|THE IRISH EMIGRANT :: May 4, 2009||| Print ||
|Monday, 04 May 2009|
THE IRISH EMIGRANT
May 4, 2009 Issue No.1,161
The free news service for the global Irish community
Editor: Siobhán King ©2009 Irish Emigrant Ltd
In its latest Quarterly Economic Commentary the Economic and Social Research Institute has managed to come up with an even more depressing forecast than we have seen to date. More people will lose their jobs, with the unemployment rate averaging 17% next year. Living standards in 2010 are expected to be 15% lower than in 2007. The report calls for cost savings rather than tax increases as the remedy, although the authors commend the Government for the cumulative action to date. Later in the week, Davy produces a more positive prediction for future unemployment rates.
Swine flu continues to dominate the headlines, with the first case definitively confirmed in Ireland on Saturday night relating to a man in the east of the country who recently returned from a trip to Mexico.
The funeral of Michael Dwyer, who was shot dead by Bolivian police two weeks ago, took place on Thursday in the village of Terryglass, Co. Tipperary. Parish priest Fr Michael Cooney invited mourners to remember the “loving and well-loved son and brother” and not the character portrayed in the media. The Bolivian authorities have since released a grainy video which is their only piece of alleged evidence of Mr Dwyer’s involvement in an alleged murder plot against President Morales.
The banking crisis has claimed another three casualites this week as the chairman, chief executive and finance director of AIB all said they will be stepping down in the coming months. It emerged that a number of major shareholders threatened not to support the re-election of board members at the AGM on May 13.
Banking crisis claims three top AIB directors
The crisis in the banking sector claimed the top three directors in AIB, Ireland’s largest bank, as the chairman, chief executive and finance director announced on Thursday they will step down in the coming months.
Chairman Dermot Gleeson will finish up next July; chief execitive Eugene Sheehy will retire once a successor is appointed, and finance director John O’Donnell will leave in August. It is understood that none of the three will receive any golden handshakes from the bank and will leave only with their pension entitlements.
The latest round of top-level resignations comes two weeks before the bank’s AGM on May 13 and it is widely reported that its major shareholders had indicated they would not support the re-election of the three directors.
While there was no indication as to whether the Government would have used the 25% voting rights it had taken under the recapitalisation scheme to support the board members, a senior source quoted in the Irish Times said significant pressure had been brought to bear on the bank to drop its top executives. AIB sources insisted, however, that Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan had applied no pressure whatsoever.
AIB has seen a 90% fall in its share price over the past year and its spiralling toxic loan losses has it on track to post its first annual loss this year since its creation in 1966.
The bank was forced to accept a €3.5bn bailout just weeks after the €440bn guarantee scheme was established, in spite of Mr Sheehy’s comment that the group “would rather die than raise equity”. The final nail in the coffin came just last week when the bank was compelled to admit that it required an additonal €1.5bn. It expects to raise this money through sales of assets in the US and Poland and a buyback of debt.
While the three directors will each seek re-election to the bank’s board at the AGM, AIB director Dan O’Connor will succeed Mr Gleeson as chairman and his co-director David Pritchard has been appointed to the new post of deputy chairman. Colm Doherty, head of the bank’s capital markets section, is widely tipped as the frontrunner to succeed Mr Sheehy as chief executive.
Economy to contract 14% over three years
Ireland’s official economic think tank, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), has produced a damning report this week predicting that Ireland’s economy could be facing the largest contraction recorded in an industrial country since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In its latest Quarterly Economic Commentary, ESRI said the downturn that is currently gripping Ireland will be significantly worse than previously anticipated. It says it expects the economy to contract by 9.2% this year, around 14% over the three years 2008 to 2010. It predicts unemployment will reach almost 17% by 2010, leaving one in six people without a job.
The institute expects the average number of jobs in the economy to fall by 187,300 this year compared with last year, and that the number of people unemployed will average 292,200 this year, making for an average unemployment rate of 13.2%. It also predicts a further 102,800 jobs to be lost next year, and for the unemployment rate to average 16.8%, worse that the 15.5% projected by the Department of Finance. By the end of 2010, that average unemployment rate is set to hit close to 17%, or 366,000, reaching levels not seen since 1988.
Other findings included:
In a devastating assessment the ESRI’s Dr Alan Barrett also said: “It is possible that people like Zimbabwe have bigger contractions, but you know when you’re in trouble when you’re saying at least we’re not Zimbabwe.
Dr Barrett said the "severe recession" was due to Ireland being a very exposed economy in the midst of a global downturn, while at the same time having allowed housing and construction generally to have become too large a part of its domestic economy. Even though there has been talk of “green shoots” elsewhere, Dr Barrett warned that they may not bear fruit in Ireland for several years.
The only positive note is reserved for the Government’s handling of the crisis. Its remarks on recent budgets have been broadly upbeat, saying they will be “strongly redistributive with income gains for those with the lowest incomes and the percentage losses rising with income”.
However, the ESRI’s stark predictions come as new figures published by Davy stockbrokers later in the week presented a less drastic forecast. In its report, Davy predicts that lay-offs probably peaked in the first quarter and that unemployment rates will rise more slowly from here. In April, there were 15,800 signing on the Live Register, pushing the unemployment rate to 11.4%, up from 11% in March, representing the smallest monthly rise in the seven months since last September. Also they predict an unemployment rate of 13% at the end of this year and 15% at the end of next year.
