Thursday, 16 November 2017

Author: Dr Oliver Feeney, Centre of Bioethical Research and Analysis Opinion: there is no doubt that gene editing and similar techniques are going to deeply affect the future of our children and future generations The turn of the century saw a surge of interest in human genetics with the highly publicised race to complete the sequencing of the human genome. In 2000, then US President Bill Clinton joined with the two leading figures in this race - Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project and Craig Venter of Celera Genomics – to announce a working draft of the human genome. In his address, Clinton optimistically observed that "it is now conceivable that our children's children will know the term ‘cancer’ only as a constellation of stars". Shortly thereafter, the human genome was fully drafted in April 2003. Over the course of the following decade and despite such optimism, it has been argued that progress was mixed. On the one hand, we've seen significant strides in basic genetic science and improved methods of genetic testing. On the other hand, there has been little progress in terms of actual medical applications. Then in 2012, CRISPR happened. Since then, many applications of the expanding genetic science have rapidly moved from science fiction to become actual or imminent scientific fact. In researching how bacteria fights viral infections, a team of researchers led by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier made a revolutionary discovery of a method of intervening in the human genome with previously unimaginable precision and efficiency. In fact, the method was so easy and cheap (relatively speaking) that most universities could easily afford the necessary equipment and tools to enable its grad students to use it. In short, the CRISPR-Cas9 method (to give it its full name) borrows a natural inherited process from the immune system in bacteria. Bacterial DNA was found to contain clustered, regularly interspersed, short palindromic repeats of DNA (thus the acronym CRISPR). These sequences matched the DNA of viruses (specifically the viral DNA) that have previously attacked the bacterium or its ancestors. In this way, the DNA from new viral attacks could be recognised quickly. The bacterial DNA also codes for the Cas9 nuclease capable of cutting RNA or DNA that contains these viral sequences if it is brought into contact with them. Thus, a viral attack on the bacteria triggers CRISPR-Cas9 to find the viral DNA or RNA at the remembered sequences and cut and disable that RNA/DNA and so disable the viral attack. What was revolutionary what that the researchers discovered that CRISPR-Cas9 could be programmed by human design to cut (gene silencing) and even replace (gene insertion) any chosen stretch of DNA in human and non-human cells. A bright new dawn And with this, the surge of interest and optimism has returned. CRISPR-Cas9 has been heralded to have significant potential applications in a wide variety of areas, from agriculture to human intervention. From developing disease-resistant and pest-resistant high yield crops (without the need of environmentally harmful pesticides and herbicides) to vastly increased abilities to study the mechanisms of disease, the potential of CRISPR is such that is may have an application in every aspect of biological life.   One area of ethical disquiet is the prospect that interventions could be used not just for treatment, but also for enhancement. In terms of human therapeutics, there are a number of exciting CRISPR initiatives in Ireland, including research into the correction of inherited heart defects, blindness, rheumatoid arthritis, immunology and, to recall Clinton’s optimism, cancer. There are two ways that the technology could be used on humans – non-heritable (somatic) or heritable (germline) – and it is particularly the latter germline focus that holds immense promise for the elimination of inherited genetic diseases that would otherwise affect our children and future generations. For instance, in August this year, we had the highly publicised case of researchers in Portland using CRISPR to correct a disease-causing genetic mutation at the early embryonic stage that would otherwise have caused a serious heart condition in later life.  A question of ethics  Research into making germline changes at the embryo stage is not uncontroversial. It should be noted that the Portland research, like other similar research, was never designed to allow the gene-edited embryos to be implanted and allowed to develop to birth. There are many safety issues to be surmounted before this could be contemplated, including avoiding off-target changes or accidental changes to the genome. Indeed, the 1997 Council of Europe’s Oviedo Convention contains an article banning such interventions to be made to the genome of our offspring and future generations. While there has been much opposition to the notion of germline interventions, it can be noted that such opposition is lessening in recent years, whilst always with the condition that safety issues are addressed before any such changes would ever be permitted. Even those opposed are increasingly anticipating this reality. In October this year, the Council of Europe issued their Recommendation 2115 (2017) on the use of new genetic technologies in human beings where they reaffirmed the opposition to deliberate germline changes as expressed in the ‘Oviedo Convention’ as crossing "a line viewed as ethically inviolable". However, they also recognised that "recent advances in genome editing are bound to result in germline interventions in human beings quite soon, for example with the birth of children whose genome has been altered with some unforeseeable consequences in such a way that their descendants are also affected". In other words, while not universally supported, germline interventions are on the horizon. The prospect of enhancing human beings One area of ethical disquiet that seems intimately bound up with concerns over germline interventions is the prospect that such interventions could be used not just for treatment, but also for enhancement. Many might feel that this is a problematic step from a legitimate concern over the welfare of our children (and our children’s children) to a eugenic-sounding project of designing our offspring and future generations. For instance, a 2016 Genetic Alliance UK survey showed respondents to be enthusiastic over gene editing in terms of therapeutic goals, but decidedly not in favour of enhancements. Similarly, the 2016 US Pew study of surveys notes more anxiety than enthusiasm regarding enhancements. In many ethical assessments, the prospect of enhancements for future generations is seen as something both "dangerous and problematic". The recent Council of Europe recommendation also noted this concern, which was also heavily implied as underlying part of their concerns over germline interventions. "Recent discoveries related to the human genome have opened the door to new opportunities and unprecedented ethical concerns. "On the one hand, this improved knowledge of our make-up as human beings brings with it welcome potential to diagnose, prevent and eventually cure diseases in the future. On the other hand, it raises complex ethical and human rights questions, including – but not limited to – unintended harm which may result from the techniques used, access and consent to such techniques, and their potential abuse for enhancement or eugenic purposes."  We are already heavily designed by our social environment, which is a highly artificial intervention that forms who and what we are There are many issues raised over the notion of human germline enhancement. The renowned philosopher Jürgen Habermas feared that it would cause a sense of unfreedom for the modified offspring due to (irreversible) design by third parties and damaging the sense of being the undivided author of one’s own life. Michael Sandel noted that such interventions would be a result of (and further foster) a bad character trait in patents as striving for total mastery over their offspring. Others have concerns how such interventions would negatively impact the prospective child’s ‘right to an open future’ due to the view that the enhancement of some capabilities may narrow the options that the person will have in life. While some concerns over germline interventions could possibly be circumvented by the addressing of safety concerns, the concerns over the prospect of enhancement would seem to raise more intractable issues. How should we proceed? It would be wise to keep the following three factor in mind as people deliberate upon these important issues (whatever their ultimate assessment). Firstly, such potential issues are not genuinely new. The American philosopher Allen Buchanan notes that such concerns over genetic enhancements causing changes "in us" being framed as fundamentally different from "environmental" enhancements are "tantamount to denying that culture plays a significant role in our individual and collective identities". We are already heavily designed by our social environment, which is a highly artificial intervention that forms who and what we are in its socialisation of norms, values, identity and personality.  Secondly, such genetic possibilities will not be especially powerful as some commentators might imagine. The traits and capacities that enhancements would be directed toward are formed from a multitude of genetic and environmental influences. Modifying some of the genetic influences will only be a modest contribution to the resulting person. Thirdly, and importantly, concerns with such issues may distract from imminent work now. If germline interventions are delayed due to concerns over enhancements (or concerns over improperly designing our offspring), we should be wary. After all, some such germline interventions could have contributed to avoiding disease and unnecessary suffering for our offspring and future generations. We should be careful, if you pardon the following pun, not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Much more remains to be said about enhancements, germline interventions, future generations and gene-editing broadly  especially with regard to concerns over wider environmental risk as well as issues of ownership and control of such a powerful and foundational technology. However, one thing is certain: gene editing and similar techniques are going to deeply affect the future of our children and future generations. It is incumbent upon all of us to take part in discussions over the ethical, legal and societal implications of this and to be open to all sides and all arguments, whatever our ultimate conclusions. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Author: Dr Martin O'Donoghue, School of Humanities Opinion: while a name is rarely the primary reason for a political party’s rise or fall, the re-labelling of parties and movements has been common in Irish political history since independence  Earlier this year, the Anti-Austerity Alliance rebranded itself as Solidarity to reflect its campaigning on social as well as economic concerns. A perusal of politics since independence shows that the re-labelling of parties and movements is not uncommon in Irish political history. Nor is it rare for parties to adopt deliberate reference points to older movements.  So just how important are party names? Why do parties adopt or change names? Are such changes advantageous to the parties involved? Sinn Féin's family tree Sinn Féin was founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith and revitalised after the 1916 Rising. It has an obvious cache with its Gaelic name and the sense of succession it gives to the republican tradition. The first to move away from it were those who took the Treaty side in 1922 and founded Cumann na nGaedheal, the same name as an antecedent of Griffith’s party.  Founded in 1926, Fianna Fáil may have been "the soldiers of destiny", but the name also linked to revolution as it matched the "FF" insignia on Irish Volunteer uniforms in 1916. The value of maintaining a connection with the revolution was self-evidently important in the 1920s as arguments of the constitutional status of the state raged and Civil War memories remained raw. However, by 1932, Civil War politics were clearly about something more as Éamon de Valera’s new party surpassed the electoral high point of anti-Treaty Sinn Féin and won power. The value of maintaining a connection with the revolution was important in the 1920s Yet other parties claiming no derivation from Sinn Féin have enjoyed little long term success, so has naming been a factor? The Irish National Leaguefounded in 1926 invoked Charles Stewart Parnell’s organisation of the 1880s. However, its rapid demise could not ascribed solely to its name or even its backward looking ethos. A failed attempt at coalition government with Labourand Fianna Fáil support and a lack of funds soon destroyed the party. The farmers plough on The Farmers’ Party returned seven deputies in June 1922. Despite its simple appellation, it was soon associated with larger agriculturalists and it declined after being targeted electorally by Cumann na nGaedheal, itself soon accused of defending larger landholders.  Another farmers’ party emerged with the National Centre Party in 1933. Originally encumbered by the label of the National Farmers’ and Rate-payers’ League, this grouping adopted a name with more general appeal thanks to its leadership of James Dillon and Frank MacDermot. It, too, was soon associated with graziers as it defended larger farmers threatened by Fianna Fáil policies and the Economic War with Britain.  The third incarnation of a farmers’ party, Clann na Talmhan (Family of the Land), was founded in 1939. Unlike the previous two, it appealed more to smaller farmers. It high point was ten seats in 1943 with problems in uniting farming support outside of the major parties clearly structural rather than cosmetic. What's in a name? While re-naming and reformations has also been evident among many left-wing parties, the most successful one has remained Labour, which claims to be the oldest party in the state. If it has failed to improve its position in the "two and a half party system", few scholars would argue that naming or branding has been a significant factor as Labour is simple and easily recognisable. There is now a party bearing the name Social Democrats in common with many European states, but the extent of its potential is as yet unclear.  Broadcaster Olivia O’Leary has recently argued that at elections, the "single product with brand recognition" is the leader rather than party or policy. It is in this way that the significance of names as part of a movement’s wider public image becomes apparent. The Green Party, for example, is catchier than the Ecology Party of Ireland. New parties, in particular want a name that is distinctive and carries a positive message.  Much like a first impression, the label remains important While Clann na Poblachta adopted an Irish name which reflected a republican ethos, the Progressive Democrats had no echo in Irish history apart from Noel Browne’s National Progressive Democrats which had a very different ideological outlook. Older parties, by contrast, already have established brands whose stock rises and falls based on current leaders, slogans, policies and performance. Fine Gael-United Ireland Party emerged as the unusual child of Opposition distress in 1933 as Cumann na nGaedheal and the Centre Party merged with the Blueshirt movement under the leadership of Eoin O’Duffy. Its initial dual language moniker was soon dropped, but the next decade was one of disillusion and disorganisation as the enlarged party attracted less support in the 1940s than Cumann na nGaedheal had previously achieved.  However, problems in uniting the different parties, the lingering embarrassment of O’Duffy’s brief leadership and Fianna Fáil’s strength were far more significant than whatever name might have been chosen. More importantly, the party never lost its place as one of the "big two" and has successfully drawn on its historical links to both Cumann na nGaedheal and Michael Collins to construct a positive public image.  It is difficult to think of a case where a name or a change of name was the sole or even primary reason for a party’s decline. Party names may not always have been beneficial and some may even have exacerbated issues surrounding policy positions, leadership and organisation. However, much like a first impression, the label remains important, but it alone is rarely the deciding factor between ultimate success and failure. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 20 November 2017

