EVERY DAY, TheJournal.ie brings you nine things you need to know with your morning cup of coffee.1. #POSITIVE OUTLOOK: The credit ratings agency Moody’s has upgraded its outlook on Irish sovereign debt from negative to stable. However, Moody’s continues to apply a junk rating to Irish government bonds. [The Irish Times]2. #TRANSPLANT: An investigation is underway after an ambulance transporting a patient from Cork to Dublin for a lung transplant broke down. [The Irish Independent]3. #HADDINGTON: Despite the ASTI rejecting the Haddington Road Agreement, the Government insists there will be no renegotiation as it could unravel the whole deal, reports The Irish Times.4. #RETIREMENT: The former Financial Regulator Patrick Neary was paid a salary of €84,501 upon retirement, which included a €13,000 payment for untaken holidays.5. #CAB: The Criminal Assets Bureau has launched an investigation in a hope to establish the source of a sum of money that was found hidden under a bathtub in the former home of bankrupt developer Tom McFeely. [The Irish Independent]6. #TOURISM: Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has indicated that the 9 per cent rate of VAT for the hotel and tourism industry will rise in the forthcoming Budget.7. #SYRIA: The international chemical weapons watchdog says it is studying details submitted by Syria about its arsenal of poisonous gas supplies. All details must be submitted by the end of today. [BBC]8. #GERMANY: Chancellor Angela Merkel has made a last ditch appeal to German voters stating she wants to be Chancellor for another four years. Germany’s election takes place tomorrow. [The Telegraph]9. # BEAUTY PAGEANT: The controversial child beauty pageant that had its venue cancel the booking this week, will go ahead in another venue today said Annette Hill, the pageant’s organiser. [The Examiner]
WHEN NEWS CAME through on the morning of 30 September 2008 that the Irish government had guaranteed the country’s banks, many did not know what to make of it.Why was it needed? Was it a good thing? Would it cost the taxpayer?Many of the questions could not be answered immediately but five years and €64.1 billion later, the Irish public are much more knowledgeable about the now infamous move.The two words are bandied about now to explain away our current economic quagmire but what did it do and what does it mean for us now?TheJournal.ie explains…What banks were covered by the bank guarantee?Six Irish institutions were covered by the guarantee – AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS Building Society, Irish Life & Permanent, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide.What money and investments were included?When commentators call it a ‘blanket guarantee’, they are not exaggerating. The government guaranteed pretty much everything.On top of all customer deposits, any money that was loaned to an Irish bank was included in the guarantee. That meant the government was effectively saying to each creditor and bondholder (person/company/fund/country that is owed money) that they would be paid back, in full, regardless of what happened to their original investment.The guarantee included all types of bonds, regardless of how ‘risky’ they were deemed by the borrower at the time. (Imagine somebody guaranteeing Paddy Power’s bets on Crystal Palace winning the English Premier League next year).Subordinated bondholders were covered, as well as senior and secured bondholders. The only exception was about €8.2 billion of undated junior debt.So, how much was all that?The estimated total of guaranteed liabilities was about €440 billion. To put some context on that number, it was about 10 times the national debt.Did it include ordinary people’s deposits?Yes.The Deposit Guarantee Scheme (DGS)had been increased from €20,000 to €100,000 earlier in September 2008. It was also expanded to include credit unions for the first time.But as part of the 30 September 2008 guarantee, 100 per cent of ALL deposits (regardless of the amount) was guaranteed in the six institutions.That guarantee expired on 29 September 2010. The initial DGS then came back into play, is still in place and does not have an end date.Why was it needed at that time?The financial sector was in turmoil across the world and Irish banks were being hit hard.They were losing deposits, share prices had plummeted and confidence – which is a always a vital cog in banking sectors – was at an all-time low.Although the issue of solvency would eventually emerge as the main problem, the focus in September was about liquidity. The banks – and, in turn, the government – believed the issues could be solved with injections of cash.The guarantee aimed to increase confidence, encouraging the international markets to begin lending to the Irish institutions again – at a reasonable cost of borrowing.How did other countries react?The initial reaction was bad. Europe was not happy that Ireland acted unilaterally, while the UK was worried that the government had undercut British banks. They expected savers to send a tsunami of money to Irish institutions as they were now, actually, the safest places in the world in which to place money. Why? Well, investors could not lose. The government had essentially told people that they were so confident that people would not lose money on their investments, that they would back them.Brian Lenihan’s counterpart in Britain, Alistair Darling, said it put UK banks in an impossible situation.Angela Merkel described the development as “unacceptable”, adding that the “Irish way is not the right way”.How did the banks react to it?The government’s decision gave the banks some breathing space. Take Anglo as an example. Seánie Fitz’s baby was on a cliff. It was about to go under and knew it could not last another day’s trading.The world had already seen Lehman Brothers go bust just a couple of weeks earlier so a similar fate for the Irish lender wasn’t outside the realm of reality.The recently published Anglo tapes revealed boss David Drumm talking about ‘getting the money’ in during the days following the government’s announcement.In public at the time, they were more demure putting out a message of ‘business as usual’ within the sector.Did the banks try to benefit from it?After the criticism from Europe, the government had to be careful to ensure that banks were not seen to be using the guarantee as a selling mechanism.However, it was somewhat inevitable.Irish Nationwide Building Society were given a slap on the wrist and a €50,000 fine when it emerged that Michael Fingleton Junior had sent emails to bankers in London trying to convince them to move deposits his way on the back of the guarantee.Did the guarantee work?Well, quite obviously, no.In a way, the financial system called the government’s bluff. Brian Cowen, Brian Lenihan et al. tried to fix the situation by standing firm behind the Irish banks, granting them the kind of confidence boost they craved.But it didn’t last long.It wasn’t long before the cash injections required by the banks were costing big time. Lenders then began charging penal interest rates in order to lend to the Irish government, knowing that it had to back the constantly-growing banking losses.It eventually led to the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition calling on the international powers – soon to be well-known, but not fondly, as the Troika – for help. €64.1 billion worth of help.When did the guarantee come to an end?Some form of bank guarantee remained in place until midnight, 28 March 2013.However, that doesn’t mean the government isn’t responsible for bonds issued while the guarantee was in place. All bonds issued between 30 September 2008 and 28 March 2013 are covered and are worth tens of billions of euro.Two of the covered banks, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB, issued new bonds on the last week of the guarantee. Bank of Ireland borrowed €5 billion, while Permanent TSB raised €3.065 billion, with both bonds due for repayment in March 2015.How much did it end up costing the State?€64.1 billion.In return, the State now holds a 15 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland and owns 99.8 per cent of AIB, as well as EBS (as a subsidiary of AIB), Permanent TSB* and what remains of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide**.*The Irish Life arm of Irish Life & Permanent was sold to Canada Life**The failed institutions became the IBRC which was put into liquidation earlier this year. Read: 10 ways the bank guarantee changed our livesRead all our coverage of the 5th anniversary of the bank guarantee
THE SWITCH-OFF of the analogue TV signal is now only just over a fortnight away – meaning we’re now in the final month of the traditional Aertel service.Though Aertel lives on in the Saorview world, its newer incarnation is a fancy interactive version which is much more in keeping with the 21st century – but far removed from the glitchy, blocky wonder that we all grew up with.So, to mark the departure of old-school teletext from Ireland, we thought we’d recap some of the things we’ll really miss about the old version.God speed, you black beauty.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall IrelandLEO VARADKAR UNVEILED 80 new high-tech, Wi-Fi-enabled buses at Dublin Bus headquarters today.And fulfilled his childhood dream of driving the Big Red Fun Bus.Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall IrelandHe also tried out the cheap seats.Image: Colm Mahady/FennellsNow, to the comments section you must go…the best of the publishable ones will get a mention in tonight’s Fix.