Michael Dwyer laid to rest in Tipperary
The funeral of Michael Dwyer, who was shot dead in Bolivia two weeks ago, was attended by over 300 mourners in Terryglass, Co. Tipperary on Thursday.
At Requiem Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception Fr Michael Cooney said his “tragic” death has been “an awful cross” for his family – his father Marty, an electrician, his mother Caroline, a pharmaceutical engineer, sisters Aisling (25), Ciara (21) and brother Emmett (14). He paid tribute to the “loving and much-loved son and brother,” who was an accomplished hurler and had a degree in construction management from GMIT. He encouraged the mourners to remember the young man they knew and not the “character portrayed in the press and media and general talk”.
There remain a number of unanswered questions surrounding the death of Mr Dwyer. Both his family and the woman he was dating, Brazilian medical student Rafaella Cotrin, strenuously deny he was a mercenary or a terrorist.
A post mortem carried out on Monday confimed that Mr Dwyer had died of a single gunshot to the chest but the poor state of the body ruled out discovering if there was any gunshot residue on his hands.
He was one of three men shot dead at a hotel in the western Bolivian city of Santa Cruz on April 16 in what police describe as a shoot-out. However, photos later emerged showing the men lying dead in their underwear, raising concerns that they were shot in their beds. It is also understood that claims there had been a gunfight were also contradicted by witnesses.
Last weekend, the Bolivian state prosecutor, Marcelo Sosa, released grainy footage taken on a mobile phone which he claims shows Mr Dwyer and three other men having a discussion in Spanish in which they plot to blow up a boat with President Evo Morales on board. However, language experts have said it is impossible to decipher such a plot from the grainy and mostly inaudible footage. The footage is reputed to have been secretly filmed by an unnamed taxi driver who had been hired to drive them around and is one of the main pieces of evidence Bolivian authorities have to justify the shootings. Photos of Mr Dwyer handling firearms were also shown at a press conference in La Paz on Wednesday. Authorities claim the photographs were found in a vehicle belonging to Eduardo Rozsa Flores, Mr Dwyer’s alleged co-conspirator.
There have been contradictory claims over the evidence of a man, Juan Carlos Gueder Bruno, who admitted in a press conference this week he had sold guns to Mr Flores. Mr Bruno’s wife Martha insisted that her husband is innocent and had been beaten by police.
Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he had spoken with the Bolivian government to underline the need for an inquiry which would have the confidence of everybody, including Mr Dwyer's family. President Morales has rejected demands for an international investigation.
Bolivian police have this week arrested two more men who they believe supplied arms to the suspects, including Mr Dwyer.
First case of swine flu confirmed in Ireland
The Department of Health and Children has confirmed the first case of swine flu in the State. Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department, said in a statement on Saturday evening that laboratory test results had confirmed that a man recently returned from Mexico and displaying flu-like symptoms was suffering from Influenza A (H1N1).
The case was initially reported on Thursday and involves an adult male in the Eastern region who had recently returned from Mexico. The man had arrived on a long-haul flight in an airport outside Ireland before transferring to Dublin and was not considered a health risk at the time. The man attended his doctor within a day of arriving back in Ireland and tests were carried out by the HSE to determine if the man was infected. The results then had to be redone and subsequently cross-checked in Britain before being confirmed on Saturday evening.
The man, currently in isolation in his home receiving the antiviral treatment Tamiflu, is not sick enough to be hospitalised. It is understood that the man had very few contacts with other people since his return but those that he had were asked to remain at home for a week and take medication for ten days.
At a press briefing in Government Buildings on Saturday, Professor Bill Hall, Chairman of the National Pandemic Influenza Expert Group, said that outside of Mexico, the virus appeared to be a relatively mild disease but admitted it was still a “mystery” as to why this is the case. “It is very unclear as to why it’s such a severe disease there. We just have to keep monitoring the situation. We will know more about the spectrum of the disease in the coming weeks,” he said.
This week on our website
Bits and Pieces
Proclamation copy makes €260,000 at auction
An original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic sold for €260k at auction in Dublin on Tuesday night. The copy, owned by Rory O’Connor, was one of 700 lots that sold for a total of €680k at the annual Independence Sale, held jointly by Adam’s and Mealy’s.
A laced leather ball from the Tipperary v Dublin GAA match at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday, where 13 people were shot dead by the Black and Tans, sold for €30k. A ticket from the game made €12k.
Dublin ranked 25th best city for quality of life
Dublin has pipped New York, Paris, London and Tokyo to come 25th in the Worldwide Quality of Living Survey of 215 cities. The survey, in which Dublin maintained its ranking since last year, considers some 39 factors for its assessment including political, social, economic and sociocultural environments. It is somewhat fortuitous that rising unemployment and national debt were not factored as criteria for establishing rankings.
Vienna in Austria was found to be the city with the best quality of life while Baghdad in Iraq came last in the survey.
Over 20 cars damaged by fire at Dublin dealership
More than 20 cars were damaged during a blaze at a Dublin car dealership at around 11:30pm on Saturday night. Fire crews were called to Southside Automotive on Ballymount Road, Walkinstown to deal with the incident in which 22 cars were damaged, and four others were damaged when the fire spread to a second dealership.
