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Enhanced EU status of Irish language ‘a significant achievement’, says Higgins

Voice Of EU



President Michael D Higgins has described the newly enhanced status of the Irish language in the European Union as an “important recognition” of Ireland’s linguistic identity.

Irish achieved full parity with the European Union’s 23 official languages from midnight last night following the end of a derogation that has been in place since 2007. From Saturday, all legislation enacted onwards will be translated into Irish.

“This full status is an important recognition at international level of our specific identity as a people with a distinctive language of our own that we use alongside all the other languages we use and respect,” he said in a statement.

“It places our language on an equal footing with those of the founding members of the Union, and those of the Member States who have joined over the years since.

Mr Higgins described the enhanced status as “a significant achievement” and said it would be gratifying for many to know that Irish will be in every day use in the European Union.

“While the language will now be in every day use in the EU, we must now seize the opportunity to also take responsibility for ensuring that it means something in our own lives. I gcroílár gnóthaí laethúla na hEorpa; i gcroílár an tsaoil sa Bhaile (at the heart of daily business in Europe; at the heart of life at home).

“Yes, we must learn the languages of our friends in Europe and use as much of their languages as we can, but there is immense significance to having our own language in use. We have made English our own, and we rightly take pride in our four Noble laureates in literature in that language, but now we have a further linguistic tool for our reflections and exchanges.

Citing the “varied experiences” which people may have had in the education system in the past, Mr Higgins said he does not take lightly the reasons why people do not always feel a strong connection to Irish.

Another chance

However, he suggested it was now time to to “throw off all the inhibitions” and to make a resolution to engage with the language.

“When Teilifís na Gaeilge was coming on the air, I said ‘give the Irish language another chance’. Now I say throw off all the inhibitions, the excuses, the laziness and as the language of our ancestors becomes at even level in daily usage in the European Union, let us go and make a resolution to give it a place in our daily lives at home – i lár an aonaigh, inár ngnáthcaint (at the centre of things, in our everyday speech),” he added.

“We have, in this coming year not only a responsibility, but a joyful opportunity to ensure that our native language is available and valued by our future generations. The Irish language is that of us.

“Let us take this opportunity to make it part of all of our lives. Our young people are showing how it carries no burden of any exclusion or dismissal of others. Every generation can be part of our shared Irish, European, global multiple identities.

“Let us all build on what we have and let January 1st 2022 be the year of the iarracht mhór ar son na teanga agus a dtugtar an t-ómós is cóir do gach teanga ar an domhain.”

The enhanced status of Irish was initially sought by the Irish government in 2004 after a lengthy public campaign led by language rights group Stádas and cross-party support for the move. While full status was awarded in 2007, the government subsequently requested a derogation restricting the number of documents to be translated into Irish until a shortage of qualified translation staff and limited technological resources could be addressed.

According to 2021 figures, the EU translation service currently employs some 2,000 people, the majority of whom are translators. Some 2 million pages are translated each year at an overall cost to the EU budget of €349 million, which is the equivalent of 0.2 per cent of the EU’s overall budget.

The Irish language’s newly enhanced status is expected to result in new career opportunities for graduates interested in working with the language and the number of Irish language staff working in the European institutions will soon increase to around 200.

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Four found dead at US-Canada border believed to be human smuggling victims

Voice Of EU



The bodies were found on Wednesday in barren, snow-covered terrain just feet from the United States border in Manitoba, Canada: a man, a woman, a teenager and an infant who appeared to have frozen to death while trying to cross into the US, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

All four have been tentatively identified as members of a family who may have been victims of a human smuggling operation, the authorities said. Their bodies were discovered about 30-40ft from the US border, in a remote area just less than 10km east of Emerson, Manitoba, the authorities said.

“It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that it appeared that all four had died of exposure to the cold.

She emphasised that investigators consider the four to be victims. “We’re very concerned that this attempted crossing may have been facilitated in some way and that these individuals, including an infant, were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard when the weather hovered around minus-35 degrees Celsius, factoring the wind,” Ms MacLatchy said. “These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness.”

The bodies were found after US Border Patrol agents stopped Steve Shand (47), of Florida, on Wednesday, while he was driving a 15-passenger van less than 2km south of the Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota, federal prosecutors in Minnesota said. He was charged with human smuggling.

