Daily Archives: May 3, 2015

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Sunday 3rd May 2015

irish Junior Finance Minister says new plans to tackle mortgage arrears crisis will be announced within next two weeks


The Junior Finance Minister says the Government will announce new plans to tackle the mortgage arrears crisis within the next two weeks.

Simon Harris claims the measures will specifically target people in long-term arrears.

Currently a third of all those who’re behind on their payments are in mortgage arrears of 720 days or more.

The details of the plans have yet to be finalised. However on The Sunday Show today Junior Minister Harris said he wants to include an alternative to the banks’ veto on personal insolvency arrangements:

You can listen back to the full interview with Simon Harris below:

In the Spring Statement earlier this week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, “the Government is actively considering a range of options to strengthen the mortgage arrears framework in order to ensure that families in long term arrears can find a solution.

“The Government intends making an announcement on this issue in the coming weeks. A particular focus will be on enhancing the role of the Insolvency Service and the range of solutions that become available through an insolvency arrangement,” he added.

Over-hype of Irish Government’s ‘rhetoric’ not realistic for returning emigrants

Experts criticise the Irish Coalition of ‘rhetoric’


The Irish Government is overestimating how quickly Irish emigrants will return home and the boost they will bring to the economy, experts have now warned.

The Government is overestimating how quickly Irish emigrants will return home and the boost they will bring to the economy, experts have warned.

Specialists say an influx of emigrant couples, individuals and families over the next couple of years will put increasing pressure on the housing and rental market.

Previous homeward migration trends also suggest that returning emigrants will face many psychological challenges upon their return.

Dr Mary Gilmartin, who specialises in migration research at Maynooth University and is the author of a new book, Ireland and Migration in the 21st Century, said she is not seeing any pragmatic evidence that the Government is prepared for return migration.

She told the Sunday Independent: “I see rhetoric about wanting to get people to return, but I don’t see any evidence of any practical things that are directed towards making it easier for people to return.”

Dr Gilmartin says she believes emigrants will have difficulties accessing mortgages and other loans without a credit history. “I don’t think the rate of return will be as high as predicted and I don’t think the economic situation is as positive as Government suggestions indicate.”

Last week, as part of the Government’s Spring Statement, Finance Minister Michael Noonan pledged to lure tens of thousands of emigrants home with more favourable tax measures.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the new proposals are “an important step” in returning to net inward migration by 2017. However, Dr Gilmartin argues a lot more must be done before emigrants living in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States book flights home.

“It’s a very patchy recovery. Some areas are doing well, but other areas are still struggling. The upheaval of moving a family is such that I can’t see people engaging in that kind of upheaval to move a family back again quite so quickly,” she said.

Dr David Ralph, assistant professor of sociology at Trinity College Dublin, warned many emigrants may be attracted back under false pretences. “They wouldn’t want to be luring people home with various false guns that there has been this sort of major upswing in the economy,” he said. “The reality can be quite different and I think people are more realistic about the slow nature of the recovery.”

Last month, as part of his St Patrick’s Day address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said 2016 will be the year where the number of our people coming home “will be greater than the number of people who leave”.

However, Dr Ralph, who did extensive research on Irish returning from the US during the Celtic Tiger, contests this prediction. “Will there be a rush? I don’t think so, I don’t think the economy is necessarily buoyant enough to create the return seen during the boom years,” he said.

Dr Ralph also anticipates problems with welfare entitlements as access to certain social assistance payments, including Jobseeker’s Allowance, partly depends on length and purpose of any absence from Ireland.

He believes slower, organised return is more sustainable. “If we have a housing crisis in Dublin as it stands and up to 50,000 Irish people return, then we are going to have an even bigger housing crisis because they will move to urban areas,” he said, adding that part of the over-heating of the economy from 1996 to 2006 was due to the rush of return migrants.

“The rate of return migration during the boom further fuelled the property frenzy, so if it does happen, we need to keep an eye on the property market.”

Thousands of Ireland’s drivers wrongly identified as having failed to pay their car insurance


A close-up of the ANPR system in traffic corps vehicles.

Hundreds of thousands of drivers have been wrongly identified as having failed to pay their car insurance – forcing Gardaí to suspend the use of one of their key IT systems.

The computer network was acquired by the gardai for about €6m and is part of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition, or ANPR, system.

But database errors led to the incorrect designation of the drivers involved.

Difficulties were highlighted in a meeting between officials at the Departments of Transport and Justice and Gardai.

A handwritten note, which was recorded by a senior official in the Department of Transport, appears to blame motor insurance companies for failing to update the database properly.

It said that there was an issue “with insurance companies not notify [sic] of part payment of cover. Database had to be pulled – members not managing data properly. Getting 1.1 million hits for no insurance – this is not logical.”

