Saturday, 29 September 2012

Department of Finance figures show nearly €4m paid to former ministers last year

New figures show former taoiseach Bertie Ahern surrendered €14,600 of his €83,300 pension last year.

This evening the Department of Finance has published the list of ministerial retirement payments and how much has been handed back to the State.

Pensions are paid to politicians who have been ministers in previous cabinets.

The total value of ministerial pensions was €4.1m. The total amount surrendered was €178,600.

Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are both entitled to small pensions of €2,000 and €800 respectively. They both surrendered the pensions.

Members of the current Cabinet who got small pensions in 2011 before entering Government have all handed them back, with the exception of Michael Noonan, who gave his to charity.

European Commissioner Maura Geoghegan-Quinn surrendered her entire pension of almost €60,000.
Pádraig Flynn did not surrender any of his €47,800 pension.

Albert Reynolds did not hand back any of his €99,600 pension.

John O'Donoghue did not surrender any of his €53,000 pension.

Dick Spring did not hand back any of his €71,000 pension.

Michael D Higgins surrendered his full €6,000 pension.

Michael Wood handed back €4,100 of his €64,100 pension.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Department overpaid teachers and school staff by €1.1 million

THE DEPARTMENT of Education overpaid teachers and other school staff to the tune of €1.1 million last year, because of a seven-month delay in implementing pay cuts for new entrants to the public service, a report has found.
The 2011 annual report of the Comptroller & Auditor General details how a 10 per cent across-the-board pay cut for all new entrants to the public service – which would include teachers getting their first non-substitute job – was not applied until summer 2011.
The pay cut – which formed part of the spending cuts in Budget 2011, announced the previous December – was due to come into effect in January, but about 4,700 staff who began full-time work in schools after that time did not have the cut applied for seven months.
“It took some months for the Department of Education and Skills to determine the terms and conditions relevant to new teacher appointees”, the report states.
Though the pay cuts for new entrants were intended to take effect from January, the Department did not issue a circular to schools giving advice on the new pay grades until June.
The report says the true amount of overpayments is likely to have been even higher, as teachers working in vocational schools are paid directly by those VECs – who would usually rely on Department circulars to advice them of the current pay levels.

Department policy ‘to recover overpayments in full’

About 1,400 primary teachers, 1,600 secondary teachers, and 1,700 non-teaching staff were affected by the problem. The Department of Education told the Comptroller that its policy was to recover the overpayments in full.
An accounting officer from the Department said it had to hold talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to discern the exact impact of the cuts in come cases, and pointed out to the Comptroller that its payroll was particularly complex given the volume of substitute teachers and other temporary staff on its books.
However, the report said that by the start of 2012, the overpaid staff had not yet been contacted – or any arrangements put in place to recover the overpaid salaries.
“While accepting that time would routinely be required to implement budget and other changes in large payrolls,” the report said, “it would have been more efficient had the Department regarded all staff added to the payrolls in 2011 as new entrants and applied the budget reductions to the salaries paid from the beginning of the year”.
All staff who joined the payroll at the Department from September 2011 onwards were paid at the correct, revised, rate.

Ireland spent €25 billion more than it took in last year

IRELAND SPENT about €25 billion more in 2011 than it took in through taxes, the annual report from the State’s spending watchdog has confirmed.
The annual report of the Comptroller & Auditor General reports that the State deficit reached its largest ever last year, with a total of €64.2 billion issued from the State’s ‘central fund’ in 2011.
Despite cuts to government current spending, the amount ultimately spent in 2011 was higher than in previous years because of the continued recapitalisation of the banking sector, the acquisition of shares in banks, and the first repayment of the IBRC promissory notes.
‘Voted’ expenditure – the name given to spending which was accounted for in traditional Department and agency funding – stood at €45.7 billion in 2011, down by 1.55 per cent on the previous year.
The state’s income, including a €1.02 billion withdrawal from the National Pension Reserve Fund, rose by 7.87 per cent to €38.7 billion.
As a result, the State’s deficit for the year reached €25.518 billion – almost €900 million higher than its previous peak in 2009.

