Tag Archives: Success

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 11th August 2016

Gerry Adams says it is time for a united Ireland

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


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

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

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

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

It needs a political strategy with clear objectives and actions.

Failure to honour commitments

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now is the time

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tatiana thanked the people of New Ross for their support.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 400 year old Greenland shark is the oldest vertebrate animal


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 8th November 2015

Enda Kenny & Cameron hope for a Stormont deal soon?

‘This week sometime’


Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he hopes a Stormont deal can be reached within days, to resolve the political crisis that is threatening power- sharing.

Talks began in September, aimed at tackling the dispute over welfare reform, paramilitarism, and budget matters.

British prime minister David Cameron recently met Stormont’s political leaders as the pace of negotiations stepped up. The Taoiseach said “I am very hopeful and happy that the reports I am getting are that a deal is on here.

“I do hope it can be concluded successfully in the next couple of days.”

A vexed budget wrangle has left the power-sharing administration in Belfast facing an unsustainable black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds.

A resolution to the long-standing impasse over the executive’s failure to implement the government’s welfare reforms in the North will be crucial to any breakthrough.

It is understood that Stormont’s leaders want the British government to commit extra funding to the power-sharing executive, both resource and capital, as part of any settlement.

The wider negotiations, which have been on-going for weeks, are also trying to find a way forward on other problems causing the current instability at Stormont, including the fallout from a recent murder linked to the IRA and a row over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr Kenny is meeting David Cameron at 10 Downing St this afternoon for bilateral talks.

Yesterday, Mr Kenny laid a wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen, 28 years to the day after the IRA bombed the annual Remembrance Day service.

Eleven people, who had gathered to pay their respects, were killed and dozens more were injured in the no-warning blast in 1987, just minutes before the event had been due to start.

In terrible weather conditions, Mr Kenny joined other dignitaries in laying a wreath at the foot of the memorial.

In Belfast, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan laid a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph.

He said: “I am pleased to represent the Irish Government for the second year at the Remembrance Sunday commemoration at Belfast City Hall.”

More than 200,000 Irish-born soldiers served in the British Army and Navy from 1914 to 1918.

Businessman Bobby Kerr announces cancer diagnosis

The broadcaster is receiving treatment for cancer of the neck and head


Businessman Bobby Kerr has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host of his Newstalk radio show. 

Businessman Bobby Kerr has revealed live on his own radio show that he has been diagnosed with cancer.

The self-made millionaire and owner of the Insomnia chain of coffee shops told listeners of his Down to Business show on Newstalk that he has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host to “make myself better”.

“Did you know 35,000 people hear the dreaded words every year ‘we have the results of your biopsy, you need to come in and see me’. Well folks, it’s 34,999 and one other- me,” he said, “because guess what, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck, and I’m currently receiving treatment to make myself better.

“I have a very serious disease, it’s been caught early, it’s only in one place, and because it’s been caught early my chances of beating this increase incrementally,” added the 55 year-old, who has been presenting the Saturday morning magazine show for six years.

Mr Kerr, who was previously an investor on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den series, said he wanted to broach the issue in such a public manner to raise awareness of Movember and Men’s Health Month in the hope that more people will get themselves checked out.

“So, why am I telling you this, what you might consider a very personal and private piece of news? The reason’s simple- it’s Movember, it’s Men’s Health Month. Get yourself checked out, I did.

“I’ve always considered myself a glass half-full type of person, always tried to take a positive attitude of whatever life throws at me, and I believe that life is absolutely for living,” he said.

He went on to mention the “arsenal of armoury” he has to beat the illness including support from his mother, brother, extended family and business colleagues alongside his wife Mary and their four daughters Meghan, Emily, Rebecca and Michaela.

He also paid tribute to co-workers and station management at Newstalk, as well as fellow presenters Jonathan Healy and Vincent Wall who will take over hosting duties for Down to Business until Mr Kerr’s expected return in the new year.

“God bless you all and thanks, and I’ll see you next year,” he concluded.

The perfect solution to stop office colleagues from stealing the milk?


Yes, we have all been in that situation where that pint of milk you lovingly bought and stored in the fridge at work has miraculously disappeared.

And you know all too well that your chances of catching these milk thieves at work are pretty slim.

After all, which colleague in his/her right mind will admit to the fact that they have made (and drank) several cups of tea using the milk that YOU bought?

