Friday, 23 March 2018

Author: Alison Herbert, Irish Centre for Social Gerontology Opinion: how we think about time can influence behaviour and decisions about work, health, relationships and especially our quality of life as we get older With the changing of our clocks comes the inescapable perception of having more or less time available. Losing or gaining time is just one example of how older rural women perceive the concept of time. Hamlet may have believed that there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so, but our thinking around time can influence our behaviour and decisions about work, health, relationships, and ultimately the quality of life enjoyed in older age. Time and temporality may be perceived as a form of power that informs us about age codes, laying down norms about what is considered a normal consequence and timing for life events such as building a career, marrying, starting a family, retiring and even dying. This means that experiences of any of these phenomena outside of the temporal norm, such as an unwanted retirement, divorce, or premature death, are likely to negatively influence quality of life. At mid-life, the concept of time with its finitude and its limitations may find people anxious to accomplish outstanding goals, something that appears to be gender sensitive. Some studies suggest that women are disadvantaged by a history of time poverty that may set a pattern for life. Working women for example may experience multiple and severe time constraints, which may impact on their leisure and social participation and make it difficult for them to stay connected with important relationships or community activities. Physical and mental health may also be impacted if multi-tasking mid-lifers cannot find the time to prepare healthy meals, attend exercise classes or even play with their own children. Time pressures, along with the very act of rushing and subsequent fatigue, are known to induce stress. Some but not all mid-life women are able to deal with time poverty by employing adaptation strategies in which they continuously prioritise in order to meet commitments – perhaps a case of robbing "father time" to appease "mother earth". One school of thought asserts that mid-life for women is a time characterised by an emerging perception of oneself as having a temporary existence, and of being dependent upon one’s body. Women become more conscious of what can be achieved within the finitude of time left, and more questioning on whether time is being spent optimally during the remainder of their lifecourse. Thus, we may witness an accelerated drive towards an expansion of the self before our ageing bodies let us down by refusing to comply with our renewed desire to take on the world. Mid-life for women has long been considered a time of review: a time to look backwards and forwards and re-evaluate the present. Quantum physicists assert that time is not linear and does not move along a continuum of past, present and future. Instead, it moves in mercurial waves that are capable of influencing past and future inter-changeably. In layperson’s terms, it appears that, as in the movies, we can not only reach our future through our past, but also our past through our future. It is generally held that many women in their forties, fifties and sixties undertake considerable naval-gazing By viewing time and ageing from a lifecourse perspective, we can at least recognise that time is contextual and includes a "plasticity" that allows us to re-shape our environments. For example, we can try to improve our physical fitness regime, our eating habit, or our attitude towards money or relationships in order to influence the quality of our lives. This argument is supported by a range of research suggesting that mid-life women from their forties onwards begin to think differently about their own lives. They consider new themes, such as achieving balance, changing direction and re-defining the self and significant relationships. Such women speak of letting go of material things in favour of spirituality and exploring the inner being, discovering that the world really is their oyster and ofpaying increased attention to our nearest and dearest. Whilst the demographics of the mid-life period are considered fluid, it is generally held that many women in their forties, fifties and sixties undertake considerable naval-gazing, casting a very cold eye over earlier life stages and adding up the debits and credits of the here and now in order to shape future time remaining. A recent study of mid-life rural women in Ireland helps to exemplify such women’s malleable approach to time. Participants speak of a desire to forge ahead and avoid time-wasting at all costs and needing another three or four lives to do all desired things. Even for those study participants who did not yet know what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives, they recognised the finitude of time and the need for an increased focus. Such hunger for surging forward may be partly explained by a perception of time acceleration, in which hours, days, weeks, months and years seem to fly by, putting some mid-life rural women under pressure to peddle faster in the hope that increased velocity will stop the wheels coming off the wagon. Juggling the needs of work, children, adult children, parents and partners takes its toll, and it is usually the mid-life woman herself who pays the toll in depleted energy and increased stress levels. But lest we think that a shortage of time is the older woman’s nemesis, we need to consider those for whom time is standing still and for whom time is a constant reminder of the emptiness of their days. These are not mythical creatures, but ordinary women whose temporality changed at some point along their lifecourse and has left them perhaps jobless, friendless, childless and husbandless. Their vision of the future is a time without end. For rural women at mid-life, time is subjective – an ally to some, a challenge to others. Some chase its coat-tails elusively, others hide from its icy grip. What is certain is that time takes no heed of us; it is us who must mould our lives around its presence. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here  

