Mars: The ultimate frontier


The Red Planet has been wetting mankind’s thirst for knowledge and exploration for several long decades now. The shiny red star in the night heavens has been the subject of countless movies, books, and other media throughout time.

Technical limitations have hitherto prevented man from travelling to Mars, but lately there has been somewhat of a rennaissance of the pioneering trip to Mars idea.

NASA is said to be researching possible landing sites ahead of a planned launch in the late 2030s. Scientists will meet in Houston next October to give serious discussion and thought to the issue of “exploration zones”. These are areas on the planet’s surface, about 62 miles-wide, which are deemed to offer enough resources (such as subssurface water ice) to support prospecting astronauts. Over the next few years, the space agency will utilise the Mars Odyssey and the Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter crafts to probe these selected areas to ascertain their suitability for landing and support human life.

Every two years or thereabouts, Mars and Earth’s orbit create optimal conditions for a launch. When the two planets are aligned, about 55 millions km separate mankind from its ultimate frontier. Though that may sound like a lot, in terms of cosmic distances, it’s a mere stone throw away.

Still, using currently available propulsion and space exploration technology, it would take a manned spaceship about nine long months to reach Mars’ surface, assuming all went according to plan. And that’s just a one way trip. The first crew to reach Mars will likely be forced to stay there, there’d be no coming back.

Space travel is inherently dangerous, of that there is little doubt. Disasters like the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia are a sad testament to mankind’s space faring endeavors.

And going to Mars would pose a completely new set of challenges. Putting aside the huge financial cost of a mission to Mars, there is the issue of the sheer distance between us and the Red Planet. Nine months, give or take, is a very long time to be locked inside a spaceship hurtling through space with a bunch of fellow men and women. A lot of psychological issues may arise.

Another danger would be the amount of radiation that the crew would be exposed to on their way over. Cosmic rays would constantly bombard the spacecraft, and the effects may cause deadly cancers in the long run. The crew may be dead, or dying, by the time they got to Mars. And that’s just cancer. Solar storms also pose a huge risk to the human heart and central nervous system. Subatomic particles from solar radiation can kill a person in a matter of hours.

So how to avoid dying in the name of science and exploration? Appropriate shielding of the craft would be an idea, but again, currently available technology hampers the prospect. Traditional lead shielding actually creates secondary radiation when hit by cosmic rays. A better proposition is water, but a water shield would need to be several meters thick to be effective. Again, not currently workable.

And then there’s the issue of what to do, once the ship arrived in Mars?

Mars is a hostile environment to humans. The planet has a very thin atmosphere, about one percent of the thickness of Earth’s own atmosphere. It consists of about 96% carbon dioxide and less than 0.2% oxygen, ergo not breathable. If a manned mission did make it to Mars, they would need to somehow manufacture their own oxygen to sustain life in the long term. To remedy this, NASA will carry out the Mars Oxygen in Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) in its planned 2020 mission.

Also, huge dust storms sweep across Mars’ surface regularly, and these can last for a month at a time.

A lot remains to be solved, no less in the fiend of the potentially devastating psychological effects of a Mars stay.  Space missions in the past have had to be terminated early due to crew squabbles and disagreements. And who knows what the human mind may experience when faced with the sheer distance and isolation from one’s home planet.

So the challenges are huge, and so are the costs associated with all this. For now, the Red Planet remains tantalizingly just out of mankind’s reach, but the next couple of decades might see a successful mission land on the Red Planet’s surface, thus marking a historic milestone on human evolution.

18 minutes in history


May 7, 1915.

It is a clear and crisp early summer afternoon. The sea off the coast of Kinsale is calm, almost welcoming. Quite a change from the earlier misty daybreak. The passage must surely be thankful that the dreadful din of the foghorns has now stopped.

