Tag Archives: Water protests

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 31st August 2015

The Right-2-Water warns Irish Government that demonstrations will continue despite Alan Kelly’s stance


Right-2-Water protestors have warned the Irish Government that the campaign against the charges will continue after tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the fifth major demonstration against the utility.

Among them were 23 protesters facing charges over incidents in Jobstown, Tallaght in Dublin last November when Tánaiste Joan Burton was forced to remain in her car for more than two hours after being prevented from leaving a graduation ceremony.

The Right2Water group, which organised the weekend march in Dublin, estimated about 80,000 protesters turned out.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the Government to use the October Budget to abolish the charges and described Irish Water as “one fiasco after the other”.

Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA) TD Paul Murphy said the demonstration showed the Government was “on the run” over water charges. Mr Murphy also said his organisation had been denied Garda permission for a collection in his Dublin South West constituency on grounds that it would “encourage an illegal act”.

Paul Murphy, and one of those expecting to be charged over the Jobstown protest, claimed that if the Government does not “bow to the inevitable” and abolish water charges the next government will be under immense pressure to do so.

Trade unions affiliated to the campaign like Unite, the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union, Mandate, the Communications Workers Union, the Civil Public and Services Union and Opatsi, the plasterers’ union also said they are now planning town hall meetings to gather more support.

Meanwhile, senior Gardaí in Cork are to conduct the internal Garda investigation into whether or not reports regarding water protest charges resulted from information emanating from within the force.

Chief Superintendent Mick Finn and Detective Superintendent John Healy have been tasked by commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan with the inquiry.

Tens of thousands attend water charges protest in Dublin on Saturday last

Demonstrators demand end to Irish Water and ‘bully boy’ tactics of Government


Tens of thousands have attended a demonstration against water charges, organised by the Right2Water campaign in Dublin, having marched from the city’s railway stations and suburbs to congregate at the Spire on O’Connell Street.

Tens of thousands of anti-water charges protesters gathered at a stage at the Spire on O’Connell Street in Dublin on Saturday, after setting off from Heuston and Connolly train stations.

A number of smaller groups also marched in from the suburbs for the demonstration, which was organised by the Right2Water campaign.

The protest was the fifth official Right2Water demonstration.

It was supported by five trade unions, including Mandate, whose president John Douglas said the current Government will attempt to divide the population in the upcoming budget.

“The arrogance and the disrespect for the Irish people in the way Irish Water was set up typifies how rotten this country is,” Mr Douglas said, making his first public appearance at an anti-water charges rally.

“A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, and by that test Irelandfails goddamn miserably. This economy, this society is broken- it’s rotten to the core.

“There is no recovery, it’s a bloody myth, they made it up to con us. We know best, we’re the people of Ireland, we know there’s no recovery in Ireland and the only recovery is for the elite few,” he said, adding that people were also mobilising against homelessness and under-investment in the public sector.

In her speech to the protesters, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald denounced the “bully-boy” tactics of the Government in trying to impose domestic water charges.

However, she said afterwards that her party has not yet decided whether people who haven’t paid their bills should be entitled to receive the €100 conservation grant.

“You can see from the numbers here today that people have not been intimidated or bought off or persuaded that this issue is not important anymore- this still matters a great deal,” she said, before reaffirming Sinn Féin’s stance that refunds on water charges will not be provided if the party gets into government.

“We would not be making rebates to people who have paid the charges, but neither would we be asking for the conservation charge back.

“We’re just being honest with people. The figures have to add up and you have to balance the books.”

Feeder marches

Protesters from across the country arrived at Heuston and Connolly stations earlier this afternoon for feeder marches.

As with previous protests, there were traffic delays along the north and south quays, with O’Connell Street closed to traffic on both lanes and interruptions to bus and Luas services.

Gardaí reported no disturbances.

The organisers of the event vowed to keep up the pressure on Fine Gael and Labour to abolish the controversial utility, but details of follow-up protests in the coming months have not yet been revealed.

Right2Water spokesman David Gibney earlier said that the protest was also about other problems people faced, including access to healthcare, lack of housing and the right to education.

“This demonstration today it is not just about water. This is about the type of society we want to live in and a vision for the future,” he said.

Ireland has 25th-highest life expectancy in the world


The elderly should be cherished Life expectancy is climbing worldwide but we are spending more years living with illness and disability

Ireland has the 25th-highest life expectancy in the world – up from a ranking of 31 in 1990, according to a new global survey.

Life expectancy is climbing worldwide but we are spending more years living with illness and disability.

