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THE IRISH EMIGRANT :: September 13, 2010 | Print |  Email
Monday, 13 September 2010
 

THE IRISH EMIGRANT

September 13, 2010        Issue No.1,232

The free news service for the global Irish community

http://www.emigrant.ie

Editor: Liam Ferrie                      ©2010 Irish Emigrant Ltd

Anglo Irish Bank dominated the news for much of the week from Monday when it was said that it would be the focus of discussions in Europe, through an announcement about how the Government planned to deal with it, until Sunday when Taoiseach Brian Cowen said that the full cost to the State would be known next month.

Allied Irish Bank also managed a few headlines when it agreed a sale of its stake in a Polish bank.

It would be unusual for a week to go by without Senator Ivor Callelly receiving a mention and it was himself that ensured the latest mention by asking the High Court to intervene on his behalf in his disagreement with other senators.

The North's First Minister also received some publicity by announcing that he had met the controversial priest, Fr James Chesney, prior to his death. In 2002 he told the BBC that he had never met the priest.

Anglo Irish Bank hogs the headlines

On Wednesday Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan announced a new strategy for dealing with the troubled Anglo Irish Bank and it is one that will eventually lead to its demise. Anglo was in the news throughout the week, whether in its own right or linked to other stories such as the Minister's visit to Brussels on Monday and increases in the cost of Exchequer borrowing.

Minister Lenihan was in Brussels on Monday for a meeting of EU Finance Ministers, and for a separate meeting of Finance Ministers of the eurozone countries. It was, however, a meeting between Minister Lenihan and EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia which attracted media attention here. They were expected to discuss the options for dealing with Anglo Irish Bank. The Government had submitted its plans for the now State-owned bank to the European Commission and is awaiting formal approval.

We don't know what happened at the meeting with Mr Almunia but many, including Opposition TDs, are convinced that he informed Minister Lenihan that it would be unacceptable to create and ultimately sell a good bank from the ashes of Anglo.

On Wednesday the Minister announced a new Government strategy for dealing with Anglo Irish Bank. The good bad/bad bank proposed by the bank's board was not accepted but a variation has been devised. Anglo will be split into two entities, one of which will be a bad bank and will hold all the non-performing loans not taken over by the National Asset Management Agency. The other, an almost-good bank, will hold Anglo's deposits but will not make any further loans available to existing or new clients.

It is expected that both organisations will wind down over the next 15 years. Mr Lenihan prefers the phrase "orderly work out" to "wind down". Whatever phrase is used, there is still a problem in that the ultimate cost remains unclear and we have no shortage of pundits willing to forecast a much higher figure that the €25bn currently allocated. There may, however, be political motivations behind the higher figures mentioned.

While there were those in this country who were quick to criticise Mr Lenihan's plan as meaningless or a fudge, those who matter on the international financial scene seemed to be impressed.

The media had earlier taken very seriously the fact that interest rates on Irish Government ten-year bonds exceeded 6% for a time on Tuesday. This was almost three times the rate at which the German Government can borrow money and commentators suggested that the situation was brought about because investors were concerned that the Government would be unable to meet the growing cost of Anglo.

I have to admit that I don't understand how meaningful this 6% figure was, as the Government was not actually on the market to borrow money and I presume when it does issue ten-year bonds it does so at a fixed interest rate. None of the commentators explained why rates would move in any direction at this time of the month.

On Thursday, following the announcement of the new Anglo strategy, positive comments came from a number of sources, including Goldman Sachs. The interest rate that everyone was watching fell to 5.92% and when the NTMA did seek to raise funds, by way of short-term Treasury Bills, the cost was lower than in a similar exercise two weeks earlier. The T-Bills offer was oversubscribed almost eight times.

In a closely related development the guarantee given by the Government in relation to bank deposits and bond holders has been extended for three months. The guarantee was due to expire at the end of the month, two years after it was introduced. In announcing that the European Commission had approved the extension, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said the move was part of an orderly withdrawal of the guarantee, aimed at increasing the confidence of individuals and institutions with large deposits in Irish banks. 

On Sunday Taoiseach Brian Cowen, in an interview on RTÉ radio, said that the final cost of dealing with Anglo would become known next month.

AIB sells stake in Polish bank

Allied Irish Bank announced on Friday that it had agreed to sell its 70% stake in Poland's Bank Zachodni WBK to Spanish bank Santander for €3.1bn. The sale became necessary after the Financial Regulator ruled that AIB had to increase its reserves by €7.4bn.

In making the announcement AIB's CEO Colm Doherty said that he was delighted with the sum achieved as, going into the exercise, it looked as if the sale price would have been around €2.6bn.

A number of banks were interested in acquiring AIB's stake and the Polish Government is disappointed that it is not back in Polish hands. One of banks involved in the bidding was Polish bank PKO, in which the Polish government has a 50% stake.

I would have thought that this sale would have provided AIB with €3.1bn of the €7.4bn demanded by the Regulator. The Irish Independent seems to agree with that figure but RTÉ  and the Irish Times report that €4.9bn has yet to be found. I did not see any explanation as to what will happen to the other €600m.

