Minister announces sale of Bord Gáis to a consortium after the Government accepted a new revised bid
IRELAND: Bord Gáis will be sold for €1.12bn following approval of a bid by Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin today.
In a statement they announced that they have approved the selection of a preferred bidder for the acquisition of the company.
Today's news comes following the Minister's previous announcement last month that he was withdrawing Bord Gáis from the market, because the bids being submitted did not reach the Government's price range.
It's now understood that a consortium made up of Centrica, owned by British Gas, Brookfield Renewables and iCON Infrastructure will be the new owners of the Irish utility supplier.
The consortium was selected as preferred bidder on the basis of its revised bid which has an enterprise value of up to €1.12bn.
Discussions will now commence between Bord Gáis Éireann and the preferred bidder on finalising the terms of the sale agreement which is expected to be signed in early 2014.
Future for employees
In parallel, Bord Gáis Éireann will engage with its employees, their trade union representatives, and the preferred bidder over employee related matters arising from the proposed sale.
In a joint statement the ministers said that they were pleased with this development.
"Each consortium member brings with it deep industry experience and significant financial strength to support the continued investment in the business. The entry into the all-island energy market of international strategic investors is a strong vote of confidence in the market, the Irish economy and in the Bord Gais Energy business and its employees."
Minister Rabbitte suggested that the successful conclusion of the sale will help provide additional funding to enable more investment in infrastructure and jobs.
IRELAND: Prices rose by 0.3% last month compared with November of last year according to consumer price index figures (CPI) released today.
The most noticeable increases from the figures released by the Central Statistics office (CSO) was an increase in alcohol and tobacco which showed a 6.2 per cent rise.
Education costs were 4.5 per cent higher than the same month last year, while
In the hospitality industry, restaurant and hotel prices were up 3.1 per cent. This increase was linked to the increase in the cost of alcohol.
Clothing and footwear products showed a decrease with a fall of 4.6 per cent and furnishings and household equipment prices fell 4.2 per cent.
Also down on the same time last year were communication and transport costs. Communication costs were down 3.1 per cent, while transport costs fell 1.7 per cent, mainly due to a fall in fuel costs.
The figures also suggest that health costs are down 0.8 per cent.
The CSO report indicated that education rose due to an increase in third level costs/fees, while alcohol and tobacco rose due to higher prices for alcohol sold in off-licences and supermarkets.
Restaurants and hotels increased due to the higher prices for the alcohol consumed on licensed premises.
Transport fell due to decreases in petrol and diesel prices and also motor car prices. Clothing and footwear fell due to sales in that category.
IRELAND: The Minister for Energy has asked the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) to intervene in the dispute between the ESB and their unions.
Minister Pat Rabbitte has called for intervention to prevent planned industrial action taking place next week.
“After several days of discussions between ESB unions and management, no resolution of the dispute has yet emerged," Minister Rabbitte said.
The minister said that It was unthinkable that Ireland's economic recovery was being jeopardised, consumers were being inconvenienced and our country’s reputation undermined by the dispute.
"I have therefore this evening requested the Labour Relations Commission to convene the parties at the earliest possible time. I am now asking the parties to use the industrial relations machinery of the state to resolve the dispute and clear up any uncertainty as early as possible”.
Senator Fergal Quinn
However, Minister Rabbitte's strong words on intervention follow his comment yesterday, that the Irish Government would not be supporting Senator Feargal Quinn’s proposed bill to penalise industrial action by Irish utility companies.
Senator Quinn is hoping to have the yet unpublished - Proposed Critical Utilities (Security of Supply) Bill debated in the Seanad next week.
The published bill would create new criminal offences, with provision for up to 5 years imprisonment.
“Of course the Government believes there should not be industrial disruption in our utilities but using criminal law to try to achieve this would be counterproductive".
“The success of our industry relations machinery is due in no small way to the fact that it is voluntarist in character. Almost invariably both sides of industry have given their voluntary allegiance to making our industrial relations institutions work," Minister Rabbitte added.
