Tag Archives: first time buyers

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 15th October 2016

Irish Cabinet now expected to agree to waive scheduled pay increases

Image result for Irish Cabinet now expected to agree to waive scheduled pay increases  Image result for Richard Bruton  Image result for Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said ministers were in line for rises worth €12,000 over three years.

Richard Bruton said ministers will not be taking the scheduled pay increases and the Cabinet is expected to agree next week to waive pay hikes for Ministers and Ministers of State.

Ministers were due to get increases under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement on public sector pay.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe will bring a proposal to extend the freeze on pay restoration for Government members meaning they will forego €12,000 over the next three years.

However TDs will get their pay restored by €5,414 over the same period according to the Department of Public Enterprise, since 2009, TDs’ pay has been reduced by €19,920.

The pay of the taoiseach has been reduced by €117,645 since 2009, a reduction of 41.1%.

The pay of the tánaiste has been reduced by €89,828 since 2009, a reduction of 36.6%.

The pay of a minister has been reduced by €82,023 since 2009, a reduction of 36.4%.

The pay of a minister of state has been reduced by €43,698 since 2009, a reduction of 28%.

Earlier, Minister for Education Richard Bruton told the Dáil that ministers will agree next week to forgo pay increases.

Speaking in the Dáil, the minister said he agreed that politicians need to take a lead and that the Government will confirm next week that ministers will not be taking the proposed pay rise.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said ministers were in line for rises worth €12,000 over three years.

A stop must be put to all increases for politicians, she said and not just “a voluntary pause on these increases”.

We are like athletes says Trump & proposes drug testing before the final debate

Republican’s suggest Hillarly Clinton may have taken performance-enhancing drugs in last showdown and at New Hamphire rally repeats suspicion of a ‘rigged’ election

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Donald Trump suggested on Saturday that Hillary Clinton might have taken performance-enhancing drugs to prepare for their presidential debates, and that both candidates for president should be tested before Wednesday’s final debate.

“We’re like athletes,” the Republican nominee told a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “They make them take a drug test. I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate. I think we should – why don’t we do that?”

Trump continued: “We should take a drug test prior because I don’t know what’s going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate she was all pumped up at the beginning and at the end if was, ‘Huh, take me down.’ She could barely reach her car. So I think we should take a drug test. Anyway, I’m willing to do it.”

Trump’s campaign has previously criticised the media for taking his rally statements literally, for instance saying that the candidate was being “sarcastic” when he said Barack Obama “founded” Isis. Aides have yet to say whether he was speaking tongue in cheek.

Life after Trump: Republicans brace for betrayal and civil war after 2016

The health of both candidates has been under scrutiny in the final months of the grueling 2016 campaign. Clinton was slow to reveal a bout of pneumonia, which her campaign only revealed after she made a premature departure from an 11 September memorial service in New York.

Trump’s repeated sniffling during the first two debates has also drawn attention, and Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, was forced to apologise for tweeting a suggestion that it could be due to cocaine use.

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about what drugs the candidate was suggesting could have been used to enhance Clinton’s debate performance .

A pro-Trump Super Pac, run by millionaire donor Robert Mercer, released an ad earlier this month questioning Clinton’s health. “If athletes need to be tested for drugs for the biggest race of their lives,” the ad says, “shouldn’t candidates be tested for the biggest race of yours?”

With his campaign in a tailspin after several women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, Trump began Saturday with another barrage of tweets that have become a hallmark of his campaign. In them, he alleged that the election was rigged and suggested that a loss on November 8 would be illegitimate. He wrote in one: “100% fabricated and made-up charges, pushed strongly by the media and the Clinton Campaign, may poison the minds of the American Voter. FIX!”

Donald Trump ‘grabbed me and went for the lips’, says a ninth accuser?

In another, he said: “This election is being rigged by the media pushing false and unsubstantiated charges, and outright lies, in order to elect Crooked Hillary!”

And a third: “Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election.”

The Republican nominee has repeatedly suggested that the election is “rigged” over the past few months and warned of voter fraud, without any evidence. Since August, Trump has stirred conspiracy theories in the swing state of Pennyslvania, warning of fraud in “certain areas”, such as Philadelphia, a diverse but majority black city. He has also echoed a 2012 conspiracy theory that Mitt Romney fell victim to voter fraud in the city that year, because he did not receive a single vote in 59 precincts in African American neighborhoods. There are 1,687 precincts in the city and Obama received more than 85% of the vote there in 2012.

Trump picked up the theme during his rally in New Hampshire, scene of his first victory in the Republican primary campaign. “Hillary Clinton is running for president in what looks like a rigged election, OK?” he said. “It looks to me like a rigged election. The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president. And you know what I mean.”

