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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Fianna Fáil member takes legal action over gender quotas

Brian Mohan was excluded from selection convention due to rules on female candidates

  Getting women on the ticket is great, but having them win seats is what matters most   

Political parties will lose half their funding unless 30% of their general election candidates are female.

A Fianna Fáil activist has initiated legal action challenging the State’s new electoral laws on gender quotas after being excluded from a selection convention that allowed only a female candidate to be chosen.

Brian Mohan, an area representative in Dublin Central, was unable to contest the party’s selection convention in October after its national constituency commission (NCC) issued an instruction that only one female candidate could be chosen.

He was one of several male contenders who found themselves unable to put themselves before their constituency selection conventions because of diktats issued by the NCC, chaired by

Other declared candidates who were unable to contest conventions were Daithí de Róiste in Dublin South Central and Pat O’Rourke and Séamus Butler in Longford-Westmeath.

In both these cases, the NCC instruction resulted in the only female candidate being selected without a contest.

The decisions prompted heated scenes at the conventions.

It is understood that Mr Mohan’s legal action is not against Fianna Fáil but against the gender-quota legislation introduced by former minister for the environment Phil Hogan.

Mr Mohan was not contactable for comment last night.

Loss of funding.

The Electoral (Political Funding) Act, passed in 2012, provides that political parties will lose half of their central exchequer funding unless 30 per cent of their candidates in the general election are female.

All of the parties have said they will meet the gender quota.

Fine Gael is understood to have approached Independent TD Peter Mathews’s parliamentary assistant, Avril Cronin, to contest the general election in Wicklow as it attempts to meet the quota.

She is among a number of potential candidates the party has sounded out as it strives to hit the 30 per cent target.

Fine Gael, with conventions completed in all 40 constituencies, is at the 28 per cent mark and insists the quota will be reached.

The party has selected 82 candidates, 23 of whom are women.

Thomasina Connell to run in Laois.

This week the party added Thomasina Connell, a solicitor for Ballybrittas, to run alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan in Laois.

Former mayor of Tralee Grace O’Donnell was added to the contest in Kerry with Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan and Brendan Griffin.

Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle indicated that his preference would be for him and Minister of State Simon Harris to run without a third candidate.

Separately, Fianna Fáil has yet to decide on dates for selection conventions in two constituencies, Roscommon-East Galway and Cavan-Monaghan.

The party in Roscommon is seen by its members locally as in turmoil. Amid continued infighting, which has included a High Court action by one councillor against another, many of the leading contenders have withdrawn from the race.

Those who have said they will not contest the convention include councillors Rachel Doherty and Orla Leyden and 2014 byelection candidate Ivan Connaughton.

While Fianna Fáil performed well in the local elections in Roscommon last year, the party has been in disarray since Mr Connaughton was beaten in the byelection by the Independent Michael Fitzmaurice.

Irish banks may be mis-pricing credit risk, says Honohan

Outgoing Central Bank governor highlights persistent relatively high loan rejection rates

    

Outgoing Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan: ‘Irish banks mispriced credit risk before . . . are we sure they’re not mispricing in the other direction now?’

Irish banks may be too risk averse, outgoing Central Bank governor Patrick Honohanhas said, while also highlighting the relatively high interest rates being charged by Irish lenders.

Noting rates had come down everywhere in the euro area except in Ireland, he said: “This raises a question as to whether these rates are a consequence of insufficient competition.”

In an address to the Small Firms’ Association, Prof Honohan said loan rejection rates here had not fallen to the same extent as they had in other formerly distressed EU states.

Irish banks may be “mispricing credit risk” resulting in relatively high loan rejection rates, he said. While banks were reckless in assessing risk prior to the crash, the pendulum may now have swung the other way, according to Prof Honohan.

Since the tsunami of credit receded seven years ago, lending conditions have been restricted by the shortfalls of capital on bank balance sheets.

Outstripping Ireland.

Lending to small businesses in Portugal, Spain and Greece – countries which experienced similar financial crises – is now outstripping Ireland, he said.

“Irish banks mispriced credit risk before . . . are we sure they’re not mispricing in the other direction now?”

