Thursday, 2 November 2017

New research from the Discipline of Pathology at NUI Galway’s Lambe Institute for Translational Research led by Dr Sharon Glynn, has identified that a protein in the body called inducible nitric oxide synthase or iNOS is a key cause for the aggressive spread of triple negative breast cancer, which results in increased risk of early death from the disease. Almost 30% of women in the Western world are diagnosed with this form of breast cancer, which currently cannot be treated or stopped with therapies such as tamoxifen and is limited to treatment through chemotherapy and surgery. These findings will lead to new research to determine what drives this aggressive form of the disease and to develop new therapies and improve survival. Triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer is frequently diagnosed in younger women ranging from their thirties and upwards. Based on this research Dr Glynn’s laboratory has had two landmark papers published in the international journals, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Oncotarget, which investigates the role of iNOS and the protein COX2 in this type of breast cancer. iNOS and COX2 are normally activated when the body experiences inflammation and wound healing. Dr Glynn’s research shows that when both proteins are expressed together in triple negative breast cancer, they lead to faster tumour growth and help the tumour to spread around the body. In the first study, published in Oncotarget, Dr Glynn and her NUI Galway colleagues Dr Pablo Garrido, Dr Aideen Ryan and Professor Grace Callagy found that women with increased expression of iNOS were at greater risk of their breast cancer spreading to other parts of their body, leading to poor survival rates. They conducted a study of 206 women across the Western seaboard diagnosed with breast cancer at Galway University Hospital between 2000 and 2016, and found that iNOS was a factor in the poor survival rate of Irish breast cancer patients with triple negative breast cancer. It made the cells more resistant to treatment such as chemotherapy, aiding in tumour cell growth and a much higher risk of the disease spreading, leading to death. Speaking about the research, Dr Sharon Glynn at NUI Galway, said: “The results from both studies will be used to develop screening methods to identify which patients are at increased risk of developing the lethal disease. The team are also focused on developing new therapeutic drugs that shut down both of these proteins and reduce the spread of cancer which can lead to premature death in the future. Both proteins have been identified as key drivers in the spreading or metastasis of triple negative breast cancer, and targeting them may save the lives of these patients.” The second study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was edited by the Nobel Laureate, Dr Louis Ignarro, a world expert in nitric oxide biology. Dr Glynn collaborated with Dr Debashree Basudhar and Dr David Wink at the National Cancer Institute in the US and demonstrated for the first time that patients who express high levels of iNOS in conjunction with high levels of the protein COX2, are at an increased risk of tumour progression throughout the body and high risk of death. The study was carried out with patients from Maryland in the US. It found that five years post-diagnosis, less than 40% of women with high levels of iNOS and COX2 survive, compared to 95% of women with low levels of both proteins. To read the full study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, visit: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/10/26/1709119114.full To read the full study in Oncotarget, visit: www.impactjournals.com/oncotarget/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=view&path%5b%5d=19631&path%5b%5d=62719 -Ends-

Thursday, 2 November 2017

NUI Galway will hold its annual Postgraduate Open Day on Tuesday, 7 November, from 12-3pm in the Bailey Allen Hall, Áras na Mac Léinn. The Open Day is an important event for professionals, graduates and current undergraduates who are focusing on their future, with the aim of upgrading their qualification, broadening their skills-set, increasing their specialist knowledge and ultimately improving their job prospects and earning power. The Open Day will showcase over 170 of NUI Galway’s full-time and part-time postgraduate programmes, and an extensive range of research masters and doctoral research options. Over 100 information stands will provide details on postgraduate opportunities at the University,    with academic staff and current students on hand to answer questions about specific courses. Speaking on the value of a postgraduate qualification, Valerie Leahy, Postgraduate Recruitment Officer, explains why students should seriously consider their options after their degree “Research has shown that earning power and career progression greatly increases after obtaining a postgraduate qualification. Furthermore it can enhance employability.” Living in Galway is an exciting prospect for many students. The recent announcement that NUI Galway is the Sunday Times University of the Year 2018 aligned with the University ranking in the Top 1% in the world according to QS Global Rankings means that applicants can feel confident that they will receive a qualification from a university noted for quality in teaching and research. A key part of the decision to pursue a postgraduate qualification is finding out as much as possible about the application process and the funding options available. The upcoming Open Day brings together all the key people and organisations that provide support to postgraduate students. The Open Day will showcase new programme offerings for 2018 including Masters programmes in Medical Technologies Regulatory Affairs and Quality; Cellular Manufacturing and Therapies; Microscopy and Imaging; Podiatric Medicine, Environmental Leadership; Business and Hospitality; International Accounting and Analytics; and AgriBiosciences. To explore NUI Galway’s suite of new and unique postgraduate programmes, and to book your place at the Open Day visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/postgraduate-open-day/ -Ends- 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Author: Dr Alison Forrestal, History Department Opinion: it's 500 years since Martin Luther presented the Ninety-Five Theses in Wittenberg in Germany so it's a good time to re-assess that movement for reform with its extraordinary consequences This October, an event in the small university town of Wittenberg in Germany has become the focus of widespread attention – just as it did exactly 500 years ago. In October 1517, Martin Luther wrote the Ninety-Five Theses that are now commonly remembered as the first step in the Protestant Reformation. Within a few years, Luther was on the road from relative obscurity to immortality, as the central figure in a movement for reform that could not be contained and which had extraordinary political, social, and cultural consequences. Reformation or Reformations? Luther sat front and centre in the Reformation, and nobody was more important to the reform movement in the first decade of its development. But it is somewhat misleading to use the term "Protestant Reformation" to describe it because there were many varieties of Protestant Reform. Individuals, geography, and chronology all conspired to subdivide the process into Lutheran, Calvinist, Tudor, and Radical Reformations - and Luther’s influence was more limited in some of these than in others. It is also important to realise that the Catholic church also had its own Reformation, another fact that has become much more widely accepted and appreciated amongst historians today. Then and now Last weekend, a major public conference took place under the auspices of the Catholic Historical Society of Ireland and the Church of Ireland Historical Society, with a string of speakers discussing the Reformations of the Protestant and Catholic traditions. For centuries, the fallout from the Reformations contaminated and even defined relations between the Catholic and Protestant denominations. As a result, an event like Reformation 500would have been unthinkable even a generation ago.  It testifies to the strides made by the main Churches in ecumenical relations in Ireland and beyond, including the joint declaration of the Lutheran and Catholic Churches in 1997. This presented a consensus on essentials of justification by faith, while acknowledging remaining differences of language, theological elaboration and emphasis. Justification by faith alone was one of the most divisive of Reformation ideas, originating with Martin Luther, and accompanied by other contentious ideas. The most important of these were the priesthood of all believers, and Luther’s rejection of what he considered a human-made hierarchy of clergy in the Catholic church. Until the mid-20th century, "Reformation" was a term associated with Protestant positivity, the restoration of biblical purity, freedom and rationality. Meanwhile, "Counter-Reformation" described a Catholic reaction of conservatism, stultification and restriction. Since then, it has become common to point out that the Catholic church had its own Reformation, with roots set as deeply in the 15th century and early 16th century as that of the Protestant. Appreciation has grown regarding its positive innovations in the areas of female participation in public works of welfare such as teaching and nursing, even if today’s churches continue to be distinguished by their differing attitudes to female ordination. While 19th century historians frequently took a nationalistic or jingoistic view of religious geo-politics, their modern successors are more inclined to question such uses of history as, for instance, in the superficial parallels suggested for Brexit and the Reformations. Liberty and liberation Importantly too, a growing willingness to view the Reformations without the lenses of faith has led to a shared discourse on confessionalisation, which emphasises common experiences while recognising regional and denominational differences.  All of the major Protestant reformers were influenced by Luther’s key ideas, but made substantial adaptations to them. These had implications for the long-term development of the kaleidoscope of Protestant denominations existing today. For example, those influenced by the reforms introduced by John Calvin in Geneva during the 1540s and 1550s adopted a congregational-style church structure, which eventually manifested in denominations such as the Presbyterians. Ohers, like the Anabaptists, lived apart from mainstream society, as communities of the elect adhering strictly to biblical rules in everyday life. Heavily persecuted by both Catholic and Protestant rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries, they were the forerunners of  the Mennonites of Ontario and Ohio (amongst other places) and the Amish of Pennsylvania today. The message of reform The questions that such pronounced religious diversity raised were sometimes answered experimentally, even in this age of violence and division. In the Dutch Republic and France, the presence of two or more religious denominations led to formal toleration of their conscience and worship for much of the seventeenth century, on the basis of constitutional principles in the former and royal privileges in the latter. However, it became much more common for rulers in other areas to make sustained, often forceful, efforts to impose uniformity of faith on their populations. They were especially keen to control religion in order to intensify their general authority over their subjects, in what is known as the "ordering function" of the Reformations. Furthermore, they wanted the "right’ kind of religious obedience whatever their favoured faith, as the peasants involved in the Peasants Revolt of 1524-5 found. Over 100,000 died during this violent confrontation when peasants who linked Luther’s claim of spiritual equality for all to rights of social, economic and political representation and equitable distribution of resources found themselves at odds with both Catholic and Protestant rulers in northern and central Europe. For Luther, the message of reform may have been primarily theological and spiritual, but the history of the reform movement he helped to generate is not a straightforward tale of liberation, freedom of conscience, and toleration. It is equally one of intolerance and persecution across the religious divides. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Friday, 24 November 2017