The businessman has been widely condemned by members of both parties for seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the election. But introducing Trump on Saturday, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions fueled the fire. “They are attempting to rig this election,” he said, shaking his fists. “They will not succeed.”

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, denounced the claim. “Campaigns should be hard-fought and elections hard-won, but what is fundamental about the American electoral system is that it is free, fair and open to the people,” he said.

‘I’m a gentleman’ as Trump menaces Clinton with imposing presence and brash insults

“Participation in the system – and particularly voting – should be encouraged, not dismissed or undermined because a candidate is afraid he’s going to lose.”

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the top Republican in Washington does not agree with Trump’s assertion of fraud. “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” she said.

A spokesperson for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus did not respond to a request for comment and a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment about whether they agreed that the election is “rigged.” Priebus, McConnell and Ryan continue to support Trump although dozens of their party colleagues have denounced him.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson also disputed the claim, with spokesman Joe Hunter saying “he doesn’t believe the actual voting is rigged”. “He has major issues with the two-party control of ballot access, debates, etc,” Hunter added.

In contrast, Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a fierce Trump critic, tweeted on Saturday: “Freedom-loving Americans repudiate anybody who says they want to make lawful voters ‘a little bit nervous’ at polls.”

Trump also attempted to defend himself against the repeated sexual harassment allegations. “How about this crazy woman on the airplane,” he said of one accuser. “I mean, can anybody believe that one? How about this? After 15 minutes! We don’t know each other.”

“After 15 minutes, she says, ‘Well, that was too much, I decided’. Fifteen minutes! With the ladies in this place it would be one second and then it would be smack. Fifteen minutes! It’s a crazy world we’re living in.”

Fianna Fáil wants changes to first-time buyer scheme

Fianna Fáil is to put pressure on Government ministers to vote in favour of changing their own first-time buyers scheme.

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The main opposition party is now seeking the support of the Independent Alliance when they table amendments the new first-time buyers scheme.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen yesterday said: “I will be asking the Independent Alliance to support the amendments we table, in particular we will be asking them to back our amendment to lower the ceiling to €400,000.”

The tax rebate announced as part of the budget will allow first-time buyers to claim up to €20,000 back on a new home. Buyers can claim back 5% of the price of a €400,000 and above that the rebate will be capped at €20,000, however those who purchase homes up to the value of €600,000 will all be eligible for the scheme.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney yesterday defended the €600,000 ceiling by saying he didn’t want to create a “cliff effect”.

“If someone was buying a house for €405,000 we didn’t want them to get nothing, yet a person buying a house for €400,000 would get support from the State to the tune of €20,000. So that’s why we effectively stopped the benefit at €400,000 and then the benefit is frozen beyond that up to €600,000. But we don’t expect first-time buyers will be buying houses at above €400,000 in any numbers.”

Mr Coveney said that in total first-time buyers bought 760 homes across the country last year.

“Builders simply aren’t building homes for that sector. And we need to change that.”

But Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said the incentive would only push up prices and called on them to withdraw the scheme.

“If Mr Coveney is going to press ahead, he needs to outline how he’s going to monitor house prices over the next 12 to 18 months, and if there’s any evidence of house price inflation — as we believe there is going to be — then he needs to suspend the scheme.”

He said the Oireachtas housing committee had spent a “lot of time” speaking with experts on the issues but this work had been “ignored” by Mr Coveney.

“In general our view was that we needed to see the price of house reduce, rather than schemes to increase access to credit,” said Mr Ó Broin. “What we proposed back in June was that the Housing Agency be given a task of doing an annual audit of the all-in cost of providing residential units, and within three months — and that would have been in time for the budget — to make clear policy recommendations based on evidence and international best practice, as how to reduce those costs.”

UHG Inquiry after amputation of toes was performed in non-sterile ward hospital

A review is under way in University Hospital Galway into why the procedure was not in theatre

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It is understood that theatre space had been booked for a patient who was due to have several toes amputated in one procedure.

University Hospital Galway has initiated a “review” into how an amputation scheduled for theatre took place in a general ward yesterday.

The hospital run by the Saolta University health care group in Galway city could not outline the circumstances due to “patient confidentiality”. However, it confirmed that the incident had occurred.

It is understood that theatre space had been booked for a patient who was due to have several toes amputated in one procedure. However, the procedure was carried out in a ward instead. It is understood that nursing staff were concerned that protocols may have been breached. Medical protocols normally require that amputations take place under sterile conditions and under anaesthetic in a theatre.

A procedure room?

In certain circumstances surgical procedures can take place in a clinical or procedure room. This might occur if theatre space was not available, or the surgery was being carried out under local anaesthetic. A spokesman for Saolta health care group management said in a statement that “an inquiry has been initiated into how an amputation took place in a ward rather than a theatre at University Hospital, Galway”.

