Tag Archives: Scientists

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 3rd June 2015

Complacency, arrogance and back-slapping on recovery ignores the reality for Ireland


As the ingredients of an economic recovery continue to take hold in Ireland, the risk of complacency and arrogance looms large.

These attributes plagued Ireland as the Celtic Tiger roamed the land.

Ensuring such attitudes do not resurface is almost as important as managing the recovery itself.

It is odd to be writing about ways of maintaining some balance while economic momentum builds.

It is a short six years since all of us were in the depths of depression as waves of awful economic data crashed over us.

Aside from an imploding banking system, we had to contend with a collapsed and frozen property market.

Weak global economics compounded our problems given a dependence on international trade in goods and services. On top of that, emigration was in full swing, whipping out of our society young, educated citizens.

These conditions seem almost like a bad but distant dream in the middle of 2015. Exuberance abounds all round. Aside from headline economic data showing expansion, there is evidence of jobs growth, a recovery of residential and commercial property prices, and rising employment.

Public pay cuts have bottomed out and increases, particularly for lower- income workers, are likely as an election year looms. Moreover, confidence surveys point to increased levels of investment which, in turn, should sustain the development of the economy in a positive direction.

Against this backdrop, it would be easy to conclude we are a nation of geniuses at tackling economic crises. While major sacrifices were undoubtedly made in the domestic arena, it would be remiss to ignore the assistance provided by a number of sources.

The ECB, for example, through its quantitative easing programme, is showering monetary stimulus on Ireland through liquidity and ultra-low interest rates. This is like a river of money running through every crevice of the economy.

Companies are getting lower interest rates, the State is borrowing at record low interest rates and personal borrowers are experiencing a lower cost of money too.

A secondary effect of the ECB action is to depress the euro, a currency move that has uniquely helpful outcomes for Ireland. Against sterling and the dollar, in particular, the low euro is making Ireland more competitive at a time when imported inflation is subdued.

Another helpful hand to the economy is the ongoing growth in the UK and US. These are powerhouses for Ireland, given their deep trade connections, so positive economic momentum in these huge economies helps stimulate imports from Ireland and investment.

The latter point is especially pronounced among US multinational companies that appear to be making daily job announcements in this country.

None of these external stimulants should be taken for granted. All of them will ebb and flow over coming years. Central banks, on both sides of the Atlantic, will eventually curb quantitative easing and lift interest rates.

Economic growth in the UK and US will inevitably slow down. Exchange rates are structurally volatile and will swing around to levels unhelpful to Irish commerce.

Thinking through those future scenarios is an essential factor when policymakers and politicians plot the next moves in the Irish economy.

Staying competitive with labour and operating costs, driving the national debt to sustainable levels and keeping in check our enthusiasm about the nascent recovery are essential if a repeat of past excesses is to be avoided.

Getting such a thought process into the political system is extremely difficult in a parliamentary system anchored around proportional representation.

The temptation in government to accelerate decisions that support short-term popularity is large while opposition parties will inevitably promise actions that tap the momentum in Exchequer finances. It will be another test of our democracy and political leadership over the next year.

Tax revenue comes in €734m ahead of target


Exchequer returns €1.69bn better that same period in 2014

New exchequer figures released on Wednesday by the Department of Finance show increased revenues from each of the major tax heads, although excise and stamp duty returns last month came in below target.

Tax revenue in the first five months of the year came in €734 million ahead of target as the Government saw returns to the end of May rise to €17.29 billion, €1.69 billion better than in the same period in 2014.

Exchequer figures released on Wednesday by the Department of Finance show increased revenues from each of the major tax heads, although excise and stamp duty returns last month came in below target.

The figures show that the Government’s voted expenditure reached €17.03 billion in the period, €306 million less than forecast on budget day and €165 million less than in 2014.

Joan our Tánaiste wants people to tweet positive ideas to her?


The Tánaiste Joan Burton has launched a new online campaign to hear what voters want from the Government.

Ms Burton wants people to tweet using the hashtag #TalkToJoan.

She says she wants suggestions on where the Government should go from here, with unemployment now below 10%.

However, she says she is prepared for criticism, and she will only pay heed to constructive comments.

She said: “Well, we have, and I think most parties in Ireland experience the so-called keyboard warriors, and I think we are all used to reading an amount of that comment.

“I am really concentrating on people who have positive ideas.”

How to prevent mental health problems?


Begin at the beginning with infants and toddlers

A new report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows a downward trajectory in severe mental health issues for children between the ages of 6 and 17. On the surface, this is good news. Yet on the flip side, the study also reveals a troubling pattern of young people without access to mental health treatments from which they can truly benefit.

Lost in the narrative completely are the youngest set of children specifically infants and toddlers. With preschool expulsion rates at more than three times the expulsion rate of students in kindergarten through 12th grade, it’s clear that the mental health needs of infants and toddlers can no longer be overlooked. It’s time we took a serious look at infant and early childhood mental health and strategies to prevent mental health problems before they start.

Consider the experience of one mum and her child care provider:

Christine arrived at her sons’ child care center feeling anxious. The child care director had asked Christine to meet with the center’s “social-emotional” consultant. The consultant, Mr. Lee, shared that her boys’ teacher wanted to build a good relationship with the boys and needed some help understanding how to do it. The teacher wanted them to be safe and happy and felt her efforts were just not working.

Mr. Lee explained that his job was to support everyone working together to figure out what the boys were trying say through their behavior. Mr. Lee asked Christine some difficult yet thoughtful questions about what her boys were going through and why they might be acting out. Christine was able to reflect on the fighting had they had recently seen and heard between herself and their dad. Christine, Mr. Lee and the boys’ teacher met every week to share thoughts and ideas for the boys. The teacher was able to spend some more one-on-one time with the boys, and Christine was able to talk with her sons about what they were seeing and hearing at home. Christine felt not only a sense of safety with this team who supported her and her children, but also hope – something that had not been there in a long time.

Christine’s sons might have been just another statistic in the preschool expulsion scenario. But thanks to targeted and proven models designed to address underlying issues that drive certain behaviors, she and her sons benefited from services and techniques designed specifically to meet their particular needs.

It is estimated that between 9.5 percent and 14.2 percent of children age birth to 5 experience an emotional or behavioral disturbance. This means that the many people who interact with young children on a daily basis play an important role to play in helping children feel safe, secure, and cared for. Most importantly, when children are struggling with social-emotional challenges, they can ensure that these issues are identified as early as possible – ideally within the first three years of life. Research demonstrates that early prevention and treatment of mental health disorders is much more beneficial and cost-effective early in life, rather than attempting to mitigate their effects on health and learning later in life.

So how do we bolster positive mental health in young children and ensure that challenges are detected early? The key is to integrate mental health prevention services into the settings where children spend their time — at home, child care or the doctor’s office. Here is how we can ensure this happens:

  • Educate parents and caregivers about social and emotional development. Parents and caregivers know their own child best. They are often the first to notice if their young child’s behaviors, moods, or intensity are different than usual.
  • When mental health concerns exist for young children, link parents to early intervention programs in the community that are adequately prepared to screen for and treat social-emotional difficulties in a two-generation, dyadic fashion. Engage parents as partners in the intervention effort since therapists may spend an hour with the child each week, but parents are there day-in and day-out.
  • Screen parents for depression. Parents who are experiencing depression may be unable to provide their children with the responsive care they need to feel safe, secure, and loved. Supporting parents’ mental health is another way of supporting young children’s mental health.
  • Help pediatricians support infant and early childhood mental health. A child’s pediatrician is often the first person a parent turns to when their child is physically sick and he or she should also be a key resource when a parent is worried about their young child’s mental health. Programs such as Healthy Steps help pediatricians be that resource.
  • Ensure that child care providers are prepared to promote and support healthy social and emotional development. Second only to immediate family, child care is the setting in which early childhood development unfolds. It is critical that child care providers are knowledgeable regarding early childhood mental health so that they are able to support young children’s social and emotional development and address challenging behavior in a positive manner.
  • Integrate mental health prevention strategies into other programs that serve young children and their families. Home visiting programs match at-risk parents and their children with trained providers such as nurses, social workers or paraprofessionals who met regularly with the families through home visits to provide support and education. Home visiting programs across the country are integrating mental health prevention strategies into their programs and linking children and families with needed services.
  • Implement early child care mental health consultation and other promotion/prevention models. Project LAUNCH, a federal program that aims to promote the wellness of young children birth to 8 by addressing the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral aspects of their development, has sites throughout the country which demonstrate a variety of effective early child care mental health consultation and other promotion/prevention models.

Preventing mental health problems means starting in the earliest years of life to promote healthy social and emotional development. Children begin to learn important life skills in infancy, skills like communicating their needs, expressing and not being overwhelmed by their emotions, building self-confidence, making friends and getting along with others. The key to preventing mental health problems is to identify and address concerns as soon as possible, and to support those who surround young children.

There are ways to identify mental health problems in young children, and to effectively treat them. Parents, pediatricians, home visitors and child care providers can be the “first responders” to mental health concerns. Catching problems early, and intervening before they become more serious, will provide the best chance of helping all young children succeed and lead healthy, happy lives.

Scientists inch closer to precisely weighing Milky Way


Researchers in the US have determined the mass of the Milky Way to be 210 billion times the mass of the Sun with an uncertainty of only 20%.

The study used streams produced by certain stars and statistical tools applied by internet search engines to rank websites to measure the weigh our galaxy. The researchers at Columbia University decided to give the Milky Way a more precise physical checkup as our home galaxy’s precise weight is still unknown.

“Such measurements have been tried before with different streams, but the results were always quite ambiguous,” said study co-author professor Kathryn Johnston.

“Our new measurement breaks these ambiguities,” Johnston said.

The Milky Way consists of roughly 100 billion stars that form a huge stellar disk with a diameter of 100-200 thousand light years. The Sun is part of this structure, hence, when we look into the sky, we look right into a gigantic disk of stars.

The vast number of stars and the huge extent on the sky make it hard to measure fundamental quantities for the Milky Way, such as its weight. In this study, the researchers used stars outside this disk, which orbit around the Milky Way in a stream-like structure, to weigh the Milky Way to high precision.

The team demonstrates that such streams, produced by dissolving globular clusters, can be used to measure not only the weight of our Galaxy, but can also be exploited as yardsticks to determine the location of the Sun within the Milky Way.

“Globular clusters are compact groups of thousands to several millions of stars that were born together when the universe was still very young,” said lead researcher Andreas Kupper.

The researchers used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which scanned the sky of the Northern Hemisphere for about 10 years to create a comprehensive catalog of stars in the sky.

From the improved precision of Milky Way weight, the scientists hope to learn about the formation and composition of our home galaxy, and to understand how the Milky Way compares with other galaxies in the Universe.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 20th March 2015

A Polish/Irish festival celebrates our special 10 year relationship

A week-long event honours the 150,000 members of the Polish community in Ireland


Hannah Barwinska, Natalia Gil and Veronika Blaszczak (all age 11 from Polish School SEN) participate in the Brighter Futures pageant during the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin last Tuesday the 17th March 2015.

June 18th, 2012, and Market Square in Poznan, Poland, (above right) is thronged. It’s the last chapter in what has been a whirlwind summer romance between the Poles and the Irish. Irish football fans have endured a nightmare of a week in terms of results at Euro 2012, but none of them will forget the friendship that blossomed between them and their Polish hosts.

After eight days of heavy defeats, the Irish are nursing sore heads and bruised egos. A band of Poles have organised a gathering to “say goodbye to Ireland in our way”.

As the gathering begins, there are ripples in the crowd when the Poles begin to sing, not their native songs, but rousing renditions of The Fields of Athenry and other verses the Irish have been singing all week. They have learned the music and the words. The depth of the gesture is lost on nobody.

Flyers are distributed in the square. “We remember your great sportsmanship during your football game with Spain in Gdansk,” they say. “We remember your inspiring song The Fields of Athenry that brings into memory some of your history no one should ever forget. We too have a very hard past. We are also romantic and emotional people. This is something our nations have in common.”

The love affair between the Polish and the Irish may have been consummated here but this is not where it all began.Tens of thousands of Poles have migrated to Ireland since the State opened its borders to an enlarged EU in 2004.

Along the way there have been “misunderstandings” that have become folk tales. At one stage a Polish man seemed to be establishing himself as Ireland’s most reckless serial road traffic offender. By June 2007, Prawo Jazdy had more than 50 separate entries under his name in the Garda Pulse computer system, but with different addresses and not a single conviction. In the end the clue to his identity lay within the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. “Prawo jazdy” means driving licence. Garda officers were mistaking it for the driver’s name.

Every part of the country has a Polish presence that has added to community life. Few Irish towns have been left without a Polski sklep that sells pickles, Polish beer or smoked fish.

Of course, the pollution of the Irish gene pool has been perhaps the greatest development.

The contamination of the scraggly, pasty-skinned ginger archetype of the Irish has long been a matter of great urgency – and who better than the stunning Poles to do just that.

There are now Jakubs married to Aoifes and Seáns to Magdalenas.

It’s just a wonder there hasn’t been a Polish-Irish festival before now. The first one begins today, a week-long event aiming to celebrate the 150,000 members of the Polish community living in Ireland.

Ireland makes an early IMF repayment “leaving only 20% more to clear debt”


Ireland has made the last of its early loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund, leaving the country with just under a fifth of the original €22.5bn bailout left to pay.

  Friday’s payment was supposed to be due between July 2015 and January 2021 but with an average interest rate of 4.99%, Ireland’s bailout funds were far more expensive than the country’s borrowing rate on international markets, encouraging the government to pay the debts down as soon as possible, writes Elaine Moore in London.

Government borrowing costs across Europe have plummeted following the European Central Bank’s decision to begin a large scale programme of bond buying to boost the region’s economic recovery.

Last year Ireland’s benchmark borrowing rate dropped below the UK’s for the first time in six years highlighting the speed with which the country’s economy has turned around since the Eurozone debt crisis.

