News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 30th October 2014

Ireland’s mortgage holders get a good break with rate reductions


AIB, EBS and Haven are to reduce fixed and variable mortgage interest rates for new and existing customers.

This marks the first time that mortgage lenders have reduced variable rates in a number of years. The move will benefit at least 146,000 existing mortgage account holders in Ireland.

AIB Group said customers with a €200,000 mortgage will save up to €334 per annum, based on a 25 year term, under the revised rates.

The reductions include a 0.25% decline in the standard variable rate for customers and the introduction of new lower Loan to Value (LTV) and fixed rates across AIB, EBS and Haven.

AIB Group is also introducing new fixed mortgage rates across all three brands. These include 3.80% in respect of its three-year fixed rate and 3.90 per cent for its five year fixed-rate mortgages.

AIB and Haven are cutting all LTV mortgage rates by 0.24 per cent, while EBS is reducing all its LTV rates by 0.25%. AIB and Haven customers with an LTV of 50% or less will see their interest rate drop to 3.85%, while EBS customers will see it fall to 3.80%.

“AIB is now in a position to reduce variable mortgage interest rates due to the bank’s underlying positive performance and funding cost reductions. The introduction of the bank’s new fixed rate pricing will provide better value and certainty for customers,” said Bernard Byrne, director of personal, business and corporate banking, AIB Group.

Revised variable rates come in to effect from December 1st with fixed rates to come into effect from 4 November, the group said.

AIB said existing fixed-rate customers will not be impacted until their current fixed-rate term expires. However, they will then have the option to fix again at the new rates once their current term expires.

Ireland signs up to the new global tax agreement


Ireland has now signed up to a global tax agreement with dozens of other countries to put an end to banking secrecy and tackle international tax evasion.

The finance ministers of about 50 countries gathered in Berlin yesterday with over 30 of them, including Michael Noonan, signing a pact allowing for the automatic exchange of tax information.

Under the agreement, banks with foreign customers will have to forward details to tax authorities, which in turn will pass the information on to the various national authorities in the countries where the customers are based.

Obsolete format.

“Banking secrecy, in its old form, is obsolete,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said.

Mr Schaeuble, who hosted the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes meeting, said banking secrecy was no longer appropriate when people can “transfer their money all over the world at the press of a button via the internet”.

Ministers from Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain presented the agreement yesterday afternoon.

More than 40 countries have agreed to adopt the standard starting in 2017, while others including Switzerland and China have committed to start in 2018.

The Revenue Commissioners said yesterday that banks here will have to prepare due diligence by the start of 2016 with the first exchanges of information starting in January 2017.

Under the agreement, information on foreign customers exchanged between a bank and tax authorities will include details of any interest or dividends earned, as well as account balances and the sales proceeds from any financial assets.

Business sentiment in Ireland at the highest level since 2006


60% of Irish firms reporting an increase in business activity over the summer months

Irish business sentiment has reached its highest level in eight years, with almost 60% of firms reporting an increase in business activity over the summer months.

Irish business sentiment has reached its highest level in eight years, with almost 60% of firms reporting an increase in business activity over the summer months, according to the latest the KBC Bank Ireland/Chartered Accountants Ireland business sentiment index.

The improvement was broadly based, with all sectors reporting an improvement in business conditions and all the components of the index stronger than in the second quarter.

Some 29% of firms cited the health of exports markets as the key factor in improved sentiment, with cost trends signaled by 18% of those surveyed and access to credit by 15%.

Just 9% of firms reported weaker conditions over the last three months.

KBC Bank Ireland chief economist Austin Hughes said the strongest element in the autumn survey was companies’ assessment of their own business volumes in the past three months.

“The recovery seems to be broadening across sectors and firms and a further improvement is expected in the final three months of the year,” he added.

Chartered Accountants Ireland chief executive Pat Costello said the survey results were “very encouraging” in that they show a broadly based pick-up in activity as well as greater business confidence in relation to the outlook for the broader Irish economy.

“Companies’ assessment of Budget 2015 was broadly favourable, with 13% of firms intending to increase their hiring next year as a result”.

INTERNET can make some people very stupid

SAYS JOHN LYDON former sex pistols front man


John Lydon thinks the internet is to blame for making a lot of young people “incredibly stupid”.