Late payment penalties for household charge going up by €11 next Monday

HOUSEHOLDERS WHO HAVEN’T yet paid the household charge face an increased fine of €11 from next Monday.
That will mean that homeowners who have so far not paid the controversial €100 tax will have  to pay €127 from 1 October compared to the €116 that it currently costs when fines and interest penalties are included.
Around 66 per cent of the 1.6 million households liable for the charge have so far paid it with the agency administering the charge, the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA),  saying that over €104 million has been collected to date.
The government had targeted €160 million through the temporary tax which will be replaced with a property tax next year.
Local authorities have issued 105,000 letters to homeowners in recent months urging people to pay as soon as they can.
“I would encourage those residential property owners who have not yet paid the charge to do so as soon as possible,” Jackie Maguire, the chair of the Household Charge Project Board, said.
“Penalties and interest will continue to accrue each month for those who have not yet paid the charge and I would encourage people to pay the charge by the end of September before the penalties and interest goes up by €11.”
The agency has been engaged in what it calls a “data sharing exercise” with a number of other agencies in a bid to get the details and addresses of those who have not yet complied and issue them with warning letters.
These include the Non Principal Private Residence (NPPR), the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB), Property Registration Authority (PRA), Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection and ESB Networks in a bid to ascertain which houses are liable.
As a result of a further “data gathering exercise” more letters are due to be issued to homeowners in the coming weeks, the LGMA said.
Maguire added: “This information is being used to contact those property owners who have not yet paid the charge to advise them that they are legally obliged to do so.
“In the mean time penalties and interest is accruing on the charge and these property owners will face a larger payment if they don’t pay their charge as soon as possible or they will face prosecution if they refuse to pay.”

Eamon Gilmore proposes Alex White to replace Roisin Shortall

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has proposed Alex White to replace Roisin Shortall as Minister of State at the Department of Health.

He is expected to be formally appointed when the Cabinet meets on Tuesday.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny today said that he regrets and is disappointed that Ms Shortall has resigned.
He said that the Department of Health is one of the most challenging in Government.
He thanked Ms Shortall for her work in the department and particularly her report on the abuse of alcohol.
At the National Ploughing Championships in Co Wexford, Mr Kenny said it is always a difficult choice for anybody to resign as a minister of state or as a member of the Government.
Mr Kenny said that both parties in the Coalition had signed up for a Programme for Government in the knowledge of the financial problems and the adjustments that have to be made.
He said the difficulties ahead will not fix themselves and that the Government has a mandate to sort them out as fairly as possible.
Ms Shortall also resigned the Labour Party whip because of what she said was a lack of support for the health reforms outlined in the Programme for Government.
The former minister has been at odds for some time with Health Minister James Reilly.
Adams says Labour should pull out of Government
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams this afternoon said that Labour should leave Government in the wake of the resignation.
Speaking at Leinster House after his return from engagements in the United States, Mr Adams said Labour should pull out of the Coalition.
He said Labour should let Fine Gael form a Government with Fianna Fáil, as their policies are indistinguishable.
He called on Mr Gilmore to "show leadership" by withdrawing from Government.
Earlier, Labour Party Chairman Colm Keaveney and Minister of State at the Department of Transport Alan Kelly said that Ms Shortall enjoyed the full support of Mr Gilmore.
Mr Kelly said he could not second guess the criteria used in the selection process for a list of proposed health centres, but was confident they would emerge in time.
Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform Brendan Howlin said the resignation is a blow for the Coalition.
Meanwhile, James Reilly admitted last night he had no advance notice of the resignation.
In the Dáil this morning, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton praised Ms Shortall, describing her as having "spoken truth to power" in her efforts to tackle the scourge of alcohol abuse.
However, Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald said that when all the controversies around Mr Reilly began it became very apparent to her that the Cabinet would "circle the wagons".
She told Ms Burton that she was clearly standing by her man.
Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Pat Kenny, Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte said he believes Ms Shortall may have been frustrated at the pace of progress in relation to primary healthcare centres.
Mr Rabbitte said there was no doubt there was a difference of opinion between Ms Shortall and Mr Reilly in relation to health policy.
He said he believed Ms Shortall was guided by her convictions, saying it is difficult if you hold those convictions when your department has no money.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Richard Bruton said he was disappointed Ms Shortall made the decision, but he said the Government must now get on with delivering its Programme for Government, which includes delivery of primary care.
Asked if Mr Reilly was damaged by the resignation, he said the minister has the backing of the Dáil and has a very difficult job to do. Mr Bruton said he has every confidence in the Mr Reilly.
Ms Shortall has made no comment yet but aides say she may in a few days.
What she says then, and subsequently, will be closely watched for signs that she intends to hold former colleagues to account from her new position on the back benches.
With a tough Budget looming, that could be a problem for the Government, and Labour in particular.
There are already those who feel that Mr Gilmore could have done more to support her and that he and Mr Kenny should have tried to avert her resignation.
Government urged to bring forward Sale of Alcohol Bill
The Joint Committee on Health and Children today called on the Government to bring the Sale of Alcohol Bill before the Oireachtas as soon as possible.
Ms Shortall had promised to bring forward proposals on the country's alcohol laws before her resignation.
Committee Chairman Jerry Buttimer praised Ms Shortall for her work in the area, paying tribute to her "achievements and commitment during her relatively short time in the Department of Health".
He said the motion calling for the Bill's introduction was timely, not least because of Ms Shortall's resignation but also because today was "being hijacked as a marketing gimmick by a major drinks company".

