News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 7th January 2017

Barack Obama plans return to Ireland in the next year  

“US ambassador says”

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Kevin O’Malley does not think change to US corporate tax rate will affect investment in Ireland.


Outgoing US president Barack Obama is planning to visit the Republic at some point this year, the US ambassador to Ireland has said.

It is almost six years since Mr Obama and first lady Michelle Obama addressed a crowd of about 60,000 people at College Green, Dublin, and spoke warmly of the relationship between Ireland and the United States.

US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley, who will leave his post on January 20th when businessman Donald Trump is inaugurated, said on Saturday that Mr Obama has indicated he is planning to return in the coming year.

“The last sentence the president said to me on Wednesday of this week, when we were saying goodbye, was ‘please tell them I’m coming’,” said Mr O’Malley. “I think that’s the president’s way of saying informally you will probably see him again, and my guess is in the coming year or so.”

Mr Obama’s eighth cousin Henry Healy from Moneygall, Co Offaly, said an invitation to visit had been extended to Mr Obama in 2013 but that he could not attend due to security issues.

“The president is coming back to Ireland and we would be hopeful he will pay another visit to Moneygall,” said Mr Healy. “He has Irish ancestry here so we’re very much looking forward to having him down again.”

Mr O’Malley, who was speaking on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1, also discussed the Trump administration’s plans to cut US corporation tax from 35 per cent to 15 per cent. He dismissed the suggestion the move would impact on the Republic’s ability to attract US companies, where the corporate tax rate is 12.5 per cent.

“I don’t believe that if the taxation rules in the United States change – and particularly the corporation tax – that it would change investment by American companies in Ireland,” he said.

“Although tax is a reason for Ireland’s prosperity, it is not the [primary] reason. Americans need a market in the EU. We need a stopping off place for the EU and what better place than Ireland.

“We speak the same language. You use the euro so we only translate the money once, not twice. If Brexit goes through, you’ll be the only English speaking country in the EU. Your education system provides these great, dedicated, creative workers for us.

“But the real reason that these companies are here and doing so well is that we simply get one another. Americans like the Irish. You like dealing with us. We like being together.”

A report by aid agency Oxfam last month described the Republic as one of the worst tax havens in the world, on a par with countries like Bermuda and the Cayman Islands when it comes to helping big business dodge billions of euro each year in tax.

Mr O’Malley rejected the suggestion that Ireland is a tax haven. “When people speak about Ireland as a tax haven, it doesn’t ring true at all,” he said. “If you look at the big American companies that are here – 700 of them – they’re run by Irish people.

“They’re not run by Americans who are coming here with a brass plate, just changing addresses to avoid taxation. We believe that the Irish people are capable of running these big companies, and they have, and are making enormous profits.

“They’re employing numbers of people. They’re providing not only jobs, but state of the art jobs. They’re producing items everybody can be proud of. I don’t think the change in the tax rate is going to change foreign direct investment.”

Separately, Mr O’Malley described the June 2015 Berkeley balcony collapse in which five Irish students and an Irish-American student were killed as the “saddest time” of his tenure representing the US government in the Republic.

“There was a great outpouring,” he said. “Everybody seemed to know somebody who was directly affected by this. If I didn’t understand before, I certainly understood then, that family is the top priority in Ireland.”

Mr O’Malley is a lawyer from St Louis in Missouri. He is considered a leading authority on jury instructions in trials.

He was appointed ambassador to Ireland by Mr Obama in 2014.

He has strong Irish connections. His grandparents were natives of Co Mayo who emigrated to the US in the first half of the 20th-century.

Irish homeowners warned they have just days left to pay their property tax bills

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Collector Michael Gladney

Homeowners have until Wednesday to pay their property tax. People who opt to pay by debit card, cheque or credit card need to have made the payment by January 11.

Revenue has warned.

Those who want to pay the tax by electronic cheque – what Revenue calls an annual debit authority – must inform tax officials by Wednesday, and the funds will be taken out of their bank account in March.

