Tag Archives: Construction

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 11th December 2016

Irish Water spends a hefty €5m on expert advice

Hefty bill run up in the six months since controversial charges were dropped

Image result for Irish Water spends a hefty €5m on expert advice   Image result for business strategists, lawyers, computer experts

Irish Water has spent €5m on outside business strategists, lawyers, computer experts, public relations and finance specialists in the six months after the Government formally suspended the controversial charges.

The revelation that the embattled utility has paid over €826,000 a month on consultants since May 1 – when it was effectively placed in limbo by the Government – will infuriate nearly one million people who have handed over €144m in water charges last year.

Those who paid their bills still have no idea if they will get that money back if charges are ultimately abolished.

Last night Fianna Fail’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said legislation was urgently needed to ensure the utility was fully accountable for all money it spent.

The list of lucrative contracts includes an average monthly bill of nearly €3,000 for public relations services at a time when a major question mark hangs over the future funding of the company.

Documents reveal nearly €5m was spent on ‘third-party’ services from May 1 to the end of October this year. This includes €775,141 on ‘business change’ support services.

Ernst & Young was paid €406,268 for its expertise, while official records show accounting and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers received €123,570.

Efforts to improve customer services supports also came with a hefty price tag, costing €774,848. It is estimated €32,285 is being spent every week to help improve and streamline customer services.

Ernst & Young also emerged a big winner, earning almost €486,000 for its expertise in the area.

Official records also show that hiring in legal expertise remains a major drain on resources – costing on average €56,800 a month.

In total, €340,830 was ring-fenced to cover costs in this area over a six-month period. Dublin-based legal firm McCann Fitzgerald was paid a total of €79,071 since the beginning of May. The next highest earner was Philip Lee, a specialist commercial law firm, who received payment of €71,438. Invoices for the services provided another law firm, Arthur Cox and Company totalled €45,410. Some €55,700 was allocated to covering the fees of a ‘senior counsel’, although records do not specify the reason for the expenditure.

PricewaterhouseCoopers received another separate payment of €68,000 for its “support on specific technical investment and engineering projects”. A further €113,277 was spent to ensure the “highest standards of governance” in areas like business analysis, information security and data protection. And Murray Consultants, one of Ireland’s biggest public relations agencies, was paid €16,866.

The expenditure comes against a backdrop of continuing uncertainty as to what approach will be adopted with customers who have already paid their water bills.

In a statement, Irish Water said it can require technical assistance and third-party support at any given time. Such expertise was not required on a permanent basis and therefore it was considered more “cost effective” to employ third-party specialists “as they are required”.

A spokesperson said the use of third-party external service providers represents just over 1pc of its annual operational costs. A company spokesman said the relevant data covers the period of May 1 to October 31 this year.

This was on the basis the clause facilitating the suspension of water charges was contained in the confidence and supply arrangement – put in place at the beginning of May on formation of the Government.

Fianna Fail’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said legislation was urgently needed to ensure the utility was fully accountable for all monies it spent.

He pointed out that the confidence and supply arrangement Fianna Fail has agreed with Fine Gael commits to retaining Irish Water as a national utility in public ownership. He said the agreement meant the company must be answerable to the Dail under a number of headings.

“We would have hoped that process would be complete by now, but it’s obviously not, and it’s something we’ll be taking up with the minister, with a view to bringing forward relevant legislation to give effect to that.”

He believes this would result in greater “transparency” in the operations of the utility.

The commission established to examine its future operations recommended that funding for the country’s water infrastructure should come through general taxation – but that there should be charges for wasteful use.

A special Oireachtas committee will now also decide if those who did not pay previous water charges should be prosecuted.

Deputy Cowen says the party is keeping an “open mind” on whether those who use excessive amounts of water should be liable for some financial payment.

“The main thrust of the recommendation is that it is paid for out of general taxation, and we agreed with that analysis.

“But there are many questions outstanding,” he said.

In a statement, Irish Water said “significant progress” had been made since the suspension of charges.

This includes “continuing the development of a single way of working for Irish Water as a public utility, to allow for a full transformation of services to the utility from local authorities.

“This is an enormous undertaking.

“We have developed new systems for local authorities to report vital information on operations, leakage, water and waste water quality to us electronically and in real time in a standardised and consistent way”.

These and other projects had required “specialist support”, but would have a “lasting significant value” for Irish Water as a utility.

As much as 112,000 additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here,

Say construction industry chiefs?

Image result for As much as 112,000 Irish additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here  Image result for As much as 112,000 Irish additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here

A report on the sector found carpenters and joiners will be in most demand.

