP7 high velocity personal defence weapons.

In a statement issued through Garda headquarters, the force said its firearms capability was being considered.

  • Irish gangland: How business got personal
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“As part of a wider programme An Garda Síochána is currently reviewing its armed capacity and response capability,” the statement said.

Powerful firearms. 

While the MP7s are powerful firearms that can pierce armour. Sources say the stun guns – used to subdue violent criminals – were likely to be used more often. Members of the bureau have already been trained to use tasers but have not been provided with them, unlike the ERU and RSU.

Gardaí are to begin mounting a heightened security operation this evening in a bid to minimise the risk of further gun attacks around the funerals of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch.

Father-of-two David Byrne, who was killed at the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, eight days ago is to be waked and his parents’ home in Crumlin tomorrow evening ahead of his funeral on Monday.

Garda sources said a security operation would need to be put in place in the south inner city on Monday morning and into the afternoon, when Mr Byrne’s funeral mass takes place at St Nicholas of Myra Church, Francis Street, before burial at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross.

There was concern in Garda circles last night that social occasions around the funeral may give rise to more violence.

A high-visibility presence of unarmed uniformed gardaí along with armed detectives and specialist units including the ERU will form part of the operation to deter any further attacks. The Public Order Unit, or riot squad, was also expected to be on standby.

The boxing weigh-in?

Mr Byrne (33) was shot dead when a group of armed men, some dressed in Garda special operations-style uniforms and carrying AK 47s, burst into a boxing tournament weigh-in the Regency Hotel last Friday, February 4th.

As two Independent News & Media journalists remained away from their homes under threat from one of the feuding gangs, NewsBrands Ireland, representing 16 national newspaper titles, said it “vigorously condemned” the threats.

It said journalists “perform a hugely important function in helping society to value truth . . . It is vital that all journalists working for a free press are enabled to carry out their duties without fear and intimidation.”

A Cork Bishop urges voters to question candidates on Eight Amendment

Some using life limiting conditions to push for abortion on wider grounds, cleric warns


The Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley.

A Catholic bishop has urged voters to question all general election candidates about their views and voting intentions on repealing the Eighth Amendment to allow for abortion in certain circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality.

Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley said it was sad that a child’s life-limiting condition was being used by some candidates in the forthcoming general election to promote an agenda of those who seek to legalise abortion on much wider grounds.

In the first intervention by a Catholic bishop in the general election campaign, Bishop Buckley said that “candidates in the election should be questioned politely but firmly not just on their future intentions but on their past record.”

Bishop Buckley said there would be frequent references in the debate to “fatal foetal abnormalities” but the word “fatal” was misleading since there was “no medical evidence where a doctor can predict, with certainty, the lifespan of babies before they are born.”

“The term ‘incompatible with life’, which is also used, is a hurtful phrase since it implies that a baby’s life is worthless… parents often say that the time they have with their baby, however short, is very precious,” he said.

Bishop Buckley said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (2013) introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition “directly targeted the life of the unborn child and did so in the full knowledge that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings”.

In the context of abortion, the Catholic Church teaches it is wrong to confuse the necessary medical treatment to save the life of a mother and which does not intend to harm the baby with abortion which deliberately takes the life of a child, he said.

Late last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would convene a constitutional convention to examine repealing the Eighth Amendment, which would give equal right to life to a mother and her unborn child, and would allow a free vote if the convention proposed repeal.

Meanwhile, Labour has included repeal of the Eighth Amendment as part of its election manifesto even though last May it voted against a bill proposed byRuth Coppinger of the Socialist Party calling for the deletion of the Eighth Amendment to allow legislation on abortion.

Last November, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik enunciated Labour’s policy, explaining that the party’s proposals would allow for abortion under four medically certified grounds -risk to life, risk to health, cases of rape and case of fatal foetal abnormality.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin recently said that his party would not be initiating the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

He said it was a sensitive issue and he would favour the setting up of an all party committee to “tease out the various issues”.

Sinn Féin voted at its Ard Fheis in March 2015 in favour of allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and voted for the deletion of the Eighth Amendment when proposed by Ruth Coppinger in the Dáil last May.

Renua, whose leader Lucinda Creighton resigned as a Fine Gael minister of state when she opposed the suicide clause in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013, has said it is open to a referendum on abortion.

Meanwhile, a number of individual Fine Gael TDs including both the former and current Ministers for Health James Reilly and Leo Varadkar have both indicated that they would favour repeal of the Eighth Amendment .

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher said he would be happy if the Eighth Amendment was deleted and replaced with legislation outside of the constitution as long as the new law was strict and allowed abortion in only limited circumstances.