The clock marks just after noon on this fine day for sailing as RMS Lusitania, carrying nearly 2,000 souls on board, steams past the south coast of Ireland at about 18 knots. Passengers mill around the ship, perhaps changing into more appropriate attire for lunch, or maybe getting ready to take a relaxing stroll along the upper decks.

Lusitania’s captain, William Thomas Turner, is well aware that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies. Atlantic crossings are perilous at this time, and a ship of Lusitania’s size and profile makes for an unmistakable target on a clear and calm day.  Turner knows that the Royal Navy is well able to keep the German Kriegsmarine in check, but he is not fool enough to believe his ship is safe from other predators of the sea.

German submarine activity in the area had been reported less than 48 hours earlier. U-20, captained by Kapitanleutnant Walter Schwieger, has been patrolling around the south coast of Ireland, sinking three ships over the 5-6 May period. Crucially, news of these sinkings had not reached Queenstown (modern day Cobh) by the time Lusitania was due to sail by, and it was assumed that the submarine threat had subsided.

Nevertheless, two general warnings were issued on May 6, and Turner did act responsibly by taking prudent precautions. He orders the closure of watertight doors, posts double-lookouts, and orders a black-out. Just in case.

At around 11am on the morning of May 7, the Admiralty sends a warning to all ships, reporting that German U-boats are indeed active around the southern area of the Irish Channel. This warning directly related to the sinkings of the previous two days. Turner’s concern grows, and orders Lusitania to steer closer to land, as he thinks that German U-boats operate more comfortably in the open sea. He believes his boat would be safer near the coast.

U-20 was running low on supplies by May 7. She was short on fuel and had only three torpedoes left. The boat surfaced in early morning, only to see mist and fog. Poor visibility would prevent any successful attack, while at the same time increase the chances of colliding against an unseen ship or obstacle, so Schwieger ordered to dive and head for home.

But then, at 12.45, U-20 surfaces again. Visibility had now vastly improved, the earlier fog having lifted by now.

The U-boat’s lookouts spot something far in the horizon, and the captain is called to the conning tower. At first, they assume it to be a group of ships, due to the number of masts and funnels spotted, but the truth is soon discovered. The unmistakable shape of a large steamer soon looms across the distance: Lusitania’s fate is sealed.

Schwieger orders U-20 to dive and pursue the target. The man knows this was a large prize, and would not let go of it that easily.

Onboard the liner, people are blissfully unaware of the mortal danger lurking beneath the waves. It is a clear and bright early summer’s day, so it’s hard to think of anything other than a relaxed afternoon onboard the gigantic and luxurious ocean liner. The sun hangs high over the Irish skies while U-20 is running silent at periscope depth, stalking its prey.

Lusitania steams ahead at 18 knots, with land almost in sight. She is due in Liverpool in just under a day. But she would never make it there.

At 14.10pm on this fine and sunny day of May 07, Kapitanleutnant Walter Schwieger orders one single torpedo to be fired at Lusitania’s starboard bow from a distance of about 700 metres. The weapon exits U-20 and speeds to the ocean liner at a depth of three metres.  Its bubbly and deadly wake is spotted by an 18-year-old lookout named Leslie Norton. He shouts a desperate warning through a megaphone, but it makes no difference. The torpedo finds its mark and hits Lusitania dead on, striking the ship just under the bridge.

There is an explosion, and almost immediately, a second, larger detonation. Almost at once, Lusitania begins listing to starboard.

At 14.12, Captain Turner orders a hard to starboard turn, towards land, but the ship is mortally wounded. Engine pressure drops rapidly, its steam lifeline bleeding out quickly. Lusitania’s wireless operator issues an SOS, which is acknowledged by a coastal station. The ship’s position is 10 miles south of the Old Head of Kinsale.

Though Lusitania carries 48 lifeboats, more than enough for all passengers and crew, the boat’s heavy listing prevents the launch of most of them. Many overturn while loading or lowering, throwing people helplessly into the sea. Others crash onto lower decks, crushing passengers below. In the end, only six lifeboats are successfully launched, all on the starboard side.

