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Bill on mother and baby home excavations approved but scepticism persists

Excavations at the site of the former Tuam mother-and-baby home could begin by the end of the year after the Cabinet approved enhanced legislation to allow the works to take place.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman announced a number of “significant changes” to legislation which will give a legal basis to allow recovery and identification of the children interred at the site.

The identification programme has been expanded to include a wider circle of relatives including grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces who could provide DNA to compare with remains. Mr O’Gorman said this would provide a greater chance of identification.

A section of the Bill that dealt with restrictions on the jurisdiction of the coroner was also removed after concerns were raised about its impact.

Members of the Oireachtas Committee on Children last year expressed concerns about the plans to suspend the powers of the coroner during the proposed exhumation and identification process.

Mr O’Gorman previously said that the coronial role would be suspended to avoid having “concurrent jurisdictions” between different State bodies while interventions take place, but this section of the legislation has now been removed.

The Minister said that works could begin by the end of the year.

Once passed and enacted, the Government will have the power to direct an intervention at a site and appoint a director to head up an office which will oversee and manage the intervention. While Tuam will be the first location, other sites can be excavated.

While the director oversees the work, a DNA identification programme will take samples from relatives to establish a potential match with the remains once they are recovered. Identified remains can be returned to family members.

“The legislation clearly states the forensic process must be undertaken to international standards,” the Minister said.

Violent or unnatural death

The director must inform the gardaí and the coroner where evidence emerges of a violent or unnatural death or where remains are not those of a person who was a resident in the institution.

There will also now be an advisory board for each site to work with the director which will include family members and former residents. It will be chaired by a former coroner or someone with coronial expertise.

Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman at the publication of the Institutional Burials Bill. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman at the publication of the Institutional Burials Bill. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The director overseeing the intervention will be required to consult with the advisory board at regular intervals including when key decisions must be made. This board will have two members who are independent forensic experts and two members who are relatives of those who died in Tuam or former residents.

“What happened in Tuam is a stain on our national conscience. The uniquely tragic nature of the site in Tuam means that legislation is required to undertake this work. This will be one of the most complex forensic excavation and recovery efforts ever undertaken not only in Ireland but anywhere in the world. It will encompass a DNA identification process on a scale never done before in Ireland,” Mr O’Gorman said.

“The legislation we are announcing today gives us the best possible chance of recovering the remains from the site and reuniting them with their loved ones.”

In relation to the expansion of the identification programme, Mr O’Gorman said there would be a process for objections.

“There is a provision for those closest living relatives, the first order relatives, a parent, child or sibling to object to the participation of a second order relative. But that objection does not automatically mean that the relative cannot participate in the identification programme.”

The director will make a decision balancing the privacy rights involved with the public interest.

There will also appeals process to an adjudicator.

It is believed that the remains of up to 800 babies were buried in “manifestly inappropriate” conditions in Tuam.

‘Hellhole’

Reacting to the approval of the Bill, Anna Corrigan, spokeswoman for the Tuam families group, said their concern is “to get the babies out of that hellhole”, and to have them exhumed in the “best possible way”, identified and buried in consecrated ground or with their families.

Ms Corrigan’s two brothers were born while her mother Bridget was a resident of the Tuam home and she has actively campaigned for years for a full exhumation of the site of the mass grave to establish if they are among those buried there.

She said the group’s lawyers will consider whether the Bill is “fit for purpose and will achieve what we have always wanted” before providing a detailed response to it.

Her initial reaction is of despondency that the process is taking so long, she said. It seems there is “no choice” at this stage but to accept the Bill “because things have gone so far”.

Ms Corrigan said she was sceptical “from day one” about the necessity for the Bill when the Tuam site was previously opened. She said a partial exhumation was carried out and body parts taken for carbon dating and DNA testing before a decision was taken to refill and reseal the site. Now it seems that a law is deemed necessary to open it up again, she said.

“I don’t know what or whom the Bill is serving,” she said.

