Tag Archives: pay rises

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 17th October 2016

Donegal based Garda whistle blower claims he was followed to GSOC meeting


i160101_192627_30845159otexttrmrmmglpict000079045824o-1   Image result for Donegal based Garda whistleblower claims he was followed to GSOC meeting

The Garda Ombudsman is investigating a Donegal based Garda whistle blower’s claim that an unmarked Garda car followed him to a meeting with GSOC.

Garda Keith Harrison told the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) that he was followed from Donegal to Galway last March when he was on his way a confidential meeting with them, RTÉ’s This Week programme reported yesterday.

The meeting was to discuss GSOC’s investigation into his allegations that he has been harassed and subject to unwarranted disciplinary inquries since 2009, when he arrested a colleague for suspected drink driving.

Gda Harrison told GSOC that he recognised the unmarked garda car, as it was one of many which he claims regularly drove past his home in Donegal as part of the alleged harassment.

According to RTÉ, “It is understood that a senior inspector at GSOC informed Garda Harrison’s lawyers in March that they were examining the allegation” that he was followed to the meeting.

The GSOC is understood to be “taking the allegation seriously”.

A GSOC spokesperson said the office, “cannot, for confidentiality reasons, discuss the detail of an investigation that may be under way as a result of a disclosure made to GSOC under the Protected Disclosures Act”.

The garda press office told DD/DPP that it was “precluded from commenting on protected disclosures”.

The garda spokesperson added, “Without discussing any individual, An Garda Síochána seeks to ensure any employee of An Garda Síochána who raises issues will be fully supported.

In this regard, Protected Disclosure Managers have been recently appointed to liaise directly with employees making protected disclosures, and we are working with external experts in this area to help ensure that anyone speaking up is supported and protected in An Garda Síochána.”

A lot of Irish people applying for insolvency deals, but not many arrangements are put in place

Image result for A lot of Irish people applying for insolvency deals, but not many arrangements are put in place  Image result for A lot of Irish people applying for insolvency deals, but not many arrangements are put in place  Image result for A lot of Irish people applying for insolvency deals, but not many arrangements are put in place

Many of the people being approved for a home loan are competing hard with each other for the few houses that are available.

The number of financially-stretched people applying for a State-sanctioned debt deals has doubled. But the actual number of deals put in place is down.

New figures from the Insolvency Service of Ireland show that almost 900 people applied to put a formal arrangement in place with their lenders.

The figures were for the three months to the end of September. This was up 102% on the same three months last year. But the number of heavily-indebted people who secured a formal deal from their banks and other lenders fell in the three months to September, when compared with the same quarter last year.

Just 180 people had a deal known personal insolvency arrangement (PIA) approved in the July to September period. This was down by five PIAs in the same quarter last year.

A PIA allows a person to reduce what they are paying, and return to solvency while staying in their home. There was also a fall in the number of bankruptcies of 26pc to just 61 the third quarter.

In the year so far, a total to 345 people were declared bankrupt, compared with 479 for full-year 2015. This is despite the term for bankruptcy being reduced recently to one year.

Insolvency Service director Lorcan O’Connor blamed the summer recess in the bankruptcy courts for the fall.

Large numbers of people are still struggling to pay their mortgages. The number of people two years or more in arrears on their mortgages was close to 35,000 in June, down slightly from the previous quarter, separate Central Bank figures show Those in arrears for more than two years risk losing their homes.

Mr O’Connor said: “This quarter saw continued growth in new applications with protective certificates and approved arrangements at similar levels to last quarter.

“When compared to the same period last year, there is significant growth in all categories.”

So far, some 4,000 people have gone through different processes overseen by the Insolvency Service to return to solvency.

Earlier this month the Government launched its ‘Abhaile’ plan to tackle the problem of mortgage arrears. This service will provide free, independent expert advice and support on financial and legal issues through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), working with the Insolvency Service of Ireland, the Legal Aid Board and the professional accountancy bodies. Mr O’Connor said this new initiative is “expected to drive further growth in the coming months”.

Minister for Health Simon Harris says Politicians setting their own pay is a bad idea

Image result for Minister for Health Simon Harris says Politicians setting their own pay is a bad idea   Image result for Minister for Health Simon Harris says Politicians setting their own pay is a bad idea

He has no intention of accepting a €4,000 pay-rise.

Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, says he has no intention of accepting the pay-rise set out in the recent budget.

Ministers are expected to vote on Tuesday to reject the pay increase at a cabinet meeting, this after TD Finian McGrath told a media source “They (TDs) are probably going to go bananas but as far as I’m concerned, you take the hit.

“We have just come out of a major eight years of austerity and an economic crash and I think these are exceptional times and I think TDs and ministers should take their hit and stop whingeing.”

Harris agrees?

“TDs being linked to civil service pay – going down when they go down and going up when they go up – largely serves the country well,” said the 30-year-old health minister.

“Politicians setting their own pay – I don’t think that’s a good policy and “I certainly have no intention of taking the increase.”

ESB to introduce new peak-time bill rate to encourage greener behaviour

Image result for ESB to introduce new peak-time bill rate to encourage greener behaviour  Image result for To encourage a greener ireland  Image result for ESB to introduce new peak-time bill rate to encourage greener behaviour

Electricity charges will soon depend on what time of the day you use power, the ESB has said.

Under a new ‘time of use’ tariff scheme, householders will be encouraged to use power at non-peak times to ease pressure on the national electricity grid.

The new system is expected to be introduced within the next two years.

“There will be time-of-use tariffs in the future,” said Paul Mulvaney, the ESB’s director of innovation. “It might be based on green energy periods.

“It will be part of a smart metering programme and residential customers can expect to see it in 2018 or 2019.”

Mr Mulvaney did not say whether this meant tariffs would become more expensive during peak daytime hours or simply cheaper at night.

“The idea is that you encourage people to use less energy and greener energy and flex demand so as to be easiest on the system,” he said.

“If you can get people to shift their load to night time, it’s easier on the grid. We carried out trials and found that when people knew there were cheaper tariff periods, they saved 4pc to 5pc on their bills.”

Mr Mulvaney was speaking as the ESB prepares to host a ‘hackathon’ in Dublin this weekend.

The event, to be held in CHQ’s Dogpatch Labs from Friday to Sunday, will seek to reward the best new ideas on improving energy efficiency, electricity reliability and ecar management. Winners of the competition will win cash prizes of €5,000, €3,000 and €2,000 respectively.

The ESB will be providing anonymised data sets for each of the challenges to help people understand usage, customer profiles and trends in advance of the hackathon.

