NUI Galway Law Lecturer Appointed To Law Reform Commission

NUI Galway Law Lecturer Appointed To Law Reform Commission-image

Friday, 17 February 2012

NUI Galway law lecturer, Donncha O’Connell, has been appointed by the Government, on the nomination of Attorney General, Máire Whelan, SC, to the Law Reform Commission to replace Mr. Justice Donal O’Donnell of the Supreme Court. He will serve as a part-time Commissioner. The Law Reform Commission is an independent, statutory body established under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975. Its purpose is to keep the law under review and to make recommendations for law reform in keeping with the changing nature of Irish society. Its scope was expanded in 2006 to include new projects on statute law restatement and the legislation directory. O’Connell was the Dean of Law at NUI Galway from 2005-2008 and he continues to teach European Human Rights and Constitutional Law in the School of Law. He has extensive experience on European human rights bodies having served as the Irish member of the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights established by the EU Commission in 2002 and as the senior Irish member of FRALEX, the legal expert group that advised the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights based in Vienna. He spent the academic year 2009-2010 as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Human Rights LSE and is the editor of the Irish Human Rights Law Review published annually by Clarus Press. Donncha was the first full-time Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) from 1999-2002 and he has, in the past, been a board member of the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) Ltd and Amnesty International-Ireland. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the London-based NGO, INTERIGHTS – The International Centre for the Legal Protection of Rights. He is also a member of the Legal Aid Board. ENDS  

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NUI Galway Host Free Family Events for National Engineers Week

NUI Galway Host Free Family Events for National Engineers Week -image

Monday, 20 February 2012

NUI Galway is calling all wanna-be-engineers to participate in a week of events and activities from 27 February to 4 March as part of National Engineers Week. As part of the line-up NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute and College of Engineering and Informatics will host a free family-event.  Taking place at St Nicholas Church in Galway City on Saturday, 3 March from 11am to 5pm, Connecting our Lives promises to be a great day out for everyone, with activities to suit all ages. Speaking about engineering and Engineers Week, Professor Gerry Lyons, Dean of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “Engineering is an exciting profession. Everything around you has been engineered in some way, yet you may not see the engineers behind the scenes. Engineers take maths and science from the lab to invent, design, and build things that matter. By dreaming up creative and practical solutions, engineers are changing the world all the time. Come and explore engineering through cool, fun and exciting demonstrations, meet with practicing engineers and IT specialists, learn about robotics, mobile phone apps, sports engineering, building design, renewable energies, medical implants and much more.” At the one day family event, visitors will be able to take part in hands-on experiments, workshops, and demonstrations. Each activity will explore the engineering behind many aspects of our lives including sustainable building and living, transport, water pollution and treatment, and electricity. There will be puppets and a lego-build area especially for the young visitors and a display of antique engineering equipment to make the grown-ups feel at home. Highlights of the event will include a K’Nex Bridge Building Contest, an Eco-House Design Challenge, a Renewable Energy Demonstration Station, Water Treatment experiments, Robotics and more.  Speaking about the Connecting our Lives event, Professor Colin Brown, Director of the Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research, said: “Every aspect of how we live is connected by Engineering, and it’s an area that is becoming more and more important as we are looking to a future where we need to think about how we can build, live and play more sustainably.  Each year this event is sure to be a good pick for a fun, family-friendly day out, with visitors walking away with a much better understanding of the role of Engineering in our lives.” Connecting our Lives is part of National Engineers Week, which aims to showcase the diversity of engineering and to celebrate the role of engineers in Ireland. Other NUI Galway events being hosted during National Engineers Week include guided tours of the recently opened €40million Engineering Building at NUI Galway and a series of free lunchtime concerts provided by the staff and students of the College of Engineering and Informatics. The event will also provide an opportunity for secondary school pupils to meet practicing engineers and IT specialists at the ‘Explore Engineering and Technology’ event, a show called ‘It’s all done with Mirrors’ for primary school pupils which explores the science and technology behind many self working magic tricks, as well as many more events during Engineers Week. All of these events are free of charge. For more information on these and other events visit For further information on Connecting our Lives contact Sarah Knight, Outreach Officer, Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research, NUI Galway at 091 495061 or email -ENDS-

