Tag Archives: Irish Tourism

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 10th August 2016

The cost of borrowing continues to fall for Ireland


Ireland’s cost of borrowing has continued to fall, after the yield on Irish 10-year bonds hit record low levels yesterday.

Peripheral euro zone bonds have become popular recently as economic uncertainty has led to an easing of monetary policy globally

A scarcity of bonds – highlighted by the Bank of England’s (BoE) inability to meet its bond-purchase target – has driven interest rates on government debt to record lows across the board.

In the week prior to the Brexit vote on 23 June, the interest rate on Irish 10-year bonds stood at 0.84%.

Yesterday that yield on Irish debt fell to a record low 0.37%, and today it is lower again at 0.34%.

Peripheral euro zone bonds have become popular recently as economic uncertainty has led to an easing of monetary policy globally.

Now further demand has been placed on euro zone bonds after the BoE failed to find enough willing sellers to meet its bond purchase target for the first time since it started buying government bonds in 2009.

German 10-year yields have fallen further into negative territory at -0.1%, while the Netherlands bond yield rate is also negative at -0.01%.

This has seen investors move towards peripheral euro zone bonds, such as Ireland, which would have a relatively higher rate of return.

Investors seeking alternatives

Spooked by the end of a 30-year bond bull run and bouts of money printing which have pushed stock values out of kilter with economic reality, high-profile investors are turning to fine wines, classic cars and jewels, research and index data show.

Even legendary bond investor and ex-Pimco boss Bill Gross said last week that he now favoured real assets like land and gold over more traditional investment classes.

This growing interest saw rare coins, collectable jewellery and classic cars join fine wine among the top performers in the year to end-March, the latest Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index showed.

A record breaking six months for Irish tourism with half a million extra visitors to Irish shores

More than half a million extra visitors to Irish shores for first half of the year…


Playing host to the likes of Game of Thrones and Star Wars helped Ireland achieve massive tourism growth in the first half of the year, with 507,400 extra visitors descending on the Emerald Isle than the same period in 2015.

Irish tourism’s best ever first-half performance saw the island welcome 4.4 million tourists, marking a mammoth 13% increase year-on-year.

Aside from the lure of screen tourism, air access, positive publicity and a global marketing campaigning were cited as contributing to the boom.

Tourism Ireland confirmed that revenue was also up 18% for the first quarter. The majority of tourists came from Britain and North America, while trips from mainland Europe were also on the rise.

Ireland now accounts for one in 10 of all American visitors to Europe.

There are 40,000 additional people employed in the tourism sector compared with five years ago.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said that hotels and other service providers have to continue to do their part to attract people here:

“The industry have to offer excellent value for money. Not be as good as our competitors; we have to be better.

“The good news is that if you look back at the actual statistics, in 1999… 3% of[British visitors] said Ireland was poor value for money. By 2009 that was 43%, and by 2015 that was back to single digits.

“I think we have to sustain and maintain those very positive value for money numbers.”

There were 16% more visitors from the UK in the first half, and Tourism Ireland is set to target that market with an extensive programme of promotions this autumn to boost off-peak business and mitigate for a weakened sterling following the Brexit vote.

Currency movements mean that Eurozone trips are now roughly 10% more expensive for British holiday makers.

Data protection chief Dixon must not distance herself from complainants

Disengaging from individuals could open Ireland to a sanction by European courts


In a recent speech, The data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon referred to some solicitors as “digital ambulance chasers”.

In a recent speech, Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon set out her perspectives on data protection supervision – putting her on a collision course with the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union.

At the Irish Centre for European Law annual Data Protection Conference, Commissioner Dixon expressed frustration at the lack of clear objectives for data protection and a failure to detail the harms it is designed to mitigate.

The commissioner went on to criticise the large number of complaints received by her office which, she said, were really proxies for disputes between different parties and had only a marginal connection with data protection issues.

Solicitors were singled out as “digital ambulance chasers” for bringing volumes of complaints of little apparent merit and using subject access requests for fishing expeditions in litigation.

Ms Dixon made it clear that she doesn’t think she should be obliged to consider every complaint received by her office and that she thinks the resources currently committed to investigating individual complaints would be better used examining systemic data protection issues.