The families now face further delay, which is adding to their distress, and the site continues to degenerate while the Bill makes its way through the Oireachtas, she added.

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Britain’s most expensive and cheapest places to buy or rent a home revealed

The most expensive and cheapest places to buy or to rent in Britain have been revealed.

Aberdeen tops the list of the cheapest cities for first-time buyers, while the most expensive is perhaps no surprise, London, where average prices tend to be higher than the rest of the country.

It is a similar picture for the most expensive places to rent, with the capital ranked top of that list too.

On the flipside, tenants are also required to head north if they want to live in the cheapest city to rent, Carlisle, in Cumbria.

The cheapest cities for first-time buyers and tenants have been identified by Rightmove

The cheapest cities for first-time buyers and tenants have been identified by Rightmove

The figures were based on monthly mortgage and rent costs.

Home purchase figures calculated by Rightmove assumed that first-time buyers in Scotland and Wales have a 20 per cent deposit, and first-time buyers in England have a 25 per cent deposit.

The size of deposit was based on averages from UK Finance, which revealed that more first-time buyers are choosing longer repayment terms to improve their affordability.

As such, the repayment term used in the Rightmove calculations was 35 years. Rightmove also assumed that the typical first-time buyer property had two bedrooms or less.

Aberdeen tops the list compiled by Rightmove of the cheapest cities for first-time buyers

Aberdeen tops the list compiled by Rightmove of the cheapest cities for first-time buyers

THE CHEAPEST CITIES TO BUY A TYPICAL FIRST-TIME BUYER PROPERTY
Cities Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month)* Average monthly rental payment (per month) Mortgage versus Rent
Aberdeen £102,601 £406 £775 -£369
Bradford £107,929 £400 £714 -£314
Sunderland £111,263 £413 £648 -£235
Carlisle £111,268 £413 £607 -£194
Preston £112,273 £416 £787 -£371
Hull £113,920 £423 £638 -£215
Dundee £116,191 £460 £821 -£361
Stoke-On-Trent £117,113 £434 £701 -£266
Durham £125,957 £467 £796 -£328
Doncaster £128,062 £475 £707 -£232
Source: Rightmove       
THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES TO BUY A TYPICAL FIRST-TIME BUYER PROPERTY
Cities Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month) Average monthly rental payment (per month) Mortgage versus Rent
London £501,934 £1,862 £2,264 -£402
St. Albans £391,964 £1,454 £1,509 -£55
Cambridge £361,429 £1,341 £1,533 -£193
Winchester £344,638 £1,278 £1,332 -£53
Oxford £338,085 £1,254 £1,561 -£307
Brighton £335,402 £1,244 £1,468 -£224
Bristol £280,112 £1,039 £1,336 -£297
Chelmsford £262,522 £974 £1,300 -£326
York £244,834 £908 £1,145 -£237
Edinburgh £239,028 £946 £1,310 -£365
Source: Rightmove       

The average asking price in Aberdeen is £102,601, with the average monthly mortgage payment at £406 a month.

The most expensive city is followed by Bradford with an average asking price of £107,929 and Sunderland, which is ranked third with an asking price of £111,263.

For those in the rental market, the most expensive place to rent outside of London is Oxford, where an average two-bedroom or small home costs £1,561 a month.

At the other end of the scale, the cheapest city for a tenant who is looking for a two-bedroom or smaller property is Carlisle where such rents are £607 a month.

Mortgage rates are slightly higher than a year ago, but have stabilised since the peak in July 2023.

Rightmove explained that this has helped those looking to move at the start of this year.

The average mortgage payment for a typical first-time buyer looking at a property with two bedrooms or less is £53 more than a year ago, compared to £81 for tenants.

It means that those who can afford to save a good sized deposit of at least 20 per cent, it is cheaper to pay a monthly mortgage than rent in each of the largest cities in Britain.