Oncotype DX test means no chemotherapy for some breast cancer patients

The gene test is only available here since 2011.


A study on a new test for breast cancer shows that it reduces the need for chemotherapy in some patients.

The test, Oncotype DX, involves a sample of the tumour being taken and sent to the US for gene testing. It has only been available in Ireland for four years.

Suitable patients?

Patients who are suitable for the test and whose cancer is node negative and hormone positive can have their tumour gene-tested.

The test looks at the activity of 21 genes in this particular breast cancer, and is able to see how the cancer is going to behave into the future and whether it would benefit from chemotherapy or not.

Genomic Health presented 11 studies today in Vienna, Austria, on the test in Ireland.

A study

They include a real-life observational study in Ireland, which demonstrates significant reductions in chemotherapy and cost savings when the test is used in early-stage breast cancer.

Dr Janice Walsh, Consultant Medical Oncologist at St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, led the research project for the All Ireland Co-Operative Oncology Research Group (ICORG) in collaboration with the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP).

Dr Walsh told TheJournal.ie that the test has been standard practice in the United States since 2005, but was only introduced in Ireland, following a long campaign, in 2011.

Ireland was the first European market to publicly reimburse the test.

The study at Irish hospitals showed that out of the 583 patients who were included in the analysis, 59% underwent a change in their treatment decision.

339 of the patients would have been recommended chemotherapy had they not undergone the test – the test showed that they could be changed to hormone therapy alone, as chemotherapy would have given them minimal or no benefit.

Dr Walsh said this is “hugely significant” as it means the patients can avoid the side effects from chemotherapy.

It is estimated that there are about 600 eligible patients a year.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in Irish women.

Kieran Kenny of Genomic Health said that the test has demonstrated value for patients and the health care system.

Experimental Oncotype DX test

 by Biogen offers hope to scientists

That they may be closer to a breakthrough

The shares in Biogen jump 7% in New York trading


The Biogen’s market value share has risen by $45 billion to nearly $110 billion in a little over a year

An experimental Alzheimer’s drug being developed by a US biotech group has offered hope that scientists may be closer to a breakthrough for the devastating disease, after early trials showed the treatment slowed the rate of cognitive decline.

Biogen’s Aducanumab is one of several drugs under development by big pharmaceutical groups that aim to reduce so-called “amyloid plaque”, a sticky build-up in the brain that many believe is responsible for Alzheimer’s disease.

A year-long study of 166 patients with a mild form of the disease showed that Biogen’s drug significantly reduced the build-up of plaque and delayed the onset of cognitive decline, according to data published yesterday at a medical conference in Nice, France.

Shares in Biogen, which have risen about 28% this year in anticipation of the data, jumped by 7% in New York trading, while other companies with similar drugs also gained, including Eli Lilly, up 2.4%, and Sanofi, which added 1.6%.

Biogen’s market value has risen by $45 billion to nearly $110 billion in a little over a year.

However, analysts and doctors voiced concerns over the drug’s safety, with a quarter of patients on the highest dose discontinuing treatment due to adverse effects, including swelling on the brain. Drug companies have trialled similar drugs for years with disappointing results, but the industry has pressed ahead because the commercial opportunity is huge: there are more than 25 million Alzheimer’s sufferers globally and five million in the US, the majority of whom do not respond to existing treatments.

Biogen and its partner Neurimmune developed the drug by cloning the memory cells of people in their 90s who had “super cognitive function” despite their age, as well as people who had Alzheimer’s that was progressing at an unusually slow rate.

Speed limit’s likely to be cut to many of rural Ireland road networks


Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday predicted “many” rural roads are likely to see their maximum speed limit cut from 100km/h to 80km/h under new guidelines.

The guidelines also call on local authorities to “give serious consideration” to reducing speed limits from 50km/h to 30km/h within housing estates, where houses are fronting the roads, and near play areas.

Mr Donohoe said he continued to believe “very strongly” that local authorities must retain the power to determine speeds in housing estates — despite calls for a mandatory 20km/h speed limit by Roseann Brennan, whose six-year-old son, Jake, died after being knocked down by a car near his home in Lintown Grove, Kilkenny, last June.

The minister said the lowest speed local authorities can introduce under the law was 30km/h, but new legislation he was bringing through the Oireachtas would allow councils to have a 20km/h speed limit.

Mr Donohoe was speaking at the launch of Guidelines for Setting and Managing Speed Limits.

Under the document:

National roads less than 7 metres in width and more than 3km in length should have a maximum limit of 80km/h — while those over should be 100km/h zones.

A new road sign — a white circle with black diagonal stripes — will replace the 80km/h sign on narrow country roads, but the maximum speed will remain unchanged.

Urban speed zones will be determined by their function (arterial, link or local road) and their context (commercial or housing areas).

Mr Donohoe said a website, http://www.speedlimits.ie, would go live in the coming weeks, with a map giving limits on all roads.

Asked whether he expected a significant reclassification of areas from 50km/h to 30km/h, Mr Kelly said he thought there would be “more change” regarding rural roads, where limits would be determined by new criteria — regarding their width and length.

“You are likely to see a reclassification from 100km/h to 80km/h on many of these,” he said.

He also revealed new signage on country roads that legally have 80km/h speed limits, but where drivers need to exercise caution.

“This new generic sign is in use internationally,” said the minister.

“This sign means that drivers must use their judgement when using the road in question but must not exceed 80km/h.”

The signs are expected to be erected in April.

Moyagh Murdoch, RSA chief executive, said 80km/h country roads with “grass growing up the middle and clearly incapable of taking two cars had brought the system into disrepute”.

She said they would be running online, mobile and print media advertising campaigns backing the changes.

Mr Donohoe said Roseann Brennan had made “a very important contribution” in raising the profile of speed in residential areas. However, he said 20km/h was “just over 12 miles an hour” and the “level of motion has to be credible”. He thought 30km/h was “credible” and this was shown by international best practice.

Why is that mushroom glowing in the dark?


Many species of mushrooms glow in the dark. This bioluminescence is being studied by scientists to determine its function.

If you think you see a glowing mushroom, you might not be having a psychedelic hallucination. Some mushrooms indeed are bioluminescent, including one that sprouts among decaying leaves at the base of young palm trees in Brazilian coconut forests.

Scientists have long wondered what possible reason there could be for a fungus to glow. They now have an answer.

Researchers say that experiments in Brazil involving the big, yellow mushroom called “flor de coco,” meaning coconut flower, showed its night time bioluminescence attracted insects and other creatures that could later spread its spores around the forest.

  1. gardneri mushrooms growing on the base of a young babassu palm in Gilbues, Brazil. Photo: REUTERS/Michele P. Verderane

“Our research provides an answer to the question, ‘Why do fungi make light?’ that was first asked, at least first asked in print, by Aristotle more than 2,000 years ago,” says biochemist Cassius Stevani of Brazil’s Instituto de Química-Universidade de São Paulo.

“The answer appears to be that fungi make light so they are noticed by insects who can help the fungus colonize new habitats.”

Geneticist and molecular biologist Jay Dunlap of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine says bioluminescence had independently evolved many times in such diverse life forms as bacteria, fungi, insects and fish.

“Most of these make light in their own way, that is, with biochemistry that is unique to each organism,” Dunlap says.

Of the 100,000 known fungus species, 71 are bioluminescent. The species in the study, published in the journal Current Biology, is one of the biggest and brightest of them.

The researchers found a circadian clock regulates its bioluminescence, glowing only at night.

They created two sets of plastic mushroom replicas, one with LED lights replicating bioluminescence and a second set with no light. Suspecting the glow might be used to entice insects, they put glue on both sets of phoney mushrooms in forest locations where real ones grow, then tracked the beasties that got stuck.

The glowing replicas lured an array of ants, cockroaches, flies, beetles, spiders, harvestmen, slugs, snails and centipedes.

Such creatures, after crawling on a real bioluminescent mushroom, disperse fungal spores around the forest.

Dunlap speculated that many of Earth’s bioluminescent mushrooms likely developed their glow for that purpose.

“Because it has evolved so many times in so many different organisms, each with their own biology, studying bioluminescence gives one a window on living things in all their wonderful diversity, and it sends you off to questions that you did not know existed,

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 5th March 2015

See how your local hospital fared on heart attack deaths and strokes


A report from the Department of Health has published a report naming hospitals and showing their death rates.

The department of Health has, for the first time, published a report that compares death rates in hospitals and names the hospitals.

The report details deaths from heart attacks and stroke as well as waiting times for certain procedures, cancer survival rates and the rates of Caesarean sections at maternity units.

In a statement today, the department’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan said patients “have the right to know the type of information contained in this report”.

“Ultimately it will help to improve services and patient outcomes and it will, I hope, commence a public discussion on these important issues.”

Reports like this empower patients and service users to make informed decisions about their health care, help health care providers to improve their performance through benchmarking with other services, and they facilitate system-wide quality improvement in health care by informing national policies.

The table below, taken from the report, shows the rates of death in the various hospitals within 30 days of admission for a heart attack:

It shows the highest rates are at Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, Cavan General Hospital and Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. The lowest rates are seen at Midland Regional is Portlaoise.

For ischaemic stroke, the hospitals with the highest rate between 2011 and 2013 were Cavan General Hospital and Cork University Hospital.

Overall in-hospital death rates have been dropping in the last ten years, however:

Caesarean section rates were highest for St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, followed by Mayo General Hospital and lowest for Sligo General Hospital.

Details on cancer survival rates for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers were also included in the report as well as waiting times for hip fracture surgery, which haven’t changed much in the last ten years.

Today Dr Holohan pointed out that there is no such thing as “perfect data” but the indicators presented in this report “signal to us that certain services require further analysis and examination in order to identify if a problem exists”.

One can draw on the analogy of a smoke alarm going off. Further investigation may reveal a faulty smoke alarm or an actual fire.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed the publication of the report, saying he is a strong believer in transparency and open data.

“As they say, if you don’t measure it, you cannot improve it and without regular measurement and reporting you cannot know if your policies and reforms are actually making a positive difference.”

The Mental health review will change patient interaction with Irish health services


Kathleen Lynch says changes in controversial ECT to be implemented before summer

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment.

A major review of health legislation due to be published today will change how people suffering with mental health issues interact with services on offer, says Minister of State Kathleen Lynch.

Ms Lynch said that she hoped to see the changes in how electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is administered to patients before the summer recess.

“There’s already a bill in the Senate and the first day I was in this job I dealt with this bill and on that occasion said that at the very first opportunity we would deal with the administration of ECT.”

Under the proposals from the expert group report, it will no longer be possible to administer the controversial ECT to a person who has capacity and does not consent to the treatment.

At present, the mental health Act states that ECT may be administered where a patient is “unable or unwilling” to give consent once it has been approved by two consultant psychiatrists.

“I’ve always believed, and the experts tell me.., that in relation to ECT it can be helpful in certain circumstances,” said Ms Lynch. “But where someone has capacity and says no, I don’t want that treatment, then we have to listen to that and that’s what they will be doing.”

“I’m glad to see that they’ve [expert panel]come up with the recommendations which will change, not just our legislation governing mental health, but it will change how people who have difficulties with their mental health interact with the service.”

The current legislation is regarded by many campaigners as outdated given the growing emphasis on care in the community and demands for greater autonomy by patient groups.

Ms Lynch said careful steps must be taken when amending the current legislation to reflect patients’ rights.

“We’ll have to be very careful about how it dovetails with the assisted decision making capacity legislation,” she said, adding that she hopes to see the other recommendations from the report implemented before the Government leaves office.

The report contains a total of 165 proposals which seek to strengthen patients’ rights, extend the remit of watchdog bodies and place greater emphasis on children’s services.

Ms Lynch said today’s health legislation review will follow on from the Government’s mental health policy A Vision for Change, adding that the public perception of mental health has changed since the document was published in 2006.

“I have to say A Vision for Change has had a greater impact on how we view people with mental health issues and how they’re treated as well,” she said. “I think the recovery element, which is embedded in A Vision for Change, has in fact changed. The perception of mental health has changed how practitioners view people.”

Asked to comment on reports that an offer of € 100 per child for GPs has been made as part of the negotiations relating to free GP care for children under the age of 6, Ms Lynch said she was not part of the “fee sitting element” of the discussions.

“We’ve just been informed of the global figure which the negotiators have been negotiating around and as you probably know that’s € 25 million.”

Ms Lynch said she trusted GPs to always deliver the best possible care to their patients.

“I believe GPs want to deliver the best service to their patients and have been doing it for as long as we’ve had the GMS service in this country.”

Gender pay gap between men and women in Ireland goes up to 14.4%


Eurostat figures show inequality pay gap figures in salaries in EU as high as almost 30%.

Data from Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistics body, reveal women earned almost a sixth less per hour than men in 2012, up from 12.6% in 2008.

The pay gap between men and women in Ireland has widened in recent years, with women earning 14.4% less than men for their work, most recent figures show.

Data from Eurostat, the European Union’s official statistics body, reveal women earned almost a sixth less per hour than men in 2012, up from 12.6% in 2008.

On average across the EU in 2013, women earned 16.4% less than men, but the gender pay gap ranged from 3.2% in Slovenia to 29.9% in Estonia.

Eurostat said there were various reasons for the existence and size of a gender pay gap and that they may differ strongly between member states. They include the kind of jobs held by women, the consequences of breaks in career or part-time work due to childbearing and decisions in favour of family life.

Tackling inequality

New Eurobarometer statistics also published on Thursday suggested a large majority of Irish (81%) and EU (76%) citizens believe that tackling inequality between women and men should be a priority for the EU.

Some 94% of Irish respondents and 91% of EU respondents in the survey agreed that tackling inequality between men and women was necessary to establish a fairer society.

Some 59% of Irish and EU respondents said violence against women, especially sexual violence, was the area the EU should address most urgently.

Some 68 per cent of female respondents across the EU believed inequalities were widespread in their country, while 57%of male respondents believed this to be the case.

