Maura Harrington jailed for 30 days with recommendation for Psychiatric Assessment

March 12, 2009

Wednesday, 11 March 2009 22:30

Shell to Sea protestor Maura Harrington has been jailed today. She appeared before Belmullet District Court charged with assaulting a member of the Garda Síochána on Mc Grath’s Pier in Poll a Tómáis in north Co Mayo on 11 June 2007.

She was found guilty and ordered to pay a fine of €1,000 and another €1,000 to the garda benevolent fund. Maura Harrington was also found guilty of another public order offence on a separate date and ordered to keep the peace for 12 months.

Harrington refused to sign the bond and was therefore found to be in contempt of court. Judge Mary Devins jailed her for 28 days for the garda assault, and a further two days for being in contempt of court, to run concurrently.
Judge Devins also recommended that Ms Harrington should get a psychiatric assessment.

Source:

http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0311/corrib.html


OECD offer to mediate in Corrib Pipeline dispute

March 12, 2009

The ORGANISATION for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to offer to mediate between Shell and the north Mayo community over residents’ health and safety concerns over the Corrib gas project.

OECD representatives in the Netherlands and Ireland have made contact with both parties, following confirmation that a complaint lodged by community group Pobal Chill Chomáin is admissible.

The complaint, lodged in 2008 by the local community group, claims that Corrib gas developers Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil Hydro and Marathon Oil have violated OECD guidelines for multinational companies.

The OECD guidelines comprise voluntary principles and standards for “responsible business conduct” by multinational companies. They are non-binding, but have considerable moral authority in the 30 OECD member states.

The complaint was lodged with OECD national contact points in both the Netherlands and Ireland, as Royal Dutch Shell has its headquarters in The Hague.

It is the first time that the Irish national contact point of the OECD has handled a complaint at this level. OECD contact points in Norway and Britain have also been notified by the Dutch and Irish representatives.

The OECD intervention has been welcomed as “very significant” by Pobal Chill Chomáin while Shell EP Ireland made no comment. Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman Vincent McGrath said that such mediation promised to be far more extensive than that offered late last year under “confined” terms of reference by the Government.

“The key issue with this project is that it has to be examined in its totality in relation to its environmental impact, which the Government has failed to do so far,” he said.

To date, the key community groups have not participated directly in the forum established late last year by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, due to concerns over the terms of reference. It is understood that direct talks with the Ministers may take place in late March.

The Corrib gas developers have recently submitted a revised application for an onshore pipeline route to An Bord Pleanála and are also seeking planning permission for a beach valve station at Glengad, along with relevant ministerial consents.

Earlier this week, Shell EP Ireland also applied to Mayo County Council for a further amendment to original planning permission for the gas refinery at Bellanaboy.

The company plans to lay its offshore pipeline linking the well-head to the landfall at Glengad this summer. It had secured agreement with the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association last year in relation to discharges into Broadhaven Bay.

Sources:

http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=2053

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/0307/1….html

Further Information on the case can be found at:
http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_146

(Courtesy of http://www.corribsos.com).


“Realistic” review needed for Minimum wage – Minister

February 15, 2009

The Minister for Labour Affairs Billy Kelleher has stated that the minimum wage could become a barrier to employment and any review of it must be ‘realistic‘. The Minister stated that the Irish minimum wage is the second highest in Europe and he said the changed economic environment needs to be taken into account.

The Minister stated that he would be reluctant to give his personal views but a rate that is fair and equitable is needed. He said the issue is now before the Labour Court and he said a constant review of the rate is taking place. The current rate is €8.65.

The Minister stated that employers and employees will be the ones that decide the rate into the future. Employers are being officially warned not to take advantage of staff during the current economic downturn. The warning comes from the National Employment Rights Agency, which has published its annual report for 2008.

The agency recovered more than €3m in wages due to workers who had been underpaid by employers. The number of calls, interviews and inspections handled by the agency increased by 96% last year. The problem of staff not being paid the minimum wage extends beyond foreign nationals, according to the Director of NERA Ger Deering. The problem is not just one for migrant workers; the catering and security sectors were targeted during 2008.

Mr Deering said today the problem is evident across many sectors and added that there are significant breaches when it comes to the minimum wage and the keeping of records.