So, should – or indeed can – the commissioner distance herself from individual complainants?

In my view, she cannot and should not.

Missed opportunity

To do so would not only require an amendment to European law, which guarantees such a right, it would also be a missed opportunity to engage with individuals in order to close the apparent gap between the general nature of data protection rules and the public’s understanding of the protections that it offers.

In disengaging from individuals, the commissioner would miss an essential aspect of data protection supervision, inevitably resulting in a standard of data protection supervision in Ireland below that set by European law.

Consequently, such a move could open Ireland to a sanction by the European courts.

To see why, it must be understood that data protection touches on every aspect of our lives – as consumers buying goods and services, citizens participating in a democratic society and as neighbours in our communities.

Data protection owes a lot to the experience of many millions of Europeans who lived in authoritarian communist regimes.

It values individual protection over pure self-interest, by setting moral boundaries to how our personal data may be used.

However, these boundaries are always specific to individual circumstances and can change over time. Crucially, data protection law doesn’t lend itself to absolute rules or codified, measurable objectives.

As such, the progressive nature of data protection law brings it into conflict with the conservative free market view that personal data is just another commodity that can be traded for profit.

There are similar conflicts with state bureaucracies looking for easy ways to exert control or deliver privatised public services.

The obligations on data protection supervisors, when hearing individual complaints, were spelled out by the Court of Justice of the European Union in the well-known Google Spain case, which concerned the so-called right to be forgotten, (i.e. the right of individuals to have certain links removed from internet searches on their names).

The court first noted that everyone has a right to make a complaint to an independent supervisor, such as our Data Protection Commissioner.

It then went on to find that interference with data protection rights, if sufficiently serious, cannot be justified on purely economic grounds but only with reference to other fundamental rights such as the right to freedom of expression.

The law is very vague?

Critically, in making a complaint, an individual is not required to demonstrate that they have been prejudiced.

Finally, the court stressed the importance of context. It noted publication by a search engine of personal data already legally published on the internet may nevertheless interfere with an individual’s rights.

Similarly, publication of personal data may cease to be justified with the passage of time.

So, if the law is vague and context dependent, how can the use of personal data be regulated and why are individual complaints so important?

Data protection places a high value on individual protection balanced only against other fundamental rights.

To regulate at the standards demanded of European law, a data protection supervisor must embrace the progressive ideals of this moral framework and engage in empathic dialogue with individuals to build a common shared understanding of data protection norms.

It is only through stepping into the shoes of individual data subjects that data protection supervisors can really give effect to the individual balancing of interests that is demanded.

Trivialising complainants and attacking their advisors is not the way forward.

If resources are truly an issue then Ms Dixon needs to press the State to fullfil its obligation to provide them.

Dialogue with individuals rather than distance is what is required.

It would be a serious mistake to remove the individual right to complain to the commissioner’s office.

This is the amount of exercise you should be doing every day


Reduce the risk of breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke with more exercise, 

The minimum recommended amount of exercise should be increased, researchers have said after a new study found that more exercise can drastically lower a person’s risk of five serious diseases.

Exceeding the current recommended minimum levels of exercise each week can significantly reduce the risk of breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, experts found.

At present, the World Health Organisation recommends that people conduct at least “600 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes)” of physical activity – the equivalent of 150 minutes each week of brisk walking or 75 minutes per week of running.

Researchers from the US and Australia looked into how much exceeding these levels can reduce one’s risk of the five common chronic diseases.

Their study, published in the British Medical Journal, examined 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016 which looked at the associations between total physical activity and at least one of the diseases.

Having higher levels of physical activity was significantly associated with a reduced risk in the diseases.

The study found two phased reductions in the risk of the five conditions – quick drops in the risk from 600 to 4,000 MET minutes of physical activity per week followed by slow but steady reductions from 4,000 to 10,000 MET minutes each week.

Most health gains occurred when people conducted 3,000 to 4,000 MET minutes per week, they found.

The authors said that 3000 MET minutes each week can be achieved by climbing the stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation 25 minutes on a daily basis.

