Tag Archives: Proclamation

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 11th August 2016

Gerry Adams says it is time for a united Ireland

Gerry Adams says all parties should come together to talk about Irish unity.

   

The issue of Irish unity has been absent from official Ireland’s centenary celebrations to mark 1916.

Parades and TV specials were seen, books were written, and reams of newspaper articles published. Songs of the period have been sung and debates held. But the fracture of the island by partition, the abandonment of the 1916 Proclamation as a declaration of freedom and justice for all of Ireland, has been ignored.

The Republic envisaged by the leaders of 1916 and by the Proclamation was to be a rejection of all that was bad, divisive and elitist in British imperialism and colonisation. It was to be an Ireland of equal citizens. A republic for all.

Today those of us who desire that outcome are told by some that we are being divisive. We are told that there will be a united Ireland at some undefined time in the future. But it will not happen through wishful thinking or sitting in a bar singing songs – not that there is anything wrong with singing songs of freedom – or simply talking about it.

It needs a political strategy with clear objectives and actions.

Failure to honour commitments

Those who advocate the wishful thinking approach to Irish unity point to the enhanced relationships between London and Dublin. They praise the ‘special’ relationship between the Irish and British governments as evidence of change. And while it is true that much progress has been made, the reality is that the British government has failed to honour key commitments within the Good Friday and other agreements.

It has unilaterally set aside elements of the various agreements, with barely a whimper of protest, especially from the Irish establishment. It has failed to deliver on a range of important issues, including:

  • A Civic Forum in the north
  • An All-Ireland Civic Forum
  • A Bill of Rights for the North
  • A joint north/south committee of the two Human Rights Commissions
  • An All-Ireland Charter of Rights
  • Honouring its obligations in compliance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
  • The introduction of Acht na Gaeilge

The British have also obstructed efforts to resolve the legacy of the past by refusing to honour its commitments under the Haass agreement, failing to provide information on the Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk bombs, and reneging on its Weston Park commitment to hold an inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.

Brexit

The real value of the special relationship between the Irish and British governments was demonstrated in the recent Brexit campaign. It is clear the economic interests of the island of Ireland are collateral damage in a fight between factions of the right wing of British politics.

The implications of Brexit are becoming increasingly apparent. It is a real threat to the economy, imposing barriers to trade and a possible EU frontier across Ireland, creating a fundamental crisis in North-South co-operation.

At no time in the Brexit debate was the impact on Ireland, North or South, considered. Our national concerns were dismissed.

The people of the North voted against Brexit. Just as they did in the Good Friday Agreement referendum, all sections of the community, republican and unionist, voted in the best interest of all. They voted to remain in the EU. Yet the British Government say they will impose Brexit on the North against the expressed will of the majority.

The economies north and south are interlinked and interdependent. It has been estimated that 200,000 jobs depend on all-Ireland trade. A recent report on economic modelling of Irish unity demonstrated a dividend and growth in a united Ireland.

The aftermath of the Brexit vote is a clear demonstration of the injustice of partition. It is fundamentally undemocratic and economically wrong. Partition makes no sense. Yet it continues.

Unity

A mechanism exists to end partition and bring about Irish unity, through a border poll.

The vast majority of people across Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement. It is worth remembering that 94% of people in the south and 74% of people in the North voted for the agreement.

It included a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity that provided for concurrent referendums north and south. It obliged the two governments to legislate on the basis of referendums for Irish unity.

National unity is in the national interest. Wishful thinking will not bring about unity. We have a mechanism to achieve unity. We need all of those in favour of unity to act together to bring it about.

This is the time to plan and to build the maximum support for unity. The leadership of those parties which support Irish unity, acting together, could be the leadership which delivers it.

Eighteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, we should not need to convince the leaders of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael to become persuaders for Irish unity.

The Irish government should have a plan for unity. A first step in the next term of the Oireachtas would be the development of an all-party group to bring forward a green paper for unity.

In addition, we need to develop plans for an all island health service; for public services in a united Ireland, through a united Ireland investment and prosperity plan.