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Author: Jeannine Woods, Scoil na dTeangacha, na Litríochtaí agus na gCultúr Brainstorm Lá 'le Pádraig: Léiríonn Lá 'le Pádraig gnéithe éagsúla d'fhéiniúlacht na hÉireann atá casta agus go minic frithráiteach ó laistigh agus lasmuigh den tír  Gach uile bhliain agus Lá ‘le Pádraig ag teannadh linn, bíonn cur agus cúiteamh ó thráchtairí éagsúla maidir le tábhacht chomhaimseartha na féile agus a ceiliúrtha in Éirinn. Ní gan bhunús an dearcadh gur ceiliúradh bunaithe ar an mbréagsheamrógachas atá ann, ficsean cultúrtha tógtha ar an sealbhú d’fhéile reiligiúnda, iasacht tráchtála dírithe ar chur chun cinn na turasóireachta a fheidhmíonn mar leithscéal don ró-ól agus don iompar drabhlásach trí chéile. Trí stair chultúrtha an fhéile a scagadh, áfach, tig linn athmhachnamh a dhéanamh ar na coincheapa ‘traidisiún’ agus ‘Éireannachas’,  a mhaíonn gur contanam níos mó ná briseadh le hÉireannachas ‘aiceanta’ an t-am a chuaigh thart atá le brath i gceiliúradh comhaimseartha na féile. Is fada an fhéile féin, a dhéanann comóradh ar bhás Phádraig, á ceiliúradh in Éirinn, ach mar a léiríonn Michael Cronin agus Daryl Adair ina saothar The Wearing of the Green, ceiliúradh idir reiligiúnda agus tuata a bhíodh ann chomh fada siar leis an 17ú haois. Bhíodh an ró-ól, an chaismirt agus an foiréigean mar ghnéithe coitianta den fhéile, a raibh díolúine ó staonadh an Charghais luaite léi. Bhíodh na comórtha mar chuid de thraidisiún an phátrúin, traidisiún le fréamhacha aige sa tréimhse réamh-Chríostaí. Bhíodh cuairt ar ionad naofa i gceist mar chuid den phátrún, le neart óil, ithe agus, in amanna, comórtais nó bruíonta idir baill de phobail nó de ghrúpaí éagsúla. Bhíodh an ró-ól, an chaismirt agus an foiréigean mar ghnéithe coitianta den fhéile Feiniméan is ea an pharáid cheiliúrtha a tháinig ar an bhfód a bhuíochas do stair choilíneach agus diaspórach na hÉireann. Reachtáladh na chéad pharáideanna comórtha Lá ‘le Pádraig in áiteanna éagsúla i SAM; eagraithe ag sagairt Chaitliceacha, ag cumainn charthannachta de bhunadh Protastúnach agus ag saighdiúraí Éireannacha ag déanamh seirbhís in Arm na Breataine, d’fheimigh na paráideanna céanna mar imeachtaí reiligiúnda agus mar chomóradh ar an eitneachas agus an áit dúchais faoi seach. Cothaíodh dlúthnasc in Éirinn idir Lá ‘le Pádraig, an creideamh Caitliceach agus an náisiúnachas ón 19ú haois i leith.  Díol spéise gurbh é Rialtas an tSaorstáit, a raibh dlúthghaol idir é agus an Eaglais Chaitliceach, a chuir roimhe gnéithe cráifeacha na féile a neartú trína scaradh ó cheann dá heilimintí ab fhadseasamhaí: ordaíodh go ndúnfaí ionaid faoi cheadúnas ar an lá. An t-aon eisceacht a ceadaíodh ná taispeántas bliantúil na madraí, a bhíodh ar siúl san RDS i mBaile Átha Cliath. Is cosúil go mbíodh freastal ard ar an taispeántas; de réir an tseanchais, bhíodh sé de nós ag figiúirí liteartha, leithéide Brian Ó Nualláin/Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh agus Brendan Behan madraí a fháil ar cíos nó ar iasacht don lá le go scaoilfí isteach chuig beár na mball iad. D’aithin an Stát féidearthachtaí na féile ó thaobh na turasóireachta de, agus bhí díospóireacht ag an rialtas maidir le dáta na féile a athrú go pointe níos déanaí amach sa bhliain nuair a bheadh aimsir na hÉireann níos mealltaí do lucht turasóireachta. Smaoineamh dochosanta a bhí ann ar deireadh, mar dár ndóigh bhíodh an ócáid á ceiliúradh timpeall na cruinne. Leanadh le forbairt na gceiliúrtha mar ócáid a mheallfadh turasóirí áfach, agus cuireadh tús le paráideanna ginearálta in Éirinn bunaithe ar shamhail pharáideanna SAM. Bunaíodh Féile Lá ‘le Pádraig mar fhéile náisiúnta i 1996: áit a mbíodh ceiliúrtha mórthaibhseacha faoi sheilbh sochaithe diaspóracha, chuir an fhéile roimpi Éire a chur chun tosaigh mar cheann scribe turasóireachta don ócáid, ag fógairt an deis speisialta a chruthaigh sé an tÉireannachas a cheiliúradh ar an bhfód dúchais. Feictear go bhfuil éirithe go maith leis an bhféile ar bhoinn eacnamaíoch agus chathartha araon, cé go gcáintear leibhéil an ró-óil agus na caismirte sibhialta mar smál ar na ceiliúrtha. Cuirtear a leithéid de pheirspictíochtaí in iúl go deisbhéalach ar an suíomh aorach Waterford Whispers News, ar a n-áirítear ailt ar Lá ‘le Pádraig leis na cinnteidil 28 Ministers Confirm They’re Leaving On Paddy’s Day To "Avoid The Carnage’’, 5 Stages Of Paddy’s Day Drunkenness and Local Art Head Already Preparing For Paddy’s Day 2018. Déanann an t-alt Ireland Promising Not To Judge Itself For The Next 72 Hours achoimre ar dhearcaidh choitianta i leith na féile in Éirinn: "The entire Nation has agreed to enter into a pact that will see each and every citizen resisting the urge to judge one another regarding their conduct and behaviour over the St. Patrick’s Weekend festivities.  It is also thought the general public will politely hold up the pretence that St. Patrick’s Day is all about highlighting the best Irish culture has to offer … The days surrounding St. Patrick’s Day have been long associated with civil disobedience, public urination and all round despicable displays of so-called ‘Irishness’." Is ceiliúradh é seo ar dhuine nár de bhunadh na hÉireann é ach a rinne a chuid féin den tír Cé gur aoir atá ansin, scáthánú cruinn is ea é ar an ngaol casta idir muintir na hÉireann, Lá ‘le Pádraig agus na leaganacha éagsúla den ‘Éireannachas’ lena samhlaítear an fhéile, go háirithe físeanna den fhéiniúlacht tógtha suas leis an  ‘dúchasach’/’coimhthíoch’ agus an ‘fíor-Éireannachas/’bréag-Éireannachas’ .  Ní tada nua iad na gaolta casta sin, áfach. Mar cheiliúradh ar dhuine nár de bhunadh na hÉireann é ach a rinne a chuid féin den tír, ceiliúradh a bhfuil an leagan comhaimseartha de bunaithe ar fhorbairtí i measc an diaspóra agus ar thraidisiúin reiligiúnda agus tuata, cuid díobh ag eascairt as an tréimhse réamh-Chríostaí, léiriú is ea Lá ‘le Pádraig ar réimsí féiniúlachta a bhfuil snátha iomadúla, contrárthacha lárnach ag gabháil tríothú, snátha ar de bhunadh na hÉireann agus de chríocha i gcéin araon iad. Go deimhin, d’fhéadfaí a mhaíomh gur a bhuíochas do na gnéithe ilbhreacacha, inathraitheacha sin gur ceiliúradh rífheiliúnach é Lá ‘le Pádraig ar an Éireannachas, idir stairiúil agus chomhaimseartha. (Leagan Béarla thíos) Brainstorm St Patrick's Day: St Patrick’s Day reflects an Irish identity comprising multiple, complex and often contradictory strands that issue from within and without Ireland Each year as St Patrick’s day approaches, commentators muse on the contemporary relevance of the day and its celebration in Ireland. The view that contemporary celebrations revolve around paddywhackery built around the co-option of a religious feast as a cultural fiction, a commercial import geared at the promotion of tourism that serves as an opportunity for binge drinking and anarchic behaviour, is not without justification. However, looking at the cultural history of the feast day can offer a means of rethinking the concepts of "tradition" and "Irishness". It also suggests that contemporary practices form part of a continuum rather than marking a break with an authentic Irishness of the past. Excessive drinking, civil disorder and violence were staple features of the festival The feast day itself, marking the death of Patrick, has long been celebrated in Ireland, but as Michael Cronin and Daryl Adair note in their study The Wearing of the Green, celebrations of the day were both religious and civic in nature as far back as the 17th century. Excessive drinking, civil disorder and violence were staple features of the festival, which carried an exemption from Lenten abstinence. Celebrations sat within the Irish pattern tradition, itself pre-Christian in origin, which involved a visit to a sacred site followed by eating, drinking and often involving contests or fights between members of different territories or rival groups. The marking of the occasion with a parade was the product of Ireland’s colonial and diasporic histories. The first St. Patrick’s day parades were held in various part of the US in the 17th and 18th centuries. Organised by Irish priests, Protestant-dominated charitable societies and Irish soldiers serving in the British army, these parades served variously as religious events and as celebrations of homeland and of ethnic identity. St. Patrick’s Day became more closely associated with both Catholicism and nationalism in Ireland during the 19th century and beyond. It is interesting to note that the Free State government, allied closely as it was with the Catholic Church, attempted to reinforce the religious nature of the festival and to divorce it from one of its centrally enduring features, that of alcohol consumption, by ordering that all licensed premises remain closed on the day. The marking of the occasion with a parade was the product of Ireland’s colonial and diasporic histories  The sole exemption to this law was the annual dog show, held in the RDS in Dublin. Attendance at the dog show tended to be high: Irish literary figures such as Brian Ó Nualláin/Flann O’Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan are reputed to have rented or borrowed dogs each year in order to gain admission to the bar. Recognising the festival’s potential to boost Irish tourism in the 1960s, the state debated changing the date of the feast day and moving it to later in the year when the Irish weather would be more attractive to tourists. The idea proved untenable, not least because the day was marked by celebrations around the globe. However, the development of festivities as an Irish tourist attraction continued, with the establishment  of general St Patrick’s Day parades in Ireland based on the US model. The St Patrick’s Day festival was established as a national festival in 1996. While spectacular  ceremonial celebrations had been the preserve of diasporic societies, the festival sought to promote Ireland as a St. Patrick’s Day tourist destination, emphasising the special opportunity it afforded of celebrating Irishness in Ireland. The piece entitled Ireland Promising Not To Judge Itself For The Next 72 Hours sums up many contemporary attitudes to the day The festival has been deemed a major economic and civic success, though levels of drunkenness and civil disorder are often highlighted as a blight on the celebrations. Some commentators opine its spurious connection with Irish culture, viewing it as "manufactured authenticity" built on touristic visions of Irishness. Such perspectives are adroitly articulated by the satirical website Waterford Whispers News, which includes such St Patrick’s day pieces as 28 Ministers Confirm They’re Leaving On Paddy’s Day To "Avoid The Carnage’’, 5 Stages Of Paddy’s Day Drunkenness and Local Art Head Already Preparing For Paddy’s Day 2018. The piece entitled Ireland Promising Not To Judge Itself For The Next 72 Hours sums up many contemporary attitudes to the day: "The entire Nation has agreed to enter into a pact that will see each and every citizen resisting the urge to judge one another regarding their conduct and behaviour over the St. Patrick’s Weekend festivities. It is also thought the general public will politely hold up the pretence that St. Patrick’s Day is all about highlighting the best Irish culture has to offer …The days surrounding St. Patrick’s Day have been long associated with civil disobedience, public urination and all round despicable displays of so-called ‘Irishness’." It's a celebration built around a non-Irish figure who adopted Ireland as his home Though satirical, such perspectives reflect Ireland’s complicated relationship with St Patrick’s day and with the complex dynamics between the various imaginations of Irishness that it reflects, particularly between "insider"/"outsider" and "authentic"/"spurious" visions of Irish identity. However, these complex relationships are nothing new. It's a celebration built around a non-Irish figure who adopted Ireland as his home and which owes its contemporary incarnation both to developments among the diaspora and to secular and religious traditions, some of which reach back into pre-Christian times. St Patrick’s Day reflects an Irish identity comprising multiple, complex and often contradictory strands that issue from within and without Ireland. It could be argued that its multifaceted and mutable associations are the very qualities which render St. Patrick’s day as an eminently fitting celebration of historical and contemporary Irishness. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Author: Alison Herbert, Irish Centre for Social Gerontology Opinion: 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of some women in Ireland winning the right to vote, but there are still many obstacles to full gender empowerment In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffrage supporters established the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Britain, kick-starting the Votes for Women campaign and the "Deeds Not Words" slogan. By 1908, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, husband Francis, and Margaret Cousins had created the Irish Women's Franchise League (IWFL). Influenced by the militancy of the WSPU, these Irish suffragists pushed their ideology of "suffrage first, before all else", smashing the windows of the GPO, the Custom’s House, and Dublin Castle, for which they served jail sentences. By the time the right to vote was reluctantly granted in 1918 to women (under the restricted conditions of age, property rights and education), over 1,000 campaigning suffragists had been imprisoned, many being force-fed whilst on hunger strike. Others, like Emily Wilding Davison, had literally given their lives to the cause. It took a further ten years before all women were electorally recognised as equal to men and allowed to vote at 21 years of age. Although the suffrage campaign is considered to be the definitive first wave of feminism, it was followed by many movements throughout the 20th century calling for legislation to address gender discrimination. A number of legislative successes have been achieved, most notably around pay and contraception, however; the promised land still appears to hover tantalisingly over the horizon. So, to paraphrase Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, is it now the case that women, having secured the right to vote, are content that all battles had been won? Whilst recognising that women in first world countries like Ireland and Britain are relatively privileged in comparison to most of those in developing countries, it is notable that the first world #MeToo movement on sexual harassment is drawing momentum from a diverse demographic of whistle-blowers of all ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to the brave body of women from our past, we can welcome a swathe of younger feminists who continue to challenge gender boundaries. These include June Eric-Udorie, instrumental in adding feminism as a subject to England’s school curriculum, and Laura Bates of the on-line Everyday Sexism project. But does this mean that women are finally experiencing empowerment 100 years on? And how would we recognise it anyway? Gender empowerment is generally considered to be a process by which women redefine and extend what is possible for them to be and do in situations where they have been restricted, compared to men. Obstacles to empowerment, including the separate norms, beliefs, customs and values that societies use to differentiate between women and men, are still widespread, although many women do make choices that go against cultural or social expectations. Empowerment is an on-going process, not a final goal, and we can only feel empowered or disempowered, relative to others or relative to ourselves at a previous time. Some literature argues that empowerment cannot be bestowed, but must be won. If we do not investigate older rural women, how are we to understand their feelings on empowerment? Thus, our government cannot dictate empowerment through legislation that it chooses to control, but should instead be led by the actions of women. What governments, agencies such as United Nations Development Fund for Women(UNIFEM), UN Women, and charities like CARE International can do is to create and sustain the kinds of socio-economic conditions that will support and allow women themselves to find their own empowerment. Everyday societal sexism and ageism, singly or combined, can be so subtle as to become unremarkable. Even the relative paucity of academic research on mid-life rural women speaks something of this cohort’s invisibility. If we do not investigate older rural women as a separate major unit of analysis, how are we to understand their feelings on empowerment? In a recent study of mid-life rural women in Ireland, almost half the participants reported feelings of empowerment at mid-life but, given the subjective interpretation of this term, a closer look at participant narrative can sometimes suggest otherwise. Thus, whilst most participants felt sufficiently "empowered" at the pivotal mid-life stage to largely ignore the dictates of fashion, and were proud to cite wisdom and experience as valued assets, most also spoke of rural societal constraints that directly influenced their quality of life. Such constraints included sitting at home of an evening rather than frequenting alone the only social outlet, the local pub. Another was the decision not to date local men for fear of having one’s private life discussed openly in the local community. Some participants spoke of partners controlling money, work or place decisions. Others spoke of the frustration at not being able to access training or education that might support their quest for empowerment. All participants spoke of their fears around a loss of autonomy and agency through physical or cognitive impairment, and the consequent possibility of institutional care. Most rural participants did not earn enough to save enough to pay for private healthcare or contribute to private pension schemes. All expressed a fear of reliance upon a volatile state pension scheme that would be unlikely to support their independence in older age. Almost no participant wanted a family member to have the "burden" of caring for them in later life (although they were prepared to care for others) and simply "hoped for the best" in the absence of an alternative. Whilst most had their own car at mid-life, participants were acutely aware of a time in later life when they may not be allowed to drive. All reported such a scenario as being highly disempowering. In summary, women felt empowered by an inner sense of experience and wisdom, but simultaneously anxious about a time ahead when they might lose control of their health and employment abilities. In addition to rural political disadvantage, these may well leave them vulnerable and exposed to social exclusion from essential services and resources in older age, and ultimately to a poorer quality of life. Older rural women are generally resilient and positive, but they cannot do it all alone. 100 years on, there is still an imperative for collaborative legislative and non-legislative interventions that favour those who are routinely exposed to sexism and/or ageism, and that encourage the means through education, training, employment, health, and rural place that enable women to empower themselves. his article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Author: Niamh O'Halloran, The Lambe Institute for Translational Research Analysis: new high impact research aims to use stem cells from patients as a method of breast reconstruction after mastectomy Breast cancer is a global healthcare challenge, with the National Cancer Registry predicting that there will be approximately 5,000 new breast cancer cases in Ireland per annum by 2020. Despite the development of more sensitive methods of diagnosis and advances in oncological treatment, surgical excision of the tumour is still a critical part of breast cancer treatment.  40 percent of breast cancer patients require a mastectomy to treat their disease. This rate is increasing due to more patients undergoing risk-reducing mastectomies after diagnosis of genetic mutations which increase their risk of developing breast cancer, as seen in the case of Angelina Jolie in 2013. Mastectomy is a disfiguring operative procedure, and can result in significant physical and psychological issues for patients. Immediate breast reconstruction has become an integral part of breast cancer care, affording psychosocial and cosmetic benefits.  Currently, breast reconstruction is carried out by two distinct methods: (1) the insertion of a silicone implant or (2) the transfer of muscle or fat tissue from another area of the body to the chest wall to recreate the removed breast. Implant reconstructions are the most common breast reconstructive procedures carried out worldwide. Unfortunately, implant breast reconstruction is not without its limitations. These include inappropriate breast reconstruction volume and texture, infection, implant rupture, extrusion of the implant through the skin, foreign body reactions creating scar tissue around the implant (i.e. capsular contracture) and the need for implant replacement every 10 to 15 years.  The principle limitation of implant-based reconstruction is capsular contracture, which is a foreign body reaction resulting in the formation of a circumferential capsule of fibrous tissue around the implant. This can cause pain, decreased shoulder mobility and poor cosmetic and quality of life for patients. It also represents a significant economic burden as treatment requires re-operation with removal of the scar tissue capsule and implant replacement. Adipose tissue engineering research focuses on the development of a new type of breast implant. This is composed of the patient’s own fat using tissue engineering strategies that will not generate the same foreign body reaction as silicone implants, thus solving the problem of capsular contracture.  Such autologous fat is thought to be a superior method of soft tissue augmentation due to a range of properties including its versatility and ability to integrate into the patient’s tissues. It is not rejected by the patient’s immune system, has similar physical properties to breast tissue and appears more natural than implants or autologous reconstructions. It also does not create a wound and scar elsewhere in the body as is necessary when harvesting large volumes of muscle and adipose tissue to recreate the breast mound in current methods of autologous breast reconstruction. Adipose tissue engineering requires a stem cell with the capacity to differentiate or transform into mature adipocytes/fat cells. Adult stem cells are found in almost all adult tissues. Stem cells extracted from adipose tissue are becoming the gold standard cell source for tissue engineering as they hold several advantages over stem cells isolated from the bone marrow. They are harvested with less invasive procedures, they have a higher cell yield per gram of tissue, they grow faster and live longer in the laboratory setting and are capable of differentiating into several different mature cells types (e.g. adipocytes, osteocytes, myocytes, cardiomyocytes). We propose to extract fat and its stem cells from patients and reinject this as a method of breast reconstruction after mastectomy.  Recreating the breast mound post-mastectomy will require long-term maintenance of larger tissue volumes in engineered grafts which will require a suitable cell-supporting scaffold. Scaffolds allow for the growth of cells in a 3D microenvironment, more accurately mimicking the native tissue. The "ideal" scaffold is one that allows for the production of "native-like tissue", with similar physical and biochemical properties of the tissue it is replacing.  My research makes use of a scaffold known as a hydrogel, which is composed of natural proteins found within the body’s tissues and water. This provides support for stem cells and mature adipocytes and the hydrogel along with the cells it is carrying can be injected into the site of mastectomy to recreate the breast mound.  Patients will have a shorter length of hospital stay and less operating time will be spent correcting complications, thus reducing the economic burden of mastectomy However, as this treatment will be utilised mostly by patients who have had a mastectomy for the treatment of breast cancer, assessment of the oncological safety of this strategy is central to my research. This is done by analysis of the cells used for the expression of genes known to be associated with breast cancer and by the analysis of the liquid media the cells and hydrogels are kept in for factors and chemicals known to be secreted by breast cancer or to be capable of promoting breast cancer growth or progression. This is high impact research, funded by Breast Cancer Research, an Irish charity who raise funds for research in the field of breast cancer in NUI Galway, which aims to develop an effective reconstruction option for mastectomy patients. It overcomes the limitations of current methods of breast reconstruction and results in reduced psychosocial disease, a higher quality of life and decreased risk of requiring further reconstructive procedures due to complications.  The most significant complications we aim to overcome through the development of a new breast implant are implant rupture and capsular contracture. With this achieved, rates of reoperation will be reduced and there will be fewer hospital admissions required. Patients will have a shorter length of hospital stay and less operating time will be spent correcting complications, thus reducing the economic burden of mastectomy.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Author: Alina Wieczorek, School of Natural Sciences Report: a new study has found that nearly one in four Northwest Atlantic Ocean deep water fish have ingested microplastics In recent years, marine litter and microplastics in particular have been widely researched by the scientific community and gained much attention in the media. Microplastics are small plastic fragments that commonly originate from the breakdown of larger plastic items entering our oceans. Other sources may be waste water effluents carrying plastic fibres from clothing and microbeads from personal care products. While microplastics have previously been recorded in many marine environments and shown to be internalised by a variety of marine organisms,a new study by marine scientists at NUI Galway,  published today in the Frontiers in Marine Science journal, shows that even deep water fish inhabiting remote waters in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean contained microplastics in their stomachs. Out of 233 deep water fish which were collected, 73 percent had internalised microplastics, making it one of the highest numbers recorded for fish globally. The fish were collected aboard the Celtic Explorer research vessel from depths of up to 600m by the use of large fishing nets. Amongst the investigated species were the Spotted Lanternfish, Glacier Lanternfish, White-spotted Lanternfish, Rakery Beaconlamp, Stout Sawpalate and Scaly Dragonfish. While inhabiting depths of 600-1000m during the day, the fish are known to swim to the surface at night to feed on plankton. Due to their low density, most microplastics float at the surface so it is likely that this is where the fish are exposed to the microplastics. The ingestion of microplastics by marine organisms have been shown to cause internal physical damage, inflammation of intestines, reduced feeding and other effects. But what is also of concern is that many of these ingested microplastics have associated additives, such as colourants and flame retardants that are added to plastics during production process, and/or pollutants that are absorbed onto the microplastics from the sea. There is now evidence that some of these toxins on the microplastics can be transferred to animals that eat them with potential harmful effects. The identified microplastics were mostly fibres, commonly blue and black in colour. Potential sources of these fibres include the shedding of microfibers from clothes during washing. Thus, the study highlights that these seemingly remote fishes located thousands of kilometres from land several hundred meters down in our ocean are not isolated from our pollution. Indeed, it’s worrying to think that our daily activities, such as washing our synthetic clothes in our washing machines, results in billions of microplastics entering our oceans through waste water streams and may eventually end up in these deep sea fishes. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Author: Dr Martin O'Donoghue, School of Humanities Opinion: 1918 was a year of civic action, the end of war in Europe, women voting for the first time and a groundbreaking election result 2018 will mark the anniversary of a number of major events with far-reaching consequences as we enter the second phase of the decade of centenaries. This year’s centenaries focus our minds on civic actions, the end of war and a major democratic landmark in our history as women voted for the first time. However, just as the Easter Rising is best understood in the context of the first World War, little that we commemorate this year will make sense without engaging with wider social and political shifts taking place around the globe. Post-Rising Ireland As 1918 opened and franchise legislation received Royal Assent on 6 February, the Irish Convention, called to settle the home rule question, was coming towards to its conclusion. Like other efforts since 1912, it would fail to find a solution to the opposing wishes of nationalists and unionists. Amidst the Convention’s final meetings, its most significant advocate and Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) leader John Redmond passed away on March 6. The leader of Irish nationalism since 1900, Redmond had enjoyed a long and successful political career, but left behind a party battling a revitalised Sinn Féin. April saw the British government attempt to extend compulsory military service to Ireland. Such a move was swiftly opposed by the IPP, Sinn Féin, Cumann na mBan, labour groups and the Catholic Church. Rallies were held around the country from rural villages to major urban centres as Irishmen and Irishwomen demonstrated defiant opposition to the measure.  A general nationwide strike was called for April 23 and women’s groups organised "Lá na mBan" for June 9. The significance of this movement cannot be understated and almost a century later, it serves to highlight the power of organised civic action. The government ultimately abandoned the proposals. The IPP, having endorsed voluntary military service in 1914, gained no credit for opposing forced service as Sinn Féin gathered momentum. With just eleven days to go until Christmas in 1918, voters across Ireland and Britain went to the polls. It was a momentous election by any measure, as the franchise was extended for the first time to women aged 30 and older with property qualifications and to all men aged 21. In Ireland, it also signified a major changing of the political guard as Sinn Féin swept to victory over the Irish Parliamentary Party. An end to war The German spring offensive, which prompted the British to consider conscription in Ireland, receded and war finally ended with the Armistice signed on November 11. As detailed in the recent efforts to reassert the centrality of Irish war involvement in the historical narrative, the conflict exercised a heavy toll on many Irish families that lost loved ones at the front, while thousands others returned to a changed country. As war ended, nationalists around the world clamoured for recognition and even Herbert Asquith "recanted" his previous opposition to women’s suffrage, citing their wartime contribution. The ideas of US President Woodrow Wilson energised people across Europe and beyond, as he promised self-determination for small nations and extended voting rights in a world to be "made safe for democracy". Women on the home front As historians such as Margaret Ward and Senia Pašeta have pointed out, Irish women had played active roles in the Ladies’ Land League and had been instrumental, along with counterparts in Britain, in the campaign for suffrage. However, although individual members had been favourable to women’s suffrage, the IPP had been unwilling to force the issue on the British Liberal government before the war.  In 1918, women contributed to the campaigns of Sinn Féin, the IPP and the Unionist Party by organising, canvassing, and updating electoral registers Yet the IPP lagged behind the other two parties in its engagement of women activists. It fielded no female candidates while Sinn Féin put forward two women: Constance Markievicz, who was victorious in the Dublin St Patrick’s constituency and the first woman elected to the British parliament, and Winifred Carney, who represented Sinn Féin in Belfast Victoria. The 1918 election While the IPP’s role in the development of political culture in Ireland remains significant, it had been displaced by 1918 by Sinn Féin as the voice of nationalism. The party clearly lacked its opponent’s dynamism and Eileen Davitt scoffed at the idea that the IPP carried on the work of her father’s generation. Its organisation had decayed during the war and it was unused to facing contests in many constituencies.  Fatally undermined by the failure to achieve home rule, it was reduced to just six MPs in Ireland. Although it still retained support, the IPP was ruthlessly punished under the first-past-the-post electoral system. Only one of its successes was outside Ulster; its survival there was aided by an electoral pact brokered to avoid splitting the nationalist vote in unionist areas. As Labour stood side, Sinn Féin won spectacularly and took 73 seats. It set its eyes on the Paris Peace Conference and would abstain from Westminster, instead establishing the first Dáil on 21 January 1919. In 1918, Ireland was very much part of a global mood of excitement and change after the destruction of the previous four years; as future centenaries should note, it would not be alone in facing violence in the years which followed either. However, in the hopeful first months of a post-war world, for many of the men and women who voted on 14 December, Sinn Féin had emerged as the Irish face of self-determination. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 12 March 2018