“The findings of this study showed that a higher level of total physical activity is strongly associated with a lower risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke, with most health gains occurring at a total activity level of 3000-4000 MET minutes/week,” the authors wrote.

The crow who amazed the world by bending wire was simply using natural behaviour, 

Remember that crow who astonished the world by bending a straight piece of wire back in 2002?


Scientists finally have an explanation for that. They say the bird was simply acting out behaviour in her species’ natural repertoire.

Betty bent a straight piece of garden wire into a neat hook to lift a food-baited bucket from a vertical tube in a laboratory at the University of Oxford in 2002.

At the time, it was known that New Caledonian crows manufacture tools from twigs in the wild, but it seemed highly unlikely that this involved bending.

The resulting paper from the experiment suggested that Betty had spontaneously come up with a clever solution after understanding the experimental task.

This shook the field of comparative cognition and was regarded as one of the most compelling demonstrations of intelligence in a non-human animal.

But recent field experiments by biologists at the University of St Andrews have found that tool bending is part of New Caledonian crows’ natural behaviour.

Dr Christian Rutz was leader of the project, the findings of which are published in Royal Society Open Science.

“We couldn’t believe our eyes,” Dr Rutz said.

“Most birds trapped sticks underfoot before bending the tool shaft by bill, but one also pushed tools against the logs to flex them, and another wedged them upright into holes before pulling the shaft sideways, just as Betty had done.

“It turns out, the twigs that wild crows select for making their tools are pliable.

“Our study is a powerful reminder of the importance of basic natural history research.

“When my Oxford colleagues studied Betty’s cognitive abilities almost 15 years ago, very little was known about how these birds make and use tools in their natural tropical habitat.

“Our discovery of tool bending in wild New Caledonian crows has come as a complete surprise, and was the result of patient field research.”

The researchers provided the wild-caught crows with juicy treats hidden in wooden logs, as well as their preferred plant material to manufacture tools.

New Caledonian crows live in the remove tropical archipelago of New Caledonia, South Pacific, where the research for the study took place.

Birds were briefly kept in field aviaries before being released back into the wild.

Dr Rutz said the researchers were “absolutely over the moon” when the birds began making and using tools in their field aviaries.

Some of the crows vigorously bent their twig tools during processing in the same manner as Betty had bent wire in the Oxford experiment.

This time, however, bent tools were not required to solve the task.

James St Clair, report co-author, said: “Our observations raise the question of why wild crows would bend their stick tools as a matter of course.

“We believe a curved tool is advantageous, because the bird can position it in its bill so that the tool-tip is bang in the middle of the field of binocular vision.

“This should improve tool control during foraging.”


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.

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 10th January 2014

The Irish Government does not care a damn about people like us it seems


Spinal injury sufferer Mary Carey was refused a grant to adapt her home in Navan Co Meath

Mary Carey (64), (above picture) who has had a spinal injury for 20 years and cannot walk unaided, lives with her husband John (72) in a small house just off the Dublin road, in Navan, Co Meath.

He sleeps upstairs while she, unable to get up the stairs, sleeps in a single bed in a back room where the couple also eat meals. She needs help getting into and out of the tiny downstairs toilet and has no access to a bath or shower.

“I wash myself with this basin,” she says, showing a blue, plastic basin on the bed containing a sponge, a plastic cup and shampoo. “It is embarrassing. You want to be able to do things like wash yourself, by yourself. It might seem silly to some people, but it means a lot to me.”

She no longer likes visitors coming to the house. “They’d be passing through the room where I sleep. Especially in the summer, people want to go to the garden. I have no privacy.”

The couple, who have a combined income of €376 a week, applied to Meath County Council last April for a home adaptation grant to install a stair lift, an accessible shower and ramp into the house.

The estimated cost of the works is €12,000. A public health nurse visited in May to assess their needs and reported to the council.

‘Medical priority 1′

Their application was categorised as ‘Medical Priority 1’, as Mary is “fully or mainly dependent on family or carer” and the “alterations/ adaptations would facilitate discharge from hospital or alleviate the need for hospitalisation in the future”.

