Dec 8, 2005

The Good Life

This brilliant blog by James - putting us all to shame with his energy saving life in Ireland.

The Good Life

Irish Budget 2006 highlights

The annual budget was announced today - critics see it as a vote winning exercise. There were some attempts to help with childcare - but probably not enough. Maybe they should be looking at why people need childcare - because of the overall cost of living both parents need to work.

Overall spending
- Public spending to rise next year by ?5bn, with day to day spending to grow to ?48.3bn
- Capital spending will come close to 5% of GNP

- A 5-year investment programme ? ?317m being invested initially with a further ?600m afterwards
- Monthly child benefit rate for the first and second child to increase to ?150, the rate for third and subsequent children to increase to ?185
- An extension to the current 18-weeks maternity leave, and the rate of maternity benefit to increase from 75% to 80% of earnings

- Tax relief package of ?900 million, all those on the current minimum wage to be taken out of the tax net, all those on the average industrial wage will only pay the standard rate
- Tax relief to be capped for those with an income over ?250,000
- Tax relief for horse and greyhound stud fee incomes will end in July 2008

- The full personal rate of old age and related pensions to rise by ?14 per week, an increase of almost 8%
- Non-contributory pensions to rise by ?16 per week, an increase of 9.6%

Social Welfare
- Welfare package of ?1.12bn
- Personal weekly social welfare rates to be increased by ?17 per week, bringing the lowest full personal social welfare rate up 11% to ?165.80 per week

- Rise in the rate of the National Fuel Scheme from ?9 to ?14 per week
- Excise duty on home heating oil to be halved from midnight tonight

- An increase in Respite Care Grant to ?1,200

- An enhanced Carers Allowance rate of ?200 per week for people aged 66 or over and ?180 for people under the age of 66

- ?1.2bn for third level education
- ?3.9bn capital funding for education sector over 5 years

IOL: Budget 2006 highlights

Dec 7, 2005

A good idea for christmas presents

Concern Gifts of Hope 2005

Child Benefit Increases

Todays Budget in Ireland increased the standard child benefit in Ireland to 150 euro a month for the first 3 children and 180 a month for 3rd and subsequent children.
Also- for children under 6 an annual payment of 1000 euro is being introduced - paid quarterly.
This means that for each child under 6 the state pays about 50 euro a week in benefits. All of this is not means tested. This is probably one of the highest rates of Child Benefit payments in Europe?

Dec 2, 2005

Jobs with Amazon in Dublin

Amazon have a large Data Centre in Dublin Ireland -  and there are always IT related job opportunities at Amazon in Dublin

See all Current Amazon Job Vacancies in Dublin Here

Software Development Engineer

Database Administrator - 

Recruitment Coordinator

Network Engineer

Datacenter Technician

Datacenter Manager

Systems Engineer

Senior Software Development Engineer

Senior Support Engineer

Senior Software Development Engineer

Security Engineer

Systems Engineer

Dec 1, 2005

Have a Look at this Blog

A fine Irish Blog - which gives a good and humorous insight into some aspects of Irish Life and opinions.


Nov 8, 2005

Google Press Center: Zeitgeist

Google Press Center: Zeitgeist

Some strange results in the top 20 most popular searches on Google Ireland...

"RTE" - top I suppose that's fair enough - but then again the website is - so a search is not really necessary.
American restaurant is number 3 - what's that about. Are there really that many people looking for American Restaurant in Ireland? Maybe it's some webmaster checking his web site position 100 times a day. The same fella must be looking for Japanese Restaurant too! That's at number 7 !!

Makes a change from Paris Hilton and Harry Potter - who seem to be the obsession everywhere else in the world....

Nov 2, 2005

Childcare in Ireland

Irish parents can pay up to €1,083 a month to send a baby to a creche, according to a national survey on the cost of childcare, to be published this week.
The average cost is €731 a month to send a baby to a creche full-time and €631 for a toddler.

Limit on ringtone spend for children in Ireland

Children under 18 in Ireland will not be able to spend more than €10 a month on mobile-phone ringtones and other subscription services when a new code comes into force this week.

This follows concerns about the alleged misleading promotion and cost of subscription services such as mobile phone ringtones, logos and wallpapers.

Regtel, which regulates premium rate phone lines such as competition lines and mobile phone ringtones, has just published a new code of practice, which will come into force on Tuesday. Previously, only children under the age of 16 were protected under the Regtel code. This age limit has now been increased to 18.

There will be a €10 monthly limit on the amount children can spend on subscription services.

This year, subscription services have topped the list of complaints received by Regtel, with many consumers not realising they had subscribed to a service.

Regtel has received 3,261 telephone complaints so far this year from consumers who could not cancel subscriptions and were subsequently billed for services. This is almost five times the number of complaints received in 2004.

Nov 1, 2005

Broadband providers Ireland

Some costs and speeds of broadband in Ireland
(Only available in main towns and cities)


(i) Speed: 2MB

Cost: €42 per month (promotion; normally €54)

(ii) Speed: 1MB

Cost: €30 per month (promotion; normally €40)

BT Ireland

(i) Speed: 1MB

Cost: €30 per month (promotional €15 per month for first four months)

(ii) Speed: 2MB

Cost: €40 per month (promotional €25 per month for first four months)


(i) Speed: 3MB

Cost €42 per month (including line rental)

(ii) Speed: 4MB

Cost: €109 per month (including line rental)


Speed: 3MB

Cost: €45 per month

Smart Telecom

Speed: 2MB

Cost: €35 per month (including line rental).

reland - Getting a mortgage

There are now more than 15 mortgage providers in Ireland.

The basics offered by most institutions are quite similar. Generally one-year fixed interest rates range between 2.55 per cent to about 3.3 per cent.

Two-year fixed rates start at about 3.15 per cent rising to about 3.4 per cent.

First-time buyers are a key group for most banks and building societies - many offer them special discount rates. An example of this is Bank of Ireland, which offers first-timers a six-month discount variable rate of 2.49 per cent, or a one-year variable discount rate of 2.69 per cent.

Another tactic used is offering first-time buyers the chance to defer the start of their repayments. Both Bank of Ireland and AIB allow first-timers to defer repayments until up to three months after they take out their loan.

First-time buyers can also be lured by the term of their loan. Generally Irish mortgages do not exceed 30 years, but AIB offers first-time buyers a maximum loan term of 35 years, meaning lower repayments over a longer period.

Banks also compete on the percentage of your purchase price they will let you borrow.

The 100 per cent mortgage is the most high-profile development on this front.

This type of mortgage has actually been on the Irish market for decades, but until quite recently its availability was restricted to very specific professional classes. But now there is a greater availability of 100 per cent mortgages out there, with First Active and Bank of Ireland among the institutions offering these mortgages to a wider variety of customers.

The 100 per cent mortgages have received a mixed reaction in Ireland. The financial regulator has cautioned on the dangers of people becoming over stretched and taking on more debt than they can manage.

Flexible or current account mortgages are now more common in Ireland
. In 2003, First Active introduced its Current Account Mortgage, which allows users to pay interest only on the difference between the balance of their current account and their mortgage account.

Earlier this year, National Irish Bank launched its offset mortgage, which allows you to pay interest on the balance of a whole basket of accounts.

The way the account is structured means that every cent you have in credit with the bank (in current accounts and savings accounts) is automatically offset against your mortgage amount, so that you only pay interest on the overall amount you owe the bank.

House Prices in Ireland - boom or bust?

We are on our own if the bubble bursts:

House-price booms and busts are surprisingly common in industrial countries. In a new study of house prices that I wrote with several of my former colleagues at the US Federal Reserve, we identified no fewer than 44 episodes of house price booms and busts in industrial countries since 1970.

Given the eye-popping gains in house prices in Ireland over the past decade, the foreign experience is particularly relevant.

On balance, the lessons from the study are quite sobering, and underscore the difficulty of the task that will face policy makers in Ireland in the event of a significant downturn in Irish house prices.

The difficulty arises in part because it is not clear what policy-makers in Ireland should do, if anything, to respond to so-called asymmetric shocks - that is, shocks that affect Ireland but do not affect other members of the euro area, or shocks that produce different effects on the Irish economy than on other euro-area economies. A crash in Irish house prices is an example of such a shock. What's more, the chances of a house price bust might be greater than many people think.

