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In this photo taken on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, people walk past photos of shoppers on O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland. The Irish Central Bank has sharply raised its economic outlook for Ireland but cautioned the government not to soften austerity plans in this month’s budget, the first to be unveiled since the country’s exit from an international bailout. (AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik)
Shawn Pogatchnik reporting,
DUBLIN (AP) — The age of austerity is ending in Ireland after six years of grueling tax hikes and spending cuts.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin are unveiling a 2015 budget Tuesday expected to contain around 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in income tax breaks and spending increases, ending a seven-budget run that slashed 30 billion euros from the economy.
The move follows Ireland’s 2013 exit from an international bailout and unexpectedly strong economic growth this year driven by robust exports to Britain and the United States. This has made it much easier for Ireland to meet its deficit-reduction targets without more cutting.
It has been a stunning turnaround for Ireland, which in 2010 teetered on the brink of national bankruptcy after being overwhelmed by the cost of rescuing its banks. At the start of this year, Ireland remained committed to a European-International Monetary Fund plan that foresaw a further 2 billion-euro ($2.6 billion) dose of austerity in 2015, but Tuesday’s budget represents a decisive break from that outdated blueprint.
“The budget today is the first one that I will be able to present that will not be reducing expenditure, so that is a milestone,” Howlin said.
In this picture taken on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, Dublin’s colonnaded General Post Office is seen, left, a national monument to Ireland’s independence fight. The Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party is seeking to triumph in Ireland’s next elections expected in 2016, the 100th anniversary of an Easter Rising against British rule that rebel commanders directed from the post office. A new poll has made Sinn Fein as popular as the main Irish government party for the first time. (AP Photo/Shawn Pogatchnik)
“All the hard work and sacrifice of the Irish people was for an objective, and we really have reached that objective today,” he told reporters before Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting to approve the budget. “But this is the start of recovery. We have to lay out, in the specific measures today, a budget that will sustain recovery.”
Government leaders say Ireland should achieve a deficit target well below the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP in 2015 without net cuts. This would be the first time Ireland observes that ceiling since 2007.
Noonan also plans to announce reforms to controversial Irish corporate tax rules that allow U.S. multinationals to minimize taxes on overseas profits using a complex accounting maneuver called the “double Irish.” It exploits differences in U.S. and Irish tax law to permit a globally active company to use two Irish-registered companies — one of them located offshore — to bank its non-American, non-Irish profits without paying tax.
Noonan’s Finance Ministry said the loophole would be closed for new applicants in 2015 and for existing users by 2020.
Ireland, which hosts the European bases of hundreds of tech and pharmaceutical companies, has faced mounting criticism for its facilitation of global tax avoidance. The European Commission this year opened an investigation into alleged abuse of the “double Irish” by Apple, which in the 1990s and 2000s reported much of its non-U.S. profit through Irish subsidiaries.
A leading Irish historian has expressed concern that Ireland’s current friendship with Britain may curtail the centenary celebrations of the Easter Rising.
There has been an increased concern by some groups in Ireland that the memories of the men and women who fought for their country nearly a hundred years ago, will not be properly honoured because of Ireland’s current strong relationship with Britain.
Dr Brian P Murphy, a leading author on Irish history, was speaking at the annual Liam Lynch Commemoration Ceremony in Fermoy, County Cork (Lynch was an Irish nationalist soldier who died fighting for the Free State Army in the Civil War). Dr Murphy warned that Ireland must not be afraid to celebrate their past and the current bond between Ireland and Britain is not reason to forget the sacrifices made by the Irish nationalists of the early 20th century.
Dr Murphy is a regular speaker on matters regarding Irish history. He is the author of ‘Patrick Pearse and the Lost Republican Ideal’ and ‘The Origins and Organisation of British Propaganda in Ireland’.
The 100 year centenary of the Easter Rising will take place in less than two years’ time. It was one of the key events in Irish history.
On the 24th April 1916, a group of Irish nationalists seized the General Post Office in Dublin and several other city strongholds. They declared Ireland an independent republic, with Pádraic Pearse reading aloud the Proclamation of Independence.
It took five days of fighting before the Irish rebels reluctantly surrendered to the superior resources of the British Army. More than 1,500 were imprisoned, and 15 of the leaders were executed by firing squad.
Ireland has since gained full independence from Britain, and the relationship between the two countries is now as strong as it has ever been.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland in 2011, the first visit by a British monarch since the country had become an independent republic. She bowed her head at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and conceded that: “It would have been better if some action in the past had been done differently, or maybe not at all.”
