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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Apr 17, 2014 - 9:52 AM


Thursday Newspaper Review - Irish Business News and International Stories - - April 17, 2014
By Finfacts Team
Apr 17, 2014 - 8:48 AM

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Irish Independent

The prosecution of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick eventually hung on a single phone call he had with the ex-CEO David Drumm.

Mr FitzPatrick walked free from Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court last night after he was acquitted by a jury on all counts of permitting illegal lending to the so-called Maple 10.

The 65-year-old, who was earlier cleared by direction of trial judge Martin Nolan of permitting illegal loans to the wife and five adult children of businessman Sean Quinn, was found not guilty on the Maple 10 counts just after 5pm.

Judge Nolan had directed acquittals on the Quinn loans due to a lack of evidence.

Outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, Mr FitzPatrick thanked his family and friends who supported him over the last six "difficult" years, his legal team and the jury who had deliberated for 13-and-a-half hours before returning a majority not guilty verdict.

There was a profound, dignified silence in courtroom 19 as the jury acquitted "the face of Anglo", Sean FitzPatrick.

The jury verdict was a stunning outcome for Mr FitzPatrick and his legal team, led by Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins.

Mr O'Higgins, an award-winning fiction writer and former journalist, was one of the star protagonists of the Anglo trial.

Steeped in the art of storytelling from his early days at the law library – where he juggled his devil's duties with freelance shifts at the Irish Independent, RTE and 'Magill' – the lawyer delivered a closing speech to the jury that colleagues privately remarked was "a near perfect 10".

Mr O'Higgins, best-known for his criminal defence work, engaged in frequent, heated exchanges with various witnesses as well as trial Judge Martin Nolan.

Brendan Keenan: I wonder, do they read the popular press down in those think tanks? Or do they just devour raw data, like Alan Greenspan in the bath (much good it did him). If the boffins who prepare the annual OECD report on taxation ever look at the Irish newspapers, they must be tempted to have another look at their data.

The steady drone of complaint about Irish taxes being unfair, or too high, appears to come from a different country than the one portrayed in the OECD's 'Taxing Wages 2014', published last week.

The obvious reaction is to dismiss the complaints about tax as media whingeing. But, as is usually the case, the press is onto something. What exactly it is onto is not easy to discern, and even more difficult to explain. And the more one discerns, the more troubling the question of the Irish tax system becomes.

Michael Noonan has given the clearest indication yet that he will endorse Bank of Ireland boss Richie Boucher's €843,000 pay package at a shareholder vote next week.

It would be a sharp turnaround from last year, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny warned bank chief's to expect pay cuts.

Now, however, the Finance Minister has said he doesn't believe he can abstain again this year in the vote on the pay of Bank of Ireland chief Richie Boucher at the lender's AGM.

He told TDs and senators that the bank's activities had managed to enhance the value of the State's shareholding and that there had been cost reductions across the lender following the review of pay practices at the banks by consultants Mercer.

Irish Times

Family doctors risk losing their existing under-six medical card patients if they fail to sign up to the Government’s plan to extend GP care to all under-sixes.

The legislation approved by Cabinet yesterday provides for the extension of free GP care to 240,000 children aged six and under, in keeping with a commitment made in Budget 2014.

However, the proposed legislative framework will cover all children, including those already holding medical cards. After the legislation is passed, GPs will be presented with a revised contract covering their provision of care for all children aged under six.

Temple Bar is a travesty of what it was meant to be when this flagship urban renewal project in the centre of Dublin was first conceived in 1991. Then, the aim was to develop the area as “a bustling cultural, residential and small business precinct that will attract visitors in significant numbers”.
The underlying message was that Temple Bar would become a vibrant “cultural quarter” – Dublin’s version of Covent Garden in London or Soho in New York, without their high property values. That was why many decided to buy apartments there, including myself.

Instead, it became the “temple of bars”, largely thanks to Temple Bar Properties (TBP), the State company that acted as its development agency – it was directly involved in the creation of four megapubs and in the facilitation of many more, by failing to draw the line.

Anyone could get a full licence merely by developing a hotel with a minimum of 20 bedrooms and then install a large bar on the ground floor, a nightclub in the basement and perhaps a chill-out area on the roof. And all of this was done with the benefit of tax incentives.

Huge drinking dens
As a result, the area is now dominated at night time by the licensed trade. Small neighbourhood pubs such as Flannery’s (reborn as the Temple Bar Pub, the most photographed in the area) were transformed into huge drinking dens extending to nearly 1,000sq m.

The Government has pledged to introduce a second free preschool year before the end of the decade under a new policy framework aimed at improving outcomes for young people.

It is one of about 160 policy commitments in Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures , a national policy for children and young people aged up to 24 years. They include mostly broad objectives such as improving supports for parents, focusing more on earlier intervention and prevention; and fostering a culture that listens to and involves children and young people.

While many of the goals are aspirational and do not contain funding commitments, Government Ministers said the principles would help ensure the best use of public money in the service of the State, its children and families.