Schwieger watches Lusitania’s death with the cold detachment that only a war enemy can show. At 14.25, he orders U-20 to dive and turn away, heading out to the relatively safety of deeper waters. He would be killed later in the war while commanding U-88. The boat hit a mine while chased by a British destroyer and sank, with no survivors.

Lusitania herself sank in 18 minutes, on May 7, 1915.

Out of its 1,959 passengers and crew, 1,195 were lost in the disaster, many while waiting for help in the cold waters of the Irish Channel. Only 289 bodies were ever recovered, most of which were interred in Queenston and Kinsale.

Turner did live on. He remained in the bridge until water rushed in and washed him overboard. He managed to survive by clinging onto a chair he found floating on the water. He was pulled from the sea unconscious, but alive. By this time, Lusitania’s hulking shape had vanished beneath the waves.

In the aftermath of the disaster, controversy surrounded the event of the liner’s sinking, a controversy which rages to present day. Propaganda, claims, and counterclaims from both sides have somewhat clouded the facts.

The truth remains that the sinking of RMS Lusitania was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, maritime disaster to ever occur on Irish shores.

This week, commemorative events are taking place in and around Cobh and Kinsale, to remember those who perished at sea.

Crutch nation


Rags flutter over the hollow windows of half-finished, vacant houses. The wraiths of shattered dreams dwell within, like phantoms of a nowhere place.

Ghost estates dot the Irish landscape. They can be found up and down the nation; no county or major city was spared the wrath of the JCB. Over time, these sites have become hallowed ossuaries, unholy grounds where the covetous failures of a thousand property developers now lay interred. Walking around these enclaves of desolation, one could be forgiven for thinking that a great evil befell the country, one which left behind the husk of a lost generation.

And in a way, that is exactly what took place.

It wasn’t a plague, or a natural disaster; nor was it a foreign invasion. The man-made rot took hold from within, and spread outwards from the very sanctum of power, from the consecrated edifices where the lives of the peasantry are condemned at the stroke of a pen.

After the conflagration that ravaged the country following the detonation of the Bank Guarantee device, ashes of the old Ireland drifted in a firestorm of stark contrasts. On one side, the petulant disdain displayed by a Government which, far from attempting to look after the needs of its people, engaged in full self-preservation mode. On the other, the very citizens who not long ago put said Government in power, only to now face a two-pronged attack; from the Government itself, even though its ministers had by now been rendered second rate players in a much larger power play orchestrated from the European heartland. And from the very banks that the citizens of Ireland had been forced to bail out. The banks’ corporate jaws were now clenching down hard on people’s misfortunes.

So the stage was set for a David vs Goliath scenario. The unholy triumvirate of the banks, Government, and the Troika, pitted in a savage gladiatorial contest against the citizens of this country. Popular faith against wilful corporativism. The wishes and basic needs of the people of Ireland fighting the cloaked specter of immoral capitalism.

From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.’

Jeremiah 6:13

The greed of a few became, unjustly, the downfall of many. The aftermath of the Bank Guarantee monstrosity will linger for decades. The loading of private debt into the saddle of Irish citizens automatically ensured that economic growth would be stifled for years. The future was sold wholesale, sacrificed upon the altar of retribution.

The poison injected on us on that night of September 2008 flows around the country’s bloodstream even today, creating the perfect conditions for the gangrenous growth of youth emigration patterns, for example, and the canker of repossessions. This venom lays a heavy, corroded crust over the country’s chances of financial restoration, thus inhibiting growth and development.

Today’s Ireland resembles Atlas, the primordial titan who supported the weight of the world on his mighty shoulders. Only this modern-day version of such myth features Ireland becoming the crutch that bears the brunt of foreign European debt. If only we could call upon Atlas’ brother, Prometheus, to steal fire from the gods once again and burn this European dead weight.

MH370: Flight into eternity


MH370. Modern aviation, and the world at large, will forever remember this fateful identifier.

