Tag Archives: WB Yeats

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 9th September 2016.

Various EU member states claim a share of Apple’s €13bn tax bill

Spain is expected to raise the issue as finance ministers gather for first time since ruling

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Several EU member states are seeking a share of the €13bn which Apple has been ordered to repay the Irish Government.

Several European Union member states are seeking a share of the €13 billion which Apple has been ordered to pay the Irish Government.

Spain, which is under pressure to reach EU-imposed budget deficit targets, is expected to raise the issue today as European finance ministers gather for the first time since the European Commission’s competition ruling againstIreland.

“Tax rulings are having a budgetary impact in Spain,” said a senior Spanish finance ministry source.

“When your revenues are falling and you have public deficit problems every euro counts,” said the source, adding that the Spanish government was currently making a calculation about how much tax it may be owed.

Concerns from Madrid were echoed by Austria’s finance minister Hans Joerg Schelling yesterday, who said his country, along with Italy and France, would also examine whether they were entitled to a portion of the €13 billion.

Elections due?

The development could complicate Ireland’s forthcoming appeal of the competition ruling.

Announcing the record state-aid ruling against Ireland last week, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that other EU countries – and the US – could be entitled to some of the unpaid taxes that it ruled were due to Ireland.

But competition officials say the question of how countries might access unpaid taxes is a matter for national tax authorities, and not the competition commissioner.

With elections due in a number of European countries next year, finance ministries are anxious to display their willingness to pursue unpaid taxes.

But experts say that any serious move to recoup the funds would have to wait until the full Apple ruling was published and possibly until the appeal by Apple and Ireland went through the European courts.

Ireland has fourth highest rate of teen suicide in Europe

Psychologists urge focus on fighting problem ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day

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Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, the Movember Foundation has released a powerful video encouraging men to speak about their mental health.

Psychologists have called for great focus on measures to tackle the high rates of suicide among teenagers in Ireland.

The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI), which has about 3,000 members, made the call ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday.

Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide among teens in the EU, with only Lithuania, Estonia and Finland experiencing higher rates.

The society’s chief executive Terri Morrissey said putting a focus on preventative measures for teenagers and adolescents was important.

Ms Morrissey said depression and suicidal thoughts among teenagers were major health problems in Ireland but early intervention and the promotion of well-being and resilence could prevent such issues.

“Far too often we hear about such issues when it is already too late and we have to deal with the consequences and aftermath. Intervening at an early stage would have been effective,” she said.

“There is a range of methods and therapies that have been demonstrated to have been effective and which can be used to prevent behavioural, psychological and emotional problems.”

Ms Morrissey said these should begin at an early age, however.

“Well-being and resilience can be promoted through sport, exercise, healthy eating, parental support and other forms of physical, emotional and mental development,” she said.

Dr Gary Diamond, a clinical psychologist and international expert on teenage depression and suicide, will give a public talk on the subject on behalf of the society later this month. He is a professor and chair of the Department of Psychology at Ben-Gurion University in Israel.

“The goal of this parenting approach according to the author reduce family conflict, open lines of communication within families, help the adolescent make better sense of his or her own world and to better position parents to understand, support and advocate for their child,” Dr Diamond said.

Services availability?

Separately, the founder of the Suicide or Survive charity Caroline McGuigan said everyone had the responsibility to create the change that will ensure that there is a broad range of services and supports for people struggling with mental health and suicide.

“We’ve come a long way as a country when it comes to mental health but there is so much more we can do. We all have mental health just like we have dental and physical health and this needs to be recognised and mental health needs to be prioritised if we are to reduce the number of people who die by suicide in Ireland every year,” she said.

Brian Higgins of Pieta House, the centre for the prevention of suicide and self-harm, will return to Dublin on Friday night following a rickshaw tour of Ireland to raise awareness of the issue.

The tour took him to Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Listowel, Limerick, Ennis, Galway, Tuam and Athlone. As it marks its 10th year, Pieta House has just opened its 10th centre (in Waterford).

“Our vision is of a world where suicide, self-harm and stigma have been replaced by hope, self-care and acceptance,” he said.

Dr Diamond’s talk will take place on Thursday September 22nd at Chartered Accountants Ireland, Pearse Street, Dublin at 6.30pm.

New lease of life for Roger Gannon after losing ten stone in less than a year

     

Roger Gannon who was 25 stone and 3.5 pounds when he joined ‘Sarah’s Slimming World’ classes. His health was suffering as a result of his weight, and his confidence too was dented.

Fast forward 42 weeks, and Roger has shed an impressive 10 stone after 42 weeks at Slimming World.

Blogger Donie had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Roger in Sligo recently and when I said I was checking my blood sugar before entering a retail unit to purchase a large household item and hoping it would fit into my car? he replied oh I have diabetes as well?

Roger went on to explain the journey he had being on as below in red text, of losing over 10 stone in less than 18 months as a result of of joining ‘Sarah’s Slimming World’ classes in the Gillooly Hall, Temple street, Sligo.

I could see the pride and sense of achievement on his face as he talked about his life’s ambition of being a normal human being not looking at the obstacles that were ahead of him while he was that crucifying weight of 25 stone and 4 pounds.

I congratulated Roger on his outstanding  achievement and wished him the best of luck with his diabetes management and continued success with ‘Sarah’s Slimming World diet’. before purchasing my hard to fit item into my Ford Focus car.

The 50-year-old, who has lived in Tubbercurry his whole life, knew he needed to make changes to his lifestyle for the sake of his health, at the very least.

“Before joining Slimming World I was a size XXXXXL now I am a large and I am loving it,” said Roger.

“I’ve gone from someone who hated shopping and who had to travel to Dublin a lot for my clothes to being able to just pop into my local men’s wear store and pick right off the hanger in Gilespie’s.”

“I ‘had’ been overweight all my life to date. I can’t ever remember a time when I was slim. Looking back on old pictures it frightens me a little of how large I’d become.”

Roger’s weight had a huge effect on him as a person and his day to day life. Small things had to be taken into consideration, such as how long he would be walking for.

He explains: “I had to always think about where I was going and whether I’d be able to sit down as I knew I couldn’t be on my feet for long as the pressure on my knees was unbearable at times.

“I had seriously high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. The doctor was constantly onto me about trying to lose weight. My hips were bad and my back was constantly giving me trouble, I was travelling the country for treatments and physiology.

“Now since I have lost the weight my blood pressure is completely normal, the doctor was thrilled. My diabetes is well in control and reducing dramatically.

“My knees don’t hurt anymore and I feel a thousand times healthier. I can live again. Slimming world has saved my life.”

Roger tried everything to shed weight. As soon as he joined ‘Sarah’s Slimming World’, he knew it was the right place for him.

“There were a number of reasons I joined Slimming World. I guess one that stands out the most would be I wanted to go somewhere where nobody knew me. I had heard great reports about Sarah’s group and that it was fantastic.

“On my first day I was shaking with nerves – I was outside for hours before I got the courage to walk in.

“I had tried so many things in the past, but from the second I walked in the door I new I’d come to the right place.

“The welcome I got was so warm and friendly, everyone was there for the same reason as me and I found that so reassuring.

