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Save A+E Services in Loughlinstown Hospital protest. Paddy McKitterick (left in white coat) and Niall O'Leary (right in white coat) push Niamh Quigley (aged 9) in a hospital bed at a protest to save accident and emergency services in St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown today in Bray Co Wicklow. Photo by: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

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

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Save A+E Services in Loughlinstown Hospital protest. Paddy McKitterick (left in white coat) and Niall O'Leary (right in white coat) push Niamh Quigley (aged 9) in a hospital bed at a protest to save accident and emergency services in St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown today in Bray Co Wicklow. Photo by: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Potato Problems
WITH almost 500 acres of Donegal’s potato harvest yet to be dug, one farmer told a meeting of Donegal IFA that in his life “it has never been as bad.”
Heavy early winter rains and flooding put many Donegal potato farmers in a precarious position, unable to gather spuds from soaked fields since before Christmas.
At a Donegal IFA’s meeting, Potato’s Commodity chairman Charlie Doherty from Bridgend said it is a “very poor” time for local potato growers.”
“There is still 480 acres to be dug. It’s very poor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as bad,” he told the meeting.
He said part of the problem was that much of the rest of the country enjoyed a good potato yield this year and did not face the same weather conditions as Donegal. This has led to a healthy supply which affects the price local growers can expect.
He said in some cases spuds gathered locally are now going straight for use as animal feed.
“It might have taken you 250 to grow and you’re only getting 25. It doesn’t take much to figure out the math,” he added.
Another problem they face is falling consumption in potatoes, losing out to pasta and rice.
He said a large part of the drop has to do with image that potatoes are fattening which he questioned, stating there is virtually no fat content in them.

Donegal Democrat

Teen Mom Shock
SHOCKING new statistics show that one 15-year-old girl in Ireland is already a mother of two children.
And five schoolgirls aged 15 or younger became mothers in the first six months of last year.
The Central Statistics Office figures show that although women are generally waiting longer to become mothers, at least 10 girls under the age of 16 are giving birth every month.
The figures underline that while the average age of women having babies continues to rise, a significant number of new mothers are in their early to mid-teens.
Five schoolgirls aged 15 or younger became mothers in the first six months of last year -- one of them for the second time, according to the figures.
Overall, 63 young girls under the age of 16, and under the legal age of consent, gave birth during that period.
The figure is slightly down on the previous year but still represents more than 10 young girls a month in this age group becoming mothers.
In contrast, the average age for first-time mothers throughout the country was 29.9 years, and there were 115 women aged 45 or older who also gave birth during the six months.
In general, mothers are older and the average mother giving birth now is almost 32 years of age. This compares with just under 29 years of age in 1980.
The figure began to climb in the 1990s and hit 30 for the first time in 1995 and 31 by 2005.
The Central Statistics bulletin shows that 18,381 births were registered in the second quarter of last year, which is a drop of 2.5 percent on the previous year but still 20 percent higher than in 2002.
Just over three in four babies were born to Irish mothers, and a further 10.16 percent were born to women from the 12 EU accession states of eastern and southern Europe.
One in three babies born in the second quarter of last year was born outside marriage, and Limerick city had the highest percentage of these births at 47 percent. 
Almost one fifth of the babies born outside marriage were born to parents who were living at the same address.

Evening Herald

Soldiers as Tourists

CLARE County Council is to target the U.S. military in Shannon as part of a tourism offensive.
According to a senior official in the local authority, discussions are ongoing to launch, through Clare Tourism Forum, a marketing campaign aimed at members of the U.S. army transiting the airport.
Director of services Ger Dollard confirmed, “Proposals are being discussed to include brochures and brochure stands in the departures area of the airport that will be filled with information/brochures on County Clare.”
He added that these would be aimed “primarily at military personnel.”
Dollard was responding to a motion tabled by Fianna Fail’s Pat McMahon at a county council meeting.
“Shannon Airport is to work with Clare tourism providers to ensure the full benefit is obtained from the opportunity to market County Clare of the US military personnel transiting through Shannon Airport,” Dollard said.
Dollard also claimed the use of the airport by American soldiers could open up a new tourism market for the county.
“There was a survey of the U.S. military personnel a few years ago. It showed that they see Shannon in a positive light. We should be piggybacking on that,” McMahon said. “I think there is an untapped market there.”
McMahon told the meeting there is currently “no-one handing out brochures” or pitching Clare to the American soldiers using the airport” and asserted that he knew people who would be willing to do this for free.
“This is a win-win situation. We cannot lose. There are people passing through the airport with a positive attitude but nothing is being done,” he went on.
Dollard stated the council “recognized that a marketing opportunity does exist in terms of the time period during which military personnel are located in the departures area.”

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