Now is the time

The New Ireland Forum in its time created a space for discussion on constitutional options of change and developed a comprehensive economic options paper on the cost of partition.

It failed because it excluded Sinn Féín and operated at a time of a British veto on change – given voice by Margaret Thatcher with her “out, out, out” rejection. Thatcher is gone and so is the British veto.

Constitutional change is in the hands of the people of Ireland, North and South. The politics of exclusion failed, and Sinn Féin is jointly leading the government in the North.

We have the opportunity to end partition and build support for a new and united Ireland. A new Ireland that is built on equality and which is citizen centred and inclusive. The shape of that new Ireland remains to be drawn.

Now is the time for all parties who support Irish unity to come together to design the pathway to a new and united Ireland.

Big concern over €300,000 reduction in Mental Health services

     

The news that the HSE are looking to cut funding and find savings in Mental Health Services in Sligo Leitrim has caused anger and upset locally.

According to minutes from the May meeting of the HSE’s Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Area, privatisation of a residential service in Mohill is being considered.

The meeting revealed that savings of €30million had to be generated across all services in the Community Health Organisation which covers Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo. As a result of this, €300,000 will need to be saved from Sligo Leitrim Mental Health services before the end of 2016.

As well as cost reductions there were proposals to cut down spending. One of the proposals is looking at the future of Ard na Drise in Mohill as well as exploring possibilities for the Garden Centre and Dochas Clubhouse in Sligo.

Fenagh Councillor and HSE Regional Health Forum member Caillian Ellis said, details of these savings had not been mentioned at the June HSE Regional Forum meeting.

He commented “it is a total disgrace that there would be cuts from the most vulnerable people in society.” He said €300,000 is a “huge cutback” to find before the end of the year.

Cllr Ellis stated mental health services need “more funding, especially in rural Leitrim with many people living alone with financial pressures.”

Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny, speaking said that he was horrified to read in the minutes of a HSE meeting, that far from prioritising mental health, the Executive has plans to slash services in order to balance the books. Minutes of the meeting, which took place in May, of the Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Service Area Mental Health Management Team.

Deputy Kenny said, “When I call on behalf of the people I represent for restoration or even maintenance of services, I am told one thing and then I see this report of an internal meeting and find that the HSE’s plan B, is to slash services to the most vulnerable, those with mental health problems. This meeting discusses ways to knock €300,000 off the mental health budget in Sligo Leitrim between now and the end of the year.

“It is a shocking reflection on the HSE that its priorities are based on budgets and not on patients. The list of proposed cuts in horrifying and at a time when every community in Ireland is becoming more aware of the vulnerability of people to taking their lives by suicide, it is nothing short of outrageous.

““I have written to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, for reassurance that this scenario will not be allowed to unfold here in this constituency or anywhere else.”

The Psychiatric Nurses Association in Sligo and Leitrim have since threatened to ballot its members over the prospect of cutbacks. The local spokesperson said the service is already under resourced.

A spokesperson for the HSE told the paper, “All services in Community Health Organisation Area 1 (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan & Sligo) have been asked to consider potential cost savings and that is what the Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Management Team Minutes reflect.”

The spokesperson stressed, “None of the proposals have been actioned and Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Services is well within budget, year to date in 2016.”

The HSE explained, “Ard na Drise was an Independent Living House, it was a private rental to clients of Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Services, who provided them with support while they waited for Leitrim County Council houses. This was not a HSE facility and is no longer in use. It was a private rental.

“The clients who lived there have now successfully moved to their own council homes.”

The HSE stated, “There has been no change to the clinical care and treatment that the clients are receiving from the HSE. These clients are still being cared for and supported on a daily basis by their clinical team.”

The minutes for the meeting earlier this Summer reported there “was discussion about reducing service capacity to meet potentially more stringent cutbacks in 2017.”

615 points leaving cert Trinity College asylum student wins right to remain in Ireland

     

Tatiana Prochukhan with her daughter Nadezda Nadia and St Mary’s School Principle John Michael Porter, said she loves Ireland

An asylum seeker who received anonymous donations amounting to €20,000 to pay for her first year at Trinity College Dublin has been granted a right to remain in Ireland.