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Risks of Social Exclusion for Rural Older People Explored in New Report

Risks of Social Exclusion for Rural Older People Explored in New Report-image

Monday, 20 February 2012

A new report from NUI Galway finds that while growing old in rural areas can be a positive experience, there are also a number of factors which may lead to older people experiencing social exclusion. The report, ‘Social Exclusion and Ageing in Diverse Rural Communities’, from NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology is the first of its kind on the island of Ireland. It takes an in-depth look at exclusion for older people living in rural settings across Ireland and Northern Ireland. The report identifies five areas where older people living in rural areas can be excluded. These domains of exclusion are: (1) social connections and social resources; (2) services; (3) transport and mobility; (4) safety, security and crime; and (5) income and financial resources.The report, which was launched today (20 February) at NUI Galway by Ireland’s Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD, and Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle O’Neill MLA.“Our findings suggest that an older person’s experience of exclusion across these domains is influenced by such factors as individual disposition, life transitions, place characteristics, and macro-economic forces. It is this influence that determines the depth and extent of exclusion experienced. We came across many older people living in what would appear to be difficult circumstances, but a sense of belonging and keeping connected in their communities helped to maintain their quality of life,” explained one of the authors of the report, Professor Eamon O’Shea, of NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG). Older people in the study were generally happy with their lives and with where they lived and were optimistic about the future. However, it was clear to the authors how service depletion, weak social connections and older people’s low expectations can be significant issues.In response to the research, Minister Lynch TD said: “This most informative study on social exclusion and ageing in diverse rural communities in Ireland will be of great importance to planners and policy makers, service providers and community workers – North and South – in planning and implementing intervention strategies that target loneliness and social isolation in rural areas. This research is a welcome contribution to European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations, and provides valuable insights into the lived experiences of older people. It tells us of the great diversity within the older population as a whole in Ireland and the very valuable contribution of older people to society. The research reminds us that good communities, good neighbours and attachment to place make life better – irrespective of personal circumstances.” Minister O’Neill MLA welcomed the publication of the cross-border document stating: “As Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, and as a rural dweller, I am acutely aware of the difficulties facing many people living in our rural communities and particularly the elderly. This all-island research report on Social Exclusion and Ageing in Rural Communities highlights those many difficulties so that informed action can be taken. I congratulate the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and the Healthy Ageing in Rural Communities (HARC) Research Network for this work.”Minister O’Neill went on to say: “Later this week I will be formally launching the ‘Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation’ framework which provides a package of some £16 million over the next four years to help the most vulnerable rural dwellers facing poverty and social isolation.”The research calls for more innovative ways to support local areas to assist and engage older people in rural society and presents recommendations in order to assist in this task and to reduce the potential for older people to be excluded in rural communities. Speaking at the event, Dr Kieran Walsh of the ISCG said social exclusion is a complex phenomenon: “With this work we are closer to understanding how it can affect older people’s lives in rural communities. For instance, a person who experiences a transition into ill health, and who has recently moved to a remote community, may find it more difficult to establish social connections. Alternatively, an individual with ill health who has developed a capacity for coping and who lives in a place with a strong sense of community may have less difficulty in maintaining social connections. Or, indeed, a person may be socially included, but be excluded in terms of service access.”Professor Scharf, Director of the ICSG, added: “With the ageing of our rural communities, and the increasingly difficult economic climate, we must be aware of how the diversity of people and places can intersect to produce both inclusion and exclusion.”Dr Roger O’Sullivan, Director of the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) - funder of the research, commented: “People who live in rural areas and experience exclusion are often invisible to society and this is particularly true for older people. With the launch of this report today those developing policy and services now have substantial evidence at hand to help make rural Ireland a good place to grow old.”The report authors were Dr Kieran Walsh, Professor Eamon O’Shea and Professor Tom Scharf, from the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway. The research was completed in collaboration with the Healthy Ageing in Rural Communities (HARC) research network (, which is a cross-border interdisciplinary initiative involving  NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, Rural Community Network and FORUM Connemara.-ends-