James Reilly on Shortall’s departure: ‘Pressure’s only for tyres’

HEALTH MINISTER James Reilly showed little sign of disappointment in the registration his Labour junior minister Róisín Shortall – telling a group at a constituency event: “Pressure’s only for tyres.”
Speaking at an event in Balbriggan last night, within hours of Shortall’s resignation being announced, Reilly remained defiant over his handling of the controversy surrounding the allocation of primary care centres – a dispute which appeared to have been the last straw for Shortall.
“There’s been a lot of controversy recently around certain issues in the public domain … but I’m pleased that Balbriggan is going to get a primary care centre,” Reilly said.
At the opening of the Fumbally Exchange office premises, Reilly commented that the best tactic for Ireland to emerge from its current difficulties was to build a sense of community.
“It’s all about supporting each other, learning from each other,” Reilly commented, before referencing the old Irish proverb, ní neart go cur le chéile ['there is no strength without unity'].
The minister, whose Dublin North constituency includes Balbriggan, said he had “absolutely no hesitation” in saying he would be as supportive as possible to the people of that town.
Speaking to as he left the event, Reilly conceded that he had not been given advance warning of Shortall’s intention to quit.

Shortall ‘had Gilmore’s full support’ – chairman

Meanwhile Labour chairman Colm Keaveney said Shortall had been given the full support of the Labour Party executive – including the party leader Eamon Gilmore – in recent days.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Late Debate last night, Keaveney said he had witnessed Gilmore’s “categoric support for Róísín Shortall on Saturday afternoon”.
The party leader had proposed a motion of support for Shortall at a meeting of the Labour parliamentary party on Tuesday, and at meetings of both the party executive and the party central council – which features delegates from every Dáil constituency – on Saturday.
“That’s the most important audience, with respect to the business of the Labour Party,” he said, saying he was “angry at the system” that it had forced Shortall’s departure.
Asked whether it should have been Reilly that resigned and not Shortall, Keaveney asserted: “We have voted confidence in James Reilly in the recent past.”