Author: Tina-Karen Pusse, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures The Brainstorm long read: as Angela Merkel prepares for her fourth term in power, her fellow Germans are tense, uneasy and worried The German economy is thriving. In 2017, the state posted a budget surplus of €36.6 billion and unemployment rates were at a record low. In addition to free third level education up to PhD level, crèches are now massively subsidised. Through a combination of state support for a shorter work week in core industries ("Kurzarbeitergeld") and a low percentage of house ownership (and hence an absence of bad mortgages), the German population sailed through the economic crash of 2008 relatively unharmed. The only exception to this is the negative effects of the ECB’s low interest rates and the consequences for life insurances and pension funds. But despite all of this, the atmosphere in Germany is tense. Almost six months after the 2017 elections, only a provisional government is in place. The two biggest parties are only united by knowing that the failure of their coalition will either lead to a minority government, where the right-wing AfD will try to dictate the political discourse, or to new elections, where they will likely lose even more seats to them. Regardless of Germany’s current economic strength, there is no real appetite for a re-launch of the "successful" SPD/CDU coalition.  According to a recent Forsa survey, Germans are very anxious about their future, with "poverty in old age" and "social inequality" at the top of the list. So, if everything is going so well, why are Germans so anxious? 21st century Germany is more deeply divided than it was during the Cold War. On one hand, we find spontaneous welcoming committees for refugees. Even three years after the peak of media attention, volunteers offer their homes to foster unaccompanied teenagers, or help young adults to navigate through German bureaucracy to find apprenticeships. On the other hand, police statistics count more than 2,000 attacks on refugee centres. An authoritarian nationalist party enters the Bundestag with a double digit percentage and even becomes the strongest political power in Saxony. We find stories of impressive social climbing, but we also find adjunct professors in their mid-forties who have to move back in with their parents and rely on state top-ups to even reach social welfare level. To understand how this came about, we have to go back to 2003 How could this have happened? To understand how this came about, we have to go back to 2003. This was when Germany had (repeatedly) failed the Maastricht criteria, was deeply in debt and was still struggling to economically absorb the costs of the unification. It was the "sick man of Europe" and was frowned upon for not having made the transition from an industrial to a service economy. In that year, a coalition of SPD and the Green Party (yes, the Green Party) during the last leg of their term decided to shift the narrative from a post-war and post-unification Germany (both projects of social cohesion, democratic education and solidarity) to one of global competitiveness and domestic austerity. "Fördern und Fordern" ("to support and to demand") was their slogan. This was a time that saw massive support for university graduate schools and research fellowships, infrastructural investment and an increase in the number of managers at state-organised job centres to get the long term unemployed back to work. The new possibility to combine jobseekers’ allowance with salaries below the social welfare threshold changed the German job market as we knew it. Prior to this decision, a defacto minimum wage was set slightly above social welfare level. For the following 14 years, wages in all areas were in freefall and went down in some areas to only €2 or €3 per hour. Many astonishing careers were built and companies kickstarted based on the possibility to avail of low skilled workers almost for free. Other new schemes included "mini jobs", the possibility to earn up to €450 a month tax free with a minimum employer contribution for health insurance. This initiative was targeted at the black market of domestic jobs and later resulted in a high proportion of part time workers forced into contracts that didn’t include pension contributions. And, yes, the German job market became very "dynamic" as a result. There were massive earning possibilities for those who adapted quickly to navigating the new system and who had access to start-up funding. However a society so focussed on the dynamics of a competitive market had forgotten the bigger proportion of its citizens in this equation. A dynamic that disproportionally lifts up the 30 percent that benefit from it, also produces stories of failure, regrets and resignation for the remaining 70 percent. Unlike the US, for example, the German market doesn’t really allow for failure. Insolvency law is very strict, unaccounted years on a CV will land an application in the bin and career progression is expected to be linear.  Even small tectonic shifts in a biography, such as a badly timed pregnancy or divorce, can remove individuals from a career track forever. And life in the cohort of the unlucky can be very harsh. The programme, called "Agenda 2010", was about the abolition of social welfare to be replaced by a hybrid system of neoliberal ideology and punitive paternalism. Take Hartz IV, for example, which was named after Peter Hartz, the head of the committee which presented 13 proposals for reform. After a short period on jobseekers benefit (which is paid by social insurance deductions of employees), jobseekers rely on a system comparable with Ireland’s jobseekers’ allowance. Rates increased in 2018 to €416 a month for a single person household and rent support might also be paid under very restricted circumstances. The application process for Hartz IV can take several weeks, consists of excessive paperwork and requires total transparency regarding one’s means. Only €3,900 of personal savings are protected and this includes property valued above this threshold. Before state support kicks in, houses, cars, family jewellery etc. have to be sold and the applicant has to live on his or her own means until their remaining funds have reached the threshold. This system change led to a climate of fear, especially among the self-employed, those working on temporary contracts and those employed in vulnerable sectors Bank statements have to be submitted constantly. Even birthday and Christmas presents have to be stated and might lead to deductions. Summer jobs of children in the same household are counted as income and lead to deductions. If applicants live in a houseshare, unannounced inspections will look into bedrooms, closets and bathrooms to evaluate whether the applicant lives in unstated co-habitation. Once the application is approved, jobseekers must attend courses and proposed job interviews, even if those are completely disconnected from their experience profile. If they reject a job offer or miss an appointment, they are immediately sanctioned by deductions up to their total allowance.This system change led to a general climate of fear, especially among the self-employed, those working on temporary contracts and those employed in vulnerable sectors. It is not too surprising that these are exactly the working conditions that the majority of 18 to 39 year olds currently experience. Asked in a a post-election Civey survey if they see their interests addressed in the current political debate, 83 percent of this group said "not really" or "not at all". Another specific interest of this group has also, so far, been ignored. The target for full completion of broadband has just been pushed back to 2025, resulting in vast areas of rural Germany still cut off from the opportunities offered by a digital economy for those working in areas with lower costs of living. After 15 years of life under the threat of Hartz IV, it became so internalised that German citizens woke up very late to the outrageous behaviour of state bodies towards refugees, who were reported to have been stripped of their remaining cash and valuables at registration in exchange for the most basic help. Those who were sheltered from the effects of Hartz IV were horrified by the actions of the state towards the new arrivals. Those accustomed to this treatment, however, were willing to pass on their trauma and would have considered anything else as unjust: why should "they" keep their grandfather’s watch, if I can’t? This divide in German society is marked not by income or educational background, but by the perceived risk of ever having to rely on the state. It is exactly the fear of those close to this threshold that is exploited by the AfD. Their voters are predominantly lower middle class, where people struggle daily to just stay where they are. These voters are filled with contempt for both those at the lower end and those with an income that allows them to live without fear and daily budgeting. They feel betrayed by a market that so suddenly has changed They feel betrayed by a market that so suddenly has changed and now expects them to stand out, take risks, show initiative, reinvent themselves and be mobile. Often coming from families who’ve experienced modest social climbing within three generations (grandfather: miner; father: electrician; daughter: paralegal), they expect good income prospects as a result of slow, steady progression, and work ethics as their reward for conforming to the expectations of parents, schools and the needs of the job market 20 years ago.   The leaders of the AfD themselves come from yet another cohort, which Heinz Bude, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kassel, describes as "Verbitterungsmilieu" (milieu of the embittered). These party leaders are reasonably well off and seem successful from the outside, but feel that they were missing out on opportunities they felt entitled to. Careerwise, they had to settle for being teachers rather than university professors or lawyers who didn’t become judges. Overall, their careers came to a halt just below their - and their family’s - expectations. In the current vacuum, they prey on the fears of the lower middle classes. They equate their personal resentment with theirs and channel their anger towards new arrivals in the country such as refugees, migrants, competitive international businesses, free movements of Europeans and state transfers towards Europe. The exchange and constant incitement of resentment between these two groups cannot be ignored. It cannot even be helped by another period of economic stability or growth, if this growth is not accompanied by a new era of state generosity. It will take a reinvention of a more global and inclusive version of solidarity, especially since the competition for income, careers and a stable livelihood is set to increase in a digital economy. Big employers like Local Motors for example, have closed their design departments. If they want to launch a new car design, they will hold a global competition rather than pay in-house designers for their work. BMW already outsources the design of car body panels to university competitions since 2006.  Current beneficiaries of such competitions are freelancers living in areas with great broadband connections and low costs of living in places like Mexico City, Mumbai or Budapest. Computer programmes are already better at interpreting x-rays or calculating tax returns than doctors or tax accountants. In other words, we will soon see another wave of well educated, currently settled citizens sliding towards a loss of career chances, precariarity and therefore, potential resentment. One might shrug this off as a problem that is certainly not singular to Germany One might shrug this off as a problem that is certainly not singular to Germany. After all, the country still has free third level educations and high employment rates for young adults and seems better equipped to take on these challenges. Yet in combination with an unforgiving high pressure environment at the bottom end that leads directly to humiliation and infantilisation, this is a recipe for disaster. The 2017 election could have been an opportunity to address these fears. Social Democrats could have identified and advocated for the precariously employed and the minimum wagers. A discussion around a basic citizens income could have moderated fears of failure, lifted the new class divide and made more modular thinking around career options possible. Yet this was ruled out by SPD (and CDU) right from the start. Instead, the biggest legacy of their last term in coalition was a pension reformthat allowed earlier retirement for those who completed 45 years of pension contributions prior to reaching official retirement age. Certainly, it was a nice and welcome gesture, but not one that was of any relevance to the generations who did not start working at the age of 15 and could look forward to a future of uninterrupted security, predominantly with the same employer.   On the other hand, speeding up the broadband infrastructure plans could have been an opportunity to focus on positive aspects of digitalisation. This could have allowed rural areas to participate in the digital gig economy. There are positive examples of self-employment through platforms such as DaWanda (a German version of Etsy), translation and transcription services and programming. But these depend on quick, reliable broadband which is, so far, confined to urban areas with high living cost and rentsNext week, Angela Merkel will presumably be sworn in for another term, having just about attained the necessary backing for a relaunch of the previous coalition. But a lot needs to change in the next four years so that the social divide does not become an abyss. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Author: Dr Malie Coyne, School of Psychology Opinion: infant mental health is an important public health issue, as research shows the quality of the early relationship builds the foundation for virtually every aspect of human development Babies are hardwired to develop a social connection with their primary caregiver, usually their mother or father. Without this relationship, they would not survive. We learn about who we are through our relationships. It is within the sacred crucible of the most important first relationship, the parent-infant bond, that our sense of self and the world develops. "Infant mental health" refers to the child’s healthy social and emotional development in the first three years of life within the context of this "attachment" relationship with the primary caregiver. This innate need for a meaningful relationship was described in John Bowlby's Attachment Theory (1969), who believed that the primary caregiver acts as a prototype for future relationships via the internal working model, which is a framework for understanding the world, the self and others. Mary Ainsworth and colleagues further developed this theory in their observational studies of individual differences in attachment, including "secure" versus "insecure" attachment styles. Put simply, a child-parent "secure" attachment refers to the availability of the caregiver to: - Provide safety and security to the baby - Attune to and respond to their needs - Provide comfort when they are upset - Share in joyful experiences - Enable the child to feel special and begin to develop a positive sense of self. Positive infant mental health is synonymous with a child’s ability to form secure relationships, to regulate their emotions, to explore their environment and to learn and develop cognitive capacities across the lifespan. Although it is a relatively new concept amongst many, it is "everyone's business" and fast becoming an important public health issue, spurred on by a growing field of research and practice. It is the quality of the early relationship which builds the foundation for virtually every aspect of human development, including emotional, physical and intellectual. Dr J Kevin Nugent, one of the world’s leading experts on early child development and director of the Brazelton Institute, referred to the revolution which has taken place in our scientific understanding of the capacity of babies and in the workings of their brains when addressing the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in 2015. Research points to a critical window of opportunity that exists in the first three years of life, where the brain develops as much as 90 percent of its wiring, which is impacted significantly by the baby's experience of everyday interactions with their caregiver. It is this steadfast evidence for the critical importance of the early years which has sparked my passion for the area. My personal experience of primary care psychology in Ireland seldom focusing on children under three has driven my determination to change the status quo. I am not alone in this growing interest, as there are some worthy initiatives happening in Ireland, including the introduction of the internationally recognised Infant Mental Health Competency Guidelines by the Irish Association of Infant Mental Health (I-AIMH), the establishment of the Psychological Society of Ireland's Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Special Interest Group (PIMHSIG), and the presence of localised inter-disciplinary Infant Mental Health Network Groups. They highlight the message that nobody is looking for perfect; a baby just needs "good enough". A true highlight of my clinical psychology career to date has been my participation in the multi-agency Early Years Sub-Group of Galway C.Y.P.S.C(Children and Young People's Services Committee), when we were given the task of creating a four-year plan for improving the health and well-being of new borns to three year olds in Galway city. Following an extensive consultation process carried out by H.S.E. Health Promotion and Galway City Partnership with parents, professionals and local community groups, we devised the Galway City Early Years Health and Wellbeing Plan 2016-2020, with a key target area being the promotion of infant mental health. To this end, the Early Years Sub-Group will be joined by the H.S.E., Galway Healthy Cities and Galway Parent Network, to launch our "Building a Happy Baby" posters on March 7 in the Maternity Classroom at University College Hospital Galway. Derived from Unicef and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Baby Friendly Initiative, our plan is to display posters in every facility parents attend in an effort to promote the child-parent attachment and to dispel common myths. There are four posters in all, each containing simple evidence-based messages which feature multi-cultural babies and parents which we plan to translate into different languages. They are positively framed in emphasising humans' innate abilities to look after their babies and highlighting the message that nobody is looking for perfect, a baby just needs "good enough". Here's a breakdown of each poster. Please note that babies are referred to as "he". Poster 1: "New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved, like they matter in the world!" Myth: Babies become spoilt and demanding if they are given too much attention. Truth: When babies’ needs for love and comfort are met, they will be calmer and grow up to be more confident. Evidence: Close skin-to-skin body contact, postnatally and beyond, significantly improves the physical and mental health and wellbeing for both mother and baby. When babies feel secure, they release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their growing brain, helping them to be happier and more confident as they grow older. Holding, smiling and talking to your baby also releases oxytocin in you which also has a soothing effect. Poster 2: "Holding a baby when they cry helps them to grow into a confident and trusting toddler." Myth: You should leave babies alone so that they learn to be independent. Truth: Babies left alone think they have been abandoned so become more clingy and insecure when you are around. Evidence: Early separation from those we depend can be very frightening for a baby and raise cortisol levels in the baby's brain, which shapes their developing nervous system and determines how stress is interpreted and responded to in the future. Babies who are held and soothed when in distress grow into more confident toddlers who are better able to deal with being away from their parents temporarily, rather than becoming clingy.  Poster 3: "Holding, smiling and talking to your baby releases a loving hormone in you and your baby. This makes you both feel calm and happier." Myth: Babies need lots of toys to keep them busy and help them learn. Truth: Looking at your face is the best way for babies to learn. Talking, listening and smiling helps your baby’s brain to grow. Evidence: Despite pressure to buy the latest gadget, what matters most to your baby and their sense of security is having quality time with YOU. In this "serve and return" interaction, babies naturally reach out for interaction through babbling, facial expression and gestures and adults respond with similar vocalizing and gesturing. This process is fundamental to the wiring of their brains and marks the beginning of your baby feeling understood, building a firm foundation for self-esteem.   Poster 4. "Keep your baby close to you so that you can learn how to meet their needs and read their signals for hunger or comfort". Myth: It is important to get babies into a routine as that makes your life easier. Truth: New babies are not capable of learning a routine. Responding to their needs makes them feel secure and cry less. Evidence: Keep your baby close so that you can start to recognise the signals he makes to tell you he is hungry, tired or wants a cuddle. Responding to these signals will not only support brain development but make your baby feel safe and secure. A mother rocking her crying baby saying gently "you poor little thing have a hunger pain in your tummy and I'm just going to feed you now" is helping the baby to manage their emotions now and in the future. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Author: Miriam Haughton, O'Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Opinion: history shows us that when a public space opens up which centralises female experience and the collective voice that this does not always lead to long-term changes "Women must belong to science, or they will belong to the church": that's what French statesman Jules Ferry declared in a speech in 1870. He was referring to the power of the Roman Catholic Church in France during the late 19th century, and the competing challenges to its teachings and philosophies proposed by scientific advancements of the time. Both religious and medical teachings put forth claims regarding the root causes of female hysteria. In summary, if hysteria could be proven through scientific enquiry to have physiological determinants, then hysteria could no longer be attributed to supernatural or religious determinants, and thus, require religious management and intervention. For this brief time in history, as political, social, economic and psychological battle lines were drawn up and strengthened, women were endowed with increased visibility (though not control) as a pawn in this battle for ideological supremacy.   There is probably no need here to point out the obvious dynamic this assumes: that women are objects, owned by patriarchal ideologies which govern their fathers, husbands, politicians, priests and doctors. The power battle was not about women necessarily. Rather, it concerned which patriarchal structure was more suitable for the control of women, and by extension, children, the family, and society. Further research from the late 19th and 20th centuries suggested that women’s hysteria was often a form of PTSD However, by confirming that hysteria is a physiological condition that can be treated according to medical knowledge, these scientists and scholars underestimated the consequences of this quest. Hysteria, indeed, is a physiological condition, now considered to be triggered by PTSD. Historically, however, hysteria was believed to be a disease connected with the uterus, from whence the name "hysteria" derived, emanating from the Greek translation. According to 19th-century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, hysteria was the disease of heredity, typically "poor" heredity, such as children born out of wedlock, or parents prone to excesses, not living in good faith or from the working classes. Further research from the late 19th and 20th centuries, particularly that advanced by Sigmund Freud among others, suggested that women’s hysteria was often a form of PTSD. This was as a result of sexual, physical and psychological abuse they suffer, largely from the domestic sphere, predominantly, at the hands of their fathers and husbands, and endemic throughout the bourgeoisie as well as the proletariat. Suddenly, the political will for scientific and medical advancement in the study of hysteria became less robust, and retreated, step by step, to the shadows of public discourse and power, wherein it largely remained until the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s. Leading US scholar and psychiatrist Judith Herman locates the starting point for this dynamic – of men listening to women - in the late 19th century, particularly in France where the activities of the large Parisian hospital, the Salpêtrière, attracted the attention of a host of young and ambitious scientists, scholars and medical professionals who sought an advanced breakthrough in the knowledge surrounding conditions of hysteria and trauma. The Salpêtrière, run by Charcot, catered to clientele including "the most wretched of the Parisian proletariat: beggars, prostitutes and the insane". Observing and categorising research findings would not be sufficient from Freud’s perspective; one must talk with these women. Herman maintains that such was the rivalry between Freud and Pierre Janet to make the breakthrough discovery that "for a brief decade, men of science listened to women with a devotion and respect unparalleled before or since. Daily meetings with hysterical patients, often lasting for hours, were not uncommon". Both Freud and Janet reached similar conclusions through talking to these women. Their conclusion of hysteria stated that it was "a condition caused by psychological trauma. Unbearable emotional reactions to traumatic events produced an altered state of consciousness, which in turn induced the hysterical symptoms". Janet called this alteration in consciousness "dissociation", while Breuer and Freud called it "double consciousness". These findings were not well received and threatened the careers of those who continued to espouse them. Thus, they diminished with time. What does this history have to do with Ireland in the 21st century? Plenty. Once more, due to a wide diversity of vested interests, a public space has opened up which centralises female experience: medical experience, professional life experience, and private life experience, with the boundaries demarcating these areas becoming increasingly porous and interconnected, not least due to social media and excesses in work-life balance. Religious and medical concerns and claims, alongside political, social, cultural and economic factors have inscribed the current debates in recent years with an urgency and fervour that cannot be contained, which may lead to a tipping point – to what kind of changes, one can only hope and dream. Will this momentum translate into changes in policy, politics, law, discriminatory practices and general social and cultural value systems? These fourth wave feminist energies are being harnessed by many individuals and groups nationally and globally. These include #MeToo, allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace, the pay gap, Repeal the 8th, Women for Election, #WakingTheFeminists, Margaret Atwood literature and dramas and many more. Alongside research from organisations such as Women’s Aid, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and the Rape Crisis Centre, these campaigns and revelations converge to tell of consistent increases in and the widespread prevalence of violence against women in everyday life. This convergence of voices has sparked a momentum that continues to gather pace and force, led by women, demanding women’s experience is listened to and believed. But will this momentum translate into measurable changes in policy, politics, the law, systemic institutional structural discriminatory practices and general social and cultural value systems? As the saying goes, when one is accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression. What will happen to the current research findings and outpourings of personal testimonies regarding women’s experience in 2018 and beyond? Ireland remains a patriarchal society, where institutional and ideological systems and networks are embedded with the rule of male privilege, which are intertwined with current practices of neoliberal capitalist economics. The visibility of token women, often placed strategically as puppets, and generalised lip service regarding equality has not altered this hugely in terms of the function and impact of the law, politics, and economics on the everyday lives of women and men. Can this current momentum, and indeed solidarity, meet these major economic and cultural hierarchies with equal force to push through major change? Or will the pressure from dominant interests, as so often happens, engender strategies led by fear and pressure to silence this growing collective voice? This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Author: Ulf Strohmayer, Department of Geography Opinion: why do questions around traffic always occupy the minds of urban citizens, planners and politicians alike when it comes to urban mobility? Urban life is inherently mobile. Urbanites commute between home and work, travel to and from airports, drop their children at schools and move between shopping and entertainment. At the same time, they complain about the lack of comfort in overcrowded buses, time lost in motorway jams, the unpredictability associated with finding a parking space or navigating street curbs while traversing a city in a wheelchair.  Questions associated with urban mobility and traffic consequently occupy the minds of urban citizens, planners and politicians alike. In fact, trading accounts about which city is worst off in terms of traffic congestion or which roads clog up at what time of the day appear to count amongst the more stable conversational practices at urban gatherings everywhere. Such singular obsessions come at a price: we tend to consider solutions to whatever traffic-related problems we identify in isolation from other issues. The moment we find ourselves stuck in traffic translates into a call for more or wider roads, while congestion at an airport sees calls for a new terminal or runway. While improving traffic-related problems in the short run, responses of this kind are often counter-productive in the medium to longer term. Traffic and especially urban types of traffic result from and, crucially, are routinised through a host of contextual influences and are not generated in a vacuum.  So why do we mostly focus on narrowly fashioned solutions? Part of the answer resides in the fact that they seem logical to most of us, resulting mostly in a reaffirmation of what we are accustomed to: car-based, locked-in systems, the-devil-we-know. But equally important is the reality that possession and use of a car is different from the ownership of most other material items. It is emotionally charged and laced with overtones of individual freedom, masculinity and, in some countries at least, job security. The recent surge in sales of SUVs may be down to a host of motives, but rational is not one of them. Urban planners ought to rise above this malaise and adopt a more holistic point of view. Many do, but many remain locked in their respective training silos. The anti-urban bias that still permeates debates and policy recommendations emanating from Dáil Éireann arguably also contributes to the absence of genuinely urban solutions to issues emanating from and attaching to city-induced mobilities.  More than 63 percent of the Irish population live in towns of 2,000 people or more and processes of urbanisation are gathering pace in Ireland and abroad. With human-induced climate change creating new realities everywhere, changes to our individual and collective mobilities should occupy a more central place in debates and planning-related practices. Knowingly or not, we are stakeholders in the mobile city The starting point for such debates must be the recognition of mobility as a socially produced side-effect of urbanisation and the largely taken-for-granted spatial divisions of labour. If the separation of socially necessary or desirable activities – sleeping, working, raising families, being active in communities, shopping, participating in leisure and sports activities etc – defines the modern city, urban traffic is perhaps its most visible "linking" consequence.  Complicating matters further is the fact that both mobility and spatial divisions of labour are embedded within and fashioned by economic practices organised around the creation of added financial value or profit. Houses in particular are bought and sold, often using creative and expansive forms of debt, and turn many of us into profit-seekers with a particular investment into the futures of our cities. Knowingly or not, we are stakeholders in the mobile city, while also purchasing our mobility using no less creative forms of finance. The rise in the number of PCP-financed cars on Irish roads over the last years speaks volumes about the complexities involved in keeping current forms of mobility literally on the road. The consequences of this are bleak and often destroy part of what we seek when deciding to live in or close to cities in the first place. The office worker who is too tired to participate in suburban community-based activities following her two-hour commute, the jogger forced to breathe air filled with nitrogen oxides and the cyclist threatened with bodily harm while riding alongside car-designed roads all form part of a system of diminishing returns. None of this is new. The European Union in particular has been proposing legislation against the most grievous of mobility-related effects, from the design of cycle paths to the lowering of exhaust emissions. But unless such measures are met with intelligent and joint-up planning at a local level, it will amount to little more than remedial tinkering.  Forward-looking responses by planners can crudely be grouped into two categories: (1) solutions oscillating around technologies of different kinds (often labelled "smart" urbanism) and (2) systemic answers that build towards changes in behaviours through urban design. The latter approach has been bundled together in the so-called Melbourne Principles of 2002, which call for more walkable, compact and sustainable cities, built around biodiverse environments and reduced ecological footprints among other things.  Combined, these two approaches hold the promise of encouraging state-led planning initiatives that are built around medium- to longer-term objectives, ideally integrating costs across ministerial portfolios. Learning from our Danish brethren and sisters would, for instance, entail the desirability of using future savings in health expenditures accruing as a result of walkable or cycling-friendly cities inducing healthier lifestyles for the construction of better cities now. The recently published National Planning Framework goes some way towards incorporating these concerns and solutions into Irish planning practice. This can be seen the stipulation that 40 per cent of all future housing ought to be built within the existing built-up areas of identified Irish cities. The question is whether good intentions and instruments that are aligned with same are enough to counter the corrosive tendencies of urban environments that remain thoroughly in the thrall of profit-orientated and car-dependent interests and practices.  While the goal of achieving higher densities may well receive a warm welcome by building companies, it will often be the core reason for planning objections by citizens concerned with protecting their investments into the housing market  Builders, by contrast, often balk at practices seeking to entice higher degrees of social inclusion or at leaving spaces vacant for communal activities that do not yield a monetary profit for anyone. Here the problem will reside less with best laid plans, but have everything to do with the enforcement of same in concrete local planning practices. Take the attempt to construct a Galway variant of Adamstown (County Dublin) at Ardaun East of the city. The published local area plan indicates a willingness to prevent a repeat of estate-led initiatives crammed with single- and detached houses that mar Galway’s western urban edge by proposing to develop an "urban village" inclusive of schools and other amenities. However, the plan still falls short of integrated planning in many aspects, crucially rendering mobility and traffic almost as afterthoughts to otherwise not affected planning for housing. Public transportation and linking pedestrian routes thus emerge if at all in the form of aspirational futures, rather than providing the backbone, the sine qua non, of urban planning. In all of this, it is well worth remembering that today’s planning for future mobilities involves uncertainties. Take self-driving cars, for example, or the ongoing change to ownership habits through the spread of shared economy practices. Combine the two and imagine a city filled with automated electric cars used in the form of subscription packages of the kind already common for music and film consumption and we are all imagining markedly different, transformed urban environments.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Author: Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, Department of History Opinion: the work of early Irish scholars and astronomical experts on developing mathematical tables helped to solve the thorny problems of Easter-calculation "What could be more perverse than to say 'Rome is wrong, Jerusalem is wrong, Alexandria is wrong, Antioch is wrong — the whole world is wrong: only the Irish and British know what is right!'?" With those despairing words in 632/3 AD, Irish scholar Cummian expressed the fervour of the debate around the dating of Easter that convulsed the churches of Early Medieval Ireland and Britain during the 6th and 7th centuries. Why the controversy and why did the Irish occupy such a central part in it? Easter Sunday marks the annual commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fundamental belief shared by Christians of all denominations everywhere. But Easter was not always celebrated on a Sunday, nor did it always commemorate Christ’s Resurrection only. Because the first followers of Christ had been Jews, the practice in the earliest years of the Christian Church was to regard the "new" dispensation as a re-enactment of the Old Testament feast of Passover. That commemoration was of Christ’s Passion, not his Resurrection, and this always took place on the 14th day of the month called Nisan in the Jewish calendar, no matter what day of the week it fell on.  However, in order to decisively separate themselves from the older Jewish practice, some Christians resolved that the New Testament feast day should take place on Sunday, on the basis that the gospels recorded that Christ rose from the dead on that day. There is an irony in the fact that an older custom was replaced by a newer one and adherents of the earlier practice were condemned by later fellow-Christians as heretics ("Quartodecimans", those who celebrated on the 14th day of the moon). It was an accusation that came back to haunt the Irish long afterwards. Until the 18th century, the Synod of Nicaea in 325 AD was believed (wrongly) to have laid down the rule for Easter-reckoning that we all follow today: Easter is the first Sunday following the first full-moon after the vernal or spring equinox, with the earliest possible date being March 22 and the latest being April 25. From the third century, attempts were made to provide mathematical tables that could provide dates for Easter into the future, so that distant churches could be informed of the date in good time every year. Unfortunately, the technical abilities required to produce accurate tables were beyond the capacity of Rome and its experts and only the Alexandrian Church could draw on the necessary mathematical and astronomical expertise required for such calculations.  Many different tables were proposed and discarded over the years. By the late fourth century, the church of Alexandria was claiming that it had been designated by the Synod of Nicaea as the official provider of canonical dates. But whereas Alexandria reckoned its Easter dates in accordance with a 19-year Metonic lunisolar cycle, Rome and the rest of the western church persisted with versions of a different cycle, based on multiples of 28 years, but usually in the form of an 84-year table. By 600 AD, three different Easter tables prevailed: the 532-year cycle of Victorius of Aquitaine (which had been published in 457 AD and officially adopted by the Church of Gaul in 541 AD); the 19-year table attributed to Dionysius Exiguus that circulated from the mid-6th century and an older table variously but wrongly described as "Irish", "Celtic" or "Insular", based on a cycle of 84 years. This Irish-84 table actually originated in Gaul around 410 AD and was composed by Sulpicius Severus, biographer of St Martin. It had several distinctive features that marked it apart from previous 84-year tables and Irish computists may well have been the authors of those features. The first hint of trouble with the Irish version of Easter came in 600 AD, when the famous missionary saint Columbanus arrived on the continent. He found that Irish practices differed markedly from what was current in Gaul, not least as regards the calculation of Easter. Deciding to get his retaliation in first, he fired off a letter to Pope Gregory the Great. Equally remarkable for baroque Latinity and studied insolence, the letter roundly criticised the Pope for advocating the use of Victorius’ table, something that had been examined by Irish scholars and mathematicians and been found "more worthy of pity and ridicule than of authority". The letter would have irked a saint, but there is no record of a reply from Gregory. However, the letter clearly set off a firestorm in Rome that resulted in a frenzy of papal activity aimed at establishing the identity of this Irish upstart and ensuring that his unorthodox practices were stamped out. A papal delegation to England that passed through Gaul in 605 AD reported encountering Columbanus. "Knowing the British", they remarked undiplomatically. "we at least thought the Irish were better". To their horror, they discovered that Columbanus and the other Irish on the continent shared some of the deviant practices of the heretic British. How dare they "on the outermost fringes of the known world" and but "pimples on the face of the earth" set themselves against Mother Church everywhere in the world! Cummian’s letter reports the upshot of this flurry of papal activity. On foot of a letter from Honorius I, a synod of southern Irish ecclesiastics was convened to discuss the crisis. Despite much heated argument and learned debate, no agreement could be found so a delegation was despatched to Rome, to see what was current practice in that Chief of Cities. When the delegates returned and described their findings, Cummian reports that the southern Irish churches decided reluctantly to abandon their 84-year table and adopt the Victorian one (or a variant of it). But far from resolving the issue, the decision by Cummian’s colleagues drew down a fearsome letter of rebuke from Ségéne, Abbot of Iona, the island monastery founded off the western coast of Scotland in 563 AD by St Colum Cille, who blasted the southerners for their craven abandonment of traditional Irish ways. More than that, he clearly accused them of heresy because in his reply Cummian says starkly "shut your mouth, and don’t call us heretics!" (Silete et nolite nos heriticos vocare). That the controversy continued unabated in the Irish Church is clearly indicated by the fact that yet another papal letter from John IV-elect in 640 AD was sent to the (northern) Irish, this time accusing them of being Quartodecimans and supporters of the notorious heretic Pelagius. Whether as a result of urgings to conform with Rome or of trial and error with the rival tables, most Irish churches had apparently abandoned the old Irish practice and adopted either the Victorian or the Dionysiac Easter tables by 700 AD. Only one church held out to the last: Iona. In fact, Iona and its satellite monasteries, in western Scotland and in Ireland only abandoned their 84-year Easter tables in 716 AD, apparently persuaded to do so by the Anglo-Saxon cleric, Ecgberct of Rath Melsigi (Co. Carlow), who had retired to Iona. According to the Venerable Bede, Ecgberct had been assigned the task of bringing the Iona community, which had been "ploughing a crooked furrow", back to the correct path in its Easter practices. By a remarkable coincidence, Ecgberct died on Iona on April 24 729 AD, just after he had celebrated Easter Sunday mass on a date, as Bede pointedly remarks, that would have been impossible under the rules of the the community’s older 84-year Easter table. With the abandonment of the Irish Easter on Iona in 716 AD, the 84-year table was discarded and all trace of it was lost, until its rediscovery in 1984. The recovery of that long-lost table after more than 1200 years and its subsequent reconstruction and restoration, have enabled modern scholars to calculate the historical Easter dates of the Early Irish Church. The Irish may have lost out ultimately in the wider Easter controversy, but the surviving evidence of their engagement with the thorny problems of Easter-calculation demonstrates how advanced they were for their time in the field of technical chronology and time-reckoning. In their development of mathematical formulae and techniques in the field of computus, they made a genuine contribution to the advancement of science. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Author: Conor O'Byrne, School of Natural Sciences Research: knowing how bacteria sense their environment may be an Achilles heel that we can use to kill them Bacteria are small cellular life forms that are extremely good at surviving all kinds of stresses. They have been around for much longer than us: there is good evidence that they have existed on earth for four billion years or so, whereas our ancestors appeared only in the last million years. They have had therefore plenty of time to adapt to the changeable conditions on our planet. Like us, bacteria respond to stress by changing their behaviour. They can move away from the source of the stress or put up protective barriers to help them to survive. This ability to respond to stress is also present in bacterial pathogens that can infect us. When they get into our bodies, they are faced with stressful conditions (acid in the stomach for example) and they have to survive these before they can cause an infection. Once they sense that they are in a host, they protect themselves appropriately and they also switch on their virulence programme in order to begin the infection. So how do the bacteria know where they are? How do they sense their environment so that they can behave appropriately? How do they know they are in a human host? Without this information, they wouldn’t be able to survive and importantly for us they wouldn’t be able to cause disease either! PATHSENSE is an EU-funded project at the Department of Microbiology at NUI Galway which has begun to investigate this problem. The long term goal is to understand how bacteria sense their environment so that ultimately we can block this sensory system and prevent them from surviving in our food or in our bodies. Imagine that you are deprived of all your senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and then put into a dangerous situation, such as the middle of a busy motorway. Your chances of survival would be very small. If we could do the same to bacteria, we might be able to prevent them from surviving in situations where they pose a threat to us. PATHSENSE is a €3.4 million project that involves eight different universities, a research institute and four companies spread across seven different EU countries. 13 researchers have been recruited who will move between laboratories for training and short research periods. While these researchers will tackle different aspects of how bacteria sense stress, all will be investigating a structure present in many bacteria that acts like a miniature brain for processing sensory information. The structure is called a "stressosome" because of the role it plays in allowing bacteria to sense stress. Although we know it exists we know very little about how it works. The stressosome is analogous to a brain and, like the human brain, we still have a huge amount to learn about how it works. To understand how it gives a sensory capacity to bacteria, the PATHSENSE project will try to take this structure apart and work out what each sub-unit contributes to its function. The researchers will use a range of molecular tools to investigate its structure. The long term goal is to understand how bacteria sense their environment so we can block this sensory system and prevent them from surviving in our food or bodies A big challenge will be to work out how different stresses can be sensed by the same structure. As with human senses, bacteria can sense and respond to a range of different features in their environment, including changes in temperature, acidity and light. Information about each of these things can help the bacterium to "know" where it is and to respond accordingly. Inside a human, it’s dark and acidic and the temperature is a cosy 37˚C! There are a number of food companies involved in the project, including the multinational giant Nestlé. For them the goal is to use the information we generate to help make food safer. If we could prevent bacterial pathogens from surviving in our food, a big improvement in food safety might be achievable. It might also help to extend the shelf life of food, which would be a big help to coping with global food shortages that are likely to increase as the human population continues to grow. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Author: Professor Ray Murphy, Irish Centre for Human Rights School of Law Opinion: should we allow foreign donations to support the activities of Irish civil society organisations?  Civil society organisations such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International play a vital role in promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. One of the chief ways they do this is by holding the government to account. They are also engaged in advocacy on issues within their respective mandates.  Sometimes the campaigns adopted by such organisations may not be to everyone’s liking, especially the relevant government when its policies are subject to informed criticism. In this way, civil society organisations play a key role in a functioning democracy, especially when it comes to political accountability.  The recent controversy in relation to Amnesty International’s refusal to return a large donation it received from outside Ireland to support the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment is a case in point. In the eyes of the public, this issue and the abortion debate are conflated. This is a mistake as there are more fundamental issues at stake about the role and funding of civil society organisations in general. In January, the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, the EU’s centre of human rights expertise that helps to ensure the fundamental rights of people living in the EU are protected, published an important report on the challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU. The report provides a timely insight into the situation throughout the Union and is especially relevant to Ireland, owing to the recent controversy surrounding the interpretation of the 1997 Electoral Act as amended.  The controversy revolves around the interpretation of a 2001 amendment to the 1997 Electoral Act and its enforcement by the Standards in Public Office Commission. The legislation was originally intended to prevent political corruption and regulate political campaign funding. However, it is now being interpreted broadly and it is being applied to the ordinary work of community and voluntary organisations. Legitimate fears have been expressed that there is a real risk that these laws may be used to potentially muzzle legitimate and important voices in civil society such as community organisations, non-profits, charities and international NGOs among others. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency noted the vague wording of the 1997 Act as amended and the tendency to interpret it in an overly expansive manner. It drew particular attention to the broad definition of political purpose and its potential adverse impact on civil society organisations in Ireland and noted that funding for this sector had fallen dramatically in recent years. In addition, investigations are often triggered by complaints to the regulatory body, so enforcement can inadvertently be selectively targeted. The publicity generated by this dispute and the forthcoming referendum on abortion has distracted from the broader debate about the implications for the wider civil society sector A further problem with the Electoral Act is the ambiguous language used to define a "third party" (the mechanism used to classify the types of groups which fall under the Act’s provisions). Since 2001, the definition of what constitutes a third party includes any organisation simply seeking to influence government or public policy that has received a donation in excess of €100. This is at the heart of the current dispute between the Standards in Public Office Commission and Amnesty International Ireland. The publicity generated by this dispute and the forthcoming referendum on abortion has distracted from the broader debate about the implications for the wider civil society sector.  The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly and peaceful association has drawn attention to the work of civil societies in advancing peace, development and respect for human rights. He recommended that they be able to receive funding from domestic, foreign or international sources without undue impediments. The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly emphasised that undue restrictions of civil society space have a negative impact on implementing international human rights standards. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights has also highlighted the shrinking space for human rights organisations and their important role in keeping people informed. He called for a flexible approach to funding sources and for states to refrain from imposing burdensome administrative requirements.  EU countries such as Hungary and states such as Russia, Ethiopia and Israel have sought to prevent foreign sources of funding to civil society organisations. Irish Aid has funded civil society organisations abroad.  Non governmental organisations such as Trocaire, Concern Worldwide and Christian Aid have also supported civil society organisations in the Global South. More recently, Irish Aid has stipulated that none of its aid should used for political purposes. This raises the question of how an aid agency is supposed to support a civil society organisation defending human rights against an oppressive regime or in occupied territory. Criticising such policies was fine when they applied to other countries, but now a similar situation has emerged in Ireland Supporting such activities is important and engaging local civil society actors can be the most effective and efficient use of resources. The irony is that we are now closing down similar activities in Ireland. The challenging environment for civil society is also hampered by similar rules governing the purpose and activities of charities. These constrain the nature of the activities they are permitted to undertake to obtain and maintain their charitable status.  It is not surprising that the EU Fundamental Rights Agency report highlights that it has become harder for civil society groups to support the protection and promotion of human rights due to both legal and practical restrictions on how they operate. The challenges faced vary from state to state and depend on the type and size of the organisations involved as well as the particular domestic and historical contexts.  Criticising such policies was fine when they applied to other countries, but now a similar situation has emerged in Ireland. The legislative framework needs to be reformed and civil society given the space to survive and grow. We have a very active and diverse civil society sector, and like Ireland’s non-governmental organisations, these have served us well. Anything that keeps people engaged and informed must be facilitated and promoted. Democracy is too fragile and important to leave to government or its agencies to nourish and protect.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Monday, 5 March 2018

