Tag Archives: New jobs

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 11th December 2016

Irish Water spends a hefty €5m on expert advice

Hefty bill run up in the six months since controversial charges were dropped

Image result for Irish Water spends a hefty €5m on expert advice   Image result for business strategists, lawyers, computer experts

Irish Water has spent €5m on outside business strategists, lawyers, computer experts, public relations and finance specialists in the six months after the Government formally suspended the controversial charges.

The revelation that the embattled utility has paid over €826,000 a month on consultants since May 1 – when it was effectively placed in limbo by the Government – will infuriate nearly one million people who have handed over €144m in water charges last year.

Those who paid their bills still have no idea if they will get that money back if charges are ultimately abolished.

Last night Fianna Fail’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said legislation was urgently needed to ensure the utility was fully accountable for all money it spent.

The list of lucrative contracts includes an average monthly bill of nearly €3,000 for public relations services at a time when a major question mark hangs over the future funding of the company.

Documents reveal nearly €5m was spent on ‘third-party’ services from May 1 to the end of October this year. This includes €775,141 on ‘business change’ support services.

Ernst & Young was paid €406,268 for its expertise, while official records show accounting and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers received €123,570.

Efforts to improve customer services supports also came with a hefty price tag, costing €774,848. It is estimated €32,285 is being spent every week to help improve and streamline customer services.

Ernst & Young also emerged a big winner, earning almost €486,000 for its expertise in the area.

Official records also show that hiring in legal expertise remains a major drain on resources – costing on average €56,800 a month.

In total, €340,830 was ring-fenced to cover costs in this area over a six-month period. Dublin-based legal firm McCann Fitzgerald was paid a total of €79,071 since the beginning of May. The next highest earner was Philip Lee, a specialist commercial law firm, who received payment of €71,438. Invoices for the services provided another law firm, Arthur Cox and Company totalled €45,410. Some €55,700 was allocated to covering the fees of a ‘senior counsel’, although records do not specify the reason for the expenditure.

PricewaterhouseCoopers received another separate payment of €68,000 for its “support on specific technical investment and engineering projects”. A further €113,277 was spent to ensure the “highest standards of governance” in areas like business analysis, information security and data protection. And Murray Consultants, one of Ireland’s biggest public relations agencies, was paid €16,866.

The expenditure comes against a backdrop of continuing uncertainty as to what approach will be adopted with customers who have already paid their water bills.

In a statement, Irish Water said it can require technical assistance and third-party support at any given time. Such expertise was not required on a permanent basis and therefore it was considered more “cost effective” to employ third-party specialists “as they are required”.

A spokesperson said the use of third-party external service providers represents just over 1pc of its annual operational costs. A company spokesman said the relevant data covers the period of May 1 to October 31 this year.

This was on the basis the clause facilitating the suspension of water charges was contained in the confidence and supply arrangement – put in place at the beginning of May on formation of the Government.

Fianna Fail’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said legislation was urgently needed to ensure the utility was fully accountable for all monies it spent.

He pointed out that the confidence and supply arrangement Fianna Fail has agreed with Fine Gael commits to retaining Irish Water as a national utility in public ownership. He said the agreement meant the company must be answerable to the Dail under a number of headings.

“We would have hoped that process would be complete by now, but it’s obviously not, and it’s something we’ll be taking up with the minister, with a view to bringing forward relevant legislation to give effect to that.”

He believes this would result in greater “transparency” in the operations of the utility.

The commission established to examine its future operations recommended that funding for the country’s water infrastructure should come through general taxation – but that there should be charges for wasteful use.

A special Oireachtas committee will now also decide if those who did not pay previous water charges should be prosecuted.

Deputy Cowen says the party is keeping an “open mind” on whether those who use excessive amounts of water should be liable for some financial payment.

“The main thrust of the recommendation is that it is paid for out of general taxation, and we agreed with that analysis.

“But there are many questions outstanding,” he said.

In a statement, Irish Water said “significant progress” had been made since the suspension of charges.

This includes “continuing the development of a single way of working for Irish Water as a public utility, to allow for a full transformation of services to the utility from local authorities.

“This is an enormous undertaking.

“We have developed new systems for local authorities to report vital information on operations, leakage, water and waste water quality to us electronically and in real time in a standardised and consistent way”.

These and other projects had required “specialist support”, but would have a “lasting significant value” for Irish Water as a utility.

As much as 112,000 additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here,

Say construction industry chiefs?

Image result for As much as 112,000 Irish additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here  Image result for As much as 112,000 Irish additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here

A report on the sector found carpenters and joiners will be in most demand.

Construction chiefs have claimed there will be 112,000 additional jobs in the industry over the next three years. A report on the sector found carpenters and joiners will be in most demand followed by general labourers, operatives and electricians.

The Construction Industry Federation has launched a new website, cifjobs.ie, to target workers who emigrated in the 10 years since the property bubble burst and the economy collapsed.

A report on the future of the sector by DKM consultants revealed the industry is set to grow by 9% a year up to 2020 and said that it can sustain more than 100,000 additional jobs.

It said there will be a need for 30,800 carpenters and joiners, 27,600 general labourers, 18,100 operatives, 15,200 electricians, 13,900 plasterers and tilers, 11,800 plumbers, 9,600 managers, 9,400 painters and decorators and 7,800 bricklayers.

CIF director general Tom Parlon said emigrants should consider coming home. ” There is sufficient work in the pipeline to require about another 112,000 jobs up to 2020 and beyond.

“The CIF is attempting to ensure there are sufficient skilled employees by engaging in several initiatives. We’re working with the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to upskill those on the live register with construction experience. We’re attracting young people into the industry by highlighting the modern globalised careers available. Finally, we’re trying to get the positive news about the industry and Ireland in general to those in the diaspora to attract them back.”

The website will highlight jobs available in the lobby group’s member companies and allow potential candidates to engage directly with them.

Orkambi makers to meet HSE for CF drug pricing cost talks

Asking price for medicine that acts on lung function €160,000 per patient annually

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The HSE has indicted it is willing to pay €75m annually, but not the existing €400m bill across five years.

The Health Service Executive and US makers of cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, Vertex, are to meet on Wednesday, December 15th, to discuss the cost of the medicine.

Orkambi, which improves lung function and reduces hospitalisation for CF patients, would cost €160,000 per patient annually, or €400 million for the health service over five years, according to its initial price.

Agreed approach

The HSE is willing to pay €75 million which would make it the sixth most expensive drug used by the Irish health system.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he has sought to collaborate with other countries on an agreed approach to negotiations on Orkambi and the HSE has cautioned Vertex it must ask a more affordable price.

The HSE and Vertex said they are committed to finding a definitive solution.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals said this week it will only re-enter price talks on Orkambi if Government representatives with the power to make decisions are at the table.

Vertex asked the HSE to commit to having Mr Harris, HSE director general Tony O’Brien and Department of Health Secretary general Jim Breslin at the talks.

Speaking in the Seanad earlier this week, Mr Harris said this was a “complete misrepresentation”.

“The law of this land, passed by this House and the Dáil in 2013, makes clear that the HSE is the body with statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines.”

Thousands of people protested outside the Dáil this week about the issue.

The bottom line, says Fitch, is that a monkey’s speech limitations stem from the way its brain is organized.

“As soon as you had a brain that was ready to control the vocal tract,” Fitch says, “the vocal tract of a monkey or nonhuman primate would be perfectly fine for producing lots and lots of words.”

The real issue is that monkeys’ brains do not have direct connections down to the neurons that control the larynx and the tongue, he says. What’s more, monkeys don’t have critical connections within the brain itself, between the auditory cortex and motor cortex, which makes them incapable of imitating what they hear in the way that humans do.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a science fiction movie from 2011, actually has the right idea, notes Fitch. In that film, after a lab chimp named Caesar undergoes brain changes, he eventually is able to speak words such as “No.”

“The new Planet of the Apes is a pretty accurate representation of what we think is going on,” says Fitch.

Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff ?????

Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff  Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff  Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff

The Revenue Commissioners is warning against a slick phone scam intended to scare people into paying off a bogus tax collector.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Revenue Commissioners said a “small” number of people had contacted the office after receiving random telephone calls over the past week.

The calls are purportedly from a local tax inspector looking for so-called tax defaulters to make a payment and/or disclose their PPS numbers.

In one case, a taxpayer received a call from “Revenue Ireland” in which an automated recording told him to contact the “Revenue” urgently.

The suspicious taxpayer rang a Dublin number that was answered by a man who did not have an Irish accent claiming to be “Officer Ray Miller of Revenue Ireland”.

The taxpayer’s suspicions were confirmed when he began speaking in Irish and the bogus Revenue official couldn’t understand him or refer him to someone who could speak Irish, so he told ‘Officer Miller’ it was an obvious scam and he hung up.

Revenue spokeswoman Clare O’Melia said she was not aware of anyone being taken in by the scam. But she urged anyone who may have responded to a request for “an immediate payment of a tax bill over the phone” or provided the caller with their PPS number, bank account or credit card information to contact gardaí and their bank.

“Anyone who receives a telephone call purporting to be from Revenue about which they have any doubts, particularly if the call is out of the blue, should contact their local Revenue office or the Collector General’s Division at 1890 20 30 70,” she said.

“It’s Christmas and there are a lot of scams out there.” Gardaí have now also issued a statement.

“An Garda Síochána would like to remind the public to be wary of any contact from an unsolicited source, whether it is by telephone or email.

“Do not under any circumstances give out your credit/debit card, bank account, or PPS Number to anyone who makes contact with you over the phone.  An Garda Síochána, Revenue, nor any Financial Institution will ever call you and ask for your PPS number or bank account details.”

Majella O’Donnell hits out at Ireland’s mental health services

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Majella O’Donnell has hit out at Ireland’s mental health services, after her friend was denied immediate help despite being severely depressed.

The 56-year-old wife of Donegal crooner Daniel O’Donnell has previously opened up about her own battle with depression, and how she once considered taking her own life.

Taking to Facebook, Majella decided to use her voice and revealed how she felt “angry and disgusted” after her friend with mental health issues was told she wouldn’t be seen to until next year.

“My friend Anne is a young mother who has been feeling anxious, unmotivated, irritated and generally depressed. She is aware of it and has been on antidepressants in the past,” she wrote.

“She is also aware of the fact that it is negatively affecting her relationship with her partner and putting a huge strain on them. She wanted to get to the bottom of why she feels this way. She phoned a psychiatrist to see if she could talk to someone professional and was told that a) She would have to be referred by her GP; b) She wouldn’t be seen until at least February, and c) It would cost her €300 an hour for the psychiatrist.

“What the f*** is that all about? I get so bloody angry at this kind of thing. Here is a young woman realising that she has a problem and trying to do something positive about it and this is what the outcome is! She went back to her GP who once again prescribed antidepressants, a stronger one this time – and that’s it.

“She doesn’t really want to take them as she would like to understand why she feels the way she does but she feels she has no choice,” she said.

Speaking up: Majella has suffered from depression in the past.

Majella then hit out at the outrageous fees psychiatrists are charging patients, as her friend received a quote for €300 per hour.

“I can accept that a GP needs to refer you, but what really p***** me off is the fact that no one could see her until at least February – but that doesn’t really matter because she could never afford the €300 per hour fee that is being charged. €300 per hour! What the f*** is that all about? It is shameful.

“How dare anyone charge that kind of money to help another human being who is in a desperate situation. That sort of fee cannot be justified! We have wonderful support groups around the country – like Pieta House, Aware, Mental Health Ireland, Grow and lots more – doing their best to help people with their mental wellbeing, but when someone tries to help themselves before things have reached the point of no return, this is what happens.

Make a change: Majella is disgusted with Ireland’s mental health services.

“We need, as a country, to sort this problem with accessing psychiatrists and if there is a shortage, then we need to actively start incentivising medical students to look at psychiatry as their speciality.

“Why do we have to wait until a person is so desperate for help that they are considering taking their own lives before we are willing to do something about it,’ she said.

“We need to start being pro-active about mental health instead of being reactive. There, that’s my rant over. I may be a little unreasonable about the whole subject, but it is one that I am so passionate about,” she added.

Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors

 Image result for Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors   Image result for Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors

The internet of things could be about to get a bit more playful as the AMBER centre showcases a new type of graphene sensor made using the kids’ toy, Silly Putty.

As an atom-thick wonder material, graphene has been prophesised for years now as the next big thing in material science.

But now, an interesting breakthrough made by the AMBER centre in Trinity College Dublin could be about to take us into the sillier side of science, or at least Silly Putty.

Led by Prof Jonathan Coleman, a research team within the centre has been looking at how a melding of graphene and the kids’ toy Silly Putty could be a match made in heaven.

Realising graphene’s unique conductive properties and Silly Putty’s ability to mould into almost any shape, the team wanted to see could they be combined to create a mouldable sensor.

Sure enough, Coleman and his team found that that the electrical resistance of putty infused with graphene – that it is calling ‘G-putty’ – was extremely sensitive to the slightest deformation or impact.

Can detect the footprint of the smallest spider

To test its effectiveness, the team mounted the G-putty onto the chest and neck of human subjects and used it to measure breathing, pulse and even blood pressure.

To the team’s amazement, it showed unprecedented sensitivity as a sensor for strain and pressure, hundreds of times more sensitive than normal sensors, offering hope for future use in medical devices.

It could also be used as a precise impact measurement device capable of detecting the footprints of the smallest spiders.

Speaking of its potential, Coleman said: “While a common application has been to add graphene to plastics in order to improve the electrical, mechanical, thermal or barrier properties, the resultant composites have generally performed as expected without any great surprises.

“The behaviour we found with G-putty has not been found in any other composite material. This unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 12th January 2016

Action plan targets 25,000 new jobs for Ireland Mid-East


Epicom founder John Cunningham, Minister Richard Bruton, Epicom founder Tom McDonnell and Minister Damien English at the launch of the latest action plan, in Navan, Co Meath,

The Government yesterday outlined the latest in its series of regional job plans, aiming to create an additional 25,000 jobs over the next four years.

The Mid-East Action Plan for Jobs aims to deliver up to 15% employment growth over the period for Meath, Kildare and Wicklow.

The plan is the seventh of eight regional action plans for jobs, for which the Government has set aside €250m.

The Department of Jobs said key sectors targeted as part of the plan will include “high tech-manufacturing, agri-food, tourism, renewable energy, the equine industry and the film/creative content industry”. Jobs Minister Bruton said: “Proximity to Dublin is both a strength and a potential weakness in a unique way for the Mid-East region.

“The region suffered badly during the crash, with 31,000 jobs lost and the construction sector particularly impacted.

“Over recent years, thanks to the ingenuity of its workers and businesses, it has begun to recover strongly, but we must do more.”

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English added: “The Mid-East Region, with its young and growing population, highly educated and professionally experienced workforce, has the potential to be one of the fastest growing economic regions in the country.”

Among the 163 actions in the plan to be delivered over the period 2016-2017 include an increase of at least 25% in the number of startups in the region, and a 25% improvement in the survival rate of new businesses. The plan is also targeting an increase in the number of IDA investments in the region by 30 to 40pc up to 2019.

Irish Cancer Society ends financial fund because of high demand

Charity says demand for financial support outstrips funding available for patients


The Irish Cancer Society has said it is closing its financial support programme because it is unable to meet the demand for the service.

The Irish Cancer Society has said it is closing its financial support programme because it is unable to meet the demand for the service.

The charity has expressed regret over the closure of the programme, which last year gave €1.8 million to cancer patients who were facing financial hardship.

It says demand for financial support has grown considerably since the economic downturn in 2008 and was now too big to manage. “Closing the programme was a difficult choice to make, but against the background of a drop in fundraised income in 2015, we were forced to choose between the free and unique services which we provide to patients, and the fund, demand for which was growing at a rate which could have put our free services at risk.”

The society, which is 90 per cent funded by the public, supports cancer research, provides cancer information and support, and free palliative night nursing services, as well as other services for patients.

It says it will continue to support cancer patients who are struggling financially through the provision of advice and information on Government and voluntary support schemes.

“It is not possible for the Irish Cancer Society alone to alleviate this financial burden which a cancer diagnosis brings.”

The charity says it is taking on an advocacy campaign calling for cancer patients to have immediate access to a medical card on diagnosis; for free hospital parking for patients and their families; and to reduce the drugs payment scheme limit from €144 to €85 per month.

Anorexia survivor Aoife (18) from Cork opens up to Ryan Tubridy?

‘You can recover and things do get better’


Aoife Hayes (18) from Cork revealed that her eating disorder was born from a life-long struggle with anxiety

An Irish teenager has opened up about her struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, which took over her life for more than two years.

Aoife Hayes (18) from Cork revealed that her eating disorder was born from a life-long struggle with anxiety, which manifested itself in an obsession with exercise and restricted eating regimes.

“This day last year I was dragged into hospital and didn’t come back until almost six months later,” Aoife said speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One.

“I’ve always suffered from anxiety. I had a little sister who was stillborn and since then I have suffered from anxiety and social anxiety.

“At the start of fifth year in 2013 I was really sporty. I was doing karate, swimming and soccer but you see in the media that you’re not fit until you have this perfect body and I started to think about that.

“I think it started with exercise. I would go five times a week and if I missed it I would get very upset and start crying or I’d do double the amount of exercise the next day because I’d missed it.

“In about January of fifth year I started cutting out sweets. I had had so many over Christmas that I started feeling guilty about it. That progressed to cutting out carbs and certain types of meats and by May I was only eating chicken, fruit and vegetables,” she said.

Aoife revealed that her parents became worried when she accompanied them on a family holiday where they noticed her dramatic weight loss.

“I went on holidays in July of 2014 and that’s when my parents started noticing and I didn’t treat myself or go out for meals and they got very worried.

“My mom got in touch with my GP. I had lost my period at that stage and my weight was after getting very low. She diagnosed me with Anorexia. I didn’t believe I was thin enough to be anorexic. There was a little voice that everyone has but it kept telling me to avoid certain foods and that I needed to exercise all the time.

“I didn’t feel like the weight loss was profound and I became obsessed with it,” she said.

The Cork teenager revealed that she reached one of her lowest points when she fainted at an Ed Sheeran concert because she had so little energy.

“I went to see Ed Sheeran in October 2014. I went with my boyfriend and two of my friends. We were standing at the concert and I felt really weak and I continued on as normal because I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s night. I can’t really remember what happened after that because I fainted. I think it was the hunger and I didn’t have the energy to do anything really.”

In December 2014, Aoife’s condition had deteriorated so much she had to leave school and soon after was admitted to CALM Unit where she began treatment for her eating disorder.

“There were people there that were my age and even though I did still suffer from social anxiety but everyone knew what everyone else was going through. But it wasn’t a holiday camp either. It was very hard. We weren’t allowed mobile phones and we had to ask if we needed anything and every door was locked. The therapy side of it was very hard.

“I met with a dietician and they gave me a meal plan and I had to stick with that no matter what but I was determined to get better at that stage.

“Anorexia had been in my life for too long,” she said.

Aoife revealed that she is in a “much better place” than this time last year and has regained control of her life.

“I just wanted to show people. I know a lot of people suffer from mental illnesses and that they’re ashamed to show it.

“As I put on the weight I realised there was more stuff I could do. I coped by writing down how I felt and showing it to somebody or keeping it to myself. I began doing yoga and I realised that I was only able to do those things when I had reached a certain weight that I wasn’t able to do before.

“Some days I have very down days. I’m still on medication and in therapy. There are still certain foods I struggle with but I’m doing much better”.

The teenager returned to school in September and plans to resit her Leaving Certificate in June with hopes of becoming a psychiatric nurse.

“I want to do Mental Health nursing. When I was in hospital I wanted someone who had been in my situation to tell me that things could get better and I want to be that someone for someone else.”

Hargadon’s  Sligo pub hosted a daily Yeats reading for a year

Probably the most popular participant at Hargadons pub was Joanna Lumley (pictured below left)


(Right pic of Caitriona Yeats Grandaughter of WB Yeats reading poetry by WB Yeats in Hargadons Bar, Sligo.

Even over Christmas, the regulars at Hargadons pub in O’Connell Street, Sligo refused to let Yeats down.

The pub – which in 1864 opened its doors the year before Yeats was born – decided to celebrate the poets 150th birthday, with a daily reading from his work.

The readers throughout the past year have been a diverse bunch, including regular patrons, ambassadors, poet laureates, government Ministers, and Yeats’ granddaughter Caitriona. Probably the most popular participant in the Poetry 365 project was “Absolutely Fabulous” star Joanna Lumley who, according to Eileen Monahan of Hargadons , had to pose for about a thousand selfies on her day trip to Sligo.

“The idea really caught on – it became something on people’s to-do list” said Monahan, who with her husband Ray, bought the historic pub in 2008.

One of the most novel readings was via Skype courtesy of Sligo man Declan Foley a long-time resident of Melbourne, Australia, who 25 years ago founded a Yeats Society in Victoria.

“We just put a laptop on the counter and off he went,” explained writer and former Sky and Channel 4 journalist Kieran Devaney, a loyal patron who jokingly refers to the snug in Hargadons as “the office” .

“There were professors from US universities and ordinary people too,” stressed Devaney. One of his favourite contributors was a tourist who arrived in with a fish in a Tesco bag and gave a dramatic rendition of Yeats’ The Song of wandering Aengus with its account of catching “ a little silver trout”.

On the rare occasions when there was no name in the book and nobody stepped forward at one o’clock, one of the bar staff stepped up for Yeats. “One of the regulars even came in on Good Friday, but he swears he did not have a drink”, said Devaney.

Labour Senator Susan O’Keeffe, chair of Yeats 2015, who suggested the idea to the Monahans, believes that the project has taken poetry “out of the ivory tower and into the pub”.

On Christmas Day she risked being mistaken for someone trying to get around the licensing laws, when she took a break from turkey basting duties to stand outside the pub and recite “The Indian upon God”.

Yeats himself ran a Rhymers’ Club in the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in London’s Fleet street in the 1800s so may have approved of the Hargadons gesture.

Eileen Monahan observed that a lot of people seemed to have read a poem “ in memory of someone”.

The Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran may have been one of those. He read Red Hanarahan’s Song about Ireland, recalling for those present that his grandmother Katie Dillion had worked for Yeats’ sisters Lily and Lolly as a seamstress, helping them to embroider the vestments for the 1932 International Eucharistic Congress.

Retired coroner and GP Des Moran , one of the December volunteers remembered as a schoolboy attending Yeats funeral in 1948 . The poet’s remains, or so most people then believed, had been returned from France for burial in Drumcliffe.

“I remember being shown De Valera in Drumcliffe and also Maud Gonne’s son Seán McBride,” he recalled. “He was staying at the Great Southern Hotel and he was either Chief of Staff of the IRA or about to be. It was said that he was armed and that the Gardaí did not like to make an issue of it”.

Caitriona Yeats didn’t pretend to know all the work inside out when she popped into the pub on her grandfather’s actual birthday on June 13th .

“We didn’t read much of my grandfather’s work growing up,” she admitted.

She chose, Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites, explaining that her mother Grainne used to sing it.

Given it’s long-time attraction for literary figures, Ray Monahan says that the daily poetry reading was a good fit for Hargadons. A black and white photo of the late writer Dermot Healy with Séamus Heaney taken in the pub has pride of place.

“I’m told Séamus Heaney had his favourite seat and people who spotted him often rushed off to buy one of his books so that they could get him to sign it,” explained the owner.

Ireland invests €28m on tools to turn science ideas into jobs


The Government is to invest €28.8m in research infrastructure, including equipment and facilities for Science Foundation Ireland.

Some 21 projects to give researchers the edge in areas ranging from big data to internet of things, marine energy, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and health will be supported.

The investment goals were revealed just a month after the Irish Government published its science strategy Innovation 2020.

The Government said it is to invest in research infrastructure for 21 projects to support the progression of exemplary Irish science in areas including manufacturing, big data, wireless networks, natural resources, internet of things, geo-sciences, nanomaterials, marine renewable energy and animal and human health.

