Tag Archives: Knowledge

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 13th July 2016

Ireland should now plan to cut 12.5% corporation tax rate & steal a march on Brexit


Michael Noonan Minister for finance and Ibec policy chief Fergal O’Brien.

The Irish Government should go on the offensive and consider cutting the 12.5% corporation tax rate, and prepare an “aggressive” strategy in the budget to prepare for any fallout from the decision of the UK to quit the EU, business group IBEC has said.

In a new policy document, the business group also advises the Government to temporarily secure a break on the EU spending rules and splash €1bn in building social housing next year.

It says a massive programme to build new social homes – the largest in the history of the State – is the only way to start to address the housing crisis.

Ibec said its new document, called ‘IBEC priorities for budget 2017’, represents a call to arms for the Government to respond in a new way to the threat of the Brexit on Irish businesses.

“The most important thing about this budget is it is seen as a Brexit response. A real aggressive drive is required.

“The Government has sat on its hands – but we have already seen [UK chancellor] George Osborne setting the terms for the UK government what they want to do with corporation tax cuts to 15%, possibly lower,” said Ibec policy chief Fergal O’Brien.

“The UK has laid down the gauntlet on its business tax ambitions, Ireland must now respond,” he said. “We are looking for a more aggressive approach”.

Ibec said a corporate tax rate cut should be part of the Government’s armoury, the budget should address the immediate challenges of the Brexit vote.

It said it was most concerned about the Irish indigenous companies which now face financial pain because of the slump in the value of sterling against the euro since the Brexit vote on June 23.

Ibec urges more favourable tax terms for the self-employed to match and compete with the incentives the UK offers its entrepreneurs, in capital gains and in the taxing of share awards.

“Sterling is a massive issue. This budget has to be about reacting to Brexit and addressing those competitive concerns which will help Irish business to be more competitive,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We think it would be completely illogical for example to increase our minimum wage to impact on those sectors such as food processing, tourism, retail and indigenous exporters, who are trying to cope with an exchange rate,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said Irish companies were already suffering after the plunge in sterling and it was up to Government to control business costs.

“Not that many companies are hedging. The majority of the smaller companies are going to be exposed really quickly,” he said, adding that proposals to introduce a sugar tax and raise excise duties on tobacco would hurt retailers.

“The UK is going to take out the bazooka. If they are outside the EU, they are going to act on state-aid issues.

“We are going to have to react. The budget is the first opportunity for the Government to show what they can do for indigenous companies,” Mr O’Brien said.

Ibec said that cutting the USC rate would not help businesses. It said its tax measures would cost €469m and its recommendations for spending on infrastructure and research and development would cost an extra €250m.

Spending on social housing would be covered by the Government securing a derogation from EU spending rules, Ibec said.

Ex-Nama ‘big player employee’ used inside knowledge to buy Dublin site, 

The Wexford TD Wallace asks Taoiseach why Harcourt Street Garda premises was sold to ‘vulture fund’


Independents4 Change TD Mick Wallace has claimed that a former ‘big player’ in Nama used insider knowledge to purchase the site of the Harcourt Street Garda control centre.

A former “big player” in Nama used insider knowledge to purchase the site of the Harcourt Street Garda premises, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallacehas claimed.

Mr Wallace called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to explain why the State allowed Nama to sell the location of the Garda “command and control centre” for the entire country to a vulture fund.

Hibernia Reit later said the claims about it were “ill-informed, inaccurate and without foundation”.

Hibernia Reit is now taking a court action to have An Garda Síochána removed from the Harcourt Street premises, Mr Wallace told the Dáil.

“The company that now owns Hibernia Reit was set up by a guy who was a big player in Nama where he was a portfolio manager for three years,” the Wexford TD said.

Asking why Nama was allowed to sell the site to a vulture fund, rather than keep it in State ownership, Mr Wallace said: “Had it anything to do with the fact that the people to benefit from it were insiders?”

Mr Kenny told him “the advice given to me by the authorities is that loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder”.

“I’ll find out the answer for you why Harcourt station was sold to a vulture fund,” Kenny said.

An objection lodged?

The Taoiseach said an objection had been lodged to the Hibernia Reit court action. He also said that if there was an allegation being made about an individual or entity the Comptroller & Auditor General was “perfectly entitled to investigate that completely independently”.

