By Stephen McKinley
Ireland’s minister for agriculture, Jim Walsh, has expressed his fears for Ireland’s food chain, suggesting that consumers should buy Irish products as often as possible. Imported food, he said, has a higher risk of contamination and could spread disease to Irish livestock.
"In the last 18 months, there have been two outbreaks of classical exotic diseases in Britain, mainly classical swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease," he said.
"In both cases, the causative agent was food imported from outside the European Union. I want to call on the EU veterinary authorities to ensure far stricter controls at airports and at ports, to safeguard livestock and the food industries of memberstates."
Walsh was speaking at An Bord Bia’s "Féile Bia", which encourages consumers to seek out providers offering quality Irish produce.
Bord Bia’s chief, Michael Duffy, said that 1,800 hotels and restaurants had signed up to the program.
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Latest figures show that Northern Ireland has experienced record export sales of £10 billion last year. But at the same time, it is reckoned that 2,500 jobs will be lost in the next few months.
An estimated £20 million is exported daily, an 8 percent increase since 1999-2000.
Traditional sectors such as textiles, however, are set to report more job losses.
Economy Minister Sir Reg Empey said: "Over the last eight years the share of sales accounted for by markets outside Northern Ireland has increased steadily. Exports, sales outside the UK, also continue to expand. We have seen a rise of some 14 percent in the last year, demonstrating the benefits to be gained from greater penetration of export markets by local firms."
Latest unemployment figures for the North show there was no change — 40,000 people or 5.1 percent of the workforce in the North are receiving some form of unemployment support, according to the most recent statistics.
New tourism chief
Bord Failte general manager Paul O’Toole has been selected to be chief executive of the new all-Ireland tourism body, with an initial budget of about $23 million.
As part of the Good Friday agreement, Tourism Ireland was due to have started a year ago, but it is believed that some disagreements delayed the implementation. Its board will be split 50-50 with 12 members for each part of the island. O’Toole’s appointment must still be ratified by the North-South ministerial council and by politicians on both sides of the border.
New internet chief
The Irish Internet Association has appointed a Dundalk man as its new chief executive. Colm Reilly comes to the IIA from DMR Consulting, where he ran the Scandinavian operation from a Dublin base.
Reilly is a graduate of UCD and TCD, as well as the ACCA and La Salle College. The IIA is in existence for almost five years and has more than 800 member companies. Members comprise of internet industry professionals and corporate Ireland businesses both large and small.
Gensec launches venture capital
Gensec has launched an Irish venture capital fund called the Gensec Ireland Venture Capital Fund.
The fund will target Irish and European information technology companies, and Gensec aims to capitalize the fund with up to Euro 50 million in commitments from investors. Gensec Ireland has already committed E5 million as an anchor investor and SA institutional investors are being invited to take up a further E20 million through their offshore funds. The balance will be raised from European investors.
Phoning Ireland on your cell phone may just have gotten cheaper, if a Boston-based telephone company is to be believed.
Conexus Ltd. offers its new service, CellularLD(tm), and says that cell phone owners will be able to call long-distance and internationally at a fraction of the cost of AT&T, Cingular, Sprint, Verizon, VoiceStream, and others, without changing cellular providers. Check out www.CellularLD.com.
Riverdeep founder and chairman Patrick McDonagh raised $125 million on a secondary offering of about 30 million shares last Wednesday.
The shares were placed with institutions at about a 5 percent discount to Wednesday’s close of E5.25, down 2 percent on the day. Following the placing, the free float has been increased from 35.7 to 50 percent. McDonagh retains a 24.4 percent stake.
Riverdeep was floated on the Irish stock exchange and on Nasdaq last March at the peak of the stock market boom for technology stocks. It makes internet and CD-Rom based tools for the education market, and has been seeking to consolidate this fragmented niche in the U.S. via acquisitions.
Belfast Bombardier boom
Bombardier, the Canadian owner of Belfast ‘ronautical engineers Shorts, has acquired orders worth $1 billion. While there will not be any new jobs created in Belfast immediately, Shorts has already taken on 1,600 workers in the last two years to cope with new orders.
Through its parent company, Shorts has a handy share of the small- to medium-range passenger jet market.
Aer Lingus says it is offering a special roundtrip July deal, the "Emerald offer" — $638 per person plus taxes, and all tickets must be purchased by June 30, and travel completed by Aug. 5.
As if there aren’t enough of them already. The population of Dublin is projected to increase by over half a million by 2031 if the current trend of population growth continues as expected, according to figures released Monday by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office.