The CEO of SFI and the Government’s Chief Science Adviser Mark Ferguson said that Ireland is increasingly becoming the location of choice for multinational companies to develop and test tomorrow’s technologies.

“Ultimately, this is about providing Irish researchers in strategic areas with the tools to be world-leading,” Ferguson said.

The aim of the investment is that the new infrastructure will ensure that Irish researchers continue to be internationally competitive, with access to modern equipment and facilities that will enable them to be successful in securing future funding from leading companies and Europe, including Horizon 2020.

“By investing in world-class R&D infrastructure, both at a regional and national level, this will ensure that we can compete at the highest levels internationally and continue to turn more good ideas into good jobs,” the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD explained.

The infrastructure of ideas

Among the investments in the areas of human health are a new human motion analysis system to facilitate the development of personal sensing connected health technologies for patients and athletes, a biobank for 4m samples to facilitate the discovery of better treatments for mothers and babies and an early-life lab to monitor how the brain grows.

In the area of big data analytics and the internet of things, projects include testing new radio technologies for IoT, including a 400Gbps communications testbed, as well as a Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR) for gathering radio images of astronomical objects using advanced image processing and data analytics techniques.

In manufacturing, additive manufacturing nanomaterial infrastructure for new 3D-printable materials, such as 3D hip and knee implants, as well as a state-of-the-art advanced analysis facility for real-time direct observation of pharmaceutical process reactions, are to be invested in.

In the area of natural resources and hazards, investment will be made in an early warning system for offshore earthquake and offshore storms, as well as a CT scanner to enable the analysis of botanic, geophysical and natural resources.

And in the area of marine, investment will be made in an Open Ocean Emulator to accurately replicate real ocean wave conditions in a lab setting. Plans are also afoot to invest in a remotely operated vehicle to deploy, repair and maintain wave and tidal energy devices in challenging conditions off shore.

“Today’s investment will advance the implementation of the Government’s new science strategy – Innovation 2020,” the Minister for Research, Innovation and Skills Damien English TD explained.

“The 21 projects will enable globally compelling research to be undertaken across the country, facilitating greater industry and international collaboration, supporting the training of researchers and demonstrating to an international audience that Ireland on an all-island basis is business friendly and bullish in its pursuit of, and participation in, excellent research.”

Astronomers map milky way’s growth


This image shows the latest results as colored dots superimposed on an artist’s conception of the Milky Way. Red dots show stars that formed when the Milky Way was young and small, while blue shows stars that formed more recently, when the Milky Way was big and mature. The color scale shows how many billion years have passed since those stars formed. How did the Milky Way Galaxy grow?

Astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have answered that question with the first map charting the growth of our home galaxy. The results were presented last week at the 227th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

The map, which utilizes the ages of more than 70,000 red giant stars, spans to halfway across the galaxy, around 50,000 light-years away.

“Close to the center of our galaxy, we see old stars that were formed when it was young and small. Farther out, we see young stars. We conclude that our galaxy grew up by growing out,” said Melissa Ness, of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. “To see this, we needed an age map spanning large distances, and that’s what this new discovery gives us.”

First, Ness and colleagues used spectra taken from SDSS’s Apache Point Observatory Galaxy Evolution Experiment (APOGEE), which took high-quality spectra for 300 stars simultaneously over a large swath of sky.

“Seeing so many stars at once means getting spectra of 70,000 red giants is actually possible with a single telescope in a few years’ time,” said Univ. of Virginia’s Steve Majewski, the principal investigator of the APOGEE survey.

In a separate study, Marie Martig, also of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, used mass and age data of 2,000 stars observed by NASA’s Kepler, and compared the values to the respective stars’ carbon and nitrogen levels obtained by APOGEE, according to Space.com. The relationship gleaned was then applied to determine the mass of the 70,000 red giants APOGEE studied.

“After combining information from the APOGEE spectra and Kepler light curves, the researchers could then apply their methods to measure ages for all 70,000 red giant stars,” according to SDSS.

“Finding masses of red giants has historically been very difficult, but surveys of the galaxy have made new, revolutionary techniques possible,” said Martig.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Irish consumers are saving not borrowing, survey finds

Household deposits jump in October by €1.1bn – the most since December 2008


Mortgage lending fell by €138 million, down by 2.4% on an annual basis, according to latest figures from the Central Bank.

Lending to Irish households fell again in October, as deposits rose sharply, showing that despite the nascent recovery, Irish consumers are continuing to save, rather than borrow, according to a Central Bank survey.

Lending to consumers fell by 2.5% on an annual basis, as consumers repaid more than they borrowed. During the month, loan repayments exceeded drawdowns by €253 million, as mortgage lending fell by €138 million, down by 2.4% on an annual basis, and loans for other purposes fell by €115 million, down 3% year on year.

While Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Capital, noted that an underlying problem is “as much about the lack of demand for credit as it is about the supply of credit”, he also said “ the real issue is the price of credit”.

“Even with record low Eurozone interest rates, small businesses are reporting that the cost of servicing loans here in Ireland has risen quite sharply, which is unsustainable in the long-run. As a result, individuals and firms are now disposing of assets and clearing their borrowings,” he said.

Deposits rose again during the month, up by €3.9 billion to €178 billion, driven by a sharp growth in household deposits.

These rose by €1.1 billion during the month, marking the largest month-on-month increase in this category since December 2008. Deposits grew by 2.6 per cent, on an annual basis, with consumers opting for overnight deposits over their fixed term alternative, with such deposits falling by €5.3 billion in October.

Repeat Irish offender criminals to be targeted under new strategy to tackle crime levels here


Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD

Two hundred criminals who are classified as ‘repeat offenders’ are to be targeted as part of new strategy involving Gardaí, the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service.

The Joint Agency Response to Crime initiative (J-ARC) will see offenders take part in programmes to help them reconnect with the families, receiving treatments for problems such as addiction and get help finding training or work placement.

Launching the scheme in Dublin today, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “I would also like to oversee a system which aims to reduce the number of victims by a reduction in offending”.

“The launch of J-ARC today is an endorsement of the work done by criminal justice agencies and community organisations together in challenging offending behaviour which has at its centre the needs of victims to feel safer in their communities.”

The J-ARC strategy prioritises certain prolific offenders and to develop specific initiatives which will address their behaviour and reduce crime thereby increasing community safety.

In Ireland it is estimated that 75pc of property crime is linked to 25pc of offenders.

“Targeting this cohort of repeat offenders has the potential to significantly reduce the number of burglaries being committed,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“While I believe that prison is the right place for serious and serial offenders, listening to the offenders who are participating in the J-ARC programmes clearly demonstrates the real benefit of providing support and hope to those who wish to change their offending ways.

“A change in a person’s offending ways has a direct effect on reducing the number of crime victims.”

Already three pilot schemes have been under way in the capital and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said she would like to see the initiative rolled out nationwide in the future.

In Ballymun, a pilot known as STRIVE has targeted prolific offenders within East Ballymun whose behaviour is undermining the community’s quality of life.

Another scheme known as ‘Bridge Change Works Programme’ is targeting adult male offenders living in Dublin with a history of violent crime.

And a third pilot, called Accer3, is for offenders charged with burglary.

Government job strategy targeting 28,000 extra jobs in the north west

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton will launch plans in Sligo and Drogheda. 


The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton will launch a job strategy for the north east and north west region today.

A Government job strategy for the north east and north west regions aims to create 28,000 jobs by 2020.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton will launch the plans in Sligo and Drogheda today.

The North East/North West Action Plan for Jobs is part of the Government’s € 250 million regional jobs strategy.

During the downturn, 31,600 jobs were lost in the region, which covers counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth,

The new strategy is targeting employment growth of 10-15% over and above current employment levels.

Key sectors targeted as part of the plan include traditionally strong sectors for the region like agri-food, manufacturing/engineering and tourism, as well as areas targeted for future growth like digital payments, clean tech and creative services.

Mr Bruton said: “Jobs are growing right across the country, but they are growing faster in some regions than in others.”

“That is why we have put in place the € 250 million regional jobs strategy, to support regions to play to their strengths and accelerate jobs growth in every area,” he said.

Electronic devices/games making children very ‘tired and cranky’

Children who watch too much TV at ‘significantly higher’ risk of language delay


Children under two years who spend a lot of time in front of electronic screens have a ‘significantly higher chance’ of suffering from language delays and poor sleeping habits.

Children are becoming increasingly angry, tired, passive and cranky after using electronic devices such as computers and smart phones, according to a survey into the attitudes of Irish parents.

The research from Early Childhood Ireland found two out of three parents believed it was okay for a young child to use technology freely but warned that by the age of seven the average child would have spent a year of their life watching television and using screen devices.

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, Early Childhood Ireland is recommending that parents turn off TVs and computers when not in use, establish “screen-free zones” in the home where there are no electronic devices and agree on set times for TV and computer use.

Based on 2013 recommendations from the US Department of Health, Early Childhood Ireland suggested that children under two years of age should not use screen devices at all and that children aged 2-5 years should not watch screens for more than one hour a day.

Parents should also set a good example to their children by restricting their own screen diet.

The Early Childhood Ireland survey, carried out among 332 parents from across the State earlier this year, found 20% of those surveyed felt smart phones made parenting easier, while 72% said the purpose of their child watching TV is relaxation.

It warned that children under two years who spend a lot of time in front of electronic screens had a “significantly higher chance” of suffering from language delays and poor sleeping habits.

Early Childhood Ireland chief executive Teresa Heeney said the research showed a number of worrying trends and contradictions and also the need for parents to have clear parameters around screen time for young children, especially at bedtime.

Some 85% of Irish children under the age of 2 have been exposed to TV or DVDs, the research showed.

The survey also found that while 58% of Irish five-year-olds spend less than two hours in front of a screen, 14% are using screens for more than three hours every day.

UK-based psychologist Dr Aric Sigman warned that some children are spending more time watching TV than they spend in school. Dr Sigman said that by the age of seven, most children will have spent a full year of 24 hours days watching TV or using electronic devises.

Writing in an American Academy of Paediatrics scientific paper published in 2013, Dr Sigman warned that children’s reliance on TV, computers and screen games was causing developmental damage and highlighted the importance of eye-to-eye interaction between parents and young children during the first few years of their life.

The research also found 75% of parents believe technology has educational benefits for young children.

Early Childhood Ireland agrees that technology can be “engaging and empowering” for children over three but only when screen time is carefully monitored and quality content is viewed.

100 million-year-old dog sized dinosaur fossil discovered

Scientist says the teeth of the species curves downwards and outwards in a beak shape


An artist’s impression of a dog-sized horned dinosaur (left Pic.) which roamed eastern North America up to 100 million years ago. An aA scientist has uncovered the fossil of a dog-sized horned dinosaur that roamed eastern North America up to 100 million years ago.

The fragment of jaw bone provides evidence of an east-west divide in the evolution of dinosaurs on the North American continent.

During the Late Cretaceous period, 66 to 100 million years ago, the land mass was split into two continents by a shallow sea.

This sea, the Western Interior Seaway, ran from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.

Dinosaurs living in the western continent, called Laramidia, were similar to those found in Asia.

However, few fossils from the eastern “lost continent” of Appalachia have been discovered as the areas are densely vegetated, making it difficult to discover and excavate fossils.

Dr Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution based at the University’s of Bath’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry, studied one of these rare fossils.

The fossil, kept in the Peabody Museum at Yale University, turned out to be from a member of the horned dinosaurs, the Ceratopsia.

Dr Longrich was unable to identify the exact species accurately but it had a strange twist to the jaw, causing the teeth to curve downward and outwards in a beak shape.

The jaw was also more slender than that of Ceratopsia found in western North America, suggesting the dinosaurs had different diets and evolved along distinct evolutionary paths.

“Just as many animals and plants found in Australia today are quite different to those found in other parts of the world, it seems that animals in the eastern part of North America in the Late Cretaceous period evolved in a completely different way to those found in the western part of what is now North America due to a long period of isolation,” Dr Longrich said.

“This adds to the theory that these two land masses were separated by a stretch of water, stopping animals from moving between them, causing the animals in Appalachia to evolve in a completely different direction, resulting in some pretty weird looking dinosaurs.

