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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 19th November 2016

Almost 200 countries agree climate time-frame change and make appeal to Trump

Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018

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Members of International delegations at the climate conference in Marrakesh on Friday.

Nearly 200 nations agreed around midnight on Friday to work out the rules for a landmark 2015 global deal to tackle climate change within two years in a new sign of international support for a pact opposed by US President-elect Donald Trump.

At the end of two-week talks on global warming in Marrakesh, which were extended an extra day, many nations appealed to Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, to reconsider his threat to tear up the Paris Agreement for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Showing determination to keep the Paris Agreement on track, the conference agreed to work out a rule book at the latest by December 2018.

A rule book is needed because the Paris Agreement left many details vague, such as how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years may sounds like a long time, but it took four to work out detailed rules for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, which obliged only developed countries to cut their emissions. Paris requires commitments by all.

The final text also urged rich nations to keep building towards a goal of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told a news conference that Marrakesh had been the start of turning promises made in Paris into action.

“We will continue on the path,” he said, urging Trump to join other nations in acting to limit emissions.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who will host next year’s climate meeting in Germany, invited Trump to drop his scepticism about climate change and visit the South Pacific nation to see the effects of stronger storms and rising seas.

Trump plans to favour fossil fuels over renewable energies and has threatened to halt any US taxpayer funds for UN climate programmes.

On Thursday, governments reaffirmed their commitment to “full implementation” of the Paris accord which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century and to limit a global average rise in temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Not one country has said that if President Trump pulls the United States out of Paris, they will follow him,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Environmental groups said the outcome in Marrakesh was a step in the right direction, but many issues needed to be resolved over the next two years, including funds for developing nations.

“Rich countries have been trying to wriggle out of their pledges to help poorer countries meet the costs of coping with impacts and greening their economies,” said Harjeet Singh at ActionAid.

Also on Friday, a group of 48 developing countries most at risk from climate change said they would strive to make their energy production 100 percent renewable “as rapidly as possible”, as part of efforts to limit global warming.

The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Party seeks end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment

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Catherine Murphy (centre) and Róisín Shortall address the party event in Dublin.

The joint leaders of the Social Democrats have called for radical changes in Irish society including an end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment, an end to corruption, and prioritising public services over tax cuts.

Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall set out a vision for the party based on the Nordic political model, with a strong liberal outlook, at the first national conference of the new party.

In their leaders’ address to the conference at the Dublin Convention Centre last night, Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy emphasised homelessness, affordable homes, a universal health system free at the point of delivery, as well as saying that spending on public services should always be prioritised over health cuts.

Speaking to about 300 members, the leaders called for repeal of the Official Secrets Act, as well as the Ministers and Secretaries Act. Ms Shortall said that it would open up government.

She also said that the Social Democrats in power would also ensure that those found guilty of white-collar crime and corruption would be put beyond bars. The part, she said, would establish an anti-corruption agency.

Both Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall called for repeal of Section 7 of the Equal Status Act. That they said would remove the “baptism barrier” and ensure that there would be no bar on grounds of religion preventing children being enrolled in faith-based schools.

“The law of the land, as it currently stands, is that state-funded schools are perfectly entitled to refuse entry to children as young as four because they are not signed up to a particular religious belief.

“Even schools which do allow access to children of different faith, or no faith, continue to expose those children to a religious ethos to which they do not subscribe. This is entirely unacceptable.”

Ms Murphy said the party would also pledge to abolish zero hours contracts if in power.

Ms Shortall said: “Across the world people are hurting and are seeking to lash out at an establishment that has hurt them.

“But lashing out is not enough; we want to replace anger with hope; hope that things will be better for the many and not just for the chosen few. Brexit and the unknown quantity of a Trump presidency have the potential to impact negatively on all of us, and on our ability to compete on the world stage.”

She said the most successful countries were those where the gap between rich and poor was smallest. “The countries that manage to achieve this, are ones which strive towards equality of outcome. Invariably the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway deliver better on these successful outcomes.”

Ms Murphy was highly critical of the reforms that have taken place over the past decade, saying they were driven by savage cuts.

“We see it in our chaotic health service; in our ever-worsening homelessness and housing crisis; in our underfunded and disjointed public transport system; in the second most expensive childcare costs in the world; and an educational system where parents are increasingly being asked to fund basic services such as school-heating costs.”

Ms Shortall also committed the party to a goal to end consistent child poverty by 2021.

On housing, Ms Murphy called on the Government to take immediate action to ensure long term rent certainty.

“We have to immediately free up many of the 200,000 vacant homes across the country,” she said.

As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

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The primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.

More than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach.

Customer information from more than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach, the mobile operator has said.

Three boss Dave Dyson said in a statement that all affected customers were being contacted individually and that while personal information had been accessed, no financial information had been compromised.

Three men were arrested after the data breach was revealed, over the alleged fraudulent use of the company’s phone upgrade system in attempted to steal handsets.

“As you may already know, we recently became aware of suspicious activity on the system we use to upgrade existing customers to new devices and I wanted to update all our customers on what happened and what we have done,” Mr Dyson said.

“On 17th November we were able to confirm that eight customers had been unlawfully upgraded to a new device by fraudsters who intended to intercept and sell on those devices.

“I can now confirm that the people carrying out this activity were also able to obtain some customer information.

“In total, information from 133,827 customer accounts was obtained but no bank details, passwords, pin numbers, payment information or credit/debit card information are stored on the upgrade system in question.

“We believe the primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.”

Three said it was continuing to work with law enforcement agencies, and as a precaution additional security measures had been placed on customer accounts.

The company had been criticised by some customers on social media for what was seen as a muted response to the breach, however Mr Dyson said Three would address all consumer concerns.

“I understand that our customers will be concerned about this issue and I would like to apologise for this and any inconvenience this has caused,” he said.

“We are contacting all of these customers today to individually confirm what information has been accessed and directly answer any questions they have.”

Security experts have again called for major companies with large amounts of customer data to do more to protect consumers.

The breach is the latest in a string of cyber attacks and data breaches, including those on TalkTalk and Yahoo.

How stages of prostate cancer are determined?

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Any diagnosis of cancer has its own method of staging, which is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it’s located.

Any diagnosis of cancer will have its own method of staging of the cancer detected. Cancer staging is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it is located.

Staging of prostate cancer gives the doctor the information he needs to know on how big the tumor is, whether it has spread or not and if it has spread, where has the cancer gone to.

Staging is necessary for several reasons:

Testing for prostate cancer?

Image result for Testing for prostate cancer? When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the initial staging is based on the results of PSA blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. This phase of staging is referred to as clinical staging.

A PSA blood test is used primarily to screen for prostate cancer and it measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate gland.

The higher the level of PSA is an indication of a more advanced cancer. The doctor will want to know how fast the PSA levels have been rising from test to test as a faster increase could indicate a more aggressive tumor.

A biopsy of the prostate can be done in the doctor’s office and the results from this can tell what percent of the prostate is involved. It can also determine a Gleason score, which is a number from 2 to 10 showing how closely the cancer cells look like normal cells when viewed under a microscope.

If the score is less than 6, it suggests the cancer is slow growing and not aggressive. A higher number indicates a faster growing cancer that is likely to spread.

Imaging tests used to determine prostate cancer can include CT scans, MRI, or a bone scan.

How prostate cancer is staged and what they mean.

Stage I cancer

This stage is known as localized cancer, as the cancer has been found in only one part of the prostate.

Stage I cancers cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam or seen with imaging tests. If the PSA is less than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or less, stage I cancer is most likely a slow growing cancer.

Stage II cancer

This stage of cancer is still localized and has not spread beyond the prostate but is more advanced than stage I.

In stage II, the cells are less normal than stage I and may grow more rapidly. There are two types of stage II prostate cancer: Stage IIA, which is found only on one side of the prostate; and Stage IIB, found in both sides of the prostate

Stage III cancer

This stage of cancer is called locally advanced prostate cancer and has spread outside the prostate into local tissue such as the seminal vesicles, the glands that make semen.

Stage IV cancer

This stage of cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as nearby lymph nodes or bones of the pelvis or spine. It could have spread to other organs such as the bladder, liver, or lungs.

For men diagnosed with stage I, II or III prostate cancer, the goal is to cure the cancer by treating it and keeping it from returning.

For men diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer, the goal is to improve symptoms and to prolong life as in most cases, stage IV prostate cancer is not curable.

The stage of prostate cancer along with the PSA and Gleason score will help the doctor to decide on the best treatment taking into account a man’s age, overall health, symptoms, side effects of treatment, and what are the chances the treatment can cure the cancer.

More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959

The stats come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

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Records show that a total of 38,787 people have been killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959.

While 14,839 people have been killed on roads in Northern Ireland since deaths were first recorded there in 1931.

The statistics come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, to be held on Sunday November 20th.

Ceremonies are to be held to mark the day across the island.

The transport minister, Road Safety Authority (RSA), An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and road safety groups are calling on road-users to join the international community to mark the day.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has welcomed the fact that people both north and south were coming together to remember all the lives lost on the island’s roads.

