Tag Archives: penalty points

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 24th & 25th October 2015

Housing rights protesters call for Nama funds to be used to resolve the housing crisis

      

Housing rights campaigners have staged a protest at a new housing development in Dublin.

Homeless people, cash strapped tenants and anti austerity activists have picketed a show house at the plush Belltree estate in Clongriffin in a row over rising waiting lists.

They are calling for resources from the so-called bad bank Nama (National Asset Management Agency) to be used to resolve the growing housing crisis.

Erica Fleming from Coolock, who has been homeless since July, said: “The housing crisis gets worse by the week and will continue to worsen if we stay on the course this government has set of leaving it to private developers and landlords to meet the need that’s out there when clearly they are only in it for the profit.

“They are part of the problem and not the solution.”

Rachel Kenny, a mother of two living in private rented accommodation in Clongriffin, said price hikes were crippling.

She said: “My rent last year went from €950 to €1300 leaving me having to get a top up on my rent supplement via Threshold. I absolutely dread the possibility of a further hike next month when the lease is up for renewal and like thousands of others in my position the fear of becoming homeless really bears down on me.

“The Government constantly claim that Nama’s responsibility is to get the best deal possible for the taxpayer. Can they for one moment try calculate the emotional cost on the homeless, the overcrowded and the thousands more who see only massive obstacles in front of them when it comes to starting a home? It can’t be put in money terms yet the resources are there solve the crisis.”

Some of the semi detached properties in the new Belltree development are on sale for over €300,000.

Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor Michael O’Brien said Nama monies should be used to for social and affordable housing. The protest action was “essential” to highlight the Government’s “unforgivable” response to the current crisis, he said.

Tánaiste Burton proposes a body to regulate the housing rental sector

Joan Burton wants body with specific powers to control rent prices

   

The Tánaiste Joan Burton has proposed the establishment of a rent regulator as part of the Government’s housing package.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has proposed the establishment of a rent regulator as part of the Government’s housing package.

The two Coalition parties are at odds over proposals to solve the housing crisis, with rent certainty measures proving to be the most difficult aspect. The Tánaiste has now proposed a body which would be given specific powers to control rent prices.

The initiative was raised with Minister for the EnvironmentAlan Kelly and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who are tasked with preparing a package on the housing crisis.

PRTB

It is unknown whether this new body would replace the Private Residential Tenancy Board (PRTB) or if it would be simply giving the body more powers. The PRTB currently has statutory powers to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords.

The agency has the power only to advise the Government on issues relating to the rental market and cannot interfere to tackle rising rents.

A Government source said: “This is at the very early stages and the finer details will need to be worked out.”

The proposal will be considered at a Cabinet subcommittee on housing with the Taoiseach next week.

Consumer price index

It further casts doubts over Mr Kelly’s proposals to link rent to the consumer price index. This has been at the centre of a dispute between Mr Noonan and Mr Kelly. Mr Noonan is concerned it would discourage investment in the sector.

At a parliamentary party meeting this week, Labour politicians rallied around Mr Kelly, the party’s deputy leader. A Labour source said party members were strongly supportive of Mr Kelly’s proposals on the subject.

However, one added: “Alan needs to start making some friends now. We need this to be sorted and it won’t be if the two Ministers refuse to budge.

Irish motorists penalty point offenders to escape being named & shamed

Only motorists disqualified by courts to be published on an online database

  

On the way: names of drivers disqualified by the courts will be published on an online central database.

Thousands of motorists disqualified from driving will escape being named and shamed because of the State’s concern around invading their privacy.

The Road Safety Authority has confirmed it has been in talks with a number of stakeholders around publishing a database of drivers currently disqualified.

It is envisaged the scheme would be in place early next year, though a launch date is not yet fixed. Consultations between the RSA and the Garda, Irish Courts Service, Data Protection Commissioner and Department of Transport are ongoing around the detail of the new scheme.

The names of all drivers disqualified by the courts would be published on a central database available online. The names of the drivers would remain on the list for the duration of their disqualification.

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock said the names of tax defaulters, banned company directors and disqualified taxi drivers were already published by the relevant State agencies.

She believed publishing the names of disqualified motorists would reduce the scope for them to openly flout their bans and continue to drive.

The Irish Times reported earlier this week that more than 500 disqualified drivers were involved in collisions causing serious injury or death in recent years.

While 1,400 people were prosecuted for driving while disqualified last year, the numbers continuing to drive and who go undetected is believed to be much higher. The number of motorists being disqualified – after court cases or by accruing 12 penalty points – has been about 13,000 per year for the last three years, according to Minister for TransportPaschal Donohoe.

“It’s already a matter of public record,” Ms Murdock said of the names and addresses of those disqualified by the courts. “We are now considering formalising that in a list so that peer pressure, community pressure and society will ensure that people who have been disqualified do not continue to drive and pose a risk to other road users as well as themselves.”

However, motorists who incur repeated penalty points and other offences can accept the points and accompanying fines without challenge, thus negating the need to appear in court. Repeat offenders can amass the 12 points needed to be disqualified without ever having to appear in court, even at the point of their eventual disqualification. It is that group whose names are set to remain private despite the names of those banned in court being named from early next year.

The RSA said the legal and right to privacy status of both groups of disqualified drivers was different under the naming and shaming plans.

“Penalty points are seen as personal to the individual concerned – inherent in the concept of penalty points and avoidance of court appearance – and can only be accessed by the recipients themselves or by others with legal authority such as motor insurers,” it said in response to queries from the Irish media.

The great Irish whiskey growth and challenges

 

There are 28 new Irish whiskey distilleries either proposed or already underway. Insiders estimate half of them won’t make it to fruition. So is craft whiskey Ireland’s next bubble?

Sarah McCabe spoke to Jack Teeling, David Raethorn and Mark Reynier – three distillers who are making it work – about one of the world’s oldest and most complicated businesses and the challenges facing the Irish industry’s newcomers.

Whiskey distilleries are popping up around the country like mushrooms after rain.

Ten years ago the country had no craft industry to speak of; now there are 28 new distilleries under way.

Forget house prices or Bitcoin. Are whiskey start-ups Ireland’s newest bubble? The Irish Whiskey Association doesn’t think so.

“The potential is massive when we compare Ireland to Scotland, with over 130 Scottish distilleries in operation, bringing investment and employment into rural areas,” says Irish Whiskey Association chief executive Miriam Mooney. Exports sales will double by 2020 and double again by 2030, the organisation predicts.

Insiders warn the road is rockier than it seems.

“It is an easy business to romanticise – old product, old methods, old buildings – but the reality is that you are dealing with high entry level costs, a difficult route to market, cash flow challenges, and not enough domestic demand. This whiskey won’t be soaked up by Ireland,” says Mark Reynier. “I can understand the cheerleading – but we need to be more realistic.”

Reynier is one of Scotch whisky’s most successful exports. Scotland’s industry is the envy of the world, far outselling its Irish neighbour. Reynier is the former chief executive of Bruichladdich, which was bought by Remy Cointreau for £58m in 2012.

Last year he made the move to Ireland, buying the old Guinness brewery in Waterford. He is turning it into a whiskey distillery. It will produce small-batch whiskeys brewed from barley that can be traced back to individual farms. Ireland has the finest barley in the world, Reynier says. Trials will begin at the end of November, a year after he bought the site.

“The activity and support for the sector is very encouraging,” he says. “But this sudden perception that Ireland has a very successful whiskey industry? It is a fallacy. You still have three companies producing most of the product.”

Jack Teeling says much the same. He and brother Stephen are the founders of the eponymous Teeling Whiskey Company – the success story that many of the other distilleries in the works today seek to emulate.

Of the 28 new distilleries in the works, Jack estimates that half will actually make it into production.”Looking back at the projects that were all being announced when we got started in 2013, a lot of them were not completed… I’m not sure how a lot of guys are going to scale.

It costs a minimum of between €5m and €10m to build a distillery and a new brand, he estimates. “Building out your stocks is so capital intensive”.

Whiskey is in Jack’s blood; in 1987 his father John founded Cooley, the first independent Irish distiller in 100 years, breaking apart an industry monopolised by Irish Distillers.

The brothers helped to build up Cooley up before its sale to Beam for €70m. They founded Teeling in 2013, based at a state-of-the-art new distillery in Dublin 8. Their whiskey has won more than 60 international awards, is sold around Ireland and in 40 export markets.

Their father stayed in the game after Cooley too; John now operates the biggest industrial producer in the country, supplying unbranded stocks to other companies.

The Irish whiskey business is long and distinguished. The spirit has been distilled here since the sixth century. It developed a reputation as a superior product and by the 17th century was in demand around the globe.

By 1800, James Power had already founded John’s Lane Distillery and John Jameson had bought into the Bow Street Distillery, both situated in Dublin.

At the industry’s height in the mid-19th century there were 88 licensed distilleries – and hundreds more unlicensed facilities – producing 12m nine-litre cases annually, making Irish whiskey the largest selling spirits category in the world at that time.

Decline began in the early 1900s. The industry was hit with the War of Independence, Prohibition in the US (its largest export market) and a Commonwealth taxation policy that locked it out of those markets.

Meanwhile, Scotch whisky was on the march. Distillers such as Johnnie Walker and Teachers were employing new blending techniques that appealed to the palates of the day and embracing the use of Coffey stills (a process which allows for a continuous uninterrupted distillation process).

Scottish distillers were also not afraid to use bootleggers to get their product into America.

The number of Irish distilleries had dwindled to just five by the mid 1950s. In order to survive, the remaining distillers in the Republic (Jameson, Powers and the Cork Distilleries Company) merged in 1966 to form Irish Distillers. Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey became the flagship brand and the group slowly began to rebuild export sales. For more than 30 years Jameson enjoyed almost a complete monopoly in the category.

Then in 1987 businessman John Teeling purchased Ceimici Teo (which produced potato alcohol) and converted it into Cooley. This first independent distillery in a century – which revived many historic Irish brands and distilling techniques and was soon winning awards – was founded in the same year that Irish Distillers was purchased by Pernod Ricard.

The French alcohol giant had seen the potential of the resurgent Irish category and opened up distribution opportunities for Jameson around the world. Growth began in earnest.

Ireland’s trademark is pot still whiskey, made from a mixed mash containing both malted and unmalted barley, because historically the government levied higher taxes on malted whiskeys than on unmalted. It is traditionally distilled three times, whereas Scotch whisky is only distilled twice.

At each stage of distillation, the output from the first and last hour are discarded because the best tasting product happens midway through the process.

Very luxury brands, like Macallan, only use 16pc of the product produced by the distillation process; in theory, the smaller the cut, the smoother the whiskey.

One of the main contributors to the expense of distilling Irish whiskey is the fact that it has protected geographical status, like Greek feta or Parma ham, meaning it is highly regulated. The product must be aged for a minimum of three years before it can be sold. Many new brands, like Teelings, bought in stock from other producers and put their own stamp on the blend to get the brand going while waiting for their own whiskey to mature.

It is also closely watched from a tax point of view – excise duty must be paid even on stock that is stolen.

“My worry is that the sector could become over-regulated” says Teeling.

“The most interesting things in whiskey are happening in the US where the sector is less regulated; there is no three-year ageing requirement, for example. People there are trying new things – rye whiskey, craft stuff, new techniques.”

As it matures, whiskey literally disappears into thin air – because it is aged in porous wood barrels. “After 10 years you have lost a quarter of your volume, literally into thin air,” explains David Raethorne. “A barrel of 30-year-old whiskey contains only a fraction of what it started out with – that is why it is so expensive.”

That means deep pockets are required to get it right. Raethorne looks like he’s getting there. The healthcare software entrepreneur is building an ambitious €30m distillery project on the site of an old video cassette factory beside Hazelwood House in Sligo.

The historically significant house is located in the middle of Yeats country (you might recall the Yeats line “I went down to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head.”) It will produce a single malt targeted at the premium end of the market. Raethorne also intends to reopen the house for whiskey tasting and historical tours.

The aristocratic home which dates from 1720 was designed for the Wynn family by Richard Casells, the architect of Leinster House and parts of Trinity College. It was the first building he designed in Ireland.

Art patron Raethorne and his wife Sue have also begun hosting art exhibitions in the cavernous factory.

Raethorne agrees that probably only about half of the distilleries currently in the planning stage will make it into production.

“In some cases they will be used to make other spirits,” he says. “You can make gin, vodka and poitin using the same equipment and sell that the next day. They may not all do whiskey, but I think they’ll do something else.”

But the doing is only the half of it. Once you have produced your liquor, you’ve still got to convince people to start drinking it.

“The hardest part isn’t making the product, it is selling it,” says Teeling. “It is not a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ There are challenges on all fronts.”

Whiskey cannot depend only on domestic demand, he explains.

“The domestic market is important for us – but it is not going to make or break us. There are US cities that drink a lot more Irish whiskey than the whole of Ireland does. But they are damn hard to crack.

“Craft beer, on the other hand, can survive relying solely on domestic business. The product is cheaper to produce and a lot of craft brewers get an excise tax rebate if they are below a certain size.

“The route to market is difficult for whiskey. There are only so many good distributors. I used my Cooley contacts so we have the same distributors in the UK, France, Russia and Australia.

“The distributor is key; you end up effectively co-investing in a new market. My advice is to be cuttingly realistic with your business model. What will justify people buying your whiskey? And you have to be different. We tried samey products at Cooley and it didn’t work.”

There are very few State supports for the industry. Bord Bia makes some contribution but Enterprise Ireland has never funded a whiskey manufacturer.

“In Scotland it’s far easier to get State supports if you are a Scottish SME than if you are a foreign multinational coming to the country. It is the opposite here,” says Teeling.

Reynier disputes this. “At Bruichladdich we didn’t get any help at all – the EU forbade subsidies at that time. I think that has been slightly relaxed since then, they have found ways around it – but to say that the Scottish industry gets lots of help from the government … it doesn’t.

“It is a very hard business to fund – full stop. It requires high-risk investing in a long-term product from sophisticated investors who understand the product. It is not right for corporates and it is not right for crowd-funding.

