Friday, March 13, 2015

Donie's Ireland daily news BLOG

Irish economy surges ahead with 4.8% growth in 2014 



On a seasonally adjusted basis, constant price Gross Domestic Product (GNP) rose by 0.2% for the final three months of the year
Ireland’s economy grew by 4.8% in 2014 as the recovery strengthened, marginally exceeding the most recent Government forecasts.
At constant market prices, the value of Ireland’s gross domestic product last year – €181.33 billion – eclipsed the €180.5 billion value of GDP in 2008 when the economy crashed.
The growth rate in 2014, Europe’s fastest, indicates that the economy shifted into a different gear after a prolonged slump, with activity in the domestic economy advancing as the multinational sector continued to deliver a strong performance.
The acceleration in GDP growth last year, which far exceeded the 0.2% expansion recorded in 2013, follows a marked increase in domestic demand as consumers resumed spending. While this is on top of continued growth in exports, these new figures also point to a rise in imports.
“Every sector is recording positive growth, without exception,” said Michael Connolly of the national accounts division at the Central Statistics Office.
This year’s budget, which was predicated on annualised GDP growth of 4.7% in 2014, assumes the economy will expand by 3.9% in 2015.
Data released this morning in Dublin by the CSO states that gross national product (GNP), which strips out the impact of multinational profit flows, grew last year by5.2%, compared with 3.3% GNP growth in 2013.
It is GDP figures which form the basis for key budget calculations. According to the CSO, GDP grew 0.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to the previous three month period.
“The value added of agriculture rose by 10% in volume terms in 2014 compared to 2013. The distribution, transport, software and communications sector increased by 8%, and other services by 3.4%,” said the CSO.
“There was an overall increase of 1.5 per cent in industry, (within which building and construction recorded a 6.9 per cent increase in real terms). Public administration and defence recorded an annual increase of 1.1 per cent.”
As the economic recovery broadens, these latest figures follow a long line of upgrades in growth forecasts for the Irish economy in 2014 and 2015.
Compared with the fourth quarter of 2013, GDP grew 4.1 per cent in same period in 2014. The rate of annualised growth was the same in the third quarter of 2014, but less than the 7.2 per cent rate of annualised in the second quarter .
It was in the second-quarter of 2014 which marked a turning point in Ireland’s recovery, as the economy was shown to be expanding at the fastest rate since the early 2000s.

Catholic Church guidelines on religious inclusion in schools are ‘disappointing’

Fr Michael Drumm, chairperson of the Catholic Schools Partnership.

NEW guidelines from the Catholic Church on how primary schools can make children of other faiths feel included have been described as ”disappointing”.

