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Less obesity but lots more strokes and dementia!? Thanks, Leo!

So, our wonderful politicians, led by former doctor and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar decided that they have to protect us from ourselves and force us to be healthier by introducing the Sugar Tax (correctly: Sugar Sweetened Drinks Tax). The Irish Heart Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland also supported the tax and claimed it will be a significant step in the fight against obesity.

The goal is to move people away from drinks that contain sugar and while there is the alternative of just drinking water, the probability is HUGE that people will move to diet drinks if they want to avoid paying the significant surcharge on drinks that contain sugar. Drinks containing between five and eight grams of sugar have experienced a price increase of 20 cent per litre and drinks with more than eight grams of sugar per 100 ml cost now even 30 cent more per litre.

All this to FORCE us to be healthier!

But did Leo Varadkar, the Irish Heart Foundation and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland really do their homework? Does avoiding sugar definitely make us healthier?

Interestingly there is a study that was published by the American Heart Foundation in April 2017, that indicates that our politicians and the two health-sector organisations mentioned above, probably did something really really bad to the people in Ireland!

The study looked at 2888 people for stroke and 1484 people for dementia and checked if sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened drink consumption had any impact on the risk of suffering a stroke or getting dementia.

And they found that artificially sweetened soft drink consumption was associated with a higher risk of stroke and dementia, while sugar-sweetened beverages were not associated with stroke or dementia!! :-O

So if thanks to Leo and his boys you moved from sugar sweetened drinks to artificially sweetened drinks to save some money, you might not die of obesity, but you are much more likely to die of or at least suffer of a stroke OR lose your mind!

In other words: Adults who had one or more diet drinks a day were 2.9 times more likely to develop dementia and 3 times more at risk of suffering a stroke compared to people who didn’t drink diet drinks. And drinking diet drinks is far worse than drinking drinks sweetened with sugar.

Great job, Leo!! Thanks! :-(

LGBT groups at New York Parade? – No, Leo Varadkar, you got that wrong!

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was in the USA for the Taoiseach’s yearly St. Patrick’s Day visit and he was invited to take part in the St, Patrick’s Day Parade with his partner. Since a few years ago Varadkar had declared that he is gay (it seems that his partner lives in the USA), it was not surprising that he mentioned in an interview the fact that he was marching in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade with his partner was a sign of change and great diversity.

RTE News wrote about it here.

But he got that completely wrong! The parade organisers banned LGBT groups in the past, but since Varadkar was not walking in the parade as a representative of any LGBT group or under an LGBT banner, his walking in the parade can NOT be interpreted as a “sign of change” at all.

We can clearly see in this picture from the above RTE News article, that he was not part of ANY LGBT group in the parade:

Without a doubt he is not the first gay person who is walking in the parade! And his private preferences were not the reason for his presence in the parade. Consequently, however, his admission to the parade also doesn’t indicate that the organisers have changed their opinion about LGBT groups.

Odd how in his opinion 2 plus 2 results in 6.

 

The Tide has turned: Eighth Amendment!

The Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution from 1983 puts the right to life of the unborn on an equal standing with the mother’s right to life and is a hard fought over legal clause. The opponents are mainly the “Pro Choice” campaigners and the group that fights for the keeping of this clause are on the Anti-Abortion side. Interestingly though, that clause doesn’t mention abortion at all and its removal would not automatically mean that abortion is legalised, but as long as it is in the constitution it indirectly makes abortion illegal.

For that reason – and this is the only point the two groups agree on – the Anti-Abortion campaigners are convinced that a change of the Eighth Amendment will open the doors for abortion, something they are determined to fight as hard as possible. The Pro-Choice side also is of the opinion that the change (or removal) of the Eighth Amendment will legalise abortion.

In April 2017, the Citizen Assembly, a group of 99 Irish citizens who had the job to decide about what to do with this clause in the constitution because the political parties were too cowardly to make a decision, voted that the clause should be replaced or amended, but not removed. They further decided that abortion should be regulated in the normal body of law and NOT in the constitution. This was a very sensible approach many think. It is not at all an automatic legalisation of abortion, but removes a clause from the constitution that shouldn’t have never been put in there, because constitutions should be a lot more on a foundation level and not get into details.

The public opinion is very much divided about abortion in general and the two sides are so deeply opposed that no compromise will ever be possible.

A referendum will have to decide what happens with the Eighth Amendment and that referendum will happen in the summer as it seems. Most importantly it will NOT be a referendum about abortion, but only about the future of that clause in the constitution.

Until now it was very unclear what the outcome of the referendum might be. Opinion polls seem to indicate a majority for a form of repeal of the clause, but opinion polls can be very unreliable and since the main politicians hadn’t declared their opinion about it, there were still a LOT of question marks over the decision of their party followers.

It seems however that the tide has turned now! Michael Martin, the leader of Fianna Fail, has changed his opinion and is now in favour of removing the clause and Leo Varadkar, the leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach, has indicated that he also supports the removal of the clause. The opinion of the two party leaders doesn’t mean that the referendum is now more or less decided. The opinions in the public don’t usually swing with the political leaders and they both have made clear that they will not tell their parliamentarians how to decide, but will allow a free vote. On the other hand, though, the clear declaration by both in favour of removing the clause from the constitution is a significant event in the process.