Property tax bills fall due at a time when many homeowners are being hit with credit card bills, due to the Christmas spending splurge, and many face the cost of renewing health insurance.

A spokeswoman for the tax authority said people can have the tax withdrawn incrementally by opting to have it taken out of their wages or pension. Alternatively, they could pay monthly through a direct debit, rather than paying a lump sum.

The tax authority said it collected €463m from the tax last year, with a large number of property owners having already paid for 2017. Some 97% of owners paid the tax last year.

This was after 300,000 warning letters were issued, prompting most to pay up.

Revenue said the overall figures represented a “continuing high compliance rate”.

Collector-general Michael Gladney said that since Revenue assumed responsibility for collection of arrears of household charges in July 2013, more than €64m has been collected, bringing 360,000 additional properties into compliance.

“The vast majority of property owners fully comply with their local property tax payment obligations, either in a single payment or with phased payments,” he said.

“As long as payment obligations are being met, Revenue will automatically roll over existing payment methods for property owners who pay by direct debit or by deduction at source from pay/pension.”

Close to six-out-of-10 people in the Dún Laoghaire- Rathdown local authority area live in a home worth over €300,000. Fewer than 10pc of homeowners nationally live in a house worth more than that.

Property tax has been dogged in the past by the argument it is generated mainly from the capital. Laois and south Dublin were the regions with the highest compliance rate, while Donegal is the county with the lowest level of payment.

Revenue said it had applied a mandatory deduction at source for 80,000 properties, with Dublin city having the highest percentage where this applies.

The number of mandatory deductions has jumped by close to 24,000 in the last year.

Garda gets power to seize cars driven by disqualified motorists in Ireland

Minister to legislate for naming and shaming of disqualified drivers via public database.

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Together with the power to seize a vehicle, Gardaí would also be given the power to arrest a disqualified driver caught driving, Minister for Transport Shane Ross has said.

The Garda has been given powers to seize vehicles driven by disqualified drivers, the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, has said.

He said also that he would be legislating to allow for the naming and shaming of disqualified drivers by means of a publicly accessible database identifying them and detailing the sentence of disqualification.

“That’s very important,” he said, “it’s not just a token measure. A lot of people disqualified [from driving] are in employment, some of them are professional drivers, their employers don’t know, their spouses don’t know, their neighbours don’t know.”

A register would mean they were outed in their community and would not be able to flout the law by ignoring their sentence “nearly so easily”.

Mr Ross was speaking to RTÉ following yesterday’s publication in The Irish Times of Road Safety Authority research showing that, based on data extant last August, close to 8,000 drivers banned for drunk driving and/or causing the death of another person by their driving, had ignored the consequences of their convictions and sentencing and carried on driving.

Professional drivers

The same research found that, in 2015, 1,767 disqualifications had been issued to drivers who had already been banned. In the 18-month period after January 2015, 700 professional drivers were banned but at least 100 of them carried on driving, a fact known because they received penalty points for further driving offences.

In the 2008 to 2012 period, banned drivers were shown to have been responsible for between 11 and 14 deaths per year. The research found that 97 to 98 per cent of banned drivers asked in writing to return their licences ignore the letter. Most are assumed to carry on driving.

Mr Ross said the figures were “absolutely shocking”.

“What we see here is a lawlessness which a lot of people were not aware of – that those who are disqualified are simply flouting the law, going out and driving willy-nilly, whether they have a licence or not. We are going to have to do something about that.”

Together with the power to seize a vehicle, Mr Ross said gardaí would also be given the power to arrest a disqualified driver caught driving, and he committed to taking stronger measures if necessary – “to ensure they are disqualified and it means it”. Gardaí have had the power to seize vehicles driven by uninsured drivers for some time but hitherto not vehicles driven by disqualified drivers.

The problem of disqualified drivers could also be lessened if insurance companies shared information and there was a central database they could access, industry experts said in reaction to the RSA research.