“Many lives have been saved and injuries prevented as a result of the collaborative work by road safety agencies on both sides of the border in recent years so it is fitting that we should come together on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims’ to remember those who have tragically died on the road and to also think of their families.”

“I would also like to acknowledge the great work done by those in the emergency services and medical professionals, on both sides of the border, who have to deal with the aftermath and consequences of collisions.

“We will be thinking of them too on Sunday and the life-saving work that they do.”

“People just like you and me have lost their lives”

While Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard, added:  “Across many generations thousands of families have been devastated by the heartache of road tragedy.

“Almost 15,000 people, people just like you and me, have lost their lives across the north since records began.  Many others have been seriously injured and are living with the physical and emotional scars.

“Road safety is a continuous challenge and road deaths do not discriminate. All road users are vulnerable – every journey, every day, every road.”

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said: “This Sunday gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour on the roads. An Garda Síochána is committed to working with communities and organisations to make every effort to keep our roads free from tragedy, but our biggest enemy is complacency.”

While PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “So far this year, Police officers have visited the homes of 59 families across Northern Ireland to deliver the devastating news that one of their loved ones has been killed on our roads.

“Many more have received news of serious injuries. Behind every statistic, every news report, there are families and friends who have been affected and we must remember them.”

The Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was first held in 1993 in the United Kingdom.

Since then it has been organised by non-governmental organisations in a number of countries.

It was created as a means to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their loved ones who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of these events.

On October 26th 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution which calls for governments to mark the day each year.

Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds,

Scientist’s now warn

Image result for Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds  Arctic sea ice at record low wintertime maximum event

Climate change experts say the repercussions of warmer sea temperatures are already being felt.

While ice in the Arctic is close to reaching record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels since records began.

Global sea ice is retreating at unprecedented speed with its impact already being felt across the globe, a leading scientist has warned.

While ice in the Arctic is close to record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels for this time of year since records began.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University, said rates of ice growth in winter had slowed and rising temperatures were causing it to melt faster in the summer, causing a dramatic reduction in area and thickness.

He warned the global repercussions of the reduction of sea ice were already being felt, long before the ice has fully disappeared.

“As the ice area gets less, you’re changing the albedo of the earth, which is the fraction of solar radiation that gets reflected straight away back into space, so you’re absorbing radiation which warms the earth quicker creating a feedback effect as the ice retreats,”

“The only secure way of stopping the sea ice to retreat is stopping warming the climate and that is really by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.”

He also warned of the disastrous implications melting sea ice had for rising sea levels across the world.

According to a new study, sea water levels have risen by almost 7.8 inches due to ice melting since 1870, causing flooding of low-lying coastal communities and displacement of fish populations fleeing increasingly warm waters.

“As the ice retreats you get warmer air over the Arctic and that warmer air spreads out to places like Greenland’s ice cap causing it to melt faster in the summer than it did in the past, which is contributing to global sea level rise,” he said.

He also warned of the release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from the seabed as the ice melts, a gas that scientists recognise as a key driver of climate change.

“We are now seeing huge plumes of methane coming up to the surface from methane being released from the seabed,” he told The Independent.

“The ice in summer has shrunk back from all the seas around the edges of the arctic and without the sea ice, those seas around the edge can now warm up because the water is shallow which allows this warmer water to bathe the seabed.

“The seabed at the moment is covered with permafrost, frozen ground, hiding a large volume of methane underneath. As soon as the warmer water starts to act on the seabed the permafrost melts and the methane is released.”

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in October were unusually high over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, as well as the Barents and Kara Seas along the Eurasian coast, helping to limit ice growth (Climate Change Institute/University of Maine)

Concern is also growing among the scientific community over Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Last week, what is hoped will be one of the biggest ever environmental campaigns was launched by a group of scientists and environmentalists in an effort to convince the President-elect that global warming is real.

Professor Wadhams warned that Mr Trump’s stance as a climate change denier could be “a disaster and a catastrophe for the world”.

“I recently attended the Marrakech climate change conference and there was enormous concern because the US delegation who signed the Paris agreement is still Obama’s administration,” he said.

“Legally the US is taking part fully in the Paris accords but as John Kerry was saying, his administration would only be in office for the next two months. There’s general gloom everywhere, you quiver with fear with the rest of the globe for the future.”

However, Professor Wadhams, who recently published a book on the shrinking of sea ice, A Farewell to Ice, said there was hope for the future if the proper measures were put in place.

“One measure to stem the methane emissions from the seabed would be a kind of fracking method that the oil industry suggests which would be to drill down through these sediments, open up cavities which would then be filled with methane when you pump it out,” he said.

“Global warming and climate change is not going to be easy to reverse, especially sea level rise as that just seems to continue inexorably. The only way that’s been suggested that might work is ‘marine cloud brightening’, a form of geoengineering where you inject very fine water particles into the bottom of low cloud, these particles evaporate and it makes them brighter which will reflect more solar radiation.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 3rd July 2016

We in Ireland must do enough to entice UK finance firms here

  

We in Ireland must absorb the messages of the voting patterns that reflect underlying problems,

“We must absorb the messages of the voting patterns that reflect underlying problems we must combat with force in Ireland too.”

Even the darkest Brexit clouds can have silver linings . . .

I am just back from Glasgow (day of vote), Belfast (days after result) and London. Train and plane rides allow a lot of reflection.

For many months, I’ve worried that voters might, despite the bookies, deliver a shock.

Like others, I was saddened by xenophobic arguments polluting the debate and polarising a country in contrast to the strong positive message from the mayoral election in London. Now I am just angered the open pluralist views of a clear majority of younger voters, the future of the UK, have been relegated to the back seat.

There are many messages for Ireland.

  1. Firstly, young people even in the UK reject this inward-looking vision of the future.
  2. We must resoundingly reiterate that Ireland rejects it too.

The joy of voters after the same-sex referendum for our new pluralist, diverse, accepting Ireland is our reality and the aspiration of young and old for our country and for Europe, not that of the poster choices of Nigel Farage.

We do not have Céad Míle Fáilte as one of our national anthems for nothing. We welcome migration from the EU and beyond. Our #COYBIG fans partying with all nationalities in France has been a welcome tonic against the shame we feel when see abuse directed at other immigrants in the UK.

Secondly, we must absorb the messages of the voting patterns that reflect underlying problems we must combat with force in Ireland too.

We must find sustainable ways to fix the despair of many about growing inequalities and the negative impact globalisation and new technology have on their own lives and their communities (mainly in former industrial hinterlands or rural communities).

Dubious claims

How many of our own population when the status quo seems so unattractive might accept similar dubious claims of populist politicians about a rosy future and ignore warnings of economic failure they feel hit not them but the “elite”?

Thirdly, we must act now that the result is known, not ignore it.

I still believe that new UK leaders (and especially its pragmatic parliament) can better expose the downsides of the new reality and retest national opinion before having to trigger article 50, and that a united Britain will reopen its arms to Europe and recognise that the reform so necessary for a safe, successful Europe is best achieved from within.

Of course, this might not happen and we must react and devise solutions that solve our own structural problems too.

Each sector is different. Back from the City of London, here’s my humble suggestion for our letter to financial services companies: Dear Big Boss of Big Bank,

You, your employees and your families are probably reeling in shock. Like us, you’re probably asking how now am I actually to implement this contingency plan?

We are writing to you as we think that the solutions you need are also the solutions we need

If you can engage with us, we will respond with open arms.

We are not perfect. No one is but we know we have at least two years to put in place what else we need. What we will promise is:

(a) A new pan 28 country operating strategy for you straddling from here the new EU and while keeping a foot in the UK. (b) To develop and transition you to a more efficient operating cost model, especially if you consider a new campus we want to build in a regional city as Dublin is already very successful.

(c) To allow you and others operate in big scale in either or both of only two FS clusters we are building, one in Dublin and another in a new regional urban campus where you will find the best housing, the best third-level facilities integrated into your industry and a quality of life much better and cheaper than that you have at present. We also have suffering voters and we want our non-Dublin voters to be part of the solution too.

(d) To improve wifi-enabled public transport (a) within Dublin, (b) between Dublin and this new campus, and (c) air connections between both, the UK and the rest of Europe.

(e) A place where English is your working language and your kids can grow-up fluent in that language too but we will improve foreign language teaching in our schools.

(f) A welcoming place that acts and will continue to act as a magnet for talent from all over Europe. You can ask the mayor of Paris if you want a reference for our young (and not so young)!

(g) A place where we value education although with the UK gone, we know it’s up to us now to invest more to create the EU’s best English language-based universities.

(h) A place that has shown we value and support business.

(i) An administration which during its EU presidency showed we can understand and advance complicated financial services matters.

(j) To make the laws of Ireland (so similar to the UK ones) the logical replacement choice of an EU law for contracts by having the most efficient courts and allowing your own legal teams and employees to even participate in cases themselves.

What we would like you to do

(a) Come visit

(b) Bring your friends

(c) Help us convince the European Banking Authority that their future is here too in our new urban financial services campus.