But it seems someone may have found a rather passive aggressive solution to this problem by going to extreme lengths to keep their milk for themselves.

And it requires a lock… and the means to drill holes into the milk carton. (Either that, or they’ve gone to great lengths on Photoshop to put a padlock on the image).

Real or fake, this hilarious picture of the padlocked milk has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on Imgur.

The photo was posted on Reddit by a user called banginthedead with the caption: “The milk situation at work is starting to get a little serious.”

But the story doesn’t end here.

It seems banginthehead later posted a second image of a milk container with what looks like an explosive booby trap device on it saying: “The milk situation hasn’t improved.”

It’s hard to say whether this person really went and padlocked and booby-trapped their milk container, but it’s definitely a good laugh.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees go west for guaranteed Sligo surf waves

Surf Summit weekend event included talks from local and international surf champions


The web Summit attendess took part in a range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing at the Surf Summit in Strandhill Co. Sligo.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees made the break for the West lured by stand up paddling around the lake isle of Innisfree, kayaking on Lough Gill and making business deals on the waves alongside some of the world’ s top surfers.

Watching Peggy Johnson, one of Microsoft’s top deal makers, pulling pints at Sligo pub Shoot the Crows on Saturday evening was a bonus.

“There was a time when the golf course was synonymous with networking and deal making but a lot of people in the tech world are into activity sports,” explained local surfer and tech enthusiast Allan Mulrooney, one of the organisers of the Surf Summit.

He and his friend former Westlife singer Kian Egan were among the hosts who brought high profile guests including world record big wave surfer Garrett McNamara and Adam Berke of AdRoll, on a whirlwind tour of Sligo’s best known surfing and party locations.

About 300 people, most of them delegates from the Web Summit, attended talks by Mr McNamara, European surf champion Pauline Ado and local sufer Easkey Britton over the weekend.

Mr McNamara, who broke the world record when he surfed a 100 foot wave in Nazare in Portugal, had never been to Ireland before. “We took him to Mullaghmore and Bundoran and he told us he will be back to surf here next month,” said Mr Mulrooney.

A range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing kept delegates busy on Saturday.

“The weather was amazing. We even had a double rainbow,” said Easkey Britton, founder of Waves of Freedom whose lecture focussed on how surfing can be a tool for social change.

While guests sampled everything from locally brewed White Hag craft beer to traditional music in well-known Sligo bars Connollys and McGarrigles, there was also time for some business at the Surf Summit.

“ We had investors here from Singapore, the US and Australia and a few deals were clinched”, said Mr Mulrooney.

“The setting may have been unusual – some investors did not expect to be drinking hot whiskeys at a camp fire on the shores of Lough Gill listening to Dave O’Hara of SUP forAll reciting Yeats poetry but I think they enjoyed it”.

A bonus, he added, was that the Wifi worked well, there were no traffic jams and Peggy Johnson knows how to pull a pint of Guinness.


Lisbon’s Web Summit won’t be the same as Dublin

Ireland’s high-profile tech event packed its bags on Thursday and set sail for Portugal. But will it succeed there, and will Dublin rue its departure?


On the Dart to Sandymount they’re talking about angels and unicorns. Which is strange, as they’re not five-year-olds. In fact pretty much everyone in the carriage is a 25- to 45-year-old man wearing the same uniform: suit jacket, no tie, jeans. The chat is also of VCs and VR, pivots and platforms, bootstraps and wearables. You’d need an app to translate this stuff.

My phone pings – again – with a notification from the Web Summit app. “Hi Hugh! I’m a 20 year old girl from Australia, co-founder of ClosetDrop – Rent out your wardrobe. To put it simply, we’re basically the Airbnb of fashion. My best friend and I started ClosetDrop to help girls all around the world fulfil their expensive taste in fashion for just a fraction of the price. ClosetDrop is a global online market-place where girls can rent out their own clothes, shoes & accessories between each other . . .”

I’m still 10 minutes from the entrance, but I feel as if I’m already deep inside the forcefield of Web Summit. (The definite article is always absent, as with Fight Club or Electric Picnic, or Narnia). What is this strange place, and why does it exist?

Part evangelical prayer meeting, part digital flea market, it’s a mixture of the huckster and the hipster, and in its own way it provides a snapshot of a lot of the forces that, for good or ill, proclaim that they’re going to change your world.

