Tag Archives: junior doctors

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 5th November 2016

Irish Patients suffer as our hospital queues grow longer & reach a record high

Image result for Irish Patients suffer as our hospital queues grow longer & reach a record high   Image result for people waiting to see a specialist, a rise of 700   Image result for Hospital waiting lists have reached yet another all-time high

Minister Simon Harris

Hospital waiting lists have reached yet another all-time high with more than 535,000 public patients now in a queue for treatment or awaiting investigation for a potentially serious illness.

Despite months of promises from the Government to tackle waiting lists, the suffering goes on for many very ill patients.

Many of these desperately need an operation, diagnostic procedure or appointment with a specialist.

Newly released figures for October reveal the extent of the crisis and show that nearly 27,000 more patients are now on hospital waiting lists since Health Minister Simon Harris took office.

The HSE said yesterday that 416,000 people who had appointments to see a specialist last year did not turn up.

But it failed to say how many of these patients, whose condition was serious enough to be referred by their GP, died while they were waiting or had to pay for a private appointment and even though they may have had to get into debt to do so.

The latest figures show 78,621 are waiting for an operation, up by 1,000 compared to September.

While there was a fall of around 3,000 in patients in this surgical queue for more than a year, the longest waiters – those waiting beyond the target time of 15 months – actually grew.

There is now a record 438,931 people waiting to see a specialist, a rise of 700 compared to September. In another worrying trend, the number of patients waiting longest for one of these appointments past 15 months jumped by 2,000.

Despite funding being targeted at reducing the queue of people needing an endoscopy procedure, an invasive test for conditions including cancer, the drop of 700 was marginal.

It still leaves a staggering 17,984 waiting to find out if they have a serious illness.

There was no statement on the figures from Mr Harris, but the HSE again pointed to the growing influx of patients who are attending hospitals.

Hospitals increased the number of inpatient and day case surgery by 4% this year but they cannot keep pace with demand, while emergency departments are seeing a 5% rise in patients compared to last year.

It said progress is being made in reducing the numbers of patients waiting more than 18 months for surgery.

It is now recruiting what it termed “improvement leads” which will involve putting some existing consultants in a HSE-funded post to drive the campaign to try to bring the waiting lists under control.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund is to get €20m in 2017 to outsource some patients who have been waiting longest to hospitals with spare capacity. But this is unlikely to mean any dramatic improvement.


More trouble as Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action

It’s part of a dispute over a ‘living out allowance’.

Image result for Irelands HSE Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action Image result for Irelands HSE Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action   Image result for Irelands HSE Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action

Junior doctors are the latest public sector pay workers to threaten industrial action in a dispute over a ‘living out allowance’.

Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors have been in an ongoing dispute with the government over the withdrawal of the €60-a-week payment in 2012.

The Irish Medical Organisation represents the junior doctors and claims that the living out allowance was not paid despite it being part of a contract with employers.

A High Court case against the government is pending over the dispute and negotiations are set to resume next week.

Despite this, the IMO has come out to say that it will support junior doctors should they decided to go on strike over the dispute.

Speaking this evening, IMO president Dr John Duddy says that the government’s pay policies are already leading to a shortage of doctors.

“We already have too few doctors in this country to deliver adequate services to patients yet government have consistently ignored the fact that if you breach contracts and deliberately create a policy that disrespects and devalues doctors they will simply choose to work for countries that value them,” he says.

Financial crisis threatens Ireland’s Institutes of Technology

Image result for Financial crisis threatens letterkennys Institutes of Technology  Image result for letterkenny Institute of Technology

The viable future of up to 10 of the 14 Institutes of Technology across Ireland is being questioned in a review by the Higher Education Authority.

A financial review of the Institutes of Technology (ITs) across Ireland has pointed to significant financial deficiencies.

It describes six of the ITs – Letterkenny, Tralee, Galway-Mayo, Waterford, Dundalk and Cork – as vulnerable.

The review also points to risks facing the ITs in Athlone, Limerick, Tallaght and Dublin, particularly in relation to financial reserves and projected deficits.

‘The increase in Ireland’s young population is the envy of other countries – new energy, new ideas and a critical mass of educated young people will give Ireland a social, cultural and competitive edge’

Across Ireland, there are more than 87,000 students studying at the various ITs. This includes over 66,000 full-time undergraduates, 13,000 part-time undergraduates, 1,400 remote undergraduates and 3,000 full-time postgraduates.

The purpose of the review by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) was to assess the financial health of the ITs across Ireland, and involved site visits to the 14 campuses.

The HEA noted a reduction of 34pc in support for the education sector between 2008 and 2015, as well as an increase of 24pc in student numbers, which has led to an existential crisis for the educational institutes.

HEA review paints a bleak picture

The overall reserves held by the ITs fell from €132.5m to €78.7m over the period, wiping out 40% of the finance available to underpin ongoing sustainability and future development.

The cash flow position across the sector is a major concern, with a decline in the cash balances held by ITs, from €218.1m in August 2013 to €147m in August 2016. A further fall is anticipated, to €116m by August 2017.

At an aggregate level, the sector is in deficit and this trend is projected to continue over the next five years.

Pay costs still account for between 72.5% and 80% of total IT expenditure, despite core staffing levels falling by 12% between 2008 and 2014. The absence of flexibility to redeploy staff or introduce new work arrangements (for part-time or online study, for example) is a significant factor in financial performance.

The campus environment has been adversely impacted, as there has been no funding available for capital investment.

The HEA said that while growth in science and ICT education provision is encouraging, it is constrained by existing capacity. Targeted capital investment, aimed at reinforcing the technological mission of the sector, has the potential to generate a significant impact.

The remedy is in sight but needs to be acted upon

“The announcement of increased funding for higher education in Budget 2017 and a three-year commitment to further investment marks an important turning point for the sector, but this review demonstrates the scale of the challenge that remains,” said Dr Anne Looney, (below picture) interim CEO of the HEA.

Image result for Anne Looney, interim CEO of the HEA.  “We now have comprehensive evidence of the current financial challenges being faced by many ITs, and the capacity constraints which will limit their ability to meet the expected growth in student demand in coming years.

“While it is a review of the impact of past cuts, it’s a report with an eye to the future, and the provision of higher education across the country for young people still in school who will expect to go to college in the next decade.

“The increase in Ireland’s young population is the envy of other countries – new energy, new ideas and a critical mass of educated young people will give Ireland a social, cultural and competitive edge. The Institute of Technology sector has its origins in the 1962 report, Investment in Education, and since the first doors opened in 1970, [it has] been critical to Ireland’s economic and social development.

