NUI Galway and Canadian Research Teams Collaborate to Decipher the Genome of Emerging Renewable Oil Crop

NUI Galway and Canadian Research Teams Collaborate to Decipher the Genome of Emerging Renewable Oil Crop-image

Friday, 25 April 2014

Scientists in the NUI Galway Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) have been conducting research on an oilseed crop, Camelina, to develop new higher-yielding varieties of the crop for Irish growing conditions and new markets. The research team, led by Professor Charles Spillane, has been collaborating with scientists in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to sequence the genome of Camelina. Camelina sativa (false flax or gold of pleasure) was cultivated in Europe for many centuries before being displaced by higher-yielding crops such as oilseed rape. However, Camelina is a low-input crop whose low environmental footprint is driving a resurgence of interest in the crop as a source of sustainable protein and oils for both nutritional and industrial applications (e.g. lubricants). In Ireland, Camelina is currently grown by a small number of farmers, in particular for the production of edible Camelina oil under the Newgrange Gold label. Initial field trials of Camelina conducted in collaboration with Teagasc have already identified some promising high yielding varieties. In addition to field trials, the NUI Galway team has been developing new genetic tools for the breeding of new Camelina lines with higher yields and improved characteristics. In the global aviation sector, Camelina has gained much attention as a crop whose oil profile is suitable for use as a renewable aviation fuel. The airline sector is responsible for 12% of CO2 emissions from all transport sources. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that sustainable next-generation biofuels for aviation could reduce CO2 emissions by 80%, on a full carbon life-cycle basis. A wide range of airlines (e.g. Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa) and the US military have already run successful test (and passenger) flights with planes flown on Camelina biojet fuel. In 2013, Professor Spillane was an invited speaker on Camelina oilseeds at the Europe-Canada Biojetfuel Meeting in Saskatoon. The meeting aimed to advance the development of plant-based aviation biojetfuel supply chains for the European airline industry to meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets.   Reetu Tuteja, NUI Galway Bioinformatics PhD student who is working with Professor Spillane, identified genes within the overall genome which are specific to Camelina, and which could be responsible for some of the crop’s unique characteristics. The complete genome sequence of Camelina has now been published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Nature Communications. “The publication of the genome sequence will accelerate research efforts in Europe and globally on this promising oilseed crop” said Professor Spillane. Research on Camelina in Professor Spillane’s Genetics and Biotechnology laboratory is supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. -Ends-

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Join NUI Galway Staff and Students in Ireland’s First Intervarsity BioBlitz!

Join NUI Galway Staff and Students in Ireland’s First Intervarsity BioBlitz!-image

Monday, 28 April 2014

On May 1 and 2 Ireland’s first Intervarsity BioBlitz will take place and the public are invited to take part in events on NUI Galway’s campus. The BioBlitz brings together scientists and recorders in a race against time to see how many species can be recorded in a 24-hour biological survey. From 5pm on Thursday, 1 May to 5pm on Friday, 2 May NUI Galway, UCC, TCD and DCU will race to record as many species as possible over the 24 hour period. The team that records the most species wins. Experts will be on hand to help identify and record the plants and animals found on campus. Biodiversity means the variety of all living things, so we need people to survey and identify birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates, higher plants, bryophytes, lichens, fungi and diatoms. By recording as much wildlife as possible, the college can find out how biodiverse the campus is, and it is an important step in our efforts to gain a Green Flag. The Green Campus needs your help! In addition to recording wildlife, we need people to help with organisation and public outreach. Ireland’s BioBlitz is designed to increase public awareness of the variety of life in Ireland and to highlight some of the ecological services that biodiversity provides to enhance our quality of life at the global and the local level. The Bioblitz also demonstrates the high level of skill and expertise necessary to study many aspects of Ireland’s biological diversity. NUI Galway’s Dr Caitriona Carlin explains, “It’s a really unique opportunity to see some of Ireland’s amazing plants and animals on your doorstep. Come and help the staff and students discover the wealth of wildlife that are on the edge of Galway city, and have lots of fun.” Those interested in supporting this unique event and finding out how biodiverse NUI Galway can contact Karen Dooley at karen.dooley@nuigalway.ie. Let us know what group/aspect of wildlife you would be able to help identify or what area you might be able to help with. Or come along at any time to the Environmental Science Building in NUI Galway on Friday, 2 May to join in the fun. There are a number of public events running throughout the Bioblitz and everyone is welcome to attend. Events on Thursday include a birdwalk at 6pm with a batwalk taking place at 9pm. On Friday, 2 May events include a small mammal trap opening, moth traps, and NUI Galway flora, slug, butterfly and bumblebee walks. For a full list of events taking place visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/environment/. This initiative is supported by NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, the Buildings Office and the Green Campus team. -Ends-

