Tag Archives: Irish homes

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 22nd August 2015

Irish Government begins sending out applications for water conservation grant


Government begins sending applications for water conservation grant.

Under the current water conservation grant, anyone registered with Irish Water before the end of June is entitled to receive a €100 fee to help them conserve water.

They added that Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly will not be bringing the reported proposals to Cabinet when it reconvenes.

The department confirmed that people will be asked to provide their PPS numbers when applying for the payment which must be done online as there is no application form.

Data released under Freedom of Information has revealed that Department of the Environment has suggested the Local Government Management Agency could establish a new database of Irish Water customers and non-customers to be used by the Department of Social Protection to administer the grant from next year.

After the EU group’s ruling that Irish Water must remain on the exchequer’s books, and its swipe at the grant in particular, it appears a number of Government TDs have now given up on the argument – this time with one eye on the safety of their own Dáil seats.

“I think it is reasonable to say, given all the focus we have had especially with a utility like Irish water, to look at what measures can we take and what further work can be done to improve its efficiency and ensure it is better able to meet the needs of providing safe and secure water for Ireland”, he added.

The payment of the grant is fixed for 2015 and cannot be changed.

Therefore, any attempt to limit payment of the €100 grant could impact negatively on this cohort, most of whom are rural-based.

The cost of water charges drops to €160 for a family and €60 for an individual when the grant is included.

And when, depending on who you listen to, that policy relates to either wasting taxpayers’ money on a grant given to people refusing to pay water charges or taking money away from struggling would-be voters, it is yet another no-win situation for the Coalition and an open goal for an opposition constantly waiting to pounce.

Mr Cowen said it was time for real, alternative policies in relation to Irish Water.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis said the Coalition was “at sixes and sevens” over the conservation grant.

“There must be a single public utility for the supply of clean, fresh, drinking water for every home in the country, free of domestic water charges”.

Canadian company offers help with Irish BCG vaccine shortage


A Danish company is the only licensed supplier of the BCG vaccine in the EU.

A healthcare company in the Republic of Ireland said a Canadian firm has offered it 40,000 doses of a vaccine that protects against tuberculosis.

It follows concerns that the BCG vaccine would not be available until later this year or early next year.

Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, said problems meant the vaccine, produced in Denmark, was not available.

He blamed production difficulties, delivery delays and sealing problems.

Carysfort Healthcare said it has been offered 40,000 doses of the BCG vaccine from the Canadian medical supply company, Intervax.

The delivery can be made in the next two to three weeks, but the offer will expire on 25 August due to shortages of the vaccine in other countries.

The Danish company is the only licensed supplier of the vaccine in the EU. However, according to Carysfort’s managing director, Fintan Smith, the BCG offered is prequalified and approved by the World Health Organisation.

Mr Smith has been in contact with the Health Products Regulatory Authority in connection with the offer and whether it will allow the medicine to be used as an emergency as it is not licensed in the Republic of Ireland.

‘50,000 babies affected’

Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams had raised the vaccine’s lack of availability after a Louth councillor from his party, Jennifer Green, who is due to give birth in three weeks, had been told her baby would not be given the vaccine as recommended by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Mr Adams said the difficulties had been known by the Irish Department of Health since last year.

He said that, as a result of failing to find an alternative supplier, at least 50,000 babies, and potentially many more, would not receive their BCG when appropriate.

The Department of Health said other countries were experiencing similar delays in acquiring supplies of the vaccine from the Danish company.

The statement added that production was suspended in 2014 pending an extensive investigation regarding a possible problem with the capping of the vials.

It said the investigation had ended and product produced during 2014 was being released.

The statement also said the HSE would arrange appointments for children to attend clinics when the vaccine supply was restored.

The HSE said it had “no control over when BCG vaccine will be delivered by the vaccine manufacturer” and that “these supply issues will continue until at least quarter one, 2016.”

Redheads come together at Cork Convention festival 


Redheads will this weekend have the opportunity to have their portrait taken while supporting a good cause at one of the country’s more unusual festivals.

Professional photographer Jörg Köster will take portrait photos of all eligible redheads at this weekend’s Redhead Convention in Cork. While it is free for redheads to have their picture taken, proceeds from prints at Jörg’s photobooth will go to the Irish Cancer Society.

