News Blog

Mandela, Reilly, Snowden, O'Connell, Berlusconi and a cast of thousands in our rolling news blog

Conor Pope Mon, Jun 24
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  • 08:36
    James Reilly, Nelson Mandela, Edward Snowden and Paul O'Connell all make the front pages this morning while Silvo Berlusconi is likely to join them in the hours ahead when the Bunga Bunga trial reaches its climax.....

  • 08:39
    Then there was this nugget of an equation.

    3 + 780 = 02 + 37.5 +2 (m)
  • 08:41
    Yes indeed Hutchison Whampoa, the owner of Three Ireland, has agreed to buy 02 Ireland for €780 million. The move will take Three’s market share to 37.5 per cent and bring subscriber numbers to two million active users.

    Three Ireland said the deal would provide it “with the scale and financial strength necessary to compete even more aggressively in the market to the benefit of consumers".

    Because you know how consumers always, alwats benefit when competition in the market place is significantly reduced right?

  • 08:42
    Good morning. I am Conor Pope and today I will be steering our ship of news through the choppy Monday waters...

  • 09:04
    Anglo may have gone the way of the dinosaurs and Milli Vanilli but it has not stopped making headlines. 
    RTE is reporting that two former executives at the bank have categorically denied misleading the Central Bank in 2008 over the amount of money Anglo  would need if it was to be rescued by the taxpayer.

    In the days before the introduction of what proved to be a most cataclysmic bank guarantee, the Central Bank was told by Anglo that €7 billion was needed to keep it afloat but according to the story in the Irish Independent today, one senior Anglo executive told another that the true cost would be higher. 

    In a partial transcript of a recording of a phone call between John Bowe, the bank's then head of capital markets - and then director of retail banking Peter FitzGerald the former is quoted as saying: "The strategy here is you pull them in, you get them to write a big cheque and they have to keep - they have to support their money."

    According to the tapes he said if the State saw the enormity of the funding requirement for the bank up front, it could decide the cost to taxpayers was too high and he added that "If it doesn't look too big at the outset - if it looks big, big enough to be important, but not too big that it kind of spoils everything, then, then I think you have a chance."

    After the story, written by Paul Williams,  broke Mr Bowe told RTÉ he categorically denied the allegation that he was, directly or indirectly, a participant in misleading the Central Bank and he said the talks had focused on obtaining funding for Anglo to allow it continue on an interim basis pending a more stable market, when the bank would be able to re-establish other funding sources and repay the emergency finance.

    He said he "we envisaged the relevant period of time to be a number of months before the bank would be able to access sufficient alternative funding".
    In a statement to RTÉ, Mr FitzGerald said he was not a member of the bank's executive management board in 2008 and was not involved in discussions regarding Anglo's funding position with the Central Bank.
  • 09:06
    All the money so far provided from a funding boost for autism services announced by Minister for Health James Reilly last year has been spent on cutting waiting lists for children with the condition in his political heartland in north Dublin, newly released documents show.
  • 09:14
    I have just spent the last 10 minutes listening to the Anglo Tapes....

    There is now steam coming out my ears.
  • 09:23
    Hang on! If 3 buys 02 what happens to the Point?

    The 023?

  • 10:37
    Listening to radio stations, there is clearly still an awful lot of anger about what Anglo did to the economy and to the country.Hardly surprising really. Paul Williams was on Ray Darcy and has promised a week of rage for Irish people reading his newspaper. Just what we need more rage
  • 10:45
    So the world's worst limbo dancer walks into a bar...
  • 10:47
    It being Monday and what with the news being so bad and rage inducing today, I thought you might like a joke. You're welcome.
  • 10:52
    Twitter was awash with pictures of the super moon last night and there were some amazing shots taken from Ireland. Hang on now till I find one.
  • 11:04
    Anyone who woke up this morning thinking that the Budget would be a bumper giveaway is likely to be sorely disappointed with the latest briefing from the  Minister of State for Being On the Television Brian Hayes. He has just warned that there is no scope for significant income tax cuts in the current circumstances  “I think it is going to be difficult in this budgetary round for any significant reduction in income tax, given the financial position that we face, in the circumstances where we have to find around €3 billion.”
  • 11:13
    "It's bridged until we pay you back which is never... (laughter)"

    That's just one of the quotes from  the Anglo tapes. It refers to the €7 billion Anglo's executives asked the Centtral Bank for just before everything went pear shaped. 