It began just like any other scheduled flight. Passengers awkwardly moving down the crowded aisles, looking for their allocated seats. Here, the clatter of the overhead compartment as people stow their belongings away. There, the nervous laughter of those not so keen on flying as they fumble with their seat belts and try to settle for a long night flight. Hidden from view, an air hostess hurriedly dusts off her uniform while one of her colleagues checks the passenger manifest. The long cabin bustles with activity.

Locked away in the cockpit, the flight crew preps the aircraft for departure.

The Boeing 777, callsign MAS370, slowly hums into life as systems are initialized and pre-flight checklists are thoroughly completed. Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah will be flying the aircraft tonight. He is a seasoned aviator, a keen flight enthusiast with over 18,000 flying hours to his name. Zaharie’s First Officer in tonight’s flight is 27-year-old Fariq Abdul Hamid. With just over 2,000 flying hours, this is Hamid’s first flight as a fully qualified first officer in a Boeing 777.

MH370 is scheduled to depart Kuala Lumpur International Airport after midnight, March 08.

As the aircraft taxies down the runway, the lights of the terminal become momentarily brighter, as the plane’s taxi lights are switched off to avoid distracting any pilot attempting to land.

‘MH370, permitted for take off’, the air traffic controller announces. ‘Good night.’

‘MH370 copies that. Thank you, and goodbye.’

Zaharie opens up the throttles and the aircraft obediently and rapidly picks up speed. As it thunders down the runway, the passengers within watch the world outside become a blur. They will never see dry land again.

The aircraft reaches take off speed and the captain pulls back on the control column. The Boeing rotates, and for a fleeting moment, gravity fights to maintain its hold on this man made artefact. The machine’s raw power trounces nature however, and the aircraft neatly leaves the ground, initiating its final ascent into the skies. It’s 0:41 local time.

Inside, the passengers prepare to sleep, or perhaps listen to some relaxing music, or read their favourite best seller. 239 souls in total travel in this state of the art aircraft. 239 people, from 13 different countries, all blissfully unaware of the drama that would shortly unfold, unaware of the events that would turn this normal, scheduled flight out of Malaysia tonight into one of the biggest mysteries of modern aviation.

MH370 would vanish less than an hour later. The plane reached its cruising altitude at 35,000 feet, and then communications were disabled, either accidentally or intentionally. Only time will tell.

The aircraft veered off course and flew into history, carrying its human cargo into eternity.

The Irish Bank Guarantee: A night of infamy


It’s now one hour to midnight. Sixty minutes to destiny.

It’s the last night of September, 2008. On this night, Government Buildings play silent witness to the unravelling of Irish history. The drama unfolds as the citizenry prepares for bed. The main players in this tragedy scuttle about shrouded by darkening skies, as if the absence of light somehow justifies their impending act of financial treason.

Now it’s 30 minutes to the end of times. Time ticks down fast and hard. The blade of fate is about to thunder down on the nation’s neck.

It’s a cold night outside, about 3 degrees. Even the weather is unkind tonight. Yet, nature holds no grudges against the country’s population, nor does it have any hidden agenda, unlike the characters who, acting purely upon their own selfish instincts of self preservation are about to demolish the hopes of an entire nation and lay waste to a whole generation of Irish.

Ten minutes to the threshold of madness. 600 seconds.

Things happen faster now. The players of Ireland’s ill thought out financial final solution gather around the table, and talk.

It is now two weeks earlier. Lehman Brothers bank, once a mighty titan, spectacularly collapses and goes bankrupt. Nobody expected this to happen, nor had it even been considered by anyone as a possible outcome. At the other side of the Atlantic, Anglo Irish Employees watch their Lehman colleagues hurriedly exit the building carrying their belongings inside cardboard boxes. The writing is on the wall.