“Studying fossils from this period, when the sea levels were very high and the landmasses across the Earth were very fragmented, is like looking at several independent experiments in dinosaur evolution.

“At the time, many land masses — eastern North America, Europe, Africa, South America, India, and Australia — were isolated by water.

“Each one of these island continents would have evolved its own unique dinosaurs — so there are probably many more species out there to find.”

Ceratopsia is a group of plant-eating horned dinosaurs that lived in the Cretaceous period.

The fossil Dr Longrich studied comes from a smaller cousin of the better known Triceratops, the leptoceratopsids — about the size of a large dog.

His study, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, highlights it as the first fossil from a ceratopsian dinosaur identified from this period of eastern North America.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 7th June 2015

Anti-water charge protests groups around country plan another national day

Image result for Anti-water charge protests groups around Ireland plan another national day  

Anti-water charges groups from around the country have announced plans for another national day of demonstration.

60 groups from across the country have decided to join forces, in order to bolster their opposition to the fees.

Up to 300 people attended a forum in Dublin earlier where plans for a large protest in Dublin this coming July were discussed.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy has said that it is important that the campaign reaches every corner of the country.

“This is really a campaign to make sure that every part of the country has active local groups giving people the arguments why not to pay,” said Deputy Murphy.

“People need to see that in their local community there are other people like them who are not paying and that gives them confidence to stick together. So we had a series of workshops about how that can take place across the country. People can fundraise and organise street meetings, public meetings and protests.”

Over 500 migrants rescued by Irish Navy Vessel the LÉ Eithne this weekend


Over 500 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean by the Irish Navy Vessel the LÉ Eithne this weekend.

Efforts are continuing to save more people tonight as hundreds more flee war torn countries during a good spell of weather.

A British ship the HMS Bulwark has more than a thousand migrants on board this evening.

One of them, Abdul Karim Saleh says he left Sudan with a toothbrush, a passport photo of himself and a few hundred euro, leaving his family behind.

“My brothers and sisters are very young, I came to try to help them. We have no schools, we have no hospitals, so it is a difficult life,” said Mr Saleh.

Mayo investment of €180m. to create 130 jobs on new power generating station


The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced a new 42 megawatt biomass combined heat and power generating station is to be built in Mayo with the creation of 350 jobs over the next two years. 

The location of the project is the old Ashai site in Killala and will involve an investment of €180 million.

The company involved, Mayo Renewable Power, is backed by an American investment company based in New Jersey, Weichert Enterprise.

Stated Deputy Kenny: “I thank Gerald Crotty, the chairman of Mayo Renewable Power, for selecting Mayo as the location for the power station and for his determination in seeing this important project through.

“Building work will start on the site this month and will give employment of up to 350 people during the two-year construction phase.

“When in operation up to 30 people will be employed full-time at the plant and in excess of 100 will be employed indirectly in growing, harvesting, transport and other ancillary services associated with the plant.

“This investment is a vote of confidence in the Irish economy and is part of the recovery that is beginning to spread to every region of Ireland.
It will be the largest biomass power station to have been built in this country to date and will contribute to reducing our greenhouse emissions.

“The overarching objective of the Government’s energy policy is to ensure secure and sustainable supplies of competitively priced energy to all consumers. Bioenergy has a critical role to play in meeting our target to ensure 16% of our energy requirements come from renewable sources by 2020.

“In order to meet this target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of its heat, and 10% of its transport, from renewable sources. The new Mayo plant will help us meet our targets.

“The power station will burn biomass such as Willow, Spruce, Miscanthus and Mesquite, and the ‘waste heat’ from the station will be used in an adjoining fuel processing plant to refine the biomass for commercial use.

“This will offer a great opportunity to farmers in the region to grow biomass crops which require little maintenance and where they will have a ready market for sales.

“This investment is another positive announcement for Mayo and will, no doubt, assist in attracting further investment to the country.”

Why are signs up and down the UK losing their letters?


Have you noticed letters conspicuously missing from cinemas, street signs, and book shops around the country? Bu there’s a very important reason why it happens.

It’s National Blood Week starting from June 8 and NHS Blood and Transplant have launched the campaign, to highlight the need for more blood donors.

The letters A, O, and B have gone missing on signs for Odeon, Waterstones, and even Downing Street.

There are 40% fewer new blood donors now than there were 10 years ago and, if we want the nation’s blood stocks to remain at a safe level for the future, 204,000 new volunteers are needed to come forward this year.

A, O, and B are the letters which make up the blood types, and the campaign is hoping to show that unless more donations are made, types could go missing and there may not be enough available for patients when they need it.

Fake Orca whale capsizes in effort to scare off seal lions out of Oregon port


There’s some-fin fishy about that orca, isn’t there? Hang on, that’s not a real Orca at all!

Whale whale whale, what do we have here? Whale hello there.

In an effort to scare off sea lions from the docks of the Oregon coast docks, a fake, life-size orca with a human man sitting inside (no, we’re not making this up) was spotted bobbing about in the sea.

The 32ft killer whale replica made the usually boisterous sea lions silent with fear as he sailed into view on Thursday night. However, his intimidating presence didn’t last long as the orca-boat capsized and floated around belly-up for some time. Having a whale of a time (Joshua Bessex/AP) It all got a little bit over-whale-ming (Joshua Bessex/AP)

Still, Port of Astoria executive director Jim Knight says there’s “a chance” they’ll try the orca again today.

Earlier on Thursday, officials had to find a replacement motor for the 32-foot replica that belongs to a whale watching business. It was brought overland from Bellingham, Washington. John Wilfer, whale driver The Oregon sea lions think the ocra boat looks a  bit seal The presence of sea lions hanging out near Astoria put jobs as risks as they damage docks, prevent boaters from using the docks and eat lots of salmon.

Endangered ducklings take their first paddle at UK zoo


Two very rare, and very cute white-winged ducklings have been spotted paddling in their pond for the first time at Chester Zoo.

The pair who hatched out last month were caught on camera enjoying their first dip with their mum.

The species are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

It’s thought there are as few as 250 white-winged ducks left in the wild.

They birds are normally found near swamps and woodlands but widespread destruction of forests and wetlands means they are under threat.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 12th January 2015

Dear Ministers, here is a couple of ways to make Irish health better


Health doesn’t have to be an unsolvable crisis. There are small changes that can make a big difference.

There’s a huge amount of services provided by our hospitals at massive cost that could be provided by GPs at a fraction of that. For example, there’s no reason why minor surgical procedures should not be provided by the local doctor

It’s hard not to feel sick at the thoughts of our health service. Since the new year began, we’ve heard nothing except there’s almost 600 sick people on trolleys in A&E waiting for admission and do bear in mind you no longer get admitted to an Irish hospital unless you are extremely unwell. The INMO have called for all elective procedures to be cancelled for the first half of January, to ease the pressure, and nurses are serving strike notices at Beaumont hospital. Health is a mess.

On the other hand, the country is doing well, we’re told. We’re going to grow at the fastest rate of any economy in Europe this year. Unemployment is down and we took €1.2bn more into the coffers than was expected. Now, I may just be a simple GP, but Ministers Noonan and Varadkar, may I make two humble suggestions to you?

Firstly – we’ve approximately 800 elderly patients in hospital, waiting on long-term beds in the community. They don’t need to be in hospital but they can’t go home. Long-term beds aren’t cheap. They cost an average of €1,000 per week. But the reason those patients are in hospital isn’t because there are no long-term beds – it’s because there’s no funding for those beds.

They aren’t moved out of those hospitals because HSE managers know that the minute they are, those acute hospital beds will be refilled immediately, by those poor souls on trolleys in A&E. And then the HSE will be paying for two beds where they are currently only paying for one. It’s called bed blocking – are you still with me?

So here’s a radical thought. Do just that. Fund those long-term beds. Those 800 people at €1,000 per week will cost us about €40m per year. Do that and free up 800 acute beds for the seriously ill. In effect, it’s the equivalent of providing and running – in bed terms – a whole new hospital at a minimal cost to the State.

Also, do bear in mind, that because these long-term beds will be provided in the private nursing home sector, which – unlike the HSE – will put on additional staff to cope with additional patients, there will be an increased tax take, which will go some way to offset that €40m.

Secondly, there’s a huge amount of services provided by our hospitals at massive cost that could be provided by GPs at a fraction of that cost. I’m thinking minor surgery, chronic disease management, or mental health services.

Transfer funding from secondary care to primary care and get these services provided faster, cheaper and nearer to patients. This is actually already a stealth policy of the HSE, but they are hoping to transfer these services without any funding – which means the already over-stretched GP service is unable to actually provide them. Pointless. Transfer with funding and new GPs practice nurses and physios etc. can be hired – and the patients benefit hugely.

This could actually be budget neutral as the funding to secondary care could be cut (by no longer hiring hugely expensive agency staff) by the same amount as primary care is increased. To illustrate: if it costs €300 for a surgeon in St Vincent’s to remove your mole, your local GP could remove four people’s moles for that money – without waiting lists, and down the road from you. What a GP can’t do is remove them for free, Ministers. Incidentally, it also frees up the surgeon for proper surgery – we GPs can’t do everything.

So there’s a thought for the unsolvable problem that is health. For the princely sum of €40m (out of the €1.2bn perhaps?), free up 800 acute beds; put elderly patients back into their local communities where relatives can visit them more easily; and provide faster, cheaper, more efficient health services through primary care. Happy New Year, Ministers. You’re welcome.

95% compliance rate for Local Property Tax in 2014 says Revenue


The amount of money collected by Revenue last year was up in a number of categories, more than €450m was collected through the Local Property Tax last year, according to the Revenue Commissioners, with 95% of liable households paying the charge.

The LPT was introduced in the middle of 2013 and recorded a compliance rate of 91% during its first six months, with €242m raised during the period.

Revenue said the figures showed a “strong compliance culture among our customers”, adding that it had received €39m in payments for this year’s charge.

Revenue’s headline results for 2014 confirm the Exchequer’s receipt of almost €41.3bn over the course of the year.

There was a 4.5% increase in the number of PAYE employees during the year to 2.4m – though this includes people with multiple employments and those in receipt of occupational pensions.

Those registered for self-assessed tax returns was up 3.5% to 639,487, while the number of companies registered for corporation tax was 4.2% higher at 167,783.

The agency also collected €610.4m through audits and compliance checks, compared to €551.9m in 2013.

A further €222.7m was received through collections enforcement, up slightly on the previous year, while €88.5m was gained from settlements with tax defaulters.

There was a sharp rise in the value of seizures during 2014, which stood at €122.1m last year compared to €44.3m in 2013.

Seizures of cocaine and heroin accounted for the largest portion of this, representing €73.4m of the total amount, while cigarette and tobacco detections accounted for almost €30m.

Revenue said it received more than 2.2m calls to its telephone services during the year, with more than 660,000 relating to the Local Property Tax.

Customers made contact online more than 5.7m times, while 2.3m letters were received in the year.

In addition to a high compliance rate for the Local Property Tax, Revenue said compliance was also strong amongst most businesses.

In 2014, large companies with a tax liability above €500,000 had a compliance rate of 99%, while firms with a tax liability of €75,000 to €500,000 had a rate of 97%.

Other cases, which would include companies with smaller returns, had a lower rate of compliance, however, at 83%.

Enterprise Ireland creates record number of net jobs in 2014


Agency revealed its client companies recorded lowest level of job losses since 2000

Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, and Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon, pictured at the Enterprise Ireland end of year review.

Enterprise Ireland backed companies created almost 20,000 new jobs last year, resulting in the highest net jobs gain in the history of the state agency – a total of 8,476.

In its end of year statement, the agency said software and services sector accounted for the strongest net jobs growth, adding 2,092 jobs.

The agency said client companies last year recorded the lowest level of job losses since 2000, with more than 180,000 people (almost 10 per cent of the workforce) now employed in Enterprise Ireland supported companies.

Figures from the IDA Ireland, released last week, also revealed a record year for jobs growth in 2014, with multinationals creating 15,012 jobs and a net increase in employment of 7,131.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton said the positive figures did not happen by accident, adding that they were the result of extra resources and trade missions.

“We have put in place a raft of measures to deliver on this, including doubling the number of trade missions, recruiting extra staff in overseas markets, and delivering new funding supports for Irish exporting companies,” he said.