Nadezda (Nadia) Prochukhan, 20, shot to national acclaim in 2014 when she achieved 615 points in her Leaving Certificate.

Anonymous donors enabled her to fulfil her dream of studying chemistry at Trinity College Dublin.

Her case was one of two which helped lead to a change in Irish law last year when ex-education minister Jan O’Sullivan announced that third-level student grants would be available to asylum seekers.

Nadia thanked everyone for their support: “People I never met donated money for me to attend my first year of college and that is why I’ve been able to get where I am today. I am so grateful to everyone.”

Nadia, her mother Tatiana, and her younger sister Maria were sent a letter recently informing them their application for asylum, submitted in September 2011, was finally approved.

Tatiana said the family spent the past five years living with no income due to their asylum-seeker status.

The mother had led a campaign for her daughter to be treated like her Irish peers.

Tatiana said being approved to stay in Ireland was one of the greatest moments in her life. She had feared the family would have to survive indefinitely through donations and support from locals in New Ross and her 78-year-old mother in Russia.

“The letter said we have permission to stay in Ireland for three years so we are entitled to everything an Irish citizen is entitled to, apart from being able to vote.

“We can become Irish citizens in five years which would be amazing. We love New Ross and Ireland and I can’t imagine living in anywhere else. The people are so good here.”

She said her family endured five years of suffering from a constant threat of deportation.

“I have been fighting for my children’s lives. Often there was no bread on the table. All our money was stolen before we arrived here. We had to wait for the decision because the Government changed the law twice. We were another cog in the wheel.

“When we got the letter and saw the words we were overjoyed. We were hugging each other.”

She added: “We have been through hell. We had no work permits and no means to make money.

“Someone stole a lot of money from us but we are strong and we remained positive and the people of New Ross and Ireland were amazing to us.’”

Her daughter Nadia is one of the top performers in her class at Trinity College Dublin, where she completed 10 exams in May in her second year of a four-year course.

The Prochukhans are hopeful Nadia will be awarded a grant for her third and fourth years, as the fees come to €8,000 per year at Trinity.

“We have completed all the forms and we are waiting word from the social welfare office.

“My mother Nina has been paying our rent. She is 78 and works three jobs.”

She said the most difficult thing to witness over recent years was her daughters never felt equal to their Irish peers.

Tatiana moved to Ireland with her daughters Nadia and Maria in 2006, living here until 2009 when they had to return to Russia as her father was very ill.

“They returned in 2011 and several business people and townspeople have been helping them since as they have no income.

“They do now. As a mother all you want to see is your children happy.

“Nadia is an example to everyone. Even though she didn’t have the native language and even through she went through a lot of hardship with no money in her family, she was able to achieve her dream.

“She showed what you get when you fight for your rights. We are really proud of her.”

Younger daughter Maria, meanwhile, completed her Leaving Certificate in June and is hoping to study art at the National University of Galway, where she has been offered free tuition and assistance once she achieves more than 450 points.

Tatiana thanked the people of New Ross for their support.

“Without the kindness of the people of New Ross and the New Ross Standard we would never have won these rights.

“People were so good. One lady put €600 through our door. Nobody forced her to do this, it was her good heart. We also got so many kind words on the street and still do and that keeps you going.

Refilling your drinking water bottle is just as gross as licking your dog’s toy

      

Drinking out of a plastic water bottle that has continuously been refilled can be “many times worse than licking your dog’s toy” when it comes to bacteria exposure, new research has found.

A new study involved the analysis of 12 plastic water bottles, which were each used by an athlete for one week without being washed. The bottles varied in type, from screw-tops, slide-tops, squeeze-tops and straw tops.