The German native, who has been based in Cork since 1990, has been developing a portfolio of redhead portraits towards an exhibition and possible book, and expects to have boosted his body of work to some 1,000 portraits by the time his photobooth closes at the end of this weekend’s festival.

A fashion and food photographer by profession, Köster developed an interest in redheaded subjects after shooting Irish clothing products for German catalogues. Having started his redhead portfolio, a friend alerted him to the Crosshaven festival.

“I got in touch with the promoters and it was an added attraction for them, so I’ve been there since 2011,” said Köster.

“It works for both of us. We sell prints, and proceeds go to the Irish Cancer Society. It allows me to do sunlit photoshoots with 200 to 300 redheads in two or three days, whereas it would take me decades to get 1,000 pictures like that in natural light otherwise,” he said.

The brainchild of siblings Joleen and Denis Cronin, the Redhead Convention is in its sixth year in Crosshaven and will today feature a Kids Zone, Redhead Cinema, and Foxygen — a dedicated redhead music festival.

Among the redhead performers are Ginger Nutz, a trad band made up entirely of natural redheads from the West of Ireland; ginger-fronted West Cork band The Baby Cheeses, and the Crosshaven Ukuladies.

   The red-headline act for the weekend is Irish jazz and blues singer Mary Coughlan.

Jacky Colliss Harvey, author of Red: A Natural History of the Redhead, will be signing copies of her book and the afternoon will see the coronation of the King and Queen of the Redheads.

Meanwhile, a panel discussion with successful redheads in business will hear contributions from Tristan Rogers, publisher of international redhead art magazine MC1R, and Emma Kelly, a blogger behind the campaign to include ginger emojis in Apple’s iPhone.

The Irish Cancer Society is also set to receive 20% of ticket fees, and other fund-raising activities, such as an outdoor yoga session, will provide donations to the national charity for cancer care, research, and support in Ireland.

Organisers say red hair is the rarest of hair colours and accounts for just 0.6% of the global population. Ireland has the second highest per capita population of redheads at 10%, next only to Scotland at 13%.

Want supermarket tomatoes to taste better? Then dunk them in hot water


Ever felt that the tomatoes you bought in a supermarket were lacking in taste? Like they were good, but not good enough?

Tomatoes sold in supermarkets can apparently be made to taste better by dunking them in hot water before they ripen. We’re listening.

The discovery could result in tomatoes bought from stores being as flavorsome as those straight off the vine.

If these green tomatoes are picked then a hot bath could make them taste

Yep. We’d be pretty happy about that too. Because vine tomatoes are a serious luxury.

Typically tomatoes destined for supermarkets are picked while still green and coaxed to ripen while they are stored and transported at low temperatures.

The problem is that chilling degrades their flavour, making supermarket tomatoes relatively tasteless compared with those sold on farms.

Early tomatoes could taste as good as vine-ripened varieties with this hack

Step on up the scientists from the US Department of Agriculture. They found that a simple treatment process can dramatically boost the flavour of transported tomatoes.

Dr Jinhe Bai said: “Ideally, tomatoes should be picked ripe and then sold immediately, as they are at farm stands.

“To produce a better tasting tomato, we added a hot water pre-treatment step to the usual protocol that growers follow. We found that this pre-treatment step prevents flavour loss due to chilling.”

Pick ripe and sell straight away is best, but the hot water trick could help

In the tests, Florida-grown green tomatoes were dipped in water heated to about 51.6C for five minutes and allowed to cool at room temperature.

Only then were the fruit chilled to the temperatures normally used for shipping.

Samsung to make US stock market debut in 2016


The listing of Samsung Bioepis on the Nasdaq Stock Market is aimed at securing funds for investment in a new breed of drugs

South Korea’s dominant Samsung conglomerate will make its first entry into US stock markets next year with the listing of a biotechnology affiliate, a company official has said.

The listing of Samsung Bioepis on the Nasdaq Stock Market is aimed at securing funds for investment in the field of biosimilars – a new breed of drugs that mimic the effects of far more costly biologic drugs made from living cells.

“With an underwriter already designated, preparations are under way for the public stock listing of Bioepis in the first half of next year,” the Samsung official said.

Bioepis will be the first Samsung affiliate to list in the United States.

Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest mobile phone maker which accounts for the lion’s share of the group’s sales and profits, controls 46% of Samsung BioLogics, which in turn holds 90% of Bioepis.

