The IDA spent more than €425,000 on a rebrand project they hope will represent a “contemporary Ireland” for the digital age.
The outlay included “discovery research”, the design process, “signage, wayfinding, and sample application” as well as stationary, a website revamp, and marketing material.
However, the notoriously secretive development agency would provide no breakdown of the €428,301 they paid and also redacted almost all of a presentation that described the thinking behind the rebrand including the choice of their new logo and even “colour considerations”.
A heavily redacted copy of the slideshow said they wanted to develop a new identity showing them as the “best and most successful investment promotion and development agency” in the world.
The vision for the project was their “ambition, north star, rallying cry, and an emotive movement forward” according to records they released.
It said they were looking for something “honest [and] direct” that explains exactly what the IDA does as it tries to win and develop foreign direct investment.
The presentation said: “What is our reason for being? It’s our noble purpose. Our brand purpose can make us irresistible to those we hope to serve.”
The new logo includes a “trinity of dots” which is designed with a nod to Ireland’s iconic shamrock.
The development agency said the vibrant green colour and the “bespoke typeface” are designed to “exude confidence with a nod to Irish personality”.
The IDA has reaffirmed the decision at internal review so it will now be appealed to the Information Commissioner.
The country’s main maternity hospital has had to spend more than €500,000 after being warned of the risk of a catastrophic power failure and a fire that would cause “unrepairable and permanent damage” to their electrical systems.
The National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street in Dublin had been operating using electrical cables that were laid around 35 years ago and which were never meant to manage the load that the hospital has needed in recent years.
An expert engineering report explained how the electrical system was frequently operating at a level way beyond its “recommended rating”.
The report said: “This will lead to a catastrophic power failure. When cables such as these fail, they have a real risk of causing a fire within a main switchboard/hospital building causing unrepairable and permanent damage.”
It said the expected wait time for replacement parts was in the order of four months during which the day-to-day running of the hospital would have been compromised.
The antiquated system had already caused the failure of back-up power equipment as well as the loss of the main electrical supply to the hospital during periods of “peak demand”.
A €150 million bypass project approved so that it would be in place for the Ryder Cup in Adare may not be finished in time for the golf tournament.
In internal documents, the Department of Transport was warned that time was running out for the seven kilometre road to be finished by the time the international golf event takes place in September 2027.
A letter from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) said there was no way the entire bypass scheme could be finished in time for the Ryder Cup.
However, their chief executive Peter Walsh said there was a narrow window to partially complete it to help divert traffic from the heritage town of Adare in Co Limerick.
His letter said: “This is an ambitious target given the time remaining and the work required, however not impossible if early approval to proceed is given, funding provided and resources provided.”
Mr Walsh said all state agencies working together would be “essential” if there was any hope of getting the partial bypass built before 2027.
He also warned that risks could “materialise” during the planning and construction phase that would “undermine” delivery of the scheme before the Ryder Cup started.
A business case for the controversial €11 million purchase of a 550-acre estate in Co Meath for a national park said the argument for buying it was “compelling” and that it was a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for the Irish state.
A copy of the report said the Dowth Demesne with its large Georgian country house embodied the “most historic and quite literally magical elements of Irish culture” and was unquestionably of global significance.
The business case said the property had come on the market with a guide price of €10 million and urged opening negotiations immediately, seeking approval from the Department of Public Expenditure, and sourcing funding for the land and the cost of managing a national park on the site.
A note from Niall Ó Donnchú, the Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), said: “Minister, this is a site of global importance, unique on this island for its archaeological, built and natural heritage.
“Its attributes as a national park, managed by NPWS, with OPW working in partnership on the built and historic components, are unprecedented.”
Mr Ó Donnchú also said its geographic locations would help boost tourism in the North East of the country, present “cross-border opportunities” and could become a “beacon project to punctuate the decade of centenaries”.
The business case for the project said the new national park would be modest in size and that purchase would ensure no “inappropriate development” could take place on the lands.
It added: “In this era of a twin biodiversity and climate crisis, protecting what we can, as soon as we can, and to the highest standard that we can is the least that can be expected of our generation.”
Fáilte Ireland were fearful their marketing campaigns for Dublin could end up being used in social media “memes and gifs” as rioting engulfed the capital city in November.
The tourism agency temporarily pulled all promotion of the city due to the “shocking incidents” that were taking place with shops looted, buses and Luas trams burned, and gardaí assaulted.
In internal emails, staff said their adverts needed to be pulled as they would seem “inappropriate while there was so much devastation happening in the city centre”.
One message said: “In addition, we were really concerned that our messages would add to the negative messages on social media around Dublin, with memes and gifs being created that would create ridicule and more negative content about the city.”