Consider the ratio of house prices to rents, which has been shown to provide a useful benchmark for valuing housing in other countries. The price-rent ratio in Ireland has soared over recent years and at 29 now stands roughly 2.5 times above its level in 1996. Irish house prices have surged 300 per cent over the past decade, while increases in rents have been relatively muted. Price-rent ratios at these levels raise legitimate concerns about the sustainability of Irish house prices.

The Fed study shows that certain financial conditions, such as low interest rates and financial deregulation, are usually factors in past house price surges, though other features, such as demographics and buoyant income growth, also help explain these booms.

Typically, house prices peak not long after central banks begin raising interest rates in response to emerging inflation pressures. Subsequently, house prices fall for about five years, on average, and their previous gains are largely reversed. In other words, the larger the boom, the greater the bust. Not surprisingly, the downward correction in house prices is usually accompanied by an economic downturn, rising unemployment, and deteriorating fiscal balances.

Interestingly, the latest rise in house prices in industrial countries has been the most dramatic on record. House prices in recent years have risen at a rapid pace, not just in Ireland, but in Australia, Spain, Britain and the United States. If the current episodes follow the typical patterns seen in the past, house prices will eventually slow in these countries, some of which could endure a period of flat or even falling prices in the future.

Central bankers don't agree on how best to respond to booms in house prices.

The Fed's Alan Greenspan prefers a hands-off approach, arguing that central banks do not have weapons in their arsenals that can burst bubbles without doing undue harm to the wider economy.

Other central bankers, such as the Bank of England's Mervyn King, appear more willing to tighten monetary policy to try to stem current and future surges in house prices.

When house price booms turn into busts, however, there seems to be no disagreement on how to respond. The evidence shows that in the aftermath of house price peaks, when house prices are falling, central banks cut interest rates quickly and sharply.

Importantly, the aim of the interest rate cuts is not to reverse the declines in house prices per se - as mentioned earlier, following a pronounced run-up, prices tend to fall a long way.

Rather, the goal is to cushion both economic activity and the financial system from the effect of the house price crash. Lower interest rates deliver a shot in the arm for debt-laden households and businesses and help offset the drag on the economy from declines in house building, employment in the construction industry and household sentiment.

Moreover, lower interest rates and downward revisions to expectations for future economic growth cause the country's currency to depreciate on foreign exchange markets, which helps boost exports. This channel is especially important for small open economies.

For example, following the bursting of real estate bubbles in the Scandinavian countries in the late 1980s, improvements in competitiveness as a result of currency depreciation appear to have been an important element in eventually bringing about recoveries in these economies.

The evidence also shows that the recession that follows a crash in house prices usually lasts about a year. The economy then starts to recover as the supporting effects of looser monetary policy kick in, though it can take up to five years for economic growth to return to its pre-peak pace.

In summary, in the face of an adverse shock to the property market, the trick seems to be to let prices - interest rates, exchange rates and house prices - do the downward adjusting, so that quantities - output and employment - don't have to.

What can we infer from all this about the Irish economy's capacity to withstand a bust in house prices? The answer seems to be that Ireland is rather vulnerable.

One implication of Ireland's having adopted the euro as our currency is that interest rates here no longer respond to domestic economic conditions.

Eurozone interest rates are set by the European Central Bank, and the ECB cares only about the euro area as a whole, not about individual member countries.

As Ireland accounts for only a negligible part of the eurozone's activity and inflation, the ECB pays little attention to us. Similarly, the foreign exchange value of the euro is not affected by developments in Ireland.

So if Irish house prices crash, we can't respond in the traditional manner by cutting interest rates and letting our currency depreciate. Monetary policy didn't tighten during the boom and won't loosen during the bust, soother prices will have to do the heavy lifting if we are to avoid an especially nasty outcome.

Moreover, increases in construction of houses have been a key contributor to overall growth in the Irish economy of late.

In fact, one can imagine a scenario in which global interest rates spike up from historically low levels at present, bursting housing bubbles in countries that have experienced sharp run-ups over recent years. The Bank of England and the Fed respond in the usual way by slashing interest rates, and sterling and the dollar would both plunge. But falling house prices in Ireland (and perhaps in Spain) would not elicit a response from the ECB.

Ireland would then face a perfect storm of falling house prices, rising interest rates and debt-servicing costs, and the euro appreciating against the currencies of our two largest trading partners, Britain and the US.

The best strategy would obviously be to make sure that a bubble doesn't inflate here and that households don't take on more debt then they can handle, though some observers might claim that the authorities are behind the curve in both these respects.

In the event that Irish house prices do fall, economic flexibility will be crucial in containing any fallout.

In this regard, some lessons can be drawn from Hong Kong's experience in the late 1990s.Hong Kong's currency board arrangement means that the authorities there have essentially no control over domestic interest rates or the exchange rate. When property prices collapsed in 1997 and 1998, it was sustained declines in nominal wages that eventually restored the economy's competitiveness. But declines in nominal wages are rarely seen in industrial countries, and are usually vigorously opposed by trade unions. Whether the wage-formation process in Ireland is up to the task of rebalancing the Irish economy in the aftermath of a property crash is very much an open question.

Tax cuts and increases in government spending would also help to revive the economy following a house price bust, though the effectiveness of such measures is blunted by the openness of the Irish economy.

One thing is for sure: if house prices crash here, the much-vaunted flexibility of the Irish economy and the innovativeness of Irish policy makers will be sorely tested.

Oct 31, 2005

Medical cards for GP Visit costs in Ireland

Within a few weeks, the new GP visit card will be appearing in Ireland- hopefully entitling 200,000 people to free visits to their GPs.

The card has had a difficult birth, delayed initially by a lengthy battle with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) about its implementation.

Mary Harney, the Minister for Health, wanted to introduce the cards as part of her favoured approach to graduated benefits.

“I am a fan of graduated benefits,” she said. “Too often we see benefits where people either get all or nothing and that is neither right nor fair. With the GP visit cards, free GP services are now available to four times the number of people, that it would cost to give full medical cards to.”

But the IMO doctors took some convincing on the logistics of the system. Last month, the IMO and Harney finally reached agreement.

But the next problem was just around the corner. Harney had set the income threshold for the card at 25 per cent above that of the medical card, and she had promised that about 200,000 people would benefit from the card. But the numbers didn't add up. It soon became apparent that under the initial income guidelines just a fraction of the 200,000 would be eligible.

Harney responded by upping the medical card income guidelines by 25 per cent, which in turn upped the guidelines for the GP visit cards to draw the promised 200,000 into the net. Now the new cards are about to become a reality. The first applications have already been received, and the cards will soon be issued. Now that the political wrangling and positioning has been resolved the focus is switching to more basic issues - what the new card does, who gets it, and how to get one.

What the new card does

When the Department of Health was costing the new benefit they based its €60 million annual price tag on the amount that is actually paid to each GP every year, which is based on about three visits per patient per year (GPs will also get an additional one-off €35 payment for each of the first 200,000 patients signed up). But Browne said there was no limit to the number of consultations a person could have. “It is based on clinical need,” she said.

“If you have a clinical need you will be able to access your doctor free of charge.”

The card also covers the cost of a doctor writing a prescription outside of a visit, as is frequently done for repeat prescriptions such as inhalers for asthma sufferers. But the card does not cover the cost of the drugs or medicines that are prescribed (a separate scheme, the Drugs Payment Scheme, does refund the cost of these drugs above €85 per month for a family).

Browne said that the cards holders are allowed to choose their own doctor, and then register their card there.

But she said that if the chosen family doctor is not available card holders can use the card for free treatment from other GPs.

Who gets it

It is means-tested in the same way as the regular medical cards, the only difference is that income thresholds for the doctor only cards is 25 per cent higher.

Both benefits (medical cards and GP visit cards) now try to take account of both a person's earnings and their outgoings in certain areas. The new guidelines mean that a household can have a relatively high income - €60,000 and higher - and still qualify for a GP visit card under certain circumstances.

The system is particularly favourable to single-parent families, which are assessed under the same income guidelines as two-parent families. Families with children in third-level education who are not receiving a grant also fare well, as their parents benefit from higher income thresholds.

Most of those who will benefit from the scheme will either be in employment or self employed, as most people dependent on social benefits already have medical cards.