Author: Brendan Connolly, NUI Galway Opinion: apart from those who were directly abused by Harvey Weinstein, it's clear now that a lot of people knew about the film producer's behaviour yet chose to look the other way Let’s be clear: Harvey Weinstein has done some terrible things. Shakespeare in Love really did win the Best Picture Oscar over Saving Private Ryan. He’s indirectly responsible for that Gywneth Paltrow speech. While his company has made 308 feature films and he’s stumped up the cash for some classics like Pulp Fiction, there are some turkeys lurking in the shadows (think Vampire Academy – "they suck at school"). He’s also responsible for TV’s Project Runway and Mob Wives. If you’re not familiar then you really don’t know how to while away a few hours listening to your brain die. All of this allowed his company Miramax (sweetly named after his mom and pop) to become a multi-million pound entity and make him and his brother rather rich. Life was good until recently and then…"the other thing" came along. Yes, the other thing. Some of you will read this and roll your eyes. Or look up and see that it’s written by a man and start to levitate with rage. And you’d be right – I am a man, but that’s not why you should be angry.  Weinstein did sexually harass, assault and generally terrorise women over pretty much the entire arc of his career, so much so that it became a joke on 30 Rock and the Oscars. Years ago, when a reporter asked Courtney Love about her advice for aspiring young women in the entertainment industry, her advice was along the lines of "if Harvey Weinstein invites you to a party at his room in the Four Seasons, don’t go". And yet, he carried on in business, his company working with literally thousands of people along the way. All the while, the other side of his life became just the other thing. Some years back, we marvelled at the then US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and his ability to talk about "known unknowns" in the context of wiping tens of thousands of Iraqis off the face of the earth. Well, he must have had Hollywood scriptwriters in mind because it turns out that an awful lot of Hollywood was equally adept at trading in the rather philosophical world of known unknowns. Some well-known and equally powerful people in Hollywood walked away from Weinstein’s victims as easily as we walk past a homeless person begging on the street. We can understand on one level how that happened. The world is not always a nice place and the people who get to sit atop the rest of us aren’t always nice people. Of course they’re nice to those who matter, but that’s not usually the common herd. And Weinstein was quite selective: I haven’t heard of him hitting on Meryl Streep or anybody who has power in their own right. No, it was always the young aspiring model or actress. So he might have been a bullying pain to those closer to his own world, but it was to those who were way down the pecking order that he exhibited his other tendencies.  But the really interesting thing here is how quickly we forget in life. Leaving aside those directly abused, a lot of people knew about Weinstein. Some of them didn’t go on to have big careers, but quite a few did. At some point over the last 25 years, they too were just one of the herd trying hard to make whatever they reckoned they had stand out from the crowd. That’s to say, they should have had an almost instant empathy with those being abused because they knew what it was like to be young and desperate to make it. But they still didn’t feel enough of a kinship with those coming behind them to call time on the obnoxious conveyor belt. Stories like this one remind us that looking the other way does have a real cost And why is that? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it lies somewhere in the notion that power and success can play tricks with our humanity. Lord Acton supplied the famous "absolute power" line, but he also wrote that "there is not a more perilous or immoral habit of mind than the sanctifying of success". Although a little out of context, and not just because he was writing about Oliver Cromwell, there’s a point in there somewhere about how power and success can twist and be twisted that has Weinstein written all over it. Power and success breed their own milieu which is only inhabited by those who are powerful and successful.  After a while, those outside of the circle are easier to forget, easier to dismiss as not the responsibility of anyone in the circle.  Weinstein was quite selective and didn't hit on Meryl Streep or anybody who has power in their own right Power and success can immunise you from a lot of the unpleasantness in life and that’s when it’s personal.  When it’s somebody else, then it’s easy to walk away. Some well-known and equally powerful people in Hollywood walked away from Weinstein’s victims as easily as we walk past a homeless person begging on the street. How could people let this happen? It’s because they too are human, a condition we are all susceptible to.  There’s no cure, but stories like this one remind us that looking the other way does have a real cost. And that’s something worth remembering. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Author: Professor Pat Dolan, Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre Opinion: corporal punishment may now be outlawed in the Irish education system, but there are many adult victims still living with very sad memories from their schooldays Roddy Doyle’s recent interview on the Ryan Tubridy Show about the physical violence inflicted on children in Irish schools by their teachers when he was growing up in Dublin has brought two issues to the surface. Doyle not only brings something that has been largely hidden and unspoken in Irish society to public attention, but his comments also prompt a key question about what to do about it.  I am the same age as Doyle, give or take a couple of months, and was also born and bred in Dublin. My experience of being a victim of and witness to extreme violence from teachers, primarily Christian Brothers, has stayed with me - and not in a good way. I have particular memories of fear, horror and regular violence from teachers. I personally experienced not just slapping, which was deemed acceptable at the time (1960s into 1970s), but extreme violence. I remember one particular attack from a lay male teacher, who punched me and slapped me repeatedly across the face after I intervened to defend a classmate with a stammer. Although my father died tragically when I was very young, I was very fortunate to have a mother who defended me solidly when I told her and bravely took on the head Christian Brother at the time. Ironically, I know that there may have been classmates of mine who would have perceived the same teachers as fair whom I experienced as savage. From research, we know that such variance in memory and experience is not unusual.  It might be timely to have some form of truth commission for adult victims to have a route to express what they experienced in school Of course, Doyle’s comments are not new. Retired public servant Sean O'Donnell reflected on being in school in the mid-1960s and witnessing savage use of the strap by Christian Brothers while attending Coláiste Mhuire in Dublin. This lead him to say that he certainly did not "mourn the passing of those same teachers". The author John McGahern reflected on similar experiences going to primary school in rural Co Leitrim in Memoir, the story of his childhood. Through the years, there have ardent defenders of the use of normative corporal punishment (if such a thing actually existed) in schools. Typically, those who have taken this position use three core narratives as defence. Firstly: "I got slapped and it did not do me any harm." Secondly: "the teachers were not all bad". Thirdly: "they provided an education when no one else would." Let’s look at those three positions. If you are in the group who were hit and it did you no harm, good for you - but you do not have the right to dismiss the impact that it had on me and the many others who were harmed.  Secondly, yes there were good and non-violent teachers. But this neither counter balances those teachers who harmed children nor does it excuse the fact that many teachers worked with and knew of violent teachers and did nothing at the time. Thirdly, the fact that the state failed in its duty to provide education does not give the religious orders who ran schools the right to physically abuse children in the guise of discipline. I personally experienced not just slapping but extreme violence. In my current work with UNESCO, I am involved in researching primary and secondary education systems for children and youth internationally, with a particular interest in the development of civic engagement and empathy education. I am very glad that we are now at a point in Ireland where corporal punishment is no longer allowed and we strive to promote children rights. But it is concerning that, according to very recent research by Professor Elizabeth Gershoff from the University of Texas, corporal punishment is still permitted in at least a third of countries globally. This is despite the clear messages to the contrary contained within the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On reading Roddy Doyle’s reflections of his time in school, with which I can fully identify with, I think it might be timely to have some form of truth commission for adult victims to have a route to express what they experienced in school. It does not have to be on the scale of the Ryan Reportinto the abuse in children’s orphanages, but could be done in a simple way.  It may help some victims living with very sad memories to have some healing and closure - at last. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Author: Dr Bronagh Ann McShane, RECIRC, Moore Institute Many events will take place this year to mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s initiation of the Reformation in 1517. The Reformation 500 conference in Dublin this weekend is just one of a series of events taking place to reflect on the impact of the Reformation.   One group often overlooked in discussions surrounding the impact and outcomes of the Reformation in Ireland are nuns. For them, the onset of religious reform had arguably the biggest impact since a major feature of the early reform campaign in Ireland, as in England, was the dissolution of the monasteries. This involved the wholesale closure of convents and monasteries across the island. An official government decree of 1539 proclaimed that:  ... the King [King Henry VIII], having resolved to resume into his hands all the monasteries and religious houses, for their better reformation, to remove from them the religious men and women, and to cause them to return to some honest mode of living, and to the true religion… We know that at least some suppressed female communities continued to survive living together as late as the 1570s or 1580s. But as attempts to enforce conformity to the reformed church intensified under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, communal cloistered living for women in Ireland was no longer a viable option.  Migration to Europe was an experience Irish nuns shared with their English counterparts who were also compelled to travel abroad during the post-Reformation period So what options were available to women in Ireland wishing to pursue religious lifestyles in the years and decades following the onset of the Reformation? One option was to travel to the continent. Although their numbers and modes of migration are difficult to reconstruct, we know that individual and groups of Irish women were leaving Ireland in order to enter convents abroad by the late sixteenth century. In 1598, for example, the Irish Jesuit Henry Fitzsimon (1566-1643), made reference to a group of women living in Dublin who had "consecrated themselves to God in a vow of perpetual virginity" and who then awaited "an opportunity of sailing, to join a religious order on the continent".  Migration to Europe was an experience Irish nuns shared with their English counterparts who were also compelled to travel abroad during the post-Reformation period. In the case of English nuns, we have a very good picture of their numbers, locations and activities on the continent during the 16th and 17th centuries, thanks to the work of the Who Were the Nuns? project. The result of that project is a large-scale open access database which holds records of over 3,000 professed nuns who entered 22 English convents that were established across Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. 21 of these 22 English convents were established as new foundations in locations across France and Spanish Flanders (in what is now modern-day Belgium). The value of the Who Were the Nuns? project for someone interested in Irish nuns is that the database also holds records of Irish women who joined these English houses as well as a wealth of information about English nuns. One example is Mary Jane Butler or Sister Mary Joseph. She was born in c.1641 in Callan, Co. Kilkenny, daughter of Theobald Butler and his English-born wife, Anne Audley. Mary Butler was related through her mother’s family to James Butler, first Duke of Ormond, who was three times lord lieutenant of Ireland and was a figure of considerable political power and influence during the seventeenth-century. In 1657, at the age of about sixteen, Mary joined the English Benedictine convent in Boulogne in northern France, later relocating with that community to Pontoise, on the outskirts of Paris, where she remained until 1682.  Mary Butler is a significant figure in the history of Irish nuns during the post-Reformation era because she became abbess of a Benedictine convent established at Ypres in 1682 specifically for Irish nuns. The Irish Benedictine community established at Ypres and led by Abbess Mary Butler remained in operation on the Continent for over 200 years. It wasn’t until 1914, following the outbreak of World War One, that the Irish nuns were forced to flee their Belgian abode and return to Ireland. The community later settled at Kylemore Abbey in Co. Galway, where they remain today.  But the Benedictine foundation at Ypres was not the only Irish convent established in Europe during the 17th century. In fact, another convent for Irish nuns had already been in operation since 1639. That was a Dominican foundation in Lisbon in 1639, namely the convent of Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso (the Convent of Our Lady of Good Success). It was founded by Daniel O’Daly (1595-1662), a Kerry-born Dominican and diplomat, and received financial support from a wealthy Portuguese noblewoman, Dona Iria de Brito, Countess of Atalaya (d. 1640), who endowed the fledgling Irish community with a considerable property portfolio.  Today the Bom Sucesso convent remains on its original site on the Rue de Bartolomeu Dias in Belém, about ten kilometeres west of Lisbon city. Indeed until its recent closure in August 2016, Bom Sucesso was the longest surviving Irish continental convent and the oldest Irish Dominican convent in the world. Records of the convent’s early membership are scarce and among the first entrants to the convent were Leonor Kavanagh (Sister Leonor of Saint Margaret), who belonged to "an illustrious House of Leinster" and Leonor Burke (d. 1648), daughter of the martyred Sir John Burke from County Limerick (d. 1607). Thereafter, a steady flow of new postulants were admitted and over 90 women had been professed there by 1800. The vast majority of them were Irish or members of the Irish émigré community active in Lisbon throughout much of the 17th century. The Irish Dominican convent in Lisbon and the Irish Benedictine convent at Ypres played a pivotal role in sustaining religious vocation options for Irish women at a time when cloistered living in Ireland was proscribed. By incorporating the experiences of Irish nuns abroad into wider narratives on the European and Irish reformations, we can deepen our understanding of the impact of religious reform on the lives of everyday people during the post-Reformation era. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Author: Professor Ray Murphy, Irish Centre for Human Rights School of Law Opinion: the United Nations' lengthy mission in Haiti has featured serious controversy, including an outbreak of cholera and a poor response by the organisation to events The United Nations' mission in Haiti is coming to a close. Known as MINUSTAH, the 13 year mission has been marred by controversy involving allegations of sexual abuse and human rights violations. Operations began in 2004 when widespread violence forced then President Aristide from power. While the mission is credited with stabilising the country, particularly in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, there has been much criticism of the use of force in the restoration of law and order. However, its most controversial legacy relates to the disastrous outbreak of cholera in 2010. It is now estimated that around 10,000 Haitians have died and over a million have been infected as a result of the outbreak. Cholera is a deadly disease and proved a major cause of mortality during the famine in Ireland.  When the UN was blamed for the outbreak of cholera in 2010, it looked like a deliberate attempt to discredit its mission in Haiti. International experts who blamed the UN for introducing the disease to Haiti were initially ignored. The UN has now accepted some responsibility for the outbreak and established a trust fund, but this does not go far enough. In 2011 a claim for compensation was lodged with the UN on behalf of a large number of victims of the outbreak, but the international body rejected the claim.  The UN Secretary General expressed his profound sympathy for the terrible suffering caused by the epidemic and called on all partners in Haiti and the international community to work together to ensure better health for the people of Haiti. This was disingenuous given the organisation’s role in what its own report referred to as an "explosive outbreak". Evidence was overwhelming that Nepalese soldiers, who were part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, infected the local water supply. Although Haiti had been ravaged by natural disasters from earthquakes to hurricanes, cholera was not present there prior to the outbreak in 2010. Not surprisingly, the consequences for Haiti and its impoverished population were devastating. A fundamental tenet of humanitarian operations, the "do no harm" principle, was breached, bringing death and illness. The outbreak also hampered the huge relief effort underway, as resources and time were spent controlling the spread of cholera and responding to the epidemic. This in turn delayed Haiti’s recovery from the earthquake. A UN-commissioned Final Report of the Independent Panel of Experts on the Cholera Outbreak in Haiti found the evidence overwhelmingly supported the conclusion that the source of the outbreak was contamination of a river tributary adjacent to the Nepalese UN peacekeepers camp. The pathogenic strain was of current South Asian type, the same as that prevalent among Nepalese peacekeepers, and occurred as a result of human activity. Further scientific evidence, including that of the eminent US cholera specialist and member of the Panel of Experts Daniela Lantagne , indicated more conclusively that the source of the outbreak was most likely the Nepalese peacekeepers.  Although inadequate sanitation was a major factor, the Panel of Experts called for future screening and treatment of those selected for duty prior to departure and proper human waste disposal at UN installations. The UN defended its role in trying to contain the spread of cholera, saying it has worked closely with Haitians to provide treatment, improve water and sanitation facilities and strengthen prevention and early warning. The leaked report from a UN special advisor at the time demonstrated that the UN response was wholly inadequate. If this had been another country – or if the victims were American or European - there would have been an international outcry. The UN tried to hide behind international conventions and to deny responsibility. A special Claims Commission intended to hear civil claims arising out of actions of the UN force, or its members, was never established.  Realising the legal protection available to the UN in the ordinary courts, an NGO representing Haitian victims attempted to get around this obstacle by filing a claim with the UN itself. The response of the UN Office of Legal Affairs to date was seriously damaging to the UN itself. The mission was also controversial because of allegations of sexual abuse and the use of excessive force by peacekeepers in attempting to restore law and order in the favelas of Port au Prince. The failure to respond in a more constructive and contrite manner to the cholera outbreak has discredited the work of the UN as a whole.   For the organization charged with promoting and defending human rights worldwide, such behaviour smacks of double standards and hypocrisy. The case has profound implications for the UN and its activities, but it should never have come to this. Although the law protects the UN, for good reason in most cases, it does not grant immunity from responsibility or moral obligation. The case raises serious questions regarding the accountability of the UN and its senior staff that needs to be addressed before harm is again inflicted on other innocent parties and the organisation’s reputation further tarnished. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 16 October 2017

