Tag Archives: Pro-life

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 3rd May 2014

Sinn Fein leader Adams may be charged in connection with 1972 murder of Jean McConville


Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, will learn later today whether he will be charged or released in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a mother of 10, from her Belfast home in 1972. Mr Adams, 65, denies he was involved in the widow’s abduction and murder.

As detectives continued to question Mr Adams, Sinn Fein’s deputy leader, Martin McGuinness, claimed the arrest was politically motivated. Speaking in Belfast yesterday, he said that an “embittered rump of the old RUC” force were “cynically exploiting the awful killing” of Mrs McConville – accused by the IRA of collaborating with the British authorities in the early 1970s.

Mr Adams is alleged by former republican colleagues to have ordered Mrs McConville’s murder and secret burial in 1972. The IRA later admitted killing her and her body was found on a beach in County Louth in 2003.

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein Assembly member, said yesterday the party would not stop supporting the Northern Irish Police Service, but would “monitor and review” its relationship with the force.

Northern Ireland’s Justice minister, David Ford, called Mr Adams’s arrest “entirely appropriate”. “Given the scale of the concerns expressed, of the information – which I accept is not yet evidence – it was entirely appropriate that should be followed up.”

Thousands protest in Dublin against Ireland’s abortion law


Pro-Life Campaign aims to ‘dismantle’ legislation introduced by Government last year

About 4,500 people rallied in Dublin today at a Pro-Life Vigil, which organisers said would be “the first step in a campaign dismantle the abortion law”.

While gardaí on the scene put the crowd at what the organisers described as a ‘National Vigil For Life’ at about 3,000, the organisers said there were 15,000. The crowd filled about a third of one side of Merrion Square.

Organised by the Pro-Life Campaign, the rally heard recommendations that people should not vote for candidates from parties who had “broken their pro-life promise”.

There was also strong criticism of the media which, speakers said, had helped push the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act through last summer without critically analysing it.

Cora Sherlock, deputy chairwoman of the Pro-Life Campaign, said the passage of the legislation last July was a “shocking example of the tragic breakdown in Irish politics”. There had been no honest debate about the legislation, she said.

“The politicians and the abortion lobby said there was a real need for abortion legislation to save women’s lives. We know there was never any need for this legislation. Essential life-saving medical treatment is there that was always legally available.

“The media failed abysmally to ensure the content of abortion law and the Government’s claims about it were critically examined. The media were pushing the law instead of critically examining it,” she said.

“Most seriously the tragic death of Savita Halappanavarwas misused by major players in politics and the media.”

She said they were more concerned with getting abortion legislation passed than accurate reporting.

Such journalists, she said, were more concerned with setting the agenda than reporting on it.

“There is something rotten at the heart of Irish public debate.” She said this was as a result of “corruption” and the pro-life movement could not “sit back and tolerate this any longer”.

It was important the pro-life electorate be “mindful” of the parties that had let the movement down when casting their votes, she said.

Caroline Simons, legal advisor to the Pro-Life Campaign, said after last year’s “setback”, they had no idea how many people would turnout today.

“We realise it’s going to be a difficult road back but we are massively encouraged that so many people are ready to get on board at this stage to help turn things around.

“Senior members of Fine Gael assured their backbench TDs that once the abortion bill passed through the Dáil they would have nothing to worry about because the pro-life movement would be crushed and beaten. How wrong they were.

“Your presence here today is proof that we are wasting no time in starting to rebuild. It’s going to take time, but when the public comes to realise the full horror of what the new legislation involves support for the repeal of the law will gather pace.”

Lynn Coles of the Women Hurt told the vigil that in recent weeks she had counselled a woman who had been considering an abortion. She decided to proceed with it.

“She took her own life on Tuesday. Abortion took not only her baby’s life but her own. She leaves behind a husband and grieving extended Irish family on both sides of the Irish Sea. The media will not cover her story. This is the reality of abortion.”

Over 160 new allegations of clerical sex abuse in last year


A total of 164 new allegations of sexual abuse were reported to the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog between April last year and the end of March 2014.

This is according to the annual report of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) which was published yesterday. The report notes that allegations of abuse are down from the 242 the previous year and most of the complaints relate to alleged abuse between the 1940s and 90s.

The biggest number of allegations relate to the 60s, 70s and 80s. The board said all of these complaints have also been passed to gardaí or the PSNI and where appropriate to the Child and Family Agency.

The watchdog has undertaken reviews of safeguarding practices in all 26 dioceses and initiated a three-year training programme, according to the annual report.

Teresa Devlin, who took over last year as CEO of NBSCCCI, said the board’s small team is committed to ensuring “past mistakes are not repeated”.

In its report, the board said the Church needs to have clear standards regarding support and supervision of priests and religious out of ministry.

“This means we need to develop a framework for assessment, clarity around canonical processes, good supervision, and support place so that we can reduce the likliehood of re-offending and therefore safeguard future children,” it said.

Ruairi Quinn Minister happy to take abuse from ignorant Irish teachers


Ruairi Quinn has criticised some teachers’ actions at the recent ASTI conference as “ignorant, ill-judged and bad-mannered”.

The Education Minister was commenting on the raucous reception he received at last week’s conference, and said certain members had done “a disservice” to their union as a result of their actions.

Mr Quinn was heckled and booed by a number of delegates throughout his speech at the event in Wexford, with some teachers shouting to drown out his speech.

One delegate even used a megaphone while the minister spoke, and others shouted “lies” and “rubbish”.

Mr Quinn admitted that such attacks were hurtful, but insisted it was all part of living in a democracy.

“It hurts, of course. Some people say you must have a very thick skin to which I say, yeah, but it’s still skin,” he told Galway Bay FM.

However, despite the reception he received, he insisted that the protests showed that true democracy is in place here and that everyone has a right to their voice.


Mr Quinn stressed that he had never thought of giving up politics as a result of the abuse, and that he was not facing a situation like politicians in Ukraine. “I live in a democracy,” he added.

“No matter how ignorant, ill-judged or bad mannered they were – and I think some of them were – I think that’s a price a democratic open society is prepared to pay.

“There are very few countries in the world where, not Ruairi Quinn but the Minister for Education will go to a conference where a minority of teachers in a very disrespectful way will express their anger and disgust.

“Nobody died, nobody got injured. It’s called democracy and I’m very happy to say that I live in this country.

