News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 24th September 2015

Tanaiste Burton has a go at ‘excessively greedy’ landlords

Consistently increasing rents


Labour Leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton TD

Tánaiste Joan Burton has hit out at “excessively greedy” landlords who she says are consistently looking to increase rent prices.

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Ms Burton also claimed that tenants have been asked to leave properties by landlords whose children are returning from abroad.

The Labour Party leader was responding to accusations by Fianna Fáil that the Government to failing to address the housing crisis.

Ms Burton said 65,000 people have been provided with good housing through the rent supplement scheme.

And she rounded on some landlords who she says are consistently looking for more money from tenants.

“They are excessively greedy and they are looking for more and more money every couple of months to a scale that is not justified on economic ground,” Ms Burton said during ‘Leaders’ Questions’.

But the Dáil debate turned angry after a Sinn Féin deputy accused Ms Burton of speaking “waffle”

Ms Burton hit back and said Sinn Féin is guilty of “cynicism”.

Fianna Fail finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said people are being driven into homelessness and deserve to hear solutions.

He said in his own constituency of Cork South Central, the community welfare officer is failing to assist families because of the caps on rent supplement.

Mick Wallace TD alleges €45m ‘fixers’ fees were paid in Nama deal

Claims Cerberus looked to sell loans back to developers before they even bought portfolio


Independent TD Mick Wallace has made further allegations under Dáil privilege about the largest property sale in Irish history.

Independent TD Mick Wallace has made further allegations under Dáil privilege about the largest property sale in Irish history.

He claimed that €45 million in “fixers’ fees” had been paid out during the controversial sale to US company Cerberus Capital Management of an 800 property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

The Wexford TD also claimed Cerberus went to some of the major players before they even bought the portfolio and offered to sell big developers back their own loans for 50 pence in the pound and “they jumped at it”. But they had to pay a fee, he said.

Mr Wallace had revealed in the Dáil before the summer that £7million was lying in an Isle of Man bank account, linked to the Nama sale and intended for ‘fixers’.

In the Dáil on Thursday he said that was “only for openers. €45 million has been paid to fixers”.

He also said “Cerberus have been able to sell loans for double what they paid for them in a very short period of time. Why couldn’t Nama do that?”

He said that Nama sold the loans in what was called ‘Project Eagle’, for approximately 27 pence in the pound. “The missing 73 pence in the pound has been picked up by the taxpayer in the south.”

He said Cerberus was now under criminal investigation in two countries for Project Eagle. “Why haven’t they been disqualified from Project Arrow. How in God’s name can ye tolerate that?” he asked Tánaiste Joan Burton.

Mr Wallace said the latest sale portfolio had a par value of €7.2 billion that “Nama is threatening to sell for in the region of €1billlion”. He said 50 per cent of it was residential in the south and it looked like Cerberus was going to buy it.

He also described as “nonsense” claims by Nama that Frank Cushnahan, a member of the agency’s Northern advisory committee, and one of the people lined up to receive a ‘fixer’s fee’, was not privy to sensitive information or anything confidential with regard to Project Eagle.

“It is nonsense for Nama to suggest that the problems are all about the purchase. There are serious problems about the sale of Project Eagle by Nama to Cerberus and it stinks to the high heavens.”

But Ms Burton rejected his calls for a commission of investigation. She insisted that the sale of the northern Ireland portfolio was a Northern Ireland issue and that the police in the North and the UK fraud authorities should be allowed to investigate the matter.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams asked Ms Burton if she had raised the issue with the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach.

“Nama is a national body, this is taxpayers’ money,” he said. “There is enough evidence here to justify a number of investigations.”

Global Irish race to raise funds for charities in Ireland

Virtual baton to be passed between 15 cities worldwide for Irish Run the World event this Saturday


The goal of the second annual Irish Run the World event is to raise another $100,000 for Irish charities.

Everyone knows about St Patrick’s Day, or “St Patrick’s month” as it’s known in the US. But what about the other 11 months of the year? Is there room for another global Irish event when the diaspora can come together for a common purpose?

This was the question that I and a group of 150 Ireland FundsYoung Leaders grappled with on a cold January’s afternoon in New York in 2014, when we gathered for our third Global Young Leaders Summit.

I got involved with the Ireland Funds in 2009 in Chicago. I had been living in the US for five years, and was keen to find a way to stay engaged with home while giving something back. I attended Queen’s University in Belfast during the 1990s and saw first-hand the amazing work the Funds did in promoting peace and reconciliation through its philanthropic work, with a wide range of organisations from sports to education, and cross-community initiatives to arts and culture. The Ireland Funds had a Young Leaders programme I was able to get engaged with.

Since 1976, The Worldwide Ireland Funds, founded by Dr Anthony O’Reilly and former US ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, has raised over $500 million (€443 million) for Irish charities. The Funds are active in 12 countries and donors are from every corner of the world. What unites them is a shared connection to Ireland, whether as new emigrants or 4th and 5th generation Irish. The Young Leaders – supporters aged between 25 and 40 – decided it was time to pass the baton to the new generation of Irish living around the world. The answer was the “Irish Run the World” – a global 5km race.