“The first cup of coffee they made me at group really settled me and I was then relaxed. I went from wanting nobody to know me to being a big part of the group there. I have made so many new friends for life. I love Wednesdays, it’s the best day of the week for me now. For the first time in my life I can climb the stairs without getting breathless. My knees don’t hurt anymore I am always smiling.”

Roger’s weight loss has not only given him a new lease of life, but he has also inspired others to follow him in his journey, by starting their own.

“I can’t wait to head out of the house in the morning to meet people.

“I can’t go into my local shop without people stopping me and talking to me to congratulate me on how well I have done. It makes me so happy to know that I am inspiring people across the county to join slimming world. I am an inspiration, I not only changed my life but I’m helping others change theirs, it makes me so proud.”

He is now a brand new man. He’s loving life once again, and it’s all thanks to his new found health.

“The best thing that has happened to me as a result of my weight loss is that I am a whole new person.

“I am happy, friendly, and no longer sad on the inside and always smiling. People enjoy being around me again; they enjoy my company and treat with me respect for once in my life.

“I think the most important, best and most rewarding thing that has happened to me since this whole journey started is that

“Slimming World has taught me to love life again and that alone is the greatest gift anyone could ever have given me.”

‘Sarah’s Slimming World’ classes take place every Wednesday at Gillooly Hall, Temple street, Sligo at 9.30am, 11.30am and 1.30pm.

3D bone-scanning technique devised by Irish scientists

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Dr Esther Surender, Postdoctoral Researcher at Trinity College Dublin

Irish scientists have devised a revolutionary new scanning technique that produces extremely high-res 3D images of bones, sparing patients exposure to X-ray radiation.

The chemists in Trinity College and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) said the technique could have major benefits for healthcare, allowing a patient’s bone strength to be assessed in detail. The elderly and athletes will be among those to benefit.

It works by forming agents that are attracted to calcium-rich surfaces, which appear when bones crack, even at a micro level.

X-rays give off radiation and have, in some cases, been associated with an increased risk of cancer. The red, gold-based agents used in this alternative technique are biologically safe.

The researchers point out that gold has been used safely by medics in a variety of ways in the body for some time.

A spokesman for Trinity College said these nanoagents target and highlight the cracks formed in bones, allowing researchers to produce a complete 3D image of the damage.

The spokesman pointed out that it could give a detailed blueprint of the extent and precise positioning of any weakness or injury in the bone.

“Additionally, this knowledge should help prevent the need for bone implants in many cases, and act as an early warning system for people at a high risk of degenerative bone diseases.”

The research is led by Trinity Professor of Chemistry Thorri Gunnlaugsson and Postdoctoral Researcher Esther Surender.

Visualise

Prof Gunnlaugsson pointed out: “This work is the outcome of many years of successful collaboration between chemists from Trinity and medical and engineering experts from RCSI.

“We have demonstrated that we can achieve a three-dimensional map of bone damage, showing the so-called microcracks, using non-invasive luminescence imaging.

“The nanoagent we have developed allows us to visualise the nature and the extent of the damage in a manner that wasn’t previously possible.”

Diagnosing weak bones before they break should cut down on the need for operations and implants.

Dr Surender predicted it had great potential in a clinical setting.

The findings have been published in the leading journal ‘Chem’.

Glencar Sligo Ireland’s highest waterfall

The best time to visit is after or even during a good downpour on a wild Atlantic day

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It’s a ‘spate’ river, so it’s best to visit after (or even during) a downpour on a wild Atlantic day of south-westerly gales; the waterfall then can appear to ‘smoke’

Poetry and good descriptive prose can wonderfully enrich one’s perception of the natural beauty of a place – making it much more than just a visual experience. Indeed, a good poet or writer can bring the magic of a real or imagined place to his/her reader, without her/him ever having to put on the boots and get all muddy and cold.

And nowhere on our beautiful island is that more true than in Sligo andLeitrim. Here Yeats has impregnated a visually beautiful landscape with a spirit of magic, wonder and mystery.

Glencar is a case in point. It’s waterfall, “where the wandering water gushes from the hills above Glencar”, attracts visitors by the thousand; however, that beautiful verse of the poem The Stolen Child takes the reader/visitor high into the hills above the waterfall to meet mischievous fairies, tiny pools and stars, weeping ferns, trout and “unquiet” dreams; and, having carried the reader/visitor into this imaginative and magic space, Yeats (via the Fairies) seduces us (the “human child”) to come and stay.

And few of us can deny sometimes feeling that pull to escape into his “waters and the wild” – though perhaps not with a dodgy kidnapping fairy!

Glencar waterfall in Co Leitrim is more than worth a visit; but one’s imagination can be crowded out by coffee shops and neat lawns and paths and facilities. About a kilometre west, however, is another less well-known waterfall, called “the Devil’s Chimney” – despite the name more suited to quiet contemplation, though without the help of a caffeine injection.

Officially, it’s Ireland’s highest waterfall – in Irish, “Sruth in Agaidh an Aird” (the stream against the height). It is accessed via a new woodland path that climbs 120m up the talus slope above Glencar Lake. The walk is short but very rewarding. Its “feel” is of quiet deep woods and wide vistas, wild flowers, birdsong and glimpses of beautiful Glencar Lake.

It’s over private land, access being kindly granted by the landowner and has been put in place jointly by the counties of Sligo, Cavan, Leitrim and Fermanagh under the EU-funded Border Project. The roadside CP has an information panel which sets out clearly the geology, flora and fauna of the place while another warns you that this “is NOT Glencar Waterfall”.

I’ve been there in late spring and have loved it, despite the waterfall being in a quiet mood. It’s a “spate” river, so it’s best to visit after (or even during) a downpour on a wild Atlantic day of south-westerly gales; the waterfall then can appear to “smoke” – be blown back into the sky and recycled over and over again – and you’ll understand why perhaps it got its name!

There are seats to sit on and woods and space to shelter you, and give permission to the child in you, or with you, to be “stolen” for a while in this lovely place.

Wild areas of World shrinks by 10% in just 20 years

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A 10th of the world’s unspoiled wilderness areas have been lost since the 1990s, say experts calling for urgent action to preserve biodiversity on Earth.

A 10th of the world’s unspoiled wilderness areas have been lost since the 1990s, say experts calling for urgent action to preserve biodiversity on Earth.

New findings from a global ecosystem study show “staggering” declines affecting the last bastions of undisturbed nature, it is claimed.

In the last 20 years, wilderness regions amounting to an area twice the size of Alaska have vanished, the research reveals. The Amazon basin and central Africa have been hardest hit. ‘Wilderness’ is defined as a biologically and ecologically intact landscape free of any significant human disturbance.

Lead researcher Dr James Watson, from the University of Queensland in Australia, said: “Globally important wilderness areas, despite being strongholds for endangered biodiversity, for buffering and regulating local climates, and for supporting many of the world’s most politically and economically marginalised communities, are completely ignored in environmental policy.

International policies?

“International policy mechanisms must recognise the actions needed to maintain wilderness areas before it is too late. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around.”

The scientists mapped wilderness areas around the world and compared the results with a previous similar map produced in the 1990s. Their findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.

The updated map shows that a total of 30.1 million sq. km of the Earth – more than a fifth of the world’s land area – now remains as wilderness. Although that might sound like a large amount of land, the proportion of surviving wilderness in the world has fallen alarmingly in the last two decades, say the authors.