Cocaine worth €3.5m seized at Drogheda halting site
Cocaine with a street value of €3.5m was discovered by gardaí during an early morning raid at a halting site in Drogheda on Friday. In a major planned operation, both local and national Garda drugs units moved on to the halting site at Cement Road at around 7:00am. A revolver with ammunition, a car and 50kg of cocaine were seized during the search.
The discovery of weighing scales in a caravan led to the search of a field opposite the site near a factory where sniffer dogs helped uncover a drum filled with cocaine hidden in undergrowth.
A 25-year-old man was arrested during the operation and is being detained at Drogheda Garda Station.
Concern over delay in raising alarm over fatal flight
Investigators from the Department of Transport looking into a helicopter crash, which killed a flight instructor and his student, have expressed concern over the fact that the alarm was not raised until the following morning. The helicopter crashed in Kildare last month, claiming the lives of Colm Clancy (34), a flight instructor from Derrybeg, Co. Donegal and student pilot Dermot Sheridan (24) from Blackwater, Co. Clare. The helicopter was on a training flight from Weston Airport when it crashed after hitting disused power lines on bogland around 6km from Carbury in Co. Kildare at Kilshanchoe.
Investigators confirmed that a search was initiated when a concerned family member raised the alarm the morning after the flight left the airport. The flight left Weston at 4:01pm on April 1 and the last known contact with it was at 4:12pm. The report reveals that Air Traffic Control at Weston closed at 7:30pm that evening.
Dublin pub sells for €7m despite downturn
A north Dublin pub, Smyth’s in Malahide, has bucked the recessionary trend, having been sold for €7m, making it the first pub sale of the year. Smyth's and two adjoining properties were bought by the Fowler family, who already operate Fowlers of Grange Cross pub in Ballyfermot.
During the economic boom, as many as 40 pubs were sold across the country each year, many snapped up by property developers intending to redevelop the sites. At the peak of the market in 2005 as much as €155m was spent buying up pubs. However, as the downturn gained momentum last year, just six pubs were sold in Dublin.
POA claims dissident republicans ‘running riot’ at Portlaoise prison
The Prison Officers Association (POA) claims that dissident republicans are running riot at Portlaoise Prison. At its annual conference in Castlebar, Co. Mayo on Friday, the union claimed that the inmates regularly stage dirty protests - smearing cell walls with excrement - and hold parades in front of paramilitary murals at the maximum-security jail. POA deputy general secretary Eugene Dennehy said there were “huge murals” on the walls of landings similar to “something you’d see on the gable end of a house in west Belfast”. The union also said that prison officers had to withdraw from landings when the dissident subversive groups were parading.
They also claim they are allowed to order take-aways on a regular basis.
The Irish Prison Service says the allegations are exaggerated, insisting that the prisoners are only allowed to order in food two or three times a year.
Smithwick Tribunal likely to reopen
There are growing expectations that the Smithwick Tribunal will be back in business before the end of the year following confirmation from the Attorney General in the UK and the North that witnesses would be immune from prosecution in both jurisdictions.
The Smithwick Tribunal was set up in 2005 to examine if any garda or other State employee had colluded in the killing of two senior RUC men in the North while they were on their way back from a meeting with Gardaí in Dundalk in 1989.
The tribunal’s work had ground to a halt as a number of witnesses from outside the Republic called to give evidence had been refusing to co-operate as they claimed they risked prosecution if they revealed what they had done, and for breaking the UK's Official Secrets Act.
Dublin glue maker breaks world record
A Dublin glue manufacturer, Henkel Ireland, has claimed to have broken a Guinness World Record after successfully lifting a car weighing more than five tonnes with nine drops of glue on Monday.
The Tallaght firm, which manufactures Loctite Superglue, is claiming the record in the ‘heaviest vehicle lifted with glue’ category after lifting a pick-up truck with a Smart Car in the back of the truck. The total weight of the vehicles was 5.02 tonnes, almost one tonne heavier than the previous record.
National Lottery Winning Numbers:
60-year-old man shot dead in Co. Antrim
A 60-year-old man was shot dead on Monday night when he intervened after his wife answered a knock at the door in the village of Templepatrick in Co. Antrim, about ten miles north of Belfast. Geoff Kerr, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, was a financial advisor with his own business in Ballymena. One of their four sons was also at home when two masked men posing as Chinese take-away delivery men forced their way into the house. A burned out BMW, believed to have been used by the attackers, was found ten miles away near Glenavy.
Police said they did not believe dissident republicans were responsible for the shooting, and were exploring the possibility that robbery may have been the motive. Mr Kerr was a keen gun collector and had a number of legally held weapons in the house.
Four people, three men and a woman, were arrested in connection with the shooting on Saturday. One of the men has been charged with the murder and will appear before Ballymena Magistrates Court on Monday morning.
Four jailed for McIlveen murder
Four Ballymena men convicted of the sectarian murder of 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in Ballymena, Co. Antrim in May 2006 were sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday.
The four - Christopher Kerr (22) of Carnduff Drive, Jeffrey Lewis, (20) of Rossdale, Mervyn Moon (20) of Douglas Terrace, and Aaron Wallace (21) of Moat Road - were handed minimum terms ranging from ten years to 13 years at Antrim Crown Court for the killing. Christopher McLeister (18), of Knockeen Crescent, Ballymena, was given a three-year sentence suspended for two years for the manslaughter of Michael.