Mr Bruton said the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs was creating a powerful engine of Irish enterprise, alongside the strong multinational sector, and that Ireland has the capacity to create full employment by the end of 2018.

Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said 69% of the net job gains were outside of Dublin, adding that the level of increased employment achieved is “remarkable”.

“We continue to relentlessly focus on ensuring the right supports are available for clients at every stage of growth.

“This focus — coupled with our priority to support entrepreneurship across the regions, and develop strong, export focussed, ambitious Irish companies that can win new business — will mean even more jobs for Ireland over the next 12 months”.

Primary School literacy and numeracy rise for first time since 1980


Despite progress no real reduction in gap between disadvantaged urban schools and others

A study on literacy and numeracy in primary schools has identified the first ’statistically significant’ rise in standards in over 30 years.

A study on literacy and numeracy in primary schools has identified the first “statistically significant” rise in standards in over 30 years.

The 2014 national assessments of English reading and mathematics showed a major improvement in students’ performance at second and sixth class, compared to the last study in 2009.

However the researchers found that despite an overall progress there has been “no real reduction in the gap” between pupils in disadvantaged urban schools and pupils in other school types.

The Educational Research Centre study cited particular concern over “the large proportion of very low achievers in reading” in the most disadvantaged schools, namely those falling into Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) band 1.

The agency, which carries out the assessments for the Department of Education at five year intervals, said it was the first time since 1980 that increases in performance had been recorded.

While it cautioned against putting too much store in a single set of results, it pointed to the impact of improved teacher training and professional development, including the use of new methodology, as well as spending more time on literacy and numeracy in class.

Progress in vocabulary and comprehension was found to be well ahead of a target set in 2011 National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. Progress in algebra and data analysis was also found to be ahead of target but to a lesser degree.

The study showed girls are still better readers than boys but the gap has narrowed since 2009, from 14 points to 7 points among second class pupils, on a 250-point baseline for the tests.

Reading skills among second class pupils in Deis band 1 schools rose by 14 points compared to 2009 but the improvement was greater (27 points) in Deis band 2 schools (these are schools deemed less disadvantaged than band 1). The latter also saw a significant increase in maths scores (up by 29 points) whereas there no significant change in band 1 schools.

The most disadvantaged schools also saw no significant increase in reading at sixth class whereas band 2 schools saw a 14 point increase in scores, deemed as “substantive important”.

In reading, the mean score for Deis band 1 sixth class pupils was 233. This compared to 246 for Deis band 2 schools and 263 for all schools. In maths, the mean score for Deis band 1 was 233 compared to 241 for Deis band 2 and 262 for all schools.

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan welcomed the upward trend overall, acknowledging the work of teachers, parents and students in improving standards.

Cautioning against complacency she said:“The results leave scope for improvements, especially in maths and in Deis schools”. She has asked for a review of the strategy to be brought forward to this year from 2016.

An additional €6 million had been provided for the implementation of the strategy in Budget 2015, bringing the annual budget to €13.8 million and further measures would be considered, she added.

One proposal mooted by her predecessor Ruairí Quinn was for Leaving Cert honours maths to be made a requirement for entry into teacher training. Asked whether or not she would support such a measure, Ms O’Sullivan said she was awaiting advice from the Teaching Council. “We can be generally fairly sure as of now that the qualifications of people going into teaching are very high,” she said.

The primary teachers’ union, the INTO, also welcomed the test results. General secretary Sheila Nunan said they were probably the result of several different factors including supports for disadvantaged schools, changes to teacher education, improvements in learning support allocations to schools and an increased focus on literacy and numeracy.

However she singled out the fact that only qualified teachers were now licensed to teach in primary schools. Research by the organisation a decade ago showed more than 1,400 primary classes were taught by people who had no teaching qualifications.

Easter Island demise revealed? New findings provide intriguing clues


What caused the demise of Easter Island’s population? Researchers may have solved the mystery behind what caused the extinction of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island.

Recent findings suggest significant changes in land use and dynamics that occurred within the community before the European arrival may have been linked to the people’s demise, the University of Auckland reported.

“The results of our research were really quite surprising to me. Indeed, in the past, we’ve published articles about how there was little evidence for pre-European-contact societal collapse,” said study co-author Thegn Ladefoged of the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts.

To make their findings, the scientists looked at more than 400 obsidian artifacts from six sites around the island. Obsidian absorbs water after being exposed to air, allowing the team to measure the amount of water in the artifacts and determine how old they were.  These findings helped the researchers determine land use and population fluctuations based on the number of tools made during each time period.

Sites on the northwest coast of the island showed an increase in population that occurred between 1220 and 1650 followed by a significant decline. The second site on the northwest coast (which was wetter and less prone to drought but had low soil fertility) saw an increase in use from 1200 to 1480 that sustained itself before declining around 1705. The third site, which was both rainy and fertile, showed an increase in use starting at 1250 and remaining consistent until about 1850.

Europeans are believed to have arrived on the island around the year 1722, but these findings suggest the indigenous was already struggling before this occurred.

“It is clear that people were reacting to regional environmental variation on the island before they were devastated by the introduction of European diseases and other historic processes,” Professor Ladefoged concluded.

In the future the researchers plan to examine individual dwelling on the island in hopes of gaining further insight into the interaction between Easter Island’s aboriginal people and the natural environment.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 14th October 2014

Irish budget 2015 focuses on ‘squeezing the middle’


Those earning hundreds of thousands will not make ‘astronomical gains’,

The two Government Ministers who announced the Budget have said it was principally directed at the “squeezed middle” or “coping classes” in society.

At a press conference in Government buildings tonight, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said that most of the tax benefits were focused on households with income between €30,000 and €70,000.

Both argued that those with the lowest income had not been neglected. Mr Noonan said lower-income groups could not get relief though income tax so they had taken a tranche of people out of the Universal Social Charge net. Mr Howlin also pointed to the successive increases of €5 per month in child benefit that will be introduced in 2015 and 2016.

“The objective will be the same, to target the squeezed middle and to be fair to those in the middle,” said Mr Noonan, who said that those earning above €70,000 would not benefit more than those at €70,000, because the increase of 1 per cent in USC for those earning more than that amount would counter the decrease of 1 per cent in the higher income tax rate.

That USC change, said Mr Noonan, would mean that those earning high incomes in the hundreds of thousands would not make “astronomical gains”.

Mr Noonan also strongly indicated that the tax reforms to reduce the marginal rate over the next three years would not bring an end an USC. He said that there was a reluctance to remove a tax instrument that took in €4 billion each year. Mr Howlin pointed out that it was “harder to shelter income” from it.

Responding to questions that it was an election or giveaway budget, Mr Howlin argued that some commentators stuck in the rut about the bailout and the Troika

“We are no longer in a programme. We are are no longer bound by programme rules,” he said.

Both said the GDP deficit target of 2.9 per cent would be achieved and exceeded, although Mr Howlin did admit that the upturn in the economy in recent months gave him more options than he though he would have.

“Some of our political enemies (argued) the notion that we continue to reduce expenditure as we have done for seven years.

“That is okay if you subscribe to the old British navy maxim: “We will keep flogging them until morale improves.”

Mr Noonan said the thinking behind the ‘patent box’ was to get intellectual property inshore and to offer competitive rates compared to other EU counties such as Britain.

He said the Government would not outline its proposals regarding the introduction of such a measure until theEuropean Commission gave details on what was acceptable. He said that, given the international competition for foreign direct investment, the intention was to come up with an idea that would be “if possible, the best in the class”.

EU boost for cross-border economy


Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin announced new EU funding for the next seven years.

More than half a billion euro is to be pumped into counties on either side of the Irish border, Dublin’s public spending minister has announced.

As part of the Republic’s Budget measures, Labour’s Brendan Howlin said new funding has been secured from Europe for the next seven years.

The money will come from the peace and interreg schemes.

The funds will be used to help boost the economy on both sides of the border, increase tourism as well as improve cross-border and cross-community relations.

Mr Howlin, delivering the first tax-cut and spending increase budget in the republic for seven years, said : “The Government attaches a high priority to these cross-border programmes, and I am pleased to say that draft programmes have now been submitted to the Commission by the Government in partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive.”

Mr Howlin said a special allocation of 100 million euro for the Border, Midlands and Western region would also form part of an overall 1.2 billion euro package of structural funds up to 2020.

“I am committed to ensuring that the benefits of our economic revival are shared across the whole country,” he said.

New housing scheme to create some thousands of new jobs


The house building scheme will create thousands of jobs

Thousands of jobs are to be created with a massive social housing building project that will turn the tide for Ireland’s battered construction industry, builders have claimed.

The Government has revealed 2.2 billion euro will be spent on homes for those most in need over the coming three years, as part of the Budget measures.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin said the money will include 1.5 billion euro directly from the public purse.

Public private partnerships will bring in a further 300 million euro while an “off-balance sheet financial vehicle” will provide at least 400 million euro from next year onwards to the approved housing bodies, he announced.

Separately, 530 million euro is being spent on schools building projects.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) said the spending marks a turning of the tide for public spending in the sector.

Tom Parlon, CIF director general, described the announcement as deeply significant and very important.

“You have to understand that previously public spending represented about 50% of the activity in the sector,” he said.

“So the massive cuts in capital spending really hit the industry hard and added significantly to the increase in construction job losses.”

Mr Parlon vowed the spending would provide a huge amount of work for the industry and will create thousands of jobs.

“The next step is to get the details of these projects so that Irish construction companies can start making the necessary preparations,” he said.

“The sooner this information is provided the sooner Irish construction companies can start to plan for these projects.

“That is important when it comes to having the right number of staff on a company’s books and making other arrangements for their businesses.”

Ireland’s childhood obesity rates have levelled off since 2002


Ireland’s surging childhood obesity rates have reportedly ground to a halt since 2008, while adult levels have almost halved.

However, experts cannot say for definite if the drop was due to dietary cutbacks during the economic crisis.

Findings to be published in the open-access online journal BMC Public Health today show that, despite a threefold increase in childhood obesity rates from the 1970s to the early 2000s, between 2002 and 2012 the rates levelled off.

Specifically, over the 10-year period, childhood overweight and obesity levels remained static at 25%-37%, despite predictions that they would rise, while adult levels fell from 7% to 4%.

Although the issue continues to be a serious cause of concern, with one in four children being overweight or obese and one in 50 being morbidly obese, the study’s authors said there has been a clear drop-off in the problem since 2008.

However, the team behind the joint UCC and UCD research denied suggestions that the issue may be linked to families being forced to cut junk food out of adult and children’s diets to save money during the recession.

“We don’t have information on that from this particular piece of research; we can’t say for definite but we do know that it started to level off in 2008,” said study co-author and UCC lecturer in public health nutrition Janas Harrington.

“The World Health Organisation is looking at the causes for these trends at the moment through COSI [the Child Obesity Surveillance Initiative]. That’s looking at Ireland among eight European countries through a cross-section of children aged seven to nine years.

“This isn’t an issue that’s fixed easily overnight.”

Lead author of the study Eimear Keane, a PhD student with UCC’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said that while research suggests prevalence rates of childhood obesity in Ireland have levelled off, one in four children remain overweight or obese.

“Obesity continues to have a significant impact on health and wellbeing, therefore policies that tackle the problem should be intensified,” she said.

The study would appear to contradict recent concerns raised by a number of obesity experts, who said Irish society is getting chubbier year-on-year.

At a summer Irish Heart Foundation conference, consultant endocrinologist Francis Finucane said 80,000 Irish people are morbidly obese, while separate research suggested 26.5% of Irish girls and 16% of Irish boys under the age of 20 are overweight or obese.

The Departments of Health and Education have pushed a number of policies to aggressively tackle obesity levels in Ireland.

They include discussing whether to ban vending machines in schools, adding calorie counts to menus, and sugar tax initiatives.

A new study claims more CO2 absorbed by plants than previously thought


New research shows that global climate models have underestimated just how much CO2 plants are able to absorb.

The National Academy of Sciences has published the research in its journal, Proceedings. Climate and earth scientists from the University of Texas have claimed that between 1901 and 2010, living organisms absorbed 16% more CO2 than previous models assumed.