The admission was welcomed by the Irish public, and given the queen’s position, it was the closest thing Ireland would ever get in regards of an apology from Britain.
During their terms as Irish President, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese were both invited by the queen to attend ceremonies in Britain.
Most citizens from both sides of the Irish Sea have welcomed the improved relationship between the two nations.
However, Dr P Murphy has urged the Ireland not to let this get in the way of properly honouring those that fought and died for the freedom of their country. The Easter Rising was possibly the most important event in Ireland’s history.
He said: “These developments provide a clear indication that a final refining and resolving of Ireland’s relationship with England may well be resolve by peaceful means if the political will is there.” He went on to stress though that the history and facts of Ireland’s struggle must be remembered fully, and not portrayed in “a less than authentic manner”.
Dr Murphy’s views echoed President Michael Higgins’ recent comment that the “improved Anglo Irish relations should not lead to amnesia about the past”.
Eamon Bradley on horseback in the Middle East.
The PSNI1 have confirmed they are making inquiries in response to reports that Derry man Eamon Bradley has turned up in Syria.
Searches are understood to have been conducted at the home of the 25-year-old on Thursday evening.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that specialist officers were deployed to an address in the Creggan estate, but it is unclear if any material was removed from the scene.
A PSNI spokesman would only confirm on Friday: “Police are making enquiries into reports of a Northern Ireland man in Syria.”
Eamon Bradley’s family were this week said to be growing increasingly concerned about his well-being since he disappeared several months ago.
It is understood the former St Joseph’s Boys School pupil had told his relatives he was going for a two week holiday to Turkey, but has not returned.
Reports suggest he has developed a strong interest in the Islamic faith over recent times.
Since he left, photographs have surfaced reportedly showing Eamon on horseback having grown a beard and wearing combat-type clothing and a headdress.
Another appears to shows him kneeling in a shelter with AK-47 assault style rifles bundled in front of him.
A woman at the address in Creggan declined to speak to the Journal when contacted on Thursday.
- Police Service of Northern Ireland ↩
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood has described the Derry to Belfast rail journey speed as “embarrassing” after a cyclist won a ‘man versus train’ challenge between the cities.
Local man John Madden broke the record for cycling between Derry and Belfast on Sunday last, but if that wasn’t enough the cyclist also took on the train in a ‘Top Gear’ style challenge. Although prohibited from travelling on the motorway, John Madden reached his destination with time to spare over his rival.
Mr Eastwood said: “Limavady solicitor and seasoned triathlete, Peter Jack suggested the challenge in order to highlight the inadequacies of the rail infrastructure between the two cities. The result, while massively impressive in terms of John Madden’s cycling performance, is nothing short of embarrassing for Northern Ireland’s railway system.
“Peter and John left Derry’s General Post Office at 9.15am on Sunday with their destination the Albert Memorial Clock in Belfast. The fact that when Peter finally got there, John had been waiting for two minutes. That is a damning indictment of the rail speed between the North’s two main cities.
“This situation, once again, shows the current rail speed is not acceptable and it highlights the dire need for the planned upgrade to be carried out without further delay.
“It is up to Minister Danny Kennedy to ensure Phase Two of the upgrade project is completed sooner than expected to give passengers the shorter journey times they deserve. While a fantastic achievement for John Madden, a man on a bike beating a £5m train between the two biggest cities in Northern Ireland proves how ludicrous the current rail journey time is.”
From point to point it took John Madden two hours and 37 minutes; the cyclist beating the record held by Morris ‘Big Mo’ Foster for many years. It took Peter Jack two hours and 39 minutes to complete the journey from point to point.
Western sanctions against Russia appear to have done little to influence the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.
But while the United States has targeted some of President Vladimir Putin’s close allies, the European Union has largely only gone after lower-ranking officials directly connected to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
These numbers help show why there’s so little appetite to confront Putin.
1. $39.717 billion
That’s the amount of money that flowed into Russia in 2012 from the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus and Luxembourg, according to the most recent data from the Russian Central Bank. The data show those four small European Union countries represent more than three-quarters of foreign direct investment into Russia, dwarfing contributions from major economies such as Germany and the United States.
Although the Dutch, Irish, Cypriots and Luxembourgers bristle at the term “tax haven,” much of the cash heading to Russia is believed to be recycled by Russian companies and rich individuals taking advantage of the European countries’ generous fiscal arrangements for foreigners.
It’s not just Russians. An investigation by the Dutch newspaper De Volksrant last year found most of the world’s top corporations operate networks of letterbox companies in the Netherlands to avoid taxes back home. Still, the huge sums of Russian money flowing through may help explain those countries’ less-than-hawkish approach to sanctions.