Drinking out of a plastic water bottle that has continuously been refilled can be “many times worse than licking your dog’s toy” when it comes to bacteria exposure

The result of the lab tests commissioned by Treadmill Reviews, a US website, found that the top of the water-bottles were crawling in potentially harmful bacteria by the week’s end. More than 300,000 colony-forming units were found on each square centimetre of the bottles on average. The average pet toy has 2,937 CFU.

Gram-positive cocci was found on many of the bottles, which can lead to skin infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning.

The study revealed that drinking from reusable bottles without washing them exposes you to more bacteria than if you ate dinner from your dog’s bowl.

Researchers said: “Drinking from these bottles can still be worse than eating a meal from your pet’s dish.

“Based on the 12 water bottles we tested, we found that reusable drinking containers may be crawling with an alarming number of viable bacteria cells: more than 300,000 colony-forming units per square centimeter (CFU/sq cm).”

The study found that bottles which you have to slide open with your fingers are the worst offenders, followed by squeeze tops.

The researchers suggested investing in a water bottle that can be placed in the dish washer every evening, and to keep an eye out for stainless steel options.

“We know that when it comes to water bottles and bacteria, stainless steel is a better choice than plastic. Additionally, water bottles without crevices and tough-to-clean spots are less likely to host germs.”

A 400 year old Greenland shark is the oldest vertebrate animal

  

Shark, which would have reached sexual maturity at around 150 years, sets new record for longevity as biologists finally develop method to determine age

The oldest Greenland shark found by researchers was most likely around 392 years old, although the range of possible ages stretches from 272 to 512 years.

She was born during the reign of James I, was a youngster when René Descartes set out his rules of thought and the great fire of London raged, saw out her adolescent years as George II ascended the throne, reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution kicked off, and lived through two world wars. Living to an estimated age of nearly 400 years, a female Greenland shark has set a new record for longevity, scientists have revealed.

The discovery places the lifespan of the Greenland shark far ahead of even the oldest elephant in captivity, Lin Wang, who died aged 86. It is also far longer than the official record for humans, held by 122-year-old Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment.

“It kicks off the bowhead whale as the oldest vertebrate animal,” said Julius Nielsen, lead author of the research from the University of Copenhagen, pointing out that bowhead whales have been known to live for 211 years.

But the Greenland shark doesn’t scoop all the gongs – the title of the world’s longest-lived animal is held by Ming, an Icelandic clam known as an ocean quahog, that made it to 507 years before scientists bumped it off.

Grey, plump and growing to lengths of around five metres, the Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest carnivores. With a reported growth rate of less than one centimetre a year, they were already thought to be long-lived creatures, but just how long they lived for was something of a mystery.

“Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success.” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1000 years.”

The new research, he says, is the first hard evidence of just how long these creatures can live.

“It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said Nielsen.

Writing in the journal Science, Nielsen and an international team of researchers describe how they set about determining the age of 28 female Greenland sharks, collected as by-catch during scientific surveys between 2010 and 2013.

While the ages of many fish can be determined by counting the growth layers of calcium carbonate “stones” found in their ears – in a manner somewhat similar to counting tree rings – sharks do not have such earstones. What’s more, the Greenland shark lacks other calcium-rich tissues suitable for this type of analysis.

Instead the team had to rely on a different approach: scrutiny of the lenses in their eyes.

The lens of the eye is made of proteins that build up over time, with the proteins at the very centre of the lens laid down while the shark is developing in its mother’s womb. Work out the date of these proteins, the scientists say, and it is possible to achieve an estimate of the shark’s age.

In order to determine when the proteins were laid down, the scientists turned to radiocarbon dating – a method that relies on determining within a material the levels of a type of carbon, known as carbon-14, that undergoes radioactive decay over time.

By applying this technique to the proteins at the centre of each lens, the scientists deduced a broad range of ages for each shark.

The scientists then made use of a side-effect of atomic bomb tests which took place in the 1950s: when the bombs were detonated, they increased the levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. The spike, or pulse, in carbon-14 entered the marine food web across the North Atlantic no later than the early 1960s.

That provides a useful time-stamp, says Nielsen. “I want to know when I see the bomb-pulse in my sharks, what time does that mean,” he said. “Does it mean they are 50 years old, or 10 years old?”

