News highlights from Ireland, here, and around the world…
Croagh Patrick pilgrims return after bad weather
The Croagh Patrick pilgrimage on Reek Sunday was deemed a glorious success as it celebrated a return to the calendar following last year’s cancellation. Organisers advised climbers not to scale the peak in 2015 due to stormy weather but this year the 20,000 or so participants enjoyed near-perfect conditions.
It was also a successful day for the region’s emergency services who recorded just one cardiac incident. Despite the positive response to the event, The Irish Times reported that this year had seen a decline in the number of pilgrims taking part. Speaking to climbers on the day, several ascribed this fall to the high-profile GAA games taking place over the weekend.
One walker, Mary Mahon of Hollymount, Co. Mayo, attributed the drop in numbers to a waning interest among younger people.
“It’s a pity, but the youngsters don’t seem to have as much interest in the pilgrimage as us older folk who were brought up more firmly in the Catholic tradition,” she said.
Bad summer hits Ireland’s bee population
Ireland has suffered the biggest decline in honey bee populations out of 29 European countries, researchers at the University of Limerick (UL) have found. Throughout last winter, the national average loss of honey bee colonies in Ireland was 29.5 per cent – nearly double that deemed acceptable to those in the sector and way above the research average of 11.9 per cent.
The colonies were hit hardest in the southwest of Ireland, with bad weather, the death of queen bees and parasitic mites affecting the numbers. The news could well have implications for upcoming honey harvests as well as for a number of plant species, according to the researchers.
“From an immediate bee keeper point of view, there’s loss of honey crops,” John Breen, of the national apiculture programme at UL, said. “From a national importance point of view, you’re talking about a loss of pollinators.” Dr Mary Coffey, the lead researcher on the project, added that bee keepers must “adjust their bee keeping” to deal with the threats faced.
“Weather is playing a key role, especially in the late summer last year because our losses are determined by the summer weather,” she said. “This is because our queens are going out to mate during the summer and, without good weather, they won’t mate properly. “If the queen in a colony dies or fails to any degree, it’s likely the whole colony will fail.”
Spanish hotel company wins the right to buy The Gresham
Dublin’s 19th century Gresham Hotel is set to be bought by the Spanish hospitality company Riu Hotels and Resorts for €92 million. The renowned O’Connell Street building, which houses 323 rooms and ten suites, was put on the market by the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) earlier this year.
Riu saw off stiff competition from the Irish hotel group Tifco to land the deal, with the sale thought to have generated roughly €60 million profit for NAMA. The company, founded in Mallorca in 1953 and owned by the Riu family and the German travel and tourism giant TUI Group, is making huge strides in the hotel industry.
It recently opened the Riu Plaza – a €280 million, 647-room hotel on Manhattan’s ‘Restaurant Row’ in New York Times Square – its biggest investment to date. The group has 105 hotels and resorts in 19 countries, with co-CEO Luis Riu previously stating that he had identified Dublin as one of his potential targets.
A revival in tourism and economic activity since 2012 means the Irish capital is now running short of hotel rooms and Mr Riu has also said that his company could seek a second property there if its bid for Gresham was successful.
Egypt prisoner appeals to Irish government
A young Dubliner being held in Egypt has directly appealed to the Irish government to help bring him home. Ibrahim Halawa was detained in 2013 for speaking on stage at a rally organised by the Muslim Brotherhood.
There is a video of him inside the mosque in which he was arrested saying that he supported the protests in support of Mohamed Morsi, the ousted president. Facing the death penalty, Mr Halawa, of Firhouse, has called on the government to do whatever it takes to get him released.
He has previously staged hunger strikes and said that he is determined to continue his current protest, in which he is only consuming water.
In a message delivered to The Irish Times by his sister Khadija Halawa, who went to visit him in the Wadi el-Natrun jail, north of Cairo, on July 31, he said: “I don’t care what it takes, I want to be out of here.”
Ms Halawa explained how her brother was dizzy and struggling to walk or stand and that it was “the worst he has ever looked health-wise”.
The 20-year-old is yet to stand trial, with his latest date being postponed for the 14th time in June. His case will not be heard again until October at the earliest in order to allow a technical committee to review evidence, despite it being available since 2013.