Just over half of all respondents in Ireland (54%) believed inequalities between men and women were widespread in the country, while the figure across the European Union was 62%.

Although the figure for Ireland is lower than the EU average, it has seen the highest rise (+11 percentage points) since 2009 when it was 43%.

Effective methods

When asked about the most effective ways to tackle gender inequality and increase the number of women in the labour market, Irish respondents at 52% were most likely to say making childcare more accessible. The EU average was 36%.

The fieldwork for the Eurobarometer survey was carried out last November and December. Some 27,801 interviews were carried out across the European Union, with 1,003 of those taking place in Ireland.

Scientists now create a new tough resilient self-cleaning paint


Researchers from University College London have developed a resilient super-hydrophobic paint, impervious to water and oils, that cleans itself

A new paint that makes robust self-cleaning surfaces has been developed by a team led by UCL researchers.

The coating can be applied to clothes, paper, glass and steel and when combined with adhesives, maintains its self-cleaning properties after being wiped, scratched with a knife and scuffed with sandpaper.

Self-cleaning surfaces work by being extremely repellent to water but often stop working when they are damaged or exposed to oil.

The new paint creates a more resilient surface that is resistant to everyday wear and tear, so could be used for a wide range of real-world applications from clothing and cars, say the researchers.

Mars once had an ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean on Earth


NASA scientists have analysed the water signatures in Mars’ atmosphere to determine that the planet once had a primitive ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean on Earth.

The question about water on Mars has shifted from “was there?” to “how much?” According to the latest research from NASA, the answer is “a lot.”

After conducting a ground-based analysis of the water in the Red Planet’s atmosphere, a team led by Geronimo Villanueva of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has determined that not only was Mars once home to an ocean bigger than the Arctic Ocean, but also how much of that water has been lost.

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” Villanueva said. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

The volume of this ocean, which existed some 4.3 billion years ago, would have been at least 20 million cubic kilometres (5 million cubic miles). The Arctic Ocean has a volume of just over 18 million cubic kilometres.

On Mars, this volume would have been sufficient to cover the planet’s entire surface in a liquid layer 137 metres (450 feet) deep — however, the more likely scenario is that the ocean covered almost half of the planet’s northern hemisphere, the low-lying Northern Plains — around 19 percent of the surface of Mars — reaching depths of 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) in places.

The team used the European Southern Observatory’s powerful Very Large Telescope in Chile, and the W.M. Keck Observatory and NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii to examine two different types of water in Mars’ atmosphere: H2O, which makes up most of the water on Earth; and HDO, or “heavy water,” in which one of the hydrogen atoms is replaced with a heavy hydrogen isotope called deuterium, which can be found in unusually high proportions on the Mars surface.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 26th January 2015

Irish Minister Noonan says debt conference on Greece is not necessary


Minister insists direct recapitalisation for funding banks is still on table

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: “The issue for Greece is not debt cancellation, it’s the affordability of the debt – that means the interest rate and the maturities.”

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said that a proposed European debt conference is “not necessary yet” as he gave his first response to yesterday’s Greek elections which saw radical left party Syriza top the polls.

Asked about his comments earlier this month in which he indicated his broad support for a debt conference, Minister for Finance pointed out that all bailout negotiations so far had been conducted within the context of the eurogroup.

“I don’t think it’s necessary yet. Cyprus and Greece and Portugal and Ireland and Spain have all been resolved by negotiations at euro group and ecofin and there’s no suggestion that that model won’t succeed again. I have no doubt even without going to the meeting, that there’s sympathy for the Greek people and that there would be a disposition among colleagues to be helpful .”

Euro zone finance ministers are meeting today for a eurogroup meeting at which the elections in Greece will dominate discussions. Greece will be represented today by the outgoing Greek finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis.

Speaking in Brussels, Minister Noonan said that Ireland had itself contributed € 350 million to the Greek bailout , hence there was “€ 350 million of Ireland’s taxpayers’ money at play.”

Asked if a Greek debt restructuring would have implications for Ireland, Minister Noonan said that Ireland had already significantly restructured its debt, through various mechanisms such as extension of maturities, and the restructuring of IMF loans.

“The issue for Greece is not debt cancellation, it’s the affordability of the debt – that means the interest rate and the maturities,” he said pointing out that restructuring is more difficult when yields are running at close to 9 per cent as in the case of Greece, rather than 1.7 per cent in the case of Ireland. “Our debt is in a very good position now – it’s affordable and it’s repayable.”

He said Ireland’s quest for retroactive direct recapitalisation from the ESM fund for AIB and Bank of Ireland was still on the table, even though the government is looking into options for selling AIB.

“There are alternatives that might suit the taxpayer better, like selling the shares on the market. Direct recap always involved selling bank shares to the European ESM but a better alternative may be to sell on the market and that’s why we have retained financial advisors to advise us on which way to go , but both options are still there. “

He said that it was important that the newly elected government in Greece was respected fully. “Everybody has to respect that choice, and everybody has to treat them like equals in this forum here.”

“I have no doubt even without going to the meeting, that there’s sympathy for the Greek people and that there would be a disposition among colleagues to be helpful ,” he said. He pointed out that Greek people don’t get any welfare payments after being unemployed for 12 months, the minimum wage and unemployment assistance is half of what it is in Ireland, and that the country has an unemployment rate of 25 per cent.

“There’s a general appreciation that it’s difficult for a lot of people in Greece and there’s not a great surprise that that would manifest itself in the polling booth.”

Is the Irish Credit Union going to provide mortgages?


The Irish League of Credit Unions is looking into whether providing mortgages for members is feasible.

The league established a group last September to investigate the idea, which would be a radical departure from their core business.

In Ireland, the average credit union loan is around €6,000.

However, sources within the movement feel that larger institutions could handle the loans on a small scale and would benefit from diversifying their loan books. It is, they say “very, very early days”.

A spokesperson for the ILCU said that the league is looking into expanding the range of loans it offers.

“In September 2014, the League Board established a “Home Loan Group” to look into how Credit Unions could provide home loans to their members as a result of many credit unions being asked for additional product of this nature and as a way to diversify the existing credit union products.

This group, with the help of an external consultant have been conducting a feasibility study to scope out how home loans might be made available by the credit union movement to credit union members.

“A first draft of this initial scoping report is due to be considered by the group next week. It is intended that the report (when finalised) will be presented to the League Board by the Home Loan Group. A decision will then have to be made on whether there is a feasible project to explore further with credit unions & with the Central Bank”.

Sources say that if successful, the move can address demand, give additional choice and improve cash flow for credit unions.he

The regular over-the-counter Anticholinergic drugs like benadryl

may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s


A new study confirms the link between everyday drugs, those medications with anticholinergic effects, and dementia.

Anticholinergic medications span a range of common drugs and include antihistamines, sleep aids, antidepressants, cardiovascular meds, gastrointestinal drugs (for diarrhea, incontinence, diverticulitis, and ulcers), and muscle relaxants. Now, a new study confirms the link between these everyday medications and dementia. Taking anticholinergic drugs at high doses or for a long time may significantly increase your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, say researchers from University of Washington School of Pharmacy.

“If providers need to prescribe a medication with anticholinergic effects because it is the best therapy for their patient, they should use the lowest effective dose, monitor the therapy regularly to ensure it’s working, and stop the therapy if it’s ineffective,” Dr. Shelly Gray, a professor and director of the geriatric pharmacy program at the UW School of Pharmacy said in a release.

On average, older people take four or five prescription drugs and two over-the-counter drugs each day. Clearly, drugs are an important part of medical care for older people; however, older people are more sensitive to the effects of many pills, including anticholinergics, which block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and so effect the nervous system. While the drugs are too numerous to mention, those with anticholinergic effects — and these effects are sometimes dependent on the dose — include Benadryl, Sominex, Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Luminal, Skelaxin, Limbitrol, and Tavist.

For the current study, the researchers investigated a previously reported link between anticholinergics, both prescription strength and over-the-counter, and dementia by employing more rigorous methods than in the past. Specifically, the researchers conducted a longer follow-up of more than seven years and more accurate use assessment via pharmacy records, which included nonprescription choices. The team tracked nearly 3,500 seniors participating in a long-running study, the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT), a joint project of UW and the National Institute on Aging.

The most commonly used medications in the study, the researchers discovered, were tricyclic antidepressants like doxepin (Sinequan), antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), and antimuscarinics for bladder control like oxybutynin (Ditropan). People taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin, 4 mg/day of diphenhydramine, or 5 mg/day of oxybutynin for more than three years, the researchers estimated, would be at greater risk for developing dementia. Importantly, substitutes are available for some of these drugs.

While this study is the first to show a dose response — meaning, the more you use anticholinergic medications the greater your risk of developing Alzheimer’s — it also is the first to suggest this higher risk may persist, and may not be reversible, even years after you stop taking these drugs. “Older adults should be aware that many medications — including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids — have strong anticholinergic effects,” Gray said.

A heart-breaking message from four motherless children to Leo Varadkar


Seán Rowlette and Michael Kivlehan had meeting with Minister about safety of maternity services.

Seán Rowlette said that he told his children where he was going, they sat down and wrote a letter to Minister Leo Varadkar.

“We miss our mum so much every day.”

This was the heart-breaking message from four Co Sligo children asked their father to deliver to Minister for HealthLeo Varadkar.

Seán Rowlette and Michael Kivlehan had a “productive” two-hour meeting with Mr Varadkar where they sought assurances about the safety of maternity services. Both men lost their wives following childbirth at Sligo Regional Hospital and said they wanted to ensure that no other family endured the same pain.

Mr Rowlette from Dromore West, Co Sligo brought the same message in a hand-written note from his four children.

Addressing their letter to Minister Leo Varadkar, Leanne (9) Abbie (7) Joseph (4) and sally (2) wrote: “We miss our mum so much every day. Can you please make sure this can never happen to any other mum again.

“And to make our hospitals safe”.

Mr Rowlette’s wife Sally (36) died in the Sligo hospital in February 2013, the day after her fourth child was born there.

Dhara Kivlehan (28) from Dromahair, Co Leitrim died in a Belfast hospital in September 2010, nine days after her son Dior was born in Sligo hospital. The inquest into her death was delayed for four years.

Speaking after the meeting the men said they were pleased with a number of assurances given by the Minister.

Mr Varadkar who described the meeting as “very useful” said afterwards that a new maternity strategy was being developed in 2015 which “will map maternity services for the next few decades”.

“It was a very good meeting. He listened to everything we had to say,” said Mr Rowlette.

The men’s solicitor Roger Murray from Callan Tansey said they were particularly pleased to get an undertaking from the Minister about the availability of ICU beds in specialist hospitals in the case of emergencies. At the inquest into Dhara Kivlehan’s death it emerged that there was a delay in transferring her from Sligo because of the non-availability of such beds.

“The Minister was also very clear on doctors’ duty of candour to relatives,” said Mr Murray. Both Mr Rowlette and Mr Kivlehan had criticised the attitude of some clinical staff to them in Sligo.

Mr Murray said the Minister had acknowledged the importance of making relevant doctors appear at inquests .

Mr Rowlette said Mr Varadkar had also addressed the need to have automatic inquests if a woman dies in child birth. “We had to fight to ensure there was an inquest,” he pointed out.

He said that before he left his home at 7.30am, his children had asked him where he was going. When he told them, they sat down and wrote a letter to Mr Varadkar. “The Minister was sympathetic. I showed him First Holy Communion photos taken at Sally’s grave.”

In a statement, the Minister said that while maternity services in Ireland were on a par with the rest of the western world, there had been a number of serious cases of medical misadventure in recent years, resulting in maternal and neonatal deaths “that might have been avoided”.

He added: “This gives me concern as Minister for Health.”

Smallest and most endangered sea turtle found in Rossnowlagh beach Co Donegal


Foot-long marine turtle did not survive landing on rocks of Rossnowlagh beach

The Kemp’s Ridley turtle has been described as the world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle.

Coastwatch Ireland has confirmed identification of a tiny reptile washed up in Donegal as a Kemp’s Ridley – described by National Geographic as the world’s smallest and most endangered sea turtle.

The foot-long marine turtle with an unusual beak did not survive its landing on rocks of Rossnowlagh beach, and was found by Coastwatch volunteer Aoife Flynn on Christmas Day.

As all appropriate laboratories were closed, she photographed the reptile from all angles and put it in her deep freeze until an autopsy could be carried out.

It was initially thought to resemble a rare hawk’s bill turtle, but an autopsy conducted in recent days by a Letterkenny vet and Coastwatch regional co-ordinator Dr Trish Murphyidentified it as a Kemp’s Ridley, which is found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico, but can migrate as far north as Nova Scotia.

Just over 40 of these have been recorded in Irish waters since records dating to 1748, and only 1,000 breeding Kemp’s Ridley females are believed to exist worldwide, due to over-exploitation of its eggs by man in past centuries.

They are known for their unusual “nesting processions”, called “arribadas”, where the females colonise entire sections of beaches to lay their eggs – having swum thousands of miles in some cases to return to their own birthplace.

As National Geographic described it, the struggle to sea by tiny hatchlings is “even more riveting”.

“Beset by predators, hatchlings make this journey at night, breaking out of their shells using their caruncle, a single temporary tooth grown just for this purpose,”the magazine says.

Their nesting grounds are subject to protective legislation. Fishing vessels have also used “turtle excluder” devices in their gear, but populations haven’t recovered.

Their life span is about 50 years if they are lucky, during which they growing to all of 2 feet or 65 cms in shell length, weighing up to 45 kilos.Favourite food is crabs and jellyfish, while they also have a penchant for munching seaweed.

Rossnowlagh, a well known surfer’s beach in Donegal bay, is not far from Murvagh where quantities of jellyfish were recorded for Coastwatch by Joe Gatins last summer and autumn.

Scientists have moved Doomsday clock closer to midnight?