An estimated 3.3 million sq. km – almost 10% – of wilderness has disappeared since the 1990s, the research showed.

The most affected continents were South America, which had lost 30%c of its wilderness, and Africa, where 14% had gone.

The majority of wilderness areas today were located in North America, North Asia, North Africa, and Australia.

Dr Watson added: “The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering and very saddening.

“We need to recognise that wilderness is being dramatically lost and that without proactive global interventions we could lose the last jewels in nature’s crown. You cannot restore wilderness,” he said.

“If we don’t act soon, it will be all gone, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet. We have a duty to act for our children and their children.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th June 2016

Enda Kenny promises to extend voting rights to Irish living abroad

   

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised he will prioritise extending voting rights to Irish people living abroad.

Speaking at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester this morning Mr Kenny again expressed condolences to the family of murdered British Labour MP Jo Cox.

“It’s appropriate to pay tribute to the life and times of Jo Cox who was murdered on the street in West Yorkshire, a mother of two young children going about her business as any councillor or MP or public representative would do and to be shot down and taken away from her family and children is an appalling crime,” Mr Kenny said.

He said he would not be campaigning on Brexit as a mark of respect.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to the media outside the Irish centre in Liverpool yesterday. Picture: PA

However, he told members of the Irish community in Manchester that the government is now looking at giving a vote in the presidential elections to Irish emigrants.

“One of the priorities that I have asked the minister to look at and hopefully to be able to implement is the situation as far as emigrant voting is concerned in presidential elections.

“This is an issue that has been around for a very long time but there have been quite sophisticated advances made in terms of voting from abroad and we need to set out a terms of reference as to the conditions that would apply in terms of who should be eligible to vote.

“That will be a priority for the Minister for the Diaspora,” Mr Kenny said adding that he would be seeking the input from Irish living abroad on the issue.

He said: “We will work towards assisting emigrant communities and situations abroad from Ireland in England, in America, in Australia and other areas.

“That means that we want to work in a closer way with the emigrant communities in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Scotland and so on.”

FF to reconsider Government support if housing plan inadequate

Barry Cowen says solutions to crisis crucial part of deal between his party and Fine Gael

   

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has insisted his party will reconsider its support for a Fine Gael minority Government if ‘adequate action’ is not taken on housing.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has insisted his party will reconsider its support for the Fine Gael minority Government if “adequate action” is not taken on housing.

Mr Cowen said the report on housing by the Oireachtas committee must be accepted by Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, and implemented without delay.

He said housing was the biggest crisis facing the State and the Government needed to move to address it.

“The housing committee was set the challenge of finding solutions to the housing crisis,” Mr Cowen said. “TDs from every party worked extremely hard to meet the deadline set. The challenge for Minister Coveney is to implement these recommendations without delay.”

Mr Cowen, who was part of the negotiations between his party and Fine Gael, said action on housing was crucial to the deal struck between the two sides.

“We facilitated a Fine Gael Government, so action could be taken on this issue, which is the biggest challenge,” he said. “Fianna Fail is adamant the housing situation has to be addressed. And if adequate action is not taken, our support cannot be guaranteed.”

Mr Coveney’s spokesman said the Minister would study the report in detail before deciding how to proceed.

It is understood the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance,Michael Noonan, have already warned against the introduction of rent certainty measures.

Mr Coveney is expected not to accept the report’s proposals to link rent increases to the Consumer Price Index. He is currently compiling an action plan for housing, with a draft expected by the end of the month.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said the Minister must now move to introduce the committee’s recommendations, calling them ambitious but necessary to tackle the crisis .

Sick of talk

Independent TD for Dublin Central Maureen O’Sullivan said she had been speaking about housing for seven years and was sick of talking about the problems. Action was now needed .

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger declined to sign off on the committee’s housing report, saying it was not ambitious enough and that targets set on social housing were disappointing.

The TD for Dublin West, who has issued her own minority report, said the committee does not locate the cause of the crisis or identify how the measures can be funded.

“Neither does the report grapple with the major issue of the day – rocketing rents,” Ms Coppinger said. “While there were some welcome reforms, the report is missing most of what is needed to really solve the housing crisis.”

Artwork exhibition dedicated to WB Yeats unveiled in Sligo

Artwork exhibition dedicated to WB Yeats unveiled in Sligo    Artwork exhibition dedicated to WB Yeats unveiled in Sligo

The Yeats-themed gallery was opened by WB Yeats’s granddaughter Caitríona Yeats 

An open-air gallery of artwork dedicated to Irish poet WB Yeats has been unveiled in Sligo.

His granddaughter Caitríona Yeats unveiled the first of five pieces of art, which are being permanently installed on the outside of buildings linked to the Yeats family in Sligo town.

The poet, who born in Dublin but spent much of his childhood in Co Sligo and is buried there, was regarded as the driving force behind Ireland’s literary revival and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

The artwork will be securely fixed to the outside facade of five premises with protective glass and will be illuminated for night-time viewing.

The exhibition was launched over the weekend during celebrations to mark Yeats Day, which took place on Monday.

Each piece is a collaboration between an established artist and an internationally-noted appreciator of Yeats.

The poet’s granddaughter was a collaborator in the first piece of art installed along with artist Jane Murtagh.

Their artwork was unveiled on Sunday at Pollexfen House – the home of Yeats’s grandparents – and is based on the poem Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.

“I am delighted to have been asked to be the first collaborator in this project which brings the work of my grandfather to the public in such an accessible manner,” said Ms Yeats.

“Pollexfen House is a fitting place to locate the work and for him to be remembered and celebrated.

“Jane was a pleasure to work with and I am delighted with the unique art piece she has produced from our discussions.”

The idea for the open-air gallery came from local business owners, Suzy McCanny, Keville Burns and Tom Ford.

“With the strong connection between Yeats and Wine Street, we felt it would be an appropriate location to honour the legacy of Yeats in some way,” said Mr Ford.

“We had the idea that it might be the world’s first free permanent open-air art gallery and it would bring the poetry of Yeats to the public in a unique way.”

Spending by British tourists in Ireland increases by 18% for first quarter of 2016

2015 marks record-breaking year for tourism with 8.6 million trips made to Ireland

    

Tourists browsing the Guinness Store house in Dublin (middle picture).

Spending by British tourists visiting Ireland rose by as much as 18% in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures.

The latest travel data shows that increasing numbers of European and non-EU tourists continue to visit Ireland, with spending on the rise among all nationalities.

Tourists visiting Ireland from Great Britain spent €33 million more between January and March 2016 than during the same period in 2015, marking a rise of 18.2%.

British tourists spent €214 million in the first three months of this year compared to €181 million during the same period last year. Visitors from Great Britain spent a total of €971 million last year.

Spending by tourists from France, Germany, Italy, the US, Canada, Australiaand New Zealand also rose between January and March of this year, with North Americans spending €144 million, a rise of of €19 million on the same period last year.

The overall number of overseas trips to Ireland by non-residents rose by more than 15%, with 1,785 million trips in the first three months of the year, up 254 million on last year.

Earnings

The duration of visitors’ stay in Ireland remained the same as last year, with people opting to spend an average of 6.5 nights.