Author: Dr Alison Forrestal, History Department Opinion: this year is 400th anniversary of the foundation of Vincent de Paul-style charity. But who was de Paul, what was his impact and why is he remembered? Echoes of the past In Ireland, the echoes of a 17th century saint’s life ring out strongly as we go about our daily lives. The shopfronts of Vincent’s, with their bright blue and yellow signs, stand out on the main streets of towns all over the country. In December, the TV ads for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul mark the coming of the Christmas season by encouraging us to put our hands in our pockets so that others can share in a little seasonal cheer.  Today, De Paul organisations are among the most active and visible in the voluntary and non-governmental sectors. They are a regional subset in a worldwide network of volunteers, case-workers, fund-raising and advocacy. The Society is active in 113 countries, and has 11,000 volunteers in Ireland alone. Another large organisation, DePaul Ireland, relates closely to sister organisations in Britain, France, the USA and Ukraine (Depaul International). This year, they celebrate the legacy of their patron, who began his own charitable work in September 1617, with the foundation of a confraternity of charity in France to care for the sick poor. Such is Vincent de Paul’s stature that thousands will travel to Rome for a major celebration of his ethos and legacy this month. In May, the European Parliament welcomed a delegation from Depaul International to speak on the work they do for the homeless, the addicted, the migrant and the trafficked.  Why ‘De Paul’? Vincent de Paul was born in 1581 in rural south-west France. He was ordained a priest in 1600 and died in 1660 after a lifetime of missionary and charitable work. Not many people live on to speak through the centuries as he does, and he has escaped the caricature often suffered by iconic figures. Although long-dead and a Catholic priest to boot – a combination of characteristics that do not tend to lead to public praise these days - de Paul has managed the rare feat of attracting admirers amongst believers and non-believers alike.  Even though his own religious convictions formed the basis for his teachings and activities, his Catholic fans are side-by-side with such staunchly secular thinkers as the architects of the French welfare state. For some, de Paul is important not because of his religious beliefs, but in spite of them. For others, his religious beliefs are at the heart of his significance. But all recall his tenacity and creativity, summed up by his claim that "there is no act of charity that permits us to do more than we can". He did not follow the crowd in discriminating when helping the needy and rejected the common notion that poverty was a moral failing Values and actions It would be a mistake to judge de Paul by modern standards of welfare provision. He was subject to many of the same convictions as his contemporaries, such as a belief that the existing social hierarchy was permanent and ordained by God, a belief that the Catholic church and the French monarchical state were the twin pillars of society and a world view that placed a premium on living a devout life in order to reach heaven after death. This meant that he was inclined to work to alleviate hardship rather than to tackle the fundamental causes. Context is also important. De Paul lived through a period of extraordinary turmoil. France emerged from a devastating civil war around 1600, only to find itself embroiled in another in 1647 and also taking a major role in the Thirty Years War from 1618.  It was a time of unprecedented adversity and anxiety in French society, and de Paul was in the thick of it. Growing numbers of rural poor turned to the cities to find food when harvests failed. Refugees poured into Paris as troops destroyed crops, stole animals, and spread disease in north-eastern France. Thousands died from starvation in this devastated region and elsewhere. He helped them to find grounds to reject the teaching of Saint Paul which forbade women to teach the faith, on which the church had based much of its gendered view of authority. Public female activism One of de Paul’s most remarkable insights related to the potential for public female activism. For social and ecclesiastical reasons, women were not normally permitted to engage in public roles. What is known as the "circle of exclusions" restricted their access to most positions of early modern civil, political, and ecclesiastical leadership in society. Moreover, if not at home looking after children, Catholic women were usually nuns in convents, enclosed and cloistered away from the rest of society. De Paul realised that both church and society were missing a trick. Womanpower was a huge resource that could be directed through Catholic religious expression to the alleviation of suffering amongst the sick and poor. He also understood that if they worked collectively in confraternities, women stood a much better chance of withstanding criticism from their families, friends, neighbours, and the authorities, while their sense of belonging and common purpose would encourage them to persevere when the first flush of enthusiasm ran out. As a result, he founded his first confraternity for women in south-east France in August 1617, and went on to promote this model of activism for the rest of his life. Decision-making in these groups was overwhelmingly in the hands of the women themselves, another innovation that makes de Paul’s thinking seem closer to modern values than those of most of his contemporaries. He also helped them to find grounds to reject the influential teaching of Saint Paul which forbade women to teach the faith, on which the church had based much of its gendered view of authority. De Paul and one of these women, Louise de Marillac, established a groundbreaking community of women, the Daughters of Charity. They were to become an inspiration for Florence Nightingale and many of the non-enclosed female religious orders that subsequently emerged to teach and nurse in Catholic societies. Although they lived in community and worked in the tenements and streets of towns, the Daughters were not nuns and provided a model for a future in which, as de Paul put it, "their cloister would be the streets of the city". This rallying call was revolutionary in scope, and transformative in practice. The poor and the marginalised Another value has meant that de Paul’s example has spoken through the centuries where marginalisation, want, inequity and injustice can always be found. He deliberately sought out the poor and marginalised to recognise their innate dignity whatever their circumstances. In doing so, he resisted the widespread social belief that the many abandoned and illegitimate infants on the streets were tainted by the supposed sins of their parents and undeserving of compassionate help. He did not follow the crowd in discriminating between Catholics and Protestants when helping the needy and rejected the common notion that poverty was a moral failing. De Paul countered the prevailing norms and stereotypes of his time and challenged others to question their own limitations and to push social and religious boundaries to create new opportunities for themselves and others. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 16 October 2017