“I’m proud to live in this Republic and I’m proud to think that citizens can come and say what they said and how they said it.”

China and US in crucial talks on cutting carbon dioxide emissions


Tentative moves to reduce pollution could be the most hopeful single development in tackling global warming for almost 20 years

“Just a patch of blue sky big enough “to make a sailor a pair of trousers”, my parents’ generation would say, may herald a break in dismal weather. Against all expectation, rather more than that seems to be opening up amid the dark clouds that have so far shrouded the prospects of the world agreeing a new treaty to combat climate change.

China and the United States – by far the world’s greatest emitters of carbon dioxide – have started far-reaching, if little-noticed, talks on how to cut the pollution, in what is being described as the most hopeful single development in tackling global warming for almost 20 years.

Both are accelerating their efforts to control their own emissions, a considerable change for the two nations, which together account for more than two in every five tons of the greenhouse gas spewed into the atmosphere worldwide each year. The US’s refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol was long the major obstacle to progress, while China – exempted from that limited treaty – has increased its emissions to exceed those of the US and the EU combined.

What’s more, it was a clash between the two countries that did more than anything to cause the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit to end in disappointment. So the prospect of them co-operating in paving the way to the next one, in Paris at the end of next year, is significant.

This week, moreover, another unexpected development brightened the skies even further. The conservative-majority US Supreme Court – which has generally opposed Barack Obama’s environmental policies – backed, by a surprisingly large 6-2 majority, his attempt to crack down on pollution from the power stations that emit 40 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse gases.

Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow conservative, Anthony Kennedy, joined the court’s four liberals to reject a vigorous challenge by polluters to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations designed to clamp down on smog from coal-fired plants that drifts across state boundaries, helping to cause an estimated 34,000 deaths a year.

True, the measure does not directly address global warming. But it is expected to cause the closure of the most polluting plants, which are also the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide. And, much more importantly, the court’s decision appears to endorse Obama’s strategy of making combating climate change one of the main themes of his second term of office.

Frustrated by Congress in his attempt to introduce climate legislation, the President dropped his issue in his first four years, while privately regarding it as his biggest first-term failure. Now – partly at the prompting of his daughters – he is making a much more determined bid to tackle it, this time by trying to bypass Capitol Hill.

His strategy is to rely on executive presidential orders to reduce emissions, implemented by the EPA; next month he is due to issue some to cut carbon dioxide from power plants. His opponents have been hoping the courts would stop him, hence the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision. If it had ruled against Obama, his climate strategy would have seemed severely damaged; instead it appears to have cleared the path for it to progress.

In China, too, action against conventional pollution, largely from power plants, is presaging measures on climate change. So- called “airpocalypses” in Chinese cities, with concentrations of deadly particles up to 20 times higher than international safety limits, are causing the country increasingly to move away from coal, which provides 70 per cent of its electricity. Most of the new Chinese generating capacity installed last year relies on renewable energy; old coal plants are being closed, and some experts expect national carbon emissions to peak by the next decade.

A year ago China and the US agreed to phase out production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, and the world’s fastest-growing climate threat. The hope was that this would presage wider co-operation, and the signs that this is beginning are being hailed as the most important development since the Kyoto Protocol was concluded in 1997.

It does, however, leave Europe – hitherto leading the attack on global warming – on the sidelines, perhaps deservedly so, as its leaders have grown increasingly timid since failing to make enough of a difference in Copenhagen.

David Cameron, however, has – since the winter floods – begun to re-emphasise the importance of what he initially made his trademark issue. This September he will have a chance to show whether he means it at a special summit called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to try to put momentum behind a new international treaty. And, since voters formed their first impressions of him as environmentally concerned, crucial credibility – in an election year – may hang on his performance.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 19th April 2004

What the Irish bankers knew on the night of the September 2008 bank guarantee fiasco


How events unfolded on September 29th, 2008, that will ultimately cost us €64bn

In the run up to September 2008 conditions in the international financial markets had become very difficult. Bank of Ireland was concerned by the situation internationally and was concerned to ensure its own liquidity and that its assets books were properly collateralised. During this time I had regular but infrequent meetings with the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI),

Mr John Hurley. However, the then chief executive officer of the Bank of Ireland was the primary contact with the CBI and with the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority (the financial regulator.)

The events of September 29th, 2008

On the morning of September 29th, 2008, I met with Brian Goggin who had been meeting with officials from the financial regulator over the weekend in relation to Bank of Ireland’s potential interest in Bradford & Bingley Building Society. We discussed our general concern regarding the increasing withdrawal of deposits from Bank of Ireland. I was due to meet with John Hurley that afternoon to discuss the possibility of the European Central Bank (ECB) extending the availability of credit.

I believe that I received a call from Mr Seán FitzPatrick, then chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, at about noon in which he requested an urgent meeting with myself and Brian Goggin.

I agreed to his request, and myself and Brian Goggin met with Mr FitzPatrick and Mr David Drumm, then chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, in a boardroom at the bank’s head office on Baggott Street at approximately lunchtime.

This meeting was quite short. Mr FitzPatrick claimed that Anglo Irish Bank had a significant credit facility which was to fall due the following day and that it was not in a position to repay this facility or to roll it over. I cannot, at this stage, recall the size of this facility but I remember that it was significant. Mr FitzPatrick asked if Bank of Ireland would be interested in buying Anglo Irish Bank or any part of it.

I informed Mr FitzPatrick that the acquisition of Anglo Irish Bank or any part of it was not something of interest to Bank of Ireland. The meeting then concluded, and Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Drumm left, with Mr FitzPatrick saying that he was going to contact Allied Irish Banks plc.

As I was now aware that Anglo Irish Bank was going to face a very serious difficulty the following day, I decided that this was something I had to raise with Mr John Hurley at my scheduled meeting that afternoon. During my meeting with Mr Hurley I updated him on the position as I understood it regarding Anglo Irish Bank. Mr Hurley advised me that there was very little that he could do in the circumstances.

Following my return from my meeting with Mr Hurley, I spoke with Mr Goggin. We were both concerned about Anglo Irish Bank’s position and the risk of collateral damage to Bank of Ireland. We decided that we should seek an urgent meeting with the government to update them on the situation. We both felt that AIB would share a similar view to our own, so I called the then chairman of AIBDermot Gleeson.