On June 5th, however, they received a letter from the council telling them “all available funding [for grants] for 2013 has now been allocated” and so it was with “regret” that they were being turned down. In October, the council wrote again to them, advising them to fill in a review form to enable consideration of their application in the 2014 budget.

Meath County Council’s allocation for all housing adaptation and mobility grants has been cut severely by the Department of the Environment since 2011 when it was €1.4 million, to €997,208 in 2012, to just €487,123 last year.

A council spokeswoman said as of December 31st it still had applications for €1.3 million worth of grants on hand.

“Included in these unapproved applications are 35 Priority 1 applications to a value of €479,634,” she said. Funding for this year has not been announced.

‘Fulfil all criteria’

Local Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín has been advocating for the couple. “This couple fulfil all the criteria for this grant. If it was any other entitlement they would have it. The budget for these grants should be based on need, not on an auditing exercise.”

Asked what it would mean to get the grant, Mary closes her eyes. “Oh, it would mean so much. It would mean I could fall asleep beside John again. With his heart condition sometimes I don’t sleep because I worry he might have died in the night. It would mean so much, not just physically, but in here too,” she says, laying her hand over her chest.

‘It’s horrible’

John worries what will happen to Mary if something happened to him. “It is hard, and getting harder by the day. I’d do anything for that woman,” he says smiling towards Mary. “But it’s horrible. They say the economy is rising and yet we are being banged down and down. It feels like this Government doesn’t care a damn about people like us.”

Commander Chris Hadfield the Singing spaceman to promote Irish tourism


Commander Chris Hadfield became an internet sensation when he sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the ISS

The former commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, is to promote the island of Ireland as a tourist destination.

The retired Canadian astronaut made fans around the world by posting videos and pictures from his final space mission on social media last year.

He has agreed to make a series of short promotional films with Tourism Ireland.

He arrived in Ireland on Thursday, and will visit Dublin, Belfast, Armagh, the Glens of Antrim and County Donegal.

On his Twitter account, the astronaut said: “Good Morning, Ireland! Happily headed to Dublin and Belfast, hoping to learn a cúpla focal (a couple of words).”

Gaelic translation

Cmdr Hadfield gained a significant Twitter following in Ireland after he became the first person to tweet from space using the Irish language.

At the time he said he had been given help with the Irish translation by friends of his daughter, who is a university student in Dublin.

The astronaut is now set to take more lessons in speaking Irish during his trip to County Donegal.

Cmdr Hadfield will also learn how to play the Irish sport of hurling when he visits Dublin’s Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Tourism Ireland said it will create three short films of his five-day visit and use them to showcase Ireland’s “spectacular scenery”, Gaelic games and major visitor attractions, such as Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

They said they would use the films in an “extensive publicity and PR campaign”.

‘Space Oddity’

During his final space mission, Cmdr Hadfield tweeted aerial pictures of various places on Earth from his perspective on the International Space Station – many of them were of Ireland.

He also sang the Irish ballad Danny Boy on the station to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, but it was his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity that gained most attention.

The video went viral on the internet and propelled the singing spaceman to worldwide attention.

He now has more than a million followers on Twitter.

Tourism Ireland’s chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said: “We are delighted to welcome Chris Hadfield to Ireland. I would like to personally thank him for his tremendous generosity in agreeing to help us promote the island of Ireland around the world.

‘Great ambassador’

“Of course, he already began promoting Ireland last year, with the dramatic photos he tweeted from the International Space Station to his huge Twitter fanbase.

“Chris is an enormously popular, global figure and I am confident that our films of his visit to Ireland will be seen and shared by millions of potential holidaymakers around the world – inspiring them to come and sample the destination for themselves.”

Irish Tourism Minister, Leo Varadkar, said: “Having seen Ireland from space, it’s great to be able to give Chris Hadfield a closer look at what Ireland has to offer on the ground.

“His enthusiasm and energy make him a great ambassador for Irish tourism, and should help to persuade many more to come and see Ireland close up in 2014. I’m really delighted he has agreed to help us out.”

Cmdr Hadfield retired in July 2013 and returned to live in Canada.