Author: Professor Gary Donohoe, School of Psychology, NUI Galway I sat down with my teenage children to watch the recent RTÉ 2 documentary Schizophrenia: The Voices In My Head, which tells the stories of six young people who have experience of hearing voices. As a mental health professional, I thought the documentary was immensely insightful, and did a huge amount to dispel the myths of serious mental illness. Often documentaries about serious mental health disorders are criticised as "too medical". It’s probably a fair comment. An undergraduate study carried out at NUI Galway last year found that being told about schizophrenia in terms of it being a brain disorder may bring about greater understanding, but generally not a willingness to get to know the person affected. As Voices In My Head showed, hearing about people’s stories is a more effective way to break down barriers. Youth mental disorders are a leading cause of disability in 18 to 35 year olds. The Government's Healthy Ireland framework for improved health and wellbeing defines mental health as a person’s ability to realise one’s abilities, cope with stress, work productively and make a contribution to society. It describes the absence of mental health as not just a health issue but also a social and an economic issue, which according to world health organisation will affect one in four individuals during their lifetime. Mental health disorders in young people in particular are a major cause of disability - emerging evidence indicates that mental ill-health contributes 45 percent of the burden of disability in those aged between 10 and 25 years. Fighting for services and access to new treatments is important, especially given the many advances in psychosocial therapies now available The barriers not just to understanding but to treatment for young adults are immense. Accumulating evidence suggests that a significant percentage of young people experiencing difficulties with mental health do not seek or receive treatment. This is despite the fact that previous experience of mental health strongly predicts later mental health problems and receiving support from a health professional significantly reduces later need for treatment. According to experts in the area, young people have the poorest access to mental health care of all age groups across the lifespan. Many factors contribute to this, including poor awareness of the symptoms of mental health problems among parents and young people themselves, resulting in a lack of help-seeking. There is also a discontinuity between child and adult mental health services right at the age when the incidence of new onsets of illness peaks. This issue of timing is also problematic for another reason. Late adolescence and early adulthood is the stage of life when young people are expected to assert their independence and move out of home. Having to rely on parents at that age can feel like a backwards step, out of synch with peers and atypical not just for the individual but for the family’s developmental cycle. By comparison with parents of a child diagnosed with autism at the age of three, who can press for services, or adult-children of older adults with Alzheimer’s, who will likewise be strong advocates, this awkward ‘gap’ stage makes it hard for both young adults and their families to seek and secure the services they need. Developing youth mental health services is a national and international priority, but is held back by a paucity of funded research But fighting for services and access to new treatments is important, especially given the many advances in psychosocial therapies now available. For example, we recently reported in the Psychological Medicine journal on the findings of a new randomised clinical controlled trial of a cognitive program for psychosis. Deficits in cognition, which often drive the level of disability experienced by patients, are not improved by medication. Cognitive remediation - or brain training as it is frequently referred to - is known to be effective. It is, however, limited by the fact that it usually requires a significant amount of direct one-to-one contact with a clinician. However, the new program that we tested involved only one hour of weekly contact with a psychologist (the same as for other psychological therapies), with most of the training work being done at home. Remarkably, we found that despite the challenges faced by patients with psychosis, over half were able to complete the training with relatively limited support. Following this, the treatment group showed significant recovery not just of memory function and general intelligence, but also in day-to-day social and occupational function. Based on MRI scanning, we further showed that these changes were associated with a strengthening of neural networks related to cognitive function. Developing youth mental health services is a national and international priority, but is held back by a paucity of funded research. The need to support greater research in this area has repeatedly been highlighted as a barrier to developing services with a strong evidence base (e.g. Vision for Change 2006, Ch.19). If cognitive therapies such as brain training are shown to work, further funding for research in mental health is a no-brainer. Relieving the current disability burden among young people, and preventing the future disability burden through adulthood, is most likely to happen through better access to evidence-based treatments such as these. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Author: Dr Tomás Finn, History Department Opinion: an assessment of the career of the late Liam Cosgrave, who was Taoiseach from 1973 to 1977 and led Fine Gael from 1965 to 1977 Like father, like son. W. T. and Liam Cosgrave were the only father-and-son pair to serve as heads of the Irish government. Speaking at Ardnacrusha in 2012, 83 years after being present when the power station was opened by his father, Liam’s praise for his father’s Cumann na nGaedhael government reflected some of his own priorities and concerns as a politician.  As leader of Fine Gael from 1965 to 1977 and as Taoiseach of a Fine Gael-Labour coalition government from 1973 to 1977, Liam, like his father, showed a determination to use all the powers at his disposal to counter violence from what he perceived as subversive elements on the island. Equally, a commitment to Catholic values was shared by both father and son, while they were also heads of government during times of transition for Ireland. Where W. T. was faced with civil war and oversaw the first decade of Irish independence, Liam was Taoiseach at the height of the Troubles and at a time of economic hardship.  Having first been elected to what was the 11th Dáil in 1943, the one and only term when he was in the Dáil alongside his father, Liam quickly rose through the ranks of Fine Gael. Parliamentary secretary to the Taoiseach, John A. Costello during the first Inter-party government (1948 to 1951), he was appointed Minister for External Affairs during the second Inter-party Government from 1954 to 1957. In the latter position, it fell to him to oversee Ireland’s accession to the United Nations and to outline Irish policy at that body.  When he took over leadership of Fine Gael in 1965, his support for the Just Society policy was somewhat surprising, but was also a reflection of his ability to marry the more liberal and traditionalist wings of the party. As someone born into politics, he was able to retain the support of both factions within the party while at the same time maintain his independence of mind. This independence was reflected in his opposition to his own government’s contraception legislation in 1974 and, at the risk of losing the party leadership, his support two years earlier for the then Fianna Fáil government’s security measures.  Cosgrave’s determination not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors was reflected in the way in which Fine Gael conducted its business. His own and his party’s greater professionalism meant that it bore little or no relation to the somewhat ‘amateurish’ methods prevalent in the 1950s. Less instrumental in the new policies Fine Gael adopted, he was, nevertheless, critical to the party’s greater appeal.  Notably, this increased attractiveness resulted in the formation of a Fine Gael-led government, the first time in 16 years an alternative to Fianna Fail achieved power. The existence of the coalition government owed as much to Cosgrave’s political skills as to Fianna Fáil’s near implosion with the arms trial and the consequent deep divisions within that party. His chairmanship of the government was effective and was widely praised. As Taoiseach, he helped to bring about the short-lived power-sharing agreement at Sunningdale in Northern Ireland and successfully oversaw the early years of Irish membership of the European Economic Community.  More problematic was the rigorous nature of the state’s security response to the Troubles and the criticism in 1976 of President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh by the Minister of Defence, Paddy Donegan, after Ó Dálaigh had referred the Emergency Powers Bill to the Supreme Court. By failing to demand the resignation of the minister, Cosgrave damaged his standing by demonstrating political instincts more akin to those of a party leader than a statesman.  The other major difficulty for his government was the economic problems which had partly been caused by the oil crisis and the resulting austerity measures. These measures made Cosgrave’s Government a target for Frank Hall’s satirical Pictorial Weekly TV show. Despite the government also being responsible for the introduction of a wealth tax, subsequently abolished by Fianna Fáil, and a number of welfare measures, they were decisively defeated by Fianna Fáil at the subsequent general election in 1977. Following electoral defeat, Cosgrave resigned as leader of Fine Gael. He thus accepted responsibility for unnecessarily calling an early general election while also paving the way for Garret FitzGerald, his successor as Fine Gael leader.  Liam Cosgrave’s public persona was serious, that of a man doing his duty for his country. Faced by threats from subversive elements, he was steadfast in his response. His defence of the institutions of state did not, however, stretch to include the Presidency, at least when that office was filled by an individual with Fianna Fáil sympathies. The contrast with Garret FitzGerald who, as Taoiseach, maintained good relations with President Patrick Hillery highlights the limited nature of Cosgrave’s vision for Ireland.  Central to Cosgrave’s outlook was a successful Fine Gael Party which co-existed with his antipathy towards Fianna Fáil. The transition between the party he took over in 1965 and the one from which he resigned the leadership in 1977, as well as the contrast between his united Fine Gael party and the deeply divided Fianna Fáil, highlights Cosgrave’s professionalism and competency at a difficult time.  Principled in his loyalty to his party, his conservative values and his convictions on law and order, were about as far as his vision extended. He was not particularly interested in the Just Society policy and his instincts were cautious. But what he did, he did well. In providing a stable government and an alternative to Fianna Fáil as well as ensuring his more liberally-minded successor Garret FitzGerald had a united Fine Gael, Cosgrave did his party and the state some service. The bridge Liam Cosgrave provided between different eras was perhaps his greatest legacy. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Author: Dr Aidan Kane, JE Cairnes School of Business & Economics Opinion: budgets may be about the future, but our fiscal history tells us much about our past and the business of government over many centuries Budgets are mainly about the future: the minister announces taxing and spending plans for the year ahead, and beyond. But as Paschal Donohoe rises to deliver his speech in Dáil Éireann next week, he may well reflect that the weight of the past, and not just expectations of the future, lies heavily on his shoulders. After all, he will come to the Dáil from a department acutely conscious of its central role, however contentious, in every major event in independent Ireland’s story. It is the department of Michael Collins, T.K. Whitaker and Brian Lenihan - and yes, the department of less impressive figures down the decades. Whatever their talents and their failings, ministers for finance have almost invariably been consequential players in political life, and any new minister stands somewhat in their shadows. Most recently, the Department of Finance is bruised by history. The difficult decade since 2007 opened with deep systemic failure as the Great Recession upended our happy tiger. This was followed by grinding crisis management, under the watch of cold paymasters in Europe and the IMF. Then, slowly, an uneven recovery, yet to be fully believed, which is still uncertainly threatened. At the same time, the Department of Finance is now somewhat restored to its pomp. Having previously lost its public expenditure functions to a separate department (for the second time in its history), it was recently lovingly linked back to that department under one minister. It’s like a post-separation, but pre-marriage, civil partnership with fewer flags, and more memos. All organisations tell their own story to themselves, their history. But does the intricate history of public finance matter very much? Are these just the memories of antique civil servants, fated to be slowly dislodged by shiny new recruits, who have all the impressive energy and brainpower of youth (and perhaps a dash of worrying over-confidence)? Does fiscal history matter for anyone else? I think it does, for a number of reasons. Knowing fiscal history alerts us to the fact that as a political community, we are rooted in a past. Not just a past of war and turmoil, of economic progress and setbacks, and of social movements, but also a past of imperfect, halting, attempts at the ordinary business of government—over many centuries. Start with the language and the ritual of the budget. The budget speech itself is formally a "financial statement" and its form has been in place since independence. Even at that time it emulated long established practice. In some key legal respects, the budget today is identifiably part of a fiscal system set out by the Victorian master of public finance, William Gladstone, as UK chancellor of the exchequer in the 1860s.These origins, although modernised and adapted for a different world, nevertheless remind us that our independence was not an institutional rupture; it was not in important respects simply an abrupt exit from a union: a ‘cliff-edge’, so to speak, but rather, a gradual uncoupling, marked by continuity as well as change. We did borrow the British model of public finance, with a powerful central treasury department. Our budgetary process continued to use the Gladstonian public finance language of "votes" and "estimates" and "supply" and "money bills" and "appropriation accounts" and the like, long after the UK had adopted more managerial jargon. This inheritance is sometimes derided, or regretted, as "colonials copying the masters". A more sympathetic reading acknowledges that in the aftermath of a rebellion, a war against an empire, a world war, and a civil war, some of the builders of independent Ireland’s system of government understandably sought fixed points of stability in how we did public business in a chaotic world. I would argue that impulses for continuity and stability, right or wrong, are deeply embedded in our fiscal state. I think these were underestimated in the depths of our recent crises by those who predicted (or hoped for) default on public debt and/or exit from the euro—and similarly for those who now dream of exit from the EU. Independence is not just constructed by popular action and great political figures. You need the lawyers, the accountants and the public finance specialists to turn national aspiration into the machinery of effective government. At independence, a robust and elaborate public finance system, tested and reformed in the UK after the First World War, was close at hand and was taken up. In thinking about this, we are also reminded that independence is not just constructed by popular action and great political figures. You need the lawyers, the accountants and the public finance specialists to turn national aspiration into the machinery of effective government. The current cohort of newer finance and public expenditure civil servants might well take some time to read about the architect of the department they serve. This was Joseph Brennan, the Department of Finance’s first secretary (before they became ‘general’): probably the most under-appreciated figure of our independence story. Think of what Brennan and a very small (and very young) team faced, and accomplished. The exchequer account of 1922/23 lays out in cold but recognisable terms, for those constructing the same document today, some of the challenges of transition and separation for the new state. For example, in that first accounting year, we did not in fact have full control of our fiscal borders. By agreement, there was a transitional period, and we only left the ‘customs union’ with the UK in the following year. Sound familiar? This meant a series of large budget payments back and forth across the Irish Sea for many years, as we disentangled from a fiscal system that had been in place under the union with Britain for over a century. That process was not truly complete for a decade and a half after independence, documented drily in footnotes to accounts, but impactful on public policy all the same. Before that, in the run-up to the treaty negotiations, Brennan, while still a Dublin Castle civil servant, had briefed Collins in extraordinary historical detail on financial aspects of British-Irish relations. The quality of the documents Brennan had prepared meant that Ireland got a pretty good fiscal deal at separation. In essence, the new state did not have to shoulder its share of the joint UK public debt. Scotland should be so lucky. Brennan and his team knew full well that they were not the first to pass this way. They  knew the history of the separate Irish exchequer, before the union with Britain. Fiscal independence had ended not in 1801, but 1817, as recorded in Ireland’s finance accounts of that year. Exactly two hundred years ago, a fiscal drama for Ireland, and not for the last time. No bond holders were harmed in the making of that crisis The Act of Union had required heavy payments from Ireland to the UK, in effect to help pay for lengthy and expensive wars with France. Taxes rose, borrowing exploded, and in time, no more could be borrowed: the Irish exchequer went bust in 1817. No bond holders were harmed in the making of that crisis, but the consequence was full integration of the Irish national debt into that of the UK. Exactly two hundred years ago, a fiscal drama for Ireland, and not for the last time. Before even that, the 18th century saw Ireland’s ascendancy express its identity through the exercise of fiscal power in the Dublin parliament’s varied attempts to control the public purse. A key weapon in those controversies was the regular compilation of detailed accounts of revenue and expenditure, and of accounts of the national debt of Ireland, printed in formal and bewildering detail in the journals of Irish house of commons, at great expense. The 18th century revenue and expenditure data are online to be sliced and diced, and graphed, and puzzled over: they are part of our contested heritage. Today, journalists, graphic artists, public officials, and some economists, strive to present complicated budgetary data in attractive ways for a wide audience. This is not new. This wonderful graphic of national debt is from a 1791 treatise on the history of Ireland’s public finances and is a striking early example of innovation in data visualisation. The public finances then, at least for wealthy, politically powerful and active citizens, were not mere technicalities. They sometimes prompted riot and tumult, as fear of debt or taxes or wasteful expenditure took hold of the public mind, including politicians eager to make a name for themselves. Ireland has a uniquely precocious historical record of awkward parliamentary public accounts committees, from the early 18th century. Our current PAC membersmight well wish to copy and paste this prelude to an Irish PAC report of 1707, which rehearses familiar complaints: Of course, it is tempting to overdo analogies, or to imply in a naive way that the past was ‘just like now’ in fiscal matters, or otherwise. In going back, we are in different world, one that needs careful exploration, informed by historians’ expertise and sensitivity. But it is irresistible to at least note that Irish public finance did not begin a mere three hundred years ago. It was old by then. To make the case, this extraordinary image of the medieval Irish exchequer: This is a 19th century copy of an original in the Red Book of the Exchequer,which went up in flames with so much else in the fire which destroyed Ireland’s public records office in the civil war. The image shows the officials of the exchequer holding to account the sheriff of a county, who has his back to us (at the bottom of the image), and who is wearing a hoodie. He pays in the taxes he has collected which are due to this ancient body. The officials carefully track debts owed and payments made, using counters placed on a table covered with a chequered cloth, from which the name derives. Current public sector accounting practices are somewhat more sophisticated, and senior department of finance officials are no longer barons of the exchequer, one hopes. We have been here before. Good luck, minister. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Author: Dr John Walsh, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Opinion: the attempts by the Madrid authorities to prevent millions of Catalans from voting peacefully in yesterday's referendum marks a red line in Spanish-Catalan relations I’d been told to expect nothing big in the small village of Cornellà del Terri, where I spent the last few days. In the countryside about 10 miles from Gironain northern Catalonia, the locals were vigilant but good-humoured as we gathered at 7.30am yesterday outside the polling station in the town hall.  The annual Fira de l’All (Garlic Festival) opened earlier than usual to provide food for the voters and one person joked that people’s garlic breaths would be enough to scare off the Guardia Civil. The town’s young mayor was on hand advising voters to remain calm and not to respond to provocations or insults from potential opponents of the referendum. To applause, he also announced that the ballot would be based on a cens universal, a system whereby all registered voters could cast their votes at any polling station in Catalonia.  So far, so good: a long queue of voters slowly moved forward into the building, occasionally breaking into applause for the elderly or infirm, some in wheelchairs, as they were led up the ramp. At about 9.45am, rumours started circulating that the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont would be coming to Cornellà after the Guardia Civil thwarted his attempts to vote in another nearby town. A few minutes later, the crowd erupted in chants of "President, President" as Puigdemont was escorted through the crowd to the door of polling station. We couldn’t believe our eyes as little Cornellà was suddenly thrust into the spotlight and excited locals starting sending videos of Puigdemont to Catalan television TV3.  But the presence of our star performer would have repercussions later in the day. By 1pm, rumours were circulating of a Guardia Civil raid, apparently as an act of revenge in order to confiscate the ballot box containing Puigdemont’s vote. The polling station closed for three hours and re-opened at 4pm, only to close again for the day an hour later due to more security concerns. Although Cornellà gained unexpected notoriety in the eyes of the Spanish authorities, similar worries about security were undoubtedly repeated throughout Catalonia as rumours of crackdowns circulated on Twitter. As the appalling pictures of Guardia Civil brutality filtered through from Barcelona and other cities, mayors and public officials across Catalonia urged voters to remain peaceful and not be intimidated. The roots of the Catalan problem are deep and stem from a growing sense of alienation from Madrid over issues such as finance, the law and language and identity. These are linked to the ruling of the Constitutional Court in 2010 that large parts of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy were unconstitutional. Spain has repeatedly refused to discuss the question of independence, despite more than 20 formal attempts by the Catalan government. A slim majority of the Catalan parliament is in favour of independence and opinion polls in recent months indicated that up to half of the population supported that view but more significantly, a large majority of about 80 percent favoured holding a referendum.   "The key problem that constitutes the conflict between Catalonia and Spain is what we call the fiscal balance, i.e. the difference between taxes paid and services rendered", says Joan Pujolar, professor of sociolinguistics at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.  "The Spanish government, in an alliance with a partisan judiciary and Constitutional Court, undertook a project of centralisation to render Catalan autonomy lame by slow attrition and various Catalan laws have been suspended and withdrawn by the Constitutional Court since 2012. Despite Catalan’s official status, language has also been an issue and the judicial system is determined to preserve the use of Spanish at all costs. Real linguistic abuses are widely carried out against Catalan by policemen, doctors, judges and civil servants." What will happen in the next few days is anyone’s guess but it will be serious. In scenes reminiscent of the Franco years, the brutal repression of efforts by millions of Catalans to vote peacefully marks a red line in Spanish-Catalan relations. There is no going back: at its heart the Catalan crisis has emerged because very many Catalans, probably now a majority, no longer feel that the Spanish state is legitimate. When enough citizens no longer consider themselves loyal to a state, when they believe that it does not have their interests at heart and that it consistently fails to respect their language and identity, the future of that state is in question.  Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has stubbornly treated Catalonia as a legal problem and has repeatedly invoked the law to justify his response, an incredible approach given the entirely disproportionate and violent crackdown on peaceful voters. What Rajoy seems incapable of understanding is that Catalonia is a political problem requiring a political solution. It seems too late now to achieve that without some sort of external intervention but, with a small number of exceptions such as Scotland, the silence from across Europe has been deafening so far. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Author: Begoña Sangrador-Vegas, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Analysis: a look at the events behind the unprecedented situation around this weekend's referendum in Catalonia about independence from Spain  What’s the background to the current situation? Last June, the Catalan First Minister, Carles Puigdemont, fixed October 1 as the date for a referendum on independence from Spain. This put the Catalan government on a collision course with the conservative Spanish government led by Mariano Rajoy. The latter’s attitude to this direct challenge was to dismiss it, confident that he had the law on his side and this referendum would never materialise. But October 1 is fast approaching and the situation is heating up day by day. Who actually has the law on their side? The Spanish government is brandishing the constitution in order to stop the Catalan government from going ahead with the referendum. This constitution, approved in 1978, marked the beginning of the democratic period in modern Spain after Franco’s death and granted the historic regions – the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia - the right to draft statutes of autonomy in recognition of their specific particularities regarding history, language and culture. However, the constitution has a caveat: the unity of Spain can never be compromised and the army is the guarantor of this status quo. The start of Catalan autonomy The Catalan statute of autonomy approved in 1979 soon fell short of Catalan nationalist aspirations. By 2000s, the Catalan First Minister, Artur Mas, had his mind set on reforming it to allow for further devolution of powers, especially on fiscal issues. He found the socialist prime minister in power in Spain at the time, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, open to the idea. The new statute was finally approved in the Catalan parliament in 2006, but it had to get over the hurdle of approval by the parliament in Madrid. Madrid approved a version of the statute in which certain curtailments had been introduced. To add insult to injury, from the Catalan nationalist standpoint, the People’s Party (PP) took the statute to the Constitutional Court, which in 2010 ruled that 14 articles in the text were unconstitutional. The financial crisis Around the same time, the full force of the economic crisis hit Spain and by 2012, Catalan public accounts carried a large deficit and the central government in Madrid had to come to the rescue. This financial humiliation for the richest region in Spain by GDP revived the belief that the funding arrangement in place with Madrid was depriving Catalonia of a legitimate income went to subsidise less wealthy regions in Spain. The Catalan National Assembly By then, Catalan aspirations to decide the nature of their relationship with Spain had been taking shape. In 2012, the different civic movements working on the ground were catalysed into a single association called the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). The ANC displayed its full force when it organised the largest-ever gathering of people on Catalonia’s national day, the Diada, in 2012.  Around one and a half million people filled the streets of Barcelona in a festive mood, sporting esteladas (separatist Catalan flags) and demanding independence. With Scotland planning its own independence referendum for September 2014, the Catalan government decided to test the waters and chose November 9 as the date for a referendum. The Spanish Constitutional Court speedily declared it in breach of the constitution, and on this occasion the government – in the hands of the Conservative party CiU - decided to turn it into an informal consultation. Two million of the six million Catalans on the electoral register voted, with 80 percent in favour of independence. The run-up to the 2017 referendum Since then, Catalonia has been riding a political rollercoaster. A 2015 regional election was interpreted as a plebiscite on the issue of independence. 48 percent of the votes went to pro-independence parties, and a further 22 percent voted for parties in favour of holding a referendum on the matter. On the other hand, the electoral results made it quite difficult for the winning coalition of nationalist parties of different political persuasions to rule. In the end, the radical leftwing separatist party CUP would only lend their support to the coalition if the previous First Minister, Artur Mas, was not re-elected. They finally accepted the current First Minister, Carles Puigdemont. Inevitably the new Catalan executive was spurred on by its more radical coalition partner ERC and kingmaker CUP into fast-tracking a proper referendum. By the end of 2015, the Catalan government announced its "disconexion" from Spain and started to work on a road map towards independence if the future referendum produced a yes vote.  Attempts to establish some form of dialogue with Madrid have always been thwarted by a recalcitrant Rajoy and his mantra "there is nothing to talk about". Mainstream Spanish media have been running articles on the disasters that would befall Catalonia if it became an independent republic: expulsion from the EU, an unviable economy, international companies going somewhere else and, as if it could get any worse, FC Barcelona being unable to play in La Liga.   Trying to halt the referendum A series of measures have been taken by the Spanish institutions. The High Court of Catalonia, the highest level of the judiciary at regional level, has ordered the police to confiscate paper ballots and referendum leaflets and close internet accounts promoting the referendum. Some members of the current Catalan government have been arrested and charged over their roles in organising the coming referendum. The Catalan police, Mossos d’Esquadra, are now under the direct control of the Interior Minister in Madrid. A week ago, the Spanish Finance Minister took control of the Catalan accounts. In response to these measures, thousands of Catalans of all ages covered in esteladas have been protesting peacefully on the streets and in the universities for their right to vote. Meanwhile, Puigdemont is accusing Madrid of imposing a state of emergency in Catalonia. What now? Undoubtedly, what the Catalan government is doing is illegal. Within the current legal framework Catalans will never be able to go to the polls to decide on independence, though laws and constitutions can be changed. The Spanish prime minister is holding tight to a constitution that cannot resolve this impasse without alienating a large section of the Catalan population for generations to come. Judging by the latest developments, Rajoy seems adamant on dealing with this political problem by deploying extra police officers and the Guardia Civil (a police force with military status) to the region. He could even decide to trigger article 155 of the constitution which would allow Madrid to suspend autonomy in Catalonia.  Rajoy’s actions are also likely to yield good electoral results for his party in Spain, where fighting "the enemy within" has always proven a very effective political strategy. But whatever you may think of the political showdown between Rajoy and Puigdemont, what is at stake in Spain now is the right of historic nationalities to decide democratically on their future. The fact is nobody currently knows what will happen because we are in uncharted territory. The referendum may not take place, but on October 2, Catalans will continue to demand the right to decide. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Author: Professor Daniel Carey, Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Opinion: she may have made history as the first female nominee of a major US party, but Hillary Clinton will long be haunted by her loss to Donald Trump in last year's US presidential election, as her new book shows The gulf between winning and losing in politics is impossibly wide: successful candidates take power and their vanquished opponents "leave with nothing", to quote Anne Robinson’s line from The Weakest Link.  Hillary Clinton has faced this stark reality since the moment of her surprise defeat by Donald Trump in the race for the US presidency in November 2016. If the man she lost to were less egregious, if her candidacy had been less historic, if she had less stature, she might have departed the scene with little public notice, drawn into the shadows with the likes of Walter Mondale, Mike Dukakis, Bob Dole or Mitt Romney. But she did make history as the first female nominee of a major US party. She was part of the dominant political couple of her generation And she did lose to a figure whose presidency may well self-destruct, in an explosion of bombast and corruption.  So where does this leave Clinton? Her new book, What Happened, provides some answers but it also suggests her difficulty. Whether one takes the title as containing an implied question mark – What Happened? – or as a forceful declaration – This is What Happened – she will remain to some extent haunted by history. The winner of the popular vote, a woman who cracked the glass ceiling but did not break it, the person who might have been president but failed by the smallest of margins. A perpetual counter-factual. Even if Trump succumbs to the Russian scandal, she will not stand to benefit, however satisfying she might find his fall. One pathway is bitterness, which would be hard to begrudge. After all, each week if not day provides a relentless reminder of Republican hypocrisy: the private emails that did so much damage to her campaign turn out to have been a matter of routine for her foes. Vice-President Pence used a private account as governor of Indiana, which was bad enough in light of the denunciations of Clinton and demands to "lock her up". But now a host of Trump insiders, from Jared Kushner and former chief of staff Reince Priebus to former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn, have been shown to use them since Trump took office, according to Politico. Meanwhile, James Comey was removed from his role as Director of the FBI by the very person, she insists in her book, who did most to place Trump in the Oval Office. Another pathway is resilience, the title of the final section of her book (the first is Perseverance). This personal attribute does resonate with her supporters, above all with women who know all too well the experience of having the odds stacked against them, of coming close and not succeeding, and finding themselves, as she did, losing out to a less qualified or (in Trump’s case) unqualified male candidate. (The image of her being stalked by Trump in the presidential debates will remain a lasting one).  The great gift of failing in her bid for the highest office may, paradoxically, be the freedom it confers to speak out in a less calculated fashion, something that had always been cited as a failing in her public self-presentation, which lacked a certain authenticity. By contrast, witness her recent willingness to remark that her "skin crawled" when Trump invaded her personal space in the debates. Defeat makes her more human, and her book is composed with a surprisingly convincing tone of intimacy. Some of this comes through by revisiting moments of personal anguish, as she does at the outset of the book in narrating what was clearly a deeply awful experience of attending Trump’s inauguration.  Yet Clinton conveys much more the sense of a survivor, even if her political purpose has been thwarted Two ingredients would be needed to make her a tragic figure. The first is self-knowledge. Recognition, after all, is at the heart of tragedy. Her book counteracts if it doesn’t entirely dispel the lingering thought that, to adapt a line from King Lear, "she hath ever but slenderly known herself." The second ingredient, at least in classical tragedy, is death or annihilation.  Yet Clinton conveys much more the sense of a survivor, even if her political purpose has been thwarted. The epigraph she uses from Robert Frost for her chapter on "Election Night" is instructive: "In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on." For Irish readers, this remark bears reminders of grim irony in Beckett ("you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on."). But Clinton is in the American mould, seeking redemption and some preserve of dignity.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

