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The Briefing

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 1st October

AIKEN Weekly Digest – 1st October Banner

by Aiken PR

01/10/2021

Some much needed…Cheers!

The Hospitality sector finally got some good news this week with changes to Northern Ireland’s liquor licensing laws after 25 years. The legislation was brought forward by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and the changes had been in the pipeline for several years. The main changes that have come into effect today include pubs, clubs, and hotels now being allowed to open for an extra hour on 104 nights per year along with the historically restricted trading hours over Easter being removed and the restrictions on Sunday drinking also relaxed. Hospitality Ulster, in one of their more positive statements in recent times, welcomed the developments with Colin Neill stating that the “modest changes that will make a large difference”. It will come as an early Christmas present for not only the hospitality industry many of whom have been closed for much of the last 18 months. Oh, before you go booking your taxi for 2:30am, the applications only open today so a few more weeks yet…….still, cheers to that!

In the South this week, it emerged that the Government may be prepared to give up the fight against the OECD’s global corporation tax increases. Speaking from Dublin Castle on Thursday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe dropped hints that the Government could agree to the proposals but only in their current form. The Government is seeking assurances that the increase to 15% will be the only increase and that Ireland will not be duped into introducing a higher rate further down the line. The Finance Minister is set to bring the proposals to the Coalition next week with a decision set to be made.

NI

Update on Vaccinations

• Covid booster jabs are being rolled out to care home residents and staff across Northern Ireland. Health Minister Robin Swann said the wider delivery of the third shots will begin in October for all those eligible – equating to around 900,000 people.

• People eligible for a flu vaccine, including pregnant women and people aged 50 and over, are being urged to request a jab by the Public Health Agency. The call comes as 2,519,582 Covid vaccine doses have now been administered across NI.

• Irish passport holders who live in and were vaccinated in Northern Ireland can now access the EU Digital Covid Certificate. The vaccine “passport”, which allows international travel, came into effect in the Republic of Ireland in July.

Update on Education

• The registration of new teachers in Northern Ireland is “threatened with increasing delays” due to a lack of staff at the body which registers them. The General Teaching Council (GTCNI) is said to be facing ‘critical staffing issues’ while its chief executive, Sam Gallaher, is to stand down in April 2022.

• Education Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced the panel to oversee the Independent Review of Education. The long–awaited review, promised as part of New Decade, New Approach, will be the biggest of its kind in NI, with results expected early 2023.

Update on Economy

• NI’s economy recovered to pre–pandemic levels of output in the second quarter of this year, official figures suggest. The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI) was up by 3.1% compared to the first quarter and rose 22.2% compared to the same period in 2020.

• On Thursday, the UK’s furlough scheme came to an end, but the impact on Northern Ireland workers remains unclear. The most recent official figures show that at the end of July, 36,000 people here were still using the scheme.

• More than one million individual requests to apply to NI’s high street voucher scheme were received in the first 48 hours of it opening. The Department of Economy is to request an additional £21m to cover any potential overspend.

Update on Hospitality

• Stormont ministers have agreed to remove the one–metre distance requirement for the retail sector, indoor attractions and seated indoor venues, effective from 30 September. Further consideration is to be given to the hospitality sector on 7 October.

Update on Health

• Up to 80 military medics will arrive in Northern Ireland over the next week to help relieve Covid pressures on hospital wards, the health minister has confirmed. Robin Swann also refused to rule out the possibility that some Covid regulations may need to be reintroduced if the pandemic worsens.

Update on Brexit

• Michel Barnier, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, has said that while the EU was willing to find ‘operational and technical solutions’ for goods like medicines, there would be no renegotiation of the NI Protocol.

Update on Legacy

• Detectives investigating the killing of journalist Lyra McKee arrested two men, aged 44 and 53, on Friday. Ms McKee was shot dead by dissident republicans while observing rioting in Londonderry’s Creggan estate in April 2019.

• Archbishop Eamon Martin yesterday apologised for the “hurt and damage” caused to victims and survivors of clerical abuse, as details of a £2.5 million redress scheme were announced.

• An investigation has found failures by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in developing policy on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles. It follows a complaint to the Equality Commission in December of 2020.

ROI

Update on Vaccines

• New figures reveal the Republic of Ireland is ranked number one in the European Union in terms of its percentage of adult population fully vaccinated. Some 91.4% of people over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, while just over 90% of those over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated.

Update on Economy

• Forecasts for economic growth this year have been revised significantly upwards by the Department of Finance. When measured by GDP, the department said the economy is forecast to grow by 15.6% in 2021, up from summer’s estimate of 8.8%.

• More than half of ROI businesses will see their cost of water increase from 1 October. The new non–domestic tariff framework will impact over 164,000 businesses, farms, charities, public bodies, social enterprises and other non–domestic customers.

• The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil he is “confident” Ireland can avoid power blackouts this winter, but conceded it’s not something he could guarantee.

Update on Government

• Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said that Ireland will enter the OECD’s global tax agreement if certainty and stability on corporation tax rates can be assured and, if not, “we will stay where we are.”

Update on Health

• New figures from the Republic’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show that September had the highest number of Covid–19 deaths since March 2021. Data released yesterday reveals 102 people in the south died as a result of Covid over the last month.

• Patient groups have expressed concern over last year’s decline of organ donation and transplantation in the State. Latest figures from the Council of Europe show that Ireland is now in 18th place of EU countries in 2020 for organ transplants, slipping from 14th place in 2019.

Update on Hospitality

• Culture Minister Catherine Martin has said she is “hopeful” that nightclubs in the Republic of Ireland will operate at full capacity when they return on October 22, but antigen testing could be required for entry. A pilot nightclub event is set to take place at the Button Factory in Dublin on Friday.

• Residents and local businesses met with Croke Park bosses and concert reps to discuss next September’s potential five Garth Brooks concerts.

Update on Travel

• The number of international travellers arriving into the Republic of Ireland jumped by more than 100% in the weeks after travel restrictions were lifted. In August 2021, 821,700 passengers arrived in the Republic of Ireland on overseas routes, a rise of 116% compared with July.

Update on Education

• Students and teachers are to examine how to enhance access to higher and further education – particularly in border regions and for minority groups. The series was launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin last year as part of the Irish government’s Shared Island initiative.

• Ireland’s newest university has opened its doors. The Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest is the third technological university to be established and formally comes into being on 1 October.

Update on Housing

• Minister for Housing working group estimates the overall cost to fix issues in homes affected by mica could reach up to €3.2 billion.

• A government plan to build affordable housing in the Republic has been described as an “absolute failure” after it emerged only eight homes will be delivered this year. In October 2018, the government announced its Affordable Housing Fund to deliver 6,200 homes to rent or buy over a three–year period.