Mr Mulvaney said that the event was on course to attract more than 100 coders, entrepreneurs and start-up personnel to the event.

Applicants can enter on the website bigenergyhack.ie.

He also said the ESB would finally begin requiring payment for eCar charging points around the country.

Earlier this year, the utility postponed seeking €17 per month for usage of the almost 1,000 charging points nationwide.

However, Mr Mulvaney says the ESB is now communicating with eCar customers about the imminent introduction of charges. “We’re currently looking at the appropriate tariffs,” he said. “Ultimately, everything has to be paid for. We need to reinvest and keep the system up to date. We will have to charge.”

New cancer institute to set gold standard for Ireland

 Image result for New cancer institute to set gold standard for Ireland  Image result for Dr Patrick Prendergast, provost of Trinity  Image result for New cancer institute to set gold standard for Ireland

Trinity College and St James’s Hospital have joined forces to develop a new cancer institute, with plans to create a “new standard for cancer care” across the country.

To be located on the campus at St James’s Hospital, the new Trinity College collaboration was announced today to replicate similar projects around the world.

With incidents of cancer estimated to double by 2040 in Ireland, the cancer institute is hoped to build better tools to treat people in years to come.

The first of its kind in Ireland, both stakeholders claim the new cancer institute “will set a new standard for cancer care nationally, integrating medicine and science in cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship”.

Trinity and St James’s Hospital have been scaling up for the new cancer institute with the recruitment of key new clinical academic and research appointments in oncology.

The plan is to get recognised by the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes, the body that sets the gold standard for leading cancer institutes in Europe. It will benchmark performance against international standards and direct the cancer services and research to the next level.

Dr Patrick Prendergast, provost of Trinity, said the new institute should consolidate the strengths of both parties, with clinical and scientific research subsequently benefiting all.

“It will deliver substantially improved outcomes for cancer patients by providing research-led diagnosis and treatment, and promoting a better understanding of cancer through interdisciplinary research,” he said.

This all comes as cancer week kicks into gear, with Trinity hosting a conference on the subject as part of an initiative now into its third year.

“This cancer centre will place research, education and treatment side-by-side,” said St James’s Hospital CEO, Lorcan Birthistle, “which is in line with the model for the very best cancer centres internationally.

“The best outcomes for patients are achieved in centres that combine high volume and highly specialised evidence based cancer care with scientific and technological advances. This exciting joint development between Trinity College and St James’s will achieve this goal.”

The Great Barrier Reef is not actually dead

Image result for The Great Barrier Reef is not actually dead  Image result for The Great Barrier Reef is not actually dead  Image result for The Great Barrier Reef is not actually dead

Composed of more than 3,000 individual reefs interspersed with more than 600 topical islands, the world’s most extensive coral reef system is so large it can be identified from space. While the region has been protected since 1981, a 2012 study found that the delicate ecosystem has lost more than half of its coral since 1985 due to a combination of factors including coral bleaching caused by climate change.

There is a big difference between dead and dying?

Outside Magazine published a somewhat tongue-in-cheek obituary for the Great Barrier Reef earlier this week, citing its lifespan from 25 million BC-2016. The article detailed the life of the reef, its active membership in the ecological community, its worldwide fame and the coral bleaching that has led to its deteriorating health. “The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old,” read the article.

Immediate response on social media

The obituary was met with horror and disbelief, both by scientists and social media users alike. Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, told HuffPost that he believes the article was highlighting the urgency of the situation, but that those who don’t have any context “are going to take it at face value that the Great Barrier Reef is dead.”

Many people on social media are indeed taking it at face value. Twitter users have been grieving the loss of the reef and urging followers to pay serious attention to the consequences. Many are spreading false information entirely. Rowan Jacobsen, the writer of the obituary, is a food and environmental writer, not a scientist. But the article has led some outlets to claim that scientists have declared the reef officially dead, further spreading the exaggeration.

People have also taken to Twitter to try to get the truth out. Environmental reporter Tony Davis tweeted, “Reports of the Great Barrier Reef’s death are greatly exaggerated, say scientists, booing Outside Magazine” and the Cornell Cooperative Extension at Rockland County, which cites ecological sustainability as one of its missions, tweeted “Great Barrier Reef is Dying NOT Dead! ‘The message should be that it isn’t too late… not we should all give up.’”

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It covers more than 300,000 square kilometers and consists of more than 3,000 reefs, 600 islands, and 300 coral cays.

Recovery efforts

There’s no denying that the Great Barrier Reef is in serious trouble. According to a report by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, 93% of the reef is affected by bleaching, putting the reef in danger of extinction. Bleaching occurs when coral are put under extreme stress by changes in conditions like temperature, light, or nutrients. In these conditions, they expel symbiotic algae from their tissues, causing them to turn white.

Scientists are increasingly worried that over-exaggerating the state of the reef will promote the idea that it is past the point of recovery. Professor John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre at the University of Queensland has expressed hope. “It is critically important now to bolster the resilience of the reef, and to maximize its natural capacity to recover.” But the effects are serious and possibly permanent. “The reef is no longer as resilient as it once was, and it’s struggling to cope with three bleaching events in just 18 years,” he said.

The obituary lays blame on the Australian government, noting that the government pressured the United Nations to remove the reef from a climate change report because it was concerned about its impact on tourism. But on September 28, the Australian and Queensland governments released the first Reef 2050 Plan annual report, showing the $2 billion investment toward improving the reef’s health for future generations is paying off. The plan has accomplished 29 of its 151 intended actions, though it notes that the recovery process needs to be accelerated if they want to continue to be successful.

Coral bleaching, fishing, mining, and burning fossil fuels have all contributed to the destruction of the reef over several decades. More than 2 million people visit it each year, and governments, scientists, and charities are working so future generations can continue to appreciate its beauty.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 21st December 2015

Almost all private sector staff will get a 2% pay increase next year according

To Mercer consultants


Almost all private sector staff, no matter where they work, can expect a salary increase of just over 2% next year, according to a major report published this morning.

The findings from consultants Mercer signal that after the long years of contraction and recession, pay increases are definitely back on the agenda.

Mercer said that surveyed 135 firms and almost all — 97% of the sample — have budgeted to pay out salary increases in 2016.

Workers can expect an average pay rise of 2.2% across most pay grades, and pay in the construction industry, which was particularly battered during the deep recession, is increasing too.

The average pay increases mask a wide range of pay increases which could in time open up big pay differentials for employees, depending on the profitability and growth prospects of their employers.