Countries with the highest life expectancy are Japan, Singapore, Andorra, Iceland, Cyprus and Israel, according to the Global Burden of Disease study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

Life expectancy in Andorra is almost 84 years, while it is 80.4 in Ireland. The UK is ahead of Ireland with people living to 81 years.

Since 1990 Ireland’s life expectancy has improved by around six years, the survey of 189 countries revealed.

People around the world are living longer, even in some of the poorest countries, but a complex mix of fatal and non-fatal ailments cause a tremendous amount of health loss, according to the analysis .

Healthy life expectancy takes into account not just mortality but also the impact of non-fatal conditions and summarises years lived with disability and years lost due to premature death.

The increase in healthy life expectancy has not been as dramatic as the growth of life expectancy, and as a result, people are living more years with illness and disability.

“The world has made great progress in health, but now the challenge is to invest in finding more effective ways of preventing or treating the major causes of illness and disability,” said Professor Theo Vos, the study’s lead author.

The differences between countries with the highest and lowest healthy life expectancies are stark. In 2013, Lesotho had the lowest, at 42 years, and Japan had the highest globally, at 73.4 years.

Even regionally, there is significant variation.

Cambodians and Laotians born in 2013 would have healthy life expectancies of only 57.5 years and 58.1 years, respectively, but people born in nearby Thailand and Vietnam could live nearly 67 years in good health.

The fastest-growing global cause of health loss between 1990 and 2013 was HIV/AIDS, which increased by 341.5%. But this dramatic rise masks progress in recent years.


A brisk daily walk can add seven years to your lifespan


Just about 25 minutes of brisk walking a day can add up to seven years to your life,

London health experts have said.

Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress over the weekend shows that regular exercise can reduce ageing and increase the average lifespan.

Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, said an average person in their 50s and 60s can reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by half with moderate exercise.

“This study suggests that when people exercise regularly they may be able to retard the process of ageing,” he said.

“We may never avoid becoming completely old, but we may delay the time we become old. We may look younger when we’re 70 and may live into our 90s.

“Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an anti-depressant, it improves cognitive function and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”

He said everyone should be doing at least between 20 and 25 minutes of walking a day, involving brisk walking or slow jogging.

“People with a heart condition shouldn’t run but walk to a point where they can still speak — but they shouldn’t be able to sing. Following these simple directions is essential considering our sedentary lifestyles.”

He said exercise will bring benefits whatever age or condition. People who start exercising at the age of 70 are less likely to go on to develop atrial fibrillation, a rhythm disturbance that affects about 10% of people over 80.

The research was carried out by a team at Saarland University in Germany who introduced a group of non-exercising but otherwise healthy and non-smoking people to a staged exercise programme.

They showed that aerobic exercise, high intensity interval training and strength training all have a positive impact on markers of ageing.

The authors noted that endurance exercise and high intensity exercise may be more efficient than just lifting weights, as they further increase telomerase activity, which in turn helps to repair DNA as it gets old.

They said that by measuring the increase of telomerase activity and decrease of senescence marker p16 (both makers of cellular ageing in the blood) over a six-month period, doctors were able to show that regular exercise had triggered the anti-ageing process.

“The study brings a bit more understanding of why physical activity has that effect. It helps us understand the process of cellular ageing as that’s what drives our organ system and body ageing and the effects physical activity can have on the cellular level,” Christi Deaton, Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at Cambridge Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, said.

“The more active you are, and it doesn’t matter when you start, the more benefit you are going to have.”

“A girl’s depression tattoo” marks two perspectives on her secret battle with her mental health condition


A young woman pictured above wanted to show that people who appear fine on the outside may be struggling within themselves on the inside.

Bekah Miles wants her tattoo to start conversations about depression.

A young woman has revealed her struggle with depression by unveiling a heartfelt tattoo that says “I’m fine” to anyone looking at it, but from her perspective, upside down, it says “save me.”

Bekah Miles dreamed up the inking to show the struggle sufferers have in what they show to everyone around them, against what they see themselves.

The 21-year-old came out about her battle on Facebook, posting the pictures alongside an open letter to her parents, explaining why she had the tattoo done.

She wrote: “So today, I got this tattoo. I feel that my leg was the best place for the meaning behind it.

“When everyone else sees it, they see ‘I’m fine’, but from my viewpoint, it reads ‘save me’.

“To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all.

“It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves.”

Bekah says she hopes her tattoo will start a conversation about the often misunderstood condition.

She said: “This forces me to talk about my own struggle, and why the awareness of it is important.”

People who read her letter praised her honesty and recounted their own battles with depression.

One wrote: “You’re a very brave girl – it’s an uphill struggle and I hope you reach a place where you find happiness with somebody you love xxxx.”

The post has since gone viral and has been shared more than 200,000 times.