“If they are to continue to do this, we have work to do to put them on a sustainable footing.

“The HEA has set out a clear action plan to address the issues, both financial and otherwise, identified in the report, while it is also about to embark on a comprehensive review of the funding approach for higher education institutions, which will also take into account the findings,” Looney said.

LIT president urges immediate action

“It must be said that there is a stark reality at the heart of this review,” said the president of Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), Prof Vincent Cunnane.

“It clearly demonstrates serious underfunding of higher education in Ireland, and points to a set of actions which must be undertaken to address the situation.”

Cunnane said that despite the ingenuity and commitment demonstrated by the ITs during the financial crisis that engulfed Ireland, the inescapable conclusion is that prompt action is needed if Ireland is to field the skilled graduates needed to sustain the growth in jobs recently seen in the past year.

“LIT has invested in our capital infrastructure, our stock of industry-standard equipment and facilities to ensure that our graduates have practical experience at the cutting edge,” Cunnane said.

“This was challenging in times when state investment in higher education has dried up completely.

“Nonetheless, we invested our own resources sensibly in targeted areas such as precision engineering, which will provide the optimum benefit to the economy and the optimum job prospects to our graduates.

“We have also been able to navigate many of the challenges facing higher education in Ireland by prudent management of our finances over the last number of years.

“This has meant that we are not now subject to the severe financial difficulties besetting some areas of the higher education sector in Ireland.  However, the longer this funding situation remains unresolved, the less able the Irish higher education system will be to cater for the state’s needs, including the demands of our population to progress to higher education.

“The reality is that the core challenges identified in the report are the same as those identified in the Cassells report last July, among others.

“It is fair to say that the diagnosis of the issues facing higher education in Ireland is now done, and we must move without delay to implementing the remedy,” Cunnane warned.

Ireland’s win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.

Ireland 40-29 New Zealand

Image result for Ireland's win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.  Image result for Ireland's win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.  Image result for Ireland's win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.

Tries: Murphy, Stander, Murray, Zebo, Henshaw Cons: Sexton 2, Carbery Pens: Sexton 2, Murray 1

Tries: Moala, Perenara, B Smith, S Barrett Cons: B Barrett 3 Pen: B Barrett

Ireland produced a stunning display to record a first ever win over New Zealand at the 29th attempt and end the All Blacks’ run of 18 straight wins.

Tries from Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander and Conor Murray helped the Irish to a 25-8 half-time lead, then Simon Zebo scored his side’s fourth try in the corner.

The world champions fought back to move to within four points but Robbie Henshaw’s late try ensured the victory.

The sides will meet in another Test match in Dublin in two weeks’ time.

This was Ireland’s first success over the Kiwis in 111 years and it came about in sensational fashion as Joe Schmidt’s men repelled a stirring second-half comeback by Steve Hansen’s side.

TJ Perenara, Ben Smith and Scott Barrett added to George Mola’s first-half try for the New Zealanders but despite some sustained late pressure, they fell short for the first time in their past 19 encounters with top-tier nations.

The match was the first of four autumn internationals for both sides, played in front of a capacity crowd of 60,000 at Soldier Field in Chicago, a venue chosen in an attempt to increase the exposure of the sport.

The teams will meet again at the Aviva Stadium in a fortnight after Ireland host Canada next Saturday and Steve Hansen’s side face Italy in Rome on the same day.

Ireland fired by the Anthony Foley memory.

From the start, the Irish effort appeared to be fuelled by the memory of former international and Munster head coach Anthony Foley, who died suddenly last month.

Image result for The number 8 Anthony Foley rugby shirt Prior to kick-off Ireland lined up in the shape of a number eight, the jersey worn with distinction by Foley for many years, while their opponents performed their traditional pre-match haka.

Ireland made light of the aura of invincibility surrounding the three-time world champions in a first half which they mostly dominated to go in 17 points to the good at the break.

Schmidt’s side produced a performance of accuracy, purpose, pace and skill as they denied the All Blacks quality possession and repeatedly frustrated their efforts to win their own line-outs.

The Irish display bore echoes of the Test between the sides in Dublin in November 2013 when they built up a 19-0 lead, before ultimately losing 24-22 after conceding a last-gasp converted try, but there was to be no repeat of that outcome this time.

New Zealand prop Joe Moody was sent to the sin-bin for a tip tackle

Moala raced through for a fifth-minute try after Waisake Naholo had carved a way through the Ireland defences but the turning point of the opening period came when front-rower Joe Moody was yellow-carded for a tip tackle on Robbie Henshaw.

Ireland made good use of the prop’s 10-minute absence as Murphy rumbled over after a rolling maul and then fellow flanker Stander surged over the line following a break by Rob Kearney.

Murphy was subsequently carried off after turning his knee in a freak incident but seven minutes before the interval Murray produced a moment of magic, darting through a gap in the New Zealanders’ defence to run in his third try in five Tests against the Rugby Championship winners.

The All Blacks’ half-time deficit equalled their biggest ever at that stage of an international match and Ireland held out in a thrilling second half.

The Irish momentum continued on the resumption, their relentless defensive efforts thwarting the normally ruthlessly efficient All Blacks, and Zebo increasing the advantage by touching down in the corner.

Replacement Perenara reduced the arrears by diving over near the posts and then full-back Smith managed to ground the ball beside the flag before being tackled into touch by Andrew Trimble.

Scott Barrett took advantage of some poor Ireland tackling to score on his international debut and when brother Beauden knocked over his third conversion of the game, the All Blacks trailed by just four.

Ireland continued to defend heroically however, forcing their opponents into a series of uncharacteristic errors, and a historic triumph was assured when Henshaw showed raw strength to score under the posts after Jamie Heaslip broke clear.

The teams that lined up .

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), J Payne (Ulster), R Henshaw (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), T Furlong (Leinster); D Toner (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster); CJ Stander (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), U Dillane (Connacht), J van der Flier (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carbery (Leinster), G Ringrose (Leinster).

New Zealand: B Smith; W Naholo, G Moala, R Crotty, J Savea; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, D Coles, O Franks; P Tuipulotu, J Kaino; L Squire, S Cane, K Read (capt).