Nielsen and the team found that the eye lens proteins of the two smallest of their 28 Greenland sharks had the highest levels of carbon-14, suggesting that they were born after the early 1960s. The third smallest shark, however, had carbon-14 levels only slightly above those of the 25 larger sharks, hinting that it was actually born in the early 1960s, just as bomb-related carbon-14 began to be incorporated in marine food webs.

A Greenland shark returning to the deep and cold waters of the Uummannaq Fjord in northwestern Greenland. The sharks were part of a tag-and- release program in Norway and Greenland. Photograph: Julius Nielsen/Science

“That indicates that most of our analysed sharks were actually older than the time mark, meaning that they were older than 50 years,” said Nielsen.

The scientists then combined the carbon dating results with estimations of how Greenland sharks grow, to create a model that allowed them to probe the age of the 25 sharks born before the 1960s.

Their findings revealed that the largest shark of the group, a female measuring just over five metres in length, was most likely around 392 years old, although, as Nielsen points out, the range of possible ages stretches from 272 to 512 years.

“The Greenland shark is now the best candidate for the longest living vertebrate animal,” he said.

What’s more, with adult female Greenland sharks known hit sexual maturity only once they reach more than four metres in length, the scientists found that females have to clock up an age of around 150 years before they can produce young.

But not everyone is convinced that Greenland sharks can live for four centuries. “I am convinced by the idea of there being long lifespans for these kinds of sharks, [but] I take the absolute numbers with a pinch of salt,” said Clive Trueman, associate professor in marine ecology at the University of Southampton.

Trueman agrees that it is possible to get a record of the early life of a vertebrate from eye lens proteins. However, the fact that the proteins in the centre of the eye lenses, and hence the carbon-14 within them, came from nutrients taken in by the shark’s mother adds a number of uncertainties to the calculations, he says.

Campana says while the approach taken by the researchers is sound, he remains unconvinced that Greenland sharks live for almost 400 years. But, he adds, “future research should be able to nail the age down with greater certainty.”

Nielsen is also looking forward to further research, saying that he hopes the Greenland shark’s new found fame will boost awareness of the animal, as well as conservation efforts and attempts to unravel other aspects of its physiology. “There are other aspects of their biology which are super-interesting to know more about and to shed light upon,” he said.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 25th March 2016

The words of 1916 Proclamation on which modern Ireland was built

 

One hundred years after the Easter Rising, specialist Thomas Venning examines a copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic  and meets a descendent of one of its signatories.

On Easter Monday, 1916, Patrick Pearse stepped into the streets of Dublin to read from the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and a document that sparked the six-day Easter Rising, effectively laying the foundations for modern Ireland.

Thought to have been composed by Pearse, with contributions from James Connolly and Thomas MacDonagh, the Proclamation outlined the shape of a new Republic. From the first line, Irish men and women were placed as equals, with ‘religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities’ guaranteed to all — the Rising placed within the context of Ireland’s 300-year struggle for independence.

Composed on Good Friday, the Proclamation was printed on Easter Sunday at Liberty Hall. The fighting that followed lasted for six days from Easter Monday, with Pearse — facing vastly superior numbers — issuing an order for surrender on Saturday 29 April.  In the subsequent weeks, 15 of the Rising’s leaders, including all seven of the signatories to the Proclamation, had been executed under martial law — James Connolly whilst tied to a chair, his ankle having been shattered by a bullet in the fighting.

‘What’s incredible here is that this text was written one day, printed the next, and put into action the day after that,’ says specialist Thomas Venning. ‘Then, within a few days, every signatory was executed’. The letters of the proclamation confirms the speed of events, improvised from type collected from foundries across the city, in the 24 hours that preceded printing.

Though approximately 1,000 copies of the Proclamation were originally printed, the majority were destroyed in the chaotic events of Easter Week — indeed, by 11 May, the Dublin Metropolitan police were struggling to find a single example. This is one of only 50 surviving copies — its crisp folds suggesting that it was folded immediately after printing.

