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Senior Economist Warns Ireland “Should Be Praying” for Second Bailout

The head of Economics at Dublin City University today claimed that a second bailout in inevitable for Ireland and insisted we “should be praying” that the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank would be willing to facilitate it.

Professor Tony Foley made the comments when speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio programme. He said such an offer would be preferable to the Government’s current proposal of borrowing approximately €12 billion on international financial markets next year as this would invariably lead to crippling interest rates as the country attempts to repay its massive debt – estimated to reach €206 billion by 2015.

Professor Foley’s comments come less than 24 hours after Citigroup economist Willem Buiter stated that Ireland should negotiate a ‘standby’ second bailout in the event we are unable to return to the markets.

European Commissioner Olli Rehn’s spokesman, Amadeu Altafaj, has labelled such speculation as unhelpful given that the first programme was delivering and that Ireland had enjoyed positive growth and banking sector reform in 2011.

In another blow to the Irish economy, a new Goodbody Stockbrokers report has predicted further protracted growth in 2012 and claimed Ireland will not achieve the 3% of gross domestic product deficit target by 2015.

Goodbody chief economist Dermot O’Leary said he expects the country’s GDP ratio to rise to 124% in 2014 and has revised down GDP growth estimates to 0.7% for this year from 1.2%.  GNP, excluding multinationals, and domestic demand will fall by 0.8% and 2.6% respectively.

Officials from the EU, IMF and ECB are in Dublin today, undertaking their fifth review of the €67.5bn loan programme. The talks are being headed by the IMF’s Ajai Chopra. The troika will review figures for 2011 and establish targets for the Government and the economy over the coming months.

Mr Chopra said, “A restructuring of the circa €30 billion in promissory notes (in relation to Anglo) provides an opportunity to reduce debt to a more sustainable level without the difficulties that Greece is currently experiencing with private sector involvement.” He added, “Another important issue is the speed at which the banking system is deleveraging.”

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will meet British Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street on Thursday to discuss the ongoing debt crisis.

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Irish Footballtennis Team Claim Seventh Place in World Championships

The national footballtennis team claimed seventh position in two disciplines at last week’s world championships in North Cyprus. The Irish players came seventh in the singles and triples events and also secured eighth place in the doubles competition.

Footballtennis World Championships Results (Men’s Competition):

Singles:
1. Romania
2. Hungary
3. Croatia
4. Moldova
5. Macedonia
6. Turkey
7. Ireland
8. Slovakia
9. North Cyprus.

Doubles:
1. Romania
2. Hungary
3. Croatia
4. Macedonia
5. Turkey
6. Moldova
7. North Cyprus
8. Ireland
9. Slovakia.

Triples:
1. Hungary
2. Romania
3. Macedonia
4. Croatia
5. Moldova
6. North Cyprus
7. Ireland
8. Turkey
9. Slovakia.

Suicide Prevention Group Pleads For Funds Not To Be Cut

The IrisIASh Association of Suicidology (IAS) has pleaded with the government to remain true to pre-election promises and not cut vital funding earmarked for aiding the constant battle against suicide in Ireland. The organisation fears that, should next week’s budget include a cut in support, many lives could be placed in danger.

Dr John Connolly, IAS honorary secretary, elucidated the group’s concerns in a letter sent to an Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In the document he notes how the recession and subsequent unemployment has played its part in increasing the suicide rate in this country, stating: “Over the last three years the number of people who have decided to end their own life by suicide has risen dramatically.” Dr Connolly went on to note that the 2011 Programme for Government includes a provision to “ring-fence €35 million annually from within the health budget” for mental health issues, part of which was due to be used to implement the national suicide prevention strategy – Reach Out. He called for the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to ensure this pledge comes to fruition.

He added: “While the Irish people have borne the brunt of austerity measures over the last three years, the impact of these measures on those most vulnerable and at risk of suicide has been reflected in the increase in the number of suicides, deliberate self-harm presentation at A&E and in calls to support help-lines such as the Samaritans.”

Mr Kenny, a vocal supporter of mental health awareness and suicide prevention, has not yet responded to the letter.

Official figures from 2009 show that a total of 527 people were confirmed as dying as a result of suicide that year, up 15% from 2007. However, due to the lengthy wait for coroners’ court verdicts and the mislabelling of other deaths, the genuine figure is believed to be far higher.