Replacements: C Taylor, O Tu’ungafasi, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden, M Fekitoa

Ireland’s remaining 2016 autumn internationals

12 November v Canada        Aviva Stadium, Dublin       19:15 GMT

19 November v New Zealand          Aviva Stadium, Dublin       17:30 GMT

26 November v Australia    Aviva Stadium, Dublin       17:30 GMT

Canada investigates mysterious ‘pinging’ sound in a canal of water on sea floor

Hunters in the remote Canadian Arctic concerned about sound that is scaring animals away

Image result for Canada investigates mysterious ‘pinging’ sound in a canal of water on sea floor  Image result for Canada investigates mysterious ‘pinging’ sound in a canal of water on sea floor  The sound has been heard in Fury and Hecla Strait, around 75 miles (120 kilometres) northwest of the hamlet of Igloolik

(Left) The sea ice in the Northwest Passage near Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic.

The Canadian armed forces have sent a crew to investigate reports of a mysterious “pinging” sound that seemed to be coming from the sea floor.

Hunters in a remote community in the Canadian Arctic have become concerned about a pinging or beeping sound they say they’ve been hearing in the Fury and Hecla Strait, a channel of water that’s 120 km north-west of the Inuit hamlet Igloolik.

Paul Quassa, a local politician, told CBC that the sound seems to be coming from the sea floor, and is scaring animals away from a popular hunting area of open water surrounded by ice that is usually abundant with sea mammals.

“And this time around, this summer, there were hardly any. And this became a suspicious thing,” he said.

Several reports were passed to the military, which sent a CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft to investigate on Tuesday under the mandate of Operation Limpid, a domestic surveillance programme designed to “detect, deter, prevent, pre-empt and defeat threats aimed at Canada or Canadian interests”.

In a statement, Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said: “The Canadian armed forces are aware of allegations of unusual sounds emanating from the seabed in the Fury and Hecla Strait in Nunavut. The air crew performed various multi-sensor searches in the area, including an acoustic search for 1.5 hours, without detecting any acoustic anomalies. The crew did not detect any surface or subsurface contacts.

“The crew did observe two pods of whales and six walruses in the area of interest.

“At this time the Department of National Defence does not intend to do any further investigations.”

That hasn’t stopped people from theorising about the source of the sounds, which have been variously attributed to the sonar surveys of local mining operations or to Greenpeace activists.

Sonar is used by mining companies to make detailed maps of the sea floor in their search for offshore oil and gas. The sonar is known to disturb marine mammals such as whales and dolphin.s

However, the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, which has conducted sonar surveys nearby, told CBC it has no equipment in the water at this time.

Others believe that Greenpeace is creating the sound on purpose to scare wildlife away from Inuit hunters – an allegation Greenpeace denies.

Mysterious sounds have a tendency to send people’s imaginations into overdrive. Earlier this year a high-pitched flute-like noise kept people in Portland, Oregon, awake. The steady whistling noise had also been heard by residents several decades previously.

Meanwhile in Ontario, a low rumbling sound known as the “Windsor Hum” has confounded residents for six years, with some describing it as like thunder or a subwoofer that can rattle windows.

The sound appears to come from an island surrounded by fences that’s home to a steel plant. The secrecy surrounding the plant has led to wild and unfounded speculation that the sound comes from an alien aircraft or from the construction of an underground tunnel by a billionaire.


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 by Donie

Monday 7th July 2014

Minister Reilly says junior doctors need to feel more valued


a Report proposes changes to doctor training

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly at the launch in Government Buildings today of the Strategic Review of Medical Training and Career Structure.

Proposals to provide greater structure in medical careers and make doctors feel more valued in the health service are contained in a new report commissioned by the Department of Health.

Minister for Health James Reilly said the report would address the lack of respect and value that junior doctors feel they get from the health system, as well as providing more certainty about their future career progression.

He said that medical training had developed haphazardly over the year and the report by the Strategic Review Working Group was a real attempt to put structure on this system.

Today’s report is the third and final report produced by the working group chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University. It was asked by the Minister to look at training and career structures for doctors to a background of skills shortages in many areas and increasing medical emigration.

The report says a national workforce planning structure should be established in the Department of Health to plan medical manpower needs in the future.

The current “multi-step” system for appointing consultants should be re-designed and modernised as a matter of priority, it says. “A systems and service-wide approach to posts – both new and replacement – should be incorporated, that better balances local autonomy and national coordination – in line with the hospital group structures.”

“Junior doctors don’t feel valued in the health system, and we cannot allow this to continue,” said Leo Kearns, national lead for transformation and change with theHealth Service Executive. “it is unacceptable that we can’t retain large number of doctors.”

Career structures and pathways for 900 doctors in service posts in the acute hospital sector and 260 public and community health doctors are limited, the report notes. It says the HSE should put in place processes that address this issue, in line with the needs of the health service, patient safety and registration and training requirements for doctors.

The report also calls for the setting up of a working group to look at the current and future role of public health specialists and suggest measures should be introduced to enhance the awareness among medical students of public health as a career option.

In relation to GPs, it says contracts should be introduced to allow for flexible working, as well as measures to encourage newly qualified GPs to remain in Ireland at the end of training.

Leo Varadkar confident Shannon Airport can ‘stand alone’


Some eighteen months on from its separation from the DAA, Shannon Airport is already demonstrating its ability to “stand alone”, according to the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.

He was speaking as legislation providing for the merger of Shannon Airport and Shannon Development, through the creation of the Shannon Group, was introduced in the Dail.

Fianna Fail transport spokesman Timmy Dooley, while broadly supportive of the aims of the State Airports (Shannon Group) Bill, said he remained concerned that the new airport company would not have the financial firepower of Aer Rianta International, which stays with the DAA, to fall back on.

And nor, said Deputy Dooley, could the airport rely on the rent revenue from former Shannon Development companies after Minister Varadkar said that the Shannon Group’s two constituent companies would be self-contained and could not “cross-subsidise” one another. This, Deputy Dooley said, was contrary to suggestions from government following the publication of the Booz report which resulted in the decision to free Shannon from the DAA.

That report, Deputy Dooley said, had “clearly stated that the viability of an independent Shannon was only possible if there was an association with the lands and activities of Shannon Development, and that an independent airport would not be viable unless there was between three million and five million terminal passengers”.

Passenger numbers at Shannon had grown to 1.4 million last year but this was still some way short of projections of a business plan published following the Booz report.

“The Minister also identified the expectation that there will be 10% growth this year, in line with the first months of the year. If that continues throughout the year, at best there will be an increase of 200,000 passengers, which brings us to 1.6 million passengers, well short of the 1.9 million that was projected in the business plan on which the Minister took the decision to separate the airport and take away Aer Rianta International,” said Deputy Dooley.

