Tag Archives: isme

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 14th August 2016

Ireland’s mortgage rates still the highest in Europe


Irish homeowners continue to pay the highest costs in Europe for their loans, while savers here get some of the worst rates, according to official figures.

The latest Central Bank survey showed the average rate Irish banks charge new customers for all types of floating rate mortgages stood at 3.22% in June.

The rate rises to 3.56% when the large amount of so-called renegotiated or restructured home loans are excluded.

The mortgage rate in the Republic compares with an average 1.81% banks charge new business customers across the Eurozone.

In Ireland, mortgage rates for new customers, including renegotiated loans, has fallen by a meagre 9 basis points in the past 12 months. The decline stands at 30 basis points once renegotiated loans are excluded.

Rates for variable rate mortgages fell 53 basis points to an average of 3.60%. Fixed rates for one to three years fell here by 26 basis points.

On deposits, the rates banks pay customers for their savings have shrunk in Ireland and the eurozone. However, banks here pay savers 0.13%, compared with an average rate of 0.58% across the whole of the eurozone.

Most Irish lenders this year have encouraged borrowers to switch to fixed rate mortgages from standard variable rates.

Irish banks also say that around half of all mortgage borrowers here pay tacker mortgage rates of around 1% or less.

Critics, however, say some banks persist in charging existing borrowers higher rates than those offered to new customers.

“The reductions in the ECB rates have been passed onto depositors, but mortgage holders have not benefited to any significant degree,” said Brendan Burgess of the Fair Mortgage Rates Campaign.

Rachel McGovern, chief operations officer at the industry group Professional Insurance Brokers Association, urged banks to offer “good” long-term rates of up to 20 years.

The figures show “two thirds of all new mortgages issued in the year to June were standard variable rate arrangements points to a lack of proper long-term fixed rates in the market and shows how out-of-step Ireland is with its European counterparts, she said.

The Central Bank said that banks sold new mortgage agreements of €417m in June and €4.5bn over the past year.

The new business excludes renegotiated mortgage arrangements struck between customers and banks.

There was €300m worth of home loans renegotiated in June.

The average rate paid by homeowners for their renegotiated mortgages stands at 3.03%, the figures show.

Crimes against small businesses in Ireland cost €1.8bn annually

A wide ranging survey reveals shops most affected, through theft and vandalism


Isme is calling for greater CCTV surveillance and more Gardaí.

A survey of small and medium-sized businesses has estimated that crimes against business cost them €1.83 billion annually.

The study by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme), found that 31% of Ireland’s 245,000 SMEs were affected by crime in the last year, with an average direct cost of €6,570, a total of €499 million.

Each of the 245,000 businesses, it found, spends an average of €5,428 on crime prevention measures, a total of €1.33 billion.

The number of businesses directly affected by crime is down 5% when compared with the previous year’s survey, Isme said. Almost half of businesses in Dublin city reported crime, with 36% in Dublin county and 19% in Munster. Of those affected, 45% experienced more than two crimes.

Retail businesses were most affected, followed by construction and distribution businesses. Almost a third of incidents were theft by outsiders, with 27% of incidents related to vandalism. About 62% of respondents were not covered by insurance, with about a fifth of businesses electing not to report incidents to An Garda Síochána.

The survey indicated a low take-up of services provided by the Crime Prevention Office, with Dublin businesses most likely to use it.

National forum on crime?

Isme has made 11 recommendations for reducing the level of crimes against businesses, including measures to properly categorise and define incidents, so trends can be better measured and analysed. The group also suggested a national forum on crime to propose solutions and share information, comprising members from the Garda, politicians and the business community. The association also called for greater closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance and increased numbers of Gardaí. It also called for changes to data protection rules to allow businesses share CCTV.

“The reduction of business crime is fundamental to business prosperity and is not being prioritised by government,” said Mark Fielding, the chief executive of Isme. He also claimed businesses have a “total lack of faith” in the criminal justice system.

“Crime against business is often seen as victimless but it has a very real impact on SMEs and their employees. SMEs are particularly vulnerable to business crime as they lack scale and therefore they experience greater difficulty in absorbing the direct and indirect costs of crime,” he said.

Allianz Insurer makes premium Advt ‘Dare To’ take a positive step? 


A scene from the Allianz ‘dare to’ campaign

With the rising cost of insurance making headlines all this year, Allianz – one of the largest multi-line insurers in the Irish market – has launched its latest brand campaign called ‘Dare To’.

Allianz Ireland has a turnover in excess of €450m and employs 1,450 people and is owned by the German-headquartered Allianz SE Group.

Created by Rapport Marketing Communications and produced by production company Hot Sauce, the campaign aims to convey the positivity of the Irish economy and the people and businesses that ‘dare to’ make it tick over while at the same time demonstrating the peace of mind the company’s customers enjoy, allowing them to live life to the full.

Second Garda denies a Mary Boyle cover-up?

Retired sergeant alleges his comments in a documentary were taken out of context


Mary Boyle went missing in 1977.

A second Garda officer who contributed to a documentary about the disappearance of Mary Boyle has denied claims of political interference in the investigation of the case.

Retired detective sergeant Aidan Murray, who featured in Mary Boyle: The Untold Story, has claimed the programme was “selective” and “misleading” in how it presented his interview.

The documentary includes allegations of political interference and a cover-up in the original Garda investigation into the disappearance of the six-year-old child near her grandparents’ home in Ballyshannon in 1977.

In a sworn statement to a solicitor, Mr Murray said that at no stage during his investigation into the disappearance of the little girl in Donegal was he subjected to “interference” or “pressure”.

He said his two senior officers, a superintendent and an inspector, were “honourable and professional men” and “at no point attempted to influence” him in the conduct of the investigation. He alleged that the documentary had “taken a number of my comments out of context and creates the wrong impression”.

Mr Murray’s comments echo those of his former colleague, retired sergeant Martin Collins, who also featured in the documentary, Mary Boyle: The Untold Story.

Speaking to his local newspaper in Donegal, Mr Collins also denied any political interference.

Both retired gardai investigated the disappearance of Mary, who was last seen walking across fields near her grandparents’ home. Both Gardai were interviewed for the documentary on Mary’s disappearance, made by the journalist, Gemma O’Doherty, who campaigned for an inquest and independent inquiry into the child’s disappearance.

Read more: Sean McEniff says he is not politician at the centre of Mary Boyle documentary

In their interviews, both retired gardai referred to a phone call allegedly made to Ballyshannon Garda Station.

Mr Murray told the documentary: “The result of that phone call is that certain people weren’t allowed to be interviewed and it was all hands off. The sting went out of the whole investigation after that.”

He also said he got a “nudge” from the inspector at the time to “ease off” when he was interviewing the chief suspect.

In his interview for the documentary, Mr Collins said: “The gist of it [the phone call] was that none of a particular family should be made suspect for Mary’s disappearance.”

In the statement, which he made last week, Mr Murray said: “I was not aware of any alleged phone call at the time and I subsequently heard the rumour many months later at a garda conference.”

He said: “The reason Inspector Daly asked me to pause the interview was because of his genuine concern for the mental health of the person being interviewed. It was not for any other reason.”