The area of suicide prevention was thrust into the spotlight again this week following the tragic and shocking death of Welsh football manager Gary Speed. Waves of disbelief spread throughout the world of sport when his body was discovered early last Sunday morning. Mr Speed had appeared in jovial mood on the BBC’s ‘Football Focus’ TV show mere hours before taking his own life. On the same day, an article was published in The Irish Times discussing Kate Fitzgerald – a 25-year-old woman who committed suicide shortly after submitting an anonymous article to the paper documenting her struggle with depression. At her suggestion, the piece was published on 9 September – the day before World Suicide Prevention Day. Sadly, by this time its writer had killed herself over two weeks previously.

Earlier today, the suicide counselling service Console revealed that over 7,000 adullts traumatised by suicide approached the organisation for help in the first six months of 2011 alone.

A number of support outlets are available for those suffering from depression and other mental health issues as well as for loved ones who wish to support them. Please reach out if you need to – help is available.

Egyptians Flock to Their First Free Election in Eight Decades

Voters queue at a polling station in the wealthy Cairo suburb of Zamalak

Egyptians flocked to the polls in their droves yesterday as Cairo played host to the country’s first free parliamentary election in over 80 years. A tentative sense of hope is evident in a nation who hopes the ballot will enable them to finally move forward following the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade-long dictatorship in February of this year.

Despite predictions to the contrary, the election was a largely peaceful event. This was in stark contrast to the violent protests which took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the ten days preceding the vote. Many of the demonstrators had urged a boycott of the vote as they felt it was a stunt aimed at merely appeasing the electorate. These calls were largely ignored.

Journalist and public speaker, Mona Eltahawy – who was arrested and beaten by Egyptian security forces during last week’s protests – voted in Zamalek. She said, “For 30 years my parents’ generation said they were denied a voice. So I’ve come here on behalf of my family. If we don’t vote we lose.” Ms Eltahawy has been extremely outspoken regarding her dissatisfaction with the current political and social situation in her country, particularly via her Twitter account.

The social media website has provided a platform for protesters during the recent uprising. However, in a case of poor timing in the extreme, the company that provided free mobile phone encryption to dissidents in Egypt, Whisper Systems, suddenly suspended its services on Monday so that Twitter could update some of its privacy enabling technology. As a result of this, many protestors who relied on the service to encrypt phone calls abruptly lost the ability to protect their identity from government-controlled eavesdroppers.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political group, is expected to poll well when the election’s preliminary results are announced later this week. However, a number of rival liberal candidates including Amr Hamzawy, founder of the liberal Egypt Freedom party, alleged several irregularities were evident at voting booths, which they fear will boost votes for the religious organisation.

Two further rounds of voting will take place in other areas of Egypt, the last on 3 January, before a 498-member lower house of parliament is elected. Their main order of business will be to form a committee and draft Egypt’s new constitution. The country is currently being governed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Irish Footballtennis Team to Take Centre Stage in Cyprus

The Irish squad will be heading off to the European Championships a lot sooner than you think. With Euro 2012 over six months away, get behind the other boys in green who are representing Ireland in the European Footballtennis Championships this week. The Irish footballtennis team – Jamie Mulrooney (captain), Steven Conway, Emmet Ó Mordha and Liam Hynes – have just landed in Cyprus to compete against nine other teams in what promises to be an exciting tournament of an ever-growing sport.

Footballtennis or ‘Futnet’ is a football-based game played on a court with similar dimensions to that of a tennis court. Despite its links with soccer and tennis, the sport holds its own identity and unique style of play. It originated in central Europe in the 1930s and remains most popular there. However, it is gradually becoming more popular in countries such as Ireland. Footballtennis has three basic disciplines – singles, doubles and triples – and is played competitively by men (over 18) , women (over 18), juniors (16 – 18), youngsters (13 – 15), children (12 and under) and veterans. The Irish team play in all three disciplines. Flexibility is imperative in the sport, especially in the groin, hamstring and the legs as the net used in the game is a meter in height. The whole body receives a workout as players utilise somewhat dormant muscles and also engage their backs, arms, hips, gluts, calves and ankles as they block and spike the ball over the net.

The Irish squad received a baptism of fire as their first competitive foray into the sport just so happened to be last year’s World Championships in Instanbul. However, team member Steven Conway acknowledges that the European Championships will be a tougher tournament as the sport’s best teams hail from eastern and central Europe. He says, “We are expecting a tough competition but we are looking forward to seeing how far we have actually come in the last year!”

The team split their training between Maynooth in Co Kildare and Ballina in Co Mayo, playing up to four times a week.

