By Harry Keaney
The supply of luxury Mercedes cars is not able to keep up with demand in Ireland. Indeed, according to news reports, every model of new Merc that is on its way to Ireland but has yet to arrive, has already been bought, sight unseen.
Such is the demand that anyone now thinking of buying a Merc will not be able to actually take possession of one until 2002. The current C-class sells about 2,000 a year. The new high-tech models start at about £30,000.
IBO golf outing
The Irish Business Organization of New York will hold its annual golf outing on June 15 at New Jersey National Golf Club. For details on the course, log onto www.njngolfclub.com. The cost is $150 per person and this includes lunch, golf, golf cart, range balls, prizes and dinner. Lunch and registration will start at 11 a.m. Volunteers are needed. Details, call 1 (877) IBO-3200.
A Kerry microcosm
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Twenty-five Malaysian nationals are now employed by the O’Donoghue/Ring Hotel Group in Killarney, Co. Kerry. According to the Kerryman newspaper, Kerry’s tourism sector has been increasingly drawing on labor pools outside of Ireland in the last five years but the recruitment of staff from a non-European Union country is a new departure.
Meanwhile, the German-owned crane company Liebherr Ireland, also in Killarney, is drafting in between 20 and 30 welders and fitters from its sister companies in Germany and Austria during the next three months. And in construction, workers from England, Scotland and Wales have also come to work in Kerry in the last 12 months.
Brits not coming
More American and European tourists are visiting Cork and Kerry, but it’s a different story with the British, according to local tourism group Cork Kerry Tourism.
U.S. tourist numbers to the area increased by 26 percent last year, an influx largely underpinned by additional scheduled and charter flights into Shannon. The number of tourists from Europe rose by 11 percent.
However, CKT’s annual general meeting in Killarney heard last week that British tourist numbers dropped by five percent despite the benefits of the strong sterling and enhanced ferry and air routes. The CKT’s annual report also revealed a decline in bednights of 18 percent in Killarney and 15 percent in Cork.
Tourism Minister Jim McDaid recently warned that there were indications that British tourists were becoming tired of Ireland, with the domestic market now jaded. Also, some critics say that areas like Killarney are now at visitor saturation point while other parts of the region are not benefiting from the tourist income.
Last year, Cork and Kerry entertained 1.5 million overseas visitors and 1.3 million domestic visitors.
Up to 18 film production projects are awaiting certification from Ireland’s department of arts and heritage in order to benefit under Section 481 if the Finance Act. Section 481 is a tax incentive scheme to encourage film production in Ireland.
"This is certainly an increase on the last two years," the chief executive of the Screen Commission of Ireland, Roger Greene, told the Irish Times at the Cannes Film Festival. "We had a down period when Section 481 was renewed only for one year, which made American investors nervous," Greene said. "Now that it has been renewed for five years and we made that known since we visited the American Film Market in Los Angeles earlier this year, interest is up by over 100 percent."
After a decade in decline, greyhound racing has begun to win back Irish crowds. Attendances have risen by a third to 750,000 people, thanks to multi-million-pound investments at tracks throughout the country.
In Cork, Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh recently performed the official opening of a new £8.5 million racing stadium. Curaheen Park, on the outskirts of the city, has some of the most advanced racing facilities of any stadium in Europe.
Where will it end?
Thought Irish property prices just couldn’t keep rising? Well, think again.
Mark FitzGerald, executive chairman of leading auctioneers Sherry FitzGerald, has reappraised an earlier estimate that property prices would rise this year by 20 percent. "Our prediction was 20 percent growth for the year . . . It may be a bit above 20 percent," said FitzGerald, who is son of former taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald. He added that auctions account for just 2 percent of total sales.
Private-sector economists expect home prices to rise 60 percent during the next five years, with no prospect of a crash or negative equity, according to an annual survey carried out by Finance magazine.
Overall, not too encouraging for returning emigrants having to buy a home in their native country.
Meanwhile, last year, 48,000 homes were built in Ireland. More than 50,000 will be required for the next 10 years.
Ireland’s Department of the Environment says it’s satisfied that genetically modified seeds have not come into Ireland and the Environmental Protection Agency has been asked to confirm this.
The statement follows a recent alert in Britain over genetically modified food after an agricultural supplier, Advanta Seeds UK, admitted that some of its conventional rapeseed sold and sown in the EU and the UK during the last two years contained genetically modified rapeseed.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday last, the European Union decided to extend its ban on beef produced with growth hormones, rejecting demands from the U.S.and the World Trade Organization to drop the ban.