The Samsung group is already remarkably diverse, with interests ranging from electronics to construction and shipbuilding, and sees biotechnology as a revenue growth engine for the future.

Spiders ‘as big as mice’ trying to invade Irish homes


A number of people last year had strong reactions to the spider’s venom

Experts say that spiders ‘as big as mice’ may be trying to invade Irish homes.

Trevor Hayden of Complete Pest Control told the Star that spiders up to 12cm long are possible in Ireland these days. It comes after reports in the UK of spiders ‘as big as mice’ were reported.

‘Amazingly they can get that big,’ he said. However, this super-sized spider is nothing to worry about.

“While they can bite, they are not dangerous,” he added, though that won’t put those terrified of creepy crawlies at ease.

Thanks to a wet spring and a relatively warm summer the numbers of house spiders in Ireland this year has risen sharply, and when you learn that they can have 60 spiderlings at any one time, it is no surprise that there seems to be a spider epidemic.

An abundance of food for spiders to eat, chiefly other insects, has also led to the larger-than-normal eight-legged creatures.

But the good news is that of the 420 different species of spider in Ireland, only one, the infamous false widow, is a danger to humans.

A number of people last year had strong reactions to the spider’s venom after getting bitten but house spider venom is harmless to humans.


News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Thursday 7th November 2013

ECB surprise & hawkish move to cut interest rate to a record 0.25%


Another ECB rate cut won’t revive the Continent’s growth.

The European Central Bank turned heads by cutting its benchmark interest rates by 0.25 percentage points on Thursday, though calling it a dovish move would imply that the ECB has been hawkish. The main refinancing rate sat at 0.5% for six months before this week.

The best argument for a rate cut is that euro-zone inflation has been falling all year and came in below 1% in October. The central bank’s sole mandate is price stability, which means preventing excessive price changes in both directions. ECB President Mario Draghi made clear Thursday that the lower inflation outlook was the most important calculation behind the rate cut. The central banker has refused to pretend that a 25-basis-point cut in banks’ refinancing rate is the difference between euro-zone salvation and damnation, which can’t be said of some commentators.

Mr. Draghi also dismissed fears that low inflation is about to turn into a deflationary spiral. Not long ago, moderately improved business surveys were supposed to presage a strong European revival. Now, “dangerously low” inflation is said to threaten the recovery.

As Mr. Draghi pointed out, recent low inflation is due in large part to stable food prices and falling energy prices, as well as the effect of previous VAT increases dropping out of the data. But even a proper, prolonged dose of low inflation wouldn’t be the worst thing for Europe.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi Bloomberg

Inflation has been falling most in euro-zone countries where wages have been falling most, which is good for real household income and consumption in those countries. The one euro country experiencing out-and-out deflation is Greece, where relative price adjustment has been a stated goal of crisis resolution.

A weaker euro will be a boon for German exports, which the U.S. Treasury and others blame for holding back euro-zone recovery. The new government in Germany isn’t about to open its spending floodgates, which is what European Keynesians are really demanding when they complain about insufficient German “demand.” The better complaint is that Berlin won’t cut taxes, which would lift German growth and thus its demand for other countries’ exports.

Lower interest rates and more generous central-bank liquidity will also help unfreeze credit in the European periphery. Funding conditions have been looking better of late for euro-zone banks, but those banks still aren’t lending to the real economy. Easier money will induce some banks to lower their lending rates. But actual improvement in the growth prospects of countries like Italy and Spain would do more to get credit flowing again.

This goes to the bigger point about Europe’s recovery, which is that it is not and has never been in the central bank’s hands. Mr. Draghi reiterated on Thursday that fiscal, labor-market and other reforms are the real way out of the euro crisis.

The danger for many years has been that easy money would remove the pressure on governments to use pro-growth policies to revitalize their economies. As the ECB’s rates approach the zero lower bound, the temptation will be to try “unconventional” monetary policy in the form of more asset purchases. Mr. Draghi’s challenge is to keep his sights on price stability when all about him are clamoring for more.

Josephine Feehily fails to back down on property tax payment deadline & methods


Revenue chairwoman faces Oireachtas Finance Committee to explain collection of tax

Revenue Commissioners chairwoman Josephine Feehily arriving at the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform sitting today to discuss issues around the payment of Local Property Tax.

