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Irish jobs may be devastated by on-line commerce



Date Published: 10-Aug-2012

 A GOVERNMENT-BACKED agency has warned that the growth of online shopping in this country could devastate the Irish economy unless a drastic national digital strategy is put in place.

The warning from the Digital Hub Development Agency should not be taken lightly, as it estimated that Irish consumers will spend more than €20 billion online each year by 2017.

The agency wants to see a strategy to ensure indigenous companies strengthen their share of the online market place to prevent an ‘immense’ loss to the economy.

It said more jobs could be created, and more profits made for Irish firms, if consumers here bought more online products from indigenous firms.

But the reality is that only 20% of Irish companies have an online presence compared to 40% of firms in the UK – and this is what needs to change.

The reality is that – because of their presence and the attraction of the companies and goods for sale – most of the money spent online by Irish consumers goes to companies in the UK. And this creates the potential for both a massive drain on the state coffers and a devastating loss of existing jobs in this country. Irish consumers already spend close to €4 billion online each year but a massive 75% going overseas, mainly to the UK.

One of the areas already suffering from the exodus to the net is the Irish betting industry – even punters at racetracks are using their mobile phones to place bets on the net while checking the odds with the on course bookies – although the introduction of new legislation will go some way to addressing this.

The Government will introduce an online betting tax in the hope of raising €50 million over the next three years – but the knock-on effect of that is to level the playing field so that bookie shops and on-course operators are not the only ones forced to contribute a slice of their profits back into the industry.

Currently bookmakers pay a 1% tax on their shop profits and the proposed legislation would extend that tax to their online profits, while betting exchanges such as Betfair would be subject to a 15% tax on their gross profits.

The upshot of all this is to both level the playing field and add much needed revenue to the state coffers – a blueprint that could well be repeated across the entire digital sector in the future.

The problem is that overseas bookmakers taking online bets from Irish customers might not comply with this proposed tax on internet betting.

So clearly there are intrinsic difficulties in policing any tax that involves overseas or out of reach companies, but that’s where international tax legislation comes into its own.

Given that there has already been such an exodus away from the traditional store to the internet, the threat to existing employment is obvious – but equally attempting to stem that is like trying to hold back time.

The simple solution is to make goods liable for tax in the country in which they are consumed – although enforcing that will be the key.

It’s a problem that’s not unique to Ireland of course – the US Senate’s Commerce Committee was grappling with the problem last week where the income potential is clearly a multiple of ours.

The DHDA recommends tackling this from a more positive perspective through re-education – particularly of marginalised groups – to train people in the skills required in a digital economy, as well as the roll-out of a world-class communications infrastructure.

The Government is already committed to that broadband roll-out, but this underlines more than ever how crucial it is to our growth and prosperity.

Because the future may be global – but we still want to ensure a big slice of it stays close to home.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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