RESIDENTS IN FLATS near the south London home where three women — including a 57-year-old from Ireland — were allegedly held captive for thirty years have said they often saw the women walking outside and even talking to police.One resident of Peckford Place flats in Brixton told Channel 4 News he saw the women outside in the area “every day” and had often seen them speaking with officers.“That’s why I don’t know how they couldn’t go to the police. They even talked to the police. I’ve actually seen them talk to the police. That’s why it’s crazy to me.The neighbour said that though the women spoke to police officers, they didn’t “talk to people”.Another resident spoke of how he had once called to the door of the home, and said that all five residents had come to the door at once.“There was five people at the door basically, and, it was just weird… like they wanted to say something but they didn’t.”Officers believe two of the three women victims met the male suspect in London “through a shared political ideology” and that they lived together in “a collective”.Efforts are now under way to establish how that collective came to an end and how the women ended up continuing to live with the suspects.Met Police Commander Steve Rodhouse spoke of “invisible handcuffs” that were used to control the women, and said they had built up a “disturbing picture of emotional control over many years”.Officers stand outside the flats yesterday [Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images]Along with the Irish woman, a 69-year-old Malaysian and a 30-year-old British woman were also rescued on 25 October, one week after first making secret telephone contact with a charity.The two suspects in the case, a man and woman, have been released on bail. It was confirmed yesterday that they are originally from India and Tanzania and came to Britain in the 1960s.Residents at Peckford Place said the flats had been built in 2005, meaning the women and the suspects must have moved there in the course of their alleged imprisonment.Officers have been carrying out door-to-door enquiries in the area this weekend.Rodhouse said police were still working “to gain the trust and confidence of the highly traumatized victims” and said the process would take time.Read: Enslaved women traumatised but doing ‘remarkably well’ >More: Irish Embassy in London look to establish details behind woman freed from slavery >
FIANNA FÁIL TD and chair of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, has called on the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) to make an immediate statement on charitable money that was used to top-up the salaries of senior staff.Commenting today on the news which emerged yesterday afternoon, McGuinness said it was “deeply concerning”.The committee is expected to received a report from the HSE in the next week about funding for the CRC and if found to be unsatisfactory, he said representatives from the clinic will be called before it.Before that, I am calling on the CRC to make a comprehensive statement and come clean on the payments to staff that were funded by charitable donations. If this does not happen promptly I will call the CRC to appear before the PAC.He said the statement must be full and frank and cover every aspect of their funding and where the money is going.“The behaviour by the CRC is simply not good enough, the public will not accept it and I will not accept it,” he continued. “People give their hard earned money to charity with the expectation, in this instance, that it goes towards children and adults with a range of disabilities. This is a gross breach of public trust and the CRC must now explain itself in an open and transparent way.”Read: Ross calls for immediate resignation of CRC Board over salary top-ups>
FRENCH EXPERTS HAVE ruled out a theory that Yasser Arafat was killed by poisoning and believe he may have died of natural causes, a source close to the probe into the Palestinian leader’s death said Tuesday.The French experts’ findings differ significantly from those of Swiss scientists, who said last month that their research offered some support for the suggestion Arafat was killed by polonium poisoning.“The report rules out the poisoning theory and goes in the sense of a natural death,” the source said.The circumstances of Arafat’s death aged 75 at a military hospital near Paris in November 2004 after a sudden deterioration in his health have long been mired in rumour and speculation.French doctors were unable to say what killed him and an autopsy was never performed, at the request of his widow.Many Palestinians believed he was poisoned by Israel – a claim repeatedly denied by the Jewish state.Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP the results of the French probe were “no surprise”.Some reservationsTawfiq Tirawi, the head of a Palestinian team that investigated Arafat’s death, expressed reservations over the French findings but said members of the team needed to study the report before taking a position.France opened a formal murder inquiry in August 2012, a month after an Al-Jazeera documentary linked Arafat’s death to polonium poisoning.Some 60 samples were taken from Arafat’s remains in November 2012 and divided between Swiss and Russian investigators and a French team carrying out a probe at his widow’s request.The prosecutors’ office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, which is conducting the French probe refused to comment on the investigation’s findings Tuesday.“I am so shattered by these contradictions. What are we supposed to think?” said Souha Arafat.The Swiss team said the test results neither confirmed nor denied polonium was the actual source of his death, although they provided “moderate” backing for the idea he was poisoned by the rare and highly radioactive element.They said the quantity of the deadly substance found on his remains pointed to the involvement of a third party.Russia’s Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) has yet to release its findings.A report by news agency Interfax in October quoted its chief Vladimir Uiba as saying Arafat “could not have been poisoned by polonium” but the medical agency later denied he had made any statement.Palestinian Justice Minister Ali Mhanna last month urged France to release the results of its probe, saying the Palestinians were sure Arafat had been poisoned and that Israel was the “only suspect” in his death.‘Easier with a bullet’Israeli President Shimon Peres, who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, said last month that the reports of polonium poisoning were unbelievable.“If someone had wanted to get rid of Arafat, it would have been easier to do it with a bullet,” he said.The Swiss team’s findings sparked fresh accusations from the Palestinians and increased tensions with Israel at a delicate time.US-brokered peace talks resumed at the end of July after a three-year gap, but have already hit a deadlock over Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank on land the Palestinians want for their future state.Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli leaders after signing the landmark Oslo accords in 1993, when hopes ran high for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.But the negotiations broke down seven years later amid bitter recriminations on both sides, and a bloody Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupted that would eventually claim the lives of some 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis from 2000-2005.Israel and the United States blamed Arafat for a wave of suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis during the uprising, while Arafat insisted he was powerless to prevent Palestinians from retaliating for deadly Israeli military operations in the occupied territories.© – AFP 2013Explainer: What do the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks mean?