Wexford accountant Alan Hynes has said he never misappropriated or diverted funds invested in property projects with which he was associated.

Mr Hynes (45) said he was “struggling to explain” how the full €8 million that had been put forward by investors for a project in Dundrum, had not shown up in accounts.

He was responding to questions from PJ McDowell, chairman of a tribunal investigating allegations against Mr Hynes made to the Chartered Accountants’ Regulatory Board (Carp), about an apparent shortfall of €1.4 million in the accounts associated with the deal.

Irish Examiner

The suggestion that Nama should be wound up early has been criticised as playing politics with the largest financial institution that the state has ever created.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath accused the Government of contemplating winding up Nama in order to score political points before an election.

“The temptation for the Government is very clear — to go before the Irish people at the next election and say ‘we have got rid of Nama’. In opposition, the finance minister was an arch critic of Nama.

“He now seems to be of the view that it is doing a very good job and he has even directed that any unsold IBRC assets would be transferred to Nama. While I welcome the minister’s Pauline conversion in support of Nama, commercial decisions are best madeby the agency and not by its political masters,” he said.

Europe

Euro Topics: The Ukrainian army on Tuesday commenced its announced offensive against separatists in the east of the country. The Russian leadership responded by warning of a civil war in Ukraine, and threatened to torpedo the planned talks in Geneva. But Moscow is speaking with a forked tongue and taking advantage of the escalation, commentators write.

Lavrov lying to the world: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned on Tuesday of a breakdown of the talks in Geneva if the Ukrainian government uses violence against the separatists in the east of the country. He is speaking with a forked tongue, the conservative Czech daily Lidové noviny comments: "Lavrov says the use of violence in Ukraine's domestic conflict is unacceptable. In plain language that means: when pro-Russian militias use violence it's entirely logical, because Kiev is incapable of and unwilling to protect the interests of the Russian-speaking population. But when the Ukrainians react to their violence with violence, it is unacceptable and in violation of international norms. ... At the same time, Russia rejects Ukraine's invitation to UN observers, who embody the international norms to the highest degree. Why is Moscow against the proposal? Because the Russians are the ones who are violating international norms, and Minister Lavrov is nothing but a liar."

What the Kremlin really wants: The Kremlin is trying to help enforce the rights of the Russian-language minority in eastern Ukraine, Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writes in The Financial Times: "The Kremlin is often accused of fomenting instability in Ukraine as a pretext for invasion. In reality, Russia's main objective is to help the country's Russophile southeast to assert itself and create a new political balance within Ukraine.... Ukraine is a large and complex country. Ukrainians are not Russians, as Mr Putin will have to admit. They are not 'one people', even among themselves. But equally, not all those who reject a narrow version of Ukrainian nationalism are Russian agents."

Ridiculous punishment for Berlusconi: Italy's ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi will serve his sentence for tax fraud by performing community service. A court in Milan ruled on Tuesday that he is to work four hours a week for almost a year in a home for the elderly and disabled. And Berlusconi still has the cheek to cast himself as a victim of justice, the left-liberal Italian daily La Repubblica comments indignantly: "Four hours a week, 16 hours a month, 168 hours in total spread over a period of ten and a half months. That is the result that [as Berlusconi puts it] the 'politicised judiciary', the 'cancer of democracy' has dared to impose on the Anointed One. ... This is the outcome of the 'war' that the despised 'wearers of red robes', the 'servants of the communists' have waged against the statesman of Arcore. The sentence is ridiculous. ... The fact that Berlusconi hasn't been sent to prison despite his serious offences at least serves to prove that the Cavaliere's fairytale of being a victim of justice is a scandalous fiction."

Balancing act by new Socialist leader: The French Socialists elected Jean-Christophe Cambadélis as the new interim first secretary of the party until the next party conference in 2015. Cambadélis had long been seen as a prime contender for the post. The regional daily La Montagne writes that he will have just as hard a time as the new Prime Minister Manuel Valls: "To some extent this former Trotskyist has become the Valls of the Socialist Party. Because there are many parallels between the two political climbers, and the way they clinched the jobs they'd long been eyeing. Like Valls, Cambadélis will have to execute a unifying strategy without becoming a yes-man. If he wants to stand a chance of remaining in this job, he must perform a balancing act and defend a grassroots stance that is increasingly at odds with the office of the president. ... Cambadélis is running a big risk. Valls and 'Camba': it's the same 'combat'!"

The Gothenburg model: Work less, achieve more: The city of Göteborg has agreed to let the staff at a care home for the elderly work six hours per day instead of eight, for the same salary. The aim is to reduce the number of staff that take sick leave and thus cut costs. The conservative Polish daily Rzeczpospolita praises the project: "The Swedes have rightly recognised that the number of work hours does not automatically reflect the efficiency of the work. ... According to an OECD study the Greeks work on average 2,000 hours per year, while the Germans work 1,400. But the Germans are 70 percent more efficient. Consequently the number of hours worked is not decisive. What's important is good work organisation. And when the staff are well rested and satisfied, they work better as well. Unfortunately many employers haven't yet understood this."

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