In general, when the HSE is assessing a person's income it first looks at the applicants net income, which is their income after PAYE and PRSI have been deducted.

Applications had been previously assessed on gross income, but the Department of Health now believes that net income is a much fairer assessment.

Candidates are also allowed to deduct other “reasonable costs'‘ from their assessed income.

In general these reasonable costs fall into three categories - rent or mortgage payments, costs for travelling to work and childcare costs.

But an official at the Department of Health said that other expenses could also be taken into account in certain circumstances.

“What we are trying to do is look at the overall circumstance of a family,” he said. “So if there are certain social difficulties - such as somebody in the household having a money or household budget management problem - it can be taken into account.”

If a person is paying towards the care of an elderly relative that can also be assessed as a reasonable expense, he said. The HSE can also give medical or GP visit cards to individuals or families who exceed the financial guidelines but have particular medical circumstances.

This can include chronic illness, that mean medical costs would result in financial hardship.

The official said there was no set maximum allowance people could claim under any one category, but the amounts claimed would have to be reasonable. So if a family had high mortgage payments and was experiencing temporary financial difficulties the high mortgage payments would be taken into account.

For childcare and housing expenses the local health office involved will look at the average cost of these services in your local area to see if your claim is “reasonable'‘.

Receipts for childcare and rent are not an absolute requirement, but if the amount you are claiming is considerably higher than these averages then you may be asked to provide them.

How to apply

The HSE has introduced a combined application form, which allows candidates to apply for the full medical card and the GP visit card at the same time. When the HSE processes each application it will first check if the applicant is eligible for a full medical card, and then check if they qualify for a GP visit card. Application forms are available at local health offices, doctors' surgeries and other public offices, and online at

And HSE staff will be willing to help applicants fill out the application forms. Applicants have to submit documentary evidence on their income - that is a P60 if they are employed, tax assessments/returns if they are self employed or a statement of income from the Department of Social and Family Affairs (if some of the family income is from social welfare).

Browne said the HSE hoped to be able to approve people's applications “within a matter of weeks'‘.

“Anyone who has previously been refused a card should reapply without delay, as should any individual or family who think they may now be eligible,” said Browne.

“We would hope that people on low incomes, in particular parents with young children would benefit from this.” Once a card is issued it is subject to “periodic review'‘, Browne said, so if a person's circumstances change they may lose their card.

Irish stamp duty remains one of the highest in EU:

Irish stamp duty remains one of the highest in EU:

Oct 1, 2005

Cinemobile-Ireland's First Travelling Cinema

In Ireland because of the low population in rural areas - you might have to travel 30 or 40 miles to a cinema. This mobile cinema helps to bring the movies closer to the people.

Sep 30, 2005

EU citizens - Ireland relaxes restrictions on claiming benefits .

From the Irish Times

A two-year ban on migrant workers from EU accession states obtaining social assistance was introduced last year due to Government fears that significant numbers of citizens could come here to draw welfare payments.

The Government move is also in response to European Commission concerns over the legality of the restrictions.

Commission sources have confirmed to The Irish Times that it believes the nature of the welfare ban is "incompatible" with aspects of EU law.

Minister for Social Affairs Séamus Brennan is expected to announce in the coming weeks that migrant workers who have worked in the State for a period of time will be entitled to social welfare benefits.

Changes were also made recently to allow the spouses of migrant workers who have worked here to draw child benefit, although these have not been publicly announced.

It is also expected that community welfare officers will be given greater flexibility in authorising short-term emergency welfare payments to migrant workers who do not have any other means.

Migrant worker support groups and homeless agencies say they are being approached regularly by accession state citizens - Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian citizens in particular - seeking food or shelter.

Siobhán O'Donoghue of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said: "The people we're dealing with who are experiencing hardship are typically workers who have lost their jobs, suffered injury or been exploited. They tend to be facing short-term difficulties, but they have no protection even if they have been paying taxes here."

A draft report by the Homeless Agency - the body which plans and administers State funds to homeless organisations in Dublin - into the effects of the welfare restrictions says all service providers have noticed an increase in demand from citizens of accession countries.

While there were predictions that the accession of 10 new EU member states would lead to "welfare tourism", official figures do not support this.

The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, a State advisory body, estimates that just 3 per cent of the 85,000 citizens from accession states that came here between May 2004 and April 2005 have applied for welfare benefits.

A spokesman for Mr Brennan yesterday declined to comment on plans to amend the welfare restrictions - known as the habitual residency condition - except to say a review would address any cause of hardship among migrant workers.

EU member states have adopted different policies on access to social assistance for newly arrived migrants from accession states.

Another major medical device firm locate in Ireland

Orangeburg-based Zeus Inc. will announce Friday it is establishing its first production facility in Europe. The company will open a multimillion-dollar, 28,000-square-foot facility in Letterkenny, Ireland. The expansion is expected to create 150 jobs over a five-year period. The plant will focus on the production of the company's precision extrusions in Europe's medical, electronics, semiconductor, aviation and aerospace industries. Zeus officials say discussions are also under way to purchase a 2.9-acre lot for future expansion adjacent to the property.

Zeus President and Chief Operating Officer John Worley attributes the Ireland expansion to the recovering global economy and the need for proximity to medical-device customers in Ireland and in the European market in general.

"Zeus reviewed potential locations throughout the world for this new manufacturing facility," Worley said. "We chose Ireland because of its reputation as a country with a highly educated and motivated work force, two factors that are important in the production of high-technology products."

Currently, three Zeus employees are in Ireland handling preparations, with other key Zeus personnel expected to travel to the country for further training of Irish workers, said Karl Graffte, Zeus director of marketing.

"This is going to be really big for us," Graffte said, noting that by manufacturing inside a European Union country, products can be sold in Europe with minimal duties.

Zeus will join a growing list of companies with plants in Ireland.

Today, 16 of the world's top 20 medical device companies, nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies and seven of the top 10 software companies have operations in Ireland. Among them are Abbott, Baxter, Boston Scientific, Dell Computer, Intel and Johnson & Johnson.

Worley also cited Ireland's "favorable business environment and extensive medical technology industry cluster" as other reasons for locating there.

"Ireland also is more accessible to our established European customer base, which utilizes our extrusions in highly specialized medical and industrial applications," he said. "We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of IDA Ireland, the Irish government's economic development agency in relation to our investment in Letterkenny."

When the plant in Ireland becomes operational, Zeus will have nine facilities on six campuses in North America and Europe, making it among the largest volume producers of precision fluoropolymer extrusions in the world.

The expansion could not be more timely, Worley said.

In July, Zeus announced a multimillion dollar expansion of its Aiken production facility. The company invested in new extrusion and heat-shrink production lines expected to increase the capacity at the plant.

"Ireland is a hot bed for medical-device manufacturing, and as the leader in our industry, Zeus needs to be there," Worley said. "At the same time, corporations want to partner with suppliers that can deliver large volumes of application-critical extrusions anywhere in the world, whether it's Europe, Asia, or the Americas. Zeus meets this profile. Strategic expansion will reinforce our leadership position in the world marketplace."

Sep 29, 2005

Irish Banks target immigrants

Story from the Sunday Times:

To compete for the huge new wave of immigrant workers in Ireland , banking now needs to be multilingual.

BANKING jargon is gobbledygook to many people — and that is official. According to a report released this month by the Educational Building Society, more than a third of Irish adults don’t know what APR stands for. (It’s annual percentage rate.)

If fluent English speakers have such difficulties, what happens to those who do not even speak the language?

This is a daily problem for thousands of immigrant workers and members of ethnic communities up and down the country. Now the retail banking sector is beginning to wake up and take notice. Banks are scrambling to prepare marketing strategies aimed at capturing a slice of the immigrant market, the country’s fastest-growing personal-banking market segment.

With the introduction of the Irish Bankers Federation’s switching code and Permanent TSB’s (PTSB) launch of its free current account, Bank of Ireland (BoI) and Allied Irish Banks, which between them control about 75% of the market, have seen their market share come under threat. Smarting after a succession of high-profile scandals, both have been eyeing up the immigrant sector to boost branch footfall.

That the immigrant sector is growing at a phenomenal rate is not in doubt. Currently there are about 240,000 migrant workers living in Ireland, about 6% of the population, and the Central Statistics Office has said that the country needs a further 50,000 each year for the next 12 years to sustain economic growth. With some 57% of immigrants holding higher education qualifications, the opportunities for banks who tailor their marketing strategies accordingly are obvious.