Author: Barry Houlihan, James Hardiman Library Opinion: Explore Your Archive week is an opportunity for the general public to access records and archives to find out about our history as well as our present It’s time to explore your archives. At a time where facts are often dismissed in favour of populist soundbites across instant media, it is ever more important that we remain in dialogue with our documented heritage. Libraries, archives and museums are institutions which act against these uncertain times. Access to records and archives is a vital function and signifier of a democratic society. It shows that open and mature debate can occur about our history as well as our present.  Archivists work to collect, preserve and make accessible what is documented from our present and from our past for future consultation. Objective observers but not passive in the presence of history, they actively work and intervene to counteract gaps in our national memory. Innumerable volumes of records, from letters and correspondence, wills and deeds, photographs and video tapes, to floppy disks and mini-disks, are painstakingly catalogued, restored, digitised and stabilised.  Born-digital records such as email and the web itself are also now becoming part of our archival record as we move into the realm of big data and equally big archives. The Utah Data Centre in Bluffdale, in the United States is home to one of the world’s largest digital data repositories, with storage capacity of thousands of zettabytes (one trillion gigabytes) and rapidly approaching yottabytes (one trillion terabytes). Our personal digital detritus is being constantly gathered online and in the cloud. Every time you click to accept terms and conditions on a website, stream the latest show or post a selfie at your favourite café, your digital legacy grows ever so slightly. We are currently the most documented generation ever in existence and, paradoxically, also the one at greatest risk of being the least remembered.  Our disposable culture leaves us counting gigabytes rather than shelf-space. Our memories become handed to us through daily "on this day" reminders on Facebook. To quote Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, "memory is indeed a major preoccupation of our time . . . This need for ‘reminding’ reflects, no doubt, the busy lives we lead and perhaps our distrust of our ability to remember everything on our crowded schedule." In recent years, the European Court upheld a case which has reinforced the right to be forgotten thus forever changing for future historians how history is sought out and also how archivists can objectively store and record information. We should also be given the right, or at least the chance, to remember and to be allowed access the archives of the world we inhabit. Our personal digital detritus is being constantly gathered online and in the cloud While many of us may not traditionally have engaged with national cultural institutions, record offices or libraries, the increasing amount of records available digitally and free of charge allow give us an opportunity to make discoveries. Programmes like Who Do You Think You Are bring personal family stories from the past into our living rooms but as entertainment. Within the current decade of commemorations, the process of making history public and how we approach our history has become mainstream conversation. Bringing discourse on our history into our news feeds as well as our conversations is one of the many positives of the recent commemorations.  President Michael D. Higgins has called for an "ethical remembering", one open to diverse opinion and sources, the archive and memory of history’s losers as well as winners. Speaking at NUI Galway in April 2016, he called for spaces with the intellectual courage to reject dominant ideologies and encourage the seeking of truth from fact. Archive repositories around the country work towards realising this idea by documenting, ordering and sharing the raw materials of ourselves, our society, and our past. They offer spaces where one can access local as well as national records, and search for the truth from gathered evidence.  Archives can act as catalysts for social openness, enabling voices of those marginalised or repressed to be heard. Theatre companies like Anu Productions have allowed us to experience the darkest parts of our nation’s past, by performing our archives through works like Laundry. Journalists and campaigners like Mary Raftery and Catherine Corless have woken the country to seeing a different tragic history, one of those previously denied a voice and place in our public history.  In the poem Bogland, Seamus Heaney writes about the process of discovery and recovery from the landscape, the bog giving up its relics previously secreted into the earth over centuries: "Every layer they strip / seems camped on before." During this year’s Explore your Archive campaign, take the opportunity to discover what archives around the country have to offer. Local and national institutions will be holding special events, talks, exhibitions and more.  What makes visiting an archive a special experience is the tangible attachment to our heritage made possible. By physically handling the archive material itself, you can touch the documents, words and images that have shaped our lives and current society. It brings down barriers of display and puts history in your hands. To be able to encounter the stories of ourselves through our archives is complex, fascinating, enlightening and a privilege. Explore it for yourself. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Author: Dr Declan Coogan, School of Political Science and Sociology Opinion: while conflict between parents and children is usually a rite of passage, abuse, violence and fear can take over the relationship in some families At first, I wasn’t sure what to say or do. I was working as a social worker on a child and adolescent mental health team in Dublin and I was uncertain about how I could respond in a useful way when "June" and "Tom" (not their real names) first talked to me about being afraid of their son, a 14 year old boy. Listening is always a good start. As more parents began to talk about being afraid of their son or daughter to me and other practitioners working with children and families around Ireland, they told us that listening without judgement is really very important to them. But what could we do together to end the use of abusive and/or violent behaviour by some children and young people towards their parents? Defining child to parent violence First we need to name the problem and let parents know that they are now alone. Conflict between parents and children is usually a rite of passage, a stage in changing relationships as sons and daughters grow and mature. But in some families, abuse, violence and fear enters the relationship when parents like June and Tom feel they are unable to act as a parent. This is a problem known as child to parent violence and abuse (CPVA). This is a problem known as child to parent violence and abuse (CPVA). CPVA is an abuse of power where a child/adolescent under the age of 18 years coerces controls or dominates parents or those who have a parental role (e.g. grandparents or foster carers). It is reported by parents from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds in Ireland, throughout the EU and further afield. Parents living with CPVA often talk about feeling ashamed, feeling completely powerless and feeling all alone. If a parent meets with someone who might help – for example a social worker, family support worker, psychologist or psychotherapist – that practitioner may be uncertain about how best to help. This is because there has been very little awareness-raising and training about CPVA.  Providing help We need to identify sources of help. There are free on-line resources, some of which have been developed by practitioners and academics in Ireland, such as CPV Ireland, Responding to Child To Parent Violence and New Authority Parenting. One model of intervention that has been adapted in Ireland and that helps families living with CPVA is known as Non Violent Resistance (NVR). Some practitioners in Parentline, child and adolescent mental health services and Tusla child and family services have received training in NVR.  They adopted the principles and strategies of non-violence from socio-political struggles for civil rights to work with families  NVR for families living with children with abusive/violent behaviour was pioneered in Tel Aviv, Israel by psychologist and family therapist Haim Omerand others. They adopted the principles and strategies of non-violence from socio-political struggles for civil rights to work with families where children and young people use violent/abusive behaviour at home. The partnership model Involving trained practitioners working collaboratively with parents, the NVR model moves the focus of intervention to where parents can effectively take action to change interaction habits between parents and children that can lead to the use of abusive/ violent behaviour. Using the NVR model in partnership with parents, the practitioner becomes a type of adviser/ coach for parents. Parents are supported to develop skills for de-escalation, self-control, resistance and protest and to recruit and co-ordinate a support network. This empowers parents to take their place as a parent in the family. It empowers parents and practitioners to take positive action while respecting and protecting children and all family members.  Parents commit to avoiding all forms of abusive behaviour and make a clear announcement to the family that specific types of behaviour are no longer acceptable. A clear distinction is also made between abusive/violent behaviour (which is rejected and resisted) and the child, who is treated with respect and love as a member of the family. Parents increase their positive presence in their child’s life and make unconditional acts of reconciliation towards their son/daughter.  Does it work? Parents such as Tom and June tell us the support they receive through using NVR helps them to end abusive/violent behaviour. There is also a small but developing amount of research exploring intervention with NVR. For example, an article published by Barbara Gienusz in 2014 described three research studies in the UK and Germany which found that NVR improves parental well-being, decreases parental helplessness and leads to positive improvements in the child’s behaviour. Omer and Dan Dolberger wrote an article in 2015 that outlines the use of NVR with parents where a child threatens to commit suicide. Two research studies, one by Paula Wilcox and her colleagues in 2015 and another by me in 2016, demonstrated that practitioners who took part in the training in NVR increased their confidence and skills for talking about and responding to CPVA. NVR is an evidence-based, non-blaming, systemic and relatively short-term intervention model that empowers parents and practitioners to take positive action in response to CPVA while respecting and protecting children and all family members.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Author: Wallace Arthur, School of Natural Sciences Opinion: thanks to the discovery in 2017 of four Earth-sized planets orbiting a star on our cosmic doorstep, the prospects of finding extra-terrestrial life within the next decade are much improved We’ve all heard of Trappist beer and Trappist monks. But to a scientist, Trappist, or TRAPPIST, as it’s usually dubbed in this case, refers to two Belgian telescopes, one in Chile and one in Morocco. Their job is to search for exoplanets, that is planets orbiting any sun other than our own. One of the TRAPPIST telescopes discovered a small star, which was named TRAPPIST-1, with three planets orbiting it in 2015. This year, further study brought the number of known planets in this system to seven – almost as high a number as our own eight (previously nine, before Pluto was demoted). Three of these seven planets are in the star’s habitable zone, which is clearly encouraging for astrobiologists interested in the search for life in the Universe. Whether any of these particular three planets have life remains to be established. But the question "do any such planets have life?" has been made redundant by this and many related discoveries over the last few years. Our question now should be: how many planets have life? And the answer is probably "trillions of them". That’s a big leap – from three planets to trillions of planets – so let’s examine why we’re justified in making it. This involves doing a calculation, but luckily it’s a very simple one, especially if we use rounded, ball-park figures. Using several exoplanet-hunting telescopes including TRAPPIST, Spitzer, and Kepler (the king of them all in terms of number of planets discovered), our tally of exoplanets to date is about 3000. About 30 of these are Earth-like so that’s one in 100. All these figures refer to the small patch of our Milky Way galaxy that we’ve searched so far. To extrapolate from this patch to the whole galaxy we should multiply our figures by about a million, and to extrapolate from the galaxy to the Universe as a whole we need to multiply by the number of galaxies – about a trillion. You can see where this calculation is going. The universe as a whole contains many trillions of Earth-like planets. Despite the use of a ball-park calculation, this conclusion is robust, unless our location in space is in some way special. But according to the Copernican principle, now universally acknowledged to be true (except perhaps by the Flat Earthers and the Intelligent Designers), our location is not special at all. Rather, it is very ordinary. We are not at the centre of things, as we were once arrogant enough and ignorant enough to believe. Searching for extra-terrestrial life requires knowledge of biology as well as astronomy, so let’s now turn our attention to the science of life. We know an awful lot about the evolution of life on Earth over the past four billion years. But what does this tell us about its equivalents on other planets? I’d say quite a lot really. The question "do any such planets have life?" has been made redundant; our question now should be: how many planets have life? The answer is probably "trillions of them" Although there are millions of species on Earth at present, most of them represented by billions of individual organisms (seven billion in the case of the human species), every living being on our planet is carbon-based. There is not a single exception to this general rule, which is a rare thing in biology. And almost all of these organisms are built of one or more cells. As implied by "almost", there are exceptions, but they are very few in number. There are some creatures called slime moulds that have largish bodies (more than 10 cm across) that are not divided into cells. But these represent less than 0.01 percent of all living species on Earth. To what extent can we expect these general rules to apply on planets with life throughout the universe? With regard to being carbon-based, "completely" may be a good answer, despite this view being criticised by some as "carbon chauvinism". But it’s not chauvinism at all. That is, it’s not derived from a misplaced sense of the importance of our own key element. Large carbon-based molecules are sufficiently complex to give the specificity needed for life – such as the possession by humans of about 25,000 genes, each with its own specific role. Large silicon-based molecules are known, but their structure is very different and they simply can’t form the basis for the degree of specificity needed for life. Claiming that all extra-terrestrial life is cellular in its construction is more dangerous, especially given that there are some exceptions to this rule on earth. But then again, there are no exceptions if we restrict our attention to complex life-forms – like animals and plants – with intricate organ systems. If our interest is in intelligent alien life, we should expect cellular construction to be the norm. Can we go beyond this? Might some alien life be humanoid, as often depicted in sci-fi movies? "Maybe" is the only answer we can give at present. But let’s now ask a very different question: how long will it be until we discover evidence of extra-terrestrial life, and where will we find it? The discovery of TRAPPIST-1 and many other systems with planets orbiting in the habitable zones of their respective stars in our own local patch of the Milky Way suggests that the answers are as follows: very soon – perhaps within a decade – and right on our cosmic doorstep. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Author: Professor Ray Murphy, Irish Centre for Human Rights School of Law Opinion: the "Butcher of Bosnia" will find out his fate this week after four years on trial on charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity This week, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia will deliver its judgment in what is the Tribunal’s last big trial. Although the world has grown weary of the trials arising from the 1992 to 1995 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the judgment in respect of 75-year-old General Ratko Mladić, nicknamed "the Butcher of Bosnia", will determine the guilt or innocence of one of the most notorious figures from that conflict. After having been at large for almost 16 years, Mladić was arrested in Serbia in May 2011 and transferred to the Tribunal. The trial commenced in May 2012 and the evidentiary phase of the case was concluded in August 2016, with the parties subsequently presenting their closing arguments in December 2016.  During the four year trial, Mladić faced charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The prosecution portrayed the man who led the Bosnian Serb army during the 1992 to 1995 war as a ruthless and brutal commander, responsible for the destruction of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of captured Bosnian Muslim boys and men at Srebrenica. The trial is amongst the most important conducted by the war crimes tribunal to date. The complexity of the issues in the Mladic trial can be gleaned from the length of the trial and number of witnesses called. The total number of witnesses in the Mladić case was nearly 600, with over 10,000 exhibits admitted into evidence. Management of such complex cases is critical and the prosecutor has learned from the mistaken past strategy of "throwing the book" at an accused. It is just not possible to charge an accused with every potential crime and some selectivity is necessary. That said, Mladić’s alleged crimes included killing Bosnian Muslims and Croats, the genocide of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the detention of thousands of others in conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction. The charges also included war crimes of murder intended to spread terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo through a campaign of sniping and shelling. This included the shelling of Markale market in 1994, when 66 people were killed and over 140 wounded, and the wanton destruction of property.  Inevitably, international investigations and trials take time. One of the biggest challenges facing prosecutors is the fact that the accused is rarely the direct perpetrator of a crime. This means it must first be proven that an international crime occurred and then evidence found linking the accused to the actual perpetrator of the crime. The crime base alone can cover a number of countries, adding to logistical and security issues.  International criminal trials raise a number of other challenges too, not least being the need to ensure a fair trial. The rights of the accused can be compromised by the conflicting need to ensure the expeditious conduct of proceedings. Fairness in international criminal proceedings is not generally compatible with expedition.  Looming in the background is the memory of the Slobodan Milosevic case, the former Serbian president. He died of a heart attack in 2006 while still in prison before a verdict could be handed down and justice seen to be done.  The court learned from the mistakes made during that case. Milosevic had managed to exercise such a degree of control over proceedings that he sometimes made the trial chamber look powerless. In fact, Milosovic often looked like he was dictating the pace and agenda of the trial. This was not allowed to happen during the Mladic trial. Last minute efforts by lawyers to have Mladić declared physically and mentally unfit failed. The prison doctors and independent experts monitoring him described his condition as stable. This was seen as a ploy to avoid what defence lawyers saw as an inevitable guilty verdict. A trial must be a forensic exercise to determine truth or innocence and not be used for broader political purposes To date the war crimes tribunal has charged 161 persons. However, the administration of justice cannot be selective when deciding who to investigate and indictments addressed crimes committed against a range of ethnic groups from 1991 to 2001. Although those indicted include senior political and military figures from various parties to the Yugoslav conflicts, the court has faced criticism that it has an anti-Serb bias The prosecution have called for a life sentence. The war crimes tribunal and the UN International Court of Justice have already declared what happened at Srebrenica as genocide. Given the larger than life role Mladic was happy to portray to the world throughout the conflict, command responsibility for the atrocities committed all around him by Bosnian Serb forces was always going to be difficult to evade. Having considered the evidence of his effective control of the Bosnian Serb Army, and the criminal nature of much of joint activities undertaken by Mladic and other senior figures, a finding of guilty is almost certain.  Mladić’s alleged crimes included killing Bosnian Muslims and Croats, the genocide of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the detention of thousands of others  Although the case is high profile, it has attracted relatively little media attention. Mladić did not generate the level of drama associated with the Milosevic trial. As this is the last trial, the prosecutor has had the benefit of testing much of the evidence in earlier cases. Portraying Mladic as some kind of well-intended officer with no responsibility for the atrocities did not accord with the evidence presented. Likewise, the defence strategy of depicting Mladic as just defending his people against a fundamentalist threat was ill judged and did not offer a justification for the alleged crimes.  A significant threat to the fairness of such trials remains the inequality in resources between the prosecution and defence teams, and the Mladić trial was no exception to this. A trial must be a forensic exercise to determine truth or innocence and not be used for broader political purposes. In this regard, the trial has been successful and the proceedings provide a detailed archival record of one of the darkest chapters in Europe’s recent history. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 27 November 2017

Author: Dr John Walsh, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Opinion: Spain's failure to recognise the multilingual reality of the country has contributed to the current political and constitutional crisis in Catalonia Given Spanish policies and the worsening political situation, many Catalan nationalists believe that independence is essential if Catalan is to be protected, in Catalonia at least. In the weeks before the Catalan parliament’s declaration of independence, the online anti-Catalan abuse by keyboard warriors reached stratospheric proportions, particularly so when El País or other Spanish media live-streamed press conferences or rallies where Catalan was spoken.  I try not to pay too much attention to the trolls in such circumstances but the persistent link between the Catalan language and anti-Catalan feeling was grimly fascinating. There were plenty of hostile dismissals of Catalan as "just a dialect of Spanish", "bad Spanish" or "a vulgar peasant dialect from Provence" (the region in the south of France where a variety similar to Catalan is spoken). Other fervent unionists asked why the Catalans could not just speak Spanish, "the one language of Spain", and there were predictable comments of the "we-all-speak-Spanish-anyway" type, so often heard by speakers of minority languages.  Language and identity are at the heart of the ongoing Catalan political crisis. The widespread ignorance of the Catalan language, both in Spain itself and the wider world, is one of the issues thrown into focus by the ongoing political crisis.  To claim that Catalan is merely a dialect of Spanish is to ignore its centuries of history as a separate language that developed from the form of Latin spoken in the northeast of the Iberian peninsula. The use of Catalan was banned by Franco, but to mock it as a primitive peasant dialect is to ignore 40 years of institutionalisation since the Spanish transition to democracy and its widespread use across almost all domains of Catalan society.  Since the early 1980s, a policy known as linguistic normalisation has guaranteed that Catalan is the medium of education in all schools, leading to a situation where well over 90 percent of under-20s speak Catalan fluently. Although the position of Spanish has been strengthened considerably in recent years by large-scale immigration from the south of Spain and other Latin American countries, the education system has played a key role in creating large numbers of "new speakers" of Catalan, who now number about 40 percent of all speakers. The Catalan Refugee Programme ensures that all such incomers have an opportunity to learn Catalan, regardless of their linguistic background.  Language and identity are at the heart of the ongoing Catalan political crisis With over 10 million speakers, Catalan is as least as widely spoken as several national languages enjoying full official EU status such as Czech, Swedish, Bulgarian and Finnish and has a much larger speaker base than Slovene, Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Maltese and Irish. As well as Catalonia itself, it is also spoken in Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Aragó (Aragon), the south of France, Andorra, and the Sardinian city of L’Alguer (Alghero). While Catalan is denied official status in Europe, Spain could request the EU that it gets a more limited protection such as the UK government has done for Welsh and Scottish Gaelic.  However, Catalan enjoys no official status in most of Spain, let alone in the EU. Although a co-official language of Catalonia along with Spanish, Catalans wishing to communicate with the central government, or who need to use the Spanish justice system, have no option but to use Spanish. The recent court cases involving Catalan government ministers and parliamentarians in Madrid were held in Spanish only.  Even in Catalonia itself, Spanish is overwhelmingly dominant in court cases. According to the civil society language organisation Plataforma per la Llengua(Platform for the Language), Catalan was used in only 8.4 percent of court rulings or sentences in 2015 and the figures have plummeted in the last ten years. This is a reflection of the persistent weakening since 2006 of the Catalan Statute of Autonomy by the Spanish courts, a decision encouraged by the ruling Partido Popular and which has contributed significantly to the current political crisis.  The application of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which has heralded direct rule in Catalonia, also has linguistic implications. Since the transition to democracy, Catalan has been the only working language of the Catalan government, although services are provided in Spanish when requested. As officials from Madrid take over the running of Catalan government departments, officials have been asked to produce documentation in Spanish. There is concern that civil servants will been asked to communicate internally in Spanish, a clear violation of their linguistic rights under the Catalan language law of 1998. The Association of Catalan Public Servants has said it will reject any such attempt to impose the use of Spanish as a language of communication.  To claim that Catalan is merely a dialect of Spanish is to ignore its centuries of history as a separate language There have also been over 100 reports of discrimination against Catalan speakers since 2007. Most notable among these was the case of a man who was harassed by two members of the Guardia Civil (Spanish police) in 2017 at Barcelona Airport after he spoke to them in Catalan. He was later charged with "disobedience" and "obstructing the police" and fined €600. Guardia Civil police officers based in Catalonia (and there are many at the moment) are supposed to be able to communicate in Catalan but the reality is often very different.  Recently Plataforma per la Llengua published a lengthy report outlining over 100 pages of imbalances between the treatment of Catalan and Spanish in the institutional practices and legal recognition of the Spanish state. Further tensions were inflamed last month when it was reported that staff members of the low-cost Spanish airline Vueling asked two passengers to leave a plane due to fly from Barcelona to Menorca, another Catalan-speaking area, for speaking Catalan to an air hostess. Spain’s failure to recognise and valorise the multilingual reality of the state has contributed to the current political and constitutional crisis. Given Spanish policies and the worsening political situation, many Catalan nationalists believe that independence is essential if Catalan is to be protected, in Catalonia at least.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Author: Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh, School of Political Science and Sociology Opinion: there are many similarities in how back channels played a huge role in peace processes in Northern Ireland and Colombia When the late Martin McGuinness visited Colombia as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in 2014 he was "absolutely shocked" to find out how much the Colombian government’s chief negotiator knew about the Northern Ireland peace process. More surprising still, the Colombians told him their secret back channel to FARC was codenamed Brendan, after the Derry businessman Brendan Duddy.  It later transpired that Colombia’s High Commissioner for peace, Sergio Jaramillo, had consulted with British officials on their contacts with the IRA, and had spoken to senior MI6 agent Michael Oatley who had worked with Brendan Duddy over a span of two decades. The Colombian negotiators drew directly on that experience in their engagement with FARC.  The importance of back channels in peace processes and the tensions and deep emotions involved have been brought to life recently by the gripping broadway play Oslo. It tells the story of the secret back channel between Israel and the PLO in the 1990s and reminds us of just how difficult it can be to bring together sworn enemies who can’t be seen talking to each other in public. These early phases of contact are often the most difficult and Colombian negotiator Jaramillo has said in the past that "talks-about-talks are in some respects more important than talks because that’s when you are defining the playing field…it was incredibly tough."  Back channels have some extraordinary features. Secret contact between British agents and the IRA was always directly authorised by the prime minister of the day, but was hidden from government ministers and top military commanders. This was also the case in South Africa and Israel-Palestine. Information was guarded so closely because leaks might allow powerful forces on both sides to undermine and expose such contacts before progress could be made. Secret contact creates powerful and distinctive dynamics that can help to build co-operative relationships between warring parties, not least because both sides have to co-operate in keeping their shared secrets.  Under cover of secrecy, parties to conflict are often able to make enough progress to ensure that it’s easier to gain public support for compromise and to manage internal divisions and tensions when the process moves into the open. However, the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian process is a reminder that this is not always the case. Back channel contact is shrouded in mystery. This is not only because it is kept secret at the time, but because it remains sensitive for decades afterwards. The paper trail is sparse and most contacts are not recorded in writing by anyone involved. Well might the Colombian negotiators have sought advice from those directly involved in Northern Ireland. It is difficult to understand this kind of contact without hearing from those who took part in it. EU Special Envoy to the Colombian peace process Eamon Gilmore will talk about the Northern Irish and Colombian peace processes at a public lecture on the role of the EU as peacemaker in NUI Galway on November 20. It is a particularly fitting venue because that subterranean channel that links the Colombian and Irish peace processes runs through the university in Galway. Brendan Duddy, the Derry intermediary who gave his name to the Colombian back-channel, entrusted his private papers to NUI Galway some years before his death earlier this year.  The archive includes his private diaries of the peace talks in the 1970s and the 1990s which give us insights into the emotional dimension, the one aspect of peacemaking that is absent from the official records. His diaries are full of passion, especially in 1975 as great hopes of peace gave way to anxiety, despondency and then resignation as the prospects for compromise began to recede. His papers provide unique insights into the use of back channels in the making of peace and tell us that harsh and unyielding public positions often conceal a great deal of flexibility. Secret back channels provide an essential tool for parties to conflict to explore the extent of that flexibility and the potential for lasting peace. Moreover, they also create a space in which both sides can begin the process of building a new and more co-operative relationship. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Friday, 17 November 2017