He agreed that such a meeting should take place and said that he and Eugene Sheehy, the then chief executive officer of AIB, would also attend. Telephone calls were then made to the Offices of the Taoiseach and the Minister of Finance, and a meeting was scheduled for approximately 9.30pm that night.

When we arrived in Government Buildings we were shown into a waiting room and subsequently invited to meet with the Government officials. As I recall, the meeting was attended by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, the governor of the Central Bank, the secretary general to the Taoiseach, the secretary general to the Department of Finance, and the assistant secretary of the Department of Finance. I believe that there were others who came and left the room at various stages during the meeting but I cannot be certain.

The Taoiseach asked us to explain the purpose of this meeting and I briefed the meeting on the general global issues in the international financial markets and specifically the concerns which we had arising from our meeting with Anglo Irish Bank earlier that day.

I recall that Mr Gleeson also addressed the meeting and that Mr Sheehy and Mr Goggin also spoke. I recall that Mr Hurley asked if AIB and Bank of Ireland could provide immediate liquidity support to Anglo Irish Bank. I recollect that the amount being discussed was approximately €5 billion each.

We left the room to consider whether this was something that the Bank of Ireland could provide and Mr Goggin made some calls to Bank of Ireland to see if this could be done.

We were subsequently invited back into the meeting and I confirmed that the Bank of Ireland could provide this amount of liquidity but that it would require a guarantee from the Government that the Bank of Ireland would get its money back.

We were then informed that the Government was considering putting in place a guarantee of all of the Irish financial institutions and that there would be a Cabinet meeting the following morning to approve this. I cannot recall the exact time that the meeting ended but it was very late, approximately 3.30am or 4.00am.

Unite for Life Sligo–Leitrim group thank local Politician’s for their pro-life support


As we approach the first anniversary of the passing of the law which for the first time permitted abortion in Ireland, we would like to say Thank you to those Councillors and Senators who had the moral courage and clarity to oppose that legislation and we would strongly urge our supporters to vote for them in the upcoming local and European elections.

We want to be represented by people of principal. The Fine Gael & Labour Government legalised abortion (right up to full term pregnancy) based on a threat of suicide in the full knowledge that there is no evidence it is a treatment for suicidal feelings. They even refused an amendment that would provide pain relief for an unborn baby during late term abortions. The Fine Gael Party promised voters they would not legalise abortion.

But they broke their promise like many more promises made before the last general election?

How Sligo County Councillors Voted on 1st July 2013

Motion proposed by Matt Lyons & Seconded by Michael Clarke:

“That Sligo County Council call on the Government to amend the draft protection of life during pregnancy bill and remove suicidal ideation as grounds for abortion. Furthermore that the council calls on all local Oireachtas representatives to vote against the bill in its present form”

For the motion and against the abortion legislation (9)

Martin Baker, Michael Clarke, Jude Devins, Margaret Gormley, Jerry Lundy, Matt Lyons, Jim McGarry, Rosaleen O’ Grady and Joe Queenan

Against the motion and for the abortion legislation (1)

Sean MacManus.

Those who abstained or walked out of meeting on 1st July 2013. A total of (12)

Mary Barrett, Declan Bree, David Cawley (abstained), Veronica Cawley, Thomas Collery (abstained), Michael Fleming, Hubert Keaney, Joe Leonard, Pat McGrath (abstained), Aoife McLoughlin, Gerard Mullaney, Dara Mulvey (abstained).

Not at meeting on 1st July 2013 (3)

Patsy Barry, Deirdre Healy – McGowan, Gerry Murray.

As the result there were 9 for the motion, 1 against, 4 abstentions the Cathaoirleach declared the motion carried.

Here is a reminder of how our 8 Local Oireachtas Members Voted for the amendment:

Michael Colreavy T.D. (SF) voted for the abortion legislation

Senator Michael Comiskey (FG) voted for the abortion legislation

Senator Imelda Henry (FG) voted for the abortion legislation

Tony McLoughlin T.D. (FG) voted for the abortion legislation

Senator Mark McSharry (FF) voted against the abortion legislation and Senator Pascal Mooney (FF) voted against the abortion legislation.

Senator Susan O’ Keeffe (LAB) voted for the abortion legislation

John Perry T.D. (FG) voted for the abortion legislation

Finally the Unite for Life Sligo–Leitrim group

Would like all supporters to vote no 1 for Ronan Mullen as our representative in Europe in the next EU Parliament.

  Senator Ronan Mullen has campaigned vigoursly against the abortion legislation and voted against it in the Seanad in 2013. 

Michael McGrath FF accuses the IDA of Dublin jobs bias?


Large swathes of the country are being ignored by foreign investors with 12 counties recording no IDA-sponsored visit by an overseas investor for the first quarter of this year.

New figures provided by the Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise, Richard Bruton, show that out of 89 IDA sponsored visits between January and the end of March this year, 53 were in in Dublin.

Fianna Fáil Finance spokesman, Michael McGrath TD, claimed the figures are “further evidence of the Government’s failure to put in place balanced regional development at a time when towns and villages are dying on their feet”.

“The statistics show that there is a striking bias in favour of bringing companies to Dublin. The figures show that 60% of the visits this year were to Dublin. It is a remarkable statistic.”

The counties that failed to record an IDA-sponsored overseas investor visit in the first quarter were Carlow, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

Cavan, Kilkenny, Meath, and Westmeath recorded one visit, and Clare, Donegal and Wicklow two.

The second most popular county for foreign investors to visit was Cork with 10 visits, Limerick recording six and Galway four visits.

The figures represent a continuance of Dublin dominating foreign direct investment visits, with the 2013 figures showing that Dublin accounted for 55% of 180 of the 326 IDA-sponsored visits.

Deputy McGrath obtained the statistics through a written Dáil response and said the IDA had a very good track record of attracting foreign direct investment into Ireland “but it is failing by and large to bring overseas investors to counties outside Dublin”.

He said: “The IDA has a very important role to play in influencing overseas investors and inform them of the strengths of locating outside Dublin where it is much less costly to do business with lower property prices for instance.”

Mr McGrath said the failure to ensure a greater proportion of foreign direct investment visits around the country “only leads to a two-tier economy”. Cork was punching below its weight when it came to attracting foreign direct investment .

Separate figures received by Deputy McGrath show that Dublin-based IDA supported firms received €198.2m, or 32% of the €626.9m IDA grand aid between 2006 and 2012.

