Tag Archives: Review

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 24th August 2016

Number of emigrants returning home to Ireland soars

Are you one of the thousands of Irish people that have returned home in the last two years?

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More people are now coming into Ireland to live than are leaving, while the number of returning Irish emigrants has surged, latest figures show.

It is the first time since 2009 that Ireland has recorded net inward migration.

The number of returning Irish emigrants has surged in the year to the end of April.

At least 21,100 people with Irish nationality came into the country in this period – up 74pc on last year, when 12,100 arrived. Overall, 79,300 people came to live in Ireland over the year to the end of April – up 15pc – while 76,200 left.

Business groups welcomed the migration data, but warned that a growing workforce and population means extra pressure on state resources, and the need to improve infrastructure.

“Net inward migration along with an increasing population will place further demand on State resources in the future, highlighting further the need for government to prioritise investment in infrastructure as a matter of urgency,” said Ian Talbot, Chambers Ireland chief executive.

With housing and high rents an issue at present, business groups have also repeatedly stressed Ireland’s high marginal rate of income tax needs to be addressed. And the Small Firms Association this week again noted the level the rate kicks in also needs to be increased.

The CSO data shows the bulk of the people who came into Ireland in the year to April have done so for work. That has consistently been the case since 2012. Students were the next biggest category.

Work was the main reason for individuals leaving the country, but studying was a close second. The majority of those emigrating were either at work or a student in the period prior to departing, with one in 10 listed as unemployed.

A breakdown of immigration by education attainment shows more than half of those aged 15 and over who were emigrating had a third level degree or above. In April, the CSO said there was net inward migration of 3,100, compared with net outward migration of 11,600 in the previous year. Of the 76,200 people who left Ireland over the period, almost 42pc were estimated to be Irish.

This is down 3,500 on the year to April 2015, when 35,300 Irish nationals left. Non-Irish nationals from outside the EU accounted for around 40pc of total immigrants into Ireland.

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), however, said the number of young people aged between 15 and 24 leaving the country was still rising.

It noted that within this age group, 31,700 left in the year to the end of April, compared with 30,400 the previous year. There were about 12,000 more young people who left the country over the period than came in.

Marie-Claire McAleer, head of research and policy at NYCI, said there remain many impediments to returning to Ireland.

“We are encouraged by the steps that have been taken by the Government to address some of these barriers but substantial work remains to be done to stem the tide of young people having to leave Ireland at present and to provide the opportunities for them to return in the future,” she said.

The source of data for the migration statistics is the Quarterly National Household Survey, which gives details on employment and unemployment, and also provides a basis for the classification of flows by sex, age group, origin/destination, and nationality.

The CSO said the migration data is also compiled with reference to movements in other migration indicators, such as the number of PPS numbers allocated to foreigners, and the number of visas issued to Irish people travelling to destinations including Australia, the US and Canada.

Maynooth seminary to review social media policies

College’s board acknowledges ‘unhealthy atmosphere’ after dating app allegations

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The Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has said he intends to send seminarians from his archdiocese to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome instead of the national seminary at Maynooth because of concerns about ‘strange goings-on’ in St Patrick’s.

There will be a review of social media policies and procedures for handling whistleblowers at St Patrick’s seminary in Maynooth following allegations of trainee priests using dating apps, the college’s board of trustees has announced.

During a meeting in Maynooth on Tuesday, the board also asked the Irish Bishops’ Conference which is based in St Patrick’s College to commission an independent audit and report into the governance of Irish seminaries.

Those who oversee the management of St Patrick’s came in for criticism earlier this month when media reports surfaced of trainee priests using the Tinder dating app as well as its gay equivalent, Grindr.

Following those reports, a number of ex-seminarians came forward with accounts of alleged bullying and sexual harassment they had suffered during their time at the Maynooth college, and in a statement released on Wednesday the trustees say they “share the concerns about the unhealthy atmosphere” there.

Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has said he intends to send seminarians from his archdiocese to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome instead of the national seminary at Maynooth because of concerns about “strange goings-on” in St Patrick’s.

In subsequent interviews he described a “poisonous” atmosphere at the Maynooth seminary and urged its board of trustees, which comprises Ireland’s four archbishops and 13 other senior bishops, to meet as soon as possible to address the issues which had arisen.