  • 11:21
    Would you like to be further annoyed? 

    Okay, no problem. We can do that.

    Here's the essence of a query/complaint a reader sent in to Pricewatch last week.

    This reader was prescribed a drug to treat high blood pressure called Coversyl, That's  the brand name of this drug. It costs €32 for 30 tablets. The generic brand name is  Penderex and it costs €27. Both contain the ingredient Perindopril.

    The only difference is Coversyl is 10mg and Penderex is 8mg but it does exactly the same as the 10mg. Our reader found out that 8mg Perindopril sells for £5 north of the border in Newry.

    His wife is on a drug called Losec which has  Omeprazole as its main Losec costs  €30 for a  month’s supply. The Newry price for 20mg Omeprazole is again a fiver. 

    All  told this couple were  paying €720 for these two drugs every year and could not claim under the drug refund scheme as you have to spend €140 a month to claim.

    So he got two scripts from his doctor and drove to Newry, spending  €16 on diesel and €8 on tolls.  The cost of drugs came to £60 (€70) which takes his annual saving to €532 in a full year.

    And that is for just towo very commonyl prescribed drugs in Ireland.

    And do you know what the real kicker is?

     Both  drugs are made in Cork.
     Is your blood pressure climbing yet? Mine is and I'm not even new to the story. 

  • 11:23

    f they (the Central Bank) saw the enormity of it up front, they might decide they have a choice. You know what I mean? They might say the cost to the taxpayer is too high . . . if it doesn't look too big at the outset . . . if it looks big, big enough to be important, but not too big that it kind of spoils everything, then, then I think you have a chance. So I think it can creep up." Anglo execs on the bailout before the bailout...  

  • 11:30

    Another story to make us mad comes from Carl O'Brien today.

    Government officials changed the wording of last year's  budget to obscure the fact that thousands of local authority tenants can be made liable for the property tax.
    Local authorities, rather than tenants, are directly liable for the tax and there was confusion following the budget about whether city and county councils would be able pass the tax on to tenants.

    That confusion was no accident.  
    In the draft budget there was a line which said that although  liability for the tax would rest with the local authority, “they may pass on the cost to the tenant”.
    This was the source of discussion among officials in the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners and one senior department official noted to another official: “There is a tricky message to get across here and you should check up the line as to how far you should go in saying that the charge should be passed on.”

    By December 2nd this section was deleted from the draft wording. 
  • 11:33
    A 54-year-old man has been arrested in Surrey in connection with the murders of three British tourists and a cyclist in the French Alps last year.
    Iraqi-born engineer Saad Al-Hilli, his wife Ikbal and her mother Suhaila al-Allaf were shot dead  and a French cyclist Sylvain Mollierwere was also killed.
    The al-Hilli’s four-year-old daughter Zeena lay undiscovered under her mother’s corpse for eight hours after the shooting, while her seven-year-old sister Zainab was found with serious injures after being shot and beaten.
  • 11:52

    Yesterday and earlier today I was contacted in relation to a telephone call that I understand I received close to five years ago in September 2008.

    Having not seen a copy of the transcript of the telephone call nor heard a recording of the telephone call, I am told that it involved a briefing on the various funding options, hypothetical or otherwise, being considered by Anglo Irish Bank in the crisis of September 2008. I believe that at that time the Central Bank had requested forecasted liquidity numbers from the Bank in the context of an ongoing dialogue that was taking place at senior levels within both organisations.

    I was not a member of the executive management board of Anglo Irish Bank in 2008 and therefore was not involved in the discussions that were conducted by senior executive management of Anglo Irish Bank with the authorities in 2008 in relation to the funding position of Anglo Irish Bank.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am not nor have I ever been aware of a strategy or intention on the part of Anglo Irish Bank to mislead the authorities in relation to the forecasted funding position of Anglo Irish Bank."
  • 11:52
  • 11:54
    That last tweet may be the only time The Irish Times news blog retweets something from Justin Beiber's musical director.

