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Ireland to hold referendum on European fiscal treaty

Ireland will hold a referendum on whether to accept the EU fiscal compact treaty which imposes strict new budgetary discipline on each state, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said Tuesday.

Davos takes on euro zone crisis

Old arguments about how to solve the euro zone crisis are re-hashed at World Economic Forum annual meeting
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Davos: the euro zone crisis followed the leaders to the Alps (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Davos. The name, the place, what it stands for is a challenge to an ideal of journalism. It seems to be one of those events that become a story not because of any intrinsic news value but because a bunch of famous people get together and allow journalists to mingle among them.

There are many national leaders at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos but no treaties are signed, nor are there joint declarations of policy made. That would be news and worth reporting. There are titans of industry in Davos, but no products are launched or companies acquired. That, too, would be news etc.

It can't be news because the comments about the year to come actually shape events. I came across this article from The Washington Post a couple of years ago on Google about some famously wrong predictions made by the rulers of the planet at the World Economic Forum. It's pretty amusing. (For that matter, did anyone at Davos in 1996 or 97 predict there would be something like Google (founded in 1998) and that a search engine would upend all previously known models of information aggregation and dissemination?

Anyway, the leaders are at Davos, journalists are tweeting like fan-boys and girls about rubbing shoulders with them. 


Brian Shivers, dissident Irish republican, convicted of murdering 2 British soldiers

Brian Shivers was convicted on Friday of the murders of Mark Quinesy and Patrick Azimkar outside a military barracks in Co Antrim in 2009, the first such killings for more than a decade in Northern Ireland. 

Irish businessman Sean Quinn declared bankrupt

Quinn’s use of loans to make disastrous investments in Anglo Irish has left the failed state-owned bank chasing him over debts of nearly $3.7 billion and battling to gain ownership of his properties.

A study in austerity: Irish property values slide further

The price of property has now sunk in value almost 60 percent in five years
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In 2008, the asking price for this Dublin mansion, the former French ambassador's residence, was 60 million euros. Wonder what it would cost today? (AFP/Getty Images)

When it comes to house prices it's as if all of Ireland has stepped into a time machine and gone backwards half a decade.

A house in Dublin now costs 64.2 percent less than it did five years ago,


In Europe, migration history repeats itself

Back in the days of empire have-nots used to head out to the colonies. Guess what? They are doing it again. Although the colonies are now independent, prosperous nations
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If you were a young unemployed Portuguese person moving to Rio in the former colony of Brazil must seem like a no-brainer (ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images)
Back in the days of empire have nots used to head out to the colonies. Guess what? They are doing it again - although the colonies are now prosperous, independent nations

Suspected Real IRA arms dealer jailed in Lithuania

Michael Campbell, a suspected member of the Real IRA terrorist group, was convicted after undercover agents filmed him buying weapons and explosives that he said he wanted to use against Brits.

VIDEO: Violence at UK traveler site eviction

Angry protesters greeted police when officers arrived to evict 86 Irish traveler families from the camp where they have been living for 10 years. Residents lost their appeal for the right to stay, but say they'll take the fight to the Houses of Parliament.

Europe: Some good economic news at the edges

Britain and Ireland show improved trade figures
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Jason Riddle, co-founder of 'Save Our Savers' lifts a giant papier mache piggy bank outside the Bank of England in London on October 6, 2011. The Bank of England agreed to inject $116 billion into the British economy on Oct. 6, 2011. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

It's not all doom and gloom:

1. The UK's trade deficit has unexpectedly narrowed according to data released today. Figures for August showed the deficit was down to £7.8 ($12.8 billion). Economists had expected that figure to be £8.8.

The reason is partly a new method for computing the trade figures but also a rise in exports of fuel, food and drinks. (It can't be the beer that is selling so well overseas.  Presumably Scotch is being exported in large quantities to the continent. Despite the euro zone crisis, the single currency has gained value against the pound. So a bottle of whiskey is nowhere near as expensive as it was a few years ago.  I suppose people on the continent need a stiff drink to help them cope with the Greek situation and their overall economic slowdown.)


At Glastonbury gig, U2 faces protest over dodging Irish taxes

Art Uncut activists bring huge balloon to muddy music event, saying "U Pay Your Tax 2," but they are tackled and scuffles break out
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A protest against U2 at the Glastonbury Festival on June 24, 2011 in Glastonbury, England. (Dave J. Hogan/Getty Images)

Ireland's most-successful band U2 and its frontman Bono were accused of dodging taxes in their home country by protesters at the group's first performance at England's Glastonbury Festival, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

As Bono and his bandmates took to the Pyramid Stage at the huge, muddy outdoor music festival, activists from the direct action group Art Uncut inflated a 20-foot balloon emblazoned with the message “U Pay Your Tax 2," Sky News reported.

As the activists tried to release the balloon over the crowd of about 50,000, security personnel wrestled them to the ground and deflated the balloon, sparking angry clashes with about 30 protesters, with several of them pinned against a fence near the stage, according to the Telegraph. There were no arrests.

One of the Art Uncut group members said: “That was totally over the top. He threatened to hit me.”

U2 was criticized in 2006 when the band reportedly shifted most of its business affairs from Ireland to the Netherlands, where royalties on music incur virtually no tax, after the Irish government cut tax breaks for income earned from "works of artistic merit," CNN reported.

Bono, guitarist The Edge, bass player Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen are among Ireland's wealthiest residents, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Forbes magazine estimated the band earned $195 million last year.

Art Uncut says that while Bono campaigns against poverty in the developing world, his very wealthy group has run out on paying Irish taxes at a time when the country desperately needs the money. Ireland, which has received an international bailout, is dealing with difficult spending cuts, tax increases and unemployment as it tries to pull its debt-burdened economy out of danger of bankruptcy.

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