BoI, the country’s second-largest bank by market value, was first out of the blocks with the launch of its migrant worker marketing initiative during the summer. “The increase in immigration is obvious to see on the streets,” said Fergus O’Neill of BoI’s personal banking division and the person charged with driving migrant-worker sales. “We noticed it in the branches too.”

According to BoI, in the past year up to 70% of new accounts in some areas were opened by migrant workers.

BoI enlisted the help of the Immigrant Council of Ireland last January as it sought to develop its strategy and, according to the council, more companies have contacted it since. “We carried out significant research with members of the migrant worker community,” said O’Neill. “This highlighted language difficulties as the single biggest barrier for them when it comes to banking.”

In response, the bank translated its brochures and forms into three languages: Polish and Mandarin Chinese, to target Ireland’s two fastest-growing immigrant sectors, and Russian, to target the rest of eastern Europe and the other EU accession states. The forms are available at all branches countrywide. It also recruited a number of bilingual customer service staff for some of its key urban branches, including Chinese speakers at its O’Connell Street and College Green branches in Dublin, and a Polish speaker at its Blanchardstown branch.

The bank is also planning to revamp its online and telephone banking services to reflect the language changes.

In an attempt to reach its new target market, BoI is compiling an advertising campaign in foreign-language press here in Ireland. “Migrant communities are not great readers of mainstream press,” said O’Neill. “We will be advertising with Szpila, a Polish magazine, next month, and we will be also looking at the Polska Gazeta and the Shining Emerald Isle, a Chinese community paper.”

BoI said that, with the exception of a high usage of foreign currency wiring, or remittance services, migrants have exactly the same banking requirements as other sectors, and it has no plans to develop tailored banking products.

AIB, the country’s largest bank, has left itself open to charges that it has dragged its heels on the issue and has yet to reveal details of how it is planning to target the immigrant segment. However, it is expected to follow a similar path to BoI and focus on translation services rather than a product- development approach. “While we believe that ethnic customers will have some unique needs, our approach will be that they can avail of the full range of services offered by AIB to all our customers,” said Grainne Clancy, of the bank’s customer strategy unit.

“It is an important emerging market for us,” she said. “In terms of our business customers, an increasing number are employing non-nationals and are looking to the bank to support them in ensuring that they have accounts in which to pay their salaries.”

AIB will be able to leverage off its presence in Poland — it owns a majority stake in the country’s BZWBK bank — when it comes to targeting that community here in Ireland. “Our primary focus has been on building links with the Polish community,” said Clancy.

PTSB, which is aiming for a 25% share of the current account market, says that it is opening an average of 1,000 new accounts each week. According to the bank, there will be a “number of marketing initiatives” aimed at immigrant communities over the next few months. “We will be looking to identify publications of high interest to the non-national community in order to find new advertising vehicles,” said the bank. “You can also expect initiatives in translation and dedicated customer-service points for non-nationals.”

According to Sarah Deeny, an account director with advertising agency AFA O’Meara and who has experience of working with the banking sector, the banks should focus on building trust in its communications with the immigrant population. “In its poster campaigns BoI should include a photo of its bilingual staff and it should say, ‘Come in and talk to’ (staff member’s name). You have to cross the fear barrier first,” she said.

“Banks could also learn a thing or two from the way Vodafone markets itself at the airport. It targets people as soon as they step off the plane. They should be using this as a benchmark,” she said.

Other ways for banks to target ethnic customers, according to Deeny, would be local leafleting campaigns in urban areas with a high migrant population, the use of mobile-phone marketing through text promotions, and the targeting of ethnic food stores and internet cafes for advertising. “They could run promotions with a trip home to visit your family as a prize,” she said.

Irish banks are still a long way behind their counterparts in the UK and Europe when it comes to targeting migrant communities. In recent years, HSBC launched a Muslim-friendly mortgage — the payment of interest is forbidden under Islamic law — which consisted of rent payments until the value of the house was paid off. Lloyds TSB, the UK’s fifth-largest bank, recently rolled out a remittance venture with India’s ICICI bank to target the millions of pounds sent home by Indian migrant workers each year. BBVA, Spain’s second-largest bank, has launched a chain of designated one-stop shops for immigrants under the banner of Dinero Express.

Across the Atlantic, many US banks now provide “talking” ATMs in several different languages. With the launch of a “talking” ATM for the visually impaired on Baggot Street in Dublin last week, it could only be a matter of time before the country’s cash machines start chattering back to customers in a variety of different tongues.

People should Boycott Irish Ferries

Article from Irish Examiner about Irish Ferries plans to sack all their staff and replace them with lower paid ones from elsewherein the EU. I reckon you should use Stena Line if you are planning on etting to ireland by Ferry.

MANAGEMENT at Irish Ferries was accused yesterday of "bullyboy tactics" over its plans to make staff redundant.

And trade union congress leader David Begg warned if the proposed EU services directive became reality, "then the grotesque Irish Ferries scenario will become the norm".

He described the directive as "a charter for social dumping" that would result in huge loss of properly paid jobs.

Mr Begg said Irish Ferries' chief executive, who earned €687,000 last year, wanted to dump 543 workers and replace them with people on around €3 an hour.

"There's something deeply obscene about that," he told the Challenges for Europe conference in Dublin. "This should serve as a wake-up call for legislators at a national and EU level."

Earlier, SIPTU branch secretary Paul Smyth claimed Irish Ferries was attempting to bully staff. It had sent out a letter reminding them voluntary redundancy package being offered expires next Sunday.

Mr Smyth said: "Irish Ferries is effectively demanding that employees accept the redundancy package by Friday. It is one more instance of the bully-boy tactics that have marked the company's approach since it began outsourcing services and downgrading pay and conditions earlier this year."

Mr Smyth said the ferry company had treated the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with contempt as it had the Labour Court, the National Implementation Body and even employers' organisation IBEC.

"So it perhaps is not surprising that it is now resorting to these tactics to pressurise employees into making a crucial decision about their futures," he said.

Mr Begg told the Europe conference that pay rises were needed.

Pointing to the high productivity, high growth and low inequality levels obtaining in the Nordic countries, he said this was an example for Ireland to follow.

Sep 25, 2005

Population Growth in Ireland

IRELAND’S population has reached its highest level in more than 140 years.

With a booming economy, buoyant job market and excellent quality of life Ireland has seen a surge of people move here.
The nation’s high wages and low taxes have meant it has become the most popular country in the European Union for migrant workers.

And now Ireland’s population is the fastest growing in Europe. The number of people living in Ireland has risen to 4.13million in April of this year.
The spurt has been attributed to a natural population increase along with an influx of immigrants. New migrants are helping to drive the Celtic Tiger and sustain the economy.

And the influx of new workers is the life-blood of the Irish economy, vital in sustaining the country’s economic growth — according to a report published by the European Citizen Action Service.

Ireland’s own Central Statistics Office (CSO) says the population has increased by 87,000 in the past year alone.

In the same period only 16,600 people left the country — the lowest number to emigrate since records began in 1987.

In the year to April 2005, 70,000 people migrated to Ireland which is the highest number to move to the country in the 18 years since the CSO began monitoring annual migration figures.

More than a third of immigrants were from the 10 accession states which joined the European Union in May 2004.

Some 17 per cent of migrants were Polish while 9 per cent came from Lithuania The combined effect of a natural population increase along with migration are the two main reasons the population has hit its highest since 1861.

With its growing population a booming economy has followed making Ireland the second richest country in the world per head of population after Luxembourg.

And poverty in Ireland has plunged by more than half since 1994 courtesy of the Celtic Tiger.

Even those on low incomes have seen their standard of living improve over the past 10 years.

Experts predict Ireland’s burgeoning economy is set to remain buoyant as long as the country continues to be a popular migrant destination.

Sep 24, 2005

DVD Rental Ireland -
A new dvd rental service - from 9.99 euro a month - for one dvd at a time sent through the post - so you could probably get at least 6 a month. Sounds good - might give it a try soon.

Aug 30, 2005

Buy online without a Credit Card

If you've ever been nervous about using your credit card to order the latest bestseller online or buy roses for a loved one over the phone, an Irish bank thinks it has solved the problem.