The next AIB asset to be sold is expected to be its 22% stake in US regional bank M and T. It is thought that this could realise close to €2bn and Santander is said to be interested in that also. After that it will AIB's bank branches in Britain that go under the hammer. There will still be a shortfall and AIB is expected to try to bridge the gap with a rights issue. If this fails the Irish State will be obliged to put in the necessary cash, but in doing so will increase its stake in the bank. Should this be the case the Government will almost certainly become the majority shareholder.

Callely tries the courts

Senator Ivor Callely has resorted to the courts in his battle with the Seanad's Select Committee on Members' Interests, which has suspended him for 20 days and is investigating other alleged misdemeanours concerning his expenses. In presenting his initial arguments Michael O'Higgins SC said that the Committee had portrayed his client as a "pariah" and "a chancer, a rogue, a thoroughly despicable person".

Mr Callely's challenge to the findings of the Committee is expected to be heard on October 4. So far he has just asked the court for permission to seek leave to challenge the Committee's ruling which resulted in him being suspended for claiming travel expenses from his holiday home in west Cork instead of his Dublin home.

Counsel for the Committee sought to have the case dealt with before the Seanad resumed at the end of the month but Justice Seán Ryan said this wouldn't be possible and hoped that, if leave is granted to proceed, then the full hearing will follow immediately.

The media has no sympathy for Senator Callely, and his former political colleagues believe he should have respected the tradition of maintaining the total separation between the political and legal systems.

McGuinness had meeting with Fr Chesney

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who eight years ago denied ever having met Fr James Chesney, the priest suspected of involvement in the Claudy bombing, has now recalled meeting Fr Chesney shortly before he died in 1980.

Mr McGuinness' statement followed the publication of a police ombudsman's report into the 1972 bombing. This accused the RUC, the British Government and Archbishop of Armagh Cardinal Conway of colluding to pervert the course of justice by having Fr Chesney moved to Co. Donegal. Since the report was published a number of people, including former Bishop of Derry Dr Edward Daly, have pointed out that no evidence has ever been produced to link the priest with the Claudy bombing.

The 1980 meeting came about after someone suggested to Mr McGuinness that he should meet the dying priest, who was a committed republican. The conversation did not include any mention of the Claudy bombing but focused instead on the prospects for a united Ireland.

Unionists drew their own conclusions about this development, while less involved individuals conceded that Mr McGuinnness could have forgotten about a meeting that took place 22 years earlier.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg apologised for the failure of the government in 1972 to investigate Fr James Chesney's alleged part in the Claudy bombing, though he was a prime suspect. Mr Clegg also confirmed that no public inquiry will be set up as the Northern Secretary does not believe that there will be any further evidence in the case.

This week on our website

  • Around the 32 Counties: An Antrim man breaks a record - in a bath, a Donegal woman does it the hard way under her own steam, and a Monaghan family break a school record.
  • US Visa Q&A: This week the Irish Immigration Center in Boston explains the process for changing one's name on official documents.
  • European Connections: Ita Marguet looks at the links between Ireland and India through exhibitions in Trinity College Dublin and the Chester Beatty Library.

Bits and Pieces

Crowds turn out to welcome home Tipp team

Some 30,000 Tipperary hurling fans turned out on Monday night to welcome home their victorious hurling team who had denied Kilkenny their five-in-a-row in last Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final. The team arrived into Thurles station, complete with the Liam McCarthy cup, with team captain Eoin Kelly and manager Liam Sheedy riding in the driver's cab. An open top bus then took the players to Semple Stadium for an official reception.

Simon Community reports increase in homelessness

For the first time in several years the numbers of people sleeping rough or using emergency services for the homeless has increased, with a rise of 20% over the past 18 months. During 2009 the Dublin Simon Community worked with an average 812 a month, while for the second quarter of this year the figure rose to 908. Chief executive Sam McGuinness has called on the Government to deliver the 1,200 leases on property promised, as part of its policy to end homelessness, by the end of 2010.

On Sunday a similar message came from Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of Focus Ireland, another housing charity. Describing the current situation as akin to the 1980s, she estimated that there are now 5,000 homeless people across the country.

Three arrested over shooting released without charge

The three men who were arrested on Monday morning in relation to the 2008 shooting of Robert Delany (29), of Tallaght in Dublin, were released without charge. A former member of the Provisional IRA, aged 57, and two men aged 31 and 32 were questioned about the shooting which left Mr Delany in a permanent vegetative state. A file is being prepared for the DPP.

According to media reports Mr Delaney, a postman, acted as a responsible citizen in intervening in a dispute in a pub some days before being shot. The son of the former IRA member took exception to this intervention and threatened Mr Delaney. It is also reported that, in conjunction with his father and another man, he contracted two Dublin criminals to kill Mr Delaney. One of these criminals is now dead, having been the victim in a recent gangland shooting.

Irish among the world's most charitable

A study of the giving patterns among different nations placed the Irish in third place alongside Canada. The first two places were taken by Australia and New Zealand. The study took into account the willingness to donate cash, the level of volunteering and readiness to help a stranger. The World Giving Index, published by the Charities Aid Foundation of Britain, linked the results with the its Wellbeing Index, which found that, despite all the doom and gloom reported here on a daily basis, Irish people are 16th happiest of 153 nationalities.

Launch of book to aid Indian charity

The launch took place on Thursday of "The Book of Hope", comprising fiction and non-fiction works by a number of authors and public figures including Joseph O'Connor, Denis O'Brien and Senator Ivana Bacik. The book aims to raise money for the Hope Foundation, which funds 64 projects in Kilkata in India focusing on health, education and child protection.