The survey found that the big winners are likely to be staff working for firms in life-science, high-tech and some non-banking service industries, who may strike pay increases of between 2.4% and 2.8%.

Possibly reflecting longer working hours and a pick-up in retail sales, retail and warehousing firms have “budgeted” for salary increases of 2.4%.

With salary increases of 2%, people working in the energy, consumer goods and manufacturing may fare less well.

Banking and financial services firms have budgeted to pay a 1.9% increase next year.

Noel O’Connor, a consultant at Mercer, said that the fall in unemployment was helping to push up pay.

“After a number of years of consolidation in the jobs market, we are beginning to see more activity as employees are increasingly tempted by new opportunities.

“The competition for talent seems to be particularly aggressive in the high-tech, life science and construction industries.”

CSO figures for average earnings and labour costs published late last month suggest pay may already be rising — but probably from a low base.

Average weekly earnings across many employment sectors rose in the third quarter 2.7% from a year earlier.

The CSO reported average weekly earnings increased in 11 of the 13 main sectors in the year with the largest earnings increases posted in the administrative and support services area, where weekly earnings rose 7.6%.

Over five years, average weekly earnings had fallen 10.6% in human health and social work, and had risen by almost 10% in administrative and support services.

Mr O’Connor said staff will likely also seek other non-income incentives to stay with an individual employer.

Unemployment has fallen sharply from its peak of over 15% in early 2012, but remains high.

The CSO said 191,700 people, 8.9% of the labour force, didn’t have jobs in November.

There are also many thousands of people on training courses who do not count toward the unemployment total.

In Britain, workers’ pay grew at a slower than expected pace in the three months to October, figures published last week by its Office for National Statistics showed.

Regular earnings of British workers — excluding bonuses — rose by 2% in the three months to October, its slowest since the three months to February.

PTSB to offer loans and overdrafts to small businesses

Move marks entry into new market as it seeks to diversify income stream


PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding said its aim was to offer “simple banking solutions” to small business owners.

Permanent TSB has launched a new offering targeted at small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and turnover of less than €10 million.

It marks the entry of the bank into the owner-managed small business market, a move that is aimed at diversifying its income stream away from personal lending and residential mortgages.

And it is the first suite of business banking products launched by PTSB since the financial crisis blew up in 2008.

The business products include overdrafts, loans and mortgages. Overdrafts will attract an interest rate of 8 per cent, loans will be available at 6.5 per cent and mortgages at 4.5 per cent.

PTSB has also launched a Visa business debit card for SME customers and an enhanced BUSINESS24 internet banking service, which will be available from the New Year. Killian O’Flynn has been appointed as head of business banking.

The services were launched today by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonanat its new branch and business centre on O’Connell Street in Limerick.

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding said its aim was to offer “simple banking solutions” to small business owners. “We now offer competitively-priced overdrafts and loans, specifically focused on small businesses, and our intention is to expand on these in the coming months,” he said, adding that advisers would be available in each of its 77 branches, supported by SME business managers and a central SME banking team .

Mr Noonan welcomed PTSB’s decision to expand its product range to support small businesses. “With the addition of Permanent TSB as a new lender to this sector, I welcome the benefits that increased banking competition will offer SMEs throughout Ireland,” he said.

PTSB is spending €1.7 million to reconfigure its Limerick branches, including a second new outlet in Castletroy.

New Cross-Border Garda/PSNI task-force will investigate organised crime

Body will tackle tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering, fraud, cyber crime, human trafficking


The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said issues of tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering, fraud, cyber crime and human trafficking will be dealt with in a more focused way by a new cross-Border taskforce.

A new cross-Border taskforce is to be established to investigate organised crime on both sides of the Border, including paramilitarism.

The new body will be funded by Governments in Dublin and Belfast and will be led by senior officials within An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said issues of tobacco smuggling, fuel laundering, fraud, cyber crime and human trafficking will be dealt with in a more focused way by the taskforce.

She said: “This arises from the Fresh Start agreement. This is a particular initiative to tackle cross-Border crime.

‘Criminals don’t respect borders’

“We know criminals don’t respect the borders, whether we are talking about in Ireland or internationally, and it is to deal effectively with the disruption to communities.”

The taskforce will work with the Revenue Commissioners and HM Revenue and Customs and will seek to end the exploitation of the borders between the two jurisdictions.

First Minister Peter Robinson said the taskforce will begin its work next month.

He said criminal gangs have used the Border for their benefit, adding that the taskforce would assist in ending paramilitarism.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the activities of those who attempt to “plunge us back into the past need to be confronted”.

He said: “Criminality is a scourge on our communities, North and South, and we must be both united and relentless in our pursuit of these criminals.

“This Joint Agency Task Force provides renewed energy, focus and additional mechanisms for us to work collectively for the greater good of people across the island of Ireland.”

SuperValu retains Irish grocery market share top spot

Dunnes closes gap on Tesco as Lidl continues to enjoy growth


Supervalu has 24.7% of the market compared to the 24.1% which Tesco has. Dunnes Stores has 23.8%.

Tesco is now just 0.3 per cent ahead of Dunnes Stores in the Republic’s grocery share wars and the retailer that once had a commanding lead of more than 5 per cent is now dangerously close to slipping into third place.

The latest supermarket share figures from Kantar Worldpanel show that SuperValu will be Ireland’s largest grocery retailer when Christmas Day dawns although less than 1 per cent now separates first and third.

Supervalu has 24.7% of the market compared to the 24.1% which Tesco has. Dunnes Stores has 23.8 per cent.

“It hasn’t all been plain sailing for SuperValu – over the past six months the retailer has seen falling shopper numbers, but in the past 12 weeks it has managed to get that issue under control,” said David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel .

“This has allowed SuperValu to strengthen its position at the top, posting impressive sales growth of 3.7% and increasing its share of the grocery market to 24.7% Alongside a strong performance in its traditional heartland – fruit and vegetables – the grocer also posted excellent sales in confectionery, crisps and snacks and soft drinks during the past quarter.

He said that while value sales may have dipped in Tesco there has been growth in the number of items shoppers are picking up on each trip. “The reduction in value sales is linked to the fact that these items are at a lower price point than last year, leading to a dip in the retailer’s value share of the grocery market.”

Dunnes’ sales continue to grow, with an increase of 3.6% this period to cap off a strong year – the retailer has seen non-stop sales growth for the whole of 2015 and has continually managed to encourage shoppers to spend more per trip, with its Shop and Save campaign helping to create a more loyal customer base and increase its market share to 23.8%.

Elsewhere, Lidl continues to post the strongest growth with sales increasing by 10.6% as 37,000 more shoppers visited the retailer compared with the same time last year.