    I KNOW! He has a musical director!!!
  • 11:55
  • 11:55
  • 11:56
  • 11:58
    Edward Snowden is not on a flight to Cuba. There are a whole bunch of journalists who had hoped to have a word with the world's most famous whistleblower on that flight.

    My heart would bleed for them except for the fact that they are on the way to Cuba and I am not.

  • 12:02
    Here is a lovely pic of the plane bound for Cuba which Edward Snowden is not (that's NOT) on this morning.
    Here is a lovely pic of the plane bound for Cuba which Edward Snowden is not (that's NOT) on this morning.
  • 12:06
    Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree has refused to dwell on Paul O’Connell’s tour-ending fractured arm. O'Connell was hurt in the 23-21 victory over Australia in the first Test on Saturday and it was confirmed overnight that he would play no further part in the series. He has been told he can remain with the Lions rather than returning home but has yet to make a decision on whether he will stay Down Under. “Paul’s a massive loss. He’s such a big influence on the group and has been playing exceptionally well. But you have to get on with these things,” Rowntree said. “I’d like him to stay on, but I’m not sure what he’ll do. You just have to roll with the punches when it comes to injuries.”
  • 12:12
    The Irish people “have, to all intents and purposes, become pagan” according to many Catholic bishops and priests according to a new report from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP)..

    Yes, indeed. Patsy McGarry' writes today that many in the clergy reckon the problems they face "are not due to any difficulties in the Church or with the priesthood, but are caused by a lack of faith in the people."

    We the people"have bought into the evils of materialism and consumerism, and don’t have time or interest in faith any more. They have, to all intents and purposes, become pagan".

    Evangelisation is apparently the answer.

    You think?
  • 12:16
    A man, possibly a pagan man, at Stonehenge for the summer solstice.
    A man, possibly a pagan man, at Stonehenge for the summer solstice.
  • 12:17
    An update on the murder in the Alps story. The man arrested this morning is thought to be Mr al-Hilli's brother, Zaid, according to the BBC.
  • 12:22
  • 12:23
    There are 30 journalists on the Moscow-Havana plane....

    30 hacks and no hacker.

  • 12:27
  • 12:31
    The Hacks to Havana story has just got better. Apparently the 12-hour flight is one of a very small number of Aeroflot flights which does not sell alcohol.

    Now, our source on this is Twitter so it may not actually be true.

    Fingers crossed though.
  • 12:34
    Never mind your broadsheets and the like - we are well able to mock ourselves.

    Standby please for the most hilarious typo of the week.

    And it's still only Monday.
  • 12:35
    Poor Enda Kenny. His sponge has collapsed. And he is upset by it. Baking, eh, lets you down when you least expect it.
    Poor Enda Kenny. His sponge has collapsed. And he is upset by it. Baking, eh, lets you down when you least expect it.
  • 12:40
  • 12:43
    To be very clear, Judith Crosbie is not responsible for the "baking collapse". That person is standing in the Dunce's Corner as I type.
  • 13:18
    It's hard not to feel the tiniest bit of sympathy for 3 Mobile today.

    They announce plans to take over 02 in a deal worth close to a billion euro....

    and then its network collapses for the first time since it entered the market in 2005.

    It has apologised and assured customers it has “the best team working to address this."

    They may be "the best team" - whatever that means - but they have not fixed the problem yet and the 3 Network It is still down in many places more than five hours after the first crash.
  • 13:23
  • 13:34
    Are you a fan of Come Dine With Me? Darragh McCausland was. Then, a couple of years ago, he applied for and appeared on the Irish version. It wasn't a tremendous success.  