Speaking at the launch both Denis O'Brien and former hostage Brian Keenan spoke of the over-emphasis on our current financial problems and urged a more optimistic approach.

Researcher claims many children died in care home

In an article in the latest edition of 'History Ireland' magazine, Niall Meehan claims that, between 1922 and 1949, a total of 211 children died while in the care of the Protestant-run Bethany Home in the Dublin suburb of Rathgar. Earlier this year it was claimed that 40 children had been buried in unmarked graves at the home but now Mr Meehan says new research has produced the much higher figure. He also claims that between 1935 and 1940 one child died in the institution every three weeks.

Former residents of the home argue that they should have been eligible for compensation from the Redress Board which dealt with Catholic-run institutions.

Gardaí question suspect in 1999 murder 

A man arrested at Dublin Airport on Thursday is being questioned by gardaí in Waterford city about the murder of Martin Nolan (34) in 1999. Mr Nolan's badly burned remains were found in a wooded area on the Waterford/Tipperary border in July 2000, some eight months after he was last seen in Tramore, where he had been living. Gardaí investigating the murder had identified a suspect who had left the jurisdiction and it is believed that it is this man who has been arrested.

Organised crime comes to Tipperary

Gardaí investigating drug distribution and organised crime in the Tipperary District, on Thursday carried out 15 searches in houses in the county. One search on the outskirts of Tipperary town resulted in the discovery of four pipe bombs, ammunition and a handgun. Eight men were arrested and one appeared in court on Friday. The other seven have been released but are due in court on September 15.

French forensic team to investigate Cork murder

Permission has been granted by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to a forensic team from France to come to Ireland to examine evidence related to the murder of Frenchwoman Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Ms Toscan de Plantier was murdered outside her home in Schull in west Cork in 1996 and no one has been charged in relation to her death although English journalist Ian Bailey was considered a suspect. Bailey lives in the Schull area.

The Garda Technical Bureau will oversee any testing or examination of evidence carried out by the French team.

Tributes paid to legendary broadcaster

Some 200 family and guests gathered at the Galway Bay Hotel in Salthill, Galway on Friday to honour GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh on the occasion of his 80th birthday. He himself recently celebrated the occasion by climbing Mount Brandon in Kerry with 23 members of his family. Among those who paid tribute to the man described by Taoiseach Brian Cowen as "the best marketing instrument the GAA ever had" were a number of former county managers and players and GAA officials.

The evening was the subject of a special broadcast by Raidió na Gaeltachta and tributes were paid by the other party leaders in addition to Brian Cowen, as well as Archbishop Dermot Clifford, the GAA patron, and Gerry Adams. A special poem for the occasion was composed by Kerry poet Gabriel Fitzmaurice.

National Lottery Winning Numbers:

  • Wed: 4, 10, 23, 29, 30, 40 (12) - the jackpot of €3.27m was not won
  • Sat: 3, 7, 12, 21, 26, 36 (18) - the jackpot of €3.99m was not won

Northern News

Armagh murder victim named

The man whose body was found at his home in Armagh ten days ago was named as Kevin Fletcher (32) from Castle Street in the city. Mr Fletcher had accompanied his mother to bingo the previous night and his father had dropped him off at his home afterwards. He was found by the couple and his girlfriend the next day. Mr Fletcher as a "vulnerable" person.

In seeking witnesses the PSNI spoke of an unprovoked and "frenzied attack".

Clinton to visit North next month

Prior to next month's US/NI economic conference in Washington, former president Bill Clinton is to visit the North in support of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's promotion of an economic mission. The Washington conference will bring together the chief executives or senior managers of 12 US companies which operate in the North, with 12 of similar rank in a bid to encourage them to have a presence in the North.

Child picks up pipe bomb

Eight-year-old Brendan Shannon on Monday picked up a device in his school playground in Antrim town and brought it into the classroom where a teacher suspected that it might be a pipe bomb. The PSNI was brought in and St Comgall's Primary School was evacuated. Later police confirmed that it was a viable explosives device.

Loyalist paramilitaries are being blamed for the incident although it is not known if the school was the intended target.

On Tuesday that story dominated the front page of the Irish News. The editor opted for a photograph of Brendan alongside a quote from his father. The text read, "We moved to Australia because my parents didn't want their kids growing up surrounded by hate. Brendan was born in Australia. We only moved back home because we thought things had changed".

Unity candidate questions election validity

Rodney Connor, who failed to win the Fermanagh and South Tyrone seat in the general election by four votes, is petitioning the courts to rule that Sinn Féin's Michelle Gildernew was not duly elected. The dispute centres on two witnesses for Mr Connor stating that they had seen six votes which should not have been counted. However Lord chief justice Sir Declan Morgan and Justice John Gillen predicted enormous difficulty in proving the case if the votes are not identified. The case is due to proceed today.

Ending of dual mandates leads to unelected MLAs

The move to end dual mandates has led to a situation in which there will soon be 13 members of the Assembly who will have been co-opted rather than winning their places through election. The two latest to be replaced are Mark Durkan of the SDLP and Nigel Dodds of the DUP. Of the 11 other unelected members seven belong to the DUP with one each from the SDLP, the UUP, Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party.