Finance Minister Michael McGrath was determined to increase the amount of money taken in from the bank levy as he said every indication was that the banks were going to enjoy “very significant profits”.
In pre-budget discussions, Mr McGrath said he wanted to aim for a take of “considerably higher” than €150 million from the banks as they were doing very well and much of their profit was “sheltered from tax” due to massive losses incurred during the financial crisis.
During the deliberations, the Finance Minister was also warned that any extension of the bank levy outside of the main banks was likely to face legal challenge in the courts.
In a series of submissions for the minister, officials said there were questions to be asked over why the levy should apply to financial institutions that had not been bailed out following the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy.
The submission said that the levy had been introduced in 2014, repeatedly extended, and had begun to move away from “its original timeframe and effect”.
It said a number of other institutions were becoming liable for the charge due to how it was calculated based on DIRT payments [Deposit Interest Retention Tax].
The submission said: “Given that such institutions have not benefitted from tax-payer funded assistance during the financial crisis, and indeed my not even have been present in this country at that time, it is felt that they may have grounds on which to challenge their being required to pay the levy.
“Entities might also challenge the rationale for the levy if other providers of similar services are not in scope.”
A drone crashing into a heritage site, a mysterious series of incidents where locks were stolen and replaced at an historic gate and passage tomb, and rogue metal detectorists were among the incidents of vandalism at national monuments over the past year.
The Office of Public Works said there had been more than three dozen incidents reported since September 2022 with multiple graffiti incidents and blocked up windows getting kicked in.
In April, at the Hill of Slane in Co Meath, a drone crashed into the wall of the college building there, which was reported to the OPW by a member of the public though fortunately no serious damage was caused.
There were also a series of bizarre incidents where locks were cut off national monuments and replaced with other locks to which nobody had the key.
This happened at St Laurence’s Gate in Drogheda, Co Louth twice and also at the passage tomb complex in nearby Dowth, Co Meath between February and April.
There were two cases of metal detectorists who had dug up the ground at heritage sites at Kilcrea Friary and Conna Castle, both of them in Co Cork, with OPW staff able to reinstate the disturbed soil.
Two separate incidents were reported at Holycross Abbey in Co Tipperary where a lock and a bolt on a wooden door were removed and thrown away.
Then, a fire with paper was lit on top of “rubble stone” which left the rock blackened although workers were able to clean it back up at a minimal cost.
Three cases of etchings on ancient cairns and megalithic tombs at Carrowkeel, Carrowmore, and Knockarea in Co Sligo were also discovered with all of the incidents reported to gardaí for further investigation.
The records were released in response to a request under the Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) Regulations.
Finance Minister Michael McGrath was advised by officials and the Central Bank not to announce any mortgage interest relief measures in this year’s budget.
He was told there was no “evidence base” to support any general measure, that it could worsen housing supply issues, would give rise to deadweight, and have the potential to be extremely costly.
Department of Finance officials said even a targeted relief should be avoided on “the grounds of fairness” and that if it were to be introduced, it could be very complex to implement and operate.
In response to an early pre-budget submission, Mr McGrath said he noted their advice and said it was “undoubtedly a complex issue”.
However, he said that some people were “really struggling and we have a duty to see if we can provide some help” asking if a targeted option for those most affected by interest rate hikes could be examined.
In the budget, a €125 million mortgage relief package was eventually introduced that will save around 150,000 home owners up to €1,250 per year in cases where their repayments had risen sharply.
The Revenue Commissioners have been told to release records they hold on discussions over whether they would be tasked with collecting the TV licence.
Revenue had claimed the records were exempt from release on the basis of Cabinet confidentiality (Section 28 of the FOI Act) and under Section 30.
However, the Information Commissioner has found that only two records actually contained information for use at a government meeting.
It’s an important decision which again goes to the heart of what is and is not exempt under Section 28 of the Act.
It only covers records that were created very specifically for a meeting of government.
However, many public bodies wrongly interpret it much more widely as any records relating in any way to a decision or a meeting of government.
This is not correct and this decision of the Information Commissioner upholds that principle.
Separately, Revenue had tried to rely on Section 30 of the FOI Act saying some of the records could reveal anticipated difficulties in collecting tax.
They said this could lead to widespread evasion and undermine public confidence in their abilities to effectively collect all taxes.
The Information Commissioner (OCEI) was not convinced however, and said Revenue had failed to provide enough detail on how potential for evasion could prejudice its investigations, inquiries, or audits.
The OCEI also said that steps would presumably be taken to ensure any tax collection system would be robust.