CO2 absorption: Why the change?

The researchers say that they have found the reason for which climate models overestimate the increase in carbon levels in the atmosphere. Calculating how much carbon dioxide present in the earth’s atmosphere is essential to predicting the effects of global warming on temperatures, however they admit that their findings will not impact global warming predictions.

It is incredibly difficult to model the impact of CO2 absorption by the oceans and living things. However in this new study, scientists analyzed the diffusion of carbon dioxide in leaves, and concluded that more of the gas is absorbed than previously thought.

Extrapolating this discovery to a global level is incredibly hard, according to Dr Lianhong Gu at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US: “There is a time lag between scientists who study fundamental processes and modellers who model those processes in a large scale model. It takes time for the the two groups to understand each other.”

A new model?

The scientific community is optimistic that the research can help to clarify existing models, but do not believe that we will experience any delay in global warming due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“This new research implies it will be slightly easier to fulfil the target of keeping global warming below two degrees – but with a big emphasis on ‘slightly’,” stated Dr Chris Huntingford, a climate modeller at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

“Overall, the cuts in CO2 emissions over the next few decades will still have to be very large if we want to keep warming below two degrees.”

As interesting as the research may be, it does not negate the need for swift action to prevent atmospheric temperatures from increasing to potentially catastrophic levels.

Research footage dive catches Humpback Whale taking a nap


A research dive team called Panga MX caught some amazing footage in Mexico of a humpback whale slumbering straight up-and-down in the water, with its tail facing the surface.

In the video below, an abbreviated version of a 20-minute observation made by the team, the whale can be seen gently bobbing in the water. Eventually it drifts toward the surface in a horizontal position, floating on its back (or stomach, depending on which side a whale considers “up”).

Whales have an interesting trick when sleeping — they do it with half of their brain still open for business, as DNews reported in this 2011 video recounting a study of whale sleep that included captivating footage of a pod of sperm whales snoozing.

As the DNews video notes, whales nap in fairly brief intervals, because they need to surface for air. Land mammals such as humans breathe involuntarily, but undersea mammals such as whales and dolphins have to consciously choose to breathe. Sleeping with a shut-down brain, of course, would make that choice a difficult one to make. That’s where the half-their-brain thing comes into play. A whale may be “sleeping” but it isn’t so down for the count — brain-function-wise — that it won’t be conscious of the need to come up for air.

One look at a humpback whale makes it easy to see why they need their rest. It must be tiring just being a humpback whale. They’re enormous creatures that can grow to nearly 60 feet long and weigh a whopping 40 tons.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 27th February 2014

Its the end of the line for drink after the 1pm Galway train joins the banned booze list


Irish Rail customers will have alcoholic drinks confiscated on a train service after complaints about anti-social behaviour.

The action will immediately come into force on Sundays on the 1pm train from Galway to Heuston Station in Dublin, and catering staff will no longer sell alcohol on board.

Customers boarding the service with alcohol will have it taken away by Irish Rail staff.

Details of the ban will be displayed at stations, and customers booking online will also be notified during the reservation process.

It comes in addition to the ‘alcohol-free’ services operated on certain weekend routes, including the 1.15pm and 3.15pm services from Heuston Station to Waterford on Fridays, and the 3.05pm service from Waterford to Heuston Station on Sundays.

An Irish Rail spokesperson told the Irish Independent the decision had been made following a “high number” of complaints about anti-social behaviour on the train.

“The vast majority of customers who wish to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on board our services do so without impacting in any way on their fellow passengers.

“Unfortunately, there is a minority that do over-indulge, particularly those travelling in large groups such as stag and hen parties, who can disrupt others in a negative way.”

This type of behaviour was most common during weekend services, when customers may be going away for or returning from weekend breaks, Irish Rail said.

“It is a measure we take reluctantly, but we must act when our customers are regularly having their journeys disturbed by a minority.”

The spokesperson confirmed that the measure would be imposed for the “foreseeable future” and, as with all routes, would continue to be monitored for anti-social behaviour.

Irish Rail said said there were no plans at present to introduce the ban on other routes.

Irish Rail also deploys security staff on a number of routes known to play host to anti-social behaviour, including the aforementioned services between Waterford and Heuston Station and from Heuston Station to Galway on Friday afternoons.

It also prohibits the possession or sale of alcohol on some trains on major GAA match days.

Fionnuala Sheahan, director of Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS)said that for years Irish people had given social permission for people who drink too much to participate in anti-social behaviour, and that this was a clear message that Irish Rail “has had enough”.

Some 38.8 million passengers travelled with Irish Rail in 2009, down from 43.3 million passengers in the previous year.

€10m western Wild Atlantic Way driving route now launched


The Government is spending €10m on the Wild Atlantic Way this year, a 2,500-km driving route from Donegal to Cork aimed at attracting more visitors.

Launching the new initiative today, Junior Tourism Minister Michael Ring described it as “the world’s longest touring route”.

 It stretches along the coast from Malin Head in Donegal to the Old Head of Kinsale taking in over 500 visitor attractions, as well as 53 Blue Flag beaches, 120 golf courses and 50 loop walks.

Mr Ring said it was already providing a hit in key overseas markets like Britain, the US, France and Germany.

“It has massive potential to bring more visitors and jobs to rural communities right along the western seaboard. That’s why we will soon be promoting it even further afield in places like Spain, Italy and the Netherlands,” he said.

The government has allocated €8m for the project this year with Failte Ireland spending another €2m on some 159 “Discovery Point” sites highlighting key attractions such as the Cliffs of Moher in Clare and Dursey Island in Co Cork.

Nearly 4,000 new signs are being erected along the route in time for the start of the tourist season, while a new app is also being developed to assist visitors on the route.

One of Germany and Austria’s largest tour operators Dertour said it was featuring the route on the cover of its current brochure because it would appeal to customers.

“Germans love the coastline and they are always looking for outstanding scenery which they wouldn’t find at home,” said Dino Steinkamp of Dertour.

Irish action Plan for Jobs has 385 item to-do list but no strategy


The Irish Government has published its latest Action Plan for Jobs and it has a 385 item to-do list but there is still lack of a strategy.

So there are lots of points to cover but there is no evidence that ministers know what works and what doesn’t.

We noted last December that the much-hyped medium term strategy 2014-2020 would likely be a brochure rather than a plan with an unvarnished analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. That is what was published.

It came just three months after the OECD’s Economic Survey of Ireland recommended empirically-proven policies and sunset clauses in enterprise and innovation supportsand we noted that there is no experience of this in the Irish system.

The OECD said the number of programmes and agencies multiplied during the period of booming growth. “There are now over 170 separate budget lines, sometimes for very small amounts of money, and 11 major funding agencies involved in disbursing the Science Budget, although it is small by international standards.”

This is boring to ministers but nobody else is in charge and for example enterprise agency heads say nothing of substance in public and possibly also in private.

Focus limited fiscal resources on policies empirically-proven to improve employability; this will require systematic evaluation of labour-market programmes through consistent tracking and randomised trials, followed by decisions to close down ineffective schemes while strengthening successful ones.

Reflecting significant uncertainties about the effectiveness of various innovation policy tools, independently and regularly evaluate all actions in this area, strengthen programmes with proven higher returns, and wind down the others. To promote effective evaluation, ensure all innovation and enterprise supports have sunset clauses.”

The latest university rankings shows that Ireland does not have a single university in the top 100 includes mathematics, physics, computer sciences, and all four of the engineering disciplines.

It’s daft to aspire to be world class in science and technology in a country with a tiny indigenous research base and more than 70% of foreign firms spending nothing on R&D.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said last December:

Minister Bruton and the Department of Jobs are unashamedly ambitiousfor the potential of scientific research in Ireland to support economic growth and job-creation in Ireland. In recent years we have improved our ratings for basic research to the point where we are now very competitive internationally – the challenge now is to achieve greater returns in terms of commercial outcomes and jobs from this research.”

So they are “unashamedly ambitious for the potential of scientific research in Ireland” and this is effectively the main enterprise policy. An inflation adjusted €24bn has been spent in the past decade in this area and all they can cite are citations in journals while patent applications are at a 30-year low.

Phased redeployment of Irish hospital staff on the way


Staff from St Brigid’s Hospital in Ballinasloe will be redeployed on a phased basis to both community mental health teams in Ballinasloe, and to acute services in Galway and Roscommon, following a consultation process with “no impact for current inpatients in Ballinasloe,” Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health Kathleen Lynch has stated.

Galway and Roscommon Mental Health Services operate as one administrative unit. At present, there are 35 acute psychiatric beds in Galway city, and 22 acute psychiatric beds in both Ballinasloe and Roscommon. This gives a total of 79 beds, serving a population of some 315,000.

A Vision for Change recommends 50 beds for a catchment population of 300,000. In line with policy and operational norms nationally, the provision of 22 beds in both Ballinasloe and Roscommon means that the current overall stock of 79 in the HSE West is too high in relative terms, allied to a corresponding under-development of community-based mental health services, Minister Lynch said in response to Dáil questioning by Deputy Denis Naughten.

In the context of the service improvements now underway, a purpose-built, 50-bed acute mental health unit will be completed in Galway University Hospital in 2015, to replace the existing smaller unit. This unit will consist of 35 general adult mental health beds, with the remaining 15 beds relating to psychiatry of later life, eating disorders and mental health and intellectual disability. The acute unit in Roscommon will continue to provide 22 general adult mental health beds.

The proposed reorganisation of services, following a detailed assessment by HSE West, will provide for a total of 57 general adult mental health beds. This will be a sufficient number of acute psychiatric beds, in line with A Vision for Change, and will also allow the Executive to enhance community-based services through redeployment of some staff from acute services, said Minister Lynch.

10 of the hottest Exercise trends for you to try out


Fed-up with your usual workout? Don’t despair, we have the solution. Our expert rates the 10 hottest exercise trends.

Bored of bootcamp and fed up of fitness DVDs? A new survey has found that we’d rather do anything OTHER than exercise, and this includes filling out tax returns, doing house work and even going to a Justin Bieber concert.

Here we reveal 10 new ways to take the weariness out of your workout – and personal trainer Darragh Hayes gives his expert verdict on each.


From broadband to waistband, virtual fitness could soon replace fitness DVDs for those looking to shape up at home. Dodging Storm Darwin while doing an exercise class with a real instructor anywhere in the world is just one of the advantages. But the Skype’s the limit.

EXPERT VIEW: “I do online training with clients, but I would only do it with those who already know what they’re doing. If you’re just starting out, it’s better to have somebody standing over you telling you exactly what to do.”

TRY IT: Natalie Portman’s trainer Mary Helen Bowers offers online ballet classes at http://www.balletbeautiful.com


Dust down your Scooter CD and dig out those glow-sticks. Nineties-style aerobic raves – but with no booze or boys – are back. Clubbers burn up to 600 calories by dancing non-stop for an hour. Best of all, you wake up feeling perky not pukey the next morning.

EXPERT VIEW: “Jumping around like a maniac for an hour will certainly burn calories, but I’m not convinced it will actually burn fat or make you stronger. Be sure to drink lots of water.”

TRY IT: Women-only freestyle dance session ‘Dance Dance Party Party’ (see dancedancepartyparty.com for upcoming Irish dates)


Beanbags are for babies. Today’s toughest obstacle courses for adults include crawling through mud, plunging into ice-cold water and scrambling over 12-foot walls.

Among the extreme outdoor challenges taking place here are Hell & Back, Tough Mudder and Runamuck. Less marathon than mad-athon.

EXPERT VIEW: “In terms of motivation, setting a goal to complete an outdoor challenge is a great idea. Just remember to get into the gym and start lifting to build strength as well!”

TRY IT: Tough Mudder Ireland 2014 takes place on October 4-5 at Punchestown Racecourse, Naas, Co. Kildare (see tough mudder.co.uk)


First Brangelina and now ‘Piloxing’. That’s just one of the hybrid exercise classes springing up all over the country. As well as the fusion of Pilates and boxing, designed to offer the best of both, there’s ‘yogilates’ (yoga and Pilates), ‘zennis’ (zen and tennis) and ‘YAS’ (yoga and spinning). Perfect for indecisive exercisers – or is it?

