Tag Archives: Poetry

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 12th January 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irish Cancer Society ends financial fund because of high demand

Charity says demand for financial support outstrips funding available for patients


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You can recover and things do get better’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The infrastructure of ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Astronomers map milky way’s growth


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Saturday/Sunday 12 & 13th September 2015

Michael Noonan says Tax hikes are possible in next budget

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has revealed that the Coalition may hike taxes in next month’s budget to help increase Government spending.


Mr Noonan also privately told Fine Gael TDs yesterday that the Government is looking at overhauling Nama’s role so it can become a type of housing authority.

At the party’s pre-Dáil meeting in Adare, Co Limerick, he spoke about Fine Gael’s election priorities and said the Coalition was planning a cycle of budgets.

“It [economic recovery] has spread widely through the country now — all the cities, Cork, Limerick, Galway and a lot of the hotspots like Kilkenny, Kenmare, and Westport. There’s very strong economic growth.”

hildcare support, the treatment of the self- employed, and reducing personal taxation will be priorities for Fine Gael at the next general election, it was announced.

Mr Noonan said it was still his plan to allocate €750m on tax cuts and the same amount on funding services in the budget. But he indicated for the first time that the figure could increase if further taxation measures are introduced. The minister also strongly hinted that a further hike in duty on tobacco may be on the cards in the budget.

“There can be variations on that [splitting €1.5bn] because under the fiscal rules, if we were to raise taxes, it can increase the space. If we were to collect another €200m in taxes, €1.5bn would become €1.7bn because you can spend receipts of extra taxes.

“But we’re not really minded to do a lot on tax increases. We may raise some taxes, obviously on health grounds. There’s always an interest in raising duty on tobacco. We won’t rule it out completely.”

During a private session with TDs and senators, Mr Noonan said the Coalition parties were considering changing the remit or mission statement of the National Asset Management Agency, so its work with be similar to that of a housing executive.

“It has the tools, land and manpower. Why not?” said a TD. One minister confirmed the plan and said it would help alleviate the housing shortage if Nama had a direct role in the private sector, rather than solely acting as a “bad bank”.

Mr Noonan told reporters that a new model was being considered to alleviate the housing shortage. He said the issue was discussed at the think-in.

“There was quite a strong view that we need a major housing programme,” he said.

There was a need to deliver family homes, private houses, three-bed and four-bed semis and detached units, he said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny ruled out any reductions or changes to water charges if Fine Gael are returned to power.

He said prices would remain fixed until 2019 and that the decision was the right one.

Mr Kenny said he would serve out the full five years as Taoiseach if the Coalition is returned to power.

We have enough food to end our world hunger, says our Bono

U2 singer used to ‘create a stir’ at Expo 15 in Milan and put pressure on states to donate


Bono and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at Expo 2015 in Milan last night. Renzi acknowledged that Italy could provide more food aid and distribution. 

“These are big questions: can we face the problem of hunger in the world, can we fix the problem of poverty in the world, can we fix the problem of conflict in the world? With regard to the first two of those three, I can speak with confidence when I say yes, absolutely.

“There is already enough food in the world to feed the world. It is not the lack of food but rather the lack of will to distribute the food that is the problem”.

Bono was the speaker, and he uttered these sentiments at an Expo 2015 event in Milan last night, jointly organised by the Irish and Italian Ministers for Agriculture, Maurizio Martinaand Simon Coveney.

In its five months, Expo 2015 will have seen nothing like last night’s crowds, excitement and occasional hysteria as the fans, patrons and tourists gathered to hear the U2 frontman, referred to by Coveney as the “most influential Irish person on the planet”.

Last night’s event, largely, the brainchild of the Irish Minister Coveney, was billed as the launch of a campaign to highlight world hunger.

On the platform with Bono were the Italian prime minister,Matteo Renzi; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP); and Sudanese ambassador Amira Gornass, future chair of the UN FAO Committee on Food Security.

“The Irish Minister said he was anxious that we try to do something big at Expo. Even if the Irish pavilion here has had a million visitors, the real theme of Expo is about feeding the world, particularly at this moment, when we face the challenges related to the mass movement of people in the Middle East and north Africa, across the Mediterranean and also into the Balkans.

“Feeding large numbers of people represents a really complex challenge.

Bono pressure?

The Minister went on: “What we have tried to do is use the fame of Bono, bring him here, cause a stir and put pressure on [countries to donate]. Ireland is coming here with a big package, namely €60 million over the next three years for the WFP.”

Both Bono and Coveney said out that the WFP – “the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation” – in effect relies on ad hoc donations, and that it currently feeds more than four million displaced Syrians.

Next winter, however, it may be forced to stop supplying food to up to 250,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan because it has simply run out of money.

“That is something that has to change, globally and collectively,” Coveney said, “and I hope that is the big message that will come out of this evening.”

