Tuesday 9th June 2015
Irish Bank’s wants to take heat out of the housing market
Ireland needs to make renting much more attractive to tenants and landlords to take the heat out of the housing market and prevent the chances of another housing bubble, a deputy head at the Central Bank has said.
The call by deputy governor Stefan Gerlach will be seen as the Central Bank continuing to apply pressure on the Government to make renting as attractive an option as buying.
Despite pressures from across the political spectrum, the Central Bank, led by outgoing governor Patrick Honohan, this year stuck to its controversial plans to impose new restrictions on mortgage credit for first-time and second-time home buyers.
Politicians and industry figures continue to say that the controls that require first-time buyers to save large deposits to cover portions of the mortgage loan are too onerous because house price increases in some regions are making home purchases unaffordable for many prospective buyers.
However, Mr Gerlach, speaking at a conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, said that the rental market could be the key to bringing stability to the housing market in countries such as Ireland and Croatia, which both saw huge collapses in the value of their property assets when their credit bubbles burst from 2008.
Citing research from Red C, he said that over a third of people renting out Irish homes are so-called accidental landlords, who were forced by economic necessity to rent rather than sell up when the financial crisis struck.
Moreover, a large majority in Ireland are unwilling tenants and would much prefer to own rather than rent, Mr Gerlach said.
Croatia, like Ireland, suffered from a property collapse. Some of the country’s large banks were, as was the case in Ireland, foreign-owned and required to be bailed out by their parents’ groups.
Encouraging renting will require policies aimed at tenants and landlords, Mr Gerlach said.
Strengthening security of tenure by offering long-term tenancy agreements may be a start, while landlords may require new incentives too.
Attracting institutional investors into the market who take a long-term view of tenancies such as real estate investment trusts may help the market provide more rental properties.
“The empirical evidence shows that the economies in which the rental market was relatively large and deep suffered less during the financial crisis. Deep rental markets appear to promote the resilience of the economy to adverse shocks and are therefore desirable from an economic stability perspective,” Mr Gerlach said.
“To promote their development, it is important that renting is an attractive long-term proposition for households and landlords alike.
“While many households may continue to buy rather than rent, we need to make sure that this choice reflects their preferences and does not merely reflect a poorly functioning rental market.”
Dunne’s Stores prices comparisons with Aldi are misleading a court finds
Court rules in favour of Aldi over pricing labels on sausages, yogurts, tomato ketchup
German discounter Aldi claimed that the on-shelf banners created the impression that Dunne’s Stores products generally, or its “Family Essentials” range, were cheaper than Aldi products when there was “no basis” for such a claim, Aldi claimed.
Dunnes Stores has been found guilty of engaging in misleading commercial practices when comparing the prices of some of its own-brand goods with Aldi products in a move which the High Court said was likely to deceive consumers.
Mr Justice Brian Cregan ruled in favour of Aldi over the pricing labels on Dunnes’ shelves in 14 out of 15 products before the court including sausages, turkey breast mince, yoghurts, tomato ketchup, tinned beef and chicken dogfoods and dry catfood.
In doing so Mr Justice Cregan said Dunnes Stores had infringed consumer protection law and EU regulations.
Aldi had alleged Dunnes on multiple occasions infringed Aldi trademarks by displaying banners in Dunnes’ supermarkets which contained the words “Lower Price Guarantee” and “Guaranteed Lower Prices on all your Family Essentials every week”.
Aldi took the action on the grounds that the banners failed to objectively compare one or more of the relevant and verifiable features of the Dunnes Stores products with those of Aldi and so did not comply with the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and the European Communities (Misleading and Comparative Advertising) Regulations 2007.
The German discounter also claimed that the on-shelf banners created the impression that Dunnes’ products generally, or its “Family Essentials” range, were cheaper than Aldi products when there was “no basis” for such a claim, Aldi claimed.
It accused Dunnes Stores of “comparing products which were not of the same quality and therefore giving an inaccurate comparison.”
It also said it had been “comparing products which were of different weights and therefore making inaccurate calculations which failed to show a proper comparison on a pro-rata basis for customers”. And thirdly the court was told that Dunnes had been “giving an inaccurate price of the plaintiff’s products at the time of the comparison”.