The chairwoman of the Revenue Commissioners Josephine Feehily has stood over the decision to deduct credit and card payments this month for the 2014 property tax on the basis that there are significant risks involved in retaining card details.

Ms Feehily appeared before the Oireachtas Finance Committee this afternoon to explain the approach of Revenue to the collection of the tax, which was first introduced in July this year.

There has been widespread public criticism that taxpayers paying by plastic card have had to pay the 2013 tax and the 2014 tax within one year.

Answering questions from TDs and Senators at a well-attended meeting, Ms Feehily consistently said the retention of credit and debit card data was high-risk compared to the other methods of collection, in terms of security.

Retaining such information would present difficulties when it came to compliance with the Data Protection Act, she said.

The responsibilities of Revenue was to collect taxes in the State in the most efficient and secure fashion, she continued, strongly indicating that Revenue would prefer homeowners to pay using other methods which would allow them to pay in 2014 rather than in November this year. These include a single debit authority (a once-off deduction from a bank account on March 21st next year), or weekly or monthly salary deductions or direct debit payments, which are paid across the entire year.

While insisting there would be no concession in relation to credit or debit cards for 2014, Ms Fehily did say the Revenue would be willing to look at the situation again in advance of the 2015 tax. Nonetheless, she said she could not give any commitment to change. She emphasised the reluctance of Revenue to retain data from cards.

“I can’t look at it for this year. It’s not possible,” she said.

“These risks we have to look at very carefully. We would have to create systems and [would have to] charge taxpayers.

“It’s certainly not possible to introduce it this year. I have committed to look at it for next year. If we got into it, there would be costs,” she said.

Ms Feehily revealed that some 205,000 householders out of 988,000 taxpayers who paid in a single lump payment in 2013 had filed their returns as of today. She said it comprised a compliance rate of 35 per cent, which was very good, as there was still three weeks to go to the online deadline date.

She said there was a definite trend towards taxpayers choosing a single debit authority (money taken from bank accounts on March 21st, 2014) than card payments.

Some 15 per cent of those who had filed already had paid by debit card and a further five per cent by credit card. That total of 20 per cent so far compares to the 53 per cent who chose to pay that method for 2013.

Suggestions were put by committee chairman Ciaran Lynch, Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Kieran O’Donnell from Fine Gael that a two-stage mechanism could be set up where taxpayers could indicate card payment as their preferred method by the filing date, and then pay by credit card on or before January 1st, 2014.

Hundreds of Irish homes found with high levels of cancer-causing Radon gas


More than 400 homes around the country have been identified with high levels of the cancer causing gas radon in the past 18 months.

According to figures from the Radiological Protection Institute, one home in Tralee, Co Kerry had 26 times the acceptable level.

The institute says that occupants were receiving the equivalent radiation dose of around 18 chest X-rays a day.

Ten other homes, five in Kerry, three in Galway and one each in Clare and Wexford were identified with radon levels more than 10 times the acceptable level.

Critical shortage of nursing homes beds for Ireland’s aging population,

Says Nursing Homes Ireland chief


Calls are being made for the Government to put a strategy in place to deal with our ageing population. 

Nursing Homes Ireland is warning there’s a critical shortfall in long term residential beds – and the Government needs to act.

It says over 4,000 new nursing home beds are required by 2016.

There are currently more than 27,000 elderly people in nursing homes.

CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly says that figure is set to increase dramatically over the next decade.

“That’s based on the CSO statistics and also some research by the ESRI,” he said.

“What they’re predicting is that given the aging demographic, and, whole sometimes we talk about over-65s, the real issue for nursing home care is those over 80 and over 85, that is the ‘older old’, and people with more complex medical needs.

“So what it means is that, based on those figures, there will be a significant increase in demand for the care of older persons generally, but specifically in terms of residential care.”

Sharp increase in suicidal farmers calling helpline over financial troubles


Financial woes and the fodder shortage has left many farmers in an extremely difficult situation, says suicide prevention charity Console.

INCREASED STRESS HAS led to a massive jump in the number of farmers ringing a special rural helpline over the past six months.

Suicide prevention charity Console said calls to its farm and rural stress helpline increased by over 300 per cent as financial woes and the fodder shortage left many farmers in an extremely difficult situation.

The charity received more than 5,200 phone calls between March and September, compared to just over 1,300 in the previous six months.

“Often callers to the helpline are in great emotional pain and many are on the brink of ending their own lives,” said Console CEO Paul Kelly.