Calling all documentary makers, can research cure a broken heart?  CÚRAM, the SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre are offering funding to filmmakers interested in producing a documentary that engages with research into cardiovascular illnesses and stroke, currently underway at CÚRAM. The ‘Science on Screen’ 2018 Information Day will take place on Friday, 9 March for filmmakers and producers. A range of top researchers and clinicians from NUI Galway will give an overview of their work, followed by a Q&A and opportunities to discuss ideas with the speakers. The ‘Science on Screen’ scheme, a funding strand for creative documentaries set in the world of science, is now in its third year. The scheme will 100% fund one 26 minute film with a budget of €35,000 that promotes the public understanding of science. The scheme forms part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme which supports the Science Foundation Ireland objective of having the most scientifically informed and engaged public. The schedule for the day will include: 10.45am: Welcome by CÚRAM 11.00am: William Wijns – Professor in Interventional Cardiology, NUI Galway 11.20am: Niamh Hynes – Vascular and Endovascular Surgical Registrar at Galway Clinic 11.40am: Dr Karen Doyle – Lecturer in Physiology and Principal Investigator at CÚRAM 12.00noon: Dr Martin O’ Halloran – Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics and Director of the Translational Medical Device Lab, NUI Galway 12.20pm: Croí – Fighting Heart Disease and Stroke 12.35pm: Galway Film Centre – Application Guidelines for Science on Screen Science on Screen is a Galway City of Film initiative between Galway Film Centre and CÚRAM. Since 2016, three Science on Screen films have been produced that have achieved success both nationally and internationally. Last October, the Irish Parkinson’s disease Science on Screen documentary, Feats of Modest Valour, won the prestigious Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York. The 2018 Information Day will take place at the Seminar Room in CÚRAM, SFI Centre for Research in Medical Devices, Biomedical Sciences Building, Newcastle Road, NUI Galway on Friday, 9 March from 10.45am to 1.30pm. To register to attend, visit: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/science-on-screen-information-day-tickets-43031026960 To view previous Science on Screen 2016 and 2017 commissions, see: Feats of Modest Valour: https://vimeo.com/184564095 Mending Legends: https://vimeo.com/189779551 Bittersweet: https://vimeo.com/242714712 -Ends-

