News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 12th September 2013

Enda Kenny defends Ireland’s tax regime as Brussels confirms inquiry into deals done

 

Taoiseach says Ireland is committed to ’transparent system’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended Ireland’s tax regime after Europe’s top competition authority launched an investigation into its dealings with multinational companies.

As the European Commission confirmed Ireland was one of three countries being examined about its tax arrangements, Mr Kenny insisted the state is committed to a “transparent” system.

He said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which released its economic report on the country today, was satisfied Ireland was not a “tax haven”.

“Ireland is very happy to participate internationally, work with the OECD and the other institutions to bring about a transparent and accountable system in respect of tax,” Mr Kenny said.

“And I welcome the strong confirmation from the OECD that Ireland is not a tax haven.”

The European Commission has sent requests to Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, asking them to explain their systems of tax rulings and to give details of any deals struck with certain multinationals.

Its preliminary examination could potentially lead to a formal investigation.

In June, the Government was forced to reject claims by two US senators that Ireland was a tax haven and had handed technology giant Apple a special deal.

Ireland’s ambassador to the US, Michael Collins, wrote to senators Carl Levin and John McCain arguing the country’s tax system is transparent.

However, the lawmakers said records obtained by their committee showed Apple, which has about 4,000 employees in Ireland with most based in Cork, paid a nominal rate far below Ireland’s corporation tax rate of 12.5%.

Mr Kenny today said the country was willing to work with its European counterparts to ensure a fair system.

“I can confirm here that at the Council of Europe meeting of the leaders, there was very strong support for getting involved in the base erosion, profit shifting requirement for discussion and international involvement in setting out a transparent system of taxation here,” he said.

Mr Kenny also insisted Ireland’s relatively low corporation tax rate would remain unchanged despite the latest wave of scrutiny on the country’s tax laws.

Opposition party Fianna Fáil urged the Government to deal with this “threat” as swiftly as possible.

European Affairs Committee member Timmy Dooley said he was surprised the Taoiseach was unaware the European Commission had been planning its probe.

“Our corporation tax rules are in accordance with OECD guidelines and robust defence of our position should be a diplomatic priority at the highest level of Government,” Mr Dooley said.

“Ireland’s corporation tax regime has been a cornerstone of our industrial policy for decades and any threat to it must be dealt with swiftly.

“Ill informed and politically motivated commentary threatens reputational damage to Ireland and the proliferation of the myth that Ireland is a tax haven.”

Nineteen held in rhino-horn raids on Traveller gang’s in Limerick

   

Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and members of the Emergency Response Unit have raided a number of properties in connection to a Europol investigation into the activities of an international crime gang

Nineteen suspects are in custody after a series of police raids on both sides of the Irish Sea as part of a major investigation into organised crime involving members of Traveller families.

The Criminal Assets Bureau raided homes in three areas here as well as solicitors’ offices in Limerick and Cork.

The arrests of 17 men and two women were all made in England and the North.

The suspects are alleged to be linked to several crime gangs – including an outfit known as the Rathkeale Rovers, which has been blamed for the theft of rhino horns across Europe.

The stolen horns are estimated to have a black market value of more than €40m.

One of the thefts was carried out last April at the National Museum’s collections resources centre at Balheary Road, Swords, in north Co Dublin, when eight horns, worth €500,000, were taken during an armed robbery.

Members of the bureau, backed up by armed officers and local gardai, swooped on houses in the Raheen area of Limerick city, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, and Newmarket, Co Cork.

Gardai said the bureau had been involved in a Europol initiative, which was set up specifically in 2010 to target the criminal activities of an international network of Traveller criminals.

Over the past three years, there have been more than 60 thefts of rhino horns and rare Chinese cultural artefacts from museums and private collections throughout Europe.

The garda operation focused on the assets and financial affairs of suspects who were also alleged to be involved in counterfeiting fraud, labour exploitation, tobacco smuggling and tarmac scams, as well as the rhino horn robberies.