Earlier this year, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan met with representatives from the State’s six main lenders over concerns about the comparatively high rates charged for standard variable mortgages.

The issue of high variable mortgages has been a source of controversy with some borrowers on tracker loans paying less than 1 per cent while those on variable rates are paying 4.5 per cent.

Prof Honohan said, however, it was unfair to blame banks for not passing on European Central Bank rate cuts as they did not benefit from them because of the large number of tracker mortgages on their books.

“It’s not that banks are laughing or gouging . . . but it still doesn’t mean everything is right in the system,” he said.

Academia.

Prof Honohan, who hinted he would be returning to academia upon stepping down as governor, appeared to rule out intervening in the marketplace to address the issue of interest rates, suggesting this could make the problem worse.

“We could all do with more competition in the banking system. I’m hoarse encouraging new investors to come into the Irish banking system in whatever way – acquisition, new start-up,” he said.

In his address, Prof Honohan said Ireland’s forecast growth rate of 6 per cent for 2015 had to be treated with great caution because of the complexities of accounting of the multinationals.

Since the middle of 2012, about 130,000 jobs have been created, mainly by the private sector, which pointed to a “solid, not dramatic, recovery”.

Small Firms’ Association chairman AJ Noonan called on the Government to commit once and for all to end the tax discrimination of small business owners and self-employed, who do not enjoy the same employee tax credits or PRSI benefits.

“To me it is shocking that we have members of government jumping up and down about taking swathes of people out of the Universal Social Charge trap while at the same time discriminating against the very people who create those jobs,” he said.

Ireland’d outpatient waiting lists rise for fourth month in a row

Department imposes €8.7m fines on hospitals for breaching 18-month targets

    

The number of outpatients waiting over 18 months for an appointment has increased for the fourth month in a row, despite Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s promise to abolish long waits.

Mr Varadkar said the trend on waiting lists was “broadly positive” with improvements in the overall numbers on the outpatient waiting list and the number of long waiter for inpatient procedures.

There were 13,353 people on the outpatient waiting list for over 18 months at the end of October, up 177 on the previous month, according to the latest monthly figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

Mr Varadkar had said no-one would wait longer than 18 months from the end of June this year.

In a statement issued two hours before the official figures were published, the Department expressed disappointment at the further increase in the number waiting over 18 months as well as the slow rate of decrease of long waiting inpatient and daycase patients.

Fines totalling € 8.47 million have been levied on hospitals who have failed to meet the waiting list targets, it said.

“The application of fines is also aimed at incentivising improved performance in relation to the longest waiters.”

The department said reductions in inpatient and daycase numbers waiting over 18 months, and over 15 months, were “very positive” as this was the first time reductions were seen in these categories.

There were 2,161 people waiting over 18 months for daycase or inpatient treatment in October, down 83, according to the NTPF.

The total number of people on the outpatient waiting list has fallen below 400,000 for the first time this year, the statement also noted.

There were 396,571 people on the list last month, down almost 5,000 in a month.

The department says this has been achieved by hospitals facilitated additional clinics outside conventional working hours and by outsourcing where capacity is limited.

Responding to a rise in the number of patients waiting for gastrointestinal endoscopies, it saidthe HSE believe standardised referral criteria must be strictly applied as well as capacity reviewed.

“In respect of urgent colonoscopies, there is a four-week access target and a policy of zero tolerance applies to any breaches.”

Fianna Fáil health minister Billy Kelleher accused the Minister of “risble spin” on waiting lists. Targets had been missed and, in the case of outpatients, were even further off target since Mr Varadkar set last June’s deadline.

“Minister Varadkar may think that figures ‘continue to show improvements’ but no-one will be fooled.”

Benbulben Sligo a Mountain & Irish site that inspires the imagination

      

The name Ben Bulben, also spelt as Benbulbin or Benbulben, is said to be an anglicized version of the Irish Binn-Gulbain, meaning ‘Gulban’s Peak.’ This jaw-shaped rock formation (the word ‘gulban’ may be translated as ‘jaw’) is part of the Dartry Mountains, and is located in County Sligo in northwestern Ireland.