A spokesman for the IDA said: “A county- by-county breakdown of job creation trends, as is being used here, and is used by others wishing to undermine the IDA’s work in the regions, reveals virtually nothing about how Ireland is performing in attracting foreign direct investment.”

He said: “Site visits are in no way indicative of IDA’s efforts to market a region to overseas investors or indeed of IDA’s activities in that area.

“IDA executives from our 19 offices across the world are marketing our regions in their own marketplaces on a daily basis.”

He pointed out that total employment at IDA client companies is now at the highest level since the foundation of the state investment agency.

He added: “IDA Ireland works extremely hard to make its client companies aware of the opportunities that exist outside of Dublin.

The spokesman said: “A large part of IDA’s regional work includes working with our existing base of companies to sustain and increase their levels of investment. This work is vitally important but is rarely acknowledged or picked up in these statistics.

“The final decision on where to locate an investment ultimately resides with the client company, despite IDA efforts and financial support available in some regional locations.

He said: “IDA Ireland continues to make its clients aware of opportunities to locate their businesses outside of Dublin and Cork. This includes designing itineraries for prospective clients in which IDA executives will drive prospective investors around the country to meet with recruitment and property professionals in the regions, as well as existing clients.”

The charities regulator was meant to be set up by Easter, said Minister Shatter?


Úna Ní Dhubhghaill was appointed as CEO of the authority in March of this year. 

Minister Shatter had a set a deadline of this weekend, but instead will look to appoint the board “in the near future”.

The board of directors of the charities regulator is to be appointed in the near future – but is likely to miss Minister Shatter’s deadline of this weekend.

The Justice Minister said in January he intended to have the Charities Regulatory Authority set up by Easter.

While Principal Officer in the Department of Justice and Equality Úna Ní Dhubhghaill was appointed as CEO of the authority in March of this year, it’s unlikely the rest of the board will be announced by tomorrow.

A Department spokesperson said this is likely to take place “in the very near future”.

A call for expressions of interest was announced in late January, with a view to making appointments before Easter to allow the authority to come into operation at that time, Shatter said.

The creation of the new regulatory authority has been in the works since in July 2013, aiming to increase public confidence in charitable organisations.

Minister Shatter previously stressed that charitable organisations “have a duty” to use funds received from the public “efficiently and ethically in pursuit of their charitable purpose”.

The sector has been hit by recent revelations over pay and remuneration.

A recent survey revealed that almost 400,000 fewer people gave to charity over Christmas, with Fundraising Ireland stressing that the sector needs to regain the public’s confidence by being completely transparent and accountable.

EIB to offer Ireland & EU €2bn in funding for low-carbon energy projects


EIB to offer €2bn in funding for low-carbon energy projects. 

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is to invest €2bn in funding for low-carbon renewable-energy projects across the European Union.

The funding has been raised by the sale of 300m emission allowances worth an estimated €548m under the NER300 programme, one of the largest funding programmes for carbon capture and storage demonstration projects and innovative renewable-energy technologies in the world.

The EIB, acting on behalf of the European Commission (EC), started to sell the first round of 200m of the EU allowances covered by the NER300 scheme in 2011, followed by more than €1.5bn raised during the first phase of sales that ended in 2012.

Jonathan Taylor, EIB vice-president, believes the funding will contribute significantly to the future of renewable energy in the EU and beyond. “The EIB is pleased to support future investment in low-carbon demonstration projects.

“Successful completion of monetisation of carbon allowances under the NER300 scheme will help both carbon capture and storage schemes and innovative renewable-energy projects across Europe reach a commercial scale. We will continue to work closely with the EC to ensure that the best applicants can be awarded proceeds raised from the ground-breaking NER300 scheme,

New earth-sized planet in habitable zone may have ability to hold water, means life


The Kepler space telescope discovers Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone.

Like Hubble, NASA’s Kepler space telescope is the gift that keeps on giving. It has located nearly 1,000 confirmed exoplanets in almost 80 star systems, leading astronomers to conclude there might be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting habitable zones in the Milky Way galaxy–and now for the first time, Kepler has found one of them.

Astronomers have announced they have discovered a planet called Kepler-186f, artist's illustration shown. It is the first Earth-sized planet outside out solar system that has been discovered in the habitable zone of a star, which means it could have both water and life on its surface The newly found planet, cataloged as Kepler-186f, is only 10% larger than Earth and orbits its star in that region of space known as the habitable zone–the distance from its sun that is just right, neither too cold nor too hot for liquid water to exist without boiling away or turning to ice.

“The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun,” NASA said in a statement.

However, just because a planet is in a habitable zone does not mean it is home to any life forms. For example, Kepler-186f could be rocky or metallic, with an atmosphere that is very thin, very thick, or nonexistent.

Relatively speaking, Kepler-186 is right in Earth’s back yard, at a distance of only 500 light years away. So, when you consider that the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years across, it is easy to see that there could easily be billions of Earth-sized planets scattered across it, many of them located in habitable zones. And that realization makes it easy to conclude that among these billions of planets, there must be some containing life forms.

Some astronomers are on the lookout for just such planets. For example, the lead author of the study describing Kepler-186f, Elisa Quintana, is a research scientist at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, NASA said. The study was published April 17 in the journal Science.

“We know of just one planet where life exists–Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system, we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth,” said Quintana in a statement. “Finding a habitable zone planet comparable to Earth in size is a major step forward.”

News Ireland daily BLOG

Tuesday 9th July 2013

Martin fears home repossessions will be ramped up by Irish banks


Michael Martin of Fianna Fáil says the Government has failed to deal with the mortgage crisis

The Government has handed the banks a charter to repossess family homes and failed to grasp the scale of the mortgage arrears crisis, Fianna Fáil  claimed this morning.

The party has published a private members bill on mortgage arrears which is being debated in the Dáil today and tomorrow.

It wants a clear definition of what constitutes a sustainable mortgage to be included in the Central Bank’s code of conduct on mortgage arrears and believes a minimum income level should be protected as part of all negotiations.

It also seeks the reintroduction of a ceiling of unsolicited contacts a bank can have with a borrower in arrears and wants a new clause put into the code which would forbid a bank from moving a borrower off a tracker mortgage unless they were given independent financial advice from a third party.

The bill also wants a 12 month moratorium on home repossessions to be reinstated and a new rule put in place which would force banks to record all calls made to borrowers and given the Central Bank access to those recordings .

