Sunday Independent


Aid for Ryanair’s US routes if they get off the groundSunday April 15th 2007
RYANAIR’S new transatlantic offshoot can expect lucrative incentives in Ireland and the US when it launches new routes to the US, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Michael O’Leary’s tough bargaining style is likely to deliver State job-creation grants, marketing support and other incentives, amounting to millions of euro.

A spokesman for the Dublin Airport Authority confirmed that route discounts of at least €12 per passenger would be offered on a long-haul route.

“Discounted passenger charges are also currently offered on short-haul routes at Cork and Shannon airports, but airlines can expect higher incentives on long-haul routes. We also offer a small grant towards marketing support,” he added, stressing that they are offered to all airlines on a transparent basis.

Factoring in these incentives allows the airline to offer one-way fares for as little as €10. O’Leary hopes the no-frills Ryanair spinoff will start flying to east coast routes such as Long Island and Baltimore in four or five years.

It emerged last month that Aer Lingus had been offered €8.4m to establish a direct route to Baltimore Washington Airport, while a former Ryanair director of ground operations, Charlie Clifton, helped to launch a new Ohio base for low-cost airline Skybus last year, which received incentives of $16m (€12m).

O’Leary’s plan, however, could be delayed by up to seven years due to aircraft supply constraints. He said he may use either the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 to launch the new service.

One high-profile industry source told the Sunday Independent that even orders placed now for both aircraft types might not be filled until at least 2014. Much of the current Boeing 787 production has been snapped up by carriers such as Qantas, Singapore Airlines and All Nippon. The A350 will not begin rolling off the production line in Toulouse until 2010 at the earliest.


We’d like chips with everythingSunday March 25th 2007JOHN REYNOLDS
BUILT on the 360-acre site of a former stud farm on the outskirts of Leixlip, Intel’s largest factory outside the US employs 5,300 people directly or as contractors. With a further 200 at Shannon, Intel is the largest corporate contributor to Ireland’s GDP.On a bright, cool spring morning, the car park is overflowing, mainly with family saloons and hatchbacks, although the odd 4×4 stands out as well. No sign of an environmentally conscious bicycle park though.

BUILT on the 360-acre site of a former stud farm on the outskirts of Leixlip, Intel’s largest factory outside the US employs 5,300 people directly or as contractors. With a further 200 at Shannon, Intel is the largest corporate contributor to Ireland’s GDP.On a bright, cool spring morning, the car park is overflowing, mainly with family saloons and hatchbacks, although the odd 4×4 stands out as well. No sign of an environmentally conscious bicycle park though.Mercedes taxis deliver executives to the door of the mile-long building as I enter the reception. I’m given a visitor pass before walking through an airport-style security scanner that ushers me into the heart of this high-tech manufacturing monolith.

Clinically spotless corridors are in keeping with Intel’s FAB production area where a flake of skin or a spec of dust can render a computer chip useless. Photos and awards adorn the walls and hang from the ceiling, proclaiming Intel’s environmental, employee and all-round business friendliness. Casually dressed workers mill around, many in jeans and T-shirts, while maintenance workers are in hard hats and workwear.

One of the building’s several cafeterias is a hive of conversation and activity. Although it has the feel of a university cafe, at this hour of the morning, many students would be struggling to jumpstart their brain cells with caffeine. Not so here. Small groups are engaged in animated conversations. Some are huddled around laptops; others are talking on mobile phones. The vibe is one of action, innovation and ideas and a sense of dynamic, driven people, not just talking, but doing as well.

Innovation is the order of the day as I meet Martin Curley, global director of IT research and innovation. With only a moment to note that he’s one of the few people around here wearing a suit, he speaks quickly with a mid-Atlantic accent, giving me a rapid-fire rundown of some of the current projects he and his colleagues are working on. Intel’s chips process thousands, probably millions of pieces of data a second and the same energy seems to be flowing through this whole building and everyone who works here.

“Twelve innovation centres around the world are run from here and our R&D spend of 16-18 per cent of revenue is one of the highest in our industry,” says Curley. Intel’s focus here is on ‘disruptive innovation’ by applying technology in practical ways to solve problems for business, learning and government.

As we chat in a room adorned with PCs, large flatscreen monitors and other displays of Intel’s innovations, Curley can only spare 20 minutes to talk to me. He’s flying to London this afternoon to meet with Westminster City Council, which has been trialling wireless IP CCTV. At another event, he’ll encourage other UK local authorities to roll it out, because “what matters is that customers adopt Intel’s innovations because they have real-life practical benefits”.

Another innovation developed here predicts when a machine will fail. This has led to an improvement of two per cent of running time. For a manufacturer with hundreds of machines, it’s something with obvious practical and financial benefits. This isn’t the only idea Intel has up its sleeve. “We’ve developed a market-based approach, using gaming theory. It predicts the impact of a product on a market at one per cent of the cost, in less time than current methods and without the need for a costly panel of experts,” he says.