The Ben Bulben’s Famous Literary Connection.

In Ireland, Ben Bulben is also popularly known as ‘County Sligo’s Table Mountain.’ One of Ben Bulben’s claims to fame is its association with the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. One of the last poems that Yeats wrote was entitled Under Ben Bulben. As a result of the area’s connection with Yeats, this part of Ireland is sometimes known as ‘Yeats Country.’ In addition to its association with this famous literary figure, Ben Bulben is also well-known for being the setting of several Irish legends.

The Formation of Ben Bulben.

According to geologists, Ben Bulben was formed during the Ice Age, when moving glaciers cut into the earth creating the present shape of the rock formation. Ben Bulben is reported to be composed of layers of limestone on mudstone. Its lower parts, which contain deposits of shale, is referred to as the ‘Ben Bulben Shale formation.’ From the top of Ben Bulben, one is able to obtain a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Apart from the natural scenery, one may also be able to spot a number of megalithic structures strewn on the foot of the Dartry Mountains.

Remains of one of the megalithic sites on the north side of Ben Bulben, County Sligo, Ireland.

The Fairy Door at Ben Bulben.

One of the legends surrounding Ben Bulben is the claim that this is this is the only place in Ireland where fairies, also known as ‘gentry’, are visible to mortals. In the east side of Ben Bulben’s north face is a “black patch on a bare hollow” referred to by the people of the area as the ‘Fairy Door,’ It is believed by the locals that whenever the door opens, the weather is bound to be good for the next few days.

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The Fianna and Ben Bulben.

Ben Bulben is also said to be one of the favorite hunting grounds of the Fianna, a mythical band of Irish warriors. One legend involving Ben Bulben is about Fionn MacCumhail, the leader of the Fianna. In this tale, Fionn fell in love with Siadbh, a woman who was changed into a deer by a malevolent druid.

Illustration of Fionn MacCumhail. (1932) Stephen Reid. (Public Domain) It seems that Fionn’s land was the one place where Siadbh could regain her human form. The pair got married, lived together, and soon Siadbh became pregnant. The druid, however, came back for Siadbh whilst she was pregnant, and transformed her into a deer again when her husband was away.

Fionn spent years searching for his wife, but his efforts were futile. Nonetheless, whilst hunting on Ben Bulben one day, he came upon a fawn, who turned out to be his son Oisin. This child would eventually become one of the most renowned figures of the Fianna.

Oisin (Ossian) on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp. (1801) François Gérard

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne.

Fionn appears in another legend called The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. In this story, however, Fionn is not its protagonist, but its antagonist. In this tale, Gráinne, the most beautiful woman in Ireland, and the daughter of Cormac MacAirt, the High King of Ireland, was betrothed to the aging Fionn.

However, the princess fell in love with Diarmuid, one of the Fianna, when she first saw him. During the wedding feast, Gráinne drugged the entire party, with the exception of Diarmuid, and confessed her love for him. Diarmuid, however, was loyal to his leader, and did not reciprocate her love. Gráinne then put a spell on Diarmuid to make him fall in love with her and the pair ran away. When Fionn realized what had happened, he pursued the pair all over Ireland.

In one version of the legend, Diarmuid and Gráinne came across the heath of Ben Bulben, where the pair was confronted by a giant boar, the only creature that could harm Diarmuid. The warrior fought with the beast to protect Gráinne, and though he managed to kill it, was mortally wounded by it as well.

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In another version of the legend, Fionn gave up the chase eventually, and allowed the pair to settle down. Years later, Fionn invited Diarmuid to a boar hunt at Ben Bulben, where the warrior was fatally wounded by a boar. The only way that Diarmuid could be saved was for him to drink water from Fionn’s cupped hands. Although the Fianna begged Fionn to save Diarmuid, he refused to do so, and only changed his mind when his son, Oisin, threatened to fight him. By then, however, Diarmuid had died.

Diarmuid and Grainne’s cave, on the back of the Gleniff Horseshoe, is one of the highest caves in Ireland.

