Saturday, 23 December 2017

Author: Barry Houlihan, James Hardiman Library The Brainstorm long read: JP Donleavy is best known for The Ginger Man, but the problems with the stage adaptation of the novel in 1959 showed the cultural censorship at work in Ireland at that time The late J.P. Donleavy was one of the great writers of the modern era. Part of a literary coterie of bohemian Dublin of the 1950s and 1960s, Donleavy’s circle included such remarkable figures as Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh, Edna O’Brien, John Ryan and many others. Roaming from watering holes like Davy Byrnes to the Palace bar, this meeting of minds produced great literary works in prose, fiction, drama and poetry which shape and reflect upon modern Ireland.  Donleavy, or Mike as he was more widely known to those around him, passed away this year at the age of 91. Born in Brooklyn in April 1926 and educated at Trinity College between 1946 and 1949, he was the writer of over twenty books on Ireland and its people and places.  He is most frequently remembered for one novel in particular. The Ginger Man was published in 1955, without the prior consent of the author, as part of a semi-pornographic imprint (the Traveller’s Compendium) from a Paris-based publishing house, Olympia Press, which was run by Maurice Girodias. Long and lengthy legal battles followed between Donleavy and Girodias to release the publishing rights for the work. In one of the great literary coups, Donleavy successfully (but anonymously at the time) bought the publishing house itself when it was for sale in 1970. This meant that Donleavy was therefore suing himself so the case was quickly dropped. In giving us Sebastian Dangerfield and The Ginger Man, Donleavy gave us both one of the great literary characters and one of the great Dublin novels. Straight from the Joycean playbook, Dangerfield roves Dublin as a rogue Bloom-like figure, presenting a Dublin that is hyperbole but only just. It is peppered by real-life figures, from Brendan Behan to Gainor Crist, the "Ginger Man" himself.  But like James Joyce, Sean O’Casey and Samuel Beckett, Ireland rejected the work of genius. Threatened by the stage adaptation of the play, the overpowering influence of the Catholic Church hierarchy (notably Archbishop John Charles McQuaid) saw that The Ginger Man the play would be cancelled after just three performances at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre in 1959.  Cultural censorship It was and still is one of the most overtly blatant examples of cultural censorship in Ireland. It later prompted Donleavy to publish the script of the play with a preface entitled What They Did in Dublin to the Ginger Man – A Play in 1961. It became difficult to separate the on-stage action from the off-stage dramatics. No official or legislated censorship was in operation in Ireland at this time, compared to the United Kingdom, where all plays were submitted prior to production to the Office of the Lord Chamberlain for approval. Yet the 1950s earned an accurate reputation as a depressing and frustrating time for Irish writers, dramatic producers and playwrights.  The Ginger Man was a watershed moment in Irish theatre Irish theatre, in the form of its national theatre at least, was losing touch with a passing older and more conservative generation and also failing to reinvent itself and connect with the emerging and worldlier younger generation. Director at the Abbey Theatre, Hugh Hunt, who did bring reformist influences in direction and management, notes this particular spiritual and artistic malaise at the Abbey Theatre in 1951. "Not only has the Abbey grown estranged from its oldest and best friends", he said, "but more grievously it has failed to win the respect of a younger generation who had deserted to other theatres." The closure of plays like The Ginger Man was a watershed moment in Irish theatre. The play was designed to be deliberately provocative to the Irish state and its people and set out to be an Irish Look Back in Anger, John Osborne’s play that ushered in the "angry young men" movement. As censorship began to tighten its grip on Irish theatre, literature and magazines, a distinct diatribe developed between Archbishop McQuaid and Irish theatre audiences. Plays like The Bishop's Bonfire by Sean O'Casey in 1955 were roundly attacked in conservative press such as The Standard and the Irish Press for their moral ineptitude. The play still attracted record audiences, with over 2,000 people crowding outside the theatre seeking admission on one occasion. It was an example of the mutual confrontation between Church opinion and audience desire. A large number of Irish novels were adapted for the stage at this time, including the work of such censored writers as Joyce, John McGahern and Frank O'Connor. This was in itself an act of artistic subversion and a flouting in a perfectly legitimate way of the pervasive and erratic censorship of literature in Ireland. One reason for this level of effort by the Catholic Church to maintain the system of censorship through State channels was to remove literature which was critical of the entrenched and conservative Catholicism of Ireland, especially from the reading consumption of Irish youth.  "A heaven beyond heaven" In 1953, Donleavy was based in New York where he was restless and eager to return to Ireland, where he had only recently left with his wife and children. "For all its impoverished liberties and encrustations of crut that one had railed against", Ireland for Donleavy "now loomed as a heaven beyond heaven." In 1956 Donleavy began experimenting with writing for dramatic and theatrical production. A public call issued from the BBC's Excellence in Radio Drama prompted the writer to begin work in earnest on a piece of drama. He dramatised the opening scenes of a new play, then entitled Helen, a play set in New York. Though not completed to a full-length piece for some years, it would also be the beginning for Donleavy's 1973 novel, Fairy Tale of New York. The short play, Helen, was shortlisted by the BBC for broadcast and this experience was a defining moment in his theatrical development. He describes how he "soon was to find [him]self amid actors and listening carefully as [his] words ethereally floated out over load-speakers to an English public still listening to the radio." In the Irish Times, further debate ensued about the indecency and vulgarity of Donleavy's play The Ginger Man was first performed in London’s Fortune Theatre in September 1959, not long after Brendan Behan’s own success with The Hostage. Publicity surrounding both these plays in London would struggle to separate the renegade talent of both writers and friends. Behan was in fact the first person to read the manuscript of The Ginger Man and also makes a cameo appearance in the novel as the wild Barney Berry. Harold Hobson, theatre critic at The Sunday Times, warmly paired Donleavy’s play with Behan’s as the "two modern plays in London through which blows the winds of genius".  The play was scheduled to transfer to Dublin from London in October 1959 with Richard Harris in the leading role of Dangerfield. The adaption of the Ginger Man and its branding transcended popular culture and the poster for the Dublin run at the Gaiety Theatre featured Harris prominently in its design. The positioning of Harris as the embodiment of what the book and the character of Dangerfield represented would be a further stick with which to beat the play. Harris was fast earning a reputation as a noted actor, socialite and sex symbol in London and his playboy standing would add to the play's attraction to a curious Dublin audience, drawn to this new play coming direct from a London première.  In the Irish Times, 2 November 1959, further debate ensued about the indecency and vulgarity of Donleavy's play. At the Wexford Festival Forum, a wide-ranging discussion on aspects of contemporary Irish culture and theatre was held and it was uniformly agreed that official censorship of the theatre in Ireland was not a desirable thing to aspire to.  Chairman of CIE (Coras Íompar Éireann) Dr. C.S. Andrews noted that "twice in Dublin recently [he had] seen public opinion outraged and it was deplorable that such plays should be staged." When asked if he was referring to Sive or The Ginger Man, Andrews replied that he had not seen Sive but that The Ginger Man went far beyond the bounds of decency. "It is one of the worst things I have ever seen on the stage. There is not much difference between it and the strip-tease in the Windmill in London." Enter Dangerfield The play begins in the rented and dilapidated flat of the Dangerfields, situated at 1 Mohammed Road, Dublin. The opening stage directions describe in detail the interior of the flat, located in a south suburb of Dublin city. It is a chaotic mess. Implements and signs of navigation and exploration are scattered about the stage. Dangerfield "sits on a stuffy armchair. He watches three chairs in front of him on which are signs: twelve o'clock, three o'clock, six o'clock. A large celestial telescope stands lonely at the window. On an orange box sits an old gramophone. On the wall are three pictures of ships in distress"  The world outside the flat is in perpetual motion. The stasis of Dangerfield's interior world is at odds with the increasingly growing fast pace of both urban and suburban Dublin life. When the exterior threatens to enter and intervene in the interior and private world, Dangerfield panics and seeks to hide, unsure how to reconcile the private with the public.  "If the Archbishop had seen the play it might have been different" Dangerfield and his only friend Kenneth O’Keefe are a duo of lost and disillusioned young men who expect more than what society and opportunity has afforded them. Instead they live week-to-week on the allowance afforded them under the G.I. Bill: O'Keefe: "These guys at Trinity thank all American's are loaded with dough and I'm starving. You get your check yet?" The opening scene sets the tone and subversive message of the play by presenting a deliberate criticism on Irish Church and State, the shallow advancement of the Irish middle-classes and the exploitation and inequality of Ireland, both domestically and publicly, towards women.  Dangerfield is a crass, drunken, violent, manipulative self-promoter while O'Keefe is a weak, uncommitted and unconfident loner. The latter is dazzled by the bravado and performative life of extravagance portrayed by Dangerfield, as he constantly seeks the impossible goal of a comfortable middle-class existence and sexual gratification to match his desires.  The play attacks the myth that Ireland was an uniformly economically vibrant country at this time following the election of Seán Lemass to the office of Taoiseach and the publication of the T.K. Whitaker's Programme for Economic Expansion. O'Keefe bears out the frustration of many of those who did not see or be part of economic progression: "I'm hounded through streets, beaten to the wall, scratching up pennies and for the first time in months I've got a few beans to have a bath and a haircut and get out, you come and push me to the wall again...nothing new. Same damn pattern. Despair, frustration, misery". What O'Keefe aspires to, and what Donleavy challenges through this play, is the comfortable and shallow middle-class life. The new Holy Trinity, as far as O'Keefe is concerned, is chiefly money, food and sex. Donleavy's play highlighted important issues to Irish audiences and readers. One such case was the rejection of Noel Browne's "Mother and Child Scheme"in 1951, which was branded as "anti-family" when the outlook was more evidently anti-woman. Marion, Dangerfield's long-suffering wife, vocalises these institutional rejections of female equality. "I want to be free instead of hiding behind these walls", she cries. The status of women was under debate in Dáil Éireann at the time. A debate on the decision to lift the marriage ban on female teachers was held in the Dáil on 20th and 27th February 1958, with the Minister for Education not committing to any decision. It would be over a decade later before the Commission on the Status of Women would bring an interim report for discussion in the Seanad and Dáil in 1972 with the final report coming in 1973. Bringing the motion then before the Seanad in July 1973, then senator and future president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, moved the motion in support of the report to the Seanad "with real pleasure because I regard this report as the most important social document in recent Irish history." By its third performance, The Ginger Man had made the front page of the Irish Times. "Gaiety Play Withdrawn" ran the headline on the story on 29 October 1959 signalling the end of Donleavy's play. "The theatre was half-full last night and the audience repeatedly applauded portions of the play. A few people left at the end of the second act and did not return". Harris sought the forgiveness of the archbishop for any offence to "our religion" in performing in the play The review of the play from the Irish Times, some two days earlier noted "the mingled love and loathing of Dublin, expressed in words that glitter and cut like a welding torch is not a pastiche of Joyce, but a recreation...Mr. Donleavy almost achieves his ambition of turning Dangerfield into a latter-day Hamlet. Last night's production brought only a few shouts from the audience...Philip Wiseman's production is brilliant." On the day after the play was cancelled, Richard Harris wrote directly to the archbishop on letterhead from Jury's Hotel, College Green, Dublin. In an openly apologetic and likely tongue-in-cheek manner, Harris sought the forgiveness of the archbishop for any offence to "our religion" in performing in the play. Harris also outlines that he accepts responsibility for his part in supporting the play performed in in unexpurged form and in not agreeing to the cuts as suggested by a representative of McQuaid (likely to have been Fr Gerard Nolan S.J.). Harris wrote that "[he] approached the part [of Dangerfield] as a Catholic, found from the sentiments and theme of the play that though it was without the façade of purity, it was honest and most artistic in its taste". Following the opening night, the Gaeity Theatre’s manager Louis Elliman immediately demanded Donleavy and Wiseman make cuts to the text. After the second night's performance, Elliman issued an ultimatum that the cuts must be made to the passages "objectionable and offensive to taste and opinion here". Elliman now was at risk of having his bluff called. He reverted to his previous ultimatum of 'cuts or closure' and took the decision at that moment to close the play or risk legal proceedings for breach of contract. He called the playwright and director or their supposed breach before they had a chance to even draw their weapon. It was an unfair duel. The play was over before it had fully begun. Donleavy left Ireland for England the day after the closure of the play and spoke of the disappointment of the episode. He also hit out at McQuaid and the Catholic Church's policy of enforcing censorship upon works of deemed moral indecency, saying: "if the Archbishop had seen the play it might have been different." The play attacks the myth that Ireland was an uniformly economically vibrant country at this time The personal toll was also evident on the playwright, as Donleavy admitted to be "shattered and shocked" but not surprised that Ireland's conservative Catholic Church outlook on artistic criticism would ferment closure of the play on grounds of blasphemy: "There is a terrible amount of confusion between the cast, myself and the management...I thought there might be trouble with the play in Dublin but I did not think it would lead to this." The Ginger Man was a watershed moment in Irish theatre. It proved to be a clear statement of artistic defiance against Irish traditional orthodoxies and opened a door for more progressive works of the new wave of Irish drama and dramatists in the 1960s. The loss to all readers earlier this year on the passing of Donleavy was keenly felt. But the loss of Donleavy to Irish theatre was first felt over half a century ago. God’s mercy on the wild Ginger Man. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Author: Dr John Cullinan, JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics Opinion: while the extra costs associated with living with a disability are largely hidden, research suggests that these can average over €10,000 per year December 3rd marks the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities and various events worldwide seek to highlight issues that affect disabled people. A recurring theme concerns the difficulties this group have in playing a full and inclusive role in society. One important aspect of social inclusion concerns the economic well-being of people living with a disability and their families. However, policies seeking to address the economic well-being of disabled people tend to ignore one key factor: the hidden cost of disability. According to the 2016 Census, 13.5 percent of the Irish population, or 643,131 people, have a disability. This refers to a range of long-lasting conditions and functional limitations, such as intellectual impairment or age-related mobility issues, and can range from mild to severe.  People living with disabilities face extra spending needs in their day-to-day lives that the rest of society doesn’t face Research consistently shows that disabled people have lower levels of educational attainment and are less likely to participate in the labour market. Moreover, if you are disabled and participating in the labour market, you are relatively more likely to be unemployed and, if employed, more likely to be working part-time and/or earning less. In short, disabled people face considerable economic disadvantage and this is very evident in our official statistics, which show rates of poverty and deprivation for people with disabilities that are way above the national average. Economic disadvantages Unfortunately, this is only part of the story. There is a further economic cost that remains excluded from the official statistics and from much of the research and analysis undertaken in this area and these are the hidden extra costs of living with a disability. According to Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning economist famous for his work examining well-being and social justice, the economic disadvantage associated with these hidden costs may be even more detrimental than the economic disadvantage resulting from poorer educational and employment outcomes. So what exactly are the extra costs of living with a disability? People living with disabilities face extra spending needs in their day-to-day lives that the rest of society doesn’t face. These include items used exclusively by people with disabilities such as disability aids, home adaptations, therapeutic supports and specialised care services.  They also include items used by everyone but which can cost more if you have a disability, such as insurance, specialised clothing and footwear. Finally, there are extra costs incurred on items used by everyone but which people with disabilities often use more, such as extra taxi journeys due to a shortage of accessible public transport or extra energy costs because of a greater need to stay warm when not mobile. The upshot is that disabled people divert a significant percentage of their income to goods and services they would not otherwise choose to purchase. This is at the expense of goods and services that are typically associated with economic well-being, which they are forced to forego. Why do these costs remain hidden? Part of the reason why these costs remain hidden is the difficulties associated with estimating such costs. While it might seem straightforward to just ask disabled people what the extra costs are, the task is complicated by a number of factors. For example, it can be difficult to report in surveys just what extra spending needs you face, since it is usually not easy to envisage what you would spend if you were not disabled. Secondly, and more problematically, is the fact that an individual’s disability-related spending is constrained by their income, which we know tends to be negatively impacted by disability. For example, while I might be only spending a small amount on disability-related goods and services, this might be because I have a low level of disposable income. Indeed, earlier studies that adopted this approach tended to generate unrealistically low estimates of costs, perhaps giving the impression there was no real problem. Doing the maths Overall, the methodological issues with this direct survey approach have forced researchers to develop new and innovative methods for estimating the economic cost of disability. One of the best methods is the so-called standard of living approach, which asks how much extra income an individual living with a disability requires to have the same standard of living as an otherwise similar person without a disability. Using household-level data and statistical techniques, it is possible to derive an answer to this question. That answer, it turns out, has major implications for the economic well-being and social inclusion of disabled persons in Ireland. The most convincing research suggests that a conservative estimate of these extra costs of disability average around €200 per week (or over €10,000 per year) for a person with a disability in a household at the median level of income. As this is an average, the amount is considerably less for some individuals not overly impacted by their disability, while it can be considerably more for those severely impacted.  The research has major implications for the economic well-being and social inclusion of disabled persons in Ireland This is a significant finding. It suggests that disabled households divert a very high proportion of their income to disability-related goods and services at a significant cost to their standard of living. It also means that we are likely to significantly underestimate the amount of poverty actually experienced by disabled people when we measure poverty on the basis of falling below some reference income level. In response to this new evidence, disability advocates are now making a strong case for a range of interventions to tackle the problem. These include the introduction of a cost of disability payment, assistive technologies, better services and improved accessibility. One positive immediate step in this regard would be to consider the establishment of a Cost of Disability Commission. There would be no better date to get the ball rolling on this than December 3rd. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 4 December 2017