The former Sex Pistols front man has hit out at the worldwide web for being a hub of “mindless gossip and nonsense” and thinks it is problematic for youngsters nowadays because they spend all their time surfing the internet rather than engaging in physical conversations.

He said: “I think the internet is the road to idiocy and has made a lot of young people incredibly stupid and more involved with mindless gossip and nonsense.

“It’s spineless, faceless, there’s no face-to-face confrontation.

“You’ve lost the power of emotion and dialogue; it’s just flimsy catchphrases. It’s complacency.

“Facebook and Twitter are my arch enemies.”

Despite disliking the internet, the 58-year-old singer is a big fan of TV advertising, particularly the 2008 Country Life butter advert he starred in and he insists fans of his group Public Image Ltd (PiL) should be too because the band would never have reformed without the sandwich spread.

He added to Shortlist magazine: “I couldn’t give a tuppence f**k what a*******s have to say.

“I needed to raise some money to get Public Image back together and, having the good sensibility to have eaten a lot of butter in my life, I thought it was appropriate.

“Every penny I earned from that went into reforming Public Image.

“Music lovers should rejoice at that and have some buttered toast on me says John Ludon.”

‘Buggy balls & crisps’ to hit supermarket shelves soon


The traditional shopping list of bread, milk, eggs and cheese is set to change in the Netherlands with a major supermarket chain unveiling its first-ever range of insect-based products this week.

From Friday, customers at Jumbo stores in two northern Dutch cities will be able to add “buggy balls”, “buggy burgers” and “buggy crisps” to their shopping carts in a roll-out plan to put edible insect products on shelves in 400 stores across the country by early next year.

“Edible insects are not only healthy, but sustainable and give the opportunity to do something about replenishing ailing food resources,” Jumbo spokeswoman Laura Valks told AFP.

Although some insect-based foods are already commercially available at Dutch wholesalers, Jumbo is the first national supermarket chain to stock shelves with products made from meal-worms, buffalo worms and moth larvae, Valks said.

Shoppers are to fork out between 5.95 euros ($7.49) and 6.79 euros per portion, she added.

The products come in different flavours. For instance “buggy crisps” made from crispy fried moth larvae will be available flavoured with plain salt or paprika.

Last year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said insects could supplement diets around the world as an environmentally-friendly food source, as it urged Western consumers to get over their “disgust” of eating creepy-crawlies.

An estimated two billion people — a third of the world’s population — are already eating insects because they “are delicious and nutritious”, the FAO said.

Insects most commonly consumed by humans are beetles (31%), caterpillars (18%) and bees, wasps and ants (14%), followed by grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (13%), an FAO report said.

World’s top stem cell science experts to gather in NUI Galway


World-leading experts from the field of stem cell science have convened at NUI Galway last night and again todayfor the Galway International Stem Cell Conference which will focus on the latest developments in basic science and translational aspects of Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC ) research in Ireland, the UK and worldwide.

A type of adult stem cell, Mesenchymal Stem Cells or MSCs, have shown huge potential for use in many medical therapies.In addition to plenary talks from internationally renowned speakers, the programme is structured to include oral paper presentations selected from submitted abstracts. With Ireland hosting the event this year, there will be a particular focus on some of the ground breaking research taking place here.

The latest plans from researchers at NUI Galway for stem cell trials in Galway, focusing on arterial disease in the lower leg and osteoarthritis in the knee will be discussed.

According to Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI at NUI Galway: “The impact of this conference will be high because it focuses on those aspects of basic science and clinical evaluation which represent obstacles to translation.

New biological insights have emerged recently about stem cells and their clinical potential has been demonstrated. However, there are still substantial gaps in knowledge in the field, such as how we can standardise the mass production of stem cells in facilities around the world.”

As of 2014, Ireland now boasts its own specialist facility which can ‘grow’ stems cells for use in such clinical trials in humans. Located at NUI Galway, the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI ) is a custom-built facility certified to the highest EU manufacturing standards and criteria.

The CCMI at NUI Galway is the first ever facility on the island of Ireland to receive a licence from the Irish Medicines Board, and firmly positions the country as a global player in the regenerative medicine field.


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