Ireland’s total tourism and travel earnings during the first three months of 2016 rose by 18.7% on the same period last year, increasing from €780 million to €926 million.

Meanwhile, the number of Irish people travelling overseas increased by 13.1% from 1.306 million between January and March 2015 to 1.478 million during the first three months of this year. The CSO figures also reveal Irish people are spending more nights abroad than last year.

2015 marked a record-breaking year for tourism with 8.6 million trips made to Ireland.

The latest travel data follows news earlier this week that Dublin is facing a shortage in visitor accommodation options over the next two years, limiting the potential for tourism growth in the longer term.

A report commissioned by Fáilte Ireland found that while additional bedrooms are due to be created for visitors, most will not be available until after 2018 or later.

The report also warned that most of the new accommodation stock was not guaranteed and said the capital was facing “a capacity challenge” over the next two years.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of tourists visiting Dublin rose by 33% while the availability of accommodation fell by 6%, according to Fáilte Ireland.

Antarctic observatories register 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide for the first time ever

   

An iceberg is pictured in the western Antarctic peninsula, on March 04, 2016.

One by one, the observatories sounded the alarm in the past few yearsfrom the peak of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and the top of the Greenland ice sheet as the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere crept above 400 parts per million (ppm). 

The last alarm bells went off this week, when scientists announced that the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, as well as a monitoring post at the geographic South Pole, both located amid the most pristine air on the planet, have now passed the 400 ppm mark.

In other words, at every location on Earth where scientists routinely monitor carbon dioxide levels, we are now entering uncharted territory for humanity.

For reference, carbon dioxide levels were at about 280 ppm at the start of the industrial revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels for energy. They have marched upward at increasing rates ever since.

According to Pieter Tans, the lead scientist for the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, 400 ppm is the highest level that carbon dioxide levels have reached in at least 4 million years.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the northern hemisphere have already eclipsed the 400 ppm milestone. These observatories are located closer to pollution sources, and this elevates the observed carbon dioxide levels.

However, it takes a while for carbon dioxide to reach Antarctica.

“This is the first time a sustained reading of 400 ppm, over the period of a day, has been recorded at a research station on the ice,” according to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey.

Keeling Curve of carbon dioxide concentrations at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

“The remoteness of the Antarctic continent means it is one of the last places on Earth to see the effects of human activities, but the news that even here the milestone of carbon dioxide levels reaching 400 parts per million has been reached shows that no part of the planet is spared from the impacts of human activity,” said David Vaughan, director of science at the Antarctic Survey, in a press release.

Today at Halley Station, CO2 is rising faster than it was when we began measurements in the 1980s. We have changed our planet to the very poles.”

A separate press release from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the South Pole observation occurred on May 23, but was announced on June 15.

In 2015, the global average carbon dioxide level was 399 ppm, and it’s expected that each month in 2016 will likely see carbon dioxide levels remain above 400 ppm for the first time.

“We know from abundant and solid evidence that the CO2 increase is caused entirely by human activities,” Tans said. “Since emissions from fossil fuel burning have been at a record high during the last several years, the rate of CO2 increase has also been at a record high.”

“We have changed our planet to the very poles.”

While scientists have ice core samples of carbon dioxide levels and temperatures dating back to about 800,000 years ago, they also have evidence from seafloor sediment of what Earth’s conditions were like dating back to about 4 million years ago, Tans told Mashable via email.

However, those measurements are not as precise as the ice core records, Tans said.

Because of the long atmospheric lifetime of carbon dioxide, it is not likely to fall below this level again in most of our lifetimes, even if the most aggressive emissions reduction plans are pursued.

A single molecule of carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Fianna Fáil member takes legal action over gender quotas

Brian Mohan was excluded from selection convention due to rules on female candidates

  Getting women on the ticket is great, but having them win seats is what matters most   

Political parties will lose half their funding unless 30% of their general election candidates are female.

A Fianna Fáil activist has initiated legal action challenging the State’s new electoral laws on gender quotas after being excluded from a selection convention that allowed only a female candidate to be chosen.

Brian Mohan, an area representative in Dublin Central, was unable to contest the party’s selection convention in October after its national constituency commission (NCC) issued an instruction that only one female candidate could be chosen.

He was one of several male contenders who found themselves unable to put themselves before their constituency selection conventions because of diktats issued by the NCC, chaired by

Other declared candidates who were unable to contest conventions were Daithí de Róiste in Dublin South Central and Pat O’Rourke and Séamus Butler in Longford-Westmeath.

In both these cases, the NCC instruction resulted in the only female candidate being selected without a contest.

The decisions prompted heated scenes at the conventions.

It is understood that Mr Mohan’s legal action is not against Fianna Fáil but against the gender-quota legislation introduced by former minister for the environment Phil Hogan.

Mr Mohan was not contactable for comment last night.

Loss of funding.

The Electoral (Political Funding) Act, passed in 2012, provides that political parties will lose half of their central exchequer funding unless 30 per cent of their candidates in the general election are female.

All of the parties have said they will meet the gender quota.

Fine Gael is understood to have approached Independent TD Peter Mathews’s parliamentary assistant, Avril Cronin, to contest the general election in Wicklow as it attempts to meet the quota.

She is among a number of potential candidates the party has sounded out as it strives to hit the 30 per cent target.

Fine Gael, with conventions completed in all 40 constituencies, is at the 28 per cent mark and insists the quota will be reached.

The party has selected 82 candidates, 23 of whom are women.

Thomasina Connell to run in Laois.

This week the party added Thomasina Connell, a solicitor for Ballybrittas, to run alongside Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan in Laois.

Former mayor of Tralee Grace O’Donnell was added to the contest in Kerry with Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan and Brendan Griffin.

Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle indicated that his preference would be for him and Minister of State Simon Harris to run without a third candidate.

Separately, Fianna Fáil has yet to decide on dates for selection conventions in two constituencies, Roscommon-East Galway and Cavan-Monaghan.

The party in Roscommon is seen by its members locally as in turmoil. Amid continued infighting, which has included a High Court action by one councillor against another, many of the leading contenders have withdrawn from the race.

Those who have said they will not contest the convention include councillors Rachel Doherty and Orla Leyden and 2014 byelection candidate Ivan Connaughton.

While Fianna Fáil performed well in the local elections in Roscommon last year, the party has been in disarray since Mr Connaughton was beaten in the byelection by the Independent Michael Fitzmaurice.

Irish banks may be mis-pricing credit risk, says Honohan

Outgoing Central Bank governor highlights persistent relatively high loan rejection rates

    

Outgoing Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan: ‘Irish banks mispriced credit risk before . . . are we sure they’re not mispricing in the other direction now?’

Irish banks may be too risk averse, outgoing Central Bank governor Patrick Honohanhas said, while also highlighting the relatively high interest rates being charged by Irish lenders.

Noting rates had come down everywhere in the euro area except in Ireland, he said: “This raises a question as to whether these rates are a consequence of insufficient competition.”

In an address to the Small Firms’ Association, Prof Honohan said loan rejection rates here had not fallen to the same extent as they had in other formerly distressed EU states.

Irish banks may be “mispricing credit risk” resulting in relatively high loan rejection rates, he said. While banks were reckless in assessing risk prior to the crash, the pendulum may now have swung the other way, according to Prof Honohan.