EXPERT VIEW: “If you want to do Pilates, just do pilates; if you want to box, then box. Any good personal trainer should be able to integrate the strength and conditioning offered by both into your regular fitness regime.”

TRY IT: For a full list of Piloxing instructors in Ireland see http://www.piloxing.com


Feel the burn using nothing but your own body. Forget the fancy gym equipment and go back to basics with press-ups, sit-ups, squat and lunges. It helps prevent osteoporosis, especially for women, by building stronger bones, costs nothing and you don’t even have to change out of your jammies. Triple whammy.

EXPERT VIEW: “Since injuring my back last year, body-weight training has helped recover my strength. I see people coming into the gym who can’t even hold a side plank for 10 seconds. It’s vital to get the basics right before so much as picking up a dumbbell.”

TRY IT: “When it comes to squatting, it’s a myth that you have to go ‘ass to grass’,” says Darragh. “Keeping your knees in front of your toes, squat until you’re parallel with the floor.”


Now you can shape up by literally sitting on your backside. Sedentary workers are increasingly throwing away their chairs in a bid to burn calories as they work. Instead, you balance on an inflatable exercise ball, which engages tummy muscles and improves your posture – not to mention your balance.

EXPERT VIEW: “Sitting on an exercise ball intermittently is fine, but for eight hours a day it could cause your core muscles to become fatigued. Doing bodyweight core exercises like the plank or side plank will have the same effect.”

TRY IT: Pro Fitness 65cm Gym Ball, €8.95, available from Argos.ie


Fitness gadgets have come a long way since the humble pedometer. From smart scales that gauge your body-fat percentage to sweat-resistant headphones, losing weight has gone all hi-tech. Nike’s FuelBand activity tracker even reminds you to move if you’ve been watching telly for too long. Big blubber is watching you!

EXPERT VIEW: “No gadget is going to get your body fat down or build muscle, so don’t expect them to. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, don’t. It’s as simple as that. Unless you’re training for a competition, I think fitness gadgets are a waste of time.”

TRY IT: Nike+ Fuelband SE, €139, available from store.nike.com


If you’re time poor, and not so flush with cash either, this year’s hottest trend for ‘High-Intensity Interval Training’ could be just the trick. Torching around 15 calories per minute, studies show that a 10-minute HIIT – including push-ups and burpees – burns more calories than half an hour on the treadmill. And, as it’s over in mere minutes, the boredom excuse is invalid.

EXPERT VIEW: “High-intensity interval training blows training on a treadmill or cross trainer out of the water. It’s great for losing fat and building muscle. Do it using your own body weight, or add weights for a tougher workout.”

TRY IT: The Fit Factory, Kells, Co Meath offers HIIT classes (see facebook.com/ fitfactorymeath)


Super-toned singer Pink wowed with her aerial performance at the Grammys last month. And now more and more people here are hanging out at the gym too. The Cirque de Soleil-style classes involve practising yoga moves in a hammock for maximum flexibility.

EXPERT VIEW: “I have Olympic rings and TRX equipment in my gym that I use as part of any session. But I wouldn’t base a whole session around suspension training as there’s only so much you can do with it.”

TRY IT: For details of anti-gravity yoga classes available in Ireland, see http://www.antigravityyoga.ie


You don’t have to be a celeb to afford a personal trainer – any more. Tighten your belt in more ways than one by simply sharing a trainer with one or more gym buddy. Mind you, even counting our Facebook friends, we probably still can’t afford trainer to the stars Tracy Anderson.

EXPERT VIEW: “I’m a stickler for technique. When you’ve got 25 or 30 people in a class, like some bootcamps, there’s no way you can ensure everyone is exercising correctly. For those who can’t afford one-to-one training, sharing a trainer is a great idea.”

TRY IT: The Cover Model Body Gym offers ladies-only group training (limited to six per class), €300 for 12 sessions (see covermodelbodypersonal training.com)

Wild beavers in England seen for first time in centuries


Footage of a family of beavers filmed in a Devon river is believed to be the first sighting of its kind in up to 500 years

Two beavers were caught on camera playing at night while a third one (in background) is gnawing a tree on the banks of the River Otter, Devon. Tom Buckley got the footage with a hidden infrared motion sensor camera. Photograph: Tom Buckley

A family of wild beavers has been seen in the England countryside in what is believed to be the first sighting of its kind in up to 500 years.

Three European beavers (Castor fiber), believed to be adults, have been filmed together on the River Otter in east Devon and can be seen gnawing at the base of trees, grooming themselves and playing together.

Experts said the sighting was “highly significant” as it strongly suggested a small breeding population of beavers now existed outside captivity.

European beavers were once widespread in the UK but were hunted to extinction by the 16th century in England and Wales for their fur, medicinal value and meat.

There have been successful reintroduction schemes in other parts of the UK. In 2009, three beaver families were released into forest lochs near the Sound of Jura in Argyll, while plans to release the species into the wild in Wales have also moved a step closer. The sighting in Devon would be the first time in centuries that European beavers have bred in the wild in England.

Wild beavers return to Scotland Link to video: How wild beavers made their return to Britain

The footage was captured by local retired environmental scientist Tom Buckley, who noticed some trees had been felled in the area in late last year. Together with landowner David Lawrence, he installed three motion sensor cameras along a 400-500m stretch of the river. A lone beaver was spotted on the farm in January and last July a woman claimed she saw a beaver on the river.

“We’d seen bits of trees chewed and cut down and I was starting to think that it was a sign of beavers even though I couldn’t believe it,” Buckley said.

Beaver expert Derek Gow confirmed that one of the animals filmed by Buckley was a juvenile and the family may have been in the wild for years. Buckley does not know where they have come from or exactly where their home is.

“When I first saw that first beaver it was such a shock. When I saw three it was slightly different – we knew there was one around and we were tracking its activities. When we watched film and all of a sudden another appeared, and then another – I would not just say that was amazing – one was speechless realising what was happening. We had no idea there was more than one, and they are all quite large and active as well.”

Devon Wildlife Trust has been running its own Beaver Project since 2011, when an adult male and female were introduced to a securely fenced compound in the north-west of the county.

But the beavers remain in their compound and are not the source of the population now seen on the River Otter.

Steve Hussey from the Devon Wildlife Trust said he supported the reintroduction of beavers to England but that it had to be “properly planned”.

“In principle, we would like to see the European beaver reintroduced to England but recognise that a great deal of work needs to be done before this can happen.”

He said the beavers should be left alone and observed using a rigorous monitoring programme.

“This group of beavers provides us with a unique opportunity to learn lessons about their behaviour and their impact on the local landscape … [the group] could contribute to this process if they are subjected to thorough scientific study.

Beavers are a “keystone species”, meaning they provide more important ecosystem services than their numbers alone would suggest. Known as “ecological engineers”, their dams, burrows and ditches and the branches they drag into the water create habitats for a host of other species. Their dams slow rivers down, reducing scouring and erosion, and improving water quality by holding back silt.

During the recent wet weather and flooding crisis, naturalists called for the reintroduction of beavers to control floods.

Otter tracks and spraint was found alongside the beaver prints, indicating they may have been interacting with wild otters too.

Hussey added: “There’s evidence that otters, beavers are coming together here face to face perhaps for the first time in two or 300 years.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is investigating the sighting as it is against the law to release beavers in England. A spokeswoman said the department would “look into this case and will consider what action to take”.

She said she could not comment on whether the beavers could be removed from the site or destroyed.

Buckley said: “This beaver family has been around for at least a couple of years and no one seems to have noticed them. They haven’t caused any trouble for anybody and it’s only because they’ve been caught on camera that people know they are here. To think about destroying them is totally out of order. This is an insight into what the potential impact is if they are already in a place and at the moment that impact would seem to be zero.”

News Ireland daily BLOG Saturday

Saturday 30th March 2013

New insolvency arrangements for those in financial trouble


Under the new Personal Insolvency Service, a number of new arrangements will be available for those in financial trouble, without having to declare themselves bankrupt in a court:

Q Debt relief notice

People with small amounts of debt that does not include a mortgage will be able to apply for a debt relief notice.

They can approach the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which will charge €90 for processing an application.

The debt relief notice will apply to consumers who have no income and no assets.

What they owe will need to be under €20,000. To qualify, their net monthly income will need to be less than €60.

In general, they will not be able to live on any more a month than is set out in the Personal Insolvency living standard guidelines.

If the insolvency service is satisfied, then a certificate will be issued.

There will be a one-year period when creditors will be unable to chase the person for money. After a year, the debts will be discharged.

Q Debt Settlement Arrangement

For people who owe more than €20,000 in non-mortgage debt, there will be the option of a debt settlement arrangement.

You go to a personal insolvency practitioner. The PIP will check out your finances.

If the state insolvency service agrees, then a protective certificate will be issued protecting you from your creditors for 30 days.

If the deal is approved by creditors who are owed at least 65pc of the debt, then the arrangement is registered.

If the consumer keeps to the deal, and lives within the expenditure guidelines, their debts will be discharged after five years.

Q Personal Insolvency Arrangement

People who have debts of up to €3m – including mortgage debt, buy-to-let borrowings and other personal debts –may be able to get a deal from their creditors.

They will have to be in a situation where they are unable to ever again be in a position to meet the repayments.

They would approach a personal insolvency practitioner, and honestly outline their financial situation.

Every asset would have to be disclosed and the true extent of their income laid out.

The PIP, regulated by the State, would then work out a plan.

Under the plan, the borrower will have to live according to the income guidelines issued by the Personal Insolvency Service over the period of the agreement.

If the borrower keeps to the deal, they will get a chunk of their debt written off after six to seven years.

Does your favourite chocolate piece give you spots?


Telling children that they’ll get pimples is one way to encourage them go easy on the chocolate – but is it true?

When it comes to Easter eggs, every child has a favourite strategy.

  Some stash their hoard, tormenting their siblings for months with their untouched rows of chocolate goodies.

Others descend on their eggs like a fox on a bird’s nest, scattering scraps of foil and shards of broken chocolate all over the carpet.

This category of child may well prompt the smug response from nearby grown-ups “You’ll get spots!” At which point, another, even smugger, adult may well respond: “Actually, that’s a myth!”

But is it a myth? It would be more accurate to say that it is a matter of scientific debate.

Multiple factors contribute to the prevalence of acne – the skin disease characterised by spots or pimples – including family history, age and possibly stress levels.

Until the 1960s, the view that chocolate exacerbated the problem was widely held in the scientific community. It was thought that acne sufferers had an impaired tolerance of glucose, the sugar which our bodies convert carbohydrates into for distribution in the bloodstream. Popular textbooks of the 1940s and 1950s counselled against sugary food and drink – including chocolate – as part of acne treatment.

  • In Westernised societies, acne affects about 80%-90% of adolescents
  • It remains a problem for adults – the mean age of those seeking treatment in the US is 24 years old
  • Blackheads and whiteheads occur when pores become blocked with sebum, the skin’s own natural moisturiser
  • Sebum-producing glands are sensitive to hormones, which is why teenagers and some pre-menstrual and pregnant women are prone to acne
  • If blocked pores become inflamed then they turn into a spots
  • Treatments include creams that attack bacteria and in more extreme cases, antibiotics

But a very influential 1969 study by JE Fulton and his colleagues G Plewig and AM Klingman appeared to scotch any association between chocolate and acne.

The researchers took 65 participants with mild-to-moderate acne and divided them into two groups. One group was given a chocolate bar enriched with 10 times the normal amount of cocoa. The other group was given a placebo bar (without the extra cocoa). The groups were told to eat the bars daily for a month.

After a three-week break, the two groups switched bars. The researchers, who examined the patients weekly, decided that chocolate had no effect on acne development.

This study made a big impact, and has been cited dozens of times in other journal articles. But it has recently been roundly criticised.

“This study, to my mind, is invalid,” says Amy Brown, associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, one of seven signatories to a 2011 letter criticising the Fulton study, printed in the journal Clinics in Dermatology.

“The very first problem is that it was made possible through the Chocolate Manufacturers’ Association of the United States of America – that’s number one,” she says.