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GPS Technology in Improving Sport Focus of NUI Galway Sports Talk

GPS Technology in Improving Sport Focus of NUI Galway Sports Talk-image

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The next talk in the NUI Galway public talk series on Sports Technology will take place on Tuesday, 28 February at 6pm. Entitled Application of GPS Technology in Improving Running Performance, the talk will be delivered by former Irish Olympian Gary Ryan, Elite Sports Development Officer at NUI Galway.This talk will examine the use of GPS in sport and focus on the key questions that GPS technology can answer for a coach, its use as a performance analysis tool and and how it can directly help improve an athlete’s performance in a wide range of sports, and at a varying levels of ability.According to Gary Ryan, Elite Sports Development Officer at NUI Galway, “The development of GPS technologies for use in sport is one of the most exciting developments in modern coaching in recent years. Coaching is all about the giving of accurate information and feedback. The potential of GPS to revolutionise coaching, tactics and training in a wide variety of sports is very exciting and challenging for both engineers and coaches.”Gary’s early sporting career focused on soccer when he played for Limerick City and Waterford United as a teenager before switching successfully to Athletics in his early twenties. Gary went on to become the first Irish Athlete in 60 years to qualify for a sprint event at an Olympic Games when he qualified for the 1996 Atlanta event in the 200m. He also competed in the Sydney games of 2000. The highlight of his career was winning a bronze medal in the 2004 World Indoor Championships in the 4x400m relay in Budapest. He also was the first Irish sprinter to reach a global final at the World Student games in 1997 where he finished 4thin the 200m.During his competitive career Gary was also a Lecturer on both the Physical Education and Sports Science Courses at UL. A multiple Irish record holder and national champion, Gary also captained the Irish team for a number of years and retired from competitive athletics after the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg. After his retirement as a competitive athlete, he took up the role of Director of Coaching for Athletics Ireland and was head coach for the World Junior championships in 2009 in Poland.Gary has coached a number of top track athletes and Olympic hopefuls such as Fiona O’ Friel from Dublin and Emily Maher from Kilkenny, and has worked with a broad range of sports people and teams including the Clare Hurling team in 2006 and Lar Corbett, Hurler of the Year in 2010.The free public talk will take place in room ENG-3035 in the Engineering Building at NUI Galway.The series of Sports Technology talks is being organised as part of NUI Galway’s degree programme in Sports & Exercise Engineering, whose students are being educated to design the next generation of sports and exercise systems and devices.For more information on the Sports Technology talks, which are supported by Engineers Ireland (West), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, visit or call 091 492728.-ENDS-

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Top Experts Come Together at NUI Galway to Discuss Best Way of Putting Energy to Work for Ireland

Top Experts Come Together at NUI Galway to Discuss Best Way of Putting Energy to Work for Ireland-image

