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Irish report Irish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-10-30 08:16:30
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Poet Higgins elected Ireland's ninth president

Irish poet and human rights activist Michael D. Higgins was officially confirmed as his country's ninth president on Saturday after winning nearly 57 percent of the vote in the final count. The 70-year-old former culture minister for the Labour party, the junior partner in the coalition government in Dublin, staged a remarkable comeback to beat an ex-IRA commander and a reality TV star. He will succeed Mary McAleese, who spent two seven-year terms in the ceremonial post, and now faces the task of representing Ireland abroad as it struggles to rebuild its shattered economy.

At the Dublin Castle count centre, returning officer Riona Ni Fhlanghaile declared Higgins the winner after he accumulated 1,007,104 votes out the total 1,771,762 cast in Thursday's election after four counts. Overall voter turnout was 56 percent. "As he has reached the quota I hereby declare Michael D. Higgins elected to the office of president of Ireland," Ni Fhlanghaile said.

Under Ireland's complicated election system with voting for second and third preference candidates, the winner needed at least 885,882 votes, which represents 50 percent of the valid votes plus one. Higgins achieved 56.8 percent of the vote in the final count, but only 39.6 percent of the first-preference votes. "I will be a president for all the people," Higgins said in his victory speech, adding that during the election campaign he had felt the pain of the Irish people during the country's economic crisis. "I recognise the righteous anger but I also saw the need for healing and to move past recrimination," said the diminutive Higgins. Belfast-born McAleese congratulated Higgins, saying his success "marks the start of an exciting chapter for our country, our global Irish family and for the Higgins family".


Friendliness factor swings it for Twitter

IDA Ireland may have to start measuring whether the State is living up to its reputation for the céad míle fáilte after a senior Twitter executive admitted that the “friendliness” the company encountered was one of the main reasons it decided to establish an Irish base. Last month the rapidly growing social network said it was establishing an office in Dublin but provided no further details on how many jobs it might create or what role the operation would take on. As a result there was standing room only when Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter in the UK, spoke at the Dublin Web Summit in the RDS yesterday.

In a short interview Mr Wang said that the availability of skilled staff and good technology infrastructure were among the main considerations when deciding on Twitter offices, but in Ireland the “friendliness” executives encountered was an additional factor. Mr Wang’s appearance was tightly controlled by his public relations handler but in a question from the floor he was pressed on whether Twitter would locate lower-value support jobs in Dublin or would be hiring “core engineers”. The response suggested that Twitter was open to hiring developers but for now that work will be done in London. More than 1,200 people are attending the two-day web summit which continues today featuring presentations from senior executives and founders of some of the world’s biggest technology and internet companies including Google, Microsoft, YouTube, Skype and Amazon.com.

The event, taking place for the seventh time and the brainchild of 27-year-old Trinity College Dublin graduate Paddy Cosgrave, attracts the world’s business and technology media to Dublin and reaffirms the city’s reputation as a major internet hub in Europe. Mr Wang was followed on stage by Ronan Harris, director of online sales with search giant Google, who pointed out that his company does not just create jobs in Ireland, where it now has more than 2,000 staff. Since Google opened its European headquarters in Dublin in 2004 many talented staff has left to start their own firms, “creating jobs in Ireland”. Five Irish start-ups got the chance to present their wares in the ESB Energy Ireland-sponsored Spark of Genius competition with a prize fund of €140,000 which includes a €100,000 seed investment from ACT Venture Capital.


Ireland tops EU league for children living with one parent

Ireland has the joint highest share of children living with one parent in the European Union, new research has shown. Figures from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, showed that 23.2 per cent of young people aged under 18 lived with a single parent. The high percentage of children living in such circumstances, which one expert linked to the comparatively generous rate of single-parent welfare allowance here, was equalled only by Latvia (23.3 per cent). This compared with an EU average of just 13.6 per cent. At the other end of the scale, only 4.8 per cent of children born in Greece lived with one parent.

The research, conducted in 2008, provides a unique snapshot into the differences in living arrangements between children across the 27 member states. It showed that fewer Irish children (67.8 per cent) live with married parents than the EU average of 73.8 per cent. Only 7.4 per cent of Irish children were found to live with cohabiting parents – which included biological parents as well as step/adoptive or foster parents – compared to an EU average of 11.5 per cent. Living with married parents was most common for children in Greece (91.8 per cent) and Cyprus (89 per cent) and least common for children in Estonia (54 per cent) and Sweden (54.4 per cent).

The figures showed that living with cohabiting parents was most common in Sweden (27.3 per cent) and least common in Cyprus (0.8 per cent) and Greece (2.1 per cent). The number of children living without parents in Ireland was 1.6 per cent, compared to an EU average of 1.2 per cent. Emeritus professor in child development at Trinity College Dublin Sheila Greene commented on Ireland’s standing in the statistics: “Apart from demographic changes to the traditional family form driven by the legalisation of divorce and the increase in children born outside of wedlock, various policies around single-parent allowances and family supplements may be shaping these differences. “As there is an insistence here that parents be on their own and not cohabit to qualify for certain allowances, this may affect actual living arrangements and, indeed, what people are willing to say about their circumstances.” The study, which also assessed the living arrangements of people aged 65 and over, found significant differences between men and women. The most common arrangement for men was to live with their partner in a two-person household, while for women it was most common to live alone.

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