Thursday, February 19, 2015

Donie's Ireland daily news BLOG update

Ireland ‘ignored EC advice’ to stop economy overheating


Marco Buti and Dónal Donovan speak at Banking Inquiry. Dónal Donovan, the former Deputy Director at the IMF, appears before the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry.

Ireland ignored advice from the European Commission to take measures to prevent the economy overheating prior to the banking collapse, according to the commission’s director general for economic and financial affairs.
Marco Buti said the commission issued a critical opinion on the 2001-2003 stability programme highlighting Ireland’s failing to contain its public expenditure.
He said the commission also recommended that the Government be asked to take countervailing measures on February 12th, 2001.
“As some of you may remember, the recommendation was not very well received in Ireland; it was not implemented,” Mr Buti told the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry.
“Also many in the economic profession derided the Commission accusing us of focussing more on decimals rather than acknowledging the strength of the Irish economy,” he added.
Ireland’s economy started to “overheat” in the early 2000s but Europe did not have the authority to enforce responsible budgetary policies at the time, Mr Buti said.
“At the time we had a very limited set of tools within the stability and growth pact,” he said. “We called on the Irish authorities to behave responsibly but we did not have the authority [to enforce this].”
He said he agreed with those who concluded that the domestic financial supervisor did not acknowledge and address the risks associated with the credit and housing boom.
Mr Buti said economic growth became increasingly reliant on construction in the 2000s. Interest rates had declined and access to credit increased with Ireland’s entry into the EMU, which helped trigger a boom in investment and commercial property.
“House price inflation surged in Ireland. It rose by more than four-fold between 1993 and 2007, amongst the highest of any advanced economies,” Mr Buti said. “The supply of housing also rose sharply, but eventually beyond the needs of the population. The idea that house prices would increase forever turned into a recurrent and dangerous motive,” he added.
He said expansionary budgets negatively affected the Irish economy. Revenues became overly reliant on the property market but a shrinking tax base due to tax cuts left the budget exposed to the downturn in the property market.
He said “we saw the risks related to the housing market and we signalled that in a number of documents”. He said the commission used the tools at its disposal at the time to “ring the bell” but he added that this set of tools was “incomplete”.
Later the committe heard that the International Monetary Fund’s surveillance programme failed in Ireland during the years 2000 to 2007.
Former deputy director of the IMF Dónal Donovan said although the organisation noted some vulnerabilities in Ireland during the time leading up to the banking collapse, its assessments “gave no inkling” that a financial disaster was in the making.
He said the IMF got it more badly wrong in Ireland than he had seen in any other country. “I cannot recall in my experience a situation where the rosy picture turned so negatively in such a short period of time.”
Mr Donovan told the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry assessment of Ireland’s and other countries’ economies during this time were “overly positive”.
He said the IMF did believe house prices were “somewhat overvalued” during the construction boom but added that IMF staff and Irish officials implicitly “agreed to differ” over this question.

Enterprise Ireland backed firms to create 1,500 new jobs

A new report states


State body supported 81 early stage businesses last year.

A total of 43 new female-led start-ups were supported by Enterprise Ireland last year, the highest number ever
As many as 1,500 new jobs are expected to be created over the next three years by start-up companies backed by Enterprise Ireland, according to a new report from the State agency.
Enterprise Ireland said it supported 102 so-called High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies last year. A high-potential start-up is defined as a company that is export oriented, focused on technological innovation and likely to achieve growth of at least €1million per annum over a three-year period, and led by an experienced team.
The majority of the firms to be backed by Enterprise Ireland were in areas such as software and services, cleantech, engineering, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.
The State body said it also backed 81 new early stage businesses under its Competitive Start Fund, which provides seed funding for start-ups.
A total of 43 new female-led start-ups were supported by Enterprise Ireland last year, the highest number ever. The number of female-led firms to receive funding more than doubled 16 in 2012 to 41 in 2013 on the back of a number of women-specific initiatives. Additional programmes launched last year included the development of a dedicated female accelerator programme and the launch of Enterprise Ireland’s first peer-to-peer online networking platform for female-led companies.
Sixteen of the firms to receive funding last year were spun out of third-level institutions, compared to ten in 2013.
Twelve new food and drinks start-ups received backing last year, the highest number ever.
In addition, 14 new start-ups established by entrepreneurs from overseas, involving a range of sectors and with founders who have moved to Ireland to establish their businesses from Singapore, India, Switzerland and Germany.

Elderly Donegal woman faces 250km journey for cancer treatment to Galway


An 89-year old cancer patient has been forced to find her own way to travel 250km to receive cancer treatment.

The elderly woman, from North Donegal, contacted a local charity which operates a volunteer bus service transporting cancer patients the four-hour journey to Galway or Dublin.
Donegal has no specialist cancer care services, leaving people diagnosed with cancer to travel significant distances for radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
The woman, who do not want her name published, sought help from Eamonn McDevitt, and runs the cancer bus service entirely on donations.
“We have a saying in our charity that, if you’re diagnosed with cancer in Donegal, you’ve two options: you can travel, or you can die,” Mr McDevitt said.
“The lady contacted us to say she has to go to Galway for treatment.
“Believe it or not, the husband is still driving, and while he’s not able to drive to Galway, he said he would be able to drive (20 miles) to Letterkenny to meet up with the bus.
“They don’t have a family, it’s just themselves.”
Mr McDevitt criticised the Irish Cancer Society which, he said, had never provided funding for the charity bus service because, he said: “They don’t (fund) buses”.
“We’re very disappointed with the Irish Cancer Society,” said Mr McDevitt.

“They come to Donegal every year and they do what’s called a ‘Relay for Life’.