Permanent tsb said on Tuesday it will launch the world's first pre-paid, disposable credit voucher, opening up Internet and telephone shopping to those previously put off by the security implications of handing over their credit card details.

In the same way that owners of pre-paid mobile phones top up their credit at shops, registered users of the new service will be able to buy vouchers for between 20 and 350 euros at retail outlets.

Each voucher will carry its own unique number which can then be used to shop online, by phone or by mail with any retailer who accepts cards issued by Visa.

The scheme, which is the brainchild of Ireland's 3V Transactions Services Ltd, also aims to attract those who do not hold traditional credit cards.

"This new voucher will enable both sets of people to avail of all the benefits of shopping online or on the telephone in a controlled, prepaid way and without any security issues," said Niall O'Grady, head of marketing at permanent tsb bank.

Alphyra -- an Irish-based processor of mobile phone payments and the parent company of 3V Transactions Ltd -- said the consortium planned to roll out the facility nationwide in the coming weeks before targeting other European countries.

"Within the next 12-18 months we plan to launch the product in the UK, Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Greece, Romania, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic," said Seamus Minogue, head of financial services at Alphyra.

Permanent tsb, the retail banking arm of Irish Life & Permanent, expects the idea to prove popular in Ireland, where 67 percent of adults do not have a credit card and those who do incur an annual government levy of 40 euros.

Aug 10, 2005

Challenge to Abortion Ban in Ireland

Three Irish women are taking Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights for preventing them having abortions in the country.

The case is part of a campaign by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) to make abortion legal in Ireland. Abortion is illegal here in mainly Catholic Ireland - except in cases where the mother's life could be in danger without it.

However, women are permitted to travel outside Ireland for abortions. IFPA says 6,000 women travel to Britain every year to terminate their pregnancies.

"Since the first constitutional referendum on abortion in 1983, Ireland has changed: more women living in Ireland access abortion services and more women feel angry and frustrated that they have to travel to Britain and other countries to secure these services," said IFPA chairwoman Catherine Forde.

The three unnamed women who lodged a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights this week argue the ban violates articles in the European Convention of Human Rights.

These include the right to privacy in all family, home and personal interests and the right not to have public authorities interfering with this entitlement.

They also say the ban flouts an article in the convention which protects individuals from inhuman and degrading treatment.

Jul 28, 2005

IRA ends armed capaign

This is the statement issued by the IRA today announcing an 'end to the armed campaign'.
They were on official ceasefire for a few years.
What about the "other side" now? It seems clear that the Unionist parlamlitaries are not inactive either. When will they issue a similar statement?

Thursday July 28, 2005

The leadership of Óglaigh na hÉireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.
This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon.

All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.

All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.

Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.

The IRA leadership has also authorised our representative to engage with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use in a way which will further enhance public confidence and to conclude this as quickly as possible. We have invited two independent witnesses, from the Protestant and Catholic churches, to testify to this.
The Army Council took these decisions following an unprecedented internal discussion and consultation process with IRA units and volunteers.

We appreciate the honest and forthright way in which the consultation process was carried out and the depth and content of the submissions.

We are proud of the comradely way in which this truly historic discussion was conducted.

The outcome of our consultations show very strong support among IRA volunteers for the Sinn Féin peace strategy.

There is also widespread concern about the failure of the two governments and the unionists to fully engage in the peace process. This has created real difficulties.

The overwhelming majority of people in Ireland fully support this process.

They and friends of Irish unity throughout the world want to see the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement.

Notwithstanding these difficulties our decisions have been taken to advance our republican and democratic objectives, including our goal of a united Ireland.

We believe there is now an alternative way to achieve this and to end British rule in our country.

It is the responsibility of all volunteers to show leadership, determination and courage. We are very mindful of the sacrifices of our patriot dead, those who went to jail, volunteers, their families and the wider republican base.

We reiterate our view that the armed struggle was entirely legitimate.

We are conscious that many people suffered in the conflict. There is a compelling imperative on all sides to build a just and lasting peace.

The issue of the defence of nationalist and republican communities has been raised with us. There is a responsibility on society to ensure that there is no re-occurrence of the pogroms of 1969 and the early 1970s. There is also a universal responsibility to tackle sectarianism in all its forms.

The IRA is fully committed to the goals of Irish unity and independence and to building the Republic outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.

We call for maximum unity and effort by Irish republicans everywhere.

We are confident that by working together Irish republicans can achieve our objectives.

Every volunteer is aware of the import of the decisions we have taken and all Óglaigh are compelled to fully comply with these orders. "There is now an unprecedented opportunity to utilise the considerable energy and goodwill which there is for the peace process.

This comprehensive series of unparalleled initiatives is our contribution to this and to the continued endeavours to bring about independence and unity for the people of Ireland.

Jul 13, 2005

Lower taxes in Ireland for low paid.

RTE Business - Today in the press: "Tax burden on low-paid is 'lowest here' - Ireland levies the lowest tax burden on low-paid workers among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, a new report from the organisation revealed yesterday. The Irish Independent says that the report on the euro area economies states that the labour market structure in the zone needs to be overhauled if more jobs are to be created. However, Ireland comes out on top in key areas such as the tax burden and social security contributions, which in some countries have acted as a disincentive for employers to hire more workers. The report also backs the stance of the European Central Bank on interest rates as the bank bids to fend off political pressure for lower eurozone interest rates. The OECD's statement that it would be reasonable to leave rates at 2% coincided with statements by ECB Governing Council members that high oil prices posed inflation risks and interest rates were at appropriate levels.

Jul 10, 2005

County Mayo - Gas pipeline protests

Focus: 'Tell Shell to go to hell' - Ireland - Times Online

Five men are in prison for blocking access to Shell - who want to build an onshore gas pipeline.

Ten days ago the men now known as the Rossport Five refused to obey a court order that would allow Shell to run part of a gas pipeline from the Corrib field 70km offshore through their land to a processing plant 9km inland. Citing safety concerns, these most unlikely of prisoners were put under lock and key in Cloverhill prison in Dublin, where they will remain until they promise not to block the work.

Since the inception of the Corrib project, a small, anti-gas group had been a persistent thorn in Shell’s side, but the imprisonment of the five men has transformed the protesters in the eyes of the community from eccentric cranks into local heroes.

The company says the men are misguided and their concerns over the safety of the pipeline misplaced. Regardless, work has been brought to a halt, hundreds of workers have been laid off indefinitely and Shell finds itself mired in a costly public relations disaster.

“WE DON’T want people in prison — in fact, it’s the last thing we want,” said Andy Pyle, the chairman of Shell Ireland. “We recognise that there are some landowners with concerns, but these have been built up by misinformation and emotive language. It is absolute rubbish to suggest safety is not our primary priority, but, in hindsight, we should have done more to counter their concerns.”

Those concerns rest on the safeguards in place on the onshore pipeline that travels close to the homes of four of the men. The fifth, Micheal O Seighin, 65, a former schoolteacher with a heart condition, has been at the forefront of the protest movement for several years.

A report commissioned by Shell into the safety of the pipeline, published last month, concluded that the risks to the public “would be tolerable when compared with international criteria”. However, it also said the initial report was based on incomplete information. Meanwhile, protesters have queried the independence of the assessment, given that AEA Technology, the company that conducted it, worked for Shell previously.

The protesters believe Shell has chosen to process the gas onshore in order to save money. It is estimated that a land refinery would save the company €300m and shave 40% a year off operating costs for the expected 20-year lifespan of the field. Pyle, however, dismisses the contention that Shell would put shareholders’ profit above the safety of the people of Rossport.

“That is totally untrue: I don’t know how strongly I can refute that,” he said. “I would have no problem with a totally independent review if I thought it could break the logjam, but what constitutes independence and would it be accepted?” Pyle claims that the pipeline is “grossly overdesigned” for the pressure of gas that will run through it, but says the company has chosen to err on the side of caution. Conceding it would be far more expensive to site the processing plant at sea, he says the company’s priority was safety. According to Pyle, more accidents would likely occur if the plant were placed offshore.

Pyle insists that Shell had tried everything in its power to set up meetings with the landowners individually or as a group in a bid to allay their fears, but the prospects of dialogue faded last month.