Doomsday Clock has been moved closer to midnight. The atomic scientists have shifted the clock two minutes up and now it is only three minutes away from midnight, which symbolizes the Doomsday. The readjustment has been made on 22<sup>nd</sup> January and highlights the climatic change that needs to be controlled by capping fossil fuel emissions.

The advisory board stated “World leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required. In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats.”

Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist executive director, elaborated “Today, unchecked climate change and a nuclear arms race resulting from modernization of huge arsenal pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity.” He also mentioned that the efforts of the world leaders have not been enough to protect people from potential catastrophe.

With the readjustment of Doomsday Clock the scientists are reminding the authorities to put more efforts to reduce pollution as well as overuse of fossil fuel. They also urge to end the development of nuclear weapons, which is further endangering the planet. Benedict said “We are not saying it is too late to take action but the window for action is closing rapidly.

The world needs to be awakened from its lethargy and start making changes.” The constant climate change can be stopped only by achieving this and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. According to Richard Somerville, a member of the Science and Security Board, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Efforts at reducing global of heat-trapping gases have so far been entirely insufficient.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 27th November 2014

New rules will allow blood samples to be taken from unconscious drivers


Tightening of drink driving rules as part of Christmas road safety campaign

Under the new rules, medical authorities may take a sample from a driver who has been incapacitated and is unable to provide consent to the procedure.

A major tightening of road safety rules, including measures to take blood samples from drivers injured in crashes, will come into effect on Thursday.

Minister for Transport Pascal Donohoe will announce the closure of a loophole, which allowed drunken drivers to avoid blood tests through being unconscious or by claiming injury, at the launch of the annual Christmas road safety campaign.

Under the new rules, medical authorities may take a sample from a driver who has been incapacitated and is unable to provide consent to the procedure.

A driver will be asked on regaining capacity whether they consent to the issuing of a certificate of the test results based on the sample.

The certificate stating the level of alcohol in the bloodstream may be used in a subsequent prosecution.

If  the driver refuses to allow the sample to be used, the refusal will be an offence in much the same way that refusing to provide a sample to the gardaí is currently an offence.

Penalties for this offence can include disqualification from driving.

New drug testing

Mr Donohoe will also announce the immediate introduction of new roadside impairment testing for drugs.

The testing will provide An Garda Síochána with additional powers.

Drivers can be asked to perform a range of balance and co-ordination movements, which may indicate if they have been driving while under the influence of drugs.

These tests are non-technological, cognitive tests and will typically involve touching the nose or walking in a straight line.

The Department of Transport was told international experience has shown these tests to be sufficiently precise and objective enough to be used in court.

The new tests will be an important added resource to gardaí in identifying and prosecuting intoxicated drivers, and are seen as a significant new tool for the gardaí in enforcing the law against drug driving.

New breathalyser machines.   

Further development of the drug testing system will be incorporated in the forthcoming Road Traffic Bill, the heads of which are expected to be published in coming weeks.

It is understood this will involve legal provision for new “breathalyser type” machines that can test spittle for drugs.

Mandatory Alcohol Testing will become known as Mandatory Impairment Testing to reflect the changes.

Mr Donohoe will also name a number of driving offences to be added to the penalty points list.

It is understood these will affect learner and novice drivers among others.

The tightening up of the rules comes amid mounting concern over the number of people being killed on the State’s roads, which is set to rise for the second year in a row.

As of Wednesday morning, 179 people had lost their lives on the State’s roads since the beginning of the year, eight more than the figure of 171 for a similar period in 2013.

The total number of deaths in 2013 was 190 and there is concern figures for 2014 will exceed that number.

Road deaths numbers hit a record low in 2012 when 162 people lost their lives.

Majority of undocumented migrants are long-term residents


One in five undocumented people have lived in the State for more than 10 years, according to new research.

The study for the Migrants Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) estimates there are between 20,000 and 26,000 undocumented migrants living here at present.

The overwhelming majority (81%) have been in Ireland for five years or more and 21% have been in the country for more than 10 years.

Some 86.5% of those entered the country legally and subsequently became undocumented.

A similar percentage of (87%) are working and more than half have a third-level education.

The five most common nationalities among undocumented people living here are: Filipino, Chinese, Mauritian, Brazilian and Pakistani.

The research is the first of its kind and involved 540 responses from undocumented migrants.

MRCI spokeswoman Helen Lowry said the survey was the first of its kind and provided an accurate picture of undocumented migrants in the country.

She said it was clear most undocumented migrants were long-term residents in Ireland.

She added: “Given that one third of those surveyed have children living in Ireland, the Government simply cannot continue to ignore this population and hope they will all just leave.

“Undocumented migrants are part of our communities, they have put down roots, made Ireland their home – and for many of these children, Ireland is the only home they have known.”

In a case study published as part of the research one undocumented person living here, referred to as Abdullah, compared the experience of undocumented migrants living in the State with undocumented Irish in the United States.

“This research shows that most undocumented people are like me: young, hard-working, educated and committed to Ireland both financially and emotionally,” he said.

“Last year my father passed away; it was so hard for me not being there. All we’re asking for is a chance to come forward and regularise our situations – to be able to visit our families, to move on with our lives and to stop constantly looking over our shoulders.”

The research will published by John Douglas, president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, this morning.

Ted Nealon was an ‘unique political politician with a good brain’,

Say’s Taoiseach Kenny


Cross-party tributes paid to late politician, journalist and broadcaster

Ted Nealon: Taoiseach Enda Kenny said of him: “In every role he gave of his best, not alone as an exemplary public servant, but as an exemplary, compassionate and dignified human being”

The late Ted Nealon had a “unique political brain of enormous capacity”, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told the Dáil. In a tribute to the former Fine Gael TD and minister of state, Mr Kenny said Mr Nealon had an exceptional career in politics and journalism. He died in January, aged 84.

“In every role he gave of his best, not alone as an exemplary public servant, but as an exemplary, compassionate and dignified human being,” Mr Kenny said. “In every interaction, he recognised the other person’s humanity and dignity, which explains why when Ted’s passing was announced it was met with such personal sadness and fond affection in the former constituency of Sligo-Leitrim.’’

On behalf of the Labour Party, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said Mr Nealon had carved that rare path from prominent current affairs journalist and broadcaster to minister of state.

Mr Howlin recalled that he was editor and founder of Nealon’s Guide to the Dáil and Seanad. “It was one of the most important works in introducing the innate love most Irish people have of the political systems here and giving us the factsheet to work on,” Mr Howlin added.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Mr Nealon was a “ground-breaking person in terms of media and politics’’. He himself could trace his real engagement with politics toRTÉ 7 Days TV programme, on which Mr Nealon had worked as a journalist.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said people like Ted Nealon and Brian Farrell had modernised people’s understanding of politics, particularly in their detailed approach and the encyclopaedic knowledge they had. “His work as a journalist obviously empowered him and gave him particular insights as to how he would function as a deputy,” Mr Adams added.

Independent TD Shane Ross, on behalf of the technical group, said Mr Nealon had starred in RTÉ’s general election programme of 1973 because of his extraordinary amount of knowledge.

As a young man, Mr Ross added, he had a versatile sporting career as a Gaelic footballer with Sligo and playing rugby for Lancashire.

Deadly future heatwaves in the UK could kill thousands

“warn our scientists”


Britain will experience three times as many heatwaves as it does now by 2100

Today’s children will face deadly heatwaves which could kill thousands more people by the end of the century, the Royal Society has warned.

If governments do not get a handle on global warming by 2100, Britain will experience three times as many heatwaves as it does now with the death toll rising

Around 2,000 people die each year in the UK because of hot weather, with the elderly at most risk. But that could rise to at least 6,000 in the next century and probably higher because the percentage of over-65s is rising dramatically.

There will also be three times as many floods annually and twice as many droughts, the Royal Society predicts in its new report ‘Resilience to Extreme Weather’ which was published on Thursday.

Experts claim the government must implement new strategies for mitigating the devastation caused by extreme weather including res-establishing flood plains; building dams; increasing reservoir capacity; planting new forests near coasts and creating artificial reefs and coastal barrages.

Professor Georgina Mace, Chair of the working group for the report said: “We are not resilient to the extremes of weather that we experience now and many people are already extremely vulnerable.

“If we continue on our current trajectory the problem is likely to get much worse as our climate and population change.

“By acting now we can reduce the serious risks for our children and grandchildren.”

Scientists calculated the impact of climate change and population changes on the chances of people being affected by floods, droughts and heatwaves around the world.

In the UK a dense and increasingly ageing population means that heatwaves were the most serious threat. The British population is expected to swell to 75 million by 2011 with a huge rise in the number of pensioners.

More than 2,000 British deaths were attributed to the warmest summer for 500 years in 2003. Last year, up to 760 people died in England alone during the July heatwave.

Scientists adopted a “worst case” scenario by assuming an increase in average temperatures around the world of 2.6 – 4.8C by 2100.

But global warming is on course to reach this level unless governments agree to a meaningful strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions at critical talks next year.

The researchers defined a heatwave as a run of five days during which night-time temperatures are at least 5C above the norm.

The report issued an urgent call to both governments and private companies to do more to address extreme weather hazards.

The experts recommended that big engineering projects should be combined with natural ecosystem-based approaches such as re-establishing flood plains, protecting coastlines with mangrove forests, and planting vegetation.

The scientists also warned that unless companies improved the way they handle weather risks their credit ratings could suffer.

Co-author Rowan Douglas, chairman of the Willis Research Network – which advises public and private institutions on risk, said it was important that city planners also factor in the increased likelihood of extreme weather events.

“At a macro level, we will re-build most of the world’s cities in the next 30 years, literally,” he said. “We have a choice whether to build them to be vulnerable or resilient.”

The report did not look at wind damage, which poses the greatest potential risk to property in the UK.

Prof Joanna Haigh, Professor of Atmospheric Physics and Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“Following widely-reported projections of global mean temperature rise this report spells out very clearly the potential impact of climate change on the lives of real people across the globe.

“While it is impossible to predict the occurrence of a particular extreme weather event in a given place it is clear that the risk of occurrence of such events is increasing, and the potential impacts disastrous.”

Prof Andrew Watkinson, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA), added:“This timely report reminds us that extreme weather events affect us all, that we are not as resilient to current extreme events as we could be and that the nature of extreme events is likely to change in the future.”

Dr Grant Allen, Atmospheric physicist at the University of Manchester, said: “One thing is for sure – what once was an extreme weather event will become more normal. It is essentially a widening of the weather spectrum: more frequent floods, droughts, heatwaves and hurricanes.”

Our brain neurons know what is virtual or what is real

A new study shows us?


Neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-life environments, shows a study. 

The finding can be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

“The pattern of activity in a brain region involved in spatial learning in the virtual world is completely different than when it processes activity in the real world,” said Mayank Mehta, a professor of physics, neurology and neurobi ..

For the study, Mehta led a team focusing on the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder.

To test whether the hippocampus could actually form spatial maps using only visual landmarks, the researchers devised a non-invasive virtual reality environment.

They studied how the hippocampal neurons in the brains of rats reacted in the virtual world without the ability to use smells and sounds as cues.

The scientists were surprised to find that the results from the virtual and real environments were entirely different.

“The neural pattern in virtual reality is substantially different from the activity pattern in the real world. We need to fully understand how virtual reality affects the brain,” Mehta noted.

When people walk or try to remember something, the activity in the hippocampus becomes very rhythmic.

Those rhythms facilitate the formation of memories and our ability to recall them.

Mehta hypothesizes that in some people with learning and memory disorders, these rhythms are impaired.

By retuning and synchronising these rhythms, doctors will be able to repair damaged memory as “the need to repair memories is enormous,” he concluded.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 16th November 2014

1916 Irish Rising commemoration generates lots of interest


A Signed a photo of Michael Collins and two Countess Markievicz letters sold at auction

  A log from 1916 kept by Dublin Fire Brigade’s ambulance service which recorded the first fatalities and injuries of the Rising was bought by an unnamed ‘institutional archive’

Collectors of Irish historical memorabilia were out in force – in person and online – at Whyte’s auction last Saturday, where 84% of the 500 lots sold realising €230,000. Some 20% of lots were bought by internet bidders who had registered from various locations in Ireland and overseas including the US, the UK, France, Belgium, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Italy, Israel, Germany and Qatar.

Auctioneer Ian Whyte said there were “many new collectors at the sale – particularly young collectors – which reflects the great interest in Irish history generated by the decade of centenaries”. Although he could not disclose the identity of buyers, Whyte was pleased that “the institutions – the National Museum and National Library among them – were able to acquire what they needed for public collections without invoking the wrath of our EU masters”.

One of the most notable items was a log kept by the Dublin Fire Brigade’s ambulance service during the Easter Rising in 1916. It recorded the first fatalities and injuries – both military and civilian – and sold for €3,800 (€3,000-€5,000) to an unnamed Irish “institutional archive”.

Two uniforms which belonged to General Sir John Maxwell, the British Army leader who suppressed the Rising, sold as a single lot for €6,600, well below the estimate of €15,000-€20,000.

The top lot in the sale, an Irish tricolour reputedly flown over Dublin during the Rising and painted with the slogan “Sinn Féin go deo” (Sinn Féin forever), had an estimate of €30,000-€50,000, but failed to sell.

A very different flag, a large-fringed tricolour embroidered with the words “Garda Siochana. Presented to the Hon Robert E Enright, Commissioner of Police, New York City, from the Irish Police as a Token of Esteem. International Police Conference 1925’’ sold for €1,700 (€1,500-€2,000).

Two previously unpublished letters, dated 1918 and written by Countess Markievicz deploring all things English, including the introduction of Greenwich Mean Time in Ireland, made €1,900 (€2,000-€3,000).

Two letters written in May 1916 by Lady Wimborne, wife of the viceroy and effectively Ireland’s “first lady” during the Easter Rising on notepaper headed “Vice Regal Lodge”, made €1,400 (€1,000-€1,500).

