News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 6th October 2016

Sterling slump less a problem for State than in past, Central Bank says

Risks to economy remain ‘clearly tilted to the downside’, says report from regulator

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The Central Bank maintains that demand for products and services in trading-partner countries outweighs everything, including foreign-exchange rates.

Ireland’s economy is better able to deal with a slump in sterling than it has been in the past, the Central Bank has said, as the euro hovers at a five-year high against the British currency as a result of the UK Brexit vote.

The euro has surged by more than 14% since the UK referendum on June 23rd to more than 88p and some, including analysts in Investec and UBS, see the exchange rate reaching 90p by the end of the year.

The Central Bank’s latest economic forecasts, published on Thursday, which see Irish gross domestic product expanding by 4.5% this year and 3.6% in 2017, is based on a euro-sterling rate of 84p, said John Flynn, the head of Irish economic analysis at the bank.

Mr Flynn said that if the current rate persisted it would have some impact on future forecasts.

However, he added: “We’ve seen over a long period of time the economy demonstrate considerable flexibility and it’s able to deal with the sterling rate at quite different levels. The Irish economy is a much more flexible economy now than it was at various times in the past, when sterling was a challenge for us.”

The demand?

The Central Bank maintains that demand for products and services in trading-partner countries outweighs everything, including foreign-exchange rates. While recent UK economic data suggested the British economy was faring better than many had feared following the Brexit vote, the Central Bank’s chief economist, Gabriel Fagan, said it was “far too early” to determine the real impact of the decision on the world’s fifth largest economy.

Meanwhile, Mr Flynn noted that the euro-sterling rate was much more important to companies in the food, clothing and footwear sectors, as well as tourism, than elsewhere in the economy.

“And the exchange rate is generally more important for indigenous firms because the UK accounts for a greater share of export markets for those groups,” he said.

The comments follow the Central Bank’s publication of its latest quarterly bulletin in which it shaved its forecasts for personal consumption, exports and overall economic growth for this year and warned risks to these projections “remain clearly tilted to the downside” as a result of Brexit.

The organisation lowered its forecast for gross domestic product growth for this year by 0.4% points to 4.5% and left its 2017 projection unchanged at 3.6%, having downgraded its estimates more materially in July in the wake of the surprise Brexit vote.

Mixed signals confusing?

“Signals in relation to consumer spending have become more mixed, although the balance of evidence across a range of indicators points to only a marginal slowdown, with consumer spending supported by solid gains in employment and rising earnings,” the Central Bank said.

The Central Bank lowered its forecast for personal spending growth, which rebounded two years ago following years as consumers showed the first signs of recovery from the financial crisis, to 3.8% for this year from 4% previously. Its 2017 forecast has come back to 2.2% from 2.3%.

It sees underlying domestic demand, a measure of the economy preferred by some analysts given how multinationals’ activities can skew the headline figures, slowing to 4% this year from 5% in 2015, before easing further to 2.7% in 2017. It has raised its forecasts for the economic contribution from activity in aircraft leasing and multinationals moving intellectual property.

Export growth is likely to slow to 5.6% this year from a previous projection of 6.4%, before easing back to 4.4% in 2017, according to the Central Bank.

With an eye on the unveiling of Budget 2017 next week, the Central Bank said “a prudent fiscal strategy remains essential, given the negative loops between fiscal stability, financial stability and macroeconomic stability.”

It also said the Government set long-term targets that were “robust to statistical issue”, clearly a reference to the 26% GDP growth rate for 2015 that had little to do with the underlying economy.

Uncertainties

“While the uncertainties in relation to the measurement of economic growth make it more difficult to calculate the underlying path for tax revenues, it would be prudent to assume that some fraction of the recent surge in corporation tax revenues might be temporary in nature,” it said.

Corporation tax rose to €4.16 billion for the first nine months of the year from €3.9 billion for the same period in 2015, according to the latest exchequer return figures, published earlier this week.

Nóirín O’Sullivan ‘doing so much damage to An Garda Síochána’, says Mick Wallace

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The Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is doing “so much damage” to the force that it is in “turmoil”, the Dáil has heard.