With hope for a combined future,

Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister to work with Dublin to forge a new relationship with Europe

   

Following the Brexit referendum result, the North’s Minister for Agriculture, Michelle McIlveen has said that she will be engaging with Dublin to help forge a new relationship with Europe.

Speaking at a CAFRE awards day, the Minister promised her commitment to supporting the industry following the EU referendum.

“I will be engaging with Westminster and elsewhere in the UK, as well as in Dublin and Brussels, to help forge a new relationship with Europe and to develop a support framework that meets the needs and aspirations of our agri-food sector.

“It is only right that we take our time to agree new arrangements, and in the meantime, wecontinue to access the CAP support regime and the EU trading opportunities on the same basis as before,” Minister McIlveen said.

She said that she is aware of the challenges caused by the impact of global market volatility, exchange rate fluctuations and international trade.

As of last Friday, we have an additional uncertainty following the referendum result and the changes – and opportunities – that this will eventually bring.

But, the Minister reiterated that she is committed to addressing all of these challenges.

“By working collectively with stakeholders, producers, suppliers, processors and retailers, we can build a dynamic and flexible industry that is well positioned in the global marketplace to capitalise on the growing demand for food worldwide and to meet both the challenges and opportunities presented by the EU exit.

“Through the Executive, I will be work to ensure a joined up approach to developing new market opportunities.”

Parents call for end to religious discrimination in Ireland’s schools

Education Equality march calls for an end to State-funded religious segregation in schools

   

Parents and their children at a demonstration outside Leinster House organised by Education Equality calling for religious equality in education.

Hundreds people marched to Leinster House on Sunday calling for an end to religious discrimination in State-funded schools.

The march was organised by Education Equality; an organisation established to campaign for equality in the provision of education for all children, regardless of religion.

Paddy Monahan, a parent from Raheny in Dublin said the baptism barrier must be removed.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton is drawing up plans to encourage the Catholic Church to transfer the patronage of hundreds of primary schools to other models, including State-run schools.

At present more than 90% of the State’s 3,200 primary schools are under Catholic patronage. However, efforts to provide greater choice for parents have proven slow and divisive.

“I want my child to the same school as his neighbours and I don’t want to have to baptise him for the honour of doing that just to go to a taxpayer-funded school,” said Mr Monahan.

“The Government has been banging on for some time now about choice. Choice sounds great and I am a big believer in divestment but if we only focus on choice and building more schools; that is not choice, it is segregation,” he said.

“The blindingly obvious effects of keeping the Equal Status Act and building more schools to create this idea of choice, is segregation. We’re going to have a Muslim school here, a Hindu school there. You’re going to have kids growing up not meeting anyone from different backgrounds. It is bonkers and utterly retrograde.”

“Labour’s radical bill was to bump our kids up from third class citizens to second class citizens. As it stands, children who are not baptised are on the waiting list behind children who are baptised children from other areas who are baptised. It is still going to be local Catholic first when it comes to school places,” he said.

Last week, Labour’s education spokeswoman Joan Burton urged Minister for Education Richard Bruton to accept her party’s Private Members’ Education (Admissions to School) Bill 2015 amending the Equal Status Act.

The Labour proposal, she said, would “balance the constitutional right of religious bodies to organise and run schools with the rights of the child to have access to his or her local school”.

Mr Monahan said the Constitution “does not stand for religious segregation in our taxpayer funded schools.”

“Minister for Education Richard Bruton said we have to move swiftly before he moved the debate back for a year. That debate is on a bill that will make our children second class citizens anyway,” he said.

“The Constitution clearly and unambiguously states there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion so I don’t see where he can hide behind,” said Mr Monahan.

Simon Lewis, principal of an Educate Together school, said the issue of the baptism barrier was not confined to Dublin.

“My little boy can go to the local primary school, he can also go to this local educate together,” said Mr Lewis.

“Education should not be about luck – it is about equity, respect and access. Whether this affects you as a parent or guardian or not, we should all come together to ensure equality of access for all children,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the Minister would treble the rate of delivery of multidenominational schools “by delivering a total of 400 non-denominational and multidenominational schools by 2030”, saying this would provide “greater choice and diversity for parents and children”.

“The Minister will also publish and enact a new Admissions Bill, which will reform the process of school admissions, including banning waiting lists and admissions fees and requiring more information and consultation for parents throughout the process,” said the spokesperson.

The spokesperson added that any change to the Equal Status Act would be “extremely difficult as this is a hugely complex area legally, constitutionally, and in other ways”.

New car sales in Ireland on target to hit the Celtic-Tiger level figures

   

The number of new car registrations passed the 100,000 mark between January and June.

New car sales rocketed in the first six months of this year – returning to nearly the same levels as the time of the Celtic Tiger in 2008.

The number of new car registrations passed the 100,000 mark between January and June. That is 25% more sales than the same period last year.

And dealers are confident that sales for all of 2016 will surpass 150,000 for the first time in eight years.

And in a potent symbol of a return to economic growth, ‘white van man’ is back, with sales of commercial vehicles also rising sharply.

New car registrations were up to 101,338 compared with 82,337 in the first six months of 2015. Light commercial vehicles rose 26% to 18,417 in the first half of the year and overall heavy goods vehicle registrations are up 42% compared with the same period last year.

Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) director general Alan Nolan said: “At the start of the year we predicted that this year’s registration numbers should reach 150,000 for the first time since 2008 and these figures keep us on track to deliver that.

“From today, of course, the focus turns to the 162 registration period. This year promises to be the first normal year of registrations since the recession and with the range of attractive offers available across all brands, we are confident that 162 will also deliver in the coming months.”

Ford is the overall market leader with combined sales of more than 15,000 cars and vans in the six months to June 30.

The marque registered 10,027 cars and 4,979 vans in the first six months, slightly ahead of VW, which actually sold more cars (10,945) but fewer vans (3,060). Toyota is in third place (10,807 cars and 1,358 vans).

So far this year, the best -selling car is the Hyundai Tucson, followed by the Volkswagen Golf (3,585) and the Ford Focus (3,315).

At the upper end of the market, the BMW 5-Series is the most popular. In all, 1,041 have been bought in the first six months, slightly ahead of the Audi A4 (1,025).

Seven out of 10 vehicles sold in the first six months were diesel models.

‘Ethiopia hit by climate change despite negligible emissions claim’ 

Says the UN special envoy Mary Robinson.

    

Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson has said it is unfair that Ethiopians are suffering the worst effects of climate change as 10m people are hit by food shortages following the worst drought in 50 years.

The UN special envoy for climate change and the El Nino weather pattern is spending three days in the country this week after widespread failure of rains and flash floods in the region over the last year.

Ms Robinson, former UN high commissioner for human rights, said Ethiopia suffers some of the worst effects of climate change despite doing so little to cause it.

“I am saddened that Ethiopia should have to cope with this El Nino situation,” she said.

“Despite the efforts of the government of Ethiopia, and humanitarian partners, the impacts of climate change have weakened people’s ability to cope with El Nino which is unfair considering Ethiopia’s negligible contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The trip is Ms Robinson’s first visit to Africa since being appointed to her role two months ago by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

It also takes place amid the deepening food crisis in the Horn of Africa where millions of people are at risk of malnutrition as El Nino warming in the Pacific compounds the debilitating impact of climate change elsewhere around the world.

The weather pattern, which hits every two to seven years, is taking place where temperatures are already warmer and it is usually followed by the La Nina cooling period which can spark floods and droughts.

During her trip, Mrs Robinson will see the work of aid agencies, including Concern, Trocaire, and Goal, which have been pleading for the international community to do more to prevent the Ethiopian drought becoming the worst food emergency in the region since 1985.

She called on world powers to live up to their responsibilities as millions of Ethiopians are put at risk.

“In addition to supporting relief efforts for this immediate crisis, the international community must take a much longer term view,” said Ms Robinson.

“Climate change impacts will continue to undermine development gains and increase the vulnerability of people to natural disasters, therefore the international community has a duty to reduce emissions, support resilience and adaptation efforts in the hardest hit communities.”

It is estimated that €3.4bn is needed to combat the impacts of the El Nino crisis .

Despite its vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change, Ethiopia and its population of more than 100 million has one of the lowest carbon emission rates in the world. It is estimated that it takes 88 Ethiopians to emit as much carbon dioxide as one Irish person.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 28th March 2016

IBEC warns of threats to Irish economic growth

Brexit possibility creating competitiveness risk for Irish exporters, says lobby group

    

Brexit yes vote could spark devaluation of sterling which would mean products from Irish companies selling into the UK would effectively be 30% more

Ibec the employers lobby group, expects economic growth of 4.6% this year and 3.9% for 2017. But it warned that uncertainty from the growing “economic headwinds” facing Ireland means the actual performance could deviate “substantially” from these numbers.

Its latest quarterly economic outlook warned that the possibility of a British exit from the European Union was creating a major competitiveness risk for Irish exporters into the UK. It also warned on the dangers of a global economic slowdown, spiralling wage growth at home and constraints due to Ireland’s acute housing shortage.

