Scottish Catholic shrine gets tech salvation for holy water drought – dpa international

DUBLIN — With concerns about coronavirus leaving most Catholic churchgoers without their cherished holy water, a prototype contactless dispenser is being trialled at a shrine in Scotland. In use starting this week at Carfin Grotto in the town of Motherwell, the device resembles a water-cooler or liquid soap dispenser and is activated by cupping a hand near a sensor positioned under the water. A video posted on the Carfin Grotto Facebook page shows the dispenser in action, with the narrator thanking a parishioner named Paul Lawlor and a local tech firm known as Lawlor Techologies for the device. “One of the things we’ve been missing the most,” the narrator said, “is blessing ourselves with holy water.”

Ryanair to close Frankfurt Hahn hub, considering shutting other German bases – dpa international

Bleak midwinter at Dublin Airport (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Budget airline Ryanair will shutter its base at Frankfurt Hahn Airport and is considering doing the same with Berlin Tegel and at Weeze Airport near the Dutch border, Ryanair division Malta Air said in an internal memo seen by dpa on Tuesday. The move comes after majority of German pilots voted against a proposed deal of savings including paycuts that Ryanair said were required because of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to the memo, management has decided the airline “must move on to deliver savings in other ways and adjust our German operations to tackle the unsustainable cost base at our German airports.” German pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) said late Tuesday that as many as 170 pilots could be affected by the decision, adding that negotiations with the airline had not been concluded.

Late football hero Charlton gets unique Anglo-Irish stamp of approval – dpa international

Mail delivery van in Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A first-ever joint postmark will be used on mail sent from England and Ireland in memory of the late football player and manager Jack Charlton, who died on July 10 aged 85. Featuring an image of a football and reading “Jack Charlton, 1935 – 2020,” the postmark will be applied until August 9, the British and Irish postal services announced Monday. Charlton was a central defender on the England team that won the World Cup in 1966 and later managed the Irish national team that reached the quarter-finals at their World Cup debut in 1990. David McRedmond, CEO of Ireland’s An Post, described Charlton as “an English hero who became an Irish legend” during a Monday launch event with former Ireland defender Paul McGrath. 

German-registered fishing boat detained by Ireland’s navy – dpa international

The Atlantic Ocean seen from the coast of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A German-registered boat was detained overnight by Ireland’s navy for “alleged breaches of fishing regulations,” the Irish Naval Service and Irish Defence Forces said in a statement on Friday. The intercepted vessel is being escorted to port by an Irish navy ship named after poet William Butler Yeats, where it will be handed over to police, the navy said. The vessel was stopped in the Atlantic Ocean around 250 nautical miles (463 kilometres) north-west of Malin Head, the island of Ireland’s northernmost point. The waters where the vessel was detained are rich in cod, haddock, whiting and plaice, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations body.

Ireland’s seal orphans get surrogate mothers made from old wetsuits – dpa international

Beach near Westport on Ireland's Atlantic coast (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — With temperatures bobbing around an unseasonally cool 12 degrees and the usual summer storms rumbling toward the Atlantic seaboard, it’s been a busy June and July for Seal Rescue Ireland. The charity helps hundreds of injured seals who are thrown by storms onto Ireland’s craggy, wave-battered coast., wiith volunteers typically spending these months keeping an eye out for grey and common seal pups parted from their parents by soaring seas. Pups do not usually live for very long without their mothers. “If this happens before they’ve gained sufficient weight or have learned necessary life skills, they have virtually no chance of survival on their own,” says Melanie Croce, Seal Rescue Ireland’s executive director. “This season alone, starting with our first common seal pup on the 4th of June, we’ve had 20 orphaned pups that have come into our care,” says Croce.