Construction chiefs have claimed there will be 112,000 additional jobs in the industry over the next three years. A report on the sector found carpenters and joiners will be in most demand followed by general labourers, operatives and electricians.

The Construction Industry Federation has launched a new website, cifjobs.ie, to target workers who emigrated in the 10 years since the property bubble burst and the economy collapsed.

A report on the future of the sector by DKM consultants revealed the industry is set to grow by 9% a year up to 2020 and said that it can sustain more than 100,000 additional jobs.

It said there will be a need for 30,800 carpenters and joiners, 27,600 general labourers, 18,100 operatives, 15,200 electricians, 13,900 plasterers and tilers, 11,800 plumbers, 9,600 managers, 9,400 painters and decorators and 7,800 bricklayers.

CIF director general Tom Parlon said emigrants should consider coming home. ” There is sufficient work in the pipeline to require about another 112,000 jobs up to 2020 and beyond.

“The CIF is attempting to ensure there are sufficient skilled employees by engaging in several initiatives. We’re working with the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to upskill those on the live register with construction experience. We’re attracting young people into the industry by highlighting the modern globalised careers available. Finally, we’re trying to get the positive news about the industry and Ireland in general to those in the diaspora to attract them back.”

The website will highlight jobs available in the lobby group’s member companies and allow potential candidates to engage directly with them.

Orkambi makers to meet HSE for CF drug pricing cost talks

Asking price for medicine that acts on lung function €160,000 per patient annually

Image result for Orkambi makers to meet HSE for CF drug pricing cost talks  Image result for Orkambi makers to meet HSE for CF drug pricing cost talks  Image result for Orkambi makers to meet HSE for CF drug pricing cost talks

The HSE has indicted it is willing to pay €75m annually, but not the existing €400m bill across five years.

The Health Service Executive and US makers of cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, Vertex, are to meet on Wednesday, December 15th, to discuss the cost of the medicine.

Orkambi, which improves lung function and reduces hospitalisation for CF patients, would cost €160,000 per patient annually, or €400 million for the health service over five years, according to its initial price.

Agreed approach

The HSE is willing to pay €75 million which would make it the sixth most expensive drug used by the Irish health system.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he has sought to collaborate with other countries on an agreed approach to negotiations on Orkambi and the HSE has cautioned Vertex it must ask a more affordable price.

The HSE and Vertex said they are committed to finding a definitive solution.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals said this week it will only re-enter price talks on Orkambi if Government representatives with the power to make decisions are at the table.

Vertex asked the HSE to commit to having Mr Harris, HSE director general Tony O’Brien and Department of Health Secretary general Jim Breslin at the talks.

Speaking in the Seanad earlier this week, Mr Harris said this was a “complete misrepresentation”.

“The law of this land, passed by this House and the Dáil in 2013, makes clear that the HSE is the body with statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines.”

Thousands of people protested outside the Dáil this week about the issue.

The bottom line, says Fitch, is that a monkey’s speech limitations stem from the way its brain is organized.

“As soon as you had a brain that was ready to control the vocal tract,” Fitch says, “the vocal tract of a monkey or nonhuman primate would be perfectly fine for producing lots and lots of words.”

The real issue is that monkeys’ brains do not have direct connections down to the neurons that control the larynx and the tongue, he says. What’s more, monkeys don’t have critical connections within the brain itself, between the auditory cortex and motor cortex, which makes them incapable of imitating what they hear in the way that humans do.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a science fiction movie from 2011, actually has the right idea, notes Fitch. In that film, after a lab chimp named Caesar undergoes brain changes, he eventually is able to speak words such as “No.”

“The new Planet of the Apes is a pretty accurate representation of what we think is going on,” says Fitch.

Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff ?????

Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff  Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff  Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff

The Revenue Commissioners is warning against a slick phone scam intended to scare people into paying off a bogus tax collector.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Revenue Commissioners said a “small” number of people had contacted the office after receiving random telephone calls over the past week.

The calls are purportedly from a local tax inspector looking for so-called tax defaulters to make a payment and/or disclose their PPS numbers.

In one case, a taxpayer received a call from “Revenue Ireland” in which an automated recording told him to contact the “Revenue” urgently.

The suspicious taxpayer rang a Dublin number that was answered by a man who did not have an Irish accent claiming to be “Officer Ray Miller of Revenue Ireland”.

The taxpayer’s suspicions were confirmed when he began speaking in Irish and the bogus Revenue official couldn’t understand him or refer him to someone who could speak Irish, so he told ‘Officer Miller’ it was an obvious scam and he hung up.