A photograph of women workers in a first World War munitions factory – the National Shell Factory on Dublin’s Parkgate Street – sold for €220 (€150-€200).

A signed photograph of Michael Collins in a Free State army uniform made €900 (€300-€500). However a souvenir programme signed in pencil on the cover by Michael Collins (in Irish as “Micheál Ó Coileáin”) and a ticket for a 1921 concert in his honour at London’s Royal Albert Hall, estimated at €5,000-€7,000, failed to sell.

Farmers of today are Europe’s new Renaissance men


“Today’s farmers are new Renaissance men: they must possess the right mix of science, economics, entrepreneurialism, and environmental awareness to meet the challenges of the future.”

That’s according to European Parliament President Martin Schulz who made the comment in a recent speech entitled Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life.

He said we need innovative solutions to meet the double challenge of increasing scarcity and growing demand and stressed that the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy must help farmers to advance in exactly this direction.

In a wide ranging speech on food, Schulz said Europe needs to show its capability to foster a change of culture in the consumption of food.

He cited that the Commission estimates the annual food waste generation in the 28 Member States is over 100 million tonnes, or 179 kilograms per capita.

He said this requires a leap change in our education and habits. The European Parliament set out its position on this in a resolution in January 2012 on how to avoid food waste.

This year the Commission came with a proposal to amend the Waste Framework Directive, aiming at the development of a comprehensive strategy to combat unnecessary food waste.

According to Schulz the sustainability of our food chain in Europe does not mean closing out to the world as some suggest.

He said an open Europe is a Europe that helps lifting millions of people out of poverty and it is one that is advantageous to consumers and helps the competitiveness of our farmers.

“Yet, food is not just another additional tradable commodity like any other,” he said.

Schulz said while investments in agriculture to increase yields and profitability are welcome. Rampant speculation which can have devastating consequences on the lives of millions,

12 ways this winter to slash your heating bills and reduce your future chills


As the beautiful warmth of the summer sun fades away temperatures start to drop, one of our biggest financial worries rears it’s ugly head the HEATING BILLS.

Here are a few things you can do to keep you cosy before it starts to get colder.

1. Check your boiler

It might feel like you are spending a lot of money, but servicing your home boiler once a year could actually become a money saver and save you the hassle of unplanned breakdowns.

And if you can afford it, replace your old boiler with a new one as it will improve your central heating system and save you money in the long run. That’s because a boiler that’s 15 years old or more is only around 60-70% efficient, which means 30p of every pound spent on heating and hot water is pretty much wasted.

2. Take a look at your cylinders

 If you have cash to spare, look for a new cylinder for your boiler – because they generally come with a thick layer of built-in insulation.

Alternately, if you are tight on cash, try fitting your old cylinder with new insulation jacket that’s at least 75mm thick.

According to the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, fitting a jacket to an uninsulated cylinder could save you anything from £85-£130 a year (based on a typical gas-heated home in England, Scotland and Wales).

3. Insulate your pipes

  A quick and helpful way to conserve your heating would be to insulate your heating and hot water pipes. By doing this, you will prevent unnecessary heat loss and stop them from freezing in the winter.

The easiest way to insulate pipes is to use pre-scored foam tubes, which snap over and around the pipes and come in different diameters for a snug fit.

4. Have control over your radiators

To make sure your radiators are working at full capacity, bleed them with a radiator key (only when the heating is off and the radiators are cold). Many older radiators don’t have adjustable valves (they only have on and off modes) so fitting new valves will enable you to control the heating.

5. Get smart with temperature control

There are an array of smart systems in the market which allow you to control your heating and hot water with the touch of a smartphone. So instead of leaving the heating on when you go out on a cold day, you can turn it on remotely with your smartphone when you’re on your way home.

One of the newest gizmos is therM, which is compatible with any heating system with a thermostat – if you can do basic wiring, you can fit therM yourself.

6. Put a log on

While there’s nothing more cosy than snuggling in front of a cosy open fire, the sad thing is, they’re not very energy efficient. On the other hand, majority of wood-burning stoves boast 70% to 90% efficiency, so you get all the benefits of a real fire without your money going up in smoke.

The good news is, wood burners are not as expensive as you think and start at less than £200. Also, as long as it’s sustainably sourced, wood is a more environmentally-friendly fuel than oil or gas and subject to fewer price rises.

7. Mind those gaps

Did you know around a third of the heat lost from uninsulated houses disappears through the walls? That’s because most homes have cavity walls – the gap in the middle of exterior walls. Filling them with insulation can make your home more energy efficient.

This not only means reduced heating costs, you’ll be making your house “greener” in the process. Cavity wall insulation typically costs £450 to £500 – which sounds steep now but they will last a long time and you will recoup the costs through energy savings.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, installing cavity wall insulation in a three-bed semi (with gas central heating) could save you up to €180 a year.

8. Swap your furniture

  Does your room feel cold despite having your radiators on full blast? One of the reasons could be that you have a piece of furniture in front of it – say a sofa?

In this case, your best option would be to either move the radiator or swap a horizontal radiator for a vertical one, which will take up less space at sofa level. If you can’t afford to do this, move or replace your furniture to get more out of the existing radiator.

9. Check your windows

Old, especially single-glazed, windows are a major source of heat loss. Replacing windows is obviously expensive, but you can work with what you have by fitting secondary glazing units (clear film you fix in place across the windows) or buying thermal curtains.

You can also fit weatherstripping, which is draught-proofing tape that helps to fill the gap between the frame and the window’s moving parts.

10. Get fabric draft excluders

They come in all colours, shapes and sizes, and can cold-proof your home immediately, with that added benefit of looking nice.

11. Inspect your loft

  One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient is to insulate the loft.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, a quarter of the heat in an uninsulated home is lost through the roof. They say that laying 27cm of insulation, which is the recommended depth for mineral wool (other materials may vary), in an uninsulated loft will save you up to £180 a year (based on a three-bed semi with gas central heating).

Even if your loft has insulation, it may not be thick enough. The Trust calculates that if everyone in the UK fitted 27cm of loft insulation, the saving would be almost whopping £500 million a year!

12. And finally, pile on the jumper

While this is no replacement for central heating, you can keep your rising bills in check by layering up with cosy cardis and give the heating a break for a few hours.

Eating disorders most common in women of 30s


Weight-loss fads are putting women’s lives in danger, according to body-image experts

Weight-loss fads are putting women’s lives in danger, according to body-image experts

CALLS to a helpline for people suffering from eating disorders have soared by 92pc in the first six months of the year, disturbing new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent reveal.

And for the first time, the majority of people reaching out for help are women aged between 25 and 35 years – and not image-conscious teenagers.

The latest figures from Bodywhys – the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland – have revealed anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and unhealthy relationships with food are becoming more prevalent in older women and men, largely due to our increasingly hectic lifestyles.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Harriet Parsons, psychotherapist and services co-ordinator at Bodywhys, said “life stresses” have shifted the impact age from 19-24 to 25-35 years.

“Although an anti-stigma message is taking effect, people are still reaching out in their late 20s and early 30s where they really thought their life would have been sorted but they find they are still struggling a bit,” she said.

“Among that age group, you would have people with eating disorders since their teens.”

Last year more than 70pc of those attending Bodywhys support groups were over the age of 25, and some have been battling eating disorders for over 10 years.

“There can be a number of triggers at any age,” said Ms Parsons. “It’s usually something happens in a person’s life that causes them conflict, stress and that’s difficult, and they find themselves in a situation where they might not feel strong enough to deal with it.”

From finishing college and starting a new job, to going through a break-up or deciding to go on a diet – all these situations could potentially spark a problem with food.

“If you think of the life changes that might be happening within that age group, lots of people are probably having a significant relationship, marriage or having children and it can unsettle you or destabilise your world.

“It’s a bit like a comfort blanket. It turns into a way of coping- it actually helps them for a while and makes them feel better and stronger and more capable,” Ms Parsons added.

Dr Sarah Prasad, consultant psychiatrist on the eating disorder programme at St Patrick’s University Hospital, Dublin, agreed that eating disorders are “not a teenage problem”. She said the hospital has also experienced more referrals of older individuals battling the illness.

She told the Sunday Independent: “A lot of people associate the disorder with young girls but we’ve had people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s who’ve had long-standing eating disorders and now are completely overwhelmed and can’t cope. “There is huge pressure on shape and body image on top of other stresses of life and that certainly could be a predisposing factor for the development of eating disorders at an older age. Looking a certain way and fitting a stereotypical thin ideal or image is something people are dealing with at every age.”

Developing an eating disorder in your 30s can also bring further problems for recovery.

“Putting your body under stress at any age is always detrimental. There is some evidence to suggest that the later the onset, sometimes the poorer the prognosis,” Dr Prasad said.

Dr Prasad, who deals specifically with adult patients, said she has often discussed fitness blogs, social media sites and all the latest apps during consultations.

“The message is, everything in moderation but some vulnerable individuals who are perfectionist or with low self-esteem might take these blogs to the extreme, thinking it will make them more acceptable or more valued.”

And she is particularly concerned with the most recent weight-loss trend called “thigh gap” where women and girls want their legs to be so slim that their thighs don’t touch when their feet are together.

“A lot of my patients are under that pressure and we constantly have conversations about this ‘thigh gap’ business and they tell me about the pressure they feel in their 20s, when impression is so huge and they think they have to have this gap between their thighs to fit in, and we have overcome this.”

Eating disorders manifest in different ways, including the restriction of food, skipping meals, over exercising, a focus on not eating, resulting in the person becoming very underweight.

According to Ms Parsons, the behaviour can then become more and more extreme and, depending on the type of eating disorder, be “very destructive to quality of life”.

“It becomes unmanageable, and they can’t do it anymore, and everything just feels like it’s falling down around them so they seek out help,” she added.

Although an eating disorder is always a subjective experience, Ms Parsons warns “living in a culture where there is a diet industry” makes it more difficult to avoid.

“There is always a focus on the ideal image of that very simple message that if you eat less and exercise more you will be a better person and you’ll be happy. It is a very distorted message.”

Ms Parsons said those affected are “very clear” this is not about media and culture, and they would “not want that idea to be associated with them”.

But it’s also more difficult to identify. “They can be quite high achievers and are living their lives, but really they are not well physically and psychologically.”

And for men in their later 20s and 30s, eating disorders manifest in the same way. “There is a growing pressure on the physicality and physique, so it can be identified by extreme over-exercising, but men also express anorexia, bulimia and eating disorders in exactly the same way as women and girls,” Ms Parsons added.

Scientists are divided over the ethics of attempting to cloning & revive an extinct mammal the Woolly mammoth

An exceptionally well preserved adult female was discovered in Siberia in May 2013

Will woolly mammoths stride the Siberian plains once again? DNA samples from an exceptionally well preserved extinct Mammuthus, found in the snowy wastes of Siberia, have raised the prospect of cloning.

But scientists are divided about raising the species from the dead, 10,000 years after becoming extinct.

Russian scientists were amazed at the condition of the mammoth, found embedded in a chunk of ice on a remote Siberian island. The samples were so well preserved that fresh blood was found within muscle tissue.

The team used carbon dating techniques to reveal the animal had walked the Earth around 40,000 years ago and raised hopes that it could be cloned.

Nicknamed Buttercup, the adult female was discovered in May 2013. At 2.5 metres tall, she is not much larger than an Asian elephant. Incredibly, three legs, most of her body, some of her head and her trunk had survived. She was in her fifties when she became trapped in a peat bog and was eaten by predators, scientists believe.

A Channel 4 film, to be shown next weekend, follows Buttercup’s autopsy in Siberia, and the extraction of high-quality DNA and cells for future use by Sooam, a South Korean biotech company.

The Korean researchers hope to find a cell with a complete nucleus, containing an intact genome.

“We’re getting an unprecedented amount of access to mammoth samples through this collaboration,” said Insung Hwang, a geneticist at Sooam.

“DNA has been distributed to multiple institutes for scientific purposes,” he added.

Dr Tori Herridge, a palaeobiologist based at the Natural History Museum in London said: “The guys from South Korea, who are collecting tissue for cloning, were excited because the better preserved the tissue, the greater their hopes were that there would be some intact DNA.”

However she warned that the dream of bringing the woolly mammoth back to life would be a cruel nightmare for their modern- day descendant, the elephant.

Dr Herridge, an expert in mammoth anatomy, said: “The most fundamental step and ethical concern with this kind of procedure is that you need to have an Asian elephant surrogate mum at some point; cloning a mammoth will require you to experiment on probably many, many Asian elephants.” She added: “The most important thing is how much we can learn without having to go down the route of cloning.”

Dr Herridge questioned “whether or not the justifications for cloning a mammoth are worth the suffering, the concerns of keeping an elephant in captivity, experimenting on her, making her go through a 22-month pregnancy, to potentially give birth to something which won’t live, or to carry something which could be damaging to her. And all of those aspects… I don’t think that they are worth it; the reasons just aren’t there.”

The autopsy has already provided crucial information. The growth rings on the mammoth’s tusks, which grew at a slower rate during pregnancy, revealed she had given birth at least eight times. And examination of her teeth revealed dental abnormalities, indicating she wasn’t able to chew her food properly, which may explain the small stones which were found in her gut.

Mr Hwang accepted that “there are inherent ethical questions that we have to address”.

“That’s why we have to start discussing the implications now,” he said. “Some of our colleagues are still working on analysing the genome from Buttercup’s specimen. This is a long and complicated process that is unlikely to be finished anytime in the near future.

“Bringing back the mammoth either through cloning or genetic engineering would be an extremely long process as well. We’re trying hard to make this possible within our generation.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 28th October 2014

Irish paid too high a price for the banks bailout says Bono and Larry


The U2 singer Bono says bond holders should have been burnt in ‘grim’ times

U2 singer Bono has revealed he saw world famous investor and philanthropist George Soros “go for” Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, over the issue of Ireland being forced to pay off all our bondholders. The singer also says that Ireland should have burnt bondholders when the country went through the troika bailout.