“We can confirm that management at University Hospital Galway are currently reviewing the circumstances surrounding a surgical procedure carried out today at ward level,” the statement said. “In the interests of patient confidentiality, no further comment will be made,” it added.

The hospital is one of the busiest in the State, and pressure on its emergency department has led to implementation of full capacity protocols on a series of occasions in recent months.

Man who saved baby at Buncrana tragedy pier gets medal for bravery

Davitt Walsh who swam out to car where five drowned among those honoured in Dublin.

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Davitt Walsh, who rescued a child from drowning off Buncrana pier in March, with his mother Siobhán, as he received the Michael Heffernan gold medal for bravery at Farmleigh, Dublin.

The Donegal man who rescued a four-month-old baby from a car which was sinking off Buncrana pier earlier this year has been awarded a gold medal by the State.

Davitt Walsh (29), who brought Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty to safety after the car in which her family was travelling slipped off the Co Donegal pier, was conferred with the Michael Heffernan gold medal for marine gallantry on Friday evening.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross, who presented the awards at Farmleigh House, Dublin, paid tribute to Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas, who lost her life during a search off Co Clare last month.

The nominations for this round of awards had closed before Ms Lucas lost her life.

The citation for Mr Walsh’s action in Buncrana extols his bravery at “huge peril to his own safety” and his “quick reactions to a very rapidly deteriorating situation”.

Five people, including the baby’s father Seán, and two brothers Mark (12) and Evan (8), died in the incident on Lough Swilly on March 20th. The RNLI Lough Swilly lifeboat crew who assisted in the alert received a ministerial letter of appreciation.

The gold medal – named after the late diver Michael Heffernan who lost his life while assisting in a cave rescue off north Mayo in October 1997 – was also awarded to Irish Coast Guard helicopter winchman Gary Robertson for his rescue of a fisherman off Inishinny island, Co Donegal, last April.

Mr Robertson worked in very dangerous conditions to cut the fisherman free when he became entangled and trapped in gear attached to a sinking vessel.

A bronze medal was presented to Sam Nunn and his crew of Ruarí Nunn, Brian Kehoe and Niall McGee, who rescued nine people from drowning close to the Saltee Islands off the south Wexford coast in August 2015.

Bronze medals were also given to Paul Dolan and Dean Treacy, who rescued a man from a rigid inflatable off Clontarf, Dublin, in October 2012; and to Charlie Hennigar, who rescued three people after a gangway collapsed between a pier and ferry on Inisheer in June of this year.

Ministerial letters of appreciation for their role in rescues were also awarded to the Skerries Coast Guard unit in north Dublin; the RNLI Castletownbere and Kinsale lifeboat crews in Cork; the Irish Coast Guard’s rescue 116 helicopter crew and its winchman Richard Desay; Dean Coleman who rescued a swimmer off Sandycove, Dublin, last summer; and Gavin Byrne who rescued three people off the Wexford coast last year.

Some 150 countries agree to sign new Climate Change deal

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About 150 countries have agreed to a deal reducing greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide in an effort to fight climate change.

The agreement divides countries into three groups with different deadlines to reduce the use of factory-made hydrofluorocarbon gases, according to Rwandan minister Vinncent Biruta.

The developed nations, including most of Europe and the US, will reduce their use of the gas by 10% before 2019, reaching 85% by 2036.

More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s worst polluter, will freeze their use of the gas by 2024.

A small group of countries, including India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and some Gulf states negotiated a later start in 2029.

That date is two years earlier than India, the world’s third-worst polluter, had initially suggested.

These countries will then reduce their use gradually.

Environmental groups say they hope the deal can cut global warming by a half-degree celsius by the end of this century.

Durwood Zaelke, president of Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said the agreement gets about 90% of the way there, with a statement from his group describing it as the ‘largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement’.

Clare Perry, UK climate campaign leader with the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: ‘Compromises had to be made, but 85% of developing countries have committed to the early schedule starting 2024, which is a very significant achievement.’

David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the deal is ‘equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years.’

Small island states, such as those in the Pacific, had called for quicker action, saying that they face the biggest danger from climate change.

Mattlan Zackhras, representing the Marshall Islands, said: ‘(The deal) may not be entirely what the islands wanted but it is a good deal.

‘We all know we must go further and we will go further.’

HFCs were introduced in the 1980s to replace ozone-depleting gases.

They are used in fridges, air conditioning, some inhalers and insulating foams.

But they can be 100,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases and their danger increased as sales of fridges and air conditioning massively increased in developing economies such as China and India.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th February 2016. 

A BIG breakthrough in the Nama NI controversy

This follows a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast this evening.


The main players above in the Nama NI controversy.

There has been a significant breakthrough in the Nama NI controversy.

The BBC Spotlight programme broadcast this evening has shown businessman Frank Cushnahan claiming that he was due to be paid a fixer fee in relation to a deal involving the Irish bad bank.

