Pandemic and Brexit discussed as all-Ireland council meets after long hiatus – dpa international

DUBLIN — Ireland’s government hosted Northern Ireland’s regional administration on Friday in the first sitting in over three years of the island’s North South Ministerial Council. Discussions centred on the novel coronavirus pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union, leaders said. Speaking at a lunchtime press conference in Dublin Castle, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said a “critical phase” lies ahead in talks between Britain and the EU, with failure threatening to stymie movement across the border between Ireland, an EU member-state, and Northern Ireland, which is British-ruled. “We don’t want to see trade barriers, either north-south, or east-west,” said Arlene Foster, first minister of Northern Ireland’s Belfast-based regional administration. Foster pushed for further discussions on handling the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 2,319 people and infected 32,000 across the island, according to official tallies.

Airline conglomerate IAG announces huge losses in wake of pandemic – dpa international

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DUBLIN — International Airlines Group (IAG), which counts British Airways and Iberia among its subsidiaries, on Friday announced a 55.7 per cent drop in revenue and losses of 3.8 billion euros (4.5 billion dollars) for the first half of 2020. Total revenues across the IAG’s fleets, which also include Ireland’s flagship airline Aer Lingus and low-cost carrier Vueling, fell from 12.02 billion euros to just over 5.3 billion euros, IAG said in a statement. IAG attributed the losses to the novel coronavirus, which it described as having “a devastating impact on the global airline and travel sectors.” After the World Health Organization in March declared the outbreak a pandemic, countries across Asia, Europe and North America imposed travel restrictions that in some cases included border closures. “As a result of government travel restrictions, quarter 2 passenger traffic fell by 98.4 per cent on a capacity reduction in the quarter of 95.3 per cent,” IAG said in its statement.

Amazon announces 1,000 new jobs and cloud investment in Ireland – dpa international

Outside an Amazon office in Dublin (Smon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Retailer Amazon will hire 1,000 people in Ireland over the next two years, according to a Monday statement by the country’s official investment promotion agency, IDA Ireland. The jobs are expected to take Amazon’s Irish headcount to 5,000 and are mostly in engineering and technical roles. “We have seen a surge in demand for cloud services in Ireland and globally, and we are excited to add 1,000 highly skilled roles,” said Mike Beary, Amazon’s country manager in Ireland. US-based Amazon will also invest in a cloud computing centre due to open in 2022 in Dublin, according to the IDA Ireland statement. Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said that the announcement bolsters Ireland’s “reputation as a leading nation in global technology.”

Push to ban books such as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from schools in Ireland – dpa international

Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird on a bookshelf in a west of Ireland home (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — A county council in Ireland is calling on the education ministry to review the school curriculum for books containing allegedly offensive language. The council in Meath, a county adjoining capital Dublin, in Ireland’s east, is petitioning the Department of Education and Skills to consider culling novels such as “Of Mice and Men” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the latter a Pulitzer Prize-winning anti-racism parable. Citing conversations with mixed-race families, councillor Alan Lawes said on Friday that the books caused students to use “certain racial slurs” against classmates. “I don’t think 12-year-olds have the mental capacity to deal with such books,” Lawes said, discussing the council’s request on Newstalk, a Dublin radio station.  Ex-diplomat Eamon Delaney said on the station that people should be “wary of banning books … it is censorship.”

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.

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.