COMMERCE MINISTERS CAPPED days of hard negotiations today by approving a WTO agreement on international commerce they hailed as a “historic” boost for the trade body.The agreement falls far short of the World Trade Organization’s lofty but elusive vision of tearing down global trade barriers through its frustrating, 12-year-old Doha Round of talks.But the accord reached on the Indonesian resort island of Bali nevertheless marks the first global agreement struck by the Geneva-based body since its 1995 founding.“For the first time in our history, the WTO has truly delivered,” an exhausted but relieved WTO director-general Roberto Azevedo told a closing ceremony.“We have put the ‘World’ back into the World Trade Organization,” he told delegates.Facilitating tradeThe pact includes commitments to facilitate trade by simplifying customs procedures. The meeting also formally accepted Yemen as the group’s 160th member. Yemen’s parliament now has six months to ratify its accession package, the WTO said.The Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated in a report this year the customs measures could create $1 trillion in economic activity and 21 million jobs if properly implemented.The report did not detail how those figures were calculated.WTO officials have conceded however that uncertainty surrounded how effectively the measures would be implemented, especially in underdeveloped countries.Analysts said the hard-fought nature of the talks indicated how difficult it could be for the body to make real progress on the Doha Round, launched in Qatar in 2001.Failure in Bali “would have dealt a massive blow to the institution’s prestige,” said Simon Evenett, an international trade expert at Switzerland’s St Gallen University.“But Bali revealed much about how difficult are negotiations between the large trading nations on big-ticket commercial items and there is no sign they are going to get any easier.”The agreement was reached after more than four days of haggling in Bali that stretched past the conference’s scheduled yesterday and overnight.A lifelineIndonesian Trade Minister Gita Wiryawan, right, shakes hands with World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Roberto Azevedo (Image: Firdia Lisnawati/AP).Indonesia’s conference chair Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan called the accord “historic”.Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal would “provide a lifeline to the world’s poorest people” by slashing barriers to trade.Symbolic valueAzevedo said it had important symbolic value for Doha.“The decisions we have taken here are an important stepping-stone toward the completion of the Doha Round,” he said, adding the WTO would soon get to work on a “road map” for reviving Doha.The Doha Round aims to remove hurdles to commerce and establish a globally binding framework of trade rules fair to both rich and poor countries.But protectionist disputes among the WTO’s members have foiled agreement.Azevedo has expressed concern over the rise of alternative regional trading pacts that he fears could render the WTO obsolete if the Geneva-based body did not start clinching major worldwide agreements.The Bali negotiations teetered repeatedly on the brink of collapse due to various differences.India — which aims to stockpile and subsidise grain for its millions of poor — had demanded that such measures be granted indefinite exemption from WTO challenge.The United States, which implements large farm supports of its own, and others had said India’s grain policy could violate WTO limits on subsidies.A later hurdle emerged as four Latin American countries objected to the removal in the accord’s text of a reference to the US embargo on Cuba.Compromise wording smoothed over those hurdles.Food securityIndian trade groups welcomed the deal. Naina Lal Kidwai, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the agreement protected India and other developing nations’ “legitimate concerns on food security while enabling the trade facilitation advantages to come through”.The agreement will come as a major personal victory for the Brazilian Azevedo, who took the organisation’s helm in September and injected a sense of urgency into the talks.“With this landmark accord on trade facilitation and other issues, the WTO has re-established its credibility as an indispensable forum for trade negotiations,” the US Chamber of Commerce said in a statement released in Washington.The package also included pledges to limit agricultural subsidies, and policies to aid least-developed countries.As the Doha Round has faltered, alternative regional pacts have emerged between major trading nations, such as the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) spearheaded by Washington.TPP negotiators hold their latest meeting in Singapore starting Saturday as they work to hammer out the outlines of that trade alliance.Azevedo has said such alliances could have “tragic” consequences on poor nations by denying them a place at the trade-rules table.But Kevin Gallagher, a globalisation expert at Boston University, said the hard fight in Bali for modest results indicated the WTO’s battle for relevance was far from over.“Rather than honouring the multilateral process, powerful nations will move to regional trade deals such as the TPP to advance harmful proposals that were rejected at the WTO,” he said.- © AFP 2013.Read: Wikileaks publishes draft from free-trade agreement under secretive negotiations>
GOOGLE HAS TEAMED up with a number of automakers to bring its Android platform to cars.The Open Automotive Alliance, which consists of Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and chipmaker Nvidia, will bring a specially-designed Android system to vehicles.The first cars with Android integration are expected to arrive at the end of the year.Google hopes to add more automakers to the group over time and said that it will “enthusiastically work” with any company that’s wants to integrate the service into their cars.The group has already been in touch with US government agencies like the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to ensure the new system doesn’t distract drivers while they’re on the road.With the global auto industry expected to reach 85 million sales this year, the move gives Android another opportunity to add to the one billion smartphone and tablet activations it has.This isn’t the first time that automakers have teamed up with technology companies. Ford Motors and Microsoft teamed up to create SYNC while Apple has partnered with a number of car companies to allow for Siri integration.Read: Take an inside peek inside one of Google’s most controversial projects >Read: Spain watchdog fines Google €900,000 for privacy ‘violations’ >
Updated 17:23LABOUR MEPs PHIL PRENDERGAST and Nessa Childers have called on an extension of the Freedom of Information (FOI) process to give insight into the State’s liquidation of IBRC.The MEPs made the call following reports in the Irish Examiner that government were under instruction from the European Central Bank not to release details of the ongoing liquidation to the public.The news comes just days after TheJournal.ie revealed that the Irish Bank Officials Association had told workers at the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to cooperate with NAMA regarding the transfers of assets out of the liquidated bank.‘A step too far’“The outright rejection of Freedom of Information requests is a step too far,” Prendergast said, with the Labour Party member adding that she firmly believed that “access to information is a key part of democracy in action.”There is no excuse for a gag order like this. A blanket refusal policy would serve only to heighten distrust in government and in the ECB.Childers said that the decision to liquidate IBRC had been one the “biggest ever decisions made by the Irish State” and said that she had submitted an official parliamentary question to the ECB to determine their position on the issue.Read: Union now tells IBRC staff to cooperate with NAMA over new roles >
A great deal of work is now needed to document the findings, but the full potential of the collection may never be realised because of the absence of where the objects were found.(All images from the National Museum of Ireland)Read: Georgian cellars to be filled in during Luas Cross City construction> A TREASURE HUNTER’S loot of 899 artefacts have been handed back to the National Museum of Ireland after being tracked down in England.The man, who died last May, operated in the Co. Tipperary area and worked closely with another man in the UK.The antiquities came to light following a tip-off from the British Museum to the National Museum of Ireland that an important hoard of medieval silver coins from Ireland had been exported illegally to Britain.Some objects were recovered by police in the UK, while the remaining objects were recovered in Ireland by the Garda Art and Antiques Unit.Seamus Lynam, acting director of the National Museum of Ireland said the recovery shows there is a continuing threat to the portable archaeological heritage of Ireland by metal detectorists: “Many items similar to those recovered have been offered for sale in recent times over the internet and are the subject of on-going investigations. ”Some of the items recovered include:28 medieval hammered silver coins covering the reigns of Edward I- III (1272-1377)Three ‘gun money’ coins of James II, and a flat copper axe dating to the Early Bronze Age, between 2,500 – 2,000 BC29 medieval silver coins including coins of King John (1199–1216), Henry III (1216–1272), Edward I (1272–1307), Edward III (1327–1377), Henry VIII (1509–1547), Queen Mary (1553–1554), Phillip and Mary (1554–1558) and Elizabeth I (1558–1603)14 gun-money coins of James II and copper coins of William and Mary, William III and of George I, II, III & IV.A bronze looped-socketed spearhead in the collection dates to the Bronze Age between 1,400 – 900 BC.A decorative mount with settings of yellow enamel which is of Early Medieval date and may represent a belt fitting or perhaps a mount from an item of ecclesiastical metalwork.325 metal buttons dating from the 17th century to the 19th century.There is also a collection of bullets and musket balls. More: The prehistoric Irish arrowhead that went to Canada… and back again>
