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.’


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