“That’s not to say there is a shortage of funding … There is a lot of private equity out there, it is just a question of coherently packaging the investment proposition and appeal to long-term investors.”

He also disputes the idea that whiskey distilleries who get into trouble, or who need cash flow at the beginning, can turn to vodka or gin distillation.

“That is not a short cut. Sure, it generates revenue. But it is an error to think of it as the panacea to cash flow. You end up with an expensive white spirit in a market that is already full of expensive white spirits. There is no shortcut to waiting for whiskey to mature.”

He wants more regulation for the Irish whiskey industry, not less.

“Credibility is what is needed. The industry has got to resist the temptation to reduce integrity.”

Life on our Earth emerged 270 million years before we previously thought

  

Life on Earth as we know it now emerged 270 million years before we previously thought?

That is life on other planets “could be more abundant”  New research now shows.

Life may have been on earth for much longer than we thought

Scientists previously thought life first appeared on Earth 3.83 billion years ago but exciting new findings suggest life started an entire 270 million years earlier.

This would also mean it was only 440 million years after the Earth formed – about 4.54 billion years ago.

Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously says Dr Mark Harrison

Researchers have suggested the rapidity of life springing up on Earth means life in the rest of the universe could be abundant.

The scientists came to their conclusion after analysing more than 10,000 zircons – heavy, durable stones used as imitation diamonds – which had formed from molten rock in Western Australia.

They are known as time capsules because they preserve materials from their environment as they form.Getty

The findings on Earth mean life on other planets is highly likely

Out of the thousands of zircons they studied they found 79 which looked like they might contain graphic, which is made of pure carbon which life depends on.

After studying them all they found a single zircon with graphite in – which turned out to be 4.1 billions years old.

The study’s co-author, Mark Harrison, a geochemist at the University of California (UCLA), told the Live Science website: “It was nerve-wracking to manipulate the sole tiny zircon fragment — about half the width of a hair on your head — containing the graphite inclusions.

“20-years-ago, this would have been heretical; finding evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago was shocking.

Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously but with the right ingredients, life seems to have formed very quickly.”

The geochemist explained the faster life arises on Earth, the more varied and possibly extreme the conditions are in which it can do so elsewhere and be sustained – meaning life on Mars or other planets is entirely possible.

The study also suggests early Earth may not have been the dry and desolate land it has long-believed to be.UCLA

Dr Mark Harrison (l) and Patrick Boehnke took out the study with Elizabeth Bell at UCLA

Dr Harrison’s findings suggest life existed before the Late Heavy Bombardment – the series of cosmic impacts on the inner solar system which formed giant craters on the moon 3.9 billion years ago.

UCLA geochemist, Patrick Boehnke, the studies co-author, said: “If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly.”

Dr Harrison added: “Nobody has offered a plausible alternative explanation for graphite of non-biological origin into a zircon.”

The pair, along with lead author Elizabeth Bell, at UCLA, said their next project is to analyse 1,000 ancient zircons all containing carbon, in a bid to further confirm their findings.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 25th January 2015

The generation game? Who are Ireland’s future political leaders

Who of today’s strong performers could become tomorrow’s political figureheads?

In politics, predictions made when there is no short-term prospect of a change of leader can become moot by the time that change occurs.

In the past it has been generally easier to predict leaders on the Fianna Fáil side. Micheál Martin, Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern, Albert Reynolds and Charles Haughey were all obvious contenders. In marked contrast, Enda Kenny would not have featured as a strong contender on the Fine Gael side in the late 1990s, but then circumstances conspired to elevate him to the leadership.

Which of today’s strong performers could become tomorrow’s political figureheads?

FINE GAEL? Leo Varadkar
One of the most capable performers in the Dáil, he has been a rising star since emerging on the scene a decade ago. He is very bright, ideologically driven, a clear thinker. He can absorb lots of information and then does what few politicians do well: makes clear decisions and shows good management skills. There’s a bit of spin to his straight-talker reputation. He is not collegial, which sometimes annoys colleagues. It’s impossible to say if his disclosure last weekend that he is gay will have an impact, positive or negative, on his prospects.

Simon Coveney. ?
He’s still in his early 40s but has been around for a long time. He’s not the world’s greatest debater and is very much a policy and details person. He has been a good Minister for Agriculture and thinks his way through positions – he has taken a contrarian stand, for example, saying “clean and green” Irish agriculture should get exemptions from climate-change action. Comes from a long-established Fine Gael family and would appeal to traditionalists. His comments this week about potentially sharing power with Fianna Fáil were quite damaging to him.

Frances Fitzgerald. ?
Unlike Varadkar and Coveney, Fitzgerald sided strongly with Enda Kenny in the last leadership battle. She was rewarded with a senior ministry and has been promoted to Justice. She’s also playing a key role in electoral strategy. Some colleagues criticise her for being slow to decide on issues such as publication of the Children and Family Relationships Bill. Others like her calm and steady style. It has certainly worked for her since she took over from Alan Shatter. The children’s-referendum campaign was not her finest hour, however, and the same-sexmarriage referendum will be a huge test.

LABOUR, Alan Kelly
Kelly could be the first leader of Labour based outside Dublin since Dick Spring, two decades ago. He trounced the opposition in the deputy-leadership contest and is the favourite to succeed Joan Burton when she steps down. He has a reputation as being assertive, although some colleagues would prefer a Labour leader who was subtler and more urbane.

Alex White,
If you are looking for subtle and urbane look no farther than the deputy for Dublin South. He contested the leadership and has loyal supporters but has not made the same ministerial mark as Kelly. It depends on what kind of leader Labour wants after the next election. White might be seen as a good compromise or caretaker choice. His main challenge is trying to retain his seat.

FIANNA FÁIL Michael McGrath
It’s very strange for the leader of Fianna Fáil and its finance spokesman to share a constituency. It is a sign of Michael McGrath’s strength that he managed to win a second seat for Fianna Fáil in Cork South Central in 2011. McGrath, an accountant, is very assured in his brief and a prodigiously hard worker. He has a quiet, self-confident style and is not given to dramatics. He’s the obvious frontrunner in Fianna Fáil. What might stand against him is that he’s quite conservative on moral questions.

Billy Kelleher
Fianna Fáil has a handful of bright TDs in their 30s and 40s, including Timmy Dooley, Niall Collins, Dara Calleary and Barry Cowen. But the popular Billy Kelleher has been very strong since taking over the health portfolio. Humorous and puckish, he can also bring gravitas to his Dáil performances when required, and has delivered well-researched critques of health policy. He is also more liberal than McGrath. He made an outstanding speech last year on abortion.

SINN FÉIN, Mary Lou McDonald
How long more will Gerry Adams remain as leader? How long is a piece of string? To the outside world Mary Lou McDonald seems the obvious choice to succeed him. She is articulate, intelligent and politically ruthless when necessary. She appeals to non-Sinn Féin voters in her roles as deputy leader and spokeswoman on public expenditure. But although her defence of Gerry Adams and her recent use of Dáil privilege to smear, without any evidence, former politicians as Ansbancher account holders may appeal to core supporters, they could dilute her appeal to prospective supporters.

Pearse Doherty,
He has mellowed a lot in the past few years. The first Sinn Féin politician to give credibility to the finance brief, he is an excellent debater and commands the portfolio very well. Doherty discounts any leadership ambition but is the closest rival to McDonald in the South. The two strongest northern contenders are John O’Dowd and Conor Murphy.

`REBOOT IRELAND’

Lucinda Creighton, There’s no doubt that Lucinda Creighton will lead her new party – whatever they decide to call themselves – into the next Dáil and possibly into government. She is outspoken and very ideological and would have been seen as a potential future leader if she had stayed in Fine Gael. The new party will be a big gamble for Creighton: the weight of history is against smaller parties surviving beyond the medium term. At present it seems she has burned her bridges with Fine Gael, but, like her political forebear in Connacht James Dillon, she may eventually return to the fold.

INDEPENDENT ALLIANCE, Shane Ross?
Shane Ross, who is as opportunistic as he is talented, is likely to lead a group of Independents into the next Dáil and possibly into the next government. Ross does passion and outrage better than most Irish politicians and is astute when it comes to choosing his campaigns. A brilliant speaker, he also has a knack of leaving his past behind. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Michael Fingleton and Anglo Irish Bank in the past. Ross may be a maverick but as a former stockbroker and senior journalist with the Independent group he is seen very much as an establishment figure. If he and his colleagues enter government he would be the obvious contender for the most senior ministerial portfolio on offer.

NEW LEFT ALLIANCE, Richard Boyd-Barrett and Paul Murphy?
It’s unlikely that any alliance that comes out of smaller parties and groups will itself become a party in the short term. So the question of a leader may be moot. That might not be a good tactic, as the lack of a leadership figure may have contributed to the demise of the United Left Alliance. If there is a new alliance the most obvious contenders to lead it would be Richard Boyd-Barrett and Paul Murphy. They are similar in terms of style and presentation – down to the megaphones that both carry in the boots of their cars. Boyd-Barrett, who represents People Before Profit in Dún Laoghaire, has been a very effective TD and brought a lot of visibility to the street campaigns and protest favoured by the militant left. Murphy is a recent arrival but is committed and well informed. He got a savaging from opponents for the water-charge protest against Joan Burton, but the controversy did him little harm among his supporters.

Aer Lingus ‘to accept’ bid from British Airways owner IAG

Irish airline Aer Lingus is set to approve a new takeover bid by British Airways owner IAG, 

IAG, which also controls Iberia in Spain, has submitted a fresh bid – which could be approved next week – of around €2.50 (£1.87) per share.

The deal – which values the carrier at about €1.3bn (£971m) – could face political resistance because the Irish government still owns 25% of the firm.

The Irish carrier rebuffed two bids from IAG last year.

By acquiring Aer Lingus, IAG would gain more take-off and landing slots at Heathrow – valued at around £30m per pair – allowing it to operate more flights.

Senior Gardaí broke rules on penalty points

  

The Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald insists there is no longer “any hiding place” for Gardaí who cancel penalty points.

She was commenting after it emerged an internal Garda report found six senior Gardaí cancelled penalty points in breach of policy after the Garda Commissioner ordered that the practice should cease.

These included a number of cases where the officers cancelled points outside their area.

The report, which will be seen by the Cabinet next week, examined allegations made by a Garda whistleblower.

Sergeant Maurice McCabe claimed last September that abuse of the penalty point system was continuing despite efforts by senior Garda management to clamp down on questionable practices.

Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan introduced a new policy last June that penalty points could only be cancelled centrally. Despite this, some 54 breaches later took place.

The report revealed that in nine cases, six superintendents or acting-superintendents cancelled penalty points.

This was done either in breach of the policy or outside their own district.

The incidents occurred despite the fact officers had previously been disciplined over cancellations and the issuing of firm directions by Commissioner O’Sullivan and her predecessor, Martin Callinan.

The report also revealed that at least two gardaí had points cancelled in questionable circumstances and one superintendent cancelled penalty points four times without signing the forms properly.

Another garda had penalty points cancelled a total of six times, but his previous history was never checked.

Punishment

The cases are being forwarded to the Garda Ombudsman, although a number of officers involved will escape punishment as they have already retired.

Ms Fitzgerald said the report represented “a cultural shift” for the force.

“I welcome it in terms of the detail that is in it, the monitoring that it represents and the evaluation of the system both before and after June,” she said.

“It is a cultural shift. There is no hiding place for anyone.”

The establishment of a new Garda unit with powers to verify reasons for cancellations is one of 20 recommendations in the report.

Mary Robinson says 2015 will be a crucial year for climate change

 

UN Special Envoy says greater urgency needed to tackle issue, Former President and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change Mary Robinson.

UN Special Envoy for Climate Change Mary Robinson has said that 2015 will be a crucial year for climate change.

She said December’s UN conference in Paris will offer an opportunity to set binding climate targets that will be critical the world’s development goals.

The World Economic Forum in Davos, the former President of Ireland said that there needed to be a greater urgency around tackling climate change this year.

“I follow the science very closely. We have very little time left. We are the last generation to be able to do something about climate, and the first generation to understand how serious it is.”

Mrs Robinson participated in a private climate change discussion forum in Davos on Friday alongside businessman Richard Branson and other senior business and civic society leaders. The forum was organised by Bteam, a non-profit initiative which brings together business leaders with a commitment to sustainable development and climate change targets.

Speaking following the meeting, Mrs Robinson said that Davos offered a good opportunity to highlight climate and development issues.

“Davos brings together business leaders, political leaders, civil society leaders and faith leaders,” she said. “Unusually in this meeting there was a common purpose. The business leaders are going to share what they’re doing, the civic society leaders are going to share their ideas and we’re going to cross-message.”

Asked about the role business could play in the fight against climate change, Mrs Robinson, who chairs the Mary Robinson Foundation- Climate Justice centre, said that there was already significant buy-in from the business community.

“I think there are a very significant number of business leaders who are way ahead of politicians at the moment in understanding the climate issue, and understanding that you can’t do business in a climate-conflicted world and that’s the way they see it.”

Mrs. Robinson also pointed out that the session had been co-chaired by three women – herself, Christiana Figuerafrom Costa Rica, who is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chang and Nigerian-born Amina J Mohammed, the special advisor to the UN Secretary general on post-2015 development goals. “Women are still not very present in Davos so I think we sent a good signa,” she said.

Climate change has emerged as a major theme on the agenda of the World Economic Forum in Davos in recent years, thanks to the participation of high-profile campaigners such as former US vice-president Al Gore and Matt Damon, who last year addressed the forum on the challenges surrounding the provision of clean water globally.

Speaking at a session on Saturday, Mexican chemist Mario Molina – who won the Nobel Prize for his research on the impact of CFC’s on the ozone layer – said scientists needed to do more to communicate the threat of climate change. Mr Molina also said that corporates should be fined for their emissions.

Tackling climate change also featured in the key-note speech from French president Francois Hollande, who will host the global environment conference at the end of the year. He urged business leaders to contribute to a fund to fight climate change on Friday.