Author: Dr Dympna Casey, School of Nursing and Midwifery Report: MARIO is a care robot for people with dementia who is currently been put through his paces in a Co Galway nursing home  Loneliness is a key public health concern across many age groups and especially for older people with dementia. We know that social health and social connectedness are important to the quality of life of people with dementia. Human companionship is the best way of promoting social health but the reality is that our health care services do not have the resources to provide this service.   Recognising this problem, NUI Galway put together a consortium of experts from the health care sector, robotics, industry and dementia groups, to work together to develop a companion robot for people with dementia. This led to the three year EU Horizon 2020 MARIO project - managing active and healthy ageing with use of caring service robots- funded by the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. It’s a project involving five EU countries and a team of up to 40 people.   The MARIO robot has been developed and tested by people with dementia in residential care in Ireland, community care in the UK and in a hospital setting in Italy to ensure the robot is fit for purpose. At each stage of development, we tested the robot and, based on user feedback, modified and developed the robot to give him the functions he needs to be the companion robot that people with dementia want.  MARIO can now play your favourite music, help you to draw pictures and play games to promote cognitive ability. He can also connect you to your friends and family, share your family photos with you and reminiscence on old times. MARIO’s main function in life is to connect people with dementia to family, friends, carers and the community at large thereby maintaining and increasing their social interactions and reducing loneliness. Right now, MARIO is in a nursing home in Loughrea meeting and interacting with people with dementia, their family, friends, children and grandchildren. Children really love to interact with MARIO and he is often a topic of discussion connecting grandchildren with grandparents residing in the nursing home.  MARIO was also a great hit when he attended the Trials Methodology Research Network (TMRN) clinical trials day for school children in NUIG. He also attended the recent Alzheimer Europe conference where he met the current chair of Alzheimer Europe, Iva Holmerová. Initial feedback suggests that MARIO has had an overall positive impact on the residents in the nursing home. Currently we are evaluating the difference in how people with dementia feel before and after interacting with him. Are they happier and more likely to chat to others as a result of encountering MARIO? Do they look forward to seeing him and most importantly do they feel less lonely and isolated? The final results are anticipated in spring 2018 and will be shared with the public here in Ireland and across Europe. When the project ends, MARIO will still need some further finetuning to make him the best companion robot he can be, so he won’t be quite ready to roll off the conveyer belt just yet. But we believe that companion robots will be more readily available and more commonly seen in health care settings in the next five to ten years. The outcomes of the MARIO study will play a key role in helping to shape the future use of social robots in our health services. We will see how robots can be used to support older people and help them to retain their abilities and independence for longer Care robots can reduce carer burden and ultimately enable older people with dementia to stay socially connected and feel less lonely. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Author: Dr Seán Crosson, Huston School of Film & Digital Media Opinion: if we want to talk about sport's role in the cultivation of a community identity, we have to define what community actually means in the first place Sport has frequently been celebrated in this country as a key resource in facilitating and affirming community. It’s a feature that is relevant to all sports in Ireland, though there are few more fervent and enthusiastic expressions of Irish communal identity than those associated with followers of the national soccer team (as we saw with last month’s victory over Wales).   But what do we actually mean by sport’s role in the cultivation of a community identity? One should say initially that there is an implicit value judgement evident when you either talk about the importance of community or lament its breakdown. While the latter is not necessarily an entirely new phenomenon, the nostalgia for past communities may well be misplaced if such communities sustained intolerance to those that were considered different or did not fit neatly into narrowly defined interpretations of identity (as regrettably happened too often in Ireland in the past).  Indeed, several international studies have raised questions around the effectiveness of programmes established to foster community in association with particular sports. One study of the UK government’s employment of sport to facilitate community building found "ill-defined interventions with hard to follow outcomes". Sociologist Sean F. Brown noted that where "sport has been used for community creation, it has been successful only selectively and in ways that replicate power differentials found throughout the larger society, namely race and gender."  The growth of the GAA in Ireland owes much to the ability of the organisation to provide a focus for communal identification The communities that sport may facilitate are not necessarily communities we would wish to encourage. Indeed, they can amplify already exclusionary processes within particular societies. Sport may often not provide the positive focus affirmations of "sport and community" may suggest. As evident in distinctive team strips, songs and defined geographical spaces, sport has inherent practices that are as much concerned with dividing groups as bringing people together.  Part of the challenge here is how we define community in the first instance. There were already over 100 distinct and differing definitions available by 1955 within sociological literature alone. The expansion of the discipline and the arrival of the internet have added considerably to this list.  The definitions that do exist broadly align with two positions: one views community relating to a particular territory (e.g. GAA attachment to one’s county of origin) and the other relates to individuals with common interests who may not share a common physical space (such as those living in Ireland who follow any English Premier League team). How we define community with regard to sport also depends on a huge range of further issues, not least the relationship of each individual with sport. How a player experiences community differs considerably from a supporter, spectator or volunteer. The importance of community building is often invoked by organisations as a key function of sport. The GAA, for instance, places "Community Identity" as the leading value in its Mission Statement contending that "community is at the heart of our Association. Everything we do helps to enrich the communities we serve".  The growth of the GAA in Ireland owes much to the ability of the organisation to provide a focus for communal identification. The recognition and importance of county identification can be partly  attributed to the popularity of Gaelic games and the framing of the elite level of Gaelic sports along county lines. At an even more local level – the parish – GAA clubs are the key point of communal association in many instances, particularly with the decline of church attendances.  When we have a sense of belonging to a particular sporting community, few other experiences provide the emotional intensity of witnessing our favourite team succeed This extends well beyond the football or hurling games themselves. The local club can provide a crucial focus of support and recognition when members of the community die, particularly in tragic circumstances. GAA clubs are part of the mechanism through which a community gathers and grieves, whether with the guard of honour provided at the church or the events the club organises to remember the individual concerned.  These practices within GAA clubs point towards the key attraction of sport: our need to belong. Most followers of sport will admit that the entertainment value found in individual games (and many Irish soccer fans will likely concur) can often be quite limited. However, as evident in the frequent use of "we" in association with one’s favourite Premier League club by individuals who may never have visited the stadium or city concerned, it is the sense of belonging to a group outside ourselves that contributes to the intensity of our own human experience.  When we have a sense of belonging to a particular sporting community, few other experiences can provide the emotional intensity of witnessing our favourite team succeed. This is particularly so when our team is not expected to do so, as is often the case in the Irish experience.  Sport can provide the opportunity for many to meet and connect and share extraordinarily intense human experiences, as many of us did when James McClean played the ball superbly into the corner of the Welsh net. It is important, though, that we reflect critically on sport as an institution and its role in society. We should celebrate when it is used to positively support processes of integration, understanding and belonging – and we should be prepared to reject those who would employ sport to primarily celebrate difference. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Author: Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Registrar and Deputy President The Brainstorm long read: when it comes to answering the Northern Irish question posed by Brexit, we should look to Germany and its experience with partition and borders "Are you Irish or Northern Irish?". That was the question from a fellow student at Kiel University in the north of West Germany in spring 1986. "Yes," I replied, which only confused her.  Having been born in Belfast and with dual citizenship but only one (Irish) passport, I explained that I could be both Northern Irish and Irish in the same way that she, born in Kiel, could be both North German and German. Politics had nothing to do with it, I argued, young man that I was. In autumn 1987 in Rostock, GDR, where I had just started a job as an English language assistant at the university, I asked a student from Schwerin: "tell me, do you consider yourself German?" "Of course I’m German," he responded indignantly, "what else would I be?" The question had insulted him. A divided country I hitch-hiked from Lübeck to Bremen, both in West Germany in summer 1988. The driver who gave me a lift looked at me in astonishment when he learned that I was working in East Germany. "We Germans live differently, we see the world differently than they do over there," he said. "But they are Germans too," I countered. "Yeah, sure, sort of," he said, "but not Germans like us!" His Germany had shrunk massively over the years since 1945. The Germans know what it means to live in a divided country - and that it hurts. What belongs together grows apart instead, and regional differences, present in every country, gain in significance. Different influences come from outside, not all music tastes are shared, each side has its own institutions and literature responds to different impulses. People don’t think about partition every day, unless they live in close proximity to the border. Life goes on, we make new friends, go to school or work, meet friends and family, marry, have children and bury our parents. Everyday life is similar but different than "over there" in the east or west, or "up there/down there" in the north or south. The Germans know what it means to live in a divided country - and that it hurts Over time, linguistic references to the country change. In English, we usually referred to the two German states as West Germany and East Germany, though the latter was sometimes "the GDR". In German, it was different. After 1945 the "Soviet Zone" became the "Zone", then "Middle Germany", then the "DDR" and in the end even the delegitimising inverted commas around DDR disappeared. The Federal Republic over time came to call itself just "Germany", thereby implicitly excluding the east from the term, and it simply ignored East German attempts to brand it with the letters "BRD", or FRG in English.  To this day, the website of the German Football Association records an incongruous looking result (not just in football terms) from the 1974 World Cup: GDR 1 Germany 0. If we were to take the word of the East German dissident Wolf Biermann, who even after his expulsion from the GDR in 1976 described it as "the better Germany", then perhaps that result should read: Germany 1 FRG 0. With time, the Irish Free State, formed after the partition of Ireland in 1921, simply became "Ireland" The "Six Counties" in the north-east evolved into "Ulster" or "the North of Ireland" or "Northern Ireland". Thirty years ago, common usage suggested that "Northern Ireland" and the "Republic of Ireland" together made "Ireland", at least in the English language. Nowadays, one refers to "Ireland" and "Northern Ireland" which together make "the island of Ireland", as if Ireland was a glorified Isle of Wight or Isle of Rügen off the British coast, while Great Britain itself, demonstrably an island, is often referred to as "the mainland".  This is semantic (and geographical) nonsense, but it is also belittling. Language is used here as an instrument of political power, and it is astonishing how even so-called Republican parties have unthinkingly adopted the phrase "the island of Ireland". That the Southern Irish state refers to itself simply as "Ireland" is exclusionary, analogous to old West German habits in respect of the term "Deutschland". Writing about identity Writers are extremely important in this context. Heinrich Böll, Günter Grassand Christa Wolf in Germany or Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness in Ireland are people whose writing crosses borders, even as they are received differently in different jurisdictions.  Because Danzig lay outside Germany’s post-1945 borders and because Grass was so deeply engaged with Germany’s past, he contributed significantly to the continuation of a common German culture after 1945, despite all the political divisions. Böll, on the other hand, mediated a very Catholic Rhineland conscience to the Protestant East (and not only to the East), while Wolf was a challenging East German conscience to a sceptical West. But they were all successful as creators and mediators of culture, because they were printed, read and understood. Even when Germany was still divided, Böll and Wolf – in spite of their different political environments – were regarded by most simply as "German" writers. Grass was never anything other. In the internal British Brexit debates, Ireland, North or South, played virtually no role and was hardly mentioned In Ireland, the Northerner Seamus Heaney mediated the Northern conflict in some of his earlier poetry to a Southern audience that knew little about it, and later went on to engage with Ireland’s entire heritage, whether it had its roots in Irish or Scottish Gaels, Anglo-Saxons, Normans or Vikings. Brian Friel’s play Translations (1980) engages with the colonisation and above all Anglicisation of the Irish-speaking Irish in the 19th century and as such offers insights into the value of their own identity and culture to today’s Irish people in North and South.  Identity is also a central theme of the play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme (1985) by Frank McGuinness. McGuinness, from a Catholic background close to the border in Donegal, was praised for the sensitive way in which he explored the identity of Ulster Protestant soldiers in World War One, not least because literary, creative representations of Ulster Unionists had rarely been sympathetic to them. Thanks to our writers, the Irish border has even in the bad times seemed less impermeable than it might otherwise have been. Germany and Europe Until October 1990, the GDR was the unofficial thirteenth member of the EEC, a so-called "limping member" in German. Just like trade between West Germany and any member state of the EEC, imports and exports between the GDR and West Germany were tax and duty free. This was because the West German state constitutionally could not regard East Germany as "foreign". A protocol to the Treaty of Rome signed in 1957 about inner-German trade gave West Germany the right to regard such trade as "internal". But it also committed West Germany to ensuring that this did not damage the national economies of other EEC states. The United Kingdom, France and others looked on this arrangement with suspicion, according to a spring 1989 report in the German weekly paper Die Zeit. The British complained about illegal re-exports of East German goods such as steel and textiles by the West Germans. In addition, West German importers of East German goods enjoyed tax concessions that were intended to promote inner-German trade, but which were seen in other countries as distorting competition. Bonn simply insisted that Germany’s national interest demanded this, and nothing changed. The Northern Irish question In the internal British Brexit debates, Ireland, North or South, played virtually no role and was hardly mentioned. Occasionally a Remainer expressed fears for peace in Ireland, but Brexiteers either ignored or dismissed these concerns. In the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland ever since it has become more or less peaceful is regarded as a highly subsidised afterthought. It has its own political system and parties remote from the core of British politics, the current transient arrangement between the Tories and the DUP notwithstanding. Yet the Northern Irish question is an important one after Brexit, and has been recognised as such by the EU. Since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 between London and Dublin, every Northern Irish person can claim dual citizenship, but doesn’t have to have two passports. My parents in Belfast, and many like them, are dual citizens living in their own country and holding an Irish passport. Among their friends and neighbours are dual citizens living in their own country who hold only a British passport. If a hard EU border is created, how would anyone propose to control entry and exit, given that both those passports are shared with other jurisdictions? Do we really want the relationships that have been built up here after all the economic and political efforts of the last 25 years to fall victim to a bitter British-European divorce? Both parts of Ireland have close economic links. 32 percent of Northern Irish non-UK exports go to the Republic, while 27 percent of imports come from there. Apart from Great Britain, the Republic is by far Northern Ireland’s most important trading partner. The North is less important for the Republic than vice-versa, but there has been significant investment in Northern Ireland in recent years. 33 percent of non-UK owned firms in Northern Ireland, for example, are owned by Southern Irish companies, the largest single national share, eclipsing by some distance even the USA.  The feasibility and practice of all-Ireland co-operation in areas such as health has been enhanced by the open border. Many institutions have remained all-Ireland ones, even almost 100 years after partition. The close economic, social and historical ties between the two jurisdictions mean that all of Ireland would suffer more than any other European country from the consequences of a hard border. Do we really want the relationships that have been built up here after all the economic and political efforts of the last 25 years to fall victim to a bitter British-European divorce? The fall of the Wall I left the GDR after two years on September 18 1989. I felt ill at the border, for I had left behind good friends who, of course, could not travel with me. I was crying by the time the border guard, a small, stern-looking older woman in her grey-green uniform, checked my ID. She looked at the passport with the multiple GDR stamps and then at my face and she asked what was wrong. "I don’t want to leave," I cried. Her face softened as she gently said: "Come back soon." I gave her a kiss. Not seven weeks later, I danced with joy in Nottingham, where I had started a PhD, when I saw on TV that the Berlin Wall had been torn down, that people were streaming into the West, that they could travel freely, and how they danced on that hateful wall. Those were emotional days for anyone to whom both Germanys meant something. I cried with joy in front of the TV three days later when I saw the images of masses of East Germans at the border queuing to get back home again. On December 18 1989, I just laughed when an East German friend arrived at Nottingham train station to accompany me on the journey home to Ireland for Christmas. It all happened that quickly. One last recollection from those days. In 1991, when I was lecturing in Maynooth, two of my former students from Rostock came visiting. They of course wanted to go North too. At the border outside Newry, our IDs were checked by heavily armed British soldiers, a completely normal experience for me at that time. However, my travelling companions were shocked when they looked out the window and saw a concrete watchtower no more than perhaps 50 metres from the road. These east Germans could see little or no difference between the towers on the Irish border and the internal German one that they had just put behind them. "No-one wants a return to those days" No-one wants a return to those days. Today, living in the West of Ireland, I can visit family and friends in Belfast without any checks whatsoever. Reunification is the most desirable outcome for me, primarily because I believe that that will create the preconditions for finally overcoming the divisions in our people, the wall in the head, whether religious or national. Sectarianism isn’t a consequence of partition, but it was certainly reinforced by it in both Irish jurisdictions. But I’m also clear that neither a United Ireland nor the United Kingdom is worth a drop of anybody’s blood. For this and many other reasons, the North needs a special arrangement post-Brexit The current, hopefully interim, political scenario is one that many people can live with, though it wouldn’t necessarily be their first choice. After all, the border has become less and less important over the last twenty years and times have become more peaceful. In Northern Ireland, 56 percent of the people voted to remain in the EU, a larger majority than voted to leave in the UK as a whole. A vote in the Republic on EU membership would be a complete waste of everyone’s time. At the end of the day, we are all Europeans. But for some people here who reject the current settlement, resurrected border posts would immediately be regarded as a "legitimate" target and violence could easily beget conflict and violence. For this and many other reasons, the North needs a special arrangement post-Brexit. In light of their own history, Germans should be able to grasp better than most that Brexit will have more serious consequences for Ireland than for any other country in Europe. This article is based on the author’s German-language piece, "Der Brexit, Irland und Deutschland", published in Merkur. Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken, in April 2017 This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Author: Dr John Walsh, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Opinion: this week's Oireachtas na Gaeilge festival will highlight the diversity and creativity of the Irish language community, but the presence of many new speakers and younger enthusiasts is just as noteworthy   Thousands of Irish speakers will be in Killarney this weekend for the Irish language literary and cultural festival Oireachtas na Gaeilge. The annual highlight in the Irish language social calendar, the Oireachtas has grown significantly in recent years, particularly among young people, though it is largely ignored by the mainstream national English language media, who can be so quick to stereotype Irish speakers or trot out familiar tropes of Irish as a "dead language". Were such commentators to come to the Oireachtas, they would witness an incredible diversity and creativity, already familiar to Irish speakers but largely unknown in wider society. The Oireachtas is a microcosm of the entire Irish language community, that amorphous concept unfamiliar to most Irish people even if they are well disposed towards Irish and want it to survive. There will be a strong showing from every Gaeltacht area, particularly in the traditional sean-nós singing and dancing competitions. Fluent speakers of Irish from all over the country and abroad will also be present, some to attend events or to compete in competitions, others just to catch up with friends. Irish language organisations will hold meetings and launch initiatives and publishers and media organisations will be out in force.  A noticeable change in recent years has been the increase in the numbers of students of Irish attending the festival, often at the initiative of the Cumann Gaelach in their university. Some of those who have attended the festival for years complain that the increase in students has also led to an upsurge in the amount of English spoken. It might be that the Oireachtas has become the victim of its own success, as word spreads in universities that a great weekend will be had by all. New speakers are the product of the same education system that is much maligned for its perceived failure to revive Irish It is difficult to avoid conversations about the state of health of Irish at the Oireachtas, and the revival of the language will be the subject of this year’s annual seminar on Saturday. Inevitably, questions will be asked about the future of the Gaeltacht, the direction of government policy and the status of the language in schools.  The Oireachtas is a showcase for the vitality of traditional Irish language culture in the Gaeltacht, much of it involving young people. However, academic studies have confirmed that language shift to English is progressing rapidly in the small number of remaining Irish-speaking areas and that the future of Irish as a community language is in doubt. As happens in all languages, younger generations of Gaeltacht people are not speaking the same Irish as their parents or grandparents, but there is the additional concern that many children are not acquiring Irish at all or are abandoning it as teenagers or young adults.  The Oireachtas provides a meeting point for "new speakers", regular and fluent speakers who were not raised with Irish in the Gaeltacht but have adopted the language Strategic interventions in favour of Irish are known in the academic literature as "language planning". The government’s language planning process has rightly been rejected by many Gaeltacht groups because of the paltry funding awarded to it. Many Gaeltacht people attempting to raise their children in Irish feel a sense of betrayal by the state which is supposedly committed to the revival of their language. Who could blame them when so many basic services are not available in Irish? Or when many parts of the state apparatus even appear hostile to Irish, despite almost a century of language policy supposedly to promote the language?  However, the Oireachtas also provides a meeting point for what we call "new speakers", regular and fluent speakers who were not raised with Irish in the Gaeltacht but have adopted the language. Despite the shortfalls in the policies of successive governments, such new speakers are themselves the product of the same education system that is much maligned for its perceived failure to revive Irish.  Some new speakers may have strong connections to a Gaeltacht area and have acquired a local dialect, with varying degrees of success. Others do not consider Gaeltacht varieties to be appropriate linguistic models for themselves but are nonetheless highly competent and committed speakers of a more standardised Irish. There are also those who pay less attention to grammatical rules and may even have little understanding or experience of the Gaeltacht.  The wider the linguistic and cultural gaps, the greater the risk of tensions and misunderstandings between different kinds of speakers. There can also be heated discussions about the levels of commitment among Irish speakers in general. Although the Oireachtas may be expected to attract those who are already engaged, not everyone agrees on priorities and for some of those attending, Irish is more of a part-time interest than their main language of communication.  It is unrealistic to expect all Irish speakers to be equally committed or fluent, but the broad diversity at the Oireachtas is a reminder of the need for government to recognise that different types of Irish speakers have different priorities and needs. Further supports are required for the Gaeltacht where most fluent speakers are concentrated, but Irish also needs to continue recruiting new speakers elsewhere.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Analysis: a Maths Week salute to some of Irish women who lead the way when it came to a career in mathematics By Colm Mulcahy and Michel Destrade Maths Week is currently in full swing, but it is worth recalling that mathematics has not always been made available to all of us. In the past 150 years, many women in and from Ireland have faced hurdles when it came to carving out an education and a career in mathematics.  From a 2017 perspective, a few dozen stand out as role models in a field where equality of opportunity is still elusive. Good examples of "Irish hidden figures", these pioneering women are only now getting belated recognition and they stand out as role models for the future generations of Irish mathematicians. Here are some of their stories. Margaret MacDonnell Our society has long been quite efficient at keeping women from developing and maintaining independent careers. In 1937, Margaret MacDonnell (nee Gillan, 1906-1989), who had a UCG maths MSc, was fired from her job as professor in Tourmakeady Preparatory College in Mayo after her marriage. She took legal proceedings against the Minister of Education and the Archbishop of Tuam and was awarded costs by the High Court. As recently as 1977, women who worked in banks or for civil service were forbidden by law from keeping their jobs once they married. We can now see Irish mathematical women at the highest levels of achievement in teaching, research and administration, both in Ireland and overseas The universities also played their role in this. While more women than men graduate with a third-level degree today, Trinity College Dublin didn't even admit women students until 1904. Elsewhere, Cambridge did not award degrees to women until 1948, despite allowing them to compete in examinations as early as the 1870s - hundreds of them were awarded degrees by the Royal University of Ireland instead - and Ecole Polytechique, one of France's most prestigious institutions, did not admit women until 1972.  Mary Everest Many of the early female high achievers had fathers or husbands who were mathematicians or scientists. Apart from teaching, opportunities were limited. For example, Mary Everest (1832-1916) from England married George Boole, who had tutored her earlier and was already resettled in Cork as the first professor of mathematics at Queen’s College (now UCC). We now know that she helped him assemble some of his landmark books there, and in 1909 she published her own book, Philosophy and Fun of Algebra.  Alice Boole  One of her home-schooled daughters, Alice Boole (later Stott, 1860-1940) never attended university or held an academic position, but was a pioneer in the visualisation of 4-dimensional shapes. She even produced three-dimensional central cross-sections of the six regular 4-D polytopes (a term she coined for higher dimensional Platonic solids) using cardboard models, which survive to this day at the University of Toronto.Several mathematically trained women were only able to find generally under-acknowledged and often unpaid work alongside their astronomer husbands.  Sophie Willock Dublin-born Sophie Willock (later Bryant, 1850-1922) benefited from her father’s expertise: he was a Fellow of TCD and later Chair of Geometry at the University of London. In 1884 she was awarded a DSc (in mental and moral science), probably the first woman in Britain or Ireland to be awarded this degree. She also became the first woman to have a paper published in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. Apparently, she used to row in the Thames for exercise and cycle around Ireland in the summers (raising a few eyebrows along the way). Alice Everett  Alice Everett (1865-1949) was born in Glasgow and brought up in Belfast where her father was Professor of Natural Philosophy at Queen’s College. She studied mathematics there and at Girton College in Cambridge, but had to turn to the Royal University of Ireland to have her BA and MA degrees awarded. She worked at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, later did research in optics and, in the 1920s, in the engineering of early television. Kay McNulty Indeed, many Irish women played roles in the development of technology, including the early computers of the 1940s. For instance, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) was set up by the US army to compute ballistic trajectories at a time when no coding languages existed. Yet when it was unveiled in 1946 as "Big Brain" to the public, no mention was made of the six brilliant young women who had programmed it.  One of them was Kay McNulty (later Antonelli, 1921-2006), from Donegal, who had earned a mathematics degree in Philadelphia.  Sheila Power The most well-known mathematical woman to come from Ireland was probably Sheila Power (later Tinney, 1918-2010), whose father Michael was professor of mathematics at UCG from 1912 to 1955. A UCD graduate, she had a long career there after completing her PhD in 1941 in quantum mechanics under Nobel prize-winning Max Born at Edinburgh in two years at the age of 23. She then became one of the first three resident scholars at the brand new Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, which was set up at the instigation of then Taoiseach Eamon de Valera, himself a former maths teacher and aspiring academic.  De Valera’s granddaughter Nóra Ní Chuív is one of the very early Irish women to earn a PhD in pure mathematics, in 1973. There were a few before her, most notably Barbara Yates (1919-1998) at Aberdeen in 1952 and Siobhán O’Shea(later Vernon, 1932-2002) at UCC in 1964.  These pioneering women are only now getting belated recognition and they stand out as role models for the future generations of Irish mathematicians. The numbers of Irish women earning primary degrees in mathematical fields has picked up pace in the last five or six decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, about 30 women are known to have earned BAs or BScs in mathematical science somewhere on the island of Ireland. In the 1980s, it was at least 35, and in the 1990s about twice that figure.   This in turn has led to increased engagement in academia in mathematics and mathematical physics and to careers in the Met office, the Central Statistics Office, the private sector statistics and finance worlds, the actuarial profession and mathematical education. Of course, those graduates include many women who moved here from Britain, the USA, Romania, Russia, Pakistan and elsewhere.  We can now see Irish mathematical women at the highest levels of achievement in teaching, research and administration, both in Ireland and overseas. Since 2010, women have headed up mathematics departments in TCD, Cork IT, NUI Galway and University Of Limerick.  None has yet become a university president here, although it is worth noting that Ireland has a long tradition of mathematicians serving in such roles.  About the authors: Colm Mulcahy is Professor of Mathematics at Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, United States and Michel Destrade is Chair of Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 13 November 2017