Mr Kenny said “there are a lot of rumours going around, a lot of speculation, a lot of allegations”.

He said that if Mr Wallace had any evidence “this will be treated seriously as it was in other areas where commissions of investigations have been involved”.

Speaking about the buyer, Mr Wallace said that “when he joined Nama he moved his 30 per cent shareholding in his father’s company to an offshore trust. Did he declare that to Nama?”

The same company “then benefited from some very lucrative work from Nama”.

‘Inside knowledge use’

Mr Wallace said the portfolio manager left Nama in December 2012 and “used his inside knowledge regarding Nama assets to line up investment funds that would provide the finance for this new company Hibernia Reit which he manages”.

Mr Wallace said “it wouldn’t require forensic knowledge to establish that Hibernia Reit did remarkably well in purchasing assets from Nama, many of which this gentleman was involved with”.

He said “the public interest would be best served if we examined the internal workings of Nama”.

“At this stage the majority of people believe Nama is rotten to the core,” he added.

Project Aspen

In a statement after Mr Wallace’s comments, Hibernia Reit said the claims about it were “ill-informed, inaccurate and without foundation”.

Hibernia REIT did not purchase Harcourt Square from Nama, the company said. Harcourt Square was sold by Nama to Starwood Capital in 2013, as part of a large portfolio of assets called Project Aspen. Hibernia acquired the property from Starwood Capital in February 2015.

“Hibernia REIT is an Irish listed and regulated public company that is investing in Ireland for the long term,” the statement said. “It is disappointing that Deputy Wallace has used the protection of Dail privilege to make a range of untrue allegations.”

Financial strain, overcrowded housing and deprivation and young people have it tougher nowadays, says the ESRI

Research finds over-65s have fewer quality-of-life problems than younger adults


Financial strain, overcrowded housing and deprivation were among the most serious problems for young adults, according to ESRI research.

Younger people are having a tougher time of it in modern Ireland than the over-65s, new research has suggested.

Far more of those aged 18-30 have multiple quality-of-life problems than people over 65, the research from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found.

Financial strain, overcrowded housing and deprivation were among the most serious problems for young adults, while poor health and feeling unsafe were among the worrying issues for older people.

Differences between social classes were also identified, with poorer adults significantly more likely to have “multiple problems” than wealthier people. Their problems include poverty, financial stress and housing quality and health.

The recession?

The findings pointed to the harsher impact the recession had on young people and on lower socioeconomic groups, said its author Dorothy Watson.

Published today by the Department of Social Protection, the research goes beyond income to measure Irish adults’ quality of life. It used 11 indicators to examine not only economic wellbeing, but also physical and mental health.

Drawing on 2013 survey data from the Central Statistics Office, the indicators used were income poverty, inability to afford basic goods and services, financial strain, poor health, mental distress, housing quality problems, neighbourhood problems, crowded accommodation, mistrust in institutions, lack of social support, and feeling unsafe in one’s local area. The findings apply to adults over 18.

Just over 70% of all adults had experienced at least one of the issues, while 25.5% had faced three or more of them.

The ESRI found that while 31% of those aged 18-30 faced problems in relation to three or more of the issues, only 20% of those aged 65-70 and those aged 71-85 reported a similar level of problems.

The social class in Ireland?

In relation to social class, it found 36% of those in the manual skilled and semi-skilled sector experienced multiple problems compared with 14 per cent in the professional-managerial sector.

Ms Watson said the findings were consistent with those of other studies, with evidence of younger adults contending with multiple social stressors less likely to impact on older people. These included the cost and availability of housing, childcare costs and increased precariousness of work.

In contrast, successive budgets had protected pensions.

She said better public services in other societies helped to mitigate some of these stressors, particularly on the poor and younger adults.

This teacher’s letter praising a pupil with autism is the nicest thing you’ll read today

Ruth Clarkson decided to pen a letter praising the student for qualities not examined in academic tests


The mother of 11-year-old boy Ben Twist, who has autism, has shared a heart-warming letter his teacher penned detailing all his qualities that academic tests could not measure.

Ben’s teacher Ruth Clarkson decided to write the uplifting letter after he failed his stats which he sat earlier in the year.

Gail, Ben’s mother, posted the letter on Twitter and it has already been retweeted 3,500 times.