Belfast bar bows to media pressure

Media reaction to an advertisement by a Belfast bar for free drink all night for an entrance fee of £25 has brought about a change of policy.  The advertisement appeared for The Library Bar on Little Donegall Street and raised concerns about the increasing incidence of binge drinking among young people. Bar owner John Sherry, after speaking with chief executive of Pubs of Ulster Colin Neill, has agreed that the promotion was "not in line with best practice".

Other News:

  • Ryanair's pulling out of Belfast City Airport has led to Flybe taking its place, with the announcement of three new routes. Flybe will begin services from the end of next month to East Midlands, Bristol and Liverpool, three of the airports previously served by Ryanair. According to Mike Rutter of Flybe, Ryanair's decision had been expected and preparations to move in had already been made.
  • Secretary of State Owen Paterson has told a committee of MPs that a power vacuum in decisions on parades was unacceptable, and the Parades Commission will be reappointed in January if no agreement is reached on managing controversial marches. Earlier in the summer the Orange Order refused to take part in a consultation process over draft parades legislation.
  • Showjumper Jonathan Cresswell (22) was given a six-month jail sentence when he pleaded guilty at Dungannon Crown Court on Thursday to five charges of assaulting his former partner Abigail Lyle (25), occasioning her actually bodily harm. He was also found guilty of one charge of common assault, all having taken place between February and August last year.
  • An 11-year-old boy is to appear before a youth court on October 7 on a charge of riotous assembly and possession of an offensive weapon. The boy, who was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the Ardoyne riots, is believed to be the youngest person charged with a criminal offence in the North.
  • Former Armagh football manager Joe Kernan, his wife Patricia and their sons Aaron and Stephen have been declared bankrupt following the collapse of their business. Joe Kernan & Sons, a sales, letting and housing development company, opened in Crossmaglen ten years ago, and the Irish News reports that some parts of the family business will continue to operate.

The Courts

Charge in 'tiger' kidnapping case

Raymond Rea (29), from Kilcock, Co Kildare, appeared in court on Thursday charged in connection with the 'tiger' kidnapping on September 2 which resulted in the theft of €300k from the AIB branch in Clondalkin. The actual charge, which referred specifically to €30k recovered from Rea's home last Saturday, was the first brought under the Criminal Justice Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act 2010.

In all, seven arrests were made, four last Saturday and three on Thursday. Some have been released and others were still being questioned on Friday.

Gilligan loses latest appeal

Convicted drug dealer John Gilligan failed in his latest appeal to the High Court. On this occasion he was trying to prevent his prosecution on a charge of possessing a mobile phone in his prison cell. He claimed that, having lost privileges for 56 days as a punishment for this offence, to then appear in court on the same charge would amount to double jeopardy.

Justice Seán Ryan dismissed Giiligan's argument, saying that double jeopardy could only exist if he had previously been before a court on the matter and not merely before a prison governor who had to maintain discipline. The judge also noted that 56 days' loss of privileges was not a sentence that would be handed down by the courts.

The offence of possessing a phone in prison carries a sentence of up to five years which must run consecutively to the sentence already being served.

IRA leader wins compensation in European court

Brendan (Bic) MacFarlane has been awarded €15k by the European Court of Justice in a case which he took against the Irish Government. MacFarlane was a leading figure in the IRA and the major suspect in the 1983 kidnapping of British supermarket executive Don Tidey. In 1998 he was charged with this crime but as a result of many legal challenges his trial did not begin until 2008. The trial did not last long as certain garda evidence was ruled inadmissible and the case was dismissed. MacFarlane then went to the European Court, claiming that his human rights had been infringed due to the delay in bringing the charges against him.

The award covers both compensation and costs.

Employment & Industrial Relations

Construction sector unions consider pay cut

Unions representing workers in the construction sector have at last met to discuss a Labour Court recommendation that their members should accept a 7.5% pay cut rather than the 20% sought by employers. It was in July that the Court reported on the issue and it will be some more weeks before a decision is made. At a meeting on Wednesday the unions decided to consult with their members over an indeterminate number of weeks and then to ballot them.

The number of people employed in the sector is less than half that at the peak of the property boom and the Construction Industry Federation says that the high level of wages paid at that time cannot be sustained. On Tuesday the CIF agreed to accept the Labour Court recommendations.

235 new jobs to be created

Deloitte Ireland announced on Thursday that it will be filling up to 200 positions across the firm. The new positions will, for the most part, be a combination of experienced hires in the firm's Technology and Consulting Practice and graduate recruitment positions. Following a number of significant business wins, more than 30 technology consultants are currently being recruited in Dublin. The graduate positions, which will be filled in 2011, will be in the organisation's offices in Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

Also on Thursday Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O'Keeffe announced 35 new jobs when he formally opened a state-of-the-art €3.5m plastic bottle sorting plant in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan.

The plant is owned by Shabra, an indigenous company employing 49 workers that collects, reprocesses and recycles waste plastic bottles and film. The new workers will be recruited over the next three years.

Schering-Plough to shed 160 jobs

Management at the Schering-Plough pharmaceutical plant in west Cork on Thursday called all 519 staff to a meeting to announce plans to seek 160 voluntary redundancies over the next three years. The company has been reviewing its global cost structures since merging with Merck, and the redundancies at the Brinny facility are seen as essential to ensure the continued viability of the operation.