Analysis: from poetry and sports to history, dancing and storytelling, there's an abundance of ways to teach maths in a creative manner By Mary Scahill, Dr Cornelia Connolly, Dr Aisling McCluskey and Dr Tony Hall, NUI Galway (1) Think poetry Take your favourite poem or rhyme and try to notice the mathematics hidden within it. Maybe it’s a imerick or haiku or villanelle or even the spooky prophetic rhyming of the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Like all great songs, these hold a mesmerising, ordered quality which comes from the basic mathematics behind their design. Have a go at writing your own haiku. The formula is simple: the first line of your poem should contain five syllables, the second line seven syllables, and the third line five syllables. (2) Google the Calculus Wars Learn how one of the most important and fascinating developments in mathematical history, calculus, was jointly invented by Gottfried Leibniz and Isaac Newton, two of the most famous and brilliant minds in history. While at the time both mathematicians and their friends contested and claimed the original discovery, there is a consensus today that both Newton and Leibniz independently invented the calculus, which allows us to measure change, a very important function of maths in today’s complex and fast-moving world. (3) Some 19th century future thinking Computational thinking (or CT for short) is one of the big new ideas in computer science, mathematics and STEM education. As well as enabling us to do so many new activities which were previously unimaginable, computers are changing fundamentally how we think and learn. But computational thinking was first originated in the 19th century by Countess Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the great Romantic poet, Lord Byron. Countess Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer - or, as she called it, "poetical scientist" - and she devised a sophisticated algorithm to compute Bernoulli Numbers. What she innovated in the 1840s is what we try to do today with computational thinking when we try to come up with systematic strategies for understanding a range of problems and challenges, and then use computers to provide or simulate solutions. Pick one of your favourite activities (such as making a cup of tea or hitting a sliotar with a hurley) and break it down into its basic, constituent activities and parts. Take away any unnecessary detail and try to notice patterns that can be repeated. There are many great and free computer applications, which you can use to program (simulate) your algorithm. Use the online version of Scratch to create a simple computer program to implement your algorithm. (4) Tune up with Pythagoras Best known for his eponymous theorem (you know the one: for any right-angled triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides), Pythagoras also made remarkable contributions to the mathematical theory of music. The Greek philosopher noticed that vibrating strings produce harmonious tones when the ratios of the lengths of the strings are whole numbers and that these ratios could be extended to other musical instruments. Discovery of the chromatic, diatonic and enharmonic scales are said to be the work of Pythagoras. The next time you witness someone tuning a musical instrument, reflect on the mathematical link and if the musician is using Pythagorean tuning to get ready. The probability of a particular athlete or team winning is just mathematics (5) Telling stories Storytelling is regarded as one of the most powerful formational processes in education. According to the late educational psychologist Jerome Bruner, storytelling is a uniquely human activity that serves as a key foundation for all our learning and development. It allows us to structure and make sense of our world, while also playing a very important dual role in mediating and inspiring our imagination. Oral storytelling can transform the abstract, objective, deductive mathematics experiences in the classroom into a subject imbued with narrative, subjective feelings and meanings. Many different stories can be wrapped around mathematics, including science fiction, history, stories of adventure, fairy tales and detective stories. Similarly, different types of mathematics such as arithmetic, measurement, statistics, and algebra can be embedded in the oral narrative through problem solving, algorithms, concepts and communication. Literature and storytelling can enrich mathematics education. Why not design your own whodunit, or fictional quest, where answering mathematical problems and questions allows the sleuth to decode answers to solve the mystery? (6) You dancing? You asking? There are many cross-curricular possibilities with mathematics and dance. Students can discover topological ideas while learning different dancing positions in salsa. They can use maypole dancing to investigate geometric patterns or folk dancing links with group theory and permutations. There are multiple possibilities and permutations to connect ideas and patterns in mathematics with dance. Here’s a way for students to learn about patterns and geometry through the medium of dance. Groups make up different clapping patterns which can then be combined to create a unique rhythm. Each group then creates a simple dance, to form a geometric shape of their own choosing. To follow on from this, the groups perform a mathematical transformation through dance. For example, one group performs a translation, by using dance moves to glide across the floor, whilst maintaining their geometric shape. A second group performs a rotation and a third, performs a reflection, again choreographed with dance moves. Finally, all the choreography is brought together as groups perform their mathematical transformations and their clapping rhythms simultaneously. Developing spatial awareness, collecting data and recognising mathematics in daily life is invaluable. (7) Maths and sports Statistics and probability play an important role in sports. In basketball, mathematics is used to calculate average points a player scores in a game, while mathematics is used in bowling to find out how many points were scored in each frame. The importance of player statistics is becoming more central in GAA, football and rugby. The probability of a particular athlete or team winning is just mathematics. (8) The arts’ equation   Mathematical tools are used in an essential way in the creation of art, architecture and in design. A simple example, that also connects art and mathematics, is where children can use partially completed diagrams to come up with the formula for the numbers to populate Pascal’s triangle. The activity can then be developed further through the medium of art with groups of children participating in a "colour by numbers" activity to create four Pascal’s Triangles, which when joined together form the image of a 3-D cube. A follow-on activity could involve students in discovering the many hidden number patterns that lie within Pascal’s triangle, again through the medium of art. (9) Maths in nature The Fibonacci sequence is where each number in the sequence is found by adding up the two numbers before it (ie the sequence of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 etc). Students could be introduced to the Fibonacci sequence by connecting mathematics and nature. The Fibonacci numbers are evident in some patterns, which occur naturally in nature. Many plants and trees replicate the Fibonacci sequence in their growth patterns. In some plants, the arrangement of leaves around a stem follows the Fibonacci sequence, while many trees exhibit the Fibonacci sequence in their growth points where branches are formed. Using craftwork to create a tree, which reflects the Fibonacci sequence, allows students to express their creativity while learning mathematics. Encourage children to work in groups, to figure out the Fibonacci sequence for themselves, given only a set of cards containing the relevant numbers. The children can develop their knowledge by participating in an arts and crafts activity during which they each design a leaf or a flower to create a "Fibonacci Tree" (see below). In assembling the tree, the students should ensure that the growing patterns of both the branches and leaves follow the Fibonacci sequence. (10) Vroom vroom The three concepts of distance, speed and time bring together mathematics and science. Developing spatial awareness, collecting data and recognising mathematics in daily life is invaluable. As an example of this, children are introduced to the concepts of distance, speed and time in class and for the follow-on activity 1m strips of cardboard are covered in a variety of different materials such as cooking foil, cotton and cloth. Children use a dinky car and a smartphone to calculate the speed of the car over the different surfaces and record their findings. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Friday, 17 November 2017

News: a NUI Galway film about people living with with Parkinson's disease has won a New York film festival award Feats Of Modest Valour is an award-winning documentary chronicling the lives of three people managing the physical reality of living with Parkinson’s disease. Produced by CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway and directed by Mia Mullarkey and Alice McDowell for Ishka Films, it won the Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York for portraying the life of a scientist in an accurate and inventive way.  The film features Co Mayo farmer Brian Carney, Croatian second World War survivor Milena Lulic and Irish actor Tom Hickey talking about how they deal with the disease. We also meet researchers from CÚRAM, led by Dr Eilís Dowd, working on a therapeutic approach which they hope will revolutionise treatment of the condition. This is done by delving into the brain of someone with Parkinson’s disease and showing how dying cells can be replaced by stem cells supported by a natural biomaterial scaffold.  "This is a film about science and medicine, about scientists and patients, about art and music, but most of all, about hope", explained Dr Dowd. "It was a genuine privilege to work on this project with such talented filmmakers and such inspirational patients."  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Analysis: Fontanelle, the soft spot in an infant’s skull, opens up a new window into the brain activity of newborns. By James Blackwell, Niall Colgan and Michel Destrade, NUI Galway In a world first, a team of French and Swiss researchers have obtained real-time functional 3D images of newborn babies’ brains. They’ve done this by placing an ultra-fast ultrasound probe on the baby’s fontanelle, the soft spot opening in the skull of infants. Functional imaging allows the assessment of the oxygenated blood flow in the brain. Some newborns, especially premature babies, have an increased risk of brain lesion and it is very important to monitor their brain activity during their first weeks. This is usually done by EEG (Electroencephalography), which records electric changes, but does not provide the location of abnormal activity. Alternatively, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) can provide high-resolution pictures using blood oxygen level dependency as a measure of the brain’s activity. The patient must lie perfectly still for a long duration, but it’s hard to convince a newborn baby to do just that However, there are a number of drawbacks to the latter technique that make it unsuitable for babies. It uses standard MRI scanners and the patient must lie perfectly still for a long duration for accurate measurements, but it’s hard to convince a newborn baby to do just that. The scan itself is lengthy and can be accompanied by a heating effect that newborns may not be able to regulate. Finally, MRI also requires moving an infant from a sterile maternity environment into the general hospital, which is impractical and costly for newborns. By contrast, ultrasound imaging is routinely used in pregnancy and is fast and painless. One of its limitations is that it cannot penetrate bone so the main use of ultrasound in brain imaging for accurate measurements has been limited to neurosurgery, once a part of the skull has been removed.  A newborn’s skull is not fully fused and two spaces between the bones of an infant's skull called fontanelles exist for about six months However, a newborn’s skull is not fully fused and two spaces between the bones of an infant's skull called fontanelles exist for about six months where the sutures intersect. They are covered by tough membranes that protect the underlying soft tissues and brain, but are soft enough to allow the ultrasound to penetrate. A team of researchers from the Institut Langevin at the Robert Debré University Hospital in Paris and the Children’s University Hospital of Genevahave devised an ultrasound probe capable of recording 10,000 images per seconds through the fontanelle. In fact, they were able to determine the resting metabolic activity of babies at the bedside using the blood oxygen levels as a contrast.   The researchers managed to see tiny veins and slow blood flows in the brains of about ten infants. They believe this technique will allow pediatric doctors to monitor infant brain activity and link it (or not) to early-life events such as blood pressure drop, seizures or the taking of medical drugs. Their findingshave just appeared in the journal Science-Translational Medicine. Neuroscientists need improved, non-invasive methods to inform medical decisions and treatments According to the World Health Organization, more than one in ten babies are born prematurely each year. Given that the chances of severe disability increase with the level of prematurity, neuroscientists need improved, non-invasive methods to inform medical decisions and treatments. Chief physicist Brendan Tuohy has referred to "functional ultrasound as a major advancement in neuroimaging" and that it will "allow for convenient continual monitoring of the activity and resting state in paediatric practice, providing new insights into neurodevelopment, neuroprotection and repair of the developing brain" Ultrasound scanning provides a more cost-effective and widely available method of determining brain activity at a fraction of the cost of MRI. Using safe repeatable brain imaging to determine the structure, function, and metabolic function of the brain during illness and early days of life could provide key insights into the role and development of the newborns.   James Blackwell, is studying Applied Physics at NUI Galway. Niall Colganis a Lecturer in Medical Physics at NUI Galway and a Clinical Medical Physicist at University Hospital Galway. Michel Destrade, is Chair of Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here  

Friday, 24 November 2017

Opinion: this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign focuses on education and that also means looking at what's happening in Irish schools and third-level institutions By Stacey Scriver and Lindsey Bacigal, NUI Galway The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign began at Rutgers University in 1991 as an annual international campaign to communicate the message that gender-based violence is a violation of fundamental human rights. This campaign brings together activists, government leaders, students, academia and the private sector across the world to demand an end to gender-based violence. The 2017 theme is "‘Together We Can End GBV in Education" and it 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. Gender-based violence in education is a global issue affecting all states, cultures and regions, all genders, and in all levels of education. It can manifest in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment and assault, bullying of LGBTQI+ individuals, dating violence, and unfair and unequal treatment of students due to their gender or sexual identity. Perpetrators include teachers, lecturers and other staff, students, partners and acquaintances of students, and non-affiliated persons who target those in education, for instance while they travel to and from school. Such experiences are common. A multi-country study led by NUI Galway’s Global Women’s Studies programme on the economic and social costs of violence found that 51 percent of adult women surveyed in Ghana who had attended an educational institute in the last 12 months had experienced some form of educational violence. In South Sudan and Pakistan, figures were 82 percent and 18 percent respectively. Another study in Peru found that almost 50 percent of female students had experienced some form of violence by their partner in the past 12 months. Experiences of gender-based violence have serious and often long-term impacts, including psychological, physical, social and educational impacts The Irish experience Violence in education is not only a problem for the global south. Evidence shows that men and women in Ireland are also impacted by violence in and around educational institutes. A recent USI survey of students at third-level institutes in Ireland found that nearly one in five women surveyed experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience during their time at college. A survey of 4,000 young people in the LGBTQI+ community found that 70 percent disagreed that schools were safe places. Furthermore, one in five stated that they had been harassed and bullied in public areas, including schools. Experiences of gender-based violence have serious and often long-term impacts, including psychological, physical, social and educational impacts. In interviews conducted as part of the Rape and Justice in Ireland project, survivors in third level education described the impact on their studies: missed classes due to the presence of perpetrators (other students), fear of becoming distressed during class, lost concentration, and, for some, dropping out of courses. Similar evidence was found in Peru where students who had experienced violence had higher rates of presenteeism and absenteeism, higher rates of course failure and were more likely to consider dropping out. These impacts result in reduced future opportunities, meaning that the negative impact of gender-based violence in education spreads through the economy and society. Education is a human right and essential to achieving goals of equality, development and peace and governments and institutions have an obligation to ensure a safe environment for students. Across the world there have been innovative attempts to address this issue. The What Works to Prevent Violence Program, supports and evaluates interventions to identify the most effective means to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. On the agenda Projects include the Right to Play Intervention in Pakistan, a schools-based sport and play programme which trains teachers to challenge the acceptability of violence against women and girls and to work with children to shift social norms that perpetuate and condone violence. In Kenya, the Women and Girls Empowerment and Boys Transformation Program to Prevent VAWG targets school aged children to prevent sexual violence. In Ireland’s third level sector, initiatives have been developed to reduce sexual violence by building a deeper understanding of consent in relationships. For instance, NUI Galway is piloting ‘Smart Consent’ workshops and leading on this training, working with other higher education institutes to roll it out nationally. Gender-based violence in education is a global issue affecting all states, cultures and regions, all genders, and in all levels of education Raising awareness and knowing the problem is an important step to addressing it. Towards this end, the the Centre for Global Women's Studies at NUI Galway is organising a series of events during the 16 days of the campaign. The events include a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook, a talk on sexual violence in Irish educational institutions on November 29 and a guided walk that brings participants through the campus, to highlight various issues regarding gender-based violence in education on December 6. This latter event will be held on the anniversary of the "Montreal Massacre", where 14 female students were murdered at Montreal’s École Polytechnique, and will culminate in a ceremonial lighting of the Quadrangle as part of "Orange the World" initiative. NUI Galway President, Dr. James Brown, VP for Equality and Diversity, Professor Anne Scott and Prof. Niamh Reilly, one of the originators of the 16 Days Campaign at Rutgers University, will provide addresses. 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. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 30 November 2017