But Minister Varadkar expressed his confidence in the viability of Shannon, which had already made a profit in its first year of independence, a feat he described as “remarkable”.

Keeping Shannon Airport and Shannon Commercial Enterprises, as what remains of Shannon Development is to be known, as separate entities was necessary to comply with state aid rules and to ensure “financial discipline” at both, the minister said.

“It is important to point out that since Shannon Airport gained independence from the DAA 18 months ago, it has shown that it is able to stand alone. It has halted the decline in passenger numbers and there is going to be renewed growth this year, both in the numbers of routes and passengers.”

“While it is true,” the minister said, “that the airport will not reach the passenger levels forecast in the 2012 business plan, these forecasts were very ambitious, rightly so.

“Factors which contribute to this are lower than anticipated transit traffic such as that of a military nature and a delay in concluding an agreement with Ryanair on new services. The agreement to which I refer has now been concluded.

However, post-2014, the Shannon Airport Authority, SAA, expects terminal traffic levels to catch up with the business plan estimates, albeit military traffic is likely to remain on a downward trajectory. In effect, the airport is lagging just one year behind the traffic estimates in the business plan.”

Deputies from Limerick and Clare all welcomed the bill, with Fine Gael TD Pat O’Donovan being so bold as to suggest that consideration be given to an admittedly “controversial” proposal to see “the name of the airport reflecting its nearest city”.

But his Fine Gael colleague in Clare, Deputy Pat Breen, hoped that any proposal to rename Shannon “Limerick International Airport” never gets off the ground, given the worldwide brand recognition Shannon already enjoys.

New drivers in Ireland to display novice ‘N’ plates from next month


Qualified motorists with less than two years’ experience also face stricter penalty points

Newly qualified drivers will have to display ’N’ plates for two years and a stricter penalty points system, from next month.

Newly qualified drivers will have to display ’N’ plates for two years and will have a stricter penalty points system, from next month.

A fine of €60 will apply for novice drivers and those on learner permits who are not displaying ‘N’ or ‘L’ plates from August 1st. Those on learner permits driving unaccompanied also face a €60 fine.

The new novice rule will only apply to motorists who acquire their first full licence after August 1st.

It will not apply to drivers who recently passed their test, or to individuals holding a full licence for one category of vehicle but seeking a permit for another.

Novice drivers will also be subject to the lower drink drive level and a penalty point limit of six points.

Currently a driver is put off the road if they accumulate 12 penalty points within a three-year period.

The changes are contained in the Road Traffic (No 2) Act 2013 and are designed to reduce the number of deaths and traffic incidents on our roads.

Other measures include allowing gardaí to take blood samples from unconscious drivers and to ask suspect drivers to “walk the line”.

Drivers will also face three penalty points for speeding, illegal use of a mobile phone and not wearing a seat belt.

Mrs Brown (Brendan O’Carroll) set for chat show


Brendan O’Carroll is set for a chat show as Mrs. Brown.

The actor – who has become hugely popular as the foul-mouthed Irish matriarch – could become the new Mrs. Merton with TV bosses reportedly keen to create a programme based on Caroline Aherne’s popular 90s show.

An insider told the Sunday Mirror newspaper: ”Agnes Brown is irreverent, outspoken and ¬incredibly nosey – perfect qualities for a chat-show host.

”The hope is it would be very much in line with ‘The Mrs. Merton Show’, which was a huge hit.

”Things are at an early stage but senior staff are hopeful this can happen. It’s a fantastic idea and seems like a near-certain hit on paper.”

It is said the BBC are very keen to ”get the wheels in motion” on the project, due to the huge success of ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys’ – with some episodes across the three series watched by more than 11 million people.

Meanwhile, ‘Mrs. Merton’ ended its four-year run on the air in 1998 because ¬Caroline wanted to focus on other projects.

The series had become ¬infamous for the way she used cutting comments to put her celebrity guests in their place.

Forget about your Fungi in Dingle – our Donegal dolphins lead the way


Up to 50 dolphins have been putting on memorable displays for tourists flocking to Ireland’s most northerly point.

Killer whales and basking sharks popping in and out of the water off Malin Head in Donegal are helping to draw visitors from all over the country and from abroad.

  But it’s the astonishing numbers of dolphins off the Inishowen peninsula which has left local people stunned.

“At the weekend we had a dozen of them in six feet of water off the beach here,” said Ali Farren, who runs the Ardmalin Caravan park at Malin Head.

“I don’t know what it is about this year but there are just so many of them.

“We started to give them names but we had to give up because there are just so many of them.

“We know tens of thousands of people head to Dingle every year searching for just one dolphin; we’re absolutely spoiled for choice.”

John Henry McLaughlin has found his Inishowen Boating Company vessels – normally used for bookings for sea anglers – inundated with requests to go dolphin-spotting instead.

“They’ve become the main attraction,” said Mr McLaughlin.


“We leave from the pier at Culdaff and head up along the coast and it is pretty spectacular. The odd time you might not see them, but you almost always do and they’ll often come alongside the boat and weave in and out of the water.”

Marine expert Emmet Johnston, the Wildlife Service’s Park Ranger for Inishowen, says the large number of dolphins is a result of the unique marine environment.

“We have the cold waters of the Irish Sea and North Channel meeting the warmer waters of the Atlantic and so there’s an abundance of fish and plankton,” he said.

“The are up to 50 dolphins now off north Inishowen and they are staying in the area. That’s also a sign they are very happy here.

“We’ve seen two killer whales this year already and we only expect to see one every other year.”

The park ranger says human appreciation for the dolphins was paying its own rewards.

“Local people have embraced them and once you have that, that’s great for both the dolphins and for the area because it does attract visitors,” he said.

A new anecdotal brain study shows the switching on and off of a woman’s consciousness 


Scientists have wondered for some time if a person could experience a state of unconsciousness without entering into a deep sleep. Now a new anecdotal study, published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior, demonstrates it may be possible to turn someone’s consciousness on and off like the switch of a light.

Researchers made the discovery after implanting electrodes in the brain of a 54-year-old woman with intractable epilepsy. They were looking to identify the site of the woman’s seizures, using electrical stimulation on various regions of her brain including the claustrum, a thin layer of neurons attached to the neocortex center of the brain.

Stimulating this area of the brain appeared to disrupt normal consciousness. Once the electrodes were shut off, the woman returned to a normal state of consciousness and had no memory of what had just occurred. Though the woman was unresponsive while in this state, the brain stimulation caused only a minor change to her motor and language abilities. Additionally, stimulating the claustrum did not cause a seizure.