Source: Channel SevenAny Home and Away fans out there? You’ll recognise Kim above. You may enjoy this comment from Joan Featherstone too.I’ve posted this one before….my husbands name is KIM, yes it’s a male name (Kimberley is the female version). The amount of stick he got as I kid (mid 50′s now) was mad, and I always have to point out to people who don’t know us that’s he’s my husband not my lesbian partner…..we went very traditional and ordinary with our two ‘kids’. Ps I can ape him on the phone to the bank and utility companies lol.Are you considered a shy person? There was lots of advice and support on offer this week from people who are just like you. Will Phillips had this to say. Throughout my late teens and times in college, I was very socially awkward.I found it easier to just listen to people rather than engage with group chats. I wouldn’t go out much and was often really frustrated when people told me “You’re really quiet”. Like someone they think I didn’t know already.I started taking acting and drama lessons which does really help a lot. You learn better communication skills with yourself and also better listening skills to engage with others. Also Improv in particular really helps with unplanned situations.It’s a slow gradual process, but people who know me have really noticed that I’m now more sociable and have come out my shell a good bit 2. Many UK residents were treated to their first live hurling match last weekend, with many of them reacting positively. PlayAgainstPar‘s musing earned him 2,502 thumbs up: Imagine if they’d actually seen a decent game…!3. Keith Redmond also received a lot of agreement – 2,187 thumbs to be exact – for his view of Sinn Féin. Only for the fact, we’d end up heading for bailout two three and four with the Shinners in charge..I’d actually love to see them in government, faced with dealing with the real economics of the situation, and having to make the hard decisions, that would piss off their supporters who actually believe in their magical money tree.4. And, back to the hurling, Colm Clarke also had some commentary on the madness that is hurling. He received 1,516 thumbs of the right colour. Any time people ask me about it , I say ” helmets have just been made compulsory “. Ya should see mouths drop then.5. Remember Ulster Bank’s infamous tech glitch? Richie Aprile did – to good effect and 1,463 thumbs – on an article about 14-year-old hackers. Give those kids a job at ulster bank , training their IT people.The top 5 articles which received the most comments this week Source: Flickr1. Archbishop calls for ‘full-bodied investigation’ into all mother-and-baby homes (434 comments)2. Sinn Féin is now the most popular party in the State (409 comments)3. Wheelchair-user hospitalised after incident at water meter protest in Raheny (305 comments)4. 19 chippers to visit in Ireland before you die (266 comments)5. Opinion: Climate change is the single biggest threat to winning the fight against hunger (236 comments)Some of the best comments left on the site this week Source: PA Wire/Press Association ImagesThere was an outpouring of grief on Monday as news came through of comedian Rik Mayall‘s death. robby rottenest left this lovely message.He made me laugh hard and often. This is the first time he ever made me sad.On Tuesday, SAFE Ireland‘s One-Day Census revealed that 467 women and 229 children were receiving accommodation and support from a domestic violence service. Anon Ymous told her own story, and asked us to challenge our own perceptions.From reading some of the comments above, maybe we also need to discard some of the stereotypes we have about the victims and perpetrators of DV.I see references to guests on Jeremy Kyle; tattooed skinheads etc.I met my husband in Trinity College while I was completing my second degree and he was doing his PhD.He is not a skinhead. Doesn’t have any tattoos. He wears a suit to work and, if you meet him, you’ll probably walk away thinking, “he’s a really nice guy”. As I said already, most people commented on how lucky I was for meeting the “perfect man”.Nobody knows about the violence, other than the professionals I’ve reached out to for support. Nobody would guess. I’ve a separate makeup bag for bruises, black eyes etc. Green-tinted concealer hides red marks, yellow-tinted concealer hides purple bruises. Estée Lauder do a concealer that covers surgical scars. Cover it all with a good foundation and – ta da! – it’s all gone. Back to being the smiley, happy lady with the perfect life and perfect husband.The sad part is, one in four women have experienced this so I’d hazard a guess that all of you with the incorrect stereotypes in your heads probably know at least one person in my boat. Could be your sister, best friend… Your stereotypes just keep them from opening up I’m afraid. EVERY SATURDAY MORNING we take a look at all the best comments left on the site by our readers over the past seven days.This week there was a lot of talk about the Sinn Féin, hurling and Niall Kelly’s hair.So here are the standout comments from the week that was.The 5 most popular comments this week1. Jim Walsh received 3,608 green thumbs for his critique of Sinn Féin’s economic plans. Rubbish. Parts of their programme have been costed but not their entire programme. There was a huge hole in their last costings which was covered by a supposed “wealth tax” that was bringing in hundreds of millions according to Pearse Doherty.No details on what this “wealth” was because it wasn’t income because they were hiking that up for certain people. It wasn’t a tax on property or land because they’re getting rid of that. So exactly where was this money coming from. And interestingly this part wasn’t costed by the Department of Finance. And given that it was a 1% levy then you’d have to be tax €20 billion of wealth to raise €200 million. It just doens’t stack up at all.By the way for those who own a second home which is many ordinary people who bought them as investments and are now in negative equity you’re going to be landed with a €400 charge a year for it, way more than the current property tax. So many ordinary people won’t benefit at all from SF. They’ve manged to avoid mentioning that though. There are a few great heads of hair among the men of TheJournal.ie (really, there is). So much so, that even you have started to notice. Following a visit by RTÉ’s cameras, SlyLad noted:Not related to this article but Niall Kelly has a beautiful head of hair just seen it on the six one news in the background of Paul Fennesey’s interviewThe response from Ronan Stokes was also pretty strong:He gets it done in Peter Marks in Nutgrove, always has to be Jackie, very particular.Check it out for yourself, here.Spot any good comments? Send them through to us by email at email@example.com. Source: ASOSKaren Gillen. We salute you for comparing the controversial suit to salted caramel.Can’t explain it, on the one hand my brain thinks its like those kids games with three pieces and you pick a head, body and legs and make funny looking mismatched people – and yet on the other hand, somehow I kinda like it. Its like salted caramel all over again!Wasn’t Teletext great? Setanta Landers and Ted Carroll remember the most useful pages.Teletext 221 to get the premiership scores. Ah the anticipation only to watch the counter go by just as you press the page and have to wait for the fecking thing to come back around. There was lots of talk this week about the Leaving Cert and E3 (click here if you don’t know what that is). So, it was understandable that M K got confused.Oh thank god. I thought my leaving cert results were out 180 for now and next, great page and as handy as any guide that’s available now! Waiting for score updates on a Saturday at 16:45 on 221 was horrendous!But Paul Murphy never quite got the hang of it.I remember waiting for the score of a midweek match to come through and it was 1-0 for the whole game. It was only when it didn’t show full time I realised aertel hadn’t being updating and it finished a comfy 3-0. Shredded nerves for nothing!We forgot to put a NSFW with sound warning on this piece. But, in fairness, Sandra Hennigan it was headlined with: “8 cringey bedroom antics we’ve all been involved in”Thanks for the sexy music. Those waiting in the NCT centre with me really appreciated it!In honour of Fathers Day tomorrow, here’s a story from Alan Kennedy.My sister lives in Australia, she was pregnant, she was over due and ended up having a difficult birth on her own. My parents went to visit her just after their first grandchild from their only daughter was born.What did my Dad bring over?A framed picture of his two dogs.Yes. He loves them more than he loves his children.