“They are all big boys and they could have afforded a haircut and a new suit and some underwear if that was necessary,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent.

The singer went on to say: “That was a grim, grim moment in our history. Our people paid far too high a price.”

The singer says he saw investor and philanthropist George Soros, “go for Van Rompuy”, over the matter, “and it was embarrassing because George Soros knew more about the details of the Irish bond market than I did”.

Bono says the whole thing was “just very, very unfair”. But he did say he was, “amazed at the subtlety of the response [of the Irish people] because we could have thrown a monumental tantrum – it just wouldn’t have made things any better.”

Bandmate Larry Mullen agreed, saying: “When the truth comes out, and it will, I think, Europe and the European banks – we’ll be astonished by what they did to Ireland.”

Bono agreed that “it will emerge”, and that “it wasn’t a nice moment”.

Despite the furore in certain quarters around the release of U2’s new album Songs of Innocence for free on iTunes, the album has been downloaded and listened to by tens of millions of people and is the band’s most popular and critical success in years.

Five years in the making and heralding a return to old-fashioned songwriting, after what Larry Mullen now calls the “incomplete” No Line On The Horizon, the new album is a stunning return to form and the band have been hugely re-energised by getting out and playing the new songs on the radio and TV shows, including Friday Night’s Late Late Show.

Bono also spoke of his respect for Enda Kenny, with whom he has worked on bringing tech businesses to Ireland. “I’ve a lot of time for him,” Bono said of Enda, “and I’ve seen him deal with tough crowds.”

Bono laughed that he did not mean the Irish public, but Enda Kenny’s “contemporaries and the high fliers at meetings in Davos and things like that, and it gives me pride that he can speak off the hoof, and not just poetically. He can actually get down to brass tacks, and I’ve seen him go after companies to get them to Ireland. I witnessed him headlock Brian Cheskey from Airbnb to get their headquarters into Dublin, and I was working on this too.”

Bono got to know the Taoiseach when they collaborated on bringing companies like Google and Facebook to commit to Ireland. He also praised the work of the IDA, saying they are “unbelievable, like the Jedi”.

Bono and Larry stressed, however, that Bono’s work wouldn’t change if there was a new government. He would work with whoever was there.

Bono also expressed concern that Labour has not been given enough credit for pulling the country out of recession. “I don’t think it would have been possible without Labour,” he said, “It was a two-headed monster”. Asked if he worried that Labour would be in trouble in the next election, he said: “I don’t know, but I fear that people might not understand how just what an Armageddon we were facing, and how these two parties did very well.”

The singer added that he was, “sure Fianna Fail will renew itself very well too,” while stressing, “I’m not taking a party political position. I had to give that up when I became a campaigner for One.”

Talking about the band’s own tax situation, which has been the subject of some controversy over the last few years after the band moved a part of their business to Holland, Bono also clarified that he did not, as widely reported last week, say he supported the so-called ‘Double Irish’ tax scheme and that he welcomed its phasing out.

“We can understand why people, at first glance, get upset with U2 if they mistakenly think we don’t pay tax. We do. Millions of euro in Ireland. But isn’t it absurd if Ireland as a country can have a culture of tax competitiveness but Irish companies cannot? This doesn’t make sense, what also doesn’t make sense are abuses such as the so-called ‘Double Irish’, which is being phased out and rightly so.

We have been misquoted as being in favour of it, we are not and never have been. It is also true to say that the 12.5pc corporate tax rate would mean nothing to the companies that have availed of it were it not for the talented, savvy workforce here. That is our greatest resource and that should be what gives us most pride. It’s rough out there and we need to be so smart to make it through even the next few years.”

Bono also pointed out that the only people whose opinion U2 really values are the fans. “We’re not politicians,” he said. “We don’t need the popular vote. Our audience is a tiny minority. We just need to speak to them and they know through the songs who we are.”

Most parents in child-care cases are not married


In most courts outside Dublin, child-care cases are heard on a general family law day, when there can be up to 70 or 80 cases on the list.

Most parents involved in child-care cases in the courts are not married and one in six has mental problems, a new report reveals.

The majority of them are single or separated and parenting alone, according to the study of cases involving over 800 children.

The report, to be launched today, finds nearly one in three children has special needs and one in four child-care cases involve a parent from an ethnic minority, including travellers.

The Child Care Law Reporting Project said there is little consistency in the reasons for removing children from parents around the country.

In one case, a judge refused long-term care orders for a number of children despite the fact that a doctor gave compelling evidence of severe physical abuse.

The judge granted short orders instead and planned to give the younger children back to the mother.

In another case, the Child and Family Agency sought a care order for a baby after a mother tested positive for cannabis after being hospitalised with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

The order was sought although the woman denied using the drug and her baby did not show evidence of neglect.

“I’m not criticising the judge in the first case particularly but saying there appears to be different thresholds for removing children from parents,” said the Director of the project, Carol Coulter.

“The whole system has grown up in an ad hoc way.”

She called for a dedicated family court to be set up.

The report finds children can be at particular risk of abuse and neglect when parents are poor, have a mental illness, and a child with special needs.

Most cases involve parents who are vulnerable due to mental issues, drugs or alcohol abuse, and have little family support. Most are claiming social welfare.

Ms Coulter said it is urgent that those coming to our shores understand what is expected of them as parents due to the disproportionate representation of non-Irish parents in the courts.

She said social workers need intensive training to deal with cultural differences, while this also made fostering more complicated.

In most courts outside Dublin, child-care cases are heard on a general family law day, when there can be up to 70 or 80 cases on the list.

If a case is contested it could be repeatedly adjourned over many months.

Ms Coulter said it is not possible for child-care cases to receive the attention they need and deserve if there is no consent to the orders.

“These cases alone make a compelling case for the establishment of a special family court as soon as possible,” she said.

“But the courts alone are not the answer to the problems of vulnerable families.

“Society as a whole must take responsibility for supporting them so that taking children into care is a last resort.”

European Women paid 36% less than Men for doing similar jobs


Bar graph above right showing the gender pay gap in European countries.

European women are paid, on average, 36% less than men for doing similar jobs, according to analysis of figures from this year’s Global Gender Gap Report.

The report, an annual survey which has been carried out by the World Economic Forum since 2006, aims to analyse and highlight persisting gender gap divides around the world. The report ranks nations based on gender disparities in economic participation, healthcare, education and political representation.

Norway comes top of the European wage equality rankings, with women receiving 79% of what men receive for similar labour, followed by Finland, Albania and Iceland, all in the mid seventies.

The UK comes in at 15th place, with female workers receiving 69% of their male counterparts’ wages. Ireland comes in significantly higher than its neighbour, in 7th place (74%).

By contrast, Italy ranks at 129th place for wage equality out of 131 countries worldwide, making it the worst in Europe after France (126th) and Hungary (127th), with Italian women receiving only 48% of what men earned for similar work.

According to the authors of the report, “the findings… reveal only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace” since 2006. The report’s researchers predicted that according to current trends, total equality will not be achieved until 2095.

Overall, Scandinavian countries lead the way for gender equality, with Iceland at the top of the general rankings of the index for the sixth year running. Finland ranks in second position, with Norway, Sweden and Denmark coming in at third, fourth and fifth respectively. Malta was the lowest-ranked European country overall, in 99th place.

For the first time in the report’s history, the United Kingdom fell below the top 20, slipping to 26th place, behind such countries as Nicaragua, Rwanda and Moldova. The report stated that Britain’s lower position could be “mainly attributed to changes in income estimates”, although the UK also fared badly in the political empowerment category. Less than a third of members of the UK parliament are women, and women hold only 19% of ministerial positions.

Meanwhile Yemen, Pakistan and Chad retained their 2013 positions at the bottom of the 142 nations surveyed.

Although India ranked at 15th place for female political representation, with many key government positions occupied by women, overall it slipped 13 places from its 2013 ranking to 114th place, and was among the bottom 20 according to income, literacy, economic participation and infant survival.

Daughter of Donegal couple told those with mental health issues should seek help


Daughter describes Jimmy and Kathleen Cuddihy above left pic. as ‘loving, kind and beautiful people’

The funeral of Kathleen and Jimmy Cuddihy en route to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Carndonagh, Co Donegal.

People with mental-health problems must seek professional help, said the daughter of a couple killed in their Co Donegal home.

Maureen Cuddihy was speaking at the funeral of her parents Jimmy and Kathleen at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Carndonagh today.

The couple were found dead at their home in Churchtown last Thursday morning. An axe was found at the scene by gardaí

Their youngest son Julian (42) has been charged with their murders and Judge Kevin Kilrane has ordered a psychiatric report on him.

Their daughter Maureen appealed to people with depression or other mental-health issues to tell somebody.

“Please seek help. There are are so many brilliant services available and I’d urge anyone feeling low to talk. Don’t wait. Get help before you do something that will cause such great pain to your family,” she said.

She described her parents as loving, kind and beautiful people. “When they worked together on a project they were like a force of nature. As both captain and president of the golf club they strived to make it the best club it could be.

“Over the last five days we’ve come to realise how popular and much-loved our parents were and just how many people they actually helped.

“Mum [a nurse] must have had half of Inishowen in the back of the ambulance and Dad has taught so many people maths over the years and given them grinds.

“They were wonderful parents to all of us and when money was tight in the house there was always money for education. Education would set us free, they told us.

“They were so kind and caring. Mum always gave us supplies when we went away. Even when we were getting a plane to London, she’d be trying to give us bags of turf and food,” she said.

An eerie silence hung over the Inishowen market town as the couple were taken to their final resting place. Businesses closed and people lined the streets of the town on the Inishowen Peninsula.

The coffins of Jimmy (77) and Kathleen (73) were carried from their home at Churchtown for about 200m along the Buncrana Road followed by hundreds of people and led by a Garda escort.

The mourners were led by three of the couple’s four children: James, Delilah and Maureen. The two hearses were given a guard of honour by local ambulance staff – a reflection of Kathleen’s years of dedicated service as a nurse.

At the entrance to the church, teachers and staff fromCarndonagh Community School, where Jimmy had taught maths, also gave a guard of honour.

Hundreds of people stood outside the church beneath a bright October sun. Inside Fr Con McLaughlin led the funeral Mass assisted by the Bishop of Derry, the Most Rev Donal McKeown.

Fr McLaughlin recalled how Jimmy had taught him metalwork many decades ago. He said the couple had touched the lives and hearts of everyone in the community through their work and personal lives.

Cold winters have been caused by global warming

New research tells us


Climate sceptics often claim that recent icy winters show that global warming is not happening. New research suggests the opposite is true

New research suggests that the icy weather is indeed evidence of change but that, counter-intuitively, it reinforces the case for global warming rather than the reverse

It’s been a frequent debating point from climate sceptics. Recent cold winders in Britain and Europe, they often say, undermine the case that the world is growing warmer. Scientists have tended to reply that that is to mix up the short-term effects of weather in a particular region with long term climate change, and that the cold winters therefore are of little significance.

But now new research suggests that both are wrong – that the icy weather is indeed evidence of change but that, counterintuitively, it reinforces the case for global warming rather than the reverse.

Research at Tokyo University and Japan’s national Institute of Polar Research – published in the current issue of the journal Nature Geoscience – has linked the cold winters with the “rapid decline of Arctic sea ice”, caused by warming, over the past decade.

The most comprehensive computer modelling study on the issue to date, it concludes the risk of severe winters in Europe and Northern Asia has doubled as the result of the climate change.

It works like this, say the scientists. As the ice melts it exposes open water which, being very much darker, absorbs more heat. The warmer water then warms the air above it which in turn, weakens the jet stream, the high level river of air which does much to determine the weather.

As the jet stream slows down it meanders more, causing weather systems to get stuck in place with a “blocking pattern” that pulls cold, Arctic air down over Europe and northern Asia for long periods at a time. And, sure enough they say, recent cold winters have occurred in years when the amount of Arctic sea ice was especially low.

“The origin of frequent Eurasian severe winters is global warming,” says the lead author of the paper, Prof Masato Mori, unequivocally. He expects it to result in a greater number of cold winters for several decades yet, though eventually the world will heat up so much as to overwhelm this effect.

Dr Colin Summerhayes of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge adds that the “counterintuitive” occurrence of cold winters “makes some people think that global warming has stopped. It has not. Although average surface warming has been slower since 2000, the Arctic has gone on warming rapidly throughout this time.”

So maybe sceptics should start arguing that it is milder winters, not colder ones, that refute global warming after all.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

The water charges now a symbol for Irish Government’s many failures


The water charges protests of last week showed that tens of thousands who took to the streets of Dublin mean what they say. “No Water charges”

When it comes to water charges, this Government just does not get it. The politicians in power got a drenching in last week’s two by-elections, and also from the thousands of people who took to the streets of Dublin to protest about the charges.

Water charges have become a totem for the utter failure of ministers to deliver.

Of course, the creation of Irish Water has been shockingly shambolic.

It is an arrogant and self-satisfied organisation that has completely failed to explain what it at, with its boss John Tierney keeping a disgracefully-low profile.

Why is he not telling an austerity-ravaged population why it has to put up with bonuses being paid to Irish Water staff? Why is he not telling us honestly if we really need to give our PPS number over to the company?

And this is to not even mention the scandal of consultants minting it from Irish Water.

The setting up of Irish Water has been a mess from day one, but it is more than that.

Irish Water is now a totem for the rage against austerity in general.

The rage is because of the failure to reform, broken election promises, bloated public sector pay at the top level, the prevalence of so many quangos, the private sector pensions levy, public sector waste, sky-high income tax, multiple levies and charges, a legal sector that has escaped consumer-friendly changes, misbehaving banks, cronyism and on and on.

Many of those on the streets nine days ago protesting about the water charges are those people who go to work every day, pay their way to ensure that there is money there for everyone else – including the politicians.