Revenue spokeswoman Clare O’Melia said she was not aware of anyone being taken in by the scam. But she urged anyone who may have responded to a request for “an immediate payment of a tax bill over the phone” or provided the caller with their PPS number, bank account or credit card information to contact gardaí and their bank.

“Anyone who receives a telephone call purporting to be from Revenue about which they have any doubts, particularly if the call is out of the blue, should contact their local Revenue office or the Collector General’s Division at 1890 20 30 70,” she said.

“It’s Christmas and there are a lot of scams out there.” Gardaí have now also issued a statement.

“An Garda Síochána would like to remind the public to be wary of any contact from an unsolicited source, whether it is by telephone or email.

“Do not under any circumstances give out your credit/debit card, bank account, or PPS Number to anyone who makes contact with you over the phone.  An Garda Síochána, Revenue, nor any Financial Institution will ever call you and ask for your PPS number or bank account details.”

Majella O’Donnell hits out at Ireland’s mental health services

Image result for Majella O’Donnell hits out at Ireland’s mental health services  Image result for Ireland’s mental health services & the HSE  Related image

Majella O’Donnell has hit out at Ireland’s mental health services, after her friend was denied immediate help despite being severely depressed.

The 56-year-old wife of Donegal crooner Daniel O’Donnell has previously opened up about her own battle with depression, and how she once considered taking her own life.

Taking to Facebook, Majella decided to use her voice and revealed how she felt “angry and disgusted” after her friend with mental health issues was told she wouldn’t be seen to until next year.

“My friend Anne is a young mother who has been feeling anxious, unmotivated, irritated and generally depressed. She is aware of it and has been on antidepressants in the past,” she wrote.

“She is also aware of the fact that it is negatively affecting her relationship with her partner and putting a huge strain on them. She wanted to get to the bottom of why she feels this way. She phoned a psychiatrist to see if she could talk to someone professional and was told that a) She would have to be referred by her GP; b) She wouldn’t be seen until at least February, and c) It would cost her €300 an hour for the psychiatrist.

“What the f*** is that all about? I get so bloody angry at this kind of thing. Here is a young woman realising that she has a problem and trying to do something positive about it and this is what the outcome is! She went back to her GP who once again prescribed antidepressants, a stronger one this time – and that’s it.

“She doesn’t really want to take them as she would like to understand why she feels the way she does but she feels she has no choice,” she said.

Speaking up: Majella has suffered from depression in the past.

Majella then hit out at the outrageous fees psychiatrists are charging patients, as her friend received a quote for €300 per hour.

“I can accept that a GP needs to refer you, but what really p***** me off is the fact that no one could see her until at least February – but that doesn’t really matter because she could never afford the €300 per hour fee that is being charged. €300 per hour! What the f*** is that all about? It is shameful.

“How dare anyone charge that kind of money to help another human being who is in a desperate situation. That sort of fee cannot be justified! We have wonderful support groups around the country – like Pieta House, Aware, Mental Health Ireland, Grow and lots more – doing their best to help people with their mental wellbeing, but when someone tries to help themselves before things have reached the point of no return, this is what happens.

Make a change: Majella is disgusted with Ireland’s mental health services.

“We need, as a country, to sort this problem with accessing psychiatrists and if there is a shortage, then we need to actively start incentivising medical students to look at psychiatry as their speciality.

“Why do we have to wait until a person is so desperate for help that they are considering taking their own lives before we are willing to do something about it,’ she said.

“We need to start being pro-active about mental health instead of being reactive. There, that’s my rant over. I may be a little unreasonable about the whole subject, but it is one that I am so passionate about,” she added.

Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors

 Image result for Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors   Image result for Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors

The internet of things could be about to get a bit more playful as the AMBER centre showcases a new type of graphene sensor made using the kids’ toy, Silly Putty.

As an atom-thick wonder material, graphene has been prophesised for years now as the next big thing in material science.

But now, an interesting breakthrough made by the AMBER centre in Trinity College Dublin could be about to take us into the sillier side of science, or at least Silly Putty.

Led by Prof Jonathan Coleman, a research team within the centre has been looking at how a melding of graphene and the kids’ toy Silly Putty could be a match made in heaven.

Realising graphene’s unique conductive properties and Silly Putty’s ability to mould into almost any shape, the team wanted to see could they be combined to create a mouldable sensor.

Sure enough, Coleman and his team found that that the electrical resistance of putty infused with graphene – that it is calling ‘G-putty’ – was extremely sensitive to the slightest deformation or impact.