St. Columba and the Battle of the Books

One last story with Ben Bulben as its setting is that of St. Columba and the Battle of the Books. According to this story, St. Columba had secretly copied a Psalter belonging to Abbot Finian of Moville and a dispute arose as to who owned this copy, i.e. the copier or the owner of the original.

The case was judged by the High King, who is said to have declared that “to every cow her calf, to every book its copy”. Dissatisfied with this ruling, St. Columba raised a rebellion, and a battle was fought on the slopes of Ben Bulben in or around 560 AD.

It is recorded that 3000 men were slain, and St. Columba, remorseful for his actions, sought to convert more souls than were lost in that battle. As a result, he founded a number of monasteries, the most famous of which being located on the Scottish island of Iona.

These legends depict how Ben Bulben is a site that has inspired many creative individuals over the ages. Today it continues to enthuse the modern visitors who are willing to make the trek to see the mountain’s marvelous views.

Scientists say they have decoded the language of ‘panda’s’

      

The researchers now plan to develop a ‘panda translator’ using voice recognition technology.

Baby pandas playing at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

Scientists in China say they have deciphered the meaning of 13 different giant panda vocalisations.

During a five-year study of panda “language” at a conservation centre in the southwestern Sichuan province scientists found giant pandas communicate using specific sounds to indicate when they are hungry or unhappy, according to the state Xinhua news agency.

Researchers found that when attracting a mate, males “baa” like sheep and females respond with chirping sound if they are interested.

They also make a “wow-wow” sound when they are unhappy and baby pandas say “gee-gee” to tell their mothers they are hungry.

Pandas, like Tian Tian above, are endangered partly because of their poor fertility

Zhang Hemin, head of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, which ran the study, said:  “Trust me – our researchers were so confused when we began the project, they wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog, or a sheep.”

He said they recorded the animals when they were eating, fighting and nursing young to use study how they communicated.

The scientists now plan to the information to better understand how to protect the critically endangered species in the wild.

The scientists now say they want to develop a “panda translator” using voice-recognition technology, according to Xinhua.

Giant pandas are critically endangered with only 1,864 believed to still be living in the wild.

Despite a slight recovery in their population reported earlier this year, pandas are still under threat from their well documented fertility problems and the destruction of their habitat.

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News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Thursday 1st November 2012

‘Irish society has failed a 13 year old child’  Priest questions efforts to tackle bullying

 

Sad mourners at the funeral of beautiful Erin Gallagher, the Donegal teenager who took her life amid complaints of being bullied, were told that “society has failed a 13-year-old child”.

Addressing Erin’s family and school friends, Fr John Joe Duffy urged young people to talk more openly about their problems, but he also questioned whether the authorities had done enough to tackle cyber bullying.

“I would rather be anywhere else but here at the funeral Mass of a 13-year-old child, and I know, as Erin’s mum Lorraine has stated in the last number of days, she would not want anyone to suffer this great pain, this great suffering both she and her family are going through, the loss of a child, and there is a message in that for all of us.”

Speaking of the sense of “disbelief” and “unrealness” her death brought, Fr Duffy, recently appointed chaplain at Finn Valley College, where Erin Gallagher went to school, said: “Any one of us would love to be able to turn back the clock so we would not be here today but, by its presence, this community wants to tell you as a family it also feels your pain.

“This community wants to reach out to you, to heal hurt, to heal sadness, to heal broken hearts,” Fr Duffy told her mother Lorraine (36), who sat with Erin’s sister Shannon (15), and brother Seán James (4), along with a wide circle of relatives and friends.

Members of Erin’s boxing and GAA clubs were among the hundreds of people who attended the service at St Mary’s Church, Stranorlar.

Her classmates sat together, many wearing flourishes of pink, Erin’s favourite colour. They held hands and wept, with the dazed expressions of children suddenly thrust into a very grown-up world.

Fr Duffy had special words of comfort for them, noting: “Erin’s death may be the first experience of death and loss for many of you. You may feel overwhelmed by your feelings which may possibly be one, or many.