During the course of the programme this was shown as part of a covert recording.

Cushnahan has previously denied that he was due to receive money for his role in any deal.

Nama’s entire loan portfolio was sold to the Cerberus investment fund in 2014.

After its inception in 2009, Nama had controlled a huge property book in Northern Ireland, and had set up a committee in the region to handle it.

According to the BBC, Cushnahan – who had been appointed to that committee by the DUP which began negotiations with US investment fund Pimco about the possibility of buying the entire portfolio.

He did this without Nama’s knowledge at the time.

During BBC Spotlight’s secret recording Cushnahan is heard talking about work he did with a Belfast solicitor and stating the importance of his role, and that it was deliberately hidden because of objection from Nama.

Previously, independent TD Mick Wallace has submitted questions to Nama asking whether or not Frank Cushnahan had ever met with US investment fund personnel.

In a statement issued to the BBC Spotlight programme, property developer John Miskelly said that he had reported financial misconduct to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in relation to the Project Eagle sale.

He also said he was aware of a number of other incidents of financial misconduct.

Irish first-time buyers flee the property as market as figures show

Mortgage approvals to new entrants reveal 23% slump


The Royal Canal Park, Dublin 15, (Left picture) where three- and four-bedroom homes are on sale from € 315,000. Latest figures from the BPFI show that mortgage approvals to first-time buyers slumped by 23% in the year to January 2016.

Mortgage approvals plummeted in the three months to January 2016, as first-time buyers either fled the market or postponed their mortgage approval application in the wake of the new lending regulations from the Central Bank.

On a year-on-year basis, the number of mortgages approved to January 2016 plummeted by 15%, according to latest figures from the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), while the value of mortgage approvals slid by 13.6%.

First-time buyers

The decline in mortgage approvals was most marked for first time buyers (FTB) however, with mortgage approvals down by 23.1% on a number basis, to 1,067, and by 12.4% (€190m) on a value basis. These are the lowest level of approvals since the series began in September 2014, although FTBs still accounted for about 50 per cent of all mortgage approvals.

While the end of the year is traditionally a quiet time for the housing market, and the last quarter of 2014 was particularly strong ahead of the new lending rules, the figures nonetheless show a marked decrease.

Keith Lowe, chief executive of DNG, said that the figures “surprised” him.

“On the ground we’re not experience any drop off, especially on the new homes front,” he said. Indeed the estate agent is set to launch Dodderbrook, a scheme of 3-4 bed semi-detached houses at Ballycullen this Saturday, and Mr Lowe says that 300 people have already registered their interest in the scheme.

“Anecdotally it just doesn’t seem to make sense,” he added.

Central Bank rules

Investec analysts John Cronin and Cian Harty said that the decline in mortgage approvals is related to the dampening in demand for new mortgage loans in response to the Central Bank of Ireland’s (CBI’s) macroprudential regulations. However, they added that they expect the effects of these regulations “will bed down and normalise over the course of the year”.

The rules, which were introduced in February 2015, restrict loan to income multiple to 3.5 times income, and loan to value to 80 per cent, although exceptions up to a certain limit are allowed.

Rachel Doyle, chief operations officer with broker group PIBA, said that the figures show just how difficult the market has become for first-time buyers.

“The fact is home ownership is now beyond the reach of many potential first-time buyers who are being forced into a very tight and increasingly expensive rental market,” she said, adding that the “over-zealous and ill-timed” Central Bank rules have severely impacted both the first-time-buyer and the trader-up segments of the market.

“The Central Bank should reduce the 20 per cent deposit requirement to 10 per cent with the maximum loan amount being increased from 3.5 to 4.5 times income,” she urged.

However, one aspect of the rules which may be hitting mortgage approvals is the room for exceptions. Under the rules, banks can allow a certain proportion of their mortgage books exceed the aforementioned limits. As these are typically run on an annual or quarterly basis, banks effectively ran out of these exceptions by year-end. This may have led some putative homeowners to postpone their mortgage approval – and the chance to get a bigger loan – until the new year, causing the slump in the figures.

Switchers on the move

In comparison, switchers are on the rise however, with the figures showing that there was a significant increase in both re-mortgage and top-up mortgage approvals. More than 400 homeowners opted to switch mortgages in the three months, at a value of €98 million, most likely in order to avail of lower rates. This represented a year-on-year volume increase of 105.1 per cent.

Even more homeowners (about 450) opted to top up their mortgage in the three months, at a total value of €34 million, giving rise to a 12.7 per cent year-on-year increase in volume.

The drawdown figures?

Earlier this month figures published by the BPFI showed that 8,103 mortgage were drawn down in the fourth quarter, up 6.9 per cent year-on-year. The value of the mortgages drawndown rose by 8.2% to € 1.45 billion. One could expect that the slowdown in approvals will feed into drawdown figures later in the year.

