News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday/Wednesday 22nd & 23rd September

Lowering the USC rate could cost Irish exchequer some €364m


Lowering the cost of the Universal Social Charge by a percentage point for 1.28m taxpayers earning over €17,575 would cost the exchequer €364m, or over half of all the amount that Finance Minister Michael Noonan has indicated would be available for tax cuts in his pre-election budget next month.

Increasing the €12,012 threshold for paying the USC charge to €14,000 would benefit 80,000 taxpayers and cost the exchequer €22m.

And increasing the same €12,012 entry point for paying the USC by €1,000 and re-aligning the 1.5% band would benefit all 1.74m taxpayers who pay the USC, or 72% of all income earners. That measure alone would cost €49.7m.

The estimates come from the Irish Tax Institute which yesterday published a host of figures on the costs of the fiscal options facing the finance minister in the budget.

Since last April, Minister Noonan has repeatedly said the Coalition plans to unveil an expansionary budget of between €1.2bn and €1.5bn. The measures would be evenly split between tax cuts and spending increases.

But analysts say the Tax Institute figures reveal the dilemma facing the minister.

Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Merrion Capital, said that cutting income tax or announcing other personal tax measures would likely be more beneficial because cutting the USC rates appears very costly.

“There are no easy options,” Mr McQuaid said. “I think they will focus on low income workers this year ahead of the election” because there are likely to be more votes in cutting income tax rates or thresholds.

“It does underline that €750m [in tax cuts] is not a lot of money, but of course they may raise money on petrol because oil prices are low, to compensate,” Mr McQuaid said.

Philip O’Sullivan, chief economist at Investec Ireland, predicted that the minister’s tax changes would cost about the same as the tax measures he introduced in the 2015 budget.

Mr O’Sullivan said there would be probably tax cuts of over €600m benefiting workers. There would however unlikely be any increase in the Vat rate for the hospitality industry because the election is looming, he said.

On possible income tax measures, the Irish Tax Institute says that increasing the 40% income tax band by €1,000 to €34,800 would benefit all single persons earning more than €33,800. That measure would cost the Exchequer €72.4m.

Increasing both 40% income tax bands for married two income earners by €1,000 would cost €74.3m.

On taxes on capital, lowering the 33% tax on gift and inheritance taxes would cost €12m for each percentage point reduction.

The Institute says its research shows that Irish taxpayers on €75,000 pay more personal tax than in Sweden, Spain, the UK and the US.

It says that it is accepted globally that the best way to boost innovation in the economy is to “keep down tax on internationally mobile activities as to attract the key executives who contribute to the economy.”

The country needs “talent to grow our start-ups, our SMEs and to continue attracting international companies to Ireland.”

The Institute argues that other countries, including Scotland, Australia and Belgium, have been eager to tackle the “key issue” of attracting highly-skilled overseas’ staff through the use of personal tax incentives.

Ireland regains it’s top 10 rank at eighth in the list of innovative economies


Switzerland holds onto the top spot as Ireland advances three places in Global Innovation Index 2015

Ireland has moved into the top ten of the world’s most innovative economies. Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the index.

Ireland has moved into eighth position in a list of the world’s most innovative economies, moving past Luxembourg and Denmark in the Global Innovation Index 2015. Last year it fell back three places to 11th in the benchmarking survey.

The annual report, released by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, surveys 141 economies around the world, using 79 indicators to determine innovation capacities and measurable outputs.

Simon Harris, Minister of State for International Financial Services, welcomed the result.

“Ireland’s rise three places into the Top 10 is a welcome acknowledgement that our hard won recovery is recognised internationally, and speaks to this Government’s commitment to rebuild our reputation on the global stage. A continued focus on innovation-supporting policies is key to translating our recovery into a sustainable economy and prosperous society into the future”.

Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the index, while China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda are among a group of countries outperforming their economic peers.

Spanish Armada dead remembered in Streedagh Grange Sligo ceremony

1,100 died when, in violent storms in September 1588, three ships from the Armada were driven ashore and wrecked

Spanish lives marked + in memory of 1,1000 Spanish Soldiers lost at Streedagh Grange, Co. Sligo.    Laying the wreath in watery grave.

The Spanish Armada shipwrecks in 1588 at Streedagh, Grange Co Sligo, The lives  lost some 427 years ago were marked as above picture and the laying of a wreath show in the watery grave on the golden sands of Streedagh beach last Saturday the 22nd September 2015.

A ceremony to remember the 1,100 soldiers from three Spanish Armada ships who perished at Streedagh, Co Sligo, more than four centuries ago has been held on the beach there. Hundreds of local people stood for a minute’s silence as the Last Post was played and a wreath carried to the sea by members of the Sligo Sub Aqua Club on Saturday afternoon.

Eddie O’Gorman, chairman of the Grange Armada Development Association, said it was important to mark the spot where so many lost their lives 427 years ago. “Those people got neither a wake nor a burial,” he said.

Locals and tourists etched 1,100 crosses into the sand on the beach to mark each life lost when, in violent storms on September 25th, 1588, three ships from the Armada were driven ashore and wrecked there. La Lavia, La Juliana and the Santa Maria de Vision were part of Philip II of Spain’s failed attempt to invade England.