Author: Dr Tomás Finn, History Department Opinion: having survived the recent Justice crisis, what can Leo Varadkar learn about handling political messes from previous Irish leaders? Based on the profile of past Taoisigh, Leo Varadkar is perhaps an unlikely leader of an Irish government. A TD for only ten years prior to becoming Taoiseach, Varadkar was also unusual for the speed of his rise but then this might not have been nearly as remarkable as his fall could have been towards the end of 2017.  Futhermore, Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass, two Fianna Fáil Taoisigh, appear to be unlikely people for a Fine Gael Taoiseach to admire. But having avoided an early general election a mere six months after being elected Taoiseach, Varadkar’s comment on de Valera at the launch of the most recent book by historian and broadcaster, David McCullagh, appear to have been prescient as to his own personality. Varadkar identified de Valiera’s "single-minded determination" and a "stubborn refusal to back down even when his position seemed hopeless" as the first Taoiseach’s greatest strength but also his greatest weakness. Could the same be same be said of the current Taoiseach?   In the past, Varadkar has been praised for his candour, youth and being an effective communicator, but more recently his judgement has been questioned and he has been criticised as naïve and politically inexperienced. What do his view of previous Taoisigh and his handling of the most recent political crisis in Justice say about the Taoiseach? And as a student of Irish political history, what could Varadkar learn not only from de Valera and Lemass, whose portrait is behind the Taoiseach’s desk, but other Taoisigh and how they handled different political crises?  All Taoisigh inherit the legacies of their predecessors and draw what lessons they can from their experiences. The need to be in possession of all the information, to share this with those whose support your government is reliant on and to be decisive is obviously crucial. This and a sureness of political touch as well as an ability to read the direction of the political wind can hopefully prevent crisis from being created in the first place.  As a student of Irish political history, what could Varadkar learn from other Taoisigh and how they handled different political crises?  Even then, the reality of day to day politics can and often does intervene. This is only heightened by the difficulty of managing different personalities in cabinet and government, while your every action and reaction are scrutinised by an increasingly vigilant media. More than this, the legal profession and politicians are still coming to terms with new politics. The two major political parties having almost equal power along with various establishment and anti-establishment parties and independents is highly unusual, at least, in an Irish setting.  Using Brian Farrell’s classic description, Fine Gael Taoisigh have generally adopted a consensual approach. John A. Costello, Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald have acted as chairmen who sought agreement. On the other hand, Charles Haughey and Albert Reynolds were closer to the more decisive chief or boss model favoured by their party and de Valera and Lemass when faced by political crisis. But the style Taoisigh have adopted is often determined by whether their party is united or not, the nature of the government and whether the government has the support of a majority of TDs or is a minority, is in government on its own or as part of a coalition. Costello, Cosgrave and FitzGerald were each faced with coalition governments with cabinet meetings under FitzGerald, in particular, lasting for hours.  The perceived need to find a consensus is something common to all Taoisigh. A more effective time management style and better relations with his partners in government prevented Cosgrave’s government from disintegrating, as those led by Costello and FitzGerald did. Despite mishandling Patrick Donergan’s 1976 "thundering disgrace" description of then President of Ireland Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, Cosgrave was able to call a general election at a time of his choosing.  On the other hand, the governments led by Costello and FitzGerald were both destabilised by personality clashes between these Taoisigh and different members of government. Costello was on a different side to his Minister for Health, Clann na Poblachta’s Noel Browne, on the Mother and Child scheme in the first inter-party government (1948-’51), while FitzGerald had a difficult working relationship with Dick Spring, the then Labour party leader, particularly on the proposed inclusion of a tax on Children shoes in the 1982 budget.  "Boring" articles While it was the FitzGerald government’s economic policy which Leo Varadkar had in mind in his criticism in 2010 of FitzGerald’s subsequent premiership (1982-’87), Varadkar’s comment on FitzGerald’s "boring" articles in The Irish Times suggests a more conservative financial and social outlook. Whether the current Taoiseach also had in mind their different styles as Taoisigh is an open question, but his praise has been reserved for Lemass, Jack Lynch and John Bruton.  Common to Lemass and Lynch’s approach as Taoisigh was a determination to maintain party unity. Following de Valera’s long cabinet meetings designed to achieve unanimity among ministers, an understandable readiness to make decisions was especially evident with Lemass. The truth of the matter is that other issues such as the make-up of the government are more likely to be causes of instability than the question of who leads the government While more hesitating and with a deliberative style which evoked that of de Valera more than Lemass, Lynch too was decisive, dismissing two ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, with a third, Micheál Ó Moráin resigning in protest. Lynch responded when Haughey and Blaney’s role in the arms crisis (for which they were later acquitted at the arms trial in May 1970) threatened the Taoiseach’s authority and the institutions of state. Not only did his government survive but Lynch remained as leader of Fianna Fáil for a further nine years and as Taoiseach for five of that period. Later, in effectively managing a coalition with Labour from 1992-94, Bruton perhaps learnt from Lynch but even more so from Haughey and Albert Reynolds, his immediate Fianna Fáil predecessors in office, as well as FitzGerald.  Following the defeat of the 1982 budget and FitzGerald’s government at the subsequent general election, Haughey’s second government in 1982 was convulsed with the GUBU scandal, after a murder suspect was found in the home of the unsuspecting Attorney General. Using Haughey’s own description of these events, "grotesque, unprecedented, bizarre and unprecedented", Conor Cruise O’Brien named this the Gubu government, which facilitated the fall of that Haughey government at what would be the third election in 18 months. Nevertheless, Haughey survived as leader of his party for almost another ten years and was re-elected as Taoiseach in 1987. However, further revelations in 1992 by Seán Doherty, the Minister for Justice in Haughey’s 1982 government, would lead to the then Taosieach’s final resignation from both government as well as leader of Fianna Fáil.  Justice would again play a prominent role in a crisis in the following government, led by Albert Reynolds (1992-’94). As Taoiseach, Reynolds decided to appoint the then Attorney General, Harry Whelehan, as President of the High Court despite objections to the appointment from his coalition partners Labour. They were critical of Whelehan’s failure as Attorney General for seven months to deal with a request for the extradition of the Norbertine Priest, Brendan Smyth. The way Reynolds handled this issue exacerbated already difficult relations with Labour. Following further revelations, Labour left the government prior to forming part of John Bruton’s Rainbow coalition.  Having survived his own Justice crisis, the present Taoiseach can take heart from past political crisis which have often been no real indicator of failure or success or ability in the long-term. Varadkar could learn from his recent experience and be elected as Taoiseach or even mirror Lynch or Haughey’s achievements, who survived as leaders of their party and returned as Taoisigh. The truth of the matter is that other issues such as the make-up of the government are more likely to be causes of instability than the question of who leads the government. Obviously the Taoiseach does influence who becimes a minister, but is constrained as to who he or she can choose. This goes to the core of how a Taoiseach operates. Whether a Taoiseach is chairman or chief influences the nature of politics and can determine the extent to which his or her government may or may not be viewed as making Ireland a better country.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Vist here