Outlining the impact of increasing CO2 levels on temperature in a key-note address, climate change campaigner and former US vice-president Al Gore, said the average global temperature has increased dramatically in the last decade, giving rise to extreme weather events. “The cumulative amount of man- made global warming pollution now in the atmosphere traps as much extra heat energy every day that would be relied by 400,000 Hiroshima class atomic weapons going off every day,” he said.

He said that 14 of the 15 hottest years measured had been in the first 14 years of the 21st century, with 2014 being the hottest year on record.

New Horizons probe eyes Pluto for a historic encounter

  

When it gets to Pluto, the New Horizons probe will have a packed schedule of observations

A Nasa probe is to start photographing the icy world of Pluto, to prepare itself for a historic encounter in July.

The New Horizons spacecraft has travelled 5bn km (3bn miles) over nine years to get near the dwarf planet.

And with 200m km still to go, its images of Pluto will show only a speck of light against the stars.

But the data will be critical in helping to align the probe properly for what will be just a fleeting fly-by.

Pluto will be photographed repeatedly during the approach, to determine the probe’s position relative to the dwarf planet, explained Mark Holdridge, from the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) in Baltimore.

“We then perform a number of correction manoeuvres to realign our trajectory with the reference trajectory, thus ensuring we hit our aim point to travel through the Pluto system,” he said.

Any initial correction is likely to be made in March.

The Pluto system has five known moons. Others may be discovered in the coming months

When New Horizons arrives at Pluto it will be moving so fast – at almost 14km/s – that going into orbit around the distant world is impossible; it must barrel straight through instead.

One complication is that the seven different instruments aboard the spacecraft need to work at different distances to get their data, and so the team has constructed a very elaborate observation schedule for them all.

But what this means is that very precise timing will be required to make sure the flyby runs smoothly.

The closest approach to Pluto is set for around 11:50 GMT on 14 July – at a miss distance of roughly 13,695km from the surface.

Mission planners want the exact timings nailed to within 100 seconds. New Horizons will know then where and when to point the instruments.

Dwarf Planet Pluto – Demoted but undiminished

Hubble’s best is a synthetic composite of multiple views. What are those shapes?

For people who grew up with the idea that there were “nine planets”, this is the moment they get to complete the set.

Robotic probes have been to all the others, even the distant Uranus and Neptune. Pluto is the last of the “classical nine” to receive a visit.

Of course, this 2,300km-wide ice-covered rock was demoted in 2006 to the status of mere “dwarf planet”, but scientists say that should not dull our enthusiasm.

The dwarfs are the most numerous planetary class in the Solar System, and Nasa’s New Horizons probe is one of the first opportunities to study an example up close.

The first set of navigation pictures may not be anything special, but by May, the probe will be returning views of Pluto that are better than anything from Hubble. Come July, the view should be spectacular, said Andy Cheng, the principal investigator on the probe’s main camera, which is called LORRI.

As Rebecca Morelle reports, even the Hubble Space Telescope could only capture blurry images of Pluto

“The most recent surprise we had was with the Rosetta mission. Hubble had made a ‘shape model’ of Comet 67P but no-one expected it to look like a rubber duckie,” he told BBC News. “I am more than hopeful that we will get similar surprises with New Horizons – it’s what we should expect.”

Those surprises could include yet more moons (five are currently known) and possibly even rings like those seen around some of the bigger planets.

Pluto is currently 5bn km from Earth. It has taken New Horizons more than nine years to get to the dwarf’s doorstep.

Once the flyby is complete, the probe will be targeted at an even more distant object in the Kuiper Belt – the name given to the icy domain beyond the main planets. Scientists think this region of space may contain many thousands of Pluto-like objects, some of which may even rival Mars and Earth in size.

The first optical navigation images should be back on Earth by Tuesday at the latest. They will show Pluto with its largest moon, Charon.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 11th December 2014

Dead babies placed in coffins of unrelated adults until ’80s, HSE says

 

Scale of ‘tandem burial’ practice and how it developed unknown

The Health Service Executive (HSE)has said the practice of “tandem burials” in which the bodies of dead infants were placed in the coffins of unrelated adults was historical but that it did not know precisely the scale of the practice or how it developed in the first place.

However it accepted the practice was likely to have caused “much distress and upset for families both at that time and now”.

The HSE said from the limited information available, it understood that the practice of tandem burials ceased in the early 1980s.

It said it was important to note that the practice did not occur in HSE hospitals today.

The health authority said it was unclear why the practice of tandem burials had evolved.

“The scale of the practice is difficult to determine due to the changed landscape of all healthcare facilities, including maternity hospitals, from that time to today.”

“Furthermore, the record-keeping for such practices was not sufficiently comprehensive in order to allow a full picture in relation to the practice to be established.”

HSE director general Tony O’Brien briefed the Department of Health on the practice at the end of August. This followed enquiries made to the HSE over the summer by a family about deceased relatives.

Mr O’Brien said in a letter to then secretary general of the Department of Health Ambrose McLoughlin it was not certain that the families of both of the deceased babies and adults would always have been informed of the practice.

It occurred in “exceptional circumstances” in the case of a newborn baby who died in hospital and where the other options for burial, in a hospital or religious plot, “were not selected”.

The remains of the baby would then be placed in a coffin of a deceased adult.

The letter, which was obtained by RTÉ under the Freedom of Information Act said: “Our understanding is that the remains would have been placed with adult remains and that ideally the awareness and understanding of both families involved would have been sought, though this is not guaranteed.”

Mr O’Brien stated that the practice had been confirmed by current hospital staff, particularly mortuary staff, who were employed during the period in question.

Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher said the revelations raised a number of questions about certain practices in hospitals.

“The information, while vague, will be very distressing for families who may have placed their faith in their local hospital to bury their loved one.”

“We need to establish what hospitals were carrying out this practice, how long did it go on for, and were family members of both deceased notified of the burial procedure. The HSE must be up-front and honest about these issues and ensure that adequate support measures are put in place for all of the families affected.”

Irish economy ekes out growth in third quarter, on track for strong 2014

  

Ireland’s economy grew just 0.1% in the third quarter as an austerity-weary public appeared to refrain from spending, but the country is still set to be the fastest-growing economy in Europe this year, data showed on Thursday.

That was weaker than some analysts expected, but a surge in gross domestic product in the first six months of the year means little if any quarter-on-quarter growth is now needed to meet government projections for GDP to expand almost 5% this year.

“Today’s data confirm the economy has expanded at a rapid pace in 2014 – although not quite as strong as the exceptional breakneck 6% plus some had expected,” said Conall Mac Coille, chief economist at Davy Stockbrokers.

“This confirms we are on course to be the fastest economy in Europe,” said Mac Coille.

Despite the low quarter-on-quarter figure, the economy grew 3.5% compared with the same quarter last year, the data showed. After exiting its EU/IMF bailout last year, Ireland has been outperforming the rest of the euro zone, where growth is faltering.

It was the third straight period of quarterly growth following an expansion of 1.1% from April to June that saw GDP rise a hefty 7.3% year-on-year, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said on Thursday, revising the figures down a touch.

The government’s austerity drive has helped get the economy back on track, but it has also tested the public’s patience. Tens of thousands of people marched on parliament on Wednesday to protest against the final round of government measures, frustrated at feeling no effect of the recovery they are hearing so much about.

The uneven nature of the recovery was demonstrated in a breakdown of the figures, which showed personal consumption was flat year-on-year having contracted in the second quarter, while exports and investment soared.

A number of economists said the data was surprising given that retail sales volumes rose by almost 5% in the third quarter and consumer confidence hit a seven-year high.

Thursday’s data means the economy has grown 4.9% year-on-year so far this year, the CSO said, a figure finance minister Michael Noonan said kept the government on track to meet its 2014 targets.

The better-than-expected growth in the first half has allowed the government to cut income tax from next month, the first reversal of the austerity drive that began in 2008 and intensified under the bailout programme that Ireland completed last year.

The government wants to bring in further tax cuts in a year’s time, as protests grow 15 months ahead of a parliamentary election. But it will need continued momentum in the economy to do so.

Emergency legislation to be rushed through to close penalty points loophole

 

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe.

TRANSPORT Minister Paschal Donohoe is to rush through emergency legislation to close a penalty points loophole.

The Fine Gael politician announced today that the measures are required to address a “technical issue” in the law governing the system.

“Amending legislation is being drafted to ensure that there will be no interruption to the enforcement of road traffic offences under the penalty points system,” the minister said.

“This legislation will be published tomorrow and progressed through the Oireachtas next week. In the continued interest of road safety, I will not be making further comment until the publication of the legislation, after which point I will make a full statement,” he added.

The loophole has given rise to fears that ten of thousands of penalty points issued in recent months will be rescinded.

The announcement today came after formal advice was received by Attorney General Maire Whelan.

Pill to curb obesity a step closer

  

Dr Gardiner suggested that in humans it might be possible to reduce cravings for glucose by altering one’s diet and a drug acting on this system could potentially prevent obesity.

Scientists have made a significant start towards creating an obesity pill. A team of researchers from Imperial College London have discovered the exact brain mechanism that drives our appetite for foods rich in glucose and could lead to treatments for obesity. Glucose is a component of carbohydrates, and the main energy source used by brain cells.

By studying rats, the team identified a mechanism that appears to sense how much glucose is reaching the brain, and prompts animals to seek more if it detects a shortfall. The researchers believe it may play a role in driving our preference for sweet and starchy foods.

Dr. James Gardiner from Imperial’s department of medicine who led the study, said: “Our brains rely heavily on glucose for energy. It’s clearly a very important nutrient, but in our evolutionary past it would have been hard to come by. So we have a deep-rooted preference for glucose-rich foods and seek them out.”

The researchers hypothesised that an enzyme called glucokinase might play a role in driving our desire for glucose. Glucokinase is involved in sensing glucose in the liver and pancreas. It is present in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that regulates a variety of essential functions including food intake, but its exact role was unclear.

“This is the first time anyone has discovered a system in the brain that responds to a specific nutrient, rather than energy intake in general. It suggests that when you’re thinking about diet, you have to think about different nutrients, not just count calories,” Dr Gardiner said.

Dr Gardiner suggested that in humans it might be possible to reduce cravings for glucose by altering one’s diet and a drug acting on this system could potentially prevent obesity.

Could this BEE HIVE SEALANT be the cure for baldness?

Insects may answer to hair growth problem

  

Hair today gone tomorrow: Baldy has no use for a brush.

A compound bees use to repair their hives can boost hair growth in a buzzing discovery for bald people.

The natural sealant – called propolis – was tested on mice that had been shaved or waxed, and experts today revealed those that had the treatment re-grew their fur faster than those that did not.

Bees use the substance to seal small gaps in their hives, but now the scientists say the find could help develop new hair loss therapies.

The experts – headed by Dr Ken Kobayashi, of Hokkaido University in Japan – said after propolis was applied, the number of special cells involved in growing hair increased.

They said growth “occurred without any detectable abnormalities in the shape of the follicles”.

Despite using shaved mice rather than those unable to grow fur, the researchers – whose findings are published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry – expect it could also apply to baldness.

They say hair loss often results from inflammation, and propolis contains anti-inflammatory properties.

Crocodiles are closely related to our birds

  

If you had to think of an animal most closely related to birds, perhaps crocodiles would not be your first choice.

But the two are related, according to new research, although crocodiles are apparently ‘stuck in the past’.

Both share a common ancestor that lived about 240 million years ago and also gave rise to the dinosaurs.

But crocodilians – that’s the group which includes crocodiles, caimans, alligators and gharials – have evolved at a slower rate.

In fact, new genome, or genetic code, studies have revealed their unusually slow rate of genetic evolution.

The unspeedy progress of the reptiles has helped scientists build up a genetic picture of the “archosaurs” which pre-dated dinosaurs, pterosaurs, birds and crocodilians.

Fast in life, but not so quick with evolution

US lead scientist Dr Richard Green, from the University of California at Santa Cruz, said: “The ticking of the molecular clock in the crocodilians is much slower than in other lineages we’re used to looking at, like mammals, which means we can see back into their past more cleanly.

“We know from fossils that the body plan of crocs has remained largely unchanged for millions of years.”

The team sequenced the genomes, or genetic blueprints, of three crocodilian species, the American alligator, the saltwater crocodile, and the Indian gharial.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, indicates that the ancestor of all archosaurs had an extremely slow rate of molecular evolution, which speeded up in the bird lineage.

After the meteor strike thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, surviving birds experienced a rapid burst of evolution.

This led to nearly all the species of birds seen on Earth today, numbering more than 10,000.

There’s more than 10,000 types of birds in the world

In related studies, also reported in Science, researchers compared the genomes of 48 bird species selected from all major avian groups and including the woodpecker, owl, penguin, hummingbird and flamingo.

Among other findings, they discovered that birdsong evolved independently at least twice.

Birds were also found to have lost their teeth about 116 million years ago, when the dinosaurs still ruled.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday-Sunday 6th & 7th December 2014

Joan Burton rules out paying Anglo junior bondholders

 

Tánaiste Burton says Irish people are ‘well ahead’ in queue to be repaid money from the failed bank. The Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton stated.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has said she will not stand over a payout to junior bondholders of Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Burton also said the Irish people are “well ahead” in the queue to be repaid money from the failed bank.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Dáil earlier this week that if the junior bondholders in Anglo “submit a claim and it be found to be valid, then they will legally be entitled to a dividend provided there are sufficient funds available”.

Mr Noonan also said it is not clear if the junior bondholders will pursue claims of €280 million and “if there will be any money left over when other unsecured creditors are paid”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics today, Ms Burton said such repayments are “completely unlikely to happen”.

“Because in the queue, ahead of those junior bondholders, well ahead are the Irish people in terms of all of the money that that failed bank and that disastrous decision by Fianna Fáil to have the bank guarantee,” Ms Burton said.

When asked if she would stand over junior bondholders being repaid, Ms Burton replied: “No. Absolutely not.

“And I don’t see any way in which it is going to happen because first of all the people of Ireland have to be repaid all that they have put into those entities.”

Garda had his penalty points wiped six times in four years

 

Sixth set of penalty points wiped in June after a new system came into force to curb abuses

The sixth set of points were cancelled by a designated officer in the Garda traffic section.