Dublin voted No.1 Airport in Europe for passenger service

2015 was a record year


Celebrating the No. 1 spot for passenger service are in picture left (Left to to Right) Dublin Airport Terminal Services Officer Yanina Khizhinskaya with Dublin Airport Managing Director, Vincent Harrison and Terminal Services Officer, Niall Feiritear.

Dublin Airport has topped a survey of its peers, placing first for customer service among airports of its size in Europe.

The survey, conducted by Airports Council International (ACI), saw the airport beat off 14 peers handling 15-25 million passengers a year.

Dublin also tied for second place in the Best Airport by Region in Europe handling over two million passengers a year, alongside Zurich, Prague and Malta.

The results marks huge progress for the airport, which just a few short years ago was rock bottom in a similar ACI survey.

“Since then we were determined to improve our customers’ experience of the airport and we have done that every year to get to this top spot,” commented its Managing Director, Vincent Harrison.

The 2015 results, based on in-depth surveys of passengers passing through airports, focus on improvements in customer service.

“Dublin Airport’s number one ranking in Europe demonstrates its professionalism, commitment and success in delivering that high level of customer service,” said Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI World.

The country’s main airport shattered its previous record by over 15pc to record 25 million passengers in 2015.

The addition of 23 new routes and extra capacity on almost 40 existing services saw it become the 18th busiest airport in Europe last year.

This year is likely to be even busier, with several new routes on the way and daa examining its options for a second runway.

Bookie Paddy Power “encouraged a gambler to visit more” until he lost his home, jobs and family’

Bookmaker also failed to stop its fixed-odds betting machines being used to launder the proceeds of crime, says Gambling Commission report.


A senior employee advised that ‘steps should be taken to try to increase Customer A’s visits and time spent in the gambling premises’.

Bookmaker Paddy Power encouraged a problem gambler to keep betting until he lost five jobs, his home and access to his children, according to a report by the Gambling Commission.

The company also failed to perform sufficient checks to ensure customers were not using its betting machines to launder the proceeds of crime. The betting regulator said Paddy Power would make a voluntary payment of £280,000 to a “socially responsible” cause following its findings.

Paddy Power will also review procedures designed to prevent money laundering and problem gambling and agree to share details of its own failings with the rest of the industry. But politicians and campaigners called for a review of the industry following the report, as they warned of an out of control gambling epidemic in the UK.

In one case, Paddy Power admitted that senior staff encouraged a man with a gambling problem to keep betting despite warnings by more junior employees.

The man, referred to only as Customer A, was a frequent user of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which have been referred to as the “crack cocaine” of gambling. The machines allow customers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on games such as roulette and blackjack, for which the odds are fixed.

In May 2014, Paddy Power staff became aware that Customer A was working five separate jobs to fund his gambling and “had no money”, the Gambling Commission said. Although he claimed to be comfortable with his level of gambling, shop staff passed their concerns up the chain to senior staff, who advised monitoring him.

Later that month, the shop manager informed a more senior member of staff that Customer A would be visiting the shop less frequently. The senior employee responded by advising that “steps should be taken to try to increase Customer A’s visits and time spent in the gambling premises”.

“This was grossly at odds with the licensing objective of preventing vulnerable people from being exploited by gambling,” said the Gambling Commission.

The shop manager “recorded some discomfort” about the senior employee’s advice, according to the commission, and staff later noticed that the customer was “spending heavily and […] looked unwell and as if he had not slept for a while”. He was only advised to seek help for gambling addiction in August 2014, when a staff member met him on the street and learned that he had lost all of his jobs, was homeless and had lost access to his children.

Paddy Power has posted a record annual pre-tax profit of €167m (£130m) and the £9bn business is set to enter the FTSE 100 index of Britain’s biggest listed companies this week after increasing its size by merging with rival Betfair. The company said: “The historical failings outlined in this report were clearly unacceptable. Paddy Power has since significantly strengthened its internal procedures and staff have been retrained to ensure these procedures are implemented effectively. Paddy Power Betfair takes its responsibilities extremely seriously and we have cooperated fully with the Gambling Commission at every stage of this process.”

But Labour MP Caroline Harris said the case was an example of a “national problem facing society” adding: “This case highlights how sections of the gambling industry appear to be virtually out of control.”

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFG), said the case was evidence that some senior staff in the industry were not serious about reducing problem gambling.

“It’s happening again and again and it’s not operational staff, they’re the ones reporting it,” said spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin. “It’s the guys at the top overriding these concerns for commercial reasons. They’re just turning a blind eye to this.”

He added that the government should launch a review into its decision to reject calls for maximum stakes on FOBTs to be dramatically reduced. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has called for the maximum stake be cut from £100 to £2, but the government rejected the suggestion in July 2015.