Source:

http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0210/employment.html


Mass Protests Across Eastern Europe as Economic Conditions Worsen

February 15, 2009

Mass protests over economic conditions have begun across Eastern Europe.  In Lithuania, protests  opposed to a government austerity plan collapsed into violence. The outburst follows similar incidents in Latvia and Bulgaria.
 Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to quell demonstrators in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, as economic hardship burst into street-level rage in another European country.

With dwindling budgets forcing unpopular spending cuts and tax hikes in many countries, the global financial crisis is steadily emerging as a political threat to governments. Demonstrations have begun in Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria and Iceland.

In Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, a peaceful protest against a government austerity plan erupted into violence as thousands of demonstrators surged toward the parliament building, hurling eggs and rocks. At least 84 people were arrested and at least 14 injured, including four police officers.

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, who just took office last month, stated the following:

“We will only speak to those who unequivocally distance themselves from those who have staged riots, who sow chaos and who encroach upon the constitutional system,” Kubilius said in a statement released to news agencies. The  Prime Minister continued|: “The riot will not scare us.”

Lithuania’s economy is expected to enter a recession this year. The protests were called in response to the government’s attempts to curb the financial crisis, including widely unpopular tax hikes. “Thieves! Thieves!” some protesters shouted at the government Friday.

“The government has long neglected the social needs of the people, pensioners and others,” Algirdas Paleckis, leader of the Frontas radical left party, told Reuters news agency.

Lithuania’s northern neighbor on the Baltic Sea coast, is  Latvia. The largest party in its ruling coalition on Friday called for early parliamentary elections after a massive demonstration roiled the capital this week.

Once boasting the European Union’s fastest-growing economy, Latvia was forced to seek loans in 2008 from the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government has dramatically cut social spending.

Festering anger boiled over in the capital, Riga, on Tuesday as a protest demanding early elections led to riots and looting. Youths dug cobblestones from the streets, smashed storefronts and destroyed police vehicles, news agencies reported. More than 100 people were detained in the worst violence to shake Latvia since the country gained its independence in the Soviet collapse.

Protesters also rioted outside Bulgaria’s parliament building this week as citizens of the EU’s poorest country railed against their government.

Sources:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/europe/la-fg-baltic-protests17-2009jan17,0,4812920.story


Shares in both AIB & BOI shares fall today despite Government Recapitalisation

February 12, 2009

 

Market reaction to the Government’s €7 billion recapitalisation of the State’s two largest banks AIB and Bank of Ireland has been muted with shares in both lower today. Some brokers have already questioned if the Government’s capital will be sufficient.

At 3.40pm shares in Allied Irish Bank (AIB) were 7.5 % lfell to 99 cent, having earlier fallen by 15 %. Bank of Ireland (BOI) stock was 8 % to 56 cent.

Under the Government’s plan it will pump €3.5 billion into each bank and get warrants giving it an option to buy a 25 % stake in the lenders. Both banks have welcomed the decision.

Kevin McConnell, head of research at Bloxham Stockbrokers, said the capital injection is “good news insofar that there is a sizable capital injection .. “However, without clarity on either an insurance scheme or the creation of a bad bank, there is still uncertainty over the size of the impact of bad debts on capital levels.”

Davy Stockbrokers analyst Scott Rankin said “investors believe that this will not mark the end of Irish Government intervention and believe it is highly likely that the state will proceed with a bad-bank/insurance scheme in order to fully deal with the problem.”

The Government statement indicates that it is going to further investigate “proposals for the management and reduction of risks”. It is unclear if this will involve further recapitalisation of both banks.

Mr. Rankin went on to state that the recapitalisation was welcome and would give comfort to bond investors and liquidity providers alike, ”it may not represent the end of the government’s involvement.”

On the same day as the announcement of the € 7 billion recapitalisation injection, BOI announced a revision of its impairments forecasts on property loans over the next three years from €3.8 billion to €6 billion, citing the worsening economic climate and rising unemployment.

Bank of Ireland also said it will make a fiscal second-half loss, without giving details, as it increases the amount of money set aside to cover bad loans.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said he believes the Government had correctly judged the required capital level for AIB and Bank of Ireland: ”In terms of capital, I believe we got it right”.

The preference shares issued by AIB & BOI as part of the Government’s recapitalisation will pay a fixed 8 % dividend.  This is lower than the 12 % the Royal Bank of Scotland Group is paying the British government, when the British Government recapitalised in late 2008.