For Joe MacDonagh, great-nephew of signatory Thomas MacDonagh, the significance of the document is ‘hard to put into words’. ‘This is something which will live on. It embodies something greater — a sense of aspiration that every country would want in its forebears. It’s something of which I’m very proud’.

Brexit the EU would hit Ireland almost as hard as the UK

  

ING has found that Britain leaving the EU could knock 1.1% points off the Irish GDP

An exit of Britain from the European Union would have almost as bad an economic impact on Ireland as it would on the UK, according to Dutch bank ING.

ING said Ireland would suffer an economic loss in the event of a Brexit, estimating that it could cost the economy an amount equal to knocking 1.1 percentage points off GDP growth before the end of 2017. It estimates that it could cost the UK economy 1.2 percentage points over the same period.

Economists at ING said Malta, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg would also experience a substantial hit if a Brexit happened, suffering GDP losses of between 0.7 and 1 percentage points. Germany, the euro zone’s largest economy, is forecast to experience a GDP loss of half a point.

“If the UK were to vote in favour of Brexit, further turmoil seems guaranteed with significant negative effects on the British economy … From our baseline forecast we estimate that the initial hit to euro zone GDP could by a cumulative 0.3 per cent by end-2017”, ING said.

Fianna Fáil

Sepatately, Fianna Fáil jobs and enterprise spokesperson Dara Calleary said on Friday that the possibility of a Brexit represents one of the biggest threats to Irish exports and SME jobs. He pointed out that Brexit could lead to a significant weakening of sterling against the euro.

“The euro’s recent rise of over 10 per cent against sterling is reflective of this uncertainty. This will damage the competitiveness of our exports to the UK and the relative attractiveness of our goods in markets in which we compete with UK firms.

“Irish exporters are heavily dependent on the UK market, with almost half of all Irish exports to the UK coming from indigenous Irish companies. A Brexit would present a direct threat to continued jobs in this vitally important sector,” he said.

“In a worst case scenario, a British exit from the EU could lead to the introduction of tariffs on trade activity with European states,” he added.

Border

He said the possibility of new border controls between North and South raises an array of concerns as it would have implications for trade and tourism.

“The Irish Government must ensure that steps are taken to safeguard the integrity of the single market and maintain a strong trade link between Ireland and the UK”.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has estimated that bilateral trade flows between the UK and Ireland could fall by as much as 20 per cent in the event of Brexit.

The AIB and BoI have repaid 31% of bailout funds by end of 2015

Total value of Irish Strategic Investment Fund rose almost 11% over first year

  

AIB and Bank of Ireland had repaid 31% of the bailout funds that they received from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund by the end of last year, according to figures published yesterday.

Isif’s fourth quarter performance and portfolio update shows that the two banks had returned €6.4 billion in receipts to the State agency, by the end of last year, of the €20.7 billion they received between 2009 and 2011 from the former National Pensions Reserve Fund, which Isif has replaced.

Bank of Ireland had repaid €4.2 billion of the €4.7 billion it received while AIB had paid €2.2 billion out of €16 billion it was given. The funds from AIB were received last year and related to €1.9 billion for the conversion of some of the State’s preference shares and a dividend payment on those shares.

Isif said the State’s holding in AIB was worth €11.7 billion at the end of 2015. This was the same figure as the previous year but the mix was different.

Preference shares

The 2014 valuation included the value of the preference shares – breaking down as €7.2 billion for the ordinary stock and the balance in preference shares.

A reorganisation of AIB’s capital last year has altered that mix. In addition to receiving a cheque from AIB the State also received 155 billion ordinary shares as part payment for the conversion of the preference stock. This resulted in its holding in the bank increasing marginally to 99.9%.

AIB also consolidated the number of shares in issue, as a precursor to a potential flotation this year. Taking this consolidation into account, AIB’s shares were worth€3.43 each in 2014 with Isif valuing them at €4.33 at the end of last year, an increase of 26%.