Mr Murray alleged that the Mary Boyle documentary was “selectively edited to suggest that this was because of political interference. This is absolutely incorrect.”

The Mary Boyle documentary has had more than 140,000 views since it was broadcast on YouTube last month.

Two politicians have publicly denied making the phone call to Ballyshannon Garda Station. The Garda Commissioner has now asked the Serious Crime Review Team to re-examine the child’s disappearance.

Documentary-maker Gemma O’Doherty did not provide a comment for publication, when contacted. She has assisted Mary’s twin sister, Ann Doherty, and country singer Margo O’Donnell, who is a distant relative of the family, in their campaign for justice for Mary Boyle. Ann Doherty wants an inquest and is preparing a legal action to take to the European Convention on Human Rights, alleging malpractice by An Garda Siochana and the Government.

The issue of alleged political interference in the case was raised in the European Parliament by Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan and has been the subject of a number of statements by the party in recent months.

Cancer overtakes heart disease as the main cause of death in 12 European countries


Although diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease, CVD) kill more people worldwide than anything else, with 17.3 million deaths globally, cancer has now overtaken CVD as the main cause of death in 12 European countries.

New data on the burden of CVD in Europe for 2016, which are published today (Monday) in the European Heart Journal [1], show that in the European region (defined as the 53 member states of the World Health Organisation) CVD caused more than four million deaths each year, 45% of all deaths. However, success in preventing and treating the disease has led to large decreases in CVD in a number of countries.

Despite cancer accounting for less than half the number of deaths than CVD in Europe as a whole, in nine of the 15 countries which were members of the European Union before 2004 (EU-15) and in another country that was among those that joined the EU afterwards (EU-28), more men now die from cancer than CVD. These countries are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the UK. This was also the case in Norway and Israel (which are not members of the EU). Among women, more die from cancer than CVD in Denmark and Israel.

Dr Nick Townsend, senior researcher at the BHF Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford (UK), who led the research, said: “These figures highlight the wide inequalities between European countries in deaths from CVD. The 12 countries in which cancer has overtaken CVD as the main cause of death are all found in Western Europe, with nine of them having been members of the EU before 2004. The highest numbers of deaths from CVD tend to be seen in Eastern European countries.”

In France, where cancer was first seen to overtake CVD as the main cause of death in men, figures from the most recent year available (2011) show that 92,375 men died from cancer and 64,659 died from CVD. In Spain, the next country in which cancer overtook CVD, 67,711 men died from cancer and 53,487 died from CVD in 2013 (the year with the most recent data). In the UK in 2013, 87,511 men died from cancer and 79,935 from CVD.

“Although we have seen progress across Europe in the prevention and treatment of CVD, leading to decreases in mortality from it, it is clear that such progress is not consistent across the continent. With higher mortality from CVD still found in Eastern Europe and non-EU countries, it is clear that the progress that has been made in Western Europe and most EU countries is yet to be achieved equally throughout the region,” said Dr Townsend.

Inequalities between European countries can be seen in the percentage of deaths from CVD and age standardised death rates (ASDR) – where the death rates per 100,000 of the population have been adjusted according to the proportions of people in different age groups in the population. Out of a total of 3.8 million deaths in the EU-15 countries, 33% of these were caused by CVD (1.3 million), compared to 38% of deaths in the EU-28 countries (1.9 million) and 54% of deaths in non-EU member countries (2.1 million).

ASDRs from CVD ranged from 275 per 100,000 men and 174 per 100,000 women in France, to 1,444 per 100,000 men and 1,087 per 100,000 women in Kyrgyzstan. In the UK, the figures were 334 men and 228 women per 100,000.

Similar inequalities exist for premature deaths (deaths in people younger than 75). In the EU-15 countries, 21.4% of premature deaths were from CVD (0.25 million); in the EU-28 countries, 26% were from CVD (0.45 million); and in non-EU countries, 35.8% were from CVD (1.3 million).

For the first time, the researchers also report the number of years of life lost to deaths from CVD or years lived with disability due to the condition, a measurement known as disability-adjusted life years (DALYS). One DALY is equivalent to one year of healthy life lost. These also underlined the inequalities between different parts of Europe.

The number of DALYS lost to CVD in 2012 were highest in Ukraine (194 per 1000 of the population), Russian Federation (181 per 1000), Bulgaria (167 per 1000), Belarus (163 per 1000), and Latvia (153 per 1000). They were lowest in Luxembourg (39 per 1000), Cyprus (37 per 1000), Ireland (35 per 1000), Iceland (32 per 1000), and Israel (26 per 1000).

Dr Townsend said: “There were higher rates of years lost to death or disability due to CVD in Eastern Europe, although some differences may be due to different population distributions between countries as these rates were not standardised for age or sex.”

The authors of the study call for monitoring and surveillance of CVD in order to help countries in Europe work towards reducing the inequalities seen across the continent.

“We need more research into why some countries are showing improved outcomes, while others are not,” said Dr Townsend. “Improved data need to be collected in all countries in order to make comparisons on deaths and suffering from CVD between countries so that health professionals and national governments can target interventions more effectively to reduce inequalities.

“In particular, we need better figures on the numbers of new cases and the numbers of people living with CVD across Europe, as well as better data on the hidden burden of CVD – CVD that has not been identified by health services or included in national statistics. This would be invaluable to people working in public health, to help us identify problem areas and design better prevention and treatment strategies.”

The authors of the study point out that their research cannot explain the reasons for the patterns in CVD seen in Europe, because it is a description of the data on CVD in order to provide an overview of the burden of the disease in Europe.

This study is the authors’ fourth consecutive report on CVD in Europe. Any comparisons with death rates in the reports prior to the one in 2015 should be made with caution as, for the 2015 and 2016 reports, the authors used the new European Standard Population (ESP) based on 2013 population data, which reflect the increase in the elderly population. Previous reports were based on the 1976 ESP.

The most expensive fighter jet in the world was grounded by honey bees


Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers were bemused when they found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine following flight operations at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia on June 11, 2016.

Initially, everyone’s reaction was to run and find someone who could “get rid” of the bees, but Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, knew that these honey bees were too important to exterminate.

“I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn’t sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live,” said Baskin. “My neighbour maintains two colonies of honey bees and I knew they were at risk for extinction, I figured we might want to get a honey bee expert out to collect them.”

Maintainers notified Capt. Katie Chiarantona, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Officer about the honey bee swarm. Since this had never happened on the flight line before, Chiarantona initially called the on-base entomologist to assess the situation. The entomologist immediately knew that he did not have the means to relocate the bees, so he referred Chiarantona to a local honey beekeeper in Hampton, Virginia.

Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local bee keeper, arrived on base with the needed materials and supplies. According to Chiarantona, Westrich said the swarm was one of the largest he had ever seen. He was escorted to the aircraft and used vacuum hoses to safely corral the honey bees off of the aircraft into large buckets. He then took the bee’s home and found that, as a hive, they weighed eight pounds which calculates to almost 20,000 bees!

“The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief, who also happens to be a beekeeper. “Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded. Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

Westrich suspected that the swarm of bees were on their way to a new location to build a hive for their queen. Queen bees typically fly with eggs to lay at the new hive and do not eat for up to 10 days before leaving to start a new colony. As a result, the queen is often malnourished for the journey. Westrich believes she landed on the F-22 to rest. Honey bees do not leave the queen, so they swarmed around the F-22 and eventually landed there.