Law enforcement officials said two passengers in the rented van that Mr Shand was driving were citizens of India without legal permission to be in the US. While Mr Shand and his passengers were being taken to a Border Patrol station in North Dakota, law enforcement officers found five more Indian citizens walking in the snow about a quarter-mile south of the Canadian border, in the direction of where Mr Shand had been arrested, prosecutors said.


The five Indian nationals, who appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant in St Vincent, Minnesota, told law enforcement officials that they had expected to be picked up by someone, prosecutors said. They said that they had been walking for more than 11 hours and had crossed the border from Canada into the United States, prosecutors said.

One member of the group said he was carrying a backpack for a family of four Indian citizens who had become separated from his group during the night, court documents said. Inside the backpack were children’s clothes, a diaper, toys and children’s medication.

Canadian authorities then began a search with snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles that led to the discovery of the four bodies in Manitoba. One Indian woman in the group that had survived the crossing into the United States stopped breathing several times while she was being transported by the Border Patrol, court documents showed. She was flown to a hospital where she will likely require partial amputation of one of her hands because of exposure to the extreme cold, the documents stated.


Prosecutors said Mr Shand made his first appearance on Thursday in US District Court for the District of Minnesota, where he was ordered to remain in custody until a hearing on Monday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. In a criminal complaint, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations said that the four deaths were being investigated “along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation of which Shand is suspected of being a part”.

According to the complaint, a Border Patrol agent said he knew of three other smuggling operations that happened in the place where Mr Shand was arrested. Two were in December and one was earlier this month, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that one of the Indian citizens detained on Wednesday said that he had paid a “significant amount” of money to enter Canada from India with a fraudulently obtained student visa. The man said he had walked across the border into the United States and had expected to be picked up by someone who would take him to his uncle’s house in Chicago.

Ms MacLatchy said she had a message for anyone who was thinking of crossing the international border in Manitoba: “Just don’t do it.”

“Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely,” she said. “They cannot. Even with proper clothing, it is not a journey that is possible.” – This article originally appeared in the New York Times

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CTP expands inner city logistics footprint with €125m investment (CZ)

Voice Of EU



CTP has added 69,000m² of buildings and development land to its CTPark Brno Lisen in the Czech Republic through a sale-and-leaseback transaction with Zetor Tractors, the Czech agricultural machinery producer. The acquisition marks a major step in the overall €125m transformation of the former Zetor brownfield industrial site into a modern new park for light manufacturing, retail, research, and inner-city logistics which CTP embarked on in 2019. The transaction sees CTP consolidating its ownership in the Lisen district, increasing the total land size to 29 hectares. Upon completion, CTPark Brno Lísen will provide some 150,000m² of lettable area with over 2,500 jobs. 


David Chladek, Country Head, CTP Czech Republic said: “We have worked with Zetor for the past three years and this transaction represents an important milestone in the project for CTP, having agreed several deals leading to the creation of the largest brownfield industrial / logistics redevelopment by GLA in Brno. We have already developed 30,000m² of facilities at this location and continue to see strong demand for new space in our pipeline. The park is positioned in a prime location as a ‘last mile’ logistics and urban infill hub within the city ring road, just five kilometres to the east of the city centre and within easy reach of the airport. This makes it the perfect spot for businesses of all sizes, particularly e-commerce and urban logistics operators.”  


Zetor Tractors will continue to occupy the buildings that CTP has acquired in the latest transaction for its production activities. 


CTP aims to complete the c. 80,000m² of space currently under construction at CTPark Brno Lisen by 2024/2025, transforming a previously derelict area of Brno into a thriving urban business park. All the properties are built to BREEAM Excellent standards and solar energy is being used as a secondary source of electricity. 


Jakob Kodr, Head of Business Development, CTP Czech Republic, said: “CTPark Brno Lisen offers occupiers newly-built, flexible space in an inner-city business park location. Our strategy of developing parks that are adaptable to the changing nature of global and local businesses in and around urban centres is exemplified here. The transaction shows our long-term commitment to both the businesses which operate here and the surrounding community which works and pay taxes. The park is designed to be energy neutral and will include photovoltaic panels and water conservation.”

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I’m can’t sell my flat due to cladding issues, will Gove’s proposals help me?

Voice Of EU



I’m stuck in my leasehold flat due to cladding issues in the block. I can’t sell due to the prospect of a bill for remediation works, which include ‘unsafe cladding, flammable balconies and missing cavity barriers’. 