In tears. A letter to my 11 yr old autistic son from his school. “These tests only measure a little bit of you”

The letter reads: “A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities. They are important and you have done so well but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.”

She then lists some of his qualities including his kindness, abilities in sport and artistic talents.

She continues: “We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man. Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.”

Ben’s emotional mum told the Liverpool Echo: “Ben worked so hard and sitting the tests was a massive achievement. We knew the results were coming but to get a letter like that – I got part-way through it and I burst into tears.”

“He is all of the things they wrote about him – he is an amazing person. I think their words will stay with him if we keep reminding him what they said about him. When I told him he said: ‘Wow, do they really think all those things about me?’ It’s just a beautiful thing to do.”

New Benthic Underwater microscope lets scientists watch corals as they boogie on down

   Researcher Andrew Mullen uses the underwater microscope to examine coral off the coast of Maui.   

Using the newly released Benthic Underwater Microscope, scientists observed coral polyps off the coasts of Israel and Maui eating, dancing, and even kissing.

New underwater microscope technology allows scientists to get an up-close and personal look at the secret lives of dancing coral, according to a study published in the July 12 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Scientists say that the new microscope, called the Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM), allows them to explore the underwater world in an unprecedented way. The microscope features an extremely high-resolution camera, an underwater computer with a diver interface, bright LED lights for fast exposure images, and a flexible, tunable lens that allows scientists to view underwater structures in 3D.

“To understand the evolution of the dynamic processes taking place in the ocean,” said study lead author Jules Jaffe in a statement, “we need to observe them at the appropriate scale.”

First on the list of underwater life forms to observe using the new microscope? Coral. The magnificent invertebrates may look stationary, but they are built by tiny creatures called polyps, which look similar to upside down jellyfish attached to the bottom sides of coral reefs.

Millions of polyps work together to build coral reefs by secreting calcium carbonate, with the tiny animals providing nutrients and color to the reef.

The new microscope allowed a team of scientists to observe the tiny polyps as they gently swayed, ate, and, apparently, danced.

Using the microscope, scientists were able to position themselves two inches away from the polyps and watch them as they captured tiny plankton and brine shrimp with tiny swaying tentacles.

Scientists left the microscopes out overnight in order to observe the polyps over an extended period. The images and footage gathered show the polyps’ gentle “dancing” and post-meal kisses that scientists say could be a way for polyps to share nutrients throughout the coral colony.

Images from the Benthic Underwater Microscope also revealed a more violent side to the secret lives of polyps, showing coral of different species conquering weaker specimens. In order to win more reef space, the conquering coral will emit filaments that secrete stomach enzymes to destroy the tissue of their competitors.

Researchers have used the BUM in two places thus far – the waters off of Maui and the coast of Israel. With some of the largest coral bleaching events ever recorded taking place this year, scientists were especially interested to study the hard hit coral reefs off of Maui.

With the help of their new microscopic tool, scientists discovered that in bleached areas, there is a honeycomb pattern of algal colonization (like underwater squatters, algae move in when coral is weak from bleaching) and algal growth around individual polyps on the coral.

When coral are weak, scientists found, algae are able to outgrow and smother the already struggling reefs.

Scientists are enthusiastic about the future of underwater exploration with this new microscope, which they say is a great leap forward in the tools available for seafloor study.

“This underwater microscope is the first instrument to image the seafloor at such small scales,” said Dr. Jaffe’s co-lead author Andrew Mullen of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“This instrument is a part of a new trend in ocean research to bring the lab to the ocean, instead of bringing the ocean to the lab,” said fellow lead author Tali Treibitz of the University of Haifa.

Next up for the microscope: close-up study of coral surfaces and tiny particles in the water around them in an effort to understand how coral breathe through gas exchange.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 2nd February 2016

Irish exchequer returns:- January tax take up 7.3% against same period last year


The Irish Government collected over €300m more in taxes in the first month of 2016 than it did in January of last year, the latest Exchequer Returns show.

About €4.5bn was taken into the State’s coffers, up 7.3% on the €4.2bn collected in January 2015.

Income tax receipts were €1.6bn to the end of January, a year-on-year increase of 8.7%.

The Department of Finance said the improvement in income tax is consistent with the recovering labour market, employment growth and increases in average weekly earnings.