As part of the suite of measures, the Irish Bishops’ Conference has been asked to conduct a triennial review of St Patrick’s College and the Irish Pontifical College in Rome next spring.

The St Patrick’s board of trustees has also requested that the conference “progress urgently a uniform national policy for admissions to Irish seminaries” and to establish a subcommittee to examine “the pastoral needs of priestly training in Ireland”.

A statement issued by the Irish Bishops’ Conference read: “There is no place in a seminary community for any sort of behaviour or attitude which contradicts the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.

“The trustees share the concerns about the unhealthy atmosphere created by anonymous accusations together with some social media comments which can be speculative or even malicious. Persons with specific concerns are encouraged to report them appropriately as soon as possible.”

The announcement of a series of reviews and audits coincides with 14 new seminarians beginning their training at St Patrick’s this week, which will swell the number of resident seminarians to 41 for the coming academic year.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin acknowledged the need for institutional reform in a homily Wednesday at the final Mass in the Mater Dei Institute chapel as it becomes part of DCU’s new multi-denominational teacher training college.

He said most of the institutions set up to train priests and faith-based teachers “are slowly vanishing from or are being transformed” in Dublin. Catholicshould not be alarmed but see rather new opportunities, citing “possible new forms of the preparation of future priests”

Drink driving in Ireland creeping up as alcohol is involved in a third of fatal accidents

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The Road Safety Authority chief executive, Moyagh Murdock, has said there is evidence that drink driving is “creeping up” again as latest figures show alcohol was involved in a third of fatal collisions.

A report published by the Road Safety Authority in June for 2008-2012 shows a record of alcohol consumption before the collision in 29% of cases analysed.

Ms Murdock said that latest vehicle collision figures for 2013 showed alcohol was involved in 33% of cases.

“That is very worrying,” she said.

One in 10 fatal collisions happened the day after a night spent consuming alcohol so it was still in the person’s system, even if it was not over the legal limit.

Research showed that 30% of the people killed in collisions where alcohol was involved were under the legal limit.

“So people are fatigued after a big night out, even though the alcohol may have cleared from their system 24 hours later.

“They are tired because they have not had a proper night’s sleep, and that is where driver fatigue can be a factor.”

The RSA wants to push the message that even one drink can impact a person’s ability but there were people killed on Irish road who were four or five times over the legal limit.

Ms Murtagh said drink driving was a bigger problem in younger drivers — those under 24 years.

In a bid to get the drink driving message to younger drivers the learner driver theory test is being changed this autumn to include a new module.

The questions have been drafted, and the updated examination, together with an explanatory booklet, will be launched in in October or November.

“We will have between 20 and 25 new possible questions on drink driving. The test itself will have an additional three questions.”

Ms Murtagh said the questions would be about the impact of alcohol on a person’s ability to control a vehicle.

While older people had got the message about drink driving, younger people never really tuned into it.

“We have to target the younger generation on drink driving. We will start with the updated theory test but there will be a number of other interventions and they will be introduced shortly.”

The RSA’s Back to School campaign, sponsored by ESB Networks, will distribute free high visibility vests to every child starting school next month. Four children aged 14 and under died on Irish roads during the first eight months of the year.

The average commuter adds 800 calories a week to their diet, a new report has found

Research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) suggests that people who commute for long periods of time are potentially “shortening their lives”.

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The average commuter adds extra 800 calories to their diets every week as a result of their journey to and from work, a new report has found.

Research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) suggests that people who commute for long periods of time are potentially “shortening their lives”.

The median average calorie-intake was 767 kcal, based on self-reporting of additional food consumption by a sample of 1,547 commuters in the UK.

The report links long commutes with increased stress, higher blood pressure and BMI, and reduced time available for health-promoting activities such as cooking, exercising and sleeping.

The average commute in the UK stands at roughly an almost an hour a day, while Celtic Tiger-era commutes are on the way back here, too.

According to the RSPH survey, people who commute in London have an average journey of 79 minutes – compared to just under 45 minutes for people living in Wales.

The report also found:

  • More than half (55%) reported increased stress levels.
  • Around two in five (41%) said they didn’t exercise as much as they used to.
  • More than a third said they slept less.
  • Two in five (38%) said they spent less time preparing healthy meals.
  • A third of people reported increased snacking (33%) while over a quarter reported fast food consumption (29%).
  • Almost half (44%) said their commute meant they spent less time with family and friends.