Dublin has proved a particularly strong region for Lidl, with shopper numbers in the nation’s capital increasing by 10% this quarter. Aldi’s performance remains ahead of the overall market, with sales growth of 2.6% and market share holding at 8.4%.

“While the big Christmas shop has yet to take place there are signs that shoppers may have begun their preparations for the festive season earlier this year,” Mr Berry said.

“Confectionery, crisps and snacks have all seen double digit growth in shopper spend when compared with last year, helping to increase overall grocery sales by 2.5%. Such strong growth is an early indicator that Ireland’s retailers could be in for a bumper Christmas, and we’re sure to see grocers competing eagerly for the biggest slice of festive sales.”

Secret of why birds never grey revealed raising prospect of clothes that never fade

Scientists have disclosed for the first time why birds’ plumage never fades leading to hopes that ‘fade-proof’ clothes could be on the horizon


A jay (Left) with not even a hint of grey.

Scientists have discovered why birds never go grey – and the secrets of how our feathered friends fine-tune their plumage could be used to prevent our clothes fading in the wash.

New research has revealed birds use sophisticated changes to the structure of their feathers to create a multi-coloured appearance.

The discovery by Sheffield University could now pave the way for the creation of paints and clothing colours that retain their colour over time.

Examination of the blue and white feathers of the Jay showed rather than dyes and pigments that fade, the birds use well-controlled changes to the nanostructure to create their vividly coloured feathers.

The Jay is able to pattern these different colours along an individual feather barb – the equivalent of having many different colours along a single human hair.

“If nature can assemble this material ‘on the wing’, then we should be able to do it synthetically too.”

The Jay’s feather, which goes from ultra violet in colour through to blue and into white, is made of exactly the same kind of material as human hair and fingernails.

The researchers found that the Jay is able to demonstrate amazing control over the sponge-like structure, which determines the colour when exposed to light.

A flock of goldfinches, with their colourful plumage, will lighten up any garden  Photo: ALAMY

So birds never go grey as they age – unlike humans whose hair is coloured by pigments, which is not produced in the same quantities as we grow older.

If the colours were formed using pigments created from the bird’s diet, the feather colour would fade over time.

Dr Andrew Parnell, from Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy said: “If nature can assemble this material ‘on the wing’, then we should be able to do it synthetically too.

“This discovery means that in the future, we could create long-lasting coloured coatings and materials synthetically.

“Now we’ve learnt how nature accomplishes it, we can start to develop new materials such as clothes or paints using these Nanostructuring approaches.”

“By adjusting the size and density of the holes in the spongy like structure – that determines what colour is reflected.

“Current technology cannot make colour with this level of control and precision – we still use dyes and pigments.

“Now we’ve learnt how nature accomplishes it, we can start to develop new materials such as clothes or paints using these Nanostructuring approaches.

“It would potentially mean that if we created a red jumper using this method, it would retain its colour and never fade in the wash.”

The research was carried out in France and also used feathers selected from the extensive collection at the Natural History Museum in London.

The findings are being published in Nature Scientific Reports.

Researcher Dr Daragh McLoughlin of AkzoNobel, which makes Dulux paint, added: “This exciting new insight may help us to find new ways of making paints that stay brighter and fresher-looking for longer, while also having a lower carbon footprint.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wed/Thrs. 26th & 27th March 2014

Moneypoint Co Clare power station could meet Ireland’s 25% of renewable energy goal

   Moneypoint power station

Malcolm Brown of BW Energy (left) and Paddy Massey of ReThink Pylons (above left) at a press conference in Dublin today outlining their plans for a pylon-free alternative to Grid25.

Converting Clare plant from coal to biomass would help deliver 40% of target, 

Ireland’s target of having 40% of energy needs met by renewable sources by 2020 could be met in a single stroke if the Moneypoint power station in Co Clare was converted from coal to biomass, according to a UK-based energy analyst working for ReThink Pylons, one of the groups opposing EirGrid’s Grid25 pylons project.

Malcolm Brown of BW Energy today said converting Moneypoint’s three coal-fired boilers, one at a time over an extended period, would cost €380 million. Electricity generated from burning biomass (mainly wood pellets) at Moneypoint would add 25% to the existing 19.6% of renewable energy already produced in the State.

The two together would exceed the 40% target Mr. Brown said.

Converting Moneypoint would also cut out the need for the €3.8 billion cost of increasing Ireland’s windpower capacity necessary under government plans to meet the 40% target, he argued.

In a report prepared for Re Think Pylons, he also argued that converting Moneypoint station would remove the €2.3 billion cost of the Grid25 pylon project and the €600 million cost of the interconnector with the UK to stabilise the power network due to its planned reliance on wind.

Grid25 is a project by Eirgrid, the company that runs the electricity transmission network as opposed to the power stations that generate the current, to upgrade transmission lines in the northwest, the south and southeast, and between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Interconnector capacity between Ireland and the UK is also to be upgraded.

The plans have garnered significant opposition from local groups, however, and in January, amid fears the issue would impact on the June local and European elections, the Government asked former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness to examine whether underground cabling was a feasible alternative to pylons.

Opponents argue that the pylons, in most instances 60 metres tall, would damage the landscape and reduce the value of their property. Some opponents also cite health fears for people living close to high voltage electricity transmission.

Speaking today at the launch of his report in Dublin, Mr Brown based much of his argument on an analysis of the operation of the Drax power station at Drax in North Yorkshire in England. It is the largest power plant in western Europe and provides some 7% of the UK’s energy needs but is also the single largest emitter of CO2.

Starting in 2004, Drax began a gradual conversion to biomass, burning locally sourced willow in parallel with coal. In 2012, the process of changing three of the plant’s six units to biomass began – the first of which was fired last June. A second unit is due to go fully biomass this year, and the third by 2017.

Mr Brown argued that recent advances in technology had made biomass electricity production both feasible and cost-effective. Security of biomass fuel supply, generally wood pellets, was guaranteed from US timber sources willing to enter nine-year fixed term contracts.

Most Irish consumers against Supermarkets vegetable price wars


Support for legislation to protect food producers from sharp practice by supermarkets

When asked by the Ipsos/MRBI survey if the below-cost selling of vegetables before Christmas was good for consumers in the long term, some 64% said it was not. Some 66% of those surveyed said retail multiples did not treat farm families fairly when buying their produce.

Just three in 10 people believe the sale of cheap vegetables has long-term benefits for consumers, new research by Agri Aware, the agri-food educational body, has found.