Am I wrong is the song of the summer— John Murphy (@jmurph725) July 18, 2014 LAST YEAR, WE had Get Lucky and Blurred Lines duke it out for the honour of Song of the Summer. Both were universally beloved and are destined to be played at weddings for time immemorial.This year, however, things are a little more up in the air with several viable contenders vying for the title of Summer Jam ’14.First things first, I’m the realest. Secondly, the Song of the Summer is surely Fancy, no?Across the Atlantic, Fancy by Iggy Azalea has reigned supreme having spent seven weeks at number one in the Billboard Top 100.Is it the song of the summer here in Ireland, though? If you take Top 40 and radio airplay data into account, then not really. The song has failed to crack the top ten, peaking at no. 12 since its release and during the week of July 10th – 16th, the song ranked at just no. 37 in the Irish radio airplay charts.Huh. So how are we going to find out what the Song of the Summer?With the aid of Top 40, Spotify and radio airplay data, that’s how.Sounds scientific. Who are the contenders?We’re about to find out. Coldplay – A Sky Full of Stars Source: Coldplay Official/YouTubeRelease date: May 2ndTop 40 peak: 3Airplay chart (July 11th – 17th): 1Spotify chart: 7Verdict: When you hear the name Coldplay, you may not be inclined to think “summer jam”. But there you’d be wrong. While the refrain (“‘Cause you’re a sky full of stars”) may sound like it was written in Chris Martin’s sleep, they’re clearly on to something as it continues to dominate both Top 40 and airplay.John Legend – All Of Me Source: johnlegendVEVO/YouTubeRelease date: What feels like four years ago.Chart peak: 1Airplay chart ranking (July 11th – 17th): 6Spotify chart: 12Verdict: Yes, it may still be no. 2 in the charts and all over the radio waves, but we refuse to acknowledge it as a contender. Next.Sam Smith – Stay With Me Source: SamSmithWorldVEVO/YouTubeRelease date: April 25th Chart peak: 1Airplay chart ranking (July 11th – 17th): 5Spotify chart: 9Verdict: A good song, to be sure, and perfect for trailers/montages. But this gospel-soaked number is perhaps a little too deeply felt and serious to be named Song of the Summer.Calvin Harris – Summer Source: CalvinHarrisVEVO/YouTubeRelease date: March 14thChart peak: 1Airplay chart ranking (July 11th -17th): 11Spotify chart: 8Verdict: A club song that’s radio-friendly and literally called Summer? Good effort, Calvin Harris, but it’s just a little too try-hard to be the actual song of the summer.Ella Henderson – Ghost Source: EllaHVEVO/YouTubeRelease date: June 8thTop 40 peak: 1Airplay chart (July 10th – 16th): 2Spotify chart: 3Verdict: A total earworm that you’ll likely hate a little bit by the end of the summer, but with strong showings on both radio and the charts, 18-year-old Henderson could wind up being crowned Queen of the Summer.Ed Sheeran – Sing Source: Ed Sheeran/YouTubeRelease date: April 7thTop 40 peak: 1Airplay chart (July 10th – 16th): 3Spotify chart: 2Verdict: Still lingering in the top ten at no. 7 after nine weeks, this one bears Pharrell Williams’ Midas touch. Sheeran is already behind the biggest album of the summer and anyone who saw him lead a sing-a-long of this at Glastonbury will tell you that this one is a strong contender – if not the winner – for the title.Ariana Grande – Problem feat Iggy Azalea Source: ArianaGrandeVevo/YouTubeRelease date: June 30thChart peak: 1Airplay chart ranking (July 11th – 17th): 9Spotify chart: 1Verdict: Addictive sax riff? Check. Guest rap verse? Check. Babyfaced singer à la Carly Rae Jepsen AKA Queen of Summer 2012? Check. Problem has all the hallmarks of a summer hit. Early days for it yet, but it’s showing legs.Is that it?Not quite. There are three pretty likeable, if slightly interchangeable pop/dance tracks doing extremely well in both the Top 40 and airplay charts at the minute: Waves by Mr. Probz, Jubel by Klingande and Am I Wrong by Nico & Vinz, with the latter in particular making a strong case for itself. Sure, they’re all catchy, but will we be dancing to any of them at weddings in years to come? Doubtful. And that is the true Song of the Summer litmus test.Anything else that may emerge as a contender?Rude by MAGIC! just nabbed the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the States, dethroning Iggy Azalea in the process and is quickly ascending the airplay chart here. Source: Milky Chance/YouTubeDitto Stolen Dance by German duo Milky Chance, which has been a smash all over Europe and is starting to break through here with a showing on the iTunes Top 20 and ranking at number four on the most Shazam’d songs in Ireland.For now, though?We’re calling it a three-horse race between Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande and Ella Henderson. Fight!10 musical struggles we all had to face before the internet >Man gets stuck at airport overnight, makes amazing music video > Source: John Murphy/Twitter
The field of robotics is advancing every year and we already have robots that can walk like humans, react like humans, or even look like humans. One area that has remained difficult to master is the act of gripping objects and picking them up. The problem is two-fold. A robot needs to be able to grip without breaking the object and have the dexterity to cope with multiple shapes, weights, and surface types.Researchers believe they have now cracked the problem by replacing the typical grab or robotic finger arrangement with a latex balloon filled with ground coffee.It sounds unbelievable, but the researchers found a way to make the loose coffee grounds in the balloon have both a rigid and soft state. The coffee grounds can roll around and envelop an object when in a soft state, but then applying a vacuum inside the balloon makes them go rigid. Any object surrounded by the grounds in the balloon is then caught and can be picked up. Remove the vacuum and the grounds become loose again.As the tests in the video show, the grabber, known as a universal jamming gripper, can pick up a multitude of different items making it very useful as a manufacturing tool as well as many other fields.The robot has been developed at Cornell University, the University of Chicago, and with help from iRobot and funding from DARPA.Read more at IEEE SpectrumMatthew’s OpinionThe performance of the gripper even surprised the researchers as they never thought it would be able to grip a penny, but it did. The strength of the grip is also impressive and even 15lbs of weight isn’t an issue. On the other hand it’s sensitive enough not to break an egg.The one remaining issue seems to be speed of operation. You’ll notice in the video that certain demonstrations were sped up. For this to be a viable industrial robot then it needs to get quicker, but surely that’s just a case of applying the vacuum state more quickly.What this does show is that robots may have to go in different directions to achieve the same interactions as humans in some respects. Clearly a robot hand isn’t as good as a balloon gripper. That may change one day, but for now this is the best gripping robot I’ve ever seen.