“It’s a fundraiser and they announced before Christmas that they picked up €820,000 here in Donegal alone.
“We’ve have talked to them in the hope they might give us something, and each time they have come straight out and tell us they ‘don’t do buses’.”
As part of a detailed statement the Irish Cancer Society said: “In 2015, we will fund a number of…local cancer groups with over €500,000 of direct financial support for their services.
“What these groups have in common is that they are affiliated to the Irish Cancer Society’s network of cancer groups and have signed up to a shared code of practice for good governance.
“This gives us confidence that we can stand over any funds we redistribute to support our vision of a future without cancer.”
“We invited (Mr McDevitt’s charity) to become part of this network and they have chosen not to engage.
“They are aware that this is the first step to take when seeking funds from the Society. It remains open to (them) to join the affiliated network of cancer support groups and seek funding through this mechanism.”
The Irish Cancer Society said it would “not compromise” on its policy of providing funds to affiliated local cancer services.

One third of DNA-tested pork ‘not sourced in Ireland’

Is very misleading 


The Irish Farmers’ Association has created a pig DNA database through which pork products can be traced back to the individual animal. 

Almost a third of pork meat products tested in an Irish Farmers’ Association survey were not of Irish origin, even though they were sold as Irish produce.
The IFA carries out DNA testing on pork as part of its “DNA-certified pig meat traceability programme”.
A total of 91 retail pork products were subjected to DNA tests in December and 26 of those checked (29%) were not assigned to the Irish boar database.
The IFA said the “misleading of consumers remains a serious issue”.
Its national pigs and pig meat committee chairman, Pat O’Flaherty, said the Republic of Ireland was the “first country in the world” to introduce a nationwide DNA traceability programme for pork.
‘Informed choice’
He said boar stud farms on both sides of the Irish border had signed up to the Republic’s DNA database.
“We can test any pig meat and tell if the daddy was Irish or not,” Mr O’Flaherty said.
The County Kildare-based pig farmer has worked in the industry for 15 years and believes consumers should be given an “informed choice” when buying food, as production standards vary greatly from country to country.
He said the IFA introduced its DNA-certified pig meat traceability programme about two years ago “to stop the blatant misleading of consumers”.
Mr O’Flaherty said food suppliers had a wider responsibility to be honest and transparent with consumers on how and where their food is produced
Its most recent set of tests were carried out at shops in Wexford, Galway, Cork and Cavan.
In every store surveyed, an IFA representative posed as a shopper and asked the salesperson to confirm if the pork products on display were Irish goods.
“Not one butcher admitted that the products were imported,” Mr O’Flaherty said.
“We are horrified that fresh pork is being imported into this country. This is a new development and one which the consumer would never expect”.
‘Labelling fraud’
The IFA has a vested interest in promoting Irish farmers’ goods above all others, but Mr O’Flaherty said there is a wider responsibility to be honest and transparent with consumers on how and where their food is produced.
He said there was nothing to stop imported food from being labelled as “produced in Ireland” even if it was only processed or packaged in the Republic, which he felt was misleading to customers who want to buy Irish goods.
He said most Irish consumers knew little or nothing about food production regulations in some of the countries they were unwittingly buying meat from.
Mr O’Flaherty also complained about the lack of prosecutions for food labelling fraud in the Republic of Ireland and said rules must be tightened to promote greater consumer confidence in the food chain.
The BBC asked the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) about the latest pig meat survey results but a spokeswoman said her organisation had no involvement in the IFA’s testing process and could not comment on the findings.
‘Horsemeat scandal’
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has called on the European Union to introduced mandatory ‘country of origin’ labelling for processed meats.
The party’s Dublin MEP, Lynn Boylan, was among a group that brought forward a resolution to the EU Parliament last week, calling on the European Commission to propose new food labelling legislation.
“We should not wait for another scandal on the scale of the horsemeat scandal before we act on this issue. Consistent studies have shown that the vast majority of consumers want this labelling,” Ms Boylan said.

Penguins are not able to taste fish,

Says a new study


Penguins may love devouring fish, but it turns out they might not be able to taste them.

While analyzing the genetic data of five penguins, each of a different species, researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that all the birds were missing three of the five basic taste genes. “Based on genetic data, penguins are believed to have sour and salty tastes, but have lost sweet, umami, and bitter tastes,” researcher Jianzhi Zhang told the BBC, adding that the birds likely lost these taste genes when they evolved millions of years ago.
Zhang said that penguins may be unique in this deficiency. He told the HuffPost that “no other bird is known to have lost three tastes. As far as we know, most birds have both umami and bitter taste receptor genes.” Most, however, cannot taste sweetness.
Without this ability to taste umami, or a savory, meaty flavor, it’s possible that penguins — who are also believed to lack taste buds on their tongues — are unable to taste the seafood that makes up their diet.
“Penguins eat fish, so you would guess that they need the umami receptor genes, but for some reason they don’t have them,” Zhang said in a news release. “These findings are surprising and puzzling, and we do not have a good explanation for them. But we have a few ideas.”
The researchers speculate that the cold environments in which penguins evolved may have played a role in their changing tastes, as the taste receptors for sweet, umami and bitter are said to function poorly in cold temperatures.
Still, though it might strike some as odd that a carnivorous animal can’t taste meat — or perhaps anything at all, given penguins’ reduction in taste function both at an anatomical and sensory level — researchers say that a lack of taste is likely not such a big deal for the birds: penguins swallow their food without chewing.
“Their behavior of swallowing food whole, and their tongue structure and function, suggest that penguins need no taste perception,” said Zhang, “although it is unclear whether these traits are a cause or a consequence of their major taste loss.”   

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