Connect with us


Housing is ‘number one’ crisis facing young people – Taoiseach



Taoiseach Micheál Martin has acknowledged that housing is the biggest challenge facing the country, and said that the Government is working to produce a policy to tackle the issue of cuckoo funds buying up estates.

Mr Martin said the Government fully recognised that the current generation of young people were the most disadvantaged of all such generations when it came to buying affordable homes.

“Anything we can do in terms of housing, we are going to do because it’s the No 1 crisis facing the people, young people in particular who are in search of a new home – that’s something that worries me a lot,” he said.

The past week has seen revelations that foreign investment funds are buying up entire new estates in Maynooth and parts of Dublin and the Government has been urged to act promptly to prevent similar moves elsewhere.

Mr Martin said that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien are working on a strategy, including changes in taxation, to prevent a repeat of such practices.

“Paschal Donohoe is looking at the situation from his perspective, taxation and Darragh O’Brien is also looking at it from a planning perspective … when we have precise, specific proposals, then that is the time to announce them.”

Mr Martin played down the importance of a report in the Irish Mail on Sunday which said that Mr O’Brien had invested in one such fund when working in the financial sector prior to his election as a TD.

According to Mr O’Brien’s Oireachtas Dáil Register of Interests, he invested savings with a global Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit) run by Standard Life Assurance but relinquished his shares in 2009.

Mr Martin said he had not seen The Mail on Sunday report but investment funds entering the Irish market to invest in high-density builds for rent was not unusual at the time as the market was at a low ebb and little was happening.

He said that the situation had changed hugely from then and the State was now the major player in the housing market but the challenges remained huge to provide the necessary housing to cater for demographic changes.

‘New initiatives’

Mr Martin also played down suggestions of a rift between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over housing amid suggestions Mr O’Brien came in for some criticism from Fine Gael TDs at last week’s parliamentary party meeting.

Mr O’Brien is to take the unusual step of addressing Fine Gael’s private meeting of TDs and Senators in the coming weeks.

“I think that is a positive development and as far as we are concerned, Daragh has hit the ground running in terms of housing – quite a number of new initiatives have come forward, even from last July with the Voids programme.

“That was where we put money aside to get houses that had fallen into disuse, local authority houses, and we brought back about 3,000 plus in a short space of time into use within six months which is very, very good work.”

Mr Martin said that this year the State will provide some 12,750 social houses for people of which 9,000 will be new builds and while Covid-19 had affected the targets so far, he hoped that they would still be met by year’s end.

He pointed out that last year there were 20,000 built but 8,000 of those were social housing, suggesting that the private sector was no longer as strong in Ireland as it was in the past when banks lending money drove construction.

“The big player in the housing market at the moment is the State. We will provide 12,750 social houses – 9.500 of those we want to build – ow some of those targets have been hit by Covid but we hope we can pick it up

“So when you take last year there was only 20,000 houses built – 8,000 of those were social houses so the private sector is not strong actually in Ireland as it once was – banks drove housing in earlier eras through financing, they are no longer doing that.

“The State actually through one scheme or another is the big actor now in housing provision and what was announced last week by the Minister [Darragh O’Brien] relates to affordable housing,” he said.

Mr Martin said that there were now a number of schemes such as the Serviced Sites Fund, the Shared Equity Scheme, the Help to Buy Scheme which were designed to deal with the affordability issue for first-time buyers.

Mr Martin said that notwithstanding the impact Covid-19 restrictions had on the construction industry in the first months of the year, he was still hopeful that the sector would be able to deliver the 25,000 new homes target.

“Housing is a huge challenge and we need to get to about 33,000 per annum to provide for the demand that’s out there – when this Government came into office, we were doing about 20,000 odd – this year we had targeted 25,000.”

Source link


Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture



Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

Source link

Continue Reading


Ryanair reports €273m loss as passenger traffic rebounds



Ryanair has reported a €273 million loss for its first quarter even as traffic rebounded during the period.

The carrier said it carried 8.1 million passengers in the three month period, which cover April to June. This compares to just 500,000 in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues increased 196 per cent from €125 million in the first quarter of 2020 to €371 million for the same quarter this year. Operation costs also rose however, jumping from €313 million to €675 million.

Net debt reduced by 27 per cent on the back of strong operating of €590 million.

“Covid-19 continued to wreak havoc on our business during the first quarter with most Easter flights cancelled and a slower than expected easing of EU travel restrictions into May and June,” said group chief executive Michael O’Leary.

“Based on current bookings, we expect traffic to rise from over five million in June to almost nine million in July, and over 10 million in August, as long as there are no further Covid setbacks in Europe,” he added.

Ryanair said the rollout of EU digital Covid certificates and the scrapping of quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to Britain from mid-July has led to a surge in bookings in recent week.

First quarter scheduled revenues increased 91 per cent to €192 million on the back of the rise in passenger traffic although this was offset by the cancellation of Easter traffic and a delay in the relaxation of travel restrictions.

Ancillary revenue generated approximately €22 per passenger the company said.

Mr O’Leary foresaw growth opportunities for the airline due to the collapse of many European airlines during the Covid crisis, and widespread capacity cuts at other carriers.

“We are encouraged by the high rate of vaccinations across Europe. If, as is presently predicted, most of Europe’s adult population is fully vaccinated by September., then we believe that we can look forward to a strong recovery in air travel for the second half of the fiscal year and well into 2022 – as is presently the case in domestic US air travel,” he said.

However, the airline warned the future remains challenging due to continued Covid restrictions and a lack of bookings and that this meant it was impossible to provided “meaningful” guidance at the time.

“We believe that full0year 2022 traffic has improved to a range of 90 million to 100 million (previously guided at the lower end of an 80 million to 120 million passenger range) and (cautiously) expect that the likely outcome for the year is somewhere between a small loss and breakeven. This is dependent on the continued rollout of vaccines this summer, and no adverse Covid variant developments,” said Mr O’Leary.

Source link

Continue Reading


Switzerland’s Credit Suisse settles with star banker over spying scandal



CEO Tidjane Thiam was forced to resign in February 2020 after admitting the bank had hired investigators to follow Khan, head of international wealth management, because he had opted to move to arch-rival, UBS.

As well as sending shockwaves through banking circles, the case sparked a criminal probe in Switzerland.

“All parties involved have agreed to end the case,” Credit Suisse spokeswoman Simone Meier told NZZ am Sonntag, which revealed the agreement.

Meier declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.

The public prosecutor of the canton of Zurich has also ended his investigation, as the complaints have been withdrawn, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

Thiam’s resignation followed a torrid six-month scandal that began with revelations in the Swiss press that Khan had been shadowed by agents from a private detective company hired after he joined UBS. 

At one point, Khan physically confronted the people following him.

In October, chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee resigned, acknowledging at the end of an internal investigation that he “alone” had ordered the tailing without informing his superiors.

He had wanted to ensure that Khan was not trying to poach other employees, according to the internal investigation.

The case was reopened in December 2019 when the bank admitted to a second case of espionage, this time involving the former head of human resources, and then in February after media reports that the surveillance had also targeted the environmental organisation Greenpeace.

Source link

Continue Reading


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!