Describing the arrears crisis as a “major economic and social issue” which had created a “paralysis” across the wider economy, party leader Micheál Martin accused the Government of repeatedly failing to deal with the issue and described the banks’ engagement with distressed borrowers as “pitiful”.

He said he was “very fearful repossessions will be ramped up” over the next six months.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the Government had given increased powers to the banks through changes to the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears which was published late last month and he said the banks had been given a “charter for the repossession of family homes”.

He said repossession was supposed to be used as a last resort but suggested that banks were becoming increasingly aggressive and repossession was becoming the “solution of choice” for many lenders.

“There are now 70,000 family homes where banks have been given carte blanche to repossess,” Mr McGrath said. “It is very difficult to understand the deferential approach to the banks.”

He said the number of real alternatives being offered by the banks to distressed borrowers was inadequate and lacked consistency. He pointed out that the banks had offered fewer than 150 split mortgages to borrowers in arrears and said that while AIB did not charge interest on the warehoused portion of such loans, Bank of Ireland did which meant “they were not a sustainable solution.

Fianna Fáil has already published a number of proposals on mortgage arrears since 2011 which have been ignored by Government and both Mr Martin and Mr McGrath did not indicate that things would be any different on this occasion.

“We have a platform and we will continue to make the case,” Mr Martin said.

“We are being constructive rather than populist and we have been repeatedly told by groups such as New Beginnings, the Irish Mortgage Holders Association and the Free Legal Advice C entre not to underestimate the power of the pressure we are applying.”

165 different amendments to Irish abortion bill tabled by TD’s & various other groups


The amendments will be discussed prior to the final vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

A List of all of the amendments tabled regarding the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 has been published.

The 165 amendments come from a range of TDs and cross a number of different aspects of the bill. They will be discussed in the Dáil tomorrow.

TDs will cast their votes on the bill tomorrow in the Dáil, and the document released this evening is a compilation of amendments tabled by the deputies over the past few days.

There is likely to be heated discussion over which of the 165 amendments do get discussed, given that there could be time constraints tomorrow evening.

Some of the most contentious amendments have related to Section 9 of the bill, which concerns suicide grounds as a means to obtain a lawful termination.

In her amendments, Fine Gael Minister Lucinda Creighton seeks the removal of the suicide section, and sets out a line of care for women who present as suicidal.

Deputy Terence Flanagan also seeks the removal of the suicide section.

Meanwhile, an amendment jointly tabled by TDs Clare Daly and Joan Collins would allow for lawful terminations in cases of rape and incest.

In the first Dáil vote, 24 TDs voted against the legislation. This led to four Fine Gael members losing the party whip.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told RTÉ today that the amendments discussed by Cabinet won’t involve any “fundamental or substantial change” to the bill.

He said that there will be no change to the issue of suicidal ideation in the bill.

Non-payers of water charges face having pressure reduced


The Government has confirmed plans to limit the water pressure in homes who don’t pay their water charges.

The Department of the Environment says the measure will be included in legislation to be published in the autumn.

The measure is intended as an alternative way of punishing homes without having to cut off their supply.

Water charges are due to take effect in October 2014, with the first bills due in January 2015.

Leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan said the approach would not work.

“The way Phil Hogan has set this up, it’s pushing for revenue, it’s done in a way that I fear could be privatised in the long run,” he said.

“Everything about having one single Irish water company which they’ve set up rather than, I think, a regional structure which would make more sense.

“It would connect to the river basin districts where our water actually comes from, it would connect to the planning systems.

“Everything that’s been done by Phil Hogan is driven by a revenue-raising, finance-led approach. I think that’s not going to work.”

‘A Dead’ woman opens her eyes on operating table as her organs are about to be removed


A woman in New York state was pronounced dead and about to have her organs removed for transplant when she awoke and opened her eyes.

Colleen Burns had been taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Centre in Syracuse after taking a drug overdose in 2009. She was thought to have passed away, a victim of “cardiac death”, and so her family agreed to turn off the 41-year-old’s life support machine and donate her organs.

It was not until she was wheeled into the operating theatre and opened her eyes in response to the lights that doctors called off the procedure.

Lucille Kuss, Ms Burns’ mother, told Syracuse’s The Post-Standard newspaper that the doctors never explained what went wrong.

“They were just kind of shocked themselves,” she said. “It came as a surprise to them as well.”

Ms Burns, a mother of three, was discharged from the hospital a fortnight after the operation, but committed suicide less than two years later.

“She was so depressed that it really didn’t make any difference to her,” said her mother.

The family did not sue but the hospital was fined $6,000 (£4,000) by the state health department in September – the case only came to light after the newspaper made requests through the Freedom of Information Act.

“These sorts of things do happen,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union Safe Patient Project. “It’s pretty disturbing.”

Mrs McGiffert said there is no way of knowing how often near-catastrophes like the Burns case happen because in the US there is no system in place to collect information from hospitals about medical errors.

The state started investigating the case in March 2010 in response to an inquiry from The Post-Standard.

The investigation revealed a catalogue of errors in the handling of Ms Burns’ case.

The drugs overdose had sent her into a deep coma, the state health department found, and hospital personnel misread that as irreversible brain damage without doing enough to evaluate her condition.

Furthermore, the day before her organs were to be removed, a nurse had performed a reflex test – scraping a finger on the bottom of her foot. The toes curled downward – not the expected reaction of someone who’s supposed to be dead.

Outside the operating theatre, her nostrils appeared to show signs of breathing, and her lips and tongue moved.

“Dead people don’t curl their toes,” said Dr Charles Wetli, a forensic pathologist from New Jersey. “And they don’t fight against the respirator and want to breathe on their own.”

Twenty minutes after those observations were made, a nurse gave Burns an injection of the sedative Ativan, according to records.

In the doctors’ notes, there’s no mention of the sedative or any indication they were aware of her improving condition.

“If you have to sedate them or give them pain medication, they’re not brain-dead and you shouldn’t be harvesting their organs,” said Dr David Mayer, a surgeon and an associate professor of clinical surgery at New York Medical College.

St. Joseph’s submitted a plan to correct problems identified in the investigation to the state health department in August 2011.

The state fined St. Joseph’s and ordered it to hire a consultant to review the hospital’s quality assurance program and implement the consultant’s recommendations.