She added: “I never expected it to go beyond my friends and family. I thought reaching out to them was enough, but I am completely and utterly in awe of how far this has traveled.

“This is exactly what I wanted–to reach out to people and let them know that they are not alone.

“Please keep sharing and spreading the awareness. This is the only way to get some real change in the stigma.”

Bekah’s letter in full

(Dear mom and dad, please don’t kill me over this permanent choice. I want you to hear me out.)

Today, I am coming out with something that only few of you know. I am ready to have a conversation about my mental illness.

Last year, I was diagnosed with depression. And in all honesty, I believe it was a problem for quite a while before that, but I think it just got worse to the point of hardly functioning.

So today, I got this tattoo. I feel that my leg was the best place for the meaning behind it. When everyone else sees it, they see “I’m fine,” but from my viewpoint, it reads “save me.” To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all. It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves.

To me, depression is the days that I feel sad for no reason.

Depression is the mornings that I don’t feel capable of getting out of bed.

Depression is the sleeping too much, or sleeping too little.

Depression is the homework that I never completed, simply because I didn’t feel like I was capable.

Depression is the break downs I have over absolutely nothing.

Depression is the eating too much, or eating too little.

Depression is the nights I begin to cry because I feel so overwhelmed, even though everything is going right.

Depression is the 50 pounds I carry in my chest at all times.

Social media provides a welcome distraction for young people facing depression.

Depression is the need to constantly be distracted (being on social media, playing video games, watching movies or shows, or working all the time) because I can’t trust myself with my thoughts for longer than 3 minutes.

Depression is the friendships that have suffered because of my inability to function.

Depression is the hurtful thoughts and actions I have towards myself.

Depression is the tears I have because I don’t know why I feel so worthless, when I know I should feel happy.

This is one of the most difficult things to open up about because it’s extremely hard for me to feel vulnerable…but this needs to be talked about.

Mental illness is serious, but so shamed in our society. We care so much for our physical health, but hardly a thing about our mental state. And that is seriously messed up. Mental illness is not a choice and will likely hit everyone at some point in their life. If it’s such a huge issue, why aren’t we having this conversation about it?

That’s why I got this tattoo; they are great conversation starters. This forces me to talk about my own struggle, and why the awareness of it is important. You’d be surprised by how many people YOU know that struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness. I may only be one person, but one can save another…and that’s all I could really ask for.

Maybe this is part of why I am so interested in psychology. I want to help people who feel the way I have—and still do—because it’s hell. And I don’t wish that upon anyone.

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” – Robin Williams

Sperm cells harpoon female egg to fertilize,

Says new research


Thanks to new discoveries at the University of Virginia in the US, new hypothesis on how conception occurs could be around the corner.

A sperm cell latches on to its target with spiky filaments that emerge from its head, say scientists at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine in the US whose 14 years of research led to the discovery.

Their finding is featured on the cover of the scientific journal Andrology, in which their corresponding paper was published.

“This finding has really captured our imagination,” says UVA reproduction researcher John Herr, PhD, of the Department of Cell Biology, adding that they have come up with an entirely new hypothesis about what happens at conception.

The research has implications for our understanding of the protein architecture of the sperm head, specifically in an organelle called the acrosomal matrix.

“One of the major proteins that is abundant in the acrosome [in the anterior region of the sperm head] is crystallizing into filaments, and we now postulate they’re involved in penetrating the egg,” says Dr. Herr.

This protein was discovered years ago in Dr. Herr’s lab in collaboration with the lab of Wladek Minor, PhD and they named it “sperm lyzosyme-like protein” (SLLP1).

Minor and his team captured the protein within a static crystal, which they chilled to cryogenic temperatures (approximately below 180 degrees C or below 292 degrees F) for protection, then zapped it with X-rays.

Observing the direction of the X-rays, the scientists were able to determine the protein’s shape in a process they compare to mapping out a shipwreck with a sonar.

It’s the first protein from that part of the sperm to have a crystal structure and it’s the first mammalian sperm protein that can bind to eggs, says Heping Zheng, the lead author of the paper.

Spring-boarding from their new understanding of the protein, the researchers aim to explore how fertilization works in the most precise detail.

The study builds on previous groundbreaking research from Herr’s lab — that time featured on the cover of the journal Biology of Reproduction, which published the corresponding paper in March.

Here, it was reported that the protein ESP1 (as it relates to the gene SPESP1) remains intact during fusion, acting as a stabilizer, while the rest of the sperm head undergoes dramatic changes.