According to Chiarantona, “[Westrich] said that one out of two things could have happened, the queen would have rested and gained energy and the swarm would’ve left in the morning, or they would have decided that the jet engine would be a great place to build a hive.”

Westrich was able to safely relocate the colony to a local beer producer where they will maintain the honey bee colony and use the honey for their production facility.

“Every bee is important to our food source; lots of things would die without bees,” said Baskin. “Most of our crops depend on bees, and our bees need to pollinate. This is why I knew we needed to save them instead of [exterminate] them.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 4th January 2016.

Former Irish Nationwide chief Fingleton loses court action

Action was to stop Central Bank from starting inquiry into regulatory breaches


In his High Court proceedings Michael Fingleton sought various orders and declarations from the court in respect of the Central Bank’s decision to launch an inquiry

Former Irish Nationwide Building Society chief executive Michael Fingletonhas lost his High Court action aimed at preventing the Central Bank from conducting an inquiry into alleged regulatory breaches at the financial institution.

Mr Fingleton, along with several other former officials of INBS, are the subject of a Central Bank inquiry, under Part III C of the 1942 Central Bank Act, which is due to commence hearings in February.

He challenged the Central Bank’s decision to subject him to an inquiry claiming it was unfair and unreasonable.

The Central Bank, which wants to inquire into allegations certain prescribed contraventions were committed by both INBS, and certain persons concerned with its management, between August 2004 and September 2008, opposed the application.

Giving judgment today Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, dismissed Mr Fingleton’s action, clearing the way for the inquiry to proceed.

In a lengthy and detailed ruling Mr Justice Noonan said Mr Fingleton had “not satisfied me that there is any unfairness inherent in the inquiry process to which he is subject.”

Mr Fingelton was not present in court for the decision.

The inquiry, in the event of any finding of wrong doing, has the power to impose a fine on an individual of up to €500,000. INBS was nationalised and merged with the former Anglo Irish Bank into IBRC in 2011.

The Central Bank estimates the collapse of INBS cost the tax payer €5billion, although the figure is disputed by Mr Fingleton.

  • Michael Fingleton action to stop Central Bank inquiry opens

In his action Mr Fingleton sought various orders and declarations from the court in respect of the Central Bank’s decision to launch an inquiry which he claims is disproportionate, oppressive and unreasonable.

Mr Fingleton also claimed that proceeding with the inquiry is a breach of fair procedures and an unlawful breach of his right to a fair hearing.

Mr Fingleton argued the Central Bank cannot conduct an inquiry of this nature. This is because Mr Fingleton, who retired in 2010, is no longer involved in the management of an entity that was a regulated financial service provider.

It was also claimed there was a delay by the Central Bank in bringing the inquiry, he had been subject to prejudicial adverse media coverage, and was made the scapegoat for the banking crisis.

Mr Fingleton is also the subject of proceedings before the Commercial Court, also arising out of events at INBS before it was nationalised. Mr Fingleton also claims that at the very least the inquiry should not be conducted until those proceedings have been concluded.

The Central Bank had rejected all of Mr Fingelton’s arguments, and said there was nothing preventing the inquiry from proceeding as planned.

In his decision Mr Justice Noonan dismissed all grounds of Mr Fingelton’s case. The 1942 Central Bank Act applies to Mr Fingleton, the Judge said, the former INBS CEO was lawfully subject to the inquiry.

There had been no culpable delay by the Central Bank in conducting its investigation into Mr Fingleton resulting in any unfairness to him.

The inquiry, and the elaborate procedures provided for in the 1942 Act, ensured Mr Fingleton’s right to a fair hearing “is guaranteed,” the Judge added.

“It seems to me that the public interest is well served by a credible system of financial regulation and enforcement such as that provided in the 1942 Act,” the Judge said.

Much of Mr Fingelton’s claim, the Judge said, was “an attempt to to preempt in advance issues before the inquiry that may or may not arise, or be determined by the inquiry itself.”

Any suggestion Mr Fingleton will be subject to any prejudice by the inquiry, the Judge found, was “devoid of substance and without merit.”

Rejecting Mr Fingleton’s claim the inquiry would occasion significant financial hardship on him as he would have to bear the legal costs associated in preparing for the inquiry.

The Judge noted that the Central Bank referred in a sworn statement said annual reports for INBS from the years 2003 to 2008 show Mr Fingelton’s remuneration package amounted to €9.77 million.

The Central Bank also avers that when his pension fund matures it is worth approximately €30 million. Mr Fingelton had not replied to that evidence, the Judge said.

“In the light of that the applicant’s complaints about equality of arms and the unfair costs burden on him of participating in the inquiry ring somewhat hollow,” the Judge said.

The Judge adjourned all outstanding matters in the case, including the issue of legal costs, to January 14th.

FF makes a proposal on ‘arrears crisis’ in sub-prime mortgages

Michael McGrath says situation is ‘absolutely disastrous’


Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

Fianna Fáil has said the Government’s failure to deal with the “spiralling arrears crisis” in the sub-prime mortgage market is “disastrous” as the owners of such loans are amongst “the most aggressive in the market” at seeking court ordered repossessions.

New figures provided by the Central Bank indicate that 20,338 mortgage accounts issued by sub-prime lenders were in arrears of more than 90 days at the end of September 2015. This compares to 19,935 at the end of December 2014.

The sector now accounts for 22.5 per cent of all residential mortgages in arrears more than 90 days compared to 15.5 per cent a year previously.

In recent years, there have been several loan books sold in Ireland. There are 7,461 mortgages now in the hands of non-bank lenders and vulture funds.

GE Money disposed of its subprime mortgages to Pepper in 2012. Among the other buyers of mortgage books was US private equity fund Tanager who bought 2,000 distressed home loans from Bank of Scotland Ireland.

Permanent TSB sold around 2,200 home loans to Mars Capital while the IBRC liquidation also saw loans originally issued by Irish Nationwide sold off to various vulture funds.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the situation in relation to mortgages issued by sub-prime lenders was “absolutely disastrous”.

“While the mortgage arrears crisis generally has shown some signs of easing, the trend in relation to these mortgages has been steadily deteriorating in the face of complete indifference from the Government,” he said.

“It is clear from court reports that sub-prime lenders account for a disproportionate level of legal action being initiated in many Circuit Courts. The fact that 61 per cent of the outstanding balance on these mortgages are in arrears is of huge concern.

“In many ways, this is not surprising given the very high interest rates and income multiples associated with these loans.

“Most of the originators of these loans have now sold them on. In my view there is a clear need for a specific response to the problems of this sector including clear targets for resolution measures.”

He said Fianna Fáil was putting forward three proposals to tackle the issue.

Firstly, he said the party was calling for an extension of the Mortgage Arrears Resolution Targets, which currently only apply to the six main banks operating in the State.

He also called for the establishment of a dedicated mortgage to rent scheme targeting this group of loans, and for the Central Bank to be obliged to publish a specific report on how current owners of these loans are complying with the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears.