Ibec said a Brexit vote could spark a devaluation of sterling. That would mean products from Irish companies selling into the UK would effectively be 30 per cent more expensive following the June referendum than they were in January.

Different path

  Danny McCoy, the chief executive of Ibec, said that even if the UK votes to remain within the EU, it has set itself “on a different path” to the rest of Europe that could harm Irish economic prospects.

“Even if the UK stays, an ever-closer union is not for them. That’s massive [for Ireland]. Over time, it could lead to a significant drift away from the European core,” he said.

Ibec warned the UK would not be bound by state aid rules were it to leave the EU, potentially creating competition for Ireland for mobile foreign investment.

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On the upside, it said a Brexit could create opportunities for the Irish financial sector to capitalise by attracting UK-domiciled institutions that want an EU “home”.

Sean Kelly, leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament, also warned yesterday of the dangers of a Brexit for Ireland, which he said would “severely damage” trade.

Ibec’s report predicts “continued increases in rental prices in and around the main cities” in Ireland due to the accommodation shortage.

“The current housing crisis is a supply side problem and is not likely to go away until enough houses are built to meet demand,” it said. However, it warned that building costs were still too high.

“There is a lazy assumption out there that just because house prices are rising, there will be huge investment in building,” said Mr McCoy. “But it isn’t like that. Investors in the sector have other places to put their money, such as into commercial property.”

Ibec is forecasting 2.1% employment growth, or an extra 40,000 jobs in the economy, with short-term unemployment almost down to pre-crisis levels. Wages will grow by about 2% this year.

The improvement in the labour market, meanwhile, should lead to a 4.1% increase in consumer spending in 2016, it said, although retail competition will keep price growth to a minimum.

Luas dispute

However, Ibec warned that the Luas dispute was an example of how wage demands are spiralling in some sectors and that the economy needs to focus on maintaining competitiveness.

“If wage growth stays within productivity growth, then you’ve no problem,” said Mr McCoy, “but there is no way of co-ordinating wages at a national level.”

He said that he was not calling for a return to a centralised system of collective bargaining over wages, as per the pre-crash social partnership deals, “but there does need to be some centralised forum for social dialogue on the elements that affect pay. We need an anchor for wage expectations.”

Ibec highlighted that there was a “ clear upward momentum in wage trends”, especially in certain sectors such as technology and in administration and support services.

It said that the still relatively high unemployment level of 8.8% was not acting as an effective brake on wage growth, as it normally would, because of the concentration of long-term unemployment in jobless figures.

Ireland’s brewers building a brighter future for their trade

  

Ray Ryan reports that brewers in Ireland are building a better future for themselves by increasing their investment in new product development.

Beer production remains an important sector within the Irish drinks industry in terms of indigenous manufacturing and the provision of jobs.

It accounts for about 50% of the market, directly employs around 2,500 people, and exports more than 40% of its production.

Exports last year increased by over 10% to around €265m as stronger trade to Britain, other European Union markets and the United States is helping to boost trade.

The craft beer sector in Ireland continues to be a success story, making up an estimated 1.2% of the market, with 40% of microbreweries exporting.

That represents a small portion of the overall Irish beverage exports to 130 markets worldwide last year. However, it highlights a huge potential for growth.

The craft beer industry alone is worth an estimated $12.5bn in annual sales in the United States. New York and Boston, cities with large numbers of people with Irish ancestry and many Irish pubs, are obvious marketing targets.

A number of Irish brewers are already exporting to the US. Some are focusing on on-trade channels while others are connecting with craft breweries and creating partnerships that are potentially beneficial to both sides.

With beer consumption in Ireland now approaching the average level of most northern European countries, the Irish Brewers Association is working to ensure that people are aware of their industry’s contribution to social and economic life.

Over 60 microbreweries now operate in Ireland with 22 of them having started in the past two years. The number is expected to exceed 100 by 2020.

The value added by the overall beer sector to the economy was €1.72bn in 2014. It spends €400m purchasing goods and services including transport and agricultural products.

It raised some €425m in excise receipts. The beer- related contribution to employment represents 44,741 jobs.

A new report by Europe Economics, ‘The Contribution made by Beer to the European Economy’ commissioned by the Brewers of Europe, found that brewing companies in Ireland are responding to the opportunities and challenges they are facing by increasing investment, particularly in product development.

The report says production fell slightly between 2013 and 2014, which it says reflects conditions in international markets.

It also says that the industry exported 2.8 million hectolitres of beer in 2014, and that 64% of beer in Ireland is consumed “in the on-trade”, meaning in restaurants and pubs.

The report also found the total beer-related contribution to government revenues increased from 2013 to 2014, with increases in excise duties and on-trade and off-trade Vat, in particular.

Jonathan McDade, the head of the Irish Brewers Association, said the Irish beer industry is experiencing an exciting period of development.

“As the report states, investment in product development is also up. These trends reflect an increasingly diverse beer sector, with more high-quality Irish beer products for consumers at home and abroad,” he said.

“This is having a knock on effect on employment, up by around 370 between 2013 and 2014 to almost 44,800 jobs,” he said.

Seamus O’Hara, managing director, Carlow Brewing Company (O’Hara’s Craft Beers), is the new chairman of the Irish Brewers Association, the representative industry group for brewers and beer distributors.

He grew up in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. After completing a master’s degree in biotechnology at UCD, he moved to Britain, where he worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors with firms such as AstraZenca and Glaxo Smith Kline.

It was during this time that he was first exposed to the diversity and flavours of craft beers. In 1991, he moved back to Ireland, where he took up a position with Enterprise Ireland and 10 years later he left to co-found a new venture-capital firm, Seroba-Kernel.

In 1996, he and his brother Eamon set up Carlow Brewing Company on a small-scale part-time basis. In 2011, Seamus made the decision to move full-time into brewing.

The company’s website says there has never been a more exciting time to be part of the craft beer scene in Ireland.

“Craft beer consumers are becoming more numerous, confident and adventurous than ever before leading to demand for a wide variety of flavours and styles.

“Pubs and off-licenses are playing their part too and many now stock a broad range of Irish craft beer to meet customer demand,” it says.

Half of everything that the Carlow brewery produces is exported to more than 25 countries, including the US, France, Italy, Russia, Norway and Croatia.

Mr O’Hara, one of the craft brewing industry’s most recognisable pioneers, told the recent Teagasc National Malting Barely Growers Association conference that the sector is a growing business.

The craft beer products are still relatively small at 1.5% to 2% of the overall beer market in Ireland but with the right momentum there is a potential to grow this to 10%. “It is a great honour to be entrusted with the role of chairperson of the Irish Brewers Association, particularly as the Carlow Brewing Company celebrates its 20 year anniversary this year.

“The Irish Brewers Association, has represented the interest of brewers in Ireland since 1908. Since then the industry has changed drastically and in 2016 we continue to experience exciting developments, with new breweries opening across the country and established players expanding and investing,” he said.

Mr O’Hara said the number of microbreweries operating here has more than trebled since 2012. Consumers have never had more choice. His appointment association chairman was another acknowledgement of the importance of the craft sector to the wider brewing industry.

“I hope that I can use my experience in developing a small but successful brewery within a fledgling industry to guide the Irish Brewers Association over the next two years,” he said.

British pet insurers paid out record claims for last year 2015

  

Pet insurers dealt with 686,000 claims for dogs.

Pet insurers paid out a record £657 million in claims in 2015 – equating to £1.8 million every day – according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The figures show that in 2015, t he number and cost of claims reached record levels, with 911,000 pet insurance claims made, up 9% on 2014. Their cost, at £657 million, was also up 9% on the previous year.

The average claim was for £721 last year, while the average pet insurance premium was £241.

Pet insurers dealt with 686,000 claims for dogs costing £501 million. For cats, 193,000 claims were handled, worth £105 million.

Despite the record payouts last year, most pet owners remain uninsured, the ABI said. Only one in four of the nine million dog owners and one in seven of the 7.9 million cat owners are thought to have pet insurance.

The ABI said some of the more unusual pet insurance claims handled include the r emoval of a sock eaten by a dog, and treatment for a cat which fell from a fourth floor window.

Mark Shepherd, general insurance manager at the ABI, said: “The record levels of claims handled by pet insurers highlights that owning a pet can be costly as well as rewarding.”

Protein rich weight loss diet can lead to a better night’s sleep

   

Previous studies have already linked the effect of sleep on weight loss and diet but a new study looked on the opposite perspective and focused on the effect of protein weight loss diet on sleep.

A group of researchers from the Purdue University in Indiana found out that obese and overweight people who follow a high protein-diet for several months have better sleep at night. The study initially involved 14 participants – 11 women and 3 men – who were asked to follow a high-protein diet based on pork and beef or soy and legume products in the first pilot study. On the other hand, the main study focused on 44 obese and overweight participants with ages 35 to 65 years old who were assigned into two groups; the first group was asked to follow a normal protein diet while the other group was given a high protein weight loss diet.  The study was led by Wayne Campbell, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The protein diets given to the participants were designed by a dietitian who ensured that the participants’ daily recommended energy intakes were met. Furthermore, a total of 750 calories worth of carbohydrates and fats were removed from the diets per day while maintaining the amount of protein assigned to each group. The protein sources for the diets were beef, pork, soy, legumes and milk protein.