He said he thought that the industrial relations machinery of the State worked exceptionally effectively and mandatory provisions to punish the withdrawal of labour would risk undermining its effectiveness.
IRELAND: Jobs Minister, Richard Bruton has welcomed Forbes Maagaine's annual ranking of the best countries for business, which puts Ireland in first place.
Speaking from Indonesia where he is attending the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference and EU Trade Council, the minister said that the ranking was a testament to the hard work and innovation of Ireland's businesses and workers.
Mr Bruton said that this was one of the latest in a range of indicators which showed that Ireland's business environment was steadily improving.
"The Government has a key role too in delivering improvements in the environment for business. Before the election we said that we would seek to make Ireland the best small country in the world for business and in order to achieve this, we put in place the action plan for Jobs to drive change across the economy," Minister Bruton said.
"Through continued implementation of the action plan, this year and in future years, the Government are determined to ensure that we sustain these improvements and cement our reputation as the best country in the world for business," he added.
IRELAND: A total of ten closure orders and one prohibition order were served in November for breeches of food legislation.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) served the orders were served pursuant to the FSAI Act, 1998 and the EC (Official Control of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010 and the the orders were issued by environmental health officers for the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Five Closure Orders were served under the FSAI Act, 1998 on:
• Old Cheese Plant (meat processing), Cuffsboro, Ballacolla, Laois
• Paddy Jack’s Foodstall, Temple Bar Food Market, Meeting House Square, Dublin 2
• Heng Hui Foods (central distribution centre), Unit 7, Block B, Westpoint Business Point Park, Tuam Road, Athlone, Roscommon
• Munchin’s Grill (take-away) (rear area external potato preparation shed), Unit 5, Westbury Centre, Parteen, Clare
• Tandoori Masala (take-away) 402 South Circular Road, Dublin 8
Five Closure Orders were served under the EC (Official controls of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010 on:
• The Railway Tavern Firebox Grill (Kitchen Areas), Station Road, Fahan, Donegal
• Gojinka (restaurant) Manor Mall Shopping Centre, Swords, Dublin
• Hot Woks (take-away), Unit 16 Aston Green, Aston Village, Drogheda, Louth
• Cedar Lodge (hotel kitchen area only), Carrigbyrne, Newbawn, Wexford
• Saffron Tandori Indian Takeaway, 1, Annamoe Road, Cabra, Dublin 7
One Prohibition Order was served under the EC (Official controls of Foodstuffs) Regulations, 2010 on the premises occupied by Mr Derek O’ Donovan (central distribution centre), Unit K3, Marina Commercial Park, Cork.
During the month of November, a successful prosecution was carried out by the Health Service Executive on Jade Palace (restaurant), 2 Douglas Street, Cork.
Prof Alan Reilly, Chief Executive, FSAI said that there was no excuse for putting consumers’ health at risk through negligent practices.
"Consumers have to be confident that the food they are consuming is safe to eat. Food businesses need to be vigilant in relation to food safety at all times".
He added that businesses needed to be extra vigilant during the busy Christmas period to ensure full compliance with food regulations.
Prof. Reilly said the FSAI and enforcement officers will continue to use a zero tolerance policy in relation to breaches of food safety legislation.
IRELAND: The Road safety Authority (RSA) and drinkaware.ie say drivers need to remember the ‘Morning After’ when they are out celebrating over the Christmas period.
Together today (Dec 2nd) they launched this year’s campaign to reduce the incidence of ‘morning after’ drink driving over the Christmas holidays.
They are challenging Ireland’s drivers with the question “You’d never ever drink or drive. Or would you?”
According to official Garda figures, over 400 drivers under the influence were detected between the hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings in the period from January 1st to September 27th 2013.
The message is simple: it takes your body roughly ONE HOUR to get rid of ONE STANDARD DRINK. That’s one hour for a half a pint, or a small glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits, and two hours for a pint to be eliminated from your body.