Since the tsunami of credit receded seven years ago, lending conditions have been restricted by the shortfalls of capital on bank balance sheets.

Outstripping Ireland.

Lending to small businesses in Portugal, Spain and Greece – countries which experienced similar financial crises – is now outstripping Ireland, he said.

“Irish banks mispriced credit risk before . . . are we sure they’re not mispricing in the other direction now?”

Earlier this year, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan met with representatives from the State’s six main lenders over concerns about the comparatively high rates charged for standard variable mortgages.

The issue of high variable mortgages has been a source of controversy with some borrowers on tracker loans paying less than 1 per cent while those on variable rates are paying 4.5 per cent.

Prof Honohan said, however, it was unfair to blame banks for not passing on European Central Bank rate cuts as they did not benefit from them because of the large number of tracker mortgages on their books.

“It’s not that banks are laughing or gouging . . . but it still doesn’t mean everything is right in the system,” he said.

Academia.

Prof Honohan, who hinted he would be returning to academia upon stepping down as governor, appeared to rule out intervening in the marketplace to address the issue of interest rates, suggesting this could make the problem worse.

“We could all do with more competition in the banking system. I’m hoarse encouraging new investors to come into the Irish banking system in whatever way – acquisition, new start-up,” he said.

In his address, Prof Honohan said Ireland’s forecast growth rate of 6 per cent for 2015 had to be treated with great caution because of the complexities of accounting of the multinationals.

Since the middle of 2012, about 130,000 jobs have been created, mainly by the private sector, which pointed to a “solid, not dramatic, recovery”.

Small Firms’ Association chairman AJ Noonan called on the Government to commit once and for all to end the tax discrimination of small business owners and self-employed, who do not enjoy the same employee tax credits or PRSI benefits.

“To me it is shocking that we have members of government jumping up and down about taking swathes of people out of the Universal Social Charge trap while at the same time discriminating against the very people who create those jobs,” he said.

Ireland’d outpatient waiting lists rise for fourth month in a row

Department imposes €8.7m fines on hospitals for breaching 18-month targets

    

The number of outpatients waiting over 18 months for an appointment has increased for the fourth month in a row, despite Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s promise to abolish long waits.

Mr Varadkar said the trend on waiting lists was “broadly positive” with improvements in the overall numbers on the outpatient waiting list and the number of long waiter for inpatient procedures.

There were 13,353 people on the outpatient waiting list for over 18 months at the end of October, up 177 on the previous month, according to the latest monthly figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

Mr Varadkar had said no-one would wait longer than 18 months from the end of June this year.

In a statement issued two hours before the official figures were published, the Department expressed disappointment at the further increase in the number waiting over 18 months as well as the slow rate of decrease of long waiting inpatient and daycase patients.

Fines totalling € 8.47 million have been levied on hospitals who have failed to meet the waiting list targets, it said.

“The application of fines is also aimed at incentivising improved performance in relation to the longest waiters.”

The department said reductions in inpatient and daycase numbers waiting over 18 months, and over 15 months, were “very positive” as this was the first time reductions were seen in these categories.

There were 2,161 people waiting over 18 months for daycase or inpatient treatment in October, down 83, according to the NTPF.

The total number of people on the outpatient waiting list has fallen below 400,000 for the first time this year, the statement also noted.

There were 396,571 people on the list last month, down almost 5,000 in a month.

The department says this has been achieved by hospitals facilitated additional clinics outside conventional working hours and by outsourcing where capacity is limited.

Responding to a rise in the number of patients waiting for gastrointestinal endoscopies, it saidthe HSE believe standardised referral criteria must be strictly applied as well as capacity reviewed.

“In respect of urgent colonoscopies, there is a four-week access target and a policy of zero tolerance applies to any breaches.”

Fianna Fáil health minister Billy Kelleher accused the Minister of “risble spin” on waiting lists. Targets had been missed and, in the case of outpatients, were even further off target since Mr Varadkar set last June’s deadline.

“Minister Varadkar may think that figures ‘continue to show improvements’ but no-one will be fooled.”

Benbulben Sligo a Mountain & Irish site that inspires the imagination

      

The name Ben Bulben, also spelt as Benbulbin or Benbulben, is said to be an anglicized version of the Irish Binn-Gulbain, meaning ‘Gulban’s Peak.’ This jaw-shaped rock formation (the word ‘gulban’ may be translated as ‘jaw’) is part of the Dartry Mountains, and is located in County Sligo in northwestern Ireland.

The Ben Bulben’s Famous Literary Connection.

In Ireland, Ben Bulben is also popularly known as ‘County Sligo’s Table Mountain.’ One of Ben Bulben’s claims to fame is its association with the Irish poet, William Butler Yeats. One of the last poems that Yeats wrote was entitled Under Ben Bulben. As a result of the area’s connection with Yeats, this part of Ireland is sometimes known as ‘Yeats Country.’ In addition to its association with this famous literary figure, Ben Bulben is also well-known for being the setting of several Irish legends.

The Formation of Ben Bulben.

According to geologists, Ben Bulben was formed during the Ice Age, when moving glaciers cut into the earth creating the present shape of the rock formation. Ben Bulben is reported to be composed of layers of limestone on mudstone. Its lower parts, which contain deposits of shale, is referred to as the ‘Ben Bulben Shale formation.’ From the top of Ben Bulben, one is able to obtain a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Apart from the natural scenery, one may also be able to spot a number of megalithic structures strewn on the foot of the Dartry Mountains.

Remains of one of the megalithic sites on the north side of Ben Bulben, County Sligo, Ireland.

The Fairy Door at Ben Bulben.

One of the legends surrounding Ben Bulben is the claim that this is this is the only place in Ireland where fairies, also known as ‘gentry’, are visible to mortals. In the east side of Ben Bulben’s north face is a “black patch on a bare hollow” referred to by the people of the area as the ‘Fairy Door,’ It is believed by the locals that whenever the door opens, the weather is bound to be good for the next few days.

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The Fianna and Ben Bulben.

Ben Bulben is also said to be one of the favorite hunting grounds of the Fianna, a mythical band of Irish warriors. One legend involving Ben Bulben is about Fionn MacCumhail, the leader of the Fianna. In this tale, Fionn fell in love with Siadbh, a woman who was changed into a deer by a malevolent druid.

Illustration of Fionn MacCumhail. (1932) Stephen Reid. (Public Domain) It seems that Fionn’s land was the one place where Siadbh could regain her human form. The pair got married, lived together, and soon Siadbh became pregnant. The druid, however, came back for Siadbh whilst she was pregnant, and transformed her into a deer again when her husband was away.

Fionn spent years searching for his wife, but his efforts were futile. Nonetheless, whilst hunting on Ben Bulben one day, he came upon a fawn, who turned out to be his son Oisin. This child would eventually become one of the most renowned figures of the Fianna.

Oisin (Ossian) on the Bank of the Lora, Invoking the Gods to the Strains of a Harp. (1801) François Gérard

The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne.

Fionn appears in another legend called The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. In this story, however, Fionn is not its protagonist, but its antagonist. In this tale, Gráinne, the most beautiful woman in Ireland, and the daughter of Cormac MacAirt, the High King of Ireland, was betrothed to the aging Fionn.

