Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

Possession of ecstasy and other drugs is currently legal in Ireland, but only for a day, after a court ruling on Tuesday morning.

A written judgment released by the Republic’s court of appeal said part of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, which allows certain substances to be controlled, is unconstitutional, meaning all government orders banning substances such as ecstasy and magic mushrooms are void – and it is not an offence to possess them.

Specifically, the court found that the act was being added to via ministerial order and without consulting the Oireachtas (both houses of the Irish parliament) and deemed this unconstitutional.

The appeal court’s ruling came in favor of a man who was prosecuted for possession of methylethcathinone, which was among a number of substances put on the controlled drugs list in 2010.

Stanislav Bederev denied the charge of having the substance for supply in 2012, and then brought a high court challenge in Dublin seeking to stop his trial, claiming that additions to the 1977 act were unconstitutional.

Bederev’s legal team argued it was not lawful to put the substance on the controlled drug list because there are no principles and policies guiding the introduction of such rules – and specifically no consultation with the Irish parliament.

The Irish government now has to force through emergency legislation in its parliament on Tuesday evening in response to the ruling.

The emergency law won’t come into place until the Republic’s second chamber, the Seanad, endorses the legislation. Following that the country’s president, Michael D Higgins, will have to gave his approval.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/10/irish-es-are-smiling-ecstasy-drugs-temporarily-legal-in-ireland

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Green food may mean party time in America, where St. Patrick’s Day has long been an excuse to break out the food dye. But in Ireland, where the Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation’s darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.

The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.

“People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass,” Kinealy tells The Salt. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people’s mouths being green as they died.”

At least 1 million Irish died in the span of six years, says Kinealy, the founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Which is why, for an Irishwoman like Kinealy, who hails from Dublin and County Mayo, the sight of green-tinged edibles intended as a joyous nod to Irish history can be jolting, she says.

“Before I came to America, I’d never seen a green bagel,” she says. “For Irish-Americans, they think of dyeing food green, they think everything is happy. But really, in terms of the famine, this is very sad imagery.”

Of course, Americans have long embraced St. Patrick’s Day traditions that might bemuse the folks back in Ireland, where festivities are a lot more subdued, Kinealy notes.

For instance, St. Paddy’s Day Parades? Those originated here in the late 1700s. (George Washington was known to give his Irish soldiers the day off so they could join the celebrations, she says.)

And that quintessential dish of the holiday, corned beef — it may be delicious, but it’s most definitely not Irish.

As Smithsonian.com noted last year, in Gaelic Ireland, cows were a symbol of wealth and a sacred animal, kept more for their milk than their meat — which was only consumed once an animal’s milking days were over. In the Irish diet, meat meant pork. It wasn’t until Britain conquered most of Ireland that Irish “corned beef” came into existence — to satisfy the beef-loving English.

“Ironically, the ones producing the corned beef, the Irish people, could not afford beef or corned beef for themselves,” Smithsonian notes.

Funny enough, the Irish didn’t learn to love corned beef until coming to America, where they picked up the taste from their Jewish neighbors in the urban melting pot of New York City.

But these days, even the Irish back in the homeland have come to accept this Irish-American dietary quirk, Kinealy says. As tourist season revs up and Americans head to the Emerald Isle to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, “a lot of pubs in Ireland will offer corned beef because they know the tourists like it. It’s come full circle.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/03/17/290259538/the-dark-history-of-green-food-on-st-patricks-day?ft=1&f=1001

irish volcano

By Matt McGrath

Environment correspondent, BBC News

Researchers have been able to trace the impact of volcanic eruptions on the climate over a 1200 year period by assessing ancient Irish texts.

The international team compared entries in these medieval annals with ice core data indicating volcanic eruptions.

Of 38 volcanic events, 37 were associated with directly observed cold weather extremes recorded in the chronicles.

The report is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In the dim light of the Dark Ages, the Irish literary tradition stands out like a beacon.

At monastic centres across the island, scribes recorded significant events such as feast days, obituaries and descriptions of extreme cold and heat.

These chronicles are generally known as the Irish Annals and in this report, scientists and historians have looked at 40,000 entries in the texts dating from AD431 to 1649.

The researchers also looked at the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (GISP2) ice-core data.

When volcanoes erupt, they produce sulphate aerosol particles which down the centuries have been deposited on and frozen in ice sheets, leaving an extremely accurate temporal record of the event.

Scientists say these particles reflect incoming sunlight and can cause a temporary cooling of the Earth’s surface. In a country with a mild maritime climate like Ireland, these colder events would have a significant impact.

When the weather that is cold enough to allow you to walk over a lake in Ireland, it is pretty unusual,” lead author Dr Francis Ludlow, from Harvard University, told BBC News.

“When it happened, it was remarkable enough to be recorded pretty consistently.”

The scientists in the team identified 48 volcanic eruptions in the time period spanning 1,219 years. Of these, 38 were associated closely in time with extreme weather events identified in the Irish texts.

“These eruptions occur and they override existing climate patterns for a period of two or three years,” said Dr Ludlow.

“And it is clear from the sources that they cause a lot of devastation among societies at the time – whether it was the mass mortality of domestic animals or humans, or indirectly by causing harvest failure.”

The research team believe the texts are accurate as the annals also record solar and lunar eclipses which can be compared with other contemporary sources.

The keen recording of weather though had another motivation.