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

As part of  NUI Galway Energy Night experts from the fields of business, enterprise and investment, innovation and energy technology will come together to debate ‘Putting Energy to Work for Ireland’ on Tuesday, 6 March. The Energy Night will run from 2pm in the Bailey Allen Hall, NUI Galway, with the panel discussion commencing at 6pm.NUI Galway’s Energy Night is the only event of its kind in Ireland, and it reflects the central role the student organisers believe energy must play in the economic recovery of Ireland.  Organised by the NUI Galway’s Chemistry, Energy and Physics Societies, Energy Night will also feature an Industry and Career Fair featuring some of the most prominent energy employers including Eirgrid, Cylon, Enerit, Nutherm, Shell, AER Sustainable Energy, United Technologies Research Centre Ireland, HDS Energy and Kingspan Renewables.The week prior to NUI Galway Energy Night, 27 February to 4 March, organisers will be running targeted CV and professional development workshops for students interested in careers in the energy sector. These will be organised in conjunction with the Career Development Centre at NUI Galway. The Industry and Career Fair will run concurrently with a Poster Showcase of cutting-edge and multi-disciplinary energy research that is currently being undertaken in Irish universities. With presenters working in areas such as biofuels, wave energy, smart buildings, smart grids and data efficiency, the Career and Industry Fair and Research Showcase will provide an invaluable opportunity for students, academics and business people from around the country to network, exchange thoughts and ideas and set up new and exciting collaborations.The centrepiece of Energy Night will take place at 6pm with the Panel Discussion, ‘Putting Energy to Work for Ireland’. RTÉ’s The Business presenter, George Lee, will moderate the discussion that features energy executives and experts from Ireland and abroad including: Gabriel D’Arcy, CEO, Bord na Móna; Norman Crowley, founder of Crowley Carbon; Brian O’Cathain, CEO of Petroceltic; Serial Entrepreneur George Polk, who has worked with Richard Branson and George Soros; and Tom Kelly, Clean Tech Divisional Manager with Enterprise Ireland.“The NUI Galway Energy Night is an entirely student run event with the aim of enhancing understanding, interaction and collaboration between energy stakeholders in the policy, business, technological and academic spheres as well as the public. It is a hugely exciting event as it brings local community, students, researchers, lecturers, industry representatives and experts in the energy field together to discuss where we are at, what needs to be done and what can be done”, said Rory Monaghan, Lecturer in Energy Systems Engineering at NUI Galway.The NUI Galway Energy Night is made possible by the generosity of sponsors, including Galway-based Enerit Ltd and Shell. The Energy Night has been awarded EXPLORE funding from NUI Galway, which is funding for projects that build a culture of innovation on campus. NUI Galway Energy Night is also an Engineers Ireland Continuing professional development (CPD) approved event.This event is open to members of the public. For more information visit the events website, or contact Sinéad Burke at

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Compact Imaging Reaches Agreement on Research Collaboration with Irish Universities

Compact Imaging Reaches Agreement on Research Collaboration with Irish Universities   -image