Will Michael Gove‘s new proposals help me? LB

Leaseholders face fire safety bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds following the cladding scandal (pictured: Cladding victim and campaigner Sophie Bichener)

Leaseholders face fire safety bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds following the cladding scandal (pictured: Cladding victim and campaigner Sophie Bichener)

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: Cladding issues have made life a misery for leaseholders across the country.

Many are facing the real prospect of bankruptcy due to fire safety repair bills that can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds per flat.

The issue is that the owners are unable to sell the properties until the buildings are proved to be safe, leaving those who would like to move them stuck in their homes and also seeing monthly bills rise, as they are potentially unable to remortgage. 

Leaseholders have cautiously welcomed the housing secretary’s recent statement that they were ‘trapped’ and that it was time to protect them and make ‘industry pay’.

At the same time, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, announced: ‘We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.’

However, the current reality for many of these flat owners is that they still face massive bills to cover interim fire measures running into thousands of pounds.

Tom Beak, a solicitor at law firm Kingsley Napley, replies: The short answer is maybe. However, I’m afraid there are ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

First, Michael Gove’s announcement did not introduce new legislation, it merely set out an intention to negotiate with developers and invite them to contribute to the latest remediation fund, specifically for ‘medium rise’ buildings.

Mr Gove hopes to have agreed a fully-funded plan of action by March, but if negotiations stall it is currently not clear what measures will be taken to force a solution on the developers concerned or indeed how long this will take.

Second, the focus of the new proposals is to cover the outstanding cost of remediation of unsafe cladding to buildings 11 to 18 metres tall. So if your building falls in that range you may benefit in due course. If it is over 18 metres, you must continue to rely on pre-existing policies.

If your building is less than 11 metres, I’m afraid you remain outside the scope of Government-led financial support. In fact, at present, there are no solutions proposed for buildings that are declared unsafe but are less than 11 metres tall, hence such buildings are likely to remain unmortgageable making it impossible for leaseholders to sell.

Unfortunately, if your building falls within this category, the new proposals only offer the hope that the Government’s change in advice on building safety assessments encourages lenders to relax their position and return to lending on such properties.

It may also not be plain sailing if your block is ‘medium rise’. We await details of the precise eligibility criteria as to how the fund will be allocated. Despite the suggestion that ‘all leaseholders’ will be protected, previous policies have contained strict eligibility criteria for access to funds, so it is possible that not all buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall will qualify.

Of course, until we know that Mr Gove’s negotiations with developers are successful, there is no guarantee that the proposed remediation fund of £4billion will be available at all.

Other fire defects, such as flammable balconies, missing cavity barriers and replacing faulty fire doors are not covered 

Finally, the proposed remediation fund is designed to remove ‘unsafe cladding’ only. 

So, while you may well benefit from assistance with the cost of remedying the cladding issues on your building, other fire defects, such as flammable balconies, missing cavity barriers and replacing faulty fire doors are not covered. 

This is in keeping with previous policies, which have been criticised for providing partial solutions and making buildings ‘half safe’, with innocent leaseholders footing the remainder of the bill to remedy safety defects.

On the plus side, however, it is worth noting that the Government has scrapped its previous solution for 11 to 18 metres tall buildings that consisted of a long-term, low-interest loan for leaseholders. This would have added to leaseholders’ debt, rather ensuring that the ‘polluter’ pays.

In addition, Mr Gove’s announcement introduced fresh funds to cover common alarm systems on buildings that continue to use a waking watch.

This will be on top of the existing Waking Watch Relief Fund. Mr Gove also intends to enter discussions with the insurance sector to reduce insurance premiums that have soared in the wake of this safety crisis and to issue new proportionate guidance on building safety assessments. T

he hope is that this encourages the market and changes the ‘cautious approach’ adopted by buyers and lenders – which according to Mr Gove often ‘goes beyond’ what is necessary. Whether this is effective remains to be seen.

So while Mr Gove’s new proposals are a step in the right direction, much uncertainty remains. Provided that the proposed remediation fund can be realised swiftly and applied without unduly onerous eligibility criteria, it is surely a better solution than the previously proposed loan scheme.

However, it is likely that many leaseholders will continue to foot the bill for interim safety measures and struggle to sell their homes, until the practical effect of the changes are realised.

Without further, targeted policy or an extension of the remediation fund to cover fire safety defects beyond cladding, these defects will likely continue to be funded by leaseholders.

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