Video: Government agree new public holidays and Covid bonus, inflation continues to rise

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Ashling Murphy murder investigation continues

Gardaí investigating the murder of Ashling Murphy have arrested a second man in connection with the 23-year-old's death.

The second man, aged in his 30s, is currently detained in the Eastern Region, Gardaí said, under provision of Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act 1939 as amended.

He is being questioned in relation to potential withholding of information contrary to the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998.

Gardaí confirmed officers are continuing to question a 31-year-old man arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of Ms Murphy's murder.

The body of Ms Murphy, a talented musician and teacher, was found on the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore last Wednesday.

Politicians have backed a cross-party approach to tackle male violence against women, in the wake of the murder of Ms Murphy.

New public holidays and Covid bonus payment

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A new public holiday to recognise the efforts of the country during the Covid-19 pandemic and to remember those who lost their lives has been agreed by the Government.

The once-off holiday will take place on Friday, March 18th of this year. The holiday will be followed by a day of remembrance and recognition, to take place over St Patrick’s weekend.

The Government has also agreed to give a tax-free recognition payment of €1,000 to frontline healthcare workers in Covid-19 exposed environments.

Furthermore, a permanent public holiday on which employees are entitled to a paid day off is to be established from next year in celebration of Imbolc/St Brigid’s day.

This holiday will take place the first Monday of every February - except where St Brigid’s day, the first day of February, happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday will be a public holiday.

Government promise clarity on Covid-19

The Taoiseach has said the country can be “optimistic” about the future, amid growing expectation that Covid-19 restrictions may soon be lifted.

Micheál Martin told reporters on Wednesday the Government will give “clarity” later this week regarding plans to ease Covid rules.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet on Thursday to discuss the situation.

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Mr Martin said: "The Government will meet on Friday, and then we’ll give clarity to the public at large and to the interests that are very concerned about the situation and want that clarity."

Consumer prices rise at fastest pace in two decades

Consumer prices rose by 5.5 per cent in the year to December, marking the largest annual change in prices in two decades according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The rise in average prices between December 2020 and December 2021 was the largest annual change since a rise of 5.6 per cent was seen in April 2001.

The most notable change in prices was an 18 per cent increase in the cost of transport, along with an 11.8 per cent rise in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuel costs.

Transport costs increased primarily due to higher prices for diesel, petrol and motor cars, along with an increase in airfares.

Students call for hybrid Leaving Certificate

The Ombudsman for Children has said the traditional Leaving Cert should not proceed in 2022, stating his support for students unhappy with current plans for the exams.

Dr Niall Muldoon said current “small adaptations” to the traditional format were insufficient for children who had experienced “two years of disrupted education” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It comes as students held a number of protests across the State on Wednesday, calling for a hybrid Leaving Cert model to be used with a choice between predicted grades and exams.

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Senior education sources have previously indicated that the hybrid Leaving Cert of 2021, which gave students a choice between sitting written exams and accredited grades, would be “impossible” to re-run this year.

Earlier on Wednesday, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said students will get clarity on the Leaving Cert in the next few days.

Covid: 12,138 cases logged

The Department of Health has recorded 6,843 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 today, while 5,295 registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

There has been a total of 6,087 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland. This includes 52 deaths newly notified in the past week (since last Wednesday).

As of 8am today, 910 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 90 are in ICU.

Restrictions having 'devastating' impact on Irish cinemas

The current restrictions have had a "devastating impact" on the cinema industry in Ireland, according to the director of an Irish cinema group.

Mark Anderson, director of the Omniplex Group - which includes 18 Irish cinemas - told BreakingNews.ie that the 8pm closing time has caused huge problems for cinemas.

"An 8pm closing for cinemas really means a 5.30pm closing time. Unlike for a pub you can’t nip in for a quick movie. All of our shows have to be finished by 8pm, when you take in adverts and trailers the films have to start by 5.30pm."

Mr Anderson said cinemas had "just about" been getting by over the Christmas period as parents took children to matinée showings.

"Although it was a major hit to our business, we traded respectably at about 55 per cent of what we normally would have done in the Christmas period pre-Covid. Since the kids went back to school on January 6th the bottom has fallen out of the market, no weekday business at all in the industry where revenues have dropped by 90 per cent."

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