Conor Faughnan of the motoring organisation AA Ireland said there needed to be an integrated insurance data service so criminal drivers could be detected and kept off the roads.

“That information should be available – your insurance history, your driving licence status and your penalty point record,” he said. “The problem is that the existing insurance companies won’t – not can’t but won’t – do this and yet 90km up the road in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the UK they have this.”

Database problematic?

A senior figure in one of the major insurance companies, who asked not to be named, said that while companies could access the RSA’s penalty points database, creating a database of licences and convictions attaching to them was problematic.

“One of the challenges we face is there are strict data-protection laws in Ireland,” he said. “They are much stricter than in the UK and it prevents us, as an industry, storing information as in the UK.”

Mr Faughnan does not accept this. “You’ll hear things like data protection but that’s just spurious,” he said.

Another industry source maintained that insurance companies were themselves resisting sharing licensing and drivers’ claims histories for self-interested commercial reasons and had failed for five years to create a system to share information out of “cynicism and laziness”.

The recently enacted Road Traffic Bill allows for an expansion of the Garda’s ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) system to have access to more data. A spokesman for the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland, the industry-funded body which pays for the consequences of uninsured drivers, said this data might usefully include the data identified by the RSA research.

Mr Faughnan said it was “nuts and absurd” that proof of insurance and vehicle roadworthiness was dependent on windscreen-displayed paper that could be forged “by a child with a laptop”.

The solution was a central database on which all relevant information, including licence and disqualification information, was stored and readily accessible.

The top ten Irish counties where people are most likely to cheat are now revealed

The figures were obtained by the Irish Mirror from Victoria Milan, an extra-marital affairs website, which has a staggering 75,000 members here.

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Those living in the capital are the most likely to cheat on their other half, a top affairs website has warned.

While people in Dublin are more likely to look for someone to have fun on the side with, those in Cork, Sligo and Kilkenny also are also allegedly keen to play away from home.

The figures were obtained by the Irish Daily Mirror from Victoria Milan, an extra-marital affairs website, which has a staggering 75,000 members here.

They are hoping to double that membership in 2017 to help 150,000 people in Ireland hook up away from home.

Dubliners made up 7% of their Irish users, followed by those in Cork, 5.8% and Sligo finished up the top three at 4.6%.

Kilkenny accounted for 4.4% of Victoria Milan members, followed by Longford, 4.2%, Westmeath, 3.9%, and Clare, 3.8%.

People from Kildare were sixth most likely to sign up to the racy website, followed by those in Donegal and Waterford.

They said: “In a traditionally religious part of the world, it seems that Ireland’s strong Catholic tradition was no barrier to the numbers looking for that something extra within their existing relationship, whether or not this is denied in polite conversation.

“After seeing the initial results, the data was analysed further, in order to get a more detailed picture of the numbers being generated in Ireland, on a city by city basis.

“The picture that did emerge continued to surprise, in that the desire for people to seek a little bit of passion outside their marriage was consistently high and furthermore, more widely and evenly distributed than was thought across both city and rural areas.”

They also speculated on why Dubliners may be most likely to cheat.

They said: “The position of Dublin at the top should not be seen as a surprise given that it is a more cosmopolitan city, a harbour, and a tourist centre where there are simply more options.”

He said: “Victoria Milan did not invent infidelity and having an affair is something that is only too human. These figures bear this out.

“You would expect certain places to be open – but the results in Ireland surprised even me!

“Clearly, people will find a way to have an affair if they are not happy and feel trapped. We at Victoria Milan simply provide a discreet online meeting place designed for these people.

“I strongly suspect that if you were to ask 100 people on the streets of Dublin if they had cheated, then you would get a string of denials.

Hopeless Father of two jailed for spate of thefts including cash from Childline collection box

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A judge said of theft of €100 from a Childline collection: “A meaner crime one can hardly imagine.”