It is unclear how many drivers were monitored by garda patrols as a result of the incorrect data information.

It is also not known for what length of time the database was suspended, or what was the financial cost of the error for the various parties involved.

Garda HQ replied to a series of questions submitted by RTÉ’s ‘This Week’ programme, which obtained the note.

“An Garda Siochana is aware of an issue in relation to certain insurance related data on the ANPR system. We are working with all the partner stakeholders to resolve the issue,” it said.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show there are about 2.4 million licensed vehicles in the State.

This meant the number of hits for non-payment of insurance on the garda IT system was almost half the entire number of vehicles on Irish roads.

Insurance industry studies suggest the number of uninsured vehicles is around 6pc of the total number, which would mean that around 900,000 of those hits for non-payment were false.

The body which represents motor insurers said it had no comment to make. ANPR systems are generally considered to be valuable enforcement tools when managed correctly.

Madeleine McCann breakthrough for police as ten break-ins at holiday apartments probed


Madeleine McCann

The police investigation into the disappearance of toddler Madeleine McCann is gathering pace after the discovery of further information.

It was eight years ago today that Madeleine vanished from her holiday apartment in Portugal.

No trace of the toddler has ever been found, despite an intensive police hunt and campaign by her parents.

Detectives had previously been probing 18 burglaries at tourist apartments in Praia da Luz which matched the circumstances by which they believe Madeleine was taken.

These burglaries had seen the thief gain entry to the premises via a window.

However after intensive police investigation in the case, a further ten apartments have now been included in the investigation.

Forensic evidence from these apartments is now being compared to evidence from the apartment Madeleine was staying in.

The development was revealed in new book ‘Looking for Madeleine’.

Last week her parents won a libel payout against Portuguese detective Goncalo Amaral.

He had been on trial over claims he made in a book that the couple were involved in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Irish campaigners hold a march to legalise MARIJUANA


The National Organisation for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is holding a demonstration in Dublin this afternoon calling for the drug to be decriminalised. 

The group said it would benefit to the Irish economy if cannabis were legalised and sold through reputable outlets. 

The rally started in the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square and is making its way towards Leinster House.

Director of NORML Ciarán Maher said: “The issue of cannabis in our society isn’t one that’s going to go away. It’s the third highest used drug in the country after alcohol and tobacco.

“Criminal gangs are making massive profits off this. For society as a whole it would be far better if it were taken away from the criminals and into the legitimate tax economy.”

The extinction of large Herbivores could lead to ‘Empty Landscapes’


New research shows the decline of some of the world’s largest herbivores like Rhino’s could lead to “empty landscapes” in our most diverse ecosystems.

New research shows the decline of some of the world’s largest herbivores could lead to “empty landscapes” in our most diverse ecosystems.

The recent analysis focused on 74 large herbivore species, especially those from Africa and Asia, Oregon State University reported.

“Without radical intervention, large herbivores (and many smaller ones) will continue to disappear from numerous regions with enormous ecological, social, and economic costs,” said William Ripple, Oregon State University distinguished professor in the College of Forestry. “I expected that habitat change would be the main factor causing the endangerment of large herbivores. But surprisingly, the results show that the two main factors in herbivore declines are hunting by humans and habitat change. They are twin threats.”

Kent H. Redford, then a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida, first used the term “empty forest,” which suggested that while fauna may appear plentiful, its loss imposed a long-term threat to ecosystems.

“Our analysis shows that it goes well beyond forest landscapes,” Ripple said, “to savannahs and grasslands and deserts. So we coin a new term, the empty landscape.”

The findings showed 25 of the largest wild herbivores now occupy only about 19 percent of their historical ranges. This is primarily due to competition from livestock production, which has tripled globally since 1980 and reduced the amount of accessible land. Hunting is also believed to play a significant role in the species’ decline.

“The market for medicinal uses can be very strong for some body parts, such as rhino horn,” Ripple said. “Horn sells for more by weight than gold, diamonds or cocaine.”

The effects of this devastating species decline is predicted to include a reduction in food sources for large carnivores, diminished seed dispersal for plants, more severe and frequent wildfires, slower soil nutrient cycling, and habitat changes for smaller animals.

“It is essential that local people be involved in and benefit from the management of protected areas,” the researchers wrote. “Local community participation in the management of protected areas is highly correlated with protected area policy compliance.”


Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 2nd May 2015

Exports in Ireland at highest level ever

Latest good news from Ireland?


The latest good news from the green isle is on the export front.

Government officials in Ireland are ecstatic as the economy continues to gain traction and a silver lining in the subdued European Union.

Exports soared last year by 10%, hitting an all-time record of 18.6 billion euro.