Irish Life’s profits up by 11% last year to €204 million

Pension and investment firm contributed €204m to its Canadian parent last year


Bill Kyle, Chief Executive, Irish Life Group: “(33%) one in three Irish adults has some savings with us and we manage 15% of personal assets in Ireland.”

Irish Life contributed €204 million in profit last year to its Canadian parent company, Great-West Lifeco, according to full year results just published. This was an increase of 11% on 2014.

For the three months to the end of December, Irish Life produced a profit of €77 million, a year-on-year increase of 57%.

Commenting on the results, Bill Kyle, Irish Life’s chief executive, said: “Our business continues to grow. Irish Life now has €64 billion of assets under management, more than one million customers and 2,300 employees.

“One in three Irish adults has some savings with us and we manage 15% of personal assets in Ireland.”

Mr Kyle said a highlight of the fourth-quarter performance was the success of Irish Life’s Empower pension programme for corporate businesses. It signed up five new large clients representing more than 7,000 members, €500 million in assets and €50 million in annual premium flow.

On January 27th, ratings agency Fitch upgraded Irish Life’s to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-’. This upgrade reflected Fitch’s view that Irish Life has become “core” to its Canadian parent.

“We are particularly pleased that Fitch noted that Great-West Lifeco’s acquisition of Irish Life has been well managed and has provided the company with critical scale in the Irish market as well as operational synergies and expense savings,” Mr Kyle said.

Looking for a healthy way to lose some weight? Then eat some breakfast

 V  V 

Eating breakfast may not only make people, especially obese, lose weight but can also make them more physically active and reduce food intake later in the day, reveals a study.
According to the team, increasing activity can improve health in sedentary people making them more active by controlling their blood sugar levels.

“Despite many people offering opinions about whether or not you should eat breakfast, to date, there has been a lack of rigorous scientific evidence showing  ..
or whether, breakfast might cause changes in our health,” said lead researcher James Betts from the University of Bath in Britain.

The results highlight some of these impacts, but “how important” breakfast is still really depends on the individual and their own personal goals, Betts added.

The team wanted to study the possible links between breakfast, body weight and health.

In the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers split obese  ..
The “breakfasting” group was asked to eat at least 700 calories by 11 a.m., which the first half of the group consumed within at least two hours of waking up. The fasting group was allowed only water until noon.

“For example, if weight loss is the key, there is little to suggest that just having breakfast or skipping it will matter. However, based on other markers of a healthy lifestyle like being more active or controlling blood sugar levels, then there is evidence that breakfast may help,” Betts noted.
It is important to bear in mind that not everybody responds in the same way to breakfast and that not all breakfasts are equal.

“The effects of a sugary cereal compared to a high-protein breakfast are likely to be quite different,” said Enhad Chowdhury, another researcher.

Some 150,000 penguins perish after a giant iceberg traps Antarctica colony


  • 150,000 penguins have died after an iceberg ran aground in Antarctica

  • The massive iceberg collided into the bay in 2010

About 150,000 penguins have died since being stranded by a vast iceberg that became lodged off the coast of Antarctica six years ago, according to the journal Antarctic Science.

Combined with expanding ice, the B09B iceberg, which at 1,120 square miles is almost the size of Rhode Island, has cut off the Adelie penguins’ food supply and changed the landscape of their home, according to a February report in the peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press.

The towering mass of water ice first ran aground into the penguins’ habitat of Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay in 2010. Before that it was floating along the coast for nearly 20 years before colliding into the bay. The iceberg essentially has landlocked the penguins, forcing the animals to trek across a desolate stretch of nearly 40 miles to find food.

Strength in numbers – Adelies are one of the most abundant of the penguin species. They can be found in large colonies and on icebergs and coastal areas in Antarctica waters.

Reduced habitat – Adelie penguins face the same climate change dangers as emperors, such as reduced habitat and a diminishing food supply. However, due to their larger population, they’re currently less at risk.

South polar skua – The south polar skua is the Adelie’s only land predator. It will attempt to steal penguin eggs and attack young chicks. Penguins work together to fight off the vicious skuas.

African penguin – The warmer climes of coastal South Africa and Namibia are home to the African or jackass penguin. Boulders Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, is a popular destination for penguin spotting.

Homebodies – Unlike the highly mobile penguins in Antarctica, African penguins breed, nest and feed in the same area instead of traveling hundreds of miles between sites. They build nests under boulders or bushes or burrows dug from their own guano.

Endangered species – African penguins are listed as an endangered species. Their decreasing population is spurred by loss of nesting grounds due to guano removal by humans, as well as a decreasing food supply as a result of overfishing.

Little penguins – The little penguin, also known as the fairy or blue penguin, can be found on the coasts of New Zealand and southern Australia. They’re the smallest of all penguins, weighing just a kilo or two and topping out at just over 30 centimeters tall.