About €2.1bn was collected in VAT, with January regarded as a key month as it relates to the Christmas trading season. VAT receipts were up 6.6pc compared with last year.

Corporation tax receipts were €24m last month, down from €49m in January of last year.

The Department of Finance said January was not a significant month for corporation tax receipts.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the figures highlight the effort made in stabilising the economy.

“Overall, taxes have grown by 7.3% in January. This is an improvement when compared to the same period last year and to the Budget 2016 projection of a 5.8% increase in tax take for 2016,” he said.

“Taken in conjunction with today’s fall in the unemployment rate to 8.6% (lowest since December 2008), it is clear that the strong end to 2015 for the economy is continuing into 2016.”

Fine Gael are making election promises they cannot keep says Pearse Doherty SF?


The figures shown on Fine Gael’s new party billboard in relation to the fiscal space do not add up, according to Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson.

Pearse Doherty TD accused Fine Gael of making election promises it cannot keep in relation to promised spending on public services.

“Fine Gael has been caught out on its election promises to abolish the USC. This was the main plank of its campaign but it simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said Doherty.

“It has now scrambled its figures to try and make out that there is more fiscal space which allows it to invest in public services while scrapping the USC. This is wrong. Their numbers don’t add up.

“You can’t allocate 50% to USC cuts, 25% to contingency, 70% to public spending,” he said.

“The gross fiscal space is €12.7billion. Fine Gael has already committed €4.1billion of that to measures such as capital spend, demographics and public sector pay increases which were included in Budget 2016. So the real fiscal space available is €8.6billion.

“From that the government has allocated €3.2billion to their contingency plan and abolishing the USC will cost them €4billion,” he said.

“That leaves just €1.4billion for new investment in services which is just over 16% of the fiscal space and a far cry from the 70% that Fine Gael has promised,” Doherty said.

Sinn Féin’s plans for a fair recovery will see the party allocating funds to invest in public services and tackle the health crisis, said Doherty.

“In addition to this one of our first priorities in government is to ease the burden on the average family and we will do this by ending water charges and the property tax and taking 277,000 more workers out of the USC,” Doherty said.

M.D. Higgins questions emphasis on tax cuts in election campaign

Launch of ethics initiative at Áras a stark reminder of past failures in lead up to crash


President Michael D Higgins on the occasion of the publication of the final report of the President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative.

In an unprecedented intervention on the eve of the general election campaign President Michael D Higgins has questioned the emphasis being placed on tax cuts by political parties.

“Is it possible to have a decent society and at the same time continue to lower taxes for the purposes of securing the best short-term benefit?” asked Mr Higgins.

Speaking to The Irish Times at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday after the publication of his report on The President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative, Mr Higgins warned that essential services must not become a political football in the election campaign.

“I can’t obviously comment on the platforms of the parties that will contest the election,” he said before discussing the issue of taxation. “People setting their face against tax and using the language that regards it as inevitably a great burden I’m afraid represents a view of the world [which] is not one that I think really can engage with what we are speaking about in the ethics initiative.”

Great failures

The President said there had been great failures of an ethical kind in the lead-up to the recession but the good news was that the public wanted to get to a new place and wanted to get there ethically.

“But sometimes they are contradicted because they are being offered short-term advantages for themselves which are, if you like, contradicting the best of their social aspirations,” he said. Most political parties have made reductions in tax a key element of their election manifestos. Fine Gael is proposing the abolition of the universal social charge (USC) over the lifetime of the next government.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said this will reduce the maximum tax rate for middle income families from 52 per cent to 44 per cent. The party will also seek to introduce a new levy on high income earners.

Labour has pledged to abolish the USC for low and middle income earners. Fianna Fáil will move to reduce the USC if elected to government. Sinn Féin is pledging to take those earning under €20,000 out of the USC net and introduce a wealth tax.

Terry Wogan only discovered he was terminally ill three weeks ago


It’s been reported that Terry Wogan found out he was dying from cancer three weeks ago.

According to his friend Father Brian D’Arcy, the 77-year-old radio star, who passed away over the weekend, revealed that his health rapidly declined after Christmas.

”I think alarms bells began to ring about three weeks ago. He had been in some pain before that, and he had got through Christmas,” he said.

Terry reportedly found out three weeks ago that the prognosis was not good?

“And the family had a lovely Christmas because I rang them to specifically to see and everything was fine, and then things began [getting worse].

