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Connacht Tribune

Brexit hits the buffers as DUP prove the fly in the ointment

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I'll be watching you...DUP leader Arlene Foster keeps a close eye on British Prime Minister Theresa May.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as Theresa May learned to her cost on Monday. With one phone call, DUP leader Arlene Foster essentially cut short the tête-à-tête between May and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker before they even had time to savour the dessert.

And now it has been left to the rest of us to rummage through the leftovers to see how it all went wrong.

The narrative that unravelled messily was a textbook illustration of something that was too good to be true.

From mid-morning on Monday, the sounds coming from Brussels were really positive. Officials from the EU and Britain had agreed a text that would allow “regulatory alignment” between North and South.

The word coming out from the emergency Cabinet meeting in Dublin was that it was all very close to agreement and the deal would be sealed at the lunch in Brussels between Juncker and May.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefed Opposition leaders on the shape of what was agreed. He and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tánaiste Simon Coveney organised a press conference for 2.30pm in Government Buildings. Everybody was primed to expect something major and momentous.

The hype was building up. RTÉ’s excellent Europe editor Tony Connelly was reporting the key phrase “regulatory alignment” between North and South well before lunch. If this were true, it was a significant coup for the Government after Donald Tusk and the whole of the EU Council had thrown their weight behind us.

But some of the text of the draft agreement began to leak out and it was clear it was running in our favour. “The UK remains committed to protecting North-South co-operation and a guarantee to avoiding a hard Border. The UK’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship.”

Problem was nobody told the DUP about the Theresa and Jean-Claude’s little arrangement. And as the details began to leak out, the reaction from Belfast was instantaneous.

“But in Westminster and in Dublin, nobody was in any doubt about the identity of the culprit – it was Arlene Foster, in Stormont, with the telephone,” was The Irish Times London Editor Denis Staunton’s summation.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Fuel for thought as we try and energise our wheels

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Country Living with Francis Farragher

A good few years back . . . well probably even decades . . . I remember asking quite a knowledgeable motoring correspondent, long gone to his eternal reward, about the pros and cons of staying with petrol or switching to diesel. By the time his reply had finished, nearly 20 minutes had elapsed, and I was avalanched with so much data that I was no wiser at the end of the conversation than I was at the start.

I thought of that a few weeks before Christmas when I happened to tune in to a programme on Channel 4 – Dispatches – which examined the practicalities of owning and driving an electric car across the roads of the United Kingdom.

There is a wish amongst all of us to pursue a more environmentally friendly way of life. At this stage, we all probably know someone who has purchased a fully electric car and certainly many more who have dipped their toes into the waters of the hybrid models.

Anyway, the main theme of the Dispatches programme was that after 10-years of investment by the UK authorities in the infrastructure needed to support electric cars, quite a shocking number of charging points were either out of action or were not working to their full efficiency.

Nearly 10% of the ‘rapid chargers’ sampled across the UK were found not to be working properly, while 30 new ultra-rapid charges were also found to be dysfunctional to varying degrees. Some of the charging points had been out of action for six years and a percentage of those were unrepairable as their technology base was now obsolete.

Apart from their significant extra cost – even if one qualifies for the maximum €5,000 Government grant – the great fear I would have with the electric cars is that I’d find myself marooned in a corner of Kerry or Antrim, out of ‘juice’, and unable to access a charging point.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Farm buildings can be used as business hubs in rural areas

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Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind)

RURAL farm buildings should be utilised for small business enterprises which would supplement the income of landowners as well as creating some local employment in the process.

This was the view of the vast majority of Galway councillors who passed a motion that buildings directly relating to farming be considered for other purposes that would be financially advantageous to the owners.

The matter came up for discussion at a meeting of the Galway County Development Plan when it was suggested that the farming community needed to be allowed develop small business opportunities.

A motion from Cllr. Declan Geraghty (Ind) – deviating slightly from Galway County Council policy – proposed that they be allowed carry out businesses such as the servicing and repair of machinery, land reclamation, drainage works, and agricultural contracting was carried.

The motion added that this be allowed where it is financially advantageous to locate in a given area and where it would not have an adverse impact on the environment.

The Williamstown councillor said that it could result in hundreds of small business enterprises being developed out of farm buildings.

“At the moment they cannot get planning permission for such enterprises given that they are located in a rural area,” he argued.

He was supported by Cllr. Pete Roche (FG) who went further by saying that even the establishment of pet farms or animal farms that could be opened up to the public were also options that could be considered.

“There are farm families at the moment who cannot earn a decent living out of agriculture alone and would relish the opportunity to diversify,” he added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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