The Punt: 'I can see your house from here'
AN army of estate agents from the Sherry FitzGerald "network" descended on Croke Park last Friday for a special motivational day, doubtless to gee them up for what property players hope is the coming flood of new deals.
Amid the other pep-upping and team-building exercises, the Punt hears the auctioneers got to go on the stadium's 'skywalk' - which involved strapping young property negotiators into a harness for a precarious walk the full way around the tippy-top lip of Croke Park's roof.
As we emerge into a post-crash property landscape, the real estate turf wars are set to step up to new heights as the big networks begin to slog it out again in earnest in the capital for what remains a thin supply of stock.
For its part, Mark FitzGerald's Ballsbridge-based empire has already been busy swiping seasoned personnel from its rivals, pillaging big-name negotiators and managers in particular for its new homes and south Dublin and country house departments.
As for the younger and less experienced cadets who don't remember a busy property market, a motivation boot camp will surely help transform them into house-selling storm troopers - or skywalkers, as the case may be. Feel the force! And by the way, I can see your house from here. . .
GRIFFITH'S LOAN OFFER A BIT RICH
HIGH youth unemployment, rising college registration fees and soaring living costs mean students don't have it particularly easy these days.
Compounding this is an acute lack of finance; our neighbours in the UK have a well-developed student loan scheme, but here students without wealthy parents have little choice but to shoulder part-time jobs alongside the burden of a full-time degree.
In the midst of this steps Griffith College, the country's largest private third-level college, whose president is Professor Diarmuid Hegarty.
It has just launched a new interest-free student loan scheme for its September 2014 intake of students on one of its media courses, a Bachelor in Journalism and Visual Media.
"The college is keenly aware of the difficult economic circumstances faced by many parents," said Professor Hegarty. "By introducing this interest-free loan we hope to enable greater numbers of Irish students to partake in third-level education."
"Great!" the Punt thought. "Finally, cheap access to loans for hard-pressed students!" But then we read on. The sum on offer, it seems, is a measly €600.
It's a step in the right direction, but does Prof Hegarty really think €600 will make a dent in the living expenses of a student living in Dublin? Sorry, budding journos. Keep looking for those part-time jobs.
NI TALKS TO HELP TRADE WITH UK
THE great and good of the British-Irish world gather next month for the "first seminal business and political event to be held in Northern Ireland since the Haass talks ended".
That's not really a ringing endorsement.
The organisers of the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference are tight-lipped on who will appear from the political world, but last year the celebrity line-up included British Business Secretary Vince Cable, UK Energy Secretary of State, and our own Pat Rabbitte.
Notable business figures will include Chris Davies of HSBC, Philip Dilley, chairman of ARUP, Anna Malmhake, of Irish Distillers and Jack Golden from CRH.
The UK remains our biggest trading partner.
"The flow of goods between Ireland and the UK amounts to €1bn per week," said UK ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott.
"The British-Irish Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference is a key date on the business calendar for businesses on both islands."
Let's hope it goes better than the Haass talks.