Monday 20 January 2020


Can you explain to me how it is possible for Permanent TSB to up their interest rates even though the European Central Bank has not? Also, is AIB likely to do the same as this is where I have my mortgage?

PTSB increased its rates recently by 0.5pc because it is buying money at a higher rate than it is selling it. It has recently reported heavy losses and has been effectively put up for sale by its parent IL&P. When it did the same trick last year the resulting furore scared off its competitors from following suit. The ECB itself may well increase base rates later this year also.

Banks can only raise rates on certain types of mortgages. Trackers, which track the ECB rate directly, will not be touched until the ECB moves and if you have one of these, then you're fine. Indeed, it is partly because of the loss-making trackers that banks are resorting to rate increases on other loans. For those on variable mortgages, banks can charge whatever they believe the market will bear. Banks are finding it increasingly expensive to borrow abroad as Ireland is still seen as a risk. Therefore, it must pass on those charges.

Frank Conway of Irish Mortgage Corporation adds: "Banks simply got their pricing models wrong and need to increase interest rates to limit their losses. This trend will be repeated among other banks. AIB, like others, re-introduced standard variable rate mortgages for the sole reason of taking control and increasing interest rates at a time of their choosing".

They would be crazy not to follow through and raise rates in order to reduce losses. It is hard to say how much rates will go up this year as it is dependent on so many factors, but most commentators are suggesting 1-2pc. If you are facing financial difficulties, talk to your bank at the earliest opportunity.


I am currently in the process of upgrading and redecorating my house. In order to create a new green interior what should I look for?

Public awareness of general external green building elements have grown exponentially and now armed, with good windows, a touch of green technology and lashings of insulation, we can attack with gusto our new green extension. But when it comes to making a green interior the solutions can be more complicated and definitely more personal.

In your green interior overhaul try to consider:

1 The embodied energy of materials that you propose to use. This refers to the energy used to extract, process and refine it before use.

The fewer steps involved in a material's production means that it's embodied energy is lower and thus is more environmentally friendly.

2. VOC's present in your proposed materials. VOC's stands for Volatile Organic Compound, they can occur naturally or unnaturally and are generally used as solvents and additives to control the drying rate of paints and coatings.

The EU legislation sets a maximum VOC content for a variety of products and specific labelling requirements in order to reduce air pollution throughout the EU. This is a recent legislation so think twice before using the leftover pots of paint in your shed.

3. Your interior lighting. As incandescent bulbs are phased out any light fittings should be replaced with an LED or CFL (compact fluorescent). Both are available in dimmable fittings and for domestic lighting you should ask for a "warm" light rather than the white office type lighting that is generally associated with fluorescents.

4 The use of durable, recyclable and renewable materials. Try buying fittings that will last a long time and that can be broken down at the end of their life span for recycling.

5. Try to use locally sourced materials. Irish products are generally durable and of high quality -- by incorporating them into your design you are supporting the economy as well as creating a sustainable home.

To research some specific materials try consulting, an Irish website which provides a comprehensive green directory.


I have a 60ft garden of which a large part does not seem to drain very well. What can I do about this and are there plants that could help?

You don't mention the soil type but the poor porosity of the soil could be due to a high clay content or a high water table. Digging the soil to the depth of a fork, a process used to improve poorly structured soil could reduce the moisture-retentive nature of the soil. This should be carried out in autumn or ideally in early spring for clay soils. Take care not to work the soil in wet conditions as this can further compact the soil. Introducing organic matter and grit into the soil from time to time can also improve the soil structure.

If that seems a little too labour intensive, you could employ the aid of water-loving plants to reduce excessive ponding. Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Crowborough' thrives in moist soil, as does the pretty Iris ensata 'Exception'.

If it is lush green foliage you are after, the Hosta 'Frances Williams' which bears white flowers in summer can be grown as ground cover along a shaded border.

For year round interest try the sedge Carex grayi, or an ornamental grass Deschampsia flexuosa 'Tatra Gold'.

Irish Independent

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