As a result of the raids, gardai seized a large haul of documents, a small amount of cash and a number of artefacts.

Chief Supt Dave Sheahan, who is in charge of policing in Limerick, said those arrested in England were predominantly Irish people with English addresses.

He said the searches in Limerick and Cork were the culmination of a large policing operation in several countries and a very positive response by the gardai to targeting the assets of people involved in the crimes.

“While the operation was mainly carried out by the Criminal Assets Bureau, there was a large local input, which will feed into the system to help our colleagues across Europe to dent the activities of these criminal organisations,” he added.

SEIZED: Hundreds of police officers from 25 forces in England as well as the PSNI, and the Serious Organised Crime Agency carried out around 40 searches and seized cars, cash, suspected stolen property and documents from addresses in Essex, Cambridgeshire, London, Sussex, the West Midlands and the North.

Five men and two women were detained in London, four men in Cambridgeshire, two in Essex, one each in the West Midlands, Sussex and Nottingham and three in the North.

All were held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle, apart from a 54-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.

The English investigation was linked, in particular, with six crimes over a four-month spell at museums and auction houses.

Police said that while much of the stolen property had since been recovered, several high value items, particularly the Chinese artefacts, were still missing and a substantial reward had been offered for informationleading to their safe return.

Ryanair clips wings of online people who criticise the Airline

 

Airline outlines steps it is taking to identify people who are making anonymous critical comments about its attitude towards safety
Ryanair has outlined to a court in South Africa the steps it is taking around the globe to identify people who are making anonymous critical comments on the internet about its attitude towards safety.

The airline has secured an order forcing African telecoms group Telkom to furnish it with information that might help identify a person who has made internet postings using the tag alwaysflying. The company is also seeking information on a specific IP address in South Africa.

The person has made postings on an internet site called PPRuNe.org, which is used by pilots to discuss matters to do with their work.

Ryanair company secretary Juliusz Komorek told the court in an affidavit that one posting falsely portrayed the airline as having an incompetent flying crew and that this could affect the airline’s reputation and business.

The posting read: “I don’t care if it’s wind/ delays/ weather or anything, if you are flying around your destination eating into alternate fuel then you shouldn’t be a pilot. If they were employed at my company I would have fired the lot of them!”

Mr Komorek told the court the airline had no objection to honest, objective and legitimate comment, but would seek the removal of unlawful and wrong statements and seek a public apology.

The court was told Ryanair had engaged a law firm in Los Angeles, Holland & Knight LLP, to file libel proceedings against a number of defendants in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

It had also issued proceedings against Internet Brands in California, the registered owner of the PPRuNe.org site, and issued supoenas against Yahoo, Microsoft and Googlein pursuit of information.

The information gathered was examined for it by specialist consultancy company Word to the Wise, which idenfied IP addresses in Ireland, the UK and South Africa.

‘Always flying’
It is understood Ryanair has indentified the person who used the ‘always flying’ tag and will take legal proceedings as a result. In some cases the airline has secured public apologies from people who made anonymous postings as well as donations to charities, according to one source.

Earlier this year Ryanair got court orders in the Republic instructing Eircom and UPC to provide it with informationconcerning the identity of parties whom, the High Court was told, had made postings that falsely impugned Ryanair’s excellent safety record.

It has initiated up to six sets of legal proceedings in the Republic against individuals who made postings on PPRuNe.org concerning the airline, according to the source.

Preventative angioplasty could save thousands of lives for heart attack patient’s

 

Preventive angioplasty in heart attack patients cuts the risk of death and other serious complications, according to research by cardiologists.

The ‘PRAMI study’ involved 465 patients recruited between 2008 and 2013 and was conducted at specialist heart centres across the UK, including the London Chest, Norfolk and Norwich, Newcastle and Glasgow’s Golden Jubilee.