And what exactly does the word tech mean? I like this description, by Nathan Heller: “Tech today means anything about computers, the internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design. At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture.”

Through some happy conjunction of luck, timing, brass neck, hard work and sheer pig-headedness, Web Summit’s founders,Paddy Cosgrave and Daire Hickey, tapped into that substrate over the past few years and built from scratch an international event that this year claimed an attendance figure of more than 40,000. Web Summit has grown and grown, and now it has grown too big for Dublin. Some might say it has grown too big for its bootstraps.

Irish media coverage this week has been as plentiful as ever – to the annoyance of those who regard the whole thing as overhyped in the first place – refracted through the prism of the absurd handbags that broke out between Cosgrave and the Government about who wanted what and who said whatever to whom in the months leading up to the announcement that Web Summit would be moving to Lisbon for the next three years.

It flared up again with rows about invitations and snarky interviews on radio and television.

Nobody came very well out of this small-town bickering, but it didn’t seem to have registered particularly with the international visitors I met this week. Talking to a cross section of them during the pub crawls organised across central Dublin on Monday night, one thing came across clearly, however. They did like being here.

It helped that the weather was better than it had been in August, but over and over I was told what a beautiful, interesting, friendly city I lived in. The impression was unavoidable that there’s a connection between Web Summit’s success and its location.

It’s something the Government would do well to pause and ponder, no matter how well the move to Lisbon works out. Because, whatever method you use to calculate the value of Web Summit to Dublin in cold, hard cash terms, and whether or not you buy into the proposition that it contributes to the growth of an indigenous tech sector, there is no doubt that these tens of thousands of people are highly educated, highly connected and potentially highly influential, which has to be worth something.

The people I talked to came from North and South America, from across Europe, the Middle East and (to a lesser extent) Asia. To my inexpert ear some of them seemed to be involved in substantial enterprises. One was helping to build a platform for the sale and distribution of education services and distance learning across the Indian subcontinent. Another was developing a digital marketplace for advertising inventory on digital billboards in Brazil.

Some of them, though, do fit the start-up cliche. Two young guys have an app that allows you to hook up and socialise with like-minded people when you’re away from your own country. “So it’s like Tinder for city breaks,” I say, but their faces darken. Someone must have got to that line first.

All this frenetic activity, all these tiny start-ups selling variations on a theme: does it really amount to anything substantial? Henry Hwong, a Palo Alto-based marketing consultant, tells me that cloud-computing platforms like Amazon Web Services andMicrosoft Azure mean there is a very low barrier to entry, which is the reason for the glut of “Uber for this” or “Airbnb for that” type of companies.

“It would be nice if there were more investment in really hard engineering projects that move technology forward,” Hwong says. “But that’s just technology capitalism, and Darwinism, at work – lots of investment in many companies that will go nowhere, but the ones that succeed could have a major impact on society.”

At the RDS over the succeeding three days the sheer scale of Web Summit now creates its own dynamic. With so many stages operating simultaneously, and so many different “summits”, each with its own rows of start-ups pitching for business from cramped plywood booths, this year’s event starts to feel as if it has split in two, with one Web Summit in the main RDS complex and the other across Anglesea Road in Simmonscourt.

As the Irish Times columnist Karlin Lillington pointed out, too many of the events are just too short, and therefore don’t go deep enough to yield anything truly interesting. But, despite all the self-aggrandisement and messianic claims of changing the world, there are plenty of thoughtful, impressive people with something to say.

Then there’s the Food Summit in Herbert Park. In previous years this was an impressively organised series of tents feeding thousands of people excellent Irish food, with front-of-house duties carried out with aplomb by the likes of Darina Allen – all included in the price of your ticket.

That you had to pay an extra €20 a day this year, and that the quality of the food seemed to have fallen significantly, provoked some angry reaction. The tents looked grim and empty compared with previous years, and the organisers stood accused of price-gouging – the very charge they had levelled at Dublin hotels.

Who knows what Web Summit will be like at the end of its three-year stint in Lisbon? Cosgrave seems to model it, and the spin-off events he now runs in other countries, on the digital-business model of scaleability, where rapid growth and the acquisition of new customers are the overriding imperatives.

He may be right – and there are other successful events internationally that outrank Web Summit in size. But human beings aren’t software, and the impersonality of a purpose-built conference facility on a city’s fringe could drain away some of the improvisational and occasionally ramshackle elements that made the whole thing work in the first place.