To combat the health issues associated with long commutes, the RSPH has called for employers to increase flexible and home working.

“Not only does it add to our stress levels, but travelling by bus, car, and train eats into the time we could be using to incorporate physical activity into our daily routine,” said Dr Justin Varney of Public Health England.

Employers can support staff wellbeing by offering facilities which promote cycling and walking to work, such as showers and bike spaces, and taking up opportunities like the Cycle2Work scheme.

“For some of us the daily commute can be a pleasurable experience, giving time for reflection or an opportunity to relax,” Shirley Cramer CBE, the head of the RSPH added.

“But for an increasing number of us it is having a damaging effect on our health and wellbeing.”

Closest potentially habitable planet to our solar system now found called Proxima b

Image result for Closest potentially habitable planet to our solar system now found called Proxima b   Image result for Closest potentially habitable planet to our solar system now found called Proxima b   Image result for Closest potentially habitable planet to our solar system now found called Proxima b

  • Scientists have found the closest exoplanet to Earth

  • Liquid water could exist on the surface of Proxima b

In a discovery that has been years in the making, researchers have now confirmed the existence of a rocky planet named Proxima b orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun, according to a new study. It is the closest exoplanet to us in the universe.

Given the fact that Proxima b is within the habitable zone of its star, meaning liquid water could exist on the surface, it may also be the closest possible home for life outside of our solar system, the researchers said.

Because of its location, the researchers hope it provides an opportunity for possible “robotic exploration in the coming centuries.”

“The good news is that it is so close,” study author Ansgar Reiners said. “It is not only nice for having it in our neighborhood, but it’s a dream come true for astronomers if we think about follow-up observation.”

Proxima Centauri coexists with a binary star in Alpha Centauri, a well-studied star system that serves as a neighbor to our sun.

Proxima b is a mere 4.2 light-years away from our solar system, or 266,000 times the distance between the Earth and the sun, which are 92.96 million miles apart. Previous rocky exoplanet discoveries, like those orbiting ultracool red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, were previously described as “close” at 40 light-years away.

“It’s not only the closest terrestrial planet found, it’s probably the closest planet outside our solar system that will ever be found because there is no star closer to the solar system than this one,” said lead study author Guillem Anglada-Escudé.

“The only thing you can hope to find between that is Planet Nine, but that would a solar system object or a brown dwarf that hasn’t been discovered,” researcher Pedro Amado added.

Here is what we know about the planet, as well as the questions that researchers hope to be able to answer.

This Jupiter-like planet in the HD-188753 system, 149 light-years from Earth, has three suns. The main star is similar in mass to our own Sun. The system has been compared to Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars.”

Kepler-421b is a Uranus-sized transiting exoplanet with the longest known year, as it circles its star once every 704 days. The planet orbits an orange, K-type star that is cooler and dimmer than our Sun and is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

Astronomers discovered two planets less than three times the size of Earth orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded stellar cluster approximately 3,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

This artist’s conception shows a hypothetical planet with two moons orbiting in the habitable zone of a red dwarf star. The majority of the sun’s closest stellar neighbors are red dwarfs.

Kepler-186f was the first validated Earth-sized planet to be found orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone. This zone a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet’s surface.

Kepler-69c is a super-Earth-size planet similar to Venus. The planet is found in the habitable zone of a star like our sun, approximately 2,700 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The Kepler-444 system formed when the Milky Way was just 2 billion years old. The tightly packed system is home to five planets that range in size, the smallest is comparable to the size of Mercury and the largest to Venus, orbiting their sun in less than 10 days.

This artistic concept image compares Earth, left, with Kepler-452b, which is about 60% larger. Both planets orbit a G2-type star of about the same temperature; however, the star hosting Kepler-452b is 6 billion years old — 1.5 billion years older than our sun.

This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system.

 Image result for This artist's impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b.  This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b.

An artist’s rendering shows Earth-sized exoplanets TRAPPIST-1b and 1c in a rare double transit event as they pass in front of their ultracool red dwarf star, which allowed Hubble to take a peek at at their atmospheres.

Out of a new discovery of 104 exoplanets, astronomers found four similar in size to Earth that are orbiting a dwarf star. Two of them have the potential to support life. The craft depicted in this illustration is the NASA Kepler Space Telescope, which has helped confirm the existence of thousands of exoplanets.