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NUI Galway Students Learn at Ireland’s World Class Biotechnology Sites

NUI Galway Students Learn at Ireland’s World Class Biotechnology Sites-image

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A group from the BSc in Biotechnology degree programme recently became the first NUI Galway students to make use of the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Teaching (NIBRT) facilities. As part of their visit the students received training on bioreactor operation, biomolecule separations and how the latest disposable components are used in pharmaceutical production, all bread-and-butter skills for a biotech career. To provide world class training in industry skills the IDA recently established the NIBRT on the grounds of UCD in Dublin. The purpose-built NIBRT facility closely replicates a modern bioprocessing plant with state of the art equipment, but in a format where employees and students get a complete insight into the latest technologies. NIBRT’s Technical and Training Supervisor Dr Kate Cotter commented, “The students were very interested and this practical industrial production training was definitely an important complement to the great biology theory they learn back on campus.” During the trip, the students also made a stop at Pfizer’s Grange Castle site near Lucan where they were hosted by NUI Galway Biotechnology graduate Carmel Jennings. Carmel gave them a tour and a unique insight into how their training and studies are relevant in one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical production facilities. The training visit to Dublin was an initiative of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences and acted as a trial for expanding the use of NIBRT facilities and industry visits in the future. NUI Galway has the highest rate of graduate employment amongst Irish universities, and this comes from giving its student’s access to world class facilities on our doorstep as they step from campus to career. Biotechnology uses our scientific understanding of biology to create products like pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The sector contributes over a third of Ireland’s exports and employs more than 40,000 people, making it an important career opportunity for students studying biology. The biotechnology area is expanding fast, with exciting discoveries such as stem cells or personalised DNA sequencing constantly being reported. Graduates need both scientific knowledge and practical “How To” skills to allow them to make Ireland’s biotech labs and factories run. -Ends-

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NUI Galway Societies Celebrate Volunteering and Achievement with Annual Awards

NUI Galway Societies Celebrate Volunteering and Achievement with Annual Awards-image

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The NUI Galway Gala Society Awards 2014 took place recently in the Ardilaun Hotel in which the extraordinary contribution the University’s societies make to campus life and the wider community was celebrated. This year, the societies have organised over 3000 events of educational, cultural, social and humanitarian value and have enhanced the university experience for their fellow students while contributing to both the local community and the wider world. In the last ten years they have contributed over €1.75 million to charity. The 919 committee members have volunteered the equivalent working hours as 110 full time workers this academic year. Speakers on the evening included the University’s Secretary, Gearóid O’Conluain and Head of Careers Development Centre, John Hannon, who spoke about the importance of Societies to campus life and the contribution involvement in Societies makes to the students personal development and education. The NUI Galway Societies who won on the evening represented the University at the National BICS Awards in Belfast recently.  NUI Galway currently holds the most BICS trophies in the country. In total 46 awards were presented to Societies and individuals in recognition of their contribution to campus life and the wider community. Amongst the recipients were: The GIG Soc who won Best Society in a Cultural, Academic and Social category; Best Society in a Charity Civic category went to VSA (Voluntary Services Abroad Society); Best New Society went to Astronomy Society; Most Improved Society went to DJ Soc; Best individual went to Eamonn Doran of the Juggling and Lotus Society; Most Soccessful Society for their contribution to campus life, went to the new Disney Society;  Best Fresher went to Leah Heffernan of Literary and Debating Society and Shoutout; and Best Event was won by The Musical Society (GUMS) for their production of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’. For more information on NUI Galway Societies see www.socs.nuigalway.ie. -Ends-  