New research shows that schizophrenia is associated with widespread changes in how the brain is wired. The main focus of the study, which was co-led by NUI Galway and the University of South California, was to identify changes in white matter, often thought as the brain’s wiring system that causes this disability. While schizophrenia is viewed as a debilitating psychiatric disorder and has been a major focus of neuroimaging studies for decades, its neurobiology remains only partially understood. Researchers in the ENIGMA consortium came together to analyse data from 4,322 individuals worldwide to identify changes across the brain. The study also examined if disease-related factors (including duration of illness, age, medication, smoking etc) are also associated with differences in white matter microstructure. The results from the study showed that the so-called ‘white matter’ fibres, which connect different brain regions, are slightly altered, or frayed, making communication between different brain regions less than ideal. While these differences were larger in some areas of the brain than others, an important finding was that these changes were seen right across the brain and not just in one area. In schizophrenia, these changes are likely to help explain several clinical symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions, but also the cognitive difficulties that people experience and that strongly predict a level of disability. Professor Gary Donohoe at the School of Psychology at NUI Galway said "what we have achieved here is to provide definitive proof that these changes are not specific to any one area of the brain, but rather reflect subtle yet widespread changes throughout the brain. In terms of the idea that schizophrenia might be caused by a mis-wiring of the brain, this study provides unequivocal evidence that this is the case. The next steps will be to identify the individual genetics variants that lead to this mis-wiring. "Schizophrenia can be enormously disabling and is frequently misunderstood. This study is pointing us in a particular direction to treat schizophrenia as a disorder affecting the whole brain rather than one part of it." This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Opinion: Halloween rituals involving nuts, apples and mischief go back to the years before the Famine, but there was a perceptible shift in attitudes to the old and the familiar in the years after.  In the years before the Famine, the Catholic poor of the west of Ireland feasted on nuts and apples on the dark night of Oíche Shamhna. They also played games, many involving divination. A ring in a piece of barmbrack meant the finder would marry within the year, while a person who found a pea would remain single. Three bowls set in front of a blind-folded young woman determined her spouse. If she placed her hand in one containing clear water, she would get a young man; if the water was dirty, she would get an old man; if the bowl was empty, she would get none. And in nuts set alight near the hearth a couple would read their fate: flames that joined foretold a strong union; flames that did not join were an indication that they would separate. This long night also involved whiskey drinking, mischief and boisterous fun. Young people sitting in a circle played Thart-an-Bhróg, surreptitiously passing a shoe from one to another, and then firing it at an unfortunate in the centre who was hunting for it. Fellows went out robbing cabbages, which they threw at the doors of those robbed, while others carved jack-o’-lanterns from turnips. Finally, after they had ducked for apples and all games were played, they brushed the floor, loaded the fire with turf, arranged chairs or creepies (bog-wood stools) in front of it and went to bed. This final ritual demands little interpretative effort: the living were welcoming the dead. They were making space for them in that lifeless season when the sun does not rise high above the horizon and the nights are longest and there is no growth. They were deferring to the ancestors when the otherworld comes closest and threatens humankind. The people vibrated between two cosmologies, one ancestral or fairy and the other Christian. Central to the non-Christian system were gatherings around fires or wells, often on dates determined by solar or lunar cycles. Chief among the sun-defined occasions of festivity were Oíche Fhéile Bhríde (January 31), Bealtaine (May 1), Oíche Fhéile Eoin (June 23) and Lúnasa (August 1). The Catholic poor, in the words of the novelist John McGahern, were going about their "sensible pagan lives" as they had done "since the time of the Druids". John O’Donovan, who toured the country for the Ordnance Survey in the 1830s, perceived that many "venerable old customs" were then passing away. "A different era—the era of infidelity—is fast approaching!", he wrote from Roscommon in 1837. For sure, a great betrayal had been a long time coming. From the mid-18th century, the integration of local communities into wider economies had been a major force for cultural change. Over much of the West of Ireland, that era of infidelity can be said to have definitively arrived in the last third of the 19th century, when English replaced Irish as the language of the home, children ceased to hear the old songs and stories, and rituals that had mattered from time immemorial were performed no more. The people vibrated between two cosmologies, one ancestral or fairy and the other Christian National schools were part of a system introduced in the 1830s and bedded down in the 1840s. Catholic priests controlled most schools attended by their putative "hearers", giving them unprecedented access to the rural poor. Children now learned prayers that their parents had never said, and the masters and mistresses prepared them for the long-neglected sacraments of confession, communion and confirmation Every Sunday, the scholars trooped to chapels that their parents, in their own youth, had not frequented. Before the famine, weekly mass attendance had been generally less than 40 percent of the total Catholic population west of a line from Dundalk to Killarney and generally above 40 percent east of that line, according to historian David W. Miller. By century’s end, weekly mass attendance in the west was approaching those extraordinarily high levels which, as late as the 1970s, set Ireland’s Catholics apart from their co-religionists on the continent. According to a survey conducted in 1972–73, 91 percent of Ireland’s adult Catholics then attended Sunday mass, while only about a third of Austria’s Catholics and a fifth of all France’s Catholics were fulfilling that weekly obligation.  By the mid-20th century, the great betrayal was near complete But it was the Famine that was the most powerful force for cultural change. It reaped a swathe of those most attached to the old language and the old ways, and it established a demographic regime characterised by high celibacy and migration rates. The population plummeted. Home, for those who remained there, changed almost beyond recognition. There were better houses by 1900, but there were fewer houses. Over extensive areas in the west, the population had shrunk to less than a half of what it had been when the blight first came on the potatoes. There had been some 1.5 million men, women, and children in Connacht in 1845, but only 646,932 inhabitants in 1901. The population continued to decline: there were only 390,902 persons in that province in 1971. If the population has since risen to 550,688 in 2016, it is little more than a third of what it had been before the Famine. Here, by the end of the 19th century, there had been a perceptible shift in attitudes to the old and the familiar. Much as the emigrants crowding the tenement rooms of New York and Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago wished for their children to be different to themselves and not to have suffer, in the critic John Berger’s phrase, "for being who they were", so too the stay-at-home smallholders of the West strove to put a distance between their progeny and their past. In doing so and, most obviously, in opting to rear their offspring in English, they denied their children a certain knowledge of who they were. By the mid-20th century, the great betrayal was near complete. In withering townlands, where rushes were retaking hard-won fields, the young still engaged in a bit of boisterous fun on Oíche Shamhna. And when it came time for bed, their elders may have swept the floor and set creepies before the fire. But that ritual was little more than a reflex. In a place defined by a century of decay, there was no longer the same welcome for the dead. Further reading: John Berger, About Looking (New York: Vintage, 1991 [1980]) Sean Connolly, Religion and Society in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Dundalk: Dundalgan Press, 1985) Breandán Mac Suibhne, The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) David W. Miller, ‘Mass Attendance in Ireland in 1834’, in Stewart J. Brown and David W. Miller, eds., Piety and Power in Ireland, 1760–1960 (Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, 2000), 158–79 Gearóid Ó Crualaoich, ‘The "Merry Wake"’, in J. S. Donnelly and K. A. Miller, eds., Irish Popular Culture, 1650–1850 (Dublin, 1998), 242–69 This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

John Carney, one of the most acclaimed and successful contemporary Irish film directors, has been appointed an Adjunct Professor with the Huston School of Film and Digital Media at NUI Galway. Mr Carney will give talks and workshops in the Huston School over the next three-years, including the forthcoming BA in Film and Digital Media, and will also contribute to the increasing integration of the school’s programmes with the film and audio-visual industry in Ireland and internationally.    John Carney will visit the Huston School of Film and Digital Media on Thursday, 9 November at 5.30pm to give an inaugural lecture as Adjunct Professor. John’s talk will be preceded by a directing workshop in the Huston School at 4pm for leaving certificate students interested in the School’s forthcoming BA in Film and Digital Media, enrolling from September 2018. Dr Seán Crosson, Acting Director of the Huston School of Film and Digital Media at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted that such a distinguished director as John Carney has agreed to join us in Huston as an Adjunct Professor. John has been a key figure in Irish film over the past twenty years. His award-winning work, particularly in the musical genre, has helped to reimagine the parameters of Irish cinema and brought Irish stories and characters to wide international audiences. John will make an important contribution to the Huston School programmes in the coming years, and allow us to further develop our connections with the film and audio-visual industry in Ireland and internationally.”  Speaking about his appointment as Adjunct Professor, John Carney, said: “I’m thrilled with the appointment. Galway holds a special place in my heart as a film maker, and I look forward to many months of work with the NUI Galway students, discussing, developing and making films.”   John Carney was born in Dublin and was educated at De La Salle College Churchtown and at Synge Street CBS. He was bassist for Irish rock band The Frames between 1991 and 1993 and also directed some of their music videos. Carney also co-wrote and co-directed the hugely successful RTÉ TV series Bachelors Walk. In recent years Carney wrote and directed the 2006 global hit movie Once, which went on to win numerous awards including an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It has since been adapted as one of the most successful theatrical musicals of recent years, including award winning runs on Broadway and the West End. Subsequent films directed by Carney have enjoyed considerable critical and commercial success. Begin Again (2013) grossed over $63 million worldwide and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for Lost Stars. His most recent film, the Irish set coming of age musical Sing Street (2016), was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 74th Golden Globes in January 2017. With a core focus on the development of creative and critical skills, the BA in Film and Digital Media equips graduates for a career in today’s rapidly changing media environment. Employing over 6,000 people nationwide, and generating an estimated €550 million annually, the creative industries are central to Ireland’s economic and cultural achievements on the global stage. At the heart of the industry’s success lie the creative talents of the individuals working within it. The exciting new BA in Film and Digital Media undergraduate degree offers students a unique combination of theory and practice across the areas of film and digital media, providing them with practical skills in filmmaking, screenwriting, and digital development and design, and positioning them to become the next generation of content creators. The event is free and open to the public on Thursday, 9 November and students interested in attending John Carney’s inaugural lecture can email hustonfilmschool@nuigalway.ie. For further information on the Huston School and its programmes, visit: www.filmschool.ie   -Ends-

