News Blog

What's in a name down under and ECB ponders a rate cut. Contact us @IrishTimesLive

Conor Pope Thu, May 2
LIVE: News Blog

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  • 08:10
    Good morning. I'm Conor Pope and I will be mining the world for golden nuggets of news throughout the day and putting them here at random intervals. There may be talk of Michael D, the ECB and our new fiver.

    I know. Exciting.
  • 08:21
    Michael D Higgins was never likely to be the kind of president who was happy to retreat behind the walls off the Aras emerging infrequently to smile benignly at recorder-playing children at school openings or to shake the hands of visiting heads of state and so it has proved today. His criticism of the response of European leaders and the actions of the European Central Bank (which we will be back to in a bit) have made it on to the front page of the Financial Times.

    Mr Higgins took issue with the failure of EU leaders to deliver on a promise made almost one year ago to break the link between bank and sovereign debt. “It would have been of immense benefit naturally to growth, employment creation and investment if the ... commitment of separating banking debt from sovereign debt had in fact been implemented,” Mr Higgins said.

    “It would give you the opportunity to breathe and create growth in the economy.”

  • 08:24
    The occasionally hilarious Republic of Telly came to an end on RTE earlier this week. It finished with a short video about Irishness which will appear on this Live Blog any second now. It is funny and, uncomfortable,y true. And - given that it is about Irishness - we should alert you to the fact that the video does contain some swearing.
  • 08:25
  • 08:42
    The European Central Bank’s governing council wakes up in Bratislava this morning with the world watching to see if it will cut its interest rate. All manner of economic figures published this week have bolstered the case for monetary intervention and while most Irish people will be hugely concerned about Chinese trade figures, the weakness of the dollar and the inflation rate in eastern Europe, some will be more interested in the impact any move will have on their mortgage repayments.

    Hard to believe, I know.

    For every quarter of a point the ECB lowers rates, the monthly cost of servicing a €100,000 tracker mortgage declines by about €15. This means the average tracker mortgage holder with a loan of €300,000 will see monthly savings of €45 if the bank cuts rates to 0.5 per cent.

    Fingers crossed.
  • 08:42
    Remember when there were people who didn't know what trackers were? And senior bond holders?

    Good times.
  • 08:43
  • 09:09
    Incidentally, the weather in Dublin this morning's only gorgeous. You would be forgiven for thinking it was a summer's day. I hope it's as nice where you are
  • 09:14
    There are loads of ways you can contact this live news blog today. You can use the comment button on the top of the screen, you can email me directly at or you can call into the office with some scribbled handwritten notes which I will dutifully transcribe and put up here. Possibly.
  • 09:31
    Someone just warned me off mentioning the weather again. Apparently it's shy and if we talk about it, it might go away.
  • 09:58
    The most interesting – and head-wrecking - story to emerge this morning comes out of NUI Maynooth where an Irish scientist has apparently developed a brain training programme which can dramatically improve IQ levels among students
    Bryan Roche says his SMART programme – it stands for Strengthening Mental Abilities with Relational Training - does not just improve memory or deliver greater intelligence in the short-term but leads to long term improvements. Roche trialled his computer game (it has a fancier name than that) on 15 children in a Meath school and watched as their IQs went up by between 14 and 32 points.
    The students did three after school sessions a week for 30 to 45 minutes using an online system and all told Roche claims to have raised the IQ of these kids by an average of 23 points since last autumn. His system is based on relational theory developed at UCC in the early 1990s and improves relational skills through tests that teach users to understand concepts such as same and opposite, or before and after all of which are used in everyday problem-solving.

    We could go on and on about this or maybe the smart thing to do would be to link to his website?

  • 10:01
  • 10:02
    Has anyone got their hands on of of these things yet? If you'd like to drop one in to The Irish Times we'd not say no.  

    Okay, we might have to say now.  

    Damn you ethics. Damn you.
  • 10:03
    BBSLP Did you know the weather was far better before the IT removed the page on the website where you could read all the letters at once? From Bring Back the Single Letters Page
  • 10:03
    Stephen Mangan President Higgins is of course right. The link between bank and sovereign debt is a noose around our necks. Shows how powerful the banks are that it even exists. Needs to be tackled but politicians are very reluctant. Remember that at election time
  • 10:14
     A new bishop of Kerry will be named shortly after 10.30am.

    We will have all the details - well, his name at any rate - as soon as we get it.

  • 10:19
    An Oireachtas Health Committee is meeting in private around now to set the parameters for its hearings on the Heads of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill. Speaking on Morning Ireland today committee chairman, Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said the committee would hear from many of the same experts who appeared before it in January, including obstetricians, gynaecologists, psychiatrists and the masters of the maternity hospitals. 

    However, he said the hearings would be more than just a routine exercise.  “This Government has changed the process whereby the heads of the Bill are now discussed at committee stage, so there is a real opportunity for members to engage with and have an influence over the final legislation. And it is different from January because now we have something concrete to scrutinise,” he said. 