During his trip to Ireland, the astronaut will also attend the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin and is due to sign copies of his book in Belfast and Londonderry.

Knock Airport predicts a busier year for 2014


A Ryanair flight takes off from Knock Airport in Co Mayo.

The number of passengers using Knock airport reached 665,000 last year

Knock Airport is predicting this year will be its busiest ever year, with passenger numbers expected to exceed 700,000 for the first time.

The annual number of passengers using Ireland West Knock reached 665,000 last year – the second highest traffic figures at the airport since it opened in 1986.

The Gathering tourism promotion provided a major boost for passenger numbers in 2013, according to the airport, particularly from key markets in the UK, Italy and Germany.

There was a 7 per cent increase in traffic on London services, a 28 per cent increase in traffic from the German market on Lufthansa’s Dusseldorf service and a 23 per cent increase in traffic from the Italian market on Ryanair’s Milan service.

New destinations for 2014 include a new twice weekly service from Eindhoven in Holland which commences at the beginning of April. In addition Ryanair will commence new direct services, three times weekly, to Glasgow, from June.

“We are looking forward to the year ahead being the busiest year in the airports history with four new services being launched, extra capacity on our key London services and the Wild Atlantic Way project getting underway,” airport managing director Joe Gilmore said

Scientists discover itching is linked with feelings of praise and love


Scientists in Japan have discovered that when you scratch an itch it activates the same brain mechanism that creates feelings of praise and falling in love.

Researchers have said that the blood flow in the striatum and midbrain increased, making these regions more active, when the subjects scratched areas near the itchy parts.

A group of researchers, including Hideki Mochizuki, a special-appointment assistant professor of neurophysiology, and Ryusuke Kakigi, a professor of neurophysiology, carried out the study on sixteen men and women.

Using electric stimuli they produced an itchy feeling on the subjects wrists. The subjects were then told to scratch near the itchy area. The researchers found that scratching the itchy areas activates “the reward system”, the nickname given to the midbrain and striatum collectively.

Activation of the “reward system” produces feelings of comfort. Despite the reaction generated scientists have warned against overstimulating the “reward system”.

“If the workings of the reward system are curbed, people will stop scratching their itchy areas so much, and their symptoms will improve,” Kakigi said.

Dublin student wins Young Scientist for maths project


The winner of the 50th BT YSTE Paul Clarke shows off his trophy!

Research on attitudes to older people in workforce wins group prize for Kinsale students

A Dublin student who found answers to previously unsolved mathematical problems has won the 50th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS. Paul Clarke undertook months of research into complex mathematical theory to become the young scientist of the year.

A project by students from Kinsale seeking to understand people’s attitudes to older people in the work force took the prize for best group. The runner up individual award went to a Dublin student who developed a laboratory management system and the runner up group prize was claimed by students from Mayo who designed and built a gumshield communication device for managers and players.

Paul Clarke of St Paul’s College Dublin wanted to do something new, solve mathematical problems linked to a concept known as cyclic graph theory. “I am looking at a number of unsolved problems in graph theory,” the 17-year-old fifth year explained. Graph theory provides a mathematical way to look at structured data, structured in the way data points are captured in a graph.

While graph theory is difficult it is extremely useful in a number of ways, Paul explained. It helps computers build complex models of experimental drugs or proteins, and can be used to solve puzzles like the “travelling salesman” that optimises the route that should be taken to visit a number of points in the least possible distance.

“It was demanding and needed dedication and motivation,” he acknowledged. For example he might pursue a possible answer but discover a month on that it would not work, particularly because the problems were “unsolved and hard”.

Paul received the BT Young Scientist of 2014 perpetual trophy, a cheque for €5,000 and the chance to represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

Gauging people’s response to working with older people as the retirement age rises was the goal of Cathy Hynes, 13, and Eve Casey, 12, first year students in Kinsale Community College and helped them win the best group prize. “People will have to work with more older people because of the changing retirement age,” Eve explained. They wanted to know how people felt about that and whether there was any negative response to it.