A Garda officer had penalty points wiped for a sixth time after a new system was introduced in June by the Garda Commissioner to tighten up abuses of the system, an internal audit has discovered.

The embarrassing discovery was made last month after the garda whistleblower, Maurice McCabe, who campaigned against penalty points abuses, was seconded onto the Professional Standards Committee.

The audit committee examined around 600 motorists who had penalty points wiped on multiple occasions, including a number of Gardai.

One particular garda had penalty points cancelled on six different occasions, most recently in June, after the new rules were introduced. The Garda got the points for speeding while he was on his way to work – the sixth time that he accumulated penalty points in four years, all of which were wiped.

It is understood the Garda’s file was examined by the audit committee and it emerged that the sixth set of points were cancelled by a designated officer in the Garda traffic section.

The same officer later briefed the audit committee on the penalty points system at one of its first meetings.

One source said while “concerns” were raised, it wasn’t a “massive issue” and the officer “wasn’t party to any investigation” of the wiping of the Garda’s penalty points record.

The arda had penalty points wiped on six occasions under a special “statutory exemption” that allows Gardai on duty to be excluded. The file on the case subsequently showed that he was caught speeding while returning to work and his penalty points were cancelled under statutory exemption in June.

The audit is being conducted by the Professional Standards Committee of An Garda Siochana.

Sgt McCabe’s campaign to highlight how senior officers were abusing their discretion by cancelling penalty points for friends and family seriously embarrassed the force and led to a complete overhaul of the system in June.

Two months after the new rules were introduced, Sgt McCabe revealed that some officers caught speeding in their own cars were continuing to get penalty points quashed by claiming that they were using the cars for official Garda business. The new Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, set up an audit and invited Sgt McCabe to take part. The committee is expected to report to the Garda Commissioner later this week.

The audit report is understood to have made 30 findings, including a suggested change in the rules, so Gardai who claim that they got penalty points while in the line of duty must be able to refer to the incident they were attending to on the Pulse System, in order to have their points wiped.

The Commissioner may refer some cases involving members of the force to the Garda watchdog, GSOC.

In total, the audit committee examined almost 600 cases in which penalty points were quashed last year and this year, and sought the background files and paperwork on each from the Garda stations involved. It also found that of 200 motorists who got penalty points wiped by claiming a “medical emergency”, not one produced valid and up-to-date supporting paper work, such as doctor’s certificates or receipts.

Other motorists avoided penalty points by returning summonses to the garda traffic unit as “address unknown”. On investigation, however, the audit found that in many cases the address was valid.

A Garda spokesman said: “The input into the investigation by Professional Standards from the member who brought forward the allegations has been beneficial. The report of the investigation is nearing completion and has been productive and informative.”

A copy of the audit will also be sent to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who has promised to publish it.

Musicians and US campaigners give support to Irish anti-water charges campaign

 

‘No Privatisation, Irish Water, Irish Nation’ protest song launched ahead of December 10th march

Brendan Ogle (centre) with (from left) Demeeko Williams, Shamayim Harris, Makita Taylor, and Justin Wedes, of Detroit Water Brigade , at the Right2Water press conference in Dublin.

Opposition to water charges took on fresh cultural and international dimensions at the weekend as US campaigners and trad musicians joined the fray.

In advance of Wednesday’s proposed mass rally against water charges in Dublin, the Right 2Water Campaign introduced fellow campaigners from Detroit in the USA.

Also calling for a mass mobilisation against the charges are a group of west of Ireland musicians whose video has caught the attention of tens of thousands of people online.

The musicians – including Mayo fiddler Aindrias de Staic, his brother Eamon de Staic, Donal Gibbons and Liam Donoghue – put up the video of their ballad, No Privatisation, Irish Water, Irish Nation, on YouTube in support of the Irish Water protesters.

The catchy tune targets the Government with lyrics such as “Enda Kenny – not a penny – we won’t pay at all because the corruption of your policies is worse than Fianna Fáil”.

The video, recorded live in the kitchen of traditional music venue Campbell’s Tavern, near Headford in Co Galway, features many well known figures from the trad-music scene.

Aindrias de Staic said many people played on different nights including Noelie McDonald, Dave Clancy, Fabian Joyce, Joe Fury, William Merrigan and Liam Ivory and others, who operate under the name of the Rolling Tav Revue.

“It relates to broad discontent” said Mr de Staic while fellow musician Donal Gibbons said “the message is that we want to see a referendum on privatisation” of Irish water.

The video, edited by Philip Noone ends with a reminder of Wednesday’s march to Dáil Éireann. On Sunday the video was attracting several hundred hits per hour as news of its appearance on YouTube spread.

In Dublin, members of the Detroit Water Brigade held a press conference to show solidarity and share their experience of opposition to charges.

Director of advocacy with the campaign group Demeeko Williams quoted the United Nations to the effect that water should be “accessible and affordable”. He said they never asked for free water.

“We ask for fairness, we ask for accountability”.

Mr Williams said what was required from the protesters was “a spiritual strategy”, one that would allow people everywhere to “learn together and stay together”.

Fellow campaigner Justin Wetes outlined the struggle against water charges in Detroit saying that while privatisation was banned, bonds had been sold to the private sector to the extent that 46 percent of the utility’s revenue now went to pay back interest on those bonds.

Brendan Ogle of Right2Water said it accepted that clean water was not produced for free. But he said it was already paid for through taxes and people would not pay for it twice.

The anti-water charges protests continue across the country with the organisers calling for a nationwide boycott of the charges and for support for the rally against charges in Dublin.

Videos have also been posted on Facebook showing the kinds of arguments which have been successful in preventing crews acting for Irish Water from entering housing estates to install meters.

In one such incident on Facebook protesters in Co Donegal are shown asking crews acting for Irish Water for copies of their permit to dig, along with requests for copies of the crew’s proposed traffic management plan.

In this case the protesters also maintained that as the housing estate had not been taken in charge by the county council, it was private property and the crew was asked to leave.

Going to bed early can positively impact your thinking

  

Sleep is a critical part when it comes to thenormal functioning of the human bodyand many other organisms in the animal kingdom. Not only does our metabolism slow down, conserving energy, but it is also critical in the regeneration of cells in our body.

What may be the most critical is the fact that scientists have linked sleep to learning and fixation of memories in the brain, among some other nervous functions, underlining its importance further. Sleep deprivation is not only harmful to the human body; it has even been used as a form of torture.

It doesn’t take a team of scientists for anyone to realize that falling behind on sleep or going to bed late is going to have a negative impact on your efficiency the following day. Lack of sufficient sleep causes confusion, drowsiness, low capacity for effort and concentration, and, in extreme cases, even hallucinations and suddenly falling asleep during tasks. Scientists at the Binghamton University in the US have determined that going to bed late can bring yet another bad effect: depression and negative thoughts.

During a study carried out on students of the University, those that declared themselves to be night owls or generally going to bed late have also reported having more negative thoughts, more bad moods and worries about the future. Also, those with erratic sleep behaviors have reported more of the same symptoms: ruminating negative feelings, over-thinking bad events and generally feeling “down”.

On the contrary, those that had a well-established sleep schedule, going to bed early and allowing themselves to sleep enough (around 8 hours a night) were generally found to be more positive and optimistic in their thoughts in the absence of any outside influences.

One thing you should remember is that sleep is cumulative. What this means is that if you fall behind on sleep during one night because you’re busy with school or work, you will have a sleep “debt” that your body has to cover. Until you do, you might feel tired and unable to concentrate. So, while it may not be possible to go to sleep as the sun goes down every day, try to catch up on lost sleep when you have the chance and you’ll definitely end up feeling much better!

The Moon’s Previously Stronger Magnetic Field As Compared To Earth

   

While the moon has no global magnetic field now, it did so a few billion years ago. This was found out after the Apollo missions carried moon rock and studied it. The scientists are still confused as to why the moon had a strong magnetic field and the time period it ended.

Prior to this, the scientists were not aware as to whether this magnetic field was generated by the moon itself or not. However, new research has been conducted since 6 years to discover that there might have been a magnetic core of the moon itself. The moon rock analysis did not find any evidence with regards to the cosmic impacts. This is another explanation of the magnetization.

The researchers have said that there is an electrical movement of the planets that conduct fluids around them. This movement helps to generate the magnetic fields. The inner structure of the moon has puzzled the scientists greatly, and they say that if the internal dynamo of the moon is similar, then they would understand the situation in a better manner.

The current magnetic field of the Earth is 50 micoteslas. Earlier on, the moon might have had a magnetic field that was 70 microteslas or more. The researchers are confused as to how the magnetic field of the moon could be so strong despite a smaller core.

Studying the magnetic fields of the planets has revealed that the convection of the fluids conducted electronically might have powered this. However, considering the size of the core of our moon, such a lunar dynamo would have cooled instantly. An explanation of this could be the presence of radioactive material that helps in keeping it warmer.

Other theories also include the wobbling of the spin of the moon and the impacts of large asteroids. The wobbling might have resulted in constant motion of the core. Another theory is that of crystallization in the core of our planet. This movement might have been the reason the lunar dynamo was sustained.

We are still not aware as to when the production of moon’s magnetic field was stopped or why the variation in strength happened. Our understanding with regards to the lunar core is limited and thus scientists might take a while to figure out all of the answers.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday & Wednesday 29th & 30th July 2014

Ireland’s motorists face more penalty points for speeding from Friday

 

Drivers face increases in penalty points for certain offences from this Friday. Novice drivers must display ‘N’ plate under new rules

New drivers will have to display a special ‘N’ plate – indicating they are novices – for two years after they get a licence, under changes to the law announced today.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe also announced increases in the number of penalty points attaching to certain motoring offences, including an increase to three points from two for speeding.

The changes, under the Road Traffic Act 2014, take effect from this Friday, August 1st.

“From Friday, penalty points for speeding, holding a mobile phone while driving and not wearing a seat belt or not using child restraints will increase from two points to three, provided the fixed charge is paid within the stipulated period,” Mr Donohoe said.

For those who do not pay the fixed charge and are subsequently convicted in Court, the points will increase from four to five.

“As these offences are major contributory factors to road traffic collisions, increases in these areas are being introduced first. Further increases in penalty points for other road traffic offences will be introduced before the end of the year.”

The Minister said the increases he had signed into effect would impact on a number of areas which were “very serious” and which could have fatal consequences.

“The job of making our roads safer involves a wide range of measures, and the penalty points system has proven to be an important component in this process.

“ We have seen a culture change in recent years in attitudes to drink driving and I want to see the same change in attitude where speeding, using phones while driving and wearing seat belts are concerned.”

He said the measures would help to reinforce that change.

The new category of ‘novice’ driver also comes into effect on Friday.

Those who receive a first full licence from that date will be considered as novice drivers for their first two years.

They will be required to display an N-plate during that time.

“Under the terms of the Act, Novices will face disqualification from driving for six months if they reach seven penalty points, as opposed to the current 12,” the Minister said.

The seven-point limit will also apply to people who get their first learner permit on or after August 1st.

A person who is already a learner will remain on the 12-point limit while they are a learner and when they become a novice.

A person already in their first two years of a full licence before this Friday will not be required to display an N-plate and will not be subject to the seven-point limit.

Novice drivers, like learners, will be subject to lower alcohol limits and they may not act as accompanying drivers for learners while they are novice drivers.

Mr Donohoe said these were important road safety measures that formed part of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system.

He urged road users to exercise greater care on the roads.

“These new measures will put road safety at the top of people’s minds and, I hope, bring about a greater culture of compliance with our life saving rules of the roads.

“It must be remembered that the penalty points system is a preventative road safety measure. If you don’t want to get points on your licence or a fine, then don’t speed, don’t use your mobile phone while driving and always wear your seatbelt, ensuring others in the car, particularly children are wearing theirs too.”

A total of 19 people died on the State’s roads in August last year, according to official Garda figures. This compared to 12 in August 2012.

Last year saw a 17 per cent increase in road deaths to 190, after a steady decline from 279 deaths in 2008.

Ireland’s Live Register numbers down 8.5% year-on-year  ‘CSO figures show’

  

The majority of those on the Live Register are male, however that figure has been falling at a faster rate than female claimants

The number of people on the Live Register was 8.5% lower in July when compared to the same month of 2013, according to the Central Statistics Office.

There were 3,400 fewer claimants in July when compared to June, according to the CSO, bringing the total figure to 382,800 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

In July 2013 the same figure stood at 419,000.

As a result, the unemployment rate now stands at 11.5% – down 0.1% on last month’s figure and 0.6% lower than in January.

The majority of those on the Live Register – 53.4% – were categorised as short term claimants by the end of July, down slightly on the same month of last year.

During that time, there has been a 17% fall in the number of people claiming on the Live Register for a year or less, according to the CSO, while long-term claimants are 5.7% lower.

Meanwhile, the number of males on the Live Register has fallen by 10.7% in the year to July, while the number of females was 4.9% lower on an annual basis.

5 portions of Fruits and Vegetables a day can lower your risk of Death

 

An apple (or five) a day may do more than keep the doctor away

We all know the cliche “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but in recent years, many studies have taken that promise even further, linking the daily consumption of fruits and vegetables to a reduced risk of mortality—especially from heart disease and cancer.

In a review and analysis of such studies published in The BMJ, researchers from China and the U.S. found that indeed, consuming fruits and vegetables is correlated with a lower risk of death in some cases—but that the association is not consistent for all types of death.

The researchers looked at 16 studies, which included a total of 833,234 participants, 56,423 of whom died. In order to minimize bias, investigators took into account various differences in study design and quality, and analyzed subgroups to confirm that results did not vary significantly by location.

Consuming more fruits and vegetables was significantly associated with a reduced risk of death from most causes. The average risk of death from all causes was lowered by 5% for each additional daily serving of fruit and vegetables, and the risk for cardiovascular death was reduced by 4 percent.

Interestingly, researchers found that once you reach five portions of fruits and vegetables per day, more of the healthy foods will not further reduce the risk of death.

This contradicts another recent study published in The BMJ’s Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health that suggested seven or more daily portions of fruits and vegetables were linked to lowest risk of death. However, researchers said studies may differ in their classifications of fruits and vegetables, and there was room for error in how people reported their eating habits on surveys used.