The participants of the main study were able to adapt to the diet after three weeks and continued on their protein diets for 16 weeks. During this period, the participants were able to consume 0.8 or 1.5 kilograms of protein for each kg of body weight daily. They were also given a survey every month to assess the quality of their sleep during the course of the study.

In the pilot study, results showed that the 14 participants reported to have better sleep after four weeks of consuming a high protein weight loss diet. The same trend was observed in the sleep quality of participants who followed the high protein diet in the main study after three to four months.

ANTARCTIC BIRDS CAN RECOGNIZE INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE, AND ATTACK INTRUDERS

    Antarctic birds, humans

Antarctic brown skuas are capable of recognizing individual humans, a new paper has shown.

Birds living among people are able to differentiate between individual humans but scientists have now found that skuas (above right) living in remote Antarctica can also recognise people who had previously accessed their nests. The researchers from Inha University and Korea Polar Research Institute in South Korea performed a series of experiments on brown skuas living in Antarctica.

Antarctic brown skuas are large brownish birds that eat fish and other small animals, and they have been known to steal prey from other predators. They’ve even been observed pilfering sips of breast milk from nursing elephant seals. Living life as a food thief, or a kleptoparasite as biologists call it, requires a relatively high level of intelligence.

But brown skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus) may be even smarter than we thought. A study published in March in the journal Animal Cognition found that these large birds can recognize individual people.

Korean scientists at a research station on King George Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, embarked on a study of seven brown skua nests, to see if the birds were breeding and how many young they were having. However, they noticed that the birds would begin to act much more aggressively and even attack—swooping in on researchers and hitting them on the head with their feet—after the researcher had visited the nest a couple times.

Antarctic brown skuas are capable of recognizing individual humans, a new paper has shown.

But it didn’t stop there. “When I was with other researchers, the birds flew over me and tried to hit me,” said Yeong-Deok Han, a doctoral student at Inha University, in a statement. “Even when I changed my field clothes, they followed me. The birds seemed to know me no matter what I wear.”

This strongly suggested that the brown skuas were recognizing Han. Other birds such as crows, ravens and magpies have already been shown to recognize individual humans. However, this ability remains rare among birds, so far as we know.  To further explore this possibility, the scientists set up an experiment in which a pair of researchers—one who had approached the nest before (labeled as the “intruder), and one who hadn’t—walked toward the nest and waited for a few seconds as the birds flew toward them. They then walked in different directions (away from the nest). In each case, for all seven breeding pairs of birds tested, the skuas followed the intruder and ignored the newcomer.

“It is amazing that brown skuas, which evolved and lived in human-free habitats, recognized individual humans just after three or four visits,” said Won Young Lee, a senior researcher from Korea Polar Research Institute. “It seems that they have very high levels of cognitive abilities.”

Since the change of clothes didn’t deter the birds, it suggests they are able to recognize humans by looking at their face, or perhaps recognizing differences in body posture and gait, according to the study.

Most birds that can recognize human individuals, like crows, have lived in the same area as humans for longer, so it’s possible that evolution could have helped select for this human-identifying ability. With brown skuas, however, they have only been exposed to humans since the 1950s, so evolutionary pressures almost certainly haven’t played a role in developing this ability, the researchers wrote.

Tuesday 10th November 2015.

Restoration work starts on Easter Rising headquarters

The Moore Street site where 1916 rebels surrendered will become a commemorative centre.

    

The site of Easter Rising headquarters on Moore Street in Dublin.

Restoration work has begun on the site of the final headquarters of the Easter Risingrebels on Moore Street in Dublin ahead of next year’s centenary celebrations.

The Government purchased14-17 Moore Street for €4 million earlier this year.

The site is to be turned into a commemorative centre, which Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys expects to be completed next year.

Number 16 is recognised as the site where the Rising leaders agreed to surrender.

All four of the buildings will be restored to their 1916 condition following structural stabilisation work and the reinstatement of contemporary interiors.

It was announced that the company behind the recent restoration of Kilmainham Courthouse, Dublin-based conservation and heritage specialists Lissadell Construction Ltd, will undertake the Moore Street project.

A National monument?

The buildings in question date back to the 18th-century, and were declared a national monument in 2007.

“I am delighted to see this project moving ahead. The national monument at numbers 14-17 Moore Street has such special historical significance in the context of the Easter Rising,” Ms Humphreys said.

“This project is a very important element of the Government’s plans for the 1916 centenary commemorations.

“The conservation work will reveal the period architectural detail, the living conditions and, above all, the imprint of the insurgency.

“The primary focus of the work is to reveal the buildings as they were during the Rising, allowing them to illuminate that period in our history.”

Preservation campaigners have praised the Government for its actions in securing the future of numbers 14 to 17, but some have voiced concerns about development proposals for adjoining houses.

Planning permission still stands for a stalled retail development in the neighbouring area, which may be resurrected after Nama sold its stake in the premises to UK-based property group Hammerson last month.

As much as 38,519 killed on roads across the island of Ireland

   

More than 38,500 people have been killed on roads throughout the island of Ireland since records began.

Just over 38,500 people have been killed on roads throughout the island of Ireland since records began.

A total of 38,519 people have died on the roads on both sides of the border, including 23,752 in the Republic of Ireland and 14,767 in Northern Ireland.

The records of road deaths in Northern Ireland go back as far as 1931, while fatalities in the Republic of Ireland were only counted from 1959 onwards.

The statistics were released as events are being planned around the island for Sunday to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

NI Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, who lost his sister in a car crash in 2000, said: “Many generations and thousands of families in the North, including my own, have been devastated by the grief of loss and the heartache of road tragedy.

“Almost 15,000 people, just like you and me, have lost their lives. And this is why I am working along with my road safety partners – the PSNI, the NI Fire and Rescue Service and the NI Ambulance Service amongst others – towards reducing the carnage on our roads. We must do everything possible to prevent this loss and suffering touching any more lives.

The Minister added: “The certainty of the unexpected means that it is crucial to reduce speed, wear seatbelts and eliminate high risk behaviours.

“I am fully committed to improving safety for all road users. I firmly believe that by working together, we can rise to the challenge of making our roads safer for everyone.”

So far this year 61 people have been killed on Northern Ireland’s roads.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd commented: “Behind each of these statistics are family and friends who have been affected and we must remember them.

“This Sunday provides us with an opportunity to remember all those people who have lost their lives on our roads. Our thoughts are with all their family members and friends not just today, but throughout the year.”

Irish Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe, welcomed the fact that people across the island were coming together to remember all the lives lost on the roads.

He said: “Many lives have been saved and injuries prevented as a result of the collaborative work by road safety agencies on both sides of the border in recent years so it is fitting that we should come together on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims to remember those who have tragically died on the road and to also think of their families.”

The Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, was first held in 1993 in the United Kingdom and organised since then by non-governmental organisations in a number of countries.

The RSA, along with members of An Garda Síochána, Road Safety Officers in Local Authorities, the Emergency Services and road safety support groups have organised masses, services and commemorative events around the country this Sunday to remember the lives that have been lost and changed forever on our roads.

Undiagnosed diabetes more common among older people outside Dublin

Access to health services may be reason for result of Tilda study

Undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes is more common among older people living outside Dublin. Photograph: Thinkstock   

Undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes is more common among older people living outside Dublin.

Undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes is more common among older people living outside Dublin.

A new report from Trinity College Dublin’s longitudinal study on ageing (Tilda) shows one in 10 people over 50 in Ireland (120,000) has diabetes.

Led by Prof Rose Anne Kenny at Trinity, Tilda has completed three waves of data collection from its nationally representative cohort of more than 8,000 people living in Ireland, aged 50 and over.

The study found those with private health insurance were less likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.

Distance from GP

Dr Siobhán Leahy said the study covered three areas: Dublin city or county, urban areas outside Dublin and rural areas.

“People in Dublin are less likely to have undiagnosed diabetes. One of reasons potentially for this is access to health services,” Dr Leahy said.

“We haven’t drilled down our research in the rural areas yet . . . two rural areas aren’t comparable so we don’t know the finer detail. However, things like distance from your GP may affect how often you visit them or how early it is diagnosed,” she said.

Dr Leahy said the incidence of diabetes is in line with other European countries. “While it’s not a particularly high prevalence . . . it is a modifiable disease and highly affected byphysical activity and lifestyle. Ten per cent of people with diabetes are undiagnosed.”

70% of Irish population now owns a smartphone

  

Some 70% of the population of Ireland now carries a smartphone device, according to an Eir survey.

This means 2.37m Irish people use smartphones, which is up from 39% of the population using smartphones in 2012.

The study found that there is also growing use of digital technologies among older generations, with 45% of those over the age of 50 going online every day.