However, the princess fell in love with Diarmuid, one of the Fianna, when she first saw him. During the wedding feast, Gráinne drugged the entire party, with the exception of Diarmuid, and confessed her love for him. Diarmuid, however, was loyal to his leader, and did not reciprocate her love. Gráinne then put a spell on Diarmuid to make him fall in love with her and the pair ran away. When Fionn realized what had happened, he pursued the pair all over Ireland.

In one version of the legend, Diarmuid and Gráinne came across the heath of Ben Bulben, where the pair was confronted by a giant boar, the only creature that could harm Diarmuid. The warrior fought with the beast to protect Gráinne, and though he managed to kill it, was mortally wounded by it as well.

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In another version of the legend, Fionn gave up the chase eventually, and allowed the pair to settle down. Years later, Fionn invited Diarmuid to a boar hunt at Ben Bulben, where the warrior was fatally wounded by a boar. The only way that Diarmuid could be saved was for him to drink water from Fionn’s cupped hands. Although the Fianna begged Fionn to save Diarmuid, he refused to do so, and only changed his mind when his son, Oisin, threatened to fight him. By then, however, Diarmuid had died.

Diarmuid and Grainne’s cave, on the back of the Gleniff Horseshoe, is one of the highest caves in Ireland.

St. Columba and the Battle of the Books

One last story with Ben Bulben as its setting is that of St. Columba and the Battle of the Books. According to this story, St. Columba had secretly copied a Psalter belonging to Abbot Finian of Moville and a dispute arose as to who owned this copy, i.e. the copier or the owner of the original.

The case was judged by the High King, who is said to have declared that “to every cow her calf, to every book its copy”. Dissatisfied with this ruling, St. Columba raised a rebellion, and a battle was fought on the slopes of Ben Bulben in or around 560 AD.

It is recorded that 3000 men were slain, and St. Columba, remorseful for his actions, sought to convert more souls than were lost in that battle. As a result, he founded a number of monasteries, the most famous of which being located on the Scottish island of Iona.

These legends depict how Ben Bulben is a site that has inspired many creative individuals over the ages. Today it continues to enthuse the modern visitors who are willing to make the trek to see the mountain’s marvelous views.

Scientists say they have decoded the language of ‘panda’s’

      

The researchers now plan to develop a ‘panda translator’ using voice recognition technology.

Baby pandas playing at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.

Scientists in China say they have deciphered the meaning of 13 different giant panda vocalisations.

During a five-year study of panda “language” at a conservation centre in the southwestern Sichuan province scientists found giant pandas communicate using specific sounds to indicate when they are hungry or unhappy, according to the state Xinhua news agency.

Researchers found that when attracting a mate, males “baa” like sheep and females respond with chirping sound if they are interested.

They also make a “wow-wow” sound when they are unhappy and baby pandas say “gee-gee” to tell their mothers they are hungry.

Pandas, like Tian Tian above, are endangered partly because of their poor fertility

Zhang Hemin, head of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, which ran the study, said:  “Trust me – our researchers were so confused when we began the project, they wondered if they were studying a panda, a bird, a dog, or a sheep.”

He said they recorded the animals when they were eating, fighting and nursing young to use study how they communicated.

The scientists now plan to the information to better understand how to protect the critically endangered species in the wild.

The scientists now say they want to develop a “panda translator” using voice-recognition technology, according to Xinhua.

Giant pandas are critically endangered with only 1,864 believed to still be living in the wild.

Despite a slight recovery in their population reported earlier this year, pandas are still under threat from their well documented fertility problems and the destruction of their habitat.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Saturday/Sunday 12 & 13th September 2015

Michael Noonan says Tax hikes are possible in next budget

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

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bono pressure?

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

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

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

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

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

Pope John Paul II. 

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

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

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

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

Cuts to programmes.

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten-free diet fads put coeliacs at some big risks

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka sets space time record

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

   

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

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

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

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

Gennady Padalka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 15th June 2015

Former Anglo workers tried to destroy records, court hears

  

Three accused of conspiring to hide account with Seán FitzPatrick link from Revenue.

Former Anglo Irish Bank official Aoife Maguire (60) of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to deceiving the Revenue between 2003 and 2004.

An account held in Anglo Irish Bank was not furnished to the Revenue Commissioners because it was connected with the bank’s former chairman Seán FitzPatrick, the jury in the trial of three former Anglo officials has been told.

In his opening statement, Dominic McGinn SC, for the prosecution, said an account held by John Peter O’Toole was omitted from a list of non-resident accounts to be given to Revenue in March 2003.

Mr McGinn said that it was deliberately omitted because it was connected with Mr FitzPatrick, who was Mr O’Toole’s brother-in-law.

He told the jury of six men and six women that in 2004, there were also attempts to delete information from the bank’s database about six other accounts, the motivation for which was a connection between the accounts and Mr FitzPatrick.

Aoife Maguire (60) of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin, Bernard Daly (65) of Collins Avenue West, Whitehall, Dublin and Tiarnan O’Mahoney (54) of Glen Pines, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow are facing charges for alleged offences that occurred in 2003 and 2004.

They have pleaded not guilty.

All three are accused of conspiring to destroy, mutilate or falsify documents relating to accounts of Mr O’Toole held at Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Daly and Mr O’Mahoney are accused of furnishing a list of bank accounts in connection with tax that did not include Mr O’Toole’s.

Ms Maguire and Mr O’Mahoney are accused of conspiring to destroy the records of six accounts and defraud revenue.

The accounts were listed in court as Lock Ltd/Suzie Ltd, Carnahalla Ltd/Suzie Ltd, Lock Ltd, Carnhalla Ltd, Triumvirate Properties Ltd and Seán FitzPatrick Trust/Crohan O’Shea Trust.

Mr McGinn told the jury there would be significant parts of the trial that wouldn’t be exciting.

He said that the courts were usually full of offences such as those seen on television in Crimecall or in Love/Hate, but this trial would be long and would involve tax and fraud.

“There are no punch ups or car chases,” he said.

He told the jury that in the early 1990s and late 2000s, Revenue began looking at non-resident bank accounts.

He said that Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) did not apply to the accounts of people who did not live in the State, but that some non-resident accounts were bogus and tax should have been paid on them.

Revenue was said to have contacted all banks to ask them about non-resident accounts and Anglo told them they had no such accounts.

However, when a tax amnesty followed, some people came forward who had such accounts in Anglo. Revenue then decided to investigate the bank.

High Court order

Revenue got a High Court order in March 2003 requiring Anglo to provide a list of non-resident accounts.

It also said it would come into the bank and audit it. It sought three lists of non-resident accounts of more than €100,000 in 1990, 1995 and 1999.

To comply with that, a team was sent up in the bank led by Mr Daly. Mr O’Mahoney had a supervisory role in the team, and the prosecution alleged that Ms Maguire was appointed to the team by Mr O’Mahoney to report directly to him and influence team members.

In November 2003, lists were provided and Mr O’Toole’s name was left out of the list for March 1995.

Mr McGinn said that the omission was a deliberate act because the account was connected to Mr FitzPatrick. He said that Mr O’Toole was Mr Fitzpatrick’s brother-in-law and that Mr FitzPatrick had some involvement with transactions on the account.