Drop in public service numbers

Figures supplied by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, in response to a parliamentary question from Labour environment spokesperson Joanna Tuffy, show a decrease in the numbers in the public service over the past year. Between the end of 2008 and the end of 2009 the total number dropped from 319,092 to 309,751, with a further fall to 309,146 in the first quarter of this year. Local authorities recorded the largest decrease, with a total number of 2,964 leaving the service. Ms Tuffy noted that the numbers represented a marked reduction, given that in previous years the public service experienced an average increase of several thousand each year.

Politics & Politicians

Finance Minister's health - ‘no clear or immediate danger'

Speaking to RTÉ, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has said that his cancer has now stabilised and, although there is always a risk, he is not in any immediate danger and his energy levels are greatly improved. Mr Lenihan has undergone chemotherapy and radiotherapy for a cancerous growth at the entrance to his pancreas.

Finlay to seek presidency

Fergus Finlay, former senior aide to Dick Spring when he held the position of Tánaiste, has announced that he is seeking the Labour Party nomination for next year's presidential election. Mr Finlay, who currently heads the Irish branch of the children's charity Dr Barnardo's, has written to all Labour TDs and Senators offering his services.

The first real reaction came from Labour TD for Galway West Michael D. Higgins, who confirmed earlier rumours that he would also be interested in seeking the nomination.

Elsewhere Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he would be interested in seeking the Fianna Fáil nomination.

Political parties hold their "think-ins"

It is not so many years since the first autumn political "think-in" took place prior to the resumption of Dáil sittings. I believe it was Fianna Fáil that held the first one but now no political party could allow September to pass without TDs and Senators being seen to come together at a hotel well away from Dublin, ostensibly to discuss the future of the country. Presumably they discuss strategy for the coming year but the sessions are held in private. Journalists are expected to wait outside for any crumbs that an individual TD or Senator might let slip in error or deliberately. Photographers and television camera crews are also expected to be on hand to provide proof that the party (whichever one it is) is united.

In recent days Fine Gael held its "think-in" at Faithlegg House Hotel in Co. Waterford. Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators will be in Galway today and tomorrow for its two days of internal debate.

Health

Inquest hears brain haemorrhage diagnosed as migraine

An inquest into the death in November 2006 of Louise Butler (21), from Sixmilebridge in Co. Clare, heard that her death from a subarachnoid haemorrhage took place one month after she had been incorrectly diagnosed with migraine. The jury recorded a verdict of ‘medical accident' and recommended that patients who present with persistent and severe headaches should be given a CT scan as a priority.

HSE deficit down but major savings still needed

Despite a fall of almost €49m in the Health Service Executive deficit between May and July of this year, the health body will still need to achieve savings of €103m if it is to balance its budget this year. Deficits are particularly apparent in the hospital sector, with University Hospital Galway recording the highest at €14.7m, followed by Limerick Regional on €12m. Hospital overruns are to some extent offset by surpluses other areas.

World Suicide Prevention Day marked

With Friday being World Suicide Prevention Day there was much talk about the problem throughout the week. Conferences were held at which it was claimed there were many more suicides than officially reported. In support of pleas for more funding for groups dealing with the issue, it was pointed out that vastly greater sums were spent in promoting road safety although suicide claimed more lives than traffic accidents. In the Republic 527 suicides were recorded in 2009, a 24% increase on the previous year.

On Friday photographs of Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, sitting side by side, appeared in the press. Both were wearing T-shirts promoting Pieta House, a Dublin-based centre for the prevention of self harm or suicide.

Travel & Tourism

Long-awaited Convention Centre opens

The new Convention Centre Dublin, overlooking the north bank of the Liffey at Spencer Dock, was formally opened by Taoiseach Brian Cowen on Tuesday. The strikingly modern building will accommodate up to 8,000 delegates, has a 3000-seat tiered conference hall and can cater for a 2,000 guest banquet.

In more detail the Convention Centre has six flat-floored halls, in addition to the tiered auditorium, plus four boardrooms and 11 meetings rooms for break-out sessions. The theatre capacity in the flat-floored halls ranges from 240 to 1,800 and they can also be used as exhibition space.

Designed by New York-based Irish architect Kevin Roche, it has taken some 20 years from the time that such a facility was proposed through to completion. Like all good ideas in Ireland someone will use the law to the fullest extent to frustrate progress and that is what happened with the Conference Centre.

It cost €380m to build the centre but it is forecast that it will bring some €500m per year in business tourism to Ireland. In addition to bringing benefits to Dublin hotels, retail outlets and entertainment venues, many delegates may tag a holiday in Ireland at the end of their conference, perhaps bringing family members in to join them.

Few observing city centre speed limit

Responding to a report by Dublin City Council on the 30km/h speed limit imposed last January in Dublin city centre, Conor Faughnan of the AA said it had made no difference and could bring the law into disrepute. The report noted that the average reduction in speed was just over 1km/h during the morning rush hour. However Labour Councillor Andrew Montague defended the new limits, citing reductions of 6km/h on O'Connell Street and 10km/h on Bachelors' Walk.

Aer Lingus loses passengers while Ryanair gains

On Monday Ryanair reported a 12% increase in seat sales for August, compared with the same month last year, while the load factor of 89% was one percentage point less than in August 2009.