Winchester is among the most expensive cities for first-time buyers looking for a property with two bedrooms or fewer

Winchester is among the most expensive cities for first-time buyers looking for a property with two bedrooms or fewer

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ‘We remain a nation of aspirational homeowners, despite higher mortgage rates and the difficulty in raising a deposit. 

‘Renting may give more flexibility but also less security and crucially ends up costing more than buying your own place.

‘However, the high cost of home ownership, particularly in London and the south east means that it’s practically impossible to get on the housing ladder without financial assistance from family members. 

‘Longer mortgage terms are inevitable as borrowers try to make the monthly costs more affordable but of course they will end up making many more payments over an extended period of time. 

‘It is worth opting for a longer term to help with the affordability calculations and then trying to overpay to reduce the term and interest, as and when you can afford to do so.’

Carlisle in the country of Cumbria is the cheapest city for those looking to rent

Carlisle in the country of Cumbria is the cheapest city for those looking to rent

THE CHEAPEST CITIES FOR TENANTS
Cities Average monthly rental payment (per month) Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month)* Rent versus mortgage
Carlisle £607 £111,268 £413 £194
Hull £638 £113,920 £423 £215
Sunderland £648 £111,263 £413 £235
Stoke-On-Trent £701 £117,113 £434 £266
Doncaster £707 £128,062 £475 £232
Bradford £714 £107,929 £400 £314
Wrexham £754 £129,649 £513 £241
Lancaster £764 £152,062 £564 £200
Aberdeen £775 £102,601 £406 £369
Preston £787 £112,273 £416 £371
Source: Rightmove       
THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES FOR TENANTS
Cities Average monthly rental payment (per month) Average asking price for a first-time buyer type property (2 bedrooms and fewer) Average monthly mortgage payment (per month)* Rent versus mortgage
London £2,264 £501,934 £1,862 £402
Oxford £1,561 £338,085 £1,254 £307
Cambridge £1,533 £361,429 £1,341 £193
St. Albans £1,509 £391,964 £1,454 £55
Brighton £1,468 £335,402 £1,244 £224
Bristol £1,336 £280,112 £1,039 £297
Winchester £1,332 £344,638 £1,278 £53
Edinburgh £1,310 £239,028 £946 £365
Chelmsford £1,300 £262,522 £974 £326
Milton Keynes £1,239 £233,320 £865 £373
Source: Rightmove       

Meanwhile, soaring rents across Britain mean that the cost of renting a two-bedroom or small home has increased by 39 per cent in the last five years.

This compares to a jump of 19 per cent in the cost of buying a similar type of property.

Rightmove claimed that even if a first-time buyer had a smaller deposit of 15 per cent and sought to repay their mortgage over a shorter mortgage term of 25 years, it would still be cheaper to pay a mortgage than rent in 39 out of Britain’s 50 largest cities outside of London.

Rightmove’s Tim Bannister said: ‘These latest figures highlight why so many people remain determined to get onto the ladder, as the soaring costs of renting has meant buying has remained attractive even with higher mortgage rates.

‘Longer mortgage-terms are becoming more common as a way to improve overall affordability and reduce monthly payments, though first-time buyers should be aware of what they are paying in interest compared with their actual mortgage.

‘Without improvements to the supply of good quality, affordable rental homes in Great Britain, owning your own home is likely to continue to be the end-goal for those that can get their deposit together, and borrow what they need to from a mortgage lender.’

Best mortgage rates and how to find them

Mortgage rates have risen substantially after the Bank of England’s raised base rate rapidly.

The Bank is now holding rates and expected to cut – leading to mortgage costs coming down – but deals remain far more expensive than two or five years ago. 

If you are looking to buy your first home, move or remortgage, or are a buy-to-let landlord, it’s important to get good independent mortgage advice from a broker who can help you find the best deal. 

To help our readers find the best mortgage, This is Money has partnered with independent fee-free broker L&C.

Our mortgage calculator powered by L&C can let you filter deals to see which ones suit your home’s value and level of deposit.