The survey found that 75% of the population of Ireland uses the internet at least once a day, up 6% year-on-year. Out of this, 18% claim to be connected during every waking hour, rising to 41pc among 16-to-24-year-olds.

Some 21% of Irish households now use smart TVs, up from 14% last year. The Eir study reveals that with people planning to buy new smart TVs, the number of households with smart TVs will exceed 500,000 by the end of the year.

In terms of what people do online, 66% use the internet to manage email followed by 59% who view YouTube, while on-demand services like Netflix account for 30% of users’ time online.

Older generations are now hopping online more frequently and while laptop usage among over-50s remains static at 53pc, smartphone usage has shown a surprising jump from 6% to 39pc in just a year.

Most parents’ attitudes towards broadband are favourable, according to Eir, with four-out-of-five parents of five-to-17-year-olds saying broadband helps their kids with their homework.

The social nation of Ireland

Unsurprisingly, 94% of 16-to-24-year-olds are power users of social media, with Facebook being used by 92pc of people in this age group.

Snapchat is used by 67% of users, Instagram by 58% of users, Spotify by 39% of users and Pinterest by 23% of users.

“The findings really highlight how, as a society, we have an insatiable desire to be connected,” commented Lisa Comerford, director of brand and communications at Eir’s consumer division.

“Whether it’s keeping on top of work emails in the evening, helping children with their homework, looking up the best recipes, or planning a night out, access to the internet and a love of devices play an increasingly central role in our lives. The trends over the past couple of years only point to one thing: demand for greater and better connectivity is only going to increase.”

E-commerce

Despite recent evidence that over 90pc of Irish businesses can’t transact online, with Christmas looming the propensity of Irish consumers to shop online should be a cause for concern as it means money will leave the economy to go overseas.

Clothes (69pc) are now vying with flights (70pc) and hotels (66pc) to be the top online shopping category, with those in Dublin more active compared with rural areas.

Some 57pc of the population say they shop online, equally divided between men and women.

This rises to 77pc for those between 25 and 34.

Ireland is becoming a nation of DIY online doctors

The big finding of the year is people’s attitudes towards lifestyle and health. It points to the rise of the ‘noodie’, individuals who happen to be nutrition foodies and use the internet to find healthy food and recipes.

The study also found that there is an appetite for remote monitoring of health of relatives and family members.

Some 25pc of those surveyed agreed that the internet has become their first port of call when seeking medical advice.

However, one in five agreed that they had worried unnecessarily about their health after reading something online.

Only 7pc would be willing to order pharmaceuticals online.

But do we need to power down?

A need to power down is becoming evident, with 59pc of the working population revealing they do some form of work from home, either checking email or bringing work home.

One in four said that they often catch up with work in the evening or at the weekend.

The survey also showed that 15pc of the working population now run a business from home.

Search for meteor that flashed across the Irish skies last Sunday.

   Jim Ramsay, 44, spotted the bright light while taking pictures of the night sky near Squinty Bridge in Glasgow city centre

A bright flash illuminated Irish skies on Sunday evening as a meteorite disintegrated hundreds of miles above the Earth. Parts of a meteorite that collided with Earth last weekend may have landed in Ireland, according to Astronomy Ireland.

Last Sunday evening at around 8.13 pm, reports of a flash so bright that it lit up the sky for a few seconds flooded into Astronomy Ireland from all over Ireland. Confirmed sightings came from counties as far apart as Clare, Dublin, Meath and Monaghan.

Astronomy Ireland believe the flash was caused by a rock from space colliding with Earth and breaking up as it hurtled towards the ground hundreds of miles above Irish soil.

“No man-made explosion (except for a nuclear weapon being detonated) could have caused a flash this bright. So Astronomy Ireland reckons it was a rock in space colliding with Earth and burning up in the sky hundreds of miles above Ireland,” said David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.

One amateur astronomer even managed to catch the explosive occurrence on camera. Michael O’Connell captured the video below of the incredible burst of light in the sky from Kildare at 20:12:47 on Sunday November 8. O’Connell writes that it was most likely a northern Taurid [annual meteor shower associated with the comet Encke] and that he believes it occurred over the Irish Sea near Wales.

Astronomy Ireland also believe that such was the force of the flash and the “colossal explosion” in Irish skies that fragments of the meteorite may have made it to ground. They have issued an appeal for further reports from the public to locate any such remnants of the meteor’s collision.

“From a flash this bright it is possible that part of the rock survived the reentry process and landed on Earth,” Moore added.

“From all the sightings we can predict where any meteorite fell and then people can search that area for the highly valuable meteorites. Astronomy Ireland will add anyone who sends in a report to its email list and when the analysis is completed in a few days a message will be emailed to everyone on that list so everyone can search for the meteorite at the same time.”

And as if discovering a bit of outer space wasn’t incentive enough to report a sighting, meteorites can also fetch an astronomical sum, according to Moore.

“A fireball in November 1999 that dropped a meteorite on Ireland was found in Co. Carlow after a similar analysis by Astronomy Ireland,” he said. “Collectors were later selling bits of this meteorite for 50 times the price of gold at the time, so meteorites can be very valuable.”

If you think you may have seen something of interest to Astronomy Ireland you can report the sighting to astronomy.ie.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Saturday/Sunday 12 & 13th September 2015

Michael Noonan says Tax hikes are possible in next budget

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

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bono pressure?

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

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

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

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

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

Pope John Paul II. 

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

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

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

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

Cuts to programmes.

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten-free diet fads put coeliacs at some big risks

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka sets space time record

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

   

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

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

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

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

Gennady Padalka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland Daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th July 2015

Ireland ranked as one of the best Countries in terms of reputation

New survey shows country’s standing has improved in recent years

  

Not such a bad spot: Ireland scored highly in terms of having friendly and welcoming people and a beautiful country

Charlie Taylor

Ireland has been ranked in 11th place out of 55 countries in a new survey ranking nations by their reputation.

The Republic was ranked ahead of the UK, Italy, Germany,Spain, Portugal and France and the US in the Country RepTrak study, which was compiled by the Reputation Institute and its Irish counterpart, the Reputations Agency,

Ireland moved up two spots in the latest study, having been ranked in 13th place last year. In addition, it improved its score by 5.2%, from 68.5 out of 100 in 2014 to 72 this year.

Canada regained top spot from Switzerlandin the 2015 survey with a score of 78.1.

It was followed by Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium. With a score of just 22.5, Iraq was ranked as the country with the worst reputation followed by Iran, Pakistan,Russia and Nigeria.

The Country RepTrak study measures the reputation of 55 countries based on a number of factors including trust, esteem, admiration and good feeling.

The survey of 48,000 consumers from across the G8 was carried out via an online poll.

Of the 17 attributes measured, the most important attribute in driving the reputation of a country is “friendly and welcoming people”, where Ireland was ranked in ninth position, unchanged from 2014.

Having a “beautiful country” comes second in importance and here Ireland was ranked in sixth position, compared to ninth place last year. In addition, the Republic was placed 10th in the list of countries that consumers would like to visit.

“An increasingly globalised world with intensified competition makes country reputation matter more than ever,” said Niamh Boyle, managing director of the Reputations Agency.

“Attracting tourists, FDI and high-skilled workforce, improving international diplomacy, and being able to sell Irish products abroad, are all facilitated by having a strong country reputation.

“The G8 countries are important trading partners and sources of revenue for Ireland, so improving our reputation scores amongst these nations is great news for Ireland’s economy.”

Ireland’s budget targets queried by EU commission

Government’s plans for expansionary budget implicitly criticised by EU body

 

The EU Commission says the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2bn in expansionary measures.

The EU Commission has questioned the Government’s targets for the 2016 budget, saying they do not take full advantage of strong economic growth.

The commission’s intervention came as it said in a separate study that Ireland’s bailout between 2010 and 2013 was an effective recovery programme and argued the decision not to impose losses on senior bank bondholders was the correct one.

The comments on the October budget came in its review of a post-bailout inspection carried out in the spring.

It said the outline plan to achieve a budget deficit of 1.7% of GDP in 2016 was predicated on €1.2 billion in expansionary measures. While this is at the bottom of the €1.2 billion-€1.5 billion range in the Government plan for the budget, the commission implicitly criticised moves to prepare an expansionary budget.

Buffers: “Reaping the full benefits of the strong growth momentum would avert the risk of pro-cyclical fiscal policy and create the necessary buffers to address future challenges,” said the commission.

“Budgetary windfalls in 2016 and beyond should be used to accelerate debt reduction and prepare for future challenges.

“The stronger than expected economic momentum offers a unique opportunity to make progress with fiscal consolidation and debt reduction and averts the need to support aggregate economic activity.”

It went on to say past experience in Ireland and other countries pointed to a tendency to overestimate economic slack and underestimate overheating in real time.

Demographic pressures

“Moreover, Ireland is also facing considerable expenditure pressures linked to demographics in the medium term and remains vulnerable to economic and interest rate shocks, given the still very high level of public debt. All these elements stress the importance of building fiscal buffers.”