A scientist from NUI Galway recently took part in a research sampling expedition at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in Northern Ukraine, to sample its soils and investigate what effect the 30 years of exposure to radiation has had on the soil’s microorganisms that inhabit this particular area. DNA from these soils will be sequenced using cutting-edge techniques to reveal in minute detail its population of bacteria and will provide results in early 2018. The outcomes will help determine why radiation is persisting in the soil, and offer new clues as to how to speed up recovery of the ecosystem. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant explosion in 1986, the most well-known nuclear accident in the world, deposited excess radioactive material throughout Europe. To this day, parts of Scandinavia and the British Islands have higher than expected levels of radiation in their soil due to contamination from Chernobyl. Near the exploded reactor, in the border between the Ukraine and Belarus, soil radiation continues to reach high levels, and a large area has been set aside as a conservation area to isolate communities from the radioactive contamination called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Despite a substantial decrease in background radiation levels since the accident, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone region remains highly contaminated with radioactive material, particularly its soils and aquatic sediments. Intriguingly, the persistence of specific radioactive compounds in this Zone’s soil greatly exceeds initial projections. The most contaminated area within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is the Red Forest, whose name is derived from the red colour of the dying trees following the disaster. In September 2016 a forest fire burned through the Red Forest, leaving patches of burned and unburned vegetation. The combination of forest fire and radiation made the Red Forest an open-air laboratory for the study of the effect of multiple environmental stresses on ecosystems. Microbiologist, Dr Alexandre B de Menezes from the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway met with colleagues from the University of Salford, the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the Ukraine’s Chernobyl Centre at the Red Forest where they sampled the radioactive soils. Speaking about the research, Dr de Menezes from NUI Galway, said: “The Red Forest soil is a reservoir of radioactive particles, but we know next to nothing about how soil microorganisms cope with 30 plus years of radiation exposure. This research will not only teach us about the effects of the Chernobyl disaster on these microorganisms, but also reveal basic knowledge about how microorganisms, which are often ignored when we think of ecological disasters, help to sustain an entire ecosystem under great environmental stress.” The soil DNA was extracted at the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and will now be used for DNA sequencing. Dr de Menezes will use bacterial DNA sequences from the Red Forest soil to provide insights into whether some bacteria are associated with higher soil radiation, determine if the soil bacterial communities in high radiation areas were more sensitive to the forest fire disturbance and identify new biological mechanisms that could aid in controlling soil radiation. The recent nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, and rising geopolitical tension have re-surfaced concerns regarding the impact of radioactive contamination on communities and ecosystems. This increased threat highlights the need to understand the long-term impacts of catastrophic nuclear accidents and their ecosystems to enable effective containment and remediation measures to be developed. This study is partly funded by the British Ecological Society. -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Flag - A new taxi app designed for students will launch in Dublin City this December. The unique app is the only service in the world that allows a passenger to travel and pay for taxis with no phone, cash or bank card while ensuring the driver still gets paid. Flag originally started out as a college project called Dash while inventor Richie Commins was a final year Business Information Systems student at NUI Galway. Since graduating, Richie has combined business graduates and experienced engineers with taxi industry experience from the US and Romania, to upgrade the software into the version the App is today. The latest member recruited to the Flag team is the original founder of GoCar.ie, Michael Newham. The app is available in app stores as ‘Flag – The Taxi App’. This is similar to other taxi apps that allow you to get a taxi, however a feature unique to Flag is what is called “The wallet-less feature” where users are required to upload a photo ID and create a personal digit pin code to secure an account. If a situation arises such as a user's phone is dead, the user simply flags a taxi off the street, gives the driver their name and enters the four digit pin on the driver app. The user’s photo appears on the driver’s phone to confirm identity before the fare begins. Payment is processed from the user’s pre-registered card as normal upon arrival at the user’s destination. The creative and innovative app boasts pin point location, tracking and accurate ‘estimated time of arrival’ as well as extra safety features such as the wallet-less payment (the only taxi app in the world to provide this service). Richie has gained support from Enterprise Ireland, Nissan, AIB and many other organisations. Richie said: “I was lucky to eventually get a Chief Technology Officer who manages our large team of engineers to get the app ready for drivers and passengers in both iOS and android. When I started this in college we didn’t even have an app for the students.” An Garda Síochana also supported the project from the early days through their Campus Watch Programme at NUI Galway. Sergeant Pat Flanagan, Officer for Crime Prevention said: “The taxis that have integrated this app have really shown they care about passengers, and hopefully all taxis will soon be branded with the safety it brings.” The project has gathered an incredible momentum since the team were students. The team has decided to focus efforts on launching the upgraded app, Flag, in Dublin only. To show their gratitude for driver support and to encourage more drivers to see how good the app is, Flag will not be charging drivers any commission this Christmas. Flag plans to roll out across the country later in 2018. -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia at NUI Galway is hosting a number of experts in dementia from across the world this week to speak to early career researchers about issues in dementia care, and helping to grow capacity and leadership in the dementia sector in Ireland and internationally. The Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia carries out cutting edge research in economic and social areas to help improve the lives of people with dementia and their families. It is hoped that by generating evidence through research that the quality of life for people with dementia and their families can be improved, enabling them to remain living well at home for as long as possible. It is estimated that there are about 55,000 people living with dementia today in Ireland. This number is likely to double in the next 15 years to over 100,000 people. The total economic and social cost of dementia in Ireland is estimated to be just under €2 billion per year. Most people with dementia live in the community where access to services and supports often depend on where the person is living. Research shows that better services and supports in the community can enable people with dementia to remain living at home for longer. Issues of how to best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population were addressed by the Citizen’s Assembly earlier this year. Professor Eamon O’Shea, Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia, addressed the Assembly last June and spoke about the sustainability of the care system in the longer term for an ageing population. Research conducted at the Centre will address some of the questions raised by the Citizen’s Assembly in relation to the care of older people in Ireland, particularly in relation to the funding of long-term care. Engagement with people with dementia, their families and carers is central to the work at the Centre. Professor O’Shea describes the importance of this engagement as, “the views of the person with dementia and their families on the personal experience of living with the disease are key to the success of the work at the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia and can change how we approach and think about the disease.” There are a number of research projects currently underway that engage with the person with dementia and their families. The Centre at NUI Galway is establishing a Dementia Advisory Forum which will bring together people with dementia and their families to inform the research. Dr Patricia Carney, a researcher at the Centre describes the Dementia Advisory Forum as, “a platform to give people with dementia a voice who want to help set the agenda for dementia research in Ireland and bring about change.” If you would like to take part in any aspect of the research or find out more about the ongoing work at the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia, visit: www.cesrd.ie -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

MaREI Researchers help win €9.39 million funding for GENCOMM project  An energy sustainability project in which NUI Galway is a key partner has been given the green light after winning an Interreg North-West Europe funding bid for the €9.39 million GENCOMM Project. GENCOMM aims to answer the energy sustainability challenges facing remote communities across North-West Europe through production and storage of renewable hydrogen. The project will build three pilot facilities fuelled by solar, wind and biomass energy sources to measure their ability to produce and store hydrogen. GENCOMM will assess hydrogen’s viability as a sustainable energy solution for heat, power and fuel for communities across North-West Europe. The NUI Galway research, led by MaREI (Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy) funded Investigator Dr Rory Monaghan, are charged with ensuring the long-term impact of GENCOMM by developing H2GO, an online tool to support investment decisions in hydrogen storage, and establishing CH2F, a community hydrogen energy forum, to drive the adoption of the technology. The project is led by Belfast Metropolitan College, and is one of the largest EU projects ever secured by a lead partner from Northern Ireland. On being awarded the Interreg North-West Europe Programme funding, Dr Monaghan, said: “With its exposure to the power of the Atlantic Ocean, NUI Galway and MaREI are at the centre of North-West Europe’s richest concentration of renewable energy potential. Storing that energy, converting it to a useful form, and transporting it to where it is needed are some of the biggest barriers to a sustainable future. By building pilot plants and applying the knowledge we gain through NUI Galway’s activities, GENCOMM aims to make a major impact on the viability of renewable energy.” Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “The scope of the project and the size of the award are testament to the strength and innovative nature of the project and the high calibre of partner organisations, as we seek to work together to deliver hydrogen-based solutions that will help address energy sustainability challenges to communities across North-West Europe.” NUI Galway is working in conjunction with nine universities and companies across Europe to deliver the GENCOMM Project, including: Belfast Metropolitan College, University Institut National des Sciences Appliquées Rouen Normandie, IZES gGmbH, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, ENSICAEN – CNRS, Pure Energy Centre Scotland, and three further companies in Northern Ireland; Viridian, TK Renewables, and Williams Industrial Services. The NUI Galway GENCOMM team from the College of Engineering and Informatics comprises of Dr Rory Monaghan (Leader), Dr Padraig Molloy and Dr Ed Curry (Co-Leads), Mr Arya Gunawan (PhD Researcher), and Ms Rjaa Ashraf and Mr Wells Tang (Masters researchers). For more information on Project GENCOMM, visit: http://www.nweurope.eu/gencomm/ -Ends-  

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Novel approach to help breast cancer patients’ post-mastectomy wins award An innovative approach to help breast cancer patients post-mastectomy has been awarded the Inaugural Allergan Innovation Award at NUI Galway. Dr Niamh O’Halloran, a researcher with the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, received the award for her project which seeks to use the body’s own cells to avoid complications with implants. The Allergan Award for Innovation, valued at €6,000 provides funding to accomplished scholars who wish to advance their innovative research studies in the field of Life Sciences. The winner was chosen from a competitive field of applicants among the postgraduate and PhD student community at NUI Galway. Allergan, headquartered in Dublin, is a global pharmaceutical company and a leader in a new industry model, Growth Pharma. The company with commercial operations in 100 countries worldwide, is focused on developing, manufacturing and commercialising branded pharmaceuticals, devices and biologic products for patients around the world. Allergan operates four facilities in Ireland, employing 1,800 people, two manufacturing operations, one in Westport, Co. Mayo and one in Clonshaugh, Co. Dublin, a medical technology company ZELTIQ Aesthetics in Galway, and an international supply chain office in Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin. Speaking about the award Paul Coffey, Vice President and Plant Manager of Allergan, Ireland, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with NUI Galway for this year’s Allergan Innovation Award and congratulations to Dr Niamh O’Halloran. To mark 40 successful years of business in Ireland, we wanted to build on our longstanding relationships with communities through providing educational support to universities and colleges around the country, by reaffirming our commitment to the future of Life Sciences.  We wanted to recognise and support scholars who have excelled through innovation research in this field. We hope that this Innovation Award will inspire more students who wish to establish themselves within the field. Collaborating with a prestigious university, such as NUI Galway is an exciting initiative for all involved, and we look forward to the positive results and experiences it will bring for students and for our industry.” Breast cancer is a global pandemic, with the National Cancer Registry predicting that by 2020 there will be approximately 5,000 new cases in Ireland per annum. Despite advances in oncology and the dawn of the molecular era in cancer diagnosis and treatment, an estimated forty per cent of breast cancer patients require mastectomy. Immediate breast reconstruction has become an integral part of breast cancer care, affording psychosocial and aesthetic benefits. However, implants are not without their limitations and the response of the immune system to foreign materials in the human body can lead to complications. Dr Niamh O’Halloran from the School of Medicine at NUI Galway, said: “We want to develop a method of coating implants with a gel biomaterial which incorporates elements of the patient’s own fat tissue. The hydrogel is based on hyaluronic acid, most commonly seen these days in skin creams and beauty products. The patient’s own cells will grow on the gel, thus reducing scar tissue formation which leads to implant related complications.” “The aim is to develop biocompatible prosthetic implants preventing complications such as capsular contracture, implant extrusion and implant rupture and will negate the requirement of regular implant exchange. We hope this will reduce patient morbidity and operation costs significantly over time. A biocompatible implant coated with cellular tissue will also result in improved cosmetic outcomes for the patient, giving the patient a better quality of life”, added Dr O’Halloran. Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, commented: “Allergan are supporting a truly innovative concept here, which although at early stages of development, holds out real hope for patients. The calibre of applications for this award was very high, and I congratulate Dr O’Halloran on her success.” Dr Niamh O’ Halloran graduated from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway in 2014 and took up a research post with the University’s School of Medicine in 2015. She has also been awarded the Future Projects Prize at the 2017 Society of Academic and Research Surgery Annual Meeting for her work on the use of tissue engineering strategies in breast reconstruction post-mastectomy. -Ends-  

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Professor John Laffey, Investigator at CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices and Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway, has published a paper in The British Medical Journal outlining strategies to improve recognition, awareness and diagnosis of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is an acute inflammatory lung injury, often caused by infection, which can result in respiratory failure. Around 40% of patients with ARDS do not survive, and others experience serious long-term health consequences. No drug treatments exist for ARDS, however good supportive management and careful support of organ function reduces harm and improves outcomes for patients. ARDS is incorrectly considered to be rare, in particular by clinicians less familiar with intensive care units. Delayed or failed recognition of ARDS leads to delayed treatment or no treatment at all and under-recognition is linked to under treatment. The LUNG SAFE study (29,000 patients in 459 intensive care units in 50 countries), which was jointly led by Professor Laffey, allowed for retrospective diagnosis of ARDS by researchers using clinical data, independent of the treating clinicians. The study reported that 40% of cases of ARDS were not recognised at any time during a patient’s stay in the intensive care unit. Delayed diagnosis was the norm, with less than 30% of patients diagnosed on the first day that criteria were present. Although this evidence is new and compelling, the issue is not new, Professor Laffey, explains: “Failure to recognise ARDS leads to failure to use proven treatments, and this translates into higher chances of death, and a worse quality of life for patients who survive. Issues such as cognitive impairment, muscle wasting, and functional limitation in patients are some common consequences.” Diagnosis of ARDS relies on recognising patterns in patients with evolving illness and receiving complex care. The interpretation of chest radiography in ARDS can be poor, and substantial inter-observer variation has been documented. Further difficulties arise with the lack of consensus around a definition of ARDS. “Increased awareness of the condition among clinicians, patients and their relatives raises the likelihood of diagnosis. Over 20% of ventilated patients in intensive care units have ARDS, but it should be considered in any sick patient with respiratory distress, whether in the community, in an emergency department, or hospital ward. If we can detect these patients earlier, ideally on first presentation to the hospital, we can intervene earlier, and potentially improve outcome,” added Professor Laffey. The co-authors of the study from the University of Toronto were Professor Brian Kavanagh and Professor Cheryl Misak, an ARDS survivor. Evidence based strategies for improving outcomes for patients with ARDS are outlined in the paper, which is available at http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.j5055. -Ends-

Friday, 24 November 2017

Margaretta D’Arcy has donated her papers and those of her late husband and playwright John Arden to NUI Galway. The archive throws new light on two pivotal but under-researched figures of 20th and 21st century Irish and British theatre. It also features strongly the activism of both Arden and D’Arcy. John Arden was one of the major dramatists of the twentieth century, with early plays such as Sergeant Musgrave's Dance (1960) helping to inaugurate a new era of politically engaged theatre in Britain at theatres like London’s Royal Court. During a long career of writing and activism, he published several plays and essays, and his novel Silence Among the Weapons was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1983. Margaretta D’Arcy is a major writer and cultural activist who has long campaigned on issues related to global peace, civil liberties, and equality. She is a member of Aosdána. Arden and D’Arcy together also co-authored many plays, including the celebrated Non-Stop Connolly Show, and have been major figures in the development of community-based and politically-focussed arts. Their papers are valuable not only from the perspective of theatre and literary Studies, but in terms of Irish and British social, political and cultural history.  This archive preserves not only the work of two eminent artists, but the history of a long-ranging and complex political and artistic collaboration. The political themes of their work in relationship to capitalism, industry, war and the legacies of colonialism remain timely and indeed urgent for scholars and theatre practitioners working today. The international dimension of their work (whether through collaborations with Welsh and Scottish theatre companies among others, their trip to India or their globally minded activism) further establishes NUI Galway and the West of Ireland as an international centre for the advancement of the study of theatre and drama. The collection consists of 314 boxes of archival material, as well as 35 linear metres of books, and covers all aspects of their lives, including family background, education, their writings and their activism. Highlights include detailed drafts of The Non-Stop Connolly Show and the memoirs of Margaretta, including her protests at Armagh Jail, Greenham Common and Shannon Airport. There is a wealth of material on community activism from the local to the international, including Radio Pirate Woman and Galway Women’s Entertainment, Aosdána, Northern Ireland, Global Women’s Strike, and many more campaigns. Unique among the University’s collections as a record of writing, theatre and activism, it will add greatly to its holdings of cultural and political collections, including the John McGahern Collection, the Lyric Theatre/O’Malley Collection, the Siobhán McKenna Collection and the Ruairí Ó Brádaigh Collection. The University will mark the bequest of the Arden and D’Arcy archive on Friday 24 November in the O’Donoghue Centre for Theatre, Drama and Performance. Speakers at the launch of the archive will include Margaretta D’Arcy as well as Galway musician and cultural activist, Mary Coughlan. Finn Arden, son of Margaretta and John, will be among the attendees. A symposium titled Political Theatre in Britain and Ireland Since 1950: the Legacies of John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy will be followed by a public interview with Margaretta D’Arcy. Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies Patrick Lonergan warmly welcomed the donation of these papers to the university. “John Arden and Margaretta D’Arcy’s archive will be of immense value for both teaching and research in this univeristy. Their achievements expose several blindspots in our understanding of the relationship between theatre and politics – especially relating to such issues as imperialism, community activism, socialism, and gender equality. Their commitment to co-authorship and to the use of theatre to achieve social justice offers new models for understanding how theatre can be made and understood. And fundamentally this archive will allow us to do the work of redressing the major neglect of both Arden and D’Arcy. Exciting times lie ahead for our students and researchers.” Dr Jim Browne reflecting on the legacy of Margaretta D’Arcy and John Arden said that they had made an enormous contribution over many decades to Irish society, to international cultural discourse and to political theatre.  Theirs are “voices of conscience that have questioned the orthodoxies of our time.  It is fitting that their archive will be based in NUI Galway.  Universities have always been places where differing opinions can be discussed and challenged.  This is important - perhaps never more so than today, when in an age of “fake news” universities need to remind themselves of the need for all valid and informed views to be heard.  Dissenting voices are a way of stress-testing the truth and challenging received opinion.  The lives and works of Margaretta Darcy and John Arden stand as inspiration to us in this regard.” Margaretta D’Arcy comments: “A veritable feast awaits those who will be attending the handover to NUI Galway of some of the archive materials of John Arden and myself on 24th November.  It is hoped that the entire collection, including audio and video material will be eventually housed there. The indefatigable Mary Coughlan,   Blues singer and participant in Arden/D’Arcy’s theatrical endeavours, will speak at the launch. There will also be a symposium on Irish and British Theatre since the 1950’s after which I will be interviewed by Maggie Ronayne from the Discipline of Archaeology at NUI Galway. The interview will cover the importance of looking at the Arden/D’Arcy archives with an archaeological, social and political slant.” John Cox, University Librarian, notes that “It is an honour to receive the papers of Margaretta D’Arcy and John Arden and to add them to our growing collection of archives in theatre and drama. This is a very generous donation by Margaretta and I have no doubt that there will be great interest in the papers as a source of new insights into her cultural activism. They will be a great resource for academic staff and students at the University and we will also welcome visitors to use them.” ENDS