When L.A. TV reporter Serene Branson launched into a string of unintelligible gibberish during the Grammys on Sunday night, viewers quickly leapt into action, uploading the thing all over the Web and tweeting about the bizarre spectacle. The video went viral at a mind-spinning rate. And then people began to worry. Perhaps the odd flub was something more than just a tongue-tied reporter. People started bandying about the term “stroke” a lot.After several days of speculation, Branson addressed the video on her station, KCBS. The reporter had been checked out by doctors at the UCLA Medical Center, earlier in the week. They did a brain scan and blood work, ruling out the possibility of a stroke.During the interview, Branson revealed that she had started to get a headache prior to event. “At around 10:00 that night I was sitting in the live truck with my field producer and the photographer and I was starting to look at some of my notes,” Branson explained. “I started to think, the words on the page are blurry and I could notice that my thoughts were not forming the way they normally do.”And then she went on air. “As soon as I opened my mouth I knew something was wrong,” she continued.The incident, it turns out, was actually the result of a migraine. Branson has suffered from them since she was a child, but, she told doctors, this is the first time she had one of this magnitude.
With all of the launch day hiccups behind us, the Blizzard fans of the world can sink their teeth into the realm of Diablo once again. Like the previous games, Diablo III is split up into Acts. When you have finished one act, you are sent into the next one, and that character can never return from that point. You must soldier on into the rest of the story, and discover the truth of the fallen star.Having just completed Act I, we’re going to give you a brief overview of the game so far, as well as some tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way. Don’t worry, we’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum.Characters and groupsThroughout the game, each character type will find themselves in areas that apply to specific strengths and weaknesses. Barbarians deal more damage than anyone else (in the beginning of the game), but they are woefully unable to deal with ranged enemies other than rushing up and smashing them to bits. Additionally, because you have to rush in to kill the baddies, you are far more likely to be affected by things like fear, stun, and blindness, which can all get you killed.The opposite end of this scale, the Wizard, pretty much dies whenever something yells too loudly, if you do not keep an arsenal of healing potions handy. Your spells work at a great range, so it isn’t generally hard to keep the undead masses away from you. When in doubt, however, run away. The Monk, Demon Slayer, and Witch Doctor each have a balance of skills that put them nicely in between these two outliers. The Demon Slayers ability to treat a pair of pistol crossbows like submachine guns is really entertaining, for anyone who is lamenting the lack of firearms in the Diablo franchise.Click to enlargeWhatever character you choose, be aware that the game is much more entertaining if you have a group of people running different characters — four barbarians won’t be nearly as fun as mixing it up with the other classes. Teamwork style kills can be a lot of fun if you work well with your team. Also, if you bought the Collectors Edition, be sure to hop into your inventory and equip the awesome-looking Archangel wings that came with your copy of the game. Everyone else in your party will ooze with jealousy.Graphics and gameplayFor anyone who has played a Diablo game in the past, you will find yourself right at home. Be at the ready with a fearsome right and left click, and you’re ready for most of Act 1. As you level up, you’ll unlock some of the extra features to your character, and it you start to play with button combinations. By the time you leave Act 1 most people will be doing at least a third less of the mindless mouse mash, but even then most characters will not have unlocked all of the basic functions.You’ll beat Act I anywhere between level 15 and 20 depending on if you were in a group and whether and how much of the map you explored. By the way, there are achievements for fully exploring the maps, as well as books that will give you additional story information.Graphically, Diablo III is great. Small things, like the animation when you knock down a bookshelf, or when a little demonic frog explodes, really show the attention to detail that the Blizzard team have given. When you equip different armor and weapons, no matter how small, if there’s a change in gear there will be a change on your avatar. You won’t be eyeballing an opponent and saying “I wonder if he’s got the Vampiric Bracers of the Lion” but the character certainly begins to take shape as you equip them. Later in the game, in fact, dyes for your items become an item you can buy. Color matching your gear is something Blizzard picked up in World of Warcraft, and it looks like that trend will continue in Diablo III.Much to the excitement of gamers the world over, there are very few cinematics and the ones you do see you can bypass quickly. Personally, I have enjoyed what few in-game videos I’ve seen so far, but it is great to know that Blizzard is making it easy to move past those videos. Especially if you are playing through with a third or fourth character, you really won’t need to see it again. Interestingly enough, if you are in a group and your friends bypass the video, your character will be left standing still while everyone else goes and continues the game.Final ThoughtsSo far, Diablo III is exactly what I hoped it would be. The multiplayer is what really makes the game. Playing this game solo is certainly a lot of fun, but the challenges and entertainment of running through a horde of demons with a few other people really makes the game a lot of fun. The battle system is designed to really make the game more challenging as you invite more players to the game, so especially in the early levels it is important to focus on teamwork.See you all at the end of Act II!
