News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 7th August 2015

AIB to cut variable mortgage rates by 0.25% for all customers

Bank reports H1 profits of €1.2bn on back of significant writebacks


AIB said on Friday that it will cut its variable mortgage interest rate for both new and existing customers by 0.25 %, as it announced first half pre-tax profits of some €1.2bn, up by 50% on the same period in 2014.

AIB said on Friday that it will cut its variable mortgage interest rate for both new and existing customers by 0.25 per cent, as it announced first half pre-tax profits of some €1.2bn, up by 50 per cent on the same period in 2014. It is the third rate reduction from the bank in recent months and follows pressure from Government and public interest groups alike to bring variable rates in line with Euro zone norms.

Customers on a € 200,000 mortgage should save €27 a month or € 325 a year from the latest cut AIB said, which will bring the bank’s standard variable rate down to 3.65%; the rate at Haven will fall to 3.72%; and at EBS to 3.7%. Some 156,000 customers across AIB, EBS and Haven are expected to benefit from the reduction which will come into effect on October 1st. AIB’s chief executive, Bernard Byrne, said, “We committed to keep mortgage rates under constant review and to reduce these rates for both new and existing customers if and when AIB’s funding conditions allowed. Fortunately, we are again in a position to do so today.’’

The bank also announced its H1 results for the six months to June 20th 2015, revealing pre-tax profits rose by €0.8 bn to €1.2bn, on the back of signifcant writebacks of some €540m. AIB said the writebacks reflected “progress in case by case restructuring of impaired loans and the improved economic environment”.

The bank’s net interest margin, excluding the eligible liabilities guarantee (ELG), rose to 1.92 per cent, up from 1.60 per cent in the same period in 2014. Fees and commissions rose by 6 per cent due to increased levels of customer activity. Lending rose by 21 per cent to €6.9bn, while impaired loans fell to € 18bn, down € 4.2bn since December 2014 and by € 11bn since December 2013.

AIB chairman Richard Pym said: “The financial outcome for the half-year is significantly ahead of the expectations we had at the beginning of the year and reinforces our endeavours to see all of the €20.8 billion invested in AIB by Irish taxpayers repaid. Whilst any decision on a future sale of AIB is entirely one for the Irish Government, the results so far this year significantly improve the prospects for a successful transaction whenever it happens.”

The bank said its loan to deposit ratio of 99 per cent was broadly unchanged since December 2014, and net loans were also broadly in line with December 2014 at €64bn.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan welcomed the results, noting the performance puts the taxpayer in a “strong position” to recoup its € 20.8bn investment.

“I welcome the strong set of results announced by AIB today and their confirmation that they are well positioned to start returning material amounts of capital to the Irish State. This morning’s comment from the bank’s CEO that subject to regulatory approval, the bank is strong enough to do this now, means that the State’s finances should receive a significant benefit in the coming year independent of any decision to sell some of our shares in the bank.”

Inspection of children’s homes is criticised by Ombudsman

Monitoring appears to be ‘discretionary’


The way in which children’s residential homes are inspected and monitored has been severely criticised by the Ombudsman for Children.

There are currently around 100 private and voluntary children’s residential centres in Ireland, which cater for some 340 children. They are monitored by Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – and formerly the HSE.

However, an investigation by the Ombudsman found major gaps in how these centres are registered, monitored and inspected. These gaps included:
-Delays in inspections due to a shortage of inspectors
-Little evidence of unannounced visits
-No evidence of visits at night or weekends
-No national protocol on how often monitoring visits should take place
-No agreed policy on access to inspection reports, which are not published in any format.

In fact, the Ombudsman, Dr Niall Muldoon, said that the monitoring of these centres appeared to be viewed as a ‘discretionary activity’. He has recommended that inspections should be transferred to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) ‘without delay’.

HIQA is already responsible for the inspection and monitoring of State-run children’s residential centres, with Tusla providing the same service within non-statutory children’s centres.

“The process of inspecting, registering and monitoring these residential centres is an important safeguard for children who are living there. Failure to carry out these functions effectively can potentially have an adverse effect on those children. By seeking to have HIQA take over this process I am looking to create confidence in the independence and consistency of the process for overseeing the homes of some of our most vulnerable children,” Dr Muldoon commented.

As part of the investigation, the Ombudsman assessed inspection reports from 49 centres and monitoring reports from 60 centres. These all related to the period between January 1, 2012 and August 31, 2013.

“It is hoped that this investigation will positively influence the ongoing reforms of Ireland’s child and family support services. Given the importance of independent inspection and of ensuring that all children in the care of the State receive the same standard of care, it is important that the transfer of these functions to HIQA is progressed without delay,” Dr Muldoon added.

Meanwhile back in Co Mayo:

Aras Attracta unit given 28 days to avoid closure

Hiqa issues closure notice for five bungalows at Co Mayo facility


Part of the controversial Áras Attracta home for people with learning disabilities has been given 28 days in which to make improvements by the State’s health watchdog or else face closure.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has issued the facility with a notice of a proposal to cancel the registration of one of the centres on the campus.

The notice was issued last Tuesday following a two-day unannounced inspection by Hiqa staff of the facility in Swinford, Co Mayo, on July 12th and 13th. This followed previous critical reports on the facility published by Hiqa over the last two years.