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Council of Europe finds that Ireland violated the European Social Charter the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. The Council of Europe has today upheld a Collective Complaint that Ireland has violated Article 16 of the European Social Charter on the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection. Adequate housing is viewed as an integral element of this right. The Council of Europe held that Ireland failed to take sufficient and timely measures to ensure the right to housing of an adequate standard for a significant number of families living in local authority housing, and therefore there is a violation of Article 16 of the Charter in this respect. This Collective Complaint was facilitated by the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, working in association with local tenants groups in the main cities, law centres and Non-Government Organisations, involved the submission of detailed evidence of housing conditions on local authority estates, with associated human rights standards. Some 90% of the estimated 130,000 Irish local authority tenant households live on estates. Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway today welcomed this landmark decision, saying: “We have been working with tenants groups, law centres, national and international human rights agencies, over the past five years. Our students at the University researched the European human rights norms. This decision marks a significant historical development, which could enhance the development of Irish State housing policy.” The Irish State does not support any national organisation of its tenants, who could be consulted or participate in framing legislation or housing policy, unlike almost every other European country. There was no opportunity, within Ireland, for these tenants to have the collective issues examined in any systematic way. They could submit this European Complaint only through other organisations. Many issues faced by Irish local authority tenants could be resolved by tenants associations. Dr Kenna added: “Of course, nothing in this complaint was intended to diminish respect for the valuable and dedicated work of national and local authority housing professionals, or the committed work of voluntary and community groups and public representatives, who work tirelessly to improve the situation of local authority tenants in Ireland. This issue is more complex. State housing in Ireland generates a surplus after maintenance costs are deducted from rents. A recent report from the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) shows that local authorities generated a surplus of €40 million in 2014, from their housing, used to cross-subsidise other services.” The Council of Europe noted that complete statistics on the condition of local authority housing have not been collated since 2002. It also noted that a significant number of regeneration programmes have not been completed, leaving many local authority tenants in unacceptable housing conditions. Significantly, housing standards for 30,000 tenants of approved housing bodies are now regulated by the Residential Tenancies Board, but there is no such regulation of State tenancies. Indeed, the State is both the landlord and the regulator on housing standards in local authority housing. The Irish State must report to the Council of Europe within 12 months on how it has addressed this violation. The full decision and a summary is available at: https://mycloud.coe.int/index.php/s/gmW0htvgNt9hFhN#pdfviewer -Ends-

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

After eight days of science films from all over the world, the Irish Parkinson’s disease documentary, Feats of Modest Valour, a Science on Screen documentary by CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, won the prestigious Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York last week. The Scientist Award is awarded by the leading international science journal, Science, and its publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to a film that portrays in an accurate and inventive way the life of a scientist. The select jury included Nobel prize-winning scientist, Professor Martin Chalfe, and award-winning science columnist for the New York Times, Professor Carl Zimmer. In Feats of Modest Valour, three individuals live clockwork existences, dictated by a strict regime of medication to manage the physical reality of living with Parkinson’s disease. Brian Carney is a farmer from County Mayo whose son had to take over the running of the family farm from a very young age; Milena Lulic is a Croatian World War II survivor who faces her condition head-on with great dignity; and Tom Hickey, the Irish actor, talks about how suffering for his art takes on a whole new meaning with the disease. Interwoven with their stories, we see researchers from CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, led by Dr Eilís Dowd, who are developing a novel therapeutic approach which they hope will revolutionise treatment of the condition. Guided by stunning animated sequences, it delves into the brain of someone with Parkinson’s disease, and shows how dying cells can be replaced by stem cells supported by a natural biomaterial ‘scaffold’. Speaking about the film, Dr Dowd, who is currently President of both Neuroscience Ireland and the Network for European CNS Transplantation and Restoration (NECTAR), said: “This is a film about science and medicine, about scientists and patients, about art and music, but most of all, about hope. It was a genuine privilege to work on this project with such talented filmmakers and such inspirational patients.” Feats of Modest Valour was produced through the ‘Science on Screen’ initiative between CÚRAM, Science Foundation Ireland, and the Galway Film Centre who manage Galway’s UNESCO City of Film designation. Science on Screen was conceptualised as part of CURÁM’s Public Engagement Programme, and aims to facilitate, promote and increase the inclusion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) content in Irish film and TV productions. Other productions from the initiative include Mending Legends directed by Paul Webster and produced by James Ryan of Stationhouse Media, and BitterSweet - the Rise of Diabetes directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread  films. Commenting on the initiative, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “Together with Galway Film Centre we could see the potential of the film for bringing science to life, and we are very proud of Feats of Modest Valour, for winning this major international award.” The film is co-directed and co-produced by Mia Mullarkey and Alice McDowell of Ishka Films, and is due to be screened on RTÉ 1 on Sunday November 12 at 10:30pm. The film has already been screened at numerous community events and at film festivals both here in Ireland and across Europe. To find out more about the film, see http://featsofmodestvalour.com/index.html   -Ends-

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Galway’s innovators invited to join biggest global climate action hackathon in history to reduce carbon footprint of Galway city Galway city’s innovators will join 111 cities across 44 countries on six continents in a day of innovation to generate pioneering ideas that could lead Galway towards the zero-carbon economy of the future. Galway Climathon 2017 will harness the energy and dynamism of all interested groups and individuals to develop and scale innovations towards a zero-carbon future for Galway city, taking place on Friday 27 October at the Cube in NUI Galway’s Bailey Allen Hall. This is the second year that Galway has participated in the Global Climathon hackathon, which this year is being hosted by NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute in conjunction with the award-winning Masters degree in Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (MScCCAFS) program at the University. The global 24-hour climate change hackathon, powered by Climate-KIC will take place simultaneously in major cities around the world. Climate-KIC is the EU’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change, and runs this annual event to empower individuals and organisations to work together in order to develop new solutions to the climate crisis at the city scale. Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. With 90% of the world’s urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk from some of the devastating impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms. Coastal cities such as Galway are on the frontlines of global climate change and are well-positioned to play a leadership role with sister cities worldwide in driving global action to address climate change. Our Climathon event presents a unique opportunity for multiple innovators, groups and individuals to work together to develop and scale innovations towards a zero-carbon footprint horizon-point for Galway city districts, sectors and inhabitants.” At Galway Climathon 2017, each team will develop their own innovation idea throughout the one-day event, facilitated by the NUI Galway TechInnovate team, culminating in a pitch competition at the end of the day before a high-profile judging panel. The top three teams will receive over €1000 in TechInnovate funding support to progress their innovations on to accelerator and entrepreneurship programs that will in turn translate them into start-up companies, social enterprises or funded projects/programmes. Dr Peter McKeown and Dr David Styles from NUI Galway’s MScCCAFS program added: “Galway can lead in this global challenge, having been in the firing line of a number of powerful storms over the past few years, such as Storm Desmond in 2015 and Storm Ophelia last week. It is therefore apt that Galway harnesses the creativity and international innovation leadership for which it is renowned to lead global efforts in climate mitigation.” Climathon 2017 will provide a unique opportunity for innovators, change agents and stakeholders in Galway to create new technologies or ways to implement existing technologies that can effectively decarbonise the city, and other cities globally. Prospective innovators are encouraged to sign up for Climathon 2017 at: https://climathon.climate-kic.org/galway and Follow on Twitter @GalwayClimathon View Climathon participating cities globally here: https://climathon.climate-kic.org/#map -Ends- 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Two science documentaries produced through Galway UNESCO City of Film and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, have achieved great success in reaching numerous audiences in Ireland and internationally, with a third documentary, Bittersweet – the Rise of Diabetes, scheduled to premiere during Science Week this November, as part of the Galway Science and Technology Festival 2017. Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes is a half-hour documentary directed by Hugh Rodgers and produced by both Anna Rodgers and Zlata Filipovic of Invisible Thread Films. The film captures the health system’s fight to treat the rising number of diabetic patients, and warns against this troubling epidemic facing our population. It follows the personal stories of young people who are living with diabetes and their daily struggle to manage it. Over the course of the documentary, we also discover ground-breaking research and development in pharmacology and biomedical science, capturing the important work of CÚRAM’s Professor David Brayden and his team at UCD’s Veterinary Hospital, where they are developing new ways of delivering insulin to the body. In 2015, CÚRAM joined forces with Galway Film Centre and Galway UNESCO City of Film, to invite filmmakers to make two science films. The pilot of the ‘Science on Screen’ initiative, funded through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, resulted in two high quality 26-minute science documentaries that incorporated areas of research currently taking place in CÚRAM: Feats of Modest Valour and Mending Legends.  These two films have gone from strength to strength, scooping broadcast slots with both TG4 and RTÉ, screening at numerous film festivals in Europe and the US and are being used extensively and continuously as part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme. Screenings have taken place at community events and schools, as well as at academic conferences both in Ireland and abroad. The filmmakers have been invited to represent Ireland at festivals overseas including dokumentART in Germany, and have been nominated for awards like the Short Lens Competition, Guth Gafa. Over 200,000 people have viewed the films and over 40 screenings have been held to date. Feats of Modest Valour recently won the AAAS Scientist Award as well as the runner up People's Choice Award at the prestigious Imagine Science Film Festival in New York City. Professor Abhay Pandit, Centre Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway, said: “The films have had an incredibly broad reach and a significant impact on audiences all over the country and beyond. We have been hugely impressed with how these filmmakers have taken on the scientific information and woven together stories that have a powerful impact on their audiences, showing not only what a difference a career in research can make, but showing the real challenges that people face when living with chronic illness that we are trying to address.” “Given the huge success of the programme to-date, not only in terms of how far the films have travelled, but also audience feedback, the enthusiasm of researchers to share their stories and the skill and initiative shown by the filmmakers in engaging with scientific information and getting right to the heart of the story, we plan to continue the initiative with our partners at Galway Film Centre who have excelled in guiding the filmmakers through the process each year”, Professor Pandit added. Commenting on the success of the films, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “We are delighted to see how well these high-quality documentaries have been received and commend CÚRAM on their success. Science Foundation Ireland is committed to making science accessible to all. Through our Discover Programme we are delivering scientific programmes which inform the public about the work they are funding, and will also inspire the next generation of scientists, those who will drive Ireland’s future economy and shape our society.” In Feats of Modest Valour, viewers meet three individuals living with the physical challenges of Parkinson’s disease. Brian Carney from County Mayo works on the family farm, while Milena Lulic who lives in Galway City recounts her days in World War II in Croatia. Tom Hickey, an Irish actor who recently received a lifetime achievement award at the Abbey Theatre from President Michael D. Higgins, talks about how suffering for his art takes on a whole new meaning with the disease. Meanwhile, researchers on the ‘BrainMatTrain project led by CÚRAM and Dr Eilis Dowd at NUI Galway, are searching for a way to halt the disease. The film is co-directed and co-produced by Mia Mullarkey and Alice McDowell of Ishka Films. Directed by Paul Webster and produced by James Ryan of StationHouse Media, Mending Legends explores the physical and psychological impact of tendon injuries amongst athletes and visits the team of Galway-based scientists, led by Dr Dimitrios Zeugolis in CÚRAM at NUI Galway, who are designing a new type of tendon implant, in the form of the world’s first 3D cell assembled tendon prototype. Declan Gibbons, Manager of Galway Film Centre and Director of Galway UNESCO City of Film, said: “We are very proud of the two Science on Screen films and how well they have travelled. It is testament to the work of the filmmakers and the exciting scientific research that takes place in CÚRAM. We look forward to the next Science on Screen film, Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes, this November and rolling out the scheme again in 2018.” To register to attend the free screening of Bittersweet – The Rise of Diabetes at An Taibhdhearc in Galway on 25 November, visit: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/science-on-screen-2017-tickets-39326703228   Feats of Modest Valour will broadcast on 12 November at 10.35pm on RTÉ 1 coinciding with the start of Science Week. Mending Legends was aired on TG4 on 24 September and is still available to view on the TG4 Player. -Ends-

Thursday, 26 October 2017

NUI Galway in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) will host a public lecture by Fintan O’Toole entitled ‘Bernard Shaw and the Uses of Celebrity’ to mark the publication of Judging Shaw on Tuesday, 7 November at 6.30pm. The event will take place in the Aula Maxima at the University and will be followed by a panel discussion on “Making Judging Shaw” moderated by Professor Patrick Lonergan, NUI Galway with Ruth Hegarty, RIA, Barry Houlihan, James Hardiman Library and Fintan O’Toole. Judging Shaw is the fourth book in the Royal Irish Academy’s award-winning ‘Judging’ series and looks at the legacy of George Bernard Shaw (GBS), Nobel prize-winner for literature and internationally renowned playwright, intellectual and commentator. The book, written by Orwell-prize-winning journalist Fintan O’Toole, traces the growth of ‘GBS’, the first great global brand, and discovers how Shaw created this most modern of concepts. Judging Shaw brings together a new insights on the making and invention of GBS, the complex relationships Shaw had with both England and Ireland, through times of revolution and after; reconsiders the ‘dark side of GBS’ as well as his death, commemoration and legacies. The illustrated volume features over one hundred digitised archival documents, sourced from institutions around the world, including NUI Galway’s digital theatre collections at the Hardiman Library, many published for the first time and which visualise the great achievements and also wide range of networks Shaw lived and worked in. Also being unveiled is a new exhibition to coincide with the publication of Judging Shaw. Co-curated by Barry Houlihan of NUI Galway, Ruth Hegarty and Jeff Wilson of the Royal Irish Academy and Fintan O’Toole, the exhibition brings a wealth of archival images and stories from Shaw’s remarkable public and private life, drawing on many experiences such as time spent in the West of Ireland at Coole Park, the home of Lady Isabella Augusta Gregory, Shaw’s political and socialist writing, his theatre as staged in London, Dublin and also in Belfast after his death. The legacy of Shaw is considered in the ‘afterlife of GBS’, how his work was staged in contemporary times and how his life was commemorated. Before he died, Shaw noted those around him were ‘going Shaw-mad!’ The exhibition will be open to the public at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway. George Bernard Shaw has left a vast legacy of theatrical, fictional, polemical, critical and philosophical writing. The first person to win both a Nobel Prize and an Academy Award, Shaw bridges the Victorian era and the contemporary culture of celebrity. The GBS brand came to be recognised globally as referring to an Irish provocateur with a red beard and startling opinions. He was a master of self-invention, a nobody who captured the zeitgeist and one of the first private individuals to understand fully how to generate—and how to use—global fame. Speaking in advance of the public lecture, Professor Patrick Lonergan, said: “We are delighted to welcome Fintan O’Toole and the Royal Irish Academy to NUI Galway to explore and celebrate the life and work of George Bernard Shaw. This university is deeply committed to preserving our nation’s theatrical heritage through our work in archives, allowing us to offer courses that give our students a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on Irish theatre.  We also are strongly committed to promoting awareness of that heritage through talks, publications, and other activities. This beautifully produced book and the fascinating exhibition that accompanies it will bring huge pleasure to readers and theatre-makers around the world, ensuring that Shaw’s legacies – as a dramatist and a political thinker – will have an impact for generations to come.”   Fintan O’Toole said: “Shaw had an ambivalent relationship with Ireland, but Ireland had a very ambivalent relationship with Shaw. He is by far the most influential, famous Irish person who has ever lived. There is no other Irish person that had the global reach that Shaw had. He is a vast terrain. It is a pleasure to see the book translated into an entirely different medium in the exhibition and one of the things that you see in it is that as well as being a great thinker, a great political activist, great dramatist, as well as that he was one of the world’s great posers.” Admission is free but places are limited so please register go to www.conference.ie    ENDS