Last year, 11 cities across the globe participated, starting in Sydney with Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan as the race ambassador. The virtual baton was passed to Melbourne, London, Dublin, Boston, New York, Dallas, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago before concluding in San Francisco.

The goal of the Young Leaders was to raise $100,000 for charities in Ireland, which was achieved with the help of global sponsor KPMG, and numerous other city sponsors who backed friends, families and clients who were running.

In Washington DC, we gathered in Georgetown Waterfront Park for a picturesque run along the banks of the Potomac River. After the race, runners took advantage of a gorgeous autumn day to celebrate their achievement.

This year’s run will take place this Saturday September 26th, starting with newcomer Brisbane and connecting 15 cities, including other new entrants Hong Kong, Toronto and Los Angeles. The goal is to raise another $100,000 for Irish charities, while providing a healthy event for Irish people and friends of Ireland to get together under a fun philanthropic banner.

Regardless of the city you are living in or visiting this weekend, whether it be London, Toronto, Chicago or Sydney, you can participate and play your part in raising much-needed donations for Irish charities.

To get involved, donate or run the Irish Run the World, to take you to your city, and follow #ylglobal5k on Twitter.

Vegetables might be making you fat despite your healthy intentions


A study of eating habits over 24 years has turned up the best and worst fruit and veg for a dieter’s dinner plate

Five a day: But some of the fruits and veg we perceive as healthy aren’t doing us any favours

A shock study has revealed that the vegetables which many of us are packing in to make up our healthy diet may actually be making us fat.

It might be no surprise to carb-shunners that potatoes aren’t great news, but academic research has also put sweetcorn on peas on a hitlist of foods to avoid.

The study was conducted by the prestigious Harvard School of Public Health, who have analysed dietary details from more than 130,000 adults in the US.

It shows that potatoes and celery should be binned in favour of blueberries, prunes and cauliflower if you’re watching your waistline.

The study took place over a stretch of 24 years, at four-year intervals, and asked participants about their habits with 131 different foods, including fruit and vegetables, as well as lifestyle choices like exercise and TV viewing.

The findings included news that every extra portion of fruit eaten daily was roughly equal to a pound and a half of weightloss, according to the Daily Mail.

Spud you like: But stay back if you’re watching your waistline

Those who ate sweetcorn has a 2.04lb weight gain, while peas added 1.13lb and potatoes added 0.74lbs.

Good fruits included prunes, apples, pears, strawberries, raisins and grapes, which were regularly eaten in place of desserts and are rich in polyphenols.

These plant compound are thought to alter metabolism and the way the body processes sugar.

Prunes saw a 1.28lb loss, while apples were 1.24lb, and grapes saw a 0.70lb.

  Green food: Research showed peas added peas added 1.13lb in weight

The top vegetable was cauliflower, which is commonly being used to substitute carbohydrates like rice and even pizza dough made by healthy eaters.

Writing about the findings in journal PLOS, researchers said: “Although the magnitude of weight change associated with each increased daily serving was modest, combining an increase of one-to-two servings of vegetables and one-to-two servings of fruits daily would be associated with substantial weight change, especially if projected to the population level.”

But although there was good news for cauli lovers, those taken with sweetcorn, peas and baked, boiled or mashed spuds.

Brown rice and wholemeal bread are offers as good potato swaps.

A black hole that’s 30 times bigger than it should be has left NASA scientists baffled


Is it just an anomaly, or will we start seeing more of these galaxies?

Scientists have many ways to measure things around us in the universe, and so they can immediately notice when something doesn’t fit a pattern. A black hole in the galaxy SAGE0536AGN (we know, poetic) has defied all preconceptions about the size of a black hole relative to its galaxy.

SAGE0536AGN was initially discovered with Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light, and is thought to be at least nine billion years old. It contains within it an incredibly bright object – called an active galactic nucleus – caused by gas being accumulated by a central supermassive black hole. Because of the size of the black hole, its immense gravitational field pulls the gas in at incredible speeds, causing the light to be emitted.

By measuring the speed of the gas moving around the black hole, astronomers at Keele University and the University of Central Lancashire have been able to discern its size. And it was a surprise.

The red and blue in this illustration is similar to a prism – it shows whether the light is moving to or away from us

The mass of the galaxy itself has been calculated at 25 billion times the mass of the sun. But the size of the black hole was calculated at 350 million solar masses – 70 times smaller than the galaxy, but still far bigger than it should be. Thirty times bigger, to be precise.

“Galaxies have a vast mass, and so do the black holes in their cores. This one though is really too big for its boots — it simply shouldn’t be possible for it to be so large,” said Dr Jacco van Loon, an astrophysicist at Keele University and the lead author on the new paper.

So scientists are now pondering whether the black hole has been growing quicker than the galaxy, or whether the galaxy stopped growing prematurely. The galaxy was actually found by accident, so there’s a chance we could find many more like it – but until then we won’t know whether this galaxy really is as strange as it seems, or whether it’s just the first we’ve found of an entirely new breed of galaxy.


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