This artist’s impression shows a view of the triple-star system HD 131399 from close to the giant planet orbiting in the system. Located about 320 light-years from Earth, the planet is about 16 million years old, making it also one of the youngest exoplanets discovered to date.

An artistic impression of the planet Kepler-1647b, which is nearly identical to Jupiter in both size and mass. The planet is expected to be roughly similar in appearance. But it is much warmer: Kepler-1647b is in the habitable zone.

HD-106906b is a gaseous planet 11 times more massive than Jupiter. The planet is believed to have formed in the center of its solar system, before being sent flying out to the edges of the region by a violent gravitational event.

Kepler-10b orbits at a distance more than 20 times closer to its star than Mercury is to our own sun. Daytime temperatures exceed 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,500 degrees Fahrenheit), which is hotter than lava flows on Earth.

This Jupiter-like planet in the HD-188753 system, 149 light-years from Earth, has three suns. The main star is similar in mass to our own Sun. The system has been compared to Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars.”

Kepler-421b is a Uranus-sized transiting exoplanet with the longest known year, as it circles its star once every 704 days. The planet orbits an orange, K-type star that is cooler and dimmer than our Sun and is located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra.

Astronomers discovered two planets less than three times the size of Earth orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded stellar cluster approximately 3,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

This artist’s conception shows a hypothetical planet with two moons orbiting in the habitable zone of a red dwarf star. The majority of the sun’s closest stellar neighbors are red dwarfs.

Kepler-186f was the first validated Earth-sized planet to be found orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone. This zone a range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the planet’s surface.

Kepler-69c is a super-Earth-size planet similar to Venus. The planet is found in the habitable zone of a star like our sun, approximately 2,700 light years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The Kepler-444 system formed when the Milky Way was just 2 billion years old. The tightly packed system is home to five planets that range in size, the smallest is comparable to the size of Mercury and the largest to Venus, orbiting their sun in less than 10 days.

This artistic concept image compares Earth, left, with Kepler-452b, which is about 60% larger. Both planets orbit a G2-type star of about the same temperature; however, the star hosting Kepler-452b is 6 billion years old — 1.5 billion years older than our sun.

This artist’s impression shows the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our solar system.

 

Meet Proxima b

Proxima b is a rocky, terrestrial planet with a surface — unlike a gas giant, such as Jupiter — that is 1.3 times the size of Earth and orbits its star every 11.2 days. It is in a close orbit of Proxima Centauri: only 5% of the distance between the Earth and the sun. They are even closer together than Mercury and the sun. But because its star is much cooler and fainter than our sun, Proxima b has a temperature that is suitable for liquid water to exist on the surface without evaporating.

Researchers estimate that if the planet has an atmosphere, which could be assumed but isn’t known, it may be between 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. Without an atmosphere, it could be -22 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, Earth would be -4 degrees if it didn’t have an atmosphere, Reiners said.

Given the proximity to its star, Proxima b is also subject to less pleasant factors like ultraviolet and X-ray flares that are 100 times the intensity of what Earth receives from the sun. In the paper, researchers estimated it to be 400 times the intensity, but recent research has caused them to create a new estimate, they said. If there is life on the planet, it would be affected by this radiation, but it is pure speculation as to what kind of effect.

This infographic compares the orbit of the planet around Proxima Centauri (Proxima b) with the same region of the Solar System.

What took so long?

If the Alpha Centauri system is well-studied and Proxima Centauri is our sun’s cozy star neighbor in the universe, why did it take so long to find Proxima b?

It comes down to an understanding of the star this planet orbits, as well as how data collection has evolved during the last 16 years.

Proxima Centauri is a low-mass red dwarf star, known as an M-class dwarf, that happens to be close to the bright binary star Alpha Centauri AB, which outshines its cool stepbrother, so to speak. All of these stars are within the faint Centaurus constellation, which can’t be seen with the unaided eye.

Taking a closer look at new Earth-like planets for the first time

M-class dwarves are not well understood in comparison with other types of stars, Reiners said. Because of that, researchers don’t know much about the history of these stars or their radiation in the early days.

“But within the field of exoplants, [researchers] have recently realized that looking for planets around M dwarves is what is going to be the most spectacular, because you can find these plants in the liquid water zone more easily than other stars,” Reiners said.