Kelly said that the biggest problems for callers are money worries, rural isolation, and loneliness.

He cited the fodder crisis earlier this year – when farmers began to run out of dried hay and feed for cattle because of the unexpectedly cold and wet winter – as being a major source of worry for many farmers which put a strain on marriages and relationships.

“Farmers are naturally private people, they tend not to talk about their problems but to suffer in silence,” said Kelly.

If you are in a tough situation and need to talk to someone about it, please try these contacts here:

  1. Samaritans 1850 60 90 900 or email jo@samaritans.org
  2. Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634
  3. Console 1800 201 890
  4. Console’s Farm and Rural Stress helpline 1800 742 645
  5. Aware 1890 303 302
  6. Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie

European Satellite to fall to earth, but nobody is sure where


A European satellite that mapped Earth’s gravitational field in exquisite detail will be pulled down by gravity to its fiery destruction sometime in the next few days.

Where and when it will crash no one knows. It could be almost anywhere on the globe. About 25 to 45 fragments of the one-ton spacecraft are expected to survive all the way to the surface, with the largest perhaps weighing 200 pounds.

It is the latest in a parade of spacecraft falling from the sky in what are worryingly called “uncontrolled entries.” About 100 tons of debris will fall from the sky this year alone. There are, however, no known instances in which anyone has been injured by space debris.

“It’s rather hard to predict where the spacecraft will re-enter and impact,” said Rune Floberghagen, the mission manager for the European Space Agency’s Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer, or GOCE. “Concretely our best engineering prediction is now for a re-entry on Sunday, with a possibility for it slipping into early Monday.”

GOCE (pronounced GO-chay) ran out of propellant last month and has been dropping about 2.5 miles a day. As of Wednesday, it was still 113 miles up as it circled the Earth once every 88 minutes. Its orbit goes almost directly over the poles, and as the planet rotates, almost all places on Earth pass beneath it at some point.

Two years ago, NASA’s decommissioned Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, tumbling out of control, worried people around the world until it splashed harmlessly in the Pacific. Later that year, the Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt launched into orbit, but then malfunctioned. Instead of heading toward Mars, it crashed back to Earth a couple of months later, again falling in the Pacific without incident.

The chances that a chunk of GOCE or any other space debris will injure anyone are tiny, but not zero. Dr. Floberghagen said the debris will endanger about 15 to 20 square yards of the Earth’s surface. “If you compare that to the surface of the planet, it’s a very small number,” he said.

An uncontrolled re-entry was always the planned fate for GOCE, which was launched in March 2009. Unlike most spacecraft, which use thrusters to adjust their orbits, it has a highly efficient propulsion system called an ion engine. Unlike thrusters, the engine can fire continuously to offset atmospheric drag.

That allowed GOCE, with its sleek, airplanelike shape, to maintain a low orbit, just 160 miles up and later 140 miles. From that perch, it made gravity measurements that were much more accurate and detailed than previous ones.

“We can actually map, see geology, in the gravity map,” Dr. Floberghagen said. “This is something that is quite unique, actually.”

For example, by combining GOCE’s gravity measurements of the surfaces of oceans with altitude measurements from other spacecraft, scientists have created global maps of ocean currents.

The data will also help scientists study ice sheets and convection in the Earth’s mantle, and help oil companies figure out where to drill.

While the ion engine was able to keep the spacecraft aloft, its thrust was far too weak — “More or less equal to what you normally exert on a piece of paper when you exhale,” Dr. Floberghagen said — to push the spacecraft to a trajectory that would assure it of ending up in an empty stretch of ocean.

With its propellant tank empty, it is now guided by gravity and air friction. “Quite literally GOCE is now nearly flying like an airplane without an engine, with the upper layer of the atmosphere providing aerodynamic stabilization,” Dr. Floberghagen said.

As it descends into thicker air, the atmospheric drag will increase sharply, and its fall is expected to accelerate in a final plunge sometime between Saturday and Monday.

A day before re-entry, mission managers will be able to narrow the time of the crash within three orbits, Dr. Floberghagen said. GOCE’s instruments continue to operate, providing scientists with detailed data about its final plunge.

In 2008, the United Nations adopted guidelines to reduce the dangers caused by space debris. By then, GOCE had already been designed, but a future mission like it might have additional thrusters for a safer ending.