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Ireland at the height of the Eircom bubble

Voice Of EU



The Celtic Tiger was an epochal period in recent Irish history, yet its cultural footprint is surprisingly modest. Where is the great Celtic Tiger novel, television series or concept album?

Somebody will some day surely get around to giving us the definitive take on the country’s embrace of flashy, Loadsamoney capitalism through the late 1990s (which was quite distinct from the financial cataclysm of 2008 and the housing bubble preceding it). Until then we shall have to make do with documentaries such as Sold: The Eircom Shares Saga (RTÉ One, Monday, 9.35pm). 

It is essentially Wolf of Wall Street meets Glenroe. When the government decided to sell off Eircom, in 1999, ordinary Irish people were encouraged to take a punt. Mary O’Rourke, minister for public enterprise at the time, tells the programme’s director, Tom Burke, that she never advised the public to pump their savings into the company. “I could not give any spoken affirmation you should buy,” she says.

A glossy ad riffing on Riverdance pitched the flotation as symbolic of an Ireland marching into the future. The sense was that investing in Eircom was much the same as banking on Ireland itself, that it would be almost unpatriotic not to

Yet the message that went out was that investing in Eircom was a sure thing. A glossy ad riffing on Riverdance pitched the flotation as symbolic of an Ireland marching into the future. The sense was that investing in Eircom was much the same as banking on Ireland itself, that it would be almost unpatriotic not to.

The ad was memorable. But the copyrighter Nick Kelly says that what was being advertised was highly nebulous. “There was almost nothing you could say about the product,” he recalls. “It’s a big thing … and it’s happening. That was it, really.”

A lot of people did very well out of Eircom. But not those who rushed to buy shares in July 1999. They saw red – as did their bank accounts – as Eircom’s value plunged in the teeth of the dotcom bust.

Instead the winners were Eircom employees, as represented by their unions, and those involved in the Tony O’Reilly-led consortium that later bought the company. Eircom, meanwhile, quickly became loaded with debt and reduced to a shadow of its former self (a process that started with the sell-off of its fast-growing mobile-phone division to Vodafone).

As an oral history of another great Irish debacle, Sold: The Eircom Shares Saga is riveting. It begins in the late 1970s, when Ireland felt like a failed state and installing a telephone could take more than 18 months. Tellingly, it was the pressure from multinationals that forced the country to develop a telecoms infrastructure fit for purpose. In 1999, not long before the Eircom float, Microsoft decided against locating a data centre here, supposedly because of the poor quality of our communications network. Something would have to be done.

If the Eircom saga is often glossed over in popular history, those stung by it have not forgotten. One man recalls his bank suggesting he borrow to buy extra shares

A business perspective is brought by journalists such Matt Cooper, editor of the Sunday Tribune in 1999, and Richard Curran, then RTÉ’s business editor, who describes the “frenzy around Telecom Éireann”.

Rather fewer politicians appear on camera. O’Rourke is the only member of the cabinet at that time to be interviewed. Nor is anyone lining up to shoulder blame for the harm done to the finances of so many ordinary citizens. O’Rourke says that anyone who got out early did well. “So many didn’t cash in when they could have had and make a decent amount of money,” she says.

But Sold:The Eircom Shares Saga is at its most revealing when turning away from the talking heads. Interviews with members of the public reveal that, if the Eircom saga is often glossed over in popular history, those stung by it have not forgotten. One man recalls his bank suggesting he borrow to buy extra shares. Another recollects a business adviser talking him out of investing £20,000 in Eircom.

“It was a con,” says Paul Sweeney, an economist with the Siptu union. “It appealed to people’s greed … The people owned [Eircom] already. They were being sold their own company.”

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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

Voice Of EU



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

Voice Of EU



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

Voice Of EU



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 and, 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.


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.


“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.


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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