Later Aer Lingus revealed that its passenger numbers fell by 7.1% in August. The airline had cut its capacity by 13.3%. Its load factor was 85.7%

Ryanair argues for a single pilot

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary continues to garner free publicity for his airline. On Tuesday he suggested that his next saving scheme will be to dispense with the co-pilot on shorter flights of up to about an hour's duration. He argues that the co-pilot's only reason for being is to wake up the pilot should he or she fall asleep. With the sophistication of today's aircraft technology, he believes, the senior member of the cabin crew could be trained to land a plane in an emergency.

I am not sure that the media found anyone to support such a radical change in safety standards, but Mr O'Leary seems to be serious about opening up a debate on the issue as he sent out another senior executive to explain to Morning Ireland's listeners why such a proposal is worthy of consideration.

Ryanair makes further cutbacks at Shannon

Ryanair has announced a further curtailment in its Shannon operations. From November 1 the Shannon-Paris (Beauvais) route will be abandoned. There will also be a reduction in the number of flights to London (Gatwick) and London (Stansted). The airline blamed the airport's decision to increase passenger fees by 33%, its refusal to extend Ryanair's five-year base deal and the Government's €10 tourist tax for these latest cutbacks.

According to Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, Shannon Airport is "dying on its feet", having seen its Ryanair passengers numbers decline from a peak of two million per year to 400,000. He noted that just two years ago the airline serviced 53 routes from Shannon and that by November this would be down to six. In 2008 Ryanair had six aircraft based at Shannon and this is already down to one. Over the same period the number of Shannon-based employees fell from 300 to 45.

Waterford to Dublin motorway opens

The final stretch of the Waterford to Dublin motorway was formally opened by Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey on Thursday, reducing the driving time between Waterford and the M50 to 1.5 hours. The new 40km road runs from Carlow and Knocktopher, Co. Kilkenny and bypasses the city of Kilkenny.

Unlike other motorways linking Dublin with provincial cities, drivers using the M9 will not be required to pay a toll; with fewer users than other motorways it was decided that a toll would not be cost effective.

The Irish Abroad

Irish nun dies in California traffic accident

On August 25 Sister Mary Campbell (75) was killed in a road accident in Malibu, California. The Co. Mayo born nun, a member of the St Louis Order, spent much of her life as a teacher in California and her final appointment was as principal of Our Lady of Malibu School. On her retirement in 2003 she continued in pastoral ministry in Our Lady of Malibu Parish. Sister Mary was buried in her native Kiltimagh on Thursday.

Sister Mary was a passenger in a car being driven by the US ambassador to Malta, Doug Kmaic. Also in the car was Co. Longford-born Monsignor John Sheridan (94), who was seriously injured but who is now said to be stable. Ambassador Kmaic was less seriously injured. All three were returning from an event marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the St Louis Order's US mother house in Woodland Hills.

Actor Martin Sheen, a friend of Sister Mary's, was initially reported to be coming to Ireland to deliver a eulogy at the funeral but instead he spoke at a memorial Mass in Malibu.

Limerick student killed in road accident in England

Jemma O'Sullivan (22), from Monaleen Heights, Castletroy, Co Limerick, died in England ten days ago when the car in which she was travelling was involved in a four-vehicle collision. The accident happened on the M18 motorway near Doncaster in south Yorkshire. Ms O'Sullivan was about to start her final year as a pharmacy student at the University of Sunderland.

President in Russia

President Mary McAleese flew to Russia on Tuesday at the start of a four-day official visit which included engagements in Moscow and St Petersburg. In Moscow, the President was accompanied by Minister of State Billy Kelleher, who led a trade delegation involving some 30 Irish companies and agencies.

Among those the President met in Moscow were Mayor of Moscow Mr Yury Luzhkov; His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church; and President of the Russian Federation, Mr Dmitry Medvedev. During her stay she laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, addressed a Russia-Ireland Forum on Nanotechnology; attended a performance of traditional Irish music and dance, hosted by Irish Ambassador Philip McDonagh; and delivered a lecture at the Diplomatic Academy of Foreign Affairs.

The President and her party moved on to St Petersburg on Thursday afternoon. While there she visited the Memorial to the Siege of Leningrad; delivered an address at the St Petersburg State University of Economics (FINEC); attended a lunch hosted by the Governor of St Petersburg, Mrs Valentina Matvienko; visited the State Heritage Museum where she also attended a performance of Irish music and dance; and, before returning to Ireland on Saturday, visit Catherine Palace (or summer palace).

New York-based author to give talks in Ireland

Tom Phelan, a Laois man now resident in New York, is to give a series of talks in Ireland. The author of "Derrycloney", "The Canal Bridge" and "Iscariot", is originally from Mountmellick in Co. Laois. The talks schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday October 2, 3.15pm, Dublin City Library - "Forgotten Heroes: Ireland's WW1 Soldiers".
  • Monday October 18, 7.00pm, Clones Library, Clones, Co. Monaghan - "The Way They Were: Life in the Irish Countryside in the 1940s".
  • Thursday November 11, 8.00pm, Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise, Co. Laois - "The Way They Were: Life in the Irish Countryside in the 1940s".

Entry to the talks is free.

Australian fundraiser for Irishman

The Australian-based Irish band Tullamore Tree will be playing at Hogan's, Wellington Point in Brisbane in aid of Liam Maher, originally from Cashel, Co. Tipperary, who has motor neurone disease. The fundraiser will take place on Sunday September 26.