Of the water charges regime, it said the capacity of the Government and Irish Water to explain further the rationale for the reform and demonstrate that the public utility model is best will be critical.

“In turn, payment compliance will be key for the Irish Water’s ability to raise revenue and deliver upon its investment programme. Late payment penalties will be put in place, but only in cases where households are in arrears for a full annual billing period.”

In its report on the bailout, the commission said the rescue package was effective in helping Ireland regain access to financial markets and repair its broken banks.

Of the contentious decision not to “burn” senior bank bondholders, it said there was no legal framework and noted the legal and economic risks were considered too great in light of the potential benefits.

“The risks of spill-overs to the Irish and EU financial systems were highly uncertain and perceived to be very high, especially given the absence of a proper EU bank resolution framework,” the report said.

“The alternative of a burden sharing that only applied to the senior creditors of the institutions that were to be resolved, Anglo and INBS, would have had fewer benefits to the Irish exchequer but would still have entailed considerable risks.

Some 2,500 citizens sworn in as Irish at Convention Centre

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries have become Irish in last four years

  

Heba Alsharbaty (mother), Khilood Jaddoa (grandmother), Yousif Hussein (10 months) and Fadhil Alsharbaty (grandfather), originally from Baghdad in Iraq and now living in Rathfarnham show their joy on becoming Irish citizens. 

Some 2,500 candidates from 112 countries gathered to receive Irish citizenship at three ceremonies in the Dublin Convention Centre on Friday, these were the first of three citizenship ceremonies held at the Convention Centre, July 17th, 2015.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, attending on behalf of the Government, described his own childhood growing up in west Dublin, the son of an Indian migrant father and an Irish mother, who had herself been a migrant worker in England where they met.

“Growing up in west Dublin, I was the only child in school with sallow skin and a funny surname,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said he was encouraged now to see the diverse mix of backgrounds of children in Dublin and nationally “going to our gaelscoileanna and togging out for GAA”.

‘More tolerant’

Irish society had become “more tolerant, more inclusive and more open today than the leaders of the 1916 Rising could ever have hoped”, he said.

Among those sworn in on Friday was Iranian Javad Hasani, who has been living in Ireland for nine years, although he never intended to come here in the first place.

“I was on my way to Toronto and there was a stopover in Cork, and I got on a train to Dublin. I’m from a big city, so I couldn’t get over how beautiful the countryside was. I decided to change my flight and spend a couple of weeks travelling around.”

A trip to Kerry where he met a man he knew from Turkey cemented his decision to stay. He now has an Irish wife, Tracy, and “three babies”.

Ninfa Chacon Bendeck, a lawyer from Honduras, came to Ireland for St Patrick’s day in 2005, where she met Tony Byrne from Donegal.

“I knew the capital of Honduras was Tegucigalpa, which is where Ninfa is from, so I was able to impress her with that,” he said.

Kept in touch

Ninfa went back to Honduras after her holiday, but the two kept in touch. “Then I lived in Belgium were I was working as a diplomat, and after that we went travelling for a while.”

They’re now married for four and a half years and live in Donegal, where Ninfa works to rehome rescued dogs.

The 15 most represented countries at the ceremony were Poland, India, Romania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, Latvia, South Africa, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Hungary, Thailand, United States Of America, and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.

Particularly pleased

The presiding officer, retired Judge Bryan McMahon, said he was particularly pleased to see faces from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who he hoped “have brought their cricket bats and wickets” to help improve the fortunes of the Irish cricket team.

Similarly, he hoped those from Brazil would bring their soccer skills to bear on the Irish football team.

“Would it not be wonderful if some of these genes were brought into the Irish athletic pool of the future?”

More than 85,000 people from 161 countries had become Irish citizens over the last four years, Judge McMahon said.

“I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren lead the hurling, football or camogie teams onto the pitch at Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday, and I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren carry the Irish flag into an Olympic stadium.”

Irish teens are ‘unable to identify depression symptoms’

   

Suicide prevention in young Irish people is being hampered by misunderstood symptoms and the lack of treatment awareness, according to new research.

Many Irish teens are unable to identify symptoms or ways to help depression.

A study conducted by psychologists at Trinity College Dublin suggests that many Irish teenagers are unable to identify signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

Out of a sample of 187 teenagers, aged between 15 and 19, only half could correctly identify depression in hypothetical cases.

Meanwhile, participants were also unable to identify appropriate treatment for peers.

At the same time, the report found that girls were more likely than boys to offer up ways to support a depressed friend.

According to Sadhbh Byrne, who carried out the research with Dr Lorraine Swords and Dr Elizabeth Nixon of the School of Psychology in Trinity College, the study paints a worrying picture of mental health awareness.

“While the majority of adolescents in our study showed great concern for a friend experiencing distress, their specific knowledge of the characteristics of mental disorders and potential suicidality was lacking,” she said.

She said identifying depression is critical in helping people receive appropriate help.

“Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide in Europe among 15 to 24 year olds. Our research points to the need to educate young people about the need to seek adult help for a friend experiencing emotional distress,” Ms. Byrne added.

2014 melted global records as hottest year yet recorded

2015 set to be in top 10 as overheated Pacific ocean releases rising amounts of energy

  

Climate change: 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

The relentless rise in global temperatures continues with scientists declaring 2014 the hottest year yet recorded. And they believe that 2015 will also land in the top 10 hottest given an overheated Pacific ocean that is releasing rising amounts of energy.

Last year was amongst Ireland’s hottest years, ranking in shared fourth place with 1997 and 1949, said Met Éireann climatologists.

Climate information of all sorts from 413 scientists in 58 countries was used to set 2014 as an international record-breaker in the 25th annual State of the Climate report prepared by the American Meteorological Society.

The numbers show that global warming continues apace with international initiatives to curb greenhouse gas release all failing to halt the ongoing march towards an overheated world, said Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University.

“The driver for all of this is the energy imbalance caused by the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and others,” said Prof Thorne in Maynooth’s department of geography and one of the report’s editors for the global figures.

“We are not on the great mitigation pathway. The accumulation is undoubtedly due to human activity,” he said.

Effectively the report is a “full annual health check of the Earth’s climate system”, he said. The scientist participants collected data from countries around the world, measuring everything from temperature and rainfall to the size of the glaciers and temperatures above and below the ocean surface.

Ireland is part of this effort, feeding data into regional reports for Europe. “The highlight of the regional chapter was 2014 was the warmest year on record for 25 European countries. By a long chalk in Europe, 2014 for some was the warmest experienced going back 200 years,” Prof Thorne said.

For Ireland it was fourth highest with the top three hottest in order being 2007, 2006 and 1945.

The report shows greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and for the 25th year in a row global glaciers have decreased in size, the report says.

There were record high sea levels, record ocean surface temperatures and more heat is building up in the deep oceans.

Three months of 2014 saw carbon dioxide levels surpassing 400 parts per million (400ppm), long considered a psychological threshold.

Levels in the first report 25 years ago stood at 354ppm and from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1750 up until 1990 the average was just 270ppm, Prof Thorne said.

The trend towards a warming world is clear given the top 10 hottest years have all occurred since 1998.

In fact that year stands out in particular because of a very strong “El Nino”, a natural phenomenon which sees the release of excess heat from surface waters across the Pacific Ocean that in turn warms up the environment.

Separating 1998 means the top nine warmest years have all occurred since 2002.

The report expects that 2015 may also push its way into the top 10 group because a strong El Nino – which climatologists refer to as the Southern Oscillation – seems to have formed.

“When an El Nino is occurring it is burping out energy into the atmosphere, while a La Nina is absorbing energy into the ocean,” said Prof Thorne.

They alternate in an irregular pattern but when an El Nino appears we can expect difficult weather, Prof Thorne said.

The report describes the El Nino during 2014 as being in a “neutral state” but already data from the Pacific shows that the El Nino has taken hold.

“There are record temperatures, particularly near the sea surface. The El Nino tried to appear last year but it has begun and this year is very strong,” he said.

It may be that because it stalled during 2014, that may make it particularly strong this year, he suggested. “This could be stronger than 1998 (when a record-breaking El Nino appeared) but those are based on model predictions so we will have to wait to see what happens.”

Records are being set year after year, but there is a very weak response internationally. But it is not a matter that there is nothing we can do, Prof Thorne said. “We need a mixture of sensible global policy that sets us on a low carbon path and it is about technological innovation, carbon neutral transport, changed behaviour, the use of things like solar panels. We need to make clean energy.”

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 2nd May 2015

Exports in Ireland at highest level ever

Latest good news from Ireland?

     

The latest good news from the green isle is on the export front.

Government officials in Ireland are ecstatic as the economy continues to gain traction and a silver lining in the subdued European Union.

Exports soared last year by 10%, hitting an all-time record of 18.6 billion euro.

The growth trajectory began in 2010, on the tail end of the financial crisis in Ireland post-GFC. In that year exports reached 13.9 billion euro. As the economy has improved and expanded, particularly in the technology sector, exports have risen each year.

According to the official figures published by Enterprise Ireland, the growth was in every market Ireland exports to, and in every sector in which it is engaged in exports.

