News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 5th September 2013

Ireland promised euro zone support to smooth an exit from bailout


Eurogroup head says measures will be in place for Ireland as Greece faces third rescue

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Netherlands’s finance minister and president of the Eurogroup, said there would be support measures to smooth ireland’s exit from bailout.

Ireland will get euro zone support to smoothly exit its bailout programme at the end of this year, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the European Parliament today.“Ireland’s performed very well in its programme and will exit the programme, but there will be measures to support its gradual exit,” he said.“I can’t give you any details on the way that will be formed yet … but there will be support to make sure that it is a good exit and not a temporary exit,” Mr Dijsselbloem said.

The euro zone is also likely to decide on a third bailout for Greece in November, after international inspectors finish an assessment of Greece’s struggles to carry out painful reforms, officials said.

“As far as the potential need for a third programme for Greece is concerned, it’s clear that despite recent progress, Greece’s troubles will not have been completely resolved by 2014,” Mr Dijsselbloem told the European Parliament today.

“It is realistic to assume that additional support will be needed beyond the programme. In this context, the Eurogroup has indicated clearly that it is committed to providing adequate support to Greece during the current programme and beyond until it has regained marketaccess,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund and Greece estimate that Athens will need €10-11 billion in new financing in 2014-2015 above what the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund have agreed to so far.

This is partly because euro zone central banks refused to delay repayment of Greek government bonds, contrary to an assumption by euro zone finance ministers, the Eurogroup, when they set up the current bailout.

Greece is still deep in its worst post-war slump, and the sale of state assets is well behind plan.

Greece has already had two international bailouts since 2010, and more money for it is controversial in Germany which has elections on September 22nd. Voters there are tired of helping others after three years of the sovereign debt crisis.

Greece will not need any additional funds until the second half of 2014, but a decision must be taken in November at the latest because the IMF can only participate in the Greek bailout if the programme is fully funded 12 months ahead.

The next review of the reforms that Greece has committed to in exchange for the €172 billion financial lifeline last year, will start in late September and take several weeks to complete. It is written by inspectors from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

“Once this is completed, we will have an overview … of the financing of the current programme and we will have this on our agenda the next month and finalise the process in November,” Mr Dijsselbloem said.

Two major Irish Charities call for 60 cent Budget increase in cigarette prices


The pre-Budget call from the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation is aimed at tackling the “enormous economic cost of smoking-related illness”.

Ireland’s smokers could be hit with a 60 cent increase in the cost of a pack of cigarettes, if the Government takes heed of a call from two high-profile charities.

The pre-Budget submission from the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation calls for annual tax increases on tobacco products of 5 per cent above inflation.

The charities are also calling for a new way of regulating the industry, which would introduce a price cap on products: manufacturers would be forced to lower their own prices to below current levels, and the Government could then offset the difference by adding more taxes to the price of a pack.

Spokesperson for the Irish Heart Foundation Chris Macey said it was “bizarre” that although Ireland has regulators for everything from energy to taxi driving, there was none to cover the tobacco industry. He added:

“There is no legitimate argument for the status quo because even apart from the health catastrophe of 5,200 people killed by tobacco-related illness a year in Ireland, the tobacco industry is a drain on the nation’s economy.

“It creates virtually no employment and on Department of Health estimates the taxpayer is subsidising tobacco companies to the tune of almost €6 for every euro of profit they take out of the country.”

The charities claim that the introduction of a regulation system could generate €65 million euro for the State.

One-fifth (20%) of all Irish credit union loans are now in arrears


Big chunks of the credit unions loan books of are not being repaid, but there is some evidence of an improvement in the arrears situation.

Regulator for the sector Sharon Donnery  told credit union managers yesterday that 20pc of the value of all loans were in arrears.

The value of credit union loans has fallen by 11pc to €4.6bn for the 400 credit unions in the State up to June last year.

This means that the value of arrears is €920m.

Ms Donnery said: “Average sector arrears were slightly over 20pc.”

The overall arrears figure had been higher, at close to €1bn in 2011.

But a fall in the overall value of all credit union loans has meant the euro value of the arrears is down.

Loans are maturing faster than new ones being taken out, as people are taking out fewer loans because they fear that lower incomes and higher state taxes and charges mean they will not be able to repay credit union borrowings.

Ms Donnery said: “Credit unions continue to face significant challenges to their business model.”

Average dividends, or interest paid on savings, were below 1pc last year, the credit union registrar told the Credit Union Managers Association.

She said credit unions remain trusted and valued by their members.

Credit unions were encouraged to explore mergers with other community lenders.

Ms Donnery told the managers: “While I understand many of you have questions about restructuring, and indeed concerns, I would urge you to see it as a positive with the potential to build a strong and relevant credit union sector for the future.”

How shopping around could save you up to €500 a year


Ireland’s householders are missing out on savings of up to €500 a year by failing to seek out the best value for services, a government agency has found.

New research shows that tiny numbers of consumers are switching health insurance, bank accounts and television service providers.

The National Consumer Agency, which commissioned the research, said people who move to a different health insurer could save €500 a year.

Those who switched energy provider can save up to €240 a year, while big savings can be made from moving waste service provider and telephone service operator.

Consumers have been accused of inertia – doing nothing and ending up paying higher prices. Just four out of every 100 have switched bank accounts in the past year, despite both AIB and Bank of Ireland introducing new charges and fees for current accounts.

And fewer than one in 10 consumers has changed health insurance provider, even though there are now four players in the market and premiums have gone up by between 10pc and 27pc in the past year.