“Significant fines should be imposed in cases where breaches of the Code take place,” said Mr McGrath.

“This issue is now reaching a crisis point and unless action is taken we will be facing a massive social problem.”

Banking Inquiry final report could now be published in late January


The final report of the Banking Inquiry could be published at the end of this month.

The Inquiry has opened its right-to-reply phase today, meaning any of the 80 people named in the document have 21 days to contest certain elements of the report.

Senator Susan O’Keeffe (pictured) co-authored the finxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxl report which was signed off by the Inquiry members on New Year’s Eve.


She said it is intended to publish the report on Wednesday, January 27, but this could be affected by potential challenges.

“People will be aware legal challenges are complex and take time, and are not easily resolved,” she said.

“I guess if someone were to make a legal challenge, it would delay the publication, but I can’t say that for sure.”

Irish Business owners are not happy about the new minimum wage

The wage increased from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour last week.


Thousands of jobs could be at risk due to the recent increase in minimum wage, according to the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME).

In its final Business Trends Survey for 2015, the organisation says there is the potential for 60,000 new jobs in Ireland if costs for businesses are curtailed.

The survey finds that current and future sales are at their highest in eight years, with owners and managers “generally positive in expectations for the new year”. Ten out of the 12 economic indicators tracked have increased.

However, the report warns that job creation will decrease due to the minimum wage increase. As of 1 January, it was upped from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour. The survey lists the euro exchange rate as “the biggest area of concern” for businesses.

Mark Fielding, CEO of ISME, noted: “Following on from a mixed-bag of results in the previous quarter it is a relief to see such a positive report coming from owner-managers this time round. The recovery might finally be trickling down to SMEs but it is important that we focus now on managing our costs and nurturing this growth.”

Fielding said that despite some improvements “SME competitiveness has taken many blows this year”.

Rents, insurance, energy and legal costs have all increased while the slack consumer demand has dictated that pricing and margins have reduced. This means that small businesses operating on increasingly tight margins cannot afford any more cost increases.

“The increase in the minimum wage due in January will be a difficult adjustment for labour-intensive sectors and may force some businesses to reduce staff hours.”

He added that, as the general election draws closer, “We are being treated to more and more outlandish political promises and policies”.

“Labour’s promises to impose a ‘living wage’ during the next administration will result in cost-conscious employers delaying and cancelling job creation which will be unaffordable if those increases are introduced.”

The living wage

Last month, Joan Burton said introducing a living wage of €11.50 per hour makes sense.

The Tánaiste said the next government should look at a €2 increase over four years – 50 cent per year.

“I don’t see any threat in the fact that people would earn a decent wage,” she stated.

The ISME survey was conducted in the third week of December, with 956 SME respondents. Some 54% of respondents employ less than ten people, while a further 36% employ between 11 and 50 people and the remaining 10% employ between 51 and 250 people. Geographically, 32% are from Dublin with 59% spread across the country, while 9% operate from multiple sites.

30,000 new jobs

The Small Firms Association (SFA) published its outlook for 2016 today. The survey found that 77% of owner-managers feel the business environment is improving, with just 4% indicating it is getting worse.

Domestic economic growth was highlighted by over 40% of businesses as their biggest opportunity in 2016. Other positive factors identified were specific sectoral opportunities (14%), exporting (12%) and bringing new products to market (10%).

Over 65% of survey respondents indicated their intention to recruit over the coming year, up slightly since the last survey in June.

This was welcomed by Patricia Callan, SFA Director: “Small firms already employ over half of the private sector workforce and almost two-thirds of our members will be hiring in 2016.

“Small firms have a crucial role to play in job creation around the country, reducing unemployment and attracting emigrants home to work. We expect small firms to create 30,000 jobs in 2016.”

Scale of diabetes timebomb laid bare with one in five retirees suffering from the condition

New figures show a 65 per cent rise in diabetes diagnoses in just a decade, as experts warn that the number of sufferers has now topped 4 million – and will reach 5 million in a decade


Experts say Britain’s soaring obesity rates is fuelling “alarming” levels of diabetes 

One in five retirees are suffering from diabetes as new figures reveal the scale of the middle-age time bomb facing Britain.

Spiralling obesity rates have fuelled a 65 per cent rise in diagnoses in a decade, with more than 4 million people now living with the condition, UK data shows.

Charities said the NHS will become “crippled” by the burden of the condition without urgent action to make “profound” changes to today’s lifestyles.

Experts called for measures to bring down the price of healthy foods, introduce clearer food labelling and bring an end to “couch potato” habits.

NHS figures, analysed by the charity Diabetes UK show the number of people with diabetes in the UK has topped four million for the first time and is on course to hit five million in less than a decade.

The latest figure includes 3.5 million adults who have been officially diagnosed – up 119,965 on the previous year and an increase of 65 per cent in 10 years.

The trend has been driven by soaring rates of obesity, which have left Britain the second fattest nation in Europe, second only to Hungary.

Almost two thirds of men and women in Britain are overweight or obese, with the figures rising with age.

Last month the country’s chief medical officer suggested that obesity poses such a threat to the country that it should be treated as a “national risk” alongside terrorism.

The four million people with diabetes means about eight per cent of adults are suffering from the disease.

But the figure rises sharply with age, with analysis of the latest figures suggesting that between 15 and 20 per cent of those in their 60s and 70s are now suffering from diabetes.

Experts warned that worsening lifestyles mean those numbers are set to continue rising, while the proportion of people succumbing to the condition earlier is also expected to soar.

Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “With four million people in the UK now living with diabetes, the need to tackle this serious health condition has never been so stark or so urgent.”

He said there was a need for a “concerted effort led by the Government to take active steps to address the fact that almost two in every three people in the UK are overweight or obese and are therefore at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

“Basic measures such as making healthy food cheaper and more accessible, introducing clearer food labelling and making it easier for people to build physical activity into their daily lives would have a profound influence.”

The charity said more than 24,000 people with diabetes die prematurely every year due to failures in accessing the best type of care.

This includes receiving eight annual checks in areas such as foot care and eyesight.

The checks – which only 60 per cent of people with diabetes currently receive – are designed to prevent complications which can lead to limb amputation, blindness, kidney failure and even death.

The charity also warned that people are missing out on education courses designed to help them best manage their condition, with more than a third of regions in England still not running them.

Furthermore, hospital care for people with diabetes is consistently poor and puts some lives at risk, it said.

Some 80 per cent of the £10 billion spent on diabetes every year by the NHS goes on treating complications that may have been preventable.

Mr Askew said: “Tragically, we are continuing to see too many people with diabetes suffering serious complications, and even dying before their time, and we know that key reasons for this are that they are being denied both the care and access to education that would help them to manage their condition well.

“It is vital that we start to see people with diabetes receive good quality care wherever they live rather than them being at the mercy of a postcode lottery.”

He added: “With a record number of people living with diabetes, there is no time to waste in getting serious about providing better care and diabetes education.

“Until this happens, the rising number of people with diabetes will continue to be denied the best chance of living long and healthy lives and the NHS will continue to be crippled under avoidable but escalating costs of treating poorly-managed diabetes.”