The Catholic teenager died in hospital on May 8, 2006 from head injuries a day after he was punched, kicked and beaten with a baseball bat in an alleyway of the town after a row involving a group of Protestant teenagers.
After the hearing, the McIlveen family said they were deeply disappointed with the jail terms which they considered far too lenient.
Three killed in Tyrone crash
Two men and a woman were killed in a two-car head-on collision on the Drum Road in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone just before 1:00am on Monday morning. Peter Toner (78) and his wife Kathleen (67), from the Pomeroy area of Co. Tyrone, were the back-seat passengers in a Citroen Picasso car returning from an old-time dance when it collided with a Ford Focus carrying front-seat passenger David Joel Marshall (19). Two male friends of the teenager were taken to Craigavon Area Hospital along with a married couple, Peter and Theresa Monaghan who were travelling in the Citroen Picasso.
Bloody Sunday gunshot victim dies suddenly
Michael Bradley, campaigner for justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday, died suddenly on Saturday.
Stormont’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness led tributes to Mr Bradley, who was just 22 when he was shot in both forearms and the chest by members of the Parachute Regiment during a civil rights march in Derry. In all 13 people were killed and another died later from injuries inflicted when they came under fire from troops on January 30, 1972.
Mr McGuinness, who met Mr Bradley with other campaigners as recently as last week, extended the sympathies of Sinn Féin to his widow Mona and their family. He said it was unfortunate that Michael will not now see the publication of the Saville Report and “what will hopefully see a validation of all the hard work and effort that he and the families have invested in seeking truth and justice for the Bloody Sunday victims”.
Belfast to get 100 telecoms jobs boost
Two telecoms firms are set to create around 100 jobs between them in South Belfast. Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Industry Arlene Foster confirmed on Thursday that Cambridge-based Magdalene would create 34 new jobs with the establishment of services and engineering support centre at the Gasworks site. The company plans to set up a network operations centre later this year, creating a further 18 positions.
Meanwhile on Donegall Pass, Barclay Communications announced it would be hiring up to 50 additional staff after signing a £16m partnership deal with O2. The company, which employs a workforce of around 160, said it would be recruiting for the new positions over the next ten months.
Child porn man member of the Bar Disciplinary Committee
Maurice Christopher Lee-Kelly, who last month was convicted of downloading indecent images of children and stealing computer equipment from his employer, was a lay member of the Bar Disciplinary Committee. He has, in addition, been a lay member of the Fair Employment Tribunal since 1999. He received a two-year prison sentence suspended for three years and was ordered to sign the sex offenders register for ten years.
It also emerged that he had a previous conviction for living off immoral earnings and dishonesty dating back 30 years.
A spokeswoman for the lord chief justice’s office said that applicants are not asked to declare any criminal background, but a review of hiring procedures is now underway.
Sex assault conviction declared miscarriage of justice
The 1999 conviction of Michael Feichín Hannon, of Clifden, Co. Galway, for sexual assault and assault of a then ten-year-old girl has been declared a miscarriage of justice after the girl later admitted she lied about the alleged offence.
Una Hardester, now in her 20s and living in the US, made a statement to gardaí in 2006 withdrawing her original complaints against Mr Hannon, claiming she had been motivated by “revenge and misplaced loyalty to my family” and now wanted to tell the truth after “finding God”. The two families, who lived near each other, had fallen out in a dispute over land.
Mr Hannon received a suspended four-year prison sentence in 1999 and is now entitled to seek damages from the State following the Court of Criminal Appeal certifying a miscarriage of justice.
The woman is the daughter of US actor Crofton Hardester.
Murder trial hears from defendant’s daughter
At the Central Criminal Court, the trial is continuing of Ronald McManus (44), also known as Ronnie Dunbar, of Rathbraughan Park in Sligo, for the murder of Melissa Mahon. The girl's body was found on the shore of Lough Gill in February 2008.
This week Mr Dunbar’s daughter Shirley Conroy (18) gave evidence that her sister Samantha confessed to her that she had witnessed their father strangling Melissa and that she had tried to revive her but got no response. She was then forced to help her father put the body in a sleeping bag and help him toss the body in Lough Gill. Ms Conroy said her sister told her that Mr Dunbar said it was “Daddy’s little secret” and if it ever got out, they would all go to jail. The trial continues.
During the trial social workers who had been working with the 14-year-old described her as being very vulnerable. She had been taken into care as she was constantly running away from home and had formed a relationship with Mr Dunbar.
Family receive €40,000 over hospital death
The family of William Warren (76), of Artane, Dublin, were awarded €40k in compensation by the High Court on Wednesday after Beaumont Hospital in Dublin admitted liability in his death. Mr Warren died in August 2005 from heart failure, following a massive abdominal haemorrhage after an operation. His four daughters and three sons sued the hospital for negligence and breach of duty causing the wrongful death of their father. They alleged that the hospital failed to adequately monitor Mr Warren’s condition in spite of the fact that he had suffered a complication during the angioplasty he underwent. They also claimed that the victim’s low blood pressure and breathing were not monitored or properly recorded.