When asked by the Ipsos/MRBI survey if the below-cost selling of vegetables before Christmas was good for consumers in the long term, some 64% said it was not. Some 66% of those surveyed said retail multiples did not treat farm families fairly when buying their produce.

In December, Lidl, Aldi and Dunnes Stores were carrots and onions for as little as 5 cent a kilo. They insisted they were covering the cost of the promotion, but the Irish Farmers’ Association claimed farmers would pay for it and it staged protests.

However, National Consumer Agency chief executive Karen O’Leary described the price war as positive.

The Agri Aware survey of more than 1,000 people also found almost 88% of people think legislation should be introduced to ensure food producers get a fair price from supermarkets. A Bill expected to address this issue has been promised by the Government.

Agri Aware chairman Bernard Donohue said it was clear the public was very much behind the introduction of new legislation to ensure that retailers pay a fair price to farmers for quality produce.

“Following the vegetable price war at Christmas, the National Consumer Agency described this as positive, yet this Agri Aware survey clearly demonstrates that the Irish public expect retailers to treat farm families fairly,” he said.

The Agri Aware study also asked if quality or price was the most important consideration when buying groceries. Some 79 per cent cited quality. There was a difference between the importance of quality for those working and those unemployed. Some 83% of those working cited quality first compared with 63% of the unemployed.

Irish Dairy Board secures €420m syndicated loan to fund global expansion


The Irish Dairy Board (IDB), which owns Kerrygold along with brands such as Dubliner cheese, has secured a five-year syndicated loan of €420m to fund dairy businesses expanding overseas as milk quotas end in 2015.

The new loan replaces an existing three-year €350m facility, the IDB said yesterday. It includes a €165m syndicated loan facility to fund IDB’s own working capital requirements and its growth strategy.

The remaining €255m will be used for syndicated reverse invoice discounting for members.

The money comes from Allied IrishBank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch,Barclays, HSBC, Rabobank and Ulster Bank.

Reverse invoice discounting was first introduced in 2012 and allows members to discount their sales invoices to IDB, receiving funds up front, with IDB providing security of payment to the banks.

It was set up to help companies and individuals as they look for new markets in the wake of theEuropean Commission’s decision to liberalise the milk industry.

“The successful refinancing demonstrates the strong support that exists amongst our participating banks for both the IDB and the Irish dairy industry generally,” said group finance director Donal Buggy.

“This strong support was clearly voiced in recent meetings with all of our banks and is evidenced by our new facilities being significantly over-subscribed,” he added.

The Irish Dairy Board markets and sells dairy products on behalf of the country’s dairy processors and farmers.

The board has sales of around €2bn and employs about 3,100 people globally. It is responsible for exporting about 60pc of Ireland’s dairy products to more than 100 countries. It does this by sharing the story of Irish farming and explaining how Irish dairy products are produced.

By building markets for dairy products, it aims to increase the value of Irish milk and to deliver strong returns for farmers.

With pre-packing and blending facilities located in Germany, the UK, the US and the Middle East the board also develops specialist food ingredients for many of the world’s major food manufacturers.

Former Anglo director said he was ‘not instrumental’ in Sean Quinn deal


William McAteer denies helping to orchestrate plan to unwind Quinn’s holding in bank

William McAteer, the former director of finance at Anglo Irish Bank, told gardaí he “was not instrumental” in a deal to unwind businessman Sean Quinn’s holding in Anglo Irish Bank in July 2008, the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard this morning.

In a Garda interview in November 2011, Mr McAteer denied he was an integral part of the plan to dispose of Mr Quinn’s holdings, that he helped to orchestrate the plan, and that he was aware at all times of the details of the plan.

His interviews with gardaí at Irishtown Garda Station in 2010 and 2011 were read into the record by Paul O’Higgins SC, for the prosecution, and confirmed by Detective Sergeant Glenn MacKessy and Detective Sergeant Michael Prendergast.

Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin; Seán FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow and Pat Whelan (51) of Malahide, Dublin, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to section 60 of the Companies Act.

Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The court had heard, by July 2008, Mr Quinn’s contracts for difference – investment products based on share value – involved more than 28 per cent of the bank’s shares.

As part of a deal to unwind them, the Maple 10 businessmen borrowed €45 million each from Anglo to buy 1 per cent of the bank’s shares and the Quinn children borrowed €170 million to buy almost 15 per cent of the shares.

The unwinding deal was carried out in the week of July 14th, 2008.

In his interview with gardaí, Mr McAteer said he had no involvement in the lending to buy the shares. When asked by gardaí Mr McAteer had said he did not recall a series of emails from around the time the deal closed.

Mr McAteer agreed he did play a part in trying to find institutional buyers for the Quinn CFDs. He also said he was broadly aware of the unwind deal but there were meetings and telephone calls he was not a party to.

Asked by gardaí if he had instructed others in Anglo to implement the unwind deal, he said he was sure he “instructed people to make sure it was properly executed”.

When asked by gardaí if he had anything to add, Mr McAteer said the Quinn CFD position was “unacceptable” and the financial regulator had been “very anxious” to get the holding unwound.

Also giving evidence this morning, house builder Seamus Ross, one of the Maple 10, said he had been a client of Anglo for more than 15 years and had a “very strong relationship” with the bank.

He was surprised when he was asked to meet Mr Whelan and former chief executive of the bank David Drumm on July 10th or 11th 2008.

He said he was asked if he would buy shares in the bank and was told about the Quinn CFD holding and that the financial regulator had approved a deal to unwind it.

He told the court he didn’t ask “that many questions” and was a bit surprised by the discussion. He thought what he was told was “bad news” and “he didn’t like to hear there was a problem”.

He also said he was surprised the terms involved a loan in his “own personal name” and it was to be a “private venture”.

Asked by Mr O’Higgins if he understood the recourse – what would have to be paid back if there was an outstanding balance – he said he believed the recourse was only to the value of the shares and there was no personal recourse.

The meeting didn’t take long, he said and he agreed to “go ahead and give the helping hand to the bank”.

“I was delighted to do that,” he said. The bank had helped him in the past.

Mr Ross said the documents had already been prepared.

“I signed whatever documents was put down and I left,” he said. He did not vet the documents, he said.

He also told the court that at the time he was fighting a court action which lasted three and a half years related to the presence of pyrite in people’s homes. He said he had “hundreds of people knocking on my door, their houses falling down”.

“This was in the middle of all this, so all I can do from memory is to help you the best I can,” he said.

Three-quarters of Ireland’s SMEs not giving pay rises in 2014


Up to 75% of small and medium businesses say they will not be handing out pay rises this year, according to a survey by office supply company Office Depot.