Rising temperatures could drive 100m people into extreme poverty,

The world Bank warns?


Efforts to curb climate change must be twinned with programmes to cut poverty, warns a study of the threat posed by global warming to food security.

A dead acari-bodó, a type of catfish that can remain alive for a couple of days out of water, lies before stranded floating houses on a dried out stretch of Brazil’s Rio Negro.

The world must pair efforts to stabilise climate change with programmes to eliminate poverty if vulnerable people are to be kept from falling back into hardship as rising temperatures wreak havoc on food security and livelihoods, a report has said.

As many as 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of rising temperatures, which are caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank report said. The bank’s most recent estimate puts the number of people living in extreme poverty this year at 702 million, or 9.6% of the world’s population.

Climate change has led to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty and pushing people at risk into destitution, according to Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, released on Sunday.

Efforts to stabilise climate change should incorporate strategies to eradicate poverty, said Stéphane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank’s climate change group and co-author of the report. “The policies, the investments, the financing, all of that should be integrated. Otherwise, we’re just less efficient.”

Poor people need social safety nets and universal healthcare to sustainably eradicate poverty, according to the report. Programmes to lessen the impacts of climate change should not create new vulnerabilities and they should inform development policies by taking into account future climate conditions.

Beating climate change is key to making nutritious food needed to beat hunger

Neven Mimica and Phil Hogan

“When we [build] infrastructure, for instance, [we need] to make sure it’s in a safe place today but also in a safe place with sea level rise and the change in rainfall and so on,” said Hallegatte.

He added that the world needs to take urgent action to reduce the impacts of climate change if the sustainable development goal on eradicating extreme poverty is to be met.

“We really want to reduce poverty before people get affected by even bigger climate impacts. It’s easier to get people out of extreme poverty now rather than doing it later,” said Hallegatte.

Without proper planning, efforts to stabilise the impacts of climate change can undo decades of progress in lifting vulnerable people out of poverty, the study warned. Environmental taxes, designed to reduce emissions, can raise the cost of fuel and food, which hit poor people hardest.

“These same policies can be designed to protect, and even benefit, poor people – for instance, by using fiscal resources from environmental taxes to improve social protection,” the report said.

Ethiopia’s social protection and Rwanda’s health coverage have boosted long-term poverty reduction efforts in both countries, making it less likely that poor people will fall back into poverty as a result of climate change.

“In most cases, what we want is a package of policies – the climate polices themselves and additional policies to smooth the transition and to support poor people in the transition,” said Hallegatte.

Hallegatte is optimistic that world leaders will take urgent action to stabilise climate change, which he says will boost efforts to eradicate poverty.

This year, a series of high-profile meetings took place, creating a sense of gathering momentum around the battle against global warming. A key step was the adoption of the global goals – which set a 2030 deadline for the eradication of poverty in all its forms and sought to galvanise action to combat climate change and its impacts – at the UN general assembly in September.

This growing migration crisis is the canary in the mine on climate change

Mahmoud Solh

Other milestones have included the Addis conference on financing for development and the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction, while next month world leaders will convene in Paris for the 21st session of the conference of the parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“You can see there is a convergence – these conferences have been designed as a package and you can feel the urgency,” Hallegatte said.

But many challenges remain. According to the report, the world needs to find $1tn (£645bn) more each year to boost key infrastructure if the goals are to be met. Climate summits have in the past been thwarted by the US and China, which have been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for reduced emissions.

Expectations for next month’s climate summit have been buoyed by fruitful talks held last year in Beijing, where China pledged to bring its emissions to a peak “around 2030”, and the US said it would cut its emissions by 26-28% of their 2005 level by 2025.

Hallegatte said: “Now there is the implementation, and that’s really the challenge – to translate this willingness to act into something that makes a difference on the ground.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 10th April 2014

Irish Permanent TSB bank increases court actions against their defaulters


Chief executive says bank has exceeded Central Bank target for offering solutions

Permanent TSB chief executive Jeremy Masding said there had not been any write-downs of debt yet.

Iris permanent TSB has significantly increased the number of mortgage holders in default whom it is bringing to court, the bank has told an Oireachtas committee.