It has been eight short months since Google and Samsung took the stage together to announce the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the new version of Android to accompany it. Android 4.0 signified the great unification of the tablet and phone user experience, and completely changed the way Android handled a lot of tasks both internally and externally.Across the entire platform, it was such a massive change that many people who had a previous generation device are still not updated. Even the CyanogenMod developer team, who in the past has been notorious for getting an update to a device long before the manufacturer, still does not have an official release of Android 4.0 running. So, with less than 10% of the Android ecosystem running Android 4.0, Google proudly took the stage in San Francisco this week and announced Android 4.1.“It’s not really called Project Butter”Every inch of the OS has received significant polish. The OS is just plain smooth when you do anything. At Google IO, it was explained to us that this was the result of a beautification project that was internally called Project Butter. The next day, at the Android Fireside chat, it was made clear that nobody called it Project Butter, saying that it was “just a marketing thing”. Whatever you want to call it, the result is pretty incredible.Setting an Android 4.0 and an Android 4.1 Galaxy Nexus next to each other you can see the difference if you look carefully. That’s the point of the polish, to remove all of those quirky little lags that no one wants to admit have always been a part of Android. Every time you swipe to another screen, or return to your Home menu, there used to be just a little barely noticeable stutter. It’s gone, and it is amazing the difference it makes.My biggest pet peeve about Android 4.0 was with the Gallery. On the Galaxy Nexus, if you had a lot of photos stored on Picasa and Google+ and anything else that attached the Gallery app, it would often take upwards of 20 seconds for any part of the Gallery to load. It was absolutely unbearable on a device like the Galaxy Nexus, and was still noticeably slow on powerhouses like the Samsung Galaxy S3. This doesn’t happen in Android 4.1 at all.The Gallery app loads seamlessly, and every folder from every service is there instantly. The fact that it works so well on the Galaxy Nexus, which is an 8 month old device, gives me plenty of hope that phones like the Droid RAZR, the Samsung Galaxy S3, and the HTC One series will also look spectacular if and when they finally get running on Android 4.1.Flexible HomescreensIn keeping with the very smooth animations found all over in Android 4.1, you can manipulate things on the homescreen with much greater ease now. When you place anything on the homescreen and you already have something in that space, the icon will move out of the way for you. This works for apps, folders, and widgets. During the demo at IO, when a large widget was placed on the screen everything re-positioned itself instantly. It works just that fast every time you do it, and if the apps outnumber the widget, it will re-size if possible. If it is not possible, the app will flash red and you will need to toss it away in order to fix it.Tossing app shorcuts from the homescreen into the garbage is very simple now. Previously, you needed to drag the icon all the way to the trash can and release to discard the app. This works on most phones, but on tablets it’s kind of a pain. Now, all you need to do it flick the app in the general direction of the remove text that drops down. The selected icon will go sailing across the screen until it disappears off the top of the device.Highly Functional Navigation DrawerOne of my favorite things about Android is the navigation drawer. Everything gets its own notification icon, so I don’t need to constantly stop what I am doing to check every little notification. Previously, however, if I wanted to actually do anything about a notification aside from dismiss it, I needed to leave the app I was already in. Especially when watching a video or reading an article on a website, that got annoying at times. Android 4.1 supports actions within the notification drawer. If someone calls me, for example, I can choose to either answer the call or respond to the call with a short message telling them I am “in a meeting”.Each notification is also given an exploded view for more information. My Gmail now shows me the titles of multiple messages, for example. As more developers pick this up, the notification tray will gain even more functionality. The biggest benefit to the new notification tray is that it is not only transparent, but can be pulled down even when you are in the middle of a full screen app. When playing a game or something similar, you can pull down the drawer without affecting what you are currently doing and interact with your notifications.A few more steps to make it easier to useOne of the downsides to being able to share virtually everything on an OS with every other app at the touch of a button is choice. As strange as it sounds, when I open a link someone sent me in chat, I don’t want to scroll down a list of applications that know what to do with that app. I’d like to be able to select the app I most commonly use to complete that task and move on.Android has been really good about making this a fairly seamless experience already, but sometimes the situation is less cut and dry. Sometimes you have links that you’d rather open in another application. If you have already selected one app to behave as the default, there are way more steps involved in moving that around so you can open that link in the app you want. Sometimes those steps even involve digging around in Settings>Apps and removing the defaults for that app.Android 4.1 now adds a step in the opening process that allows you to choose whether or not you want to open that link the same way every time, or just once. This will be especially useful for people who occasionally still use Flash based content, but prefer Chrome for Android when it comes to more general browsing. This task system will be really useful in more general situations as well, and more importantly it makes it so the user doesn’t have to go digging through Apps settings unless they really need to.Final ThoughtsIn a world with crazy powerful devices like the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy S3, Android 4.1 had me quickly grabbing for my Galaxy Nexus to enjoy the phone. Right now the Galaxy Nexus feels faster than any of the other devices in many critical places. Combined with the impressive presentation of the Nexus 7, Android 4.1 is very impressive for something that is supposed to be a minor incremental update.The biggest challenge moving forward is to getting other devices running Android on to 4.1. This new version of Android was released in the same week that Motorola announced their most successful phone since the original Droid was finally getting Android 4.0. So far, none of the manufacturers have spoken up with excitement towards getting the latest version of Android on their phones in any short order, and that could be a problem.As Google releases cooler and cooler toys, how long will it be before anybody gets to use them?
Voice controls aren’t something that Google Chrome is totally unfamiliar with. Since the beta version of Chrome 11, users have been able to leverage HTML5 speech input to do things like perform searches on Google.com simply by clicking and talking. With the release of Chrome 25, Google is taking speech recognition in Chrome to another level.The new release supports Google’s own Web Speech API. It integrates with Google’s backend cloud services to provide speech-driven functionality that’s well beyond rudimentary transcription. In Google’s demo video, for example, engineer Glen Shires shows Chrome 25 taking email dictation. Sentences are built on the fly, and you can see the web app automatically correcting words as it gains contextual clues from the spoken input. Don’t worry about your microphone listening in on all your conversations, though: speech input isn’t activated until users click to allow it.Google is pitching other possibilities for Web Speech, like issuing commands to characters in a game or controlling media playback on web apps like Google Music or YouTube. The aim for the Web Speech API is to provide web developers with an easy way to implement voice controls in their apps.For the time being, Web Speech is “vendor prefixed,” which means it’s only supported in Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers. As is the case with many other additions to Chrome over the years, Google is pitching Web Speech as a W3C standard. Eventually it could be supported by other browsers like Firefox and Opera. Both have gotten on board with Google pitches in the past, like VP8 and WebRTC.More at HTML5 Rocks
After breaking a funding record on Kickstarter last year the team behind the $99 Ouya console has been hard at work getting the tiny games console manufactured and shipped to backers. Come June, over 68,000 of them should be in the hands of Kickstarters, and a number of retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Gamestop, and Target, will be more than happy to sell you one.That’s not the end of the Ouya, though. Julie Uhrman, Ouya founder and CEO, is already looking to the future and has made a bold promise: every year we will see the hardware used inside the Ouya refreshed in order to take advantage of the latest components. At the same time, the $99 price point will be kept.The first Ouya uses a Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, but with a yearly refresh that could be replaced with a Tegra 4 twelve months after launch. Depending on prices, even the Tegra 4 may be overlooked for an even more powerful processor by then.As the Ouya has a board that just slides out of the case, it seems likely an upgrade program will also be put in place. Existing owners could save a bit of money and just purchase the new board for their existing case rather than a whole new unit, but that’s yet to be confirmed.Yearly updates is certainly a different approach to a gaming platform, but it’s one that will remove uncertainty for developers at least. If popular, the Ouya will be an ever-present platform, that regularly supports the latest hardware while continuing to support all games that have gone before.As for the games and their promotion, Ouya is also taking a different approach. The app store will be curated not by sales, but through engagement. So while Angry Birds might sell millions, if a less popular game is played more regularly by its gamer base, it will appear higher in the charts on Ouya and receive more promotion. By doing this, the Ouya team will highlight games people enjoy above those that are marketed heavily and get picked up by everyone.