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NUI Galway Start-Up Pocket Anatomy Picked From 100 European Start-Ups To Win Next Web Start-Up Prize

NUI Galway Start-Up Pocket Anatomy Picked From 100 European Start-Ups To Win Next Web Start-Up Prize-image

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Award follows recent success in being only the 3rd European company to join the prestigious New York StartUp Health Academy Pocket Anatomy, a start-up based in NUI Galway’s incubation centre has won the ‘Boost’ startup competition at The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam. Pocket Anatomy, from nearly one hundred entrants, was one of ten selected to attend the conference in Amsterdam by popular vote. Pitching on stage at one of Europe’s top tech gatherings attended by over 2,500 web, technology and business leaders, Pocket Anatomy was selected as the winner. CEO Mark Campbell was on hand to collect the Boost Award, which comes hot on the heels of Pocket Anatomy’s remarkable achievement on the other side of the Atlantic of being only the third European company to join the prestigious New York-based StartUp Health Academy. Pocket Anatomy CEO Mark Campbell said this was a big win for the company “It’s fantastic that Ireland is punching above its weight in the healthcare and medical innovation space, with Pocket Anatomy receiving the top startup award at The Next Web Conference, and also recently joining the StartUp Health Academy,” said Dr John Breslin from NUI Galway, an advisor to Pocket Anatomy. “Galway is already home to many SMEs and multinationals in the medical technologies domain, and local start-ups like Pocket Anatomy are a key part of this vibrant ecosystem”. Pocket Anatomy's award-winning 3D visual software solution is the Google Earth for healthcare, facilitating doctor-patient diagnoses communication and promoting patient well-being and personal healthcare understanding. Our existing educational healthcare iOS apps are in use by 250,000 students and educators, as well as 50 educational institutions in the US. Our aim is to take this underlying technology and make it more relevant and meaningful to the patient market - empowering patients to understand and manage their own health and well-being. The target markets are: Healthcare Professionals who need to communicate and explain anatomical abnormalities and health conditions with patients. Healthcare Consumers (healthy and unhealthy) who need to understand prevention and well-being.  Pocket Anatomy is based in NUI Galway’s Business Innovation Centre which provides an entrepreneurial working environment, general business advice and advice on access to finance, serviced office space and meeting facilities for start-ups and NUI Galway spin out companies. -ends-

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NUI Galway Introduce Leaving Cert Accounting Nuggets Online Tutorials