Thursday, 16 February 2012

National University of Ireland Galway, University of Limerick to Provide Biophotonics Expertise, Gain Stake in Emerging Silicon Valley Technology CompanyCompact Imaging (CI) today announced an innovative research collaboration with National University of Ireland Galway and University of Limerick.The two-year agreement, in the scientific field of biophotonics, specifically optical coherence tomography (OCT), will explore and further develop CI’s novel technologies. OCT is an imaging technique similar to ultrasound, but employing light rather than sound.The project will combine National University of Ireland Galway’s globally-recognised body of OCT research in medical and biological imaging with CI’s development and intellectual property in the area of multiple-reference OCT.  The focus will be on Compact Imaging’s MRO™, multiple-reference OCT, architecture.CI is an early stage technology company focused on the rapidly expanding market for non-invasive optical imaging, measurement and analysis. The Company’s MRO™ technology makes possible very small (cell phone size), low-cost, robust OCT-based devices for these applications. CI, based in Silicon Valley, holds a portfolio of US patents covering multiple-reference optical coherence tomography (MRO™).The collaboration makes the extensive scientific research capabilities of National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) and University of Limerick (UL) available to CI. The agreement has been led by and supported by Galway University Foundation and University of Limerick Foundation. The agreement will lead to the University foundations receiving equity in CI. Additional financial details are confidential, for commercial reasons.NUI Galway’s Professor Martin Leahy will direct the research efforts. Professor Leahy is Chair of Applied Physics at NUI Galway, Scientific Director of the National Biophotonics Imaging Platform Ireland (NBIPI) and Director of the University’s Tissue Optics and Microcirculation Imaging Laboratory (TOMI)“Physics has delivered extraordinary advances in almost every facet of modern life,” said Professor Leahy. “From the humble thermometer and stethoscope to X-Ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound, PET and radiotherapy, our health has been transformed by these advances. Photonics promises to bring healthcare to the next level, as it is the only means to see cells and molecules in small, accessible, low cost and safe imaging systems.“Compact Imaging’s multiple-reference OCT technology has the potential to harness all these advantages, delivering solutions to health and security markets with a distinct edge,” added Professor Leahy. “Our proprietary MRO™ technology has a broad set of biological imaging and measurement applications in fields from medical to security,” said Don Bogue, CEO of CI. “By embarking on this collaboration with Professor Leahy and the laboratories at National University of Ireland Galway, Compact Imaging gains access to outstanding research capability with a group that has the right scientific expertise and research focus to move MRO™ well beyond where our startup-level resources would otherwise allow. We expect that this collaboration will accelerate our development and delivery of small low-cost solutions to a variety of markets,” he said.The underlying imaging technology, optical coherence tomography (OCT), was first commercialised more than a decade ago for use in ophthalmic and medical diagnostic imaging. CI’s MRO™ is a very different architecture from that used in conventional OCT systems. The architecture enables design of small form factor (cell phone size), low cost devices ideally-suited both to integration with large multi-purpose instruments for office or clinic use and to higher volume mobile or remote applications.“Leveraging knowledge to support innovation is an important part of the mission of universities. For NUI Galway and UL to partner in this way with an emerging company in Silicon Valley is a very exciting development. NUI Galway is delighted to be part of this collaboration which brings mutual benefit to all partners – academic and commercial,” said Dr Jim Browne, President of NUI Galway.Speaking about the alliance, UL President, Professor Don Barry said: “This alliance and this pioneering commercial agreement highlight what can be achieved with some innovative thinking from supporters of the University. It demonstrates ways in which commercially astute universities and their foundations can benefit through creative collaborations with industry.”-ends-

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New Discovery in Fight against Huntington’s Disease

New Discovery in Fight against Huntington’s Disease-image

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Researchers at National University of Ireland Galway have made a significant scientific discovery in the fight against Huntington’s disease. The novel findings are published today (21 February) in the online, open access journal PLoS Biology. Huntington’s disease is an incurable, inherited, neurodegenerative disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbances, and severe mental deterioration. It affects over 100,000 people worldwide, with another 300,000 likely to develop symptoms in their lifetime. There is currently no way to halt progression of the disease, and available treatments are designed only to manage the symptoms.The new research identifies specific enzymes called HDACs, or histone deacetylase complexes, as positive agents for the mutation that underlies Huntington’s disease. When HDACs are active, they exacerbate the disease-causing mutation in cells, possibly contributing to the severity of the disorder. The new research found that blocking these HDACs with experimental drugs greatly reduced the risk of further mutation.“Ongoing mutations in the brain of Huntington’s patients are thought to drive progression of the disease,” said Professor Robert Lahue of National University of Ireland Galway’s Centre for Chromosome Biology, and lead author on the new research paper. “Our discovery suggests that inhibiting HDAC function slows down the mutation process, and thereby could slow disease progression. A key finding of the research was to pinpoint specific HDACs for selective inhibition.”Several laboratories in the United States of America are currently testing new HDAC inhibitors in laboratory models for efficacy and safety in related fields. Professor Lahue and his research group hope to work with these labs to evaluate the effect of HDAC inhibitors on the mutational process. “Huntington’s is a particularly cruel disease, as it is passed from parent to child, often with increased severity or earlier onset,” Professor Lahue adds. “With modern genetic testing, people can now establish whether they received the mutant gene from their parent, but then they live a waiting game for the onset of symptoms, which usually appear around the age of 40.”Professor Lahue emphasised that the HDAC inhibitors are still experimental, and that their development to potential drugs is still some way off. “It is very exciting that basic research at National University of Ireland Galway, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, has created a new possibility for helping Huntington’s patients and their families.”The findings may also have implications for research into certain other neurological disorders, such as myotonic dystrophy type I, a type of muscular dystrophy caused by the same sort of mutation as seen in Huntington’s.-ends-