Around the table, a cabal of bankers and government representatives discuss the half truths and outright lies of a banking system that has reached critical mass. An unstoppable chain reaction is about to take hold of the country’s financial pipework, its momentum reaching terminal velocity in a matter of minutes.

It is 2007. The so called credit crunch. Irish banks have lent beyond deposits taken and their liquidity has evaporated. The void within the system grows larger with every passing day. The issue of Irish banking turns into a poisoned chalice, and soon we will all be satiated from it.

The traitors talk, because that’s what traitors do. The traitors also lay blame on others, and assume no responsibility for the government-sanctioned piece of abhorrent legislation christened as the Bank Guarantee. It’s just what must be done to safeguard the soundness of Irish banking. Within five minutes, they will rubber stamp a nation’s generational burden of around €64 billion. The financial death knell for Ireland is about to toll loudly from within Government Buildings.

It is now September 29, 2008. 24 hours before the end of days. Two well known players of the Irish financial landscape, Sean Fitzpatrick and David Drumm, scuttle about Dublin’s city centre calling at doors behind which they know money is plentiful. It’s cash they’re after, plain and simple. During the month of September, ever since those Lehman employees streamed out of a fallen giant, Anglo Irish Bank has been hemorraghing deposits to the tune of €1 billion a day. The bank’s shares are next to worthless, having lost about 46 percent of their former value. If money is not found pronto, the jig is up in two days’ time at best. This is a last ditch attempt to save an apostate idol.

Fitzpatrick and Drumm enter and exit these financial institutions via back entrances. There is no fanfare or red carpet receptions. An outside spectator could be forgiven for thinking they were the fax machine repair guys. Yet, these people’s one track mind deviated not from their one and only desire; money, and fast.

And yet, their requests are politely turned down, first by Bank of Ireland, then AIB, and finally by Irish Life & Permanent. Anglo’s lack of liquidity and inability to offer collaterals are quoted as reasons for this denial. The thwarted and deposed kings are pushed against a wall with nowhere to go. Hopes of a last minute solution to Anglo’s monumental debacle vanish into the ether. The fate of a nation has been sealed.

The meeting at Government Buildings is in full swing now. Beside Fitzpatrick and Drumm, representatives from Bank of Ireland and AIB are also in attendance. There is no time for niceties, nor there is time to consider the ramifications that a wholesale bank guarantee will have on the Irish nation. All there is time for is getting the Government to cough up the dough, and take an Everest-size pile of private debt off their backs and politely mount it on the saddle of the Irish peoples as a whole. In a well-rehearsed pharisaic act, the bankers lay their demands in front of the purse holders.

It is now two minutes to midnight. One hundred and twenty seconds upon which the future of Ireland rides headlong into darkness.

The bankers end their exposition. If the money is not forthcoming, the Irish banking system will face the business end of the financial Grim Reaper’s scythe in a matter of days. They must act. Now. And guarantee every last unsecured penny in circulation.

It’s one minute to midnight now. The detonation of the Bank Guarantee nuclear device is imminent. The seventh seal is about to be broken, and a cohort of angels shall blow their trumpets one after the other. Like Abbadon, the Irish Government shall hail a far-reaching, nationwide plague of financial pestilence.

It is now six years since the Doomsday clock struck midnight. The hands of time stir the ashes of their vengeance…

50 Shades of Treason: A nation’s betrayal


Rialtas stood over Éireann. A tattoo of a harp on his body, a three-leafed shamrock on hers. Two starcrossed lovers, their fates forever intertwined, twisting and dancing around each other’s histories like crawling ivy.

He wore his tattoo proudly, almost patronizingly so. The harp, drawn in long curved lines, reached all the way down his chest, almost to his navel. It was undeniably beautiful, and elegant. A long-standing symbol, a historic sigul. And yet, for all its outward beauty, to her it seemed to be imbued with veiled treachery. The lines within that harp concealed the riddle of a darker truth.

