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EU expected to extend NI Protocol grace period on chilled meats, with caveats

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The European Union is expected to agree to an extension to a grace period that would allow the continued export of unfrozen meats to Northern Ireland from Britain, a contentious point in the North’s post-Brexit arrangements.

London requested that a grace period set to expire next week be extended until the end of September as a temporary solution to a dispute dubbed the “sausage war” which overshadowed Britain’s post-Brexit debut on the world stage at the recent G7 in Cornwall.

At a meeting on Wednesday the European Commission’s lead on relations with the UK Maroš Šefcovic advised the 27 member states to agree to extend the grace period, which had been agreed last year to give Britain time to implement the so-called Protocol.

The 27 provisionally backed the suggestion, but with caveats that are to be worked out in negotiations with Britain over the coming days, The Irish Times understands.

The issue arose because the EU has no provision for unfrozen meats to be imported into the Single Market from countries that do not follow its rules, because fresh meat is a high-risk item to animal and human health.

Under the Protocol, Northern Ireland has remained in line with EU standards in order to avoid the need for checks across the island, meaning that checks must be imposed on goods arriving there from Britain.

As a condition for agreeing to continue with imports of fresh meats, the member states will insist that Britain must continue to follow EU rules on agriculture for the duration.

In addition, the 27 will insist that the extension can only be granted to allow both sides more time to find a permanent solution.

The EU has proposed that Britain should formally agree to align on plant and animal rules, which it says would make obsolete 80 per cent of checks currently required into Northern Ireland. However, London has ruled this out as contrary to the goals of Brexit as it would require accepting EU standards it has no role in setting.

The European Commission has come under pressure from national capitals to ensure that Britain implements the post-Brexit arrangements agreed last year in order to protect the Single Market from risks or unfair competition if goods enter via Northern Ireland that have not had to conform to EU standards.

But Mr Šefcovic told the member states on Wednesday that there was a need to avoid raising tensions as the peak of the marching season approaches. The issue is of symbolic significance, though major supermarkets in the North have indicated that they are able to source fresh meats locally without problems.

Westminster

The move came as Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs he is confident that Britain and the EU would agree changes to the operation of the protocol. But Downing Street said it had not yet agreed to align temporarily with EU food standards if a grace period for chilled meats was extended.

Mr Lewis told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that almost every business group he had met in the North said they had issues with the protocol they wanted to see resolved.

“We have been very clear that the current position of the protocol is not sustainable and we need to rectify that and I am optimistic and confident we will get that done in the time ahead,” he said.

“I think it is reasonable for anyone to take the view that there will be changes, there has to be.”

Britain has asked the EU for an extension until the end of this year of a grace period on restrictions on chilled meats from Great Britain entering Northern Ireland. RTÉ News reported on Wednesday that European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic had advised member-states that they should grant the extension quickly.

According to the report, the member-states agreed to grant the request on condition that Britain continues to align with EU food standards for the duration of the extension and that both sides would seek a long-term solution for food consignments crossing the Irish Sea.

Asked if Britain had agreed to such a temporary alignment of food safety standards, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said that discussions with the EU were ongoing and that no final resolution had been reached.

At the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the DUP’s Ian Paisley told Mr Lewis that any changes to the protocol must be significant.

“I don’t think it should be lost on anyone as to why there is a requirement for significant changes, and I hope that those changes, which you are tempting us with, and putting in front of us, that they are actually significant and they will not be tinkerings, but they will be changes which address this discrimination aspect,” he said.

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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