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Connacht Tribune

Ireland is at the heart of Europe’s political agenda

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Gerard Kiely, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland

By Gerard Kiely, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland

 

When European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, delivered her first State of the Union address to the European Parliament on Wednesday, it is no exaggeration to say that Ireland was at the heart of this important speech, which outlines the EU’s vision and political priorities for the coming year.

 

Citing inspirational examples of political wisdom and humanity from the late John Hume and the heart-warming story of Suaad Alshleh, who arrived in Ireland as a refugee from Syria and received a prestigious scholarship to study medicine in Dublin, the President clearly appreciates Ireland’s positive contribution to advancing the values of the European Union.

 

President von der Leyen placed many of Ireland’s priorities at the top of Europe’s political agenda. She stressed the importance of reinforcing Europe’s social market economy to protect workers and businesses. President von der Leyen announced that the Commission will present a European anti-racism action plan and a strategy to strengthen LGBTQI rights. “LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our Union” she declared.

 

To help tackle the Covid pandemic in the coming year, the Commission will focus on building a European Health Union, with stronger agencies and enhanced capacity to respond to cross-border threats. The President called for a common plan for a ‘digital Europe’, with clearly defined goals for 2030, such as for connectivity, skills and digital public services.

 

On climate change, the European Commission proposes to increase the 2030 target for emissions reduction from 40% to 55%. This will put the EU on track for climate neutrality by 2050. “Meeting this new target will reduce our energy import dependency, create millions of extra jobs and more than halve air pollution,” Von der Leyen said.

 

The President further announced that 30% of the €750 billion #NextGenerationEU budget – a plan to ensure Europe’s recovery is sustainable and fair – will be raised through green bonds. And 37% of funding will be invested in European Green Deal objectives, including ‘lighthouse’ European projects – hydrogen, green building and one million electric charging points.

 

As part of the Green Deal, the ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’ proposes a transformation of the food system right across the supply chain. Given Ireland’s strong agricultural tradition, we need to work together to ensure that Irish farmers are financially supported when developing more sustainable practices.

 

The European Commission’s support for Ireland on Brexit remains unwavering: President von der Leyen stated once again that the EU would never backtrack on its support for the Good Friday agreement and peace on the island of Ireland.

 

Certainly, this brave political agenda for Europe and Ireland will meet many challenges, but as President von der Leyen put it: ‘Europe will be what we want it to be. So let us stop talking it down. And let’s get to work for it.’

Connacht Tribune

Remote working creates rural boom

Stephen Corrigan

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Report....Professor Alma McCarthy.

Urban dwellers are now looking to up sticks and move to the countryside, as working from home becomes the norm – and with a new survey showing almost all workers who have made the switch hoping to maintain some level of remote working, rural life is becoming increasingly attractive.

According to one of the lead researchers behind the second national employee survey carried out since the onset of Covid-19, remote working is surging in popularity, with 94% of over 5,600 participants hoping to continue working remotely for some or all of the time – an increase from 83% six months ago.

Professor Alma McCarthy of the Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUIG told the Connacht Tribune that the desire to continue working from home had grown since the first phase of the survey in April, with more flexible hours and no traffic adding to its appeal.

“What we are looking at here is a particular cohort of the workforce that have jobs which lend themselves to working from home, and where people have that opportunity, we see that support has gone up [for remote working].

“Most people want a blended type of working arrangement, where they work from home some of the time and go into the office maybe one or two days a week. I think that is probably how it will look from now on,” said Prof McCarthy.

The number of people who wish to work from home five days a week has more than doubled since April, now at 27% compared to 12% in the early days of Covid-19.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Retail outlets stay positive despite shut-down

Stephen Corrigan

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Challenge...Fiona Charity.

Galway retailers have reiterated calls to shop local online in the coming weeks, as Level 5 restrictions force them to close their doors in the run up to peak shopping season.

From today (Thursday), unessential retailers must shut up shop until December 1 – limiting outlets such as clothes, furniture and toy shops to online sales and collections only.

One such shop is Modella Fashion in Corrandulla, which only opened its doors for the first time in July, and while owner Fiona Charity said it was clearly a huge challenge to start a new business in a pandemic, she remained hopeful that she could weather the storm.

“It’s obviously hugely disappointing, but public health is the most important thing, and if this works, we might have more freedom for Christmas.

“We are lucky in that we went live with our website last week and that’s been really busy already. Even though we can’t open, people are able to order online and have their order delivered, or click and collect,” said Ms Charity ahead of closing this week.

Likewise, Standún in An Spidéal has seen a surge in their online sales since the onset of Covid-19, according to manager Deirdre Ní Ghríofa, who said the message for everyone was to “shop local as much as you possibly can”.

Ms Ní Ghríofa said they had a big increase in local sales online during the early days of the pandemic and that was something she hoped would continue in the run up to Christmas.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Back in our bubble – and braced for the impact

Dara Bradley

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Fourth Class pupils from Galway Educate Together NS in Newcastle enjoying the wonder of science to mark the launch of Galway Science and Technology Festival's 2020 online programme running from November 8 to 22.

Galway is braced for the economic impact of this week’s return to lockdown – with both the pub and retail sector preparing for the worst.

The head of the county’s publicans predicted that as many as one in five outlets will never reopen, given that the best case scenario now is that they’ll return to Level 3 for Christmas,  which limits outdoor drinkers to just 15.

In a stark warning, Chair of the Galway branch of the VFI, Joe Sheridan, said a conservative estimate was that 20% of pubs won’t reopen – but that could rise to one-third if they didn’t see some return to business for the festive season.

Retailers too were predicting the worst – but still with the belief that a good December could save them.

The reasoning behind the move to Level 5 was underlined by the fact that new cases of the infection are now rising at a rate of 500 per week.

After another record week of positive cases in Galway, there were 13 patients in two public hospitals being treated for Covid-19 – twelve in UHG and one in Ballinasloe.

There were a further three suspected cases in UHG.

See full coverage of the Covid crisis in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download a digital version from our website www.connachttribune.ie

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