The Gambling Commission also detailed two cases in which Paddy Power failed to apply money laundering controls designed to stop people using betting terminals to conceal the proceeds of crime. Criminals can use games such as roulette to launder money at a small cost, gambling experts said. For instance, someone with £100 in cash could place £48 on black, £48 on red and £2 on green, or 0. The maximum they could lose would be £4, at which point they could ask a bookmaker to put the remaining £96 on their debit card.

The money would then appear as a legitimate payment from a bookmaker, hiding the fact that it could have been cash from a criminal enterprise. The Gambling Commission said that in August 2014, a shop manager suspected that Customer B, a longstanding user of Paddy Power shops, was using gambling facilities to launder Scottish bank notes.

The manager related their suspicions to more senior members of staff on four occasions over six months. But senior staff “repeatedly overruled” the shop manager, saying that as the notes were British currency and were not stained or counterfeit, it was unlikely that the money was being laundered.

None of the suspicions were reported to the company’s money laundering reporting officer. Paddy Power only barred the customer after police raised fears that Scottish banknotes that were the proceeds of crime were being laundered in London.

Subsequent checks revealed the customer could not validate ownership of a business she claimed to belong to her. The company initially told the Gambling Commission it had followed its money laundering policy but later admitted it had not dealt with its staff members’ suspicions properly.

In a separate incident, police warned Paddy Power that Mark Cooney, who had pleaded guilty to stealing more than £250,000 from two banks where he worked, was a frequent customer of the bookmaker. Paddy Power “made no direct inquires” about how Cooney, who was eventually sentenced to 28 months in prison, had obtained the funds he used for gambling.



A new video shows how the human face has evolved over six million years, compressing the full history of human evolution into 68 seconds.

The author of the video, John Gurche, describes himself as a “paleoartist” and has made his name producing realistic reconstructions of long-dead creatures based on fossil evidence. The new video comes as precursor to his latest book titled Shaping Humanity: How Science, Art, and Imagination Help Us Understand Our Origins.

Gurche, who studied Anthropology and Paleontology at the University of Kansas is currently the artist in residence at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York. He unveiled a bust of the recently discovered Homo naledi in September.

The recreation of Homo naledi by paleoartist John Gurche.

Gurche explained his work in a recent profile in National Geographic. For this project, Gurche traveled to the cave in South Africa where scientists discovered Homo naledi, the oldest ancestors to modern homo sapiens.

He spent weeks measuring, photographing, drawing and making casts of the skulls, before heading back to his New York studio, where he spent four-and-a-half months building up muscle and facial features using clay.

“I had such wonder and awe for this phenomenon of humans evolving, and I couldn’t really find a place for that in the scientific work,” he told the magazine, adding that he instead found it in art.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 8th & 9th November 2014

Honohan says 20% mortgage deposit rule may not happen


Central Bank Governor not in favour of Government home loan insurance plan

Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan has hinted that there could be an easing of the rules that will require mortgage applicants to save a 20% deposit.

Last month, the Central Bank announced new mortgage rules requiring homebuyers to put down a 20% deposit on the value of a property and that banks will be restricted to lending three-and-a-half times a borrower’s gross income.

“The Central Bank’s recent consultation paper pointedly raises the question of whether adequately insured mortgages should be allowed to exceed the general 80% rule which has been proposed – this might cover up to 90%, for example,” he said.

The regulations were due to come into effect on January 1st 2015.

“While we point out that too liberal a use of such insurance can have the effect of neutralising the effectiveness of a ceiling on loan-to-value ratios as a mechanism for preventing house price bubbles, and while it typically provides no protection to the borrower, this would be less a concern if limited, for example, to relatively small loans and/or first time buyers,” he said.

Mr Honohan was speaking at the annual National Management Forum, held by the Money Advice and Budgetary Service, in Portlaoise.

He also indicated he was not in favour of the Government mortgage insurance plan which will involve the State taking responsibility for 10–15% of a loan’s value, the deposit covering approximately 5%, and the bank being liable for the remainder.

“Of course, mortgage insurance would achieve relatively little if it merely shuffled systemic risk around within the domestic economy: external insurance from solid insurers would be needed,” he said.

Mr Honohan also said that limiting high loan-to-income mortgages will ensure consumer protection in the future and reduce the re-emergence of over indebtedness.

“We do envisage continuing to allow high LTIs – just not too many of them,” he said.

He said the Central Bank would do all in its power to protect the new generation of households and the nation at large, from the risk of repetition of what happened before.

Mr Honohan said while the implementation of personal insolvency framework had some “teething problems” it has helped to address “the imbalance of power that is often inherent in the creditor-debtor relationship.”

Mr Honohan referred to the “stigmatisation” of debtors and said “judgmental language or attaching blame is usually not the most constructive way of dealing with the acute practical problems” associated with debt.