For his part, the normally verbose Renzi was happy to take a back seat, expressing his thanks to Bono but adding that Italycould do much more.

Pope John Paul II. 

Renzi recalled Bono’s involvement in a Drop the Debt campaign back in the 1990s, when the singer famously plonked a pair of cool dude shades on Pope John Paul II during a meeting at Castelgandolfo.

Renzi said that the world has not made enough progress in dealing with hunger and debt since then.

The WFP’s Cousin was another to thank Bono for lending his name to the campaign, acknowledging that had it not been for his presence on stage, “all you young people out there” would not be here to hear about the issues.

She said simply that, for many, “without food there is no hope. For these people, a piece of bread is a feast from God. But when you have no hope, you take the desperate measure, you do whatever is required in order to feed your family.”

Cuts to programmes.

It was Bono, however, who best summed up the meaning of Sunday night’s conscience-raising event.

“To me it seems extraordinary that, in the middle of a refugee crisis, the WFP find themselves having to cut their programme in Jordan, where they are doing extraordinary work. That is politically unacceptable to everybody under this sky this evening.

“This is not good enough, and neither the Italian people nor the Irish people will have it.”

Where else do landlords make the most money off our students?


New research suggests that Edinburgh is the place where landlords make most money off students. Sorry about that if you’re planning on studying there.

In fact, four of the top five most lucrative locations are in Scotland, with Coventry being the top English spot in second place.

Property site Zoopla looked at where investors can get the best return from buying up properties near universities and letting them out to students.

In Edinburgh, buy-to-let investors can expect a rental yield of 6.11% for doing so, while in Coventry it is 6.03%. Aberdeen is the third most profitable at 5.66%.

But while renting to students in Scotland is proving a veritable goldmine, the same is not true in the North of England.

Renting to students in Middlesbrough would mean a yield of just 1.47%, less than a quarter as profitable as Edinburgh.

Lawrence Hall of Zoopla commented: “Many Scottish universities are now internationally renowned, with thriving undergraduate and graduate environments.

“This means demand for rental accommodation in university areas is very high, as throngs of students compete to live near their campuses.

“Combined with Scottish house prices still remaining relatively low, this equates to excellent yields.”

Gluten-free diet fads put coeliacs at some big risks


Opting for a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle choice rather than because of an actual intolerance to gluten is sending mixed messages to workers in the hospitality industry about what coeliacs can or cannot eat.

That’s according to Dr Nicholas Kennedy, president of the Coeliac Society of Ireland (CSI), who said there are growing numbers of people on gluten-free diets “that have no medical requirement to do so”.

“What you have is people who are not coeliacs, on a very lax gluten-free diet, and they go into a restaurant and ask for gluten-free dishes, and they have a starter and a main course and then they see there’s nothing [gluten free] fascinating for dessert and they opt for cheesecake. That’s just a mixed message for the restaurant staff. People being slack about their gluten-free diet is causing problems for actual coeliacs,” Dr Kennedy said.

“You are either coeliac or you are not. It is not a question of ‘how coeliac are you?’” Dr Kennedy said.

Another problem was the increasing number of people self-diagnosing gluten sensitivities which, he said, could cause difficulties when it came to being clinically tested for coeliac disease.

“Eliminating gluten from your diet before testing may result in a false negative result,” Dr Kennedy said.

People who self-diagnosed were also potentially denying themselves the opportunity for proper long-term management of their condition, he said.

Dr Ciarán P Kelly MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said it had become increasingly popular to adopt a gluten-free diet and that, in the last decade, the market for gluten-free products had grown by more than 20% each year.

Dr Kelly, who along with Dr Kennedy, was addressing the Association of European Coeliac Societies annual conference in Dublin, outlined how consuming gluten causes symptoms such as bloating and discomfort in coeliacs, but also intestinal injury, high coeliac antibodies, malabsorption, and nutritional deficiencies.

If untreated, it can lead to complications such as osteoporosis. Those with coeliac disease tend to have a genetic predisposition towards the disease. It can be associated with other autoimmune diseases, and the only treatment is a lifelong strict gluten-free diet.

In contrast, those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity tend to have no known genetic predisposition; no known complications; and the strictness of their gluten-free diet may vary.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, whose four children have coeliac disease, spoke in support of targeted screening directed at first blood relatives of those already identified as coeliacs.

Coeliac disease is more prevalent in those of Irish descent and an estimated 45,000 people are affected in Ireland. People with coeliac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a substance in wheat, rye, and barley.

Go west to Sligo Ireland for stunning scenery, great & perfect pubs and poetry galore

Deirdre O’Brien tells us on how a trip to the WB Yeats’ Land of Heart’s Desire finds the poet in us all?


The sign on a pub in Sligo reads: “This space is saved for my birthday party, please keep it free from 6.30. Love W. B. Yeats.”