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NUI Galway Celebrates the Dramatic Arts with Third Annual Theatre Week

NUI Galway Celebrates the Dramatic Arts with Third Annual Theatre Week-image

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Theatrical forces will once again merge on campus for NUI Galway's Theatre Week. Celebrating NUI Galway’s commitment to the dramatic arts, Theatre Week will run from Monday, 27 February until Friday, 2 March. Now in its third year, the event showcases through theatre, literature and film, the many talents of NUI Galway students, societies and alumni. The launch of Theatre Week will take place in The View, Áras na Mac Léinn at 12.30pm on Monday, 27 February.One of the highlights of the week is the Jerome Hynes One Act play series which features eight new one-act plays written by NUI Galway students. The plays will be performed during lunchtimes and evenings in The Cube, Áras na Mac Léinn. All eight can be seen at the Omnibus Edition on Friday, 2 March from 6pm, followed by an awards ceremony. Three student playwrights have also been working closely with NUI Galway’s radio station, Flirt FM which will broadcast these three radio plays during the week.Throughout the week, Dramsoc will present two plays, Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, proceeds in aid of the Galway Rape crisis centre, and a production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Many of NUI Galway’s societies are getting involved in Theatre Week, including the Philosophy Society who will present a reading of Plato’s Republic, a philosophical discussion of justice written over 2,000 years ago. There will also be a politically motivated Flash Mob wedding party on campus celebrating an unholy union. On Tuesday, 28 February, the Music and RockSoc will present a night of music performance at the Witless Showcase in the College Bar. FilmSoc will also present a selection of films based on a theatrical theme throughout the week.Continuing its commitment to the arts, NUI Galway recently launched a new four-year degree programme, BA degree in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, which is designed for students with a keen interest in all aspects of drama and performance. Students on this new programme will have the opportunity to benefit from the dynamic partnerships forged by NUI Galway with key arts organisations including Druid Theatre Company, the Galway Arts Festival and Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe. The first intake of students for the new BA in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies will be in September 2012. Applications will be accepted via the CAO process, on which the new course code is GY118.Ríona Hughes, NUI Galway Societies Officer and Theatre Week Director, said: “Theatre Week in NUI Galway is a collaboration between the Societies and very talented drama students to show case the University's vibrant drama scene on campus and a demonstration of NUI Galway's commitment to producing professional dramatists of the future and supporting the tradition of high quality theatre of which Galway is justifiably proud.”For full details on the programme of events visit or Tickets for all events are available from the Socsbox in Áras na Mac Léinn, NUI Galway.-Ends-

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New Platform to Gather Views on EU Policy

New Platform to Gather Views on EU Policy-image

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Researchers at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) in NUI Galway are leading a European Union, multi-million euro initiative aimed at government transparency and giving citizens a voice in creating policies.The project, entitled ‘Puzzled by Policy’, has now launched as an online platform, with the focus on immigration in the EU. The website is customised for Greece, Hungary, Italy and Spain, profiling users based on national and European immigration policy.The Puzzled by Policy platform allows users to graphically compare their views on immigration with national and EU immigration policies, as well as with the opinions of relevant stakeholders. Users are then encouraged to join discussions on particular aspects of immigration policy they feel strongly about.The platform is also available in English and discussions can be automatically translated into any language. To ensure accessibility to all users, the Puzzled by Policy widget can be embedded on any social media site, blog or website.The Puzzled by Policy project aims to help end the detachment and disillusionment of citizens in the policy making process of the EU by improving information resources and tools.Current ways of informing citizens and allowing them to participate can be difficult to access, time consuming to use and yield little results. Experts at DERI are deveoping IT tools to acquire, share, reuse and process vast amounts of relevant data from multiple and divergent information sources.DERI’s Deirdre Lee, who is leading the Puzzled by Policy Project, comments:“ DERI is providing the models, technologies and tools for more effective and efficient public administration systems. This is all part of a larger move toward eGovernment, which embraces the world wide web for better governence. eGovernment offers the ability to transform not only the way in which most public services are delivered but also the fundamental relationship between government and citizen.”With over 140 researchers, DERI is one of the world’s leading international web science research institutes, established as a CSET in 2003 with funding from Science Foundation Ireland.Its researchers have a specific focus on the Semantic Web and Networked Knowledge, which provides the framework to link information in a way that allows us to use, analyse and retrieve this information more efficiently.-ends-

