News Ireland daily BLOG update Monday

Monday 30th September 2013

Transport Minister Varadkar blames high taxes for Ireland’s brain drain


Our best and brightest people are paying too much tax and should be given some relief to stop the brain drain, a senior minister has warned.

Highly qualified younger workers are going to Canada, the US and Australia because they are getting “a better lifestyle, higher pay and lower taxes”, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar told the Irish Independent.

He said recent figures showing many highly skilled workers are emigrating highlight the need to keep taxes low.

“Equality and fairness are important, but we must not push our best talent out of Ireland,” he said.

Mr Varadkar’s comments will be seen as a signal of Fine Gael priorities once Ireland exits the bailout, and of putting down a marker to Labour if it tries to push again for tax increases during the lifetime of this Government.

The Dublin West TD said that while it is too early to introduce tax cuts now, it should be on the agenda, particularly for income tax and the Universal Social Charge (USC), once the country exits the bailout.

Mr Varadkar’s comments came after junior finance minister Brian Hayes said the Government cannot continue to “tax the hell” out of people and as preparations for the October 15 Budget intensify.

The Government will get the crucial figures for the September Exchequer returns today, which will allow it to make a final call on the Budget adjustment.

The Coalition is keen that people are given some indication that years of pain are coming to an end, even if austerity will not end just yet.

“We need to show people that we’re on the way out of this situation,” a Labour source said.

Mr Varadkar said: “People calling for more tax hikes for the successful need to consider the effect that would have.”

He added that young people moving up the career ladder are seeing almost half their extra earnings taken in tax.

The Coalition almost came to breaking point before last year’s Budget, when Labour demands for a 3pc increase in the USC failed when Fine Gael countered with a proposal for an across-the-board cut of 3pc in welfare rates.

Negotiations for the upcoming Budget will intensify this week, and the Government is expected to decide on a final figure for the exact number of cuts and taxes. The final figure is expected to be between the originally planned €3.1bn and the €2.5bn Labour is pushing for.

Any leeway is unlikely to be used to cut taxes. Labour wants some let-up in welfare and education cuts while Fine Gael says any extra money will be used to stimulate jobs.

But the new tax concerns have been sparked by a study released last week which found a disproportionate number of highly educated young people are leaving the country, with rural Ireland most affected.

MYTH: It said 62% of recent emigrants have a degree from a third-level course of three years or more.

The UCC study also found half of those emigrating left full-time jobs to go to another country and less than a quarter were unemployed.

Mr Varadkar said the study “debunks the myth that everyone who is emigrating is unemployed”. “In fact, most have jobs and many are highly skilled or qualified,” he said. “I know from my own experience and peers that we are losing really well-qualified people to other countries.”

He also pointed out that not only has the economic crisis reduced salaries, but workers were being moved into the higher rate of tax – at 52pc – when they are earning average wages.

Northern Ireland vote sought for Irish presidential elections


Irish citizens in Northern Ireland should be given the right to vote in Irish presidential elections, the Republic’s constitutional think-tank has recommended.

An overwhelming majority of the 100 members of the Constitutional Convention backed proposals to extend the vote to Irish emigrants around the world, and to people in Northern Ireland.

The recommendations will now go to the Irish government, which will decide within four months whether to hold a referendum on the issue.

Of those polled at the conference, 78% said voting rights for presidential elections should be extended to those living outside the Republic.

A further 73% agreed that residents in Northern Ireland should be allowed to have their say on thenext Irish president.

But Alliance’s man at the Convention urged caution. Stewart Dickson MLA said the Good Friday Agreement did not create joint authority or sovereignty.

Members of the Irish diaspora worldwide contributed to the convention meeting in Malahide, Co Dublin, via video-link.

One in five (20%) of Irish motorists evading fines, A report finds


State spending watchdog says Government debt rose by almost 14% in 2012

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy, the State’s public spending watchdog, has called for the Garda to urgently address ‘significant’ shortcomings in the fixed penalty system.

Up to one in five drivers are evading fines because of weaknesses in the fixed penalty system, an investigation has found.

Offenders are getting away with breaking the law because their cars are registered to a company or because officials cannot track them down.

There is also a high failure rate in serving summons by the Garda, with the C&AG finding that around half the summonses issued were not served.