The Isif figures estimate that, in total, the remaining stakes in AIB and Bank of Ireland are worth €13.5 billion. This compares with €15 billion in the previous year when the AIB preference shares were still in issue.

The payment from AIB for the preference shares was remitted to the exchequer under direction by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and will be used to pay down the State’s national debt in due course.

The AIB holding is part of the €13.5 billion directed portfolio of investments made by Isif, which is under the direction of the minister and also includes public policy investments in Bank of Ireland (the State still owns close to 14% of its shares) and Strategic Banking Corporation, which has received €240 million.

The portfolio generated a 15.3% return on its investment over the year.

An discretionary portfolio?

The fund also includes a discretionary portfolio that comprises equity investments, government bonds and has €7.9 billion at its disposal.

That generated a 1.5% return since the fund’s investment on December 22nd 2014.

Overall, the value of the fund’s holdings rose almost 11% in its first year since taking over from the National Pensions Reserve Fund.

Isif is also developing a connectivity fund that will work to enhance physical and virtual connectivity both within and for the State, with €335 million at its disposal.

Isif was set up as a successor to the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2014, aimed at investing on a commercial basis to support economic activity and employment in the State. By December 2015, it had committed €2 billion to investments in Ireland, and was close to completing on six investments with a value of €200 million.

New study links caffeine consumption to increased risk of miscarriage

  

Women have an increased risk of miscarriage if they or their partner consume more than two caffeinated drinks a day in the weeks leading up to conception, a new US study found.

Women who drink more than two caffeinated beverages per day during the first seven weeks of pregnancy were also more likely to have a miscarriage, according to the study published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

But rates of miscarriage are reduced for women who take a daily multivitamin before and after conception.

The study, carried out by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and Ohio State University, was based on data from the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study.

That study followed 501 couples in Michigan and Texas from 2005 to 2009, examining the relationship between fertility, lifestyle and exposure to chemicals in the environment.

The current study compared cigarette use, caffeinated beverage consumption and multivitamin use among 344 couples when the woman was carrying a single offspring. Of these pregnancies, 98 or 28% ended in a miscarriage.

The researchers’ conclusions were based on a statistical concept called hazard ratio, which estimates the chances of a particular outcome occurring during the study period.

A ratio greater than one indicates increased risk for miscarriage each day following conception, while a ratio less than one indicates reduced daily risk.

The risk of miscarriage was 1.74 when the woman consumed more than two caffeinated drinks a day, the study showed.

However, the risk was almost as high as 1.73 — if the male partner drank that much caffeine or more.

“Our findings also indicate that the male partner matters, too,” said lead author Germaine Buck Louis, director of the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at the NIH.

“Male preconception consumption of caffeinated beverages was just as strongly associated with pregnancy loss as females’.” The study also found that taking a daily multivitamin significantly reduced chances of miscarriage.

Taking a vitamin in the weeks leading up to conception had a hazard ratio of 0.45, a 55% reduction in risk for pregnancy loss.

Women who continued to take multivitamins through the early stages of pregnancy had a hazard ratio of 0.21, a risk reduction of 79%.

Just one fruit juice can exceed a child’s daily sugar intake?

Just one juice or smoothie may exceed a child’s maximum daily sugar limit, with smoothies among the worst offenders, it has emerged.

  

Research published in the journal BMJ Open found more than 40% of the fruit juices, smoothies and fruit drinks assessed contained the entire daily maximum sugar intake of 19g or almost five teaspoons.

The study described the sugar content of the drinks as “unacceptably high” and said manufacturers must stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories to the products.

Increasing public awareness of the detrimental effect sugar-sweetened drinks have on children’s teeth and waistlines has prompted many parents to opt for seemingly healthier fruit juice and smoothie alternatives.

Among the 158 fruit juice drinks analysed, the average sugar content was 5.6g/100ml but rose to 10.7g/ 100ml among the 21 pure fruit juices tested and to 13g/100ml among the 24 smoothies assessed.