To confirm that the woman was experiencing a state of unconsciousness, and not simply losing her ability to speak or move, the researchers asked her to repeat a word or snap her fingers before they began to stimulate her brain. They theorized that if the stimulation was simply disrupting those functions, she would have stopped moving and speaking immediately. Instead the researchers noticed that her motor and speech abilities tapered off slowly.

“The claustrum could constitute a common gate to the ‘external’ and ‘internal’ awareness networks,” the authors write in their study. “This could explain why the electrical stimulation of the claustrum, and the resulting alteration of its normal function, would cause an impairment of consciousness, including an absence of recollection of the external events and of internal/interoceptive experience.” (Interoceptive refers to a stimulus in the body.)

More and more, scientists are employing the technique of brain stimulation to treat a number of neurological health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease,Alzheimer’s disease and dystonia, or involuntary movement disorders. The technique has also proved promising for people with depression.

The findings of this experiment are not only a first step to identifying the region linked to consciousness. The researchers also say that stimulating the area of the brain may help provide a new way to treat epilepsy and possibly also patients in a coma or with schizophrenia or other disorders.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 2nd September 2013

Irish Banks to face finance committee over mortgage crisis


The Labour Party chairman of the committee, Ciaran Lynch, said chief executives could help shine a spotlight on sustainable solutions to the mortgage crisis

The State’s four leading banks will have to explain just how they are tackling the mortgage debt crisis and offering people long-term and sustainable solutions to their debts when their executives appear before the Oireachtas Finance Committee starting today .

The Labour Party chairman of the committee, Ciaran Lynch, said last night that the appearance of chief executives of AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB before the committee would help shine a spotlight on sustainable, long-term solutions to the mortgage crisis.

The first senior executive to appear before the committee will be AIB’s chief executive David Duffy. Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank executives will be questioned tomorrow, while Permanent TSB will appear at the committee on Thursday.

“A key focus will be finding sustainable, long-term solutions to the mortgage crisis and measures to ease the burden on struggling homeowners and distressed borrowers,” Mr Lynch said.

Specific targets
He pointed out that when the banks last appeared before the committee “there were no specific targets in place to provide solutions for homeowners in arrears. Those targets are now in place and, more specifically, we will consider how AIB is meeting its targets and ensuring that there is a consistency of approach in dealing with distressed borrowers.”

Ahead of the hearings, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath criticised the banks’ piecemeal approach to the mortgage crisis as a “huge drag on the economy” that “is causing enormous distress for thousands of families across the country”.

Ireland’s Junior doctors vote overwhelmingly to go on strike


Industrial action in Irish hospitals likely within weeks after 97% vote by NCHDs

Ireland’s junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action over their campaign to reduce “dangerously long” working hours.

Junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action over their campaign to reduce “dangerously long” working hours.

Some 97% of the 1,000 non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) who voted on the proposed and favoured industrial action, according to the result of the ballot released by the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) this evening. Some 56 per cent of junior doctors voted in the postal ballot.

It said a special meeting of the organisation’s NCHD committee would take place tomorrow to decide on the next steps in their campaign. A meeting of the IMO Council will also be held tomorrow at which formal approval for the campaign of industrial action will be sought.

Eric Young, the IMO’s assistant director of industrial relations, described the ballot result as unambiguous.

“Doctors are worried and angry. The concerns which they highlighted about the danger posed to hospital patients and to themselves continue to be ignored and there is now a strong appetite to step up the campaign to force the HSE and the Department of Health to do what everyone knows must be done – implement the European Working Time Directive and stop the dangerous and cruel exploitation of NCHDs in Irish hospitals.”

Mr Young criticised Minister for Health James Reilly, who has said he sympathises with the plight of NCHDs.

“When you read his comments in support of NCHDs, you’d think he was still president of the IMO. But he’s the Minister for Health now and he can fix this chaotic situation with the stroke of a pen, but he won’t do it.”

The IMO and the HSE have agreed to meet on Wednesday in relation to contingency plans for industrial action. Major disruption to hospital services is expected in the event of industrial action, with only emergency services certain to be unaffected. The IMO is expected to give three weeks’ notice of any action.

The junior doctors are seeking an immediate end to shifts in excess of 24 hours and agreement for a planned move to compliance with the European directive by the end of next year.

John Perry’s credibility badly damaged after Danske Bank ruling against him


A last-minute debt restructuring deal with Danske Bank provides a lifeline to John Perry, who faced the prospect of financial and political ruin when the bank secured judgment for €2.47 million against him and his wife Marie in July.

Perry has won time with the agreement but his standing as minister of state has been severely undermined. He retains the support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny but serious questions remain as to whether he can credibly continue in Government in command of the small business portfolio.

The junior Minister’s statement last evening disclosed little enough about the new arrangement with Danske, with which he has been in prolonged and difficult talks over unpaid debts since the start of 2012.

The agreement is understood to involve assets disposal and longer loan maturities but the debt itself is not settled. A Commercial Court judgment against him remains in place, as does a bank-appointed receiver.

Perry will still have to work hard to uphold his side of the bargain, something he was unable to do in the face of a torrent of Dankse pressure when his finances veered out of control not long after he took office.

In many respects, the embattled Minister has met difficulties similar to those confronted by thousands of small business owners and mortgage holders.

Now that he has reached agreement with his bank, the hope must that he can indeed overcome his troubles and establish order in his affairs. That is only reasonable.

In political terms, however, Perry emerges badly from this affair. Court records show he used his formal ministerial title in correspondence with Danske on his private difficulties. Not only that, but he borrowed from the State-owned Allied Irish Banks to meet certain business liabilities and borrowed from the State-supported Bank of Ireland to meet a big tax bill.

Perry’s statement says all his tax affairs have been and remain up to date – but can he seriously exercise any political authority in exchanges with the banks on small business matters? Hardly.

Further nagging questions arise in relation to the code of conduct for office holders.

His increasingly fraught engagement with Danske is set out in court exhibits and it is fair to assume he spent the summer trying to reach an agreement with Danske.

Still, the official code of conduct says an office-holder “should not carry on a professional practice while in office”. It goes on to say they “may make arrangements for the maintenance of a practice until such time as s/he ceases to be an office-holder and returns to the practice”.

The code also says office-holders “should not take any part in the decision-making or management of the affairs of a company or practice and should dispose of, or otherwise set aside for the time being, any financial interests which might conflict, or be seen to conflict, with their position as an officeholder”.

