By Stephen McKinley
Fishing boats are the latest thing to be decommissioned in Northern Ireland: under a European-funded program, the boats will be taken out of the fishing fleet as part of deep cuts in allowable catches in a bid to conserve stocks.
Kilkeel and Ardglass, both fishing ports for many years, will experience the greatest cuts.
The decommissioning program will cost _5 million. The European Commission considers this important because of fast-falling supplies of the major fish groups like cod and hake. The commission is seeking cuts of 60 percent in next year’s quotas.
But the Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Brid Rodgers criticized the move.
“This year’s proposed cuts by the commission are far too severe,” she said. “They are not consistent with the science and we are extremely concerned about the impact it will have on our industry. We are making a very strong case to have them reversed.”
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Fishermen in Northern Ireland have been waiting for details of the decommissioning package, which will include government grants for those that are forced out of the industry.
Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler will tell ministers that the “alarming” state of fish stocks means cuts must be agreed.
New cell phone licenses will finally go on auction in Dublin shortly, according to the telecommunications regulator, Etain Doyle.
The government is expected to garner an initial _190 million for the licenses, and _120 million over subsequent years.
The licenses should bolster the small budget surplus predicted by Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy.
The announcement of the new licenses was delayed because Doyle and the Finance Department disagreed over how they should be allocated. The Irish Times reports that the amount for each of the three new licenses, _90 million, is lower than what the department had hoped for, suggesting that McCreevy’s men compromised with Doyle, whose concern was not raising revenue, but ensuring that those who won the licenses had the capacity to make them profitable.
The licenses will allow for high-speed Internet services on a range of devices, including mobile phones.
Leaf Technologies in Mallusk, Co. Antrim, has won the first-ever Northern Ireland contract with the European Laboratory for Particle Physics.
Worth _2.5 million, the contract is with CERN, the Swiss-based scientific research project.
Announcing the deal, Enterprise Minister Reg Empey said it “is a tremendous achievement for Leaf Technologies and indeed for the wider electronics industry in Northern Ireland. Leaf’s success is proof that CERN business is not the preserve of large multinational enterprises.”
Leaf will supply CERN with sophisticated circuit boards for the high precision controls of the Large Hadron Collider, which will be used for a research project that, in the past, has discovered alpha and beta rays now used, for example, in medical imaging.
Fred Sloan of Leaf said: “The CERN contract, secured through open competition with 22 companies from many parts of Europe, is the most significant in a series of new orders that we have won in recent months and will result in significant employment opportunities here at Mallusk.”
Crossing the border
North-South cooperation continues to expand as ministers from Dublin and Stormont have been pondering new ways in which they can collaborate.
Northern Ireland’s first and deputy first ministers, David Trimble and Mark Durkan, met with Ireland’s foreign minister, Brian Cowen, on Monday, where they discussed expanding cooperation from the current six areas.
At present, there are six implementation bodies set up under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.
“It shows that in the agreement we got the architecture right and people can see the procedures what is going on. There is transparency and accountability,” Trimble said.
A budget of _54.7m was agreed for the north-south bodies for 2002 along with the setting up of a working group to consider the roles of the Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive and the North-South Ministerial Council in relation to the European Union.
Cold hard cash
As hundreds of millions of punts in hard cash come out from under the mattresses and sock drawers of Ireland, economists are predicting that the hordes of unspent notes and coins could cause a mild boost in economic growth of as much as half a percent.
Nearly _700 million extra cash could be in circulation, experts have said. They have based their prediction on the sudden fall in demand for currency compared with last year, reported the Irish Times.
Notes in circulation are down around 5 percent, instead of being up 10-15 percent during the run-up to Christmas.
But not all the cash will be spent — it will instead be converted into euros and saved.
“There is a feeling of ‘one last fling before the euro,’ even by people who do not have any ‘mattress money,’ ” said Jim Power, investment director at Friends First.
“But once the money is spent, and in an environment of increasing job uncertainty in the early part of next year, there could be a big economic hangover in February and March.”