“On the other hand, you may not have a strong reaction at this moment in time . . . It is okay to ask questions such as ‘why?’ But be patient with yourselves and allow yourselves to grieve. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings to your family, to your teachers, to me or to the other priests and indeed to your friends.”

He said any young person in crisis should not be afraid to speak to “someone you trust”, or to organisations such as the Samaritans, Childline, the HSE or the Garda. He also urged them to rethink their use of social networking websites such as ask.fm, which Erin had been frequenting before her death. “I am now asking each one of you: is it necessary to have ask.fmin your lives? . . . When we see the consequences of what such discussions can do to some people, I am asking you to seriously think about going home today and to delete ask.fmand never agree to frequent that site or any other sites . . .

“Is there any regulation of social media pages? There is not. Authorities may hide behind technical and other difficulties but these sites can be regulated and they must.

“Unfortunately today is not the first tragedy we see in our country but let it be the last . . . But it can only be the last if we face the reality of what we need to stand up to as a society,” Fr Duffy continued.

“I ask parents to familiarise yourselves with these sites, to familiarise yourselves with the safeguards and to act in the way that is most necessary to help protect your children.

“As a country, we are very good at aftercare – after the fact – but we fail miserably on prevention. We have seen the excellent support of these last few days from professional services but let all of us take a step backwards. Let us go back to last week. What levels of support were available and where were they before this tragic event? . . .

“Have we the resources and personnel necessary to man the frontline with regard to prevention? Have we the national policies in place?

“Have we the guidelines for intervention and prevention to avoid a terrible and unnecessary tragedy like this in the future? . . .

“I am asking all agencies in Ireland responsible for the care of children to finally come together and formulate a comprehensive policy of prevention and support for helping individuals so this day will never have to dawn on another parent . . .

“That is the challenge we as a society now face. We are only here today because society has failed Erin Gallagher, has failed a 13-year-old child.”

Erin was remembered as someone “full of life, of fun, from the very start of life”. She had “a very hearty laugh . . . always made sure her hair was perfectly done”, and enjoyed her music, liked metalwork at school, while “the time she spent with her family and friends was precious to her”.

At the end of Mass, her classmates gathered on the altar to read the poem Angels Are Hard To Find. When one of the teenagers faltered over the lines, another finished the reading. Afterwards, they formed a guard of honour outside the church, releasing pink balloons as the small white coffin was carried past.

Members of Erin’s family stopped to embrace the schoolchildren before rejoining the cortege which passed through Stranorlar in light rain to Castlefin cemetery.

Nearly 190,000 Irish people caring and looking after family and friends for free

DFI Calls An Taoiseach and Tánaiste to Honour their Commitments     

Nearly 190,000 people in Ireland are providing unpaid care and assistance to a member of their family or friend, according to new Census 2011 data published today.

It showed that 6.2 million hours of this care is given by carers weekly, an average of 33.6 hours of unpaid help per carer.

Women provide two thirds of this form of care while elderly people over 70 years are spending 800,000 hours a week looking after others.

The census also revealed 4,338 children less than 15 years of age are responsible for caring for others and they account for 2.3% of all carers.

Children under 9 years and under are providing 13,738 hours of care while 10 to 14 year olds are devoting 24,758 hours to the needs of other children and adults.

The figures show that a 595,335 people in the population had a disability in 2011 of whom 305,607 (51.3pc) were female.

Disability included sight and deafness problems, intellectual disability, difficulty learning, psychological problems, pain, and breathing or long term illness.

Disability happens more than you imagine, some facts here:

  • In Census 2011, 595,355 people recorded having a disability, equivalent to 13% of the population of Ireland. 
  • However, the National Disability Survey (2006) which uses a broader definition of disability and chronic illness recorded a disability rate of 18%, comparable to other developed countries.
  • At least 1 in 10 adults of working age have a disability (15-64 years)[1].
  • Disability is age-related and increases sharply with age. Just 5% of children between 0-14 years have a disability compared to 38% of adults over 65 years (Census 2011).
  • Approximately 4,000 people with disabilities still live in institutions or psychiatric hospitals. People with Disabilities are more likely to experience poverty:
    • · Families where the head of the household was not at work due to illness or disability had the lowest average annual disposable income in 2010.  This was €23,900 compared to €56,537 for those at work.
    • · Disabled people are twice as likely to live below the poverty line as the rest of the population.
    • Disabled people experience high levels of consistent poverty (13% compared to 2% of those at work). This means that they have a low income and have difficulty with basic provision such as a meal with meat or fish every second day or the ability to have adequate heating.
    • Additional costs of disability have been estimated to be a third of average weekly income3.