He said Mr Daly and Mr O’Mahoney both had separate conversations with separate team members who refused to omit Mr O’Toole’s name from the list, and that those members were removed from the team.

In 2004, there were attempts to delete the information from the bank’s database, counsel said.

Mr McGinn said that staff in Anglo’s IT department were instructed to delete references to Mr O’Toole’s accounts and to six other accounts.

Mr McGinn alleged that the IT department was uncomfortable regarding the deletions and so instead archived the information.

He said that the attempt to delete those accounts was motivated by a connection between the accounts and Mr FitzPatrick.

“To a greater or lesser extent, Seán FitzPatrick has involvement in this case.”

Counsel told the jury the six accounts were set up to trade offshore or manage property and were held in the Isle of Man or Jersey, but they were Anglo accounts, and that there was a concerted effort made to conceal them for the purpose of not paying tax.

Mr McGinn said that all three accused were involved in the attempt to delete Mr O’Toole’s accounts from the bank system and Mr O’Toole’s name was removed from the tax list by Mr Daly and Mr O’Mahoney.

Mr O’Mahoney and Ms Maguire were involved in an agreement to delete the other six accounts and hide references to them in the bank system, Mr McGinn said.

He told the jury there would be no direct evidence, or “smoking gun”, in the case. He also said the prosecution did not have to prove that Revenue was actually defrauded.

Poets and fans gathered for WB Yeats celebrations in Sligo

  

‘Absolutely Fabulous’ actor Joanna Lumley (above right) declares Sligo has stolen her heart.

Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) who received the Nobel prize for literature in 1923.

During one of the headline events of his birthday celebration in Sligo, WB Yeats’ granddaughter Caitriona briefly shared a stage with Mary Plunkett grandniece of 1916 leader, Joseph Mary.

Caitriona Yeats, a harpist, was presented with a book of her grandfather’s poems hand-printed by Plunkett, whose work is inspired by the poet’s sisters Susan and Elizabeth Yeats, of Cuala Press fame.

Earlier in the day, Ireland’s ambassador to Britain Dan Mulhall had noted that Yeats “engaged on a daily basis with the public life of Ireland”.

The encounter between descendants of the revolutionary and the poet underlined that role in the life of the country.

Yeats and Plunkett were applauded by six poet laureates , all female, from Ireland,England, Scotland, Wales, London and Northern Ireland, who were joined by President Michael D Higgins at Saturday night’s National Poets’ event. The laureates read from Yeats’ and their own work.

President Higgins, despite being enthusiastically kissed on his arrival by the National Poet of Scotland Liz Lochead, who was charmed with the idea of a poet as President, chose to read Auden’s In Memory Of WB Yeats, but none of his own work.

Politicians and celebrity guests spent the weekend in Sligo soaking up the atmosphere.

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys was at Lissadell House, while Minister for Communications Alex White was there for the cutting of a giant birthday cake on O’Connell Street.

It was a weekend when everyone reached for connections with the man, who President Higgins described as our national poet.

London laureate Aisling Fahey , wasn’t sure if it was her grandfather or great grandfather who “used to drive Yeats in a horse and cart to Thoor Ballylee” when he went west.

One of the unlikely stars of the weekend was Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley who declared that Sligo had stolen her heart.

“I love it, I completely love it,” said actor Joanna.

Her popularity meant that the award winning Lake Isle of Innisfree garden was in danger of being trampled into the ground when she cut the ribbon there.

Lumley, who started the day with a visit to Yeats’ grave in Drumcliffe, had been invited by Senator Susan O’Keeffe, chair of Yeats 2015, to open the garden at the Model arts centre because of her campaign for a London Garden Bridge.

“It is enchanting – Yeats’ dream, every dream he ever had,” she said.

If the actor was taken aback by “all the loveliness I have met” in Sligo, out the road in Lissadell House, SenatorDavid Norris was giving her a run for her money in the popularity stakes where he too spent the day posing with fans for selfies.

As Sligo Drama Circle organised a marathon reading of all 378 Yeats poems, celebrities spent the weekend reciting personal favourites.

The apparently age-defying 69-year-old Lumley who urged people to “take off your hats and dance in the street” recited When You Are Old.

In Lissadell, Senator Norris gave a majestic rendering of Sailing to Byzantium while Anne Doyle read The Cat and the Moon tearfully recounting that her pet cat Pooka had passed on last week.

RTE’s Bryan Dobson chose Easter 1916 as his party piece, while his colleague Mary Wilson treated the audience to her favourite Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop.

But in Hargadon’s pub Caitriona Yeats probably won the heart of many of those force fed Yeats as school children when she candidly admitted: “We didn’t read much of my grandfather’s work growing up”.

She read Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites because her mother Grainne used to sing it and she liked the sentiment of “Come fill up all those glasses and pass the bottle round”.

Ireland to stop making 1 & 2 cent coins

  

National Payments Plan recommends nationwide roll out for ‘rounding’ system.

Ireland has been minting coppers at three times the rate of the EU average but there is a consistent shortage of them across the country.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will recommend to Cabinet on Tuesday the withdrawal of one and two cent coins following the success of a pilot project in Wexford.

Mr. Noonan has received a report from the Central Bank’s National Payments Plan recommending the roll out nationally of the rounding project so as to reduce the need for one and two cent coins.

The recommendation comes following the overwhelming success of a nine-week project in Wexford in 2013 where transactions were rounded up or down to the nearest five cent.

According to Wexford Chamber of Commerce CEO, Madeleine Quirke the project which ran from September 17th until November 17th 2013 was a tremendous success.

“Some 250 businesses in Wexford participated in the project – everyone from supermarkets to pubs to fast food outlets to garages – anyone handling large amounts of cash.

“Some 85 per cent of consumers and 100 per cent of business owners surveyed afterwards were in favour of the project – in fact we have had no complaints or negative comments at all.”

Ms Quirke said the success of the project stemmed from the fact that business people in Wexford adhered to the strict guideline that there should be no increase in prices.

“It was stipulated clearly by the Central Bank when Wexford was chosen that there would be no increase in prices and businesses here adhered to that faithfully,” she explained.

“Prices remained the same – items were still carrying the same prices tags and it was only the total bill at the end of the transaction that was rounded up or down to the nearest five cent.”

“Consumers were very happy to support the project once it wasn’t hitting them in their pocket while it cut down on the time that business people had to spend dealing with coin.”

Unveiling the pilot project back in 2013, Ronnie O’Toole of the National Payments Plan explained that the pilot trial followed the Central Bank surveying customers about the coins.

“People said they couldn’t use them any more to buy anything or use them in machine so what people do is that they take them out of their wallet or purse and put them in a jam-jar.

“As a result, we have had to replace those coins going out of circulation – we have issued over €30 million worth of one and two cent coins since the euro was introduced in 2001.

“In fact our issuing of replacement one cent and two cent coins accounts for 85 per cent of all coin production for the Central Bank at the mint in Sandyford,” said Mr O’Toole in 2013.

However even small change comes at cost with each one cent coin cost 1.7 cent to mint and each two cent coin cost more than two cents to mint, explained Mr O’Toole.

This has resulted in the Central Bank having to spend well in excess of €30 million on the coins in the period between 2001 and 2012.

