Ireland's Eye: What's going on in the old sod

Holiday Spirit: Children stand outside Bewley’s cafe on Grafton Street in Dublin, which is hosting an exhibition which aims to capture the sprit of Christmas

Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív said the fall "is a very welcome development,” and pointed out that the October figure is the lowest monthly total since December 2009.

He pointed out that the live register includes those who have employment albeit on a part time basis, and receive a payment from his department for part of the week.

However, while the Sligo figure is now down by 796 since August and is roughly what it was this time last year, the number of people unemployed locally is still at an historically high level.

While in more recent times larger numbers of women than men have been signing on, males still make up the biggest numbers of those unemployed at 3,365 to 1,784 females.
- Sligo Weekender

Fertility awareness urged

Widespread concern among fertility experts that women are leaving it too late to have children has led to calls for a national fertility awareness campaign, beginning in the classroom.

The support for an awareness-raising campaign comes at a time when births to first-time mothers are at a 50-year high, and the average age of mothers has risen to 31.4.

Experts in reproductive medicine who took part in an Irish Examiner investigation of treatments, costs and success rates at fertility clinics around the country agree women need to be made aware they have a finite number of eggs, and that technology has not advanced enough to make age irrelevant when it comes to having children.

Dr. Edgar Mocanu, consultant-in-charge at the Human Assisted Reproduction Unit in the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, said the education system should include male and female reproduction classes.

"It is important for school children to understand that fertility is a finite opportunity and one should consider having a family young rather than when too late. Career is important but should be developed in parallel to achieving the desired fertility potential," he said.

Dr. John Waterstone, medical director of the Cork Fertility Center, said the "big message" that needed to get across was that age and fertility are inextricably linked.

"They (women) don’t realize just how important the age thing is and they think, ‘I feel young, I look young, I exercise, I’m in good shape,’ but they don’t realize that the aging of the ovaries is inexorable. It doesn’t matter if you look young or feel young, this is beyond your control."

Dr. Declan Egan, medical director of the Galway Fertility Unit, said the problem of deferred motherhood is getting worse.

"People are coming later and later. It’s getting married late, it’s leaving it until the last minute hoping they’ll pull it off without having to come near a fertility clinic,” he said.

Egan said he believes fertility awareness should be incorporated into schools’ safe sex education programs and should target both genders as sperm count also worsens with age.  Waterstone said a fertility awareness campaign could follow the format of other Health Service Executive (HSE) public health campaigns.

In a statement, the HSE said, "Information with respect to fertility has been included in the TRUST pack -- which is a resource for teachers of relationship and sexuality education at senior cycle. It is a resource that has been developed in partnership with Department of Education and Science, HSE and Crisis Pregnancy Program."
- Irish Examiner