The growth trajectory began in 2010, on the tail end of the financial crisis in Ireland post-GFC. In that year exports reached 13.9 billion euro. As the economy has improved and expanded, particularly in the technology sector, exports have risen each year.

According to the official figures published by Enterprise Ireland, the growth was in every market Ireland exports to, and in every sector in which it is engaged in exports.

“Record exports of 18.6 billion euro were achieved by Irish exporters, representing an increase of almost 10% over 2013 figures. Significantly, growth was recorded across all sectors and in all international markets. These results are reflected in the record jobs performance by Enterprise Ireland clients in 2014 where the agency’s clients recorded the highest net job gains in the history of the agency and further validate Enterprise Ireland’s investment in indigenous industry,” the Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland, Julie Sinnamon, said as the figures were announced.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny puts the improvement in the economy, which has flowed into exports, down to job creation, predicting that by 2019 there will be more people employed in Ireland than at any other time in its history.

“Action Plan for Jobs continues to be the driving force behind our commitment to bring our country back to full employment by creating a sustainable export-led economy. It has proven itself effective in delivering our targets and our targets continue to be ambitious.

In the coming months, we will deliver one year early on our target of adding 100,000 jobs,” he said Thursday. “By next year, our plan will see more Irish people returning to work in this country than leaving. By 2018, we will have replaced every job lost by the previous Government with more sustainable jobs and by 2019 there will be more people working in this country than ever before.”

AIB announces cut in variable mortgage interest rates


Allied Irish Banks has announced a misery 0.25% drop in variable interest rates for new and existing customers.

In addition, the banks EBS and Haven customers will benefit from a 0.38% cut, the banks said yesterday.

The cuts will take effect over the next couple of weeks and will benefit about 160,000 Irish customers.

Following the move, AIB customers with a €200,000 mortgage will save €329 annually, based on a 25-year term -EBS/Haven SVR customers will save €508 a year.

The rate cuts apply to both owner-occupier and buy-to-let mortgages.

The state owned AIB came under pressure recently to cut variable interest rates but the rate remains just shy of 4%.

The bank has also reported a further reduction in impaired loan volumes to €20.5bn to €1.7bn in the first quarter.

It also said total number of accounts in arrears in the Irish residential mortgage portfolio decreased by 6% since December 2014 and 23% since December 2013.

The bank remained profitable for the first quarter of 2015.

David Duffy, outgoing chief executive said: “Notwithstanding the improving operating environment, challenges remain including continued high levels of arrears in the mortgage and SME portfolios and elevated levels of impaired loans.

He added that the bank is also benefitting from quantitative easing but this also has a negative impact on pension calculations.

Joan Burton speaks of her decades-long search for her birth parents


Speaking about privacy today, the Tánaiste said children should be entitled to know who their mother is.

The TÁNAISTE JOAN BURTON has spoken of her search for her birth parents as she today told the Burren Law School that she believes children have the right to know who their mother is.

In her address on privacy, Burton said adoption in Ireland happened very much “in the shadows” and for decades there was little or no regulation.

“Children were put up for adoption, often against the will of the mother, usually under the auspices of religious bodies, without legal protection for them or their adoptive parents. The birth mother was told that her identity would be kept secret and would never be disclosed to her child, or anyone else.”

The Tánaiste herself has spoken before about the fact that she was raised by adoptive parents and today she discussed her own search for her birth parents.

In my case, after three decades of searching, it was only in the late 90’s, as attitudes changed, that I was successful in tracing cousins, aunts and uncles. Unfortunately, by then both my birth parents were dead.

On the issue of her own privacy, Burton said she became nervous that the story of her adoption would become known to some peope in the media who might twist it in a way that would embarrass both herself and people connected to her birth family. It was revealed after the 2007 election, when she did an open interview about it,  and by this time her search had already begun.

As the law stands today, contact can only be established between an adopted child and their biological parents of both parties agree.

“I believe this proposition is no longer tenable,” the Tánaiste commented.

“In my view, it is an essential part of a child’s identity that they should be entitled to know who their mother is.

“Children have a right to their identity she say’s.”

However, she acknowledged that this right to information must be balanced against the mother’s right to privacy and striking the balance is “sensitive and legally difficult”. She said the government must deal with this issue and legislation is expected before the end of this term.

We need to understand allergies


In December 2013, the people of Ireland learned a hard lesson in how serious allergic reactions to food can be

Emma Sloan, 14, was out for a meal with family when she ate a sauce containing peanuts and suffered a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. She died on Dublin’s O’Connell St because she did not receive a life-saving injection of adrenaline in time.

Few of us will ever experience a reaction as severe as Emma did, but it’s vital that we all pay more attention to food allergies. In 2004, a report by the European Food Safety Authority found that food allergies occurred in up to 3% of the European population and 6% of children.