And small numbers have moved to get a better deal on mobile phone services and broadband.

Head of the National Consumer Agency Karen O’Leary hailed the fact that one in four consumers had now changed where they do their main grocery shopping.

High numbers moved to a different car insurer. 

However, only around 16 out of 100 consumers have moved their electricity and gas accounts to a different company. 

This is despite the fact that annual gas prices will have risen by €250 in past two years when a new Bord Gais hike in prices comes into effect in October.

Ms O’Leary added: “More consumers are aware that shopping around and switching providers can save them money.


“However, there is still a large level of inertia, with large numbers of consumers sticking with the same provider.

“This is surprising given the pressures on people’s income and the fact that the majority of those who switched did, in fact, save money.”

Many consumers still view switching as a hassle, the head of the National Consumer Agency said.

There was a big risk that householders were not making fully informed decisions by checking out all the prices in the market.

Large numbers of people who have not switched have never checked to see if a better deal is available.

The research, carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes, found that almost half of those who have not switched gas provider had never checked to see if a better deal was on offer.

And high numbers of householders have not checked out competitor prices to see if they could get cheaper electricity and telephone landline services.

Consumers reported that one of the biggest barriers to switching was a belief that that moving provider is more hassle than it is worth, but a belief that there is not much of a price difference between providers was another strong factor.

Other barriers included a distrust of the price offered and a difficulty in comparing prices.

Ms O’Leary added: “Switching may not be as difficult as you think. In recent years it has become a much simpler process in many sectors so it shouldn’t take long to see if you can get a better deal and switch if it’s worth your while.”

She added that staying with the same provider was not in itself a bad thing, providing you made the decision on an informed basis.

Young and middle-aged men in Ireland still dominate suicide stats 


Latest official figures show slight fall-off in suicide and self-harm rates. 

Young and middle-aged men remain most at risk from suicide in Ireland, the latest official figures show.

The National Office for Suicide Prevention’s annual report indicates 495 people took their own lives in 2010, of which over 80 per cent were men.

While the figure was lower than the previous two years, it remains higher than those recorded in the years prior to the economic recession.

“The latest confirmed figures for suicide by the Central Statistics Office for 2010 indicate that suicide rates in Ireland may be stabilising,”

The director of research at the National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF), Professor Ella Arensman, said.

However, she cautioned that the decrease in suicides coincided with an increase in deaths of “undetermined intent” which may have included “hidden cases of suicides”.

The report was one of three major reports on suicide and self-harm released today by the HSE.

The annual report of the National Registry of Deliberate Self-Harm’s revealed there were 12,010 incidents of self-harm recorded in emergency departments last year, representing a 2 per cent decrease on the previous year.

However, the self-harm rate were still 12 per cent higher than that recorded prior the downturn.

According to the registry, women aged in their late teens and men in their early 20s were most likely to hurt themselves.

The most common method used in self-harm, accounting for 69 per cent of all cases, involved an overdose of medication, with women being overrepresented, the report.

A separate report by the Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS) recorded incidences of two suicide death clusters in 2011 in Co Cork, with 13 in one 23km radius over three months, and seven over two months in a 28km area.

Minister of State with responsibility for Mental Health Kathleen said deaths by suicide were a concern to everyone.

“We have all been made aware of suicide a some stage in our lives, whether it was a family member, friend or a member of our community,” she said.

“The challenge of reducing suicide rates demands a very comprehensive and multi-layered response, with interventions at different levels and involving a range of stakeholders.”

Some advice on getting rid of wasps and a scary prediction for next year!


Wasps are a real nuisance at this time of the year, and unfortunately, they’ll be buzzing around annoying us for another month before they disappear for the winter. 

Rentokil says has been experiencing an increase in call-outs relating to wasps this year, in comparison to the last two years and predicts that next year will be an even bigger year for wasps. Over

Wasps are beneficial insects at the beginning of the season (May/June), as they are insectivorous they act as natural pesticides, killing other harmful insects such as greenfly.

However, they become a pest later on in the year (August/September) when they start to crave sugars due to the nest naturally breaking down and the workers becoming redundant. This is when they become more noticeable in our homes and gardens and when the risk of getting stung increases.

Dr Colm Moore of Rentokil advises: “At this time of year wasps have already performed their natural duty and worker wasps find they have increasingly fewer larva to feed rendering their role within the colony redundant.

“If you think that you may have a wasp nest in your home, we recommend a professional and safe riddance programme using insecticide, as many of the myths surrounding control measures are either unsafe or ineffective.

“Wasp populations tend to boom every three to four years. Over the last two years we have experienced fewer call-outs and now this year a substantial increase.

“If winter conditions this year are favourable we predict that next year will be an even bigger year for wasps. If you found wasps to be a nuisance this year then prepare to be inundated next year.

Urban myths of methods to get rid of wasp nests:

  1. • Bagging the nest and throwing it away – we don’t recommend this as not only would it not be considered humane it brings high risks to individuals getting stung, particularly by those wasps returning to the nest.
  2. • Setting the nest on fire – we strongly advise against this as the fire can quickly get out of control.
  3. • Water jets – this method is not effective or safe. It can make the wasps become aggressive and one ends up introducing a sting hazard to non-targets within the treatment area.
  4. • The only humane way to deal with a wasp nest in the home is by letting nature take its course; however, we don’t recommend this in many cases. It can be dangerous to have a nest nearby, particularly near young children, the elderly and pets. It is even more hazardous where individuals may be allergic to wasp and bee stings and who may go into anaphylactic shock if stung.

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