Penguin Awareness – Around the globe, penguins are at risk of extinction due to overfishing and man-made changes to their breeding grounds.

Emperor penguins – There are 17 species of penguin, with emperor penguins being the largest. They weigh up to 45 kilos (100 pounds) and grow to 120 centimeters (48 inches) tall. These three are pictured on sea ice at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.

Where to spot them – Emperors can be seen along the coast of Antarctica. Breeding colonies are often the destination for cruises and scenic flights. Penguin species can also be spotted in South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Climate change – As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.

That waddle – Emperors have an awkward, waddling gait on land, but are graceful in the water. These birds can dive more than 550 meters (1,800 feet) and stay under for up to 20 minutes.

Adelie penguins – Less than half the size of an emperor penguin, Adelie penguins are one of the smallest of the Antarctic penguin species. Each October, they build nests of rocks on land near open water.

Strength in numbers – Adelies are one of the most abundant of the penguin species. They can be found in large colonies and on icebergs and coastal areas in Antarctica waters.

Reduced habitat – Adelie penguins face the same climate change dangers as emperors, such as reduced habitat and a diminishing food supply. However, due to their larger population, they’re currently less at risk.

South polar skua – The south polar skua is the Adelie’s only land predator. It will attempt to steal penguin eggs and attack young chicks. Penguins work together to fight off the vicious skuas.

African penguin – The warmer climes of coastal South Africa and Namibia are home to the African or jackass penguin. Boulders Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, is a popular destination for penguin spotting.

Homebodies – Unlike the highly mobile penguins in Antarctica, African penguins breed, nest and feed in the same area instead of traveling hundreds of miles between sites. They build nests under boulders or bushes or burrows dug from their own guano.

Endangered species – African penguins are listed as an endangered species. Their decreasing population is spurred by loss of nesting grounds due to guano removal by humans, as well as a decreasing food supply as a result of overfishing.

Little penguins – The little penguin, also known as the fairy or blue penguin, can be found on the coasts of New Zealand and southern Australia. They’re the smallest of all penguins, weighing just a kilo or two and topping out at just over 30 centimeters tall.

Penguin Awareness – Around the globe, penguins are at risk of extinction due to overfishing and man-made changes to their breeding grounds.

Emperor penguins – There are 17 species of penguin, with emperor penguins being the largest. They weigh up to 45 kilos (100 pounds) and grow to 120 centimeters (48 inches) tall. These three are pictured on sea ice at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.

Where to spot them – Emperors can be seen along the coast of Antarctica. Breeding colonies are often the destination for cruises and scenic flights. Penguin species can also be spotted in South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Climate change – As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.

That waddle – Emperors have an awkward, waddling gait on land, but are graceful in the water. These birds can dive more than 550 meters (1,800 feet) and stay under for up to 20 minutes.

Adelie penguins – Less than half the size of an emperor penguin, Adelie penguins are one of the smallest of the Antarctic penguin species. Each October, they build nests of rocks on land near open water.

Strength in numbers – Adelies are one of the most abundant of the penguin species. They can be found in large colonies and on icebergs and coastal areas in Antarctica waters.

The once 160,000-strong colony has now dwindled to 10,000 penguins.

“The arrival of iceberg B09B in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica… has dramatically increased the distance Adélie penguins breeding at Cape Denison must travel in search of food,” said researchers in the report.

Since 2011, the colony’s population has fallen dramatically, according to the Climate Change Research Center at Australia’s University of New South Wales.

The outlook for the Cape Denison Adelie penguins remains dire. Unless the colossal iceberg is broken up by sea ice, scientists predict the colony will disappear in 20 years.

About 5,500 pairs are still breeding in the area, but there has been a significant decline in their population compared with a century ago, according to estimates based on satellite images and a census in 1997.

However, it isn’t the end for all Adelie penguins. About five miles from the Commonwealth Bay, another colony is thriving, which leaves scientists to conclude that the iceberg has had a direct impact of the species that is now landlocked. About 30% of the Adelie penguin population lives in East Antarctica.

Research on the iceberg’s impact on the Adelie penguins can give scientists insight into the wider implications on the effects of increasing sea ice in the area.

Long-term environmental changes are projected for the Southern Ocean, which will likely affect marine predators, according to a 2015 report published the peer-reviewed journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Environmental shifts because of climate change could also affect the breeding habitats of land creatures, finding food in a marine environment and the availability of prey for larger predators

Deglaciation, the gradual melting of glaciers, is a key driver in the Adelie penguins’ population over a millennium, according to scientists. But while changes in sea ice can directly affect the species, scientists say it’s important to keep perspective on the penguins’ population over a larger time frame.