By the appointed hour the party, at Hargadon’s Pub in Sligo, was in full swing with trucks of oysters being washed down by pints of Guinness. But the guest of honour was never going to make it – as the party was for his 150th birthday, and he’s been dead since 1939.

Still, the Irish never let inconvenient details stand in the way of a good thrash, and they weren’t going to miss out on celebrating the anniversary of the birth of a famous and beloved son.

Ireland is sometimes called The Land of Saints and Scholars and for many of the natives, Yeats, a Nobel laureate as well as a statesman, is regarded as a bit of both.

Although he was actually born in Sandymount in County Dublin, nowhere claims him more fiercely than Sligo, the county in the West where he spent idyllic childhood holidays and is now buried.

He called it “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and before his death and original burial in France, he left the instruction ‘dig me up and plant me in Sligo’. That was exactly what was done. His final resting place is now the graveyard of ¬Drumcliffe Church.

But Sligo feel that Yeats belongs to them, not least because the wild, rugged landscape of the county inspired much of the beauty of his romantic poetry, such as the famous poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

And while a trip to Sligo won’t turn us all into Nobel laureates, everyone will be wowed by the sheer beauty of the landscape.

A good place to start isInnisfree itself – the name Yeats gave to Lough Gill. A beautiful body of water, it’s perfect for a boat cruise.

Sunshine is never guaranteed here, but the day we visited the heavens obliged with a double rainbow – pointing exactly to the island thought to been Yeats’ inspiration. Nice work, Mother Nature.

On the lake’s border is Parke’s Castle, a beautifully restored 16thC fortress, which hosts some interesting exhibitions about life in Ireland, including some frightening realistic waxworks. heritageireland.ie/en/north-west/parkescastle

The other massive draw for Sligo is the coastline known as The Wild Atlantic Way. Stretching for 2,500kms, it is one of the world’s longest coastal driving routes. We started out on Streedagh Beach.

The views are breathtaking, and while the weather can be bracing, if you wrap up warm, the rolling breakers, the riot of wild flowers, the raw sea air, and the bursts of sun will be guaranteed to lift your spirits.

You can bike, hike, ride horses, surf or swim or take a tour. Seatrails offers a great walk conducted by a very knowledgeable archeologist. seatrails.ie

Sligo Town itself is a pretty old fashioned place, with a sleepy vibe. Hargadons pub is well worth a pit stop. Look out for the two huge murals, one of WB himself and the other, of Maud Gonne, the beautiful revolutionary who captivated him.

The neighbouring county is Leitrim, known as Lovely Leitrim. One of the least populated counties in Ireland, what it lacks in population, it makes up for in landscape, including some picture-postcard pretty villages especially the charming Drumohair.

We stopped for lunch at the Stanford Inn, the sort of perfect Irish pub that serves delicious food, a warm welcome and Guinness a world away from the stuff served across the water.

A really special place is the Holy Well at Tobernault, an age old site of worship, where the Druids used to congregate in secret. A peaceful pilgrimage site, its waters are said to have healing powers.

Sligo may feel like a world away from the stresses of city life, but it’s just three hours drive from Dublin.

A trip to the wild West and a few days soaking up the culture of Dublin’s Fair City make for a magical combination no doubt a heart’s desire indeed.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka sets space time record

The Russian astronaut Gennady Padalka has returned to Earth with the record for having spent the most time in space.


The 57-year-old’s latest mission lasted 168 days, bringing his total to 879 days in space over five trips.

This is two months longer than the previous record set in 2005 by Russian Sergei Krikalev over six missions.

Mr Padalka and two other members from the International Space Station (ISS) landed safely in Kazakhstan on their Soyuz spacecraft just before sunrise.

The capsule descended after re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere under a parachute.

Gennady Padalka

  • Graduated as a pilot and became a colonel in the Russian Air Force
  • First journey to space was in 1998, to Russia’s Mir space station
  • Only person to have commanded the ISS four times
  • He beat the previous record for most time in space on 28 June 2015
  • Has participated in 10 spacewalks

What are the challenges of living in space?What are the challenges of living in space?

A ground crWhat are the challenges of living in space?ew rushed to welcome and extract the three astronauts from the charred spacecraft and medics checked their condition.

“I am fine,” Mr Padalka told them as he sipped tea and ate an apple, the AFP news agency reports.

Mr Padalka’s companions – Andreas Mogensen from Denmark and Kazakh Aidyn Aimbetov – are both novices in comparison, having only spent 10 days in orbit on what was their first mission.

Mr Aimbetov had travelled in place of British soprano Sarah Brightman, who had been due to made the trip as a space tourist but withdrew from training in May citing family reasons.

Six astronauts now remain on the ISS, including Nasa’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko, who began a 12-month tour of duty in March – the longest continuous stay anyone would have been aboard the 400km-high (250 mile) orbiting platform.