”Last Thursday, something told me: ‘Brian, go and see him’, and I rang [Terry’s wife] Helen, and she said: ‘Please do come Brian’. I did, and it was the saddest day and the most rewarding day of my life,

However Brian admitted it would be unlikely that a public funeral will be held for Terry as no venue could be big enough to honour the broadcaster.

Laid to rest: It is reported that Terry will be laid to rest in England rather than Ireland.

He also added that the Limerick native will be laid to rest in England, rather than Ireland.

”How can you have a public funeral for Terry Wogan? Where would you put it? Wembley wouldn’t be big enough for it, so there will probably be just family and friends at a private funeral,” he added.

“I suspect it will be probably early next week. It is in the UK. The BBC usually holds a quite public memorial service later on.

It’s been reported that Terry Wogan found out he was dying from cancer three weeks ago.

According to his friend Father Brian D’Arcy, the 77-year-old radio star, who passed away over the weekend, revealed that his health rapidly declined after Christmas.

”I think alarms bells began to ring about three weeks ago. He had been in some pain before that, and he had got through Christmas,” he said.

Terry reportedly found out three weeks ago that he prognosis wasn’t good

“And the family had a lovely Christmas because I rang them to specifically to see and everything was fine, and then things began [getting worse].

”Last Thursday, something told me: ‘Brian, go and see him’, and I rang [Terry’s wife] Helen, and she said: ‘Please do come Brian’. I did, and it was the saddest day and the most rewarding day of my life,” he said on RTE Radio 1.

However Brian admitted it would be unlikely that a public funeral will be held for Terry as no venue could be big enough to honour the broadcaster.

Laid to rest: It is reported that Terry will be laid to rest in England rather than Ireland.

He also added that the Limerick native will be laid to rest in England, rather than Ireland.

”How can you have a public funeral for Terry Wogan? Where would you put it? Wembley wouldn’t be big enough for it, so there will probably be just family and friends at a private funeral,” he added.

“I suspect it will be probably early next week. It is in the UK. The BBC usually holds a quite public memorial service later on.

The artificial 3D brain shows how our wrinkles and folds take shape

How the brain’s outer shape controls its inner workings.


Anyone familiar with the appearance of the human brain would recognise the distinctive, wrinkly folds that cover its surface. Scientists believe that the brain’s folding enables a large cortex to fit into a smaller volume reducing wiring length and improving cognitive function – but how does the brain physically end up in this convoluted shape?

Researchers at Harvard University have gotten closer to understanding how this process works, building a 3D-printed layered brain model that replicates the manner in which real brain cortices fold in upon themselves.

Brain folding doesn’t actually appear in all animals, and is limited to a number of species including some primates, dolphins, elephants, and pigs. While the link between these animals’ brain folding and their comparatively high cognitive functions has been noted before, it is not yet fully understood by scientists.

In humans, the folding starts at about the 20th week of gestation of a foetal brain, with the process continuing until a child is approximately 18 months old.

The folding happens as the brain grows, with the number, size, shape, and position of neuronal cells all contributing to the expansion of the cortex – also called grey matter – relative to the white matter that lies underneath.

To mimic this folding motion with an artificial brain structure, the researchers sourced MRI images of human foetuses. With the data in hand, they made a 3D gel model of a smooth, unwrinkled foetal brain as it would look before any of the folding takes shape.

The model’s surface was then coated with a thin layer of elastomer gel, effectively representing an artificial cortex. To replicate the natural process of cortical expansion, the gel brain was immersed in a solvent, causing the outer layer to swell and expand. Within minutes – sped up considerably in the GIF seen here – the artificial brain’s outer layer resembles the formation of folds in real brains.

“We found that we could mimic cortical folding using a very simple physical principle and get results qualitatively similar to what we see in real foetal brains,” said one of the researchers, L. Mahadevan. “This simple evolutionary innovation, with iterations and variations, allows for the thin but expansive cortex to be packed into a small volume, and is the dominant cause behind brain folding, known as gyrification.”

According to the researchers, the shape and position of the folds that result from the cortex expansion are critical to health, with the form of the brain related to its function.

“The geometry of the brain is really important because it serves to orient the folds in certain directions,” said one of the researchers, Jun Young Chung. “Brains are not exactly the same from one human to another, but we should all have the same major folds in order to be healthy.”