Conservation & The Environment

Lack of water in Co. Galway

Residents of the Co. Galway villages of Moycullen and Barna succeeded briefly in publicising the problems they are having with their water supply, which is frequently interrupted.  The latest disruption has lasted four days and they are now looking to Galway County Council to fix the problem once and for all.

The council has failed to satisfy householders with explanations offered to date.

Flooding in east on Monday

Parts of the eastern side of the country experienced flooding on Monday following heavy rain the previous day. The AA rescue service dealt with almost 300 calls-outs to motorists in difficulties, mostly in the Dublin area, while in Co. Wicklow the Glendasan river burst its banks, causing the Glendalough Hotel to be flooded. Also affected by the downpour and consequent flooding were festival goers leaving the site of the Electric Picnic in Co. Laois, where long delays were experienced.

Incinerator contract to be reviewed

Dublin City Council yesterday said that the contract for the construction and operation of the proposed Poolbeg waste incinerator will be reviewed over the next eight months. This arises from the fact that the contract was signed three years ago and specific targets have not been met.

In informing Dublin City Councillors of this development, city manager John Tierney said that every effort will be made to progress the project during the period of the review as abandoning it would mean writing off some €120m that had been spent to date and would no doubt result in legal action by the council's partners, Covanta Energy. Mr Tierney also noted that the incinerator was planned in accordance with Government waste strategy although Minister for the Environment John Gormley has been doing all he can to obstruct the development of an incinerator in his constituency.

Councillor questions fees for recycling

Speaking at the annual conference of the Association of Municipal Authorities in Buncrana, Monaghan Town and County Council member Seán Conlon questioned the charging of fees at recycling centres. Cllr Conlon expressed the view that people's good habits of recycling would be undermined by the fee, which is €2 at present. He asked Adele O'Connor of the group Irish Business Against Litter to ask the Environment Minister to ban such fees.

Elsewhere Dara Lynott was telling the media that Ireland needed to incinerate more of its waste. He was speaking after the release of a report entitled "Focus on Landfilling in Ireland".

Education

Numeracy a problem for 40% of population?

A survey commissioned by the National Adult Literacy Agency suggests that 40% of the population has some difficulty with simple maths calculations.  Millward Brown Lansdowne presented 1,000 adults with six problems, two from the primary school curriculum and four representing simple calculations which the average person might be required to deal with in the course of a normal day. The questions included calculating the area of a rectangular field and calculating the VAT due on a purchase.

Wrong answers were given to at least half of the questions by 40% of those surveyed.

There was a direct correlation between an individual's ability to come up with the correct answer and the number of years spent in full-time education. This was often ignored by those who sought smaller class sizes or increased spending on education.

UCD team map Irish genetic code

A team of scientists from the Conway Institute at University College Dublin have successfully sequenced the genetic code of an Irish person for the first time, using advanced sequencing technology. The team, led by Professor Brendan Loftus, achieved the DNA mapping using the DNA from a male whose Irish ancestry could be confirmed for three generations.

The completion of the genetic code could help to establish why Irish people are particularly susceptible to diseases such as cystic fibrosis. The value of the exercise will, however, increase as genetic codes for additional Irish people become available to identify common traits.

Education spending stats cause criticism

The annual OECD "Education at a Glance" report has shown that during the peak years of the economic boom the spending on education in this country was the fourth lowest in the OECD. The average spend for OECD countries was 6.2% of GDP, while Ireland spent just 4.7% on education. The figure was greater than that spent by only three other countries, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Italy. Ireland also reduced the funding for higher education at a time when student numbers were significantly increasing. The report also found that class sizes in Ireland were the second highest in the EU, with an average of 24 pupils.

It should be noted that any figure derived from a percentage of Irish GDP is considered suspect given the impact multinationals have on the GDP figure. Profits made at subsidiaries in Ireland often flow straight through to the parent company. The Government would like comparisons to be made on Gross National Product but on this occasion the Department of Education failed to comment.

TCD and UCD ratings slip

Both Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin lost ground in the latest QS World University Rankings. TCD slipped from 41st to 52nd place, while UCD dropped out of the top 100, falling from 89th to 114th. Lack of funding was blamed for the failure to maintain their positions.

TCD Provost Dr John Hegarty tried to find a positive angle and noted that taking 52nd position in such a world league was a "heady position". He was speaking at the opening of the Trinity Long Room Hub, the college's new Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

Entertainment & The Arts

Irish author on Man Booker shortlist

Included in the shortlist of six authors for this year's Man Booker award is "Room", by Irish author Emma Donoghoe. "Room" is a story about the enclosed life of a mother and child, told through the eyes of five-year-old Jack.

While the inclusion of Ms Donoghue's novel was considered fully justified there was surprise and disappointment at the omission of Paul Murray's comic novel, "Skippy Dies".

Deaths

Second Donegal man killed while felling trees

The death took place on Monday of Paddy Havlin (74) of Redcastle, Co. Donegal while he was felling trees at his home. Mr Havlin's death follows that of Hugh Diver, who died in a similar accident in Ardara last month. While Mr Diver was actually struck by a tree it seems that Mr Havlin fell and struck his head as he tried to get clear of a falling tree.