“Getting at the molecular components of the fertilization event has a lot of practical applications — as well as intellectual value — because you want to account for all the major components involved in the essential events of the fertilization cascade,” says Dr. Herr.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 8th December 2014

Irish Government asks Central Bank to ease mortgage deposit rules


The Irish Government wants the Central Bank to ease the introduction of strict new rules on mortgage borrowing by introducing the changes gradually.

In a submission to the Central Bank which will be lodged today, the Department of Finance will offer broad support for the regulator’s controversial plan to tighten the lending rules while calling for more flexibility in some areas. The regulator asked for suggestions after stunning the property market by revealing that it wants most first-time buyers to save at least 20pc of the cost of a house.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will specifically say that he wants the Central Bank to introduce a transition period for the changes, rather than forcing borrowers to raise more money from next month. Mr Noonan also wants more people to be exempt from the rules. The Central Bank has said it believes 15pc of people should be exempt from the ban on borrowing more than 80pc of a mortgage.

Submission: Finally, the submission urges the Central Bank to focus more on loan-to-salary ratios and less on loan-to-value ratios. The Central Bank said in October than it wants to ban loans of more than three-and-a-half times salary

The Central Bank will begin sifting through submissions tomorrow, but Governor Patrick Honohan has already signalled that he may water down some of the measures.

The Department of Finance has waited until the last moment to issue its submission on the Central Bank proposals; the deadline for submissions closes today.

A group campaigning against the changes will deliver a petition to the Central Bank today. The new group, called Uplift, claimed yesterday the rule will cause more problems than it solves.

The Professional Insurance Brokers Association warned last week that the consequences of the Central Bank’s proposals to restrict mortgage lending will be “far more far-reaching than many realise”. Rachel Doyle of PIBA said: “It will impact young people’s ability to make any other contribution towards their financial future, including prudent pension planning, quite apart from using up, at a very early stage, tax-free family inheritances.”

Ms Doyle said the way in which the Central Bank consultation document is framed “leads one to become suspicious, despite recent indications from the governor, that the regulations are already drafted and are, in fact, a fait accompli”.

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank said the proposed requirements on deposits and the proposed stipulation that lending cannot exceed 3.5 times income are part of a consultation process. “When the consultation closes we will review all submissions and we will not comment on responses until after that time,” she added.

One in three 33% of trainee doctors in Ireland report bullying


Survey of junior medics finds bullying rates three times higher than the UK

The first national survey of trainee doctors has found most are happy with their training, but in one-in-three has suffered bullying.

The ’Your Training Counts’ report was commissioned by the Medical Council and involved 1,636 trainee doctors who responded to approximately 100 questions. The number who responded constitute approximately half of the trainee doctors in Ireland.

There was a dramatic difference in incidences of bullying between the UK and Ireland. Some 33.7% of Irish trainee doctors reported bullying or harassment in their post in comparison with 13.4% in the UK.

Medical Council chief executive Caroline Spillane said the UK had been dealing with bullying in the medical workplace for many years. “The UK has taken a number of measures to address the problem but that only happened after they decided to measure the prevalence first.”

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he did not personally experience bullying as a trainee doctor but he acknowledged hospitals can be stressful places. “Senior colleagues are not always as supportive as they might be, but that is not peculiar to medicine.”

Some 85% of trainees reported the quality of care provided at the clinical site as “good” or “very good”.

Areas of the clinical learning environment rated highly were “consultants/GPs role”, “teamwork” and “peer collaboration”.

Weaknesses included the attributes of “feedback”, “professional relations between consultants” and “role of the educational supervisor”.

However, the research found levels of satisfaction with training and supervision lagged behind levels in both the UK and the Netherlands where similar surveys have been carried out.

Though nine in 10 trainees completing speciality training felt they had been well prepared for their next role, approximately three in 10 interns reported that their previous medical education and training did not prepare them well for intern training.

The prevalence of this issue among trainees in Ireland is two to three times greater than among their UK counterparts.

The survey found 55% of trainees who are going on to intern in hospitals said there was either a minor or major lack of preparation for their intern year. The equivalent figure in the UK is 26%.

A second Your Training Counts report will be published early in 2015 and will look in detail at career intentions, emigration and the health of trainees.

Seanad reform group to report to Government by March


Body tasked to come up with reforms which would not require a constitutional referendum

The group will examine submissions and proposals for reform which have already been made and will look at the role of a reformed Seanad within the political process.

A new group established by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to examine proposals for Seanad reform is to report back to the Government by March.

The membership of the group has been formally announced and it will be chaired by former Fine Gael Senator Maurice Manning.

It also includes Mary O’Rourke, Pat Magner and Maurice Hayes, former members of the Upper House on the Fianna Fáil, Labour and Independent benches respectively. The remaining members are Tom Arnold, who chaired the Constitutional Convention, Dr Mary Murphy, a politics lecturer in University College Cork and Elaine Byrne, a commentator and author on public policy.