That is despite confidence in the sector continuing to grow.

The business survey also found that 51% of companies reported that positive media stories on the industry does not reflect the tough reality for most of the companies.

Stephen Ireland’s (dead?) grandmother asks Roy Keane to put him into the Republic of Ireland squad


Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane has been urged to recall Stephen Ireland – by the Stoke City midfielder’s grandmother he once falsely claimed was dead.

Ireland has not played international football since 2007, when he pulled out of the squad ahead of a match, saying that his grandmother had passed away.

When it was revealed that his story was false, Ireland said it was his grandfather’s second wife who had passed away, but once more this was proven to be fake.

Eventually he admitted that he left the Ireland squad to visit his girlfriend, who had reportedly had a miscarriage.

Keane revealed in the Irish Independent that by a quirk of fate he recently shared a flight with Ireland’s “dead” grandmother, who asked him whether he pick her grandson again.

“Well, I spoke with the grandmother this morning, she was on the flight coming over – and she asked me would he get back involved,” Keane told the paper.

“I couldn’t lie to her. I said he’d have a chance if he’s playing well. I think [manager] Martin  [O’Neill] had a conversation with him, and all that needs to fall into place.

“We all know how talented Stephen is and Martin will look at that.

“We wouldn’t be shutting the door on any player.

“What is important for any player, and Stephen is the same, is it does help to be playing week-in week-out.

“He’s obviously had a difficult spell. He’s only just got a run of games at Stoke now. So I certainly wouldn’t be ruling anyone out.”

Ireland spoke of his “regret” at the lie at the time, and suggested last year that he would be willing to return to international football.

Clever Crows smart like children with causal reasoning


New Caledonian crows were tested with tasks based on Aesop’s Fables

A new study of the intelligence of New Caledonian crows suggests that the birds have reasoning powers roughly equal to those of a five to seven-year-old child.

The research, which was published in the journal Plos One, subjected six wild crows to a range of tests including a “water displacement” tasks based on one of Aesop’s fables, ‘The Crow and the Pitcher’.

In the test (and the fable) the thirsty crow has to drink out of narrow container filled with water. The bird cannot reach the liquid but works out that it can raise the water level by dropping stones into the pitcher.

When the crows were faced with this task they not only completed it, but did so in the most efficient way possible, choosing containers with higher water levels and choosing objects that were solid, rather than hollow, to raise the water level.

The tasks asked for crows to raise water levels to reach food.

However, it wasn’t all easy for the crows, and birds were stumped by more difficult tasks involving a U-shaped container with hidden connections. In this the birds were supposed to drop stones into one of the pipes to raise the water level in the other but “showed no signs of learning which tube would bring the reward.”

“These results are striking as they highlight both the strengths and limits of the crows’ understanding,” said Sarah Jelbert from University of Auckland, who led the study.

“In particular, the crows all failed a task which violated normal causal rules, but they could pass the other tasks, which suggests they were using some level of causal understanding when they were successful.”

The study concluded that the birds’ understanding of causal and effect was roughly equal to that of a five to seven-year old child. Caledonian crows, a species well known for their intelligence, have been observed making and using tools in the wild as well as placing nuts on busy roads so that they will be cracked by passing cars.

Any doubts about crows’ intelligence? Watch the video below of a crow solving a eight-stage puzzle from a recent BBC documentary.

Giant shrimp sheds new light on our evolution


Ancient shrimp-like creature (like artists impression above right) that lived 500 million years ago was not a SAVAGE predator?

A savage predator or a gentle vegetarian? For years an ancient shrimp-like creature that lived 500 million years ago had a fearsome reputation as an apex predator. New research from the University of Bristol suggests, however, that the creature was far more placid, avoiding meat and living on plankton.

The free-swimming creature Tamisiocaris borealis lived during the Cambrian period between 485 and 540 million years ago. This was a particularly important time for life on Earth, with an explosion of radically new animal designs evolving.

The dangerous-looking met re-long T borealis swam about eating all before it, according to original assumptions made about it. These were largely based on fossil remains showing grasping-like appendages near its mouth that are common in other animals in its group, the Anomalocarids.

Dr Jakob Vinther and colleagues from Bristol dug up a number of fossils from early Cambrian sediments in northern Greenland and they proposed an alterative view of what the creature had for dinner, in their research report published this evening in the journal Nature .

They suggest the appendages on T borealis were used as combs to collect plankton by sweeping it up off the seabed or filtering it out of the water. The appendages had a series of closely placed spines with longer ones and shorter ones and the scientists argue that at least with T borealis , they were used to collect vegetarian fare in the same way as anyfilter feeder.

The proposal is of interest to palaeontologists studying the emergence of animals during the Cambrian. If this large animal could survive on plankton, there must have been plenty of it about in the seas at the time, something that tells us more about the local food web, the authors say.

It also tells scientists that filter feeding was present at least as far back as the Cambrian era.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 3rd March 2014.

HSE’s failure to implement findings in Portlaoise is totally unacceptable


Some 33 extra midwives are needed in Portlaoise hospital

The report by the Department of Health’s chief medical officer (CMO) into four perinatal deaths at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise suggests the failures by the Health Service Executive are even greater than originally exposed by RTÉ’s Prime Time programme.

According to the Prime Time report, some of the babies died because of a failure to act on signs of foetal distress. An especially worrying aspect was how the investigation into baby Mark Molloy’s death discovered that recommendations made following the death of another baby at Portlaoise in almost identical circumstances two years previously had not been implemented.

We now learn from the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, that the risk management resources at Portlaoise were downgraded from 2010. The network manager, general manager and risk manager who had dedicated time in the hospital (two days a week), retired. None of these was replaced.

As the CMO notes: “Dedicated access to this resource diminished from 2010 due to retirements and the broadening of the remit of this service to cover the entire Dublin Mid-Leinster region.”

A dedicated risk manager/ risk co-ordinator was not appointed until July/August 2013. In other words, some four years after all 32 midwives made their concerns about the safety of mothers and babies at the hospital formally known to management, the risk management resources at the hospital were significantly diluted. A hospital with a maternity unit known to be in serious difficulty was effectively stripped of risk management expertise.

“The lack of on-site expertise and poor tracking and monitoring systems for risk is unhelpful,” Dr Holohan states. Worryingly, he adds: “While systems have been strengthened recently, the overall picture is unsatisfactory and is not likely to be sustainable over time.”