Judge Kevin Kilrane made the comment while sentencing Jimmy Ward of 15 Armada Cottages Bundoran for a spate of thefts and other offences.

Ward who was already in custody appeared before Judge Kilrane at Ballyshannon District on Friday, a date which marked the defendant’s 27th birthday.

The judge said he was familiar with the defendant and had already given him many chances to amend his ways.

“I have to consider that rehabilitation might not work here,” said Judge Kilrane. “Ultimately, it is about protection of the public and if that is a blunt instrument of imprisonment, then so be it. That could mean imprisonment after imprisonment until he dies.”

Ward pleaded guilty to 11 offences which took place over the last year.

Thefts included 18 litres of vodka valued at €504 stolen from Super Valu, Donegal Town. He stole a further two litre bottles worth €56 from the same premises on another occasion. Ward admitted theft of clothes, food, a blanket and other items from Lidl and Aldi in Cavan and a Spar shop in Belturbet.

He stole Childline collection money from the Abbey Arts Centre foyer during the pantomime ‘Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood.’

He broke into a parked car at Atlantic Point Apartments in Bundoran and stole a laptop worth €450.

Ward also admitted trespassing at the Model Arts Centre in Sligo where he stole a ladies purse worth €10 from an office.

A difficult Background plea?

Solicitor Gerry McGovern told the court that his client had a particularly difficult upbringing. A brain injury which almost killed him exacerbated his problems. Along the way he fell into addiction to alcohol and drugs.

“Mr Ward has been a victim of society since the day he was born,” said Mr McGovern. “He was born into a traveller/settled family with a large number of siblings and didn’t get the opportunity to get an education or gain employment skills.

The solicitor said Ward had two young children of whom he saw very little due to time in prison.

“He wants to get help,” said Mr McGovern. “Unfortunately, society has let him down. He gets locked up and that is it.”

Judge Kilrane replied that Ward got counselling in the Midlands Prison. He added that defendant previously told him he was glad he got locked up because of the counselling.

Mr McGovern said: “He got counselling for drugs but not for alcohol. When he came out he started drinking again. He needs one-to-one counselling.”

Mr McGovern stressed that his client genuinely had no memory of the offences due to the damage to his brain.

The defendant’s mother Anne Ward appealed to the judge not to send her son to prison.

“He is going round in circles and doesn’t know what he is doing,” said Mrs Ward. “Prison won’t do him any good. I promise you I will get help for him.”

Judge Kilrane thanked Mrs Ward but said: “I agree with you that prison will not help him but it will help the people of this area. I am talking about breaking into cars stealing a laptop that he doesn’t even know how to use. But it was very important to the person who owned it.”

A jail sentence given.

He sentenced Ward to 14 months in prison with a further 10 months suspended.

“I have no faith in this man’s ability to reform,” said Judge Kilrane. “However, we should never give up hope. I recommend that he receives counselling for his addiction while in prison.”

The judge ordered Ward to enter addiction treatment immediately on his release as a condition of the suspended portion of the sentence. The defendant must also enter a bond to not commit any further offences.

Take a look at one of the rarest types of galaxies there is in existence

“Less than 0.1% of all observed galaxies are Hoag-type galaxies.”

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Scientists at two US universities have got the first look at an extremely rare type of galaxy.

New research gives the first description of a well-defined elliptical-like core surrounded by two circular rings – a galaxy that appears to belong to a class of rarely observed, Hoag-type galaxies.

The galaxy has been discovered by researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

“Less than 0.1% of all observed galaxies are Hoag-type galaxies,” says Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil, lead author of a paper on this work and a graduate student at the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics, University of Minnesota Twin Cities and University of Minnesota Duluth.

Hoag-type galaxies are round cores surrounded by a circular ring, with nothing visibly connecting them. The majority of observed galaxies are disc-shaped like our own Milky Way. Galaxies with unusual appearances give astronomers unique insights into how galaxies are formed and change.


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