NASA’s K2 mission finds more than 100 new planets

Because it’s an active star, Proxima Centauri can behave in varied ways that mimic the presence of a planet, according to the study. Researchers wanted to observe it for a long period of time, so for the first half of this year, telescopes around the world were pointed at Proxima Centauri. The researchers looked for a “Doppler wobble,” or back and forth wobble of Proxima Centauri that would be caused by the gravitational pull of a planet in orbit.

This was combined with research, data and published studies of Proxima Centauri dating to 2000.

“The significance of the detection went sky high,” Anglada-Escudé said. “Statistically, there was no doubt. We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”

The research around Proxima b will continue, and the researchers have more questions they want to answer. They don’t know whether there is water on the surface or if the planet has an atmosphere, although both are likely. They also don’t know whether, like Earth, the planet has a protective magnetic field to help with some of the radiation it receives.

Perhaps one of the biggest questions includes the history of the star and the planet. How did they form?

“What happened during the formation?” Reiners asked. “Was the star more active than the sun is today, and where during that phase was Proxima b located?”

This would indicate whether the plant was rich with water in its early days or started out dry, as well as whether there was any high-energy radiation that could have blasted away an atmosphere during formation of the planet.

A view of the southern skies over the ESO 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile with images of the stars Proxima Centauri (lower right) and the double star Alpha Centauri AB (lower left).

There is also some debate over whether this planet is Earth-like, which comes with some connotations. Depending on its formation, perhaps it could be like Venus.

Learning the answers to these questions about formation are possible with research. The habitability of a planet like Proxima b is also “a matter of intense debate,” according to the study, due to arguments against it: tidal locking, strong stellar magnetic fields, strong flares, and high ultraviolet and X-ray fluxes. But, as they point out, none of those has been proved definitive, either.

A growing excitement?

Researchers have long looked to Alpha Centauri for study. Now, they want us to go there.

Programs like Mission Centaur intend to design and build a space mission with a small telescope to point at the star system. It would look for exoplanets by imaging or other techniques that could find more of them around these three stars. Given how long it took us to confirm Proxima b and the fact that the researchers encountered a puzzling extra signal in some of their data and models, it’s entirely possible that there are more planets to be found.

It is also the target of the Starshot project, which aims to create and send ultra-fast light-driven nanocraft that would reach the system 20 years after launch and beam home images. This is on the list of Breakthrough initiatives, an effort whose board includes Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerberg.

Join in the conversation?

See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook andTwitter.

Because Proxima b exists outside our solar system, it doesn’t change our well-known roster of planets (and we know some of you are still rather upset over Pluto). But it does add to the field of exoplanet research that’s underway, some of which hopes to identify Earth-like planets that future telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope, can use for observation.

Many researchers hope that we can actually image these planets in the future, getting an idea of their atmospheric makeup and surface composition, and strive to answer the question of “Are we alone in the universe?”

“We know that there are terrestrial planets around stars. The excitement is because it’s the nearest one, and we expect to characterize it and maybe visit in a couple of centuries,” Anglada-Escudé said.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 20th May 2016

The Central Bank is ‘delaying approval of new Irish lender’ “Frank Money”

     

Brendan Burgess of the Fair Mortgage Campaign claimed regulators have constantly said competition was the solution to high variable rates.

The Central Bank has been accused of hypocrisy for its failure to so far approve new lender Frank Money.

Brendan Burgess of the Fair Mortgage Campaign claimed regulators have constantly said competition was the solution to high variable rates.

But he claimed the regulators had already taken seven months to authorise the new lender.

The new lender is awaiting approval from the Central Bank to enter the mortgage market, and will be targeting switchers and new borrowers once it gets authorisation.

Frank Money is aiming to have mortgage rates of 2.8pc – some 0.6pc lower than the new AIB variable rate, which will be the lowest in the market.

According to the Central Bank, the average variable rate for new buyers is 3.64pc currently.

This compares with an average rate of 2pc being charged by banks across the Eurozone.

For existing homeowners, the average variable rate being charged by banks here is 3.93pc.

Mr Burgess said a vulture fund could come in and buy a mortgage book and not be required to be authorised or licensed by the Central Bank.

“Yet Frank Money wants to introduce competition, which we all agree is needed, and the Central Bank has been sitting on the application for six to seven months,” Mr Burgess said.

“If they were serious, they would have this sorted out in a couple of weeks.