It’s understood that while the Central Bank has recommended out the national roll out of the rounding project, participation in the scheme will be on a voluntary basis.

This means that one and two cent coin will remain legal tender as is the case in a number of other Eurozone countries which have already adopting a rounding policy.

Earlier this month Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone said the Central Bank should abolish the coins.

“Ireland has been minting coppers at three times the rate of the EU average and yet there is a consistent shortage of them across the country. This is causing consistent problems for businesses when it comes to change shortages and is a hassle shared by businesses and consumers alike,” she said.

“It seems senseless that we are bending over backwards to produce these coins given the cost of production costs more than their stored value, with a one cent coin costing 1.7 cent to produce and a two cent coin costing about two cents.”

New low cholesterol drug may be available by end of year

  

Evolocumab can be used for high levels of cholesterol when statin drugs are not effective

based on the potential role of the monoclonal agent and its cost effectiveness.

LDL cholesterol causes “furring” of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and the brain, which puts those affected at greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

A novel class of cholesterol-lowering drug could be available to Irish patients by the end of the year, following the approval of the first of the new agents by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EMA has recommended to the European Commissionthat it issue a EU-wide marketing authorisation for evolocumab as a treatment to lower high blood levels of cholesterol in cases where the standard treatment with statin drugs is not effective.

The new drug, which will be marketed under the trade name Repatha and is manufactured by Amgen, is also indicated for people who cannot take statins and for those with a rare inherited form of familial high cholesterol in which levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) are higher than normal from birth.

Unlike statins, which are taken orally, the new class of monoclonal antibodies are injected either monthly or once every two weeks.

Evolocumab, and other drugs in the class, block a protein called PCSK9, the effect of which is to increase the number of LDL- receptors in the liver, thereby enhancing the body’s ability to remove the harmful form of cholesterol from the blood.

LDL cholesterol causes “furring” of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and the brain, which puts those affected at greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

Evolocumab and another agent alirocumab received preliminary approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week even though research data proving their efficacy in reducing cardiovascular disease is not yet complete. This fact led a minority of experts on the FDA panel to vote against approval.

However other experts say that trial results showing a 40 to 65 per cent reduction in LDL levels among participants is highly significant.

Dr Jim Crowley, medical director of CROì, the west of Ireland cardiology foundation, said it is reasonable to use LDL reduction as a surrogate for reducing cardiac events based on current knowledge.

Both Dr Crowley and Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, emphasised a need to establish the long -term safety profile of the new class of agents.

“It is very important to see the results of long term outcome trials before these agents are used more widely,” Dr Brown said. She predicted the new agents are likely to complement statins in the prevention of heart disease rather than replace them.

While the exact cost of the drug in Europe is not yet known, US sources have predicted a cost per patient per year of around $10,000.

Once marketing authorisation has been granted, the HSE medicines management programme will take a decision on reimbursement

What does a diabetes-friendly meal look like?

  

Practicing portion control is a crucial part of a diabetes-safe diet, and this tip makes it easy.

Counting carbs is effective and plays a critical role in your diabetes control. So does portion control — and all you need to get started is an empty plate.

Take an ordinary dinner plate and draw an imaginary line down the center. Now, focus on filling half the plate with nonstarchy vegetables. Then divide the remaining half into two sections, each of which you will fill with starchy foods and a protein source like meat or fish. (But don’t pile the food sky-high on the plate!) Following this practice is a simple and effective method to lose weight and help manage type 2 diabetes.

Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Bok choy
  • Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Beets
  • Okra
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Turnips

In one small section (1/4 of the total plate) put starchy foods:

  • Whole-grain bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Dal
  • Tortillas
  • Cooked beans or peas, such as pinto beans or black-eyed peas
  • Potatoes
  • Green peas
  • Corn
  • Lima beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Low-fat crackers, snack chips, pretzels, or fat-free popcorn

In the other small section (1/4 plate) place your protein choice:

  • Chicken or turkey without the skin
  • Fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, or catfish
  • Other seafood such as shrimp, clams, oysters, crab, or mussels
  • Lean cuts of beef and pork such as sirloin or pork loin
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheese

At breakfast, your plate will look different, but the idea is the same. Whether you use a plate or bowl for breakfast, keep your portions small. Use half the plate for starchy foods and fill the smaller sections with fruit (1/4) and your protein choice in the other (1/4).

Pope backs climate changes and denounces world leaders

   

Pope Francis attends a meeting with the Roman Diocesans in St. Peter’s Square on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Pope Francis has endorsed the science behind global warning and denounced the world’s political leaders for putting national self-interests ahead of action.

The 192-page leaked draft of a papal encyclical, published Monday by the Italian magazine L’Espresso, is an attempt to influence the debate before United Nations climate talks scheduled for the end of the year in Paris. Father Federico Lombardi, the pope’s spokesman, said the text was not the final one, which will be officially released midday local time Thursday by the Vatican.

The encyclical, entitled “Laudato si (Praised Be) on the care of our common home,” is a call to action in the form of a letter to the church’s bishops. With fossil-fuel emissions and temperatures at record levels, the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics is adding his voice to calls to rein in greenhouse gases.

“International negotiations cannot progress in a significant way because of the positions of the countries which privilege their own national interests rather than the global common good,” the pope wrote. “Those who will suffer the consequences which we are trying to hide will remember this lack of conscience and responsibility.”

Francis squarely put the blame on humans, writing that many scientific studies show “the greater part of global warming in the last decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others) emitted above all due to human activity.”

  Some ‘Honesty and Courage’ needed.

Reducing emissions, he wrote, demands “honesty, courage and responsibility, above all by the most powerful and most polluting countries.”

For months, the pontiff and his advisers have met dozens of scientists and economists to guide the church’s views on the topic.

The pope’s intervention already is rattling climate skeptics in the U.S. and giving environmentalists hope that the weight of his opinion could energize the agonizingly slow UN discussions.

“Francis has become the moral leader of our age, and he can do what scientists and national leaders cannot do,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the University of California in San Diego, said in a phone interview.

“He can ask people, and not just Catholics, to change their behavior,” said Ramanathan, a senior member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that advises Francis.

Renewables and Investments.

A shift in the energy industry, which produces the majority of greenhouse gases, is already is under way. Investment in renewable energy ballooned to $310 billion last year from $60 billion a decade ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The International Energy Agency says cleaner forms of energy willdominate power generation by 2030.

To help drive his message home, Francis has requested that bishops around the globe “accompany the publication with appropriate explanations and comments,” the Vatican said in a statement last week.

Francis himself will press his views on a visit to the U.S. in September. He will meet President Barack Obama and address Congress — the first pope to do so — and the UN General Assembly.

Rumblings about the encyclical already have drawn fire from critics in the U.S. — where the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, wrote a book on climate change titled “The Greatest Hoax.” Francis should “leave science to the scientists,” Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said this month.

St. Francis

“There are a significant number of devout Catholics who are Republicans, and those people will have to think very hard about his message,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute in Washington, who took part in a seminar on climate with Francis and several cardinals in May.

The title of the encyclical recalls the opening phrase of the “Canticle of the Creatures” by St. Francis of Assisi, who was the patron saint of animals and the environment. The pope chose to become Francis on his election in March 2013.