It’s fair to say the Irish footballtennis team had a somewhat unlikely but quite serendipitous start. Steven remembers how, in September of last year, he and a group of his college friends where heading home from the astro turf pitch in Maynooth, bemoaning the fact they missed out on their weekly game of football as the pitch was booked out. They happened to pass by a couple of empty tennis courts and started to knock the ball around there. Before long, a proper game was in progress. Steven recalls, “That evening back at the lads’ house we were talking about how we all used to play football on tennis courts when we were younger and we wondered if there was anything on the internet about it.” An online search led to the discovery of FIFTA – the international governing body of footballtennis. On the organisation’s website there was mention of a world championships coming up three months later in Istanbul. Better still, there was free accommodation and food for the participating teams, and, at the time, no Irish team to take part.

Steven says, “We laughed about entering a team and our friend Jamie [Mulrooney] sent a hopeful email explaining how we would love to compete in the tournament. A week or two later, to our surprise, the president of FIFTA replied to our email and explained that there were two wildcard places up for grabs. The cost of flights to Istanbul was €360, a bit steep for students, but this was an opportunity to represent our country at an international level – we didn’t care if we had to eat peanuts for the next few weeks to afford it, we were going!”

Nine weeks of intense training ensued in what was by far the coldest winter Ireland had seen in years. Not knowing what to expect when they landed in Instanbul, the team were happy enough to just win a few points per game. Twelve teams in total competed in the championship and Ireland were pitted against some of the best on their first day of professional playing. Despite a few heavy defeats, the team also won a game and pushed host nation Turkey to the very limit. Steven notes, “We had now found our feet and knew our place. The next day we were put into a play-off to see which teams would finish from 8th to 12th. This was between ourselves, Serbia, Georgia, and India. After a close game with the Serbs we managed to actually beat the Georgians and Indians to give Ireland its first international footballtennis victories and claim 10th spot in the World Championships!”

Having competed against some of the best football tennis teams in the world, the squad realised they had a responsibility to lay a foundation for the sport in Ireland. They spoke to some of the players, coaches and president of the sport in order to get some advice. The general consensus was to apply to the national sports council for funding and to continue promoting the sport in Ireland. The team compiled a 20,000 word funding application for the Irish Sports Council in which they outlined their constitution, aims and beliefs. They also documented the physical and psychological benefits of the sport and how they planned to utilise it as an integration tool for the sizable eastern European community in our country due to the sport’s popularity there.

In order to spread the footballtennis word, the team set up a website, uploaded a number of YouTube videos and kept in regular contact with the media. A documentary following the team’s story will be released online shortly.

 

In May of this year, Steven and Jamie attended the Footballtennis World Congress in Hungary. At this meeting the FIFTA president and existing members voted the Irish squad in as a full member of the organisation and so the Footballtennis Association of Ireland (FTAI) was now officially recognised. FIFTA went one further by offering Ireland the chance to host the next Footballtennis World Championships. As many of the team originally hail from the west of Ireland, it was hoped that the tournament could be held in Castlebar, Co  Mayo.

However, the Irish Sports Council have since informed the FTAI that they are not eligible for funding as they haven’t been an organisation for the necessary two years. The hosting of such a championship would have brought vital revenue to the country and further promoted this upcoming sport – a missed opportunity that will hopefully come to fruition at a future stage. Despite this disappointment, The ISC has put the FTAI in contact with the Football Association of Ireland whose grassroots development officer is exploring ways in which he can help develop the sport here. Steven says, “With the right financial backing we could host a World Championship in this country and have the first Irish women’s and junior footballtennis teams compete along side our men’s team. Bringing over 16 different countries in three disciplines would bring over 400 people from the teams alone. To support a national team as they host a world cup is an opportunity any business should be proud to be part of.”

Notwithstanding the setbacks incurred due to financial and emigration woes, the team are now thriving under the skilful watch of coach Juraj Holkovic – a former footballtennis player and coach from Slovakia (one of the top two footballtennis teams in the world). Juraj now lives in Longford and got in touch with the Irish squad after he heard about them in the media following their participation in last year’s world championships. Steven feels Juraj’s input now ensures the team are being trained to the very highest standard, saying their knowledge of the game has increased hugely.

The Irish team are now top of the recently established monthly Northern Ireland Footballtennis League in Belfast. They are also in regular contact with the new English footballtennis team so there is the possibility of a Tri Nations Cup sometime in the future. The FTAI also hope hoping to set up a club in Sligo in the new year in order to strengthen the foundations of the sport in this country so that footballtennis will remain a sport here for years to come.

For further information about footballtennis, check out the FIFTA and Futnet websites.

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