Man's body taken from water in Co. Wexford

The body of Michael O'Connor (59), of Duncormick, Co. Wexford, was taken from the water upriver from Cullenstown beach on Tuesday. The father of three had gone fishing alone on Monday night and when he had not returned at his usual time of 5:00am his wife Joan raised the alarm.

The small rowing boat that he owned was found off Cullenstown by a Coast Guard helicopter crew and his body, still with a lifejacket, was located about a mile and a half away.

Five years ago Mr O'Connor's brother Ronnie died at the age of 44 in similar circumstances.

Another rider dies in motorcycle road race

Victor Gilmore (42) lost his life on Sunday afternoon while taking part in a motorcycle road race in north Dublin. The father of three from Ballymoney in Co. Antrim was competing in the Killalane Road Races near Skerries when he lost control of his bike. A race marshal was also injured in the incident which took place close to where another rider died in the Skerries 100 Road Race at the start of July.

Road death in Co. Westmeath

A 39-year-old woman lost her life on Monday afternoon when the SUV she was driving was involved in a collision with an articulated truck on the N52 at Robinstown, Delvin, Co. Westmeath. The truck driver was uninjured.

Business News

EU takes another look at Corporation Tax

The European Commission is taking yet another look at Corporation tax with a view to co-ordinating tax rates across the EU. It is not clear what that means but apparently it does not include a standard rate across the union. That was tried before and was rejected by Ireland, Britain and some of the newer member states. The Irish rate of 12.5% is credited with attracting many multinationals to set up operations here, and some countries, particularly France and Germany, are unhappy with this; they favour a standard, and significantly higher, rate across the EU.

Nobel winning economist to testify against NAMA

Property developer Paddy McKillen, who says he has not engaged in speculative development since he has bought no Irish assets for the past 12 years, is taking the first legal challenge against the National Asset Management Agency. In doing so he has called in nine expert witnesses, one of them Professor of Economics at Columbia University in New York Dr Joseph Stiglitz. Dr Stiglitz, a Nobel Laureate in economics, was last year critical of the decision to set up NAMA to bail out the banks. The case has been fast-tracked to October 5.

Quinn Insurance reports losses of €750m

In its annual report for 2009 Quinn Insurance reported a loss of €788m. The report, released by the administrators, showed that €677m of the loss was accounted for by intergroup guarantees which led to the appointment of the administrators. The company is apparently trading profitably but plans a significant increase in premiums in line with other insurers.

The Quinn Group overall owes Anglo Irish Bank some €3bn.

NAMA to follow up on non-co-operators

The National Asset Management Agency is to pursue 12 individuals who are refusing to co-operate with its process. The 12 are said to owe up to €300m between them and the loans are due to transfer to NAMA. Addressing the Richard Cantillon School in Tralee, NAMA chief executive Brendan McDonagh confirmed that they would begin enforcement actions against the individuals in the coming week. Borrowers whose loans have been transferred to NAMA have been given six weeks to confirm their co-operation, after which time enforcement would be considered. To date two of the largest developers have had their business plans processed by the agency.

Weather

We had some very heavy rain during the week but much of it fell overnight. For the most part daytime showers were intense but fairly brief and we saw a good deal of the sun. With daytime temperatures of around 18C it was warmer than usual for the time of year.

Rain which arrived on Sunday afternoon is expected to be around until tomorrow, when it will be particularly heavy and windy. Wednesday will remain showery and we may still be seeing some rain on Thursday but it should become drier after that. It will be become cooler in the latter half of the week.

Latest Temperatures: Day 16C (61F).................Night 12C (54F)

S P O R T

G.A.A.

Camogie All Ireland Senior Final

                   Wexford 1-12          Galway 1-10

Ladies Football Senior Championship Semi Final

                   Tyrone 1-9              Kerry 0-11

All Ireland U-21 Hurling Final

                   Tipperary 5-22         Galway 0-12  

Soccer

Euro Qualifiers Group B

                   Ireland 3                 Andorra 1

                   Russia 0                  Slovakia 1

                   Macedonia 2            Armenia 2

UEFA U-21 Championship Qualifying

                        Turkey 1                 Ireland 0

Women's U-17 World Cup Finals

                        Ireland 1                 Brazil 2        

                        Ireland 1                 Canada 0

Airtricity Premier League

                   St Patrick's Ath 1      Shamrock Rov. 3

                   Bohemians 3            UCD 1

                   Bray Wanderers 4     Galway Utd 0

                   Sligo Rovers 4          Sp Fingal 3

                   Drogheda Utd 1        Dundalk 3              

Rugby

The Magners League

                   Edinburgh 13            Munster 16

                   Scarlets 35              Connacht 33

                   Leinster 34              Cardiff 23

                   Aironi 15                 Ulster 22

Sports Shorts

Golf:

In the BMW Championship Rory McIlroy started poorly, going eight-over after the two opening rounds. He then played well but had too much to do to make an impact on the leaderboard and his three-over total of 287 left him back in 38th place. 

Here in Europe the KLM Open was won by German Martin Kaymer on 14-under. Darren Clarke, on six-under and sharing 17th place, was the best of the Irish. Damien McGrane finished on four-under, Peter Lawrie on three-under, and back in 50th place was Shane Lowry on one-under. Michael Hoey, Gareth Maybin and Simon Thornton also made the cut and finished on level-par, each earning a cheque for €5k. Paul McGinley and Gary Murphy failed to make the cut.

 


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