They undertook a survey of almost 1,150 people in age categories ranging from 15 years through 89. They asked a series of questions, weighted for example from strongly agree to strongly disagree. They had to use advanced statistical techniques to process the data and this helped them come up with interesting conclusions. For example, while people did not seem to have a problem with more older people in the general workforce they didn’t want to have more elderly in their own workplace.

Cathy and Eve as best group winners receive a BT perpetual trophy and €2,400.

Shane Curran, 13, a second year from Terenure College Dublin claimed the runner up individual prize with a project that involved writing software and building a system to help run a laboratory. He already has plans underway to commercialise his product, Chemical.io, and to make it available to laboratory managers.

The project involved creating a web page and a doing a significant amount of programming to provide services such as monitoring supplies of chemicals, cataloguing lab equipment and even keeping tabs on experiments. He had 150 people test the system and make suggestions about the services needed by them and he worked these into his package. “Their response was really positive,” he said.

He built the system to use the cloud rather than having to build the software package on a local computer, a decision that would save lab managers thousands of euro, he said. Shane receives a BT trophy and €1,200.

The runner up group award went to three Transition Year students from St Gerald’s College, Mayo. Conor Gillardy, Evan Heneghan and Calum Kyne also have a product with commercial potential, a gumshield that has a build-in communication system that allows a player on the pitch to hear instructions coming from the coach on the sideline.

The device is a conventional gumshield but with a tiny build-in power supply, electronic circuitry and a vibration motor, Calum explained. The motor rests safely against the back teeth and uses them to conduct sounds to the ear through the jaw.

All components are safe and placed so that they don’t have any impact on the player, said Conor. They tested it on players involved in sports where gunshields are obligatory including GAA and rugby. They are already looking for a manufacturer in China and have plans to develop and sell their product at home and abroad. They receive a BT trophy and €1,200.

The exhibition remains open to the public until Saturday afternoon, with tickets costing €12 for adults and €6 for students. Family tickets cost €25.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 23rd December 2013

€13m spent on Gathering yields a revenue of €170m for Irish economy


TOURISM Minister Leo Varadkar has said the €170m in revenue from the €13m outlay for The Gathering was a good return, but denied it was a “shakedown” of tourists.

The Gathering promotion brought 275,000 extra visitors to Ireland this year

Following on from the success, a week-long €585,000 campaign aimed at getting American tourists to visit Ireland next year has been launched.

Mr Varadkar said he was confident that next year would be another good one for tourism judging by early indications from bookings at tour operators and hotels.

Airlines are also putting on extra services.

SCAM: The enormous success of the drive to encourage the Irish diaspora to come home came despite actor Gabriel Byrne dismissing the promotion as “a scam to shake-down the diaspora for money”.

His comments sparked controversy, with President Michael D Higgins subsequently stepping in to defend him.

Byrne later said his comments may have been “a bit strong”.

Speaking on RTE radio, Mr Varadkar said: “It wasn’t a shake-down. We never pretended that it wasn’t about tourism.

“Tourism was key to this and it did bring in around €170m in revenue for an investment of €13m and that was a pretty good return on that investment.”

He added that there are 20,000 more people working in tourism than two years ago.

The Gathering is being credited with delivering record visitor numbers across Ireland’s main tourist attractions including the Cliffs of Moher, the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park, Blarney Castle, the Lakes of Killarney and the Rock of Cashel.

Some attractions reported unprecedented visitor numbers, with several saying they were up almost 19pc.

A new promotion designed by Tourism Ireland involves an extensive TV advertising campaign which will be seen by millions of Americans.

It has been scheduled to begin on Christmas Day and run until New Year’s Eve.

The tourism agency has paid for ads to appear on a number of popular stations, including National Geographic and Ovation.

Ads have also been taken out on TV networks in New York, Boston and Chicago – all important cities for Irish tourism.

The campaign includes a brand new 30-second ad for the coastal attraction, the Wild Atlantic Way.

AUDIENCES: It will air for the first time during the Michael Buble Special on Christmas Night.

It will also be seen during other prime-time shows with large audiences over the holiday period, including various New Year’s Eve countdown programmes.

The US accounts for 40 million of the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry.

