‘The internet can work in a much better way than newspapers have’

Last week, we published a piece, The true value of John Waters, which speculated as to the possible value, in cold hard cash, of controversial opinion columns to a newspaper website’s bottom line. The piece was intended as a thought experiment, rather than as an accountancy exercise, as clarified by its author in a follow-up piece on his blog, but caught the imaginations of enough people that the Irish Times’s online editor, Hugh Linehan, was prompted to respond – in a comment on his own column, Online issues lost amid Twitterphobia, on the Irish Times website:

“I can honestly tell you that the financial benefit of these pieces is negligible. Some people have been impressed by the article you’ve linked to and the conclusions it draws because it appears to have crunched real numbers. However, all those conclusions and most of the numbers are wrong.”

Which led to the following exchange on Twitter: Continue reading →

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This ship of State is leaking badly

This was not a leak. It wasn’t even a ‘leak’.The 40-page document detailing Ireland’s budget plans for 2012 and 2013, and the covering letters of intent from Minister for Finance Michael Noonan discussed by the Bundestag’s finance committee yesterday were not faxed under cover of darkness from deep within the Department of Finance. They were sent – possibly faxed, possibly emailed as an attachment, possibly handed over in an envelope, who knows how these things get about – to the European Commission by the troika following its third quarterly review of how well Ireland is stifling economic growth and unravelling social protections. Or, implementing necessary austerity measures. The letters of intent from Michael Noonan, along with “confidential draft programme documents” were either sent directly to the European Commission by Mr Noonan’s office, or were given to the troika to insert into their review.

Not. A. Leak. Continue reading →

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Ireland third most popular tax haven for FTSE100 companies

Our corporation tax rate was thrown into the spotlight once again this week when it was revealed that Ireland is the third most popular ‘tax haven’ in the world for subsidiaries of UK FTSE 100 companies. On Tuesday (11 October), UK based charity ActionAid released a comprehensive dataset and report on the location of these subsidiaries. It found that a quarter of all FTSE 100 company subsidiaries are located in tax havens. The charity’s research is based on information that had never been disclosed or analysed before this year.

ActionAid says:

UK law compels companies to report all of their subsidiary companies, together with their country of registration. When we looked for this information in early 2011, we discovered that more than half of the FTSE 100 were not complying with this legal obligation. When enquiries to individual companies failed to persuade them to disclose the information, we submitted complaints to Companies House, forcing the disclosures as part of companies’ annual returns.

While there is no standard definition of a ‘tax haven’, ActionAid’s dataset uses a list compiled by the US Government Audit Office (GAO) in 2008. That report notes: Continue reading →

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Time to call time on fee-paying schools?

In the school year 2009-2010 the State paid out more than €107 million to fee-paying schools to cover the costs of salaries for teachers, clerical officers and special needs assistants in those schools. In the same year, more than €12 million was given to these schools in capital grants, grants for assistive technologies, and grants for computers and other ICTs. There are 56 fee-paying schools in the State. The State’s 776 free post primary schools* received just short of €46 million in grants for ICTs in 2010; fee-paying schools received €2.5 million. At a rough calculation (and bearing in mind the monies would not have been distributed evenly) this works out at just shy of €60,000 for each free post primary school, and €45,500 per fee-charging school. In total, between January 2007 and May 2011, fee-charging schools have received more than €531 million from the State to pay teachers, admin staff, install or upgrade ICT infrastructure, and build or upgrade school buildings. The 2009 McCarthy report estimated that, between them,these 56 schools raise €119 million annually in fees from parents.The Government will save some €2.7 million through the removal of 227 Special Needs Assistant posts in Irish schools, assuming all those unemployed SNAs are entitled to Jobseeker’s Benefit. Resource teaching posts for Travellers and the Visiting Teachers for Traveller Service were withdrawn in Budget 2011, effective 31 August this year. Language support has seen cutbacks in allocation. Rural co-ordinators for 331 DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools) schools were removed as part of Budget 2011 in order to save €24 million (although this figure does not take into account the cost to the exchequer of Jobseeker’s Benefit for those Rural Co-ordinators who subsequently went onto the Live Register) a cut which the current Government has no plan to reverse. Only two-thirds of the €150 million pledged as part of the Smart Schools=Smart Economy scheme launched in 2009 has been disbursed; the €63 million that was to be given to schools in 2011 was cut in December’s budget to €1.5 million. (The annual budget of €30 million “for support, rolling replacement and enhancement of the service” recommended by the Joint Advisory Group on the scheme seems to have been entirely abandoned.) In the context of such brutal austerity – not just in education, but across the board – and the infliction of the consequences of this austerity on some of the most vulnerable children in the State, the question must be asked: why do we continue to fund these fee-paying schools to such a degree? Continue reading →

‘Fundamental flaw’ in decision-making processes must be addressed

Deliberative processes are key if Ireland is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, according to directors of Social Justice Ireland Seán Healy and Brigid Reynolds.

In the keynote address of the organisation’s conference on ‘Sharing responsibility for shaping Ireland’s future’, held last Wednesday (14 September), Seán Healy said: “The crises of recent years have exposed a fundamental flaw in decision-making processes in Ireland and abroad as many people are paying the price for decisions they had no hand, act or part in making. This unjust situation has fuelled a growing conviction among many that public institutions are not up to addressing the challenges of the present moment. Continue reading →

Mósesdóttir: Ireland should draw on Icelandic dissent

In October 2008, the Icelandic bank, Landsbanki, collapsed. With it collapsed its online Icesave branch and the investments of 340,000 British and Dutch savers. Iceland’s Depositors’ and Investors’ Guarantee Fund lacked the funds to compensate its investors. The Icelandic government initially refused to take responsibility for the failure of a private bank.

After considerable negotiations, Iceland agreed to insure the liabilities of Icesave. The British and Dutch governments provided a €3.8 billion loan to cover the deposit insurance obligations for their citizens. In August 2009, the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, passed a bill setting the interest on repayment of the loan at 5.5 per cent. President Olafur Grimsson, however, refused to sign the bill, forcing a referendum on the issue. In March 2010, Icelandic voters voted overwhelmingly against the deal, with 93 per cent casting ‘no’ votes. Continue reading →