NUI Galway Introduce Leaving Cert Accounting Nuggets Online Tutorials-image

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Discipline of Accounting and Finance in the J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics at NUI Galway has recently launched Accounting Nuggets, a series of online tutorials for Leaving Certificate Accounting students. The EXPLORE funded project is a student-staff collaboration where a series of step-by-step guided online tutorials have been created to support students with bite-sized chunks of the Leaving Certificate Accounting syllabus. Team members consist of: Lecturers Mary Barrett and Riona Lyons; Bachelor of Commerce students Rita Breen and Sarah Kelly; Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) students Patric Evason, Natasha Caulfield, Michael Loftus and Kelley Hession; and Masters of Accounting student Owen Wyer.  The project team consulted with Leaving Certificate students and secondary school teachers to select topics that students found most difficult at Leaving Certificate level. Accounting Nuggets team member and final year student on the Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree at NUI Galway, Michael Loftus, said: “It was a fantastic experience to work alongside our lecturers and give something back to the university and wider community. I have been able to improve my teaching and presentation skills no end but most importantly I think this project will benefit Leaving Certificate students with their accounting studies.” Attending the launch of Accounting Nuggets, was secondary school student Declan McGoldrick from Summerhill College, Sligo. “I am currently a fourth year student and I am studying Accounting for my Leaving Cert. I believe that the Accounting Nuggets developed by NUI Galway is a fantastic resource to have as a student. It offers top quality online tutorials in Accounting and it will be a great revision aid for me when revising for my Leaving Cert next year.”  Mary Barrett, Programme Director for Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) is keen to encourage the study of accounting at leaving cert and emphasise the benefits of pursuing an accounting career. “Students pursuing accounting careers continue to successfully find employment even during the recession, with 41% of all graduate jobs in 2012 in the area of accountancy, banking and finance (GradIreland 2013). We have long standing relationships with employers at NUI Galway and they return year on year, competing with one another to recruit our graduates from the Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degrees.  Many of our students choose to pursue a professional accounting qualification from CAI, ACCA, CIMA or CPA. Our programmes provide significant exemptions from these professional body exams which means that our graduates are well on the way to qualifying as a professional accountant on completion of their studies at NUI Galway.” The online tutorials are an ideal support for anyone studying accounting for their Leaving Certificate and can be accessed at www.nuigalway.ie/cairnes/leavingcert. The website also provides information on the career paths of many of our accounting graduates. -Ends-   

