News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 26th February 2016

An Irish Times exit poll shows Coalition are well short of overall majority

Significant recovery for Fianna Fáil and gains for Sinn Féin and smaller parties, Ipsos MRBI survey finds

   

The Coalition parties have fallen far short of an overall majority in the next Dáil, according to an exit poll conducted for The Irish Times by Ipsos, MRBI.

Fine Gael support has slumped from 36.1% in the last general election to only 26.1% a far worse result than the party anticipated at any stage of the campaign.

The poll indicates the Labour Party received just under 8% support, far behind the 19.5% it achieved at the 2011 general election.

The Coalition parties did not benefit from a swing in the final days of the campaign, according to the poll..

Fianna Fáil appears to have made a significant recovery since the last election and is could almost double its number of Dáil seats.

Support for Sinn Féin has increased since 2011. There are also big gains for Independents and smaller parties.

The poll indicates the parties’ vote shares to be: Fine Gael 26.1%; Labour 7.8%; Fianna Fáil 22.9%; Sinn Féin 14.9%; AAA-PBP 3.6%; Greens 3.5%; Social Democrats 2.8%; Renua 2.6%; and Independents 16.1%.

At the last general election in 2011, Fianna Fáil took 17% of the first preference vote and Sinn Féin 10%.

In Dublin, Fine Gael has emerged as the largest party with 25.7% of the vote, followed by Sinn Féin with 15.4%, according to the poll. Fianna Fáil is on 14.6%, Labour 9.4% and others received 34.9%.

The 2016 General Election Exit Poll was conducted exclusively on behalf of The Irish Times by Ipsos MRBI, among a national sample of 5,260 voters at 200 polling stations throughout all constituencies in the Republic of Ireland.

Voters were randomly selected to self-complete a mock ballot paper on exiting the polling station. The accuracy level is estimated to be approximately plus or minus 1.2%.

If the final result is close to the exit poll predictions, the Fine Gael/-Labour Coalition will be far short of the numbers required to form a majority government.

Prediction

The complexity of the single transferrable vote system makes it difficult to provide an accurate prediction of the number of seats which will be won by the various parties .

At the last election Fine Gael got a seat bonus of 10%. In the unlikely event of a similar seat bonus this time, it would end up with 56 seats. But a more likely seat bonus of 5% would give the party 50 seats. The new Dáil has 158 seats, eight fewer than in the last one.

It is even more difficult to predict the number of seats the Labour Party will win if it takes just under 8% of the vote. It is likely to be in the range of eight to 12.

One thing that could benefit the party is that the poll indicates very strong transfers from Fine Gael to Labour.

Fianna Fáil, on 23%, should come close to, or even surpass, its target of 40 seats, which would represent a remarkable achievement for party leader Micheál Martin.

Sinn Féin on 14.9% also looks like it could make reasonable gains. Even with no seat bonus, the party should be able to break into the 20s range.

At the dissolution of the last Dáil, Fine Gael had 67 seats, Labour 33, Fianna Fáil 21 and Sinn Féin 14.

Disappointment

The strong performance of smaller parties and Independents confirms the trend evidenced in The Irish Times polls going back over the past 18 months.

The poll results will come as a severe disappointment for both Government parties even though they are very close to the figures they have been getting inIrish Times polls for the past year or so.

The expectation in the Coalition parties was that they would gain support as the election got closer and voters weighed up the merits of stability versus change.

That message did not resonate with the voters and the outcome will generate uncertainty about who can form the next government.

The turnout in the election appears to be down on the 70% figure achieved in 2011. Party sources estimated it might be about 65%.

Turnout was described as “uneven” in the run-up to the polls closing, with politicians claiming many people were still undecided up to the last moment.

The counting of votes begins at 9am today, with the first counts expected to be announced in the late afternoon.

Property tax take should rise with house prices

The EU says

Bailout reforms deemed not enough to remedy all problems resulting from crash

    

The European Commission report said potential new entrants into the mortgage market were probably deterred by the still-high level of non-performing loans and issues with access to property collateral underlying home loans.

The European Commission has strongly criticised the Government’s decision to suspend property tax revaluations, as it underlines a litany of vulnerabilities in the recovering Irish economy.