The number of French shipyard jobs directly at risk should President Francois Hollande halt the sale of two high-tech warships to Russia. Unions estimate there are at least as many indirect subcontractor jobs also dependent on the deal, located in hard-pressed ports where work is in short supply.
Throwing so many out of work is not an appealing prospect for a president whose popularity ratings are languishing at record lows, largely due to his failure to tackle unemployment.
Moreover, Russia insists it will seek compensation if the $1.65 billion contract to build the Vladivostok and the Sevastopol (named for the recently annexed Crimea port — where it’s due to be based) aren’t delivered.
The first of the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships is due to arrive in Russia in October, the second in 2016.
In Paris, the government says it has time before any difficult decisions need be made.
However, 400 Russian sailors are due in France next month for training on the new ship, which can carry assault helicopters and landing craft.
On Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said Washington has “regularly and consistently” expressed concern about the deal.
3. 100 percent
The level of dependence on Russian natural gas supplies among European Union members Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia and Slovakia. Overall, Russia provides 34 percent of the gas used to heat homes, cook meals and power factories across the EU.
That gives Moscow powerful leverage. In 2009, when an earlier dispute with Ukraine shut down pipelines to Europe, residents of vulnerable countries were left shivering in mid-winter.
Many European states also heavily depend on Russia for oil, coal and even fuel for nuclear power plants — Russia supplies a quarter of the uranium used in the EU. Russian energy companies have also invested heavily in Europe, gaining influence over local power companies and entering into lucrative partnerships that Western giants like BP and Shell are loath to break.
Still, not all EU countries have been cowed by Russia’s grip on their fuel supplies. Lithuania and Estonia have been the most vocal advocates of a tougher EU line. Privately, officials from both countries are furious at the lack of backing from less exposed partners.
4. $10.6 million
That’s the average amount Russian clients pay for homes in swish London neighborhoods, according to one top-end realtor cited by The Economist.
There are plenty of other figures to illustrate why Britain is reluctant to alienate the oligarch immigrants who have found a bolt hole in “Londongrad.”
Overall, Russians are estimated to have shelled out $304 million for London homes last year. Since 2002, Russian companies have raised an estimated $406 on British capital markets. More than 50 are listed on the London Stock Exchange. Russian students number 2,150 in Britain’s posh private schools, where average boarding fees are a cool $15,500 a year.
Russians also make up the biggest group holding “investor visas” granting residency to foreigners who spend more than $1.7 million in Britain. They are said to make up 60 percent of clients at fancy London law firms, and spent $2 billion on getting banking advice in the city in 2012.
Concerns that those lawyers could be getting even more work are another reason why Europe, and Britain in particular, is holding fire on sanctions against Putin’s oligarch allies. Especially because individuals and businesses from Saudi Arabia and Iran have successfully challenged EU sanctions against them: Iran’s Bank Mellat, for one, is suing the British government for $4 billion in lost earnings.
The number of seats far-right and Euro-skeptic parties that openly support Putin are tipped to win in this month’s European Parliament elections. Although that’s only about 10 percent of the total number of lawmakers in the EU’s assembly, they represent a powerful and growing influence in a number of countries.
The French National Front, a vocal Putin apologist, is expected to become the country’s biggest representative in the European Parliament. In Britain, the UK Independence Party is also polling strongest. Its leader Nigel Farage has called Putin the politician he most admires. The Freedom Party, which is leading in Dutch polls, blames the European Union for the Ukraine crisis.
Putin has other backers on the far left, such as Germany’s Die Linke party. While there are signs uncertainly over the Ukraine crisis could see anxious voters turning back to the political center, Putin also has support with some notable mainstream politicians.
Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Germany’s ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have been outspoken on Russia’s behalf. Schroeder reputedly earns $344,000 a year as director of a pipeline company pumping Russian gas to the West and was recently snapped giving Putin a hug at a St. Petersburg soiree. He remains an influential figure for many in the Social Democratic Party of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
6. $87.8 billion
Russia spent that much on its military last year — the world’s third-highest defense budget after the United States and China. Putin has hiked defense spending by 108 percent since 2004.
US military spending rose just 12 percent during the same period, while among NATO allies, Britain’s fell by 2.4 percent, France’s by 6.4 and Italy’s by a whopping 26 percent. Putin also controls the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear warheads, estimated at 8,500.
Many in Europe — particularly in the south — see little interest in picking a fight with such a prickly born-again superpower over Ukraine, a country they view as remote and of little relevance to their struggle to recover from five years of economic crisis.