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Author: Dr John Morrissey, School of Geography and Archaeology The Brainstorm long read: there are many reasons for the United States' long-term military presence in the Middle East and many of these have as much to do with economics as security. It was January 1983. Ronald Reagan was in the White House and his administration had just initiated United States Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. With little fanfare, one of the most far-reaching developments in international relations in the late 20th century happened and the most important military command in the world was established in an obscure US air force base.  The new military command was "to plan, jointly train, exercise and be prepared to deploy and employ designated forces in response to contingencies threatening US vital interests in the Middle East". This directive set in motion a security mission whose legacies and ongoing wars we are still witnessing today.  In 1983, the US military possessed no military bases anywhere in the Middle East. By the mid-2000s, CENTCOM had built up a military footprint of over 125 bases across the region. Since its initiation, the command has spearheaded every major US military intervention overseas, from the Tanker War in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s to the Gulf War in the 1990s to the war on terror in recent decades. Its mission has always been straightforward and unambiguous and has always received bi-partisan support in Washington: the military shaping of the most energy-rich region on earth. CENTCOM’s initiation signalled a new era of US global ambition in the aftermath of the failure of the Vietnam War, and solidified a new focus of US foreign policy on the Middle East. In no other region has the US military established more bases, lost more troops, spent more money, or facilitated the investment of more capital in the last 30 years.  We sometimes forget that the US now possesses more overseas military bases than any nation in history  The long war From its inception, the command was tasked with an interlinked military and economic security mission that centrally involves the policing of a pivotal yet precarious space in the broader global economy. CENTCOM calls this mission its "long war" and, for the last 30 years, it has taken place in CENTCOM’s Area of Responsibility as designated by the Pentagon. The command calls this vast area the "Central Region" and it has established 128 forward operating bases, along with hundreds more logistics sites, access points, pre-positioning locations and mobile offshore capabilities within this region. It is a comprehensive military presence enabling what the US military terms "full spectrum dominance". For CENTCOM, the region is "central" in three key ways: it is central to the global economy, central to energy assets and ultimately central to global security. In examining CENTCOM’s strategy papers, posture statements and extensive press briefings from the outset, what becomes clear are the enmeshed military and economic logics that have been consistently deployed to justify its security mission to the US government, and more broadly the Western political world. The rationale for CENTCOM’s very existence recalls all of the hallmarks of the most common imperial representation of the past: the identification of threat and volatility, with the simultaneous signalling of liberal correction and universalist special mission. As CENTCOM advisors pronounced in the early 1990s, the Middle East needs to be "secured from itself", echoing the very essence of the liberal imperial interventionary urge of history. CENTCOM's mission, as so frequently cited by its commanders in Washington, is for "the good of the global economy" In the late 1990s, CENTCOM published an influential strategy paper, Shaping the Central Region for the 21st Century. Even from the title, there are three telling elements that divulge the command’s continuance of an imperial history that is far from past, to paraphrase William Faulkner. First, the word "shaping" divulges a long-established imperial ambition to configure the political and economic spaces of the periphery for the vital interests of the metropole. Since 1983, CENTCOM’s shaping has been underpinned by simplified, strategic and ultimately Orientalist depictions of the Middle East that have been instrumental in driving US foreign policy in the region.  Secondly, the title reprises the imperial tactic of renaming vast regions and reductively scripting a diversity of people and places from a hegemonically Western perspective. Finally, the temporal signalling of CENTCOM’s mission "for the 21st Century" recalls the providential promise of Western imperial interventions through history. Long before the September 11th attacks in 2001, CENTCOM was openly planning for the long haul in the Middle East and the perennial need for intervention. The back story In many ways, CENTCOM’s emergence can be traced back to former US President Jimmy Carter’s State of the Union address in January 1980. Then, he declared that "any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force". Two months later, the establishment of the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force marked the first formal commitment of US military force to the Middle East and, with CENTCOM’s succession in 1983 as a full regional command, the US government had fully committed to the Carter Doctrine.  At this juncture, the US had no military bases in the vast region of the Middle East and Central Asia. This prompted the pursuit of alternative objectives to secure strategic capabilities in the region, including the stationing of "prepositioning ships" as "floating warehouses" with combat and support equipment for use by arriving forces. In addition, the US government set about initiating joint military training exercises with partner nations such as Egypt. It also pursued a policy of securing access rights for its armed forces with several countries. By the late 1980s, it had developed significant basing capabilities in Saudi Arabia, in particular, which ultimately enabled the rapid response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent launch of Operation Desert Storm. Six months prior to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief General Norman Schwarzkopf outlined his command’s raison d’être to the US Congress: "the greatest threat to US interests in the area is the spillover of regional conflict which could endanger American lives, threaten US interests in the area or interrupt the flow of oil, thereby requiring the commitment of US combat forces". Given its clear, military-economic mission to protect US vital interests in the Persian Gulf, the command was compelled to militarily intervene in early 1991. The swift success of the CENTCOM-led war further crystallised its military-economic grand strategy and solidified its basing structure and capacity in the region. After the Gulf War, a substantial contingent of CENTCOM forces remained in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other support countries as part of a new US deterrence grand strategy in the Persian Gulf. Throughout the 1990s, this deterrence strategy was enabled via an extensive naval, air and ground presence. It was a mission convincingly presented to the US Congress each year by CENTCOM commanders as vital to securing both the US and world economy.  The interested parties served by CENTCOM's mission are not just those in the US military-industrial complex...CENTCOM serves as a security blanket for a raft of Western companies in the region.  By the mid-2000s, this universalist rationale for a seemingly permanent US presence in the region had become so accepted that it was effectively unchallenged politically. At this point, CENTCOM had also extended its basing structure and land prepositioning programme to countries such as Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. As noted by the US Overseas Basing Commission, the endgame of such developments was clear-cut: "US strategy toward the region centers on the uninterrupted flow of Arabian Gulf oil, security of coalition partners and allies, regional peace and security and access to commercial markets". Neoliberal empire We sometimes forget that the US now possesses more overseas military bases than any nation in history. Even after the military success of the Gulf War, CENTCOM commanders preferred to maintain an over-the-horizon presence in the Persian Gulf region, rather than mount a large-scale military presence in any one area.  This all changes in the wake of the September 11 attacks in 2001 and the subsequent large-scale invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. While acknowledging the undeniable aggressive military interventionism pursued by the Bush administration in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks – which many commentators have termed "neoconservative empire" – what has been less considered about the national security strategy of George W. Bush is that it also bore all of the hallmarks of "neoliberal empire" commonly attributed to the previous administration of Bill Clinton and subsequent administration of Barack Obama, both Democrats.  Little-discussed, for example, is Bush’s economic liberalisation project in the Middle East and Central Asia, which built upon Clinton’s earlier efforts to close the gaps of an open neoliberal economy in the region. In the 2006 US National Security Strategy, four of its nine chapters address issues of economic integration and globalization. An integral aspect of Bush’s national security strategy involved an expressly economic policy of securing free trade agreements, which the US signed with Bahrain in 2004 and Oman in 2005. Both of these served to secure significant markets for oil and gas companies like Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Totalfina Elf. From its first forward deployment in reflagging Kuwaiti oil tankers with American ensigns during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, CENTCOM’s mission has centrally involved a political economic function and has served elite economic interests. The interested parties served by CENTCOM’s mission are not just those in the US military-industrial complex. Operating as "guardians of the Gulf" by patrolling vital assets, key access points and pivotal transportation networks, CENTCOM serves as a security blanket for a raft of Western companies in the region.  In an age of transnational global capitalism, many of the companies availing of the commercial opportunities have a distinctly multinational hue. However, CENTCOM’s self-fashioned "world policeman" universalist role has meant that its mission continues to be justified by conflating US and global economic security concerns. Its mission, as so frequently cited by CENTCOM commanders in Washington circles, is "for the good of the global economy". The human worlds of interventionism Since 1983, successive CENTCOM commanders have annually affirmed to the US Congress the essential military-economic vital interests at the heart of US national security strategy in the Middle East. The command’s most recent posture statement underlines yet again what will continue to keep the US in the region: "oil and energy resources that fuel the global economy".  We need to document the historical and contemporary consequences of the US military presence in the region In seeking to understand the Middle East today, it is imperative to recognise the military and geopolitical history of CENTCOM. Its prevailing representation of the Middle East has consistently positioned the command as guarding, regulating and enabling the broader global economy. As we have seen more broadly in recent years in our so-called post-truth world, if you selectively script something often enough and crucially at influential platforms, it becomes the dominant narrative. CENTCOM’s annual mission statements to Congress certainly have this attribute, and are rarely contested politically. Many have pointed out the selective and repetitious nature of imperial discourse throughout history, in which vast regions and peoples are depicted as requiring a civilizing, corrective mission. Such representations are unfortunately not confined to the imperial past. Today, as much as ever, we need to render visible the human worlds of Western interventionism. A key challenge lies in calling out the reductive and strategic nature of dominant forms of national security discourse that appeal to liberal and neoliberal notions of interventionism and simultaneously remove from view the brutal consequences of repeated violence. CENTCOM’s dominant national security discourse on the Middle East serves to both position legitimised military action against the threat of geopolitical instability and present the US as the guardian of both the regional and broader global economy. We need to document the historical and contemporary consequences of the US military presence in the region in terms of the inevitable cycles of conflict and violence we continue to sadly witness. In the face of unremitting imperial rationales for ongoing military interventions, the task of insisting upon the human worlds where they take place remains vital. This piece is based upon Dr John Morrissey's book "The Long War: CENTCOM, Grand Strategy, and Global Security" (University of Georgia Press, 2017) This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here  

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Author: Dr Michelle Queally, J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics Opinion: the objective of the forthcoming tax is to reduce rates of childhood and adult obesity, but we don't have established evidence for the effect of such a tax in the long term  The coverage around the tax on sugary drinks in Ireland would have one think that the only recommendation from the Government Obesity Policy and Action Plan (2016-2025) was the implementation of a tax levy on sugary drinks. But in fact, the recommendation to develop a levy on sugar sweetened drinks (SSDs), due to come into effect in April 2018, was one of ten policies described in the action plan aimed at preventing overweight and obesity in Ireland. This is not to say that the concerns raised by opponents of the tax are invalid. Some of these describe the lack of evidence to prove that the tax will reduce obesity, the likelihood that the tax will hit the poorest the hardest and the "substitution effect" where consumers will simply opt for another sugary food instead of the newly high priced drink. However, the core issues ought not to be about the effectiveness or otherwise of the sugar tax, but rather its ability to function as one component of an overall action plan towards obesity prevention. The causes of obesity are established as multifaceted and we now also need to accept obesity prevention policies to be multifaceted in nature.  The objective of the tax is to reduce rates of childhood and adult obesity in Ireland by reducing the consumption of SSDs as a contributor to health and dental deterioration, particularly among young people. We know that consumption of SSD is associated with obesity. We know that well designed taxes can be effective in discouraging consumption of these drinks. In Ireland one study predicted a 10 percent tax on sugary sweetened drinks would have a small but meaningful effect on obesity, in which the tax was predicted to reduce the obese adult population by 1.3 percent. What we do not have is an established evidence base for is the effect of a SSD tax on obesity levels in the long term because the relative newness of these taxes internationally limits the existence of this data. Moreover, the scientific means to examine the direct effect of taxing SSD on obesity levels does not exist. Obesity is a complex problem with numerous causes and contributing factors at an individual and societal level. It can therefore be difficult to disentangle the effect of any single obesity prevention intervention. However, some experts have urged that we evoke the "precautionary principle" and apply the intervention on the grounds that it is likely to have desirable effects and unlikely to do harm. It's a concept that is not unheard of, as seen in a recent ruling in Scotland regarding alcohol minimum unit pricing (MUP). The Scottish Whiskey Association contested MUP on the basis of a lack of empirical evidence that MUP reduced alcohol consumption. The court, though, ruled that there was no requirement on the Scottish Government to provide an evidence base for MUP. If the tax would make a beverage 10 cents more expensive per can, consumers were only charged an average of four more cents per can Consumer behavioural responses may fall into three broad categories: (i) he/she reduces consumption of SSD, producing desirable effects on health; or (ii) he/she increases the consumption of other sugar free soft drinks (fruit juices and dairy products are to be excluded from the tax on the grounds that they offers nutritional value) or (iii) he/she increases the consumption of alternative sugary foods or drinks. Manufacturers can also respond in one of three ways: (i) they can recoup costs by passing higher prices on to the consumer; (ii) they can reduce the sugar content in their products or (iii) they can increase production and promotion of less sugary drinks. A US study examined the extent to which a tax on SSDs was passed onto consumers in the form of higher prices. It found that retailers only passed on about 43 percent of the SSD tax to consumers on average. If the tax would make a beverage 10 cents more expensive per can, consumers were only charged an average of four more cents per can.  If this tax is the "stick", we also need the "carrot" No-one enjoys paying taxes and no politician relishes raising them. The SSD tax is likely to be regressive and take a larger percentage from low-income earners than from high-income earners as low-income earners tend to spend a greater proportion of their overall expenditure on SSDs. However, it does not seem logical to argue that because lower income earners consume more of something than higher income earners, we shouldn’t tax that consumption. That said, if this tax is the "stick", we also need the "carrot". In this case, this will come in the form of measures to encourage consumers to substitute taxed drinks with healthy alternatives and potentially reduce the regressive effects of the tax. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the SSD tax will depend on how both consumers and manufacturers change their behaviour in response to the tax. Careful, evidence-based design and a clear understanding of the role of sugar taxes alongside other initiatives will help contribute to the design of effective policies in this area. This tax forms part of an overall multidimensional obesity action plan in Ireland and is just one measure in a suite of measures needed to tackle obesity prevention. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 11 December 2017