They are also warning drivers that no amount of coffee, energy drinks, cold showers or breakfast rolls will speed up the process. You might feel better but it doesn’t mean you are fit to drive.
Half of the drivers included in the figures were less than 35 years old, peaking in the 30-34 age group (see table above).
Fionnuala Sheehan, Chief Executive of drinkaware.ie commented: “Most of us would never plan to drink and drive but the reality is that many of us will be celebrating over Christmas and won’t think about what we drank the night before when we get in the car the following morning”.
John Caulfield, Interim Chief Executive with the RSA said that the majority of people are doing the right thing and leaving the car keys at home when heading out for a few drinks. But he noted that there was an ongoing problem with people not realising they could be still over the limit to drive the following morning.
"These very same people are unaware that with the introduction of the new lower drink drive limits, when they get behind the wheel the next morning they could still have alcohol in their system, and still be unfit to drive. That’s why this campaign is so important. We want to make people aware of the danger of drink driving the following morning so they can continue to do the right thing,” he said.
The campaign has been running on an annual basis since 2007 and communicates two pieces of information:
IRELAND: Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn is asking for peoples opinions on ITC best use practice in the classroom.
The use of ITC or Information Communication Technology will make up part of the public consultation phase for new Digital Strategy for Schools.
Parents, teachers, students, industry and academics are being asked for their views on how best to make use of computers and technology in the classroom.
Minister Quinn launched the public consultation phase of the new strategy today.
It's understood that the consultation phase will feed into the development of a new strategy on the use of ICT in teaching and learning in primary and post primary schools. This follows on from a comprehensive online survey of principals and teachers which took place earlier in the year.
The findings from the survey, the public consultation process and focus groups to be held next year will together inform the new strategy.
MInister Quinn said that the potential for using technology in the classroom was huge, but his department needed to ask important policy questions such as what sort of benefit they expect from using technology in schools and how would they measure progress?
“In this consultation phase, we are particularly interested in hearing from schools, parents, industry and academics on how we can genuinely use technology to improve teaching and learning in our classrooms – but also bearing in mind the challenging financial environment that many families and schools are facing,” he said.
“We already have some excellent examples of schools who are using technology to innovate in the classroom. Our challenge now is to ensure that every child in every school has the same opportunities to engage with technology across all aspects of the curriculum,” he concluded.
A key aspect to supporting the use of technology is broadband in schools. This includes the introduction of 100 Mbps broadband to all post primary schools and investment in broadband for primary schools to ensure continued improvements in connections are available.
The new Digital Strategy for Schools is expected to be completed some time in 2014, and will set out how resources, policies and projects can be prioritised and organised throughout the school system for the next five years.
The closing dates for submissions is 31st January 2014. Submissions can be made via www.education.gov.ie.
IRELAND: Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin has today welcomed the appointment of the new Ombudsman and Information Commissioner.
In welcoming the appointment, Minister Howlin said that the new Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall would bring considerable experience and expertise to the position.
Confident in his ability
“I am confident that Mr Tyndall will successfully apply this expertise to the vital duties of Ombudsman and Information Commissioner, whose extended remit now covers all Government Departments, Local Authorities, the HSE, and some 180 additional public bodies, including publicly funded third level institutions and educational bodies, recently added through the Ombudsman (Amendment) Act, 2012.”
Mr Tyndall who was a previous public service ombudsman for Wales will begin his term of appointment today.
President Michael D. Higgins officiated at the Appointment Ceremony, while Minister Howlin was aslo in attendance.
IRELAND: Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has welcomed Japan's decision to re-open its beef market to Irish exports.
The news means that Japan is open to Irish beef for the first time since 2001, and marks Ireland as one of a select group of countries allowed to export beef into the Japan.
The decision to allow access came after a meeting between Enda Kenny, Minister Coveney and Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
Bord Bia estimates that the short to medium term opportunity for Irish beef in Japan is worth between €12 and €15m with potential for significant expansion beyond that over time.
Commenting on Japan's decision, the Taoiseach said: "It is
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