As Curley leaves for London, it’s time to meet Intel’s general manager of Irish operations, Jim O’Hara. I’m still trying to take in everything his colleague has told me as we pass through a room full of partitioned office cubicles into a conference room, where the focus point is again a large flatscreen monitor. O’Hara strides in, shakes my hand and launches into the story of Intel here and how it has grown since 1990 from a team of 300-400 people who trained in the US. Employees now come here from all over the world for training and it’s estimated that the revenue generated here last year topped €6.5bn.

As chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce here, O’Hara is a critic of the rising costs of doing business in Ireland and is no fan of bureaucracy. I’m slightly surprised when he declines to criticise any minister or government department after I suggest they could learn a thing or two from Intel. “We’re high tech and high productivity and our output would be two to three times that of the state sector,” he says. Competing on a world level also means being able to try out new ideas and adapt quickly. “Two days ago one of my senior technical people had an idea about incorporating a flash device into an Intel PC and next week we’re going to develop that.”

As O’Hara heads off to his next meeting, I’m led along the vast maze of corridors once again to another of the Java City cafes, where we stop for photos. Tasty-looking eclairs, doughnuts, muffins and pastries fill a display counter. There are ten types of coffee here and they’re all organic, shade-grown, fairtrade, bird-friendly and endorsed by the Rainforest Alliance. The food in the canteen is as diverse. You could spend half an hour choosing what to have for lunch.

Johannes Sipilica, who is originally from South Africa, has worked here for four years. Known and liked by everyone, he makes sure the coffee – which seems to be the fuel everyone here runs on – is second to none. “I’ve travelled all over Europe, but Ireland is one of its best countries,” he says. He’s met people from all over the world here, but he’s seen a bit more of it too, thanks to winning a ‘Barista of the Year’ prize, which took him to Italy for a fortnight. “It was superb to be recognised with a prize for being part of Intel,” he says.

So what’s it really like working at the heart of Intel? Manufacturing technician Adrian Coffey has a four-year-old daughter and works four days one week and three days the next. Just back from three weeks training in Boston, he enjoys the quarterly staff and supervisor nights out for a meal, bowling and greyhound-racing nights. Would he recommend working at Intel to his daughter? “Definitely, it’s not just work, it’s a way of life. I’ve achieved what I never knew I was able to achieve here,” he enthuses.

Engineering group leader Paul Healy describes the in-house university where the focus is on “numerous technical and management courses that help us stay on top of the constant changes in high-tech engineering”. Whereas Coffey’s average day is quite hands-on – along with his gloves and toolbox, he keeps the factory’s key equipment online – Healy’s is more focused on reviewing operations, listening to the technicians’ views and concerns and making sure they’re meeting their targets.

Evenings are taken up with Intel’s ‘virtual factory’ when regular phone calls ensure staff compare, review and learn from partners at its factories in Phoenix and Oregon in the US. Healy and his team have visited staff there to build working relationships, keeping them all at the top of their game. “Not only that, but the diverse backgrounds and views of everyone here ensures we learn from each other’s ideas and approaches,” Healy says.

Joanne Rice shows me around the real heart of the place in the FAB production area, where the latest Core Duo, Quad Core and flash memory chips are made. Each one takes hundreds of steps to make and “more than a few weeks in total”, she says.

Peering through windows at an area 1,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating theatre, it’s difficult to describe the scene as a guy wearing what looks like a space suit is hard at work. Here each chip is imprinted with the outline of circuitry as a yellow light flashes. This happens for each layer of several hundred that make up each chip.

Once this has been done, another machine carries the chips to the next process.

Run by a team of 150-170 people, this core part of the plant has its own clean water, clean air and energy systems, which keep it going 24/7.Another of Intel’s key people is voluntary placement officer Bronagh Friel. She loves her job and it shows. Possibly the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met, she’s just back from planting trees at nine local schools for National Tree Week. When she’s not planting trees, she helps Intel employees get involved in local volunteer work. They can’t get enough of helping kids and elderly local people, she tells me, as all her events and groups are oversubscribed.

The taxi-driver who takes me back into Dublin suggests “everyone’s brainwashed and you leave your soul at the door at that place,” when I tell him I’ve spent the day at Intel. Perhaps, like me, he felt a bit amateur and unprofessional in comparison.

Others might see its culture as paternalistic, but it attracts and breeds highly motivated, intelligent and dynamic people. It gives them a lot and the employees give a lot in return. Surely any company or organisation strives for that? It leaves me slightly envious of Intel’s staff and awestruck by its culture. Maybe I’ve been brainwashed.


Ryanair emissions worse than entire island of MaltaSunday February 4th 2007
RYANAIR’S vast fleet of planes will belch out more carbon dioxide this year than the country of Malta and its entire population of more than 400,000 people, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The airline’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since 1998 will have risen tenfold at the end of this year, a startling figure in the wake of a UN report stating that concentrations of greenhouse gases are higher now than for hundreds of thousands of years. Global climate change is very likely to be caused by human activities, the report concludes.

Michael O’Leary boasts that Ryanair is the greenest airline in the world. But its total amount of greenhouse gases is rocketing. The airline will spew out approximately 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 this year, accounting for about five per cent of Ireland’s total emissions.

