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Scepticism expressed by solicitors over personal injury award figures



Solicitors report a changed environment since the introduction of new guidelines on personal injuries but still express surprise at Government figures which show a 50 per cent reduction in the level awards just over eleven weeks after the new system came into force.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a media briefing today that the preliminary findings of a new report from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) found there had been a substantial reduction in the amount of awards since the introduction of new guidelines on personal injuries on April 24th.

According to Mr Varadkar and Minister of State for Insurance, Seán Fleming, the PIAB data indicates that since the introduction of the new personal injuries guidelines, approved by the Judicial Council, some 78 per cent of awards are now €15,000 or less compared to 30 per cent of awards in 2020.

But Eamonn Fleming of Fleming and Barrett Solicitors in Bandon, West Cork expressed surprise that the Government has been able to present such data so quickly given that the new Personal Injuries Guidelines only came into effect just over eleven weeks ago.

Kite flying

“I think there’s a certain amount of kite flying here by the Government, coming out so soon after the change in the guidelines which came into play on April 24th – the last official PIAB report in 2019 said the actual waiting time for the delivery of claims was 7.8 months,” he said.

“Very few claims would have been resolved or offers made by the Injuries Board since the new guidelines came into effect – I just can’t see how many of them would have been done in time since April so let’s give it time to bed in and see what happens in the long run.”

Sean Cahill of CW Ashe in Macroom was also somewhat sceptical about the Government claims so soon after the change but acknowledged that the new Personal Injuries Guidelines were having an impact on offers and awards from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

“My experience of PIAB in the last 12 months is that they are not making decisions, they are not giving awards – they obviously knew this change in the guidelines was coming down the track but I’ve found the output from PIAB over the last 12 months has been practically zilch.”

Mr Cahill said one of the issues that he and other solicitors was finding is that the new guidelines are being applied retrospectively – something he suspects may be open to legal challenge as it is having a clear impact on cases dating back almost a year or more.

“I have a case from June 2020 where four people were injured in a car crash – they were totally in the right and the application was lodged in September 2020 but I’ve heard nothing from PIAB and now the new guidelines will apply even though it happened well before they came into effect.

“I had another case just before Christmas where a client was rear-ended and I got the application in very quickly – it was a whiplash type of injury and very genuine and in the normal course, I would expect between €12,000 and €15,000 but the insurance company offered me €3,000.”

Mr Cahill said that the change in the guidelines means that the insurance industry was now “holding all the aces” and another Cork solicitor, who didn’t wish to be named, made a similar point given his experience dealing with insurers over personal injury claims in recent months.

‘Siberia out there’

“There is savage pressure on now from insurance companies – even if an accident predates the new guidelines, they are adjudicating under the new figures and say: ‘This is what we are going to offer and if you don’t want to take it, we will let it go to court and you can take your chances’.

“If they tender it and make you an offer and you fail to beat that offer you when you go to court, you can get caught for both sets of costs – insurance companies are just cutting loose and it’s Siberia out there for plaintiffs and their solicitors at the moment.”

Midleton solicitor, Ken Murray agreed, saying the new guidelines has strengthened the hand of the insurance industry even when dealing with older claims but he admitted to still being surprised the government was able to produce such dramatically different figures so quickly.

“I don’t know how they are coming up with these figures unless they are calculating the figures for April and May this year compared to April and May last year – that said, there has been a real sea change and the defence industry have a very definite spring in their step these days.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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