“It is hypocritical of the Central Bank to say we need more competition in the mortgage market and yet delay approving a potential new entrant,” he said.

There was no comment when the claims were put to the Central Bank.

Earlier this week, the Government avoided legislative defeat by not challenging to a vote the Fianna Fáil bill giving the Central Bank the power to regulate mortgage rates.

The Government did not press its amendment that the bill be referred to a pre-legislative stage. It now goes to committee stage.

Banking analysts now expect interest rates to fall. John Cronin, of Investec, said: “We expect further compression in mortgage rates over the course of the rest of 2016 and beyond.”

Irish factory gate prices down 0.4% in April 2016

    

The price of energy products decreased by 24.3% in the year since April 2015

New figures from the Central Statistics Office show that monthly wholesale or factory gate prices decreased by 0.4% in April.

The CSO said that the annual percentage change showed a decrease of 3.8% in April, compared with a decrease of 3.3% in the year to March.

The most significant changes on a monthly basis were increases in the prices of fish and fish products, which rose by 4.8%, while basic metals increased by 3.7% and meat and meat products rose by 0.9%.

Decreases were seen in dairy products prices, which fell by -2.6% in the month.

Basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations were also 1.1% while other food products including bread and confectionary eased by 0.5%.

The CSO noted that the price of energy products decreased by 24.3% in the year since April 2015, while petroleum fuels decreased by 12.2%.

It also said that all building and construction materials prices increased by 1.1% in the 12 months to April.

Ireland’s families opt for cheaper health insurance cover to cut costs?

    

  Health insurance broker Dermot Goode (left pic), said the decrease in the average spent on premiums indicates that consumers are becoming more proactive in terms of digging out the best deals and reviewing their cover each year.

Irish families have moved to cheaper and better-value health insurance in response to the rising cost of cover.

New figures from the Health Insurance Authority (HIA) show that the average premium was €1,173 for an adult last year.

This is down from the average of €1,200 paid in the previous year.

Some 2.12 million people now have health insurance, up 4,000 since last December, the HIA has said.

The move by families to seek better value, with others downgrading their cover, comes despite ongoing premium increases.

VHI pushed up the cost of more than 50 plans on May 1, with rises of between 1pc and 7pc, the HIA said.

Laya Healthcare increased premiums on Essential Connect Family and ended a special offer on children’s premiums.

GloHealth raised the cost of 37 plans at the start of this month, while Aviva increased the cost of nine of its plans this month.

These rises come after increases last December, and a string of other hikes last year.

Health insurance broker Dermot Goode, of TotalHealth¬Cover.ie, said the decrease in the average spent on premiums indicates that consumers are becoming more proactive in terms of digging out the best deals and reviewing their cover each year.

“However, four out of five consumers are still insured on the wrong plans and are paying too much.

“Reviewing your cover every two and three years is not enough – you must do this annually to keep pace with all the changes and bag the best deals as you would car or home cover.”

There are around 420 different plans from the four insurers.

Chief executive of the HIA Don Gallagher said the market was dynamic, with a range of polices and price ranges.

“There is value to be had, but consumers need to actively consider what cover they want and be prepared to switch insurers to get cover at the right price.”

Mr Gallagher added that if consumers have not looked at their health insurance plan in the last two to three years, they may not be getting the best value available in the market for the level of cover they want.

He said there was a recovery in the health insurance market in terms of the numbers insured.

The four insurers got a boost this time last year when close to 100,000 people took out cover for the first time.

This was to avoid penalties imposed on those over the age of 34 who take out cover for the first time as part of lifetime community rating.

Mr Goode said that once the numbers who took out cover to avoid the penalties is stripped out, the market has largely remained stagnant.

“We are still a long way off the 2.3 million insured in 2008,” he said.

Total health insurance premiums paid in 2015, gross of tax relief, amounted to €2.4bn, which was an increase of 0.5pc from 2014.

Based on population estimates, around 45.9pc of the population held private health insurance at the end of March 2016.

At its peak in 2008, close to 51pc of the population held private health insurance.

New EU rules ban 10 pack cigarette’s, & increase size of health warnings

Ireland had already introduced similar measure against packets of 10 in 2007

      

Irregular shaped tobacco product packs that can potentially obscure the visibility of health warnings have been banned in the EU.