The much-anticipated document is a response to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, which made recommendations on catering for the growing demand in Ireland for greater choice in primary education.
The church’s document covers issues such as how schools should deal with non-Catholic pupils during religious classes and how they can be generally welcoming of children of other faiths and none.
The report refers to proposed new religious education programme for Catholic schools , which will provide time for teaching about other religion.
It sets out how requests for children to “opt out” of religion classes can be handled by the principal, but this could include the child staying the classroom and doing some other activity.
And it also states that schools should not exceed the two and a half hours a week provided for religious education.
Fr Michael Drumm of the Catholic Schools Partnership said they had  consulted widely in the preparation for the document, Catholic Primary Schools in a Changing Ireland: Sharing Good Practice on the Inclusion of all Pupils.
“Given the notable record of Catholic schools in the area of social inclusion, it aims to help schools in developing good practice with regard to religious issues.  As the Department of Education and Skills has noted, there is no ‘one-size-that-fits-all’ in this regard.  Rather schools need to develop policies and practices which address the context of each particular school” he said..
But Professor John Coolahan, who chaired the forum, said today while the document was a “ step in the right direction,  it  is limited”.
“There are some improvements, some steps forwards, but I don’t know whether it will satisfy parents and they are the real adjudicators.”  He said he would like to have seen some concrete examples of good practice in Catholic schools.
Prof Coolahan said that it was three years since the report of the forum was published, adding that the response was “a long time in gestation and, in terms of content, you would wonder why”.
The Catholic Church currently controls 89pc of primary schools and in many areas there is no other option for children in the local area.
A major part of the  forum’s work was to make recommendations for the handover of some Catholic-run schools to other patron bodies, such as the multi-denominational, Educate Together, in communities where there demand for more choice.
The forum  also made a series of proposals  about how primary schools generally ensure that they are inclusive  of children of all faiths and  none.
This is regarded as particularly important in the case of 1,700 ”stand alone schools  in rural areas , which are at least three kilometre res form their nearest neighbour,  and  where  where transfer of patronage is not  an option.
However, there also many schools under Catholic patronage in urban areas with a high number of children of various belief systems.
The report Catholic Primary Schools in a Changing Ireland Sharing Good Practice on Inclusion of All Pupils sets out in general way how schools should deal with the issues that arise in Catholic schools for children of different faiths or none.
These include what such pupils should do during the daily 30-minute religion class and during the times when Catholic pupils are preparing for sacraments such as First Communion and Confirmation.
The forum, also recommended that schools have a policy on the display of religious artefacts, such as crucifixes.
The report stated that “such displays ought not to be exclusive to any one faith or tradition but should also have a balance, reflective of the beliefs of children attending the schools”.
However, the report is silent on this proposal although it does talk about teaching to respect  respect other ways of praying, their holy objects, religious stories, sacred writings and beliefs.
Prof Coolahan said he would like to have seen  that point developed a bit more., “does it mean that they would allow holy objects of other faiths to be displayed in the school”.
He acknowledged  the reference in the document to recognising  religious festivals of other faiths but said it  was “the minimum you would expect”
Prof Coolahan  also said that while the guidance to schools about not exceeding the two and a half a hours a week for religion was helpful, it was only stating a fact.
He also criticised a reference to a  2010-212 report form the Chief Inspector of the Department of Education  which acknowledged that Catholic schools were inclusive. He said that this was not a reference to inclusion in the sense dealt with by the forum.

Lucinda Creighton will launch her new political party today Friday


Declared candidates to be announced at event in The Science Gallery, Dublin.

Lucinda Creighton pictures at a public meeting held in the Tara Towers Hotel, Dublin, in February.
Lucinda Creighton will launch her new party on Friday.
Declared candidates will be announced at an event in The Science Gallery in Dublin.
The event will be live-streamed on the party’s website,
Ms. Creighton, a former Fine Gael minister of state for Europe, held a “Reboot Ireland” event on January 2nd with financial adviser and commentator Eddie Hobbs.
That event was also attended by Independent Offaly Councillor John Leahy, who will be joining the party. Mr Leahy, who was elected to Offaly County Council in 2009, has said he wants to tackle the demise of rural Ireland.
Ms. Creighton originally indicated a new party could be up-and-running by the end of February.
Ms. Creighton and mortgage broker Karl Deeter recently presented a code of conduct prohibiting “cronyism” for members of a new party, to a south Dublin crowd of more than 150 people.

Almost 90% of all medical students considering emigration after they qualify


Education Minster Jan O’Sullivan has said it is “concerning” that almost 90% of Irish medical students are considering emigration after graduation.

An NUI Galway study found that more than a third of those said they were “definitely” planning to leave Ireland, with 50% saying they were “contemplating it”.
Minister Jan O’Sullivan said the research shows we need to make it more attractive for Irish graduates to stay in the country.
She says it was an ongoing worry among medical students in particular.
“This has long been a problem in the Irish medical training system,” she said. “Irish doctors have traditionally gone abroad for further training.”
In a statement issued today, the Department of Health said it had already begun a recruitment drive to retain doctors in Ireland, and the implementation of a strategic review published last year is “a priority” for the Minister for Health.

830 patients on trolleys across Galway last month



620 patients in UHG and an additional 210 patients at Portiuncula spent time on a trolley during February.
This represents an increase of almost 40% on the figure for February 2014.
Nationally, February recorded the highest number of people ever waiting on trolleys.
A task force is meeting this evening to discuss plans to ease waiting lists for beds in hospitals.
Liam Doran, General Secretary of the INMO says they’re shocking figures.