“We wouldn’t meet them in a large, open forum because we didn’t want it hijacked. There are people who have objected all the way and who object to just about every development in Ireland,” he said. “You can’t have a proper conversation with such people, never mind an agreement, and there is no point getting into a slanging match.”

The problem for Shell is that its appeal for dialogue may have come a dime short and an hour late. The locals are in no mood to listen as long as their neighbours remain in prison, and attitudes are hardening with every day. Although Joseph Finnegan, the High Court judge, said last week that “their fate lies in their own hands”, there is little doubt the community holds Shell and the government responsible for their continued incarceration.

“We are at a very dangerous impasse,” said Ian McAndrew, a local representative of Udaras na Gaeltachta and the former chairman of the Erris Pro-Gas Alliance. “I have been a supporter of the gas project, but it is not right that local people who have very real fears about the pipeline should find themselves locked up like common criminals.

“Shell must learn that bringing Irish citizens to the High Court will not resolve anything. By doing so it has galvanised the Erris community into collective action like never before.”

McAndrew, Coyle and other supporters of the project are calling for government intervention in the dispute, the release of the men and suspension of all work pending the outcome of an independent study of the project. They fear the continuing standoff could encourage Shell to cap the wells it has already drilled and abandon the €21 billion project entirely — something Pyle has not ruled out despite the €500m the company has already invested in it.

So far, the government has shown little appetite for involvement and Noel Dempsey, the minister for communications, marine and natural resources, explicitly ruled out any intervention on the basis that it was a judicial matter.

Shell’s status as the apparent Goliath in this struggle with a small group of protesters has put the energy giant on the back foot in the battle for hearts and minds, locally and nationally. Marathon and Statoil are also developing Corrib field, but Shell has been drawing almost all the flak. The protest was broadened last week with pickets placed on Shell filling stations and a demonstration outside the Irish embassy in Edinburgh in the run-up to the G8 summit.

The Erris peninsula in northwest Mayo is an area the size of Co Louth, but a legacy of emigration means that it is one of the most sparsely populated places in the country. Work has been scarce and the prospect of 300 jobs during the construction phase of the project and a further 50 full-time positions at the refinery received a broad welcome.

This is a close-knit community, but now brothers and neighbours face each other across picket lines.

Shops and houses all over the area are festooned with banners in support of the Rossport Five, the local radio station blares out a song urging people “to tell Shell to go to hell” and hundreds of locals turn up every day to block access to the site of the proposed gas processing plant.

Last Sunday, Erris was all but empty. After priests at every pulpit said prayers for the five men, several hundred people travelled to the town of Castlebar for a protest march organised by local TDs.

When the five appeared in court two weeks ago they represented themselves. Last week when the case came up for mention in the High Court, it emerged that John Rogers, the former attorney-general, would be fighting their corner. It is unclear if he will do so without charge, but the men are unlikely to have the resources to fund such high-profile representation.

The men — O Seighin, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin and brothers Philip and Vincent McGrath — say they are determined to carry on indefinitely. At Cloverhill they wear regular prison uniforms and share two cells. They are receiving a steady stream of visitors, including relatives, friends, and political representatives.

THIS is a local dispute, but it has national consequences. The Kinsale field off the Co Cork coast is depleting rapidly and Ireland faces the costly prospect of importing huge amounts of gas.

According to the most recent data from the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), if Corrib does not come on stream, Ireland would be forced to import almost all of its gas requirements. Even further delay will mean more imports as the CER was projecting supply from Corrib by 2008.

The outcome could also send out a discouraging message to other would-be developers, according to Pyle: “When you have a situation whereby a few people can derail a major infrastructure project, then you have anarchy. It was always going to be ‘big Shell against the little landowner,’ but any reasonable person would have to conclude this pipeline is safe.”

Last week Justice Finnegan said he would have no hesitation in jailing every farmer who blocks the road into Rossport, but the threats from a Dublin judge are unlikely to cut ice with the members of this remote community who believe they now have little option but to make a stand.

Irish car prices s are the dearest in Europe

Irish cars are the dearest in Europe - Ireland - Times Online

(My view - is it fair to compare prices in countries where earnings and other forms of taxation are not the same. Ireland chooses to tax vehicles - maybe to reduce co2 emissions - that is their choice. There are plenty of new cars on the road - so the prices must be OK for many people?)
IRISH car-buyers are being charged up to €8,200 more than their EU counterparts for the 10 leading models, a Sunday Times analysis has found.

Because of vehicle registration tax (VRT), the biggest-selling cars in Ireland are on average €3,000 dearer than in the 11 other eurozone countries.

The study found that within the eurozone, Irish car-buyers pay the most for five of the most popular vehicles, and the republic is second or third dearest for the other five models in the top 10 list.

Motorists’ representatives say the analysis proves that VRT in Ireland is leading to “extortionate” car prices. The EU has already branded the tax unfair.

Cyril McHugh, chief executive of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), said: “Motorists should be screaming at the government over this tax. As the figures show, it forces Irish people to pay way over the EU norm and makes a joke of the idea of a single market when it comes to buying cars.”

Conor Faughnan of the AA said: “VRT is a cynical tax. It was brought in by the government when excise duty had to be abolished, in order to keep generating revenue from motorists. Technically it’s legal, but it’s not fair. Irish motorists are forced to pay between 20% to 30% more for our cars than other EU countries.”

The Toyota Corolla is the best selling car in Ireland, according to statistics compiled last December. EU figures show that a 1.4 litre version in the republic sells for €21,260. The same car can be purchased for an average of €16,562 in the eurozone and is on offer in Germany for just €14,550. It costs €14,621 in Italy, €15,167 in France and €15,195 in Spain.

The Toyota Avensis is the No 2 seller in Ireland, where a 1.8 litre model costs €27,220. The average price in the eurozone is €22,900. In Italy the model sells for €18,980, €8,240 less. It’s slightly more expensive in Finland and Portugal than in Ireland, but is cheaper at €19,485 in Spain and €19,649 in France.

A 1.6 litre Ford Focus costs €22,275 in Ireland, compared with €16,018 in France, and is on average €4,013 cheaper in the rest of the eurozone. The Volkswagen Golf is €18,037 in Ireland for a 1.4 litre model, compared with €14,525 in Greece and an average of €16,058 across the zone.

Similar differences are recorded for other major models. A 1.5 litre Nissan Almera, for example, is €19,035 in Ireland, but averages at €15,852.

The figures also show that Ireland is among the dearest when all 25 EU countries are included. For the five leading models, only Denmark is dearer, which has a taxation system that can more than double the pre-tax price of new cars.

The UK is significantly cheaper with the Toyota Corolla costing €5,670 less, and the Avensis and Ford Focus being €7,270 and €5,220 cheaper respectively.

McHugh said: “When VRT was introduced 12 years ago it contributed €196m to the exchequer. Now this figure is almost €1 billion, yet there has been no let up on the car-buyer. We want a reduction and ultimately we want the tax to be abolished.”

Motoring groups argue that the tax limits the size of the Irish car market, and VRT means Irish motorists do not get the same level of equipment in their cars despite paying more. In some cases safety equipment, standard in other EU countries, is optional in Ireland to keep the price of cars down.

VRT has to be paid on all new and imported cars in Ireland. It is additional to Vat and is calculated as a percentage of the expected retail price of a car at rates of between 22.5% or 30% depending on engine size. Some countries in the EU have similar systems but do not charge as much.

Galway is happiest county in Ireland

Galway?s the clear grinner - Property - Times Online

A new survey reveals for the first time just where Ireland’s happiest and least contented people live. Mark Keenan examines the reasons behind those smiling — or grim — faces

Happiness may or may not have anything to do with a cigar called Hamlet, but the findings of a nationwide study soon to be released shows that moving to a hamlet of the small village variety may be just the tonic to restore the joys of life.

Ireland’s most comprehensive study into people’s quality of life and happiness has just been concluded by a team from University College Dublin.

The results have been derived from extensive interviews with 1,500 citizens from all walks of life. Published exclusively today by The Sunday Times, they show where Ireland’s happiest and least contented people live.

We Irish appear to be an extremely happy bunch. In a report published last week by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, we were the second-happiest nation out of the 25 states and three candidate countries surveyed.

And last year the Economist’s research unit named Ireland the happiest nation in the world (of 111 nations), with a seemingly perfect combination of new wealth and old family and religious values.