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway, recently addressed the current ageing policies in Europe, which are narrowly focused and overlook the diversity of our ageing populations, at a European policy seminar in Brussels, hosted by the COST-funded research network on Reducing Old Age Social Exclusion in Europe (ROSEnet). The United Nations has said population ageing is set to become one of the most significant social transformations of this century. Globally, the population aged 60 and over is growing faster than all younger age groups. Focusing on different forms of social exclusion related to older age, ROSEnet, an innovative networking partnership of individuals, including researchers, older people and policy stakeholders from 41 countries, involving over 135 members, asked participants at the seminar to consider the ways in which current policy can tackle exclusion in later life across Europe. With an opening address by Ana Carla Pereira, Directorate General of employment, social affairs and inclusion at the European Commission, speakers at the seminar presented new developments in research and policy. These highlighted the steps necessary to improve social and civic participation in later life. The seminar was closed by Marian Harkin, MEP and Vice-Chair of the Intergroup on ‘Active Ageing, Intergenerational Solidarity and Family Policies’. Professor Kieran Walsh, Chair of ROSEnet and Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway, highlighted: “With continuing social and economic uncertainty, it is critical that European public policy reflects the needs of a growing, and diverse, older population. Some older people experience exclusion, which can impact on their ability to participate as full members of European societies.” New developments in research and policy were presented at the seminar, highlighting the steps necessary to improve social and civic participation in later life: Policy aimed at reducing social exclusion in later life should take account of the ways in which exclusion affects different parts of people’s lives. There is a need to be cognisant of how different risks factors for exclusion can be associated with different life-course experiences such as transitions into ill health, or poverty, and different socio-economic demographic characteristics. Developing measures that capture why older people experience lower levels of participation and difficulties in accessing resources and services will help to inform the more effective design and implementation of interventions. Efforts to address old-age exclusion are likely to be more impactful if inclusion mechanisms are relevant to older people’s lives and opportunities, and target different forms of exclusion (not just economic dimensions). The characteristics of different contexts need to be considered when designing measurement approaches, setting policy targets and creating policy interventions. Drawing on state-of-the-art research and policy perspectives, the seminar brought together key European stakeholders and researchers, who are at the forefront of policy analysis, innovation and implementation. The seminar demonstrated the benefits for policy of recognising the contributions of older people to European society. ROSEnet (Reducing Old-Age Exclusion in Europe is an innovative networking partnership between policy stakeholders, researchers and older people from 41 countries, involving over 135 members. For more information about ROSEnet, visit: www.rosenetcost.com -Ends-  

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Reforming abortion law and policy is a highly contested process. The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway is hosting an international seminar exploring key debates in the law and politics relating to abortion. As the mooted date for a referendum on Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution draws closer, the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway has drawn together a number of prominent human rights advocates and academics to consider the challenges and possibilities of abortion law in the event of a post-Eighth Amendment Ireland. Professor Siobhán Mullally of NUI Galway, commented: “Abortion law reform and policy is highly contested in Ireland and elsewhere. This international seminar provides an opportunity to reflect on the regulation of abortion and on the litigation, politics and law reform processes taking place in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US.” Speakers include Professor Carol Sanger from Columbia University, who recently published the book, About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First-Century America, and Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Irish Human Rights Commission, who has led strategic litigation on abortion law reform in Northern Ireland. Responses from the Irish law and policy reform perspective will be delivered by Professor Siobhán Mullally, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, focusing on the context of abortion law reform and human rights standards. Professor Eilionóir Flynn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway, will address abortion law reform and the rights of people with disabilities. Professor Carol Sanger from the School of Law, Columbia University, commented: “This discussion presents the United States as a case study of how forty years of decriminalisation has not normalised abortion as a reproductive practice. Indeed, the storm around it has become increasingly virulent, especially under the Trump administration.” As Professor Sanger’s book notes, abortion is one of the most private decisions a woman can make, and is also one of the most contentious topics in American civic life. Until recently, stigma and hostility stifled women’s willingness to talk about abortion, and also distorted public and political discussion on abortion law reform. The seminar will take place in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway on Friday, 9 March from 11am- 2pm. Advance registration is required at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/about-abortion-the-law-and-politics-of-reform-tickets-43025789294 The event is in association with NUI Galway’s Gender ARC (Advanced Research Consortium on Gender, Culture and the Knowledge Society). -Ends-

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

NUI Galway will host a series of events to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8 and 9 March. Events are free and open to the public. Dr Máire Geoghegan-Quinn will give a keynote address on ‘Excellence in higher education through gender equality’ a personal and professional reflection Throughout her career Dr Geoghegan-Quinn has broken new ground, exemplified authenticity, and shown confidence and strong purpose in the exercise of power. She has been a leader among women and men, the first Irish female Cabinet minister, and the first Irish woman to serve as an EU Commissioner. Most recently, she chaired the HEA Expert Group who conducted the extensive National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions. The recommendations of the Review are driving further work by universities to address gender equality. Hosted by the University Women’s Network in the Siobhán McKenna Theatre, Arts Millennium Building on Thursday, 8 March from 12.30pm-2pm. The LGBT+ and Staff Network will host a talk on ‘Same-sex relationships among Irish-revolutionary women’ Presented by Dr Mary McAuliffe, Professor in Gender Studies, UCD in the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance on Friday, 9 March at 4pm. The Centre for Global Women’s Studies will host two events in conjunction with the NUI Galway Feminist Society, in celebration of International Women’s Day on Thursday, 9 March. 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Masters (MA) in Gender, Globalisation and Rights The Anniversary coincides with International Women’s Day and the 100th anniversary for women's suffrage in Ireland. Speakers will include former and current students and staff and will feature a student-produced documentary on the ways in which the MA has helped NUI Galway students to ‘press for progress’ on gender equality issues. The event will also include an open discussion on the future of women’s and gender studies. The event will take place 3pm-5pm, Arás Moyola, Lecture Theatre MY243. Stories of Una: Remembering Una Taaffe on International Women's Day Elaine Mears, a Masters in Human Rights Law graduate from NUI Galway, in conjunction with Galway Feminist Society, will give a talk on well-known Galway business woman and personality, Una Taaffe. The focus of this talk will be on Una as a strong business woman who transgressed gender norms. The continuing matriarchal nature of business in Galway will also be discussed and key Galway business women will be in attendance. The event will take place from 6.30pm-8pm, CA111, Lecture Hall 1, J.E. Cairnes Building. To register to attend the keynote address by Dr Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and the LGBT+ and Staff network talk, visit:  http://www.nuigalway.ie/equalityanddiversity/events/international-womens-week-2018.html To attend the 10th Anniversary celebration and reception prior to the talk on Una Taaffe please email Molly Geoghegan at m.geoghegan7@nuigalway.ie. For more information about the events, visit: www.nuigalway.ie/womens_studies/ and www.storiesofuna.com or www.facebook.com/FeministSocietyNUIG/ and #pressforprogress. -Ends-

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Professor Cathal O’Donoghue: “Recognising Diversity and Complexity in Policy Formation”.  The College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway will be hosting a series of lectures by recently appointed Professors in the University. The Lectures will be hosted in the Moore Institute beginning on Thursday, 8 March at 5pm. Professor O ‘Donoghue’s lecture will draw upon the results of his research career to date to describe the methodologies he has developed and conclusions he has drawn for policy analysis and design and to reach out to new collaborators in inter-disciplinary research. His research aims to understand how policy impacts across the population, incorporating the breadth of diversity that exists in different population groups. His field of research is in the area of Micro-Simulation Modelling, where for 25 years he has developed tools to simulate the impact of public policy on Micro distributions (individuals, Families, Farms). Fundamentally these are tools to understand complexity. Policy formation involves understanding complexity via complexity of policy, complexity of population structure and complexity of behavioural response. Dr Seán Crosson, Vice-Dean (Research, Reputation and Impact), College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway said: "We are delighted to announce the launch of our New Professor's Inaugural Lecture series. The series provides a great opportunity for the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies in NUI Galway to introduce to the general public and academics across the University new professorial appointments and to foreground the world-leading innovative research being undertaken in the college. The lectures will run on a monthly basis throughout the calendar year in the Moore Institute and all are welcome to attend." In addition, other dimensions that can be considered include spatial and temporal complexity. In this lecture, Professor O'Donoghue will discuss how the development of these tools have been used to consider policy questions such as anti-poverty, environmental, labour market, education, agricultural and rural policy. His work is currently focusing on the interaction between land-use change and demographic both in a contemporary setting and in understanding historical land use drivers of demographic changes.  Professor O'Donoghue is the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at NUI Galway and a Professor of Public and Social Policy. Prior to this he was Head of Teagasc’s (Irelands Agriculture and Food Development Authority) Rural Economy and Development Programme, one of the 4 research programmes of Teagasc. Subsequent speakers in the series will include: Professor Gerry MacRuairc, School of Education on Thursday, 5 April Professor Brian McGuire, School of Psychology on Thursday, 3 May Professor Niamh Reilly, School of Political Science & Sociology on Thursday, 21 June All lectures will be hosted in the Moore Institute (GO10) from 5-7pm and all are welcome. If you are unable to attend the lecture here is the link to Webstream: http://bit.ly/2trS1DJ   -Ends- 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A consortium of researchers and health service providers, led by Professor Gary Donohoe from the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, has received €1.5 million in funding from the Health Research Board for a new collaborative doctoral program focused on understanding and responding to the mental health needs of young people under the age of 25. Mental health difficulties (including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia) account for approximately half of all causes of disability in individuals under the age of 25 in Ireland and around the world. Commenting on the funding award, Professor Gary Donohoe from NUI Galway, said: “Despite the fact that difficulties with mental health usually begin between the ages of 15 and 25, and early treatment reduces later risk, people aged 12-25 years have the poorest access to treatment of all age groups. “With this funding, the YOULEAD consortium will address some of the main reasons for this, including an insufficient understanding of youth mental health, difficulties with early recognition of symptoms, a lack of strategic organisation and delivery of health services, and high levels of stigma. The YOULEAD programme will address these issues by establishing an interdisciplinary cross-university PhD training program to equip researchers to better understand youth mental health difficulties and barriers to treatment, and to build an evidence base for treatment.” The consortium will seek to form a new national youth mental health research network, representing key stakeholders in youth mental health, including individuals and families with lived experience of mental health difficulties, national health services, and national/governmental policy makers. This network will provide a much-needed platform for knowledge exchange and dissemination that will help to shape future service delivery, and national youth mental health policy. The YOULEAD consortium consists of leading youth mental health researchers from NUI Galway (Professor Gary Donohoe, Dr Caroline Heary, Dr Padraig MacNeela), UCD (Professor Barbara Dooley, Professor Eilis Hennessey), and RCSI (Professor Mary Cannon, Professor David Cotter), and Ireland’s two main youth mental health service providers, the HSE, and JIGSAW (Dr Aileen O’Reilly). -Ends-

