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Thursday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - October 09, 2014
By Finfacts Team
Oct 9, 2014 - 12:48 PM

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Irish Independent

A school friend of Breifne O’Brien who lost €3.6m to the socialite’s massive fraud said he was glad the “crook” was finally behind bars.

Wicklow-based businessman David O’Reilly said he hoped the seven-year sentence handed to O’Brien would act as a stern deterrent to other would-be white-collar offenders. But victims of the fraudster are unlikely to recover any of the €8.5m he stole in an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

Any hope his former friends and business associates had of getting their money back evaporated yesterday, when a court heard that just €420,000 has been recovered through the release of assets owned by O’Brien – but none of this is available to the victims.

The Kaiser Wilhelm Canal in Kiel is crumbling. Last year, the authorities had to close the 60-mile shortcut from the Baltic to the North Sea for two weeks, something that had never happened through two world wars.

The locks had failed.

Large ships were forced to go around the Skagerrak, imposing emergency surcharges. The canal was shut again last month because sluice gates were not working, damaged by the constant thrust of propeller blades. It has been a running saga of problems, the result of slashing investment to the bone, and cutting maintenance funds in 2012 from €60m (£47m) a year to €11m.

This is an odd way to treat the busiest waterway in the world, letting through 35,000 ships a year, so vital to the Port of Hamburg. It is odder still given that the German state can borrow funds for five years at an interest rate of 0.15pc. Yet such is the economic policy of Germany, worshipping the false of god of fiscal balance.

The Bundestag is waking up to the economic folly of this. It has approved €260m of funding to refurbish the canal over the next five years. Yet experts say it needs €1bn, one of countless projects crying out for money across the derelict infrastructure of a nation that has forgotten how to invest, sleepwalking into decline.

THE German Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of Ireland's plan to save money by re-paying IMF loans early - but warned we must reform our tax system.

In a debate in the Bundestag, German parliamentarians praised Ireland for sticking to the bailout programme, while demanding that we use the €2bn that will be saved over the next seven years to slash debt rather than financing tax cuts.

But deputy finance minister Steffen Kampeter warned that Ireland was "doing itself no favours" in giving multinational companies based here "a huge tax advantage compared to European companies."

"Solidarity is not a one-way street, we expect from Ireland solidarity with its European partners, for example in tax questions," he said.

The Bundestag budget committee called on Angela Merkel's government to campaign against tax rules which allow big companies to avoid almost all taxes. The European Commission is currently examining Ireland's agreements with Apple.

Irish Times

Sinn Féin is neck-and-neck with Fine Gael in popular support for the first time, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The poll also shows that Labour has benefited from a modest bounce since the summer Cabinet reshuffle with new Tánaiste Joan Burton now the most popular party leader.

And it appears that the controversy over John McNulty’s Seanad nomination has had no impact on Fine Gael support since the last poll in May.

Tony O’Reilly’s Castlemartin estate on sale for €30m

On a sunlit summer evening about a dozen years ago, several hundred guests drove through Castlemartin’s elaborate old, wrought-iron gates, up a long, winding avenue through rolling park and farmland and lazy herds of Belted Galloway cattle, through ancient stands of giant oaks and chestnut trees and the river Liffey suddenly glinting around a bend, and finally, to the beech hedge forecourt of the historic, old manor house where Sir Anthony and Lady Chryss O’Reilly stood waiting.

As we considered the majestic lime avenue sweeping away into the distance, there came the sound of hooves. Six glistening yearlings came galloping towards us, manes flying in formation, before wheeling around and vanishing into the trees. Anyone determined to be unimpressed by an evening chez O’Reilly was slightly undone. It was undeniably beautiful.

The Government is in talks with the European Investment Bank (EIB) about a €300 million plan to build 2,400 social housing units and upgrade local authority homes.

The Luxembourg-based bank agreed to lend €150 million to the scheme if the Government came up with equal funding. The homes would be built over the next three years.

Preparations for the scheme, which may be unveiled in the budget next week, come amid mounting pressure on the Government to tackle an acute housing shortage in Dublin and a growing waiting list for local authority homes.

Brian Hayes, Fine Gael MEP for Dublin, said the EIB has told him that most of the new homes would be built in the capital.

Irish Examiner

Fianna Fáil TD Eamon O'Cuiv has said his party's strategy is wrong.

The former deputy leader of the party was reacting to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, which shows Fianna Fáil's support has dropped by five points to 20%.

The poll has Fine Gael and Sinn Féin on an equal footing at 24% and Labour on 9%.

Deputy O'Cuiv said his party had some hard choices to make and had to examine its strategy to decide if they still follow republican ideals or if they are a middle or upper middle-class party.

Europe

Euro Topics: EU employment summit a flop: Paris and Berlin collided at the EU's summit against unemployment in Milan on Wednesday. French President François Hollande wants the funding for fighting unemployment boosted while German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejects calls for more subsidies. The liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore expected more from the summit: "Germany should have been forced to use its own budgetary leeway and seek concrete details on the 300 billion euro investment programme announced by [EU Commission President] Juncker as well as the European Investment Bank's commitment. Germany is demonstrably not interested in spending more money. And it quite rightly distrusts the wonderful-sounding 300 billion package promised by Brussels. Fighting unemployment requires a far more ambitious strategy."

Convince Germany of need for investment: One of the key points to be addressed at the annual meeting of the IMF which will take place in Washington from Friday to Sunday is the possibility of the Eurozone sliding into another recession. But before an investment programme recommended by the Fund can be implemented Germany has to be convinced of the need for it, the liberal-conservative weekly magazine Le Point points out: "Germany has adopted an attitude of defiance which is entirely understandable and can be summed up as follows: we are virtuous, we've carried out structural reforms and are surrounded by people who simply do as they please. ... So who can still convince the chancellor? Astonishingly, all eyes in Washington are on France as the last hope for changing its rich neighbour's mind. ... The idea? To present a credible plan for structural reforms and an accelerated timetable - in a word, to display a serious and courageous attitude."

Lisbon will soon feel effects of EU budget row: The tug of war between Paris and Brussels over the French budget will have repercussions for Portugal, warns the liberal business daily Diário Económico: "If Brussels rejects the French budget, demands changes or even imposes sanctions, it will start a war against Paris but also make clear that no one has special privileges. ... However if it turns a blind eye to France (and also Italy) this will open Pandora's box in Europe. Firstly because it will convey the impression that certain 'favourites' don't have to fulfil their obligations while all kinds of sacrifices can be demanded from Portugal and Ireland. ... But also because it would put heads of governments like our prime minister between two stools (a year before the elections). He would have to decide whether to continue with the stringent budget consolidation measures or soften the austerity policy. Whatever the outcome of this trial of strength between Brussels and Paris, one thing's for sure: the effects will be felt in Lisbon."


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