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IRISH politicians are secretly consulting astrologers in their efforts to guide the State, according to the findings of one of the entries in this year's Aer Lingus Young Scientist Exhibition.

In their study of Irish attitudes to astrology, two leading Irish astrologers told Nicola Jane Weldon and Samantha Russell, both 16, of St Joseph's Secondary School, Navan, Co Meath, that politicians were among their regular visitors.

A palm reader, Julian De Burgh, and an astrologer, Fergus Gibson, numbered politicians and businessmen, as well as barristers and other public figures, among their clients.

"Politicians should be going by what they think themselves rather than by what some astrologer tells them," Nicola Jane said. "I don't like it."

The schoolgirls' study of astrology, numerology and palmistry - which found that 70 per cent of females and only 27 per cent of males surveyed believed that predicting the future was possible - was one of a number of projects in this year's exhibition which stretched the boundaries of conventional scientific analysis.

Tracey Moloney, of Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, examined the attitude of the natives of north Clare to unidentified flying objects, while Eleanor Paine and Susan Crosse, both 16, of the Ursuline Convent Secondary School, Thurles, Co Tipperary, studied the accuracy of birth charts, which provide analyses of people's characters based on planetary positions at the time of their birth.

"We found them to be really accurate," Susan said. "Eleanor's a vegetarian and that came into her chart."

Aromatherapy - fact or fiction? - was the title of a project by Katie Donoghue, Carol Bagnall and Aideen Coghlan, three 12 year old students from the Presentation Secondary School, Terenure, Dublin.

"We thought it would be interesting to see what the health aspect is, to see what you can or cannot do with aromatherapy," Aideen said.

There are oils to treat eczema and arthritis, and oils that act as relaxants. Citrus oils act as stimulants and can apparently bring on epileptic fits or induce births in pregnant women, according to their studies, while mixing citrus oils is potentially hazardous. "You have a right to be cautious about aromatherapy but you don't have to be sceptical," Aileen concluded.

. There were three winners of yesterday's Irish Times Simplex Crossword Competition for Young Scientist exhibitors. They were Nicola Weldon, St Joseph's Convent of Mercy, Navan Eimear Phelan, St Brigid's College, Callan, and Amy Brennan, St Mary's Holy Faith, Killester.

Each receives a £15 record token from Golden Discs. The competition continues daily in the RDS until the end of the exhibition. Further details are available from The Irish Times stand in the main hall.