The working group has been tasked with coming up with ideas for Seanad reform which would not require a constitutional referendum.

A Government statement said the group will “examine submissions and proposals for reform which have already been made and will also look at the role of a reformed Seanad within the political process, the powers and functions of a reformed Seanad” and other relevant issues.

It will also be entitled to receive new proposals if needed and will report back to the Government by the end of March 2015.

Water protester charged with letting air out of Tánaiste’s car


Teenager was arrested in connection with incident in Tallaght

A teenager arrested in connection with a incident in Tallaght when the Tánaiste Joan Burton was stuck in her car, has appeared before Tallaght Court.

Glen Carney is alleged to have to let air out of the tyre of a garda car that Ms Burton was transferred to during the heated incident in west Tallaght a month ago.

The 19-year-old, from Cloonmore Park, Tallaght, is charged with damaging the tyre of a car belonging to a Garda Superintendent at St Thomas’ Church, Kiltalown, Tallaght, on November 15th.

Sergeant Bernard Jones gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution by certificate for Kearney to District Judge Bridget Reilly.

Sgt Jones asked Judge Reilly to remand the case for DPP’s directions. He indicated to the court that DPP’s directions may be required in the matter.

Carney’s defence lawyer, Kevin Tunney, made an application for legal aid.

Judge Reilly granted bail and remanded Carney on bail to February for DPP’s directions.

The genetic secrets of Ancient Parchments


There are not a lot of new stories to be found by the humanities in ancient parchments, but millions of documents stored in archives could trace agricultural development across the centuries, thanks to increasingly progressive genetic sequencing techniques.

Thanks to sequencing, vital information can be derived from the DNA of the parchment on which they are written.

Researchers extracted ancient DNA and protein from tiny samples of parchment from documents from the late 17th and late 18th centuries. The resulting information enabled them to establish the type of animals from which the parchment was made, which, when compared to genomes of their modern equivalents, provides key information as to how agricultural expansion shaped the genetic diversity of these animals.

 An imaged parchment document from Yarburgh Muniments Lancashire Deeds YM. D. Lancs Jan. 13-14, 1576/7.

To conduct their research, geneticists at Trinity extracted DNA from two tiny (2x2cm) samples of parchment provided by the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives. Meanwhile, researchers in the Centre for Excellence in Mass Spectrometry at York extracted collagen (protein) from the same parchment samples.

The first sample showed a strong affinity with northern Britain, specifically the region in which black-faced breeds such as Swaledale, Rough Fell and Scottish Blackface are common, whereas the second sample showed a closer affinity with the Midlands and southern Britain where the livestock Improvements of the later 18th century were most active.

  This shows a sewn repair in Archbishop’s Register 7 Greenfield, 1306-1311. By permission of The Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Professor of Population Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Daniel Bradley, said, “This pilot project suggests that parchments are an amazing resource for genetic studies that consider agricultural development over the centuries. There must be millions stored away in libraries, archives, solicitors’ offices and even in our own attics. After all, parchment was the writing material of choice for thousands of years, going back to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“Wool was essentially the oil of times gone by, so knowing how human change affected the genetics of sheep through the ages can tell us a huge amount about how agricultural practices evolved.”

If other parchments show similar levels of DNA content, resulting sequencing could provide insights into the breeding history of livestock – particularly sheep – before, during and after the agricultural improvements of the 18th century that led to the emergence of regional breeds of sheep in Britain.

Professor Matthew Collins, of the Department of Archaeology at York, who heads the University’s BioArCh research centre, said, “We believe the two specimens derive from an unimproved northern hill-sheep typical in Yorkshire in the 17th century, and from a sheep derived from the ‘improved’ flocks, such as those bred in the Midlands by Robert Bakewell, which were spreading through England in the 18th century. We want to understand the history of agriculture in these islands over the last 1,000 years and, with this breath-taking resource, we can.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 23rd October 2014

No bonuses will be paid out until Irish Water is ‘operational’

says Tánaiste Joan Burton


Joan Burton says system designed to ‘actually save money’ with no salary increments

Tánaiste Joan Burton told the Dáil today that the timeline for Irish Water was ‘too ambitious’.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has told the Dáil she does not “anticipate” any bonus payments in Irish Water until the company is “operational”.

During heated exchanges over the ongoing water charges controversy, Fianna Fail environment spokesman Barry Cowen pressed the Labour Party leader about her views on the bonus payment system operating within the newly established authority.

M/s Burton said “I don’t anticipate any bonus payment in the context of a set-up period”.