Packs of 10 cigarettes are being withdrawn from sale and the size of graphic health warnings on tobacco products is increasing as part of EU rules coming into force from today.

A new directive by the European Commission (EC) means member states must comply with regulations that ban the sale of smaller or promotional packs, which are perceived as being more attractive to younger smokers due to the reduced cost. The minimum carton size will now be 20.

Ireland had already introduced a similar measure in 2007.

Graphic photos and text outlining the adverse consequences of smoking must now cover 65 per cent of the front and back of cigarette and roll your own tobacco packs.

Irregular-shaped packs that can potentially obscure the visibility of health warnings have been banned.

Ireland is one of 11 countries – including the United Kingdom, Germany andItaly – that have already transposed the directive into national law; from tomorrow, countries that have not done so face infringement proceedings from the EU.

Vendors must also cease trading tobacco products with “characterising flavours” such as vanilla or candy, but flavoured products that have an overall market share of greater than 3 per cent will remain available until 2020.

The EC has said it will establish a procedure for determining what constitutes flavoured tobacco products and will impose bans accordingly.

The tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide labelling currently on packs will be replaced with an information message saying: “Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer.”

The directive also includes changes to the regulation of e-cigarettes, which must now abide by maximum nicotine concentrations and maximum cartridge volumes.

Health warnings will become mandatory for e-cigarettes, informing consumers that they contain nicotine and should not be used by non-smokers. E-cigarette packaging will include a list of all ingredients contained in the product and nicotine concentration.

Furthermore, the EC has outlined new measures to combat the illicit trade of cigarettes across Europe, and an EU-wide tracking and tracing system will now be established.

Legitimate tobacco products will contain added security features, including holograms to aid the detection of illegal or counterfeit supplies.

The more stringent regulations aim to reduce the estimated 700,000 premature deaths across member states each year caused by smoking.

Ireland became the first country in the EU to introduce legislation for plain cigarette packaging in 2015, but the policy has not yet been implemented due to protracted legal wrangling.

Great fears about extremely rare ‘blue moon’ event this SATURDAY night

Which could signal doom from above?

    

A concerned Bonnie (left pic) over a Blue Moon in previous years 

A very rare ‘blue moon’ event this Saturday night has left mystics fearing it is an omen that? “something really bad is about to happen on Earth.”

Paranormal YouTubers have been posting videos ahead of the event with some saying “something just doesn’t feel right”

A blue moon is a second full moon in the same calendar month.

But Saturday’s event is even rarer as it also a fourth full moon in one season – the period between a solstice and an equinox, as there would usually be just three.

It happens every three years, and this particular blue moon was known as the full flower moon by Native Americans.

During the event, which will be visible across the UK at around 10.14pm on May 21, the moon does not actually go blue.

But the scarcity of the phenomena gave rise to the saying about rare events happening once in a blue moon.

Bonnie, a tarot card reader on The Sacred Love Oracle YouTube channel based in Canada, said in a video she felt “negative energies” and it may be due to planetary alignments and the “full Moon”.

In a video entitled Full Moon/Blue Moon May 21 2016 Oracle Special, she said: “I’m going to start with the oracle card for this full moon for this month

“There are energies now that are bothering me, I am becoming more sensitive.

“There is something there that is not really great for everyone

“Something is wrong, something is not right. I feel something is bad.”

While Bonnie couldn’t seem to put her finger on it, the Nemesis Maturity channel warned the blue moon event could be associated with more bizarre behaviour than is commonly linked to a typical full moon.

The channel said in a video: “Since ancient times, full moons have been associated with odd or insane behaviour, including sleepwalking, illegal activity, fits of violence and, of course, transforming into werewolves.

“In 18th-century England, people on trial for murder could campaign for a lighter sentence on grounds of lunacy if the crime occurred under a full moon, meanwhile, psychiatric patients at London’s Bethlehem Hospital were shackled and flogged as a preventive measure during certain lunar phases.

“Even today, despite studies discrediting the hypothesis, some people think full moons make everyone a little loony.”

Other videos have been posted online claiming the astronomical event is a sign before a mythological huge Planet X or Nibiru is about to pass us, with the gravitational pull wreaking havoc on Earth.

So what are the chances of something bad coming this way on Saturday?

Online doom mongers warned before last July’s blue moon it was a bad sign, particularly as it came before the infamous Blood Moon of last September which was also supposed to spell the end of the world.