In an 85-page report published at 10pm yesterday – just as polling closed in the general election – the EU executive also suggested the property tax could be extended to non-agricultural land.

After an election campaign dominated by debate on promised cuts on taxes on income, the commission’s report said the tax wedge on labour in Ireland – the amount taken in taxation – was second-lowest in the EU. Revenue from VAT was also low compared to other member states, it added.

Non-performing loans

Turning to high variable-rate mortgage charges, the report said potential new entrants into the mortgage market were probably deterred by the still-high level of non-performing loans and issues with access to property collateral underlying home loans.

The report on Ireland, which is a regular assessment published each February, said reforms undertaken in the bailout programme had not been sufficient to tackle all the legacy issues from the crash.

“These issues continue to represent vulnerabilities and imbalances that affect the economy, hinder Ireland’s investment potential and pose challenges to macroeconomic policymaking,” it said.

These observations were made even as the commission said Ireland’s “remarkable” economic rebound had broadened and gained momentum in the last two years.

In relation to the property tax, the commission said the yield remained below the EU average.

“A revaluation of self-assessed property values used to calculate local property tax liabilities was initially planned for 2016, but has been delayed by three years to November 2019,” it said.

“This decision represents a lost opportunity to broaden the tax base as residential property prices have increased substantially since the first self-assessment in 2013.”

An increase in the share of revenue from the property tax would reduce the cyclical sensitivity of government revenues and encourage more efficient allocation of land resources, the commission said.

Housing supply

“Extending the coverage to adjacent non-agricultural land would broaden the tax base and improve the efficiency of land use. The latter point may pertinent given current housing supply constraints,” it added.

On housing, the report said demand exceeds supply by a wide margin in major urban areas.

Vulnerabilities persist as Ireland’s debt-to-GDP ratio remained high, it said. While financial sector vulnerabilities were in decline, profitability remained weak. Capital positions were sound but challenges remain as banks adapt to new prudential rules.

“Non-performing loans fell further with the recovery but the ratio remains among the highest in the euro area.”

Unemployment had fallen below the EU average but long-term unemployment and the low work intensity of households remained a matter of concern, the commission said.

“Overall, the welfare system has worked well to contain the effects of the crisis on poverty and inequality, but barriers to inclusive growth remain.

“In particular, concerns persist about inactivity traps for certain households, the high proportion of people living in households with very low work intensity, child poverty and the lack of access to affordable, full time and quality childcare.”

Dunne’s Stores acquisition of meat businesses cleared by competition authority

    

Tipperary butcher Pat Whlean (Centre photo), of James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel.

The deal first notified to the Consumer & Competition authority in January has been cleared to go ahead.

Dunnes Stores acquisition of two meat wholesale businesses, Whelan Food & Meat Processors Ltd and Tipperary Sustainable Food Company Ltd, has been cleared by the Competition & Consumer Authority. The proposed deal was first notified to the competition authority just over a month ago.

The meat wholesale businesses that Dunnes has acquired are owned by well-known Tipperary butcher Pat Whelan. The transaction is only for the two wholesale businesses and not the chain of well-known butcher stores operated by Whelan.

Both businesses are located in Co Tipperary and described as operating in the retail sale of meat and related products. The deal is private, with no figures disclosed.

Fifth generation

Whelan Food & Meat Processors was established in 2001 with an address at Clonmel, Co Tipperary. The second business, Tipperary Sustainable Food Company Ltd, was set up in 2008 and also has an address in Clonmel.

The latest accounts filed for Tipperary Sustainable Food Company show the business made profits of more than €280,000 in 2014.

Pat Whelan, a director of both businesses, is a fifth-generation butcher who also operates a chain of high-end butcher stores in Rathcoole and Monkstown in Dublin, Kilmacanogue near Bray in Wicklow, and Clonmel in Co Tipperary. This chain of butcher stores is not part of the deal.

Whelan Butchers and its beef dripping product were winners of the supreme award for the best food product in the UK and Ireland at the 2015 Guild of Fine Food Awards in London.