Thursday, 23 November 2017

NUI Galway Ryan Institute scientists lever over €800,000 in research infrastructure investment by Marine Institute The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, this week announced the awarding of grant funding through the Marine Institute to research projects in specialist marine equipment to six scientists from NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute. The funding awards of over €800,000 will strengthen the Ryan Institute’s research capabilities in a range of research areas including aquaculture, climate change, biogeochemistry and using autonomous systems for upper ocean profiling. The funding grants have been made in the area of specialist marine equipment and small infrastructure from the Marine Institute. Minister Michael Creed, said: “I’m delighted to announce these funding grants which herald the next step forward for many new projects in our marine sector. The funding for marine research equipment helps to target a gap in funding that exists between supports available to Higher Education Institutes via the HEA and support from Ireland’s development agencies such as SFI and Enterprise Ireland. These grants will allow the marine research and innovation community to purchase specialist equipment needed to support their current and future research activities.” Welcoming the funding awards, Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Research infrastructure funding is critical for Ireland’s research community to maintain and advance its international competitiveness. Such infrastructure will foster research collaboration and partnerships with both public and private sector partners, nationally and internationally. The Ryan Institute’s research community really welcome this infrastructure funding support from the Marine Institute, which provides the basis to further develop our research excellence and socioeconomic impact in marine and aquatic sciences and innovation.” Marine Institute Research Infrastructure Investment Award Recipients   Professor Peter Croot - Analysis of Trace Metals in Seawater for Marine Research Professor Charles Spillane - Smart Aquaculture Feeding Trials Research Infrastructure Dr Audrey Morley - Particle Size Analyser for Transdisciplinary Research in Marine Sciences Professor Olivier Thomas - Marine Chiroptics Professor Paul Murphy - Continuous Flow Chemistry Equipment for Sugar Research Professor Peter Croot - Analysis of climate relevant gases in seawater Dr Brian Ward - Next generation of Autonomous Upper Ocean Profiling Platform -Ends-

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The winners of the nationwide ReelLIFE SCIENCE video competition were announced during science week 2017 which concluded nationally last week. Winners of the 2017 awards were Sooey Primary School, Co. Sligo, Davitt College in Castlebar, Co. Mayo and Corofin Foróige group from Corofin, Co. Galway. 25 fifth and sixth class students from Sooey National School dramatised the battle invading bacteria face when they meet the immune system in their video ‘How the Immune System Works’. A group of 11 Davitt College Transition Year students explored the use of forensics in the entertaining whodunnit ‘The Death of Paul Donovan’ while five members of the Corofin Foróige group used animation to produce ‘The Immune System Simplified’. Based in NUI Galway and supported by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover programme, the Community Knowledge Initiative and the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices, ReelLIFE SCIENCE challenges Irish schools and community to communicate science via engaging and educational short videos. This challenge was met by more than 1,500 students in 83 schools and groups around Ireland, producing over 180 short science videos on a range of topics in both English and Irish. Selecting the best videos to share the €5000 prize fund were Trinity College Dublin Professor and Royal Society Fellow Luke O’Neill, BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year 2017, Shane Curran from Terenure College Dublin and NASA Spacecraft systems engineer and aspiring astronaut Amber Gell, who said “all of these students should feel like winners, because they did an exceptional job with their entries. I had a lot of fun watching the videos and learning more about their favourite science concepts. You’re only as good as your competition and the ReelLIFE SCIENCE competition clearly brings out the best in us. It stirs a healthy public interest in science and inspires so many great minds to compete.” Other prize winners included: St Hugh’s National School from Dowra, Co. Leitrim Gaelscoil Riabhach from Loughrea, Co. Galway Coláiste Muire, Ennis, Co. Clare Coláiste Lorcáin, Castledermot, Co. Kildare Olivia Ng from the BrainMatTrain programme Keira Corcoran from the Westside Youth Project, Galway City All videos can be viewed at www.reellifescience.com  and will be shown to the general public as part of the Galway Science and Technology Exhibition, held in NUI Galway on Sunday, 26 November. Since launching in 2013, over 8,500 students in 300 schools and community groups around Ireland have taken part in ReelLIFE SCIENCE. The videos produced have been viewed more than 100,000 times in over 100 countries worldwide. ReelLIFE SCIENCE is organised by NUI Galway’s Dr Enda O’Connell and a team of 100 science communication enthusiasts, in collaboration with the Cell EXPLORERS outreach programme from the NUI Galway School of Natural Sciences. Dr O’Connell said: “We were thrilled again this year with the reaction to the competition, particularly with so many new schools and community groups getting involved for the first time. We are always inspired by the knowledge and creativity shown by the participants in their videos and their passion for science and technology is clear to see. Congratulations to everyone who took part.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

NUI Galway has announced the appointment of a leading expert in environmental biotechnology, Professor Piet Lens, Established Professor of New Energy Technologies at the University’s College of Science. Professor Lens will spearhead a €5 million research project, through an investment under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship Programme, to develop novel bioreactor concepts that will recover energy from waste and wastewater. The project will add new biofuels generated from waste products to Ireland’s energy mix, and in turn support the Government’s strategy for an energy self-sufficient Irish bioeconomy. Biotechnology harnesses organisms from natural environments to provide foods and medicines and for tasks such as cleaning toxic waste or detecting harmful substances. New technologies have enabled modern biotechnology to become an important part of the ‘smart economy’ in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, the food industry and the environment. Speaking about Professor Lens’ appointment, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Lens as he joins our vibrant research community here in Galway. Professor Lens is recognised as a world-leader in the area of environmental engineering and his appointment is an invaluable addition to the ongoing energy research at NUI Galway. His research will develop new technologies to generate energy which will positively impact sustainable food production, environmental protection and climate change.’ There is much media debate about methane emissions from Ireland’s agricultural industry. Cutting-edge technologies can take waste products and use them to produce fuel and other valuable products, while reducing pathogen levels and greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable, biomethane is an important energy source in countries like France, Germany and the UK, while in Ireland preparations are at an advanced stage for State-support incentives for energy production in this way. Within the NUI Galway Ryan Institute, Professor Lens’ programme of work will focus on four components of biotechnology; Research into new bacteria from marine and deep sea sediments for potential energy generation; Demonstrating how bioenergy production processes work using novel analytical techniques and innovative mathematical models; Developing new bioreactor configurations and process trains to make the energy production processes work; Application at pilot and full-scale industrial sites to translate the research findings into marketable bioenergy production technologies, including patenting and licencing. This work is very much aligned with the environmental dimension of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on the sustainable management of natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change. Commenting on his appointment, Professor Piet Lens, said: “Receipt of such a significant grant provides an important opportunity to create an enormous impact in the field of bioenergy production. I’m extremely delighted to be awarded this Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship at NUI Galway, which has a long standing reputation as a world-class research hub in the field of anaerobic digestion and environmental microbiology. I’m committed to contributing to further developments in this area and to supporting a strong national and international network of academic and industrial partners linked to this university.” Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “It is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of Professor Piet Lens to NUI Galway through the SFI Research Professorship Programme. Professor Lens is a world-leading researcher dedicated to developing novel bioprocesses for the recovery of resources such as energy, metals and nutrients from waste. His work will contribute to the greening of our economy and Ireland’s energy sector, and will support the implementation of a circular economy in Ireland through the invention and application of new technologies. His appointment epitomises Science Foundation Ireland’s commitment to fund world-class research with impact in the energy and environment sectors.” Professor Lens will collaborate nationally with research teams in NUI Galway, the MaREI and BEACON Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres, and the Energy and Dairy Processing Technology Centres. Professor Lens will lead a Seminar entitled ‘Trends in Environmental Biotechnology’ on Thursday 23 November at NUI Galway. To hear Professor Lens speak about his project, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2eVd--_7y4 -Ends-

Thursday, 23 November 2017

EY announced its sponsorship of TechInnovate, an entrepreneurship development fellowship at NUI Galway. During the 10-month programme, teams of three entrepreneurs will identify real customer issues and develop innovative solutions to address these issues. As well as helping employees drive innovation and change inside established technology companies on the western seaboard, TechInnovate aims to produce more entrepreneurs who will enable innovations in local start-ups. The full-time stipend supported programme combines teams of high-calibre Fellows from either an engineering, business or design graduate background. Team members are chosen to contribute their skills, knowledge and expertise as part of a multidisciplinary Fellowship team. Dr John Breslin, Director of TechInnovate, and lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “TechInnovate’s entrepreneurship development process starts with a multidisciplinary team of professionals, the engineer, businessperson and designer, who select a market for their initial idea or innovation, and then identify customer needs through extensive market research. The value created for the customer is defined, along with customer acquisition strategies and product/company economics. This is followed by a plan for product design, development and scaling. Our Fellows will be able to apply the skills they learn over and over again.” Commenting on the sponsorship, Paraic Waters, Tax Director, EY Galway, said: “EY is delighted to sponsor TechInnovate. Having established our Galway office in June 2016, we have seen the valuable work NUI Galway is doing to promote entrepreneurship up close. There are some incredibly exciting and successful entrepreneurs operating on the western seaboard. We are very proud to have two winners in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 from Connaught with Galway’s Evelyn O’Toole, founder of CLS winning the industry category and Mayo’s Harry Hughes from Portwest winning the international category and the overall prize.” “We have seen a surge in the number of start-ups and large multinationals locating in Galway in recent years. With a strong network of third level institutions, relatively low costs and the quality of life on offer for employees, the West of Ireland is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities to attract investment arising from events such as Brexit. Programmes like TechInnovate also help to foster a friendlier ecosystem for entrepreneurs”, Mr Waters added. As part of the sponsorship of TechInnovate and EY’s ongoing commitment to developing entrepreneurship, EY will deliver a number of knowledge-sharing workshops during the programme. This will include sessions on developing entrepreneurial expertise and crucial business skills from a number of EY experts. EY staff will also be trained in the TechInnovate process and bring the skills they learn back to the business to help drive innovation. Galway has long been recognised as a hub for business and innovation, with the county ranked as one of the top incubator locations for medical devices worldwide, and the home to some of the world’s leading ICT and Life Science companies. The talent developed in programmes like TechInnovate will add to this. TechInnovate is a joint initiative from the College of Engineering and Informatics and the College of Business, Public Policy and Law at NUI Galway. The programme is supported by EY, the Galway University Foundation, NUI Galway, and the Western Development Commission. -Ends-

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Neuroscientists at NUI Galway have made a breakthrough in regenerative medicine approaches to the neurodegenerative condition Parkinson’s disease. The research was published today (22 November) in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports. Parkinson’s is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration in ability. The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement. Brain repair for Parkinson’s involves replacing the dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells back into the brain, but the widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hindered by the poor survival of the implanted cells. The research, carried out by a team at the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has shown that the survival of the transplanted cells is dramatically improved if they are implanted within a supportive matrix made from the natural material collagen. Commenting on the research, lead author of the research paper, Dr Eilis Dowd at NUI Galway, said: “The collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process.” The work will be presented at the upcoming Network for European CNS Transplantation and Restoration (NECTAR) conference which is being hosted by Dr Dowd in Dublin from the 6–8 December 2017. The event will feature leading scientists from the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, who will present their latest research on brain repair for Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s. This NUI Galway research was also presented recently at the International Neural Transplantation and Repair (INTR) conference in Port Douglas, Australia by Niamh Moriarty, the PhD student working on the project. Niamh was awarded a highly competitive Travel Award from the Campaign for Alzheimer’s Research in Europe which enabled her to present her work at this leading international event. The research was recently featured in the short documentary Feats of Modest Valour, produced through CÚRAM’s Science on Screen programme. The film won the coveted Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York in October, and was screened on RTÉ One for Science Week 2017. The documentary is available to watch on the RTÉ Player until 11 December 2017. This research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and a Government of Ireland Irish Research Council PhD Scholarship to Niamh Moriarty. -Ends-

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Céimeanna oinigh le bronnadh ar bhunaitheoir carthanachta agus ar fhísithe na Féile Ealaíon Bronnfar céim ar bhreis is 1,450 mac léinn as na cúig choláiste in OÉ Gaillimh ag searmanais bhronnta an gheimhridh a bheidh ar siúl san Ollscoil ó Dé Máirt, an 21 go dtí Déardaoin, an 24 Samhain. Le linn na searmanas, bronnfar céimeanna oinigh ar fhísithe Fhéile Idirnáisiúnta Ealaíon na Gaillimhe, John Crumlish agus Paul Fahy, agus ar bhunaitheoir carthanachta áitiúil, Jack McCann. Mar aitheantas ar a bhfuil bainte amach aige sa phobal agus ar a obair charthanachta, bronnfar céim Dhochtúireachta le Dlíthe ar Jack McCann Dé Máirt, an 21 Samhain. Is máinlia plaisteach ar scor é Jack a d’oibrigh in Ospidéal na hOllscoile, Gaillimh, 1989-2010. In 2005 chomhbhunaigh sé an charthanacht, Irish Friends of Albania (Cairde na hAlbáine) agus téann sé ann faoi dhó sa bhliain le foireann oibrithe deonacha leighis chun oibriú in ospidéil. Ó 2002, tá na céadta obráidí déanta aige ar ghasúir agus ar dhaoine fásta chun míchumaí láimhe agus gortuithe dó a fheabhsú nó a cheartú dóibh.  Ina theannta sin, cuireann Jack ceardlanna oiliúna micreamháinliachta saor in aisce ar fáil san Albáin gach bliain, ag cur oiliúint ar mháinlianna na tíre sin torthaí níos fearr a bhaint amach dá n-othair.  Eagraíonn sé imeachtaí bailiúcháin airgid i gcaitheamh na bliana, ag críochnú obair na bliana le Bál bliantúil de Chairde na hAlbáine.  Is iarchathaoirleach ar Chumann Máinlianna Plaisteacha na hÉireann é.   Tá saothar foilsithe aige ar a n-áirítear ceithre dhráma, gearrscéalta agus dhá bhailiúchán filíochta.  Mar aitheantas ar an obair a rinne siad beirt ar Fhéile Idirnáisiúnta Ealaíon na Gaillimhe a athrú ó bhonn, bronnfar céim oinigh Dhochtúireachta sna Dána ar John Crumlish, Príomhfheidhmeannach agus ar Paul Fahy, Stiúrthóir Ealaíne agus Léiritheoir Dé Céadaoin, an 22 Samhain 2017.    Is ócáid í Féile Idirnáisiúnta Ealaíon na Gaillimhe a bhfuil tábhacht idirnáisiúnta ag baint léi chomh maith le tionchar idirnáisiúnta aici agus fáil idirnáisiúnta uirthi; cuireann an Fhéile go mór le cultúr, geilleagar agus saol intleachtúil na Gaillimhe agus na hÉireann; agus tá sí ar thús cadhnaíochta i bhforbairt cineálacha nua ealaíne in Éirinn agus ar fud an domhain. Tríd an gcomhpháirtíocht thábhachtach le OÉ Gaillimh ó 2012 i leith, cuireadh deiseanna nua ar fáil d’ealaíontóirí agus do léiritheoirí gairmeacha rathúla agus inbhuanaithe a chruthú in iarthar na hÉireann. Ag labhairt dó roimh na searmanais, bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an Dr Jim Browne: “Le 1,500 dár gcéimithe ag leanúint lena gcuid cuspóirí a bhaint amach, tá sé thar a bheith oiriúnach go dtabharfaimid aitheantas don obair ollmhór atá déanta ag Jack McCann, John Crumlish agus Paul Fahy, a chuir ar chumas an phobail, go háitiúil agus freisin ar ardán idirnáisiúnta, fíorthionchar a bheith acu ar fud an domhain.” -críoch-

