PUNT: Looks like O'Leary has defiled Boeing once again
AND they're off! No, not ministers and civil servants jetting off around the world for the St Patrick's weekend. It's much more important than that.
At 2.40pm today, the Ryanair Chase will get under way at Cheltenham. It's dubbed "St Patrick's Thursday", and Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary will be hoping to be rolling in clover – or shamrock, as the case may be.
Among the nags in the line-up for the race this afternoon is First Lieutenant. Trainer Mouse Morris has decided to run the horse in today's race rather than in tomorrow's Gold Cup. First Lieutenant won the Novices Hurdle two years ago.
A very different Ryanair chase will also come to a head in the next few days, when the airline seals a deal to buy between 170 and 200 aircraft from US manufacturer Boeing.
Industry commentators are now speculating as to what kind of a deal Ryanair got. One even thinks it will have received as much as a 50pc discount on the massive order. That's a big win for Ryanair, but also for Boeing, whose Dreamliner 787s remain grounded as it sorts out battery problems.
When Ryanair secured a knockdown deal for 100 aircraft from the aircraft maker just months after the 2001 terror attacks in the US, O'Leary famously said that Ryanair had "raped Boeing".
Having secured a deep discount on its new order, Ryanair has probably defiled the Seattle-based company again.
Setting arrears targets for banks is suddenly a great idea after all
WITH the launch of a plan setting out targets for banks to deal with mortgage arrears, it has to be assumed that Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan and his deputy Matthew Elderfield can now stop tearing their hair out.
Professor Honohan told an Oireachtas committee in February that senior management at the Central Bank were "tearing their hair out" at the lack of action from banks on the mortgage mess.
Now the main banks have been told that they must offer a long-term deal to make mortgage repayments manageable for those in genuine financial distress.
At least half of those who are 90 days or more in arrears, both residential and buy-to-let, must have been made an offer by the end of the year.
This appears to be an about-turn because Prof Honohan told the same Oireachtas Committee that the Central Bank did not like setting targets. There was a risk to the Central Bank directing the banks as it might not solve people's "real problems".
"If we tell them what to do, they absolve themselves of responsibility," he said.
A month later, and Mr Elderfield was outlining targets and defending the move. The governor had been opposed to simple targets when he spoke last month, Mr Elderfield explained.
It sounds like the Government has bounced the Central Bank into imposing targets on banks for dealing with arrears. So it is not just the banks that have been forcing the lads in Dame Street to pull their hair out – the Cabinet has been at it as well.
Even the super rich are keeping an eagle eye on their outgoings
'Danes Hollow' has a nice ring to it as a title for a psychological thriller perhaps, but actually the name is a bit more mundane than that. It's the luxury Howth home of 'Riverdance' duo John McColgan and Moya Doherty.
They acquired the property in 1997 for £900,000 (€1.1m) and within months lobbed in a planning application to knock down the property that was on the site and replace it with a pile twice the size, swimming pool included.
The Punt even spoke recently to one sub-contractor employee who worked on the project all those years ago and still remains in awe of the expensive redevelopment.
But it seems the work isn't quite finished yet. McColgan has just told Fingal County Council that he wants an extension to a 2007 planning permission that would see two small additions made to the property. The extension would leave the planning permission valid until 2018.
McColgan tells the council that one of the reasons he's seeking the extension is "because of business commitments involving huge amounts of travel unable to start development". But, curiously, he also cites the "general economic situation" as another reason.
Surely the belts aren't being tightened in the household? Never. The pair were recently listed as having a joint fortune of €68m. Still, they're not willing to throw their money away. "The sudden and unexpected devaluation of all property values in the State has meant the financial and economic rationale for the proposed extension to the property was at best questionable," McColgan's own planning consultant told the council.
They add it's better to wait until there is a "realistic chance of a return" on the planned investment.
Victory for small retailers as out-of-town shopping centre blocked
IT'S the victory small retailers countrywide have been waiting for. A win for the little man.
Planners have blocked proposals for an out-of-town shopping centre in Ennis amid fears by locals that it would have a detrimental impact on the town centre.
Shopowners across the country have been arguing that more and more customers are being wooed by the out-of-town megastore with its discount prices and free parking.
One lobby group – the Retail, Grocery, Dairy & Allied Trades Association (RGDATA) – has even compiled a report on the impact that clamping and paid parking are having on town centres across the State.
CEO of Ennis Chamber Rita McInerney said they had taken a stand.
"We did not want to become another statistic where out-of-town developments have resulted in the demise of other town centres in Ireland."
The development will no doubt be keenly observed by others threatened with a similar fate.