“Here in Ireland, the latest research focuses on 2-year-old children and it’s found their overall rate to be 4% so we’re within international norms,” says Jonathan Hourihane, professor of paediatrics and child health in University College Cork and a specialist in allergic disorders in children.

“We’re also following the international trend of increased food allergies. Between 1990 and 2010, allergy rates trebled in the US and there’s no reason to suspect it’s any different here.”

This means we should all learn to spot the symptoms of allergic reactions and to identify and avoid the triggers that cause them. It’s also worth knowing what to do if we see someone suffering from anaphylaxis, the most severe allergic reaction of all.

A short food list accounts for approximately 90% of all food allergies. These include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat.

Reactions to these foods can vary. For some people, it’s as mild as a red rash and clears up in a matter of hours. For others, their skin erupts in hives or their eyes, hands, feet, lips, mouth, and throat swell.

Some people don’t even have to ingest the food to react; just breathing in the dust from peanuts can be enough for them to react.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe reaction of all. It begins in the mouth and throat within minutes of eating a food. It quickly affects the skin, respiratory tract, and cardiovascular system. It can affect these parts of the body individually or in combination but it needs to be treated rapidly.

Anyone diagnosed with a severe allergy should carry an auto-injector of adrenaline. If this emergency shot is not administered within a short time of eating the food, the reaction — like that of Emma — can be fatal.

There are no Irish statistics on fatalities caused by food allergies but in the UK, up to 20 people die each year from anaphylaxis. About half of those reactions are caused by food.

Anaphylaxis Ireland is a support group that aims to raise awareness of allergy-related issues in this country. It provides help and information to those suffering with allergies; lobbies to improve labelling on food products; and educates the public about the seriousness of certain allergies.

“Any awareness that helps people understand the seriousness of an allergy that can be life-threatening is positive,” says Fiona Kenna of Anaphylaxis Ireland. “However, it’s important for severe allergy sufferers to take responsibility for their own allergy. They have to carry their prescribed auto-injectors with them.”

We citizens of the world are all shareholders of how we deal with climate change


Each global citizen has the right to voice an opinion on the running of business when it comes to the survival of the planet. One could say that on this occasion, we are all shareholders.

That fundamental equality under the stars is the backdrop today for bringing together religious leadership acting from a moral and social imperative on issues related to climate change and institutional investors, acting on risk. Both are doubtless well aware of that fundamental maxim for any business: ignore your clients at your peril.

It is a global movement. In a strong indication of their commitment  four investor groups across the globe recently published a guide  outlining a range of strategies and solutions investors can use to address climate change. It is a joint project involving IIGCC in Europe, Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) in North America, IGCC in Australia/New Zealand and ASrIA’s Asia Investor Group on Climate Change.

The guide outlines a range of strategies and solutions investors can use to address climate change, including low carbon investment, managing and reducing carbon exposure in portfolios, and engagement, as investors around the world work to scale up their efforts to invest in clean energy and shift to lower carbon assets.

In the UK they just moved to divest £12m from tar sands oil and thermal coal – two of the most polluting fossil fuels -imposing investment restrictions for the first time because of climate change.

This news came hard on the heels of a story by the Financial Times, which reported that although Prince Charles “does not comment publicly on his personal financial dealings and sources at Buckingham Palace confirmed that ‘his private investments and his charitable foundation do not have any fossil fuel holdings.’”

The UK business media tone on coverage of climate change has changed substantially as the subject becomes ever more high-profile.

As for publicly listed businesses – they are feeling the pressure. At BP’s recent AGM a climate and carbon risk resolution won a 98.28% vote in favour. The decision was described by Ian Greenwood, Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) Deputy Chair as “the culmination of three years of steady engagement and demonstrates the effectiveness of an active approach to ESG and structural risk questions by pension funds and other institutional investors.”

The ‘Aiming For A’ investor group behind the resolution contained faith-based networks as well as investors – and is explained further at the Church of England Media Centre, where the most recent post is a welcome for the Vatican Statement on climate change.

This extension of collaboration beyond a traditional institutional investor base has had a profound impact on the gathering of support. The board of oil giant Shell- which holds an AGM at The Hague on May 19 – has already expressed support for a similar ‘Aiming for A’ resolution which will be put to the vote.

Norway’s national oil company, Statoil, also holds its AGM on May 19. In an AGM notice quietly posted – and flagged by PIRC, the shareholder advisory body – its board has formally stated its support for Item 7.

‘Statoil Strategic Resilience from 2035 and beyond’ is the third of almost identical climate resolutions introduced at BP and Shell after active engagement and collaboration. The success of all three would, indeed be the equivalent of a great ‘hat-trick.’