Taken across all of Ireland’s overseas visitor markets, The Gathering helped drive overall tourist numbers up this year by 7.3pc (to October).

We’ll drink enough to fill 24 Olympic swimming pools this Christmas

A survey tells us


Reading this is enough to give you a hangover.

The Irish public will consume enough alcohol over Christmas to fill over 24 Olympic size swimming pools.

And we will drink enough wine to make up over 432 ice rinks.

When it comes to food we will make our way through enough chocolate, the calories of which if converted to energy, would generate electricity to power 860,000 houses on Christmas Day.

That’s according to a new survey from waste regulation company Repak, who are urging people to think green over the festive period.

Repak predicts that each household will generate around 74,000 tons of used |packaging in total this Christmas. This includes nearly five million boxes of chocolate and 48 million beer bottles – enough beer bottles to get from Dublin to Lapland and back over five times.

With pubs and clubs as well as house parties a must for many people catching up with friends over Christmas, over 22 million wine bottles and 60 million litres of alcohol will be polished off.

Consumers: We will get through over 28,000 tons of cardboard and paper packaging – enough to fill 647 articulated trucks, which placed end to end would stretch over 6.6 miles.

Irish consumers will spend on average €894 this Christmas, with an average of €485 spent on gifts, €259 spent on food and €150 spent on socialising.

With such an increase in consumption, Repak says that being conscious of waste disposal is now more important than ever.

The company is hoping to collect and recycle between 55 to 60pc of the household used packaging generated over the Christmas holidays

This equals 44,000 tons of recycled packaging in total.

With excessive amounts of food and drink to be consumed over the next few weeks, Repak is urging everyone to be more thoughtful about how they dispose of bottles, packaging and waste.

The waste disposal company says that Ireland has come along way since 2001 when we were only recycling 31,000 tons of used household packaging in a full year.

‘Man flu’ the truth that women don’t want to hear


New study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they have influenza because high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response

For years women have cried “man flu” when men make a fuss over a few sniffles.

But a new study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they are struck down with flu – because high levels of testosterone can weaken their immune response.

The study by Stanford University School of Medicine, examined the reactions of men and women to vaccination against flu.

It found women generally had a stronger antibody response to the jab than men, giving them better protection against the virus.

Men with lower testosterone levels also had a better immune response, more or less equivalent to that of women.

It has long been suggested that men might be more susceptible to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infection than women are.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found women had higher blood levels of signaling proteins that immune cells pass back and forth, when the body is under threat.

Previous research has found that testosterone has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting a possible interaction between the male sex hormone and immune response.

Professor of microbiology and immunology Mark Davis said: “This is the first study to show an explicit correlation between testosterone levels, gene expression and immune responsiveness in humans.

“It could be food for thought to all the testosterone-supplement takers out there.”

Scientists said they were left perplexed as why evolution would designed a hormone that enhances classic male sexual characteristics – such as muscle strength, beard growth and risk-taking propensity – yet left them with a weaker immune system.

Previous studies have found that while women may accuse men of exaggerating when they have flu, females who are more likely to admit to having sniffles and sneezes.

The research, carried out by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last winter, shows that women are are 16 per cent more likely to say they are ill.

Twins born 87 days apart to celebrate first ‘real’ Christmas


A happy family: Chris and Maria with their children Jack, Olivia and twins Amy and Katie

THE twins born 87 days apart are preparing to spend their first Christmas together.

The proud parents of miracle babies Amy and Katie Jones-Elliott cannot wait to enjoy their “first real Christmas” with their precious daughters.

The sisters made international headlines last summer when they were born almost three months apart.

Amy arrived 24 weeks before she was due on June 1, 2012, weighing just 1lb 3oz.

Katie arrived on August 27, after weeks of round the clock supervision in Waterford Regional Hospital, at a healthier 5lb 10oz.

Their mother Maria said that she is excited about this Christmas, as last year they had their Kilkenny home on “lockdown”.

“Last year we had the place on total lockdown because they might have gotten sick, so I don’t remember a lot about it believe or not,” Maria told the Herald.

The family were then forced to protect their little girls from any risk of infection, as Amy was born so early.

