By Stephen McKinley
Irish men and women will soon have dozens of new places in which to get hot and sweaty, as the Irish health club market heats up.
Esporta, which already owns 40 clubs in Britain, Spain and Sweden, opened a _4 million complex in East Belfast, employing 80 people.
“We are very keen to open in Dublin,” Esporta operations director Douglas Waddell said. “We are constantly looking for sites and have looked at several in the Dublin area, although none of them have been 100 percent what we are looking for.”
Last year, the David Lloyd Group, owned by Whitbread, bought into the Riverview Club in Dublin, and the Fitzpatrick’s Silver Springs Sports Centre in Cork.
Ben Dunne also has a facility in Blanchardstown and is planning a nationwide network of facilities.
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It will be inky fingers all round in Dundonald — a new printing company has set up in the Belfast suburb. Print Library started up its presses last month with a staff of six, but is now recruiting for new skilled workers.
Business partners Geoff Truesdale and Michael Thompson said that their pride and joy is a new Heidelberg four-color press.
“We went for Heidelberg because they are the Rolls Royce of the printing industry. Their name behind us alone will bring in competitive trade,” Truesdale said.
Belle Isle Estate Courtyard, near Lisbellaw, Co. Fermanagh, has won the first Rural Cottage of the Year award.
A Host of the Year award went to Willie Annett of Hanna’s Close Cottages in Kilkeel, Co. Down.
The awards are organized by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
“Rural Cottage Holidays promotes romantic breaks, cultural heritage and the natural environment while sustaining vernacular rural buildings of character,” Belfast Tourist Board chief executive Alan Clarke said. “This excellent product sums up what tourism in Northern Ireland is all about.”
Northern Ireland now has a floating conference center — a first for the province, according to owners of the Manor House Hotel at Killadeas, Co. Fermanagh.
The center will be the converted yacht, the Lady of the Lake. The hotel’s general manager, David Begley, said, “The Lady of the Lake weighs more than 50 tons and her stability in all conditions means we can tour the lake, visit islands and hold conferences on board throughout the year whatever the weather.”
And so, to the euro: the Irish Independent reports on fears that the Catholic Church across Europe will take advantage of the changeover to hike the price of burying the dead. A group in Italy, the newspaper says, has been especially adept at monitoring a range of businesses that have been planning to gouge consumers during the confusing period after Jan. 1.
Cittadinanzattiva (Active Citizenship) has attacked everyone from the government down, saying that the basic sin is rounding up the conversion from the old currencies into the euro, instead of down.
Frustration at the bar
For one group of business people, the euro won’t exist until a little later than the stroke of midnight, Dec. 31 — publicans.
Irish bars will continue trading in Irish pounds until last orders are called, to “avoid confusion,” many bartenders are saying.
Bars will start trading in euros after the open again on Jan. 1. Tadhg O’Sullivan, chief executive of the Vintner’s Federation of Ireland, told reporters that it made sense to keep the punt going for a few more hours, and admitted that confusion will reign for a few days.
“Instead of _2.45 a pint — the same pint will cost you euro3.10 and people will feel drinks prices have gone up. It will be confusing at the tills as prices will appear to have gone up,” O’Sullivan said. “It will lead to frustration at the bar.”
Facts and figures
Irish exports fell after Sept. 11, down _26 million, to just under _5.9 billion, but appeared to pick up again by October, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Industrial production was down 4 percent on the year before in October, and communications, in particular, paid the heaviest price — Ireland experienced a 36 percent drop in the manufacture of communications equipment.
At the same time, production of consumer goods rose by 11 percent. Imports rose in September, leaving a seasonally adjusted trade surplus of just over _2 billion.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank has declared that growth in the Irish economy has “effectively ceased” in the last two quarters of the year. But the Bank predicts a possible growth rate of as much as 3.5 percent for the year to come as a whole.
This year, the growth rate was 5.5 percent. Growth rates before Sept. 11 had been predicted to be as high as 4.5 percent.
“While the information and telecommunications technology boom may have been primarily a U.S. phenomenon, the fall-out from the ICT slowdown has been felt far and wide, as has the blow to confidence in the wake of 11 September,” the Bank’s report said.
“The economic slowdown that began in the US last year has, over the course of 2001, spread to the wider international economy, generating the sharpest downturn in global economic activity in two decades.
“This is the first synchronised slowdown that the major economies have experienced since the early 1980s. As a consequence, no major area of the world economy is currently providing a stimulus to global economic growth.”
Out-of-the-box . . .
Cork-based QUMAS, with U.S. headquarters in Florham Park, N.J., has announced an alliance with CYA Technologies that provides critical disaster recovery for Enterprise Compliance Management systems for the regulated Life Sciences industry.
According to the press release, “the firms will jointly offer an out-of-the-box, secure, Enterprise Compliance Management solution with 24/7 support and disaster recovery that protects mission-critical data from administration errors and hardware failure.” That means, “Your info’s safe with us.’