Attention has focused on the wrecks since the discovery in February of timbers from La Juliana. In June and July, divers from the underwater archaeology unit of the Department of Arts,Heritage and the Gaeltacht recovered several cannon.

Declan Bruen from Streedagh discovered the timbers on the beach. He was among those taking part in the weekend ceremony, the highlight of the Celtic Fringe Festival. “I was with the divers when they brought up the cannons and it was remarkable to think that no one had seen them for 427 years,” said Mr Bruen. “But it was very important not to let the 1,100 people who died here be forgotten in all the excitement about the artefacts.”

Local man Seán Gilmartin (86) from Moneygold said the cannons, which were transferred to the National Museum, should find a permanent home near Streedagh. “I grew up near the beach and it was my playground and somewhere I fished,” he said, “but it was also a graveyard for many and we should remember that locally.”

Target to reduce mortality missed


A study from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) led by UNICEF on progress to reduce child mortality has revealed that although there has been substantial progress globally during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Target period of 1990-2015, only 62 of 195 countries with available data have met the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality (U5MR) by two thirds over these 25 years.

The research, published in The Lancet, by Dr Danzhen You and co-authors on behalf of the UN IGME, is the first to include U5MR estimates up to the MDG target year (2015) and to construct scenario-based projections from 2016 to 2030 to provide insights into the burden of under-five deaths over the next 15 years based on the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of 25 or fewer under-five deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.

The global U5MR has fallen from 91 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 43 in 2015. During the same period, absolute under-five deaths worldwide dropped from 12.7 million to 5.9 million. In total, an estimated 236.3 million children under age five died in 1990-2015. The poorest global region of West and Central Africa continues to have the highest U5MR in the world.

Globally, U5MR reduced by 53% in the past 25 years and therefore missed the MDG 4 target (of two-thirds). The data show that two regions — East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean — achieved the MDG 4 target. At the country level, 62 countries achieved the MDG 4 target. Among them, 24 are low- and lower-middle income countries, from a variety of world regions — including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Georgia, El Salvador, Bolivia, Egypt, Cambodia, Nepal and Yemen.

Encouragingly, for 102 countries, the data suggest a faster decline in 2000-2015 as compared to 1990-2000. This acceleration since 2000, when the MDGs were established, resulted in about 18 million fewer under-five deaths globally, as compared to a scenario where the pace of decline would have remained the same as in the 1990s.

While there is no doubt that some countries have fared better than others, the data show that there is room for improvement, even in the 116 countries which already, in 2015, have a U5MR lower than 25. Should 2015 rates continue to 2030, a further 6 million children will die in these nations; yet if all of them reached the current lowest U5MR of 2.3 per 1,000 live births recorded among countries with more than 10,000 live births (Finland), then this would be reduced to 2 million.

Should the SDG target be met, this would save the lives of an extra 38 million children under five than if 2015 U5MR are maintained through to 2030. If current mortality rates are maintained, 94 million children will die during 2015-2030; if the rate of progress from 2000-2015 is maintained from 2015-2030 then 69 million will die, while if the SDG target above is met, the death toll in under fives will be 56 million.

In order to achieve the SDG goal on under-5 mortality, a total of 47 countries need to accelerate their U5MR progress, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa along with two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) in South Asia. The authors highlight that, even with progress in U5MR, the actual numbers of child deaths may remain stagnant or even increase in sub-Saharan Africa, since in the region the under-five child population is likely to increase by around 42 million from 2015-2030.

Thus reduction in under-five mortality rate must outpace increases in under-five child population to continue the decline in total deaths.

300m-year-old volcanoes discovered in Ireland near Mullingar

Geological Survey’s Tellus Programme unearths highly magnetic volcanic rocks


An image generated from the aircraft survey showing results of the airborne survey over counties Offaly, Kildare, Meath, rural Dublin and northern parts of Wicklow and Laois.

Geographically, Ireland is often likened to a saucer: upturned at its mountainous edges and flat in the middle. But that reading doesn’t take account of newly discovered volcanoes south of Mullingar.

The Geological Survey’s Tellus Programme has unearthed aspects of the long buried history of counties Roscommon, Longford and Westmeath.

The maps reveal new detail of 300 million-year-old volcanoes on the Westmeath/Offaly border, which appear in the new airborne geophysical data as a cluster of small magnetic bodies.

The survey, conducted using low flying aircraft, also shows prominent bands of highly magnetic volcanic rocks several kilometres deep near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, which are associated with a major geological fault that can be traced through Ireland to Scotland.

The researchers say these structures are considered important in the development of mineral deposits and their location will be of considerable interest to exploration companies.

The survey aircraft, use technology that effectively sees through Ireland’s often deep glacial deposits and extensive peat cover.

“Tellus continues to reveal extraordinary new detail in Ireland’s geological landscape buried beneath our feet, building upon existing data gaps and developing natural resource opportunities,” said Geological Survey of Ireland principal geologist Ray Scanlon.

The fourth phase of Tellus is underway across the east of the country where the airborne survey over counties Offaly, Kildare, Meath, rural county Dublin and northern parts of Wicklow and Laois is almost 60 per cent complete.

Attention is currently focused on county Dublin.

The aim of the programme is to complete the geological ‘jigsaw’ of Ireland which will support better environmental decision making, radon mapping, smart agriculture and increased investment in mineral exploration.


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