FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan could slash the planned Budget
adjustment in half and still meet troika targets.
New figures showing the economy growing faster than previously thought provide
scope for an easier Budget.
Economists believe that Mr Noonan needs to take only €1bn out of the economy in
October compared to the €2bn demanded by the troika.
The potential reprieve for hard-pressed families comes as new figures show the
economy is bigger than previously thought and growing more quickly, thanks in
small part to the inclusion of prostitution and street drugs in official
statistics for the first time.
Coupled with stronger-than-expected tax revenues revealed earlier this week, Mr
Noonan is now all but certain to easily surpass his budgetary targets. And the
minister last night hinted that a much softer Budget may be on the cards,
claiming crucial deficit targets could easily be beaten.
Disgraced No 10 spin doctor Andy Coulson was
jailed for 18 months today for plotting to hack phones while he was in charge of
the News of the World.
The 46-year-old father of three was found guilty
last week of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday
tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.
Coulson, from Charing, in Kent, was joined in the dock by three former
colleagues and private detective Glenn Mulcaire who all admitted their part in
hacking before the trial started last year.
Judge Mr Justice Saunders told the defendants: "I do not accept ignorance of the
law provides any mitigation.
"The laws of protection are given to the rich, famous and powerful as to all."
The judge said Coulson clearly thought it was necessary to use phone hacking to
maintain the newspaper's "competitive edge".
James Downey: Minutes after Ruairi Quinn announced his
resignation the other day, listeners to Newstalk heard Dr Ed Walsh pronounce a
most remarkable, and clearly heartfelt, appraisal of the retiring Education
During his long and distinguished career, we often heard Dr Walsh asserting his
opinions. He gave them straight from the shoulder. He left us in no doubt about
what he thought of the way our politicians and bureaucrats run our poor little
This time he went on the airwaves, not to criticise but to praise a politician
and in the highest terms. He said, quite simply, that Ruairi Quinn had once been
our best finance minister ever. I agree.
And although Mr Quinn never reached the highest office, Dr Walsh's words place
him in the ranks of the top Irish political figures since independence.
There have been other Labour people who deserved similar accolades. The names of
Dick Spring and Barry Desmond come to mind. But Mr Quinn is unique in that he
was the only Labour finance minister.
Why have so few representatives of his party earned a comparable place in
history? Part of the answer is simple.
Ireland is a conservative country, in which it is hard for even the most
moderate left-wing party to thrive. Labour has seldom been in office, and then
usually for very short periods. And it has held few desirable positions. Some of
its most deserving people have never even reached the cabinet.
Investors spent more money on big commercial
property deals in the first six months of this year than in any previous
six-month period, as buyers continued to flood the market.
Research from property firm CBRE claims that more than €1.37bn
was invested in the Irish market between January and June on transactions of
more than €1bn.
That is the highest six-month figure on record, higher even than the peak of the
boom in 2006 when investment topped €1.09bn. Indeed, the volume of investment
sales recorded in the first half of 2014 is almost a fifth higher than the 10
year average annual spend for the first half of a year.
The growth has been driven by the glut of top level property deals that have
been done since the crash.
There were 77 individual transactions of over €1m completed in the first half of
the year. Two deals - the €311.5m sale of Central Park in Leopardstown and a
72pc stake in Liffey Valley shopping centre for €250m - make up more than a
third of the overall total. The Platinum portfolio of office blocks in central
Dublin meanwhile was sold for about €165m.
Derek Moran, the senior civil servant selected as
the preferred candidate to be new secretary general of the Department of
Finance, expressed confidence during the boom that the Irish housing market was
in for a “soft landing.”
He told a more junior official in his Department
to disregard her fears of a property crash in 2006 and to instead toe the
consensus line that a crash could never happen.
Mr Moran was among a number of senior civil
servants in the Department of Finance who were repeatedly emailed between
January 2005 and early 2007 by assistant principal officer Marie Mackle, where
she expressed her concerns about the prospect of a property crash.
He was copied on emails where she said that the
“official position” on the housing market in the Department could be badly
wrong, based on her own research. She said she did not believe that then
taoiseach Brian Cowen’s “soft stance” on the property market was correct.
The European Central Bank (ECB) will brief Europe’s banks next
week on its plan for disclosing the results of a landmark asset quality review.
The ECB faces a delicate balancing act as it tries to maintain the secrecy of
its work to avoid any breaches of market disclosure rules, while not
blind-siding banks with unforeseen capital demands that they could struggle to
An agenda for a meeting on July 10th shows the ECB’s director general for
Micro-Prudential Supervision, Jukka Vesala, will lead a three hour meeting about
how the test results will be communicated.