Friday, 9 March 2018

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, will partner with five other European institutions to develop new advanced therapies and technologies in skin regeneration for the treatment of burns and chronic wounds. The €4 million NanoGrowSkin project will involve a multidisciplinary healthcare approach to develop an improved chronic wound therapy. The goal of this project is to develop a bioengineered human skin substitute, improving the manufacturing process, shortening the production time, and enhancing its treatment effectiveness. Director of CÚRAM, Professor Abhay Pandit, who will lead the research project from NUI Galway, said: “The skin is the main protective barrier the body has against any external attack. Any skin disease or injury needs to be treated immediately. The most common conditions are wounds, pressure ulcers and burns, and current treatments based on the use of skin grafts, or even on implanting skin originating from a donor, are associated with several problems. In this project we will be investigating the development of a bioengineered human skin substitute that would be a suitable option for treating patients.” Until now, different types of artificial skin covers have been designed, although none of them has successfully reproduced the accurate structure and functions of the native human skin. Moreover, they can also present some disadvantages, such as a high bacterial infection risk, low biological activity and low regenerative effectiveness. “We aim to overcome the two major drawbacks of severe skin wounds, the urgent need of an effective skin implant in life-threatening situations and to avoid/counteract usual bacterial infections”, added Professor Pandit. The international research team will take advantage of their combined expertise on tissue engineering, to manufacture an autologous (from the patient’s own body) skin substitute comprised of materials whose safety and efficacy have already been proven in humans. The first milestone of the NanoGrowSkin project will be the optimisation of human artificial skin models by using pharmaceutical quality products and the implementation of novel methods, such as nanomedicine technologies. Nanotechnology is technology that works at the nano scale (one nanometer is one billionth of a metre). Nanomedicine is utilising nanotechnology for medical purposes. This will allow the development of biomaterials with improved and suitable biomechanical and antimicrobial properties for use in patients with burns and chronic wounds. The second aim of NanoGrowSkin will be to adapt the production of these new tools towards an optimal regulatory framework, including Good Manufacturing Practice regulation and European Medicines Agency guidelines. Finally, the project will include the development of a market access approach in order to estimate the benefits of this treatment for the entire society. The envisaged model will include the calculation of cost per patient as well as potential cost-savings and/or cost-effective measures for the affordable introduction of the tissue-engineered treatment. The project team, led by Professor Miguel Alaminos, Health Research Institute in Granada and the University of Granada, Spain, with partners from the Italian Biochemical Institute, the University of Bordeaux and the University of Technology of Compiègne in France, CÚRAM at NUI Galway and the company OSI Health XXI in Spain. -Ends-

Monday, 12 March 2018

A diabetes research team at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine are looking at ways to improve how diabetes services are delivered to young adults in Ireland. The D1 Now research team, led by Professor Seán Dinneen, has focused on involving young adults at the centre of the research, in order to improve diabetes services by creating flexible young adult-centred clinics. The D1 Now team propose to improve the delivery of diabetes services by using interactive online tools, key staff members dedicated to young adults, and tools to ensure the young adults agenda is heard within the traditional clinic. D1 Now are currently looking to recruit members for a Dublin-based Young Adult Panel (YAP) to broaden the group of people who are involved to directly contribute to the research. The research team and current Young Adult Panel members from Galway will be present to discuss what is involved for potential members and a questions and answers session to share the experience of being a Young Adult Panel member. Research indicates that this particular age group of young adults, aged 18 to 25, with type 1 diabetes often disengage from health services and their general diabetes management. However, young adults do not usually get the chance to make suggestions on how to improve diabetes services or provide feedback on how the service could work best for them. The Young Adult Panel’s involvement has led to a better understanding of what needs to be achieved in order to improve health service delivery in terms of responding to the specific needs of young adults at this transitional time in their lives. The Dublin-based Youth Adult Panel is the next step for the D1 Now programme and spreading the importance of young adult involvement across Ireland. The information evening will take place on Wednesday, 14 March at 6pm in Grantham House, Grantham Street, Dublin 8. The study was funded through a Health Research Board, Definitive Interventions and Feasibility Awards grant. For more information about D1 Now, visit: www.d1now.ie follow on Twitter @d1nowie and on Facebook at D1 Now. -Ends-

Monday, 12 March 2018

Entrepreneurs working with the Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway will benefit from a new partnership between the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and TechStars, a global start-up accelerator and entrepreneurial network. The new effort was announced March 7 at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas, USA. . The announcement comes as Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway celebrates its second year on campus at NUI Galway. As one of just 20 Blackstone LaunchPad sites across the globe, Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway boasts an entrepreneurial student community that has over 5,000 members.   It has provided over 1,800 coaching sessions since launching and holds 3-4 events each week across campus supporting entrepreneurship. The programme helps students, staff and alumni explore entrepreneurship as a viable career path. The programme is funded in partnership between the Galway University Foundation and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. Director of Innovation at NUI Galway, David Murphy said: “NUI Galway is ranked as one of the top 250 universities in the world so we must constantly innovate to ensure we deliver a world-class education and experience for our students. The TechStars partnership with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation will provide our entrepreneurs with very valuable access to international expertise, mentors and supports.” Natalie Walsh, Executive Director, Blackstone LaunchPad at NUI Galway, commented: “The announcement this week by Blackstone LaunchPad and TechStars will give NUI Galway staff, students and alumni access to world-class resources and expertise. This is a tremendous opportunity to set NUI Galway apart from other universities across the globe. We are confident that the partnership will complement our fantastic entrepreneurial eco-system on campus and further enhances our position as a place where entrepreneurship and innovation happen.” This year the NUI Galway programme will run its first student accelerator summer programme, in addition it will run a female only InnovatHER programme showcasing some of the Ireland’s leading female entrepreneurs. While in April 2018 a med-tech competition for students focussing on solving unmet clinical needs will take place. Blackstone LaunchPad is one of a portfolio of innovative programme supported by the Galway University Foundation at NUI Galway other programmes include, BioInnovate, BioExel, EXPLORE, and TechInnovate. The future of entrepreneurship at NUI Galway looks bright and promising.  ENDS

Monday, 12 March 2018

Civic and Religious Leaders attended the recent Seas Suas Awards Ceremony at NUI Galway. The Award Ceremony celebrated the successful completion of the Seas Suas training programme undertaken by 250 students. Seas Suas is NUI Galway’s innovative student-to-student mentoring programme and is an initiative between the University’s Student Services and Students’ Union and facilitated by the Chaplaincy team at NUI Galway. Students from a range of academic disciplines in NUI Galway undertake training sessions on topics such as developing positive mental health, alcohol, online wellbeing and suicide prevention. Training includes gaining knowledge about the challenging issues of student life and the corresponding supports; developing strategies for effective helping, and learning skills to intervene safely or refer appropriately.  Dr Pat Morgan, Vice President for the Student Experience at NUI Galway said: “It is so encouraging to see how many of our NUI Galway students are motivated and engaged in promoting health and wellbeing. This has significant benefits for themselves and for others particularly during these formative years in University.” Following successful completion of the Seas Suas programme, participants are encouraged to put the aims of Seas Suas into action in a variety of ways. Participants contribute to a number of specific events such as Mental Health Week, the Green Ribbon Campaign, help with the Exam Support Team and assisting with Student Orientation. The Seas Suas programme has successfully developed sustainable partnerships between students, staff and external agencies. Seas Suas is deepening our awareness about how to live happier and healthier lives so that we can continue to be a compassionate, caring and successful community. John Hannon, Director of Student Services at NUI Galway, congratulated the students for successfully completing the Seas Suas training programme and highlighted the benefits for the students in terms of the academic achievement and their personal development.      For more information on the Seas Suas programme contact Fr Ben Hughes, NUI Galway’s Chaplaincy Services at chaplains@nuigalway.ie or 091 49 5055. -Ends-

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The trial of Ratko Mladić – An Insider’s View The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway will host a public seminar on the prosecution of Ratko Mladić on Wednesday, 14 March at 1pm. The lecture will be given by Jonas Nilsson, who was the Senior Legal Officer advising the Trial Chamber in the case against Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). On 22 November 2017, Ratko Mladić was convicted by the Yugoslav Tribunal of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The judgment marked the end not only of the proceedings in this case but also of the work of the ICTY. The establishment of the ICTY almost 25 years earlier had come to mark the beginning of a new era for international criminal law and its work triggered the creation of new institutions, in particular the International Criminal Court. As one of the biggest war crimes trials in history, the trial against Ratko Mladić presented numerous challenges and lessons that are relevant for all other present and future international courts and tribunals. As a Senior Legal Officer advising the Trial Chamber of the Yugoslav Tribunal, Jonas Nilsson is in a unique position to provide an insider's perspective of the trial of Ratko Mladić and the challenges and lessons for international criminal justice. Nilsson worked at the ICTY between 2005 and 2017, having previously worked with Amnesty International, the Swedish Helsinki Committee and the Ombudsperson Institution in Kosovo. Dr Shane Darcy of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, said: “The visit of Jonas Nilsson is an excellent opportunity to learn more about one of the most important trials of the 21st century. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has made a significant contribution to international law and international affairs in the face of various legal, political and practical challenges.” The seminar is taking place on Wednesday 14 March at 1pm in the Seminar Room of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. -Ends- 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

NUI Galway today announced the full programme of events for its next CAO Open Day on Saturday, 24 March from 9am to 3pm. The Open Day is an excellent opportunity for schools, students, parents and families to explore the opportunity to study at NUI Galway. There is a packed programme of events, sample lectures and masterclasses lined up for the day, including: Over 80 stands providing information on courses, CAO points, employability, career progression routes, accommodation and fees. Sample subject talks designed to give students a real insight into studying at NUI Galway. Hands-on science workshops. Interactive sessions in Engineering, IT systems and robotics. Talk highlights for students include Sports at NUI Galway, Career Opportunities and Inspiring Women in Engineering. For parents, a range of special talks focusing on topics such as SUSI Grants, Scholarship Applications and Student Life are also scheduled. Tours of the NUI Galway campus will run throughout the day, including tours as Gaeilge. Parents are invited to attend the dedicated Parent’s Talk running at 11am and repeated again at 1pm. This is a chance for parents to experience the full range of Support Services on offer at the University and to be reassured that their sons and daughters will be fully supported during their time at NUI Galway. Visitors will learn first-hand from lecturers about the learning experience at NUI Galway, the skills development and career prospects for each of the degree programmes. Talking about the value of an Open Day for both parents and students, John Hannon, Director of Student Services at NUI Galway said: “Open Days are the opportunity for parents to see ‘under the hood’ of a university, to explore all that is on offer, but also to interrogate, to ask questions and to really see if NUI Galway is the right fit for their son or daughter. NUI Galway has achieved tremendous progress in rankings and has been awarded The Sunday Times University of the year for 2018 is testament to the dedication NUI Galway’s staff has to providing the best possible education and student experience.” To get the most out of your day visitors are encouraged to view the timetable of talks at www.nuigalway.ie/opendays.   -Ends-

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Máirtín Ó Direáin: Fathach File / Reluctant Modernist Exhibition runs in the University’s Hardiman Building NUI Galway is delighted to present a special exhibition on iconic Irish language poet, Máirtín Ó Direáin, thirty years after his death in March 1988. The exhibition was curated by Síobhra Aiken, a PhD researcher in the Centre for Irish Studies, and it draws on University, State and private archives, with many materials on public display for the first time. ‘Máirtín Ó Direáin – Fathach File / Reluctant Modernist’ was launched in the Hardiman Building by NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh. It is a highlight of the University’s celebration of Seachtain na Gaeilge 2018. According to curator, Síobhra Aiken: “While Ó Direáin is considered to be the ‘father of modern Irish poetry’, his legacy has arguably been overlooked and his life story has never been written. I hope that the exhibition will provide new biographical information, which enlightens our understanding of Ó Direáin work and will encourage further academic research on his life and his poetry. The exhibition draws on a range of archival and private material, as well as resources and art collections from within the University and beyond to give a fascinating insight into this iconic literary figure.” The exhibition offers new information on aspects of Ó Direáin’s life, such as the respect he earned as a young actor in An Taibhdhearc theatre, the steps he took to promote the rights of post office workers, and his position as President of Cumann na Scríbhneoirí (The Writers’ Association) in Dublin. Members of the extended Ó Direáin family were present at the launch and gave personal insights into the poet’s life and inspirations. Máirtín Ó Direáin’s only daughter, Niamh Sheridan, spoke at the launch, and was joined by her partner Don, daughter Gráinne McCann and grandson Shane. Also present at the launch were the Mná Fiontracha group from Árainn, who helped source material for the exhibition, and Peadar Mac Mághnais, who has donated art and manuscripts connected to Ó Direáin to the University in recent years. The free exhibition will run in the Hardiman Building on campus from March-July 2018. Máirtín Ó Direáin’s poetry has been a core part of the Irish language Leaving Certificate syllabus, and the exhibition will be of particular relevance to fifth and sixth year secondary school students seeking to gain further insight into his poetry. Find out more about the exhibition at: www.nuigalway.ie/odireain   -Ends- 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Tá Taispeántas Máirtín Ó Direáin: Fathach File / Reluctant Modernist ar siúl in Áras Uí Argadáin san Ollscoil Tá an-áthas ar OÉ Gaillimh taispeántas speisialta faoin bhfile Máirtín Ó Direáin a sheoladh, tríocha bliain i ndiaidh a bháis i Márta 1988. Ba í Síobhra Aiken, taighdeoir PhD in Ionad an Léinn Éireannaigh, a chuir an taispeántas le chéile, agus baineann sé úsáid as cartlanna Ollscoile, Stáit agus príobháideacha – cuid mhaith ábhar nach raibh ar taispeáint poiblí go dtí seo ina measc. Ba é Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh a sheol ‘Máirtín Ó Direáin – Fathach File / Reluctant Modernist’ in Áras Uí Argadáin ar an gcampas. Is buaicphointe é de cheiliúradh na hOllscoile ar Sheachtain na Gaeilge 2018. Dar leis an gcoimeádaí, Síobhra Aiken: “Ce go n-áirítear fós é mar ‘athair na nuafhilíochta Gaeilge’, d’fhéadfaí a rá go bhfuil neamhaird tugtha don Direánach le tamall beag de bhlianta anuas agus níor scríobhadh a bheathaisnéis riamh.” Tá súil agam go gcuirfidh an taispeántas eolas nua beathaisnéise ar fáil, rud a thabharfaidh tuiscint níos fearr ar a shaothair agus a spreagfaidh breis taighde ar shaol Ó Direáin agus a chuid filíochta. Tá réimse leathan d’ábhar cartlainne agus príobháideach sa taispeántas, chomh maith le foinsí agus bailiúcháin ealaíne san Ollscoil agus lasmuigh dó, a thugann léargas suntasach ar an bhfile íocónach seo. Cuireann an taispeántas neart eolais nua ar fáil ar ghnéithe éagsúla de shaol Uí Dhireáin, ina measc siúd, an meas a bhí air mar aisteoir óg sa Taibhdhearc, na céimeanna a thóg sé le cearta lucht oibre oifig an phoist a chur chun cinn agus an ról a bhí aige mar Uachtarán ar Chumann na Scríbhneoirí i mBaile Átha Cliath. Bhí gaolta leis an Diréanach i láthair ag an seoladh agus thug siad léargas pearsanta ar shaol agus spreagadh an fhile. Labhair iníon leis an bhfile, Niamh Sheridan, ag an seoladh, agus bhí a páirtnéir Don, a hiníon Gráinne McCann agus a garmhac Shane ina cuideachta. Bhí baill den ghrúpa Mná Fiontracha as Árainn i láthair ag an seoladh, a chabhraigh leis an taispeántas a ullmhú, chomh maith le Peadar Mac Mághnais, a thug roinnt ealaíne agus lámhscríbhinní a bhaineann leis an Direánach don Ollscoil le blianta beaga anuas. Tá an taispeántas saor in aisce agus beidh sé ar siúl in Áras Uí Argadáin ar an gcampas ó Mhárta-Iúil 2018. Tá dánta an Direánaigh ar shiollabas na hArdteiste agus beidh an-suim ag daltaí meánscoile sa chúigiú agus sa séú bliain sa taispeántas ach go háirithe. Tá tuilleadh eolais faoin taispeántas ar fáil ag: www.nuigalway.ie/odireain   -Críoch-