You can also compare different mortgage fixed rate lengths, from two-year fixes, to five-year fixes and ten-year fixes, with monthly and total costs shown.

Use the tool at the link below to compare the best deals, factoring in both fees and rates. You can also start an application online in your own time and save it as you go along.

> Compare the best mortgage deals available now

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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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How Much Have House Prices Changed In Your Area?

UK Home Prices

UK homeowners saw the value of their homes rise for the third month in a row, according to analysis by online estate agent Purplebricks.

The North East and North West of England were the biggest winners in average value rises in the UK, the latest figures show.

And now a new online calculator can show how much house prices have changed in your area in the last year.

The interactive tool below has been updated to include the latest House Price Index data, released by the Office for National Statistics today.

To use the Purplebricks calculator, simply search for YOUR local area and find out how house prices have changed over the last 12 months:

UK homeowners saw the value of their homes rise for the third month in a row, according to analysis by online estate agent Purplebricks

UK homeowners saw the value of their homes rise for the third month in a row, according to analysis by online estate agent Purplebricks

This three-bedroom semi flat in Stroud, where prices rose 9.8%, is on the market for £360,000

This three-bedroom semi flat in Stroud, where prices rose 9.8%, is on the market for £360,000

Average UK house prices increased by 0.4% or £1,000 from January to February, making the average property now valued at £281,000, according to today’s House Price Index (HPI).

Over the 12-month period to February, average prices fell just 0.2%, which is an improvement from the 1.3% decline in the 12 months to January this year.

In England, house prices were also on the increase, with a 0.6% monthly rise, making average property now valued at £298,000 – despite a 1.1% fall over the last year.

The North East of England saw the biggest monthly increase, with property prices soaring 3.2%, and 2.9% over the year. Average homes there are now worth £160,000.

And, homeowners in the North West saw the greatest annual price rise, up by 1%, meaning the average property there is now worth £214,000.

London is once again the hardest-hit UK region, with 4.8% annual decline, but a fall of just 0.7% from January to February – pricing the average home in the capital at £503,000 today.

Homeowners in The City of London were the surprise property-price winners, after a six-figure decline last month.

Homes in the capital’s famous banking district rose more than £73,000 or 9.1% – more than anywhere else in the UK – meaning the average property is now worth around £808,000.

But that was far from the picture across the rest of London, which saw six-figure price plunges in four areas and declines in a total of 29 areas.

The City of Westminster was hardest hit by the price drop, with properties shedding an eye-watering £190,000 over the last year.

This three-bed semi in South Hams, where prices rose 7.9%, is on the market for £490,000

This three-bed semi in South Hams, where prices rose 7.9%, is on the market for £490,000

Average UK house prices increased by 0.4% or £1,000 from January to February, making the average property now valued at £281,000

Average UK house prices increased by 0.4% or £1,000 from January to February, making the average property now valued at £281,000

Elsewhere in the capital, the exclusive borough of Kensington and Chelsea saw prices sink by more than £160,000 in a year, with Camden homes losing nearly £130,000 and Hammersmith and Fulham homes losing just over £100,000.

Outside London, the commuter town of St Albans saw nearly a £25,000 year-on-year price rise, making the average home now worth £589,270.

And, the picturesque North East district of Ribble Valley saw house prices increase by just over £20,000 in the last year, making the average property now worth £284,355.

House prices in Wales increased by 0.4% over the last month, despite an annual 1.2% fall – making the average property worth £211,000.

And, property prices continue to climb in Scotland, with the average home now priced at £188,000 after a 5.6% increase over the last year.

And, prices in Northern Ireland increased by 1.4% to £178,000 in the year to Quarter 4 of 2023.

Purplebricks CEO Sam Mitchell said: ‘Britain has now seen its third consecutive month-on-month increase in property prices – fantastic news for homeowners.

‘This three-month increase is evidence of a reinvigorated property market that will continue to go from strength to strength.’

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