“Record exports of 18.6 billion euro were achieved by Irish exporters, representing an increase of almost 10% over 2013 figures. Significantly, growth was recorded across all sectors and in all international markets. These results are reflected in the record jobs performance by Enterprise Ireland clients in 2014 where the agency’s clients recorded the highest net job gains in the history of the agency and further validate Enterprise Ireland’s investment in indigenous industry,” the Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland, Julie Sinnamon, said as the figures were announced.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny puts the improvement in the economy, which has flowed into exports, down to job creation, predicting that by 2019 there will be more people employed in Ireland than at any other time in its history.

“Action Plan for Jobs continues to be the driving force behind our commitment to bring our country back to full employment by creating a sustainable export-led economy. It has proven itself effective in delivering our targets and our targets continue to be ambitious.

In the coming months, we will deliver one year early on our target of adding 100,000 jobs,” he said Thursday. “By next year, our plan will see more Irish people returning to work in this country than leaving. By 2018, we will have replaced every job lost by the previous Government with more sustainable jobs and by 2019 there will be more people working in this country than ever before.”

AIB announces cut in variable mortgage interest rates

  

Allied Irish Banks has announced a misery 0.25% drop in variable interest rates for new and existing customers.

In addition, the banks EBS and Haven customers will benefit from a 0.38% cut, the banks said yesterday.

The cuts will take effect over the next couple of weeks and will benefit about 160,000 Irish customers.

Following the move, AIB customers with a €200,000 mortgage will save €329 annually, based on a 25-year term -EBS/Haven SVR customers will save €508 a year.

The rate cuts apply to both owner-occupier and buy-to-let mortgages.

The state owned AIB came under pressure recently to cut variable interest rates but the rate remains just shy of 4%.

The bank has also reported a further reduction in impaired loan volumes to €20.5bn to €1.7bn in the first quarter.

It also said total number of accounts in arrears in the Irish residential mortgage portfolio decreased by 6% since December 2014 and 23% since December 2013.

The bank remained profitable for the first quarter of 2015.

David Duffy, outgoing chief executive said: “Notwithstanding the improving operating environment, challenges remain including continued high levels of arrears in the mortgage and SME portfolios and elevated levels of impaired loans.

He added that the bank is also benefitting from quantitative easing but this also has a negative impact on pension calculations.

Joan Burton speaks of her decades-long search for her birth parents

   

Speaking about privacy today, the Tánaiste said children should be entitled to know who their mother is.

The TÁNAISTE JOAN BURTON has spoken of her search for her birth parents as she today told the Burren Law School that she believes children have the right to know who their mother is.

In her address on privacy, Burton said adoption in Ireland happened very much “in the shadows” and for decades there was little or no regulation.

“Children were put up for adoption, often against the will of the mother, usually under the auspices of religious bodies, without legal protection for them or their adoptive parents. The birth mother was told that her identity would be kept secret and would never be disclosed to her child, or anyone else.”

The Tánaiste herself has spoken before about the fact that she was raised by adoptive parents and today she discussed her own search for her birth parents.

In my case, after three decades of searching, it was only in the late 90’s, as attitudes changed, that I was successful in tracing cousins, aunts and uncles. Unfortunately, by then both my birth parents were dead.

On the issue of her own privacy, Burton said she became nervous that the story of her adoption would become known to some peope in the media who might twist it in a way that would embarrass both herself and people connected to her birth family. It was revealed after the 2007 election, when she did an open interview about it,  and by this time her search had already begun.

As the law stands today, contact can only be established between an adopted child and their biological parents of both parties agree.

“I believe this proposition is no longer tenable,” the Tánaiste commented.

“In my view, it is an essential part of a child’s identity that they should be entitled to know who their mother is.

“Children have a right to their identity she say’s.”

However, she acknowledged that this right to information must be balanced against the mother’s right to privacy and striking the balance is “sensitive and legally difficult”. She said the government must deal with this issue and legislation is expected before the end of this term.

We need to understand allergies

    

In December 2013, the people of Ireland learned a hard lesson in how serious allergic reactions to food can be

Emma Sloan, 14, was out for a meal with family when she ate a sauce containing peanuts and suffered a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. She died on Dublin’s O’Connell St because she did not receive a life-saving injection of adrenaline in time.

Few of us will ever experience a reaction as severe as Emma did, but it’s vital that we all pay more attention to food allergies. In 2004, a report by the European Food Safety Authority found that food allergies occurred in up to 3% of the European population and 6% of children.

“Here in Ireland, the latest research focuses on 2-year-old children and it’s found their overall rate to be 4% so we’re within international norms,” says Jonathan Hourihane, professor of paediatrics and child health in University College Cork and a specialist in allergic disorders in children.

“We’re also following the international trend of increased food allergies. Between 1990 and 2010, allergy rates trebled in the US and there’s no reason to suspect it’s any different here.”

This means we should all learn to spot the symptoms of allergic reactions and to identify and avoid the triggers that cause them. It’s also worth knowing what to do if we see someone suffering from anaphylaxis, the most severe allergic reaction of all.

A short food list accounts for approximately 90% of all food allergies. These include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

Reactions to these foods can vary. For some people, it’s as mild as a red rash and clears up in a matter of hours. For others, their skin erupts in hives or their eyes, hands, feet, lips, mouth, and throat swell.

Some people don’t even have to ingest the food to react; just breathing in the dust from peanuts can be enough for them to react.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction of all. It begins in the mouth and throat within minutes of eating a food. It quickly affects the skin, respiratory tract, and cardiovascular system. It can affect these parts of the body individually or in combination but it needs to be treated rapidly.

Anyone diagnosed with a severe allergy should carry an auto-injector of adrenaline. If this emergency shot is not administered within a short time of eating the food, the reaction — like that of Emma — can be fatal.

There are no Irish statistics on fatalities caused by food allergies but in the UK, up to 20 people die each year from anaphylaxis. About half of those reactions are caused by food.

Anaphylaxis Ireland is a support group that aims to raise awareness of allergy-related issues in this country. It provides help and information to those suffering with allergies; lobbies to improve labelling on food products; and educates the public about the seriousness of certain allergies.

“Any awareness that helps people understand the seriousness of an allergy that can be life-threatening is positive,” says Fiona Kenna of Anaphylaxis Ireland. “However, it’s important for severe allergy sufferers to take responsibility for their own allergy. They have to carry their prescribed auto-injectors with them.”

We citizens of the world are all shareholders of how we deal with climate change

  

Each global citizen has the right to voice an opinion on the running of business when it comes to the survival of the planet. One could say that on this occasion, we are all shareholders.

That fundamental equality under the stars is the backdrop today for bringing together religious leadership acting from a moral and social imperative on issues related to climate change and institutional investors, acting on risk. Both are doubtless well aware of that fundamental maxim for any business: ignore your clients at your peril.

It is a global movement. In a strong indication of their commitment  four investor groups across the globe recently published a guide  outlining a range of strategies and solutions investors can use to address climate change. It is a joint project involving IIGCC in Europe, Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) in North America, IGCC in Australia/New Zealand and ASrIA’s Asia Investor Group on Climate Change.

The guide outlines a range of strategies and solutions investors can use to address climate change, including low carbon investment, managing and reducing carbon exposure in portfolios, and engagement, as investors around the world work to scale up their efforts to invest in clean energy and shift to lower carbon assets.

In the UK they just moved to divest £12m from tar sands oil and thermal coal – two of the most polluting fossil fuels -imposing investment restrictions for the first time because of climate change.

This news came hard on the heels of a story by the Financial Times, which reported that although Prince Charles “does not comment publicly on his personal financial dealings and sources at Buckingham Palace confirmed that ‘his private investments and his charitable foundation do not have any fossil fuel holdings.’”

The UK business media tone on coverage of climate change has changed substantially as the subject becomes ever more high-profile.

As for publicly listed businesses – they are feeling the pressure. At BP’s recent AGM a climate and carbon risk resolution won a 98.28% vote in favour. The decision was described by Ian Greenwood, Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) Deputy Chair as “the culmination of three years of steady engagement and demonstrates the effectiveness of an active approach to ESG and structural risk questions by pension funds and other institutional investors.”

The ‘Aiming For A’ investor group behind the resolution contained faith-based networks as well as investors – and is explained further at the Church of England Media Centre, where the most recent post is a welcome for the Vatican Statement on climate change.

This extension of collaboration beyond a traditional institutional investor base has had a profound impact on the gathering of support. The board of oil giant Shell- which holds an AGM at The Hague on May 19 – has already expressed support for a similar ‘Aiming for A’ resolution which will be put to the vote.

Norway’s national oil company, Statoil, also holds its AGM on May 19. In an AGM notice quietly posted – and flagged by PIRC, the shareholder advisory body – its board has formally stated its support for Item 7.

‘Statoil Strategic Resilience from 2035 and beyond’ is the third of almost identical climate resolutions introduced at BP and Shell after active engagement and collaboration. The success of all three would, indeed be the equivalent of a great ‘hat-trick.’