Redesigned Irish passport unveiled by Tánaiste Gilmore


New lower cost identity will feature images of Aviva Stadium and Rock of Cashel

The picture page of the new Irish passport unveiled today.

The newly-designed Irish passports have been officially launched by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

The passport features images of iconic Irish landmarks including the Croagh Patrick, Kylemore Abbey and Croke Park. There will also be drawings depicting Irish music and dance and Gaelic games. All Irish passports issued from October 3rd will have this new design.

The new book contains enhanced security to stop forgery with Ogham characters reacting to heat and images only visible with a special lens that border control will have.

Mr. Gilmore said “We have combined the latest security technology with selected imagery in order to produce a passport which represents Ireland – our culture, our history, and our people”.

“Today, Irish passport holders travel more often and to more destinations than at any time in the past. In 2012, we issued over 600,000 passports to Irish citizens around the world. I would urge Irish citizens to check the validity of their current passport and to apply for a new book well in advance of any travel” he added.

The images used range from a perspective of the Cliffs of Moher to the new landscape along the river Liffey, with the Dublin Convention Centre to the foreground and the Custom House and Liberty Hall.

The passport also features poems from three Irish poets: Nuala ní Dhomhnaill, William Butler Yeats, and James Orr.

More than 630,000 passports issued in 2012 – of which about 350,000 issued to adults – and 67% of all passport applications were received through the Passport Express channel.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says almost 53,000 applications were received through the London Passport Office, the highest number outside the State. After London, the highest number was issued in Canberra – 5,600 passports, followed by 5,300 by the Consulate General in New York.

July was the busiest month last year, with 78,000 passports issued – while December was the quietest with just over 20,000.

New drugs could cure skin cancer in the years ahead


Skin cancer sufferers could be cured of the disease with new breakthrough drugs, experts claimed, as they hailed the “beginning of a new era”.

Seriously ill patients are said to have seen “spectacular effects” after receiving the medication which could eventually be used to combat other forms of the condition.

It is the first time scientists have come this close to providing a remedy for advanced melanoma.

The development will bring hope to thousands of people who are diagnosed with skin cancer in Britaineach year.

Until now the prognosis for advanced melanoma has been very poor and many patients die within months of diagnosis.

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re just at the beginning of a new era of cancer treatments using the immune system.

“These drugs that can turn the body’s own defences against a tumour are starting to show real promise for melanoma and other types of cancer.

“It’s only through research that we can gain the insights needed to develop new treatments for cancer patients.”

The new cure contains two types of drug – ipilimumab (known as ipi) and anti-PD1s which break down the defences of cancer cells and are still in clinical trials.

Doctors can effectively reboot a patient’s immune system by combining the two.

One in six patients are already being saved by the ground-breaking treatment, the European Cancer Congress has been told.

A new combination of drugs could mean more than half are cured of the deadly condition.

Professor Alexander Eggermont of the Institut Gustave Roussy in France said: “Advanced] melanoma could become a curable disease for perhaps more than 50% of patients within five to 10 years.”

“If I’d made this bizarre prediction five years ago, people would have said I was mad,” he said.

“But it now looks like we are going to have control of advanced melanoma for years, in a substantial proportion of patients.”

Advanced melanoma is diagnosed when the disease has spread and can no longer be surgically removed.

Advice on the Cancer Research UK website currently warns patients that this form of skin cancer “can’t be cured”.

It states: “Treatments are available that can shrink the melanoma or stop it growing. It may be possible to control it for quite a while.”

Cygnus spacecraft docks with International Space Station for first time


Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus capsule, delivering food and supplies to astronauts, successfully docks with the International Space Station for the first time.

Nasa’s newest delivery service arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday after a week’s delay, bringing more than half a ton of meals to astronauts onboard.

With the linkup, Orbital Sciences Corporation became only the second company to accomplish such a shipment.

The space station astronauts used their ship’s huge robotic arm to latch on to the Cygnus capsule, as the two vessels zoomed 260 miles above the Indian Ocean.

“Everybody is just so excited,” Nasa’s Mission Control radioed. Ground teams described the achievement as “epic” and “superb.”‘

It was supposed to reach the space station last Sunday, but was held up by inaccurate navigation data, later fixed by a software patch.

Cygnus then had to wait until a Russian spacecraft brought three new astronauts in midweek.

The successful arrival means the Virginia-based company can begin making good on a $1.9 billion contract with Nasa for a series of Cygnus deliveries.


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