Mr Lenihan stated that he has discussed “management change” at both banks and that the boards of both lenders will retire before their annual general meetings and go forward for re-election. He said it would be “premature” for him to comment on the possible composition of a new board and that the appointment of chief executives at the lenders was a “matter for the board.”

Mr. Lenihan also stated that:

“I’m quite prepared to discuss schemes for assessing and eliminating risk for the bank, but would involve careful protection for the taxpayer.”

Source: Irish Times – February 12th 2009 – “Muted Market Reaction to €7bn racapitalisation plan:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0212/breaking17.htm


Finance Minister insists that he has behaved in a competent manner in relation to Anglo-Irish Bank

February 12, 2009

 

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has said he has no plans to step down after coming under intense political pressure following his admission that he only learned about the transfer of €7 billion to Anglo Irish Bank last month, even though his department informed the Financial Regulator about the issue last October.

Speaking this morning the Minister said: “I certainly am not considering my position because I have done nothing wrong. “I have behaved in a competent manner as Minister for Finance.”

Mr Lenihan told the Dáil last night that information about the transfer of €7 billion from Irish Life and Permanent (IL&P) to Anglo was contained in a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers to his department last October.

He said his officials had then referred it to the Financial Regulator but had not informed him about it. Stressing that he only learnt about the issue last month, he said the money transfer was not identified as a risk factor in the 720-page report.

This morning Mr Lenihan said: “I wouldn’t fault my department for not telling me at that stage”.

“They did tell me subsequently when the matter came into sharper focus when a subsequent due-diligence exercise was analysing the deposit base of the bank,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland . “I don’t believe my officials should be scapegoated on this matter.

“But I’m not convinced if I had read the passage that its significance would have jumped out at me at that stage because the focus of the report was on risks associated with the loan book of the bank not on accounting matters of accounts transferred between banks”.

The explanation offered is that this €7 billion transfer to Anglo-Irish Bank helped to bolster the bank’s financial strength before its year end last September following deposit withdrawals of €4 billion during the month.

The transaction remained in place for just several weeks and enabled the bank to sustain its deposit levels and disguise the dramatic levels of withdrawals suffered by the bank during the  financial upheaval last September.

The Opposition claims that Mr Lenihan’s credibility had been undermined by his admission. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore stated that he has “no confidence” in the Minister.

“These were the consultants that he appointed to go and find out what was going on in the banks, he didn’t read the information and more importantly didn’t give the information to Dáil Éireann before he proposed that one of the banks Anglo Irish Bank be nationalised,” he said.

Source:

Irish Times: Thursday, February 12, 2009: ‘I have behaved in a competent manner’, Lenihan insists

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/0212/breaking21.htm


Broad Political Agreement on retention of key aspects of the National Development Plan

February 12, 2009

 

On February 6th,  Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called on the Government to scrap the National Development Plan (NDP), claiming it is filled with “unachievable” political targets.

Speaking the following Saturday 7th February, on RTE, the Taoiseach Brian Cowan, stated that the NDP will not go ahead in all its facets, as it was based on a forecast of 4% economic growth annually. Mr Cowen said that targetted expenditure would see significant investment in higher education and research & development.

He said it would also target efforts to bring business ideas to fruition in order to develop what he called a “smart economy”, and so generate jobs.

Mr Cowen also said that the global economic crisis had shown that membership of the European Union was critical to Ireland’s fortunes and survival.  Mr Cowen also said that people were concerned at how quickly the change in Ireland’s economic fortunes had occurred. He said that in some cases things would get worse before they got better, but stated that Ireland could come through this if the ‘right decisions’ are made now.

In immediate response, on the same day, the Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny stated that he welcomed the Taoiseach’s admission that there may have to be alternations to the National Development Plan.  Enda Kenny said that the focus of the plan must turn to labour intensive infrastruture projects.

It is unclear exactly what is meant by “labour intensive projects,” but it seems clear that the roads programme is intended to continue without pause or restraint. Just why Ireland needs an enormous roads network radiating out from Dublin instead of connecting existing cities (and their adjacent ports) by an interconnected roads and rail network remains unclear.

 

Source:

http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0207/economy.html

http://www.newstalk.ie/newstalk/news/16572/fg-leader-welcomes-taoiseach-s-comments-on-ndp.html