Dunnes denied the claims and told an earlier High Court hearing that comparing non – branded or own brand products “is always more difficult than comparing branded products.
This is because competitors’ own brand product ranges are rarely identical in terms of ingredients and specifications”.
It said that while some of the products “may not have identical ingredients and specifications it does not necessarily follow that the products are not comparable”.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Cregan found “shelf edge labels”, claiming Dunnes Stores prices for 14 of the 15 identified products were lower than Aldi prices had failed to objectively compare products which met the same needs or were intended for the same purpose.
He also said the advertisements included “the provision of false information” in relation to the 14 out of 15 comparative products, including information about the nature, composition, characteristics or ingredients of those products.
The information would be likely to cause an average consumer to make a transactional decision which that consumer would not otherwise make and this was contrary to the Consumer Protection Act, 2007.
The advertisements were misleading because they were likely to cause the average consumer to be deceived or misled in relation to those 14 products.
He also found Dunnes ommitted or concealed material information in relation to comparative advertisements that the average consumer would need to make an informed transactional decision.
The case was adjourned for two weeks to allow both sides consider the judgment before the court makes any orders. Dunnes will also consider whether to seek a stay on any order in the event of an appeal.
“The grocery retail market is highly competitive and in order to find the best value consumers must have confidence that the advertising information with which they are being presented is transparent, accurate and true,” said Aldi’s Group Buying Director, Finbar McCarthy after the ruling.
“Today’s ruling benefits consumers, clarifying their protection under the law.”
A second 100-year-old woman left on a hospital trolley for 25 hours
Rosanna O’Halloran, 102 year old lady from Castle Close in Clondalkin who spent 26 hours on a trolley in Tallaght Hospital
A second woman faced a 25-hour wait on a hospital trolley despite being over 100 years old – a situation which has been described as “inhumane”.
The 101-year-old woman’s granddaughter slammed the “wreck of a health system we have in Ireland”.
In a Facebook post highlighting the trolley situation in the A&E at University Hospital, Limerick, the woman said: “This is not a unique case.”
It is the second such reported incident to occur in the space of a week and follows a 26-hour wait on a trolley for 102-year-old Rose O’Halloran at the A&E in Tallaght.
Industrial Relations Officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Mary Fogarty said: “What happened is inhumane and you wouldn’t see it in the third world.
“It is a catastrophic situation where the oldest person in the hospital is left to languish on a trolley for all of that time.”
A member of the HSE West forum, Independent Councillor Ann Norton, said the woman’s daughter compared the A&E in Limerick to “a war zone”.
The family has asked not to be named.
A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “The Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick has seen an unexpected increase in patients presenting over the last week, which has resulted in high numbers of patients waiting on trolleys and long delays.”
She said she could not comment on a specific patient, but “UL Hospitals Group apologises that any patient has to wait to be admitted”.
She said “delivery of the best possible care for the patient is our priority”.
Chimps get drunk on palm wine
A juvenile chimpanzee uses a leaf sponge to drink palm wine in Guinea in West Africa.
Humans’ closest living relatives may have a drinking habit:
Scientists spied intoxicated wild chimps soaking up palm wine with leaves and squeezing it into their mouths.
Alcohol consumption is seen across nearly all modern human cultures that have access to fermentable materials. This prevalence led scientists to suggest what is known as the “Drunken Monkey Hypothesis” — that alcohol consumption might have provided a benefit of some kind to the ancestors of humanity, and perhaps also to the ancestors of chimpanzees, humanity’s closest living relatives.
Humans and apes share a genetic mutation that emerged about 10 million years ago that helps them break down alcohol and could have helped them eat overripe and fermenting fruit. According to the proponents of the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis, the benefits of such an expanded diet may have even led evolution to favor an attraction to alcohol.
There were a few anecdotes of primates other than humans partaking in alcohol — for instance, green monkeys introduced to the island of St. Kitts like drinking tourist cocktails. However, most of these anecdotes were unconfirmed.
Now, researchers say they have confirmed, for the first time, that wild apes habitually drink alcohol.