Having focused on more manageable cases in the earlier stage of the crisis, it is now focusing more on arrears cases where there are greater difficulty.

The bank has offered “long term treatment arrangements” to 61 per cent of its customers who have mortgage arrears of more than 90 days, chief executive Jeremy Masding told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.

He said the bank has exceeded the Central Bank’s target of 50 per cent by the end of December 2013.

The committee also heard that the bank has significantly increased the amount of legal action it is taking against customers in arrears.

Permanent TSB had 22,109 private home mortgages in arrears of more than 90 days at the end of last year, and 3,815 buy to let mortgages in similar arrears.

Mr Masding told Michael McGrath of Fianna Fail that up to 20 per cent of customers in arrears are not involved in “meaningful engagement” with the bank in relation to the their mortgages.

The shift towards a greater focus on such customers has meant an increase in cases where the bank is taking legal action and it expects the number of repossessions this year to be “in the hundreds,” Shane O’Sullivan, managing director asset management and non-core units, told Pearse Doherty of Sinn Fein. This compares with 60 repossessions last year.

The eventual figure is likely to be between 2,000 to 4,000 repossessions, he told independent deputy Stephen Donnelly. These would constitute a mix of private home mortgages and buy to lets, with the latter being the majority.

While there were 1,095 legal proceedings initiated in the final quarter of last year, for private home mortgages in arrears, this number increased to 2,609 in the first quarter this year.

Mr Masding said two thirds of the bank’s mortgages are tracker mortgages and that this was costing the bank up to €100 million per year in cost of funds.

Mr Masding said the bank had issued mortgages totalling €105 million in the first quarter of this year, compared to with €14 million in the same quarter last year. “So that’s almost an eight-fold increase in just 12 months.”

The committee was told that the bank is not pursuing people whose homes have been sold leaving a shortfall in the repayment of the mortgage, if there is no economic reason for doing so.

However Mr Masding agreed there had not been any write-downs of debt yet and so the debt was “left hanging” over the persons concerned.

He said the bank was involved in a pilot programme involving assisted voluntary sales and was learning as it went forward, he said.

While 90 per cent was the highest loan to value ratio being offered, the norm was 70 per cent to 80 per cent. The mortgage period was down to 25 years.

The committee heard the bank’s debt to the European Central Bank had been reduced to €6.5 billion as of the end of last week, compared with almost €11 billion in 2012.

Mr Masding said the past year had been transformative for the Permanent TSB group and that the bank had made very significant progress on re-entering the retail market, particularly in mortgages and current accounts.

Food Safety Authority Ireland launch new online calorie calculator


New tool designed to help food businesses tally calorie count of menu’s

Pictured at the launch of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland free online MenuCal calorie calculator were Minister for HealthJames Reilly with Dr Mary Flynn, Chief Specialist: Public Health Nutrition, FSAI and Noel Marrey a chef at the Bracken Court Hotel.

The Food Safety Authority has developed a new online calorie calculator to enable food businesses to calculate the calorie content of the meals they serve.

The tool, which was launched this morning by Minister for Health James Reilly, was developed in response to complaints from the food sector about the cost involved in providing calorie information for customers.

The authority says Menu-Cal is the first of its kind in Europe and has already attracted interest from other countries seeking to adopt the system. The provision of calorie information on menus, first mooted by the Minister almost two years ago, is intended to help the fight against obesity by encouraging consumers to opt for lower calories options.

“Displaying calories on menus in food service business empowers consumers to make better choices and creates a demand for healthier food in small portions from food businesses,” said Dr Mary Flynn of the FSAI. Consumers overwhelmingly supported the measure and a majority of food businesses were also in favour, she said.

Menu-Cal was a “game-changer” in the fight against rising obesity, she said.

However, the Restaurant Association of Ireland claimed forcing its members to display calorie counts on their menus would cost the industry €110 million, or €5,000 each per year. It arrived at this figure by estimating that each chef would have to spend 20 hours per month calculating calorie counts for a 40-item menu.

“How does the Department of Health suggest that we pay for this without having to pass on that cost to employees, reduce their hours or cut staff? It’s not easy for a business to cough up €5,000 in the morning. The banks aren’t lending us any money,” said RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins.

He claimed the data provided by the Menu-Cal calculator may be in breach of the Consumer Protection Act, adding that the experience of introducing calorie counts in the US had been “disastrous” because most customers paid no attention to them.