Suspended sentence for teen convicted of manslaughter
Thomas Cunningham (19), who was convicted earlier this year of the manslaughter of his father, Thomas Snr, at their home in Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon, has received a suspended sentence at the Central Criminal Court. He had pleaded not guilty to murdering his father in their driveway after his father came home drunk in the early hours of August 23, 2007. Mr Cunningham Snr had moved from England to Ballinlough to take care of his elderly parents, and his son, who was born and raised in England, had followed about a year before the killing.
Mr Justice Butler said the teen had no previous convictions and ordered him to be of good behaviour for six years. It is understood he will return to Lincoln, England, where he has been living in a hostel.
Mr Cunningham Snr’s sister, Maria Cunningham, said she was outraged by the decision and that she have been failed by the Irish judicial system.
Third man pleads guilty in record drugs case
David Mufford (43), from Torquay in Devon, has followed the example of his two co-accused by pleading guilty to possessing cocaine for sale or supply on board the yacht "Dances with Waves" on November 5 last year. The three man crew of the yacht, which had travelled across the Atlantic carrying 1.7 tonnes of cocaine, worth an estimated €650m, were arrested when the vessel was boarded off the south coast by the Naval Service.
Cork man charged with murder of widow
A 49-year-old part-time painter had been formally charged with the murder of Anne Corcoran (60) at a location in Cork between January 19 and 23 last. Anne Corcoran's body was found in a wooded area near Garrettstown beach after a massive search operation.
Oliver Hayes, of Clancool Terrace, Bandon, was making his sixth appearance before Bandon District Court after he was initially charged last February with the falsely imprisoning Mrs Corcoran.
Judge James McNulty remanded Hayes in continuing custody on the two charges to appear at Kinsale District Court on May 7.
Man charged with cocaine possession
A 30-year-old man has appeared before Dublin District Court in relation to a cocaine seizure in Tallaght. Drugs with a street value of €210k were discovered in south-west Dublin on Friday evening when members of the Garda National Drugs Unit stopped and searched two cars.
He was remanded in custody to appear at Cloverhill District Court next Thursday. A 39-year-old man and youth, who were also detained, have been released without charge.
Employment & Industrial Relations
Dublin Bus resumes full service after strike
Drivers at Dublin Bus returned to work on Tuesday following a three-day unofficial strike when a driver from the Harristown depot was suspended after refusing to operate a new schedule on the 128 Baldoyle to Rathmines service. The strike, which was not sanctioned by SIPTU or the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU), left up to 150,000 passengers a day without bus services.
The company said that some drivers were intimidated by protesters and that stones were thrown at buses leaving Phibsboro depot.
The changes to schedules were introduced last weekend as part of Dublin Bus’ plans to take 120 buses out of service on routes that are not viable. The dispute ended when the company lifted the suspension of the driver.
SIPTU raises concerns over SRT pension rights in Brussels
A SIPTU delegation representing the workers at SR Technics met with EU Employment Commissioner Valdimir Spidla in Brussels on Wednesday to voice concerns over the pension rights of workers at the firm. The firm’s pension fund was suspended earlier this year when the company halted its operations in Ireland.
SIPTU wants the Commission to compel the Government to introduce legislation similar to other EU states that would give the pensions regulator powers to force solvent companies to meet their pensions obligations.
Politics & Politicians
Dublin by-elections set for June 5
Two by-elections in Dublin South and Dublin Central are to be held on the same day as the local and European elections on June 5. The seats were left vacant by the deaths of Minister Séamus Brennan of Fianna Fáil and Independent TD Tony Gregory.
The decision was announced by Minister for the Environment John Gormley on Tuesday, after a motion by Fine Gael to move the writ calling for the by-election to be held, nine months after the death of Mr Brennan and four months since Mr Gregory passed away. Fine Gael withdrew the writ following Mr Gormley’s announcement, claiming a vote on the motion before the House was unnecessary.
Mr Gormley was scathing of the Fine Gael decision to move the writ because under the laws it meant holding the by-election at least a week ahead of the local and European elections. He also warned the candidates that recent legislation dictates that posters may not be erected before May 6, 30 days before the polling date.
Finance Minister comes under fire over tax relief confusion
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan came in for harsh criticism from the Opposition on Thursday to clarify who is entitled to mortgage interest tax relief, changes to which came into effect on Friday. Labour’s Joan Burton accused the minister of making a “dog’s breakfast” of the cost-cutting plan.
Mr Lenihan had earlier said it might take two months to sort out who is entitled to the relief, following a decision taken at the time of the April emergency Budget.
Homeowners who get tax relief on the interest they pay on a mortgage for their home will now only receive this within the first seven years of their mortgage. It appears that as many as 264,000 mortgage holders will have their tax relief withdrawn from Friday even though some of them still qualify to receive it.
In response, Mr Lenihan said the Revenue Commissioners are making the necessary administrtive arrangements and that there is only a small number of non-first buyers who Revenue needs to contact to clarify the situation.
Government to intervene in private pension crisis
The Government has come up with a plan aimed at alleviating the problems currently being faced by defined benefit pension schemes in the private sector. Currently a pension fund with a shortfall is legally obliged to look after the interests of existing pensioners over those still contributing. The aim of the Government plan is to share the pain and those on pensions will no longer receive anticipated increases unless the needs of those who have yet to retire are catered for.