She told the House that the bonus system was “designed to actually save money”. She said it was a “structured payment in relation to salaries that actually foregoes increment”.

M/s Burton said the timeline for Irish Water was “too ambitious”, echoing comments by Minister for Environment Alan Kelly during a debate on the authority earlier this week.

She told Mr Cowen that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had asked the cost of going back to the 34 local authorities. “To take the company out and put it back to the taxpayer would cost €2.5 billion.”

Mr. Cowen asked her again about the bonuses. “Do you agree with them when they’re set up and in place and robbing Peter?”

M/s Burton said “bonuses will be dealt with by the board of Eirvia”.

“I do not anticipate any bonus payments until such time or any enhancement payments or whatever other kind of management speak title is used on the payments – I do not anticipate anything like that at all being paid until such time as the company is operational.”

Asked this afternoon in Brussels whether he was minded to extend the period in which fixed water charges will apply, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government considered the matter at its meeting on Tuesday.

“What we did say was that there are legitimate concerns and problems that people have both with Irish Water and the general regime and we’re looking at those and working between Ervia and Irish Water to see that people have confidence in the system,” Mr. Kenny said at the start of the EU summit.

“This is a massive utility for the next 50 years to create investment for infrastructure for high quality drinking water, for water for business and for industry and for persons alike. We want to see that it’s fair, that it’s affordable and that people can have absolute confidence in the system and we’re happy we can achieve that.”

Asked when the Government would provide clarity on the matter, the Taoiseach said: “I would say in the next few weeks.”

In a separate development the Dáil unanimously agreed to adjourn next week for Halloween and return on Tuesday November 4th at 2pm.

I’m delighted people are filming Irish Water protests says Joan Burton

“Because I am a keen photographer”


The Tánaiste JOAN BURTON has again moved to clarify her comments about Irish Water protesters with expensive phones and cameras, also saying that she was never disparaging about them.

The Labour leader said it was good to see so much footage from protests being uploaded to social media, and said she was “delighted” that that was case.

She was responding to a comment from Joan Collins TD during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this morning, after Collins said that many people had found Minister Burton’s previous comments “very patronising”.

The Tánaiste said that everything that happens at Irish Water protests is being filmed, adding:

I’m actually delighted that that’s the case, and if I gave any other impression, I’m very happy to correct it.

Minister Burton said that she is “a keen photographer” and that “it’s great to see that people have that kind of equipment”.

She said that everything that happens at protests is being uploaded to social media, and that she was glad to see this “because it’s very clear what’s happening”.

Separately, the Tánaiste also said that she believed the timeline for the setting up of Irish Water was “too ambitious”.

“I understand the frustrations of people,” she told the Dáil.

She said that the company is still in the setting-up period, and says she doesn’t anticipate any bonuses being paid for this time.

Overseas visitor numbers to Ireland up by 9.3% since January 2014


Record year for North American visitors, says Tourism Ireland

The numbers of American visitors to Ireland between July and September increased by 7.9%, with a total of 2,440,400 visiting the State during the summer period.

The number of overseas visitors to the Republic in the first nine months of 2014 was over 9% higher than the same period last year, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has said.

Over 5.9 million people visited the State between January and September, an increase of 9.3% on last year.

The CSO also reported an increase in the number of Irish people taking holidays abroad, with over 4.5 million Irish residents taking trips overseas between July and September, an increase of 6% on the same period last year.

The number of visitors to Ireland between July and September increased by 7.9%, with a total of 2,440,400 visiting the State during the summer period.

The number of summer visitors from North America increased by 18.1% to 490,000, while visits from Britain increased by 2% to 922,600.

There was a rise of 9.5% in the number of European visitors, excluding Britain, to 861,100.

The number of tourists visiting between July and September from other countries around the world, outside Europe and North America, increased by 7.7% to 166,700.

The number of visitors from Britain in the first nine months increased by 8.8% since 2013, while numbers from North America have risen by 13.9%.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said the growing number of overseas visitors would help boost employment around the country.

“Given that overseas tourism business accounts for almost 60 per cent of all tourism revenue, this is good news indeed, with the increase in visitor numbers from overseas helping to boost employment around the country,” he said.

Mr Gibbons said he was “particularly pleased” to see the numbers from Britain, the State’s largest market, increasing by almost 9 per cent for the first nine months of 2014, with an additional 194,000 visitors.

He said 2014 was set to be another record year for tourism from North America.

The retention of the special 9 per cent tourism VAT rate in the latest Budget was welcomed earlier this month by the restaurant and hotels sectors, who described it as vital to sustaining jobs.

The Irish Hotels Federation said the measure was “one of the most successful job creation initiatives in modern times” having supported the creation of more than 33,000 new jobs since it was introduced in 2011.