World population growth to tail off, changing global balance of power – dpa international

Pedestrians on Grafton Street in Dublin (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Long-term predictions about global demographic expansion will prove overblown as deeper shifts reshape geopolitics, according to projections published on Wednesday in The Lancet, a British medical journal. The world’s population will increase from the current 7.8 billion to a peak of 9.7 billion by 2064, before falling back to 8.8 billion by the century’s end, going by newly-published modelling undertaken by academics from the University of Washington (UWA). The trends suggest that China’s 2017 population of 1.4 billion could drop to 730 million – steeper than UN projections, which give China a population of around one billion in 2100. Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is on track to triple to 3.07 billion, leading to it becoming an “increasingly powerful continent on the geopolitical stage.” Though China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy by 2035, the US will reclaim top spot decades later, after China’s working-age population plummets to 350 million.

Ireland could face tougher investment fight after coronavirus – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland’s investment promotion agency warned on Wednesday of a “very challenging” two years for the country’s economy if the coronavirus pandemic leads to investment plummeting along predicted lines. Though Ireland is a hub for US businesses operating in the European Union, a looming plunge in global foreign direct investment (FDI) will leave ireland facing “heightened competition,” according to state body IDA Ireland. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development warned in June of a 40 per cent drop in worldwide FDI due to the pandemic. “We will have to fight harder than ever before for new investment projects,” said Leo Varadkar, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Irish central bank says virus curbs caused ‘deep downturn’ – dpa international

Some retailers open, some not, along central Dublin street in June (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The novel coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions could shrink the Irish economy by nearly 14 per cent in 2020, according to the country’s central bank. In a report published on Friday, the Central Bank of Ireland said that a “widespread shutdown of businesses caused by the pandemic” led to “sudden and large-scale job losses” and a “severe negative shock to both consumer spending and investment.” The worst-case scenario of a 13.8-per-cent recession is based on the virus lingering through the year and prompting some restrictions to be reimposed. The bank’s best-case outcome would see Ireland’s gross domestic product (GDP) down by 9 per cent, slightly better than the 10.5 per cent projected earlier by the Finance Ministry.

Irish political party accused of breaching coronavirus restrictions at funeral – dpa international

DUBLIN — Leaders of Irish political party Sinn Féin were among hundreds who gathered in Belfast on Tuesday for the funeral of Bobby Storey, a senior figure in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) who died nine days ago aged 64. After the funeral was criticised on social media for seeming to breaching rules meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in Northern Ireland – which cap funeral attendances at 10 people – some of Sinn Féin’s political rivals took aim. Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said at a Tuesday press conference that “no person” is “above the regulations and guidance we have laid down on how we combat Covid-19.” Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) parliamentarian Gregory Campbell called for “police action,” claiming that Sinn Féin leaders “showed no respect” for the restrictions – which it previously said should be applied without exemption. A police spokeswoman later told The Belfast Telegraph newspaper that officers will review footage of the funeral. Though Sinn Féin shares control of Northern Ireland’s devolved administration with the DUP, the two parties are ideological rivals. The DUP – and Swann’s UUP – oppose Sinn Féin’s aim of ending British rule in Northern Ireland.

A bit different: Ireland’s pubs reopen but under new pandemic rules – dpa international

Pints of Guinness served on June 29 2020 as Ireland allows some pubs to reopen after almost 4 months closure due to coronavirus (Simon Roughneen)

CLAREMORRIS — Some of Ireland’s pubs were pouring pints on Monday for the first time in nearly four months as the country lifts most coronavirus-related restrictions. Speaking over the evening chatter of customers in The Western, a pub and hotel in Claremorris – a town of around 4,000 people in the west of Ireland – manager Patrick Mitchell said “we had no idea what to expect today, we have been quite busy, but it is a bit different.” Patrons are allowed one hour and 45 minutes drinking-time in bars that serve food – as long as they splash out on a “substantial meal” priced at 9 euros (10 dollars) or more and adhere to social distancing requirements. Inside The Dalton Inn, about 100 metres down the street from The Western, owner Andrew Cooper said “we’re sticking strictly to those rules.” The regime means that only bigger pubs equipped with kitchens will reopen for now – with the food tab so far a deterrent to would-be punters.