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March 2014

NUI Galway To Host 3RD Galway Dance Days Festival

NUI Galway To Host 3RD Galway Dance Days Festival -image

Friday, 21 March 2014

NUI Galway Dance Artist in Residence, Ríonach Ní Néill curates a compelling line-up for Galway Dance Days Festival and Corp_Real International Symposium 2014 For the third year running, NUI Galway and Galway City plays host to a distinctive dance festival and symposium. Galway Dance Days presents a series of powerful, ambitious and captivating world and Galway premieres throughout the city from the 28-30 March 2014. Ríonach Ní Néill, NUI Galway Dance Artist in Residence and curator of the festival said, “Ireland is creating really exciting dance, and I'm delighted that Galway Dance Days is hosting such a diversity of premieres, from intimate solos to large-scale theatrical spectacles. It's a real dialogue with the city, as dance spills out of the theatre and turns up in unexpected places, such as office buildings and shopping centres.” Anti-Capitalism:The Musical! is a fairytale of musical theatre, using circus, song, and dance to create a near-future political reality similar to our own. Social criticism wrapped in wit, glee and stunning physical and vocal performance, it has a cast of 15 dancers, singers, circus performers, actors and a live band. Employing acrobatics, plot twists, assassinations, and intrigue to tell the witty tale of a heroic group of everyday acrobats, aided by the Greek-chorus style narrations of a powerful triumvirate of fairy godmothers. Choreographed and composed by American, Deirdre Murphy, it has its world premiere at The Cube, Bailey Allen Building, NUI Galway for two nights only, 29-30 March. Swedish choreographer Maria Nilsson Waller transforms the raw concrete of a vacant office building into a world resonating with the wonders of the sea, with the premiere of Founder. Deeply poetic and lyrical, Maria's choreography brings nature into the performance space, mapping vast territories in human movement and voice. An accomplished musician, Maria also composed the soundtrack for the work, mentored by composer George Higgs. It takes place at Fairgreen House, Fairgreen Road on Friday, 28 March at 8pm. Galway-based choreographer, Judith Sibley and Chrysalis Dance Company will perform the specially commissioned work These Moments, a new and evocative piece, continuing Sibley's pushing of the boundaries of classical dance. It will be part of a series of dance works by Irish female choreographers on Saturday, 28 March at Fairgreen House, marking womens' experiences in Ireland, past and present. Following Fitzgerald and Stapleton's sold-out performance at GDD 13, Emma Fitzgerald returns with an intimate solo, The Sea and the Shape of My Heart. Galway has a chance to see Aoife McAtamney's Softer Swells, selected from international competition for the prestigious Aerowaves European tour, and emerging choreographer Úna Little presents Grace, a hauntingly vulnerable solo about Magdalene Ireland. It takes place at Fairgreen House, Fairgreen Road on Friday, 28 March. Art holds a mirror up to society, and the Galway Dance Days performances raise important questions about the environment, gender and activism, which will be the focus of public discussion at the Corp_Real International Symposium, running throughout the festival from 28-30 March in the Bailey Allen Hall, with fieldtrips in Galway city centre. Convened by Dr Aoife McGrath (Queens University), Dr Finola Cronin (UCD), and NUI Galway Dance Artist in Residence, Ríonach Ní Néill, this multi-disciplinary public forum brings together Galway, Irish and international artists, activists and academics, to look at how dance and artistic practices engage with social issues. Swedish landscape architect Carola Wingren speaks about introducing dance into climate-change research in southern Sweden, to which Liverpool academic Rachel Sweeney adds an Australian perspective on flooding. Choreographing Feminist Politics in Ireland brings together a group of artists that have created works that tackle issues of body politics and women’s experiences in Irish society. Sunday's panels consider artists' contributions to a more equitable society, while the convergence of visual art, film, and theatre on corporeal art is the focus of Saturday morning's panel. Disciplinary boundaries are further stretched by Galwegian artist Michelle Browne, in an experimental collaboration, My Methyl with choreographer Emma Martin out and about in Galway centre. It takes place at Fairgreen House on Friday, 28 March. Additional events will include; Body and Environment at the Bailey Allen Hall on March 28 from 12.30pm-6pm and 29 March from 10am-4pm; Performing The Body at the Bailey Allen Hall on 29 March from 10am-1pm; Fieldtrips and site-specific performance in Galway city on 29 March from 1pm-2.45pm; Body, Activism and Engagement on 30 March from 10.30am-4pm at the Bailey Allen Hall. Tickets are €15/€12. All-in Festival tickets €39/€30. Symposium tickets are €5 per day. Bookings can be made at www.entertainment.ie Full programme details are available at www.ciotog.ie For updates and special offers, follow www.Facebook/Galwaydancedays Ends.

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Ireland’s Leading Expert on Climate Change To Speak At NUI Galway

Ireland’s Leading Expert on Climate Change To Speak At NUI Galway -image

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

John Sweeney, Ireland’s leading expert on climate change to give a talk at NUI Galway entitled ‘Ireland and Climate Change: Adapting in an Environment of Uncertainty’   Professor John Sweeney, Ireland’s leading expert on climate change, will deliver a lunchtime talk at NUI Galway on Friday 28th March. The talk is entitled ‘Ireland and Climate Change: Adapting in an Environment of Uncertainty’. Professor Sweeney will talk about climate extremes, the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), what it means for Ireland and where we are in the climate legislation stakes. The talk will also develop current thought on climate change and in light of recent climatic events, will provide a measured view on the science behind predicting future climate scenarios. Specifically, Professor Sweeney will address our potential to adapt to future climatic shifts, dealing with specific measures that we can still apply, both nationally and regionally. The organisers of the event, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington from the Plant Ecology Research Unit and Dr Mike Gormally of the Applied Ecology Unit, School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, are delighted by the prospect of hosting such an informed figure on the study of climate change, in Galway. Dr Sheehy Skeffington said, “It’s a real coup to have Professor Sweeney deliver a lecture at the university. He is a great speaker and an expert in the area of climate change, and he also features regularly on RTE television and radio discussing important topics related to climate change. I really encourage anyone interested to come along to this free event.” Professor John Sweeney has been a lecturer at the Geography Department, NUI Maynooth since 1978 and has a PhD from the University of Glasgow. His research interests are Climate Change, Climatology and Air Pollution. His main area of interest is climatology and he has taught and researched at a number of universities in North America and Africa. As well as publishing extensive scientific papers, Professor Sweeney has edited and co-authored 4 texts on climatology and climate change in Ireland. He has served a number of national academic societies as President, Secretary and Treasurer as well as being the Irish representative on a number of European academic bodies. The talk will be held in the Lecture Theatre on the first floor of the MR Annexe (located to the right of the Martin Ryan building), NUI Galway on Friday 28th March at 1pm sharp. Ends.