Eating more fruits and vegetables was not appreciably associated with risk of death from cancer, according to the study. Researchers said more studies are needed to examine specific types of cancer and the role of different groups of fruit and vegetables.

HIQA updates new care standards for elderly people

  

The health safety body HIQA has drawn up new draft quality and safety standards for nursing homes and residential care settings for older people.

The standards are intended to replace the current standards drawn up five years ago, and which are used as the template for the HIQA inspection system for nursing homes and older persons’ care centres.

The new draft standards, HIQA says, take into account feedback from service providers and residents living in these centres, as well as the latest research evidence on optimal care.

The new standards cover areas such as service safety, food quality, privacy and dignity, and efficient governance of care centres.

  HIQA says he revised standards place a stronger focus on quality of life and a person-centred approach to care for all residents – including residents with dementia.

“The standards provide a framework for providers for the continuous development of person-centred, safe and effective residential services.”

HIQA says the standards also provide people living in residential care and their families and/or representatives with a guide as to what they should expect from residential services.

The safety body is seeking feedback on the new draft standards from residents and their families, interested groups, people working in care centres and the general public. Further details atwww.hiqa.ie

Problem middle-aged drinking ‘impairs victims memory in later life’

  

Patterns of alcohol consumption may have an impact on dementia risk

Problem drinking in middle age doubles the risk of memory loss in later life, research suggests.

A US study found men and women in their 50s and 60s with a history of alcohol abuse were more likely to have memory problems up to two decades later.

The study, in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, adds to growing evidence that excessive drinking can impair mental processing later.

Researchers say it is a public health issue that needs to be addressed.

Scientists questioned 6,500 US middle-aged adults about their past alcohol consumption.

 They were asked three specific questions:

  • Had people annoyed them by criticising their drinking?
  • Had they ever felt guilty or bad about their drinking?
  • Had they ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady nerves or get over a hangover?

Those who answered yes to one of these questions were considered to have a problem with alcohol.

They had more than double the risk of developing severe memory impairment, the study found.

“We know that alcohol is bad for the brain in general, but it’s not just how much you drink but how it affects you,” lead researcher, Dr Iain Lang, from the University of Exeter Medical School, told the BBC.

“The amount that you drink is important – what is also important is if you experience any problems in your drinking or if other people tell you you have a problem.”

He advised drinking within recommended daily and weekly amounts and to cut down if affected by any of the items in the questionnaire, as this could increase dementia risk.

A hidden cost?

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society charity, said there was a hidden cost of alcohol abuse, given mounting evidence that alcohol misuse can impact on cognition later in life.

“This small study shows that people who admitted to alcohol abuse at some point in their lives were twice as likely to have severe memory problems, and as the research relied on self-reporting that number may be even higher.

“This isn’t to say that people need to abstain from alcohol altogether. As well as eating a healthy diet, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, the odd glass of red wine could even help reduce your risk of developing dementia.”

Dr Eric Karran, science director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Although studies such as this one can be very useful for observing health trends, it’s important to note that they are not able to show cause and effect, and it’s not clear whether other factors may also have influenced these results.”

16-foot Waves measured in Arctic Ocean where once there was only Ice

Reduced sea ice allowed the buildup of huge waves in the Beaufort Sea

 

Sixteen-foot waves are buffeting an area of the Arctic Ocean that until recently was permanently covered in sea ice—another sign of a warming climate, scientists say.

Because wave action breaks up sea ice, allowing more sunlight to warm the ocean, it can trigger a cycle that leads to even less ice, more wind, and higher waves. (See “Shrinking Arctic Ice Prompts Drastic Change in National Geographic Atlas.”)

Scientists had never measured waves in the Beaufort Sea, an area north of Alaska, until recently. Permanent sea ice cover prevented their formation. But much of the region is now ice-free by September, and researchers were able to anchor a sensor to measure wave heights in the central Beaufort Sea in 2012.

“It is possible that the increased wave activity will be the feedback mechanism which drives the Arctic system toward an ice-free summer,” write Jim Thomson of the University of Washington in Seattle and Erick Rogers with the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Mississippi in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

If winds can blow for a longer distance over the open ocean, they can produce higher and higher waves. Sea ice limits how far winds can blow, thus limiting the formation of waves.

“Future scenarios for reduced seasonal sea ice cover in the Arctic suggest that larger waves are to be expected,” the study authors write. (See “As Sea Ice Shrinks, Can Polar Bears Survive on Land?”)

Big waves could be the new normal in the Arctic, says Darek Bogucki, a physical oceanographer who works in the Arctic but wasn’t involved in the study.

That means changes for shorelines, which could start getting hit with larger and larger waves that speed erosion, he says. It could also change the amount of carbon dioxide being exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, potentially triggering the Arctic to release more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

The amount of open water varies annually in the Beaufort, with virtually no open water in April when sea ice is at its maximum, to over 621 miles (1,000 kilometers) during sea ice minimums in September. Although the Arctic has been steadily losing its sea ice cover since the late 1970s, that loss accelerated in 2002. The 16-foot (five-meter) waves the scientists’ instrument picked up occurred during a storm with strong winds on September 18, 2012.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 18th June 2014

Higgins raring to get his teeth into his old foes in Irish Banking inquiry

  

There was no sign of eggs frying on the sun-soaked plinth of Leinster House, but temperatures were running a little high inside the building.

The Technical Group were in conclave. It should’ve been a short meeting, simply a procedural rubber-stamp of Joe Higgins’s candidacy to replace Stephen Donnelly on the banking inquiry committee, as the Socialist Party TD’s nomination was unopposed.

But Joe’s former comrade, Clare Daly, took exception to the notion that her one-time ally had been selected unanimously by the group. A bemused John Halligan asked if she was opposing the choice, but the Dublin North deputy wasn’t. However, she was objecting to the use of the ‘unanimous’ word.

A lengthy wrangle ensued but in the end – as planned all along – Joe was selected unopposed in a sort-of unanimous way.

What is it about this infernal banking inquiry which seems to spark more shemozzles than the Football Championship?

First it came to pass (eventually) that the Government announced it would hold an official inquisition into how our banking sector scampered over the cliffs like a cartoon roadrunner. It was surely a no-brainer, providing an admiring electorate with the edifying spectacle of all sorts of toppled masters of the financial and political universe being summoned to account for their movements in front of a democratically selected cross-party committee of gimlet-eyed TDs and senators.

What could possibly go wrong?

Having proved themselves in recent months to be experts at the art of porcine couture (the ability to fashion a sow’s ear out of a silk purse), the Coalition didn’t disappoint this time either. A serious outbreak of faffing about by government senators led to them losing their majority on the committee – a cock-up which the Coalition promptly compounded by drafting in two extra Fine Gael and Labour recruits to restore the status quo, thereby causing opposition uproar in the Upper House.

And this hoohah led to Independent TD Stephen Donnelly throwing a strop over the inequity of it all and throwing his hat at it, declaring the Taoiseach was “treating democracy in a cavalier manner” as he headed for the door.

In steps Joe Higgins: Out on the plinth after the Technical Group pow-wow, the newest kid on the committee block was doing his damnedest not to lick his chops in anticipation of another chance to sink his fangs into his same old foes.

“I am sure that the Taoiseach who was in charge of the country when the property bubble was being blown up, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, will be brought before the inquiry,” Joe reckoned with relish. “And that Taoiseach Cowen, who presided over the initial bailout, and I also believe that Taoiseach Kenny, who continued the bailout, should be among those who would be called.”

He was clearly raring to get started, and while he may not have the in-depth knowledge of banking arcana like financial whizz-kid Stephen Donnelly, Joe has a PhD in winding up the great and the good.

“I am prepared to sit and to quiz and question in the inquiry those individuals who were central to the political and economic events of the time, and interrogate them very strenuously,” he vowed.

However, a short time later during Leaders’ Questions, a gloomy Clare Daly was determined to rain on the committee’s parade. “It’s quite clear that the toothless banking inquiry is not going to expose anything, except maybe a few politicians to a bit of badly needed publicity,” she sniped.

“It has dawned on many citizens now that the Oireachtas inquiry into banking has about as much chance of getting to the bottom of what happened in the banking sector as Billy Bunter would have in finding out who robbed the school tuck shop. It is a joke,” she sneered.

Across the chamber the Taoiseach looked a bit weary. He must be fatigued from all his recent travelling (San Francisco, Guernsey and Lebanon) and recent U-turns (banking inquiry and discretionary medical cards). “I am glad to note the political policy regulatory structures on banking governance will be examined by the Oireachtas committee free of any direction from the Government,” he began, before being drowned out by cackles from the far side.

Finian McGrath comforted Enda. “Don’t worry – Joe will sort it out,” he assured the Taoiseach, but there was general agreement among the Opposition. But it wasn’t unanimous.

Irish Central Bank issues warning on crowdfunding (peer to peer) regulations

  

The Irish central bank has issued a warning to consumers over the unregulated status of crowd-funding and peer-to-peer lending.

The two cash-raising techniques have become increasingly widespread as small businesses find it hard to raise traditional bank finance.

  They involve businesses raising funds by amalgamating small sums invested by non-experts, often through third part platforms.

The Central Bank’s warning details concerns about risks specific to lending money through crowdfunding platforms, including the risk of the investor company or indeed the platform itself failing.

It also flags “the risk of misleading or insufficient information disclosure, unfair contract terms of misleading commercial practices, and the absence of dispute resolution and redress mechanisms”.

The bank’s statement does acknowledge that crowd-funding or peer-to-peer lending “is a type of market-based finance that could help stimulate funding to small and medium sized enterprises as well as personal lending”.

Read: Borrowing without banks – here’s how you’ve done it.

While the Central Bank told TheJournal.ie this morning that it is not hitting the ‘red alert’ button on crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, it considers it important nonetheless that consumers know its regulatory status.

Industry response

A spokesperson for peer-to-peer platform linkedfinance.ie said that the company wanted to see the industry regulated.

“We want it regulated…we’ve engaged with the Department of Finance and the Central Bank from the start on this. We’re lobbying to get the industry regulated.”

He added that much of the transactional activity around crowd-funding took place through ordinary bank accounts, which are themselves regulated.

Gardai Commissioner O’Sullivan announces overhaul of penalty points system

  

The Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, has announced an overhaul of the controversial penalty points system.

The changes to the fixed charge penalty scheme are designed to strengthen oversight of how it operates and make it easier for the public to apply for cancellations.

The moves follow an examination of the system by the Garda Inspectorate, which found widespread breaches in policy.

The inspectorate’s probe came amid allegations by Garda whistleblowers regarding the cancellation of points for some motorists.

Ms O’Sullivan announced that the authority to cancel fixed charge penalty notices will now be centralised at the processing office in Thurles, Co Tipperary.

A guide explaining how the cancellation system works will be published on the force’s website, garda.ie, while a special form for cancellation requests will be made publicly available on the website, or through the Thurles office.

Regular audits will be undertaken to keep a watch on the operation of the system and a revised internal manual outlining the changes to policies and procedures will be published.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “These and other ongoing changes of the Fixed Charged Penalty System demonstrate An Garda Siochana’s commitment to improving the effectiveness and transparency of the process.

“We will continue to work with the Criminal Justice Working Group to examine how best to implement the short, medium and long-term recommendations set out in the inspectorate’s report.

SAFETY

“An Garda Siochana’s primary focus is in ensuring that the system continues its success in improving road safety and reducing road deaths,” she added.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald last night welcomed the announcement.

“They are very important steps in ensuring that we 
have an efficient fixed charge penalty system in which people can have full confidence,” she said.

Ireland to lift top rate tax for offshore oil groups to 55%

 

The Irish government is to raise the maximum amount of tax levied on offshore oil and gas production to 55 per cent but has stopped short of setting up a national oil company along the lines of Norway’s Statoil.

Amid public controversy over the potential of oil and gas deposits in Irish waters, and the amount of tax companies pay on any profits any commercial fields would generate, Pat Rabbitte, Ireland’s energy minister, said on Wednesday that the new fiscal regime would increase the state’s tax take at an earlier stage in the production process.

The arrangements mean that the overall amount of tax oil companies will pay on commercial production would rise to a maximum 55 per cent, depending on the size of the field, from 40 per cent currently. The new higher rate will apply to new licences only; existing contracts are not affected.

The changes follow a report by Wood Mackenzie commissioned by the government into the fiscal regime surrounding oil and gas exploration and production in Irish waters. The consultants compared Ireland’s fiscal arrangements with those in marginal production countries such as South Africa and Spain and recommended the changes based on the potential for commercial oil and gas discoveries.

The UK and Norway were also included in the comparisons because of the frequency with which their experiences are cited by both proponents and opponents of exploring for oil and gas in Irish waters.

Mr Rabbitte said that by acting now to clarify future licensing terms, “it is my intention to communicate a clear message in relation to the stability of Ireland’s fiscal regime for the oil and gas exploration sector”. He said that would allow them to “focus on effective and timely exploration effort”.

Oil and gas companies have been prospecting in Irish waters for more than four decades. The Wood Mackenzie report says that only four commercial gasfields have been discovered, and no commercial oilfields. One industry executive estimates that up to €4bn has been spent on exploration in the waters of the Atlantic and the Celtic Sea so far.

Controversy over the financial returns from Irish oil and gas has been sparked by the delays that have plagued the Corrib gasfield off the northwest coast. It was discovered in 1996 but production is not expected to come onshore until 2015 after public protests against the building of pipelines led to arrests and the jailing of protesters that sparked public outrage.

Industry executives say comparisons of Ireland with Norway are inappropriate and premature. The Wood Mackenzie report said: “The essential point is that . . . offshore Ireland remains a very high risk, very high cost province for exploration.”

Fish do feel pain as well says an expert

   

Fish do have feelings and intelligence on a par with other animals and deserve better consideration of their welfare, according to a behavioural biologist at Australia’s Macquarie University.

DR Culum Brown came to the conclusion after reviewing the scientific evidence on fish capabilities.

He found that fish have good memories, lived in social communities, co-operated, and learned from one another.

They displayed behaviours normally seen in primates and were even able to build complex structures and use tools.