She also lists a number of methodological problems. For example, she says the weekly examinations could have missed skin reactions that occurred mid-week. And at the end of the study changes in skin condition were only counted if they were 30% better or worse, so a 29% deterioration in a participant’s acne would not have been noted.

“It was published in the journal of the American Medical Association and everybody just believed it,” says Brown. “People took these researchers’ word for it and that was it.”

There’s a very small amount of literature that’s actually been done assessing the effect of chocolate on acne”

It became scientific orthodoxy that chocolate did not cause or aggravate acne. In 40 years, just one further study looked at the links between the two, and this took in a range of other sweet foods as well.

In 1971 Anderson and his colleagues took 27 university students, divided them into groups and asked them to eat large amounts of chocolate, milk, fizzy drinks and roasted peanuts every day for a week. At the end of the week, no new outbreaks of acne were noted.

The small timescale and sample size of this study – together with the lack of a control group – make it hard to draw firm conclusions.

So in 2011 it seemed to one medical student that the question of chocolate and acne was long overdue a re-examination.

“There’s a very small amount of literature that’s actually been done assessing the effect of chocolate on acne exacerbation,” says Samantha Block of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

As part of pilot study – reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology – she and her research partners chose 10 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35.

The participants chosen all had between one and four non-inflamed spots, to ensure that they were susceptible to acne but not currently suffering from a bad flare-up of the condition. Women were excluded because of the effect that menstruation cycles have on hormone levels, which can affect acne.

Block felt that one weakness of both the Fulton and Anderson studies was that the bars used were not pure chocolate. Since she wasn’t interested in the effect of additives like sugar and sweeteners she used 100%-cocoa chocolate.

Another change distinguished it from the Fulton experiment – one particularly relevant to this time of year.

“We wanted to emulate what people typically consider exacerbating their acne – which is a binge chocolate consumption,” she says.

She made her participants eat varied amounts of chocolate (up to 340g, or 12oz) on day one of the experiment and then assessed their acne on day four and day seven. She found that acne increased on the participants’ faces, in proportion to the amount of chocolate they had eaten.

More recently, Block has repeated the pilot study with a control group and a randomised method, feeding participants with capsules containing either 100% cocoa powder, or gelatine.

Some chocolate bars are high in saturated fat or partially hydrogenated fats – trans fats ”

Different quantities of the two capsules were assigned randomly to 14 participants in what scientists call a “double blind” experiment – neither the participants nor the researchers knew who had been given what until after the experiment.

The study, which Block has presented at a national conference of the American Academy of Dermatology, again showed an increase in acne proportionate to the amount of chocolate eaten.

“It seems to be that for a male subject between the ages of 18 and 35 with a history of acne, chocolate does seem to exacerbate their acne,” Block says.

She hopes that further experiments will test her findings with larger groups of participants, including women. But for now the scientific jury is still out – an article about Block’s work is currently under review for publication in a scientific journal – so it is possibly too soon to allow her results to dictate our behaviour this Easter.

So much for pure chocolate. But what about the chocolate most of us eat – that dodgy stuff that does indeed have additives, including sugar, milk, fruit, nuts and other flavourings?

  • Foods with a high Glycemic Load (those which raise blood sugar levels) cause the pancreas to secrete more insulin into the bloodstream to break down sugar
  • Too much insulin in the bloodstream encourages a protein (IGF-1) that stimulates cell growth and the availability of hormones such as testosterone, known to promote sebum production
  • The insulin also inhibits a separate protein, which normally curbs the actions of IGF-1
  • Milk has a disproportionately high GL insulin response and in addition milk contains IGF-1 – the association with acne is stronger in skimmed milk than full-fat milk

A new review paper, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, examines all the research done on the links between acne and diet in general, not just chocolate.

Its author, Jennifer Burris, is also critical of the Fulton and Anderson studies, and she expresses bafflement over how their results have been misinterpreted by others.

“Although the main outcome of this old research primarily investigated chocolate and acne, it was falsely interpreted to imply diet was not associated with acne,” she says.

She calls it a scientific “myth” which her review paper challenges. Looking at more recent research – not on chocolate, but a range of other foods – she and her fellow researchers conclude that there may be a link between diet and acne, although they don’t know how strong it is.

“We’re not really sure if diet can cause these acne flares or maybe they just make them more severe,” she says.

The researchers are also unsure if the culprits are dairy products or foods that give blood sugar levels a big boost (those with a high “glycemic load”). The role of Omega 3 fatty acids is also unclear.

Burris also doesn’t rule out other pathways through which diet might affect your skin.

“Some chocolate bars are high in saturated fat or partially hydrogenated fats – trans fats – which may increase inflammation, possibly contributing to inflammatory acne,” she says, adding that this theory has not yet been proved.

Of course, the fact that science has not, to date, shown conclusively that chocolate – pure or impure, in bar-form or egg-shaped – causes acne is unlikely to stop adults using the threat of spots to try and slow down their children’s intake.

But be warned – to do this is to open a chocolatey can of worms.

The quick-witted child is sure to respond with a long list of supposed health benefits of eating chocolate, from helping protect the heart, to slimming, to just making us feel good.

Outsourcing home care would create over 260 jobs in Sligo/Leitrim area


Over 260 jobs could be created in the Sligo/Leitrim area and €2bn saved nationally through reform of the home care sector, according to a new report from Home and Community Care Ireland (HCCI).

The research shows that €117 million per annum could be saved immediately through opening up the tendering of home help and home care services in Ireland.

A further €256 million per annum could be saved if funds are redirected from the Fair Deal Scheme to more appropriate care provision for low and medium dependency older people in their own homes.

The report, The Business Case for the Outsourcing of Home Care Provision and a More Efficient Use of Fair Deal Funds, compiled by EPS Consulting for HCCI, the representative body of private home care providers in Ireland, outlines the need to address inefficiencies in the elder care model as a matter of urgency.

Michael Harty, HCCI Co-Chair, said, “Harnessing the outsourcing opportunity could support the creation of over 260 local jobs in the home care sector in the Sligo/Leitrim area, as more patients will require care and more hours will be able to be delivered within the existing budget.

“These are local jobs that will be in every parish and community across the area, providing employment in many areas experiencing serious unemployment issues.”

“The Government needs to stop paying lip service and take action to address inefficiencies in the system, through a more open and transparent commissioning system which will help save money, create jobs, and stop the cuts to frontline services enabling thousands of people to be cared for in their own home,” he concluded.

Climatologist’s journey from Dalkey Ireland to the Arctic – via the US Navy


The Arctic is a hub for climate change research, and Dr Gina Henderson, who is originally from Dalkey in Co Dublin, is looking at how snow and ice cover there could be affected by weather patterns as far away as the tropics. Claire O’Connell caught up with the intrepid researcher.

We may have had bitterly cold wind and snow in Ireland this week, but the unseasonal cold snap is nothing compared to conditions in the Arctic. Henderson has just returned from Barrow in northern Alaska, where temperatures plummeted to -30°C as a team built equipment to collect climate data from the polar region. Henderson, who works with the United States Naval Academy, was well wrapped up against the cold, but there were still practical challenges.

“I wasn’t expecting to be as comfortable as I was once in the field,” she says. “But the hardest thing is the wind, if the wind is up it brings a whole new meaning to the word wind chill. And a lot of the time we are working with instruments that require a bit of dexterity, so you have to take off your outer glove, and if you do that even for a minute it’s really hard to warm up afterwards.”

From Dalkey to the world

So how does a Dalkey native find herself out in the Arctic negotiating chilly glove-related situations?

It all started in University College Dublin, where Henderson completed an undergraduate degree in geography, and her dissertation looked at the climatology of storm tracks, or paths, across the North Atlantic. A keen sailor, Henderson was drawn to the field. “I grew up sailing and racing in Dun Laoghaire harbour, that is the big tie in,” she says.

The next academic port of call was the University of Delaware, where she developed an interest in the relationship between large-scale snow cover and its effects on storm tracks and longer-term winter weather. Her PhD work looked at coupling climate models of the upper layers of the ocean to an atmosphere model, to better predict the impacts of snow.

During a brief spell researching in Rutgers University, she got the opportunity to move to the USNA in Maryland, and again sailing forged the connection. “I had a conversation on a dock after a sailing race in Maryland. I got introduced to someone from USNA, and that eventually resulted in me being offered a position there,” says Henderson, who now teaches oceanography and climatology to classes of ‘midshipmen’. “If you asked me would I end up working at a military academy … it’s not something that is on the radar of the average Irish person, but half of the faculty are civilian here.”

Changing tack to research

While teaching is the main focus in term time, Henderson changes tack in the summer and dedicates months to her climate research, and her sights are set on the Arctic.

“The Arctic is pretty much a hive of activity for climate research right now,” she explains. “It serves as a barometer for climate change, things are changing so rapidly up there. And the Navy is very operationally concerned and interested in how things are changing in the Arctic: as that ocean opens up it’s going to be an environment that the future Navy officers are going to be operating in. They want climate-literate officers, and any sort of predictability or better forecasting skills for the Arctic is big on the research agenda.”

One of Henderson’s lines of work looks at potential links between two climate-related phenomena in different parts of the globe. She and a colleague at USNA are examining the relationship between sea-ice concentration and snow cover in the polar region and the Madden-Julian oscillation, a tropical atmospheric pattern related to rainfall.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the work analyses datasets and involves “a lot of number crunching,” as Henderson describes. So she jumped at the opportunity this spring to head north for a field trip to the north slope of Alaska with a group of students to build instruments that can detect climate data. “I have been using Arctic data for so long, it was fantastic to get the chance to go and collect it,” she says.

The instruments they deployed include a hydrophone, a microphone that can work in water, which they placed in sea under ice. “We are trying to detect sounds of the ice starting to open up and cracking, and with the acoustic measurement we can hopefully monitor that in a different way, from underneath,” she says. “And we deployed it on a piece of ice that is going to break off and flow, so we can get not only the sound of the ice breaking but also the rate [at which it is moving].”

Big world to research

Henderson’s research analyses large chunks of the world, and her advice to students with an interest in science, engineering and research is to be enthusiastic and think big about their futures. “Don’t be scared to look far afield,” she says. “There are networks of Irish professionals everywhere.” And, particularly as a woman, she has found support and encouragement from groups in the United States: “I have come across numerous organisations and mentor opportunities that have helped along the way.”

Niall (Bressie) Breslin could be the man to do a boy’s job


Let’s take a moment to remember Tabby (Callaghan).

Back when Kelly Osbourne’s mother was the most influential woman in showbusiness, Tabby and his band Petronella put Sligo on the rock’n’roll map by finishing third on X Factor.

Before you could say “my real name is Trevor John Callaghan”, Tabby had split from his band and, as a solo artist, was poised to join an elite group of megastars known worldwide by a single name. Bowie, Prince, Madonna, Beyonce… Tabby.


The personable Niall Breslin (aka Bressie) seemed set to follow the Tabby’s template, but the Mullingar star added a unique twist to his career trajectory by adopting the Mrs Osbourne role and becoming a mentor on the Irish version of The Voice, where he plays the edgy, yet sensitive, rocker to confident crooner Cian Egan.

More than ever, Ireland needs a cheery power-pop phenomenon, like The Thrills and The Four Of Us. Bressie could well be the man to do a boy’s job.

This 11-track album is his second solo outing since bravely leaving his old band, The Blizzards. A high-gloss amalgam of melodic pop styles, the company describe it as “uber-cool”. A similar approach didn’t harm Paolo Nutini.


When Bressie’s single Can’t Stay Young Forever went to number one on the airplay charts, the next logical move was to persuade listeners to buy the recordings. So for this offering, Bressie has teamed up with proven hit writer James Walsh, of Starsailor and Bloc Party producer Eliot James.

Show Me Love thumps along like a Gary Glitter album track. The string-drenched I Preferred the Original recalls a melancholic Cutting Crew. Despite the confusing title, the anthemic Silence Is Your Saviour is a song, Bressie explains, that deals with the issues around depression and anxiety.

As a solo performer, Tabby’s shoes were stolen in a club. The management obligingly gave him a pair of old boots that Ronnie Wood once left behind.

The same fate is unlikely to befall Bressie, who can walk tall with this radio-friendly set – even if it’s short on personality.