Can detect the footprint of the smallest spider

To test its effectiveness, the team mounted the G-putty onto the chest and neck of human subjects and used it to measure breathing, pulse and even blood pressure.

To the team’s amazement, it showed unprecedented sensitivity as a sensor for strain and pressure, hundreds of times more sensitive than normal sensors, offering hope for future use in medical devices.

It could also be used as a precise impact measurement device capable of detecting the footprints of the smallest spiders.

Speaking of its potential, Coleman said: “While a common application has been to add graphene to plastics in order to improve the electrical, mechanical, thermal or barrier properties, the resultant composites have generally performed as expected without any great surprises.

“The behaviour we found with G-putty has not been found in any other composite material. This unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 18th May 2015

PTSB raises €300m in unsecured debt for the first time in 8 years


Issuance of 3-year notes marks significant step in bank’s re-entry into wholesale markets

Retail shareholders in Permanent TSB have subscribed for 479,954 new shares in the company under the terms of an open offer, which formed part of the bank’s €525 million recent capital raise.

Permanent TSB has raised €300 million of unsecured debt on the market, the first unguaranteed debt transaction by the bank since before the crash in 2007.

The issuance of three-year senior unsecured medium term notes marks a significant step in the bank’s re-entry into wholesale markets.

“This is a milestone for us to get a benchmark trade of this size completed,” PTSB group treasurer Paul Byrne said.

“It further builds on the momentum of last week’s positive actions by the ratings agencies, the successful execution of the capital raise and the strides we have made in deleveraging our non-core assets,” he added.

Retail shareholders in the bank, meanwhile, have subscribed for 479,954 new shares in the company under the terms of an open offer, which formed part of the bank’s €525 million recent capital raise.

The shares were priced at €4.50 each, raising €2.16 million for PTSB. The take-up represented 17.5% of the 2.7 million shares that were offered to retail shareholders, who between them owned 0.8% of the company prior to PTSB’s fundraising exercise.

This involved PTSB raising €400 million through the sale of 88.9 million shares to a group of private investors, and €125 million via a debt instrument.

In addition, the Government sold 21.8 million shares for €98 million. All of this had the effect of reducing the State’s holding in PTSB to 75% from the 99.2% previously.

PTSB offered the stock to retail shareholders at the same price as it had to the group private investors last month.

The new shares will trade on the main stock markets in Dublin and London and the total number of PTSB ordinary shares in issue is now 454.7 million.

The funds from the capital raising were used to plug a €125 million hole in its capital, identified in regulatory stress tests last October, and to pay €410.5 million to the Government through the repurchase of the State’s contingent capital notes.

Lack of finance ‘hitting construction’ in Ireland


Overwhelming positivity over the future of the construction industry is being tempered by a severe lack of finance with almost two-thirds of industry leaders citing it as the biggest impediment to growth.

More than 60% of construction sector business leaders identified securing finance for projects as the biggest challenge they face in attempting to develop their business against the improving economic back-drop.

The funding shortage has forced many construction companies to look to other sources of finance to fund projects, with private equity by far the most popular.

According to research carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), more than 80% of construction firms have turned to private equity in the last two years, with a joint venture and accessing Mezzanine finance other popular options.

A number of other aspects, including burdensome building regulations, competitive project pricing and issues with the planning regime are also acting as impediments to growth in the sector, according to PwC tax partner, Ronan MacNioclais.

“The survey highlights that access to finance, onerous planning and building regulations and uneconomic development prospects may be contributing to the low levels of planning applications compared to demand. There needs to be an equilibrium between the cost of building, price and sensible regulation,” he said.

The manifestation of these issues can be seen in a drop-off in planning permissions granted in 2015 thus far this year, Mr MacNioclais added.

“There are concerns that the permissions granted thus far in 2015 are below those in the third quarter 2014 and that this will have a knock-on effect on an already supply constrained market.

“From a foreign direct investment perspective, it is also important that high-end office space is readily available,” he said.

Nearly half (45%) of respondents to the survey are having difficulties recruiting certain types of individuals with specialist skills including contractors (78%) and site managers (44%). Despite the challenges the industry continues to face, optimism is high among business leaders with 95% favourable about the outlook for their sector for the next three years.

Almost nine in 10 expect turnover will increase in the year ahead of which nearly two-thirds expect their turnover to rise more than 10%.

Over two-thirds (68%) expect to increase employee numbers of which nearly half (44%) are planning to increase the workforce by more than 10%.

However, 12% still plan to reduce their workforce.