Revelations in this week’s Irish Examiner, about a campaign by senior officers to destroy a whistle-blower, dominated leaders’ questions yesterday

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald came under serious fire over the scandal from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, as well as Independents.

The Dáil heard claims that Ms O’Sullivan had given some members of An Garda Síochána carte blanche to hound and discredit whistle-blowers.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace, in a heated exchange, pleaded with Ms Fitzgerald to remove the commissioner.

Mr Wallace said he and his colleague, Clare Daly, have met with the two whistle-blowers who made the latest protected disclosures. he said Ms O’Sullivan has failed to end the persecution of whistle-blowers in the force.

“The Garda is in turmoil. There is a split in it with two camps. The Garda commissioner has promoted a ring around her. It is corrosive,” said Mr Wallace.

Nóirín O’Sullivan

“She is doing so much damage to An Garda Síochána that there are many good gardaí shocked at how she is operating. The Tánaiste and minister for justice and equality cannot leave her in position.”

Asked if she had any other protected disclosures on her desk, Ms Fitzgerald said: “There are no other protected disclosures on my desk.”

Mr Wallace informed the Dáil that whistle-blower Nick Keogh has written to the minister four times, but received only one reply.

“Nicky Keogh wrote to the minister four times and she replied once,” said Mr Wallace. “When he told the minister about the harassment and that he could not have been suffering without the commissioner’s knowledge, the minister wrote back to him to say she was looking for an urgent report from the Garda commissioner.

“That was May this year. The minister says she follows things up quickly. May was a long time ago.”

Ms Fitzgerald said while details of the disclosures are in the public domain, she is precluded by law from commenting. She said those involved are entitled to due process and that she would not be rushing to judgment.

“I will follow the legislation, passed in this House, where people have a right to confidentiality and due process,” she said.

“I would not be doing my job as minister for justice and equality if I did not follow due process and the law laid down regarding protected disclosures, a law on which we have all agreed should be followed.”

In response to Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Ms Fitzgerald said Ms O’Sullivan is entitled to her full confidence.

“I want to be very clear about one thing: No findings of wrongdoing of any kind have been made against the Garda commissioner and I believe in those circumstances she is entitled to our full confidence,” said Ms Fitzgerald, adding that she would not be slow in establish a full inquiry into the allegations should it be merited.

Fianna Fáil’s Charlie McConalogue asked Ms Fitzgerald to state whether it was true that the two people behind the disclosures are likely to refuse to co-operate with any pending inquiry.

“The dysfunctionality of the Garda Síochána because of perceived system and management failures — it is hard to see beyond the saying, ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’,” said Mr McConalogue.

People are sheltering in libraries as they cannot afford fuel, claims Willie O’Dea?

Varadkar hopes to increase fuel allowance in budget but ‘cannot guarantee it at this stage’

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Willie O’Dea of Fianna Fáil: “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.

People are using public transport or sheltering in libraries because they cannot afford to heat their homes during the day, according to Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea.

Appealing to Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to increase the fuel allowance in next week’s budget, he said organisations representing the elderly had conducted surveys showing “people who do not light a fire until the afternoon and who go to bed early in the winter to save fuel”.

“Other people resort to taking public transport or taking shelter in public libraries and other public buildings because they simply cannot afford to heat their homes properly for a sufficient period of time to enable them to live comfortably in their homes.” The Limerick city TD said, “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.”

Mr Varadkar said the fuel allowance was increased 10 per cent last year from €20 to €22.50, and he hoped they could continue “in the same direction” next year “but I cannot guarantee that at this stage”.

The allowance is given for 26 weeks to 380,000 households at a cost of €224 million, along with an electricity or gas allowance at a cost of €228 million.

Mr O’Dea said recent research found that the island of Ireland “has the highest rate of excess winter mortality in Europe, with an estimated 2,800 excess deaths each winter”, and fuel poverty was a factor in this.

Sligo Food train leaves Dublin for the Wild Atlantic Way

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L-R: Anthony Gray, Sligo Food Trail; Eva Dearie of Failte Ireland; Finbar Filan, Sligo BID; and Marguerite Quilann, Beltra Country Market.