Analyst Stephen Furlong at Davy Stockbrokers forecasts that the airline will carry 52 million passengers this year. Environmental economists Trucost, who monitor airline pollution, reveal that average CO emissions per passenger are approximately 71.3kg.

This year’s carbon emissions from the airline will ultimately cause €250m worth of environmental damage, using figures cited in former World Bank economist Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on climate change. Each tonne of carbon ultimately does €68 worth of damage.

By 2012, Ryanair will carry more than 84m passengers, Furlong says. By then its planes will be spewing out nearly 6m tonnes of CO2 – more than Cyprus and its 800,000 people – causing over €500m worth of damage.

Ryanair head of communications Peter Sherrard argued: “Moneypoint power station in Co Clare emits more CO2 than Ryanair’s 52m passengers will. The average BA passenger emits five times as much as one of our passengers – and we’ve reduced emissions per passenger by 50 per cent since 1998.” Trucost disputed this figure, however, claiming that the reduction is actually 28 per cent.

The firm – which has consulted jet engine maker Rolls-Royce – also suggests that the efficiency of a plane’s engines declines as it ages, in the same way as a car’s engine. “This is likely to make our figures higher, if anything,” Richard Mattison, managing director of Trucost admitted.

Meanwhile, the EU is threatening to bring airlines under its emissions trading scheme by 2011, when passengers are likely to be hit with a fare increase for the pollution caused by their flights.

“Ryanair fares will be hit harder than most and are more price-sensitive than British Airways, for example. It will be a challenge for all airlines to reduce their emissions, whereas even an oil company like Shell can reduce emissions while increasing profits,” Mattison said.

However, any reductions in emissions from other industries may well be cancelled out by the growth of low-cost airlines.

Airline moguls across the world are clamouring to copy Ryanair’s success, most recently in Russia, but also in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Ryanair founder Tony Ryan has a 49 per cent stake in Mexican airline Viva Aerobus as well as a 16 per cent stake in Jet Airways, a low-cost airline in Singapore.


Penneys’ €51m dividend amid sweatshop claimsSunday December 17th 2006JOHN REYNOLDSPENNEYS, which was last week alleged to have bought clothes from Bangladeshi sweatshops, paid a €51.5m dividend back to its parent company Associated British Food.

PENNEYS, which was last week alleged to have bought clothes from Bangladeshi sweatshops, paid a €51.5m dividend back to its parent company Associated British Food.Retail analyst Catherine Murphy at Verdict retail research suggests Penneys Irish sales topped €437m this year. Profits in the UK grew by 20 per cent and sales by 18 per cent this year.

Judging by average sales per store and its UK profit margin of 13 per cent, the €51.5m dividend could account for Penneys’ profits this year.

The size of the dividend, paid from a Penneys-related firm Dalesund Ltd to a Luxembourg-registered ABF firm, may indicate that sales are in fact much higher than previously thought, and contrasts starkly with allegations in a report by the War on Want charity that its clothes are made by women and young teenagers earning 7.5¢ an hour and as little as €12 per month.

Penneys’ €1.93bn Irish and UK operations are run by low-profile but hugely successful Dublin man Arthur Ryan. Speaking to the Sunday Independent after the sweatshop allegations, a Penneys spokesman said: “We work to improve standards, but some factories are slipping through the net and not complying with the Ethical Trading Initiative.”

Tesco was also linked to the practice, although a spokesman said their affordable clothing was not achieved through suppliers’ poor working conditions, adding that it carries out rigorous in-house and independent inspections.


ESB’s Moneypoint causes €1bn harm to the environmentSunday November 26th 2006
POLLUTION belched out by the country’s largest ESB power station over the past three years may ultimately cause more than €1bn in environmental damage to Ireland, a Sunday Independent investigation can reveal.

The revelation comes only days after Ireland was named and shamed in a survey as having one of the worst records for combating climate change.

According to figures from the British Government’s Stern Report, which looks at the economic consequences of climate change, each tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is pumped out into the atmosphere will have a “social cost” of €67 per tonne if unchecked.

Moneypoint power station in Co Clare – the country’s biggest single industrial source of pollution – emitted 16.8m tonnes of CO2 between 2003 and 2005 according to Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) figures.

The coal-fired Moneypoint complex meets about 14 per cent of Ireland’s power needs. The ESB has spent €368m installing technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the plant.

Green Party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan was startled by the figures.”We ignore one of the world’s leading economic thinkers at our peril. The Government’s approach ignores all recommendations to phase out Moneypoint.

They are short-sighted if they think they can buy their way outof this. “The pollution we cause now will be in the atmosphere for at least 200 years – and the World Health Organisation estimates 150,000 lives are lost each year due to climate change,” he added. “How do we put a price on those?”

As Ireland’s demand for power rises from 3 to 5 per cent every year, and as the costs of pollution increasingly become an issue, alternatives to coal-guzzling Moneypoint will become more attractive.

Converting all power generated by coal, oil and peat to natural gas would improve energy efficiency by as much as 50 per cent and cut annual CO2 emissions by as much as 4m tonnes, according to the Irish Offshore Operators’ Association.

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