Many Irish women unaware of their own cholesterol figures

A major risk factor for cardio-vascular disease


Many Irish women over the age of 45 are very unaware of their cholesterol numbers, despite high cholesterol being a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is responsible for 50% of all female deaths in this country.

According to a new survey of over 500 adults, which was carried out in February and March of this year, 50% of women aged 45 and older are unaware of their cholesterol number.

While half of the participants said they have their cholesterol checked every year, women, and those aged between 45 and 54, were the least likely to have undergone testing.

The survey also revealed that many people rely on reminders and prompts from healthcare professionals, such as GPs, before having their cholesterol checked. Furthermore, one in four women admitted that they are not taking any steps in an effort to maintain a healthy cholesterol level, or do not know what steps to take.

“What is especially concerning about the findings is that women in the menopausal years (aged 45-54) are the least likely to have their cholesterol checked and yet this is the time when their risk of heart attack and stroke is significantly increased. Menopause is strongly associated with an increase in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and a decline in HDL (good) cholesterol levels,” noted Irene Gibson of the heart and stroke charity, Croí.

She pointed out that many people still perceive CVD as a ‘man’s disease’, however it is responsible for one in two deaths among women in Ireland.

“While cardiovascular risk is deferred by 10 years in women versus men, it is not avoided. It still remains the number one cause of death among women in Ireland. The findings of this study highlight the important need to educate women on their risk of CVD and to empower them to take action.

“The good news is that up to 90% of heart disease and stroke is preventable through lifestyle change and risk factor modification,” Ms Gibson said.

The survey also noted that men and women tend to talk to different people about health issues. Men talk to their families and GPs more, while women are more likely to talk to their friends. However overall, almost one in three people said that they had experienced a health concern that they had not told a loved one about.

The survey was carried out by Behaviours & Attitudes on behalf of Flora pro.activ.

Chronic fatigue expert to talk in Ireland

Some 12,000 Irish people are affected


A leading international expert on the condition ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), is to give two talks to members of the public later this month.

ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) affects around 12,000 people in Ireland and symptoms can include overwhelming exhaustion, joint pain, muscle pain, disturbed sleep, impaired concentration and headaches.

Symptoms can vary greatly from day to day, or even within the same day. There is no known cure.

According to Vera Kindlon, chairperson of the Irish ME/CFS Association, ‘there are few doctors in Ireland who have a specialist interest in this illness, which can be frustrating for patients’.

Dr Abhijit Chaudhuri is a consultant neurologist at the Essex Centre of Neurological Science. He has a major interest in ME and even did his PhD thesis on the condition. He is due to give two talks in Ireland – one in Galway and one in Dublin – at the end of this month. These will be followed by a questions and answers session.

“These meetings will give patients an opportunity to hear the views of someone who has over 15 years’ experience of ME/CFS in his medical practice.

“In the past, we have noticed that those attending our meetings particularly relish the questions and answers session. Often these have gone on longer than the talk itself. Given Dr Chaudhuri’s experience and his background in neurological practice and research, I think that there will be a very interesting discussion at these meetings,” Ms Kindlon noted.

She pointed out that while there have been some improvements in services for people affected in the last 10 years, ‘many people still experience a considerable delay in obtaining a firm diagnosis’.

“More research has been published recently which again showed that an early diagnosis greatly improves the prognosis. Without a diagnosis, relations with family and friends can be strained and arrangements with employers or schools become very difficult.

“Having a name for what is wrong with them allows patients to better manage their condition. They can also then get in touch with other sufferers, learning how others have dealt with similar problems and gaining support and empathy from those who know exactly what it is like,” Ms Kindlon said.

Dr Chaudhuri will speak at the Connacht Hotel in Renmore, Galway, on Saturday, May 30, at 2.45pm. He will then speak in the Carlton Hotel Dublin Airport in Cloghran, Co Dublin, on Sunday, May 31, at 11am. Admission is €5.

Galway turns up the heat in a bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020


Click here to view video: http://bit.ly/Galway2020LaunchVideo).

As the battle heats up between Irish counties to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020, Galway has become the first county to launch an inspiring bid video in a rallying call to its citizens.

The launch of the video calls on the people of Galway to come together to collectively reflect upon and celebrate their unique and diverse culture, whilst focusing on re-imagining and creating the Galway of the future.

Galway are planning a citizen led campaign and have recently launched a new website www.galway2020.ie that allows the people of Galway to create their own events, start their own projects & upload their own stories and news.

The competition between the counties will reach a critical point in October of this year when a European Jury of 12 individuals will narrow the contest down to the final two.

Galway are determined to work together to make official their unofficial title as the culture capital of Ireland.

Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture -Together We Can Make This Happen

Galway is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture in 2020. The bid represents an opportunity for us to come together as a community, to reflect on the uniqueness of our Galway culture and the richness, vitality and diversity of our shared European culture. More excitingly, this bid represents an opportunity for us to collectively re-imagine and work together to create a better, more vibrant and creative Galway of the future.

This bid is about and involves all of us. It’s about the way we work, play, laugh, sing, create, learn and write. It is about who we are as people, what we do and what we value. Winning this bid is up to all of us and we’re starting now. Let’s make this happen together!

Everybody is doing/pooing it wrong?

It’s actually unhealthy to sit on the toilet normally?

Everyone is pooing wrong - it’s actually unhealthy to sit on the toilet   This man is pooing like a champ (Picture Getty)

The wrights and wrongs of doing your daily sits?

You have almost certainly done just about every poo in your life the wrong way.

A new book, Charming Bowels by Giulia Enders, suggests that we don’t – ahem – ‘open the hatch completely’ when we sit on a toilet.

  Instead, we should all be squatting down.

If we sit, it’s like a garden hose with a kink in it – and can lead to health problems such as piles.’

If we squat, the poo slides out in a much healthier way which doesn’t put pressure on our bums.

Enders says, ‘1.2 billion people around the world who squat have almost no incidence of diverticulosis and fewer problems with piles.

‘We in the west, on the other hand, squeeze our gut tissue until it comes out of our bottoms.  Bottoms up as always!

Monday 13th October 2014

Ireland set to close the ‘Double Irish’ tax loophole to ease pressure from the EC


Phase out anticipated to help Apple, Google and others adjust.

Ireland is set to announce legal changes next week to phase out the “Double Irish” tax arrangement that has let firms such as Google and Apple save billions of dollars in taxes, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Ireland has come under sustained attack from Europe and the United States over the past 18 months for its tax rules that allow multinational companies such as Google and Apple to cut their overseas tax rates to single digits.

Among the most criticised parts of the Irish tax code is the complex corporate structure whereby a multinational can channel untaxed revenues to an Irish subsidiary, which then pays the money to another company registered in Ireland that is tax resident elsewhere — usually in a tax haven such as Bermuda.

This means there is little tax to pay in Ireland. The fact both companies are Irish led to the term “Double Irish”.

Ireland is set to bring in new measures in its budget on Tuesday that would mean all Irish-registered companies would over time automatically be deemed to be tax resident in Ireland, the sources said, bringing Irish law in line with U.S. and British rules.

“It is more likely than not,” one of the sources, who declined to be named, toldReuters regarding an announcement being made on budget day.

The measures cannot be signed off until the cabinet meets for a final time before the budget is presented at 1330 GMT on Tuesday. Companies already incorporated in Ireland will likely be given a set time to change their accounting structures, while new companies setting up in Ireland must abide by the new rules.

At risk for Ireland are the 160,000 jobs — or almost one in every 10 workers in the country — who are employed by the more than 1,000 foreign firms that have set up an base in Ireland to benefit from its low 12.5 percent corporate tax rate and flexible, English-speaking workforce.

In last year’s budget, Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan made it illegal for a company registered in Ireland to have no tax domicile at all, but kept open the loophole that let them nominate any country they liked as their tax residence.

The move followed a U.S. Senate committee investigation that found Apple had cut billions from its tax bill by declaring companies registered in the Irish city of Cork as not being resident for tax purposes in any country. U.S. Senator Carl Levin said the company had achieved the “holy grail of tax avoidance” with the structures.

The Australian Government has also been investigating the practice for some 12 months after it was found that both Apple and Google use the Double Irish loophole to avoid paying tax in Australia.

Noonan has been urged by lobby groups such as the Irish Business & Employers Confederation (IBEC) to balance the planned changes by ensuring Ireland remains an attractive destination for companies, particularly through improving its intellectual property tax regime.

Ireland has been mulling whether to change its tax code now, or wait until next year when the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is due to implement new international tax rules, some of which were proposed last month.

The government believes the OECD’s aim of closing corporate tax loopholes will ultimately be positive for Ireland and there has been no slowdown in the level of foreign direct investment (FDI) pouring into the country.

Dell announced on Friday that it would locate a new research and development centre in its Dublin offices.

“The risks are well identified at this stage. This has been well flagged as far as multinational companies are concerned, what has been discussed in recent months is the timing,” said Feargal O’Rourke, who advises a number of U.S. technology companies as head of tax at PwC Ireland.