They don’t resent paying their share to ensure the vulnerable are looked after, but they are also aware that middle-income earners have borne the brunt of austerity.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found the bulk of the burden of tax increases over the past five years has been carried by those on middle incomes.

These people were promised radical change when the Government came to power.

Instead, they are getting water bills from a puffed-up new utility that sees fit to pay bonuses.

Why does a monopoly utility company need to pay bonuses to staff? It is not as if its engineers can go off and work for another water company in this country.

Only in Ireland do you get this nonsense, where the general populace pays for the privileges of a few.

Modest tax breaks delivered in last week’s Budget are all very well, but the middle-income earners are still likely to extract revenge in the next election over the failures of the last few years.

And when asked what influenced their vote, the answer will come down to two words: water charges.

Irish Central Bank urged to relax mortgage rules on 20% deposits


The Government is increasing pressure on the Central Bank to reduce its controversial 20% mortgage savings demand for new homeowners,

Although the Central Bank is an independent institution, there are growing calls from within the Cabinet for the rules to be relaxed.

Some people said this weekend that they agreed with Environment Minister Alan Kelly, who last week said the 20% rate was “too high”. Mr Kelly described the 20pc requirement mooted by Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan as “excessive” and called for a “more sensible target” of 15% to be set for first-time home buyers.

A number of ministers are unhappy at the Central Bank’s intervention at a time when the Government is attempting to stimulate the housing market. Several Cabinet members stressed that a consultation process was still ongoing until December and that they were hoping changes to the rules could be made.

Sources within the Department of Finance have indicated that the new stiff laws may not be applied to all new loans, but rather to only a certain portion of the new loan books.

It is understood officials in Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s department agree with the principal of people needing higher deposits. However, how the mechanism is ultimately applied still needs to be ironed out.

A source in the Department of Finance said recently “This wouldn’t be for everyone, but what percentage of the loan book it would apply for still isn’t clear. What is clear is that there will be changes.” Mr Kelly received a lot of backing from his Cabinet colleagues last week.

A number of ministers are in favour of some relief being given to house hunters in the Dublin area, where the massive shortage of housing and spiralling prices has effectively shut them out of the market.

“Maybe it is a generational thing within the Cabinet. Some of the older ones sort of agree with it, but there is certainly a body of opinion against it. The rate is simply too high.”

The growing unease within the Government over the 20pc deposit rule is also being echoed in the banking sector.

Ulster Bank chief executive Jim Brown warns that strict new Central Bank rules on mortgage lending will prevent first-time buyers from being able to purchase homes.

Mr Brown said the “unintended consequences” of the new sweeping rules may also see first-time buyers “struggle to save a higher deposit” as rents soar.

In response to the criticism, the Central Bank said it had nothing to add to the position it laid out last week. But it is understood the bank’s viewpoint was based on detailed research and it will only listen to contrary views which are similarly based on evidence.

Mr Brown also warned the new restrictions could have the effect of pricing first-time buyers out of the market,as they would struggle to save for a deposit while paying soaring rents.

He added: “A rebound in property prices following a crisis is not unusual. However, we recognise the need for the Central Bank to take steps to avoid overheating the credit and property markets. The measures though could have unintended consequences around home ownership which go to the heart of Irish society. The proposals, as they stand, will impact the ability of many first-time buyers to acquire their home. In addition to this, other hopeful first-time buyers will struggle to save a higher deposit while paying increasing rents.”

As part of the new measures, the Central Bank also proposed that mortgages be capped to 3.5 times borrowers’ salary. Under the rigid new demands, young borrowers looking to buy a mid-range three-bedroom house in Dublin valued at €300,000 would have to stump up €60,000.

As property prices and rents continue to soar in the capital, many young borrowers now find themselves in a Catch-22 situation where exorbitant monthly rent payments nullify their ability to save up enough for a deposit.

In Tuesday’s Budget it was announced that social housing will receive a massive €2.2bn boost in capital investment over the next four years, which will result in the construction of 10,000 new housing units. However, this will not help the coping classes who do not qualify for social housing and have to search for finance for a home on their own.

Eye implants may spell the end of reading glasses


Glasses may soon be a thing of the past as corneal inlays, implanted into the eye.

Glasses may soon be a thing of the past as corneal inlays, implanted into the eye with a simple surgery, can correct vision without the need for corrective treatments, scientists say.

A thin ring which is inserted into the eye could offer a reading glasses-free remedy for presbyopia, the blurriness in near vision experienced by many people over the age of 40, according to a new study.

The corneal inlay device undergoing clinical review in the US improved near vision well enough for 80% of the participating patients to read a newspaper without disturbing far distance vision needed for daily activities like driving.

Researchers said presbyopia affects more than 1 billion people worldwide. As they age, the cornea becomes less flexible and bends in such a way that it becomes difficult to see up close.

While the most common remedy is wearing reading glasses, a host of new corneal inlay products are in development to treat the condition, with three types currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The theoretical advantage of using corneal inlays over wearing reading glasses is that corneal inlays prevent the need for constantly putting on and taking off glasses, depending on whether the person needs to see near or far.

One of the devices is the KAMRA inlay, a thin, flexible doughnut-shaped ring that measures 3.8 millimetres in diameter, with a 1.6 millimetre hole in the middle.

When dropped into a small pocket in the cornea covering the front of the eye, the device acts like a camera aperture, adjusting the depth of field so that the viewer can see near and far.

The procedure to insert the implant is relatively quick, lasting about 10 minutes, and requires only topical anaesthesia.

To test the inlay’s efficacy, clinicians conducted a prospective non-randomised study of 507 patients between 45 and 60 years of age across the US, Europe and Asia with presbyopia who were not nearsighted.

The researchers implanted the ring in the patients and followed up with them over the course of three years. In 83 per cent of eyes with the implant, the KAMRA corneal inlay allowed presbyopic patients to see with 20/40 vision or better over the three years.

This is considered the standard for being able to read a newspaper or drive a vehicle without corrective lenses. On average, patients gained 2.9 lines on a reading chart.

Meet Dublin Zoo’s adorable new arrival who finally has a name – Samiya


The name of newest member of the Dublin Zoo elephant family has been revealed.

Samiya, meaning ‘incomparable’, arrived into the world on September 17 last, and has been officially named following a public competition on the zoo’s Facebook page.

The female weighed 68kgs when born, around the same as an adult human, and is a gentle, quiet and timid calf.

Dublin Zoo said she was in awe of her older sister, Asha, and spends the day following her around the Kaziranga Forest Trail. She only returns to her mother, Bernhardine, to feed.

It’s been a remarkably successful year for Dublin Zoo’s elephant breeding programme under the stewardship of director Leo Oosterweghel.

Samiya was the third elephant calf to be born in recent months, with three arriving over a 10-week period.

The first calf, a bull, is named Kavi and was born on July 17. Just over a month later, he was followed by Ashoka, another bull, who arrived on August 19.

Dublin Zoo is considered a world leader in animal husbandry, and such is the success of its breeding programme that researchers and keepers from other zoos travel here to learn best practice.

The zoo is home to a family of Asian elephants, which are under increasing threat with as few as 25,000 to 33,000 now believed to be living in the wild.

Smaller than their African cousins, Mr Oosterweghel says they are an “incredibly harmonious” family and are a key attraction for visitors.

The zoo’s policy is that only names from the animal’s country of origin are chosen.

Kavi means poet or wise man, and Ashoka is named after one of India’s greatest emperors.

Due to a production error in today’s Elephant supplement, a picture of assistant director of Dublin Zoo, Paul O’Donoghue, was used on page two instead of Dublin Zoo Director Leo Oosterweghel.

Ancient Scottish creature was first to ‘have sex’ some 385 million years ago


Birds do it, bees do it, and everybody else does it? And so did the early ancestors of humans that lived in Scotland as far back as 385 million years ago.

Scientists have traced the history of vertebrate sexual intercourse to an ancient armoured fish named Microbrachius dicki.

Microbrachius means “little arms” and refers to the genital limbs that locked male and female fish together when mating. And dicki, well…

The three inch long placoderm – a primitive armoured fish – frolicked in Scottish lakes millions of years before fins evolved into legs.

A study of Microbachius fossils revealed the first evidence of their primitive sexual organs.

To transfer sperm, males had grooved L-shaped claspers which were held in place by small paired bones on the female.

Lead scientist Professor John Long, from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, said: “Microbrachius means little arms but scientists have been baffled for centuries by what these bony paired arms were actually there for.

“We’ve solved this great mystery because they were there for mating, so that the male could position his claspers into the female genital area.”

Similar copulatory claspers are seen today in some male sharks – but most present-day bony fishes fertilise eggs externally, outside their bodies.

The new discovery implies that external fertilisation evolved from internal fertilisation involving sexual intercourse, and not the other way around.

Microbrachius also seems to have made a head start in trying out interesting sexual positions. According to Prof Long, the fishes probably “did it” sideways.

“This enabled the males to manoeuvre their genital organs into the right position for mating,” he said. “With their arms interlocked, these fish looked more like they are square dancing the do-se-do rather than mating.”

The discovery, reported in Nature journal’s online edition, highlights the importance of placoderms in vertebrate evolution.

“Placoderms were once thought to be a dead-end group with no live relatives, but recent studies show that our own evolution is deeply rooted in placoderms, and that many of the features we have, such as jaws, teeth and paired limbs, first originated with this group of fishes,” said Prof Long.

“Now, we reveal they gave us the intimate act of sexual intercourse as well.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 11 & 12th October 2014

More people at risk of losing their family home are seeking advice


As much as 3,588 people has sought advice from Focus Ireland in the first eight months of this year.

Focus Ireland says there has been a 43% increase in the number of people seeking advice and information so far this year because they are homeless or at serious risk of losing their home.

The latest figures released today shows that 3,588 people had sought advice and information in the first eight months of this year, compared to 2,500 people over the same period last year.

Focus Ireland said this significant rise is a reflection of the reality that more people are now at risk of losing their family home. The charity says it has had to expand its advice and information services to meet this growing need.

Fundraising for the expansion of services to meet the growing demand, Focus Ireland is preparing for a charity event taking place next Friday night, which involves nearly 100 business leaders and community leaders, who are all going to sleep rough in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens and Cork’s City Gaol.

Head of Fundraising Lisa-Nicole Dunne said that the charity has to raise one-third of its income from fundraising so events like the Shine a Light Night are critical to allow Focus Ireland to continue to support families and single people struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Focus Ireland stressed that early access to advice and information can help to prevent a housing problem from becoming a homeless crisis and appealed to anyone worried about their housing situation to contact the charity as soon as possible.

The charity is also putting out a final call to business leaders who would like to get involved in next week’s event.

To register for Shine A Light or to nominate your boss, see the Focus Ireland website.

Once again “Over 50,000 march in Dublin” to protest against Irish water charges


Groups from all over country converge on capital to oppose new measures

People taking part in the anti-water charges protest march in O’Connell Street, Dublin this afternoon.

Upwards of 50,000 people marched against water charges in Dublin today in one of the largest demonstrations seen in the capital in years.

The marchers took one hour and twenty minutes to pass the Spire in O’Connell Street as they made their way from Parnell Square, around the city finishing at the GPO in O’Connell Street.

While the Garda press office could not give a figure for the numbers in attendance, one garda observing the march estimated they could be as high as 100,000.

Banners could be seen from communities across Dublin, including Crumlin, Ayrfield, Clarehall, Brookvale, Donaghmede, Ballyogan, Finglas, Ballymun, Edenmore, Coolock, Tallaght, Clondalkin while others from outside Dublin came included ones from Carlow, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Offaly, Wicklow, Athlone, Ballyphehane, Co Cork, Letterkenny, Leitrim and Mayo.

There were also banners from trade unions Mandate, Unite, the CPSU, the Communication Workers Union and the plasterers’ union, OPATSI.

There was huge anger directed at Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as well as the Labour Party and at Tánaiste Joan Burton in particular for her comments during the week that anti-water charges protesters all seemed to have expensive mobile phones. A number of people carried placards with pairs of tin cans strung together attached, with slogans such as “My little phoney, Joaney” while one man was dressed as an iPhone. Other placards said:“Sold out by our own Government”; “Stick your water meters up your arse” and “Can’t pay, won’t pay”.

A number who spoke to The Irish Times, said the water charge was “the last straw”.

“Enough is enough,” said Kathleen McWilliams, a woman in her 50s from Artane.

“The property tax was bad enough but I have nothing left to give.”

There was also anger directed at the media which many protesters said had been agnoring anti-water meter protests around the country.

Among the chants were, “Enda in your ivory tower, this is called people power” and “From the rivers to the sea, Irish water will be free”.

One man was distributing plastic water meter hub caps which he said could be used to ensure a household’s water supply while others were handing out leaflets advising people that Irish Water did not have a legal right to force people to sign a contract with them, could not pursue money from people’s wages and could not cut off people’s water supply.

The Garda presence was low key, with small numbers standing some distance back from the march mainly on streets adjacent to the route.

Before the main speakers, the Resistance Choir sang from the platform and performed their song Now Is The Time For Rage.

Among the speakers was Audrey Clancy, of the Edenmore Says No campaign who urged people neither to fill in their ‘welcome packs’ from Irish Water nor to pay bills when they start arriving.

“We have to have mass non-compliance when these bills start coming in January. No contract, no consent.. We can beat this. We have to stick together. The power of the people is greater than the people in power. Stand up to them,” she said to enormous cheers.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett urged everyone to take selfies and email their photo to Tánaiste Joan Burton.

“Let her wallpaper her office with all the photos of people here. Will we pay the water charges?,” he asked, to which the crowd responded loudly, “No, no, no.” He urged people to take part in planned demonstrations around the State on November 1st.

“Today we brought Dublin to a standstill. On November 1st we will bring the country to a standstill.”

Independent TD Clare Daly said there were historic days from which point nothing would be the same, and this was one of them.

“The people are here with our mobile phones and our tablets and we’re saying, ‘You are not getting any more blood from these stones’.”