The latest study from UCD’S planning and environmental policy unit details where that happiness comes from. Not surprisingly, high on the list is where we live — our address and its immediate environs.

From the research conducted by Professor Peter Clinch, Finbarr Brereton and Dr Susana Ferreira,

The Sunday Times has broken down the results to divide them county by county to see exactly where Ireland’s happiest people live.

Those questioned were asked to rate their overall contentment on a scale of one to seven, where one was described as “life is as bad as can be” and seven was “as good as it can be”.

It confirms what the European study shows, that as a nation we’re a generally contented bunch. Almost all the answers fell in the top end of the scale, between four and seven. However, there were some interesting variations.

Galwegians are far and away the happiest people in Ireland, and given the previous Economist worldwide survey, arguably the happiest in the world. The highest happiness score — almost full marks with 6.93 — came from Co Galway. And Galway city wasn’t far behind with 6.65, the second-highest score in the republic.

Wicklow dwellers were next, with a very smiley 6.32, and are followed by Tipperary — Ireland’s next most contented county with a sunny score of 6.12. Surprisingly, Limerick city comes next with 5.96, demonstrating that Shannonsiders are a resilient and cheery bunch despite the reputation their city has gained nationally for crime and social problems.

Overall, however, the biggest revelation is what impact rapid growth, urbanisation and congestion can have on morale.

With an overall score of just 4.97 and the only county to duck below the 5 mark, Dublin is completely blue.

Clinch said: “They’re not unhappy. A score of 4.97 is “reasonably content” rather than “happy”, but it underlines that the notion that Dublin has benefited most from the Celtic Tiger is missing the point. The overall objective of economic growth should be to improve quality of life and although incomes in Dublin have grown rapidly, they have not compensated Dubliners for factors like increased traffic congestion, living closer together in more confined spaces, increased costs of living and lack of amenities. These factors lead to lower levels of happiness in Dublin.”

Within Dublin, figures are broken down by local-authority jurisdictions. The unhappiest residents — and also the unhappiest nationwide — are in the South Dublin council area, taking in large tracts of West Dublin and lower income areas such as Tallaght and Clondalkin. The happiness level there of 4.59 is Ireland’s lowest by far.

Northsiders proved happiest in Dublin, with a lukewarm rating of 5.57 for Fingal, closely followed by the city’s most affluent quarter, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, at 5.21. City-centre dwellers registered a stoic 4.72.

Outside Dublin, the scenic but isolated, boggy and underpopulated county of Leitrim was least happy with a rating of 5. However, as the study group from Leitrim was unusually small, this might be an unfair result.

Donegal, beautiful but exposed, large and isolated, turned in a rating of 5.17, easing into the bottom five. Perhaps similar factors influenced Cavan’s low rating at 5.2.

With its growing city experiencing some of Dublin’s problems, Waterford turned in a rating of 5.07, making it Ireland’s third least contented county.

While the survey team did not examine reasons for unhappiness county by county, it would not be difficult to speculate on why Galway is Ireland’s breeziest.

Professor Clinch said: “Most of Co Galway is relatively prosperous economically with a good mix of different employment types. The bulk of Galwegians live in areas within or not far from population centres which are large enough to hold varied facilities and a selection of employment, but not too large to cramp lifestyles significantly or allow access to space and fresh air.”

The scenery in Galway is among the best Ireland has to offer and the presence of sea, lakes and mountains must have a role to play. With its two near-perfect happiness ratings, it seems that Galway comes closest to offering the best of all worlds.

“The survey results suggest that, everything else being equal, the ideal location for an Irish person to live is a small town — somewhere relatively rural, not too isolated, with facilities, services, scenery and worthwhile employment,” said Professor Clinch.

But other points of the survey also helped to determine which factors contribute most and least to happiness.

“What we have discovered is that income, while a factor in determining happiness, is not a major factor.

Up to a certain level additional income could improve happiness but it does not make a difference beyond a certain point.”

But the survey does show that the affluence of the neighbourhood we live in also has a bearing on our contentment.

“Keeping up with the Joneses or even surpassing them is important. Everything else being equal, up to a certain point, the higher your income relative to that of your neighbours, the happier you will be. It is obvious that how well off we feel depends on how our neighbours are doing,” said Clinch.

The type of accommodation you live in and your ownership status will also influence your level of contentment.

Not surprisingly, those with mortgages or paying rent were far less happy than those who owned their homes outright. Generally, the larger and better the home you live in, the happier you will be.

Weather variations are also a factor. A lower mean daily minimum air temperature in January and a maximum in July are both negative influences on happiness.

Kilkenny, a county that appears to have almost all of Galway’s advantages, only features tenth in the survey — and Kilkenny has both the coldest and warmest temperatures in Ireland.

One surprise is that almost all the wettest counties came near the top of the happiness table. “This may be explained by the fact that Ireland’s wettest counties are generally the most scenic,” said Clinch.

But what are the actual benefits of knowing exactly how happy or unhappy people are? Why spend years of research, the resulting costs and exhaustive interviews with 1,500 people to let the rest of us know which Irish citizens are most smug with their lot? “If the purpose of economic growth is to improve contentment, we need to know what matters most to people so we can set priorities for economic, social, environmental and planning policies. Traditional measurements such as GDP do not tell us whether government policies are actually improving people’s wellbeing,” says Clinch.

“The fact that the increased incomes of Dubliners do not compensate for the adverse effects of economic growth and development on their city shows it’s no good being paid more if you spend more time getting to work, sitting in traffic and pay more for a smaller home in a cramped area with poor amenities.”

The UCD report will surely highlight flaws in government policy to redistribute the benefits which are seen to be unfairly accruing in the greater Dublin area.

Indeed Clinch’s research shows that, if it weren’t for those poorer quality living conditions, Dubliners would be as happy as those living in the regions and therefore government policy should focus on improving urban living conditions. Proof also that Dubliners are not moaners by nature and that happy Galwegians may feel differently if they lived in the greater Dublin area.

For now, Clinch believes that lower levels of happiness among the city’s population may already be reflected in an increasing drift by Dubliners to country areas in search of contentment.

“The fact that a significant number of people are already leaving the cities for the country in droves underlines what they already know — that on the whole a rural life, with a good job, lower house prices and good amenities is a far happier lot than a well paid existence in a fraught city environment.

Jun 19, 2005

Childcare costs in Ireland

Irish Outlook: Damien Kiberd: Bring childcare within reach - Sunday Times - Times Online

The above article gives several options that the government might choose to increase help with childcare in Ireland.

Extract below
"THE structural make-up of Irish employment is changing, with the number of women in paid employment increasing rapidly. Last year saw another 40,000 women join the workforce, bringing the number employed to 840,700. This is a process that is likely to accelerate.
A recent study by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) pointed out that there was a comparatively low participation rate among older Irish women in the workforce. This will lead to an inexorable rise in the average participation rate as the older age groups are progressively replaced by younger age groups in the paid labour force.

The upshot? Female participation rates in the workforce, currently tipping 51%, seem likely to move towards 60% at some point in the next decade. With that trend under way there is set to be a new focus, inevitably, on the issue of childcare.

According to senator Mary White, one of the few parliamentarians to take the issue of childcare costs seriously in recent years, what is now a chronic shortage of professional childcare facilities is threatening to become a crisis. She says that the number of children in the under-four age category is set to increase from 290,000 in 2004 to 325,000 in 2016. These figures are based on CSO forecasts from last year. As we know from experience, these numbers may underestimate the scale of demographic expansion. Furthermore, studies show high numbers of females in the 18-24 age category, the very people who will be starting families in the coming period.

Following defeats in by-elections in Kildare North and Meath, where the cost of childcare was a big issue on the doorsteps, the government has begun to devise strategies to deal with the subject. It is coming under pressure from employer bodies such as Ibec, which is finding it difficult to locate labour in a market that has an average unemployment rate of 4.1% (even lower in Greater Dublin) and which last year increased paid employment by 3.9%. Obviously, increased migration is part of the solution, but driving the female participation rate closer to the EU’s Lisbon agenda target of 60% is a top priority.

The problem for planners is that the childcare issue operates in different ways in different segments of the labour market. Average pay for women is still much lower than for men. This means that at the lower end of the job market the idea of a female worker paying for professional childcare from modest wages is a non-starter.

