Video: Cabinet to consider 5pm curfew, PTSB to take over Ulster Bank branches

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Cabinet to consider 5pm curfew

Ministers are set to consider an earlier closing time for hospitality and curtailed crowds at sports events following fresh advice from public health advisers over the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Ireland.

The Cabinet is set to meet on Friday afternoon ahead of an address to the nation by the Taoiseach on the need for more Covid restrictions.

Several media outlets reported late on Thursday that Ministers will consider a 5pm curfew for hospitality alongside limits on spectators on sporting events.

Government sources told The Irish Times that the mood had “darkened” around coming weeks and that major sporting events such as the Leopardstown races and forthcoming rugby fixtures hung in the balance.

There is also a question around upcoming gigs and concerts after it emerged the Omicron variant now accounts for 27 per cent of Covid cases.

Hospitality reaction

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The hospitality industry has reacted with fury to reports that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended pubs and restaurants should shut at 5pm over the Christmas period.

It is understood Nphet has recommended the early closure in a letter sent to Government on Thursday evening.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, described the proposed 5pm curfew as “effectively a hospitality lockdown.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Cummins said the Nphet proposal would leave many businesses in a precarious position and that more financial supports would be necessary for the sector.

Mr Cummins added that the hospitality sector would always adhere to public health advice, but that the recent “mood changes” had been a huge shock to the industry.

“We are not seeing any engagement about how to ‘live with Covid’. We need a plan that is a viable solution for all businesses,” he said.

Ulster Bank branches to be taken over by PTSB

The Ulster Bank branches to be taken over by Permanent TSB have been revealed, as its loan book is sold ahead of its exit from the Irish market.

UK banking giant the NatWest Group, the owner of Ulster Bank, has signed a binding agreement for PTSB to acquire about €6.8 billion of mortgages and business loans from Ulster Bank.

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As part of the deal, the NatWest Group will take a 16.7 per cent stake in the Irish State-controlled lender, according to The Irish Times.

The deal will be funded by €6.4 billion of cash, plus NatWest taking an expected 90.9 million of new PTSB shares. That will give it the 16.7 per cent stake, worth about €136 million, based off PTSB’s closing share price on Thursday.

PTSB’s loan book will grow by 40 per cent, after more than a decade of shrinkage in the wake of the financial crash, and will see its branch network expand by 30 per cent as a result of the transaction as it acquires 25 of Ulster Bank's 88 branches in the Republic.

National rent prices increase by 8.3%

Nationally, rents grew by 8.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, according to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) quarterly Rent Index.

The report, compiled with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), includes the July to September period (Q3) of 2021.

This index shows that nationally, rents grew by 8.3 per cent year-on-year in this period. This is the highest national growth rate seen since Q4 2017, when growth reached 8.4 per cent.

The national standardised average rent stood at €1,397 during Q3 2021, an increase of €44 on the previous quarter.

Considering the longer-term trend in prices, Dublin has seen a greater initial drop and slower rebound in rental price growth since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic than elsewhere.

This "likely reflects the differing impact of the Covid-19 economic shock on both the demand and supply sides of the market in the short run".

Backlash from Senators and TDs over proposed 5pm hospitality closing time

Senators and TDs, many from Coalition parties, have spoken out against the proposal for a 5pm hospitality closing time.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has made the recommendation to Government at it will be discussed at Cabinet before an expected address from Taoiseach Micheál Martin this evening.

Businesses and the public have been widely critical of the proposal, and they have been joined by numerous Senators and TDs.

Seanad Leader Regina Doherty tweeted: "If Nphet are really saying that 2 double vaccinated and boosted people can’t have a pizza and a pint after 5pm then I give up."

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