Dr Reilly told reporters he had no plans to make calorie information mandatory in restaurants, saying he preferred the carrot of a voluntary scheme to the stick of legislation. However, he refused to rule out the possibility of legislation in the future.

“This is not about the nanny state. It’s about informing consumers so they can make informed decisions.”

Four year campaign leads to success for Donegal diabetes group


A dedicated paediatric diabetes clinical nurse specialist is to be put in place at Letterkenny General Hospital in the coming weeks, following a four-year campaign by the parents of children with type 1 diabetes in Donegal.

Yesterday, parents and their children presented a petition containing almost 20,000 signatures to the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly. A group of parents from the Donegal Diabetes Parents Support Group, along with the CEO and chairperson of charity Diabetes Ireland, later met with the Minister to discuss this serious issue.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, not related to weight or a sedentary lifestyle. It is not preventable or reversible and is most commonly diagnosed in childhood. Around 19,000 people in Ireland are affected.

Recent figures revealed that there are 105 children under 16 with diabetes from Donegal who are attending Letterkenny General Hospital, seven of whom have been diagnosed since January 1. Meanwhile, a further 40 teenagers aged 16-18 are attending the diabetes transition clinic at the hospital.

Last month, parents held a protest outside Letterkenny General over the state of diabetes services available to their children.

According to recommendations made by the HSE’s Diabetes Expert Advisory Group, there should be one paediatric diabetes clinical nurse specialist for every 100 children and/or teenagers with diabetes. However, despite Donegal meeting this criteria, no such post is in place.

In fact, the diabetes paediatric nurse in Letterkenny General has been moved to a shared post with adult diabetes services. This, the parents insisted, deprives their children of a quality service.

Parents have also highlighted the fact that there is no funding to develop paediatric diabetes services in the HSE’s 2014 service plan for the north west. Furthermore, the nearest paediatric diabetes centre of excellence is in Dublin and the post of consultant paediatrician with a special interest in diabetes in Letterkenny Hospital remains vacant.

Concerned parents last met with the Minister when he visited Letterkenny General in April 2013. At that time, he told them they were ‘reasonable people with a reasonable request’.

Last night, the parents, along with Diabetes Ireland CEO, Kieran O’Leary, and Diabetes Ireland chairperson, Prof Hilary Hoey, met with the Minister, as well as Department of Health and HSE officials.

“The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the demands of the parents for a dedicated paediatric diabetes clinical nurse specialist in Letterkenny General Hospital and we are delighted to announce that Dr James Reilly and Mr Bill Maher, CEO of the North West Hospital Group, announced that this position has been sanctioned and will be filled in the coming weeks,” Diabetes Ireland said.

Those attending also discussed the possibility of locating a regional specialist centre for paediatric diabetes care in the north west. Currently, all five of the country’s centres of excellence are located ‘south of the Dublin-Limerick line’.

“Parents feel their children are entitled to fair and equal treatment regardless of their geographical location, and demand the gold standard of care available in other parts of the country. This issue received a favourable response and extensive debate and further meetings will take place in the coming weeks to explore how to further develop paediatric diabetes services in the North West,” the charity said.

Speaking after the meeting, Denise, Gillespie, spokesperson of the Donegal Diabetes Parents Support Group, said that the parents were ‘absolutely delighted’ with the announcement about a paediatric clinical nurse specialist, and they ‘look forward to further discussions’ on the development of paediatric diabetes services in the region.

Retailers group says Irish coastline is an open door for smugglers after Donegal seizure


Retailers of Ireland are calling on the government to step up their fight against smugglers.

Irish retailers want the Government to invest more resources in protecting Ireland against smugglers.

Retailers Against Smuggling made the call after a consignment of black cigarettes were seized in Killybegs, Co Donegal yesterday.

The ship, which arrived from St Petersburg, had 6,200 cigarettes with a retail value of approximately €2,860 on board.

Revenue seized the craft and illegal cigarettes and questioned a Russian crew member.

Benny Gilsenan, spokesman for RAS said smugglers are increasingly targeting smaller Irish ports and harbours to offload their consignments.

The Irish coastline provides an open door for smugglers. It’s hard to believe that a ship would travel all the way from a Russian port to Donegal, but this is exactly what happened.

“While we commend Revenue for their vigilance and dedication in making this latest seizure, we are calling on the Government to make more resources available to catch these criminals.”