While their brains differed from those of other vertebrates, they contained structures that performed similar functions seen in other animals.

There was also mounting evidence that they felt pain in the same way humans do.

Brown believes fish are just as likely to be sentient as other animals.

He wrote in the journal Animal Cognition: “Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate.

“We should therefore include fish in our ‘moral circle’ and afford them the protection they deserve.”

People rarely thought about fish other than as food or pets, said Brown.

He pointed out that fish were second only to mice in terms of the numbers used in scientific experiments.

With more than 32,000 known species, fish far outweighed the diversity of all other vertebrates combined, he added.

News Ireland daily BLOG update

Tuesday 11th March 2014

“Shock Horror” Rehab says 12 staff earn salaries of over €100,000

 € € €  

A salary of up to €249,000 is paid to Rehab’s chief executive Angela Kerins.

Angela Kerins, chief executive of Rehab, is paid in the region of €240,000 to €249,000.

Twelve executives of the Rehab Group earn salaries of more than €100,000, according to a statement issued by the organisation tonight.

The top salary paid by Rehab is in the range of €240,000 to €249,000 and is paid to chief executive Angela Kerins.

Rehab has a total staff of 2,470 employed in Ireland with 77, or three per cent of them, paid €65,000 or more.

In the statement, the board of the Rehab Group provided details of its salary structure which it has given to the Public Accounts Committee in response to a series of questions sent to it after its meeting on February 27th.

It said that Rehab was an independent international group of charities and commercial companies with over 3,500 staff involved in health and social care, training and education, and rehabilitation, employment and commercial services in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, the Netherlands, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

“The people who currently use Rehab’s services include young people and adults with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities, people with mental health difficulties, people with autism and people with an acquired brain injury.”

It also provides a range of essential services to older people, carers and others who are marginalised including people who require supports to enter or re-enter the workforce and the long-term unemployed.

“Every year, more than 60,000 people and their families benefit from the supports provided by Rehab in more than 260 locations. The group had a turnover in 2012 of €183 million.

The statement said the Rehab Group had previously committed to publishing details of the salaries of the eight senior executives, which comprise the executive management team of the organisation, along with the chief executive officer.

It also provided information about the remainder of the management and professional posts which come into this category of remuneration of over €65,000 which it said were posts of significant responsibility and seniority, encompassing a wide range of duties, and requiring technical, professional and clinical expertise and experience, and management responsibility.

The statement also said all of the executive team members had a contractual entitlement to performance-related pay elements, which are not guaranteed but which may be awarded for exceptional performance against agreed criteria.

“Performance related payments were waived by all members of the executive team in 2010 and 2011. An element of performance-related payment was awarded by the Remuneration Committee, of between €6,000 and €14,200 to executive team members based on performance in 2012.

“The Chief Executive, Director of Finance and Director of Human Resources waived any performance-related payment. No performance-related payments were paid for 2013.”

It said all staff including the executive team were currently entitled to membership of a defined contribution pension scheme, with an employer’s contribution of 6 per cent. The Rehab Group Defined Benefit Pension scheme commenced a wind-up process in early 2013.

Certain staff have company vehicles on which they pay the relevant taxes as a benefit in kind.

The statement added that the Rehab Group did not make any contribution to private health insurance on behalf of any staff members. Expenses incurred for as a direct result of company business are authorised to staff members once vouched for

Irish Revenue Comm. To use Google & spy for true home tax values

  

The Irish Revenue Commissioners are using Google Street View and Maps to check up on those who may have undervalued their homes to reduce their level of Property Tax.

Revenue officials are mapping out every property in Ireland in order to highlight those owners whose homes are valued significantly below those of their neighbours.

“This is an effective tool in looking at individual property valuations,” said Revenue’s Michelle Carroll.

She said it was also “very cost-effective”.

The nationwide map, which is being created by Revenue, will be only for official use. The map will also show the identity of the homeowners in question and their PPS numbers.

“If people think they have undervalued, they will have an opportunity to correct the value online,” added Ms Carroll. “People can self-correct without fear of interest and penalties until the end of this month.”

OFFICIALS

Revenue is urging homeowners who feel they may have undervalued their properties to correct the valuation online by March 31, before officials launch a nationwide compliance programme.

Those who are identified to have deliberately undervalued their homes will receive correspondence from Revenue next month.

If property owners do not take advantage of the opportunity being offered, Revenue says that “interest will apply where additional tax becomes payable in cases where a property was undervalued”. More than 1,400 people have self-corrected their valuation since November.

Since the announcement of the six-week window for people to regularise their Local Property Tax and Household Charge affairs, around 20,000 Property Tax returns for 2014 have been received by Revenue, with more than €700,000 being paid on a daily basis.

Ms Carroll said that there was no formal agreement between Revenue and Google as both Google Maps and Google Street View are “open-source products”. A spokesperson for Google said that the company had no comment to make on the matter.

“Penalty point’s” report due soon before Irish Cabinet

 

Fianna Fáil critical of leak but welcomes ‘apparent vindication’ of whistle blowers.

Recommendations in the Garda Inspectorate report into the penalty point controversy due before Cabinet tomorrow will ensure a “transparent system fit for the 21st century which will stand up to scrutiny,” Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said tonight.

Mr Shatter made his comments in a statement following the leak of some sections of the report. Fianna Fáil issued a statement of its own condemning “selective leaking” but welcoming the apparent vindication of Garda whistleblowers in the report.

Tonight’s development comes weeks after a draft report of the inspectorate’s findings was sent to Mr Shatter and to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

In tonight’s statement, Mr Shatter said: “The inspectorate, in its recommendations, provides a roadmap to address the difficulties which have arisen and to ensure that An Garda Síochána will have a system which is transparent, fit for the 21st century, and which will stand up to scrutiny.”

The statement follows a leak of some sections of the review into the operation of the fixed charge processing system.

The leak prompted Fianna Fáil spokesman on justice Niall Collins to issue a statement of his own in which he described the “selective leaking” as a “retrograde step”.

Mr Collins said the report could lead to renewed calls for an apology to Garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe, commenting: “It would appear from the initial reports that the whistleblowers at the centre of recent controversies have been vindicated. That is to be welcomed.”

However, Mr Collins was critical of the leak.

“It is obviously not uncommon for Government or others to leak important reports to the media, but given the scale of the controversy surrounding this particular issue and related matters over recent months, I believe that tonight’s selective leaking of the Garda Inspectorate Report is a retrograde step.

“Once again, on an important issue of public order, Alan Shatter and the Government’s first priority is news management and trying to maintain control of headlines. I look forward to publication of the full report tomorrow when I hope to give a comprehensive response.”

Accelerator shoots at the Irish financial services sector

 

Pictured at the start of NDRC’s Launch Pad accelerator programme are Claire Burge (Winit), Gary Leyden, director (NDRC’s LaunchPad) and Terence Hong (Adjuno).

The new NDRC programme will support tech firms hoping to shake up Irish industry.

A new accelerator programme aimed at financial services technology firms is hoping to encourage innovation in the sector and eventually lead to a shake up of the financial services industry.

The financial start-up programme is the first of its kind in Ireland, and is being run by NDRC in association with Bank of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Mediolanum and State-Street.

Ten early stage firms will be recruited for the five week part-time programme, which kicks off in May. The companies will be given access to mentors from the sector, tech entrepreneurs and investment figures as part of the scheme.

Startups looking to join the programme can focus on any area of financial services where a new technology product could solve an existing problem.

NDRC chief executive Ben Hurley said the programme would harness the best ideas from those interested in the financial services industry, and help create dynamic, sector-changing tech companies.

“NDRC has track record of making ventures happen by enabling startups to get off the ground and our programme co-founders know what it takes to be successful in the financial services sector,” he said. “These organisations’ rich heritage in financial services will be utilised to develop new ventures who not only know the financial services industry but have a vision of where there are opportunities for change.”

Warnings for Irish people taking blood thinning drugs

The risk if taking the wrong dose

 

The Irish Medical Organisation criticised the HSE over the method that it released the information.

Irish patients taking medication to prevent stroke are being warned about dosage issues that could have serious health effects.

The concern centres around blood thinners Rivaroxaban and Dabigatran, and also on patients who may be taking them and also taking other prescription medicines.

It is believed to possibly affect around 4,000 people in Ireland.

A Report.

The Medicines Management Programme has highlighted that attention should be paid by prescribers to the prescribing of blood thinners, particularly in relation to appropriate dosing and the potential for drug interactions, said the HSE.

There are 7,460 patients who receive Rivaroxaban, with some 4,590 patients (62%) receiving it as long term therapy and over 16% (769 patients) receiving it at a prescribed daily dose of just 10 mg.

The recommended dose for atrial fibrillation is 20 mg daily of rivaroxaban, reducing to 15 mg. daily for patients with renal impairment.

  1. Administration of rivaroxaban 10mg daily is not indicated for atrial fibrillation and renders such patients susceptible to stroke.
  2. In addition, over 28% of patients treated with rivaroxaban received medications that would be expected to interact with the anticoagulant.

Over 100 patients were co-prescribed dronedarone, which should be avoided given the limited clinical data available, said the HSE.

Some 25% of patients received medications where caution is advised, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and platelet aggregation inhibitors.

This co-prescribing places patients at greater risk of haemorrhagic complications.

In the case of dabigatran, 37% of all patients receiving long term therapy were at risk of drug interactions. Some 68 patients were co-prescribed medications that are contraindicated.

  1. Over 34% of patients received other medications where caution has been urged in co-prescribing e.g. NSAIDs, platelet aggregation inhibitors and SSRI/SNRIs.
  2. This prescribing pattern potentially places many patients at greater risk of haemorrhage which may not be reversible.

The analysis also shows that two thirds of patients treated with long term dabigatran received the lower dose of 110 mg twice daily, which proved non-inferior to warfarin therapy in the clinical trial.

The HSE said that it wanted to highlight again that attention be paid to the prescribing of these blood-thinning drugs (oral anti-coagulants), particularly in relation to appropriate dosing and the potential for drug interactions.

Safety concerns.

Professor Michael Barry, clinical lead for the HSE’s medicines management programme, told Morning Ireland that there were “safety concerns” around the use of the medicines.

While for people at risk of stroke it is important that the blood is thinned, he said that his colleagues in the HSE identified two issues in relation to the above products.

The study found that 16% of people are being treated with a 10 mg. per day dose of Rivaroxaban.

“That is too low,” said Barry. “The dose for prevention of stroke is 20mg per day.”

For those with renal dysfunction, the dose is 15 mg. per day.

The concern is that people might be taking the drug, but it’ s not doing what it should be doing. There is also the potential for interaction with other drugs, said Barry. The potential for interaction with Rivaroxaban was 26%.

Barry said the HSE is telling health professionals that if they are going to prescribe these drugs, to “pay particular attention to the dose”.

He said the HSE sent a letter to all GPs and all prescribers dated 5 March. “I am assuming this will get to everybody today,” he said.

No communication.

Dr Ray Walley of the Irish Medical Organisation said he had had no communication from the HSE and had first read of the issues in the Sunday Business Post yesterday.

He said he was “horrified this was the method of communication”. He has since been in contact with Barry.

Dr Walley said that the issues of prescribing the drugs “are complex”.

The first thing that patients should do is that if they are well they should stay on the tablets. The second thing they should do today is to put a call into your GP asking the GP to ring you back today, telling them you are on the drugs in question.

If you’re feeling unwell, you’re asked to explain that to your GP when you contact them.

A big concern?

The Irish Heart Foundation said it is concerned about the report, but it is “also concerned that the latest report is alarmist to patients currently suffering from Atrial Fibrillation who may be taking these medications”.

Our advice to these patients first and foremost, is to stay on their prescribed blood thinners as it is more dangerous to stop them than continue them. We advise patients to check with their GP and prescriber if they are concerned or to call our National Heart & Stroke Helpline to talk with an Irish Heart Foundation nurse on 1890 432 787.

The IHF is also calling for immediate engagement between the MMP and stroke physicians, geriatricians, neurologists, cardiologists and GPs “to discuss and educate where there are concerns regarding the use of new blood thinning drugs such as those mentioned in the MMP report”.

Irish skies lit up last Saturday night by extremely bright fireball

   

Many reports of Saturday night meteor, Astronomy Ireland says that an ‘extremely bright fireball’ was seen streaking across Irish skies on Saturday night before breaking up,

The organisation received “lots of reports” of sightings of the meteor which lit up the sky shortly after 9.30 pm.

“Fireballs are seen quite rarely, but when they appear on a clear evening when people are travelling from work we often get inundated with reports,” said astronomy Ireland chairman David Moore.

Reports from the public help to “determine the fireball’s path through the sky and find out if it is likely to have ended up on land or in the sea,”Mr Moore said.

Fireballs are very bright meteors caused by larger particles of debris from space, Astronomy Ireland said. They can seem close but occur “ very high up in the atmosphere, approximately 70 km and above”, it said.

They disintegrate at altitudes over 50 km and occasionally fragments survive and fall to earth, it said.

It urged anyone who saw the fireball to report sightings at astronomy.ie

In February last year a fireball burned up over Russia and generated shockwaves which circled the globe twice.

The asteroid on February 15th broke up above the city of Chelyabinsk about 1,500 km east of Moscow leaving more than 1,000 people injured. The event’s shock waves blew out windows and damaged buildings in several cities.

It was 17 metres in diameter when it entered the atmosphere and travelled over Russia at a speed of about 20km/second.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 18th February 2014

93% of Irish home owners have paid their property tax

 

Donegal has the lowest level of compliance with payment of the local property tax.

Just 87.1% of property owners have paid up for 2013.

South Dublin has the highest level of compliance, where 94.7% have paid up.

Figures released by the Revenue Commissioners show 1.810m homeowners have paid up for 2013 – an overall compliance rate of 93%.

But the Revenue Commissioners are giving homeowners a final six weeks to pay up their property tax and household charge – to avoid interest and penalties or prosecution the Sheriff being called

The taxman is giving homeowners a final opportunity to bring their local property tax and household charge up to date.

About 100,000 homeowners have not paid up their property tax for 2013, but 460,000 haven’t paid the household charge for 2012.

