News in Brief

By Frank Shouldice, Contributor
April / May 2005

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahem led a 200-strong trade delegation to China in an effort to increase trade and develop investment opportunities between the two countries.

Contacts between Dublin and Beijing have increased significantly since 1998, and last year Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and vice-premier Huang Ju visited Ireland. Irish businesses foresee expanded opportunities in the steady market growth of China. Last year Ireland imported 2.3 billion euros worth of goods from China and exported goods worth 577 million euros. Most exports were from Irish-based multi-nationals, and the focus of this trade mission was to raise the export market for indigenous Irish companies…

CORK City illuminated the new year with a huge fireworks display to launch its program as European Capital of Culture. Organizers have planned a diverse range of activities, performances and exhibitions with a vast array of local, national and international attractions. To mark the accession of 12 new member states to the EU, organizers will dedicate each month to an accession state. Cork’s city center has been transformed under a massive 198-million euros investment scheme. Patrick Street and the quays along the River Lee have been extensively upgraded as part of preparations for what promises to be a very busy year in what locals call “the real capital”…

MALLOW, Co. Cork will soon operate the only sugar processing factory in the Republic of Ireland. Dr. Scan Brady, chief executive of Irish Sugar, announced that the Carlow town plant, the oldest sugar factory in the country, would cease production in March with the loss of over 300 jobs. The company took its decision on the basis of upcoming EU reforms which they predict will adversely affect sugar production in Ireland. However, critics say that the decision should have been deferred until those reforms were finalized.

The Carlow sugar plant has been in operation for almost 80 years…

MOUNT JOY Jail is set to close when a new prison is constructed north of Dublin by 2008. The government purchased a 150-acre site in Thorntown, on the outskirts of Ashbourne, Co. Meath for 30 million euros and plans to defray the cost of the transfer by selling land on which the old prison is built.

Mountjoy has been the subject of sustained criticism as an outdated Victorian facility creaking from inadequate facilities and overcrowding. There is speculation that the Central Mental Institution in Dundrum will also switch to the new facility. On heating of both projects, Thorntown residents were a little less enthusiastic…

COLM Murphy, the only person convicted in connection with the 1998 Omagh bombing, was released pending retrial after winning his case at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin. The three-judge court upheld two legal challenges — possible contamination of gardai (police) evidence, and prejudice because of Murphy’s prior convictions — and ruled that his conviction for the Co. Tyrone bombing was “unsafe.” A date for retrial has yet to be set. Twenty-nine people, including a pregnant woman with unborn twins, were killed by the Omagh blast when the “Real IRA” detonated a bomb in the town center…

THE government’s digital research center in The Liberties area of Dublin suffered a blow when the prestigious MediaLab Europe announced it would close, with the loss of 50 jobs. MediaLab was set up five years ago in a partnership between the Irish government and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A company statement cited difficulty in attracting corporate sponsorship as the main reason for its failure. “MediaLab Europe was a risk that was worth taking but just didn’t work out,” said Noel Dempsey, Minister for Communications. The Digital Hub project is situated in The Liberties near the Guinness brewery at St. James. The Hub has attracted about 40 research companies and will now seek a replacement tenant for MediaLab…

BUNDORAN and Buncrana are short-listed as possible sites for a proposed aquarium in Co. Donegal. The County Council has plans to build a 6 million euros facility modeled on the successful Dingle Ocean World Centre in Co. Kerry. The Council conducted a feasibility study, which endorsed the plan’s profitability with a projected 100,000 visitors every year. ♦

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