Opinion: there are advantages and disadvantages to today's introduction of mandatory reporting in Ireland of children who have been harmed or who are at risk of harm By Professor Caroline McGregor and Joe Mooney, NUI Galway Mandatory reporting comes into effect in Ireland today (December 11). Internationally, it had its origins in an American study in 1962, which focussed on 302 children in 71 hospitals who were shown to have been intentionally injured by their parents. The study came up with the term "battered child syndrome", which is now referred to as physical child abuse. This led to a call for people to report cases they knew about to the authorities. The first mandatory reporting laws were introduced in the United States in 1963 and, within four years, all fifty states in the US had adopted mandatory reporting legislation Mandatory reporting in Ireland While mandatory reporting has been talked about at various times in the past and Ireland has had specific Children First guidelines since 1999, it is going to come into law for the first time now. Part 3 of the Children First Act 2015 details the reporting requirements placed upon "Mandated Persons" in Ireland and Schedule 2 provides a comprehensive list of those who will be deemed mandated persons including such professional as social workers, nurses and teachers amongst others. The worry is that this will place a huge burden on what are already strained services Under Section 14(1), a Mandated Person who knows, believes or has reasonable grounds to suspect, on the basis of information he or she has acquired, received or becomes aware of in the course of his or her employment as a mandated person, that a child has been harmed, is being harmed, or is at risk of being harmed, they must report this to the agency as soon as practicable. Under Section 14(2) where a child discloses such a belief or information to a mandated person, this must also be reported to Tusla. The act also precludes the reporting of sexual activity between minors, aged 15 years and above, under certain strict criteria. Disadvantages It’s the disadvantages of mandatory reporting which have attracted most attention when you look at responses elsewhere. The biggest disadvantage people consider is that this will increase the number of referrals made to child protection services by legally enforcing professionals, and the public in some cases, to report suspicions of abuse. The worry is that this will place a huge burden on what are already strained services. The dangerous knock-on effect of this for child protection social workers is that the amount of time being used to assess new referrals will have to be diverted from current cases dealing with children known to be at risk. A system of mandatory reporting did bring more cases of abuse and neglect to the surface, which is a good thing Another concern about making it a law is that while certain abuse must be reported (i.e. if it meets a certain threshold), it will ignore other types of harm that are not listed as "reportable", such as psychological harm. Advantages One of the possible advantages of mandatory reporting is the fact that with increased referrals comes an increase in the discovery of actual cases of abuse and this allows child protection services to help more children in the long term. In 1999, the referral rates in New South Wales and Western Australia in 1999-2000 were compared. At the time, Western Australia did not have a system of mandatory reporting in place, while New South Wales did. The figures suggested that the referrals in New South Wales were more than eleven times that of Western Australia and "substantiated Investigations" in Western Australia stood at 44.2 percent, twice that of New South Wales. This means that despite the increase in referrals, including unsubstantiated ones, it would seem that a system of mandatory reporting did bring more cases of abuse and neglect to the surface, which is a good thing. The administrative burden and caseload implications of this must be viewed as a policy and resource difficulties and not a social work issue. The main argument against it seems to come down to resources, which will be an important issue in Ireland where the system is already under-resourced The Irish model There are some particular features of the Irish model that require some attention. Given that the Children First Act 2015 and associated guidelines, Children First 2017, set two different "standards" for reporting - mandated and non-mandated – we can predict in the first instance that this may cause some confusion in the community and amongst referrers. Furthermore, we have low levels of public awareness of child protection systems in Ireland. Tusla recently released a publicly-available online training portal regarding the introduction of the new Children First Act and related policy. Looking to the future, the greater the public awareness and public understanding of child protection policy and procedures, the better the same public can respond to concerns about child abuse and neglect. Finally, we do need to return to the main factor that is mostly likely to impact on the implementation of Children First 2015, which is the adequacy of resources and support provided in line with the additional level of referral anticipated into 2018. A good thing On balance, we believe mandatory reporting is a good thing. It increases the chances of child abuse or neglect being reported and hopefully responded to. The main argument against it seems to come down to resources which will be an important issue in Ireland where the system is already under-resourced. For those involved with children, it also emphasises a shared responsibility for child protection and reporting concerns about child welfare. Professor Caroline McGregor is Director of Social Work at NUI Galway. Joe Mooney, is Doctoral Fellow with the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here  

Friday, 15 December 2017

Author: Dr Charlotte McIvor, O'Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Opinion: we may pride ourselves on our artistic and cultural exploits, but how aware and supportive are we of the work of migrant artists in Ireland?  As Monday is International Migrants Day, it's an opportunity to reflect on migrants’ experiences in Ireland and the arts are a powerful vantage point from which to start. Ireland’s long-term and large-scale demographic social change since the mid-1990s is well-documented. It has outlived the Celtic Tiger’s demise, ongoing austerity and our uncertain economic recovery in the shadow of Brexit. As the 2016 Census shows, 17.3 percent of those living in Ireland were born abroad and 11.6 percent of us are "non-Irish nationals." But how are migrant artists’ voices represented across the arts forms that we supposedly excel in as a nation? Where are the migrant voices in our literature, poetry, theatre, dance, film and visual arts practices? While migrant artists have been active across multiple arts forms in Ireland for many years, how well are Irish-born audiences and funders listening to or supporting this work? To what extent have we followed through on the Arts Council’s 2010 Cultural Diversity and the Arts Policy and Strategy? With Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pledging this past week to "double expenditure on culture, arts and sport" over the next ten years on the back of the Creative Ireland Programme, it is a good time to be asking these questions. Roddy Doyle’s short stories on migrant experiences, The Deportees, which were developed through his partnership with Ireland’s first multicultural newspaper, Metro Eireann, may be familiar to many. But Ifedinma Dimbo’s She Was Foolish? (2012) and Ebun Akpoveta’s Trapped: Prison Without Walls(2013), novels featuring Nigerian female protagonists living in Ireland, do not seem to have received as wide a readership or critical reception. The wide-ranging journeys of these novel’s protagonists - both Nigerian but coming to live in Ireland from very different life circumstances - are not centred on the question of what inward-migration means for Ireland’s majority population. Instead, Dimbo and Akpoveta focus on their protagonist’s lives and transformations at the intersection of multiple identities and social pressures Nigerian, Irish and uniquely Nigerian-Irish.  Similarly, the controversy surrounding Doyle and Bisi Adigun’s collaboration on Playboy of the Western World: A New Version which premiered at the Abbey in 2007 and featured a Nigerian "playboy" lead romantic interest, remained in the headlines for years, due to a prolonged legal battle over the terms of the collaboration between Adigun and the Abbey/Doyle. But the history and ongoing work of Adigun’s Arambe Productions, Ireland’s first African-Irish theatre company, is less well-known. It's a similar fate for other migrant-led theatre companies and artists who have made work in Ireland over the last 20 years including Polish Theatre Ireland, Outlandish Theatre Platform, George Seremba, Kunle Animashaun and Mirjana Rendulic among others.  Filmmaker Jijo Sebastian Palatty creates what he terms "accented intercultural third cinema" in collaboration with other members of the Malayalam-speaking Indian community living in Dublin. Palatty began making films out of "boredom" with other initially unemployed husbands of Indian nurses soon after emigrating to Ireland. What began for Palatty as a community-led and amateur film practice out of necessity due to lack of any experience has remained community-focused and collaboratively led out of both aesthethics and conviction. His most recent short film Box (2017) asks what happens when we put migrant "communities" in boxes based on their identity through exploring the rebellious act of an Indian Pentecostal teenage girl on her 18th birthday.  Within the visual arts, Vukasin Nedeljkovic’s Asylum Archive is a searing photographic exposition of the interior and exterior settings of Ireland’s more than 100 direct provision centres. It is also an ongoing archive of testimony, images and research on direct provision in Ireland that serves as an activist hub and body of evidence in the campaign to abolish this system, including Nedeljkovic’s work as well as the contributions of others. Began as a "coping mechanism" for himself while living within the system, Nedeljkovic and his contributors use the act of photography and the gathering of documentary evidence as a practice of resistance that reasserts agency and communal possibilities for individuals living within these conditions as part of the campaign to abolish direct provision. Also emerging from an arts-led and activist context are multiple initatives led from within Dublin-based Migrant Rights Centre over the last two decades. These include Young, Paperless and Powerful and Opening Doors: Migrant Domestic Workers Speak Through Art which have used photography, public art, spoken word, documentary film, theatre and other art forms as part of their social justice campaigns.  In Galway, Blessing Moyo has iniatiated One World Tapestry as a pop-up series of events focused around "food, music, poetry and fashion" that bring people from Irish-born and migrant backgrounds together. It's a project that grew out of her own experience of social isolation over six years living in direct provision centres.  The Irish migrant artists and migrant-led arts projects named listed here only represent the tip of the iceberg of the arts practice that exists in professional and community contexts. And just as there isn’t one Irish story, there cannot be only one migrant story. As a very privileged migrant myself from the United States, born to an Irish father and moving here as an adult secure in my right to citizenship, this perspective influences the stories I seek out and the stories I try to tell in my research.  The resistance to migrants’ art reflects a bigger problem where migrants are restricted to the margins and only brought in when we want to address migrant issues As author Ebun Akpoveta says, "we are grappling with whose voice is allowed to tell the stories, what stories does Ireland feel its migrant community have a right to tell and what counts as authentic Irish art."  We need to lean into and seek out rather than sidestep this challenge. Theatre-maker Kunle Animashaun stresses that there is nothing to lose and much to gain here: "presenting Ireland as a culturally diverse society" through the arts has to the potential to solidify our international reputation as a "a place to be and a forward-looking society - a global leader." Taking inspiration from the grassroots origins of International Migrant’s Day, it’s time for all of us, migrant or Irish-born, to take a more careful view of whose stories are being told and where in the Irish arts landscape.  Spaces for migrant artists’ stories and structures for their continued development as artists must be more securely embedded if the Irish arts landscape is ever to be truly inclusive of the nation’s residents as a whole and all our stories.   Akpoveta argues that "the resistance to migrants’ art reflects a bigger societal problem where migrants are restricted to the margins and only brought in when we want to address migrant issues." This push to the margins needs to be challenged. Just because you haven’t come across a story easily doesn’t mean that no one has attempted to tell it, maybe even in a theatre or gallery near you. And just because you might think your story might not fit in Ireland doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be told. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Friday, 22 December 2017