Putin to release an army of ‘cyborg rats’ with amazing sense of smell to sniff out ISIS explosives

Russian experts claim the rodents could be trained to find explosives and even human beings trapped in rubble


Bomb detecting rats could replace sniffer dogs in the battle against terrorism, scientists say.

Russian experts claim the rodents could be trained to find explosives – planted, perhaps, by ISIS militants – and even human beings planted booby bombs trapped in rubble like with the above rats used in Cambodia.

The creatures have keen senses of smell which could be harnessed for use by the police and military researchers believe.

Rats in Rostov-on-Don at the Laboratory of Olfactory Perception (LOP) have been shown with electrodes attached to their brains.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Head of the LOP, said, “Unlike a dog, a rat can get through the smallest crack where it seems it couldn’t go.

“This way it could find its way deep under rubble and by its brain activity one could understand if there are, for example, people who are still alive, if it’s worth clearing debris here or at another place, to rescue people more quickly”.

The scientists have discovered that rats differentiate between types of tea leaves through smell.

The experts admit, however, that it could be years before the rats are used for real-life work.

‘Sniffer rats’ are already used in parts of Africa to detect land mines and tuberculosis.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Isme survey points to increased satisfaction with Irish Government

Survey suggests business costs and Government’s dealings with banks remain concerns


The Taoiseach Enda Kenny ahead of the Council of State, meeting to consider legislation reforming the asylum application system, at Aras an Uachtarain.

A new survey by Isme, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, reveals overall satisfaction with the Government’s performance is at its highest level since the survey commenced in 2012.

However, the group’s latest Government Satisfaction Survey also suggests relatively high business costs and the Government’s dealings with the banks remain the chief sources of concern within the business community here.

Isme’s survey, which was based on the responses of 956 SMEs in the third week of December, showed overall satisfaction with the Coalition jumped nine points from +2 to +11, with the larger enterprises submitting the most positive satisfaction ratings.

The survey asks respondents four specific questions on the Government’s performance in dealing with jobs, banking, business costs and its handling of the economy, from which an overall performance metric is derived.

There was a large increase in the satisfaction rating association with the Government’s handling of the jobs situation, with the rating rising from +9 to +22, the highest score on record.

“This reflects the slow but steady decline in numbers on the live register and the positive press announcements,” the survey noted.

SMEs also expressed satisfaction with the Government’s handling of the economy with sub-index jumping to +18 with Irish economy forecast to grow by up to 7 per cent this year, the highest rate in Europe.

The worst performing indicator was business costs, which fell to -52 from -47, and which continues to be the highest rated reason for dissatisfaction with the current administration.

The association is concerned that Ireland is rapidly losing its competitive edge and we have continuously called on Government to conduct a review of all business costs to bring them into line with our main export competitors,” it said.

“Business costs must be reduced and Government must focus on this area if we are to regain our competitiveness,” Isme boss Mark Fielding said

Approval of the Government’s handling of the banking sector also deteriorated slightly.

The survey noted that while SME access to finance has improved, an increase in loan application declines had been recorded in recent months.

Mr Fielding said: “External factors continue to assist the economy and the growth rate reflects this. Favourable exchange rate with and growth in our major export countries and low oil prices have given us a boost as we come out of the recession.”

“While we can benefit from these factors, they are completely outside of our control. The factors within our control, business costs and access to finance, need much more work by Government and, if not addressed, will cause untold damage as the economic cycle unfolds”.

26 locations where refugees will be housed in Ireland now revealed


Ireland will accept 4,000 refugees over the next two years.

The Government has identified 26 sites where it will house thousands of incoming refugees, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed.

In a bid to tackle the European Union’s mounting migrant crisis, earlier this year Ireland agreed to accept 4,0000 refugees over the next two years.

Now Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has identified the two dozen locations where these individuals will be housed.

The Irish Times reports that the sites are in Killarney, Kilkenny, Carlow, Cavan, Monaghan, Carrickmacross, Carrick-on-Shannon, Roscommon, Sligo, Ballina, Castlebar, Ennis, Limerick, Cork, Tralee, Thurles, Portlaoise, Tullamore, Waterford, Naas, Arklow and Mullingar.

There are also sites in the four Dublin local authorities’ areas.

“What we want to see all over the country is everyone playing their part. We have got offers of help from all over the country except one or two counties, ” the Minister said.

Speaking to the newspaper, she outlined how refugees will stay in an initial reception centre for up to 10 weeks before moving to their permanent homes.

Ms Fitzgerald said 90 parcels of land were identified as potential sites but only 26 were deemed “suitable” by the department.

On the standard of accommodation to be offered to refugees, she added: “There is a standard here. Some countries are building tented villages and using school gymnasiums but they are dealing with thousands.”

So far 129 refugees have arrived here this year from Lebanon and Jordan, with a further 62 from Syria due to arrive in the next seven days.

Figures from the Department of Justice show that 3,064 asylum applications were received in the first 10 months of 2015 – an increase of 140% increase on 2014.

‘Pleural effusion’ A fluid that builds up in the chest, but lung can recover after it is drained


The condition is known medically as ‘pleural effusion’, which can result in shortness of breath or chest pain

Michael Noonan underwent a medical procedure to treat fluid building up in the chest after being diagnosed with the condition two weeks before Christmas.

Dr Nina Byrnes told the Irish Independent that the condition is known medically as ‘pleural effusion’, which can result in shortness of breath or chest pain.

The condition can often be treated with antibiotics but may also require drainage or a medical procedure to ensure that it does not flare up in future.

While the relatively common condition can be brought about by a range of ailments, it can be treated quickly and successfully.

Mr Noonan has already indicated his intention to return to work on January 5, adding that he looks forward to contesting the election.

Dr Byrnes explained: “Fluid on the lung is medically known as a pleural effusion. The space between the chest cavity and the lung is known as the pleural space. When excess fluid builds up here, a pleural effusion occurs. This can cause chest pain and shortness of breath and limits the function of the lung.”

Following treatment, the lung can fully recover.

Dr Byrnes added: “An infection can cause (pleural effusion) to occur. Antibiotics may clear the infection but the fluid may also require drainage in a hospital.

“In order to prevent further fluid building up, a material called a sclerosant may be injected into the space. This causes inflammation of the lining of the chest wall, making it stick together, thus making it difficult for fluid to gather again. Once the fluid and infection are gone, the lung can recover.”

Almost 25% of Irish electricity demand is now supplied through wind

Report on energy market suggests wind energy is playing an ever more important role


Wind turbines at Monaincha Wind Farm Roscrea.

Nearly a quarter Ireland’s electricity demand is now being supplied through wind energy, according to a report from Vayu, the Irish gas and electricity supplier backed by global mining giant Glencore.

The company’s latest report on the wholesale energy market here indicates just over 23% of the State’s total electricity demand in 2015 came from wind.

Wind generation reached a peak of 2,514 megawatts (MW) on January 7th when it accounted for over 48% of demand at the time.

Ireland’s 2020 renewable energy targets commit the State to sourcing 40% of its electricity from renewable sources, such as wind.

Vayu’s energy analyst Gillian Lawler said: “Wind energy is playing an ever more important role in meeting Ireland’s electricity demand, helping to drive down prices and reduce the country’s dependence on more expensive sources of energy.”

