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Business Briefs U.S. firm in driver’s seat

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Stephen McKinley

A U.S.-based company will develop software and infrastructure for Ireland’s new, computer-base, driver theory exam.

Part of European Union-wide legislation to establish a unified driving standard, the theory test will be mandatory prior to taking the practical test on the road. U.S.

Prometric Thomson, based in Baltimore, is a subsidiary of Thompson Learning and employs 1,500 people worldwide. The company already delivers standardized test to more than 180 clients in 128 countries in 25 different languages.

The first test will be ready to go on June 11.

"I look forward to the delivery of quality service," said Robert Molloy, T.D., minister of state at the Department of Environment and Local Government. He said he was pleased that Prometric would be supplying the test in Irish.

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Wexford job losses

Enniscorthy fell victim to job losses last week when Wexel International, the auto parts manufacturing plant, announced its closure in July. Restructuring led to 35 job losses earlier in the year, but this was not enough to sustain the company. The final 150 employees will finish by July, but it is hoped that attracting new employers and investors will happen soon.

Irish diamonds

Good news for Irish mining conglomerate Minmet: its Brazilian subsidiary, Mearim Sociedade de Mineracao Limitada, has uncovered three large diamonds on its Sta. Inacio claim area at Coromandel, and further prospecting will go ahead immediately.

"The results of the exploration program at Coromandel to date combine to make this a very attractive prospect. The cost of setting up the bulk sampling program is low when set against the potential rewards of recovering large, good gem quality diamonds," said MinMet’s chairman, Jeremy Metcalfe.

BoI reports profits

The Bank of Ireland showed a healthy profit for the last year, about $951 million, since March 31, 2000.

Eircell sale approved

Eircom’s cell phone division, Eircell, received approval for its sale to Vodafone on Friday. The rest of Eircom is also up for grabs, and the Friday general meeting suggested June as a final deadline for all outside offers. Eircom shares are expected to dip after the demerger.

Bogus sheep claims

As the threat to farming from foot-and-mouth disease starts to recede, attention turns to more familiar matters — farmers’ claims to be compensated for non-existent sheep. The Department of Agriculture says it will check every claim carefully, after it was discovered that Cooley Peninsula farmers had been claiming far more sheep than had been culled in County Louth — and 17 farmers had submitted claims for sheep, even though they didn’t own any in the first place.

Belfast airport growth

Passenger traffic at Belfast City Airport is expected to grow by more than 20,000 people next year as new facilities are opened closer to the city center.

A new £22 million sterling airport will open at the end of May, and it is hoped that it will prove to be a rival to Belfast International Airport at Aldergrove, which is in County Antrim some miles outside of the city.

According to the Irish Times, the managing director of Belfast City Airport, John Doran, is predicting an increase of as many as 45,000 passengers in the long term. Northern Ireland’s third airport is Derry City Airport.

"We would like to bring on a Belfast City-to-Gatwick route and we are also looking at the possibility of servicing new European routes, such as Belfast to Paris," Doran said.

Lisburn texting service

Further evidence of Northern Ireland’s high-tech potential: the Lisburn-based company BBm magazine has launched a text-messaging service aimed at 18-24-year-olds throughout Ireland, according to Judith Farrell, BBm’s editor-in-chief.

Text-messaging has been explosively popular in the last two years among young people, who have used cell phones to send quick e-mail messages, jokes and promotions. BBm, an Ireland-wide club scene magazine, has a circulation of about 75,000, according to ENN.ie.

Users will receive occasional up-to-date club scene information from BBm, as well as send and receive personal messages.

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