Fraud worth more than €500m has been uncovered during an investigation of more than 900,000 social welfare payments made so far this year.
The Department of Social Protection says major savings have been achieved following a series of probes into payments including jobseeker’s benefit.
The department is seeking companies to help officials collect evidence including electronic financial transfers and prepare books of evidence outlining allegations made against individuals.
A total of 90 staff work in the department’s Special Investigations Unit which tackles fraud, while officials who process payments made to 1.4 million people every week are also trained to detect cases where fraud may be occurring.
A spokeswoman said that more than 900,000 payments were reviewed this year. In some cases, detailed checks were carried out which included checking financial transactions and consulting databases, including those held by the Revenue Commissioners.
Among the payments checked were those made to lone parents, where officials checked if a person in receipt of the money was living alone, and jobseeker’s allowance, where it was suspected the recipient may have taken up employment.
Ireland has made more progress in fixing its economy than other nations in the euro-area periphery, according to Fitch Ratings.
“Country-specific” considerations drove the agency’s decision to revise its outlook for the Irish credit rating upwards earlier this week, Fitch said in a statement.
“The revision of the outlook on Ireland’s BBB+ sovereign rating to stable reflects country-specific considerations, rather than signalling a change in fortune for the eurozone periphery as a whole,” the agency said.
The revision is Fitch’s first positive rating action on a stressed euro-area country since the start of the crisis.
Fianna Fail have moved eight points clear of Sinn Fein, while Micheal Martin is the most popular leader in the country, according to a poll in Sunday Times.
Mr Martin’s satisfaction ratings of 42 per cent are ahead of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny on 41 per cent, and Gerry Adamson 40 per cent.
The poll shows signs of a recovery in Fianna Fail‘s fortunes. Mr Martin is now the most popular leader in the country and his party has increased its support by 6 per cent since last September.
Fine Gael are still the most popular party in the country on 30 per cent, down one point in the past two months. But Fianna Fail are in second place on 22 per cent, and well ahead ofSinn Fein in third place on 14 per cent (down 4 per cent) and ahead of Labour at 12 per cent, (down two points). Independents are unchanged on 19 per cent and the Greens are up one to 3 per cent.
A ghost estate in Ballymote is on the market for just €240,000 – less than the cost of a single house in the development only a few years ago.
Only one of the 14 houses in the unfinished Downs Estate is occupied. The houses initially went on sale in 2007 with hefty price tags of €250,000 and €245,000. But only one was ever sold in what was described as “a prestigious development in a magical location”.
Now 13 of the estate’s 14 houses are up for grabs with an asking price of €240,000. Three of the houses are fully complete, three more plastered internally, while seven are at what’s called “shell stage”.
The only occupied house is the best maintained. The householder declined to comment on the sale of the estate. Auctioneers Sherry FitzGerald are selling the estate on instruction from receivers Kavanagh Fennell. Selling agent Ken Draper said: “It’s priced to allow an incoming builder/developer to complete the units and have some margin.”
Michael O’Leary has had enough of people checking out the accounts of the firm behind his private taxi service.
The airline chief has made the company unlimited, in a move that frees it from the obligation of having to file publicly available accounts every year with the Companies Office.
Mr O’Leary uses his personal taxi for trips between his home in Mullingar and Dublin Airport, where Ryanair has its head office. It lets him skip traffic snarls in the city by using bus lanes at any time of the day.
Taxis, bicycles and on-call emergency vehicles are the only other forms of transport allowed to use bus lanes when they are in force. Mr O’Leary acquired a taxi licence in 2003, sparking outrage in some quarters.
The report on state involvement in the slave-like conditions in the Magdalene laundries is expected to be published soon.
The review group, chaired by Senator Martin McAleese, was set up by the Government to establish the facts of state involvement with the Magdalene laundries, to clarify any state interaction, and to produce a narrative detailing such interaction.
An initial progress report was published on October 25.
Special rapporteur on children’s rights Geoffrey Shannon used the publication of his annual report in July to claim that reports from women forced into the laundries showed their treatment “constituted slavery”.
The UN Committee Against Torture called on the Government in 2011 to set up an inquiry into the treatment of thousands of women and girls in the laundries.
The Irish tourism industry got a much needed boost in the autumn as visitor numbers rose almost 4pc. There was a particularly strong surge in visitors from north America with numbers up 20pc, mainly driven by the Notre Dame Navy American football match in Dublin.
However the number of visitors from Britain which remains Ireland’s most important market were down by 21,000 in the period September to November 2012.
Total visitor numbers to Ireland for the first 11 months of 2012 fell by
1,100 to 6.057m compared to the same period of 2011, newCentral Statistics Office figures show.
The new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hopes to retire to Ireland when his term is completed, his family have revealed.
John Brennan, whose family come from Co Roscommon, was this week nominated by US President Barack Obama to lead the CIA. The former counter-terrorism adviser paid an unplanned visit to these shores last November when he visited his Irish relations.
“He has visited Roscommon over the years and always calls in to see us when he’s here,” said his first cousin Patrick Diffley, who lives in Lecarrow, Co Roscommon.
The new CIA chief is the son of Owen Brennan, from Kilteevan, Co Roscommon, who emigrated to America in the mid-1940s. Accepting Mr Obama‘s nomination on Monday, Mr Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, said it would be the “honour of my life” to serve as CIA director.
Mink farms have been given a reprieve after Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney reversed a Fianna Fail/Green decision to ban the practice by the end of this year.
Citing a review commissioned by his department last year, the minister said the industry – which is worth €11m a year – will continue but under strict new standards. Five fur farmers will have their 12-month licences extended for another year.
FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan got a last minute piece of good news ahead of the Budget after the latest NCB Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index suggested that the economy continued to expand in November.
The report suggests the economy saw growth for the ninth successive month in November after the seasonally-adjusted index came in at 52.4 compared to 52.1 the previous month.