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Report highlights impact of recent senior lecturer promotions on academic staff profile to exceed national average -58% of those promoted were female -40% of university senior lecturers female -36% published national average  NUI Galway today published a progress report on its activities relating to equality and diversity/gender equality. The report includes data on its latest senior lecturer promotion scheme, through which 33 lecturers advanced. Of the 33 promotions, there were 19 women (58%) and 14 men (42%). These figures have had a positive impact on the academic staff profile by gender at Senior Lecturer grade bringing NUI Galway to 40% female Senior Lecturers. This figure is above the national average of 36% in the most recent data published by the Higher Education Authority.  The University has met its own target to increase the percentage of women in the university at senior lecturer grade to 40% by April 2020 and remains committed to increasing the percentage of women in senior academic grades.  It has a target to increase the percentage of female professors to 30% by 2020. Commenting on the quarterly data, NUI Galway’s Head of Equal Opportunities, Aoife Cooke, said: “There has been a campus wide focus on gender equality and I’m pleased that following this range of initiatives, we have seen greater numbers of women achieve promotion to senior lecturer posts.  We have an ambitious programme of activities planned for this year and I look forward to working with colleagues to support our staff to achieve their potential in an environment where the value of diversity is recognised.” Equality and Diversity Highlights of the past year include: Implementation of actions arising from the University’s Gender Equality Action Plan, published in November 2016, including a comprehensive programme of training and development. While all 24 of the actions are in the process of being implemented, the annual report outlines that there is “significant work to do” to bring about gender equality at all levels of the University.  The formation of an LGBT+ Network, marked by the raising of the Pride flag at the University during Galway Pride week. Establishment of task groups on cultural diversity, access and disability which have identified measures to further equality and inclusivity in those areas. Extensive gathering of equality data, including recruitment processes and audits of staff with disabilities, throughout the year to ensure the required supports are in place. The Office of the Vice President of Equality and Diversity has a stated aim to improve monitoring on all nine protected characteristics under employment equality legislation. The University has also announced the awarding of 11 Research Capacity Building Grants to academic women from across all five colleges who have had an extended period of leave connected with caring. The grants were established to support women in building their independent research careers and provide support to help mitigate the impact of an extended leave period on research activities. Professor Anne Scott, Vice President for Equality and Diversity at NUI Galway, said: “A key priority over the coming years will be to advance an agenda of achieving gender equality in NUI Galway. We, the NUI Galway community, are moving ahead to ensure that not only matters of gender equality but also other forms of equality, diversity and inclusion are a live and active part of our agenda right across our institution.” The Office of the Vice President for Equality and Diversity supports and oversees a comprehensive programme to support family friendly working with ‘Back to Work’ workshops for new mothers returning from maternity leave, Managing Inclusively workshops for line managers, the introduction of a ‘Meetings during Core Hours Policy’ and monthly Breast Feeding Support meetings providing peer-to-peer support for breastfeeding mothers. The University has also announced the establishment of a staff LGBT+ network and is in the process of developing a new Gender Identity/Gender Expression policy.  To read more, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/genderequality/ and http://www.nuigalway.ie/equalityanddiversity/resources/publications/ -Ends- 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” Steve Jobs NUI Galway in partnership with Blackstone LaunchPad hosted its inaugural Innovation at Play Symposium, today (26 October). The one day experiential symposium focused on exploring play for the purpose of innovation and featured award winning game designer, Brenda Romero, and astrophysicist, Dr Iain MacLaren, Director of CELT at NUI Galway. The symposium also featured a spellbinding one woman live interactive performance by Ada.Ada.Ada that told the story of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and the world’s first computer programmer. Using an LED dress and wearable technology operated live on stage by performance artist and technology professional Zoe Philpott, the show aims to inspire future generations to follow in Lovelace’s footsteps and push boundaries. Offering a series of workshops throughout the day, the symposium created a time-out for people to pause, reflect and play, and to think about how study and work can be enhanced by being more open to all forms of innovation and seeing it as the calling card of the future. In addition to participants from industry and academia, the event was opened up to local secondary schools. According to Sarah Geraghty, Student Recruitment and Outreach Manager at NUI Galway, said: “It’s important for the University to share innovations, small and great, with the wider community. By involving secondary schools in ‘Innovation at Play’ we hope to inspire the next generation of innovative thinkers.” Workshops included: Parallel Hands-on, Minds-on Workshops. Creativity Through Mask Making - A workshop tool for reflection on the process of the person as inventor and innovator. Innovation Through Lego Serious Play - A hands-on workshop in Lego Serious Play to enhance innovation in communication, creativity and building shared mental models. Story Telling Through Sound - Exploring ways of telling a story using only sound instead of words. Innovation through Performance: a Practice-based workshop - How to use theatre skills to inspire and foster creativity in yourself and the people you work with. Fireside Chat – Innovation Knows No Boundaries – a panel and intergenerational conversation on innovation and the contributions that each generation can make by truly embracing innovation. Mary Dempsey from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “NUI Galway’s education mission is to build communities of contemporary innovators who will imagine and realise the world as a better place for all society, and the Innovation Symposium we hope will encourage people to explore how the spirit of innovation can be nurtured through playful methodologies.” -Ends- 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Better understanding of the disease connections between human health, animal health and environmental health is important if lethal disease pandemics are to be prevented in the future. This was the key message at a conference hosted by the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development, co-founded by NUI Galway, at the Department of Foreign Affairs this week. The inter-connectedness of human health, agriculture, wildlife and the environment was the focus of the event, which was held to mark World Food Day. In his opening remarks, Professor Charles Spillane, Vice-Chair of IFIAD and Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Many diseases which infect livestock or wild animals can also infect humans. Such zoonotic diseases pose a major threat to global health. While measures are necessary to find vaccines or treatments against such diseases, integrated development and public health programs are necessary to limit the transmission frequency of zoonotic agents from animals to humans. Well-meaning development programs can inadvertently change the transmission dynamics of such diseases or aggravate the problem of antimicrobial resistance amongst disease-causing organisms” Entitled ‘Agriculture in the Delivery of One Health’ the IFIAD event brought together international development experts, health practitioners, animal scientists, agriculturalists, government representatives, and representatives from international development organisations to promote ‘One Health’, a recognition that the health of humans is often directly connected to the health status of animals. Speakers at the conference included representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Dr Delia Grace, Programme Manager at the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya. The Ryan Institute’s Centre for Health From Environment (CHE) at NUI Galway has a range of ‘One Health’ research activities underway. In the panel discussion at the IFIAD event, Professor Martin Cormican, Head of the CHE at NUI Galway and HSE national lead on anti-microbial resistance, stressed the importance of addressing the challenges facing Ireland and developing countries in relation to anti-microbial resistance which is rendering many antibiotics useless. Professor Cormican said: “Properly used antibiotics have been wonder drugs. In the last century they were called ‘magic bullets’ because in a very ill patient antibiotics like penicillin were literally like magic, they precisely hit a lethal target in the bacteria. As doctors, vets and citizens, we have used thousands of tonnes of antibiotics for all sorts of things as if they were a cheap and cheerful solution to all our problems. Today, antibiotic resistance means that many of those magic bullets that we had when I left medical school 30 years ago are now like shooting blanks because the targets have changed. Worse still it turns out there is a lot less magic than we hoped and we have not found many new bullets.” “All this mess we have made with antibiotics has come to a head and we now have a global epidemic of bugs that live in the gut of humans and animals. They spread silently between human, animals, water and soil, they are harmless when you are fit and well but when people are at their most vulnerable they can escape from the gut and cause infections that can be impossible or almost impossible to treat. The good news is that even now if we all buy into ‘One Health’ and work together, we can slow down and limit the damage as some other countries have done. But time is short because these bugs are getting more common in people and we have already found them in the water and just like rhododendron, Japanese knot weed or zebra mussels, once these invasive species are established in Ireland there will be no way back”, cautioned Professor Cormican. Members of the Ryan Institute’s Centre for Health From Environment are working closely with counterparts internationally and nationally, including Teagasc on antimicrobial resistance in agri-food systems. A number of research teams within the CHE were recently part of a successful bid for a new One Health European Joint Programme worth €90 million. Dr Lance O’Brien of Teagasc and Chair of IFIAD, said: “Six out of ten infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals. The issue of ‘One Health’ is therefore critically important to the farming sector, the health profession, research organisations, and agencies involved in development work overseas. In Ireland, we must first of all recognise this, and then take steps to work together more closely. We in Ireland know only too well about the links between livestock and infections such as TB and BSE in the human population. Overseas, infections that have spread from animals to humans, including Avian flu, Salmonella, Lassa Fever, Nipah Virus, Lyme disease, Ebola and of course HIV, have caused large numbers of fatalities.” Agricultural specialist at Gorta-Self Help Africa, Paul Wagstaff, said that the ‘One Health’ issue was hugely important for Irish organisations working in developing countries too, as agencies needed to be acutely aware that increased farm production and sustainable agricultural intensification needed to be approached in a manner that does not have knock-on implications for human health further down the line. The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD) is a voluntary organisation that brings together representatives from Irish agriculture, the agri-food sector, academia and international development to share knowledge and good practices for the benefit of agricultural development programming and policy in support of Ireland’s development objectives. NUI Galway is a founding member of IFIAD. For more details, visit: www.ifiad.ie -Ends-

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Researchers complete project with Longford company BMS to remove floating debris from storm water sewer systems bringing new products to international water treatment markets Researchers in civil engineering at the College of Engineering and Informatics in NUI Galway have recently completed a technology development project with Irish company Butler Manufacturing Services Ltd. The group at NUI Galway have evaluated one of the company’s products, the BMS Stormbreaker Defender, which is a unique device capable of removing floating debris, grit/sand and oils/hydrocarbons from storm water sewer systems. Due to the projected increase in extreme storm and weather events, such as the recently experienced Hurricane Ophelia, existing storm sewers are being put under severe stress due to blockages caused by a flush of materials (such as bottles, plastics, oils, sand) from the urban environment. The Stormbreaker Defender aims to tackle such issues by effectively intercepting and capturing the material before it clogs sewers or makes its way into watercourses, relieving stresses on water infrastructure resulting in significant savings in maintenance costs. The project, led by Dr Sean Mulligan and Dr Eoghan Clifford from NUI Galway, involved a comprehensive investigation of a full-scale model of the Stormbreaker Defender at the Hydraulic and Aerodynamics Laboratory at the University’s Alice Perry Engineering Building. Following the experimental testing and analysis, using in-house cutting edge equipment and instrumentation, the team generated substantial data sets representing the complex flow processes in the device which were used to validate its performance and develop new design tools for the Stormbreaker Defender. Dr Sean Mulligan, Research Associate at the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “It’s great to work with industry, and especially with indigenous Irish companies who are bringing innovative products to the world stage. We have a lot of expertise in fluid dynamics, wastewater treatment and commercialisation which allows us to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the field for companies like BMS.” Dr Eoghan Clifford, lecturer at the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “The project is part of ongoing research undertaken at the department of civil engineering in collaboration with industry and highlights the significance of academic-industrial partnerships in pushing innovative ideas and theories developed by both universities and industry to solve real-world problems in the field.” Based in Longford, Butler Manufacturing Services is a specialist designer and manufacturer of products for the water treatment sector. The company employs 20 people and has products in over 40 countries worldwide. “The opportunity to collaborate with NUI Galway and to access their expertise and facilities, allows us to optimise and evaluate the performance of our BMS Stormbreaker Defender”, said Seamus Butler, Managing Director of Butler Manufacturing Services. “We believe this successful project is the start of a strong partnership between both the NUI Galway research team and our company over the coming years. We are already in discussions with the University on an expanded exploration of this product into wastewater treatment.” To support the expansion of this technology to export markets, Butler Manufacturing Services engaged with the civil engineering research team at NUI Galway. Through an Enterprise Ireland Co-Funded Innovation Voucher, the University was able to undertake a hydraulic evaluation of the technology. -Ends- 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The European Investment Bank will provide EUR 60 million towards development of the NUI Galway campus. The first ever loan to the university from Europe’s long-term lending institution, agreed in Galway earlier today, will finance construction of campus developments including new student residences and a new building for the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. At the signing, Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway said: “The University is nearing the conclusion of a ten year capital development plan, which has transformed our campus.  While philanthropic and State funding have enabled much of this expansion, the support from EIB will assist in the completion of our new Human Biology Building, which will transform the learning environment for our health science students, as well as the development of new campus student accommodation.  Construction of new residences for 430 students is well underway, and at a time when there are such significant issues nationally with supply of housing, we are looking forward to having this increased capacity during the next academic year.”  “Future generations of students will benefit from the transformation of Galway’s already impressive campus made possible by the EUR 60 million EIB financing agreed today. Irish universities are recognised around the world for both their academic and research renown, and enjoyable student experience. The European Investment Bank is committed to ensuring that world-class third level institutions across Ireland can build on these strengths in the years ahead. This follows successful cooperation between the EIB and all Irish universities and EUR 1.2 billion support for Irish education investment in recent years.” said Andrew McDowell, European Investment Bank Vice President. Following agreement for the new financing for NUI Galway the EIB will have supported campus investment at all seven members of the Irish Universities Association. Over the last decade the EIB has provided EUR 1.2 billion for education investment across Ireland, including EUR 675 million for investment in third level education in the country. EIB loan agreed in Galway The first ever EIB loan to the university was formally agreed in Galway earlier today by Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway and Andrew McDowell, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank.  “I have set the ambition to make Ireland’s Education and Training Service the best in Europe within a decade. Investment from the European Investment Bank has made a significant contribution towards advancing us to this goal. State of the art facilities are key to being the best and in recent years, new schools and universities in Cork, Limerick, Maynooth and Dublin have been transformed as a direct result of the EIB’s commitment to Ireland. Less than three years ago the EIB set out to ensure that all Irish universities could benefit and now Ireland is the only country in Europe where all universities have benefited from EIB backed investment.  Today’s meeting with the Irish Universities Association will set out how to ensure that Irish education continues to benefit from EIB’s technical experience and financial expertise.” said Richard Bruton, Minister for Education and Skills “The new EUR 60 million EIB loan to NUI Galway will ensure that the university continues to lead research across a range of disciplines including medtech.  Strengthened EIB backing for Irish universities in recent years is ensuring that students, researcher and staff at Irish universities are already benefiting from better facilities and the latest technology across the country. The EIB’s firm commitment to support future investment is a clear vote of confidence in world class Irish universities.” said Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education. During the visit the EIB delegation saw at first-hand how ongoing modernisation and new construction was transforming research, education and recreation at the university. Completion of dedicated Irish university financing programme The new financing agreement between NUI Galway and the European Investment Bank marks the successful completion of a dedicated initiative to support capital investment at Irish universities launched in October 2015 and ensure that all Irish universities could benefit from low-cost, long-term EIB financing. In recent years the EIB has financed transformational investment to improve teaching, research and student facilities at Trinity, UCD, DCU, University College Cork, Maynooth University and the . University of Limerick.