James Reilly: I wasn’t told in advance about Roisin Shortall’s resignation

MINISTER FOR HEALTH James Reilly has said that he only heard of Róisín Shortall’s resignation on the way to an event in Balbriggan this evening.
The Fine Gael TD said he did not want to make any comment on the unexpected resignation of the Minister of State for Primary Care but said he had not known about it in advance.
“I haven’t had time to consider this,” he told TheJournal.iereporter Paul Hyland in Balbriggan.
“I’ve only just heard on the way out, I haven’t seen her statement. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to make any comment at this point in time”.
When asked what he though Shortall meant in her resignation statement when she said that major healthcare decisions should be made based on need and not “driven by other concerns,” James Reilly replied:
You’d have to ask her.
Reilly and Shortall had met yesterday to discuss the tensions between the two which came to a head over the issue of primary care centres. Shortall resigned as minister this evening, citing a “lack of support for the reforms in the Programme for Government and the values which underpin it”.
In response to a question about Shortall’s criticism of the government’s failure to enact the programme for government, Reilly said: ”We support the programme for government. You’ll see we are enacting it. Parts of it may be behind but we’re going to do it.”

Roisin Shortall resigns as junior health minister

Roisin Shortall has resigned as junior minister for health, over what she described as a "lack of support for the reforms in the Programme for Government and the values which underpin it".

Ms Shortall has also resigned the Labour Party whip.
In a statement, Ms Shortall said the public has a right to expect that decisions on health infrastructure and staffing will be made in the public interest based on health need and not driven by other concerns.
She said that the decision comes after repeated and lengthy efforts to reach agreement on the implementation of the Programme for Government, both within the Department of Health and across Government.
Ms Shortall said: "It is with regret that I have today tendered my resignation as Minister of State at the Department of Health to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
"I have also informed the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, that I am resigning the Parliamentary Labour Party whip."
She said it was "no longer possible for me to fulfil my role as Minister of State for Primary Care".
Taoiseach and Tánaiste disappointed
The Taoiseach said he regretted Ms Shortall's decision and thanked her for her work, particularly in the area of dealing with alcohol abuse.
A spokesperson for the Tánaiste said Eamon Gilmore was "very disappointed" at Ms Shortall's resignation, saying that he very much appreciated her commitment to her role as Minister of State.
Mr Gilmore is in New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.
Through his spokesperson, he said the Labour Party is very much committed to the reform agenda in health and in the Programme for Government.
Labour’s Chief Whip Emmet Stagg said he regretted the resignation, saying the loss of a junior minister was a "serious matter" for the Government.
Several Labour backbenchers have also expressed regret at Ms Shortall's resignation on their Twitter accounts.
Dublin South-East's Kevin Humphreys said he was disappointed she felt she had to resign.
He said he had great respect for her and that she was leading the radical reform of health services needs.
Dominic Hannigan of Meath East said he was "very sad to see Roisin go".
Brendan Ryan, who shares the Dublin North constituency with James Reilly, said he was "so sorry" that she had resigned.
He added, that there was a lot of support for her within the party grassroots and the general public.
'Tense and difficult' meeting
Earlier this evening, Ms Shortall said she still had not received an explanation from Health Minister James Reilly as to what criteria were used to select an extra 15 sites for primary care centres, a spokesperson said.
They said yesterday's meeting between the two ministers had been "tense and difficult".
A newly released letter this evening from Minister Reilly to Ms Shortallexplained the reasons for expanding the list of 20 sites for proposed primary care centres to 35.
However, it does not explain the reasons for choosing what 15 locations would be added.

Just one in eight better off on dole, ESRI finds

ONE IN eight people currently in receipt of unemployment benefit is better off staying on welfare than moving to paid employment, according to new research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The paper, published today, strongly rejects research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris that claims the gap between earned income and welfare income is among the smallest in the 34-member bloc. The authors stress the need to counter the OECD research because recent International Monetary Fund reports, which have appeared to advocate reductions in welfare rates, have been “strongly influenced” by the OECD.

The ESRI researchers state their “more nuanced approach leads to quite different conclusions from those drawn by both OECD and IMF”. Among its findings the ESRI says that single people are far more likely to have higher net incomes if they are in employment than on welfare, but the gap closes for married people.
A married adult on jobseeker’s benefit has an annual income of €16,283, while his counterpart on minimum wage takes home €2,000 more. By contrast the gap for single people is €7,500.