Older peoples mental health in Ireland linked to deprivation


Older people living in disadvantaged areas of Ireland are much more likely to have poor mental health, a new study has found.

The results are based on an analysis of data collected as part of the TUDA Ageing study – a study involving over 5,000 older people living in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The researchers acknowledged that cognitive functioning generally decreases as people age. However, they found that older people living in disadvantaged areas had a greater risk of developing cognitive dysfunction, ranging from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, than those living in less deprived areas.

They also found that those living in the most deprived areas were more likely to be anxious or depressed and had three years less education. They also exercised less, weighed more and smoked more.

“The overall results of our study suggest that older people living in the most deprived areas in Ireland, North and South, are at higher risk of poor mental health and developing cognitive impairment. We should target resources and strategies at this group to reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment,” commented Prof Helene McNulty of the University of Ulster.

The findings were presented at the recent annual Scientific Meeting of the Irish Gerontological Society in Galway.

Leo Varadkar health Minister says the cycle of cuts in healthcare is over


Minister for Health says spending savings will go back into services and not to pay debt any more?

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said the cycle of cuts in health care is now over.

It was revealed yesterday that Mr Varadkar will receive a €500 million supplementary budget estimate this year, with some €300 million to be rolled over into 2015.

The two-year budget deal his department has struck is designed to ensure it can adhere to spending limits without the need for repeated financial bailouts.

“The good news is, the cycle of cuts in health care is over,” he told a conference in Dublin earlier today but cautioned that “we’re not flush with cash”.

“Our spending ceiling is now rising again so it means any savings or efficiencies we do make in our health services will go back into our health services and not into deficits or to pay down debt,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at the International Street Medicine symposium hosted by Safetynet Ireland and The Street Medicine Institute which looks at health of homeless people and rough sleepers.

He said the number of drug-related deaths was a matter of serious concern and was “surprised” by data from 2011 which showed that there were 60 poisoning deaths from heroin compared to 113 from methadone.

In order to respond to the problem of drug related deaths and overdoses the health service has developed an overdose prevention strategy which recommends making Naloxone routinely available in Ireland, he said.

Naloxone is an antidote to heroin which temporarily reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.

Naloxone is a prescription-only medication in Ireland and an amendment to current legislation would be required for it to be made available to opiate users .

“It is intended that Naloxone can be administered by non medical staff such as care workers, family members and addicts themselves and other people trained in the use of it,” he said.

“There’s no doubt the scale and nature of the drug problem in Ireland is constantly evolving. The emergence new pscyho active substances, the increased strength of cannabis and the prevalence of poly drug use represents serious challenges for our services,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said the area of drug use and deprivation and how it impacts on health is one he will take a personal interest in under his tenure as Minister for Health.

“Under the previous minister, the whole position – and this isn’t a bad thing – was delegated to the Minister for State.”

Mr Varadkar said that responsibility for drugs and drug policy will now full under his remit.

He said the “ social problems left untackled” were a burden on emergency departments and health services and “the cost of not dealing with these things is phenomenal”.

A robot Snake Teach Scientists How Sidewinders Move


Elizabeth the robot snake gave scientists insight into sand dune travel

Scientists have finally figured out how sidewinder snakes work their way up sand dunes — thanks to the help of a robot snake (yes, a robot snake) named Elizabeth.

For a study published recently in Science, researchers observed that sidewinding rattlesnakes flattened themselves on steep dunes to maximize body contact with sand, rather than dig their bodies deeper into the dune, the BBC reports.

Researchers took their observations and contacted a lab that develops robot sidewinders to further explore the movement. After a robot snake named Elizabeth was unable to scale a desert dune in Egypt, they brought Elizabeth to a fake dune in Atlanta, where “she” ultimately found more success after researchers applied the flattening technique to her movements.

Following that breakthrough, playing with Elizabeth’s settings gave the scientists insight into how sidewinders move so effortlessly. As it turns out, an out-of-sync combination of left-and-right motions and up-and-down movements working their way down the body helps keep the sand stable underneath the snake, to avoid slipping. The flattening motion helps keep the snake’s contact with the sand at the ideal, moderate amount. Too much contact and the snake can slip; too little, and it can’t successfully scale.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 21st August 2014

Michael Collins ‘greatest Irishman ever’ says Hookie


Michael Collins has been hailed as the greatest Irishman that ever lived – by broadcaster George Hook, writes Ralph Riegel.

Hook stressed that Collins, a former finance minister and IRA commander, has as much relevance to modern Ireland as he did to the fledgling Irish State when he was shot and killed 92 years ago.

The Newstalk broadcaster will deliver the keynote oration at the Beal na mBlath ceremony in west Cork on Sunday to mark the 92nd anniversary of Collins’s death.

He was shot and killed in an ambush as he returned to 
Cork city on August 22, 1922, after completing an inspection tour.

George Hook said the invitation to deliver the Beal na mBlath address ranked as “the greatest honour of my life”.

“It is without doubt the greatest honour I have ever received. I believe that Michael Collins was the greatest Irishman that ever lived and I was raised on my mother Anne’s knee with stories about him,” he said.

“His remarkable legacy has lessons for politicians, public servants, businessmen and 
patriots. I think his legacy is even more inspirational for modern Ireland.

“If there is a heaven, and I hope there is, I’d like my mother to able to look down and see that I did okay with the oration and the tribute to the memory of Michael Collins.”

Donald Trump on collision course with Co Clare wind farm company


US billionaire vows to fight planned development

The Lodge at Doonbeg Golf Club, Co Clare. Documents lodged with Clare County Council show the wind farm will be visible from Donald Trump’s golf resort, on which he is planning to spend up to €45 million.

US billionaire Donald Trump is in dispute with a firm that is planning to erect a wind farm near his Doonbeg golf club on the Co Clare coast. Clare Coastal Windpower Ltd has lodged fresh plans with Clare County Council for a nine-turbine wind farm 2km from Doonbeg village and 4km from the the Greg Norman-designed links course.

The 413ft-high turbines are nearly 20ft higher than Dublin’s Spire. The lodging of the plans follows Mr Trump declaring on his well-publicised trip to Clare in May that the council had “killed” the prospect of wind turbines being erected near Doonbeg.

Documents lodged by the firm with the council show the wind farm will be visible from Mr Trump’s golf resort, on which he is planning to spend up to €45 million. Some 23 west Clare landowners stand to receive an annual dividend from the wind farm.

The executive vice president at the Trump organisation,George Sorial, said yesterday: “We will examine the planning application in the next number of days and if we conclude that it jeopardises our investment at Doonbeg, we will do whatever is necessary to fight it and protect the beauty of our site.”

The new plan is a scaled-down proposal of a 45-turbine plan that was refused on a number of grounds last year byAn Bord Pleanála. The plan created bitter divisions in the Doonbeg community and the golf club was one of the most vocal opponents against the plan.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) lodged with the new plan, “it is not anticipated that the proposal will cause any negative impact to tourism in the area”.

According to the promoters, the wind farm will supply sufficient electricity for 14,175 households. A decision is due on the application in October.

Ryanair pursues Cyprus Airways takeover


Ryanair opened talks on Thursday with the Cypriot government about a takeover of lossmaking Cyprus Airways as it looks to open up new routes and create more hubs in the Mediterranean.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the Irish airline, was due to meet government officials in Nicosia later on Thursday. He said Ryanair was “engaged in the process” with the Cypriot government about buying the island’s flag carrier, and said he hoped something would come of the initiative. But he warned of a “very political process” in Cyprus.

Ryanair is one of up to 20 airlines that have submitted expressions of interest to the Cypriot government to buy the airline, which has been badly hit by the collapse of the island’s economy.

Ryanair has not made an acquisition of a rival since it bought Buzz more than a decade ago, and Mr O’Leary has frequently disdained the takeover approach to expansion. However, that has not stopped him from laying prolonged siege to Aer Lingus, the rival Irish airline in which Ryanair owns a stake of nearly 30 per cent. His attempt to buy Aer Lingus has been blocked by regulators and the Irish government.

Analysts said any purchase of Cyprus Airways could make long-term sense as Ryanair sought to fulfil its aim of lifting passenger numbers by about half, to 120m, within five years. The Cypriot airline has just six aircraft, while Ryanair has 180 new Boeing 737 aircraft on order, the first of which are due to be delivered later this year.

David Holohan, head of research at Merrion Capital, a Dublin brokerage, said Ryanair could use some of the new aircraft to create a hub in Cyprus if it wanted to target north Africa and to expand around the Mediterranean. “Cyprus Airways would be a very small addition to Ryanair, but if he can pick it up for the right price, it would make sense,” Mr Holohan said.

Cyprus Airways carries about 600,000 passengers a year, compared to nearly 80m for Ryanair. Speaking at the announcement of new routes and expanded winter services from Dublin on Thursday, Mr O’Leary said Ryanair could lift the number carried by the Cypriot airline to 3m. “We could do a big job in restoring the tourism industry in Cyprus,” he said.

Ryanair is trying to shed its reputation for brashness and bare-bones service, with an improved online offering and more concessions for passengers. It is due in the next few weeks to unveil a strategy to attract more business travellers.

Rare red panda twin cubs given first check-up at Chester Zoo


The twins were born on June 27 but this is the first time keepers have been able to get a good look at them

Two rare red panda cubs have been given their first health check-ups at Chester Zoo.

The twins, a boy and a girl, arrived after keepers heard “little squeaks” from a nest box.

Although they were born on June 27 to first-time mum Nima and dad Jung, this is the first time that the zoo staff have been able to get a good look at them.

Keeper Maxine Bradley said: “Our two cubs are in very good shape. They’re big and strong with very thick fur — our male weighed in at just under 1kg and our female 842g.

“We’re really pleased with how well they’re doing and, as soon as we had given them a health check, we popped them back into their nest. It’ll be several weeks until they start to emerge and explore.”

Red pandas are native to the steep forested slopes of the Himalayas.

Lethal jellyfish now on north Dublin beach


Lions mane jellyfish out at the Forty Foot in Sandycove Dublin

Deadly jellyfish have 
spread to Dublin’s northside beaches and have forced the closure of Claremont beach in Howth.

The Lion’s Mane jellyfish, which can cause anaphylactic shock and death, forced 
warning notices on beaches on the southside of the city last week that are still in place.

Lions mane jellyfish out at the Forty Foot in Sandycove Dublin today people are asked not to go in Credit: Fergal Phillips

Now Fingal Council has put a red flag on Claremont beach after council staff removed several of the dangerous jellyfish from the area.

Swimmers were also banned from four beaches along the Dublin coast yesterday because of contaminated water.

On the southside, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Council issued bathing ban notices along the shore at Blackrock Baths because of the poor water quality.

A council spokesperson said the water on all other beaches in the council area was “excellent”.

She added that sample results were due back tomorrow and if these met standards the ban would be lifted.

Lions mane jellyfish out at the Forty Foot in Sandycove Dublin today people are asked not to go in Credit: Fergal Phillips

Dublin City Council has also issued swimming ban notices for Sandymount and Merrion beaches.

On the northside, Fingal Council has issued warnings to swimmers at Malahide beach.

A council spokesperson said there was a permanent red flag at Malahide beach because of the dangers of the nearby channel and boat traffic, so swimmers should never use this beach.

She pointed out, however, that swimmers at Low Rock and High Rock, between Portmarnock and Malahide, should also be aware of the water 

The spokesperson explained that ban notices were only placed on designated beaches with lifeguards. Low Rock and High Rock were not designated but were still popular swimming areas and the Malahide contamination would affect these two points as well.

She said the ban had been put in place because of the high level of contamination in the water, which was thought to be due to a “sewer overflow”.

The ban will last for 72 hours and the HSE has been notified to arrange further sampling.

Last week, warning notices were put on Sandycove, Killiney and Seapoint beaches after 77 Lion’s Mane jellyfish were removed from Sandycove by council workers.

The jellyfish have hundreds of long, hair-like tentacles and their sting can cause “excruciating pain” to bathers.

In extreme cases they can cause anaphylactic shock and death.

More common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and respiratory distress.

People are being urged to swim in lifeguarded areas only.

They should seek medical attention for anything other than minor symptoms where they are stung.

Why do hummingbirds have such a sweet tooth?


Unlike any other birds, hummingbirds seek out sugary nectar. It’s allowed them to successfully fill a very specific niche in the animal world.

But how come they’ve developed a taste for the sweet stuff? Well, scientists have recently discovered it’s all in the genes.

So, what have they found out?

Scientists analysed the genetic codes of 10 bird species and found that hummingbirds were the only one that had a genetic adaptation making them drawn to sweetness.

A taste receptor normally geared up for savoury (known as “umami”) flavours which come from amino acids had been altered to instead respond to sugary carbohydrates.

At least 19 genetic mutations – possibly more – were involved in this transformation from savoury to sweet.

What’s the scientific background to all this?

Experts split up taste receptors into five broad categories: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami – from the Japanese word for savoury.

Before scientists had sequenced the chicken genome (all the genetic code of that animal) it had always been assumed that birds and mammals shared exactly the same taste receptors.

But scientists could find no trace of a sweet receptor gene in either the chicken or many other bird species. Which lead to the question: why do hummingbirds hover around flowers in search of sweet nectar?

What did the experiments involve?

The hummingbirds showed themselves very sensitive to sweet tastes.

Shaking their heads, they spat out tasteless water. They were also not fooled by the sugar substitute aspartame that we use to flavour “sugar free” drinks.

But they lapped up an artificial sweetener that laboratory tests had already predicted they would find irresistible.

Why are the experts excited?

Dr Stephen Liberles, from Harvard Medical School, explained how the team’s research showed a great example of how animals evolve at the molecular level.

“If you look at the (molecular) structure of the (taste) receptor, it involved really dramatic changes over its entire surface to accomplish this complex feat,” he said.

“Amino acids and sugars look very different structurally, so in order to recognise them and sense them in the environment, you need a completely different lock and key. The key looks very different, so you have to change the lock almost entirely.”