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News : Irish Last Updated: May 14, 2013 - 12:09 PM


Tuesday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - May 14, 2013
By Finfacts Team
May 14, 2013 - 10:29 AM

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The Irish Independent reports that the son of the chairman of the powerful Dail spending watchdog claimed over €30,000 in overtime from the taxpayer in a single year while working at a job given to him by his father.

Andrew McGuinness worked as his father's personal secretary in the Department of Enterprise when John McGuinness was a junior minister in the department.

He was on a basic salary of €42,000 but the Irish Independent has learned Andrew McGuinness claimed €30,800 in overtime payments in one year – 2008.

In total, he claimed €48,273 in overtime during his almost two years, between 2007 and 2009, in the department, and a total of €71,353 in overtime, mileage and subsistence.

No details of the amount of work carried out for the overtime money was provided in a response to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

When contacted last night, and asked about the overtime payments, Andrew McGuinness said he would check the amounts out, but he did not return the call.

He was one of a number of ministerial appointees made when his father John McGuinness took office. He also worked for his father as a Dail secretarial assistant once his father left ministerial office.

John McGuinness was appointed a junior minister in the then Department of Enterprise by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2007.

He lost his position when Brian Cowen reduced the number of junior ministers in April 2009.

Andrew McGuinness is also a Fianna Fail councillor in his native Kilkenny, topping the poll in the city ward in 2009.

He received €30,579 in salary and expenses payments from the council in 2011, the latest year for which compiled figures are available.

The Irish Independent previously revealed how the taxpayer spent €250,000 kitting out John McGuinness's new ministerial office in the Department of Enterprise in 2007.

John McGuinness has insisted he had no hand in the cost or specifications or the office. Internal documents also show he was only allowed to use luxury toilet rolls in the bathroom, such as "Kittensoft, Inversoft and Andrex".

It was advised that "lower-grade tissues (the old Oifig an tSolathair variety comes to mind) should be avoided" because of the toilet system installed in the office.

Revelations

Following the revelations, John McGuinness opened a PAC investigation into all spending on ministerial offices, and the hearings are to begin to start next week.

John McGuinness has claimed the recent details are part of attempts to "discredit me, undermine my position as chairman of the PAC and damage the PAC's efforts to investigate".

"The department is currently in the process of compiling this information for supply to the committee," a spokeswoman said.

"Accordingly, it is not deemed appropriate at this stage for the department to provide information in advance of responding to the PAC's request. We understand that this issue will be examined by the PAC on May 23 next," she added.

The Irish Independent also reports that an agreement on Croke Park II is edging closer as the Government tactic of striking a series of side deals with public sector unions appears to be paying off.

The Coalition is set to give the country's industrial relations trouble-shooter extra time to continue talks as a number of potential breakthroughs emerged.

Health unions, who represent the sector where the bulk of savings must be found, said progress had been made as they adjourned late last night – with more talks now due in a fortnight. In the meantime, a working group will observe two hospitals to evaluate where savings can be made.

Following intensive negotiations, key sectors seem to be ready to sign up to agreements tailored to their areas, including:

• An independent review of garda pay and allowances.

• A chance for nurses to avoid cuts to premium pay and other rates if they return to a 39-hour week.

• Watering down of plans to halt increments and pledges to reverse pay cuts at higher levels in the future.

Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey will continue talks today after being given more time to strike deals with other unions.

Mr Mulvey last night briefed Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin on the progress of the talks.

He said that in a number of cases the talks had achieved "what we would describe as an agreement in principle".

Rather than making a final decision today, government sources are hopeful of steady progress.

"We will take stock but I'd say Kieran Mulvey will try to keep on talking with a view to getting everyone in," a senior government source said.

Liam Doran, head of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), said: "There has been constructive engagement the last couple of days, a lot more to do – and both sides are committed to do it."

Mr Doran said many matters were still "in play" including nurses doing a longer 39-hour week in return for retaining the premium payments at double time on Sundays and a better starting salary for graduate recruits.

SIPTU is also involved in talks, but the union is regarded as complex as it represents such a wide variety of workers.

Teacher unions are balloting on industrial action later this week, so cannot talk to the LRC until that is complete.

For gardai, a major concession is the establishment of the independent review of garda pay and allowances. The decision forms the central plank of a new deal worked out by government negotiators with the force's four representative bodies.

The review will also cover a wide range of other issues, including staffing levels and industrial relations mechanisms, and its independent chairman will produce a report by next spring.

Over recent years, successive governments introduced a series of allowances for gardai because they could not sanction a rise in pay.

The idea of a pay review has the backing of the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

For the first time, negotiators from the four garda bodies were given access to the Labour Relations Commission during the talks – a move long sought by the gardai.