It should be noted for people that are not fully aware of the “Irish solution” to the abortion problem, that the clause never stopped abortion! Instead, women who felt that an an abortion was their only option, travelled to the UK for it. So it was a totally ineffective clause in the constitution!

Please note that the above description focuses on the Eighth Amendment and does NOT discuss the pros and cons of abortion AT ALL, I am also intentionally not taking any sides on abortion it is a MUCH to complex issue for this publication and this section. But I realised in the last six months through questions that people who only came to Ireland in recent years asked me, that the confusion about the Eighth Referendum is HUGE and since it has always been an oddity to me that the constitution covers this one singled out topic while while other very relevant aspect are not considered there, I decided to write about it.

If you asked me, I would be happy to state that it is my opinion that the Eighth Amendment should be removed because I think the laws of a country should deal with all legal issues and abortion belongs in this category.

You disagree? I 100% respect your opinion and I hope you respect mine. The good news for you – if you disagree – is, that I won’t be allowed to vote in the referendum. So don’t worry about me or my opinion. :-)

You can send me your opinion if you feel like it, but don’t expect an answer from me. I am not interested in discussing the pros or cons of abortion!

Brexit: No hard border to Northern Ireland – Is that really possible?

For weeks this issue is in the media and it is/has been a big hurdle for the Brexit negotiations. No matter what some might WANT, Northern Ireland is part of the UK and the fact that it once was part of Ireland or the fact that it is located on the island of Ireland does not change that. Valid treaties are in place and unless they change Northern Ireland will remain to be a part of the UK. And if the whole UK leaves the EU, then this will also mean that Northern Ireland will leave the UK.

I am well aware that the population of Northern Ireland is divided on their allegiances and many would prefer a closer relationship or even a “re-unification” with Ireland, I am also aware that nobody would want to get back to the situation before the “Good Friday Agreement” from 1998, when terrorist organisations on both sides and highly questionable official forces made life hell for everybody.
But being from a border area elsewhere, I also am well aware that a border or even border controls is not the biggest problem in the world. Sure, we would all prefer a borderless world, but we have on one hand no problem causing a huge amount of in-humane problems to non-EU citizens who want to visit us in the EU, but on the other hand, many think that a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland would be the worst possible scenario.

I don’t agree that borders are a problem. When I grew up we regularly went to France, which was only 20 minutes away and it was never a big problem. Two countries, two set of laws and rules and a border made some sense. The EU states worked hard to break down the borders, but if one state decides to leave, I can’t see how it will work not to have borders again.

Nevertheless, it was announced on Friday that after long negotiations it was agreed that there will be NO hard borders between Northern Ireland and Ireland. So no border controls! But nobody seems to know yet how that will work in reality.

UK government said that they will ensure that there are no barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. So, there won’t be a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and there won’t be a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. BUT there might be completely different tax rules. Do you see the problem?

Have a look at the agreed document here. It says nothing and leaves a lot to Phase 2 negotiations and at the same time the agreement says a lot. Clause 49, for example, more or less implies that Northern Ireland might stay in the EU Customs Union and in the Single Market. And Clause 50 promises that there won’t be any barriers between Northern Ireland and the UK, but this is then probably only possible if the UK also stays in the EU Customs Union and the Single Market. :-O

Either that agreement is not worth the paper it is printed on OR the UK just has abandoned Brexit in large parts. Odd!!

That’s not democratic! – Fine Gael Leadership Competition

After Enda Kenny stepped down (and he was nearly FORCED to step down because he made some nonsensical promises about his longevity in the role of party leader and Taoiseach), the leadership battle between Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar commenced and on Friday was decision day. 10,000 party members, the 223 Fine Gael councillors and 73 senators and PDs (the Parliamentary Party) had an opportunity to vote.

Before the vote already 46 of the 73 members of the Parliamentary Party had declared their support for Leo Varadkar and only 21 for Simon Coveney, but among the 10,000 party members the preferences looked different! About 65% of the party members were supporting Coveney and only 35% were on Varadkar’s side.

But now the odd thing: This is a party in a Western country where you would expect the highest level of democracy and fairness. Right? Not so!!

Oddly, the 10,000 party members only have 25% of “weight” in the final decision, the FG councillors have 10% “weight”, which means that 73 men and women control 65% of the party. You could say that these 73 were elected by the members (and by non-members) and therefore have a double legitimisation. But it is still odd that ONE member of the Parliamentary Party has close to the same weight as nearly 400 party members.

Doesn’t sound very democratic, does it!?

In the end Leo Varadkar won just 35% of the party member votes, but he won 55% of the councillor votes and 70% of the votes from TDs and senators. In total he got 60% of the votes and therefore won.

www.rte.ie/news/2017/0602/879837-fine-gael-leadership-tracker/

 
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