The hospital also was ordered to hire a consulting neurologist to teach staff how to accurately diagnose brain death.

Kerri Howell, spokeswoman for the hospital, told the newspaper: “St. Joseph’s goal is to provide the highest quality of care to every patient, every time.

“These policies were followed in this case, which was complicated in terms of care and diagnosis.

“We’ve learned from this experience and have modified our policies to include the type of unusual circumstance presented in this case.”

Irish drinks industry is willing to work with Government to combat misuse of alcohol


There is no evidence a ban on sponsorship of sporting events will impact on problem drinking

Tourists come to Ireland and hope to visit places connected with our beer and whiskey industries just as they would want to visit a vineyard in France.

I work in the alcohol industry. I work so that people can share a drink with colleagues in the pub on a Friday evening. I work so that people can invite friends over for Sunday dinner and enjoy a drink with their meal. Working for Irish Distillers also means that I promote the craftsmanship and tradition of Irish whiskey – a product that is experiencing a global renaissance and is an important part of Ireland’s food and drink success in recent years.
This is what it means to be part of the drinks industry.I very much welcome the current debate on alcohol and society, and want to be very clear on behalf of the industry that we are absolutely committed to tackling misuse. However, I also want to be clear that to suggest otherwise is not only untrue but unfair to more than 62,000 people who work in our sector.I am not blind to the problem of alcohol misuse. Working in this industry without commitment to promoting responsible drinking would be like working in the car industry and not caring about seat belts and brakes. Drinking too much or too often has negative consequences for individuals, for their families and for wider society. We value our customers and wish them long, happy and healthy lives.

We in the Irish drinks industry agree with the vast majority of the proposals in the National Substance Misuse Strategy. However, some parts of Government do not appear willing to engage with us on this topic. If they would engage they would see how committed we are to promoting responsible drinking.

When considering the problems with alcohol, it is important we acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly. It is a fact that alcohol consumption in this country has fallen by more than 19 per cent since 2001, and our consumption levels are fast approaching European norms.

A Unicef report of 29 countries, published earlier this year, found the percentage of young people who reported having been drunk on more than two occasions has fallen in Ireland. Irish consumption is falling and youth consumption is declining.

Scientific proof

It is, of course, still vital that we implement policies that are scientifically proven to combat alcohol misuse. There are many such examples, some of which are very well-articulated in the current proposal from the Department of Health. However, I would like to see further initiatives explored, specifically in the area of young adult education.

For example, I know from my own experience in my home country of Sweden how effective education can be and I would be happy to share independent Swedish research with anyone who would like to discuss this science-based approach. But some of the proposals being considered by the Irish Government will be completely ineffective in combating alcohol misuse and at the same time bring with them many negative economic consequences for this important industry.

I would like to give two examples.

First, let us consider the proposed ban on sponsorship. While initial reports indicated that all sporting, cultural and arts events would be banned from using alcohol sponsorship by 2020, recent media reports seem to imply that this ban would now only apply to major sporting events. As was noted by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications in its Report on Sponsorship of Sports by the Alcohol Drinks Industry, there is no evidence to show that banning the sponsorship of sporting events will have an impact on reducing alcohol misuse.

It would, however, remove a significant source of funding from our sporting organisations. Also, I do not believe that this is where the ban on sponsorship will end. Next in line will be undoubtedly be events related to the arts, culture and music.

Nasa’s next Mars rover will advance the hunt for past life


This view obtained on July 9, 2013 from the left Navigation Camera (Navcam) of Nasa’s Mars Rover Curiosity looks back at wheel tracks made during the first drive away from the last science target in the ‘Glenelg’ area.

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The next robotic rover to explore Mars in 2020 should scour the surface of the red planet more closely than ever for signs of past life, a Nasa science team said Tuesday.

The US space agency’s science definition team (SDT) released a 154-page document containing its proposals for the next Mars rover, after five months of work.

The mission would use microscopic analysis for the first time, collect the first rock samples for possible return to Earth and test ways to use natural resources on site for a future human trip, it said.

The Mars 2020 mission would build on the work being done by Nasa’s Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the red planet since August 2012 and has already found evidence of potentially habitable environments.

The mission would present “a major step toward seeking signs of life,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at Nasa headquarters.

The next step is for Nasa to analyze the recommendations and issue a call for scientific instruments, which could include higher resolution imaging devices, microscopes, fine scale minerology, chemistry and organic carbon detection tools to scan for biosignatures on the surface of Mars.

“To combine this suite of instruments would be incredibly powerful,” said Jack Mustard, SDT chair and professor of geological sciences at Brown University.

The rover would collect about 31 samples that might someday be returned to Earth, representing “a legacy for understanding the development of habitability on the planet,” he told reporters.

The US space agency has not yet devised the technology to bring the cache back to Earth without disturbing its contents, and no plans have been set for any potential sample-return.

The next Nasa mission to Mars is a November launch of MAVEN, an orbiter that will study how Mars interacted with the solar wind and lost its atmosphere.

The European Space Agency will follow in 2018 with its ExoMars rover.

John Grunsfeld, Nasa’s associate administrator for science, said the 2020 Mars rover would get the US space agency to the next step in the “quest to answer the grand questions,” before a planned human mission in the 2030s.

“Do we see any evidence of past life in those habitable environments?” he said, alluding to the aims of the future missions.

News Ireland daily BLOG Saturday

Saturday 6th July 2013

There were some 50,000 pro-life supporters in Dublin for march

Thousands take to Dublin streets over proposed abortion legislation  

Up to 50,000 pro-life supporters marched on Leinster House today in the first public protest since the expulsion of four Fine Gael deputies who failed to support the Government’s abortion legislation.

The rally heard repeated calls for the Government to once again put the issue of abortion to the people in  another referendum. A large force of gardai were deployed on Dublin’s O’Connell Street as the pro life march ran  the gauntlet of  some 400 pro-choice supporters who lined  both sides of the street near the Spire monument. Though both groups exchanged slogans and some insults there were no real clashes and no arrests. Today’s rally was the third major gathering in recent months  and probably the largest. The ‘All-Ireland Rally for Life‘ was  addressed by a number of speakers including the founder of the Libertas movement Declan Ganley and Niamh Ui Bhriain of the Life Institute as well as representatives of Youth Defence. Pro-life groups  from all over the country  were represented at the march with an initial gathering stretching across two sides of Parnell Square but that number swelled at the rally in Kildare Street – outside the Dail.