Another element of the plan is for the State to manage payments to existing pensioners. This would be achieved by the trustees paying the National Treasury Management Agency the appropriate sum to meet the cost of the pensions. Fees associated with the usual practice of buying annuities from insurance companies would be avoided.
Travel & Tourism
Ryanair plane held over swine flu fears
A Ryanair flight with 166 passengers and six crew was quarantined at Dublin Airport on Wednesday due to concerns over the swine flu epidemic. The flight from Nantes, France to Dublin was detained for 65 minutes upon arrival in Dublin after the pilot called for medical assistance for three sick passengers. Three passengers, understood to be part of a group of four students travelling together, had been vomiting during the flight.
The ill passengers were taken off the plane and examined by HSE medical staff and found to be suffering from possible food poisoning.
Passengers were then allowed to leave the plane.
Dublin Airport saw 255,000 passengers over bank holiday weekend
Over 255,000 passengers travelled through Dublin Airport over the bank holiday weekend - today is the May Bank Holiday in Ireland. The Dublin Airport Authority said over 1,900 flights flew in and out of the airport during this time, including 100 charters kicking off the summer holiday season.
Trips abroad outnumber visitors for first time
The number of trips taken overseas by Irish residents last year exceeded the number of visitors to the State for the first time since records were first kept in 1952. Irish residents chalked up 7,877,000 trips abroad, up 2% on 2007, while there were 7,839,000 trips to Ireland by visitors, a drop of 2% on the previous year, according to a report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The most dramatic fall was marked by the decline in the number of visitors from North America, down 10% compared to 2007. Spending was also down, with travellers spending 26% less year.
Business trips to Ireland rose by 7% in 2008 but both expenditure and visits by holiday makers decreased by 8%.
Irish tourist agency Bord Fáilte is upbeat in its predicition that the State will experience a 9% decline in visitors this year. Meanwhile, sun destinations are expecting a 20% drop in holidaymakers from Ireland.
Dubliners on their bikes from July
Up to 450 bicycles will be available for rent from 40 rental stations in Dublin from early July. The stations will serve as drop-off and collection points for members of the public who want to participate in the scheme.
The initiative costs €10 a year to join and a large deposit will be required when renting a bicycle. The first half-hour of use will then be free, with the rental rate increasing the more time the bike is in use.
The bikes are being provided by the advertising firm JC Decaux in exchange for an estimated €15m worth of outdoor advertising space.
First phase of Western Rail Corridor to open in September
The first section of the reconstucted Western Rail Corridor, from Ennis, Co. Clare to Athenry, Co. Galway, will reopen in September after a gap of more than three decades. The 36-mile stretch of track marks the first phase of the corridor which runs from Ennis to Collooney, Co. Sligo. New stations will open at Sixmilebridge, Gort, Ardrahan and Craughwell this year.
Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey and Minister for Rural Affairs Eamon Ó Cuív insisted that work on the Western Rail Corridor is set to continue despite cutbacks.
The Irish Abroad
Forum to harness the talents of the Diaspora
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has announced details of the inaugural Global Irish Economic Forum, to be held at Farmleigh House in Dublin on the weekend of September 18-20, 2009. By bringing together leading international figures with Irish links or with a strong connection to Ireland, the Forum will “examine how the Irish, at home and abroad, can work together to generate ideas which will contribute to our overall efforts at economic recovery. It will also play a critical role in shaping the future direction of the relationship between Ireland and its Diaspora, particularly in the economic area”.
Irish neurologist honoured in Seattle
In Seattle on Tuesday the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) presented Health Research Board Clinician Scientist Professor Orla Hardiman with the prestigious Sheila Essey Award. The award recognises people who have made significant contributions in the search for the cause, prevention of, and cure for Motor Neurone Disease. Prof. Hardiman is Consultant Neurologist at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin and Clinical Professor of Neurology at Trinity College Dublin.
Belfast native voted best actor at NYC film festival
Ciarán Hinds has been voted best actor at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York for his performance in a new Irish film ‘The Eclipse’. The film, from Irish writer-director Conor McPherson, was shot in Cobh, Co. Cork last autumn and also stars Aidan Quinn and Danish actress Iben Hjejle. Mr Hinds, who has featured in more than 50 films, plays a woodwork teacher mourning the death of his wife.
Death of Antrim rider in UK
Ian Olding, originally from Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim but living in Cheshire in England, died last weekend in a fall at the Belton Horse Trials in Lincolnshire. Mr Olding (47) had been a professional horse trials rider in the North before moving to England, and had also been attached to the Richhill Equestrian Centre in Co. Armagh.
Conservation & The Environment
New study shows Irish temperatures to rise 1.8C by 2050
Radical shifts in Irish weather patterns by the middle of the century have been predicted in a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NUI Maynooth. Average temperatures are expected to rise by 1.8% by 2050 as well as a 10% increase in winter rainfall and a 17% decrease in summer rainfall. The report reveals that rising temperatures are likely to bring 10% more rain in the winter in the north-west, west and midlands while the summer months will see heat waves mixed with flash floods in the south and east. Heath and boglands, sand dunes, lowland grasslands, fens and turloughs could disappear as winter rain and summer droughts become the norm.