European officials have ordered Luxembourg to
hand over documents relating to Amazon’s tax affairs as the online retail giant
becomes embroiled in a crackdown that has already drawn in Apple, Starbucks and
Fiat’s financial arm.
The EU’s competition commission has sent a request for information to the Grand
Duchy, where Amazon’s main European operating company is based, about whether
its decisions on corporate tax complied with state aid rules, two people
familiar with the matter said.
“We are looking into what kind of arrangement Luxembourg has with Amazon, ” said
an EU official. Another EU official said Brussels was conducting fact-finding
missions in a number of EU countries as part of its drive to clamp down on
“sweetheart” tax deals with large companies.
The commission has already launched three in-depth investigations in Ireland,
the Netherlands and Luxembourg into whether decisions made about corporate tax
to be paid by Apple, Starbucks and Fiat Finance and Trade breached state aid
rules. A request for information is the first step that could lead to a full
Families with an income of more than €100,000 are not wealthy,
but are "struggling" to make ends meet, according to Finance Minister Michael
Noonan, who has ruled out further tax hikes.
A Dáil argument over what constitutes a rich person in Ireland today was
prompted after the People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett called for a
“wealth tax” on earnings of over €100,000.
Mr Noonan claimed the socialist TD’s definition of wealth shows he did not
understand “what it is like in normal households”.
Mr Noonan said: “The teacher married to the guard or the nurse married to the
guard or the teacher — when you take the two incomes together they are over
€100,000. They are not well-off, they’re struggling.”
He said: “They are barely making ends meet, they’re barely getting the kids up
in the morning and out to school, paying the bills, paying the mortgage, and
keeping the car on the road. That is the position in most of rural Ireland. And
if you think a gross income for a couple at €100,000 is wealth, you’re not
meeting the real people.”
Euro Topics: The ceasefire talks between the
Ukrainian government, Russia and eastern Ukrainian separatists are to resume by
Saturday. That was the agreement reached in Berlin by representatives from
Moscow and Kiev under German mediation. Germany is finally becoming more active
in foreign policy, some commentators write approvingly. Others stress that
Germany's trustworthiness depends on the success of the talks.
Germany's new foreign policy: With his attempts at mediating a ceasefire in
eastern Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is
demonstrating what the much called-for more active German foreign policy could
look like, the liberal business daily Wirtschaftswoche writes: "The West
lacks any sign of a coherent policy that provides for Russia's interests while
allowing itself to bare its teeth at its eastern neighbour from time to time.
... It's a good thing that Steinmeier has involved his like-minded French
counterpart, but not the Americans or pro-American forces in the EU. Europe must
mediate in this conflict without Washington's help to earn respect in the
international arena. With his overtures in the Ukraine crisis, Steinmeier is
also taking a risk: if his efforts at diplomacy fail, the hardliners in Brussels
and Washington could have the say - and impose economic sanctions that would
make cooperation with our difficult neighbour impossible for years to come."
French judiciary too political: In view of the investigations against former
French president Nicolas Sarkozy the conservative daily Le Figaro rejects talk
of a conspiracy but voices concern about the neutrality of the French judiciary:
"The magistrate's union has its roots on the left, and it makes no bones
about it: its chairman even went as far as openly opposing Sarkozy in [the
presidential elections of] 2012. Is that normal? This question must be asked now
that one of its members has been charged with investigating the former
president. … Such confusion is banned in Spain. Neutrality is the rule in
Britain. Even the European Court of Human Rights - which no one suspects of
opposing freedoms - imposes restrictions on its judges. This is not about
denouncing any sort of plot, as some on the left would have us believe, but
about the need to restore confidence in a judiciary that is tasked with serving
the interests of the public as a whole."
On the lost values of the Arabs: Religious extremism is just a symptom of the
crises in the Middle East. The root of the problem is the lack of democracy,
open markets and pluralism, argues the liberal business magazine The Economist:
"Only the Arabs can reverse their civilisational decline, and right now
there is little hope of that happening. The extremists offer none. The mantra of
the monarchs and the military men is 'stability'. In a time of chaos, its appeal
is understandable, but repression and stagnation are not the solution. They did
not work before; indeed they were at the root of the problem. Even if the Arab
awakening is over for the moment, the powerful forces that gave rise to it are
still present. The social media which stirred up a revolution in attitudes
cannot be uninvented. The men in their palaces and their Western backers need to
understand that stability requires reform. ... Pluralism, education, open
markets: these were once Arab values and they could be so again."