http://jrnl.ie/3863733 By Christina Finn Last night, TheJournal.ie asked Permanent TSB’s spokesperson whether the bank could provide a further breakdown on how many customers had not engaged in over seven years. They said that no further information was available.The request for a further breakdown of the figures was submitted again today.The spokesperson said the bank would not be providing any additional information beyond what was in the statement yesterday.Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness, who is chair of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, told the Sean O’Rourke programme on RTÉ earlier today that it was not true that only people who are not engaging or are failing to pay their debt would impacted by the sale.McGuinness said families who are engaging, and homeowners who have reached arrangements with PTSB will find their loans thrown into the loan bundle and sold on. Solidarity’s Mick Barry and Paul Murphy, with protesters outside Permanent TSB on Grafton Street today. Source: RollingNews.ieDonohoe told TheJournal.ie this afternoon that Ireland has a “legal framework that has ensured that loan owners have been protected from the kind of difficulties that we feared in the past”.I will review that legal framework now again… to make sure it is as strong and as fair as it needs to be. Share88 Tweet Email1 FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe has said he is conscious of the concerns of some homeowners who have engaged and reached a mortgage arrangement with PTSB, that they may not have their deals honoured by the buyer of the lender’s €3.7 billion loan book.PTSB, which is 75% State owned, has been defending its plan to sell off a book of non-performing loans known as Project Glas.The proposed sell-off of 18,000 properties, including 14,000 private dwelling homes, has become the subject of a political battle in recent days, and the issue dominated Leaders’ Questions yesterday.TheJournal.ie highlighted to the minister this afternoon that some homeowners who have already made arrangements with the bank about paying their debt, such as split-mortgage arrangements, could have their deal thrown out if the loans are sold on.The minister didn’t deny this was a possibility, stating:I am very conscious, as you have highlighted, that there will be people that have restructured their mortgages that will need to engage with the lender again in the future and I am conscious of the worry they will have.The minister said that “no legal rights that anyone has in the future will be affected in any sale, when and if that sale happens”.The current legal rights of any home loan owner will be maintained.Fianna Fáil has sought to challenge the government on this issue in recent days, and has launched a bid to block the planned PTSB sale to an unregulated vulture fund.The party finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has proposed legislation to bring vulture funds in regulatory line with other banks and financial institutions.The party is concerned that there are currently gaps in the protections available to mortgage-holders if the loans end up in the hands of vulture funds (which are so-called because they buy assets at low prices with a view to selling them on for a profit).CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Association, David Hall told TheJournal.ie that under the present rules, subsidiary companies, that essentially act a middle-man between the mortgage holder and the vulture fund are regulated by the Central Bank, but the international vulture fund is not.“The government are trying to deflect against the fact that thousands of mortgage-holders did the right thing, they engaged with the banks, they did everything they could to meet their payments, the bank offered them a deal, they signed that deal and have adhered to the contract,” said Hall.Is the minister going to underwrite these agreements made with PTSB, and ensure that the buyer of these loans adhere to the agreements reached?He questioned why such mortgage-holders who have engaged with the bank should be included in the sale, stating that under the code of conduct rules a “non-cooperating” borrower can only be deemed so if the homeowner is in arrears for three months and “where a borrower has not entered into an alternative repayment arrangement”.Defending the sale In a statement last night confirming it intended to move ahead with the sale, Permanent TSB said that around €2 billion worth of the loans it planned to sell on were comprised of private dwelling home loans.It said the loans were “typically owned by customers who have not engaged with the bank, whose mortgages are unsustainable or who have been unable to meet the terms of various treatments put in place”.Of this portion of Project Glas, some account holders have not engaged with the Bank for over 7 years and on average the loans are over 3.5 years in arrears. Feb 21st 2018, 3:44 PM Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this article Solidarity activists protest outside a Permanent TSB branch in Dublin. Image: Niall Carson 122 Comments Short URL 23,461 Views Many have made no payments at all for years. Minister concedes homeowners who engaged with PTSB may not have deals honoured PTSB, which is 75% State owned, has been defending its plan to sell off a book of non-performing loans. Wednesday 21 Feb 2018, 3:44 PM The minister said he was meeting with Michael McGrath to discuss Fianna Fáil proposals on to how to beef up vulture fund regulation, and he would also discuss the issue with the Central Bank today.“I have always indicated that I would keep the legislation as to how these matters are dealt with under review. Today I will be asking the Central Bank on any further views they might have on the legal and regulatory arrangement that we have in how these matters are dealt with,” he said.“I am deeply conscious of the worry and concern that an announcement like this has made,” said the minister. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe Source: Leah FarrellHowever, he went on to say that as minister, he must ensure the bank has a viable future.I need to ensure that PTSB has a secure future in Irish banking, which I believe it does. In order to do so, they need to, at the request of the regulator [the European Central Bank], address issues that are there, and what I will aim to do is build on the legal and regulatory environment that we have to make sure that everybody is treated as fairly as possible and I will do that work across the coming weeks.“The future health of PTSB is vital to the Irish economy – it is our third biggest bank it has deposits of over €17 billion, it has over 2,000 people working in it – it is a vital element of how Irish banking can lend more to Irish companies, citizens and businesses in the future,” he said.The level of non-performing loans with the bank stand at 28%, said the minister, adding that this is five times the European average and exceptionally high.“It is very important in the coming period that the issue of non-performing loans in that bank be addressed,” said Donohoe, who added that it was the European Central Bank that has indicated that level of non-performing loan has to come down.“PTSB are required to meet that direction.“The are required to do this by the Central Bank – this is a European Central Bank which we have assigned responsibility to, to regulate banks that go above a certain size and the are being required to do that because the level of non-performing loans, such as on their balance sheet now, is a great difficulty for that bank now and could be a more acute difficulty if economic circumstances change in the future,” said the minister.While the minister said he will be reviewing what regulations are already in place, in the same breath, he said the rules in place appear to be working:“I will look at the regulatory environment that we have, the regulatory environment that has facilitated the elimination of a large number of non-performing loans in the banking sector in the last number of years – that has avoided the type of house repossessions that we feared in our darkest days. It is a strong environment that has the right level of regulation in place, but I will look at it afresh in light of the kind change that could develop to ensure it is as strong as it needs to be.”The minister also said he is “confident” that the legal and policies in place at present will prevent mass home repossessions that have been threatened.‘Many have made no payments at all for years’: PTSB defends controversial €3.7 billion mortgage sell off>‘It’s not fair’: Fianna Fáil poised to block PTSB loan sale to ‘unregulated’ vulture funds> Image: Niall Carson Solidarity activists protest outside a Permanent TSB branch in Dublin.