The closure notice affects one of the three centres at Áras Attracta, comprising five bungalows. Bungalow 3, which featured in an undercover television documentary last year showing residents being abused, is one of the units affected.

The issues raised in relation to the centre largely relate to governance shortcomings and poor management, it is understood.

The HSE, which operates the facility, has 28 days in which to show it is remedying the fault identified in order to avoid closure.

Staff were expected to be briefed on Thursday on developments.

Six people are facing charges of assaulting residents as a result of a garda investigation begun after last year’s documentary, which showed residents being force-fed, slapped, kicked, physically restrained and shouted at.

Homeless families kicked out of temporary accommodation as council credit card is maxed out


The homeless crisis in Dublin

It has emerged that a number of homeless people were kicked out of temporary accommodation in Dublin this week after the credit card used by the local authorities to secure temporary accommodation was maxed out.

The incident highlights how vulnerable many people have become in the homeless crisis gripping Dublin.

Cllr Jack Chambers (FF) was contacted by one woman who was forced to sleep in an industrial estate with her three children last night as a result.

The Homeless Executive, which processes all homeless accommodation requests on behalf of the four local authorities in Dublin, have confirmed that their credit card was maxed out for two days.

Cllr Chambers called it an extremely disturbing development.

“Homeless families were literally turfed out onto the streets this week because the funds were not there to provide temporary accommodation.

“This is a damning indictment of the Government’s attitude to the homelessness crisis,” he said.

Cllr. Chambers said that Dublin is facing a shortfall of €18.5 million in funding from the Department of the Environment for homeless services this year.

“This will have a ripple effect right across the Capital.  Unless it is addressed, more and more families will be forced to sleep rough,” he said

The family of man who died on daughter’s wedding day express thanks

‘To all who helped on tragic occasion’


Kilronan Castle.

The family of a man who collapsed and died on his daughter’s wedding day have expressed their thanks to everybody who helped on the tragic occasion.

Sean McCauley (70) walked his daughter Anne up the aisle, just hours before he collapsed and tragically passed away.

The tragedy struck the McCauley family of Co Donegal on their big day at Kilronan Castle in Ballyfarnon, Co Roscommon.

Mr McCauley’s brother-in-law Liam McGowan expressed thanks on behalf of the family to all who helped on the tragic occasion and noted in particular the attendance of three members of the staff of Kilronan Castle Hotel at Sean McCauley’s funeral.

“Given time, I’m sure the family will get over their great loss”, he told the inquest.

The band had finished up playing at the wedding reception and the disco had started after midnight on May 17 last.

“We were having a great day and about 1.20am the disco had started and we went to say goodbye to Sean and the family. Sean was on the dance floor with his wife and as I turned away a man behind me went to shake Sean’s hand”, Mr McGowan said.

At that moment Sean collapsed and emergency medical help was summoned.

Dr David Swan, who was a wedding guest, attended him as well as two paramedics who arrived following an emergency call for an ambulance.

The medics worked on Sean for 30 minutes, but he was unresponsive and he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Consultant pathologist, Dr Caroline Brodie carried out a subsequent autopsy and told the inquest that Sean had a previous history of cardiac problems. He had suffered a heart attack.

He had a complete blockage of the right coronary artery and Dr Brodie determined the cause of death to be cardiac failure.

The inquest jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and Roscommon Coroner, Desmond O’Connor expressed his sincere sympathy to the McCauley family.

Mr O’Connor described it as “an unfortunate and very sad start to married life” for Mr McCauley’s daughter and he hoped that the family could put it behind them in time and look forward to better days.

Mr McGowan said the family wanted to express their thanks to all who had helped on the tragic occasion.

New shrimp-like species found off southwest coast of Ireland

Deep-sea crustaceans have ability to strip a pig carcass of meat in a matter of days


The paracallisoma alberti species of amphipod.

Two new species of shrimp-like crustaceans have been discovered off the south-west coast of Ireland by British researchers.

The two species are amphipods, small scavenging crustaceans around 3mm in length. Their discovery was reported in the scientific journal Zootaxa, in a paper by researchers Dr Tammy Horton and Dr Michael Thurston of the National Oceanography Centre in Southhampton.

What the researchers say is most notable about the newly identifed species, given the names Paracallisoma idioxenos and Haptocallisoma lemarete, is their scavenging patterns.

Amphipods generally move in swarms to strip the carcasses of marine animals including whales and fish, and these new species have the ability to strip a pig carcass in a matter of days.

Dr Horton named the species in honour of the late taxonomist Roger Bamber, who died in February of this year.

“I gave the species name ‘lemarete’ to one of the amphipods because it translates from Greek to ‘Bold and Excellent’, which is the motto on Roger Bamber’s coat of arms.”

Dr Horton described amphipods as “incredibly diverse and adaptable”, with over 10,000 known species.

Professor Andrew Gooday at the National Oceanography Centre said that amphipods like those discovered are highly common and found in large numbers. “They occur from shallow waters to the deepest part of the ocean.”

These newly discovered species are only found in deep waters, over 2.5 km below sea level.

“There’s no danger of paddling in the sea and encountering flesh-eating crustaceans,” Prof Gooday added.


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