What childcare is available is provided informally by relatives who are prepared to assist for a few hours a day. This helps explain why some 17,600 of the 40,000 women who entered employment last year took up part-time jobs. Many women want part-time work to supplement the family income. They want that work to be close to their homes to avoid long commuting times, which simply exacerbate the childcare problem. And they would prefer the hours of work to be flexible.

According to White, who will publish a major document on childcare costs in coming weeks, professional childcare costs are simply out of range for many family units. She says that a family with two children in some districts could be paying €1,400 per month for childcare, which is the equivalent of servicing a €280,000 mortgage. In the middle of the market, many families have opted to shoulder burdens of this magnitude despite the absence of any form of state assistance towards creche costs or tax reliefs on receipted expenditure at creches. This is putting pressure on family budgets and probably deterring many mothers from entering paid employment for long periods"

Jun 3, 2005

Chinese qualifications to be recognised in Ireland Ireland's technology news service providing Irish tech news & analysis

In a move designed to ease the skills shortage in the economy, it has been announced that Chinese higher education qualifications are to be fully recognised in Ireland by the end of the year. The agreement would also allow Irish people to seek posts in China relevant to their qualifications.

Making the announcement yesterday at the European Consortium of Accreditation summer workshop in Dublin, Séamus Puirseil, chief executive of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (Hetac), said: “The Irish were treated with great generosity of spirit when they went abroad to live and work. Now there is an obligation on us to show the same generosity to the thousands of workers from abroad who are coming here.

“Our economic prosperity has created great wealth and a demand for labour that cannot be met from our own population. The new entrants to our workforce from overseas are a valuable asset to our economy and society. But they must not be confined to menial or low-level jobs when they have qualifications that will increase their earning potential and career development.”

Puirseil continued: “A laboratory technician from Poland or a nurse from Latvia, for example, should not be confined to low-paid, repetitive employment in Ireland because their qualifications are not recognised. People should not come to Ireland and be forced into the sort of jobs we are not prepared to do. If foreign workers have qualifications, they are entitled to do the jobs they are qualified for.”

Jun 1, 2005

INISCEALTRA festival of ARTS 2005

Programme of Events at INISCEALTRA festival of ARTS 2005

Just one of the many festivals around Ireland that will be taking place all summer. Lots of traditional music.

Ireland Un-Employment lowest in EU

EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases

In April 2005, the lowest "Eurozone" rates were registered in Ireland (4.2%), the United Kingdom (4.5% in February), Luxembourg and Austria (both 4.6%) and Cyprus (4.8%). Unemployment rates were highest in Poland (17.9%), Slovakia (15.6%), Greece (10.2% in December 2004), Germany and Spain (both 10.0%).

May 26, 2005

IT job vacancies in Ireland exceed 8,000

Survey claims IT job vacancies in Ireland exceed 8,000

survey published today claims that there are now more than 8,000 vacancies in Ireland for IT and technology graduates.

The research by Dublin City University, suggests that the shortage in supply has been caused by a significant drop in the number of students choosing computer studies in the wake of the collapse.

More about IT jobs in Ireland

May 17, 2005

Ireland 16th in chart of women's equality

This survey by the World Economic Forum - showed Ireland as 16th out of 58 countries in a table measuring the gap between men and women. Ireland is slightly ahead of USA in 17th but behind the UK in 8th. In the area of Education levels of women - Ireland was 9th overall and 12th for health and well being. In the areas of economic participation and opportunity for women - Ireland was much lower.

May 16, 2005

EU workers flocking to Ireland for Jobs

Ireland top target for EU migrants - Sunday Times - Times Online
IRELAND is the most popular destination for migrants from the European Union’s 10 new member states, according to new figures.
More than 85,000 citizens from accession states joined the workforce during the year since enlargement in May 2004 — six times more per head of population than went to Britain, the next most popular country.

Economists and business leaders said the influx of workers was the lifeblood of the economy, and was needed to sustain the country’s economic growth.

Polish migrants make up almost half the number of newcomers; more than 40,000 have come to Ireland to work, mainly in construction and meat processing. The former Soviet bloc country also contributed a large number of engineers and architects.

Some 17,700 Lithuanians and 9,000 Latvians moved to Ireland in the past year, many of them working in horticulture as well as in the dairy industry.

May 4, 2005

New Online Bank for Ireland

RaboDirect Ireland. The straight talking online bank

Most of the major banks allow online banking - but this bank is Internet Only - the first one in Ireland.
The rates of interest are quite good compared to other current accounts.

Apr 28, 2005

Plenty of Work in Ireland


IRELAND will have more that two million people in paid employment by the end of the year, according to the Small Firms Association (SFA).

The SFA’s 11th National Employment Survey indicates that 49% of firms have vacancies and that the sector will create a record 61,003 jobs this year up 60% from the 36,283 jobs created in 2004.

SFA director Pat Delaney said the results confirm that the prospects for employment are strong and that the small business sector continues to be the fulcrum of employment creation.

Mr Delaney said the results confirm that employment prospects are more positive than last year and the general outlook for the Irish economy remains favourable.

“On these projections the economy has a lot to look forward to. For the first time in our history Ireland will soon have in excess of two million people at work.

“However, we must be vigilant and ensure that we maintain existing jobs. If we create over 60,003 new jobs, we must also ensure that we do not lose 23,372 as we did last year, Mr Delaney said.

In 2004 the economy shed 450 jobs every week, he added.

Mr Delaney believes the results are a further demonstration that given an economic environment committed to low inflation, low taxes and low interest rates, small business will respond by creating jobs and boosting economic growth.

“These figures put the economy back in the halcyon days of 2000 when 64,000 jobs were created. In 2004 36,131 new jobs were created while the corresponding figure in 2003 was just 17,420. The survey shows that although the labour market is tighter, with 75% of companies reporting difficulties in filling vacancies. This is not increasing pressure on wage rates as 62% of companies have increased pay rates to attract new staff, down from 64% in 2004 and 66% in 2003,” he said.

The SFA also expect redundancy figures to fall this year, with just 3% of manufacturing companies expecting to make staff redundant, down from 12% in 2004.

Mr Delaney said just 6% of companies state that they will place employees on shorter working weeks or have short term lay-offs over the coming year. However, the retail sector shows the greatest exposure in this area at 10%.

“Of those sectors with vacancies, the services sector has the highest demand at 57%. All sectors through manufacturing, distribution, retail and services, reported increased vacancies over the previous year.

“The demand for skilled labour among respondents has increased to 25% of companies in 2005, up from 21% in 2004. However, lack of skills was cited by 46% of respondents as a difficulty in filling vacancies. Demand for general operatives has increased slightly to 14% from 13% in 2004,”

Do as we say - not as we do!


TD (member of the Dail) - arrested for driving drunk the wrong way up a dual carriageway.

See full story

No wonder many people in Ireland think drinking and driving is OK - look at the example they are set by the people who make the rules!

Apr 27, 2005

Ireland the dirtiest place in Europe?

From Reuters
" Ireland is flouting European Union rules by turning a blind eye to waste dumping, the EU's highest court ruled on Tuesday, in the latest broadside on the country's poor environmental record.

"Irish authorities have tolerated unauthorised activities in numerous places in Ireland, often over long periods," the European Court of Justice said in a statement. "Such a failure to fulfil obligations is general and persistent in nature."
The country, which this year topped an EU list of environmental offenders, is in breach of a 20-year-old directive requiring states to dispose of waste without risking public health or the environment for not regulating landfill sites properly.

"The permit procedure was slow, taking 808 days on average and sometimes almost four years, and there was a lack of appropriate measures for ensuring that facilities were promptly made subject to the domestic system finally set up," the court said.

The European Commission received a dozen complaints between 1997 and 2000 before filing a general complaint in 2001 that Ireland was failing to enforce the law.

The ruling follows news this month that the EU executive will also take Ireland to court over bad smells from sewage plants, including a state-of-the-art treatment works in Dublin where foul odours have attracted widespread media coverage.

The Commission is also upset with the country's failure to properly assess the damage being done to its environment. It has said it will send the government a warning letter for not complying with a ruling on substances that harm the ozone.

Ireland started 2005 at the top of an EU black-list of countries facing legal action over environmental offences after the European Commission said it would have to answer eight charges including breaches of water and air pollution rules.