Some 78 products contained non-caloric sweeteners, such as aspartame. While safe, health experts believe the overall sweetness of products should be reduced so children get used to having less sugar in their diets.

Dietary guidelines recommend a serving of fruit juice, fruit drink or smoothie should be no more than 150ml, but only six of the products assessed matched this portion size. The labels on all of the products contained a reference intake that was in line with European law but applied to an average-sized adult woman.

This was wholly inappropriate for children, said the researchers. Experts from the University of Liverpool and Queen Mary University of London examined the sugar content of fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies sold by seven major supermarkets in Britain, including Tesco and Marks & Spencer. Only products specifically marketed towards children were included. Cordials were excluded even though they are marketed towards children because they do not come in single-serve portions, the focus of the survey.

The researchers said that drinks with a high sugar content should not count as one of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and fruit should be consumed in its whole form, not as a juice.

“Parents should dilute fruit juice with water, opt for unsweetened juices and only give them during meals. Portions should be limited to 150ml a day,” said the researchers.

The researchers said manufacturers needed to stop adding unnecessary sugars and calories to the products now; otherwise, the sugar content would have to be regulated. A food scientist at the Gunter Kuhnle, said the drinks – fruit juices, fruit drinks and smoothies, were often seen as a healthy alternative and their sugar content was ignored.

A recent report by health watchdog, Safefood, found some brands of energy drinks contained more than 16 teaspoons of sugar.

Scientists discover 19 ancient retroviral DNA in human genome

  

Retroviral DNA that first invaded the humans hundreds of thousands of years ago still can be found in some of the genes today. Scientists have found 19 new pieces of DNA in about 50 of the 2,500 studied genomes. The newly discovered group of DNA contains an intact ancient virus.

A study, which led to the discovery, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study adds on to the already understanding of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). HERVs have contributed to more than 8% of the human genome. The ancient infectious virus got inserted into a DNA-based copy of their own RNA genetic material into the genomes of human ancestors.

The virus is similar to the virus that includes the modern human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. The virus passed from generation to generation and can still be found in our DNA. The new HERVs are part of the endogenous retrovirus family called HERV-K. The virus is named provirus Xq21, found on the X chromosome and second to be found intact hiding in human DNA.

“This is a thrilling discovery. It will open up many doors to research”, said study lead author Dr. Julia Wildschutte, from the University of Michigan Medical School. No one yet knows whether the virus replicate, or reproduce. However, other studies have found claimed that the virus can affect the humans who carry it.

Dr. Wildschutte and co-authors analyzed entire span of DNA from people from around the world, including the places from where ancestors of modern humans originated and later spread to other parts of the world. They used sophisticated techniques to compare key areas of each person’s genome to the “reference” human genome.

In a report published by the Pulse Headlines, “The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to what researchers already know about human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). That’s the name for the ancient infectious viruses that inserted a DNA-based copy of their own RNA genetic material into the genomes of human ancestors.”

They’re part of the same type of virus that includes the modern human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

According to a report in ScienceAlert by BRENDAN COLE, “The virus’s genes then switch on once they’re in the new cell and turn it into a virus-making factory. These new viruses go on to shove their genes into other cells, and the process repeats.”

Eventually (hopefully), your body fights off the viruses that are floating around and infecting new cells, but it can’t get rid of the bits of virus that are already stuck in your DNA. So it does the next-best thing and switches those bits of DNA off.

“In the current era of microbiome research, we humans are already having to come to grips with the fact that `I’ is actually `we’. Instead of our bodies constituting a single life-form, we are each composed of complex and diverse ecosystems of microbes that have a profound influence on our existence. Our health and wellbeing are not just determined by what our own cells do, but what our trillions of invisible inhabitants do, too. And the genetic blueprints that govern our biology are partly carried in those microbial inhabitants, as well as in our own cells,” according to a news report published by ArsTechnica.

“This one looks like it is capable of making infectious virus, which would be very exciting if true, as it would allow us to study a viral epidemic that took place long ago,” senior author and virologist John Coffin, of the Tufts University School of Medicine, said in a press release.