“It was just ourselves here last Christmas. My husband was on nights, so he was in bed, so it was just ourselves here.

UNDERSTAND: “This year, we are going to have our dinner by ourselves, but then we will go and visit their grandparents,” Maria said.

The twins are now almost 19 and 16 months old, and have older siblings Olivia (14) and Jack (12). They made their first visit to Santa last week.

Their mother feels they are still too young to understand fully what is going on, but that they enjoy saying “ho, ho, ho”.

“They are getting a learning activity centre from Santa. Amy was recently diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, so this will help with her hand-eye coordination,” she added.

The twins are now beginning to develop their own strong personalities, and it seems that Katie is the confident one.

“They know when the other is in a bad mood or whatever, but at the same time, if Amy has something nice in her hand – like a biscuit or something – Katie has no problem taking it off of her.”

Maria is now encouraging parents of premature babies to visit the Foundation of Irish Premature Babies website, as she feels it has lots of useful support and advice for parents.

“It is a very hard time of year for parents if they have a premature baby in the hospital. It’s a very good website for support.”

Irish people need more Engagement with sport for health’s sake


Next week will bring the New Year and many people’s minds will turn to new possibilities. Hopefully, last week’s publication of a major report commissioned by the Irish Sports Council will still be echoing after the Christmas festivities and will encourage more people to think again about the well-proven benefits of taking exercise.

At the level of personal health, regular moderate exercise prevents the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and dementia.

And for those with chronic illness, regular exercise can have both a treatment and secondary preventive role. In addition, structured participation in sport offers a broad range of societal benefits.

The publication of the largest study of participation in sport and exercise ever conducted in Ireland provides valuable information to help inform policy. Keeping Them in the Game provides evidence from three large, nationally representative surveys covering all age-groups from primary school children to older adults.

In order to improve participation levels, either more children and young adults must become involved in sport or the level of dropout from regular exercise among adults must be reversed.

This latest research suggests remedial action be focused on post primary schoolchildren and adults. It found that second level students participate less in exam years and this has a lasting effect on whether they are active later in life.

The research also found adult activity is linked with life events; issues such as work commitments and family responsibilities force sporting activity down many adults list of priorities. And a marked deprivation factor emerged with those in lower socio-economic groups less likely to re-engage with sports as adults.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations, including a refocusing of public money towards formal participation programmes with less spent on sports facilities.These programmes should be designed to exploit social networks as well as tackling time constraints.

The Irish Sports Council along with the Ministers for Health, Sport and Children must now come together to ensure these valuable scientifically backed recommendations are implemented.

In the meantime, as a much more modest personal initiative, people might consider participating over the coming days in the Goal mile, an event which has become part of the Irish Christmas over more than three decades. There are runs in more than 100 locations in Ireland and the event has spread abroad as far as Melbourne.

A s well as enjoying the camaraderie and contributing to a very good cause, the benefits of exercise are thrown in too.

Greenhouse gases, not Sun, the key driver of climate change


Variations in heat from the Sun have not strongly influenced climate change, a new study shows, contradicting the belief that long warm and cold periods in the Earth’s dynamic past were caused by solar activity. 

Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions.

These tend to prevent sunlight reaching Earth, causing cool, drier weather. Since 1900, greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of climate change, the research found.

The findings overturn a widely held scientific view that lengthy periods of warm and cold weather in the past might have been caused by periodic fluctuations in solar activity.

They show periods of low Sun activity should not be expected to have a large impact on temperatures on Earth, and are expected to improve scientists’ understanding and help climate forecasting.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh carried out the study using records of past temperatures constructed with data from tree rings and other historical sources.

They compared this data record with computer-based models of past climate, featuring both significant and minor changes in the Sun.

They found that their model of weak changes in the Sun gave the best correlation with temperature records, indicating that solar activity has had a minimal impact on temperature in the past millennium.

“Until now, the influence of the Sun on past climate has been poorly understood,” Dr Andrew Schurer, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said.

“We hope that our new discoveries will help improve our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the past few centuries, and improve predictions for how they might develop in future,” said Schurer.