• FG steps up efforts to build alliances with potential coalition partners. Fine Gael Ministers are to step up their attempts to “woo” potential coalition partners such as Labour and the Greens as a general election approaches amid concern that they are being outflanked by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. A private meeting of Fine Gael Cabinet Ministers and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s senior staff heard suggestions that Mr Martin is already building alliances, with his relationship with Labour leader Brendan Howlin cited.
• More than 120,000 learner drivers never tested. More than 120,000 learner permit holders who obtained their first licence between 1984 and 2016 have never taken a driving test figures show. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said the 125,860 learner permits remain active, meaning they are being renewed every year.
• Moves to end two-tier public pay. The Government has signalled it will move to end the two-tier pay system in the public service as part of future negotiations with unions. Two initiatives have been tabled to deal with the lower-pay arrangements for staff taken on since 2010 including a phased €200 million proposal announced last September. However, unions maintained that some State employees, particularly some teachers, would still be left significantly worse off than longer-serving colleagues.
• INTO confident salary gap will close. The country’s largest teachers’ union has expressed confidence that the two-tier pay scales will be abolished following a significant shift in Government policy. Lower pay scales were introduced for tens of thousands of new-entrant teachers and other public sector workers hired after 2011, following austerity-era pay cuts.
• Secondary schools struggle to fill posts. Half of secondary schools are struggling with unfilled teaching vacancies in key subjects such as Irish, maths and science, according to a survey. A Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) poll of principals and deputy principals in 120 or one sixth of the State’s secondary schools over the past fortnight indicates that many are being hit by a “recruitment and retention crisis”. The survey found that almost all schools or 94 per cent experienced teacher recruitment difficulties in the past six months. More than two-thirds or 68 per cent of schools said they advertised positions to which no teacher applied over the past six months. Almost half or 47 per cent said they still had unfilled teaching vacancies.
• Workload affecting care, say doctors. The excessive workload of consultants in public hospitals is affecting patient care, senior doctors have said. The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said about 90 per cent of members surveyed believed their current workload was “unmanageable”. IHCA president Dr Donal O’Hanlon said more than half or 54 per cent of the 900 consultants who took part in the survey claimed the number of inpatients they were expected to care for was higher than the recommended norm for their speciality. He said 67 per cent of consultants believed the number of outpatients was also higher than the recommended norms.
• More than 140 people contact PSNI with information on journalist’s murder. More than 140 people have so far contacted police in Derry seeking to pass on information about the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in the city last Thursday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said. Ms McKee (29) was shot during rioting in the Creggan area on Thursday and died shortly afterwards. The PSNI believe dissident republican group the New IRA was responsible.
• Teachers want pensions upgrade for those appointed since 2013. Teachers are urging the Government to upgrade pension arrangements for those appointed in recent years. Unions maintain changes introduced in 2013 by the government mean there has been “substantial deterioration” in pension benefits for teachers appointed since that time. The move will essentially open up a new front in the debate over equality between recent entrants to teaching and longer-established colleagues.
• DPP urges move to pre-trial hearings. The introduction of pre-trail hearings could significantly shorten the delay in criminal trials coming to court, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Claire Loftus, has said. Such hearings would decide what evidence can and cannot be introduced in a trial, and would also help crystallise disputes over what material has to be disclosed during the trial, she said. The wait for a criminal trial in the Dublin Circuit Court is approximately 1 ½ years, a delay in part due to a number of exceptionally long trials, including the trials linked to matters to do with Anglo Irish Bank.
• 'What I wanted was answers…here I am a year later still trying to get them’. Vicky Phelan is still seeking accountability after CervicalCheck crises.
• Phelan criticises Varadkar over delays. Vicky Phelan has criticised Leo Varadkar and his Government for “unacceptable delays” in dealing with the fallout from the CervicalCheck controversy. She accused the Government of using the Brexit issue as a “blanket excuse” for not implementing promises, and of saying things “to get the story out of the papers” but not following up with the resources needed.
• New Garda unit in bogus insurance claims crackdown. A series of Dublin home raids targeting suspected insurance fraud marks just the beginning of a new Garda effort to shut the practice down, the head of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) has said. Under the newly formed Operation Coatee, specialist units including armed gardaí raided a number of houses in West Dublin yesterday. They executed further warrants at four solicitors’ practices. Six cars were seized (a Jaguar, a Mercedes, a BMW, a Dacia and two Volkswagen Golf’s) as well as jewellery worth more than €300,000, substantial paperwork and documents.
• Talks on restoring power sharing to have three-week limit. New all-party talks aimed at restoring the Northern Ireland power sharing institutions are to be given a sharp time limit of about three weeks. Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will announce a fresh round of talks today in an attempt to get Stormont back up and running for the first time since January 2017. The institutions collapsed amid controversy over the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
Business and Economy
• ComReg admits to paying rebates to 5G auction winners due to lack of access. The communications regulator has confirmed it is paying rebates to mobile operators who made successful bids for space on the State’s radio spectrum nearly two years ago as they can’t fully access it to roll out new services including 5G. Irish mobile operators paid €78m for 5G mobile spectrum but cannot access it. Sources suggest at least one bidder is considering taking legal action.
• ‘We have lost a giant of the retail world’: Tributes paid to Superquinn founder Feargal Quinn. Former Senator and businessman Feargal Quinn has died at the age of 82. Quinn was best known as the founder of the supermarket chain Superquinn, later becoming a TV personality in RTÉ’s Feargal Quinn’s retail therapy. He was a member of the Seanad for 23 years being elected through the National University of Ireland. Superquinn was founded in 1960 when Quinn was just 23 years old and it was owned by the Quinn family before being sold to a consortium in 2005.
• Government wants a Central Bank in financial sector forum. New structures to encourage the development of international financial services will include bringing the Central Bank into a new stakeholder engagement group with industry and see overall responsibility for promoting the sector shifting to the Department of Finance. A new strategy for the sector will be launched this week by Michael D’Arcy, Minister of State with special responsibility for Financial Services and Insurance, and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.