The findings, which are reported in Nature Physics, could help scientists to better understand how the outer shape of the brain is related to its inner workings.

“Our research shows that if a part of the brain does not grow properly, or if the global geometry is disrupted, we may not have the major folds in the right place, which may cause potential dysfunction,

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 16th March 2015

Grocery market competition ramps up as Dunnes Stores campaign sees sales grow by 6.5%


The latest supermarket share figures from Kantar Worldpanel in Ireland, published for the 12 weeks ending March 1, show contrasting fortunes among the major supermarkets in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel, said that Dunnes’ recent ‘Shop & Save’ campaign looks to have made a mark with shoppers.

“The retailer’s sales have grown by 6.5% over the latest period, improving its market share by just over one percentage point to 23.4%. Dunnes has successfully encouraged its customers to buy more, growing the number of trips where €100 or more is spent by an astonishing 25%.

“One point to note is that this time last year Dunnes was struggling, with sales falling by almost 5%, so while performance is positive this year the benchmark for comparison is relatively low.”

Elsewhere among the big three retailers, SuperValu’s 0.4% sales growth has put it almost on parity with Tesco. SuperValu’s share of the grocery market is now 24.9%, just 0.1% behind Ireland’s largest supermarket. SuperValu has attracted an extra 50,000 customers this year which means that three quarters of all Irish households shopped in SuperValu in the latest period.

Tesco remains Ireland’s largest supermarket with one in every €4 spent on groceries going into its tills. However this is lower than this time last year with sales down by 3.7%. The main driver of this sales decline does appear to be changing. Shoppers had been cutting back the number of products they bought there. Now, they are buying a similar number of products but at a lower price.

Both Lidl and Aldi continue to post impressive performance, with both enjoying growth of 10.7%. Lidl’s market share has improved to 7.6% and Aldi now stands at 8.1%.

Suicides of more than 470 men in Ireland linked to recession


In 2008, the trend of falling suicide rates started to reverse and self-harm among both men and women has also been rising.

A Research on suicide rates in Ireland has shown that there were 476 more male suicides than would have been expected during 2008 and 2012 had the recession not happened.

A recent RTÉ investigation revealed the national suicide ratehas not exceeded the annual rate of 12.2 per 100,000 of the population since 2004 and the suicide rate was higher in 2001 than any other year after the downturn.

However The National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) said that while rates fell between 2001 and 2007, after that self-harm among both sexes has been increasing, as have suicide rates among men in Ireland.

Their analysis shows that in 2008, the first year of the recession, there was a “significant increase” in rates, reversing the previous decreasing trend. The researchers at University College Cork (UCC) compared the rates of suicide and self-harm with the rates that would have been observed had the decreasing trend between 2001 and 2007 continued here.

  They found the rate of male suicide by the end of 2012 was 57% higher than it would have been if the recession had not happened. The rate of self-harm among both men and women was also 37% and 26% higher respectively.

Between 2008 and 2012, there were 476 more male suicides than would have been expected during this period had the economic downturn not occurred.

Numbers of self-harm presentations were also higher than would have been expected – 5,029 males and 3,833 females.

There have been similar findings in other countries, including the UK and the US but the NSRF said the impact seems to have been greater in Ireland.

A report in 2013 found that in one third of suicides, the person was unemployed and 42% had worked in the construction and production sectors – those most severely affected by the recession. However other factors, such as a history of self-harm, depression and substance abuse were also prevalent.

NSRF research director Ella Arensman has previously said that the recession was “compounding the problems that the vulnerable were already facing”.

If you need someone to talk to, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Inactive kids eventually will become ‘couch potatoes and obese’


Children who aren’t very physically active are more likely to become couch potatoes by the time they are middle-aged than their active counterparts, according to a new study.

It’s known that a lack of physical exercise can take its toll on a person’s health, leading to serious implications such as obesity, heart attack and stroke. So researchers at the University College London set out to investigate the relationship between children’s physical activity and the effects of this in later life.

For their study, they recruited 6,000 children in the UK who were all born in a single week in 1970.

The researchers compared their television habits when they were ten years old against their viewing habits when they had reached the age of 42.

When the children were ten, their parents were asked how often their child watched television and engaged in playing sports.

The height and weight of each child was recorded, as well as the occupation of their parents.