Eircom propose to save €100 million wage bill in futher 2,000 jobs cut

 

Ireland’s largest telecoms company, Eircom, plans to shed 2,000 jobs over the next 18 months in an effort to save €100 million a year.

This is twice the level of redundancies previously indicated by the company, and represents 35 per cent of its 5,700-strong workforce. The company will initially ask staff to opt for voluntary redundancy.

It represents further bad news for the Government on the employment front and comes just a day after it was reported that State-owned An Post is seeking to cut up to 1,500 full-time positions by 2016.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said it was “regrettable that further restructuring seems inevitable” at Eircom. “But the commitment to invest €1.5 billion to upgrade the network is welcome.”

Eircom has been in an almost permanent state of restructuring in recent years as it has sought to modernise and address legacy costs from its days as a State-owned entity.

It has also struggled under the burden of massive debts put on the business by a succession of private-sector owners.

Eircom’s workforce has been reduced by 1,500 over the past three years. The company only emerged from an examinership process earlier this year after its lenders agreed to cut their gross debts from €4 billion to €2.35 billion while taking control of the group.

Eircom has had seven different owners since 1999, when it had about 13,000 staff.

Its revenues declined by 10 per cent to €1.515 billion in the year to the end of June 2012 as the company continued to lose market share in the fixed-line telephone and broadband markets.

 In a bid to address its competitiveness issues, Eircom said it had decided to “accelerate a range of cost-saving measures” to bring its costs into line with its peers across Europe.

Staff were told yesterday that a programme of cuts needed to be introduced by the company.

Other changes will include further modernisation of work practices and the closure of certain office locations around the Republic that are no longer deemed viable.

Eircom said “detailed discussions” with staff and their trade union representatives would begin shortly. This will include “face-to-face sessions throughout the State over the coming weeks” and will be led by Eircom’s new chief executive, Herb Hribar.

He said the challenges facing Eircom were “significant” and required “a fundamental transformation” of the business. “The programme is ambitious but the challenges are not insurmountable,” Mr Hribar said.

Eircom said the restructuring was part of a five-year business plan drawn up during the examinership process. This involves capital expenditure of €1.5 billion over the period, including €400 million on building a fibre network to support high-speed internet services for a million premises.

“The business strategy remains sound and our strategic investment continues,” Mr Hribar said.

Steve Fitzpatrick, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, which represents the majority of staff at Eircom, told The Irish Times: “It’s not pleasant but then it hasn’t been for the past five years. I will be looking to see that the pain is evenly spread across the company.”

Mr Fitzpatrick noted that a high number of “contractors and consultants” work for Eircom. “These will have to cease working for the company before affecting our staff,” he said.

The union yesterday stated that its members had already agreed a “very difficult” rescue plan at the time of the examinership.

Despite its difficulties, Eircom retains a strong position in the marketplace. It has a 67 per cent share of the broadband market and has over 60 per cent of fixed-line voice business.

Its share of the mobile market – where it operates the Meteor and eMobile brands – is just under 20 per cent.

Major increase in Irish banks deposit rates

   

Deposit rates across the Irish banks increased in September at their fastest rate for over a year, while banks’ dependency on Central Bank funding has continued to recede.

Figures from the Central Bank, published yesterday, showed a month-on-month decline of €943m in Irish-resident private sector deposits during September. This was largely attributed to a seasonal decline in deposits from non-financial corporations (NFCs).

More significantly, the data showed a 1.8% year-on-year rise in deposit levels, up from an annualised rise of 0.7% in August.