For the third year running, NUI Galway will host a regional heat for FameLab 2018, one of the biggest science communication competitions in the world, held in 30 countries with over 9,000 participants having taken part across the globe to date. If you think you can explain a scientific concept to a general audience, in just three minutes, then why not enter? You could become the new face of science and represent Ireland at the 2018 FameLab International Final in the UK, opening doors to global opportunities in science communication. The aim of each presentation is that the audience and judges should be left inspired and enthused about science. The winner will be a charismatic presenter who makes the science easy to listen to, entertaining, exciting, and who is not only able to communicate the science but who can share their passion for it. Expect to hear anything from why men have nipples, how 3D glasses work and if nuclear energy is a good or bad thing? Presentations will be judged according to FameLab’s ‘3 C’s’: Content, Clarity and Charisma. The competition is open to a range of people who apply, work on, teach or study science: People who apply science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) in industry or business. People who work on applying STEM (patent clerks, statisticians, consultants to industry). Lecturers and researchers in STEM including specialist science teachers with a science degree. University students studying STEM aged over 18 years. People who apply STEM in the armed forces or government bodies. Successful candidates who make it through to the initial regional heat stage, will be invited to attend an all-expenses paid ‘Communication Masterclass’ in Dublin on the 24-25 March, and will participate in the FameLab Ireland Final being held at the Science Gallery in Dublin in April 2018. The winner will represent Ireland at the FameLab International Final at the Cheltenham Science Festival with representatives from global organisations like NASA and CERN. By entering FameLab, participants will begin a journey with like-minded people, build their networks and expand skillsets essential for developing their career. Muriel Grenon, FameLab organiser and lecturer in the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, said: “NUI Galway is delighted to partner with FameLab once more for what is an electric night of science communication. We look forward to representation from students, lecturers and researchers from the University, scientists from industry and science teachers, to share their work in science with an interested audience.” Liz McBain, British Council of Ireland, said: “We are delighted to see FameLab coming to Galway again and to witness the competition growing from strength to strength in Ireland. We have some of the most talented STEM professionals but talent isn’t enough. In this global economy, they also need to learn to communicate their science to local and international audiences, to investors, to partners, to colleagues and even to the wider public. FameLab provides an ideal platform to do this.” FameLab Galway is in partnership with the British Council of Ireland and NUI Galway, and forms part of the annual FameLab Ireland competition. To enter the Galway heat, complete the online registration form by 16 February, at: https://www.britishcouncil.ie/famelab/enter-competition/apply. Participants can alternatively submit their entry to FameLab Ireland by online video, see www.britishcouncil.ie/famelab for further details. Training for entrants will take place in Galway on Wednesday, 7 February, with the regional heat scheduled for Tuesday, 1 March 2018. -Ends-

Monday, 18 December 2017

Report: how do you make a seasonal visit to Santa work for children with attentional or sensory difficulties? By Dr Clodagh Murray & Dr Jennifer Holloway, School of Psychology, NUI Galway Visiting Santa is something that most families take for granted. For children with attentional or sensory difficulties, however, it can be difficult for them to see Santa in shopping centres and other venues because of the noise and long queues.  Earlier this month, the School of Psychology at NUI Galway hosted a sensory-friendly Santa’s grotto for children with autism or other additional needs along with the children’s parents and siblings. It was organised by a team from the School’s MSc programme in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), who were on hand dressed as elves to ensure the 36 families had the best possible Santa experience.  With some small environmental changes, we were able to ensure that each child with additional needs was able to interact with Santa and to have a family photograph taken. The feedback on the day was so positive that we decided to share our strategy for anyone who would like to organise a similar event in the future.  No queues. If it is really tough for any young child to wait in a queue, it's especially difficult for those who may have attention difficulties or who don’t understand why they have to wait! We assigned times to parents in advance in ten minute slots so that a queue never formed and nobody had to wait for very long.  Distraction. In the event of having to wait for a few minutes, we had toys in our lobby to keep children busy. We had some Duplo blocks, colouring materials and a small variety of toys such as cars and dolls. This really helped to maintain a calm atmosphere throughout the whole process. We even had some families that stayed afterwards to play with the toys and we were delighted to facilitate this. Minimise noise. We had some music playing in the grotto, but it was kept very low. Santa and the elves maintained nice, calm voices. Only having a few families on site at any one time meant that it never became loud or overwhelming. Space. We set up the grotto in a nice, big room. This meant that children could come in to the room but approach Santa slowly. Some of them liked to run around a bit first. They checked out the tree, threw a few giant cotton wool snowballs and then came to say hello to Santa. The lobby was spacious; there were no narrow corridors at any point. Time Children were allowed to enter the room and approach Santa in their own time. If children are nervous, they usually come around and approach Santa when given time to do so. Some children were in and out in three minutes while others took around 15 minutes. It all evens out! There was no time pressure impacting on families as the scheduling was arranged in such a way to ensure there was enough time to allow for this. Parents appreciated this reassurance as much as children. Bubbles, balloons and the aforementioned giant snowballs are great ice-breakers and allow the children to settle.  Interaction. The child is in control of whether he/she wants to engage with Santa. Santa was relaxed and let the child approach him. He talked to the other siblings and gave them a present. The children loved when Santa threw a snowball at one of the family and often threw one back. If the child didn’t want to approach, they could wave at Santa and then give him a high-5 at their own pace. For the family photo, the child didn’t have to be right next to Santa and could be in a parents arms if they preferred. Present. We ordered presents from Thinking Toys who were really helpful and efficient. We chose a menu of toys and had parents select suitable items in advance. Just try to keep in mind the kind of things your target audience might like. The "cosmic ray wand" (€5) was a great hit. Avoid toys that have parts that can be pulled off and eaten. We had age appropriate toys for siblings that were generic in nature – it’s the thought that counts! Support We were really lucky to have a team of "elves" that are experienced in working with children with additional needs through their clinical training on the MSc in ABA . It’s important to have someone welcoming children on arrival, someone to help support the child to settle with toys, if they will need to wait a few minutes. Santa needs a helper to hand him presents. We had one person to manage the schedule to keep things moving and let Santa know who’s coming next. The more hands on deck the better, but each with a designated role. Siblings We made sure that Santa and the elves were just as interested in siblings as the child with additional needs. We made a big fuss of them and made sure that this was a really inclusive family affair. Dr Clodagh Murray is a lecturer in Applied Behaviour Analysis at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. Dr Jennifer Holloway is the director of the PhD and MSc programmes in Applied Behaviour Analysis at School of Psychology, NUI Galway This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here  

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Author: Dr Liam Lillis Ó Laoire, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Opinion: from candles in the window and Nollaig na mBan to turkeys and mummers, Christmas traditions in Ireland have a long lineage Christmas is a festival with ancient roots that continue to inform its development and progress. In the past, the festive season began only a short time before the day itself with little of the commercial hype that accompanies today’s celebrations.  December 8th marked the preparations with shopping for provisions being carried out on that day. Fish was often eaten before turkey became a standard item on the menu, and if fowl was consumed, it was more likely to be goose for the better off and chicken for others.  Folk accounts state that it was desirable for everyone to be at home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A sense of quiet and stillness is also prevalent in folk accounts on Duchas. The Christmas Candle or Candles were important, symbols of welcome for strangers and especially for Mary and her child,Jesus, as they passed. St. Stephen’s Day was the day for visiting. The Wren Boys were a common sight and continue in many areas to this very day, Dingle being a well-known example. Mummers occupied this niche in other areas and performed a play with stock characters such as Jack Straw, St. George, St. Patrick and others and adapting the lines to the houses the frequented. Gathering money in each house, the pooled the donations and enjoyed a big night at the end of the season.  The date on which the feast fell according to the Julian Calendar, January 6th, remains a more important marker than December 25th As a solstice festival, Christmas carries associations similar to other calendar events with luck and good fortune being central desires. For example, people were careful not to pay out money for any outstanding bills during the Christmas season as that would set a bad trend in motion that might result in continuing losses for the coming year.  Sporting events took place as well and hurling matches were played on beaches and other open spaces. Participants hoped for bright frosty weather which made the playing conditions more appealing. Before the GAA’s reorganisation, these affairs could be marked by violence as rival factions settled scores with their opponents.  The date on which the feast fell according to the Julian Calendar, January 6th, remains a more important marker than December 25th. Some districts designated January 6th as Little Christmas, whereas Lá Nollag Beag in other areas was New Year’s Day, also known as Lá Caille or Coille. A belief that this date of the Wedding at Cana made it necessary to have all the water in the house before nightfall, as the well water was changed into wine at nightfall.   A common custom saw each member of the household lighting a candle that stood symbolically for their life span January 6th was called Nollaig na mBan mainly in Munster and the poet Seán Ó Ríordáin’s famous poem Oíche Nollag na mBan records a stormy transition from festivity to ordinary time accompanied by the poet’s characteristic psychic turbulence.  Some areas designated January 6th as Lá Chinn an Dá Lá Dhéag, the last of the twelve days. A common custom saw each member of the household lighting a candle that stood symbolically for their life span. Whichever candle went out first indicated the first of the assembled company who would die. This custom forms the basis for Pádraig Breathnach’s classic short story Na Déithe Luachmhara Deiridh (The Last Precious Gods).  After Christmas the Shrove season set the tone for matchmaking and weddings, with couples wishing to conclude the proceedings before the extreme privations imposed by the arrival of Lent.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Vist here

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Developing and Implementing Dementia Policy in Ireland report, edited by Professor Eamon O’Shea, Professor Suzanne Cahill and Dr Maria Pierce is a seminal piece of work that offers context, narrative and reflection on the current state of play in relation to dementia in Ireland, covering prevalence, costs, rights, practice and policy for people with dementia. The report was launched at NUI Galway on (Tuesday 19 December) by Minster of State, Ciarán Cannon TD. Published by the University’s Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia, led by Professor Eamon O’Shea, it includes contributions from scholars in Ireland and internationally. The report favours a social insurance model of funding as being the best way to ensure the delivery of a comprehensive system of community-based care for people with dementia. The Developing and Implementing Dementia Policy in Ireland report is a reflection on various aspects of care for people with dementia in Ireland and internationally with a view to informing future developments in dementia practice and policy. Some chapters are conceptual and build on previous work by the authors contained in the Creating Excellence in Dementia Care Report: a Research Review for Ireland’s National Dementia Strategy published in 2012; others are focused on innovations in the organisation and delivery of care; while the remainder are prospective narratives on what needs to happen in the future. The international dimension of dementia is explicitly covered in the report. The baseline dementia prevalence estimates in this report suggest that the number of people with dementia in Ireland is currently 55,266. By 2046, the number of people with dementia will have almost trebled to 157,883. The study also estimates that there are currently 60,000 informal caregivers providing support for people with dementia living in the community in Ireland. The overall cost of dementia is estimated at just under €2 billion euro in the report. Professor Eamon O’Shea from NUI Galway, said: “The ideas presented in this report lay the foundations for the next iteration of the National Dementia Strategy.The report argues that people with dementia want better and timely information on dementia, expanded choice, personalised care, integrated provision and more practical supports for family carers. Providing good quality care that is tailored to the individual needs of older people will be expensive, “requiring a significant expansion in the range of services, improved co-ordination, integration and regulation”, according to Dr Maria Pierce from DCU. Professor Suzanne Cahill from TCD, said: “Living at home in the community for as long as possible is a universal and desirable goal for all of us, yet home care provision for people with dementia in Ireland is currently weak and many needs remain unmet.” To read the full report, visit: http://cesrd.ie/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Developing_and_Implementing_Dementia_Policy_in_Ireland.pdf   -Ends-