The scientists watched wild chimpanzees living near the village of Bossou in the West African country of Guinea from 1995 to 2012. Villagers in Bossou tap raffia palm trees for the sap, harvesting it with plastic containers placed near the crowns of the tall palms. Villagers leave the containers alone for most of the day, collecting the palm sap in the early morning and late afternoon.
The sweet palm sap ferments quickly into palm wine. Villagers knew chimps occasionally sampled this sap for themselves, the researchers said.
Chimps often fold or crumple leaves inside their mouths to produce a drinking tool. They dip these “leaf sponges” into their preferred drink, and then squeeze the leafy tools in their mouths.
The researchers saw 51 instances in which 13 chimps used leaf sponges to drink fermenting sap. “I was fascinated by this behavior,” study lead author Kimberley Hockings, a behavioral ecologist at Oxford Brookes University in England, told Live Science.”To harvest the palm wine, chimpanzees at Bossou use a leafy tool as a spongy drinking vessel.”
The sap averaged about 3.1 to 6.9 percent alcohol, or 6.2 to 13.8 proof. For comparison, beer averages between 3 and 6 percent alcohol, and wine can contain 7 to 14 percent alcohol, with dessert wine having nearly 19 percent alcohol content, according to the University of Notre Dame. The chimps often drank the booze in large quantities — about a liter (34 ounces, or about three average-size beers) of fermented sap on average. Males accounted for 34 of the 51 instances of drinking — one adult male in particular accounted for 14 of the 51 instances.
“Chimpanzees at Bossou have applied their knowledge of how to make and use leafy tools to exploit a new liquid resource — palm wine,” Hockings said. “This new use of elementary technology shows once again how clever and enterprising humankind’s nearest living relations are.”
A number of chimps appeared intoxicated. One time, Hockings noted the chimps rested immediately after drinking the palm wine; “on another occasion after drinking palm wine, one adult male chimpanzee seemed particularly restless and whilst other chimpanzees were making and settling into their night nests, he spent an additional hour moving from tree to tree in an agitated manner,” she said.
Hockings noted these findings do not confirm the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis, since they cannot say for sure whether the chimpanzees were attracted to the alcohol. “However, our data clearly show that alcohol is not an absolute deterrent to chimpanzee feeding in this community,” Hockings said.
Michael D Higgins opens sea lion cove in Dublin Zoo
President pays a visit to his neighbours to launch wildlife park’s new attraction
Dublin Zoo’s sea lions have moved into their new Cove habitat which features a deep saltwater pool and a viewing area to observe the colony of sea lions underwater through glass.
President Michael D Higgins’s neighbours are a noisy lot with their grunting, squawking and squealing. What else do you expect when you have Dublin Zoo in your back garden?
However, despite his close proximity to the zoo, Mr Higgins’s arrival to open the sea lion cove marked his first official visit to the wildlife park since he took office in 2011. The zoo was certainly on its best behaviour.
The flamingos were tickled pink with the attention, and even the monkeys looked pensive as Mr Higgins waxed lyrical about the zoo’s role in preserving the diversity of the earth’s species.
Mr Higgins proclaimed himself delighted with his visit. “I want to say what a wonderful day it is to be here to visit the neighbours.
“Without a doubt, a day trip to the zoo has been a special highlight for generations of Irish children and adults.”
Sea lion cove
The key attraction of the sea lion cove is a viewing area where visitors can watch the mammals swimming underwater. Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina peered through the glass at the sea lions as they swooped and dived in front of them.
Viewed from the other side of the cove, it looked like the presidential couple were so impressed with the facility that they had plunged underwater themselves.
“They really know how to strut their stuff,” Ms Higgins said, after the mammals caught a few fish and honked happily.
Sea lion team leader Eddie O’Brien said the new habitat was one of the best he’d seen anywhere. “This new pool was built in the lake of the zoo and it’s salt water, which is pretty amazing.”
As well as being its nearest neighbour, Mr Higgins also has a family connection with the attraction, as his son John produces RTÉ’s The Zoo.
“Everytime I’ve seen that programme I’ve been so struck by the importance of those who work in the zoo, the extraordinary care of putting the animals first,” Mr Higgins said.
Then, in the best tradition of neighbourliness, he was invited to have a cup of tea.
“Don’t leave it as long again,” Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel might have been tempted to say as he waved off the presidential couple.