Vayu’s report indicates the average wholesale price of electricity in the Irish market was 9.4% lower in 2015.

•           ESB and Eirgrid get green light for €2.8bn investment programme

The decline was attributed to strong wind generation and lower prices for gas, which is the main energy source used to generate electricity in Ireland.

The company said an increase in peak demand is likely to be a factor in determining prices in 2016 with the economy forecast to grow by over 4 per cent next year.

However, improving efficiencies in energy generation and usage mean that proportionately less energy is required as the economy grows, it said, while noting higher demand would be somewhat offset by higher integration of renewables on the grid.

Vayu’s report showed the cost of buying natural gas on the wholesale market dropped significantly toward the end of the year, with Irish wholesale prices down 23.2% in the fourth quarter on the same period last year.

The report said “surging gas supplies and suppressed demand” kept prices on a downward trend in 2015 despite temporary upward shifts linked to tensions in Ukraine and concerns over North Sea supply. This has had a marked impact on energy costs for Irish businesses purchasing gas on the wholesale market, Vayu noted.

For 2015 as a whole, wholesale gas prices here are down 4.7% on 2014 and down 18% compared with the average price recorded over the last three years.

Ms Lawler said exceptionally mild temperatures across Europe meant that gas demand for this time of year had fallen to lows not seen in 10 years, despite gas having overtaken coal as the fuel of choice for the power generation sector.

This was being compounded by increased gas supplies including an abundance of shipments of LNG (liquefied natural gas), she said, which accounted for approximately 15% of the gas supply mix in 2015.

Vayu’s report also noted that the Corrib gas field off the coast of Mayo was expected to commence supplying the Irish network early next year. Currently the State imports 93 per cent of its gas requirements from the UK. However, during days of low demand, such as the summer months, Corrib is projected to meet the full gas demand of the country.

The gas field is expected to meet approximately 56% of forecasted annual demand in its first year of production, Vayu said.

Fossil hunters flock to Jurassic coast after cliff fall

Bad weather washed part of the cliff in Charmouth, Dorset, into the sea, attracting scores of enthusiasts in search of souvenirs


Ammonite fossils found by Lizzie Hingle (above left & extreme right).

From the people who built Skype, now there’s a clever new way to send money abroad with TransferWise

A landslide on a Dorset beach has attracted dozens of fossil hunters in search of relics.

Some 200 enthusiasts combed the bea.ch in the village of Charmouth, on the Jurassic Coast, collecting scores of ammonite fossils.

The majority are said to have picked up ammonites, extinct sea molluscs prized for their intricate spiral shells, which measure from 2cm to 2ft and were washed out of the mud and shale by the sea.

Fossil hunters search the beach after the landslide at the Jurassic cliffs at Charmouth in Dorset  Photo:

More than 320ft or 1,000 tons of cliff fell down a week before Christmas and the crowds of souvenir-hunters have increased as word has spread.

“It’s the biggest fall I’ve seen down here for years, if not the biggest.”

Homo naledi, a new species of human, discovered in a cave in South Africa

Most of the ammonites being found range between a fraction of an inch and five or six inches

Tony Gill, who runs Charmouth Fossil Shop, said: “We’ve been here about 20 years and we have not seen anything on this scale before. Everyone is managing to find one.

“It’s the biggest fall I’ve seen down here for years, if not the biggest. But finding a big fossil is like one in a thousand.”

Mr Gill said it would take years before the larger blocks of mud and shale were eroded by the sea.

• Britain’s best winter beaches

Walkers have been warned not to climb the cliff as it is still unstable.

Fossil hunters have also been warned to wear appropriate footwear and check the weather forecast before setting out.

Joanne Groenenberg, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: “With recent significant rainfall, some cliffs and cliff edges have become crumbly and unstable.”

They are also asked to notify the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre of significant finds.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 28th November 2012

Irish Cabinet at odds over plans to deduct property tax from the dole


Ireland’s Ministers are at loggerheads over proposals to make social welfare recipients liable for the property tax – and take it straight from payments like the dole.

And some cabinet members are now fearful they will be bounced by Finance Minister Michael Noonan into tax proposals without debate on Budget day.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is insisting “under no circumstances” will people on welfare have to give the property tax straight from their payments.

Sources also say she does “not accept” the concept that people on welfare will have to pay the tax. The Irish Independent understands deducting the tax directly from welfare payments is one of the recommendations in the Thornhill Report, given to the Government on property tax.

“No, that is not accepted,” a source close to Ms Burton said.

“It’s a no-go as far as she’s concerned.”

Sources also warned that such a proposal would open Labour up to further attacks on its left at a time when the party is steadily losing support. In particular, it is feared it could lead to floods of damaging court challenges to the tax.

Ms Burton first detailed her concerns in a letter to Environment Minister Phil Hogan when he was considering the Thornhill Report in the summer, and she said taking the tax from welfare payments could lead to “a farcical system”.

“She has repeated these concerns but they appear to have fallen on deaf ears,” a source added.

Mr Hogan has refused to rule out people on welfare paying the tax, while Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and junior finance minister Brian Hayes said everyone must make some contribution to the property tax.


Mr Noonan is designing the tax, which will be one of the centrepieces of next week’s Budget. Welfare recipients were obliged to pay the €100 household charge, but those in local authority housing were not.

However, the property tax will be much higher, and could cause further financial hardship and “drive people back to the community welfare officer”, it is claimed.

In her letter to Mr Hogan, seen by the Irish Independent, Ms Burton said it could lead to “a farcical system whereby the payment of this range of system charges would simply result in additional demands on the funding of the social welfare system”.

This would cause “a circular movement of funds around the Exchequer and the multiplication of administrative overheads and information maintenance requirements, with all resulting costs arising in both the programme and administrative budgets of the social welfare system”.

Deducting from source “cannot be implemented” and is “not feasible” from a policy or logistical point of view, she added. However, it is now said to be “doable but tricky”.

Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin is to bring proposals on €2.1bn of spending cuts to Cabinet today, but it is unclear if Mr Noonan is bringing his tax plans.

This is now causing serious worry around Cabinet, and comes after grumblings about how the Budget has been kept “drum tight” by the Economic Management Council, which comprises Mr Howlin, Mr Noonan, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

A source said there were concerns “we will have no opportunity to discuss it” and that “it will not have been politically proofed by Cabinet”.

Rank-and-file TDs are also concerned the secrecy surrounding the Budget will cause major trouble after the €3.5bn cuts-and-taxes plan has been announced on December 5.

Meanwhile, Joan Burton has promised Labour backbenchers that her social welfare cutbacks will be more targeted on a small number of schemes.

Last year, she had to implement more than 25 separate social welfare cutbacks, which included cuts to child-benefit payments, disability payments, lone-parent schemes and community employment schemes.

She told Labour backbenchers in a private briefing that the current €540m of social-welfare cutbacks in next week’s Budget would be focused on a smaller number of schemes – with sources putting it at between 10 and 20 schemes.

But Labour backbenchers are still bracing themselves for the impact of the social welfare cutbacks – which will be higher this year at €540m compared to €475m last year.

Ms Burton repeated her public pledge that there would be no cuts to core social rates – which are defined as weekly payments such as job-seekers and the state pension but excludes child benefit.