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Charity founder and Arts Festival visionaries to be conferred with honorary degrees Over 1,600 students will graduate from across the five colleges at NUI Galway at the University's winter conferring ceremonies, which take place from today, Tuesday, 21 November to Thursday, 23 November. During the conferrings, honorary degrees will be conferred on Galway International Arts Festival visionaries, John Crumlish and Paul Fahy, and on local charity founder, Jack McCann. In recognition of his public contribution and charity work, a Doctor of Laws degree will be conferred on Jack McCann on Tuesday, 21 November. Jack is a retired Plastic Surgeon at Galway University Hospital, 1989-2010. In 2005 he co-founded the charity, Irish Friends of Albania and he travels there twice a year with teams of medical volunteers to work in hospitals there. Since 2002 he has operated on hundreds of children and adults to improve and correct hand deformities and burn injuries.  Jack also leads free annual microsurgical training workshops in Albania, training their surgeons to provide better outcomes for their patients.  He fundraises year round, culminating in the annual Irish Friends of Albania Ball. He is a former Chair of the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons.   He is a published author with four plays, short stories and two collections of poetry.  In recognition of their work in transforming the Galway International Arts Festival John Crumlish as CEO and Paul Fahy as Artistic Director and Producer will both be conferred with honorary Doctor of Arts degrees on Wednesday, 22 November.     Galway International Arts Festival has become an event that has international significance, impact and reach; it has made an exceptional contribution to the culture, economy and intellectual life of Galway and Ireland; and it is leading the development of new forms of art in Ireland and globally. Through the development of a major partnership with NUI Galway since 2012, new opportunities have been created for artists and producers to build successful and sustainable careers in the west of Ireland.  - Ends- Biographies Jack McCannJack McCann was born in Rush, Co. Dublin and grew up in Malahide.  He qualified in Medicine in UCD in 1975 and Surgery RCSI in 1980 before training in Plastic Surgery in Dublin, Cork, UK, Australia and settling in Galway in 1989 as the first Consultant Plastic Surgeon in UCHG and in the West of Ireland. Jack has always been involved in voluntary work and community development. Whilst a student in UCD, he was founder and Chairman of the Malahide Youth Club and was on the local Red Cross team which won a number of All-Ireland competitions. In Galway, he was Chairperson of the Community Health Response Group seeking upgrading of University Hospital during the ‘nineties. He was Chairperson of the Fundraising Committee of Galway RNLI for over ten years and was voluntary medical officer to the crew for this period. He also chaired the Bushy Park Residents’ Association for 3 years. Jack is currently Chairperson of the Voluntary Management Committee of Clann Family Resource Centre in Oughterard. In 2003, Jack received Galway Rehab Person of the Year Award in recognition of his voluntary work. In 2002 Jack was involved in bringing Albanian children to Galway for treatment of burns and hand deformities. Irish Friends of Albania was subsequently founded by Jack and his wife Moya, and registered as a charity in 2005. Since then Jack has chaired the charity and was responsible for bringing surgical teams of doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel to Albania bi-annually until 2012, operating and teaching. He has helped in Kosovo since 2010 at out-patient clinics, surgery and by speaking at teaching conferences. The charity has supplied essential surgical and anaesthetic equipment to the University Hospital in Tirana and the charity’s surgical teams saw over 1,200 patients and operated on over 400. They brought 17 Albanian and Kosovar doctors and nurses to Ireland for training, facilitated by local hospitals. Since 2012 the emphasis has changed from operating to teaching and so the charity established and equipped a Microsurgery Training Laboratory in the hospital in Tirana which Jack visits twice yearly to give training courses; to date he has provided basic training in Microsurgery to 56 surgeons.   The charity fundraised locally in Galway with the help of wonderful volunteers. They were further supported by local hospitals, Irish Aid and Electric Ireland over the years. The charity also organised Irish teams of volunteer tradesmen to partially renovate 5 State-run orphanages and homes in Albania. Jack retired from hospital in 2010 but remains active in his community in Oughterard.   He has many interests including writing. He has published 3 collections of poetry and has written some plays.  Jack is married to Moya for 41 years, is a proud father of 3 adult children and 4 grandchildren who bring him great joy and happiness. John CrumlishJohn Crumlish is the CEO of Galway International Arts Festival. In his time as CEO he has overseen its development into one of Ireland’s best known cultural enterprises. In addition to presenting an annual festival with an attendance of over 200,000 and an economic impact on the local economy of €29.5 million the organisation has developed into a significant producer of new Irish theatre that tours nationally and internationally. A native of Carndonagh, Co. Donegal, he attended Carndonagh Community School, graduated from NUI Galway with a BA in Psychology, has an MA in Adult and Continuing Education from the University of Ulster and an MBS in Business Practice from the Irish Management Institute/University College Cork. Following a period teaching in Northern Ireland, he became closely associated with both Galway Arts Festival and Macnas in the 1990s, playing a number of different roles in their development and growth during that time.     He served as a member of the Arts Council from 2006 until 2011, a member of the Fáilte Ireland West Forum (2010-2013); a member of the Project Board of The Gathering (2012-2013) and served as chair of the successful Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 bid committee. He is married to Eithne Verling and they have three children, Tom, Luke and Sorcha. He was named a Galway Person of the Year in 2013 and was made a Fellow of the Institute by the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology in 2016. Paul FahyPaul Fahy is the Artistic Director of Galway International Arts Festival [GIAF] a position he has held since 2005. Prior to this he worked as a freelance arts consultant, publicist and producer from 2000-2005 working with Galway International Arts Festival; Macnas; Baboró; Rough Magic Theatre Company; The Abbey Theatre; The Arts Council of Ireland and with the Irish actor, Cillian Murphy. He programmed and produced the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, in 1998 and 1999 and was one of the key visual arts curators for Galway Arts Centre from 1990-1999.  He was the Consultant Programme Director with Kilkenny Arts Festival from 1999–2003 for whom he also directed and designed a major street theatre spectacle The Art of the Game.  Since being appointed Artistic Director of GIAF the Festival has become a producing-led festival forging close creative partnerships with Irish artists and producers most notably Enda Walsh, Hughie O’Donoghue, Olwen Fouéré, John Gerrard and Landmark Productions.  GIAF tours extensively, most recently to the Barbican, London; St. Ann’s Warehouse and Irish Arts Center, New York; Ireland’s National Theatre, the Abbey; and Dublin Theatre Festival all during 2017. The Festival has also toured regularly to the National Theatre of Great Britain, London; and to the Next Wave Festival, BAM, New York; Kennedy Center, Washington; Edinburgh Festival Fringe; Adelaide Festival, Perth Festival and Sydney Theatre Company.  Under Fahy’s tenure GIAF has worked with leading Irish and international visual artists and has designed and built major temporary art galleries in Galway.  Fahy has designed and created four theatre installations with Enda Walsh Room 303, A Girl’s Bedroom and Kitchen [which toured to New York as Rooms in May 2017] and Bathroom.   He studied art at the RTC Galway [now GMIT].

Monday, 20 November 2017

NUI Galway students with the help of NUI Galway’s Social Science Research Centre (SSRC) are leading a research project to investigate levels of satisfaction with the Public Bus Service in Galway. The student-led project is an effort to gauge satisfaction levels and bus usage practices in the city. The research project will begin this week and will last until the end of the month. The research will initially be rolled out as an online questionnaire, and students will then undertake a series of data collection activities seeking questionnaire responses and feedback from bus customers in and around the Eyre Square area. While Galway continues to grapple with its ongoing transport-related problems, such research seeks a better understanding of the standard of service currently available to bus users and will provide important baseline information in looking for ways to combat congestion in and around Galway city. Dr Mike Hynes, Lecturer at NUI Galway and member of the SSRC stressed the importance of such information and for further research on city-wide transport-related solutions to our current problems: “The public appreciate that any solution to the ongoing congestion in the city must put improved public transport to the fore, and this is borne out by previous research” he stated. “By assessing levels of satisfaction with the Public Bus Service as it currently operates, we can then attempt to build our knowledge about potential improvements that would lead to an increase in bus passenger travel and result in a reduction of cars on the roads of Galway.” Olga Bolbocean, one of the lead students on the project, appealed for help from bus users over the coming weeks: “The questionnaire we designed is short and will take two to three minutes to complete, but the information that bus passengers provide will be invaluable.” Olga added: “It’s important for people to understand why we’re doing this research; students also live and study in the city so we want practical and workable solutions to the congestion that is clogging the streets and roads and we believe an efficient and reliable Public Bus Service is an important step in that direction. We may well find that people are already satisfied with the levels of service they get, but until we ask we won’t know.” The questionnaire can be accessed online at www.tinyurl.com/ptgalway from today until the 20th of December and participants are invited to put their name forward for a draw for a Leap Card worth €100 for Public Transport in the city.        -Ends-

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Policy-makers around the globe will have a series of concrete recommendations for reform of law, policy and practice on legal capacity resulting from VOICES project NUI Galway’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy project, The Voices of Individuals: Collectively Exploring Self-determination (VOICES) will hold its final workshop on the 22 of November in the Institute for Lifecourse and Society at NUI Galway.  The VOICES project takes an innovative approach to law reform by developing recommendations for how the law should change based on the stories of those with lived experience of disability. People with disabilities, activists, researchers and practitioners have worked together to co-author chapters for an edited collection to be published in 2018. This final workshop will draw together the four core themes of the project; criminal responsibility, contractual capacity, consent to treatment and consent to sex, and will feature a mix of personal narratives, art and theoretical perspectives.  The workshop will be a conference style event and is open to the public where all 28 co-authors from 10 different countries will share their experiences of the project and discuss common themes across the chapters in the book. Speakers include people with disabilities, academics, and activists with experience of using stories to drive social change. A keynote speech will be given by Dr Michael Bach, Managing Director of the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society in Canada. For over 30 years Dr Bach has undertaken research and development in Canada and internationally on ways to advance the full inclusion and human rights of persons with intellectual disabilities. Dr Eilionóir Flynn, Principal Investigator on the VOICES Project and Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming this diverse mix of participants back to NUI Galway for the final workshop of this project. Participants from Ireland, the UK, Canada, Kenya, Australia, India, Bulgaria, Sweden, China and the Czech Republic will all gather in Galway to share their experiences and put the finishing touches to what promises to be a fantastic book. As a result of their work, policy-makers around the globe will have a series of concrete recommendations for reform of law, policy and practice on legal capacity.” The VOICES project is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant, awarded to Dr Eilionóir Flynn, the youngest person to ever receive such an award. This is a free event and further information is available at www.ercvoices.com or by contacting Clíona de Bhailís on ercvoices@nuigalway.ie or 091 494272. Participant accessibility requests and enquiries are welcomed. -Ends-

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Building on its existing reputation as an environmentally-friendly and societally responsive university, NUI Galway has launched a wide-reaching Sustainability Strategy. The strategy illustrates an ambitious vision for the campus to become a role model for the transition to a more sustainable future. The document was officially launched by Senator Alice Mary Higgins at an event held on campus on 15 November 2017 and attended by staff, students and the wider Galway community. The strategy sets out a vision to establish NUI Galway as a leading green, smart and healthy campus. Its successful implementation will ensure that NUI Galway’s reputation around the world is enhanced, that graduates are valued for their world-readiness, that research tackles societal challenges, and that the campus will be a role model for sustainability. The university already has a groundswell of research, events, activities, societies and building initiatives which are related to sustainability. The university offers almost 200 courses covering environmental and/or sustainability issues, and has won the top award for most biodiverse campus at Ireland’s Intervarsity BioBlitz competition. Earlier this year it announced plans to divest from fossil fuel shares. Building on this momentum, the strategy identifies 20 measures for success, under six themes, which serve as indicators for much more extensive work under each theme. An example from each, to be implemented by 2020, include: Research and learning: A 15% increase in sustainability research Energy and greenhouse gas emissions: A 33% reduction in total energy consumption Nature and ecosystems: Compile and implement a biodiversity management plan Health and wellbeing: Strengthen mental health and resilience Built Environment: Reduce water consumption by 20% Governance and leadership: Flagship project with Saolta University Healthcare Group, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation 2, and Galway City Council Attending the launch, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins from Seanad Éireann, said: “It is wonderful to see NUI Galway recognising the crucial role that they and other third level institutions can and should play in shaping a sustainable future on our shared planet. This strategy demonstrates more of the positive joined up thinking seen in the University’s recent commitment to divestment from fossil fuels following a successful campaign by staff and students. While the proposals in this plan are well-grounded in Galway and the campus community, they are also a commitment to partnership with the wider world. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have set out an important blueprint for Ireland and many countries and remind us that sustainability is not only about the environment, it is also about social sustainability. It is therefore great to see holistic proposals in this strategy that range from crucial climate change research to new mental health initiatives with space for new and innovative ideas to emerge.” Speaking at the launch the University’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, said: “We live in times of extreme pressure on the resources of our planet, as well as the increased pressures of society which permeate through to each individual. Today, from this campus which is more than 170 years old, we are putting in place a strategy that addresses today’s reality and puts down our ideas for a more sustainable future. This is, and has been, a collaborative, community effort, and it is only by coming together and working together that we can achieve our desired future.” NUI Galway has already instigated demonstrator projects to inspire sustainable behaviour change and to pilot elements of the Sustainability Strategy. For example, the Battle of the Buildings Project aimed to make students and staff more aware of the energy use of campus buildings and to encourage energy-efficient behaviour through collegial competition. Community effort The strategy is the culmination of a long process of consultation with thousands of members of the NUI Galway staff and students, as well as partners such as the Saolta University Healthcare Group. “Through the consultation process, we spoke with people about sustainability in its broadest sense. We looked across the spectrum, from the built environment to wellbeing, from what we teach in the lecture halls to student engagement in our local communities, from research on energy and ecosystems to governance and leadership. This strategy is the culmination of all of that, and our Learn, Live, Lead approach to Sustainability hopefully gives us the foundation to build an even longer-term strategy and become an exemplar in this space”, explains Dr Frances Fahy, Senior Lecturer in Geography at NUI Galway, and member of the Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP), which led the strategy creation. The NUI Galway Strategic Plan, Vision 2020, outlines a vision of ‘creating a sustainable campus where all resources are used efficiently and where facilities are managed and services consolidated as efficiently as possible’. To develop and realise this vision, the Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP) was established in 2015 under the direction of the Registrar and Deputy President. CUSP is supported by the University, Students’ Union, Saolta University Healthcare Group, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 2 and Galway City Council, and is funded through the Students’ Projects Fund. The CUSP team is composed of more than 20 students and staff, from across the campus community and Galway University Hospitals. To mark the launch of the strategy and to recognise the community aspect of the initiative, a special event called ‘Galway City’s Sustainability Stories’ was held on campus. With Galway City having been awarded the title European Green Leaf 2017 this year, the event featured short presentations from organisations involved in sustainability throughout Galway City, in different ways and at different scales. Read the report here http://www.nuigalway.ie/sustainability/ -Ends-

Monday, 13 November 2017

Researchers from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway have published their latest research findings based on the experiences of children, young people and their families involved in Meitheal*, the Tusla-led early intervention national practice model. The research is part of a comprehensive programme of early intervention and preventative work undertaken by Tusla as part of the Prevention, Partnership and Family Support (PPFS) Programme. This research provides an overview of the interim findings of the report entitled, ‘Meitheal Process and Outcomes Study’, for which data collection is ongoing. This is a longitudinal study with three waves of data collection that focuses on gathering data at a pre, post and follow-up stage. This report focuses specifically on data gathered on the implementation and impact of Meitheal. The NUI Galway study shows that families benefit most when there is a trusting relationship with the practitioners supporting them, when they are asked their views about what is causing the difficulties and what would help resolve these when agencies work together. It is important to understand the strengths and needs of the wider family and not to concentrate solely on the child or young person in question experiencing difficulties. The research also shows that the mothers’ well-being has a big impact on the well-being of children and young people.  This research was carried out by Dr Carmel Devaney, lecturer and principal investigator on a number of research and evaluation projects under the Prevention, Partnership and Family Support Programme, and postdoctoral researchers Dr Leonor Rodriguez and Dr Anne Cassidy at NUI Galway. Speaking about the study, Dr Carmel Devaney said: “The findings highlight the importance of the supportive empathetic relationship between practitioners and families. Family members also reported their appreciation of being included in the process of identifying their needs and deciding on a helpful response to these. Children and young people highlighted that they felt listened to, with some noting definite improvements in their lives as a result of taking part in Meitheal. “While it is too early to determine the impact of Meitheal on the system of help provision in the Irish context, its introduction has heightened the visibility of the work that Tusla carries out with families who do not meet the threshold for an intervention by Child Protection and Welfare services.” This report is part of the wider programme of research and evaluation that the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway are involved with, in relation to Tusla’s Programme of Prevention, Partnership and Family Support. Further research on the impact of Meitheal and its outcomes will be published in mid-2018. To read the report in full, visit: http://www.childandfamilyresearch.ie/cfrc/publications/policyreports/ -Ends-

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Commission hosts consultative event as part of national consultation in preparation of new programme of law reform The Law Reform Commission is hosting a consultative meeting in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway on Wednesday, 22 November at 5pm. The Commission would like to hear from local stakeholders, legal professionals and members of the public about areas of law that may be in need of reform.  The Law Reform Commission is currently engaged in preparing a Fifth Programme of Law Reform, which will form the basis of its work over the next several years. The meeting will provide a forum for suggestions and discussion of current legal issues, and forms a very important part of the Commission’s preparations for projects to be included in its new Programme of Law Reform. As part of this consultative process, the Commission has begun a series of consultative events across the country, including Dublin, Limerick, Dundalk and Cork, seeking ideas and discussion of legal issues from a broad range of stakeholders and interested parties. These events will provide a forum for suggestions and for discussion of current legal issues, and will play a very important role in the Commission’s preparation of its Fifth Programme of Law Reform. The Commission encourages those interested to attend the consultation most convenient to them. Under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975, the Commission is required to prepare from time to time a Programme of Law Reform, which forms the principal basis on which it carries out its statutory mandate to keep the law under review with a view to its reform and modernisation. The new Programme of Law Reform will, as provided by the 1975 Act, be prepared by the Commission in consultation with the Attorney General for submission by the Taoiseach to the Government for ultimate approval. Speaking in advance of the consultative event to be held in NUI Galway, Professor Donncha O’Connell who (with Tom O’Malley, also of the School of Law in NUI Galway) is a member of the Commission, said: “Engaging with members of the public and legal professionals around the country allows the Commission to know what law reform issues are of most pressing concern to people and this can be critically important information in setting priorities for the Commission. We hope that there is a strong and diverse attendance at our Galway meeting and look forward with great interest to hearing as wide a range of views as possible.” The meeting is expected to run from 5pm until approximately 7pm and will be followed by a reception hosted by the Commission. Those who would like to attend are invited to contact the Commission by emailing events@lawreform.ie -Ends-

Monday, 13 November 2017

Recent measurements in homes in the West of Ireland have found radon levels equivalent to receiving in excess of 20 chest x-rays per day Researchers at the School of Physics in NUI Galway have found that radon gas levels in houses and buildings in certain parts of Ireland are in excess of levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Radon Control Strategy for Ireland has identified knowledge gaps, including the optimum specifications for passive soil depressurisation systems that take account of Irish building practices. The NUI Galway research project, OptiSDS is investigating several of these knowledge gaps. The World Health Organisation has categorised radon as a carcinogen, in the same group as asbestos and tobacco smoke. In Ireland, up to 250 cases of lung cancer each year are linked to exposure to radon. There is a synergistic effect between radon and tobacco smoke. This means that smokers are at much greater risk of developing radon related lung cancer than non-smokers. There is no scientific evidence linking radon with any other types of respiratory illnesses or other cancers. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It has no taste, colour or smell. It is formed in the ground by the radioactive decay of uranium which is present in all rocks and soils. You cannot see it, smell it or taste it. It can only be measured with special detectors. Outside radon is diluted to very low levels. Radon can enter a home from the ground through small cracks in floors and through gaps around pipes or cables. Indoor radon levels can vary across the country from low levels to tens of times in excess of the reference level set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Recent measurements in homes in the West of Ireland have found radon levels equivalent to receiving in excess of 20 chest x-rays per day. Dr Mark Foley Academic Director of the Masters in Medical Physics at NUI Galway, said: “This Environmental Protection Agency funded OptiSDS project is a good example of collaborations between engineers and scientists in NUI Galway and also with collaborators across Europe to address knowledge gaps in radon research. Through outreach events we are also promoting public awareness of radon risk, radon measurement, radon mitigation and radon preventative techniques.” Dr Jamie Goggins, Principal Investigator in the Centre for Marine Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) at NUI Galway, said: “One of the main aims of the project is to determine the effectiveness of soil depressurisation systems at extracting radon from under buildings. We are doing this through controlled laboratory tests at NUI Galway, in the development of robust numerical simulations and using a specially designed pilot house in a high radon area in Spain, in collaboration with Professor Luis Quindos in the University of Cantabria. It is imperative that we design and construct safe, healthy, comfortable and energy efficient buildings.” The OptiSDS research project will feature on the RTÉ One show, ‘10 Things to Know About’ series opener today, Monday 13 November at 8.30pm, a week after European Radon Day. This research project is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information about the OptiSDS project, visit: https://www.nuigalway.ie/science/schoolofphysics/research/optisds / -Ends-

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Grant will support groundbreaking research in global health and development NUI Galway announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Jim Duggan from the University’s College of Engineering and Informatics will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled HealthSIM. The HealthSIM project focuses on the challenge to strengthen health systems by using computer science and analytics methods to support the design of health supply chains to enhance supply chain performance, and improve decision making in order to reduce disease morbidity and mortality, and ensure that the right medication arrives for the right person at the right time. The idea underpinning this research proposal is to design, implement and test a cloud-based public health supply chain simulator. In effect, this will create a virtual laboratory for public health officials in low and middle income countries, and in turn support learning, information sharing, and decision making within the health supply chain. In welcoming the funding, Lead Investigator on the project, Dr Jim Duggan from NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to receive this generous funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to work on a project with such high impact potential. The project is highly interdisciplinary, and involves collaboration with our colleagues in the School of Medicine, and also our international partners from our recent EU-funded PANDEM* project. The project highlights the exciting potential of collaborating with public health professionals to apply computer science and mathematics to help address sustainable development challenges.” Grand Challenges Explorations supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr Jim Duggan’s project is one of 51 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 19 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To receive funding, Dr Jim Duggan and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of four critical global health and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next Grand Challenges Explorations round in February 2018.  This is the second Grand Challenge NUI Galway is undertaking. In 2013, a team worked with a group of female smallholder farmers in Tanzania to design and develop their own labor-saving agricultural tools using the latest 3D printing tools. The University’s Vice-President for Research, Professor Lokesh Joshi, commented: “Grand Challenges Explorations is identifying some of the most pressing problems of our times and rallying scientists and innovators around the world to come up with real solutions. We look forward to the work Jim Duggan and his team will do to help create a smoother pipeline in the supply of lifesaving medicines and care.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