September’s annualised rise — household deposits were up by 0.7%; those from insurance companies, pension funds, and other financial intermediaries were up by 6.4%; and NFC deposits fell by 1.2% — was the fastest such increase since May 2010.

Last month also saw a further reduction — of €900m — in covered Irish banks’ dependence on ECB funding to €59.9bn, with a further €200m decline in the level of emergency liquidity assistance from the Central Bank of Ireland. The support now stands at €100bn, down from a peak of €156bn in Feb 2011.

The Central Bank also yesterday reported that loans to households fell by 3.7% on a year-on-year basis in September. This was unchanged from the annualised rate of decline recorded in August. Mortgage lending was down by 2%, year-on-year, while lending for consumption and other purposes fell 8.4%.

The data drew a less than enthusiastic response from commentators.

“The bottom line is that Ireland remains a long way from where it wants and needs to be, as regards credit supply and demand, to get the domestic economy moving again,” said Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Stockbrokers.

“The reality is that until the banking sector crisis is fully resolved and things improve on the labour market front, then the supply/demand for credit will stay subdued, in our view, severely hampering the overall recovery prospects for the economy as a whole, in the process.”

According to Mr McQuaid, despite recent signs of improvement in terms of bank deposit levels, the underlying message from the latest Central Bank data “is still one of overall weakness and difficulties in the banking sector”.

Two oily fish portions a week ‘may help to ward off stroke’

  

Eating two portions of oily fish — such as salmon, trout or mackerel — a week could help to ward off a stroke.

However, fish oil supplements do not have the same beneficial effect, a study found.

An international team of researchers examined the association between oily fish, which are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and the risk of strokes or mini-strokes.

They looked at 38 studies involving almost 800,000 people across 15 countries, and examined participants’ fish and long-chain Omega-3 fatty acid consumption. During the studies, a total of 34,817 strokes and mini-strokes were recorded.

Participants eating two to four servings a week had a 6pc lower risk of stroke compared with those who consumed one portion or less every week, the study found.

Research: Fish oil supplements were not significantly associated with a similar reduced risk.

Eating oily fish has already been linked to other health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease.

The UK Food Standards Agency recommends that everyone should eat at least two 140g portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish.

“From past research we know that eating plenty of fish is good for our general health,” said Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research at the Stroke Association.

“This research shows that it could also help to protect us against stroke. However, it’s interesting to see that taking fish oil supplements doesn’t have the same beneficial effect.”

Another news Ireland update by Donie

Smile! It could Lower Your Stress Levels, new research study shows

People placed in anxious situations felt better with grins in place

   

Are you stressed out? Turn that frown upside down on your face and you might just feel better, new research contends.

Researchers at the University of Kansas subjected college students to anxiety-inducing tasks and found that those who smiled through them appeared to have less stress.

The study, led by research psychologists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman, is scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

“Age-old adages, such as ‘grin and bear it,’ have suggested smiling to be not only an important nonverbal indicator of happiness but also wishfully promotes smiling as a panacea for life’s stressful events,” Kraft said in a journal news release. “We wanted to examine whether these adages had scientific merit; whether smiling could have real health-relevant benefits.”

To do so, they had 169 university students engage in tasks known to induce stress, such as tracing a star using their non-dominant hand while looking at a reflection of the star in a mirror. Another task had the participants plunge their hand into icy water.

The students performed these tasks under three conditions: not smiling; being explicitly instructed to smile; and while holding chopsticks in their mouth in a way that forced the face to smile.

The researchers included the chopsticks condition because they wanted to gauge the effect of “genuine” smiling (which involves the muscles around the mouth and eyes), and so-called “standard” smiles, which involve only the muscles around the mouth — the kind of smile induced by the chopsticks.

Kraft and Pressman used heart rate measurements and self-reported stress levels to assess how perturbed the participants were during the tasks.

The study found that participants who wore any kind of smile were less stressed during the tasks than those with neutral facial expressions, and stress levels dipped especially low for folks with “genuine” smiles.