It concluded that heart attack patients who had stents – thin cylindrical metal mesh-tubes – placed in their other narrowed arteries at the same time as the one that triggered the heart attack were 64 per cent less likely to die, suffer another serious heart attack or have severe angina over the subsequent two years. There are around 103,000 heart attacks in the UK each year, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Professor Colin Berry, a co-author of the study from the University of Glasgow, said: “Currently, following a heart attack, patients undergo an emergencyoperation called an angioplasty. During this procedure, a stent is inserted into the blocked artery to restore normal blood function. However, around half of patients also have significant narrowing in other arteries which could cause another heart attack in the future.

“Historical guidelines recommend that only the artery which caused the heart attack should be treated, but our research shows improved outcomes for patients when all narrowed arteries are treated simultaneously.”

Senior author, Professor Keith Oldroyd, based at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, said: “The PRAMI trial shows very clearly that patients have a much better outcome if other narrowed arteries are stented at the same time as the one that triggered the attack. This strategy is also much more cost effective for the Health Service.”

The Golden Jubilee is one of the UK’s leading ‘heart attack centres’ with a concentration of resources, skills and expertise within the centre has enabled this state of the art national hospital to lead the way in research, development and academic activity which ensures innovation and improvements in patient care.

New Welsh law creates first opt-out organ donation system in the UK

 

A new law has been passed to create the first opt-out organ donation system in the UK.

The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act will turn the donation process on its head. It means that people not wanting to give up their organs after their death must sign a register– rather than choosing to take part.

Ministers hope a soft “opt-out” scheme – praised by medical experts but criticised by some religious leaders – will drive up transplant rates and save lives.

Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones heralded the new law as historic.

He said: “The Act has had a long genesis through committees and through the Assembly. It happens to be the most significant piece of legislation the Assembly has ever passed.”

The Act was unveiled in the media suite of the Welsh Government’s offices in Cathays Park, Cardiff, during a special ceremony.

The three-stage process began with the Queen signing the Letters Patent before Mr Jones, who also holds the title of Keeper of the Seal, used a hand-wound press to stamp the Act.

The new legislation became official after being given Royal Assent.

The Welsh Government has long said there is a desperate need to drive up transplantation rates – with 226 people in Wales waiting for a transplant.

Officials hope the new legislation will increase donors by around a quarter.

Once implemented, people will have to choose not to donate their organs and it would apply to over-18s who die in Wales if they have lived in the country for more than 12 months.

Organs made available under the system would be the same as the “opt-in” method – including kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas – and would not only go to donor patients in Wales. They could go anywhere in the UK.

The scheme faced opposition from some religious groups, which claimed it would make conscripts out of donors.

But ministers have denied this and described the system as a “soft opt-out”.

They say it will allow relatives or “friends of long standing” to object to someone’s organs being used if they had not asked to be removed from theregister. The final decision will rest with medical staff if they decide to continue with the process – provided a match has been found.

No organs donated in Wales under this method will go anywhere in the UK and vice-versa.

The new law will come into effect on December 1 2015.

Ministers will stage a two-year, £8 million publicity drive in the meantime so people are well briefed about the changes.

Wales’s Health Minister Mark Drakeford said people would be given plenty of information on how the new system works and what choices they have.

He added: “Even today people can help others by ensuring their loved ones know their wishes about organ donation and I would encourage everyone to have that conversation.”

Rare whale spotted off southwest coast of Ireland

  

Rare whale spotted off southwest coast Whale experts say this photo ‘almost certainly’ shows three True’s Beaked Whales 

One of the world’s rarest whale species is believed to have been recorded around 100km off the southwest coast of Ireland.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has said photographs taken during a research expedition to the Porcupine Sea Bight area “almost certainly” show three True’s Beaked Whales.

The IWDG described the whales as among “the most rarely seen animals on the planet”, with only two confirmed sightings in the wild since 1995.

It said the animals passed within 50 metres of the RV Celtic Mist research vessel on 4 September.

A total of eight different whale and dolphin species were recorded during the trip, including a humpback whale that was photographed breaching clear of the water.

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