“If you are going to move now, you need a sufficient grandfathering period but also a ‘shiny new toy’ that Ireland can sell as part of its tax offering to FDI. Changes to our intellectual property tax regime would ensure the offering remains attractive.”

Ireland’s house building growth rises at its fastest rate since 2000


Commercial construction also rose at a sharp pace although growth moderated on the previous month

The fastest rise in house building in its history drove a further month of growth in Ulster Bank’s Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in September.

The fastest rise in house building in its history drove a further month of growth in Ulster Bank’s ConstructionPurchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in September.

The index hit 61.5 in September, up from 61.4 in August. Any result above the benchmark number of 50 indicates growth on the previous month while any outturn below that indicates the industry contracted.

Ulster said the increase was aided by house building which grew at its fastest pace since the index was introduced in June 2000. The housing index alone reached 68.4 in September, up from 63.7 the previous month.

Commercial construction also rose at a sharp pace, although growth was at a slightly slower rate than in August. The commercial index read 62.7 in September, below the previous month’s figure of 63.2.

Civil engineering, that is large projects such as road building, which are tied to Government spending, showed a relatively sharp decline. The sector returned a result of 45.1 in September, from 48.3 in August.

Ulster Bank chief economist for the Republic of Ireland, Simon Barry, said the recovery in the construction industry continued to gain strength during September, which he said was another month of rapid expansion. “Total activity has now recorded increases in each of the past 13 months,” he said.

Lower dole rate leaves Ireland’s young people

‘struggling to survive and make ends meet’


An organisation representing young people in Ireland is calling for the €188 rate to be restored for all young people who are taking part in education, training and works experience programmes.

A new poll has found that four in ten (40%) young people in Ireland are ‘struggling to make ends meet’ as a result of cuts to dole rates for those under the age of 25.

The Red C poll, commissioned by the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), found that in Dublin, 54% of young people are feeling serious financial pressure because of the cut to Jobseeker’s Allowance.

One in four said they were unable to move out of home because of the reduction in welfare payments, something NYCI’s deputy director, James Doorley, said his organisation was particularly concerned about.

He said cuts to payments for young people in successive Budgets “have made it increasingly difficult for young people to afford to leave home and live independently”.

The impact of recession has been particularly acute for young people in Ireland and especially for young people who are unemployed. This is reflected once again in our poll which shows that a large proportion of them are struggling to meet the costs of ordinary and everyday life.

The poll also found that 11% of young people in receipt of unemployment benefits are currently in debt.

In its pre-budget submission, the organisation is calling on the government to restore the €188 weekly rate for all young people who are participating in education, training or work experience programmes.

Previous Budget decisions have meant that the training allowance for participation in SOLAS training was reduced from €188 to €160 per week. From the start of this year, the payment for those taking part in the Back to Education Allowance Programme was also cut to €160 a week and Jobbridge interns under the age of 25 ended up on €150 per week while working a 40 hour week.

“Such a first step would serve to reduce the rates of poverty and social exclusion amongst young people and provide an additional financial incentive, particularly to the most disadvantaged young people to participate in education, training and work experience opportunities,” commented Doorley.

The justification put forward for the the cuts in welfare was that they would incentivise young people to take up education, training and/or work experience opportunities. This argument is undermined by the fact that the various welfare payments and training allowances to young people under 25 have also been cut in recent Budgets.

“Ultimately, NYCI believes that the welfare rates for young people cut in successive budgets should be reversed as it is causing deprivation and hardship young people who are unemployed and that all citizens should be paid the same rate of jobseekers allowance irrespective of age,” he added.

Stay healthy and calm to prevent irritable bowels


Managing irritable bowel through lifestyle and diet is the best way.

Fifteen to 20% of us will suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Never one to shirk my responsibilities as a columnist, I’ll boldly go where other more easily embarrassed columnists fear to tread. So, this week I am getting stuck into bowels, and irritable bowels specifically. Fifteen to 20pc of us will suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) at some point, and for many people, it’s a giant pain – literally.

IBS has many different symptoms, but the main ones are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation. It’s often worse in periods of stress or may be triggered by certain foods. It doesn’t have any known cause. It’s what’s known as a functional disorder, meaning there’s nothing structurally wrong with your gut – it just doesn’t always work smoothly. And it’s usually a diagnosis of exclusion – so a few other things need to be ruled out before IBS is confirmed. So a series of blood tests, stool samples and possibly a colonoscopy should be done, to make sure of the diagnosis.

But what can you do yourself, to manage the symptoms of IBS?