Perry has never answered how he reconciles his dealings with Danske with his obligations under the code. He retains Kenny’s support but his ministerial stock has been laid very low indeed.

Enda Kenny yet to respond to letter on Priory Hall suicide dad


Enda Kenny has not responded to the heartbreaking letter from Priory Hall resident Stephanie Meehan (above with her two children) four days after she made it public.

There has been an outcry since Stephanie allowed the letter, which she wrote in the wake of her partner Fiachra Daly’s suicide, to be published.

In the letter, she told the Taoiseach how banks were putting them under pressure on their mortgage in the days before Fiachra took his own life in July.

Stephanie told how her life, and the lives of her two children, will never be the same again.

She said Fiachra (37) had ended his life because of the stress and worry over the fire-trap homes from which they were evacuated, along with nearly 300 other families, in 2011.

Pleading for action on the blight of Priory Hall, Stephanie asked the Taoiseach to act.

“What will it take now for someone to listen and act on something that should’ve been dealt with two years ago and saved a lot of taxpayers money and, most of all, saved a life?” she said.

But asked if she had received a reply from the Taoiseach’s office since she sent her letter, Stephanie said she had got nothing “apart from an automated response”. Stephanie made her letter public last Thursday afternoon, and received a wave of support from people all over the country after they read how banks had sent demands for arrears payments and forms to be signed just days before Fiachra took his life.


She is now set to appear on the Late Late Show in the coming weeks to talk about her life since the family were evacuated from Priory Hall in October 2011.

The Herald contacted the Department of An Taoiseach for a response to Stephanie’s letter, but was told that no statement would be made on it.

HIGH-POTENCY STATIN drugs may help prevent dementia


High-potency statins such as atorvastatin and rosuvastatin showed a significant inverse association with developing dementia
The most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs may help prevent dementia while also reducing the risk of developing cataracts, new research suggests.

A study of almost 58,000 Taiwanese people aged 65 and over who were followed up for four and a half years found that those taking the highest dosage of statin drugs had a lower risk of developing symptoms of pre-senile and senile dementia.

In comparison with a control group, the 5,500 participants who went on to develop dementia were less likely to have been prescribed a statin or had taken the drug in low dose.

Statin effects
Statins are widely used in older people and those with a previous history of cardiovascular disease to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

However, in contrast to this latest research, some recent reports of statin-associated cognitive impairment have led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to list statin-induced cognitive changes as a potential side effect.

Lead investigator Dr Tin-Tse Lin of the National University Hospital in Taipei told the European Society of Cardiology congress at the weekend that “patients who received the highest total equivalent doses of statins had a three-fold decrease in the risk of developing dementia”.

He added: “It was the potency of the statins . . . which was a major determinant in reducing dementia. High-potency statins such as atorvastatin and rosuvastatin showed a significant inverse association with developing dementia.”

Statins can cause side effects such as liver and muscle inflammation and are a common reason why patients stop taking their medication. Taking higher doses of statins may increase the risk of experiencing these side effects.

A Lowers risk of cataracts
Meanwhile, separate research from the US presented at the conference showed statin use was associated with a 19 per cent lower risk of developing cataracts compared with those who did not take them.

Earthlings are really Martians, says a new theory


Life on Earth was kick-started thanks to a key mineral deposited by a meteorite from Mars, according to a novel theory aired on Thursday.

The vital ingredient was an oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum, which helped prevent carbon molecules — the building blocks of life — from degrading into a tar-like goo.

The idea comes from Steven Benner, a professor at the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in Gainesville, Florida, who was to present it at an international conference of geochemists in Florence, Italy.

“It’s only when molybdenum becomes highly oxidized that it is able to influence how early life formed,” Benner said in a press release.

“This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did.”

In this violent epoch of the Solar System, the infant Earth was pounded by comets and asteroids.

Mars, too, would have come under bombardment, and the impacts would have caused Martian rubble to bounce into space, where they would have lingered until eventually being captured by Earth’s gravity.

Recent analysis of a Martian meteorite showed the presence of molybdenum, as well as a boron, an element that would also have helped nurture life by helping to protect RNA — a primitive cousin to DNA — from the corrosive effects of water.

“The evidence seems to be building that we are actually all Martians, that life started on Mars and came to Earth on a rock,” said Benner.

“It’s lucky that we ended up here nevertheless, as certainly Earth has been the better of the two planets for sustaining life. If our hypothetical Martian ancestors had remained on Mars, there might not have been a story to tell.”

Other theories about how life began on Earth suggest that water, the key ingredient, was brought by comets, famously dubbed “dirty snowballs,” which comprise ice and dust left from the building of the Solar System.

Another hypothesis, called panspermia, suggests bacteria hitched a ride on space rocks, splashing into Earth’s warm and welcoming sea.

News Ireland daily BLOG Sunday

Sunday 14th April 2013

“Five Wise Men” proposal of wealth tax to pay for EU bail-outs


Wealthy households would face new taxes on property and other assets under German plans to prop up the struggling Eurozone.

Senior advisers to Chancellor Angela Merkel are pushing for better-off households to pay towards the cost of any future bail-outs for the weaker members of the single currency.

The proposals, from members of Germany’s council of economic experts, raise the prospect of taxes being imposed on property in a country like Spain if its government was forced to seek a bail-out.

The council, known as the “Five Wise Men”, is often used to test new policies that are later adopted officially.

The German suggestion is the latest sign that Berlin is intent on imposing even tougher rules on weaker southern euro members in exchange for using its economic might to support their finances.

As well as inflaming tensions between Germany and its smaller southern partners, the suggestion could also mean that Britons with holiday homes are dragged deeper into the eurozone crisis.

Around 400,000 Britons live or own homes in the south of Spain, which is suffering a deep recession that is hampering Madrid’s attempts to balance the public finances and stave off a bail-out.

Senior figures in Germany are now arguing that some richer home owners in countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece have so far avoided paying their fair share to rescue the euro, leaving Germany paying too much.

Taxes on property or other assets would mark a significant change in Europe’s approach to funding bail-outs for eurozone members. Until now, the cost of rescue packages for countries like Ireland, Greece and Portugal has fallen largely on people who invest money in either those countries’ bonds or – in the case of Cyprus – bank accounts.

Prof Peter Bofinger, an adviser to Mrs Merkel, said that levies on bank accounts are the wrong way of funding bail-outs, because rich people are able to shift their money out of the country.

“The resourceful rich just move their money to banks in northern Europe and avoid paying,” Prof Bofinger told Der Spiegel, a German magazine.