One in 17 Irish residents would be better off on social welfare benefits than in work, the ESRI report concludes. The paper, written by Prof Tim Callan and four others, follows the ESRI’s withdrawal last June of a controversial working paper on the issue co-authored by former employee Richard Tol.

The OECD research, which is conducted in the same way across dozens of countries, takes a number of hypothetical families and adds all the welfare benefits they are entitled to in different circumstances. It then compares their total net income with income from employment at different pay levels.

The ESRI method is similar, but differs in that it is based on “large-scale nationally representative survey data which takes better account of the diversity of individual circumstances, and how they affect taxes, benefits and net incomes.” The authors say theirs is a “more careful interpretation”.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Paul Murphy MEP launches 'ScamBridge' website

The Government's internship programme has been severely criticised by a Socialist Party MEP, who has described it as a "scam" to massage the true unemployment figures.

Paul Murphy also said the JobBridge scheme has been used by some companies to cynically exploit unemployed people.

The MEP has set-up a website called to give people, what he said is, an opportunity to share stories of exploitation.

The JobBridge scheme was set-up by the Government in summer 2011 and provides work experience placements for a six or nine-month period.

Interns receive €50 extra per week on top of their social welfare entitlements as part of the programme.
The Department of Social Protection has defended the scheme, saying 37% of those who have finished the programme have progressed into employment.

It also said that a variety of control measures have been introduced to protect the scheme and ensure its integrity.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton also defended JobBridge, saying it was very successful.

He said young people coming out of college are in a Catch-22 situation, where they do not have the necessary work experience to get a job.

The internship programme, he said, helps them get that vital experience.

The Website can be viewed here

Stitched up yet again by Europe - No deal on bank debt

THE GOVERNMENT’S campaign for debt relief was dealt a fresh blow yesterday as Germany, Finland and the Netherlands said national bodies should remain liable for most bank losses. The three states are insisting that governments remain on the hook for loss-making legacy assets even after any bank rescues by the ESM fund.

This demand, laid down by the countries’ finance ministers, is in apparent defiance of the decision by EU leaders in June to break the link between sovereign and bank debt.

After talks near Helsinki, the ministers said the ESM should assume only a limited burden if it makes direct bank recapitalisations.

The intervention comes as the Government faces persistent difficulty in its pursuit of a deal in Europe to ease the burden of the banking debt.

There is increasing concern in Dublin about German-led backsliding on the promise of a radical new deal to settle the banking crisis in Ireland and Spain. One of the Government’s core objectives is for the ESM to take direct equity stakes in the surviving banks: AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB.

“It leaves the situation extremely uncertain from an Irish point of view,” said John Fitzgerald of the Economic and Social Research Institute. “Depending on how it is interpreted, it may or may not allow the Irish government to sell its interests in the surviving Irish banks to the ESM.”

EU leaders agreed in principle three months ago to allow direct bank recapitalisations by the ESM, the basic idea being for the European fund to replace governments as the final backstop on banking losses.

However, German minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Finland’s Jutta Urpilainen and Dutch minister Jan Kees de Jager said they want to curtail the ESM’s exposure to bad debts. “The ESM can take direct responsibility of problems that occur under the new supervision, but legacy assets should be under the responsibility of national authorities,” they said.

This would appear to limit the benefit of any capital infusions from the ESM because a government would remain liable for losses that may yet materialise from existing loans.
Germany is the dominant power in the euro zone and it frequently draws support from Finland and the Netherlands
They share an interest in limiting the burden on the ESM as they do not want their financial support for the fund to compromise their triple-A credit ratings.

With Spain under pressure to accept increased bailout aid, the joint statement was seen as a hard-line gambit in looming ESM talks.

But anger on the streets of Madrid last night will serve as a counter-warning. Protesters clashed with police as the government planned more austerity measures for the 2013 budget to be announced tomorrow. In June, EU leaders resolved that direct bank aid from the ESM cannot go ahead until the European Central Bank takes over bank supervision in the euro zone.

The debate since then has been marred by dispute and division over the scope of the ECB’s powers, with Germany resisting a speedy deal.