Thursday, 21 December 2017

NUI Galway is developing a suite of unobtrusive, wearable electronic devices to help manage the debilitating motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease, referred to as Freezing of Gait. The first generation of the system resulted from NUI Galway’s involvement in the €4.7 million European FP7 project, REMPARK, which had 11 partners across Europe including NUI Galway. As part of this project the University has developed a novel wearable electronic device, called ‘cueStim’, designed to prevent or relieve Freezing of Gait, which is commonly described by people with Parkinson’s, as a feeling as if their feet are stuck or glued to the floor preventing them from moving forward. Dr Leo Quinlan, lecturer in Physiology at the School of Medicine in NUI Galway, and the project’s Co-Principal Investigator, said: “The severity of Freezing of Gait depends on the stage of the disease and it can have a very severe impact on quality of life, affecting people with Parkinson’s ability to walk for extended periods of time and is a common cause of falls in Parkinson’s disease.” The Human Movement Laboratory at the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, is currently working to further enhance the technology, particularly in the area of usability and human factors through the project ‘EScapeFOG’. To achieve this goal, NUI Galway is partnering with Parkinson’s support groups to test and evaluate the usability and human factors of the system. Professor Gearóid Ó Laighin, Professor of Electronic Engineering in the School of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, and project Co-Principal Investigator, commented: “We are using what is referred to as a User Centred Design methodology, to ensure that the developed technology meets the needs of the intended users. This involves testing all aspects of the system with the Parkinson’s community and seeking their feedback on its usability throughout the design process.” The Human Movement Laboratory at NUI Galway is currently involved in a very effective collaboration with the Clare Parkinson’s Support Group on enhancing the design of the cueStim system, to more effectively meet the needs of people with Parkinson’s using this technology. A recent usability and human factors workshop held at the University was attended by 16 members of the Clare Parkinson’s Support Group. T.J. Waters, PRO for the Clare Parkinson’s Support Group, said: “The opportunity to view at first hand the research being undertaken to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s was an experience not to be missed. Clare Parkinson’s Support Group members are delighted to have an active role in this exciting project, which will be of benefit ultimately to people with Parkinson’s throughout the world.” Any person wishing to participate in future studies involving this device can contact Dean Sweeney, the system’s lead designer at: dean.sweeney@nuigalway.ie and 089-2576449. The research was part-funded by the European Commission under the FP7 prgramme and Science Foundation Ireland. -Ends-

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Researchers at NUI Galway and the University of British Columbia find addressing dietary environment is more effective than addressing dietary behaviour A new study published this month in the international journal Diabetes Care, provides important clues as to the most effective components of dietary lifestyle interventions, to help people with type 2 diabetes better control their condition and lose weight. The international collaboration between scientists from NUI Galway and the University of British Columbia examined the data from all of the relevant published clinical trials. From thousands of studies conducted over four decades, they sought to identify how effective specific behaviour change techniques (BCTs) were in the 54 clinical trials of dietary interventions they identified. Kevin Cradock, the study’s first author and an Irish Research Council postgraduate scholar at NUI Galway, said: “Behaviour change techniques are methods that can help people change their behaviour using a variety of techniques such as goals and planning or restructuring the environment. Changing the food environment is one of the keys to treating type 2 diabetes. Before we change the food environment we need to look carefully at what it is and how it affects us.” “We examined systematically the individual behaviour change techniques in the 54 studies that assessed dietary modification strategies in type 2 diabetes patients”, explains Professor Heather Gainforth, senior author of the study from UBC Okanagan’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. “The evidence indicates that people with type 2 diabetes need more support when it comes to changing their diets. Basically, instead of telling people to change what they eat, they should initially be given healthy meals and receive ongoing support to help change their eating habits.” Dr Leo Quinlan from the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, said: “We discovered that the studies assessed were using 42 distinct behaviour change techniques, which are different ways to help people. While no individual behaviour change technique stood out, we did find that improvements in diabetes control and weight in affected patients were greater when they were provided with healthy meals and when they had frequent contact with health professionals such as dietitians.” Professor Gainforth added: “Without any support, behaviour change efforts can quickly fall apart. We need to be thinking about a better way to support people with diabetes. It may seem impractical to provide food and control the food environment. However, we need to examine the viability of providing healthy meals at the beginning of a program, followed by instruction and feedback as to how to choose, shop for, and prepare these foods. Gradually, this approach may support people to prepare healthy meals independently.” Professor Francis Finucane, study co-author and obesity physician at Galway University Hospitals, said: “It is interesting that interventions which influence the dietary environment were about 56% more effective than those which sought to persuade people to eat less unhealthily. This is consistent with our understanding now that obesity and diabetes are complex neurobehavioral disorders which are strongly genetically determined and are highly susceptible to environmental factors. If type 2 diabetes is a flood, rather than encouraging affected individuals to swim harder, we should seek to lower the water level.” Professor Gainforth agrees: “It seems very clear that until we change the environment and change the way we look at diet and public policy, people will find it much harder to change their behaviour.” The study was funded by the Irish Research Council. It involved scientists and engineers from NUI Galway’s Schools of Medicine and Engineering and Informatics and the Human Movement Laboratory at the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices, along with behavioural scientists from Canada’s University of British Columbia Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development. To read the full study in Diabetes Care, visit: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/40/12/1800 -Ends-  

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The School of Psychology at NUI Galway has today published a new report on Sexual Health and Attitudes. It is the first comprehensive survey of sexual behaviour and sexual assault in an emerging adulthood college population (aged 18-29). The survey was carried out at NUI Galway by Elaine Byrnes and Pádraig MacNeela, in 2015. It provides a baseline understanding of college students’ sexual health, behaviour and attitudes, both positive and negative sexual experiences. Also, findings reflect the impact of alcohol on decisions to have sex and unwanted sexual activity as a result of alcohol consumption. Padraig MacNeela, School of Psychology at NUI Galway said: “This survey incorporated standardised questionnaire tools that have been researched and validated internationally. The report sheds light on how these factors occur in an Irish context. In many cases this is the first time that some of these measures have been used outside the US, and the first time they have been reported on in an Irish context.” Elaine Byrnes, Doctoral Researcher on the PhD in Child & Youth Research at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway said: “The results of this survey show the incidence of sexual violence and assault are comparable to international studies of college students, and highlight the need for a national study of third level students on this issue. Findings on alcohol related sex consequences, particularly where students report being forced or pressured into sexual activity, highlights the importance of continuing consent education; how it is understood and communicated, and the role of alcohol in sexual decision making.” Dr Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience at NUI Galway, and John Hannon, Director of Student Services, said: “We at NUI Galway are committed to supporting and enhancing the holistic development of students attending our institution. These data will contribute to informing further development of policies and services in the area of sexual health on our campus.” Key findings on student sexual health, behaviour and attitudes include: In the past 12 months, 8% of females and 3% of males were certain someone had sexual contact with them where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep and are certain this happened In the past 12 months, 8% of females and 4% of males were uncertain but suspected sexual contact where they were unable to provide consent or stop what was happening because they were passed out, drugged, drunk, incapacitated or asleep 27% of females and 35% of males agree with the statement “Guys don’t usually intend to force sex on a girl, but sometimes they get too sexually carried away” 75% of females and 55.5% of males are extremely/very likely to confront a friend who plans to give someone alcohol to get sex 76% of females and 69% of males agree they are less nervous about sex after drinking 35% of females and 58% of males agree they have sex with people with whom they wouldn’t sober 58% of females and 69% of males agree that hooking up is part of the college experience 90% of females and 86% of males agree/strongly agree they would use body language or signals to indicate their consent to sex 73% of females and 77.5% of males agree/strongly agree they would ask a partner if he/she wanted to go back to their place to communicate consent to sex 5% of females in a relationship agree they are satisfied with their sex life compared to 26.5% of single females 56% of males in a relationship agree if they could live their sex lives over, would change nothing, compared with 21% of single males Niamh Murtagh, Vice President for Welfare at the USI also welcomed the Report, “This report demonstrates the necessity of such vital information, and will form the backbone of initiatives that will be rolled out in our third level institutions. In turn, this will enable the enrichment of student health, wellbeing and their welfare in college setting.” The main author of the report is Elaine Byrnes, Doctoral Researcher in Child & Youth Research at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. The co-author is Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, NUI Galway. To read the full Report (SHAG – Sexual Health Attitudes, Galway) visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/smartconsent -Ends-

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dr Shane Browne, a postdoctoral fellow at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has just been awarded a prestigious American Heart Association fellowship to continue his postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley. The American Heart Association is the largest source of funding for cardiovascular disease and stroke research next to the US federal government. The mission of the Association is to fund cutting-edge science and build careers in science and research that impact every aspect of cardiovascular disease and stroke prevention and treatment. This fellowship recognises and supports outstanding young researchers in this field and will fund Dr Browne’s research at the University of California at Berkeley for two years. Dr Shane Browne’s research focuses on the use of biomaterial and stem cell-based therapies to restore blood flow to parts of the body. This work will be conducted with Professor Kevin Healy at the Healy Laboratory in UC Berkeley. The Laboratory focuses on the combination of biological and materials science to help engineer new systems for medical applications. The group is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating researchers from the fields of bioengineering, materials engineering, medicine, and molecular biology. Speaking about his fellowship award, Dr Browne said: “This American Heart Association award will allow me to build on the expertise in biomaterials and stem cell technology that I have previously developed at UC Berkeley and CÚRAM. Cardiovascular disease is a major problem worldwide, and I believe that stem cells and biomaterials will play a key role in the development of effective treatments for patients. I hope to return to NUI Galway after this fellowship and apply my time in Berkeley to advance research in Galway.” Congratulating Dr Browne on his Fellowship, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, said “We’re delighted to see more and more of our students progress and be recognised for the calibre of work that they are achieving here at CÚRAM. I wish Dr Browne every success in his work at the Healy Lab in Berkeley. Training and building the capacity of our researchers to take leading roles in biomedical sciences in the future is extremely important to us and we are extremely proud of this achievement.” CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, is a multidisciplinary centre bringing together research strength and capacity in biomaterials, drug delivery, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, glycoscience, and device design. The Centre’s vision is to develop affordable, innovative and transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases. -Ends-

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A diabetes research team at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine has developed a novel approach to improve how diabetes services are delivered to young adults. The team has published two new open access articles detailing the formation of their ‘Young Adult Panel’, comprising of nine young adults aged 18–25 years with type 1 diabetes. This young group have helped design the ‘D1 Now’ intervention programme, which aims to improve diabetes services by reimagining care and moving beyond the traditional clinic. Research indicates that this particular age group of young adults with type 1 diabetes often disengage from health services and their general diabetes management. Involving young adults with this condition in co-designing research to help develop a behaviour change in intervention to improve engagement with health services could potentially improve overall self-management and health. Many young adults with type 1 diabetes find it hard to control their blood glucose levels. With lots going on in their lives, their diabetes is often not the priority and means they do not always take care of their condition such as attending clinic appointments. These young adults do not usually get the chance to make suggestions on how to improve diabetes services. Being involved could help shape the diabetes care services that support them. The D1 Now research team at NUI Galway, led by Professor Seán Dinneen, says: “Through the formation of the D1 Now Young Adult Panel, it demonstrates that involving young adults with this condition in health service research, is feasible and productive. Their guidance and feedback is instrumental in creating an intervention with a difference. It also demonstrates that involving young adults in co-designing research to develop a complex behaviour change intervention to improve diabetes services ensures the process is grounded in the needs and experiences of those directly affected by type 1 diabetes.” By ensuring that young adults are at the centre of the design means that the intervention will be more acceptable to this group. Previous work from the D1 Now team indicates that young adults want care to be centred on the relationships built within their diabetes team. These new ways of engagement can offer more continuity during a time of transition, whether it takes the form of a designated staff member, through devices/eHealth tools, or through tools to facilitate shared decision-making and goal-setting. Michelle Long, a member of the Young Adult Panel said that she was: “Proud to be part of this research paper as one of the young adults on the panel aiming to improve care for diabetes in Ireland.” The Young Adult Panel developed research materials such as participant information sheets. They also reviewed and interpreted research findings to create plain language statements so that the team’s work is framed in the most appropriate way for young adults and anyone who may wish to engage with the research. The Panel has also helped develop the study website to enhance engagement between young adults and their diabetes healthcare providers. The D1 Now team contributed to an international consensus conference on health services delivery for young adults with type 1 diabetes and wrote specific sections of a further grant application to test out the new intervention. As a direct result of the Young Adult Panel, a meaningful dialogue has opened up between healthcare providers and young adults within the research team. Their involvement has led to a better understanding of what needs to be achieved in order to improve health service delivery in terms of responding to the specific needs of young adults at this transitional time in their lives. The panel have been active members in co-designing a health behaviour change intervention to improve engagement between young adults with type 1 diabetes and healthcare providers that will be evaluated in future research. The D1 Now research team and the formation of the Young Adult Panel article won the HSE Open Access Awards last Friday, 8 December. The winner of the award was Mary Clare O’Hara from the D1Now team. The study was funded through a Health Research Board, Definitive Interventions and Feasibility Awards grant. -Ends-