Sustainable: Elsewhere, he says, “the Portlaoise Hospital Maternity Service cannot be regarded as safe and sustainable within its current governance arrangements as it lacks many of the important criteria required to deliver, on a stand-alone basis, a safe and sustainable maternity service”.

Will yesterday’s secondment of senior managers from else- where be enough to stabilise the unit? Can its inclusion in the governance structure of the Coombe hospital in Dublin ensure patient safety?

There must be a serious doubt that this is enough.

Without the immediate introduction of more staff in the unit, so there is a ratio of one midwife to 29.5 births – which according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation requires 33 extra midwives for Portlaoise – how can the HSE tell women due to give birth there that they are safe?

The track record of HSE failure to implement the findings of important investigations into critical incidents in our hospitals is unacceptable. And politicians must recognise that the reflex exercise of parish pump politics in campaigning against the closure of smaller hospital units may achieve a useful electoral aim, but may well put lives at risk.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny denies interest in European Council presidency


Kenny says he would be flattered if offered but his ‘mandate is here’ in Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has denied any interest in theEuropean Council presidency, saying he would not be tempted to accept the position should he be offered it when Herman Van Rompuy retires later this year.

Speaking on RTÉ television this afternoon, Mr Kenny said he would be flattered by the offer but his mandate is here in Ireland.

“I wouldn’t turn my back on the Irish,” he said.

“In politics you get an opportunity once in a lifetime to have the trust of the people to lead a government and lead a country back from an economic abyss. It is a great privilege. This government is working harder than any of its predecessors and that’s a requirement to keep up the momentum we have achieved.”

He said he was looking forward to contesting the next general election when Fine Gael’s time in Government “will be judged by the people”.

“Back to back [victories] would be great. It is not easy to achieve,” he said.

“If we fulfil our mandate of having sorted out our public finances, having got people back to work, and opportunities and hope for the young, we will fight a good case and will have a good story to tell.”

Irish Women now more likely to get a pay rise than men


New stats show that Irish women are less satisfied with their jobs.

Irish women are less likely than men to ask for a pay rise, but they are more likely to get one when they do, according to new research revealed to mark International Women’s Day today.

Statistics show that job satisfaction levels among women in this country are down on last year, in contrast with an almost identical rise in satisfaction among men.

Some 74% of Irish women, as against 68% of men, feel they are “successful or very successful” in their career right now, while 46% of women are satisfied in their current job situation in comparison to 38% of men, according to global research published by Accenture.

The report, Career Capital, highlights a decline in job satisfaction among women in the last year, compared with an improvement for men (down 6% for women, up 6% for men).

More women than men say they have taken on more responsibility in order to further their career.

Among friends and family, 60% of women talk about workload when discussing their careers – whereas 54% of men talk salary.

And while fewer women asked for pay raises – 40% of women, against 58% of men – a staggering 70% of those women who did ask were successful.

However, 10% fewer women asked for a pay rise last year than in the previous 12 months.


Paula Neary, client director and accent on women lead at Accenture Ireland, believes the drop in job satisfaction levels is “highly likely” to be because despite putting more work in, women are failing to “knock on the door” and demand their true financial worth, and so feel more dispirited.

She said the study paints a picture of Irish women who are more confident and committed to their careers, who want to do well and feel good about their contribution to the workplace.

However, she said, the study points to the fact that women are not good at pushing themselves forward on pay rises.

In many cases, this can be because they feel bad about asking for a pay rise when they might have juggled their work hours to work around their family lives, she revealed.

Ms Neary argued that women’s performance should be measured on their value to the company and their output and not on “whether or not they work a four-day week”.

“Women may be contributing more than somebody who works traditional hours,” said Ms Neary.

Meanwhile, she said, employers can be blinded by the fact that women are working flexible hours and feel they should be satisfied with that, rather than measuring them on their true input, she added.

“Job satisfaction is linked to pay, so women end up being frustrated,” she said.

“The positive message out of this is that women have the skills. So we need to build on our skills and know our worth.”

Gerry Collins RIP passed away peacefully in his sleep “A happy man”


Gerry pictured with his daughter Ciara, wife Delly, son Stephen and daughter Lisa.

Gerry Collins of Greystones, who was the face of a national anti- smoking campaign, has died.Mr Collins (57), originally took part in a HSE anti smoking campaign in 2011 after overcoming throat cancer tree years earlier.

However, in June last year, Gerry was diagnosed with the disease for a second time, with doctors informing him he had terminal lung cancer and had less than a year to live.

After initially struggling with the news, Gerry eventually came to terms with the situation and got in contact with the HSE. He then agreed to became the face of a new campaign to highlight the dangers of smoking.


The campaign, which included a number of ads depicting Gerry at family gatherings in his home as well as training at his local GAA club, was launched last December and he appeared on RTE’s Saturday Night Show last January to urge people to quit smoking.

Mr Collins is survived by his wife Delly and children Lisa, Ciara and Stephen.

His eldest daughter Lisa paid tribute to her father on Facebook saying: “Our Dad, Gerry Collins, passed away this morning peacefully in his sleep and a ‘happy man’.”

She said that the family were lucky enough to be there with him to hold his hand and say goodbye adding: “We love you dearly xxxx.”

At the launch of his campaign last year, Gerry said the ads were an opportunity to show the dangers of smoking and that he took solace from the fact he would be able to say goodbye to his family unlike those who die suddenly.

“I hope to continue in the fight against smoking,” he said in December. For me, it’s a nice legacy to leave behind.

“People who are killed in a car crash never get to say goodbye. I’ve an opportunity to say goodbye. As sad and all as it is for the family, they’re very lucky.

“If I can get through the day with a bit of peace and contentment every day, that’s good enough for me. If I can spend time with the kids, I’m happy with that.”

Speaking following news of Gerry’s passing, parish priest in Greystones Fr Liam Belton praised the advocate for his work in highlighting the dangers of smoking.

“The man has suffered but he certainly has been instrumental in bringing the dangers of smoking to the public’s attention,” he said. “The campaign certainly caught the attention of the people.

“I didn’t know him personally but we extend our great sympathy to all his family.”

He said Gerry’s abilities to communicate the effects of smoking were an important contribution in getting people to quit.


“It’s very sad because I understand there was going to be a big anti smoking launch on Ash Wednesday. Traditionally people in the Catholic Church give up something for Lent and cigarettes and drink used to be a great thing to give up.

“Certainly the ads were very good. I also saw him on a chat show programme on television. He was a very good communicator and has made a very important contribution in highlighting the seriousness of smoking.”


One in five (19%) of Irish people smoke but majority want to quit


Research for Irish Cancer Society shows 81% of smokers intend to give up.