It said tourism supports some 200,000 jobs – equivalent to one in every nine jobs in the country – representing some 54,000 jobs in 812 hotels and 235 guesthouses.

The total revenue generated across all tourism-related businesses annually stands at approximately €6 billion and accounts for 4 per cent of GNP.

Dramatic and great results for drug that kills cancer cells


A drug that kills cancer cells as they try to divide has shown “dramatic” results in early research, paving the way to potentially curative treatments.

In the laboratory, the drug, OTS964, eradicated aggressive human lung cancers transplanted into mice while producing few side-effects.

The findings raise hopes of developing a revolutionary pill or injection that is effective against a wide range of diseases, including breast, brain, liver and bladder cancer, as well as some types of leukemia.

Human trials of OTS964 are expected to start by autumn next year.

US lead scientist Professor Ysuke Nakamura, from the University of Chicago, said: “We identified the molecular target for this drug 10 years ago, but it took us nearly a decade to find an effective way to inhibit it.

“We initially screened 300,000 compounds and then synthesised more than 1,000 of them, and found a few that were likely to work in humans. We focused on the most effective. We think we now have something very promising,” he said.

The drug works in a unique way by blocking the action of a protein, TOPK, that is essential for successful cell division and is over-produced in many types of cancer.

“Without TOPK the cells can’t seem to divide; they can’t make the break,” said Prof Nakamura.

“They can’t complete the process. Instead they remain tethered by a tiny bridge. When that finally breaks apart, they can’t close the membrane.

“Everything within the cells spills out; they suffer and then die.”

Initial studies of an earlier version of the treatment found it effectively killed cancer cells — but at an unacceptable price. It also disrupted the generation of new red and white blood cells, causing anemia and damaging the immune system. It also increased the risk of blood clots by boosting numbers of platelets.

These hurdles were overcome by encapsulating the drug in microscopic bubbles called liposomes, which suppressed blood toxicity.

In the mouse tests, aggressive human lung tumours were allowed to grow until they reached 150 cubic millimetres, about the size of a raisin.

Injections of OTS964 twice a week for three weeks caused the tumours to shrink rapidly and continue shrinking even after treatment stopped. The cancer completely disappeared in five of the six mice, with no detectable side effects.

Larger doses of the drug taken by mouth also proved effective in another group of mice. In all six animals, the tumors vanished.

Although these mice had low white blood cell counts after treatment, they recovered within two weeks.

Prof Nakamura described the results, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, as “dramatic”.

He added: “It is rare to see complete regression of tumours in a mouse model. Many drugs can repress the growth, but it is uncommon to see them eradicated. This has rarely been reported.”

In studies of the drug’s effect on cells growing outside the body, the scientists videoed its cancer-killing ability in action.

The TOPK target protein appears to play a central role in cytokinesis, the final stage in cell division, the scientists reported. They pointed out that the protein’s gene was frequently “upregulated” — extra-active — in breast, brain, liver, and bladder cancers as well as other solid tumors and certain types of leukemia blood cancer.

This raised the exciting possibility of the drug being effective across multiple cancer types.

Professor Peter Parker, an expert in cell signalling at Cancer Research UK, said: “The findings of this early stage study are interesting, and the profound effect on tumour growth in mice shows that switching off TOPK could be a promising approach for treating some cancers in the future. But so far the results have only been shown in cells grown in the lab and in mice, leaving a number of questions unanswered.

“Piecing together the finer details of how TOPK controls cell division, and the consequences of switching it off, will be crucial before this potential new drug can be taken further into clinical trials.”

Tesco accounting black hole deepens, As chairman is to step down


The chairman of Britain’s biggest grocery chain, Tesco, announced his resignation on Thursday after the company reported a bigger than expected hole in its finances and said accounting transgressions went back further than initially thought.

Tesco, Britain’s biggest private employer and once the juggernaut of its retail sector, has lost half its market value this year after the accounting errors compounded a succession of profit warnings.

New chief executive Dave Lewis, just seven weeks into the job, said he could no longer provide a full-year profit forecast because he did not know the full scale of Tesco’s problems or how much it would cost to rebuild the firm.

With net debt rising, the pension deficit expanding and business in its home market deteriorating rapidly, the 95-year-old group, the third largest grocery chain in the world, said it was looking at all options to raise cash.

Lewis, 49, told investors there were no easy answers and they should not expect the presentation of a single new over-arching strategy but rather a series of incremental improvements that would be felt over time.

Shares in the group fell 5.7% to an 11-year low, wiping 800 million pounds off its market capitalisation.