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NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute Identifies Emerging Achievement Gap Between Young Migrants and Their Non-Migrant Peers

NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute Identifies Emerging Achievement Gap Between Young Migrants and Their Non-Migrant Peers-image

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Whitaker Institute’s research studies find population and migration trends have profound impacts on all areas of social policy and societal development   The Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway is the largest national research Institute focused on business, social and public policy issues. The Institute’s upcoming publication Impact Insights, offers a succinct overview of the research being conducted there. As part of that work, the Population and Migration research cluster at the Whitaker Institute has identified an emerging achievement gap between young migrants and their non-migrant peers, which will result in a significant under-representation in third-level institutions. Given the ongoing importance of migration in Ireland, the work of the Population and Migration cluster is particularly interesting. The cluster has three central aims: To research key features of contemporary population and migration in critical ways. To contribute to a better understanding of prostitution and sex trafficking/migration. To contribute to the design of improved policies relating to population and migration and help meet existing needs of society.   Several studies carried out by the group encompass the ‘new Irish’- the children of immigrants - and the ease, or otherwise, with which they have integrated into Irish society. Research projects completed and in progress include studies of Brazilian immigration to Ireland, youth workers, second generation return migration, advocacy on behalf of immigrant groups and contributions to improved policy design. In particular, the work of Dr. Valerie Ledwith and Dr. Kathy Reilly from the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway examines the educational outcomes and experiences of young migrants in second level education in Galway City and urban-rural fringe. Funded by the Irish Research Council and the European Commission, The Galway Education Survey looked into how variables such as neighbourhood, school and home environment affect the educational outcomes and experiences of young migrants in second level education. Key Statistics by Migrant Category 66.7% non migrants and 56.2% of all migrants plan to attend University – this 10% difference found that similar proportions of non migrant students plan to attend university but migrant students are less likely to realise their aspiration. Non migrants are 2 times more likely to sit Higher level Maths than Irish born children of foreign born parents. Non migrants are 2.25 times more likely to sit Higher level Science than Irish born children of foreign born parents. Their work highlights the inequality of access for migrant students as a result of current school attendance policies that make it easier for long-term Irish national residents to access schools because of the use of sibling or family as past pupil clauses in reaching enrolment decisions. Furthermore, their research draws attention to the link between these enrolment practices and the emerging achievement gap between young migrants and their non-migrant peers. The research also shows that young migrants are less likely to take Junior Certificate subjects at Higher Level, which restricts the student to sitting that subject at Ordinary Level for the Leaving Certificate. This directly limits the number of points students can achieve. Without a change to the current points system, these results suggest that young migrants will be under-represented within third level education. Dr. Valerie Ledwith stated, “In general, the results of our research suggest that an achievement gap is emerging between young migrants and non-migrants in Ireland. Moreover, this achievement gap is linked to enrolment practices that constrain the school choices available to young migrants.”  Dr. Ledwith continued, “This research arose from our concern with the potential emergence of a two-tier education system in Ireland. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that this is the case, with a clearly apparent achievement gap between young migrants and their non-migrant peers. “ This research was incorporated into the Galway County Integration and Diversity Strategy 2013-2017. Actions linked to the strategy involve further research in the Institute, including an exploration of migrant experiences at university level and mapping migrant services across Galway City and County. This research engages multiple practitioner and community interests and will be conducted throughout 2014 to 2015. The Population and Migration research is funded from an extensive range of national and international sources including: Atlantic Philanthropies; Barnardos; Department of Education and Skills, NI; Department of Health and Children; EU; Galway Educate Together; Health Research Board; Higher Education Authority; Irish Research Council; UNESCO and WHO. Its membership is equally diverse, with researchers from economics, geography, political science, sociology, health promotion and psychology. This diversity reflects the need for a multi-disciplinary approach in considering the social, political and economic dimensions of migration and population change. Dr. Mary Cawley from the Whitaker Institute explains, “The creation of the cluster provides an opportunity to come together and be more aware of each other’s research. In so doing we can identify areas where there may be scope for collaboration, including the development of funding initiatives. Some colleagues are already involved in developing joint grant proposals.” For further information on the Whitaker Institute visit www.nuigalway.ie/whitakerinstitute Ends.