Euro zone officials said the statement pointed to difficult talks in Luxembourg when the 17 euro zone finance ministers gather there for talks on Monday week. They also said the statement appeared deliberately ambiguous in parts.

While the three ministers said any ESM recapitalisation “should always occur using estimated real economic values”, officials said it was not at all clear what that meant.

The Department of Finance said last night that it welcomed the ideas put forward by Mr Schäuble and his allies. “These ideas will feed into our discussions . . . over the coming months,” it said.

While talks continue with the ECB on an arrangement to cut the cost of repaying the debts of Anglo Irish Bank, a well-placed source said no deal was imminent.

Taoiseach's 'behaviour you might see a teenager doing'

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has been criticised for disrespecting the Pope after he was captured on video playing with his phone during an audience with the Pontiff.

Mr Kenny was part of a delegation from the Christian Democrat International political grouping which met with the Pope last week.

In video footage, he is seen to be thumbing through his phone throughout Pope Benedict's speech.

When the speech ends and other leaders stand to applaud, the Taoiseach continues leafing through his phone prompting the criticism.

Michael Kelly, Deputy Editor of the Irish Catholic, has said the footage is "bizarre".

Mr Kelly said: "Even when the speech is ended the delegation that was there for the meeting get up for a round of applause, the Taoiseach is still playing with his phone and takes to his feet with the other delegates but still has his phone in his hand.

"It is quite bizarre behaviour I would have thought, not just for a meeting with the Pope but for any meeting with anyone. It is the kind of behaviour you might see a teenager doing once and check them on in the hope that they won't do it again."

Spain austerity protesters in clash with riot police

SPANISH POLICE clashed with and arrested demonstrators last evening as thousands surrounded the parliament building in Madrid to protest against the government ahead of a crucial few days for the economy.
The protesters, who staged popular assemblies and rallies across the capital throughout the day, were angry at government economic policy, although the day’s actions were directed at Spain’s political class as a whole.
Although most of the day passed without major incidents, as the demonstration approached its climax outside the Congress building in the evening, there were clashes with police and arrests.
“The problem Spanish people have is that we don’t know what’s going on, and we don’t participate in the running of the country,” said Laura Matos, a young lawyer who gathered with hundreds of other protesters for a popular assembly opposite the Prado art museum in the afternoon.
“The only way we participate is by having to put up with cuts to areas such as healthcare and education.”
The “Occupy Congress” protest was led by two new social organisations, and was backed by dozens of other, mainly left-leaning groups. The build-up to the day’s actions was tense, due in great part to the organisers’ stated aim of pressuring the government to step down and Congress to dissolve.
However, about 1,400 police were deployed to Congress and the area around the building was cordoned off throughout the day.
María Dolores de Cospedal, the deputy leader of the governing Partido Popular, on Monday criticised the planned protest as undemocratic. “The last time I remember Congress being surrounded was when there was an attempted coup d’état,” she said, in reference to Spain’s failed putsch of 1981.
This comparison of current demonstrators with pro-Franco rebels from a dark episode in Spain’s past drew harsh criticism from other political parties.
Spain is in a double-dip recession and has Europe’s highest jobless rate at 25 per cent. The conservative government has embarked on a severe austerity programme in an effort to meet EU targets and slash the deficit.
“This government is leading us towards an economic dictatorship,” said telecoms technician Guillermo Ruiz, who was standing within view of Congress behind a makeshift fence erected by the police as the protest got under way. “We need these incompetent people to resign.”
The government of Mariano Rajoy is expected to unveil the proposed 2013 budget tomorrow, along with a raft of structural reforms. Although few details are available, many believe the measures announced will have the blessing of Brussels and will pave the way for a possible sovereign bailout for Spain.
Details of audits carried out on Spain’s banking sector are to be released on Friday. In June, Spain requested a rescue package of up to €100 billion for its banks. The audit results should make clear exactly how much of that amount is needed.
The troubles of Spain’s lenders have helped send the country’s borrowing costs spiralling to unsustainable levels in recent months, fuelling speculation that a full bailout is imminent.
So far, September has lived up to its billing as one of the most challenging months of Rajoy’s tenure. A huge demonstration in Barcelona on September 11th in which Catalan nationalists called for independence from Spain was followed days later by major anti-austerity protests in Madrid.
Yesterday Catalan premier Artur Mas put the central government under further pressure by calling early elections in his region for November.
“People have felt for some time that their politicians are just taking care of themselves,” said Manuel de la Rocha, of the Fundación Alternativas think tank.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Water charges 'could reach €400 a year