Well, a simple thing for starters is to keep a symptom diary for a few weeks. This will allow you to see if any foods seem to trigger your symptoms – food intolerances may be implicated in IBS, but generally much less so than people think. It’ll also show whether your symptoms are brought on by stress or emotional upheaval.

The next thing is to look at your lifestyle. I know I bang on a lot about lifestyle but, truth is, the way we live our lives impacts hugely on our health and how we feel. Regular exercise has been proven to ease the symptoms of IBS and should be factored in as part of treatment. If stress seems to be the main cause of your IBS, then managing stress through CBT or indeed medication – if it’s part of a global effect your stress is having on you – is a good idea.

A healthy diet is important for everyone, but in IBS dietary management is especially vital. Eat regularly – don’t leave long gaps between meals. Eat leisurely – don’t bolt your food. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Keep caffeinated drinks to a maximum of three cups per day. Reduce fizzy drinks, alcohol and artificial sweeteners.

If you are prone to diarrhoea reduce fruit and fibre in your diet; however that advice changes if constipation is your main issue. The symptom diary should help you decide if you need more or less fibre in your diet.

A more recent dietary intervention is the low FODMOP diet – I won’t bore you with what that stands for. But this diet, which has been shown to benefit IBS sufferers, involves reducing the amount of certain foods in your diet such as apples, peaches, cabbage, peas, dairy and chocolate to name but a few! A properly qualified dietitian can help you navigate the low FODMOP diet, as excluding so many foods at once can undermine good nutrition – so doing it unsupervised may not be good for you.

Medications such as anti-spasmodics, anti-diarrhoeals, laxatives and peppermint oil can all help symptoms but as in all things, prevention is better than cure, so attending to diet and lifestyle and keeping stress at bay is the best way of managing it. We’re essentially doughnut shaped organisms with our bowel being the central hole. How well it works is often a reflection of our overall health. So take stock and keep well as you’re going through the motions.

This diet is seen as a breakthrough in IBS, as the way the body breaks down these foods is thought to be part of the cause of the condition. Other foods that have been implicated as causing IBS symptoms are wheat, dairy, coffee and onions – but I stress that just excluding a load of foods without proper advice, can cause problems in the long run, so seeing a dietitian is a very good place to start.

Cancer survivors light torch of hope in battle against disease


Former rugby international Tony Ward with cancer survivors Michelle Hanlon, Fairview, and David Howell, Kilcock, at the Torch of Hope walk in aid of the ARC Cancer Support Centres, at CHQ in Dublin

Cancer survivor and rugby legend Tony Ward joined hundreds of marchers in Dublin city centre to remember loved ones lost to the disease.

Fellow cancer survivor, Aslan’s Christy Dignam and his daughter Kiera and the North Dublin Community Gospel Choir entertained the crowd as a cauldron of remembrance was lit on the Samuel Beckett Bridge.

The Torch of Hope walk was in aid of ARC Cancer Support Centres, which has provided holistic care to people battling cancer for 20 years.

Mr Ward said: “Having personally experienced the amazing work that ARC Cancer Support Centres do to support people with cancer and their families through their cancer journey, I can’t think of an event that is more deserving of support than ARC’s Torch of Hope walk. It celebrates the strength and determination of those undergoing treatment, while also remembering those who have passed.”

ARC Cancer Support Centres offer free support at premises on Eccles Street, opposite the Mater Hospital, and the South Circular Road, adjacent to St James’s Hospital.

Giant Squid attacks Greenpeace submarine activists


Greenpeace activists cruising around the Bering Sea were surprised when they saw a rare sight: a giant squid!

Activists were even more shocked when the squid squirted their submarine with ink and then launched a tentacle attack.

The crew reportedly pointed lights at the squid to scare it away, but the fierce creature continued to thrash at them with its tentacles. The squid eventually got away unharmed and the submarine was undamaged.

Giant squids are an extremely rare sight and little is known about them. The marine species reportedly lives about a kilometer under the water. When they’re not attacking submarines, giant squids also attack sperm whales.

The most iconic portrayal of a giant squid battle comes from the 19th century science fiction novel “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” by Jules Verne. In the book, a giant squid attacks the Nautilus, a submarine under the command of Captain Nemo (not to be confused with the clown fish from that Disney movie).

“Most scientific knowledge of the creatures comes from analyzing dead specimens that wash up on ocean beaches from time to time. Scientists have recovered specimens measuring up to 15 metres in length from the end of the tentacles to the top of the head.”

Oddly enough, the giant squid attack happened a couple days after Greenpeace celebrated Octopus Awareness Day. It’s unknown whether the squid was jealous about not having its own awareness day.