Fáilte Ireland is partnering with Iarnród Éireann and the Sligo Food Trail to bring a group of VIP writers to Sligo, as part of a series of new initiatives to stimulate regional dispersion and seasonal extension along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The media VIPs will board a Sligo Food Train from Connolly Station to Sligo, where passengers will get to sample food from Sligo and also receive information on the Sligo Food Trail as they make their journey to the Wild Atlantic Way. Fáilte Ireland will also give a brief talk on the coastal route to the media as the train progresses towards Sligo.

The focus for Failte Ireland is to help businesses and regions broaden the so-called ‘shoulder seasons’ immediately prior to and following the main summer season in tourist destinations. This is especially important along the Wild Atlantic Way, where many businesses close outside of the peak months.

To this end Failte Ireland is supporting the Sligo Food Trail by partnering with Iarnród Éireann and bringing food writers and bloggers by train from Connolly Station to Sligo, where they will be treated to a 24 hour foodie experience in and around Sligo for this Sligo Harvest Feast event.

Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, Fiona Monaghan said: “The Wild Atlantic Way has been incredibly popular with the domestic market and we believe there is great potential to grow activity outside of the summer season. We have been working with hundreds of businesses along the route – who have traditionally experienced a short tourism season – to help them become ‘autumn-ready’ and grow their trading season. With an emphasis on some of the quieter places, we are working to boost visitor traffic all along the route and especially beyond the usual hotspots throughout this autumn.”

For older women, caffeine could be pill needed in warding off dementia

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Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

Could drinking coffee be linked to a reduced risk of dementia?

Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications,” said Ira Driscoll, PhD, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “What is unique about this study is that we had an unprecedented opportunity to examine the relationships between caffeine intake and dementia incidence in a large and well-defined, prospectively-studied cohort of women.”

The findings come from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Driscoll and her research colleagues used data from 6,467 community-dwelling, postmenopausal women aged 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption. Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea, and cola beverage intake, including frequency and serving size.

In 10 years or less of follow-up with annual assessments of cognitive function, 388 of these women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or some form of global cognitive impairment. Those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine for this group (with an average intake of 261 mg per day) were diagnosed at a lower rate than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64 mg per day). The researchers adjusted for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

A 7,000 year-old York dog is forcing experts to rethink on Stonehenge

Image result for A 7,000 year-old York dog is forcing experts to rethink on Stonehenge  Image result for A 7,000 year-old York dog

Evidence of the earliest journey in British history has been uncovered and a pet dog came along for the gruelling 250-mile trip from York to Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Archaeologist David Jacques has found evidence that Mesolithic man’s best friend was an Alsatian – and bones found nearby suggest the dog would have feasted on salmon, trout, pike, wild pig and red deer.

The domesticated dog tooth was dug up at Blick Mead, a site a mile from the World Heritage Site and scientific tests have shown the dog most likely came from the York area.

Mr Jacques said the findings were significant because archaeologists did not know people travelled such long distances 7,000 years ago and the journey adds to the weight of evidence of people coming to Stonehenge 2,000 years before the monument was built.

He said previous excavations uncovered a slate tool from Wales and stone tools from the Midlands and the West of England.

As the Ice Age had just ended, one of the attractions of Blick Mead would have been a natural spring in which the only puce stones in the country could be found.

It would also have been relatively easy to reach because the nearby River Avon was the M1 of its time. Large numbers of deer and aurochs – extinct massive prehistoric cattle – grazed there.

Burnt stones, wood and auroch bones from the site indicate that it was popular for feasting, an important ritual activity.

Mr Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, said at that time prehistoric people were starting to tame dogs and keep them as pets and the Alsatian may even have been brought to Stonehenge to exchange.

“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” he said.

“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was.”

Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said: “These amazing discoveries at Blick Mead are writing the history books of Mesolithic Britain.

“A dog tooth from York, a slate tool from Wales and a stone tool from the Midlands show that this wasn’t just the place to live at the end of the Ice Age, but was known by our ancestors for a long time widely across Britain. They kept coming here.”

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