He added that some of the writing on financial literacy “smacks of blaming the victim”.

“Many of the most acute household financial problems come from misfortune and lapses of judgement. Probably some of this could have been avoided if individuals, lenders as well as borrowers, had been informed to make good financial decisions under conditions of uncertainty,” he said.

Waves of emigration from Ireland leave a legacy of love and loss behind it


‘The report is a reminder that behind all the emigration statistics over the past 200 years, and despite the modern revolution in technology, certain things remain constant’

‘During its various waves it is not just parents who have experienced loss, but also siblings who could not or would not leave for a variety of reasons.’

Above, Irish emigrants leaving the West of Ireland for America in 1880. Original Publication:

Occasionally, research findings that appear to highlight the blindingly obvious are published. Earlier this week, Trinity College Dublin’s longitudinal study on ageing (www.tilda.tcd.ie) highlighted the hardly surprising reality that some mothers have suffered from depression following the emigration of their children between 2009 and 2013.

Research for the Tilda report reveals “general and robust evidence of mental health declines for the mothers of emigrants … by comparing the parents who saw at least one child emigrate with those whose children remained in Ireland, we have the potential to produce strong statistical evidence of a causal relationship between emigration and mental health”.

The authors of the report stress that what is novel in their approach is that “while emigration is often discussed in terms of the people who leave, this paper shows that there are real impacts on the people left behind … While the suffering of parents as their children leave is often referred to, this is the first time that the effects have been identified in a nationally-representative dataset.”

Again, it is hardly revelatory that those left behind feel the effects, but it is fair to highlight that such feelings have not traditionally been explored in depth and to that extent, at least the report encourages reflection on the impact of emigration on those people.

The report is a reminder that behind all the emigration statistics over the past 200 years, and despite the modern revolution in technology, certain things remain constant and unchanging.

In 2010, Philip Lynch from Westmeath, who emigrated to Melbourne in the 1980s, offered this powerful and moving recollection in a contribution to this newspaper: “On the June morning I left, I found my mother in an upstairs bedroom. She was already well past the point of consolation .. . the surprise and shock of seeing my mother so upset that morning stayed with me for a long time.”

Those who benefited

This is only part of the complex history of Irish emigration. During its various waves it is not just parents who have experienced loss, but also siblings who could not or would not leave for a variety of reasons, but there were always those who benefited materially by staying at home, whether through inheritance or the money sent home from abroad; emigration created its own hierarchies.

In the 19th century, for example, it was convenient for commercial farmers who were doing well to blame Irish emigration on British colonial rule and thus to divert attention from their own role in evictions, farm consolidation and market-oriented farming.

Irish historian Kevin Kenny points out that “there was a strong element of expediency in the invocation of banishment and exile by those who stayed at home”. But on the other side there were also those who felt they had lost much by not leaving.

When he was interviewed for an RTÉ Prime Timeprogramme in 2003 that dealt with the experiences of Irish emigrants who had fallen on hard times, Fr Jerry Kivlehan of the Camden Irish Centre in London insisted: “Ireland hasn’t even begun the debate about emigration. In the same family you can have two brothers – one forced to emigrate, the other forced to stay. Both end their lives feeling bitter, both feeling they got the bad end of the stick.”

Since then, owing to the most recent wave of emigration, it is fair to assert that some of the debate that Kivlehan identified as absent has begun, at least in relation to the emigrants.

When occasionally referred to historically, Irish emigrants were often spoken and written about in the abstract, or religious and charitable organisations would speak on their behalf, but the displaced individuals remained invisible.

Contemporary emigrants, partly due to their level of education and developments in communications and social media are much more vocal and in touch with Irish news and current affairs, but those who are grieving their absence rarely get much attention beyond the annual snapshots of them tearfully embracing their loved ones as they embark on their journey or return for holidays.

At least the Tilda report highlights some of the psychological implications for those enduring loss. Reading it, I was reminded of Seán Keating’s 1936 painting Economic Pressure which depicts a stationary, gaunt, immobile man standing between two worlds; the barren Aran islands and the world of opportunity beyond, where a younger man embracing his female relative, probably his mother, is heading to.

We know from accounts written by emigrants, including the writer George O’Brien, that the journey for such young emigrants was not straightforward; in O’Brien’s words, it often involved handling identity and integration issues by “sliding from one self to another, which seemed part of the swing of things”, or in the words of another writer and former journalist with this newspaper, Donal Foley, “clinging to the comradeship of adversity”.

Perhaps the Tilda report will make us think about how such mental sliding and clinging works for those left at home, bereft. Such feelings do not just belong to the pre-Skype decades.

Michael Ring launches an Ireland tourism drive


The Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, joined Tourism Ireland and 70 tourism enterprises from across the island of Ireland at World Travel Market (WTM) in London last week, heralding the beginning of the promotional drive overseas for the 2015 season.