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The MA in Writing at NUI Galway and Onslaught Press invite you to celebrate the launch of ‘Flower Press’ poetry collection by Alicia Kinsella on Thursday, 15 March at 6.30pm at the University. Alice was born in Dublin and raised in Claremorris, Co. Mayo, and is currently studying poetry and fiction in the MA in Writing at NUI Galway. This short collection of poems can be described as an elegiac apostrophe. In three sections; Bud, Bloom, and Blood, it explores the growth of love in childhood, the loss of innocence, and the fallout of that loss. Dr John Kenny, Director of the MA in Writing at NUI Galway, said:  “It is a rare occurrence indeed that a student still only halfway through the MA stage would have a range of poetic work of sufficient accomplishment as to be so eminently worthy of a first collection. Alice Kinsella is an impressive devotee of the art of poetry -Flower Press promises to be a real joy in itself for all readers and a major inspiration for other students keen to get their work successfully out into the world.” While these poems take place in the world of pretence: childhood fantasies, imaginings fuelled by mythology, and the unreliable narrative of the human memory, it is the physical details, the lingering on physical sensations, smells, tastes, and personal totems, that gives the poems the life that allows them to explore the emotional, psychological, and moral questions that they raise. However, Flower Press does not claim to offer answers, but the consolation of the act of remembering. Sinéad Gleeson, Writer, Editor, Freelance Broadcaster and Journalist describes Flower Press as “Intimate, lyrical and full of pathos. Alice Kinsella brings an otherworldly quality to the quotidian, in work that is unsettling and transformative. Flower Press is a debut of rare beauty, revealing multiple epiphanies and the power of the poet’s wielded pen.” Alice, Author of Flower Press said: “I'm honoured to have Flower Press launched by the MA in Writing programme. This wouldn't be possible without the generosity and kindness of John Kenny and my classmates. The MA provides a wonderful home for emerging writers in Galway, I'm so lucky to be among them.” The launch will take place in the Moore Institute, Hardiman Research Building, Room G010, NUI Galway. Refreshments will be served on the night and all welcome. For more information visit:  http://aliceekinsella.com/ -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Two senior academics from the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, have been awarded €1.1 million by Science Foundation Ireland’s Science Policy Research Programme, facilitating doctoral degrees that will generate important new policy insights that can help to bolster Ireland’s knowledge economy. Professor John McHale, Dean of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and Dr Alma McCarthy, Senior Lecturer and Head of the Discipline of Management, have been awarded grants, aimed at aligning the policies behind Irish science with current best practices. The funds awarded through the research scheme will support research positions for both postdoctoral researchers and PhD students for a period of up to four years. Professor John McHale’s project titled ‘The Impact of International Star Scientists on Irish Science’ was awarded €856,000. The research will explore how the arrival of a star researcher (high profile and renowned for their research) affects institutional performance in terms of inspiring incumbent scientists and the quality of subsequent research recruits. Professor McHale notes that the recruitment of a star researcher can have far-reaching impacts on an organisation and on regional innovation clusters. At a time of heightened interest in scientist mobility due to Brexit, this project aims to evaluate the effect of star recruitment policies on the performance of Irish science and the broader national innovation system. Dr Alma McCarthy’s research project titled ‘Achieving Scientific Excellence and Impact in Ireland: The Role of Talent and Human Capital Management in National Science Foundations’ was awarded €255,000. Dr McCarthy’s project will research, develop and evaluate a talent management model for Science Foundation Ireland, drawing on best practice from four international science foundations globally. These organisations tend to differ from typical public sector organisations as they are characterised by high turnover, contract employment, and highly skilled staff. Therefore, these organisations merit particular research attention in order to better understand specific organisational and contextual factors impacting talent management. The human capital of these leading science funding agencies allows them to impact their nation’s economic and social development effectively and efficiently. Dr McCarthy’s project will employ a cross-national research design across five small advanced and larger economies to set forth a guide for best international practice. The project will also assist Science Foundation Ireland in meeting its Agenda 2020 objectives through effective talent management.   Speaking about the grant in the context of her research project, Dr Alma McCarthy from NUI Galway, said: “The availability and development of talent and human capital is a key strategic Human Resource issue facing most knowledge-intensive organisations in developed economies such as Ireland. This research grant will enable us to examine how Science Foundation Ireland can attract, manage and develop talent and human capital to positively impact Ireland’s research capacity, infrastructure and impact.” Commenting on the awards, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland added: “These awards will build critical knowledge to enable us to develop effective policies on how we fund, evaluate and disseminate scientific research. Building Ireland’s research capacity in science policy will help to solidify Ireland’s position in developing international best practice and encourage collaborations with international experts in the field.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Researchers from the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia at NUI Galway, will host a public information meeting ‘Let’s Talk about Dementia: Perspectives and Experiences from NUI Galway’, which aims to increase awareness of dementia and dementia research at the University. The event is free and open to the public, students and academics and takes place on Thursday, 15 March. The event is an opportunity to find out more about research in dementia being carried out at NUI Galway; to hear more about the latest treatment advances in dementia; to see how technology can help people with dementia; and to learn about current national policy initiatives in dementia. Information on local dementia services and supports will also be available at the meeting. There are currently 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland. By 2046, the number of people with dementia will have almost trebled to 157,883. It is also estimated that there are currently 60,000 family carers providing support for people with dementia living in the community in Ireland. The overall annual cost of dementia is estimated at just under €2 billion euro. The event will showcase NUI Galway dementia and brain health research. There will be a panel discussion, with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions to the expert group. The event will draw to a close with the NUI Galway Staff Choir and refreshments and a light lunch will be provided. The Alzheimer Society of Ireland’s Mobile Information Bus will also be on campus for the day. Professor Eamon O’Shea, organiser of the event and Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Research on Dementia at NUI Galway, said: “This is an opportunity for people to learn more about dementia and how researchers at NUI Galway are examining the causes, consequences and impact of the disease across a number of different dimensions.” Dr Carol Rogan, Scientific Co-ordinator from Dementia and Neurodegeneration Network Ireland, said: “We hope that anybody with an interest in dementia will join us in NUI Galway on 15 March. NUI Galway researchers are exploring various mechanisms which underlie dementia, as well as searching for innovative ways to improve the lives of people with dementia and family carers.” Ms Maureen Mannion, Dementia Advisor in Galway, Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland, added: “It is important that people living with dementia and carers are to the fore when it comes to undertaking dementia research in Ireland. Dementia is a major health challenge that is facing Ireland and it is important to determine key priorities and fund them appropriately.” The event is supported by the Dementia and Neurodegeneration Network Ireland and the Alzheimer Society of Ireland. The event is free and will take place in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway from 11am-1pm on Thursday, 15 March with registration available at the venue.  For more information please email: cesrd@nuigalway.ie or phone 091 495461 or follow @CESRD_NUIG. -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

D’fhógair OÉ Gaillimh inniu an clár iomlán imeachtaí don chéad Lá Oscailte CAO eile a bheidh ar siúl Dé Sathairn, an 24 Márta ó 9am go dtí 3pm. Deis iontach é an Lá Oscailte do scoileanna, daltaí, tuismitheoirí agus teaghlaigh blaiseadh a fháil de shaol staidéir OÉ Gaillimh. Tá clár lán le himeachtaí, léachtaí samplacha agus máistir-ranganna eagraithe don lá, lena n-áirítear: Os cionn 80 seastán ag cur eolais ar fáil faoi chúrsaí, pointí CAO, deiseanna fostaíochta, deiseanna le dul chun cinn gairme a dhéanamh, lóistín agus táillí. Seisiúin eolais chun léargas ceart a thabhairt do mhic léinn ar an staidéar in OÉ Gaillimh. Ceardlanna praiticiúla eolaíochta. Seisiúin idirghníomhacha san Innealtóireacht, córais IT agus róbataic. I measc na gcainteanna do mhic léinn beidh cainteanna ar Spóirt in OÉ Gaillimh, Deiseanna Gairme agus Mná Spreagúla san Innealtóireacht. Do thuismitheoirí, beidh raon cainteanna speisialta ag díriú ar ábhair cosúil le Deontais SUSI, Iarratais ar Scoláireachtaí agus Saol na Mac Léinn. Eagrófar turais den champas i gcaitheamh an lae, a áiríonn turais i nGaeilge. Tugtar cuireadh do thuismitheoirí freastal ar Chaint do Thuismitheoirí a bheidh ar siúl ar 11am agus arís ar 1pm. Is deis é seo do thuismitheoirí blaiseadh a fháil ar raon iomlán Sheirbhísí Tacaíochta na hOllscoile agus iad a chur ar a suaimhneas go mbeidh gach tacaíocht ar fáil dá n-iníon nó mac le linn a gcuid ama in OÉ Gaillimh. Gheobhaidh cuairteoirí eolas ó léachtóirí faoin taithí foghlama in OÉ Gaillimh, forbairt scileanna agus deiseanna gairme do gach clár céime. Ag labhairt dó faoin bhfiúntas atá le Lá Oscailte do thuismitheoirí agus do dhaltaí araon, bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag John Hannon, Stiúrthóir Sheirbhísí na Mac Léinn in OÉ Gaillimh: “Is deis iad na Laethanta Oscailte do thuismitheoirí forléargas a fháil ar ollscoil, foghlaim faoi gach atá ar fáil, ach freisin is deis atá iontu fiosruithe a dhéanamh, ceisteanna a chur agus fáil amach an mbeidh OÉ Gaillimh oiriúnach dá mac nó n-iníon. Tá an-dul chun cinn déanta ag OÉ Gaillimh sna ranguithe agus bronnadh gradam The Sunday Times air i leith Ollscoil na Bliana 2018. Is léiriú é seo ar dhíograis chomhaltaí foirne OÉ Gaillimh i leith eispéireas oideachais agus mac léinn den chéad scoth a chur ar fáil. Chun an tairbhe is mó a bhaint as an lá moltar do chuairteoirí breathnú ar amchlár na gcainteanna ar www.nuigalway.ie/opendays.   -Críoch-

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Medical device research in cardiovascular illnesses will allow surgeons to support minimally invasive procedures and improve outcomes for patients. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, today announced a new research project between CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, and Boston Scientific. The research will enhance medical devices that allow surgeons to support minimally invasive procedures when carrying out life-saving repairs for aneurysms and aortic valve repair. It is one of several new research projects emerging from the collaboration between CÚRAM and Boston Scientific. Speaking at a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) event in Washington DC to celebrate and build scientific collaboration between Ireland and the United States as part of the St Patrick’s Day Festival, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD said, “These new research projects are further evidence of the high calibre of our research talent and the continued growth of the medical devices sector in Ireland.” “Thanks to significant Government investment in R&D through Science Foundation Ireland, we have built a world-class research ecosystem, and Ireland is now recognised as a global leader in creative, innovative technologies. By collaborating with industry on innovative research, I hope we can look forward to the development of new and affordable solutions for chronic diseases, which can have a transformative effect on people's lives.” Boston Scientific products touch the lives of more than 25 million patients each year. Its Galway facility, which focuses on cardiovascular devices, is the company’s largest facility in Ireland. Key product lines include drug-eluting stents, biliary stents, and catheters. This new project, led by CÚRAM Principal Investigator (PI) Dr Niamh Hynes, NUI Galway offers the exciting potential to develop new devices by bringing together clinical and industry expertise and experience with biomedical and scientific research excellence. “This unique, multi-disciplinary, specialist environment is key to CÚRAM’s success in developing strong programmes of work with our industry partners; in this case bringing substantial investment from Boston Scientific,” said Prof Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of the SFI Research Centre CÚRAM based at NUI Galway. “This project is in addition to three other ongoing research projects with Boston Scientific.” Interventional cardiology is a branch of cardiology dealing specifically with catheter-based treatment of structural heart diseases. Minimally invasive transcatheter procedures for aortic valve repair, which involve inserting a replacement valve are being used more frequently, reducing the risk of surgery for patients. Research is now focusing on the development of novel interventional solutions, which allow blood to flow in the correct direction through the heart. CÚRAM Principle Investigator, Dr Faisal Sharif, in collaboration with Boston Scientific, is developing technology to further reduce risk and improve outcomes for patients undergoing these surgeries. Another research project, led by CÚRAM Investigator Prof Tim O’ Brien at NUI Galway, is carrying out a preclinical evaluation of a catheter device to support muscle and vascular regeneration in patients suffering from critical limb ischaemia; a severe obstruction of the arteries which reduces blood flow to the extremities. CÚRAM investigators Prof Gearoid Ó Laighin and Dr Leo Quinlan are also collaborating with Boston Scientific on the development of a novel implantable electrical stimulation device to improve cardiovascular circulation. Prof Mark Ferguson, Science Foundation Ireland Director General and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said “The significant work being carried out by the SFI Research Centre CÚRAM continues to position Ireland at the forefront of the world medical device industry. I am delighted with the announcement of this new research partnership, which highlights the world-class reputation of Ireland as an important centre for R&D. The deepening of CÚRAM’s industry research collaborations is a testament to the research talent and collaborative environment which companies can access in Ireland. I am also confident that the project outcomes have the potential to positively transform human health across the world.”  “CÚRAM’s goal is to establish long-term strategic relationships with our industry partners, to complete projects that advance medical device technologies and inventions and convert these into products and services that benefit the patient,” said Prof Pandit. “Our Industry Programme Team facilitates and supports collaborations such as the projects we are working on with Boston Scientific; from the initial enquiry right through to knowledge transfer and the identification of future projects.” CÚRAM is a world-leading SFI Research Centre that brings together researchers from NUI Galway, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, University College Cork, University Limerick. Its overarching aim is to radically improve quality of life for patients suffering from chronic illness. CÚRAM’s clinical targets include cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, neural disorders, musculoskeletal issues, soft tissue repair and renal and urological disease. -Ends-

Friday, 16 March 2018

The College of Science at NUI Galway in association with the British Council in Ireland hosted FameLab Galway 2018, the world’s biggest science competition this March in An Taibhdhearc. The event saw nine scientists compete for two places in the national final, despite Storm Emma causing a last minute rescheduling. The goal of FameLab is to explain scientific concepts to a general audience in just three minutes. The competition is open to scientists, mathematicians, and engineers working across Ireland in both the public and private sectors. The nine participants in FameLab Galway 2018 came from a variety of backgrounds and career stages ranging from undergraduate students to established Post-Doctoral researchers from fields as diverse as Anatomy and Data Analytics. Presentations given were similarly diverse, featuring glowing fish, the importance of vaccination and a cardboard model of how gravitational waves affect lasers. The winner of this year’s FameLab Galway was Eoin Murphy, a full-time PhD student and Science Ambassador at NUI Galway studying at the Centre for Chromosome Biology. His presentation, titled ‘The Ultimate Puzzle’, detailed the effects of Huntington's disease and offered hope for potential treatments from the cutting edge of biotechnology. The runner-up was Christopher Lally for his presentation ‘Genetically Modified Foods’. Christopher is also a PhD student at NUI Galway working in CÚRAM (Centre for Research in Medical Devices). Christopher also spent time in the biopharma industry making pain medication for cats and dogs. His presentation about the revolutionary effects of plant breeding on food production and the future potential of genetic engineering won the public vote. Dr Patrick Ryan, one of the event organisers and runner-up of last year’s competition commented on the success of the event: “FameLab is a wonderful opportunity for science enthusiasts to communicate their passion and the impact science has had on all our lives. Science communication is becoming increasingly relevant to modern scientists and the high standard of this year’s competition is testament to the huge amount of work each competitor put into their presentation.” Eoin and Christopher will both have the opportunity to participate in the FameLab Ireland Final which will be held at the Science Gallery in Dublin on Thursday, 12 April. The winner of the National competition will have a chance to compete in the International FameLab final at the Cheltenham Science Festival, the UK in June 2018.  For more information on FameLab visit www.britishcouncil.ie/famelab or follow on twitter @FameLab_Ireland and @FameLab_Galway. -Ends-

Friday, 16 March 2018

Applications open to female engineering students NUI Galway is delighted to announce that applications are now open to undergraduate female engineering students for scholarships to attend a unique and challenging engineering summer academy at the Univer­sity of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. The Academy, offered to only 30 female students from 15 different countries, is a two and a half week intensive programme com­bining theory with hands-on practical experience in engineering, informatics and natural sciences. In addition to knowledge transfer in these fields, social, cross-cultural and gender aspects are covered and discussed during lectures and workshops. Speaking about the scholarships and the International Summer Academy, Mary Dempsey, Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway, said: “This is a super opportunity for young female students involved in the sciences and engineering. Those interested in pursuing a career or further studies in this area get a unique chance to broaden their technical and scientific knowledge, to develop international contacts and to experience learning in a creative and fun way.” The Academy programme is based around thematic areas of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology, and Computer Sciences and Informatics. Specific subject areas look at issues such as Synthetic biology: promises and dangers for society; Molecular biology: forensic DNA profiling and its computational analysis; Special high voltage applications in modern day technology; What computer science can learn from nature - Evolutionary optimization algorithms and data mining; Importance of online privacy; and Human and computer interaction Four NUI Galway students secured scholarships from the University to attend the Academy in July 2017, and biomedical student Aoife Fitzgerald said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Coming from a biomedical background I learnt a lot about the field of engineering that I did not know before. It really broadened my knowledge and changed the way I think about a variety of topics. I met girls from all over the world, learning about loads of different types of cultures. It is an experience I will never forget. We visited so many different places here that I would love to return to again one day.” For further information on scholarship applications please contact: Mary Dempsey, College of Engineering & Informatics: Mary.Dempsey@nuigalway.ie ENDS

Friday, 16 March 2018

‘Illusions of Progress?’ symposium puts national action plans on business and human rights under the spotlight The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway will host a symposium on Friday, 23 March exploring the role of national action plans in furthering the business and human rights agenda. Professor Anita Ramasastry, a renowned expert from the University of Washington and a member of the United Nations Working Group on business and human rights, will speak at this event on relevant international and national developments in this emerging field of policy and practice. Dr Shane Darcy of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, said: “The momentum of the business and human rights agenda risks stalling in the absence of meaningful progress on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights. This symposium will consider whether national business and human rights plans constitute an effective means of ensuring corporate respect for human rights or merely serve to give the illusion of progress.” National action plans have become the primary means of implementing the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights (2011), an authoritative policy framework aimed at addressing the potentially harmful effects of business activities on human rights. The Irish Government adopted its National Plan on Business and Human Rights 2017-2020 in November 2017 on foot of recommendations by the European Commission and the United Nation Human Rights Council. This symposium will bring together a number of legal and policy experts working in the field of business and human rights who will discuss and explore the prospects and problems associated with such national action plans, and their implications for States, business and civil society. -Ends- 