    The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party is also meeting today to discuss the Bill. And Fine Gael met for five hours last night to discuss this draft legislation which was said to have “strong support “ among party members. 
  • 10:26
    So what is trending on Twitter in Ireland  this morning? What  high brow topics are engaging minds in the social media maelstrom?
  • 10:26
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  • 10:47
    The  New Zealand births, deaths and marriages department has extended its list of unusual names that parents have attempted to saddle their newborns with forever to  77. Under strict but sensible rules a baby’s name should not be offensive, should not be too long, or should not resemble an official title or rank.

    The names which were rejected the most over the last year were  ‘Justice’, ‘King’ and ‘Princess’, which were rejected 62, 31 and 28 times respectively.

    Other names deemed to be inappropiate include  Lucifer, Christ . (yes, that's a full stop) Mafia No Fear (sorry, what?)  

    Oh and one lovely couple tried - and failed - to christan their child Anal.  

    Really? This is not a judgemental blog, no, not at all, but were we the Name Gods in New Zealand we'd not only have banned this name but taken the child into care and sent the parents to live in an icy cave in the antarctic.....  
  • 11:03
  • 11:21
    British broadcaster Stuart Hall has pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court to indecently assaulting 13 girls aged from nine to 17. Despite previous vociferous public denials of any wrongdoing, Hall (83), a former presenter of It’s a Knockout, had calmly and repeatedly answered “guilty” when the charges were put to him at a hearing on April 16th. Reporting restrictions meant the news could only become public today.

  • 11:29
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  • 11:34
  • 11:34
    It was 20 years ago today...
  • 11:46
    This story apparently appeared in the North Devon Journal today. We can't find it online so can't confirm it actually did but we really, really hope so.
    This story apparently appeared in the North Devon Journal today. We can't find it online so can't confirm it actually did but we really, really hope so.
  • 11:50
    "A good day for Ireland? Maybe. A great day for Ryanair? Definitely. With an airline ticket in one hand and a 14-year prison sentence in the other, an Irish government has finally found the gumption to legislate for the ruling in the X case." Miriam Lord is a must-read today. 
  • 12:00
    We are hearing unconfirmed reports of a shooting in Edenderry, Co Offaly. It must be stressed the reports are as yet unconfirmed but will be updating both the blog and the website if and when we get confirmation.
  • 12:15
    Shots have been fired at the car of former Fianna Fáil election candidate Ger Killally outside his home in Edenderry, Co Offaly. Gardai are at the scene and early reports say the property developer was leaving his home with his father and two children at the time. We will update the blog as soon as more details become available.
  • 12:18
  • 12:23
    Leopold Engleitner, the oldest known survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, has died at the age of 107. He was a conscientious objector and imprisoned in the Buchenwald, Niederhagen and Ravensbrueck camps between 1939 and 1943 because he refused to renounce his Jehovah's Witness faith.
    He was released on condition that he would spend the rest of his life working as a slave agricultural labourer and returned to work on a farm near his home town of Bad Ischl in Austria. He was released from forced labour by US troops in 1946 after a period in hiding in the mountains to escape a call-up to the German army after which he carried on his missionary work. He only became a public figure when Austrian author and film producer Bernhard Rammerstorfer published his biography and a documentary film about his life in 1999.
  • 12:26
  • 12:32
    Sorry, just remembered a tweet from last night about Twitter looking for a head of news and journalism. If it thinks using makey-up phrases like on-boarded is acceptable, it really needs one. Now, back to Bratislava where all eyes are on the ECB. Not long to go now.
  • 12:37
    There was a time when a newly appointed bishop would make front page headlines. Not so much anymore. A 56-year-old parish priest currently based in Roscommon is to be the new Bishop of Kerry. Raymond A Browne, a graduate of NUI Maynooth and of the Gregorian University in Rome where he studied canon law, has been appointed by Pope Francis to succeed the serving Bishop of Kerry Dr Bill Murphy, who has served almost two years beyond his retirement.
  • 12:44
    ECB rate announcement coming in two minutes.

  • 12:47
    The European Central Bank (ECB) has cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point to 0.5 per cent, a new record low.

    The rate cut, announced at 12.45pm, should provide a shot in the arm for the European economy and will reduce repayments for tens of thousands of Irish people with tracker mortgages tied to the central bank’s rates.

    For every quarter of a point the ECB lowers rates, the monthly cost of servicing a €100,000 tracker mortgage declines by about €15. This means that the average tracker mortgage holder with an outstanding loan of €300,000 will see monthly savings of €45 from the beginning next month.

    As a result of the move – the fourth such rate reduction in the last 18 months – a person with a €300,000 tracker mortgage will now pay about €180 a month less than they were paying in the autumn of 2011. This amounts to a total annual saving of more than €2,100.