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NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights Plays Key Role In Landmark Resolution Adopted On Human Rights

NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Human Rights Plays Key Role In Landmark Resolution Adopted On Human Rights -image

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

  Monday, 10th March 2014 A landmark reform of the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations was based, in large part, on the research of Professor Michael O'Flaherty from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. The reform will mean greater accountability and efficiency in protecting the rights of oppressed groups in societies across the world – such as victims of discrimination and others on the margins of our societies. The UN human rights oversight mechanism, known as the treaty body system, had become very bureaucratic and inefficient and increasingly starved of resources. This undermined its capacity to do its job of getting governments to uphold the human rights of their peoples. The ‘Dublin Process’, initiated by Professor O’Flaherty and largely funded by the Irish government, set out to strengthen and enhance the structures of the system. The process aimed, for example, to simplify the reporting duties of governments under UN treaties, a framework that had developed incrementally over time, resulting in significant overlapping procedures, inefficiencies and unnecessary delays, as well as to attract more financial support from governments An example of how the treaty body system works to uphold human rights is the way in which it triggered considerable international media attention to the human rights abuses committed in Magdalen laundries and put that topic firmly on the agenda of the Irish government. Internationally, the system has led to numerous changes in law and improvements in the situation of the most vulnerable and marginalised of people. In 2009, Professor Michael O’Flaherty, on the invitation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, convened an expert group in Dublin to set out a road map for a reform process that would deliver meaningful results. World-wide consultations followed and resulted in 100 recommendations adopted at a second meeting in 2011, again convened in Dublin by Professor Michael O'Flaherty.  Those recommendations were then put before the UN General Assembly by means of a report submitted to it by the High Commissioner. The subsequent two-year debate, in which Professor O'Flaherty participated in an expert capacity, was brought to a conclusion with an historic resolution on the 11th February 2014.  The resolution in large part reflects the recommendations that had emerged from the Dublin Process. Professor O'Flaherty, Director of NUI Galway's Irish Centre for Human Rights, said, "This is a defining moment in a treaty body reform process that got underway in Dublin in 2009. Remarkably, it does so with some success, paving the way for the delivery of enhanced resources to the long neglected sector and re-affirming the independence of the treaty bodies and their membership. The pathway to the adoption of the resolution was also notable, comprising a multi-stakeholder engagement that was exceptional in terms of UN human rights diplomatic practice.” “The Dublin Process will serve as a template of how other intractable problems of the UN Human rights system can be tackled in an effective way” he said. “The Irish government deserves great credit for its steadfast support for the exercise.  The Dublin Process highlights the impact that university-based research can have in shaping international public policy.”   For more information on the process Professor O'Flaherty discusses it in a recent blog post at: http://www.nuigalway.ie/irish-centre-human-rights/news/-professor-oflaherty-on-strengthening-of-the-un-human-rights-treaty-body-system.html Ends.  

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