Revenue seized more than 40 million black market cigarettes last year.

Retailers Against Smuggling represents almost 3,000 independent retailers across Ireland.

They want more portable scanners to protect the coastline.

Gilsenan also called on the public to contact the Revenue about suspicious activity in confidence on the free phone number 1800 295 295.

Brenda Power defends a controversial travelers article


Irish Journalist Brenda Power (above left with a friend) has defended an article she wrote critical of the Irish traveller’s lifestyle.

The Equality Authority and travellers group Pavee Point have both called for the article to be withdrawn.

However journalist Brenda Power this afternoon defended the article on Joe Duffy’s Liveline, condemning the Equality Authority for attempting to ‘shut down debate’.

“This is par for the course for the Equality authority and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties to basically close down any criticism or debate on the lifestyle of travellers specifically with regards to the feuding that goes on.

“The crime here appears to be commenting on this kind of savagery but not actually conducting it.

She claimed that the attack on boxer John Joe Nevin would have attracted a greater level of outrage if it had been conducted by a member of the settled community.

“They said I was inciting risk? If anyone is inciting risk it’s them. They’ve singled me out for targeting by a group of people not known for settling their disagreements with debate, they settle them with machetes.”

However Martin Collins of  Pavee Point defended the group’s criticism of the column.

“The article is full of generalisations, assumptions and stereotypes. She is unleashing her own stereotypes.

“Let’s not confuse free speech with hate speech, as this article constitutes hate speech. It infers all travellers are inherently violent, lazy and drunk.

“It’s populist, sensationalist, dangerous and irresponsible,” he claimed.

M/s Power then questioned Mr Collins on why the group hadn’t issued a statement condemning the attack on John Joe Nevin.

Mr Collins responded that the group didn’t have time to issue statements on every issue involving a member of the travelling community.

However M/s Power interjected the reason they didn’t do it was because “these feuds and savagery are so common you’d have no time for anything else”

“I think its indefensible that that lifestyle continues to be perpetuated and defended by you in this day and age. Encourage people to settle and take jobs to send their children to school”, M/s Power said.

Mr. Collins said the aim of Pavee Point was to improve living conditions for travellers: “Brenda, we want all those things. Let’s be clear Pavee Point have made it clear we want employment, we want education. Pavee point is working very hard to try and achieve those things.”

Mr. Collins then claimed that the article M/s Power wrote undermined the group’s work.

“I undermined your work? You don’t think someone setting upon an Olympic medallist with a stick with four inch nails in it undermines your work?” she asked.

“You have got to reassure the settled community that this kind of  behaviour is unacceptable in the travelling community. I think you should find the time to issue to odd statement condemning traveller’s behaviour.”

Mr. Collins also disputed M/s Power’s claim that the group was trying to shut down debate.

“Everyone has an opinion and everyone should contribute to a debate on issues between travellers and the settled community, we’re all for that”, he said.

However M/s Power disagreed: “You’re not. Once it’s what you want to hear you’re all for it. Once it’s the Irish Times line you’re all for it.”

She claimed that any time the group disagreed with something they went to the Equality authority.

Mr. Collins told host Joe Duffy that the group would be making a complaint to the Press Ombudsman about the article.

Two volcanic islands merge in the Pacific Ocean


A volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean has merged with its neighbour to form one landmass, NASA scientists say. 

The merged island is a result of eruptions on the seafloor that have spewed enough material to rise above the water line.

In November 2013, a seafloor volcano in the western Pacific Ocean spewed enough material to rise above the water line.

The new island, or “niijima” in Japanese, sprouted just 500 meters from Nishino-shima, another volcanic island that had last erupted and expanded in 1973-74, NASA said.

Four months later, the new and the old are now one island, and the volcanic eruption shows no sign of abating.

On March 30, this year, the Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured an image of Nishino-shima, depicting the extent of the new island.

The niijima portion of the island is now larger than the original Nishino-shima, and the merged island is slightly more than 1,000 meters across.

Two cones have formed around the main vents and stand more than 60 meters above sea level, triple the highest point of the island in December.

Volcanic lava flows are reported to be most active now on the south end of the island.

“This is a great example of how volcanic islands like this in the Bonin Islands grow over hundreds to thousands of eruptions,” volcanologist and blogger Erik Klemetti said.