Households could be hit with annual water charges of anywhere between €100 and €400, according to the Bord Gáis Chief Executive, who has been charged with setting up Irish Water.

John Mullins of Bord Gáis said average bills across Europe fall within that bracket.

Irish people are among the highest consumers of water in Europe though, which means charges could fall at the higher end of the estimate.

It comes amid speculation that households might be hit with flat rate water charges, since the Government will not be able to install meters in all households by the 2014 date the Troika has suggested.

Mr Mullins admitted the Exchequer will have to fund the system, even though business and domestic customers will be charged.

He said: "The Exchequer is still going to have to fund the industry for may years to come because we have under-invested in the water sector, and then quite clearly Bord Gais is going to raise funds from its own balance sheet, essentially to assist, so there is flexibility.

"That is something that the Commission for Energy Regulation is going to have to look at and then come up with a number. That is approporiate, but then the objective is to have a better water system and one that is more efficient."

Allowance row will blow over, says Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny feels the furore over public sector allowances will blow over -- as the controversy over the Vatican embassy did.

Mr Kenny tried to play down the criticism over the Cabinet's decision on allowances by comparing it to the embassy row.

Faced with a backlash from Fine Gael backbenchers to the Cabinet's decision to cut only one allowance, Mr Kenny suggested the row would die down.

"He said we were here a couple of months ago about the Vatican embassy and now it's not as big at all," a party source said.

Mr Kenny is not expected to signal any reversal of the decision but coalition sources claim it's not being ruled out.

Public sector salaries over €100k have to be looked at - Brian Hayes

JUNIOR FINANCE MINISTER Brian Hayes has said that salaries of over €100,000 that are paid to workers in the public sector are the “biggest area” that has to be examined by the government.
He was speaking amid the furore over public sector allowances and Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin’s announcement last week that only one of 1,100 allowances that employees in the public service are entitled to will be abolished immediately for all workers.
Howlin’s failure to achieve the €75 million in savings from the review of around 800 allowances has been heavily criticised but Hayes said that last week’s announcement was a “first step”.
Speaking to the Today with Pat Kenny programme on RTÉ Radio, the Minister of State said that the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Howlin were now asking ministers to submit plans on how pay rolls costs could be reduced further.
He said:
As a very first step the government have taken the decisions to cancel the 180 allowances of the thousand odd for new entrants but we haven’t precluded the possibility that allowances will be cut for existing people in the public sector.
Hayes said that criticism of Howlin’s announcement last week was “utterly unfair” and insisted that “all issues will be on the table” when it comes to discussions about further pay roll savings.
He also pointed out savings that have already been made.
A totality of €2 billion has been taken out of the public sector pay and pension bill as a result of the measures since 2008 and the measures that Brendan Howlin is introducing now.
“We do need to make more progress on this, I accept that,” he later added while also suggesting that many of the allowances for lower-paid workers are part of their core pay and should be protected.
“The great majority of people who are on very average pay in the public sector and are obtaining these allowances, it’s really part of their core pay,” he said.