The main reason given by smokers planning to quit was concern for their future health. The expense of tobacco was the second most frequently cited reason.

Almost one in five 20% of Irish people smoke, but more than 80% of smokers intend quitting – with more than half saying they plan to do so in the next three months – according to a recent survey.

An Ipsos MRBI survey of 1,000 people aged 15 or over, carried out on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society, found 19% of those surveyed were smokers.

However, 81% of that cohort said they planned to give up smoking in the future, with 57% of those who wish to quit saying they planned to do so within the next three months.

The main reason given by smokers planning to quit was concern for their future health, an incentive cited by 71% of smokers surveyed.

The expense of tobacco was the second most frequently cited reason with 31% of smokers saying that cost was a factor in their decision to give up tobacco.

When broadened to include non-smokers, the survey found that 62% of respondents were in favour of a price increase on cigarettes although, unsurprisingly, current smokers were significantly less likely to support a price hike.

The wider survey found that almost two-thirds, or 64%, of respondents were in favour of the introduction of plain packaging.

Plain packaging

A Bill on the introduction of plain packaging – which, if passed, will mean all tobacco packaging will be a uniform “dark, drab brown” colour, while brand names will have a uniform typeface, size and colour – is currently before the Dáíl. It has been strongly resisted by the tobacco industry which claims that it will make it easier for criminals to produce counterfeit products.

Yesterday, the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers’ Advisory Committee released the results of a study carried out for it by market research company MS Intelligence, which examined discarded tobacco packaging in 22 Irish towns and suburbs to ascertain whether Irish taxes had been paid on the products.

It found that a third of tobacco packaging discarded in three areas – Leixlip, Ennis and Tallaght – came from “non-Irish duty paid” products which encompasses tobacco produced legally in other counties and brought into Ireland either through legal means or through smuggling as well as counterfeit product.

An average of 28.3% of packaging – discarded on the street or disposed of in public bins collected in two separate two-week periods in the second and fourth quarters of 2013 – was “non-Irish duty paid”, according to the study.

A spokesman for the manufacturers’ advisory committee said tobacco control measures including the proposed plain packaging Bill were not addressing the “big problem . . . the ease of access to and availability of illegal tobacco”.

Speaking in the Dáil in January, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said an annual survey undertaken for Revenue by Ipsos MRBI in 2012 found 13% of cigarettes consumed in Ireland were illicit.

He said the survey methodology, unlike other methodologies such as empty-pack surveys, distinguished between legal personal imports and illicit cigarettes.

Galway based Senator Ronan Mullen’s tops donations list with €12,000 for 2013


Senator Ronan Mullen

The PRO-LIFE Senator Ronan Mullen received €12,000 in political donations last year, figures have revealed.

The independent senator led the case against the Government during the emotionally charged abortion debates and recently launched an election campaign for May’s European elections.

Details of the 43-year-old solicitor’s political donations were released by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

The records show he received 12 individual donations amounting to €1,000 each. One was received from an Irish citizen who is currently living in Florida. Mr Mullen did not respond to requests for comment.

In total, TDs, senators and MEPs disclosed donations with a total value of €17,000 for 2013.

Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohoe received €1,000 from his local FG constituency executive in Dublin Central. He replaced Lucinda Creighton after she was ousted as a Junior Minister for voting against the Government on abortion legislation.

FF justice spokesman Niall Collins received a €1,000 donation, and Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy received €3,000.

Every Oireachtas member is required to furnish the Commission with a declaration by January 31 each year detailing any donation received.

44 cases in Ireland of racism and discrimination reported in the first two months of this year


Over half of the reports have been classed as ‘serious criminal offences’.

There has been a spike in the number of reported incidents of racism in the first two months of this year.

The figures, released by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, show that 44 people reported racism or discrimination in January and February this year, compared with just five in the same time-frame last year.

More than a quarter of cases involve the targeting of people in their homes or local community and over half have been classed as ‘serious criminal offences’.

Denise Charlton, chief executive of the Immigrant Council said the figures again show that there can be no complacency when it comes to racism and every opportunity should be used to assure victims that they have nothing to fear in coming forward.

““It is clear that racism is a reality which individuals and families are facing on a daily basis in Ireland. We have long suspected that official statistics were not giving an accurate picture of what is happening in our communities and the these figures confirm that.

“The increase of over 800% in reported cases when compared with the same two months last year follows extensive awareness campaigns by the Immigrant Council of Ireland on public transport, social media and on the airwaves.”

Charlton says that the idea that there are racist attacks in this day and age was ‘unacceptable’.

“55% of the cases we respond to fall into the category ‘serious criminal offence’. It is completely unacceptable that in Ireland 2014 people are lying awake in their beds fearing a noise in their back garden, that their home will be daubed with graffiti or that there will be a brick through their window.”

Northern lights spectacular aerial stunning photos of Aurora Borealis

Northern Lights show: A passenger captured this stunning image on board a BA flight over the Shetland Isles  

It’s a celestial phenomenon most photographers can spend years trying to capture. But passengers on board a BA flight across the UK were treated to a rare display of the Northern Lights, and were able to snap these incredible images from the plane windows.

The red, yellow and green lights were clearly visible in a spectacular display above the UK last week, with these photographs of the Aurora Borealis captured just off the coast of the Shetland Isles.

The flight was chartered by Aerobility, a charity that gives people with disability the chance to fly, and had 74 passengers on board, including BBC’s The Sky At Night presenters Pete Lawrence, Jon Culshaw and Dr Paul Abel.

Northern Lights show: A passenger captured this stunning image on board a BA flight over the Shetland Isles

The British Airways flight took off at 8.20pm last Thursday, and shortly after departure the cabin lights were turned off to help the passengers’ eyes adjust to the night sky.

The light show lit up skies as far south as Gloucestershire, Essex and Norfolk, the result of a strong magnetic storm – meaning the passengers were in a prime position to witness the display.

The aircraft returned to Gatwick at around midnight.

Night sky: The Northern Lights could be seen clearly above the UK, thanks to a strong magnetic storm

Usually visible in only the most northern parts of the UK, the Aurora Borealis could be seen in Glasgow, Orkney and Aberdeenshire in Scotland, at Preston in Lancashire and in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.

It was due to a surge in geomagnetic activity, which led to them appearing much further south than usual.

The display occurs when explosions on the surface of the sun hurl huge amounts of charged particles into space, according to the British Geological Survey.

Those thrown towards Earth are captured by its magnetic field and guided towards the geomagnetic polar regions. Charged particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, and the subsequent energy is given off as light.