Why eating food raw is WRONG?

The vegetables that see nutritional values rise when cooked revealed


  • Cooking carrots increases the antioxidant carotenoid content 

  • Tomatoes benefit from being heated as powerful lycopene is activated

  • Avoid overcooking vegetables as too many vitamins are lost otherwise

We’ve all been told that eating vegetables raw is better for you as uncooked veggies contain more nutrients than ones which have been exposed to heat.
But while this might be true of some produce, it’s not a one-size fits all rule.
In fact nutritionists are now saying that cooking some vegetables frees up more nutrients for your body to absorb.
Heating certain vegetables can help to breakdown their fibres and so release minerals for absorption. Overcooking them however is a definite no-no as many vital minerals and vitamins are lost
Heating asparagus (pictured) may help to increase nutrient bioavailability and their polyphenol content
Tomatoes, spinach, carrots, asparagus and mushrooms are five vegetables and fungi which are much better for you when consumed cooked.
Mel Wakeman, nutrition expert and Senior Lecturer in Applied Physiology at Birmingham City University told FEMAIL: ‘Many of the nutrients found in plants are often less readily absorbed in the gut compared to nutrients derived from animal products.
‘The fibre found in plants often binds particularly to minerals and makes them less available for the body to use (their bioavailability).
‘Heating can help to breakdown the fibre and so release some of the minerals for absorption, and can often increase the phytochemical content of plants which can provide additional non-nutrient benefits to our health.’
According to Ms. Wakeman, heating tomatoes increases the levels of lycopene in the fruit, which has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
However she advises against only eating cooked tomatoes as heating destroys other vitamins.
Both fibre and oxalates can make the iron in spinach (pictured) particularly difficult to absorb and we may only get around 5% of the iron content from many dark green leafy vegetables
‘Tomatoes are rich in many nutrients but one is of particular interest to men’s health – lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer,’ she said.
‘Although inconclusive at the moment there are also suggestions lycopene may also improve heart health. Heating tomatoes increases the levels of lycopene in tomatoes. I would advise against only eating cooked tomatoes as heating does destroy other important vitamins (such as Vit C) so simply have a mixture of cooked and raw tomato products.’
Spinach is rich in oxalates that will bind to valuable minerals in spinach such as iron and calcium.
Both fibre and oxalates can make iron particularly difficult to absorb and we may only get around five per cent of the iron content from many dark green leafy vegetables
‘Heating spinach can help but may not make a significant difference (possibly only reducing oxalate content by up to 15 per cent,’ Ms Wakeman explained.
However, it is important not to overcook spinach as other nutrients are lost.
‘Light cooking or wilting is certainly better than boiling when the nutrients leach out into the pan and get washed away when we drain the veg,’ she added.
Carrots are rich in carotenoids which give them their vivid orange colour. Heating carrots can increase the carotenoid content which can provide many benefits as they have powerful antioxidant properties.
Cooking mushrooms may improve their nutrional value but be wary of the amount of fat you use when cooking
Carrots, which contain carotenoids (left), and tomatoes, which are rich in lycopene (right) both benefit from being cooked as heat can increase the content of both compounds