Poll suggests Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin support up

but fall in backing for Fine Gael, Labour and the Seanad abolition


A Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll suggests that Fianna Fáil has opened up a three-point lead over Fine Gael.

Fine Gael has dropped one point to 26%, compared to 29% support for Fianna Fáil, a rise of two points. Labour’s support has fallen three points to 8% – while Sinn Féin has risen two points to 19% since the last poll in May. Support for independents and others has risen by one point to 19%. A high level of those polled are undecided, accounting for 34%. Dissatisfaction with the Government is running at 75% according to the poll, with only 17% happy with the Coalition, broadly similar to earlier polls this year for the newspaper. Asked about the future of the Seanad, 43% of those polled want abolition with 30% seeking reform and 5% wanting it to stay the same as it is. The number favouring abolition is 10 points down on the last Seanad poll taken in December. The large rise in undecided voters – up 11 points to 22% almost mirroring the drift away from those wanting abolition – points to a more open campaign facing the government when it gets underway in the autumn than may previously have been expected.

Dissatisfaction with Enda Kenny’s leadership is 64% according to the Sunday Independent poll with 25% happy with his performance.72% are unhappy with Eamon Gilmore’s leadership of the Labour Party, with only 16% of those polled saying he should remain as party leader.Support for Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has dropped further, with 56% dissatisfied with his party leadership, compared to 47% in early May. His satisfaction rating of 30% is the highest of the four main party leaders. Dissatisfaction with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has risen by one point to 57% – with 24% of those polled happy with his leadership.

One in every 19 Irish patients will pick up infection in our hospitals


ONE in every 19 patients in Irish hospitals has a healthcare infection such as MRSA, which was acquired in the course of their treatment.

The figure is lower than the European average of one in 18, according to a new survey by the European disease watchdog. It means that in any given day, around 494 patients in Irish hospitals have an infection acquired during a stay in hospital or other healthcare setting. More than 1,000 hospitals in 30 European countries took part in the first survey of its kind from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.


The main infections affecting Irish patients are pneumonia and lower respiratory tract infections, which accounted for one in five of the patients. Surgical site infections suffered by those who had an operation were also a serious problem, as were urinary tract infections. Bloodstream infections, such as MRSA, accounted for 14pc of those affected. The report pointed out that although some of these infections can be treated easily, others may more seriously affect a patient’s health, increasing their stay in the hospital, requiring further surgical intervention or prolonged treatment with antibiotics and “causing considerable distress to these patients”. The prevalence of healthcare-associated infections was highest amongst patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs). Marc Sprenger, the watchdog’s director, said: “The survey confirms that healthcare-associated infections pose a major public health problem and a threat to European patients.” Overall, the figures involved amount to an estimated total of 3.2 million patients each year.

Written bids invited by Allsop after abandoned auction in Shelbourne Hotel


Sale of more than 100 properties abandoned after Allsop auction protest in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin.

Allsop Space has said it will proceed with the sale of more than 100 properties next week after it was forced to abandon an auction at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin on Thursday following a protest. The company is inviting people to submit written bids by 5pm on Tuesday. Once the highest bidder has exceeded the reserve price on a property, a deposit will be required and legal paperwork must be signed by close of business on Wednesday. Director of auctions at the company Robert Hoban said the firm had lined up hundreds of people to bid on more than 120 properties, many of whom had already paid for legal advice and surveys. He again expressed concern at the nature of the protest, which he described as aggressive. Mr Hoban said he understood the anger over the economy and its collapse and was aware of the financial difficulties many people were in. However, he pointed out that Allsop Space had a policy of not accepting forcibly repossessed family homes. “I understand and fully respect people’s right to protest, but they were protesting at something we do not do. We are mainly dealing with commercial investments . . . of people who are [in] receivership.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 8th June 2013

Good nutrition ‘must be a global priority for everybody’ say’s researchers


Good nutrition is critical in the first two years of life

Malnutrition is responsible for 45% of the global deaths of children under the age of five, research published in the Lancet medical journal suggests.

Poor nutrition leads to the deaths of about 3.1 million under-fives annually, it says.

An international team reviewed different causes of malnutrition in pregnancy and childhood.

They say the first 1,000 days of life – from conception to two years – have lasting consequences for health.

Malnutrition – which includes being overweight or obese as well as under-nourished – also has an economic impact.

According to a recent United Nations report, malnutrition is estimated to cost the world $3.5tn (£2.3tn) – or $500 for every person – in healthcare and lost productivity.

If maternal and child nutrition can be optimised, the benefits will accrue and extend over generations, which is why we must work together now to seize this opportunity.”

Dr Richard HortonThe Lancet

A team led by Prof Robert Black, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, US, reviewed evidence on maternal and child under-nutrition and obesity in low-income and middle-income countries since 2008.

The team also assessed national and international progress on nutrition programmes.

Prof Black and colleagues say while some progress has been made in recent years, they estimate that more than 165 million children were affected by stunting (low height for age) and 50 million by wasting (low weight for height) in 2011.

An estimated 900,000 lives could be saved in 34 countries if 10 proven nutritional interventions were scaled-up to 90% of the world, they say.

“The nutritional consequences of the months during pregnancy and the conditions during the first two years of life have very important consequences for mortality and for adult chronic disease,” Prof Black told BBC News.

“The early nutritional deficit results in developmental consequences for the individual and that has implications for their ability to succeed in school and ultimately in society to have the most productive jobs.”

The researchers warn that countries will not break out of poverty unless nutrition becomes a global priority.

Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, said: “If maternal and child nutrition can be optimised, the benefits will accrue and extend over generations, which is why we must work together now to seize this opportunity.”

Experts working in development are gathering in London this weekend for a summit on nutrition hosted by the UK and Brazilian governments.

This will be followed by the annual summit of leaders from the G8 countries.

The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign is calling for $1bn per year in additional aid money to be spent on malnutrition by 2015.

Enough Food for Everyone IF spokesperson Anita Tiessen said:

“These new figures confirm our worst fears – that hundreds of thousands more children are dying from malnutrition than we previously thought.

“We have made incredible progress in tackling child deaths around the world, but malnutrition remains the Achilles’ heel in our efforts to prevent millions of needless deaths each year. We must urgently prioritise tackling hunger if we are to continue the progress we have made.”