“Our business is operating in challenging times,” said Lewis, who joined Tesco from one of its main suppliers, Unilever. “Trading conditions are tough and our underlying profitability is under pressure.”

“The UK, the balance sheet, trust and transparency and the brand of the business will be the priorities for now.”

Chairman Richard Broadbent, accused by many investors of poor corporate governance during his three-year tenure, said he planned to step down once the new management and business plan were in place.

Tesco said the overall impact from the incorrect booking of income was 263 million pounds, up from an original estimate of 250 million pounds. When adding one-off costs such as the accounting hole and an impairment charge, its first-half profit was down 91%.

Of the 263 million pounds, around 145 million came from prior years, Tesco said. A spokesman said the figure was not big enough to require those previous results to be restated. The accounting mistakes will affect Tesco’s second half, however.


Tesco, founded by Jack Cohen on a market stall in east London in 1919, grew rapidly through the 1990s to dominate the British high street under the stewardship of Ian MacLaurin and Terry Leahy.

But it lost its way in the late 2000s as it cut back on investment at home to expand abroad. It then further damaged its appeal by favouring investors over shoppers with price hikes during the economic downturn in an attempt to shield profits.

To compound matters, a group once renowned for its ability to gauge the needs of the British shopper failed to adapt quickly enough to changing habits.

Tesco now finds itself squeezed by fierce competition from discounters Aldi and Lidl at the lower end of the market, and by rivals such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer at the top.

The big out-of-town stores it long championed are now also out of fashion, with more people preferring to shop little and often at local stores or online, meaning the group is set to report its third straight year of decline in trading profit.

Billionaire Warren Buffett recently cut his stake in Tesco to less than 3 percent from 4 percent after calling the purchase a “huge mistake”.

“Tesco doesn’t need to be the big sprawling business that it is,” another large shareholder told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “They should be in contraction mode.

“(The accounting issue) is still pretty horrible … and it’s not closed off yet.”

The results showed the scale of the crisis.

Second-quarter organic sales in Tesco’s home market, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, fell 5.5 percent. That compared with a 3.8 percent drop in the first quarter, which was described at the time as the worst performance in 40 years.

Net debt rose to 7.5 billion pounds from 7 billion pounds a year earlier, and compared with an equity value of 14 billion pounds. The pension deficit ballooned by 800 million pounds in six months to 3.4 billion pounds.

“Tesco has had quite a few years of challenge and disappointment,” said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black. “However, we can never recall a period so damaging to the reputation of the company as the first half, 2015.”


Asked if he would need to turn to shareholders for cash, Lewis said the group was reviewing all options, but that it believed it could raise significant funds by saving costs and selling assets, before a capital raise would be considered.

That is likely to be popular with investors who have told Reuters they would rather the group sold or floated assets, such as its operations in Asia and central and eastern Europe, before they would consider a rights issue.

Lewis said he had been visiting his British stores to get an idea of how shoppers view the retailer, but that the accounting probe had left him with no time to visit stores abroad, which he planned to do next week.

Tesco Asia, one of the assets that could be sold or spun off, saw trading profit fall 9.2%. The Europe business was up 42%, but that was from a low base, and it is thought to have fewer potential buyers.

DNA reveals Neanderthals and humans first mated some 50,000 years ago


Researchers have used the DNA extracted from the 45,000-year-old bone of a man from Siberia to find the time when the interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals took place.

It is to be noted that Neanderthals, who once lived in Europe and Asia until they went extinct about 40,000 years ago, are the closest extinct relatives of modern humans.

The researchers claimed that the new study revealed that interbreeding took place between Neanderthals and modern humans when the latter started spreading out of Africa. According to researchers, around 1.5 to 2.1 percent of the DNA of anyone living outside Africa today is Neanderthal in origin.

The researchers were yet to confirm when interbreeding between modern humans and Neanderthals occurred. Previous estimates of these events ranged from 37,000 to 86,000 years ago.

This mystery was solved by analyzing the shaft of a thighbone found by an artist and mammoth ivory collector, Nikolai Peristov, on the left bank of the river Irtysh near the settlement of Ust’-Ishim in western Siberia in 2008. The researchers calculated the bone of the man was about 45,000 years old.

“This is the earliest directly dated modern human outside of Africa and the Middle East, and the oldest modern human [genome] to have been sequenced,” study co-author Janet Kelso, a computational biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told Live Science.

Earlier, it was suggested by researchers that Asia was first colonized by humans as they traveled using a more southern, coastal route that gave rise to the present-day people of Oceania.

The fact the researchers find direct evidence for the presence of a modern human in Siberia 45,000 years ago “indicates that early modern human migrations into Eurasia were not solely via a southern route as has been previously suggested,” Kelso said.

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.