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Older Women Lose out in Pension Provision

Older Women Lose out in Pension Provision-image

Friday, 24 February 2012

New research looks at older women workers’ access to pensions Fewer than one in three female pensioners in Ireland receive the maximum contributory pension and two-thirds rely on the non-contributory pension, leaving many women disadvantaged in later life, says a new report today. The report Older Women Workers’ Access to Pensions: Vulnerabilities, Perspectives and Strategies was written by Dr Nata Duvvury, Dr Áine Ní Léime and Aoife Callan of NUI Galway, and Dr Linda Price and Mark Simpson of Queens University Belfast, with funding from the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI). The research highlights the issue of gender inequality in pension provision in Ireland, north and south. It underlines the vulnerability of older women and examines the factors that contribute to lower pension incomes among women, including level of labour force participation and time spent caring for dependants. The report also looks at strategies used by older women and finds many depend on partners’ or husbands’ incomes for a secure future, even though they may well outlive them as women tend to have longer life expectancies. Inez McCormack, who was the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, will officially launch the report at the National University of Ireland Offices in Merrion Square today: “This report comes at a crucial time in light of the changes to pensions recently announced in the Republic of Ireland[i] and Northern Ireland. It makes the issue of women and pensions visible – a crucial step towards the state living up to its obligation to protect the most vulnerable with regard to social security, which is a human right.” Key findings: Older women workers experience limited access to pensions because of low pay, poor conditions of work and their primary role in caring. Women account for only 27% of those receiving the maximum contributory pension. Women are likely to be involved in non-pensionable employment and/or in seasonal, part-time and short-term contracts, making it difficult for them to contribute regularly to pensions. Reliance on partners’ income is common, but is a risky strategy in the event of separation, divorce, widowhood, illness or redundancy. The economic crisis, with the imposition of the government levies and charges, has further reduced women’s ability to pay into pensions. Typically, women were not aware of the importance of personal pension provision until quite late in life or in situations of change such as husband’s job loss or family disruption. For some women who could afford to contribute to private pensions, the failure of the banking system resulted in significant losses to the value of their pension funds. Dr Nata Duvvury, co-Director of the Global Women’s Studies Programme at NUI Galway, one of the lead investigators of the report commented: “Women are often the holders of low pay and part-time jobs which will dramatically affect their ability to build pensions. With the economic crisis, this particular group in society is being put under even more financial pressure and the long-term result looks set to be financial insecurity in older age.” Roger O’Sullivan, Director of CARDI, said: “Gender inequality in pension incomes is an important issue affecting many tens of thousands of older people in Ireland, north and south – and the number of women aged 65+ will rise by more than half a million in the next 30 years. This research underlines the gender gaps in the pension systems in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and makes an important contribution to understanding how such gaps might be closed by policy makers to ensure all older people can enjoy a secure and healthy old age.” Dr Áine Ní Léime, co-principal investigator at the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway, commented: “While pension policy in Ireland, north and south, has begun to address some of the obstacles to women’s access to pensions, there is a clear need for a coherent approach across the policy areas of employment, taxation and social welfare, as well as pensions to ensure that women have an adequate income in later life.” Dr Linda Price, Lecturer in Spatial Planning, who led the research at Queen’s University, Belfast commented: “The life course approach taken in the research has led to an appreciation of the continuing impact of gender relations, caring responsibilities and fragmented and often low-paid employment on women’s ability to retire in our society in an era when popular conceptions are that gender equality has been achieved.” -ends-

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