  • 13:48
  • 14:08
    Story to go online in the next few minutes:

    3 Mobile has said a full service will be resumed to all its customers within the next 30 minutes after the telephone network suffered a major collapse this morning leaving hundreds of thousands of customers unable to make calls, send text messages or access data.
    The breakdown – which 3 Mobile is blaming on a third party provider – came just minutes after the company announced it had bought rival 02 for close to a billion euro
    Its network went down at around 9am and while it returned to some pockets sporadically over the course of the morning many thousands of its customers were left without a functioning network until after 1pm.
    Users were contacting The Irish Times up to shortly after 2pm to say the service had not been restored in full.
    The timing of its first network outage since it entered the market in 2005 could not have been worse for the company
    The collapse is likely to have angered many of its existing customers while many users of the O2 network will also have been concerned.
    The takeover, when it is completed, will take 3’s market share to 37.5 per cent and bring subscriber numbers to 2m active users. The two companies had combined revenues of €803m in 2012, which compares to Three's revenue of €174m in 2012 on a standalone basis.
  • 14:51
    Statement just in from Virgin Media: "As part of a programme of work which Virgin Media Business began last month, a software upgrade today caused a temporary outage on the Three network in Ireland. Service was restored by lunchtime. Virgin Media Business apologises to the customers of Three Ireland for any inconvenience caused."

  • 15:11
    Some transcripts of the Anglo Tapes have made their way on to The Irish Times websites.
  • 15:35

    It’s like a game of Where’s Wally. Except with spies, whistleblowers, diplomats across the world and 30 hacks stuck on a plane bound for Havana with no access to their phones or alcohol.

    Edward  Snowden's whereabouts remain a mystery. Russia is defying White House pressure to send him back to the United States while China, Ecuador and Hong Kong have also incurred its wrath.

    What we do know is that the 30-year-old flew to Moscow as a transit stop before heading elsewhere. Reports that he would fly to Cuba were put in doubt when witnesses could not see him on the plane, despite heightened security before take-off.

    Ecuador, which has sheltered the founder of the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, Julian Assange, said it was considering  his request for asylum and that human rights were it main concern.

    "He didn't take the flight (to Havana)," a source at Russia's national airline Aeroflot said.

    Asked if  Snowden had spoken to the Russian authorities a Russian government official said: "Overall, we have no information about him." 

  • 15:40
    It is likely to take anywhere between six and nine months for any deal to be rubber-stamped by the Competition Authority so any customers of O2 who are concerned about the takeover at least has time on their side.
  • 15:44
    “They must change the law to save women’s health, not just her life. Women’s health is as important as a man’s. If the law does not do that, Savita has been sacrificed for nothing. How many Savitas do they want?”  Andanappa Yalagi speaking to Kitty Holland yesterday. 
  • 15:58
  • 15:59
    Brendan Keenan: We know what the Irish banks bad loans are they are goign to be about 1 per cent of their loan book
    Morgan Kelly:  That is complete nonsense. 

    The video below is well worth a watch given what we have learned from the Anglo Tapes. 
  • 16:08
    A week ago Allan Dixon was given "one of the best jobs in the world" by the Australian Tourism Authority - some class of outback adventurer is memory serves us right. Over the weekend he was being interviewed on Australian television when one of the presenters chortled her way through serious and tragic news stories after a harmless flirtation went kind of wrong. It looks a bit like this: 
  • 16:09
  • 16:25
    Silvio Berlusconi has just been sentenced to seven years in jail and banned from public life after being found guilty of having sex with an underage prostitute.

    More to follow.
  • 16:30
    Is Silvio  Berlusconi  likely to end up in jail?
    Probably not. His lawyers will now launch an appeal and while that is ongoing he will remain at liberty.

    If his appeal is not granted he can appeal to Italy's Supreme Court. And again that will take at least two years. And Italian courts very rarely jail people in their seventies.
  • 16:34
    Stephen Rae (46) has just been appointed editor-in-chief of all that he surveys. He is now the top man at  the Herald, the Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent. It is a new role which has been created by Independent News & Media (INM) to ensure that the titles are “structured, resourced and aligned for an increasingly digital future”.

    Congratulations to him.

    For that and for the Anglo Tapes...

    Now, enough of the praise, let's move on.