The two main garda bodies, the Garda Representative Association (GRA), which is composed of rank and file members of the force, and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), walked out of talks earlier this year because they were again denied a seat at the negotiating table.

The proposals for reviewing pay and the other issues cannot be approved until a deal for the entire public sector has been negotiated. But both sides are understood to be very hopeful of reaching agreement.

Under the deal, gardai will work an additional 30 hours each between now and the end of the year, as well as at least 30 hours extra in 2014 and 2015.

In return, cuts to their premium payments will not be as severe as had been previously planned. The rate for voluntary overtime will be reduced from time-and-a-half to time-and-a-quarter.

But the independent review will be tasked with looking at the introduction of a radical recommendation that has already been adopted successfully in the Irish Prison Service.

This would involve eliminating the current system of overtime and replacing it with "banked" hours, where staff agree in advance to work a certain number of additional hours in a year.

Overtime

The associations must give a commitment to take part in the examination of an overhaul of overtime under the overall review process.

Gardai will also agree to the extension of the new work roster on a pilot basis until July next year, when its operation will be reviewed by both sides.

It is also intended to replace the current myriad allowances with a small number of payments, which would be easier to operate.

The Irish Times reports that work on the Dublin regional incinerator planned for the Poolbeg peninsula is expected to begin within weeks, according to a report presented to councillors in Tallaght yesterday.

The report stated that Dublin City Council – which is promoting the incinerator on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities – expected that the authorities’ private sector partner, Covanta, “will be in a position to proceed on site by mid-summer”.

The new timeline follows media comment at the weekend which suggested that Covanta had secured new financial backers, potentially including the National Pension Reserve Fund, and was close to announcing a date for work to begin on the €400 million plant.

It also follows a decision by Dublin City Council last month to grant Covanta more time to get its financing in place. Yesterday’s report from South Dublin County Council said news of the date had been secured from Dublin City Council.

In the past 15 years the four local authorities have shared costs of some €90 million in promoting the incinerator. Yesterday’s report said South Dublin County Council had contributed €2.7 million to the city council in the year to May 2013. It said there “has been no change to the projected commitment of €20.8 million” to the project.

The report noted that, based on 2006 population counts, the local authorities’ share of the costs broke down as 42.64 per cent being attributable to Dublin City Council; 20.80 per cent to South Dublin County Council; 20.22 per cent to Fingal County Council; and 16.34 per cent to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. The figures evaluate the local authorities’ overall contribution to the project at about €100 million.

“The entire outlay by the local authorities will be recovered” and “the facility will ultimately provide an income stream for the region”, the report states.

The Irish Times also reports that a financial trader has sued Permanent TSB alleging he lost more than €900,000 and faces further losses after the bank failed to honour an alleged 2007 “tracker” loan deal to advance funds to him for his trading firm over a 20-year period.

Paul Fogarty claims Permanent TSB knew he needed about €100,000 last March to meet margin calls from his broker, IG Markets, and knew his positions would be liquidated if he failed to meet margin calls. When the bank failed to advance the money between March 8th and 12th last, IG Markets sold his instruments and he suffered an immediate loss of more than €900,000.

Because his entire portfolio of equities, derivatives and other financial instruments was liquidated, he was unable to carry on his business and will suffer lost earnings, he claims. Up to March 1st, 2013, he made realised profits of some €461,389 carrying on intra-day trading activity, he added.

Aggravated damages

Fogarty who held senior positions in Davy and Bloxham stockbrokers before beginning full-time trading on his own account, has sued PTSB for damages, including aggravated damages over alleged breach of contract, misrepresentation and defamation.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday granted an application by Denis McDonald SC, for Mr Fogarty, to fast-track the case in the Commercial Court after rejecting arguments on behalf of PTSB the case fell below the €1 million threshold for Commercial Court cases. The claim arose from a €1.65 million alleged contract, the judge said.

Fogarty claims PTSB agreed to provide a €1.65 million facility which, notwithstanding it was to be used for commercial purposes, was “to all intents and purposes” a family home tracker mortgage with an interest rate of the ECB rate, plus 0.75 per cent. He claims the only security for the loan was his family home, already mortgaged to PTSB.

The Irish Examiner reports that AIB is withdrawing free personal travel insurance that is provided free of charge on its credit cards from Jun 24 this year, according to a statement sent to the bank’s customers yesterday.

Currently AIB credit card customers are covered for up €64,000 should you be injured while using licensed transport, provided at least 50% of the fares have been charged to an AIB credit card.

An AIB spokesperson said: “With effect from Jun 24, 2013, free personal accident travel insurance will be withdrawn from new and existing customers on all AIB Personal Credit Cards and Classic Visa Business Card.”

It is understood that the bank has taken the decision as it was frequently being misinterpreted as full travel insurance.

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