Friday, 16 March 2018

NUI Galway has signed the Charter for the Galway and West of Ireland Region of Gastronomy which commits the University to a range of initiatives to support food culture in the region as part of its designation as European Region of Gastronomy 2018. These initiatives will include featuring local produce in campus food outlets; hosting high-profile food-related conferences and a series of public lectures on theme related to gastronomy and food culture. The 17 restaurants on the NUI Galway campus serve approximately 30,000 customers each week and under the Charter, campus caterers have committed to sourcing as much produce as possible from local producers and suppliers as well as supporting food waste minimisation actions within the home and workplace. Dr Philip Smyth, Head of Shannon College of Hotel Management, which is now a college of NUI Galway, said: “Our food culture is vitally important for our health and wellbeing, and signing the charter highlights the University’s commitment to supporting this important sector. We look forward to working with our campus community to highlight the richness of our region of gastronomy and to support sustainable development and innovation.” Over the coming months, the University will host a range of high-profile food conferences, including the Good Food Ireland Conference and Food on the Edge. As part of the programme of events on sustainability, the University in partnership with Teagasc will host an Agri-Food Seminar on Sustainability as well as a Beef and Sheep Workshop in June. Ann Duggan, Commercial Manager at NUI Galway, commented: “Local seasonal produce forms the key ingredient across menus on a daily basis and the five catering companies providing services on campus are enthusiastically working with growers/ producers and wholesalers to create nutritional, tasty dishes for our campus community of approximately 20,000. We also welcome over 10,000 conference delegates and visitors to campus annually. In recent years local, artisan and craft producers have exhibited at receptions for international delegates which has added enormously to the enjoyment of their experience in Galway.   Food is central to the delegates’ experience and having such a wealth of wonderful fresh produce on our doorstep differentiates Galway and gives us a strong competitive edge when competing for international events.” Throughout 2018 NUI Galway highlight areas where it is making a contribution to Gastronomy under the key focus areas, such as Sustainability, Health and Nutrition and Cultural Diversity already established as themes for Galway’s year as European Region of Gastronomy. These will feature in a Public Lecture Series on campus in autumn 2018 which will be which will be free and open to the public. Speaking on the announcement, Elaine Donohue, Programme Lead, Galway European Region of Gastronomy, said: “The European Region of Gastronomy is thrilled to have such committed support from NUI Galway for the year of our designation. They have gone above and beyond in their commitments to develop more local supply chains through our Galway & West of Ireland Food Charter and are looking to engage a large number of their schools in our themes for the year. Through their support, both TouRRoir, a Global Forum from Good Food Ireland, and Food on The Edge, an International Chef's Symposium will be hosted at NUI Galway.” ENDS

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Mayor of Chicago to be conferred with Honorary Doctorate At a ceremony in NUI Galway on Tuesday 3 April, an Honorary Degree will be conferred on Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago and former White House Chief of Staff in the Obama administration. NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán ó hÓgartaigh, speaking in advance of the conferring ceremony, said:  “The cities of Galway and Chicago are twinned as Sister Cities for over twenty-one years. Since then a strong and dynamic relationship has developed bringing social, cultural, educational and economic benefits and reflecting the many personal and professional links between our two great cities. In honouring Mayor Emanuel, we as a University signal what we value. We recognise not only these ties which bind Galway and Chicago in our role as Galway’s University. We also signal the importance of public service, of acting locally with global impact, and of democracy, sanctuary and freedom – in the world and for the world.” Rahm Emanuel is the 55th mayor of Chicago. He has led the passage of budgets containing reforms and investments to solidify Chicago’s financial future. He has successfully enacted numerous education reforms including lengthening the school day and year, creating universal full-day kindergarten and making Chicago the first big city in the country to offer free community college to all high school students who graduate with at least a B average. Under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, Chicago has led economic reforms which have seen the city become more attractive for companies and, foreign direct investment. Chicago is in the midst of an $8 billion infrastructure modernization to strengthen the city’s roads, rails and runways. Before becoming Mayor, he was the White House Chief of Staff in the Obama administration and served three terms in the US House of Representatives representing Chicago’s 5th District. Prior to his election to Congress, he was a key member of the Clinton White House from 1993 to 1998, rising to senior adviser to the President for policy and strategy. He graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and received a master’s degree in speech and communication from Northwestern University. Mayor Emanuel will be conferred with a Degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) and joins the ranks of previous honorary alumni which include, among many others, Nelson Mandela, Hilary Clinton, Cyril Ramaphosa, Enya, Anjelica Huston, and Margaret Atwood. -Ends- 

Monday, 26 March 2018

Arts in Action at NUI Galway will host its finale concert in The Cube at Áras na Mac Léinn on Wednesday, 4 April at 6.30pm. This event will feature an ensemble of 20 musicians from the NUI Galway Medical Orchestra directed by traditional musicians, Máirtín O’Connor and Garry O’Briain, along with special guests, including Arts in Action Creative Director, Mary McPartlan, who was instrumental in establishing the Medical Orchestra in 2010. The NUI Galway Medical Orchestra has become an important outlet for medical student expression and creativity and has had successful public performances in Ireland and overseas. A choral ensemble was created in 2016. Participation in the Medical Orchestra is eligible for academic credit as a special study module in Years One and Four of the undergraduate medical programme. Previous performances of the Orchestra at University Hospital Galway and in the regional Medical Academies in Donegal, Sligo and Mayo have highlighted the healing influence of music in the lives of patients and their care-givers. There is a growing scholarship in medical humanities and NUI Galway recently established a medical humanities committee. Its special study module in Medicine and the Arts, directed by Mary McPartlan and Dr Eva Flynn, Lecturer in General Practice, is very popular among the students. This year saw the introduction of an additional special study module in Creativity, led by a local artist, Finbar McHugh. Reflecting on the commitment of NUI Galway to the integration of the Arts in Medicine, Undergraduate Programme Director, Professor Gerard Flaherty, commented: “All aspects of artistic creativity and expression have a role to play in the recovery and rehabilitation of patients and in the personal development and self-care of medical students and doctors. Our university medical school is leading the way in embedding the Arts in its medical curriculum and we look forward to further exciting opportunities for collaboration with colleagues in the Arts community and in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies at NUI Galway.” Professor Maccon Keane, Consultant Medical Oncologist at University Hospital Galway and a member of the Board of the Galway International Arts Festival, said: “Recognising the role of music in oncology care where it creates solace and space to depart from the difficulties of treatment and a mental safety net in which normal life can exist.  However this particular piece is unique in that it fuses the sounds of oncology care with music bringing the science and art of healing together.” This is a free public concert and no prior booking is necessary. For further information visit: https://www.nuigalway.ie/artsinaction/ -Ends-

Monday, 26 March 2018

Ag searmanas speisialta in OÉ Gaillimh inniu (Déardaoin, 22 Márta), bhronn Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dochtúireacht san Fhealsúnacht (PhD) ar bhreis agus 70 mac léinn. Ina theannta sin, bronnadh Dochtúireacht Leighis ar mhac léinn amháin ag searmanas an lae inniu. Bhí céimithe ó gach Coláiste san Ollscoil i measc na gcéimithe sin ar bronnadh PhD orthu, Coláiste na nDán, na nEolaíochtaí Sóisialta agus an Léinn Cheiltigh; Coláiste an Ghnó, an Bheartais Phoiblí & an Dlí; Coláiste na hInnealtóireachta agus na hIonformaitice; Coláiste an Leighis, an Altranais agus na nEolaíochtaí Sláinte; agus Coláiste na hEolaíochta. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: “Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le gach céimí as a gcáilíocht dochtúireachta a bhaint amach ar an lá mór seo, a chuireann bailchríoch ar a dtallann, a n-iarracht agus a ndúthracht thar blianta fada. Tá OÉ Gaillimh bródúil as líon na gcéimithe a chuirtear ar fáil agus a bheidh mar cheannairí a mhúnlóidh an todhchaí agus a mbeidh tionchar dearfach acu ar fud an domhain - go náisiúnta agus go hidirnáisiúnta.  Is é misean na hOllscoile seo domhan níos fearr a chruthú tríd an teagasc, taighde agus an tionchar atá againn agus déanaimid é seo go follasach leis an méadú mór atá tagtha ar líon na gcéimithe PhD le blianta beaga anuas.” -Críoch-

Friday, 23 March 2018

Friday, 23 March 2018: Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Education and Skills, and John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation and Research and Development, have announced almost €3 million investment by the Irish Research Council in ‘frontier research’ projects at NUI Galway.  Six NUI Galway researchers will receive funding under the Irish Research Council’s new Laureate Awards to conduct ground-breaking research in the Biomedical Science and Engineering, and the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Announcing the awards, Minister Bruton said: “Frontier basic research is very much at the cutting edge of new knowledge.  It is research that is daring, that pushes boundaries, and that moves beyond the frontiers of our current understanding. “Innovation 2020, Ireland’s five-year strategy for science and technology, research and development, identified a significant gap in the Irish research and innovation landscape in the area of frontier basic research. The Laureate Awards scheme was designed specifically to address this gap, and the Irish Research Council has, through the programme, identified a wealth of clearly talented researchers with brilliant ideas. Investing in cutting-edge, world-class research will strengthen our knowledge base and enhance Ireland’s international reputation, taking us further along our journey to becoming the best education and training service in Europe by 2026” Minister Halligan said: “Frontier research is key to understanding the world around us and developing the bedrock of knowledge necessary for social, technological and environmental progress. We would not have devices like mobile phones, or indeed the internet, without frontier basic research.  Innovation 2020 targets Ireland to become an Innovation Leader, and the investment being announced today by the Department is a very positive step on the way to achieving this.” Researchers who will be funded by these Laureate Awards at NUI Galway include: Dr Jacopo Bisagni, who is researching intellectual exchanges between Ireland, Brittany and Francia in domains such as astronomy, cosmology and biblical exegesis during the Carolingian age (c. AD 750-1000), namely the period that laid the foundations of Europe as we know it. Dr Álvaro Llorente-Berzal will research the implication of the endocannabinoid system in sex differences in chronic neuropathic pain. Professor Laoise McNamara is developing experimental models to mimic the complex multicellular and mechanical environment of bone metastases for investigating potential therapies Dr Rióna Ní Fhrighil is researching Human Rights and Modern Irish Poetry. Dr Ted Vaughan is researching the multiscale mechanics of bone fragility in Type-2 Diabetes. Dr Katarzyna Whysall is researching potential microRNA-based therapeutics for muscle wasting. “I welcome the government’s support and commitment to frontiers research, and the IRC’s leadership in supporting some of the greatest research minds working in Ireland today”, said Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice-President for Research at NUI Galway. “There is incredible talent in this country, and supporting the unknown potential of basic research is key to underpinning the research and innovation prowess of Ireland. The Laureate Awards recognise and support this, and I would like to congratulate the six exceptional individuals at NUI Galway who are part of this announcement today.” Funding for Laureate Awards Two streams of funding announced: ‘Starting’ Laureate Awards, which are aimed at supporting excellent early-career researchers to establish their own independent research programme. Eighteen awards – totalling €7 million – were announced today, three of which were secured by NUI Galway. ‘Consolidator’ Laureate Awards, which provide funding for excellent mid-career researchers with an established track record to progress to the next level. €10.6 million in funding was announced for the Consolidator Laureate Awards, to fund a further eighteen new Laureates, three of which were secured by NUI Galway. In addition to the investment in the first round of awards, the Department of Education and Skills also announced today a further investment of €12 million for a series of Advanced Grants under the Laureate programme. Senior researchers in Ireland’s higher education and research institutions will have the opportunity to compete for an Advanced Laureate grant with a value of up to €1 million over four years. The Advanced Grant call will be opened by the Irish Research Council in the coming weeks. Welcoming the announcements, Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “Supporting research that pushes out the frontiers of knowledge is a key priority of the Irish Research Council. With the establishment of the Laureate Awards we are taking steps to ensure that exceptional individual researchers are supported to achieve world-class standing in their respective areas of expertise. “The independent international panels that assessed applications for the Laureate Awards were extremely impressed with the quality of individual researchers in the Irish research system. With continued investment in frontier research across all disciplines, Ireland will reap benefits for the long-term and will leverage greater success in European research programmes, in particular the European Research Council.” ENDS

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Over 70 students were recognised by NUI Galway today (Thursday, 22 March) at a special ceremony when they were conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh. One student was also conferred with a Doctor of Medicine at today’s ceremony. All Colleges of the University were be represented at the ceremony, with graduands from the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, the College of Business, Public Policy and Law; the College of Engineering and Informatics; the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences; and the College of Science. NUI Galway President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I would like to congratulate each graduate on their achievement in earning their doctoral degrees on what is a milestone day in their lives, marking the culmination of their talent, effort and commitment over many years. NUI Galway is proud of our record of developing graduates as leaders who will create the future and make a positive impact in the world - and for the world - nationally and internationally.  It is the mission of this university to make the world a better place through our teaching, research and impact and we do this tangibly through the increased number of PhDs graduating in recent years.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Project aims to promote STEM amongst student teachers The School of Education at NUI Galway, supported by Google Ireland, has announced an innovative project titled “Creative Coding for Maths Makers.” The new project integrates mathematical and computer programming concepts, with a specific focus on promoting STEM amongst student teachers. BA Mathematics and Education student teachers at NUI Galway will be working with primary and post-primary school children to promote mathematics and computer programming integration. Both student teachers and school children will develop an understanding and design of innovative mathematical concepts by a coding interface and will then render their virtual models physically in the MakerSpace. Unique, and the only facility of its kind in an Irish university, the MakerSpace in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway is a space purposefully designed to facilitate engaged teaching and learning. It's a space where students can be creative, collaborate, share, develop ideas, innovate, and generally just ‘make stuff’. The computers available in the MakerSpace have a higher specification than those available in most of the PC suites on campus. MakerSpace offers a 3D printing service*. Such exposure and experience is of value to students as it replicates life in a STEM industry. Claire Conneely, Computer Science Education Programme Manager at Google Ireland said: “We are excited to support the Creative Coding for Maths Makers programme at NUI Galway. Embedding Computer Science as a fundamental and rigorous subject throughout the entire school curriculum - including the introduction of Computer Science as a Leaving Certificate subject later this year - will ensure that students have a deeper understanding of how they can use technology to be creative and solve problems. Equally important is growing the confidence and skillset of the next generation of teachers, so that Computer Science will be accessible and available to all students across Ireland in the coming years.”  Professor Gerry MacRuairc, Professor of Education and Head of School, commented: “this Google funded programme reinforces the philosophy of the School that technology will not replace teachers but it is essential that teachers are introduced to many forms of technology in their teacher education programmes.” In order to be a catalyst for positive change in computer science education, Google has sponsored projects like the NUI Galway ‘Creative Coding for Maths Makers’ program in order to help address a key challenge for computing education in Ireland, in the preparation and up-skilling of teachers to deliver the new Computer Science curricula in primary and post-primary Irish schools. Leading the project is Dr Cornelia Connolly in the School of Education at NUI Galway: “The introduction of coding in schools and the new Computer Science Leaving Certificate present a landmark opportunity for STEM advancement in Ireland; however, there is the challenge now to prepare teachers properly to teach these key STEM areas in an engaging and effective way. Projects like ‘Creative Coding for Maths Makers’ enable us to start doing this in Galway, in partnership with schools in the city and region.” -Ends- 

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Connacht Rugby, along with players from NUI Galway women’s and men’s rugby teams will deliver an informal rugby skills session at NUI Galway’s Open Day on Saturday, 24 March. The session will take place at 12.30pm outside the Bailey Allen Hall, the main exhibition hall for Open Day. NUI Galway Sports will also be running a Sports Talk at 11am for those interested in all sports, and there will be an opportunity to meet current athletes who are representing the University at intervarsities, at national, European and International competitions. There will be information on Sports Scholarships, and coaches will be present to give first-hand information on facilities and coaching services. Mike Heskin, Director of Sport at NUI Galway stresses that Sport is for everyone at NUI Galway: “NUI Galway sports teams and athletes are competing and winning on the national and international stage, and through a range of scholarships and supports our athletes are fully supported while at University, enabling them to compete and study to the best of their ability. As well as supporting accomplished athletes in their chosen sports, we also have many athletes taking up a new sport for the first time while at University and, with the support of our coaching teams, are very quickly competing on a provincial, national and international stage. Sport is truly for everyone at NUI Galway. We recognise the relationship between academic performance and health and wellbeing and our mission is to encourage all students to participate in physical activity.” NUI Galway lecturers and current students will be on hand to talk to students and parents at the main exhibition area in the Bailey Allen Hall, with over 80 subject-specific stands. The ‘Parents Programme’ will provide parents and students with information on important issues such as fees and funding, careers, accommodation and support services for students. Open Day tours will include the state-of the-art sports complex and gym, the newly built Human Biology Building and the Alice Perry Engineering Building. Tours of student accommodation will also be available to visitors on the day, with the tour shuttle bus departing regularly from outside the Orbsen Building. Guided walking tours of the main campus will also take place throughout the day. Open Day is the perfect opportunity to explore all NUI Galway has to offer. A programme of talks, workshops and masterclasses will run throughout the day. Talk highlights include: Sports at NUI Galway, including a guest appearance by Connacht Rugby players Career talks - “What are my employment prospectus after university?” Volunteering and the value of NUI Galway’s extra-curricular programmes SUSI- Applying for a student grant Access routes into Education, including HEAR/DARE and FETAC To find out more visit www.nuigalway.ie/opendays, phone +353 91 494398 or email visit@nuigalway.ie -Ends-

Friday, 16 March 2018

The School of Education at NUI Galway are launching a Design Competition that is open to post-primary school students in Galway city and county. First prize of €500 cash is being sponsored by Iceland Ireland Ltd. This is a fantastic initiative calling for students to design an art piece that combines their creativity, design thinking and environmental awareness while highlighting the significance of the theme ‘Why making Galway plastic free matters to you’.  Designs can consist of art work, design prototypes, models, algorithms, digital stories, sculptures. that build awareness of plastic usage in our world or that offer design solutions to this global issue. The closing date for application is 6 April 2018. Leading the project is Dr Eílis Flanagan in the School of Education at NUI Galway, said: “I am delighted to host a ‘Plastic Free’ design competition for all post-primary schools in Galway city and county. While encouraging pupils' talent for design thinking and creativity, this competition offers an exciting opportunity for young people to think responsibly about their environment and to become part of the global discourse concerning the dangers of plastic pollution in our world.”  Prize winners will be invited to the MakerSpace at NUI Galway to create a prototype of their designs and will showcase their designs and artefacts at the International Society for Design and Development in Education conference at NUI Galway on 28 May.  For more information on the competition visit: http://bit.ly/2FPMnxb -Ends-


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