When they had reached the age of 42, each participant was asked how much time they spent watching television and playing sports.

It was found that those who spent a lot of time in front of the television at the age of ten were 42 per cent more likely to watch TV for more than three hours each day when they were 42, in comparison to those who spent little time in front of the screen during childhood.

What’s more, those who watched three hours of TV or more each day in adulthood were more likely to consider themselves to be overweight or obese

Interestingly, the study revealed a link between parents’ occupations and participants’ viewing habits.

The participants whose parents were in manual jobs were twice as likely to watch more than three hours of television each day at age 42 than those whose parents were in managerial roles.

Mark Hamer, lead researcher of the study, said: ‘It is important that children keep active. And if they can be encouraged to participate in sports, so much the better.

‘Our work indicates that parents’ health-related behaviours may at least partly influence children’s TV viewing habits more than three decades later.’


   Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St Patrick’s Day is upon us once more. Now we can’t say for sure why St Pat’s is the most popular patron saint in the calendar, but we reckon it might have something to do with the rowdy (and altogether inebriated) qualities of the day.

And of course, no March 17 would be complete without a pint of Guinness. So whether you’re over in Ireland or here in the UK, we’ve dug out some quirky facts about the famous Black Stuff…

  1. More than 13 million pints of Guinness are enjoyed around the world on St Patrick’s Day.
  2. It takes 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, and there are six steps in this process.
  3. There are roughly 300,000,000 bubbles in each pint of Guinness.

“Crisp and fruity” is just not the Guinness way.

  1. 10 million glasses of Guinness are enjoyed every day around the world.
  2. Guinness is now brewed in 49 countries and exported to over 150 countries.
  3. Guinness is the only brand in Great Britain with its own dedicated Quality team.
  4. One pint in every three in Ireland is a pint of Guinness.
  5. The most Guinness is sold in Nigeria, followed by Great Britain, Ireland, the United State of America and Cameroon.
  6. The product historically known as “the black stuff” is actually ruby red in colour.
  7. 313,900 St Patrick’s Day hats will be worn across the UK on St Patrick’s Day.

Stonehenge May Have Been An Ancient ‘Mecca On Stilts,’

A Critic Says



Almost a million people a year flock to Stonehenge to marvel at the mysterious prehistoric monument. But what if those massive bluestones were just the foundations of an enormous platform where worshippers came to perform religious ceremonies?

That’s the intriguing new theory put forth by Julian Spalding, a British art critic and former director of some of the UK’s leading museums, who says the long-lost platform would have made Stonehenge a kind of “mecca on stilts.”

“All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth,” he told The Guardian, adding that his theory is “totally different” from any others put forward before. “That would have been unimaginably insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bite the dust and tread in the dung.”

Unpacking the theory. Spalding believes a round wooden platform sat atop the monument’s stones, which ancient people reached by climbing up a ramp or stairs, as he wrote in his new book Realisation. The platform would have been composed of an outer rim for pilgrims to walk around and an inner one reserved for priests and royalty, he told The Huffington Post in an email.

Last September, archaeologists discovered the monument once formed a full circle — hence the idea for the round platform.

Previous research suggested that gigantic wooden posts were set up in the area before the stones were erected. As Spalding said in the email, these posts may have been used to help erect the platform and stairway or ramps.

Spalding acknowledged that proposing the theory in the absence of physical evidence might be “a bit cheeky”. But he emphasized in the email that “nothing in the archaeological evidence contradicts my interpretation.”

What do archaeologists make of it? Dr. Aubrey Burl, a British archaeologist considered to be an expert on stone circles, told The Guardian that he thought it was worth looking into.

But others expressed skepticism. As Dr. Timothy Darvill, professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University in England and one of the recent excavators of Stonehenge, told The Huffington Post in an email:

“Some kind of superstructure for Stonehenge has been suggested many times over the last few decades, but all can be questioned on two key points. First, there is absolutely no evidence that the stones supported a timber platform or a roof of any kinds. And second, what exactly would people do up there? The stone structure we see today performs perfectly well in terms of structuring observations of the heavens at the summer and winter solstices and creating spaces for ceremonies and rituals around the use of the Bluestones.”

Stonehenge, located eight miles north of Salisbury in England and believed to have been erected 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, has been listed as a World Heritage