Commenting on the findings, EPA director Laura Burke said that failure to act immediately could have disastrous consequences for the country.
Experts call for law changes after eagle poisonings
Two dead rare white-tailed sea eagles, which authorities said had been poisoned, were discovered in the Waterville area of south west Kerry on Friday. The birds had been reintroduced to Ireland last August from Norway as part of a programme to re-establish a breeding population of sea eagles in south-west Ireland.
In all, seven of the 35 birds of prey released into the wild in the past two years have been the victims of poisoning. The Golden Eagle Trust and BirdWatch Ireland called for an urgent review of the laws covering access to poisons and the enforcement of these laws and regulations.
New group to develop marine resources
The Government has established an inter-departmental group to stimulate the development of the country's marine resources.
The new group, which will be overseen by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Tony Killeen, involves eight government departments and will focus on creating jobs and developing indigenous resources.
Minister Killeen said the co-ordinating group was at a very high level and it was a positive commitment to maritime matters, but accepted that it would be judged by the results achieved.
UCC staff asked to work unpaid for a week
University College Cork president Dr Michael Murphy has aked 2,800 staff members to work without pay for one week to help the college through its current financial crisis. Dr Murphy, the country’s highest paid university head, said the savings of €3.3m out of the €7m it has to save between now and September are an alternative to the loss of 400 temporary staff. The senior management team has already agreed the move, which has left college staff unimpressed.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has told colleges in recent weeks they will not be allowed to run deficits and UCC is currently heading for a deficit of €16m. The higher education sector is having to cope with cutbacks announced in last week’s revised estimates as well as cuts imposed in last year’s budget.
Entertainment & The Arts
Freedom of Wicklow for Oscar winner
London-born actor Daniel Day Lewis was given the Freedom of Wicklow at a ceremony in Rathnew on Monday. The Oscar winner has been living in the village of Annamoe with his wife Rebecca Miller and their three sons for the past 15 years. In his acceptance speech, the reclusive 52-year-old actor said one of the reasons why he enjoys living in the county is that he is allowed to “go quietly about my business”. He went on to say: “When work is done, it’s to this place that I return to as a refuge”.
Ambitious programme promised for West Cork Literary Festival
Annie Proux, Roger McGough, Francesca Simon and Louis de Bernières are among the writers appearing at this year’s West Cork Literary Festival, which runs from July 5 to 11. Jennifer Johnston will read from her latest work and featured interviews will include Nell McCafferty and Martina Cole in conversation with Aidan Stanley.
Among the numerous workshops will be Billy Roche on Writing for the Stage, John McKenna on Food Writing, and Jack L on Song Writing. For more information visit www.westcorkliteraryfestival.ie
Labour Film Festival in Dublin
Films about workers and workers’ lives were the subject of the inaugural Labour Film Festival held in Temple Bar, Dublin this weekend. The festival, held as part of the centenary celebrations of SIPTU - the country’s largest trade union - is the first of its kind to be held in Ireland. Cities such as Toronto, Los Angeles and Washington DC have held similar events.
Dublin poet wins new writer award
Dublin poet David Mohan (37) has won the 2008 Hennessy XO New Irish Writer Award, at a ceremony in Dublin’s Four Seasons hotel, for his poem ‘Runaway:The Prodigy’. Kevin Power took the award for emerging firction for his short story ‘The American Girl’, while the First Fiction Award was won by 22-year-old Tipperary native Eimear Ryan for her short story ‘Caterpillar’. Novelist Hugo Hamilton was inducted into the Hennessy XO Literary Awards Hall of Fame for his acclaimed body of work including ‘The Speckled People’, a memoir which has been translated into 15 languages.
Abbey Theatre adds €40m to economy each year
The Abbey Theatre in Dublin brings €40m annually into the Irish economy, according to a report published on Friday. The study reviewed the national theatre’s performance over a three-year period from 2006-2008, during which time the Abbey received an investment of €25.7m in funding from the State. The review reveals that the theatre generated €3.60 for every €1 of funding over three years, contributing €118m to the Irish economy. The report shows the Abbey recorded a surplus of €3.3m by the end of the period, which will be required to offset the 16.5% reduction in the National Theatre’s Arts Council grant for 2009.
The theatre is expected to move to its new home in George’s Dock by 2016, according to a statement by Minister of State Martin Mansergh on Friday.
Death of PDs founder Pearse Wyse
Former Progressive Democrat TD and Lord Mayor of Cork Pearse Wyse passed away at St Finbarr’s Hospital in Cork on Tuesday. Mr Wyse, who was 81 years old and from Ballinlough in Cork city, was first elected to Cork City Council as a Fianna Fáil candidate in 1960, setting in motion a long career of public service lasting almost 40 years. Mr Wyse was elected to the Dáil five years later and served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance in 1977 and Minister of State at the Department of Finance from 1978 to 1979.
He was a founder member of the Progressive Democrats in 1985 and served in the Dáil up until 1992 General Election. He continued to serve on Cork City Council until the local elections of 1999. He was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1967 and 1974. He is survived by his wife, Teresa and son Pearse.
Grand Slam hero laid to rest
Rugby legend Dr Karl Mullen (82) was laid to rest in Kilcullen, Co. Meath on Wednesday. Dr Mullen, who was captain of the Grand Slam winning team of 1948, also enjoyed a distinguished career as a gynaecologist.