Instead of taxing cash, European Union governments should in future target property and other, less mobile assets, he said.

“For example, over the next 10 years, the rich should give up a portion of their assets,” Prof Bofinger said. Spain was last year forced to seek international help to prop up its banks. Despite recent signs of progress, some analysts believe the Spanish government itself could also have to seek a bail-out in order to pay its debts.

Spain is suffering from the bursting of a huge property bubble that has left many home owners struggling to sell houses for much less than the price they paid.

A “sovereign rescue” of Spain would dwarf any previous eurozone bail-out package, with Germany again likely to pay the lion’s share.

Mrs Merkel, who seeks re-election later this year, is coming under increasing pressure to drive an even harder bargain in Europe from German voters unhappy at footing the bill for what they see as southern profligacy.

Southern eurozone governments have argued that it is right for Germany to pay more because it is wealthier and because its economy has gained so much from the single currency.

But German economists are now challenging that argument. They say that new figures taking into account property values show that people in many southern countries are actually wealthier than their German counterparts.

Prof Lars Feld, another “wise man”, highlighted a recent study by the European Central Bank, which Germans say show that the people in bailed-out countries are often better-off than those in Germany. Less than half of Germans own their own home, lower than the rate in many southern eurozone members.

The ECB study found that the “median” wealth in Cyprus is €267,000 (£227,600), compared to just €51,000 in Germany.

The median or midpoint level – which strips out the distorting effect of the super-rich – was €183,000 for Spain, €172,000 for Italy, and €102,000 for Greece, and even €75,000 for Portugal.

Average wealth in Cyprus is €671,000, far higher than in the four AAA creditor states: Austria (€265,000), Germany (€195,000), Holland (€170,000), Finland (€161,000).

Prof Feld said the report showed that people in the crisis countries are richer than the Germans. “This shows that Germany has been right to take a tough line of euro rescue loans,” he said.

Alternative für Deutschland, a German eurosceptic party, is putting Mrs Merkel under increasing pressure in her response to the eurozone’s prolonged crisis.

Many members of the new party, which held its first conference on Sunday, want Germany to pull out of the euro and revert to the Deutschmark.

Repayments deal should now lead to Moody’s upgrade – says Noonan


Move by credit rating agency would aid bailout exit by widening market for State debt

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said today that the postponement of Ireland’s bailout repayments was but one of several positive developments which will ultimately lead credit rating agency Moody’s to upgrade its assessment of Irish debt.

Moody’s stance on Ireland is crucial for the Coalition campaign to exit the bailout as the company is the only one of the big three leading agencies to maintain a junk rating on Ireland’s bonds.

This rating automatically excludes some main professional lenders from the market for Irish debt as certain investment and pension funds have internal rules under which they are obliged to buy debt only from countries rated favourably by Moody’s and its rivals Standard & Poors and Fitch.

Moody’s has welcomed the deal to extend the maturity of €42.5 billion in loans from the European powers under the Irish bailout, but would not say whether it was ready to upgrade its rating.

“The restructuring will help ease Ireland’s debt repayment schedule, increasing its chances of regaining full market access and successfully exiting the bailout program,” Moody’s said yesterday.

In Dublin today, on the second day of talks with his EU counterparts and central bank governors, Mr Noonan said he would not attempt to predict the future actions of any agency.

“We’ve had a whole series of credit-enhancing events in Ireland since January,” the Minister told reporters as he arrived for the talks today.

In addition to longer loan maturities, these included the introduction of the property tax and the deal to scrap the Anglo Irish Bank promissory notes.

“It’s all moving in the same direction and improving Ireland’s credit position, so I am sure that Moody’s will move to reflect that in their ratings as the other principle rating agencies have done previously,” Mr Noonan said.

As the meeting wrapped up at around lunchtime, the Minister was asked about remarks by his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble , in which he said stricken banks should be recapitalised first by their home country before any drawdown of capital directly from the ESM fund.

“The country involved must pay for a certain level of capitalisation before ESM capital can come,” Mr Schäuble told reporters in Dublin.

His remarks reflect deep German unease at the notion of the ESM rescuing banks directly, one of Mr Noonan’s key objectives in Europe as he plots Ireland’s exit from the bailout.

Although Mr Noonan has recognised that there will be no deal on that front before Ireland leaves the bailout at the end of this year, he said the Government was still prioritising this portfolio as part of its EU presidency.

“As the details of the resolution policy are discussed, issues arise such as the one that you refer to, which Wolfgang Schäuble talked about, but no decisions have been made on these matters yet,” he said.

“There are proposals being developed and we will participate like everybody else in the discussion but it’s too early yet to say where the proposals will finally end up or what the consequences but we committed to as part of the presidency to driving the banking union forward to a satisfactory conclusion so that the banks and the sovereigns are separated.”

Ireland’s A&Es facing a 50% junior doctor shortfall


Doctors working in emergency departments have warned of reduced opening hours and longer waiting times for patients amid fears of a 50% shortfall in junior doctor numbers next July.

A shortfall traditionally occurs every six months when trainee doctors rotate between specialities.

Yesterday, the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine issued a warning that all emergency departments, including large teaching hospitals, will see a shortfall in excess of 50% in senior doctor recruitment to the registrar grade — one level below a consultant — from July.

IAEM spokesman John McInerney said a recent medical staff survey by the association confirmed ongoing shortages of medical staff in the departments.

He said there are currently 12 emergency departments (24/7 opening) that rely on senior doctors from locum agencies to maintain rosters. These include:

– St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown, and Navan General, where between 90% and 100% of senior doctors are locums;

– Letterkenny General Hospital and the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick, where up to 70% are locums;

– Mayo Hospital, where between 71 and 80% are locums;

– Mercy University Hospital in Cork, where between 51% and 60% of senior doctors are locums.

Dr McInerney said the survey also showed there were about 12 temporary or locum consultants in emergency medicine filling permanent vacancies. In addition, only half of 14 extra emergency medicine posts sanctioned for public hospitals have been filled between 2011-2013, he said.

The predicted a shortfall in senior doctors working in emergency medicine is compounded by the fact that the speciality is not attracting candidates.

Dr McInerney said hospitals were losing potential recruits to overseas jobs with better pay and conditions.

He claimed the HSE was “trying to replace senior house officers [two grades below a consultant] with interns”.

“They want to man the frontline with unregistered doctors,” he said. Interns are not fully qualified to work in the emergency department as part of the rota system.