“A lot of these scribes are working in monasteries, in some time periods they are interpreting these weather events as divine omens or portents as signals of the coming of the last days,” said Dr Ludlow.

“That was one of their motivations so we are able to use the records that were created for a completely different purpose that the scribes would never have conceived.”

The researchers say that one expected effect of volcanic eruptions that occur in tropical regions is to make for milder winters in northern latitudes.

But in this study, they found several instances of these type of eruptions causing extremely cold winters in Ireland. The team believes their work shows the complex nature of volcanic impacts on climate, and they say there are lessons for the future in the ancient texts.

“That tells us a lot about what sort of weather we might expect in the British Isles when the next big eruption goes off,” said Dr Ludlow.

“We might want to buy a bit more salt for the roads.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22786179

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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by Catherine Zuckerman
National Geographic News

“It struck down the growing plants like frost in summer. It spread faster than the cholera amongst men.”

That description of Ireland’s historic potato blight—from English writer E.C. Large’s book The Advance of the Fungi—may sound extreme, but it’s not. The devastating disease nearly wiped out many Irish potato varieties, igniting the country’s Great Famine in the mid-19th century.

But now, one of those blighted potatoes is making a comeback. Meet the Lumper.

As its name implies, this potato is not especially beautiful. It’s large, knobby, and, well, lumpy, with pale brown skin and yellow flesh. Still, it was widely grown in Ireland before the famine because it did well in poor soil and could feed a lot of mouths.

According to University College Dublin’s Cormac O’Grada, an expert on the history of famines, the blight (Phytophtora infestans) destroyed about one-third of Ireland’s potato crop in 1845 and almost all of it in 1846. Because so many people were poor and relied on potatoes for sustenance, the blight had catastrophic consequences, including food riots and mass death from starvation.

Spuds are faring much better today thanks to modern farming techniques and technology, although potato blight is still an ongoing concern for Irish farmers.

The Lumper was a thing of the mashed, roasted, and baked potato past until about five years ago, when farmer Michael McKillop—a grower and packer for Northern Ireland’s Glens of Antrim potato suppliers—became interested in the antique tuber. He got his hands on some heirloom seeds and cultivated them.

Why revive this particular potato? “I chose the Lumper because of its history and its unusual look and feel,” he said. “The history books said the taste wasn’t particularly nice, so I was fascinated to find out what it was really like myself.”

So how does it taste? Descriptions range from “good” and “pleasing” to “not bad” and “soapy.” The Daily Spud blog calls the Lumper’s texture “waxy,” rather than floury like other potatoes—not necessarily a compliment.

Dermot Carey, the head grower at Ireland’s Lissadell/Langford Potato Collection, which contains more than 200 varieties, has tasted his fair share of different potatoes. He’s not a huge fan of the Lumper: “It’s edible, but it wouldn’t be my favorite.”

The debate over the Lumper’s flavor appeal may never be settled, but one thing is clearly established: The Irish love their spuds. The Irish Potato Federation lists several popular varieties on its website, including the widely grown, red-skinned Rooster, the traditional, floury Golden Wonder, and the newly developed, highly blight-resistant Orla.

Chef and native Dubliner Cathal Armstrong, who owns several Washington, D.C.-area restaurants, has mixed feelings about the return of the Lumper: “I think it’s both exciting and a little frightening, to bring back this species of potato that is related to so much devastation. But I would still love to get my hands on some and see how they taste. I guess it would be similar to bumping into the ghost of a long-lost relative in a dark alley.”

Too bad it’s not available in the U.S. But in Ireland, McKillop’s Lumpers—which he grew to be a bit smaller than those of the 1800s—can be purchased at the retail chain Marks & Spencer through the end of March. As for the future, McKillop has plans to plant ten new acres of Lumpers—enough to yield 150 metric tons for 2014.

Whether or not the public will embrace the somewhat homely spud remains to be seen. For now, said gardener Carey, “it’s pure nostalgia.”

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130315-irish-famine-potato-lumper-food-science-culture-ireland/#

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A 45-foot humpback whale leapt above the waves as group of nature lovers gazed the wrong way this past weekend off the Atlantic coast of Ireland.

A cameraman caught the “whale ahoy” moment off Baltimore in west Cork where marine enthusiasts have been cruising the waters hoping to sight a group of five humpbacks that have been feeding on local shoals of sprat and herring for the last two weeks.

The presence of the humpbacks, breaching the waves with their 30-tonne bodies in pursuit of fish, has triggered a mini-tourism boom as people flock to the village to charter local boats in search of the whales.

Simon Duggan, 44, a local photographer and RNLI Lifeboat crew member, took a series of photographs of the humpbacks “bubble feeding” – the hunting technique where whales dive under a shoal of fish, releasing air bubbles to confuse their prey and bunch them together.

After herding and confusing the fish, the whales use their powerful bodies to surge upwards through the shoal with their mouths wide open to scoop up as many sprat or herring as possible.

After taking the picture of the humpback fully breaching the water after hoovering up its prey, a rare and spectacular display of the cetacean’s hunting prowess, Mr Duggan noticed that another boat of whale watchers had missed their moment.

“It happened so fast – the adrenalin was going,” he said. “When I looked at the photo I realised everyone else was looking the wrong way.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9719020/Whale-watchers-look-the-wrong-way-as-huge-humpback-leaps-out-of-ocean.html