‘Microwaving and steaming often help to retain the nutrient content of veg, rather than boiling. Eat a mixture of raw and cooked carrots too.’
Heating asparagus may help to increase nutrient bioavailability and their polyphenol content.
‘Polyphenols – also found in tea, red wine and chocolate – have strong antioxidant properties and provide beneficial effects in terms of risks of heart disease and cancers for example,’ she clarified.
Mushrooms contain reasonable amounts of vitamins and minerals.
‘Cooking may improve their nutrient value but because they soak up oils like sponges, be wary of the amount of fat you use when cooking,’ Ms Wakeman said.
‘Common wisdom says cooked food has lower nutritional value compared to fresh produce, but that’s not always true,’ said Rui Hai Liu, a professor in the department of food science at Cornell University who studied how heat affects food, said to The Washington Post.
‘Many nutrients in fruits and vegetables are bound in the cell walls,’ he explains. ‘Cooking helps release them, so they’re more bioavailable and absorbed by the body.’
How to steam vegetables and lock in vital nutrients
Mushrooms in a smoky chilli sauce
Ingredients: 50g chopped onions; three cloves chopped garlic; one tablespoon dried oregano; two tablespoons chilli puree; 750g sliced button mushrooms; 25ml vegetable oil; 25g plain flour; 150ml whipping cream; 300ml milk; pinch of salt; one teaspoon cracked black pepper; quarter tablespoon paprika; 20g chopped coriander
Method: After thoroughly washing the mushrooms, place the oil, onions, garlic and oregano into the pan and start to sweat through, as onions start to take colour, add the mushrooms and leave to sweat stirring occasionally
When almost cooked through add the chilli puree and the paprika, stir in and then add the flour to make the roux
Gradually add the milk whilst stirring until all has gone in, then add the cream, let the mix simmer for 10 -15 minutes, then add the salt, pepper and coriander
Garnish with a sprig of watercress and serve with bread or tortillas.
Tomato Gazpacho
Ingredients: One clove of garlic sliced; five large tomatoes; quarter cucumber, chopped; one red pepper (roasted, skinned and chopped); one onion, chopped; 100ml olive oil; two or three tablespoons sherry vinegar; 50g mix of chopped parsley, chervil and dill; one to two courgettes (ribboned) for garnish.
Method: Preheat the oven to 200c. Put the tomatoes into a roasting tray and oven-bake them whole, until well roasted (about 20-30 minutes but make sure you keep checking them)
Heat 20ml of the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic, red pepper, onion and cucumber and gently fry for about 2 minutes.
Add the roasted tomatoes to the pan (they will break down) and cook for ten minutes longer. Allow to cool a little then blend the whole lot in a food processor.
Mix in the remaining olive oil, sherry vinegar and herbs, season to taste, and put in the fridge (allow to chill for at least two hours before serving).
Just before you want to serve, shave the courgettes into ribbons using a vegetable peeler.
Sprinkle over a good pinch of salt and leave them for about ten minutes (this gets rid of their excess water), then rinse and pat dry with kitchen roll.
To serve, ladle the chilled gazpacho into four individual bowls and top with the ribboned courgettes.

Scientists have discovered more than 1,000 new fish species in the last 8 years

It’s probably easier to find, track and document animal and plant species on land than in the vast ocean, but it seems we’ve been making progress underwater as well.
In our quest to document all the marine life existing on this planet, we have managed to identify more than 1,000 new fish species alone in the last eight years.
According to the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), our total inventory of known marine species stands at 228,450, including some in laboratories around the world which are still waiting to be described.
122 different types of sharks and rays have been identified so far.
Non-fish marine creatures described last year include two dolphins from Australia and Brazil and 139 sponges.
The scientists have also been sorting out confusion over the registered names of sea creatures, many of which have been duplicated over the years. One species of sea snail was found to have 113 different names.
In 2014 alone, around 1,451 previously-unknown marine creatures were added to the WoRMS database – that’s an average of four per day.
8,900 clams have been entered into the WorMS database.
The database has documented more than 8,900 clams, along with 1,800 sea stars, 816 squids till date as well as 122 sharks and rays.
“Though a few relatively minor gaps remain, we consider the register now virtually complete with respect to species described throughout scientific history,” said WoRMS co-chair Jan Mees, Chair of the European Marine Board and Director of VLIZ.
“And, of course, we are constantly updating with newly-described species, revisions of taxonomy, and adding occasional species that have been overlooked.”

Dr Mees estimates that there are at least 10,000 and possibly more new-to-science species are in lab jars around the world that are still waiting to be described.
There are around 10,000 species in lab jars still waiting to be catalogued
Even at the rate at which marine species are being described today, researchers believe it would take 360 more years to identify every creature thought to exist in the oceans.
“It is humbling to realise that humankind has encountered and described only a fraction of our oceanic kin, perhaps as little as 11%,” said Dr Mees.
“Sadly, we fear, many species will almost certainly disappear due to changing maritime conditions – especially warming, pollution and acidification – before we’ve had a chance to meet.”        

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