Dr McInerney said there was a “real prospect” of certain emergency departments being obliged to reduce their hours of service and, for many others, “there is a likelihood of fewer doctors on duty with consequent increases in waiting times and increased risk for patients”.

Approximately 1.2m patients attend Irish emergency departments annually.

Top 12 foods that can lower your blood pressure


The prime focus of this year’s World Health Day, which was observed on 7th of April worldwide, was on blood pressure and its dangers.

This World Health Day, doctors advised people to keep a track on their blood pressure-as it is one of the conditions that can contribute to the burden of heart disease, stroke and disability. Though it affects more than one in three adults worldwide, many people do not know they have high blood pressurebecause it does not always cause symptoms.

As a result, it leads to more than nine million deaths every year. Horrified with these facts, or tensed because you have been diagnosed with blood pressure recently? Then worry not! We have planned a very tasty and beneficial way to lower down your blood pressure with the help of Ms. Sunita Pathania – Sr. Registered Dietician andDiabetes Educator, Healthy Living Diet Clinic, Mumbai. Start the slideshow and begin your journeyto lower your blood pressure with these yummy foods.

  Food that lower blood pressure # 1: Peel down your B.P with bananas

If you want to lower your blood pressure, then bananas are a great option. They are cheap, available all throughout the year and are loaded with potassium. Potassium helps to lower your blood pressure by 2 to 3 points and helps to lower the risk of stroke.

Sunita says – Banana is one of the best foods, as it is loaded with potassium. Potassium helps the kidney to filter more pressure-boosting sodium out of your bloodstream and helps tiny blood vessels relax and make pressure in the artery walls function more efficiently.

Food that lower blood pressure # 2: Skimmed milk

Want to lower your blood pressure, then sip in a glass of skimmed milk every day. Skimmed milk will do wonders for your body, as it loaded with calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients work as a team and help to lower down your blood pressure and strengthen your bones. Besides, it also helps to reduce the risk of various cardiovascular ailments.

  Food that lower blood pressure # 3: Watermelon

Watermelon is not just a summer-refreshing food, but it is also a heart health promoting food. Watermelon is loaded with fiber, lycopenes, vitamin A and potassium. All these nutrients have blood pressure-lowering effects.

Food that lower blood pressure # 4: Oranges

This super rich vitamin fruit – is another best food you should indulge in, to lower down your risk of developing high blood pressure. Opt in for a glassful of orange juice or eat the whole fruit to load yourself with fiber and vitamin C.

  Food that lower blood pressure # 5: Dark chocolate

Chocolate lovers rejoice! Eating a square piece of dark chocolate every day, will help to lower down blood pressure readings, because of their richness in flavonoids – they are the natural compounds that cause dilation of the blood vessels. Sunita recommends, choose dark chocolates, which have approximately 50 to 70 percent cacao.

Food that lower blood pressure # 6: Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, folic acid, protein and fiber. Just a handful of sunflower seeds consumption, will helps to lower your blood pressure and promote your heart-health. Sunflower seeds, release a peptide that inhibits the body’s production of enzymes that’s known to raise blood pressure. So start munching in salt less, sunflower seeds to promote your health.

  Food that lower blood pressure # 7: Whole grain

Indulging into whole grain rich breakfast like cereals and oats is one of the best ways to promote good health. Eating oatmeal or wheat for breakfast, not only helps us to stay full for a long time but it also helps to lower down your blood pressure. So, if you have been diagnosed recently with blood pressure, then start taking you breakfast as the most important mean of the day.

Food that lower blood pressure # 8: Spinach

Popeye’s favorite green leafy vegetable – spinach, is loaded with heart-healthy nutrients. It is low in calories, high in fiber, potassium, folate and magnesium. All these properties help in maintaining and lowering blood pressure levels.

Food that lower blood pressure # 9: Sweet potatoes

This sweet food is loaded with potassium. Richness in potassium helps to keep the sodium levels low and thus drives down the blood pressure.

  Food that lower blood pressure # 10: Grape juice

Sip in grape juice, after your workout to reduce your blood pressure. Wondering why? Grape juice includes polyphenols, which helps to lower down the level of your blood pressure considerably. Polyphenols trigger the production of nitric oxide, which helps to dilute blood vessels and thus helps to lower blood pressure. Sip in at least 2 glasses of grape juice every day, but before sipping in loose out some calories as they are a good calorie source.

Food that lower blood pressure # 11: Beans

Including beans like kidney beans or black beans is one of best ways, to load yourself soluble fiber, magnesium and potassium. All these nutrients are excellent ingredients for lowering blood pressure and improving overall health.

  Food that lower blood pressure # 12: Berries

Add all types of berries to your diet, as they are packed with polyphenols, flavonols and anthocyanins. Besides, they are also loaded with vitamin C, float, potassium and fiber. Just add handful of berries each day to boost your heart health, to lower your blood pressure and to spike your good cholesterol.

Well what do you call a sting operation?

Police seal off house after seven metre wasps nest found on a holiday island


  • The nest was reportedly found at a property on the island of Tenerife
  • It is said to have been 22ft long and covered nearly an entire room
  • Experts believe wasps migrating from Africa may have created it

A seven metre long wasps nest has reportedly been discovered in an abandoned house by police officers in Spain.

Officers were called to the empty property in San Sebastian de La Gomera on the island of Tenerife after a series of calls from concerned neighbours.

Police sealed off the home when the found the 22ft nest, which is said to have almost filled a room, and millions of wasps in the house, according to UPI.com.

Experts believe that the nest was built by an African species of wasp which had migrated to Tenerife.

The Canary Islands are located around 100km from the African coast.

Police are said to be trying to find out who the property belongs to.

The nest may well be the biggest ever found.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest one found to date was discovered in Waimaukau in New Zealand in April 1963 and was an impressive 3.7metres, or 12ft 2ins long, more than 5ft in diameter and 18ft in circumference.

Thought to have been created by German wasps, that nest was so heavy that it fell from the tree it was hanging in and broke in two.

The size, type and colour of a wasps nest depends on the species of wasp that builds it.

They tend to be predominantly made from paper pulp – the wasp gathers wood fibres from weathered wood and softens it by chewing and mixing with saliva.

The previous biggest nest in the last 50 years was discovered in the attic of a pub in Southampton, Hampshire, in 2010.

Measuring 6ft by 5ft the nest was home to an estimated 500,000 wasps.

Another giant nest was found at the Avery Garden Centre in Taunton, Somerset last summer.

The average common wasp nest contains around 4,000 to 5,000 wasps – but colonies have been known to reach populations of 20,000.