According to the authors, this means that even forcing a smile during an unpleasant task or experience might actually lower your stress level, even if you’re not feeling happy.

So, Pressman reasoned, “the next time you are stuck in traffic or are experiencing some other type of stress, you might try to hold your face in a smile for a moment. Not only will it help you ‘grin and bear it’ psychologically, but it might actually help your heart health as well.”

Judge Mary Devins slams the ACC Bank for sending thugs  

‘to bully a customer for loan repayments not made’
   
Judge Mary Devins

A debt collector working on behalf of ACC Bank has received a suspended sentence for the assault of a Straide man while the bank have been slammed for sending ‘thugs’ out after customers who fail to make repayments. 

Aidan Faulkner of Crow’s Nest, Castlecohill, Clogherhead, County Louth was sent to the home of Patrick Ruane at Knockshanvalley Lodge, Straide on April 21, 2010 to seize Mr Ruane’s five-year-old Toyota Hiace after Mr Ruane missed three repayments on the van, totalling €843.

In the court hearing on July 6, 2011 Mr Ruane said he was ‘terrorised’ by the actions of Faulkner, who he described as a ‘bully’. The court heard how a headbutt from Faulkner to Ruane’s face left Ruane with a broken nose, a split lip and loosened some of his teeth. 

Faulkner, a former officer in the Defence Forces, said he was ‘extremely provoked’ and contested the charges.
Judge Mary Devins said then that the letter which Faulkner had brought with him to Ruane’s property on behalf of ACC Bank was ‘the worst drafted letter I’ve ever seen’ and it gave ACC no right to take the van, said Judge Devins.

Judge Devins found Faulkner guilty but the matter was adjourned for sentencing.

At last Friday’s court Myles Gilvarry, solicitor for Faulkner, said the case had received a lot of media attention, in national papers and on radio stations.

“Why are you telling me that,” interjected Judge Devins.
Mr Gilvarry said that the publicity had ‘greatly affected’ his client.
Judge Devins asked Patrick Ruane if he felt Faulkner should go to jail.

“In relation to ACC Bank they shouldn’t do what they do. I borrowed money from the bank and I met a lady who I did business with … very nice people. I didn’t think I would be meeting anyone like the way I did,” he said.

Judge Devins said that was exactly the issue she had – how suddenly a commercial transaction with people in suits who are very keen to lend money and then suddenly if there is a failure in repayments ‘how very quickly the people in suits get involved in what can only be described as thugs’. She said that Mr Ruane’s comment ‘is a very interesting comment on repossession cases generally’.

She added that ACC’s paperwork was completely faulty and wouldn’t stand up in court. 
“The repossession orders are, quite frankly, nonsense. They don’t make sense in English not to mind law,” she said.
She added that Faulkner had no right to be on the property that day and then ‘behaved in a thuggish manner’. 

“He had certain training which meant you were physically able to engage in that sort of behaviour and that training makes your behaviour on the day even more reprehensible,” she said.
However she said she ‘accepts’ that Faulkner was a ‘pawn’ that day and that if a custodial sentence should be issued to anybody, ‘those people are not before the court and it is those people in suits’. 

For the charge of assault she sentenced Faulkner to three months in prison, suspended for 12 months on the condition that there are no further convictions or offences in 12 months. She fined him €500 and directed that he pay €500 to Mr Ruane. The Public Order breach of trespassing was taken into consideration.

Claremorris hotel evacuated after bomb scare to hotel & three other venues

   

Late last night revellers in Claremorris were shocked on Saturday night when a bomb scare led to the evacuation of the night club at the Western Hotel in the town. Gardai cordoned off D’Alton Street for two hours until the premises were declared safe around 1am.

A call to the PSNI in Belfast using a recognizable code set alarm bells ringing and contact was immediately made with the Garda Siochana headquarters in Galway.

The call to Belfast stated that four bombs had been placed in venues in Claremorris, Galway (The Bentley, Eyre Square), Ballinasloe (Haydens) and another hotel in Tullamore and were timed to go off at 11.35pm.

Claremorris Gardai were informed of the scare and immediately went about closing down the approaches to the hotel.