Labour sources said child benefit is not going to be means tested or taxed, but they are still expecting cuts in payment rates.

She also promised – as reported earlier this week in the Irish Independent – that the number of places on the Tus and Rural Social Schemes would be expanded to cater for more unemployed people.

The number of Irish ghost estates now down to 1170


Nearly two-thirds of Ireland’s ghost estates are in dire need of development. Almost two-thirds of the country’s 1,770 ghost estates are in a seriously problematic condition, it has now been revealed.

New data showed the number of unfinished developments has fallen in recent years, but 1,100 estates remain in dire need of development.

Just a fraction of those are expected to be bulldozed despite lacking basic services like roads, street lights and sewage treatment systems.

Jan O’Sullivan, Minister for Housing and Planning, said the latest national housing development survey revealed steady, quantifiable progress in tackling unfinished housing developments but she was “still keenly aware that hundreds of families are still enduring the stress and strain of living on an unfinished development.”

An inspection off 185,665 houses and apartments in 2,973 developments found: 1,770 estates were unfinished, down 37% since 2010 when the first survey was carried out; 1,100 of these were in a seriously problematic condition; 6,154 properties have been completed and occupied within the year;16,881 finished homes were still vacant;1,200 developments previously included in the survey will be removed because they are either substantially complete or development never commenced.

Elsewhere it showed the county of Leitrim had the worst vacancy rate, with 35 empty units per 1,000 households, followed by Longford with 30, Cavan with 26, Sligo with 19 and Roscommon with 17, compared with just two in Waterford and Limerick cities.

Ms O’Sullivan said the focus of the Government’s actions will shift to resolving the most problematic developments, adding that recent experience showed how a realistic approach to estate completion involving all stakeholders can deliver results.

“However it must also be recognised that some of these developments are commercially unviable due to location, demand and build quality,” she said.

“The most prudent course of action in relation to these developments from a public safety, planning and commercial perspective is to seek the agreement of owners/funders to clear the site and return it to some beneficial use.”

Ms O’Sullivan said her department hopes to have a plan in place to deal with the issue by next summer.

Ireland’s Obesity problem now an epidemic and costing us a whopping €1.1bn


Obesity is costing Ireland a whopping €1.1bn a year, according to a study from Safefood.

One third of the sum — €398m — is incurred via direct healthcare costs, such as hospital stays, GP consultations and drug costs to treat weight-related conditions such as cardiac disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and strokes.

But a massive two thirds, or €728m, relates to the knock-on effect on businesses in Ireland.

Lower back pain is a major cause of absenteeism and productivity loss.

Martin Higgins, Safefood’s chief executive, said the figures were just the tip of the iceberg.

“We now have reliable contemporary and locally relevant figures for the annual economic cost of weight-related ill health in Ireland,” he said.

“While it is acknowledged that these are conservative figures and don’t reflect the human and social costs, they show a compelling case for obesity prevention, based on changes in our food environment and activity levels.”

Safefood’s Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said that the problem was a ticking time bomb for our health services.

“Excess body weight is associated with a significant burden of chronic disease, with negative effects on overall life expectancy, disability-free life expectancy, quality of life, healthcare costs and productivity,” she said.

“The findings from this research are critical for establishing priorities in health policy development and to guide and inform our response to the issue of excess weight in our society, which is fundamentally preventable.”

Professor Ivan Perry of University College Cork, who led the research, said that, although the Government and society have a role to play, individuals and food producers must also take responsibility.

“The current findings on the cost of overweight and obesity highlight the extent of societal involvement in diet and health and the limitations of approaches that emphasise the role of personal choice, responsibility and market forces in relation to diet and health,” he said.

  “The current obesity epidemic in children and adults represents a clear example of market failure with external/third party costs defaulting to taxpayers.


“The food sector is currently regulated to ensure food safety.

“Policy makers need to consider whether there is a need to extend this regulatory framework to address the effects of diet on health and wellbeing,” he added.

The Safefood research, led by a team from UCC, found that overweight and obesity combined accounted for a similar burden of disease and cost in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

Ryan Tubridy to front up battle against Irish domestic violence


Ryan Tubridy has revealed how a chance caller to his radio show led him to lend his support for a campaign against domestic violence.

He plans to follow in the footsteps of veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne by using his profile to discuss the problem across the airwaves.

Speaking at the launch of Safe Ireland’s ‘Man Up’ campaign, the RTE star described how a caller to his 2fm radio show four weeks ago had recounted on air how she had been assaulted by her husband.

“She couldn’t understand how the man she loved could do this to her with their kids upstairs. For us it opened the floodgates to hundreds of other calls from women in the same awful position.”

Praising Byrne for first highlighting the problem on his daily radio show, the 39-year-old said he felt the “the baton” had now been passed to him.

“I’m not a natural born advocate but I give a damn, and I have a radio show with an audience. I want to try and stop this happening,” Tubridy said.

“If a man hits a woman, it’s no longer a domestic. It’s intervention time. Be nosey. Get involved. The silence has to stop.”

New figures show that nearly 8,000 women and 3,000 children received support from domestic violence services in 2011, up 15pc since 2010.

11 Irish tech companies through to finals of European Business Awards

  Irish tech companies through to finals of European Business Awards

Eleven Irish companies and organisations have been chosen as national champions to go through to the next round of the European Business Awards.

The companies going through to represent Ireland at a European level include web-content management company TerminalFour and software company The Now Factory.

The 11 companies and organisations that will represent Ireland to compete in the next round of the European Business Awards were announced at an event that was hosted by the British Ambassador to Ireland, Dominick Chilcott, along with UK Trade & Investment and RSM Farrell Grant Sparks, the awards’ sponsor and organiser.

  The winners that will represent Ireland are Netwatch, TerminalFour, Helix Health (above left), The Now Factory, Saongroup.com, Aer Lingus, Glennon Brothers, Home Instead Senior Care, Coillte,

  Eirgrid and Valeo Foods.

As part of the competition each company or organisation submitted a video case study to the European Business Awards’ website. An online voting mechanism meant members of the public could choose their favourite videos. One of the national champions was chosen via the online votes, while the other 10 winners were chosen by a panel of judges.

“This year, thanks to the video case studies, we have been impressed by the innovation and determination shown by the Irish entrants, many of whom are experiencing high levels of growth despite difficult global trading conditions,” said Aidan Scollard, partner at RSM Farrell Grant Sparks.

Wicklow town residents baffled after 60 foot snowman mysteriously disappears


Residents and shoppers of Wicklow town have been left baffled after a 60 foot inflatable snowman mysteriously disappeared.

The giant inflatable snowman, called Snowy, was taken from the roof of a shop in the town centre sometime on Monday night.

“We don’t understand why Snowy was targeted”, said a spokesperson.

“We also have a life-size ballerina, life-size toy soldiers, giant Victorian shoes, candy canes, musical instruments and lanterns on buildings throughout the town. They haven’t been touched”, they added.

Business people in the town have issued a plea for Snowy to be returned in time for the Christmas festival.

“He was a central attraction in Victorian Wicklow. You couldn’t miss him. The kids in the town really miss him”, the spokesperson said.