High pay

Hayes said that the government was “stuck” with the Croke Park Agreement negotiated by the previous administration but said that should not preclude it from examining some of the biggest salaries in the public sector.
He continued: “If we get this new package which goes then to the implementation group within Croke Park I think that will be progress. But then we have to look at the question of top pay.
Now of course if someone is on €100,000 they are bringing home half of that because of the increase in USC (Universal Social Charge), and because of the increase in tax and because of the reductions at the top level of pay.
But there is… I think the biggest area where we do need to look at is the area of people over €100,000, there’s no doubt about that.
Hayes comments were welcomed by the Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald who on the same programme said that her party had been raising the issue of the highest paid in the public sector “for the past three years”.
She said that many of the lower-paid had come in for “huge criticism, huge scrutiny, a lot of them people on very modest incomes” adding that the guiding principle of the whole process had to be “equity”.
Though Hayes agreed with this he pointed out that not all savings would be made by targeting the highest paid, saying that they made up about 7,000 people out of 290,000 working in the public sector.

Nama manager puts family property firm stake into trust

A portfolio manager in Nama has moved his 30 per cent stake in a property consultancy which works for the State bad bank into trust.
Kevin Nowlan, a managing director of WK Nowlan until March 2010, arranged to have his shares in the firm, WK Nowlan & Associates, held in trust by the commercial law firm, Eversheds. The Sunday Independent understands the arrangement was made between June 2009 and the end of May 2010.
Mr Nowlan joined Nama shortly after he resigned as managing director of WK Nowlan. Nama paid €12.6m in fees to the firms on its property valuation panel in the 12 months up to the end of March 2012, according to its annual report. WK Nowlan is one of a number of firms valuing property for Nama.
A spokesman for Nama said that before taking up a position, an employee "is required to provide a statement of his or her interests, assets and liabilities and to update such a statement in the event of a material change."
A WK Nowlan spokesman said: "Nama has very detailed and rigorous guidelines to deal with possible conflict issues. WK Nowlan & Associates fully observes these guidelines at all times." Attempts to contact Mr Nowlan himself for comment were unsuccessful.

If only the Irish people could stand up for themselves - Portugal U turn on Austerity

In Ireland

In Portugal

Protests convince Portugal government to reconsider tax rises

The Portuguese government have made a U-turn on a decision to increase taxes.

They have instead agreed to look for alternatives after huge anti-austerity street protests.

The government had planned to raise social security contributions next year from 11% to 18%, to meet the conditions of Portugal's international bailout.

Portugal was recently given an extra year to reduce its deficit, following the latest quarterly review by international lenders overseeing its €78bn bailout.

Fewer than one in seven homes register for septic tank inspections in €5 window

FEWER THAN ONE in seven eligible Irish households have so far registered for mandatory inspection of their septic tanks – just a week before the price for doing so increases tenfold.
Figures supplied show that 58,700 homes had signed up for the inspections, which were made mandatory under laws enacted in February, by the middle of this week.
CSO figures derived from the 2011 census, however, show that there are 437,652 residential septic tanks in the State – meaning a compliance rate of 13.4 per cent, or less than one in seven.
The figures indicate little public appetite to register homes for the inspections, which are required following a European Court of Justice ruling which threatened Ireland with major fines for not enforcing rules on water protection and waste management.
The lowest compliance rate is in the Dublin City Council area, where homes are predominantly serviced by municipal sewerage schemes – but where there are still 1,591 residential properties served by septic tanks.
Of that number, a mere 25 have taken up the option of a €5 payment – with only days to go before the price shoots from €5 to €50 next Friday, ending a three-month promotional discount rate.
Waterford City has the highest payment rate, though that remains a mere 24.4 per cent – with 98 of the 402 eligible homes having registered for inspections. Wicklow is next, where 2,255 of the 10,399 tanks have been registered.
Cork City, Wexford, Kerry, Meath, Clare, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Cavan and Limerick City are the only other councils which have a compliance rate of 15 per cent or higher.
After Dublin City, Donegal has the lowest compliance rate – with only 2,472 of the 30,383 tanks registered by this week, meaning a compliance rate of 8.14 per cent – while South Tipperary was next with 1,246 (or 9.6 per cent) of its 12,973 payments made.
Households still have three months to register and pay the full €50 fee, but the relatively low payment levels in the special discount rate – which was conceived after the furore over the low compliance rate with the Household Charge – indicates that it may be difficult to encourage homes to do so.
Houses can register for the mandatory inspections online at