Enda Kenny’s personal crusade to get rid of Seanad faces internal revolt


Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s “personal crusade” to abolish the Seanad faces a major revolt from within the coalition, as a majority of Government TDs are against doing away with the upper house.

The Taoiseach, wishing to close down debate on the Seanad in such an arrogant fashion, is completely consistent with his refusal to grant a free vote on issues of conscience

Senior figures in Fine Gael today rejected speculation that the Government would consider reforming the Seanad, should the referendum be defeated.
Speaking at the Constitutional Convention, in Malahide, Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children, said there was no question of reforming the Seanad and that the Autumnal referendum would be an opportunity for the public to consider whether they wanted to see one really effective house operating strongly with checks and balances.

 Ms Fitzgerald said a reformed Dáil would see a strengthening of the committee system and described the amendment being put to the people as a “serious proposition”.

Adding his voice to reject sugesstions of reforming the Seanad, Party chairman, Charlie Flanagan, said there was no contemplation of a ‘Plan B.’  He said voters would be given a clear choice between abolition or retention of the Seanad.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said it was a huge irony that the Constitutional Convention which is meeting in Malahide this weekend was not discussing the future of the Seanad because it was not allowed to do so. Mr Adams said this was a “huge mistake”.

Thousands of Pro-life supporters attend Dublin abortion rally


Official estimates put the crowd at between 15,000 and 20,000

A section of the large crowd attending the Pro-Life vigil at Merrion Square, Dublin

Thousands have rallied in Dublin against the Government’s proposed legislation on abortion. Organised by the Pro Life Campaign, the large and colourful demonstration called on the Coalition to “scrap the bill”.

Many speakers and several of those voicing opinions on the video shown on a large screen beside the platform warned the Government on its position.

“We gathered in Dublin on the coldest day of the winter, here today on the hottest day of the year and we will be here again on election day,” said Caroline Simons, legal adviser to the Campaign.

She said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had no mandate “other than keeping his pro-life promises” which she claims Fine Gael made before the last election.

Two video addresses were shown to the crowd which flooded Merion Square West and South.

Michael McAreavey, widower of Michaela who was mudered on honeymoon in Mauritius, said there was nothing more positive “than standing up for the human rights of another person, especially the most vulnerable”.

“Other countries have made the mistake of legalising abortion and have unleashed a terrible sadness across society,”

His father-in-law, Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, was among the crowd below the platform.

In an emotional contribution, Edel Best of Women Hurt, an organisation representing those who have had abortions, said she had suffered after two abortions.

“Abortion stole my children,” she said.

There was also a video presentation from Celeste Beal King, a grand-niece of murdered human rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King Jr. “A huge challenge faces your movement, but I challenge you, Never lose heart,” she said.

She said it was “noble” to say Yes to life and No to abortion.

Maria Steen of the Iona Institute said the proposed legislation would forced doctors and other practitioners “to go against the first principle of medicine – to do no harm”.

Ide Mac Mathuna of Youth Defence said the population was being “bombarded with pro-abortion propaganda and our own Government are allowing themselves to be bullied and dictated to by the pro-abortion lobby.”

Jennifer Kehoe of the organisation One Day More and mother of a child diagnosed with severe illness in pregnancy claimed she and her husband were told “most people would go to England”.

She clalimed other parents faced with such a crisis were “frightened into abortion” and made feel that they had “the expectation and duty” to opt for abortion.

“Legality brings acceptability,” she said.

Official estimates are reported to have put the crowd at between 15,000 and 20,000 although protest organisers claimed “a conservative figure of 50,000”.

Shelbourne Hotel completely booked out?

Michelle & the girls must be coming here


First lady Michelle Obama and daughters, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama

Anyone hoping to sleep under the same roof as First Lady Michelle Obama during her Dublin visit is out of luck.

The Shelbourne Hotel is completely booked for the duration of the G8 summit.

Mrs Obama is reported to be staying at the landmark hotel and bosses now have ‘sold out’ signs on their website.

She is due to travel on Air Force One with President Barack Obama and their two daughters for the summit in Fermanagh on June 17 and 18.


But the Shelbourne Hotel, which has yet to confirm the stay, has no rooms available for those dates. The First Lady is expected to stay in the €2,500-a-night Princess Grace Suite, with daughters Malia (14) and Sasha (12) staying in adjoining suites.

The Princess Grace Suite is the best the St Stephen’s Green hotel has to offer, with two beds, two bathrooms, four phones and three large televisions.

The Obamas’ itinerary has not yet been finalised, but it is expected mainly to involve events in Dublin.

Genes could be used to improve wine says scientists


Certain DNA sequences could identify grapevines more suited to climate change

DNA analysis of Italian grapes has highlighted particular genes that could be used to improve berry and wine quality, scientists say.

DNA analysis of Italian grapes has highlighted particular genes that could be used to improve berry and wine quality, scientists say.

Researchers in Italy have pinpointed certain DNA sequences that could be used to identify and breed grapevine varieties that are more suited to climate change and increase their consistency in performance.

Environmental influences can affect the qualities of grapevines, and this inconveniences the berry producers. “This can be considered a burden because the berries may mature unevenly and display large interseasonal fluctuations in quality,” the authors of the paper say this morning in the journal Genome Biology.

Grapevine berries vary in their qualities, dependent on the different regions or climates they are grown in. To investigate this, Silvia Dal Santo and her team at the Plant Genetics Lab at the University of Verona, grew a single variety of grape, the Corvina berry, across 11 different regions in Verona.

Through genetically analysing them over three consecutive years, the researchers were to pick out various environmentally sensitive genes that could influence berry quality. These qualities ranged from such specific factors such as how the berries tasted, to how they looked and even to how they were textured.

Genes that remained unchanged across the different grapes regardless of the region they were grown in were judged to be independent of the surrounding environment. These genes could be used in the future as a marker to monitor grape ripening in the field, even of other varieties, and help to optimise picking time and standardise wine quality, according to the authors.

The grapevine is the most widely cultivated perennial fruit crop in the world, and accounted for 67.5 million tonnes of berries produced in 2011. Climate change is expected to significantly impact the agriculture of wine-making.

Dal Santo’s work, headed by Professor of Plant Genetics Mario Pezzotti, will come as a relief to winemakers and drinkers alike, to whom this variability can negatively affect.

The work was funded by projects of the CARIVERONA Bank Foundation, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policies, and by Regione Veneto.