“We would appeal to his kidnappers to return him. Please bring him back and we won’t take it any further”.

Christmas treats are being offered for anyone with information leading to Snowy’s return.

News Ireland as told by Donie

Tuesday 13th December 2011

Young women of Ireland are likely to be the main breadwinner’s in the future


WOMEN IN young couples are increasingly likely to earn more money and have a better standard of education than their male partners, new research shows.

This is one of many findings to emerge from a detailed study of the structure of Irish families published yesterday by the Economic and Social Research Institute in collaboration with UCD.

In contrast to the traditional family based on a male breadwinner, the report shows a growing number of young couples where the woman has a higher earning power.

Among younger couples aged between 26 and 40 years, 42 per cent of women had a higher occupational level versus 28 per cent for men.

It was a similar story with education. Woman had a better standard of education in 34 per cent of couples, as opposed to just 18 per cent where the opposite was the case.

The finding is likely to add to growing calls for policymakers to explore ways to increase the availability of flexible working arrangements for both fathers and mothers. Researchers say this would also benefit the economy by lessening the impact of child-rearing on women’s careers.

The report shows that while the family based on marriage is on the decline, it remains the dominant family unit.

About two-thirds of all family units are those where both partners have been married for the first time.

The remaining family structures are dominated by lone mothers, cohabiting couples and family units including couples who were previously married.

Second relationships and step-families, though they exist in diverse forms, remain relatively rare in Ireland, the report notes.

Of the 1.15 million children living in Ireland, 75 per cent live with two married parents, 18 per cent with a lone parent and 6 per cent with cohabiting parents.

Figures cited in the study, Households and Family Structures in Ireland, by Pete Lunn and Tony Fahey, are based on the 2006 census and use statistical techniques to provide a more detailed picture of families than has previously been available.

Among its findings are that cohabiting couples are growing as a family unit and are often seen as a “trial run” before marriage, researchers say. For example, the likelihood of a couple getting married increases sharply after the birth of a first child.

Overall, cohabiting couples are more likely to be from a lower socio-economic group. For example, a couple in their 30s who both have third-level qualifications are less than half as likely to cohabit as a couple who both have lower second-level qualifications.

In the area of fertility, the research indicates that despite a sharp increase in the number of births, the number of births among long-term Irish residents fell in the period covered by the study – 1996 to 2006. This, researchers say, probably reflects a delay in child-bearing among Irish people rather than a desire for fewer children.

The results of the findings are likely to have implications for future government policies.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald welcomed the research and said she was willing to review policies on flexible working for mothers and fathers. “Measures such as maternity and parental leave, flexible work arrangements, term-time working and childcare are important supports to facilitate families with child-rearing responsibilities.”        ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ISME calls for Government action on Banks not lending to S.M.E.’s


Minister for Small Business John Perry, TD has done nothing to address the difficulties of small businesses access to finance from the banks.

The number of small businesses being refused bank finance remains high, with many complaining that lenders are making it difficult to access finance, a new survey has claimed.

According to the Isme Quarterly Bank Watch Survey, more than half of small and medium-sized firms said they were refused bank credit in the past three months.

That compares with 58 per cent in the second quarter of the year.

However, about two-thirds said banks are making it more difficult for SMEs to access finance, with companies who change banking facilities reporting increased charges and interest rates, and reduced overdrafts.

An overwhelming majority of those surveyed – 92 per cent – said the Government’s actions made no difference when it came to securing credit.

“The results of today’s survey confirm the evidence of the recently published EU survey on access to finance in the euro area, which confirmed that Irish SMEs were second least successful, after Greece, in obtaining bank finance and that the Irish situation was only one of two where the access had deteriorated from the previous survey,” said Isme chief executive Mark Fielding.

“It is obvious that the Government’s instructions to the bailed out banks to increase access to finance for viable SMEs is being ignored.”

The organisation has called for the Government to deal with the banks who have accepted State aid and provide stronger oversight to force banks to live up to their commitments to Ireland’s small enterprises.

It is also seeking the introduction of other sources of bank credit, including the Strategic Investment Bank and the introduction of the Partial Guarantee scheme.

According to the head of the Credit Review Office, John Trethowan, Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks are expected to lend “in or around” their €3 billion target to small businesses this year.      ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

New Vaccine attacks cancerous Breast Tumors’s in mice: in a new study


Scientists in the United States said Monday they have developed a vaccine that attacks tumors in mice, a breakthrough they hope will help fight breast, colon, ovarian and pancreatic cancer in humans.

Although studies on mice often do not translate directly into remedies that work for human subjects, researchers are hopeful because of the strength of the vaccine and the particular approach it takes.

“This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response,” said study co-senior author Geert-Jan Boons, a professor of chemistry and a researcher in the University of Georgia Cancer Center.

“It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent.”

The vaccine works by training the immune system to attack tumors that have a protein known as MUC1 on the surface of their cells, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

MUC1 is found on more than 70 percent of the most aggressive and lethal types of cancer, including most kinds of breast, pancreatic, ovarian and multiple myeloma.

“This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1,” said study co-author Sandra Gendler, professor at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

The protein is also overexpressed in 90 percent of breast cancer patients with so-called “triple negative” tumors that do not respond to hormonal therapy such as Tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, or the drug Herceptin.

These patients urgently need a new approach to their cancers.

“In the US alone, there are 35,000 patients diagnosed every year whose tumors are triple-negative,” Boons said.

“So we might have a therapy for a large group of patients for which there is currently no drug therapy aside from chemotherapy.”

A vaccine against MUC1 could be used in combination with chemotherapy, or as a preventive measure in patients at high risk for certain cancers.

Boons, Gendler and colleagues are currently at work testing the vaccine on human cancer cells in the lab, and could begin phase I clinical trials to test the safety of the vaccine by late 2013.         …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Thieves break into a Galway animal shelter to steal 5 dogs

Curley is one of the five dogs stolen from the GSPCA animal sanctuary at Heathlawn.  

Curley is one of the five dogs stolen from the GSPCA animal sanctuary at Heathlawn.

THE GALWAY SOCIETY for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is calling for the return of five dogs who were stolen from its animal sanctuary in Heathlawn.

The shelter was ransacked by thieves on Saturday night/Sunday morning last. A post on the GSPCA website says that some of those dogs which were stolen had just undergone serious surgery and were in dire need of follow-up veterinary care and medication. The facility’s supply of leads, collars and other items were also taken in the break-in, windows were shattered and property damaged.

In a plea to the public, the GSPCA said:

Such a horrific thing to happen to these poor animals who have already been through so much in their lives… PLEASE don’t be silent, we need to get these animals back. These animals will be no use to anyone, as sadly they stole the ones that need immediate care.

Gardai at Portumna told TheJournal.ie that they are in the early stages of investigating the robbery and had no definite leads on the motive behind taking the dogs. The dogs are microchipped and anyone with information is asked to call Portumna Garda station on 0909 741 004 or any Garda station. The Garda Confidential line is 1800 666 111.

These are photos of four of the five dogs taken in the robbery. The fifth was a white male wire-haired terrier called Rascal – he’s 18 months old with two stitches on his nose and two very faint brown spots on his ears.