Éireann had been around. She knew of those who had been there before him. She knew of their self-indulgence, their petulancy, and ignorance of the greater good. She knew of their reckless excesses, of their vicious profligacy, of their selfish disdain, all the while encouraging her to tighten her belt. The lies, and the deceit. Obstinate, cruel, and rancid deceit.

Still, for all her sins, she had decided to give this Rialtas a chance. She had submitted. She had forsaken her long, deeply rooted fear of double-talk, of blatant spin. Of treason. Thus, she had given into a game of dominance. Éireann dressed up in the colours of the Republic, the colours which pleased him, Rialtas, and let him have his wicked way with her at the polls.

The stakes were huge in this power play, this she knew full well. Éireann was no fool. After all, she had gone through a long roster of others like him, and even stood up against some, and won. Her submission was hard-earned, and Rialtas would need to prove himself worthy of it, before she handed herself over completely.

Rialtas believed he had complete and utter dominance over her. His conviction was so great that the need for introductions seemed moot. The legacy left to him was one of scorched earth, a cheap show played by failed puppets that had jumped ship like rats in a storm. The trail of desolation carved upon Eireann’s back was enough to show Rialtas, or at least make him believe so, that she belonged on her knees, bowed before him, like a mere instrument of play.

Rialtas knew no better than any other before him, however, and the rancidity of a languishing pot’o’gold soon became apparent. Rialtas’ silver forked tongue talked the talk, and sought so hard to soothe Éireann’s wishful desire for real change. The lustful intensity of a fleeting love affair built on lies corroded her trust, and one by one all those promises faded like snowdrift on a wet road.

Éireann was blindfolded by a shroud of immorality, a cloak of deception, and became embittered by the gross misrepresentation of facts uttered like the half truths of a drunken harlot. A castle made of sand. A House full of those very same snakes St. Brendan had fought so hard to forever banish from the land. And sure enough, this Rialtas soon flashed its true colors. A cabal thriving on hyperbolic subterfuges, a scheming cadre of full time traitors, licking the hand of adventitious puppet masters while condemning their own to generational decay.

Éireann’s lust for Rialtas faded. The excitement of something new was quickly replaced by the boredom and commonality of the same that had been imposed on her by others. Rialtas’ scandalous pandering to his European mistress finally broke her bond of trust.

Éireann stood up, shaking off the crumbs of a wasted love affair. She rose from a genuflect position into a proud and defiant upright stance.

She looked at Rialtas square in the eyes. The shades of treason, all 50 of them, glowed crimson with undisguised contempt within those eyes. Éireann paused from a moment, and then spoke softly.

‘Le cúnamh agus neart muintir an náisiúin, seasfaidh mé bródúil agus saor arís.’

Éireann dropped her blindfold at Rialtas’ feet, turned, and walked away.

A tax too far


In 1944, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery conceived and planned Operation Market- Garden, whose goal was to bypass the Siegfried line and trap the German 15th Army, then cross the Rhine and swiftly advance to Berlin. In Montgomery’s eyes, the operation would result in a decisive victory for the Allies and a quick conclusion to the war.

Not quite so, as history would have it. For several reasons, Operation Market-Garden ended in a resounding failure. It was indeed a bridge too far for the Allies.

Last week, the water supply in my locality was temporarily shut off while a leak was being repaired in Limerick city. On that same week, tap water at my place of work had an unsightly brownish hue. In some areas of Co. Clare, it has a yellow tint instead. Drops in water pressure are commonplace, not to mention the dangerously high fluoride content.

Yet, despite all this, our Government has seen fit to grace us all with a Water Tax. In other countries this fact would be seen as a seemingly incongruous conundrum, when taking into account all the aforementioned issues. Not in here though. A new tax on the liquid1 manna sent from heaven is just the thing. And why not waste a few extra million in setting up a new quango to manage it all while we’re at it? About 180 million euro of public money was spent in the set-up of Irish Water, a great chunk of it (86 million, to be precise) was taken up by consultancy fees.