NUI Galway postgraduate courses have been shortlisted for the national gradireland Postgraduate Course of the Year Awards 2017. The award winners will be announced on Friday, 24 November at a reception in Dublin. The postgraduate courses that have been shortlisted are: The MSc in Applied Behaviour Analysis, School of Psychology, is shortlisted as the Postgraduate Course of the year in Arts & Humanities The Masters in Health Sciences (Children's Palliative and Complex Care), School of Nursing and Midwifery is shortlisted for the Postgraduate Course of the Year Award in Health Sciences sponsored by AbbVie The Masters in Health Sciences (Children's Palliative and Complex Care), School of Nursing and Midwifery and the MSc (International Accounting & Analytics), J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics are both shortlisted for Best New Course The MSc in International Management (IM), J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics is shortlisted for the Postgraduate Course of the Year in Business, Finance & Management NUI Galway’s Student Recruitment Office has also been shortlisted for the Best Postgraduate Prospectuses for 2017 sponsored by VS Direct The annual Postgraduate Course of the Year Awards recognises excellence amongst Irish postgraduate course providers. The winning courses are judged on the success of the course including employability of graduates, recognition of the course’s quality or ranking by external bodies, research record of academic staff, and providing a good experience for students. Judges also take feedback from students into consideration when selecting a winner. Valerie Leahy, Postgraduate Recruitment Officer at NUI Galway, said: “We’re delighted to again make the shortlist for these important national awards; it’s great that the calibre of our postgraduate courses is being acknowledged, as is their effectiveness in terms of employability, and interaction with industry and business. These courses are now accepting applications and those interested can apply online via the Postgraduate Applications Centre at www.pac.ie/nuigalway. We also offer generous full-time taught masters scholarships for first-class students, so that’s another reason to consider NUI Galway for postgraduate studies.” NUI Galway offers a wide range of fourth level courses, developing programmes based on its traditional academic strengths of Arts, Social Sciences, Celtic Studies, Commerce, Medicine, Nursing, Health Science, Law, Engineering, Informatics and Science. These areas have been augmented with innovative Research Centres in areas as diverse as Biomedical Engineering, International Human Rights, Digital Media & Film Studies, and Regenerative Medicine. Over 4,800 postgraduate students (including international students) currently attend NUI Galway. -Ends-

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Research will help to understand the mechanisms of immune regulation and contribute to the development of new treatment strategies for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rejection of transplants Researchers from NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and Advanced Glycoscience Research Cluster (AGRC) have been working together to examine how sugar (carbohydrate) molecules attached to the surfaces of immune cells participate in the normal protective functions of those cells. The researchers have published two new studies in the leading open access journal Frontiers of Immunology, which demonstrate that chains of sugar molecules, referred to as glycans, attached to proteins and other components of the cell surface, play an essential role in the function of two very important cells of the immune system. In the first study, PhD student Joana Cabral with Professor Matthew Griffin at REMEDI and Professor Lokesh Joshi at AGRC in NUI Galway, discovered that a specialised type of immune cell, the regulatory T cell (or T-reg), has a distinctive pattern of glycans on its surface compared to other T cell types. T-regs are known to play a policing role in the immune system that prevents inappropriate activation that can lead to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and juvenile diabetes or to rejection of transplants. By using enzymes to ‘trim away’ the sugar molecules from the surface of T-regs, the research team, in collaboration with Dr Jared Gerlach of AGRC, observed that the ability of T-regs to suppress strong immune activity was heavily dependent on their normal glycan pattern. Insights from the research help to better understand the mechanisms of immune regulation and can contribute to the development of new treatment strategies for a range of diseases that involve over- or under-activity of the immune system. In the second study, PhD student Kevin Lynch, working with Professor Thomas Ritter and Dr Aideen Ryan from REMEDI and Professor Lokesh Joshi investigated how a commonly used steroid medication alters the pattern of sugar molecules on immune cells known as dendritic cells (or DCs). The main function of DCs is to stimulate T-cells to act against foreign molecules (antigens) associated with infectious microbes or, alternatively, to prevent T-cells being activated against harmless antigens, a process known as immune tolerance. The research team found that after steroid treatment, DCs develop an increase in specific surface glycans that make them more likely to cause immune tolerance, a finding that may help to design new treatment approaches to prevent or treat autoimmune diseases and rejection of transplants. The group also found that when the same sugar molecules are removed from the surface of DCs, they become more powerful at stimulating active immune responses. This insight may be of particular relevance to cancer treatments which aim to increase T cell activation against antigens contained in tumours. Commenting on the publication of the studies, Professor Matthew Griffin at NUI Galway, said: “The fascinating results we observed by manipulating the surface glycan patterns of T-reg are a beautiful example of the complexity of molecular interactions between different cells of the immune system. The work could not have been successful without a close collaboration between researchers from two very different disciplines. These collaborations have been built, in particular, on NUI Galway’s investment in infrastructure for Biomedical research and on Science Foundation Ireland’s funding support for research clusters in regenerative medicine and glycoscience and, more recently, the CÚRAM centre for research in medical devices.” Professor Thomas Ritter at NUI Galway, commented: “These results could have important implications for both the field of immunotherapies and cancer treatment. The importance of sugar residues in controlling how immune responses occur is under-studied and warrants further investigations.” Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “In contrast to the current state of gene and protein biology, many of the details of sugar-based structure and function throughout biology remain mysterious. The results of these studies underscore the importance of understanding complex glycans and their specific cues within the larger mechanisms of cellular interaction. This work provides new avenues for potentially enhancing or regulating elements of immune function. These findings could only have been made possible through collaboration with Professors Ritter and Griffin and the persistence of our respective research teams, all made possible by Ireland’s continuing support of high quality scientific research.” Professor Michael O’Dwyer, Consultant Haematologist at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospital, and an internationally recognised expert in blood cancers, commented: “I am very excited about these results regarding the restoration to immunity after removal of sugar residues on antigen-presenting cells. I am currently working with Professor Ritter and Dr Ryan to investigate the role of glycans in the immune response to blood cancer. The exciting findings of this work, which show that the manipulation of sugar residues on stem cells helps to restore anti-cancer immune response, will be presented later this month at the annual meeting of the American Haematology Society.” The research studies were supported by individual and centre grants from Science Foundation Ireland as well as a PhD fellowship to Dr Cabral through the Irish Government’s PRTLI5 initiative. -Ends-

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Deloitte is pleased to announce that it will be partnering with NUI Galway on the University’s new BComm Global Experience course. As part of the partnership, Deloitte will provide funding over five years to support students while studying abroad. The new Bachelor of Commerce (Global Experience) course at the J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics in NUI Galway offers the opportunity of a work placement and a study abroad in the same year. The global experience is fundamental to the educational experience and offers students the opportunity to experience new cultures and to work in new environments. NUI Galway partners with universities in a variety of countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Sweden, the UK and the USA, amongst others. The Deloitte funding will be used as a grant to support students travelling abroad during the third year of the course. Brendan Jennings, Managing Partner, Deloitte commented: “At Deloitte, we see first-hand, and on a daily basis, the ever increasing need for international experience and an ability to work across borders. Our clients are operating in a more globally connected way than ever before, and therefore we need to work this way also. We are delighted to support the NUIG Deloitte scholars in gaining this important and valuable experience. We very much believe that it will equip them well in their future business careers.” Speaking at the launch, Professor John McHale, Dean of the College of Business Public Policy and Law at NUI Galway, said:  “We are delighted to announce this exciting partnership with Deloitte. We are very proud for our BComm (Global Experience) students to have the title ‘Deloitte Global Scholars’, a title representative of the high academic calibre of our students, and the endorsement shown by Deloitte in supporting students reach their full potential.”  The first Deloitte Global Scholars will be travelling abroad in September 2018. NUI Galway anticipates that in excess of 500 students will avail of the Deloitte funding over the five years of the partnership. Ends

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

NUI Galway Cell EXPLORERS science outreach network will bring its ‘Fantastic DNA’ national roadshow to schools during this month’s Science Week. For the fifth year in a row the Cell EXPLORERS roadshow, established by NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, will once again visit primary schools across Ireland bringing hands-on experiments to over 3,500 school children this term and during this month’s Science Week. The Cell EXPLORERS national network has continued its expansion this year with the inclusion of five new partner teams with NUI Galway, the IT Carlow, Letterkenny IT, Maynooth University, the National Virus Reference Laboratory UCD and UCC. The new teams are joining the network of five existing teams, Athlone IT, UL, IT Tralee and Dundalk IT. Last year, 125 scientists visited 43 schools throughout the country, reaching 1,881 children to teach them about cells and DNA through hands-on activities. According to the statistics, 64% of the children visited last year had not previously met a scientist. Overall, pupils’ feedback was positive, highlighting that their favorite part of the session was the opportunity to use scientific equipment and doing the experiment themselves. “The scientists were brilliant at explaining and it was all fun experiments”, said one sixth class pupil in Co. Kerry. “I liked meeting the Cell EXPLORERS because I never met a scientist who was a girl before”, commented another fifth class pupil from Co. Roscommon. Teachers hosting the ‘Fantastic DNA’ session indicated that it had a made a real impact on the pupils, giving them the opportunity of doing hands-on science and having fun in their classrooms. A teacher from Co. Kerry said: “I thought that today's session was fantastic. The children learned so much and also a greater interest in science was instilled in them.” Teachers also highlighted as major benefits the opportunity for each child to do an experiment and for interacting with local 3rd level scientists, both characteristics of Cell EXPLORERS visits. Dr Muriel Grenon, Founding Director of Cell EXPLORERS said: “We have been piloting a unique way of directly involving Irish higher education institutions in engaging young people in science for five years with the support of Science Foundation Ireland. The expansion of the programme, based on volunteering activities of university students and staff, has grown beyond our expectation. The success of the program is due to our collaborators, based in 10 higher education partner institutions. The participation benefits that we bring to children, teachers and our team members are key motivators for our coordinators to be part of the network despite of the additional workload.” Dr Claudia Fracchiolla, National Coordinator of the Cell EXPLORERS network also commented: “Preliminary research suggests that the programme provides a unique opportunity to the children but also provides benefits to our team members. Volunteers participating in the program develop transferable skills, as well as personal development, which are important outcomes for tomorrow’s researchers, educators, and communicators. Our volunteers would recommend participating in the programme to a friend, and strongly believe that universities and institutes of technology must engage in science outreach.” Cell EXPLORERS activities, and the expansion of the programme to other institutions, is funded by a two-year award from Science Foundation Ireland, NUI Galway and the NUI Galway Foundation.  For more information or to book a show at your school, visit www.cellexplorers.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter @cellexplorers. -Ends-

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The School of Psychology at NUI Galway is seeking over 1,000 participants across Ireland to take part in an online study to understand the relationship between major life events such as bereavement and compulsive hoarding. The study will be the largest of its kind ever conducted in Ireland. The researchers are looking for people with all levels of hoarding to participate, ranging from people who may just have cluttered, disorganised homes to those who may have a serious difficulty, as well as people who do not hoard. People who hoard often have very cluttered homes as they keep things that may seem useless to other people, buy things they don’t need, and feel they can’t throw anything away. However, hoarding is more common than was previously thought and it is not well understood. Previous research has shown that hoarders often feel a very strong emotional attachment to their belongings, and they might feel the need to save things should they need them in the future. This NUI Galway study is interested in looking at how people’s life experiences relate to hoarding. It seeks to understand whether the experience of losing a loved one or other major life events might make people more likely to accumulate belongings and have difficultly throwing things away. The researchers believe that this might be the key to understanding and helping people with this difficulty.  The study is being carried out by Dr Elizabeth Kehoe, a doctoral student on the clinical psychology training programme at the School of Psychology in NUI Galway and Dr Jonathan Egan, Deputy Director of the clinical programme. Speaking about the study, Dr Kehoe said: “We are interested in the emotional reasons why people hoard, and with this study we will investigate the link between bereavement and other difficult life events, and hoarding. For example, belongings might bring a sense of comfort or safety following a loss.” Dr Jonathan Egan Director from the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, and a Chartered Clinical and Chartered Health Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland, said: “The team are really interested in a holistic view of why we collect things and why it can increase at times following a bereavement or personal upset. We want to hear from a large range of people, from those who would rate themselves as ‘life-long-Magpies’ to those who have noticed that it is becoming difficult to part with newspapers and other non-essential house-hold items, or even that their house is becoming very crammed and it affects the ability to share their home with guests.” To participate in the study visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/nuighoarding -Ends-

Monday, 6 November 2017

New research published in The Lancet medical journal this week shows that climate change is already a significant public health issue and a looming global health emergency. Professor Paul Wilkinson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the authors of ‘The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change’ report, will tell an audience in NUI Galway today about the various ways climate change is already affecting the health of people across the planet today. The report builds on the work of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, which concluded that anthropogenic (produced by human activity) climate change now threatens to undermine the last 50 years of gains in public health. The organiser of the Irish launch of the Lancet Countdown 2017 report, Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan from the School of Medicine at NUI Galway and the Ryan Institute Centre for Health from Environment, said: “Climate change is already a huge issue for millions of people and we are beginning to feel the health effects in Ireland. We need urgent action to improve our health and prevent loss of life globally and locally.” Leading doctors, academics and policy professionals from 26 partner organisations have contributed analysis and jointly authored the Lancet report. The authors are clear the necessary response to climate change still provides an opportunity to realise substantial gains in public health. The potential benefits and opportunities are staggering, including cleaning-up the air of polluted cities, delivering more nutritious diets, ensuring energy, food and water security, and alleviating poverty, alongside social and economic inequalities. Professor Charles Spillane, Director of the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “For the next two weeks the world’s governments will meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP23 inter-governmental meeting in Bonn this year to advance climate action following the 2015 Paris Agreement, on the topic of climate change impacts on global health. The Lancet Countdown report provides the evidence that policymakers need to act on, to accelerate action in all countries to reduce emissions and improve public health, while strengthening the resilience of the world’s most vulnerable communities to adverse impacts of climate change. All societies need to rapidly step onto low-carbon pathways based on clean energy and sustainable diets, to ensure that public health gains are maintained and improved over the decades ahead.” The Chair of the Lancet Countdown’s High-Level Advisory Board, Christiana Figueres, highlighted that: “Tackling climate change directly, unequivocally and immediately improves global health. It’s as simple as that.” For more information about Lancet Countdown, visit: http://www.lancetcountdown.org/ -Ends-

Monday, 6 November 2017

The School of Psychology at NUI Galway is inviting people with intellectual disabilities, and their families in Galway, Limerick, Clare and Tipperary to participate in a year-long study about the provision of future residential care for older adults with an intellectual disability.  As people with an intellectual disability get older, and their care needs increase, it may be a requirement to move from their homes to nursing homes or other residential placements. This study aims to explore where people would prefer to live when they are older and, importantly, how those decisions are made. The study aims to gather people’s opinions about future residential care and accommodation for older adults with an intellectual disability.   Elaine Rogers, Clinical Psychologist and principal researcher of the study at NUI Galway, said: “Many people with intellectual disabilities have never been asked where they would like to live when they are older. We are encouraging people with intellectual disabilities, their families and all stakeholders to get involved in the data we are gathering until the end of December 2017. It is important that people participate as the information may be used to inform service developments.”  Dr Jonathan Egan, Director of Clinical Practice in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, said: “For me this research is both important at an advocacy level for Chartered Clinical Psychologists and service providers across Ireland, but also because I have a brother with an intellectual disability who is middle-aged and my parents are getting older. I think that this is a subject which needs an integrated-intergenerational approach involving the family and service providers in a person-centred approach around the changing needs of the person with an intellectual disability. In a way, this is also a real measure of how we, as a society demonstrate to all citizens who need our considered support, respect and love in order to improve both ours and their quality of life across the entire life-span.” People with an intellectual disability over 40 years of age, their families, and stakeholders, are encouraged to participate in the study. Taking part would involve a one-to-one interview.  For further information about the study please contact Elaine Rogers, Clinical Psychologist, NUI Galway at e.rogers3@nuigalway.ie or at 087-7911331. -Ends- 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Beidh Lá Oscailte bliantúil na nIarchéimithe ar siúl in OÉ Gaillimh Dé Máirt, an 7 Samhain, ó 12-3pm i Halla Bailey Allen, Áras na Mac Léinn. Is ócáid thábhachtach an Lá Oscailte do dhaoine gairmiúla, do chéimithe agus d’fhochéimithe reatha atá ag díriú ar a bhfuil amach rompu, agus a bhfuil rún acu a gcuid cáilíochtaí a thabhairt suas chun dáta, cur lena gcuid scileanna, cur lena gcuid saineolais agus, dá réir sin, cur leis na deiseanna fostaíochta atá acu. Beidh eolas á thabhairt ag an Lá Oscailte faoi os cionn 170 clár iarchéime lánaimseartha agus páirtaimseartha de chuid OÉ Gaillimh, agus beidh eolas le fáil ann faoi rogha leathan máistreachtaí taighde agus dochtúireachtaí. Beidh níos mó ná 100 seastán ann a mbeidh eolas le fáil acu faoi na deiseanna iarchéime san Ollscoil agus beidh idir chomhaltaí foirne acadúla agus mhic léinn i láthair le ceisteanna faoi chúrsaí ar leith a fhreagairt. Ag labhairt di faoin tairbhe a bhaineann le cáilíocht iarchéime, míníonn Valerie Leahy, Oifigeach Earcaíochta Iarchéime, an fáth ar cheart do mhic léinn cuimhneamh go láidir ar a gcuid roghanna tar éis na céime, “Léiríonn taighde go dtagann méadú suntasach ar chumas tuillimh agus ar na deiseanna le dul chun cinn a dhéanamh i ngairmeacha tar éis cáilíocht iarchéime.  Lena chois sin, cuireann sí le hinfhostaitheacht.” Bíonn an-tóir ar Ghaillimh ag mic léinn. De thoradh an fógra a rinneadh le gairid go raibh OÉ Gaillimh ainmnithe mar Ollscoil na Bliana 2018 mar aon leis an Ollscoil a bheith rangaithe ar an 1% is fearr ar domhan de réir Ranguithe Domhanda QS, is féidir le mic léinn a bheith cinnte go bhfaighidh siad cáilíocht ó ollscoil atá aitheanta as ardchaighdeán teagaisc agus taighde. Le cinneadh a dhéanamh tabhairt faoi cháilíocht iarchéime, tá sé fíorthábhachtach oiread eolais agus is féidir a fháil faoin bpróiseas iarratais agus faoi na roghanna maoinithe atá ar fáil. Tugann an Lá Oscailte na daoine agus na heagraíochtaí ar fad a chuireann tacaíocht ar fáil do mhic léinn iarchéime le chéile ar aon láthair amháin. Beidh eolas faoi chláir nua do 2018 le fáil ag an Lá Oscailte lena n-áirítear cláir Mháistreachta i nGnóthaí Rialúcháin na Teicneolaíochta Leighis agus Caighdeáin; Cillmhonarú agus Cillteiripí; Micreascópacht agus Íomháú; Cosliacht; Ceannaireacht Chomhshaoil; Gnó agus Fáilteachas; Cuntasaíocht agus Anailísíocht Idirnáisiúnta; agus Agrai-Eolaíochtaí Bitheacha. Le spléachadh a fháil ar chláir iarchéime nua eisiacha OÉ Gaillimh, agus le háit a chur in áirithe ag an Lá Oscailte féach www.nuigalway.ie/postgraduate-open-day -Críoch- 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

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

Thursday, 2 November 2017

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


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