Now in its 35th year, World Travel Market is the largest B2B event in the global travel and tourism calendar, with about 50,000 travel industry professionals from around the world and 3,000 influential international media in attendance.

According to the organisers of WTM, more than £2.2 billion (approximately €2.8 billion) worth of business was transacted at the event in 2013. This year, some 70 Irish tourism enterprises – including hotels, visitor attractions, ferry companies, coach companies, incoming tour operators, hostels and activity providers – exhibited at the Tourism Ireland stand.

Over four days, they engaged in thousands of meetings with British and international tour operators as they negotiated and exchange vital contracts for 2015.

Minister Ring said: “I am highly impressed with the level of business done by the tourism industry at this year’s World Travel Market, particularly at the Ireland stand, where I saw tourism enterprises from all parts of the country conducting hundreds of business meetings and doing a great job of selling tourism to the global travel trade.

“The government believes strongly in the importance of tourism as a vehicle for Irish economic recovery and we are committed to supporting the tourism industry’s efforts to increase Ireland’s export earnings from overseas tourism.”

Latest CSO figures for overseas visitors to Ireland are very strong, confirming growth of 9.3 per cent in overseas visitors to Ireland for the January to September period – more than 500,000 additional visitors when compared with the same nine-month period in 2013.

Benjy the gay bull faces the slaughterhouse because he’s ‘more interested in other bulls than heifers’

Benjy has now been replaced on the Co Mayo farm.

A bull with seemingly no interest in cows, but a liking for other bulls, is facing the slaughterhouse.

Benjy, the breeding bull, has been chasing other bulls as opposed to heifers.

He is now facing the slaughterhouse as his owner has been forced to bring in a replacement bull to inseminate his herd.

The farmer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he is resigned to the animal’s sexuality.

“The bull is now too old to castrate and turn into a bullock so I will keep him for the factory,” he told the Irish Daily Mail.

The farmer bought the pedigree Charolais bull last year and let it run among his herd of cows.

However, he was disappointed when scans showed that none of the herd were carrying calves.

“Benjy had already been tested and everything was normal, so it became apparent that the problem lay elsewhere,” he told the Mail.

The farmer thought he might have been a “discreet chappie” who didn’t want to be “doing the business in public”.

On closer observation, the farmer noted that Benjy seemed more interested in other bulls as opposed to cows.

“At first I didn’t take seriously that the bull could be gay but after seeking advice I know this can happen,” he said.

A number of the herd are now expecting after a replacement bull was brought in to the east Co Mayo farm.

Short-beaked dolphins frolic for first time in Strangford lough 


One of the dolphins caught up close

Two research scientists gathering seaweed have captured the startling moment a pair of dolphins decided to start frolicking in the waters near the mouth of Strangford Lough.

The marine mammals were captured breaching the surface and leaping into the air repeatedly close to the Minesto sea kite underwater turbine – also a popular spot with the local porpoises.

Dr Karen Mooney managed to take six minutes of gripping footage on her mobile phone after the alert was raised by Dr Louise Kregting, her colleague at the Queen’s University Marine Lab in Portaferry.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group later revealed that it was the first validated sighting record of the short-beaked common dolphin in Strangford Lough and only the second record of the species appearing in the waters off the Co Down coast.

Dr Mooney, project manager of the QUB section of the international EnAlgae research project investigating uses for seaweed, said she was on her way to the longlines where the weed is cultivated when the dolphins put on their magnificent show.

“We were heading out in the boat on Wednesday morning to check the lines round Jackdaw Island when Louise saw a bit of splashing in the lough,” she told the Belfast Telegraph. “We went out in the boat and just circled round the area for about six minutes.

“They seem to like playing in between the sea kite turbine and Audley’s Castle on the shore.”

Queen’s marine team film Dolphins playing in Strangford Lough in rare sighting

The pair were captured on film breaching the water, leaping, rolling onto their backs and belly-flopping.

“We sent the footage to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group and they said it was the first recorded footage of a sighting of this species in Strangford Lough and only the second sighting of the common dolphin on the Co Down coast,” said Dr Mooney.

“The first time they were seen was off the Copeland Islands.

The video can be viewed on YouTube at http://youtu.be/C9IWQM206rk   

Background: Short-beaked common dolphins are gregarious and live in herds ranging from a few tens to several thousands. They are active and boisterous and often bow-ride boats, ships and even large whales. Breaching and surface slaps using the flippers are not uncommon.

They are highly vocal, producing a wide range of whistles and pulsed sounds. The most useful field identification features of the short-beaked common dolphin are the yellowish/ochre patches on the sides in front of the dorsal fin and the V formed by the intersection of the different colours just below the dorsal fin.