Former rugby teammates and numerous well-known Irish personalities attended the funeral.
Dr Mullen, whose wife Doreen died one year ago this week, is survived by his children, Louise, Niamh, Mary, Gaye, Anna, Karl, Paul and Marc. He had 18 grandchildren, one of whom is Irish showjumper, Cian O’Connor.
Body of Czech national found in car boot
The body of a 30-year-old man was found in the boot of a car in central Dublin late on Monday night. The body of Martin Sejna, a Czech immigrant, was discovered in a car parked on Island Street, near the Guinness brewery. The victim was reported missing by his partner on Saturday when he failed to return from visiting a friend in Naas, Co. Kildare. He was living in Navan, Co. Meath and was an employee of First Active building society in Naas.
On Friday, it was reported in the press that the friend whom he had been visiting in Naas came forward to give a second statement, claiming Mr Sejna had died after taking a cocktail of alcohol and heroin. The man said he panicked and admitted putting the body in the boot of the car and driving it to Island Street location. Gardaí are awaiting the results of toxicology tests in the hope that it will reveal the cause of death.
Last weekend’s road victims named
In Mayo, 26-year-old Karoys Kryzevivius from Lithuania was fatally injured at 10:00pm last Friday when the car in which he was a front seat passenger collided with another car near Balla.
Darren Brown (19) from Downpatrick, was killed in a two-car collision near Saintfield in Co. Down before 11:00pm on Saturday.
American tourist in fatal fall on Skellig
A man has died after falling on the Skellig Rock in Co. Kerry. The man, believed to be an American tourist in his 70s, lost his footing and fell to his death just before 1:00pm on Sunday.
Road deaths in Counties Wicklow, Galway, Mayo, Cavan, Monaghan, Dublin and Donegal
Aer Lingus looking at huge losses
Aer Lingus is on course to make an operating loss of over €100m for 2009. The airline has announced that revenues have fallen by 16% in the first three months of the year. Long haul flights have shown the most serious drop in passenger revenue and it is heavily rumoured that more restructuring is on the way. This restructuring will include lay-offs and also a contraction of its long-haul trans-Atlantic operations, according to Industry analysts.
Independent News and Media seeking delay in repayments
IN&M is to seek a “standstill agreement” from bondholders in the coming weeks. The media giant has a €200m bond falling due at the end of this month. The agreement sought would allow IN&M to postpone the repayment of the bond until a specified future date. IN&M will also seek to do the same with a further €590m of similar debt due later this year and 2010.
The two major shareholders in IN&M, Tony O’Reilly and Denis O’Brien, have put their differences to one side amidst pressure from commercial lenders.
Anglo inquiry to finish within months
Mr Paul Appleby of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement has said that the inquiry into Anglo Irish Bank will take some months to complete, as it was one of the most complicated that his office has taken on. The inquiry followed the revelation of secret loans given to the former chief executive and chairman, Seán Fitzpatrick. The State-owned Bank was searched by the OCDE in February and a file is currently being compiled for the Director of Public Prosecution. Mr Appleby said that he was happy with the quality of the information available to his office.
Job cuts proposed at An Post
Management at An Post are to seek cost-cutting measures over the coming year.
The company will also seek to work with unions and try to delay a pay increase due to employees under the National Pay Agreement.
An Post released its annual report for 2008 which show a decrease in turnover but an increase of 7.2% in operating profits. Operating profits were up to €31.2m. One of the main problems looming on the horizon for An Post is the €582m deficit in the company’s defined benefit pension scheme. Chief executive Donal Connell said that management and unions need to come up with a funding plan to satisfy the Pensions Board by 2010.
It was a mixed bag this week with a lot of prolonged sunny periods interspersed with heavy showers. Gales and heavy rain lashed the country on Wednesday night but winds and rain died off on Thursday morning. By Friday, the bank holiday weekend looked promising but heavy showers developed on Saturday and Sunday after sunny starts.
Wind and rain is expected on Sunday night and into Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday will be mild but Thursday and Friday bring showers and blustery southwesterly breezes.
Latest Temperatures: Day 12C (54F).................Night 7C (44F)
S P O R T
Allianz NHL Division 1 FinalKilkenny 2-26 Tipperary 4-17 (AET)
Allianz NHL Division 2 FinalOffaly 1-13 Wexford 0-13
Allianz NHL Division 3A FinalKildare 2-18 Meath 1-18
Allianz NHL Division 3B FinalLondon 2-19 Roscommon 2-13
Allianz NHL Division 4 FinalMonaghan 2-8 Sligo 1-13 AET
League of Ireland Premier DivisionBohemians 5 Dundalk 0
Cork City 1 Sligo Rovers 0
Drogheda Utd 0 Derry City 3
Galway Utd 2 St Patrick’s Ath 1
Shamrock Rovers 0 Bray Wanderers 1
Heineken Cup Semi FinalsLeinster 25 Munster 6
Cardiff 26 Leicester 26 (AET)
(Leicester win in penalty shoot out)
GolfPádraig Harrington failed to make the cut in the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina.
Peter Lawrie shared third place in the Open de España; his 14-under total was four behind winner Thomas Levet. Other Irish participants were Paul McGinley -3 and Gary Murphy +4.
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