Dunnes Stores primary supplier of meat is Martin Jennings Wholesale in Co Mayo.

Penguins on a treadmill: what can we learn from the study?

Study finds fat penguins fall over more than slimmer penguins. And they cheat

    

A University of London study using a treadmill shows that fat King penguins fall over more often than slim ones but carrying a bit of extra weight comes with an important advantage when it comes to reproduction, the biomechanics researchers say.

Fat king penguins are unsteady on their feet while waddling compared to their slimmer counterparts, making them an easier catch for predators (or pesky scientists).

A UK research team discovered this by simply travelling to the subantarctic region of Antarctica, catching 10 male king penguins and putting them on a treadmill. Okay, it wasn’t quite as simple as that but it does mean we can watch penguins on a treadmill.

The team, led by Astrid Willener from the University of Roehampton, was studying the biomechanics of the waddle of the king penguin, which can grow up to 1m tall and up to 16kg, making it the second largest species of penguin behind the emperor.

They captured 10 males who were in courtship and weighed more than 12kg near the shoreline at the edge of a colony. The penguins, serial monogamists, have the longest breeding cycle of all the penguin species – 14 to 16 months – and produce just one chick per cycle. Anyone who has seen March of the Penguins knows that caring for a penguin egg requires enduring an intensely long fast, so it’s crucial that parents have enough fat to keep them going.

The captured penguins, who were kept beside the colony for two weeks, received two training sessions of 10 minutes to get used to walking on the treadmill. Then they were filmed at a speed of 1.4km/hr before and after a 14-day fast (fasting for periods of up to one month is normal for king penguins and researchers checked the critical body mass of the birds to be sure that they were not losing body mass too fast during the study).

The posture – leaning and waddling – of the penguins while walking was then determined by the researchers. To quantify the waddling, the amplitude of peak left and right leaning was calculated.

It wasn’t all simple though. Some of the penguins – the larger individuals – found ways to cheat the system.

“ Sometimes the penguins were lazy and ‘water-skied’ on the treadmill by leaning their back on the back wall of the treadmill. That is obviously not good for the data collection,” Willener told the Guardian.

In the end the researchers found that although the penguins waddled with more agility at a lower weight, they had nonetheless adapted well to be able to handle waddling while heavier, even if they were not as efficient and less stable.

And packing on the pounds did give the big guys an important advantage when it comes to reproduction, the study, which was in the online journal PLoS One, found.

“The weight gain is an adaptive mechanism for them to survive their fast while reproducing and taking care of the egg,” said Willener. “But it is a trade-off between putting on weight to fast longer, in case there is a delay in finding a penguin partner to mate with, and still being able to walk, because if they can’t walk steady, they fall and will be spotted and eaten alive by predators.” Luckily walking isn’t their primary travel mode.

Willener hopes the findings will help in efforts to better understand, and protect the species.

The scientists were careful to point out that the video of its chubby penguin has been sped up, so it appears to be running faster than it did in reality. And, they clarify, no penguins were pushed over during the process.

So, you get to watch penguins on a treadmill and relax in the knowledge that it’s not only humans who put on weight when they have got a new girlfriend.

A view of the Milky Way like you have never seen before

  

Here’s a view of the Milky Way galaxy like you’ve never seen before.

https://youtu.be/Ip3YHk0gu0I   This video takes a close look at a new image of the Milky Way released to mark the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy.

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope in Chile (APEX for short) captured this super-panoramic image of our home galaxy, mapping the full view of the galactic plane as seen from the Southern Hemisphere in unprecedented detail.

The 40-foot telescope views the sky in sub-millimeter wavelengths, which are between infrared light and radio waves and are invisible to the eye. That allows astronomers to observe the coldest regions of the universe, where gas and dust are only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero, as well as the regions where stars are born.

In the image, the APEX telescope’s observations appear in red, with some data from theEuropean Space Agency’s Planck satellite in fainter red. The blue parts of the image show shorter infrared light captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

The European Southern Observatory released the map to celebrate the completion of the APEX Telescope Large Area Survey of the Galaxy project. The image spans an area of sky 140 degrees long by 3 degrees wide — four times larger than the project’s first map.

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