Revenue is now putting out warning to four types of homeowners who have:

  1. not paid 2012 household charge;
  2. not filed and paid their 2013 and 2014 local property tax;
  3. undervalued their property;
  4. claimed an exemption they were not entitled to.

These homeowners have until March 31 to bring the property tax up to date and avoid interest and penalties.

Failing to avail of this opportunity will result in interest being charged, mandatory deduction from wages or hold back a tax clearance certificate.

Revenue can also refer the case to the Sheriff. Prosecution in the courts is also possible.

Trauma of sexual violence is complex and layered

says CEO of Rape Crisis Centre

  

Calls for increased training in judicial system following comments in rape sentence

A spokesman for the courts service said today that judges did undergo training in relation to rape cases. He was responding to concerns raised by the CEO of the Rape Crisis Centre who said that there was a need for judges to learn more about the impact of beliefs and attitudes which blame and punish victims of sexual violence.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop was speaking after the sentencing in a rape case in which the judge said he did not believe the victim had suffered a “profound psychological effect”.

Mr Justice Barry White sentenced Thomas Egan (47) from Kilmihil, Co Clare to 7 ½ years earlier this week after he was found guilty of raping a Brazilian woman he asked to clean his home.

On reading the victim impact report, Mr Justice White said: “It strikes me that your victim is more interested in compensation rather than anything else.” He also told Egan, who paid the woman €50 at the time of the offence, that he couldn’t “buy himself out” of a custodial sentence.

Egan, a father of four, was convicted last May by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of raping the woman at a house in Tipperary on July 5th, 2010.

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop believes the victim may have had difficulty in conveying the incident through English. “This was 23-year-old girl, coming from Brazil, so her first language is not English, culturally there will be differences,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

She added that in Brazil a civil case can run in conjunction with a criminal justice case and that compensation can be talked about very freely which may have caused some confusion to the victim.

“The trauma of sexual violence on a person is very complex and layered,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop. “What is seen on the surface can be very misleading, it may not reflect what’s going on underneath.”

“A person might present as being rational and competent, but to the uninformed eye that might look like they’re not affected,” she said.

She added that judges need to know that victims often respond to trauma with “confusion” and “panic responses” when giving evidence or under cross-examination

Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said the the centre has offered to hold education programmes for the judiciary but that no judges have accepted the offer.

The centre has had input into the Garda Síochána training programme for over 15 years and said it has seen real improvement as a result. “Because of their training, it has really helped in terms of people feeling confident in reporting incidents,” said Ms O’Malley-Dunlop.

“It would be very valuable if we had the opportunity to give input into the judicial education programme.”

A spokesman for the courts service has responded to Ms O’Malley-Dunlop’s comments, saying there is ongoing training for judges by the Committee for Judicial Studies, chaired by the Chief Justice. “A wide variety of topics have been covered in judicial training which include legal and personal issues around sexual assault, rape and victims,” he said.

He added that in the past decade there have been many examples of judicial training in this area, saying judges had attended a Dublin Rape Crisis Centre conference on ‘Sexual Abuse and Violence – Responding to Change’.`

New Irish road traffic law to increase penalty points

  

Road Traffic Act introduces roadside drug tests, increased penalty points for speeding and heavy penalties for hit-and-run drivers

Motorists convicted of using a mobile phone while driving will receive three penalty points under new legislation enacted today.

Penalty points for the offence will shortly rise from two to three after the Oireachtas enacted the latest Road Traffic Bill in the Seanad.

The Road Traffic (No.2) Act 2013 introduces other measures including roadside drug tests, increased penalty points for speeding and for not wearing seatbelts. The legislation will also allow for unconscious drivers to be tested.

The Bill also creates a new road traffice offence related for so-called ‘clocking’ and introduces tougher penalties for hit and run drivers.

The penalty for tampering with a car’s odometer (turning back the mileage) will be a fine of €2,500 and/or three months in prison.

“This Act focuses predominantly on the human factors in road safety by strengthening and extending the law in key areas. This includes a new category of novice driving licences, higher penalty points in key areas, and the testing of unconscious drivers for intoxication,” Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said today.

“The law on hit-and-run incidents has been tightened, and we have brought in a new offence of tampering with an odometer, commonly known as ‘clocking’ a vehicle. Gardaí will be able to conduct roadside impairment tests for drug driving on motorists.

The new legislation will see the introduction of fines and possible prison sentences for hit-and-run drivers. A person who flees the scene of an incident and does not offer assistance, knowing injury has been caused, will face a fine of €10,000 and up to seven years imprisonment.

In the even of a death resulting from such an incident a fine of €20,000 and/or ten years imprisonment will apply.

Penalty points will be increased for several offences under the Bill.

Speeding will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);

Mobile phone use will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);

Non-wearing of seatbelts will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);

Other offences such as non-display of an NCT certificate, which at present involve a court appearance, will attract 2 points on payment of fixed charge.

Joe Brolly appeals for more organ donations at funeral of Gary Dillon in Sligo

  

Former footballer pays tribute to Gary Dillon RIP, who was a keen supporter of Joe Brolly’s organ donation campaign. 

Joe Brolly: “The system in Ireland in the past year has improved to a great extent. We are now number three in Europe in lung transplantation, when not so long ago we were at the bottom of the list.”

Campaigner Joe Brolly appealed yesterday for more organ donations while he was at the funeral of a young man who featured in his television documentary Perfect Match last year.

Gary Dillon, (28), died at St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin last Friday and was buried in Sligo yesterday. A popular member of Calry/St Joseph’s GAA club in Sligo, he was a keen supporter of the organ donation campaign by Mr Brolly, the GAA commentator and former Derry footballer.

Sadly, Mr Dillon never had the chance to benefit from the double lung-transplant he so badly needed.

Cystic fibrosis

Mr Brolly, who attended the funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church, Ballytivnan, Sligo paid tribute to Mr Dillon, who had helped raise the profile of cystic fibrosis sufferers throughout Ireland.

“If we had a proper organ donation system in place in time Gary would have had a very good chance of getting the lungs he needed,” said Mr Brolly.

“The system in Ireland in the past year has improved to a great extent. We are now number three in Europe in lung transplantation, when not so long ago we were at the bottom of the list.

“Sadly, Gary became too ill lately to be admitted on to the transplant list. When he did have opportunities to get on the list it was at a time when the rate of organ donation was much lower, particularly for double lung transplants.”

Hope

Mr Brolly added that the message should go out for people to think about organ donation after death to give others hope of living.

“Thanks to Gary’s input and support for the campaign, the situation for people currently awaiting surgery is improving all the time.

“There is great hope for the future, but sadly it was too late for Gary. He was a real fighter, a charismatic young man who never allowed himself to get down about his situation.

“He was indefatigable and would accompany me to promotional events with a cylinder of oxygen on his back without one word of complaint.

Early life on Earth did not need lots of oxygen to survive

  

  • Sea sponges thrive in water with only 0.5% of present day oxygen levels
  • Scientists argue that early primitive life may also have needed little oxygen
  • The findings suggest that the rise of animals could have created oxygen-rich oceans, rather than oxygen-rich oceans creating animals

The origin of complex creatures is one of science’s greatest mysteries.

The widely-accepted theory is that complex life evolved because oxygen levels began to rise around 630 million years ago.

But a new study claims that most primitive animals may have flourished in water that contained almost no oxygen.

The findings suggest that the rise of animals could have created oxygen-rich oceans, rather than oxygen-rich oceans creating animals.

Researchers studied the common sea sponge from Kerteminde Fjord in Denmark which they believe are similar to the world’s first animals.

They kept the sponges in an aquarium and slowly removed the oxygen.

Even with 200 times less oxygen than is currently found in the atmosphere, the sponges survived until the end of the study.

‘Our studies suggest that the origin of animals was not prevented by low oxygen levels,’ says Daniel Mills, PhD at the Nordic Center for Earth Evolution at the University of Southern Denmark.

A little over half a billion years ago, the first complex life forms evolved on Earth.

Billions of years before that, life had only consisted of simple single-celled organisms.

The emergence of animals coincided with a significant rise in atmospheric oxygen, and therefore it seemed obvious to link the two events and conclude that the increased oxygen levels had led to the evolution of animals.

‘But nobody has ever tested how much oxygen animals need – at least not to my knowledge.  Therefore we decided to find out’, said Dr Mills.

The living animals that most closely resemble the first animals on Earth are sea sponges.

The species Halichondria panicea lives only a few metres from the University of Southern Denmark’s Marine Biological Research Centre in Kerteminde, and it was here that Dr Mills fished out individuals for his research.

‘When we placed the sponges in our lab, they continued to breathe and grow even when the oxygen levels reached 0.5 per cent of present day atmospheric levels’, Dr Mills said.

Sea sponge Halichondria panicea was used in the experiment at University of Southern Denmark. They kept the sponges in an aquarium and gradually removed the oxygen         +2

Sea sponge Halichondria panicea was used in the experiment at University of Southern Denmark. They kept the sponges in an aquarium and gradually removed the oxygen

This is lower than the oxygen levels we thought were necessary for animal life.

The big question now is: If low oxygen levels did not prevent animals from evolving – then what did?

‘There must have been other ecological and evolutionary mechanisms at play,’ said Dr Mills.

‘Maybe life remained microbial for so long because it took a while to develop the biological machinery required to construct an animal.

‘Perhaps the ancient Earth lacked animals because complex, many-celled bodies are simply hard to evolve.’

The Nordic Center for Earth Evolution has previously shown that oxygen levels have actually risen dramatically at least one time before complex life evolved.

One reason the early oceans were poor in oxygen may have been because they were full of dead microbial matter, which consumes oxygen.

Some geologists now believe early animals like sponges fed on this dead matter, helping to clear the water of it and triggering a rise in oxygen levels.

News Ireland as told by Donie

Tuesday 9th September 2013

Struggling Irish homeowners told to sell house/home or face legal action

 

PERMANENT TSB is under fire over a sharp rise in cases where the bank has told struggling homeowners that surrendering their house is the best way to sort out their mortgage arrears.

And the Irish Independent has learned that any borrower who turns down the “voluntary sale” option faces immediate legal action by the bank to recover the property.

State-owned Permanent TSB is the latest lender criticised after figures from across all the banks revealed that a majority of solutions being offered by banks to customers in arrears involve the loss of their family homes.

Yesterday, the bank said it had recommended “assisted voluntary sales” deals to 2,000 customers, who in some cases are as little as €300 behind on repayments, the joint Oireachtas Finance Committee heard.

But fewer than 100 customers have taken the bank up on that proposal, the Irish Independent has learned.

However, for those who turn the bank down, the options are stark. The bank gives homeowners 90 days to decide whether to accept the offer. If they refuse or if they do not respond, Permanent TSB will then initiate legal proceedings that could ultimately see the house repossessed anyway.

By the start of this week, the bank had recommended the “assisted voluntary sales” to 2,000 customers who are behind on their home loan, chief executive of Permanent TSB Jeremy Masding said.

The figure is up from 1,000 at the end of June.

SHORTFALL

When a house is sold, the borrower is still liable for any shortfall on their mortgage, but the bank said it will look at each situation on a case-by-case basis and may write-off debt at the end of a sale process.

Mr Masding was the last of the heads of the four main banks to be grilled by the Finance Committee this week about progress to meet a target set by the Central Bank.

Banks were told to offer a debt deal to 20pc of customers in long-term arrears by the end of June, rising to 30pc by the end of this month and 50pc by the end of the year.

Mr Masding said Permanent TSB met the June target.

Out of 25,000 customer accounts in deep arrears, the bank offered a long-term restructuring such as split mortgage, interest-only arrangement or loan extension to 2,750 homeowners by the deadline, he said.

Another 1,500 homeowners have been offered short-term arrangements, he said.

More controversially, the bank said 800 of those in long-term arrears were offered the “voluntary sale” option by the June deadline, and 1,600 arrears cases are now being handled by lawyers acting for the bank.

Committee members welcomed the clear figures presented by Permanent TSB, but Fine Gael‘s Kieran O’Donnell questioned the high number of “assisted voluntary sales” being offered by the bank.

He noted a sharp rise in the number of those offers since June, and the fact that the bank’s own data shows the option of selling their home is beingrecommended even to people in short-term arrears.

He was backed by Sinn Fein‘s Pearse Doherty who said the bank is pushing the house sale option even to people who have been working with the lender, and in at least one case, are less than one month behind in repayments.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said a struggling couple came to him after being told by Permanent TSB to default on a credit union loan that is helping pay for a degree course to prioritise their mortgage.

Mr Masding defended that decision and the recommendation that families should sell unaffordable houses, saying in some cases short-term moratoriums have been exhausted even if people are not in deep arrears.

Solvency expert apologises over radio comments on PAYE workers

 

A LEADING financial expert has apologised after he appeared to suggest hospital consultants and solicitors are entitled to live in bigger houses because of their “professional status” – even if they are insolvent.

Jim Stafford, one of the country’s first ever Personal Insolvency Practitioners, was speaking on how a major part of the new PIP legislation is to try to keep the family in the family home if possible.

And he said the level of professional status would play a large part in how this argument would play out.

“I would be making a very strong case, for example, that a solicitor should have a bigger house that accords with his professional status in society so that his neighbours and clients can see that, yes, this person is a good solicitor who’s is living in a good house,” he said on RTE Radio.

He was responding to a query from Mary Wilson on how family homes would be impacted if a client were to agree to enter an insolvency arrangement.

In January 2012, the Government approved the Personal Insolvency Bill in a reform of the existing bankruptcy process.

Under new arrangements, eligible applicants are to be provided with better alternatives to declaring bankruptcy. These include Personal Insolvency Arrangements (PIA); Debt Settlement Arrangements (DSA), and Debt Relief Notices (DRN), allowing for the write down or restructuring of both secured and unsecured debt owed.

“In practice, the PIP will also have to assess the type of house that might be needed for a professional person such as a solicitor, accountant or a hospital consultant as opposed to a house that’s needed by someone who is in the PAYE sector for example,” he said.

Mary Wilson reacted with some surprise to the suggestion: “Well, he may need an office, but he hardly needs a palatial house in South County Dublin,” she said.