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Sean Kyne TD, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development has launched a new publication, Creative Economies in Peripheral Regions written by Dr Patrick Collins at NUI Galway and Professor James Cunningham at the University of Northumbria. Dr Collins and Professor Cunningham make their policy recommendations for supporting the growth of creative economies in peripheral areas. As a sustainable model for development, one that relies on the infinite resource of human creativity, it has the potential to act as a vital agent in the future growth of peripheral regions in Ireland. NUI Galway has long been recognised as a leading international centre for the creative arts, with strong specialisms in Drama, Theatre, Performance, Visual Arts, Creative Writing, Film, Digital Media and emerging areas in creative production and arts entrepreneurship. The University has formed strong partnerships with the creative arts sector, notably with such institutions as Druid Theatre, the Abbey Theatre and Galway International Arts Festival. In the book the authors make the case for vibrant, creative and cultural economies existing beyond large urban settlements in peripheral regions in Ireland. It is the first publication to map the existence of the creative economy beyond city boundaries. This work takes place within the context of an evolving consumer society where there is increasing recognition of a change in consumer patterns as the modern consumption era matures. Commenting about the new publication, Dr Patrick Collins from the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway, said: “This book is about putting a positive spin on the term ‘peripheral’. We provide evidence of people, inspired by their place, competing in international markets where the authenticity and creative nature of their produce is in high demand.” Dr Collins added: “As more and more people buy goods that they feel reflect their own individual identity, more of us are expressing ourselves by how we dress, what we eat, what we listen to and where we go on holiday. In doing this we are turning our back on mass produced goods and services. As the market for these kinds of goods laden with expressive values increases, the products from our peripheral regions become more desirable. We argue in the book that it is the connectedness to place; the use of more traditional production techniques; and the imbued sense of authenticity in the produce of the peripheral regions that makes them more and more marketable in a maturing consumer society.” Creative industries mentioned in the book include Telegael in Spiddal, County Galway, a leading feature film, TV drama and animation company with major global partners, which employs over 70 people in high value jobs and is co-producing projects with companies located all across the world, operating from a small village in the West of Ireland. And Druid Theatre, an organisation that produces critically acclaimed theatre productions inspired by the stories of the periphery and bringing them to audiences across Ireland and right around the world. By looking at how these products in more remote areas are produced, the productive practices seen in the case study regions within the book are reflecting those of leading innovative industries. The book shows how creatives in remote regions, collaborate, co-produce, switch codes (writers and visual artists become theatre makers and game designers) that demonstrates an agility that is seen by many as key to productive success. By shining a light on the array of business models adopted by these industries the book highlights a sector that is more connected to its place, and its society in a way that is unique in the modern context. This book will be of value to those from a social science and business background and it will also be of interest to those within this growing sector and those that support it. -Ends-

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway has just been awarded the ‘Academic Contribution to Medtech Award’ by the Irish Medtech Association at the Medtech Rising: The Irish Medtech CEO Conference and Awards Ceremony. The event, which took place in Galway, was jointly hosted by the Irish Medtech Association, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, which recognises and celebrates companies that have played a leading role in making Ireland a location of choice for global Medtech.  Commenting on the Award, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: “We are delighted to receive this award and I would like to congratulate all who were shortlisted for these awards this evening. We are very proud to be a research partner to 27 MedTech companies currently, and we look forward to growing and enriching these networks and helping the Irish MedTech sector develop a solid research base here in Ireland and continue to lead the field as one of the top five global MedTech hubs.” Congratulating CÚRAM on the award, acting Irish Medtech Association Director, Eoghan Ó Faoláin said: “The reason Ireland is in a position to compete with major Medtech hubs such as Massachusetts and Minnesota, is thanks to the diversity of the sector here and the collaborative innovation that takes place on a regular basis between Irish Small and Medium Enterprises, Foreign Direct Investment multinational companies, and top universities, as well as other strategic sectors such as ICT, design and manufacturing. With Ireland ranked first for labour productivity, flexibility of talent, as well as attracting and retaining talent, it’s no surprise that Medtech growth is underpinned by job creation, with 38,000 people working in the sector now and an additional 4,000 jobs to be added by 2020.”  The diversity of the Irish Medtech sector was reflected in six award categories, namely: the Academic Contribution to Medtech Award; the Medtech Company of the Year; Emerging Medtech Company of the Year; eHealth Innovation of the Year; Medtech Partner/Supplier of the Year; and the Best European Medtech Week Campaign Award. Michael Lohan, Head of Life Sciences, Engineering and Industrial Technology Division at IDA Ireland, said: “It is clear from the list of finalists that Ireland is a one-stop-shop for Medtech with everything you need to take medical technology from concept to market here. We are not only the second largest exporter of Medtech products in Europe, but the number one location for Medtech Foreign Direct Investment. The Irish Medtech Awards are a great way to celebrate the sector’s achievements and bring people together.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The first cohort of students from a unique new Masters in Medical Technology Regulatory Affairs offered jointly by NUI Galway and IT Sligo have graduated.  The two year Masters programme is offered through a partnership with the Irish Medtech Skillnet and Irish Medtech Association. The medical technology sector employs over 38,000 people in Ireland and is the second largest employer of MedTech professionals in Europe. Undertaken by professionals working regulatory affairs and quality, the masters programme equips graduates with essential knowledge and skills required in the rapidly changing global regulatory affairs environment within the growing Irish Medical Technology industry sector. Professor Terry Smith, Co-Director of the programme said: “Conferring the first graduates is a very significant milestone for this MSc programme, which is unique in Ireland. The very successful partnership between NUI Galway and IT Sligo, as well as with the Irish MedTech Association Skillnet, and MedTech industry experts, ensures a strong focus on meeting a critical MedTech industry need.  As a result, the Masters, now in its third year, is growing from strength to strength.” President of IT Sligo, Brendan McCormack said: “IT Sligo is justly proud of this collaboration which, once again, illustrates the ability of online education in helping to address a recognised skills shortage in a key industry sector such as MedTech. Great credit is due to the staff of both institutions that have helped to develop the programme.” Senior Irish Medtech Association Executive, Dr Áine Fox said: “Now that the EU medical device and IVD regulations have entered into force, the transition period clocks have begun counting down for both. Ensuring that we have talent with ability to manage these changes, which will have both operational and financial implications for the 450 medtech business across Ireland.” -Ends-

Monday, 11 December 2017

A recent Marine Economics and Policy Research Symposium provided participants with an update on a wide range of policy topics related to the marine sector in Ireland. Organised each year by the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) of the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway, with support from the Marine Institute, this year’s theme was ‘Past, Present and Future’ with sessions dedicated to marine related issues focused on each of these time periods. Dr Stephen Hynes of SEMRU at NUI Galway, spoke of the strong maritime tradition in Ireland and the potential for growth in the ocean economy across a number of industries. “In my view, marine development opportunities lie in what we as a nation have shown we are already good at. For example, using our skills and capacity in the information technology and biotechnology sectors to generate marine communications solutions and to produce new active ingredients for use in food and pharmaceuticals; applying our skills in finance and leasing in the development of shipping services.” Dr Hynes continued: “SEMRU’s ocean economy figures demonstrate particularly strong growth over the 2014 to 2016 period in a number of industries that have previously seen slow growth, or are at the early stages of development such as marine renewables, marine advanced tech and oil and gas.” The Symposium looked to the past in order to see what lessons might be learned for marine policy makers today. Dr Aidan Kane from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway presented historical data from cargo manifestos associated with Irish ports, which gives the researcher an insight into the evolving structure of regional economies in Ireland. The event also focused on the present marine policy environment presented by Professor Cathal O’Donoghue, NUI Galway, who examined the economic strength and weaknesses of coastal areas in terms of unemployment and migration from the great recession through to the recent economic recovery. NUI Galway’s Dr Amanda Slevin then gave a critique of Irish state hydrocarbon management while Tom Gillespie looked at the contribution from having a sea view and what the distance to coastal amenities makes to propriety values. The plenary session was given by leading marine law expert Professor Ronán Long who holds the Nippon Foundation Chair of Ocean Governance at the World Maritime University in Sweden. He gave a fascinating insight into recent developments in climate change and their implications for our ocean resources, particularly in light of the Paris Agreement 2015. The final session of the day examined how marine policy and maritime industries could be transformed in the future. Philip Stephens and Liam Lacey of the Irish Maritime Development Office presented the case for creating an International Shipping Services Centre in Cork, which could deliver on key components of the Government’s integrated plan for the marine industry, creating a flagship project of scale with significant regional development potential. Liam Lacey said: “Ireland has been successful in building world-class financial services and aviation leasing industries.  Building on these successes, Ireland can become a hub for maritime commerce through exploiting existing competitive advantages, being disruptive in a very traditional industry, and reconceiving maritime commerce through blue ocean strategies.  Ireland’s claim is strengthened by Brexit and by the impressive recovery of the Irish economy in recent years.” -Ends-

Monday, 11 December 2017

Dr Martin O’Halloran from NUI Galway was announced as the winner of the inaugural Irish Research Council ‘Researcher of the Year’ award for his outstanding research in medical electronics. Dr O’Halloran is a Techrete Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics at NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics and College of Medicine, and a Founder-Director of the Lambe Translational Medical Device Lab at Galway University Hospital. The awards were presented as the Council marks 15 years of the Irish Research Council and its forebears, the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology. Commenting on receiving his award, Dr Martin O’Halloran from NUI Galway, said: “This award is a reflection of the quality and ambition of the broader research team in the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway, and validates the close collaboration between the Colleges of Engineering and Informatics, and Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences. By embedding our engineering lab within the hospital, we get a greater understanding of the real clinical need, and can shorten the time required to translate technology out of the lab and into the patient clinic.” The Lambe Translational Medical Device Lab now hosts 24 world class researchers from Europe, the US and Asia, including engineers, physicists, veterinary surgeons and doctors. The team are developing medical devices to address problems ranging from new ways to reliably detect fetal distress during delivery, to novel treatments for lung cancer. Dr Paola Rivetti, Dublin City University, was awarded the ‘Early-Career Researcher of the Year’ award for her research in politics of the Middle East and international relations. Her research interests focus on the government of societies and politics in the Middle East and North Africa from a comparative perspective. The two Council-funded researchers received their awards for having made a highly significant and valuable contribution to research in Ireland over their career to-date in their respective fields. Congratulating the awardees, Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, Mr John Halligan, TD said: “I would like to warmly congratulate Dr Martin O’ Halloran and Dr Paola Rivetti on receiving the inaugural Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year awards. Their exceptional careers are a testament to the quality of the people in Ireland’s research environment and I would like to commend them on their hard work and dedication to their chosen field.” Chair of the Irish Research Council, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, congratulated the two awardees: “I am delighted to congratulate Dr Martin O Halloran and Dr Paola Rivetti on receiving the inaugural Researcher of the Year awards. We received many nominations of current and previously Council-funded researchers. Dr O’Halloran and Dr Rivetti were selected for their outstanding track records to date and I would like to wish them all the very best in their future research careers.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Many people experience obsessive thoughts that they struggle to remove from their mind. Others have compulsive behaviours that they feel like repeating over and over again such as checking locks and washing. The School of Psychology at NUI Galway is seeking over a 1,000 people from across Ireland who experience any of these symptoms to participate in an online survey. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can significantly impact a person’s life, with some individuals spending as much as six hours per day experiencing these symptoms. Although a diagnosis of OCD is relatively uncommon, only occurring in 2-3% of the population, approximately a quarter of all people in community studies report experiencing lower-level obsessions or compulsions at some point in their lives. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can take many forms: Thoughts about being contaminated or dirty and engaging in excessive washing. Repetitive checking of locks and switches or certain rituals to prevent bad events. Unpleasant and unwanted thoughts about engaging in immoral or aggressive acts. An excessive need for symmetry and order, associated with a ‘not just right’ feeling. Certain emotions have been linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For example, a person may wash excessively to remove feelings of disgust. Furthermore, strong feelings of guilt and responsibility can be associated with excessive checking of switches and locks. This current research will seek to examine the relationship between such emotions and obsessional and compulsive symptoms. The online study will be conducted by Patrick McHugh, a psychologist in clinical training at the School of Psychology in NUI Galway along with Dr Jonathan Egan, Deputy Director of the Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programme at the University.  Speaking about the study, Mr McHugh from NUI Galway, said: “Obsessions can feel overwhelming and difficult to control. We aim to investigate whether strong emotions like guilt and disgust contribute to such symptoms.” Dr Jonathan Egan who is a both a Chartered Health and Chartered Clinical Psychologist at NUI Galway, said: “When people do not reach out to others in order to normalise their thoughts, they may then start to experience distress. Obsessions are often associated with thoughts which feel intrusive and out of your own control and if left untended to, can become a worrying pre-occupation and affect a person’s day-to-day life and may result in the need for a Chartered Clinical Psychologist’s intervention.” To participate in the study email P.MCHUGH13@nuigalway.ie or  visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NUIGOCDStudy Participants can enter a draw for a €100 One4All voucher on completion of the survey and request access to a summary of the results. -Ends-