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Chancellor of the National University of Ireland Dr Maurice Manning today conferred the honorary degree Doctor of Laws (LLD) on former Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny TD. Having conferred the degree on Enda Kenny, the NUI Chancellor Dr Maurice Manning said: “The National University of Ireland is pleased to honour Enda Kenny today as we have honoured his predecessors. Through honouring those who have served in the office of Taoiseach, NUI affirms our sovereign state, our democratic system of government and the freedoms it confers on the citizens of Ireland.” Introducing Mr Kenny, Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway surveyed his career in Irish politics and highlighted his achievements. “For more than four decades, Enda Kenny has been a member of Dáil Éireann, conscientiously representing his Mayo constituents, while simultaneously making enormous contributions to national and international politics.  He inspired many with his vision, his sense of purpose, his tenacity and, no less important, his innate humanity and personal decency.  Today we salute him as the ‘Quiet Man’ from Mayo who, when the call came, rose to lead his country out of darkness, to restore it to its place among the nations, and to give all of us a reason to hold our heads high once more.” The tradition of conferring honorary degrees dates back to the NUI charter of 1908. Since then NUI has conferred honorary degrees mainly with the purpose of honouring academic distinction, whether in the humanities or in the sciences. In addition, the University honours those ‘who, whether in their personal or representative capacities, through their energies, service and actions, have contributed significantly to public life ….’. NUI traditionally honours the office of Head of the Government of Ireland by honouring those who have served as Taoiseach.   Enda Kenny is ‘father’ of the current Dáil having been first elected in 1975 and re elected in 11 subsequent general elections. He served as Minister for Education and Tourism and Trade and became Leader of Fine Gael in 2002.  He led the Party for 15 years, the longest period of any Fine Gael Leader. He became Taoiseach in March 2011 and again in May 2016, the first Fine Gael Leader to be re-elected as Taoiseach in successive elections.  His party remains the largest Party in the Dáil. His tenure of office saw the exit of Ireland from a Troika bailout, without condition, and saw the restoration of Ireland’s sovereignty and economic independence. Enda Kenny retired as Taoiseach in June 2017 after 6 years and oversaw a smooth transfer of power to a new government led by Leo Varadkar. Enda Kenny will remain a TD until the dissolution of the Dáil prior to the next general election. He is married to Fionnuala and has three adult children. -Ends-

Monday, 23 October 2017

Inniu bhronn Seansailéir Ollscoil na hÉireann, an Dr Maurice Manning céim Dhochtúireachta oinigh le Dlíthe (LLD) ar an iarThaoiseach, an tUasal Éanna Ó Coinnigh TD. Agus an chéim bronnta aige ar Éanna Ó Coinnigh, dúirt Seansailéir OÉ, an Dr Maurice Manning: “Tá áthas ar Ollscoil na hÉireann onóir a bhronnadh ar Éanna Ó Coinnigh mar atá déanta againn i gcás na dTaoiseach a chuaigh roimhe. Trí onóir a bhronnadh ar Thaoisigh na tíre, dearbhaíonn OÉ ár stát ceannasach, ár gcóras daonlathach rialtais agus na saoirsí a bhronnann sé ar shaoránaigh na hÉireann.” Agus an tUasal Kenny á chur i láthair ag an Dr Jim Browne, Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, bhreathnaigh sé siar ar a ghairm i bpolaitíocht na hÉireann agus tharraing sé aird ar a raibh bainte amach aige. “Le breis is dhá scór bliain, ba bhall de Dháil Éireann é Éanna Ó Coinnigh, áit a ndearna sé ionadaíocht dhúthrachtach ar mhuintir Mhaigh Eo, chomh maith lena chion agus níos mó do pholaitíocht ar leibhéal náisiúnta agus idirnáisiúnta.  Is iomaí duine a spreag sé lena fhís, lena aidhm shoiléir, a dhiongbháilteacht agus, chomh tábhachtach céanna, a dhaonnacht dhúchasach agus a ghnaíúlacht phearsanta.  Inniu tugaimid ómós dó mar Fhear Ciúin Mhaigh Eo, a d’éirigh chun a thír a stiúradh amach ón dorchadas nuair a tháinig an t-am chuige, chun í a chur ar ais san áit ba dhual di i measc na náisiún, agus chun cúis a thabhairt dúinn ar fad a bheith bródúil arís.” Tá céimeanna oinigh á mbronnadh ó tháinig cairt OÉ i bhfeidhm in 1908. Ó shin i leith tá céimeanna oinigh á mbronnadh ag OÉ chun ardchaighdeán acadúlachta a aithint, bíodh sin sna daonnachtaí nó sna heolaíochtaí.  Lena chois sin, bronnann an Ollscoil onóir orthu siúd ‘a bhfuil a gcion déanta acu don saol poiblí, trína gcumas pearsanta nó ionadaíoch, trína bhfuinnimh, seirbhís agus gníomhaíochtaí ...’. Go traidisiúnta, bronnann OÉ onóir ar oifig Cheann Rialtas na hÉireann trí onóir a bhronnadh orthu siúd a bhí i ról an Taoisigh.   Is é Éanna Ó Coinnigh ‘athair’ na Dála reatha de bhrí gur toghadh den chéad uair é sa bhliain 1975 agus gur atoghadh é san aon olltoghchán déag ina dhiaidh sin. Bhí sé ina Aire Oideachais agus ina Aire Turasóireachta agus Trádála agus ghlac sé ról Cheannaire Fhine Gael sa bhliain 2002.  Bhí sé i gceannas ar an bPáirtí ar feadh cúig bliana déag, an tréimhse ab fhaide i measc cheannairí uile Fhine Gael. Toghadh ina Thaoiseach é i mí an Mhárta 2011 agus arís i mí na Bealtaine 2016, an chéad Cheannaire de chuid Fhine Gael a atoghadh mar Thaoiseach i dtoghcháin i ndiaidh a chéile.  Tá a pháirtí fós ar an bPáirtí is mó sa Dáil. Faoina stiúir d’fhás Fine Gael nó go raibh sé ar an bpáirtí is mó ar leibhéal áitiúil, Dála agus Pharlaimint na hEorpa, toradh nár baineadh amach riamh cheana. Bhí sé ina chomhchathaoirleach ar na Cainteanna Trádála Domhanda i Singeapór in 1996 agus bhí sé ina chathaoirleach ar Chomhairle Airí Trádála an AE le linn Uachtaránacht na hÉireann. Sa bhliain 2011 bhunaigh sé rialtas le Páirtí an Lucht Oibre nuair a bhí Éire i lár an chúlaithe eacnamaíochta is measa riamh. Faoina cheannaireacht, go dtí mí na Bealtaine 2017, bhí Éire ar an tír AE is sciobtha fáis blianta as a chéile; tháinig laghdú ar dhífhostaíocht ó 15.2% go 6.3%; thit rátaí úis ar iasachtaí Éireannacha ó 15% go náid, athshlánaíodh rátáil chreidmheasa na tíre agus fuarthas rochtain iomlán ar na margaí airgeadais arís. Tá breis is dhá mhilliún duine fostaithe anois agus tá go leor daoine a d’fhág an tír le linn an chúlaithe eacnamaíochta ag filleadh abhaile anois. Bhí Éanna Ó Coinnigh ina Leas-Uachtarán ar Pháirtí an Phobail Eorpaigh ar feadh sé bliana agus fuair sé tacaíocht iomlán don éileamh go mbeadh Tuaisceart Éireann aitheanta mar bhall iomlán den AE agus nach mbeadh gá athiarratas a dhéanamh tar éis an Bhreatimeachta, dá mbeadh Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta curtha i bhfeidhm ag vóta na ndaoine. Faoina rialtas rinneadh comóradh uileghabhálach agus cuimsitheach ar Éirí Amach 1916, ó thuaidh agus ó dheas, agus go bunúsach, tugadh an Bhratach Náisiúnta ar ais do mhuintir na hÉireann. Le linn a ré in oifig chonacthas an Troika ag fágáil na hÉireann, gan choinníoll, agus rinneadh ceannasacht agus neamhspleáchas eacnamaíochta na hÉireann a athbhunú. D’éirigh Éanna Ó Coinnigh as a ról mar Thaoiseach i mí an Mheithimh 2017 tar éis sé bliana agus chinntigh sé nach raibh aon fhadhb leis an aistriú cumhachta chuig rialtas nua faoi stiúir Leo Varadkar. Beidh Éanna Ó Coinnigh ina TD go scaoilfear an Dáil roimh an chéad olltoghchán eile. Tá sé pósta le Fionnuala agus tá triúr clainne orthu agus iad fásta suas anois. -Críoch-

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

NUI Galway today (18 October 2017) launched NovoVerse, a new eJournal dedicated to publishing undergraduate student research. This type of research is defined as, ‘an inquiry or investigation conducted by undergraduate students that makes an original, intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline’. Itsaim is to support students as researchers by promoting their work in the disciplines of higher education. Dr Trevor Clohessy, editor-in-chief and post-doctoral researcher from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, said: “Our aim is to motivate undergraduate students in a supporting but diligent environment, to engage in the craft of innovative and empirically rigorous academic research writing, which is then published and disseminated to a wider public audience, where the authors of accepted research papers will be invited to present their research at the annual NUI Galway Undergraduate Research Conference.”   The NovoVerse eJournal project involves specific stakeholders in the review and publication process: undergraduates (Authors), postgraduates (Mentors) and academics (Stewards). This undergraduate eJournal will be underpinned by an action research element that will provide a project template for increasing awareness of the importance of undergraduate research communication and dissemination at a national level.   Dr Clohessy added: “The benefits for students who publish their research in NovoVerse are multifold. While initially being rolled out as a pilot project for business and information undergraduates, it will be scaled up to include all other NUI Galway undergraduate disciplines in early 2018. It also welcomes articles from a broad range of topics submitted from single or multiple authors and papers from students at other institutions. Theoretical and practical research (including case studies and project reports) providing useful insights will be considered. Our editorial philosophy is to strive for a balance between theoretical and practical topics. All accepted research articles will be published electronically on the NovoVerse eJournal website.”   The NovoVerse submission process:   ·         An undergraduate student submits their research article. ·         The article is reviewed by a group of postgraduate research students. ·         A decision is then made whether to publish the article. ·         The student receives constructive feedback on their submission regardless of the article being accepted or not. ·         The entire process is monitored by a senior editorial panel. ·         If the paper is accepted and published, the student will present their research as a poster or presentation at the annual NUI Galway Undergraduate Research Conference.   NUI Galway has a number of industry partners with whom undergraduates complete their final year project, and they will be made aware of the eJournal to ensure they become familiar with some of the innovative research the students are carrying out. The students can use the hyperlink to their published paper to include with their resumes, LinkedIn profiles and research portfolios to showcase their writing, research and report writing skills.   NovoVerse will serve as a beacon that will highlight the innovative research being conducted by NUI Galway undergraduate students. For example, in 2016, some fourth year Business Information Systems students competed in the Global Undergraduate Student Blackstone Competition, which presented students around the world with a single challenge: Solve a Campus Problem.Their entry ‘UniConnect’, which doubled as their final year project, was a mobile app which consolidated all of the social and academic data of students’ lives into one place. Out of 105 entries across 17 global universities the students finished in fifth place following first round voting.   A report on the eJournal will be completed by NUI Galway at the end of 2017 to provide a blueprint for a national rolled out version of the project. This report will detail the benefits of the project, lessons learnt and the benefits of a national pan-undergraduate platform.     NovoVerse is sponsored by a Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching research grant.   For further information visit NovoVerse at novoverse.nuigalway.ie   -Ends- Message history