But Mr Stafford stuck with his argument.

“Believe me, the clients who we have on our books are insisting they continue to stay in their palatial houses, now, it’s possible that some of them might have to down trade, but that all goes into the pot and at the end of the day the banks, the creditors have to agree to that process,” responds Mr Stafford.

However this evening Mr Stafford issued an apology on his website.

“I would like to acknowledge and sincerely apologise for the hurt and distress that my comments to RTE have undoubtedly caused.

“Simply it was not my intention to offend.

“In particular, it was not my intention to create a distinction between so called professional classes and PAYE workers nor appear to further the causes of a particular debtor type.

“I believe that every person has a passionate concern to retain their family home.

“I fully appreciate the distress that financial difficulties cause any one, no matter what their financial circumstances may be.

“I fully and unreservedly apologise for my comments.

Speed-limit blunder sees 1,306 drivers get points struck off

 

* Restrictions deemed illegal 
* €104,480 in fines scrapped

MORE than 1,300 motorists have had their penalty points struck off and fines repaid because of a blunder.

The speed cameras that caught the motorists at four separate locations on seven different occasions were positioned in zones with reduced speed limits because of roadworks.

The special speed limits set in these areas had been decided upon by gardai.

However, a special order is then needed from local authorities in order to make the new speed limit lawful – and in these cases, the order wasn’t made.

It is not known if permission had been sought for the orders or if they were refused, but without the order being signed into place, the new limits were illegal.

As a result, the 1,306 motorists who were cited by speed cameras between January 26 and April 18 of this year have had the penalty points that they were issued revoked from their licences, and fines that they paid reimbursed.

The fines had the potential to generate €104,480 in revenue for the State.

Gardai confirmed the blunder and said it had come to light after a routine review.

“Following a routine review by the Regional Traffic Division in Dublin Castle, an issue with a specific set of fixed charge penalty notices was identified,” a statement read.

The incidents occurred in Dublin – at Coldwinters on the N2 on January 10, 17 and 28; and at Castleknock on the N3 on January 26 and February 13.

The mistake was then repeated on two occasions on April 9 and 18 on the N3 at Mulhuddart.

It is not known what decreased speed limit was supposed to be implemented as it changed on various dates and on various sections of the roads.

The garda statement also said that “a letter was posted to all 1,306 cases on September 5”.

And in another embarrassing error made by gardai, the cheques that were issued refunding the fines are now being recalled, as the statement also revealed “the refund cheque issued has an administrative error on it”.

They are today sending out further letters to those affected requesting that the cheques be returned and promising that a replacement will be issued in due course.

Gardai also said that they “wish to apologise to those affected for the inconvenience”.

LOOPHOLE: If caught speeding, a motorist is subject to payment of a fine of €80, and will have two penalty points imposed upon their licence. If this fine is not paid within 28 days, it is increased to €120.

If there is no payment made after a further 28 days, the motorist could be facing four penalty points and a fine of up to €800 if found guilty of non-payment in court.

Since the introduction of the speed-camera zones, road deaths have fallen to record lows, with 162 deaths on our roads in 2012, compared to 212 in 2010.

The privately operated speeding cameras administered by ‘GoSafe’ were first rolled out in 2010.

Earlier this year, additional speed-camera zones were announced, bringing the total of speed traps in the country to 727 – covering a total of 2,354km of our road network.

This is not the first time that an error on the State’s behalf has allowed drivers to avoid penalty points.

A legal loophole, which was not addressed until last year, allowed more than 85,000 drivers to avoid penalty points.

Motorists opted not to pay their fines initially, and chose to fight their cases in court as they were not required to bring their driving licences to court, meaning that the court clerk could not impose penalty points upon them

Prostate tests on 13,000 men have to be re-checked

 

HOSPITAL tests carried out on more than 13,000 men for possible prostate cancer are being re-checked amid fears they received the wrong result.

The review is underway in Connolly Hospital in Dublin and Mayo General Hospital after the men had blood tests for a chemical to see if their prostate gland was potentially enlarged or cancerous.

The re-check was ordered after an international recall of a faulty Siemen’s testing kit which measures if elevated levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) are present in the blood.

The faulty kit, recalled in July, could have given a reading which was 20pc to 23pc higher than similar tests, resulting in the patient undergoing an unnecessary biopsy.

A spokewoman for Connolly Hospital said the kits were used on 2,186 patients between February and June. Of these, 162 received a result which “may have indicated a need for further investigation,” she said.

Five have so far had biopsies and three were found to have prostate cancer of varying degrees.

KITS

A spokesman for Mayo General Hospital said it used the kits between July 6, 2012 and June 25, 2013. As a precautionary step, the hospital will review all 12,866 tests carried out during that time.

The review will try to establish how many had an elevated reading to determine if any further actions are necessary, he added. Both hospitals defended their handling of the issue despite question marks over why they had not acted sooner to alert patients.

Connolly Hospital said on July 1 last, it wrote to all GPs and urologists informing them of the recall. The letter included each GP’s individual patients’ results and advised re-testing was available if required.

“GPs and specialists were then in a position to inform patients and make a clinical decision on a need for follow-up. Following this correspondence, four contacts were made for additional re-testing,” she said.

“This incident, which is outside HSE control, is considered to be of low clinical risk in relation to long-term negative outcome for patients,” she added.

Mayo General Hospital said since June 26 it “attached a comment to all new PSA results informing doctors a new method was now being used” and alerted them to the chance of a higher than normal result.

“In addition Mayo General Hospital is in the process of contacting all doctors who requested this test during those dates, advising about field notice and offering to re-test any patients,” he said.

Bob Geldof to be first Irishman in space next year

 

Bob Geldof is going into space as a passenger on a commercial flight.

The singer was offered the trip after his band, the Boomtown Rats, agreed to play a concert at a charity ball at the Natural History Museum, London, where seats on the flight will be auctioned off for good causes.

He said: “Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honour but pretty mind-blowing…The First Rock Astronaut – Space Rat! Elvis may have left the building but Bob Geldof will have left the planet! Wild!

“Who would have thought it possible in my lifetime? I will be joined by a couple of fellow astronauts who will bid to participate in this extraordinary adventure on this amazing night.”

The flights, which are scheduled for 2015, will be auctioned at the high-society event next month along with a diamond-encrusted watch and a car ride with former Formula One drivers.

News Ireland Tuesday told by Donie

Tuesday 12th June 2012

Irish Government proposing to increase penalty points for motoring offences

  

An increase in penalty points for speeding and using a mobile phone while driving are proposed in a report by the Department of Transport published yesterday.

Penalty points for using a mobile phone while driving are proposed to go from two to four, while points for speeding are suggested to go from two to three.

The penalties for failing to obey traffic lights and dangerous overtaking are proposed to rise from two to three.

Higher penalty points are also suggested for failure to comply with front seatbelt requirements, which are proposed to rise from two to six.

The report, published by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar, also recommends the introduction of additional offences including two penalty points for using a motorbike without a helmet.

It proposes new powers too for Gardaí to impound and sell uninsured cars, in addition to reducing the severity of some offences. It also suggests vehicles without an NCT certificate will be subjected to three penalty points instead of five and a compulsory court appearance.

Any changes will be incorporated into the Road Traffic Bill 2012, which is due for publication later this year.

The report compares Ireland with 10 other jurisdictions including Austria, England and Australia.

It also refers to introducing mutual recognition of penalty points between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Under proposals in the report, driving or attempting to drive while unfit through drugs could incur a penalty of 10 points.

According to a survey by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) 22 per cent of 17- to 24-year-olds have been passengers in cars driven by someone under the influence of drugs. RSA chief executive Noel Brett welcomed the proposals, saying that speed, drug driving and not wearing seatbelts remain major concerns.

Mr Brett also said the increasing number of fatal road collisions was “very, very concerning,” and it appeared drivers were “letting their guard down”.

Speaking at the publication of four new Learning to Drive manuals, he said while the number of fatalities on the roads this year (75) was almost identical to this time last year (76), the number of actual collisions was up.

There had been 75 deaths in 73 collisions so far this year, compared with 76 deaths and 68 collisions in the same period last year.

Hedge funds will provide opportunities for Ireland with future funding needs

    

Conor O’Mara, managing director and head of Asian TMT sales at the investment bank Jefferies Inc in Hong Kong

China’s availability and emergence as both a source and a destination for global hedge fund money provides an opportunity for Ireland, one of the most important offshore centres for the worldwide funds industry. However, Ireland will have to fight rivals such as Luxembourg to win the business.

This was the message from Conor O’Mara, managing director and head of Asian TMT sales at the investment bank Jefferies Inc in Hong Kong.

O’Mara is also chairman of the Irish Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong and local representative for the Irish Funds Industry Association there.

“We need local representatives here,” said O’Mara, who is a regular visitor to the Chinese capital. “The Chinese fund managers will be the next big managers. The next Harvest and Founder, the next Fidelity, will be Chinese funds. Our competition is from places like Luxembourg. They have a paid presence in Hong Kong and are working away.

“The key is for us to be card-carrying here, which is why I represent the IFIA in Hong Kong. And we’re going to do the same thing in Beijing.”

The Irish funds industry has grown every year over the past 23, with the exception of a slight fall in 2008.

As well as a leading hedge fund centre, it is now the fastest-growing undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (Ucits), or retail, funds centre in the world – up 500 per cent in the past 11 years.

Ireland attracted twice as much in new Ucits money as all other European domiciles put together in 2011 – and five times more in the last quarter, and most faced significant outflows.

O’Mara sees a great role for Irish public-private partnerships when it comes to dealing with industries in Asia in which Irish people are working, whether it is the funds or heavy industry.

Another reason O’Mara was in town was to discuss ways of bringing the Chamber of Commerce network within the greater China area closer together.

The chamber in Hong Kong is a busy one, and Macau recently established a chamber, but the question of running them is a difficult issue on the mainland as there are considerable regulatory hurdles.

The government frowns upon representative groups other than those sanctioned by the Communist Party.

The US and the European Union have their own chambers, but smaller countries encounter a lot of challenges when trying to start organisations.

However, there are efforts afoot to regularise the various Irish networks in China, which will provide an opportunity for the organisations to co-operate more.

Expert Dr. Jack Lambert calls for routine HIV tests in Ireland to avoid late diagnosis

    My Photograph

Dr. Jack Lambert above right & The connection between homosexual sex with HIV and AIDS also helped reinforce the Evangelical stereotype about homosexuals.

One of the State’s leading experts on HIV/Aids has said testing for the condition should be a matter of routine.

Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre showed two-thirds of the 320 people who were diagnosed with HIV last year presented late with the illness.

Mater hospital infectious disease consultant Dr Jack Lambert said 90 per cent of these people had no way of knowing they had the disease as symptoms had not manifested themselves to a sufficient extent.

Symptoms which do manifest themselves are large-scale infections and weight loss.

Dr Lambert said a HIV test should be as routine as a cholesterol test, but that many people were reluctant to have it done because of the stigma involved and because of their fear of the disease.

He said public clinics carry out such tests free and GPs will perform them for the cost of a visit, and the results are returned in a week.

Dr Lambert stressed HIV/Aids was no longer the death sentence it once was. There are 35 anti-retroviral drugs to treat the disease.

He said those persons diagnosed early have the same average life expectancy as the rest of the population.

However, those who present late can often have seriously compromised their immune system, and their condition becomes a chronic illness.

Figures show the “CD4 count” which is used to measure the number of white blood cells in those affected showed 214 of the 320 diagnosed presented with late-stage infection, while 32.7 per cent of the 214 were severely immune-compromised.

The proportion of those diagnosed late was highest among intravenous drug users and heterosexual males.

To mark Irish Aids Day 2012 on Friday, Open Heart House (Dublin), the Sexual Health Centre (Cork), Aids West (Galway) and Dublin Aids Alliance (Dublin) and the Red Ribbon Project (Limerick) will launch the Don’t Guess, Get Tested! campaign which aims to raise awareness of the alarming number of late presenters with HIV in Ireland and to encourage early HIV testing, with the aim of reducing the number of late presenters of HIV in 2012.

1,000m tornado in Co Donegal over Sliabh Sneacht mountain

    

The twister as it travels over Sliabh Sneacht heading south towards the Illies.

A tornado measuring more than 1,000m in height was recorded yesterday in Co Donegal.

Lecturer John O’Raw and his daughter Niamh were in their garden at Umricam near Buncrana when they spotted the tornado travelling over Sliabh Sneacht mountain at 11.30am.

“The twister was about two kilometres away from us and it was heading south,” Mr O’Raw said. “Sliabh Sneacht is over 600m in height, so the tornado must have been going up to over 1,000m.”

Mr O’Raw, who teaches computer science at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, was among a party who videoed orca whales off the coast of Co Donegal last week.

He is also a volunteer with the Seismology in Schools project that records earthquakes, including a sizeable one off Co Mayo last week.

“We’ve had a pretty exciting time of late. We had a transit of Venus on the same day as we got the footage of the killer whales.

“We then had an earthquake off Mayo; there was another tornado recorded near Inch island last week, and now this tornado. It is a very interesting time for local scientists.”

Watch a video at: youtu.be/hNWm0Ni_9HY

Sales growth of 0.4% at Tesco Ireland for first time since 2010

  

Tesco Ireland has achieved its first quarter of like-for-like sales growth since 2010, the retailer’s UK parent company has said.

Like-for-like sales, which exclude the contribution of stores open for less than a year, grew 0.4 per cent in the 13 weeks to May 26th, the first quarter in Tesco’s fiscal year. This compares to a decline of 0.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

Tesco said its performance in the Republic was “improved”, but “uncertainty over the future of the euro zone and the potential impact of any further disruption had resulted in very low consumer confidence” in Europe.

“Our general merchandise, clothing and electrical performance reflects this.”

Because of its greater emphasis on non-food items, Tesco is more exposed than most supermarket chains to dips in consumers’ discretionary spend.

Tesco, the world’s third-biggest retailer, reported a drop in underlying first-quarter British sales yesterday, as a recovery plan following its shock profit warning in January struggled to gain traction.