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Cresco, a leading innovation company based in the UK, specialising in securing international grants and funding for technology based clients, has announced the opening of its first Irish office at NUI Galway’s Business Innovation Centre. NUI Galway is renowned for being a hotbed of innovation, particularly in the Medtech and Biotech industries with its ecosystem growing from strength to strength. The University’s Business Innovation Centre has supported numerous companies, both spin-ins and spin-outs from initial commercial road mapping to scaling up the business opportunity. They support the success of these companies by providing facilities on campus and the ability to carry out research, which is supported by funding bodies such as Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the European Union and Horizon 2020. To date NUI Galway has been extremely successful in achieving Horizon 2020 grants in a number of funding applications. In 2017, a total of 22 Horizon 2020 proposals were awarded funding, securing almost €9 million in research funds. The Business Innovation Centre is also very active in applying for the Horizon 2020 Small to Medium Enterprise instrument grant with four client companies already being successful in 2017. To continue these funding success’ the arrival of Cresco to the Business Innovation Centre,  the experts in securing international and European grant funding to support academic research is a significant partnership for the University. With its headquarters in the UK, the Cresco team have been working with many Irish companies and have enjoyed unprecedented success winning funding applications through the Horizon 2020 programme. Particularly in phase two stage of applications where Cresco has won over €5.1 million for Irish clients in the last 12 months. Fiona Neary, Manager of the Business Innovation Centre at NUI Galway, said: “This is an exciting partnership with Cresco as NUI Galway continues to transform healthcare and the Medtech ecosystem. Our vision is to create innovative medical technologies which are affordable and transformative for patients with both acute and chronic conditions. This will bring us closer to the patient need, while also stimulating innovation and job creation through high-potential start-ups.” Jo Derbyshire, CEO of Cresco, said: “We are very excited to formally establish our Irish operations. We have been working with Irish clients for some time, and the opportunity of an office at the NUI Galway Business Innovation Centre is the ideal opportunity for us to build on the success we have enjoyed so far, Cresco Ireland is a key pillar of our ‘Brexit’ strategy.” This activity is supported on campus by the office of the Vice-President for Research, CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, BioInnovate Medical Technology innovation programme and the first Medtech Accelerator in Ireland, BioExel, all operating from NUI Galway. The partnership with Cresco will lead to further grant potential with commercial impacts for Galway and the wider region, with many discussions already underway with potential University spin out’s and early stage start-up’s. The aim of the Business Innovation Centre is to create an environment which promotes entrepreneurialism and innovation, enhances spin out formation and new business growth. The centre gives companies a prime opportunity to benefit from the first class facilities available at NUI Galway. -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Centre for Global Women’s Studies and the MA in Gender, Globalisation and Rights programme at NUI Galway is supporting the international campaign 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, which runs until 10 December. The Centre’s sixteen day programme follows the theme, ‘Together We Can End Gender-Based Violence in Education’ focusing on education including Irish schools and third-level institutions. On Wednesday 6 December to mark the anniversary of the ‘Montreal Massacre’, where 14 female students were murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, NUI Galway will host a series of events and talks that are free and open to the public, students and staff from 2pm to 5.30pm. Guided Walks entitled ‘Understanding Gender-Based Violence in Education’ will take place on campus from 2pm to 4pm starting and ending at NUI Galway’s Quadrangle. This will be followed by a Ceremonial Lighting of the Quadrangle in orange as part of the global ‘Orange the World’ campaign and talks by organisers of the event. There will also be keynote addresses in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall at the Quadrangle by Professor Niamh Reilly, School of Political Science and Sociology and Professor Anne Scott, Vice-President of Equality and Diversity at NUI Galway. The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence 2017 campaign aims to build awareness and advocate for an end to all forms of gender-based violence in education. Gender-based violence is any form of physical, sexual or psychological violence directed towards an individual on the basis of stereotypes, norms or roles associated with sexual or gendered identity. Dr Stacey Scriver from the Centre for Global Women’s Studies at the School of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, said: “Violence in education is not only a problem for developing countries. Evidence shows that men and women in Ireland are also impacted by violence in and around educational institutes. We all have a role to play in ending gender-based violence in education. Participating in the 16 Days of Activism campaign and developing understanding and awareness of how this issue affects young men and women globally and locally is one small, but significant, way to contribute.” Dr Nata Duvvury, Director of the Centre for Global Women’s Studies at NUI Galway, highlighted: “The ramifications of violence in education are enormous, affecting the capabilities of young people and limiting their future potential, and thus effectively undermining their hopes and expectations of getting an education.” Programme of Events for the Day 2pm-4pm - Guided Walks on campus starting and ending at the Quadrangle, including talks by Lindsey Bacigal, MA in Gender, Globalisation and Rights, Dr Amie Lajoie, School of Political Science and Sociology and Dr Nata Duvvury, Centre for Global Women's Studies at NUI Galway, and Dr Kieran Kennedy, School of Medicine, NUI Galway and the Galway Sexual Assault Treatment Unit. 4pm-4.30pm – Talks from Professor Niamh Reilly and Professor Anne Scott, NUI Galway in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall, followed by the Ceremonial Lighting of the Quadrangle in orange as part of the 'Orange the World' campaign. 4.30pm-5.30pm - Bake Sale to support Galway Rape Crisis Centre and Plan International in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall. To support NUI Galway’s campaign online follow us on Twitter @GlobalWS_NUIG and @16DaysCampaign and #16days or on Facebook at globalwomensstudiesnuig. -Ends-

Monday, 4 December 2017

A new study led by Dr Audrey Morley at NUI Galway, has found that the magnitude of past abrupt climate change events may have underestimated. If so, the impact of current climate change may be larger than expected. The study was published today (4 December 2017) in the international journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems. Lead author of the study, Dr Audrey Morley from the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway, said: “Abrupt climate events that occurred during the last interglacial (warm) period, ca. 125,000 years ago, have been underestimated by up to 4°Celsius. This is important because our current understanding of climate change and our predictions of future climate both rely on past examples from Earth’s climate history. Robust and quantitative methods to deduce the magnitude of abrupt climate events from the geologic record are therefore essential.” In this new study, Dr Morley collaborated with researchers from the University of California-Santa Cruz, Rutgers University New Jersey and the University of Bergen, and studied an established geochemical tool for investigating sea surface temperatures in the past. In the modern ocean, observations have shown that marine plankton (foraminifera) will use more magnesium relative to calcium, which are elements freely available in sea water, when they form their shell in warmer waters. This allows scientists to apply this modern relationship between magnesium, calcium, and temperature to the past by measuring magnesium-to-calcium ratios (Mg/Ca) in fossilised marine plankton that are continually deposited in seafloor sediments. However, there are limitations with the Mg/Ca temperature relationship, because the scientists understanding of other processes that may influence the amount of magnesium in the shell is incomplete. For example, higher carbon dioxide levels in seawater results in lower pH (potential of hydrogen) and lower carbonate ion concentrations. Carbonate ion is the carbon species used by foraminifera to form their calcium carbonate tests. As carbonate ion becomes less available in surrounding seawater the individual organism needs to exert more energy for calcification. Through this process more magnesium becomes incidentally incorporated than what would be predicted by temperature only. Since colder surface waters absorb more carbon dioxide than warmer waters, this leads to generally low carbonate ion concentrations in cold surface waters. Therefore, when magnesium-to-calcium values are measured on fossilised marine plankton that lived in surface waters with low carbonate ion concentrations, this relationship leads to an underestimation of reconstructed temperatures. This study presents an innovative mathematical correction scheme that enables the carbonate ion concentration effect to be isolated from the temperature signal recorded in marine plankton (from magnesium-to-calcium ratios) via subtraction. Specifically, Dr Morley and her colleagues were able to quantify the control of low carbonate ion concentrations values on magnesium-to-calcium ratios for a specific marine plankton species (Neogloboquadrina Incompta) living in the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean, and thereby isolate the true magnesium-to-calcium temperature relationship. Dr Morley added: “Applying the proposed correction scheme to past climate records reveals that we may have underestimated abrupt climate events by up to 4°Celsius during past interglacial (warm) periods. This is particularly important for climate records from the subpolar/polar North Atlantic region that may have experienced abrupt changes in carbonate ion concentrations linked with abrupt climate events. Correcting for low carbonate ion concentration values improves the fidelity of temperature reconstructions and allows a reassessment of the magnitude of climate events occurring during warm climates.”  -Ends-

Monday, 4 December 2017

NUI Galway and University of Oxford study proves centuries-old giant boulder deposits in the Northwest of Ireland were caused by high Atlantic storm waves  Professor Paul Ryan from NUI Galway and Professor John Dewey from University of Oxford have carried out research that proves the spectacular boulder deposits of Annagh Head in County Mayo were caused not by an unknown tsunami but by Atlantic storm waves of up to 30 metres breaking against the shore for hundreds of years. The findings were published this week in the leading journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Enormous boulders, some over 50 tonnes, piled on the foreshore or at the top of a small cliff  in a deposit called a boulderite are evidence of the power of extreme waves. Tsunamis are known to have massive power and most such deposits, including those along the Wild Atlantic Way, are believed to be ‘tsunamites’. However, in 2004, the late Professor D Michael Williams of NUI Galway argued that the boulders on the Atlantic cliffs of the Arran Islands were due to storm waves, which caused considerable international debate at the time. In an attempt to resolve this controversy Professors Dewey and Ryan compared two deposits: a tsunamite from the Miocene of New Zealand and a present-day boulderite at Annagh Head in County Mayo. Field data shows that in the North Island of New Zealand a 10 million year boulderite which contains boulders in excess of 140 tonnes, the Matheson Formation Bay, was produced by a 12-13 metre-high tsunami within a period of about one hour. The origin of the boulders at Annagh Head, which exceed 50 tonnes, is disputed. The researchers combined oceanographic, historical, and field data to argue that this is a cliff-top storm deposit. A computer simulation of a cliff-top storm deposit was developed, which shows that boulder shape in addition to density and dimensions should be taken into account when applying hydrodynamic equations to such deposits. The model also predicted that Northeast Atlantic storms, which historically have produced waves of over 60 metres, are capable of producing boulderites that cannot be distinguished from tsunamites when size alone is considered. Comparing and contrasting these two deposits helps indentify the origins of boulderites. Climate change means our shorelines are becoming more vulnerable and the ability to read these piles of boulders will help us understand how much more vulnerable. Co-author of the study, Professor Paul Ryan from Earth and Ocean Sciences in the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, said: “This study shows the enormous power of storm waves battering the foreshore over centuries, ripping boulders of over 50 tonnes from the cliff face, piling them 100 metres or more inland.” Professor John Dewey from University of Oxford and co-author of the study, said: “The triple junction between land, sea and air is perhaps the least well understood in the Earth Sciences. We should pay greater attention to our shores.” -Ends- 


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