Water is a refreshing necessity kindly given to us by Nature. It cannot be manufactured, just as it cannot be stopped if a flood hits. Nevertheless, we need water to live. In fact, one of the reasons life is so abundant on planet Earth is that very same liquid gold which the Irish Government, through its puppet quango -Irish Water- now wants us all to fork out good money for.

But other European countries have been paying water charges for decades, I hear you say. True. But these countries have a proper infrastructure in place, one that is properly maintained, does not leak like a sift, and usually does not make you sick just by drinking the stuff. In 2007, for instance, an outbreak of waterborne cryptosporidiosis in Galway made over 200 people ill. A boil water notice remained in effect for 5 months, including  the peak tourist season, with the corresponding loss of revenue to the hospitality business, damage to the country’s reputation, etc.

The spectacular demise of the so-called Celtic Tiger brought about dramatic changes in Irish society. And through the gross mismanagement of the flailing economy by successive Governments, the country handed over its economic sovereignty to European loan sharks. Among the many conditions such group imposed on us in exchange for cash was the introduction of a new water charge. The Government, never one to shy away from pandering to Euro whims, gladly concurred.

Such charge has faced stiff opposition from the very beginning, from all corners of the country. Scuffles have broken out everywhere, water meters have been forcibly removed, and even the Taoiseach was hounded by water charge protesters during a visit to Limerick. People are rising against a new tax by stealth.

Irish Water itself, the Government owned body tasked with managing the installation and maintenance of new water has been embroiled in controversy over set-up costs and overblown consultancy fees from its inception. John Tierney, head of Irish Water, always insisted that the Government was fully aware of such exorbitant fees from the outset. At the time, however, ministers claimed they ‘heard it on the radio’.

Whatever the case may be, Irish Water are here to stay. lt is claimed that 115,000 meters have already been installed around the country. Precise details of exactly how much of our money will be taken from us by this new utility company have yet to emerge. Also,  it was originally claimed -before the local and European elections- that every child in the country would receive a free water allowance of 104 litres per day, which equates to 38,000 liters per year). Now, based on their own research, Irish Water claim that children appear to consume less water than originally believed. Hence, they are attempting to reduce this allowance.

The Government are treading dangerous water (pun fully intended) with this one. With a little bit of luck, it will prove a tax too far.

Recent clinical trials reveal groundbreaking possibilities for successful cancer treatment


An experimental combination therapy recently put to the test in human clinical trials has shown outstanding results in progression-free survival rates for terminally ill cancer patients.

Current chemotherapy drugs may buy a terminally ill patient a few months to live, at best, and in many cases mere weeks.

But recent trials have tested immunotherapy drugs that have proved strikingly effective against aggressive forms of melanoma and lung cancer.

Immunotherapy has been hailed as the most exciting development in cancer treatment in recent times, and it has been postulated that it will replace chemotherapy as standard treatment in the near future.

Immunotherapy works by boosting the human body’s own immune system to fight disease, and though it is commonly used in other therapeutic areas, cancer research made little use of it until now.

Recent trials were conducted on 945 patients with advanced melanoma. They were treated with a combination therapy of the drugs ipilimumab and nivolumab, and at the end of the trial, the therapy achieved a tumour reduction of over 50%, which is an outstanding result.

Dr Alan Worsley, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information officer, has said: “This research suggests that we could give a powerful one-two punch against advanced melanoma by combining immunotherapy treatments.

“Together these drugs could release the brakes on the immune system while blocking cancer’s ability to hide from it.

“But combining these treatments also increases the likelihood of potentially quite severe side effects. Identifying which patients are most likely to benefit will be key to bringing our best weapons to bear against the disease.”

The trials have so far been restricted to two types of cancer, but these therapies may soon be extended to other common cancers.

It has been claimed that the evidence in favor of this groundbreaking new treatment is so overwhelmingly positive that tens of thousands of lives may be saved in the UK alone within a decade.