    The cut will be automatically be passed on to tracker mortgage holders but those with Standard Variable Rate (SVR) mortgages will have to wait for their individual banks to follow suit although such a move is unlikely as banks are using SVR customers pay for loss-making tracker ones.
  • 13:07
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  • 14:07
    Rugby is a peculiar sport. The World Cup is more than two years away and already we know where Ireland will be playing. We will take on Italy at the Olympic Stadium in London in a pool games on Sunday October 4th. All four of Ireland’s games in Pool D take place on weekend dates. Ireland open with a a game against the top qualifier from the Americas section at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday September 19th, with the USA and Canada set to battle it out for top spot in that qualifier. Wembley will host the meeting between Ireland and the second qualifier from Europe before the game against Italy on October 4th. Georgia and Romania currently top the European qualifying rankings.
    Ireland will return to Cardiff for the the big Pool D clash against France at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday October 11th.
  • 14:24
    Oh Britons, you are funny! According to a survey published today a fifth of you  think British laws still apply to you even when you are in  other countries. The  research found  that one in five British people think "foreign laws" such as those dealing with drugs, dress codes and alcohol  only apply to locals and not to  tourists.  
    Gary Smith of Global Visas which carried out the survey said it was "quite worrying that some Brits travelling abroad believe they're not subject to another country's laws. If you're within another country's borders, then you need to make sure you abide by their rules." Yes, yes you should.
  • 15:01
    Nessie first surfaced 80 years ago today... or did she?
    Nessie first surfaced 80 years ago today... or did she?
  • 15:09
    Kantor - they're the grocery people - have just published a list of the top 10 most frequently bought Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs) in the Republic.

    Here it is.

    1. Avonmore
    2. Brennans
    3. Denny
    4. Knorr
    5. Jacobs
    6. Batchelors
    7. Birds Eye
    10. Muller

    Lots of local brands in there which has to be a good thing...
  • 15:15
    We all love Commander Chris Hadfield, right? How could we not? He takes amazing pictures and then tweets in Irish FROM SPACE. Well, he's just released a clip explaining how he takes his pics...

    Amazingly he's not using an iPhone. The cheater.
  • 15:15
  • 16:12
    A campaign to have the new Luas bridge over the Liffey named after Tony Gregory kicked off today. Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who took Gregory’s  seat in the by-election following his death in 2009, introduced the group which include Finian McGrath , Catherine Murphy, Shane Ross, Joe Higgins, Mick Wallace and Thomas Pringle and Senator Terry Leyden. The decision will be taken next month. 

  • 16:15
  • 16:27

    Recognising that the story of the day has landed in its lap the North Devon Journal has published a more comprehensive account of the local Women’s Institute Pirate Adventure.

    The speaker at the group's April meeting was Captain Colin Darch and he was pencilled in to talk about piracy - Aaargh  etc -  so the WI all dressed as pirates for the evening.  

    But Captain Darch wanted to talk about his experience of being held hostage by Somalia Pirates rather than the yo ho ho and a bottle of rum type piracy.

    Is that not the most brilliant thing you have heard all day?

    Of course it is.

     “Of course I didn’t take offence or mind. It was more like the Pirates of Penzance,” the good Captain is quoted as saying.  “I must admit I quite enjoy giving talks to groups such as WIs. I am doing quite a few of them and it is a good way to flog my book.

    “They were lovely ladies. They made me judge who was the best dressed which was a difficult choice. In the end I decided to choose the one with who had a fluffy parrot on her shoulder. Of course there weren’t any parrots near the real pirates.”

    Stephanie George, the treasurer for the WI group was responsible for the dress up mix up.  “I suggested we dress up as I suspected it was a general talk about piracy or something to do with the Appledore Pirates, the fundraising group. I work in Walter Henry’s Bookshop in Bideford and on the morning of the day the meeting when I noticed Colin Darch’s book on the side and put two and two together. I thought ‘oh god, how awful’! By then it was too late, just thought we would have to go with it. It was lucky Colin was such a good sport. There he was delivering this harrowing story about how he was held hostage and feared for his life, and we were all sitting there dressed as Captain Hook.”

    We are eternally grateful  to the North Devon Journal from bringing this story to our attention.


  • 16:36

    Poxy rain.

    Becaue of it, 21  Irish bathing spots have been stripped of their top marks for water quality. Irish summers are wet but last year was worse than most and  run-off from farmland sprayed with slurry and manure or saturated ground where cows, sheep and horses graze left a lot of swimming water with something to be desired. 

    Four of the country’s 136 popular swimming areas were given a poor grade after failing to meet basic standards - Fountainstown in Cork, Rush in north Dublin, Ballyheigue in Kerry and Clifden in Galway

  • 17:05
    So Alan Shatter has just told the Dail that Niall Collins has a neck the size of rhinoceros's backside....

    We're not sure yet what the context is...

    Or how big the
    rhinoceros's backside that Alan is thinking of is.

    It's no "F**k you, Deputy Stagg. F**k you" but it is more colourful than most Dail exchanges.

  • 17:23
    Right so, that's another day done... Will we finish with some stunning pics? Sure why not.
  • 17:24