In Syria a team of UN weapons inspectors is due to visit the eastern suburbs of Damascus where hundreds died in a chemical bombardment last week.
If the inspectors conclude that the Syrian regime launched a chemical attack on its own people, then outside intervention in the conflict will become more likely.
At the same time western generals are meeting in the Jordanian capital Amman to discuss means of intervening in Syria.
One way or another, today looks like a turning-point in a civil war that has cost the lives of 100,000 people and displaced millions.
Joining Myles in studio was military analyst Tom Clonan, a former army officer with experience in the Middle East and former Yugoslavia.
Gangs of pimps in expensive cars keeping watch. Scantily dressed girls hanging out windows, touting for business. Men entering and leaving brothels in full view of the public. This isn’t Amsterdam, but parts of inner city Limerick, which have been described in recent days as a “red light district”. Business owners in particular are not happy that prostitution is an increasing problem in parts of Limerick such as Catherine Street, and surrounding streets. On Saturday night, Brian O’Connell spent several hours observing one brothel in the area and talking to business owners and the escorts themselves.
Around 50,000 Irish people are living illegally in the United States. They may call that country home but they don’t have the papers entitling them to reside there. They daren’t leave for fear that they wouldn’t be allowed to return again.
Many of the undocumented Irish emigrated 30 years ago in the 1980s. Many of the friends and family members they left behind are getting on. But a visit home to see a loved one for the last time is impossible if you’re undocumented.
A new bipartisan immigration reform bill now before the US Senate could improve the status of undocumented Irish people in the US. One of its main drivers is Ciaran Staunton, president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. He joined Myles in studio
While events in Croke Park took the sporting centre stage yesterday, in Spain Nicholas Roche kept the Irish flag flying with a great performance in the second stage of the Vuelta a Espana - sprinting away from a four man break to take the win – a feat that his father Stephen never achieved. That said, Nicolas is not the first member of his family to take a Vuelta stage – Dan Martin, his coulin, who came in 11th yesterday, won a stage in 2011.
In fact the Irish have a proud tradition in the Vuelta – Nico is the fifth Irishman to win a Vuelta stage – you can figure out who they are and I’ll tell you at the end of this interview.
But joining Myles was the latest addition to that proud list, Nicholas Roche.
With Tina Leonard
Mobile Phone Costs
We are the ninth dearest in Europe for mobile telephone calls, and this is one reason why it’s important that all of us are on the right deal when it comes to our mobile phones.
The right deal is one that suits your usage pattern and this will ensure you are not paying above the odds.
Tina Leonard is here to illustrate typical price plans and to go through the three key steps to getting the best deal.
Are mobile call costs dear here?
Yes. According to European Commission data released a couple of weeks ago we are ninth dearest in Europe for a call per minute, with our average cost per minute being 10.2c, which is above the EU average. The cheapest was Lithuania with an average cost of 1.9c per minute and the dearest was the Netherlands at 14.7c per minute (UK is 9.1c).
The reason the Commission is highlighting these differences is to question why for mobile phone calls there is a whopping 774% price difference across the countries. If you look at a Eurostat graph plotting food and drink prices across the EU for instance, the line has gentle curves but nothing dramatic. A similar graph showing mobile call costs has deep troughs and high peaks. For example, there is a 43% price difference for a litre of milk and only an 11% difference for iPads across the Member States.
Why is this EU wide picture relevant?
It is relevant for each of us because it means that changes are coming in relation to costs to us for mobile use, also for roaming costs and in terms of access to the faster 4G.
Why? Because the European Commission is working at growing and developing the EU as a trading bloc and they have a ‘digital agenda’ to facilitate this growth.
Earlier this summer EU Vice President and Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes spoke strongly against the still high roaming costs when using your phone in other Member States and the EU parliament agreed to put in place measure to scrap roaming charges altogether.
This summer she has also highlighted the fact that three countries in the EU have no access to 4G (faster than 3G); Cyprus, Malta and Ireland. (By the way Vodafone is currently doing a trial roll-out of 4G in certain parts of the country).
She said “this is no way to run an economy” and she pointed to national level problems and auctioning processes as hindering the development on an EU wide mobile strategy.
Access to 4G by customers is 90% in the US compared to 25% on average across the EU and mobile costs are four times higher than in the US, so this is important for an economic and competitive stand point.
The up shot is that in September she will be announcing a telecoms package aimed at strengthening the telecoms market and that should have a positive impact on consumers.
Three steps to getting a better deal
Analyse your usage
In order to pay less you must know what your needs are, that’s the golden rule!
You have to find out the average number of texts you send per month, the average number of minutes of calls you make and the network operator you most often contact. If you travel abroad regularly or make calls abroad take that into account too but remember to discount out of season or non-typical extras in calculating your average.
Bearing in mind that 71% of WiFi data accessed across the EU in 2012 was by smartphones and tablets, it’s clear how much we use our phones for data now compared to computers or laptops. So assuming you have a smartphone check how much data you use too.
This is all crucial because too many people are paying for a package they’re not using or paying above the odds outside their package, because the one they have is not sufficient for their needs. All the deals from mobile operators keep changing so don’t stay on the same one year in, year out.
Look back through old bills to get this detail. If you are a pre-pay customer you are entitled to a transaction history free of charge, as per brand new ComReg rules. (By the way under these new rules you are also entitled to a paper bill should you wish it free of charge).
Do your homework
Once you’ve checked your usage pattern you’ll know what you need. Maybe you don’t need many ‘free’ calls because all your calls are to the one network, and that’s already free. Maybe you use a lot of data or don’t call and just make texts. All of this should impact on what company you choose as your operator.
Here are some examples of SIM only (i.e. you get no handset), 30-day contracts that will give you unlimited texts and calls:
3 – SIM only; all texts, all calls, all data for €39.75 / month
Vodafone – SIM only; all calls, all texts, 1GB of data for €40 / month
O2 - SIM only; all calls, all texts, 1BG of data for €40 / month
Meteor – SIM only; all texts, all calls, 5GB data for €49 / month
If you want a handset and a longer contract with these deals the price increases to around €55 per month, with some extras thrown in like more data, some world minutes etc.
The point is, that if you are paying €40 for SIM only or €55 on bill pay and do not have unlimited calls and texts and a lot of data, it looks like you are paying too much.
It gets more difficult to compare for mid-plans as this is where most customers buy so you’ll find some offer 200 mins and texts, others 250 mins and texts, all have free own network calls and texts and different data amounts, so they’re not usually directly comparable. So, you’ll have to check your usage and work it out from there.
If you are pre-pay know too that when you top up by €20 all networks give you something for this, the question you must ask is which suits you best.
So, for example, with O2 if you top up by €20 you choose between own network texts and calls or unlimited any network texts. A €20 top up at Vodafone will net you free own network calls and texts and 150MB data or free any network texts and the same amount of data, while at Meteor €20 will give you unlimited any network texts and all own network calls plus 250MB data, so that’s a great one if you’re a big texter and can use Eircom’s WiFi hub at points around the country to get free wi fi access in addition.
Callcosts.ie is one comparison tool you can use (it’s run by the Commission for Communication Regulation). Unfortunately good comparison sites like Bonkers.ie and Uswitch.ie don’t currently compare mobile costs, although Uswitch plans to introduce this.
3. Contact your operator or switch
The third step is simply to act on the information you’ve gathered.
If you want to stay with your current network but have found a better deal that they sell, then ask then for it. Even if you didn’t spot something better with them, ask them for a better deal and tell them you’ll switch otherwise (yes this can work)!
Of course you may want to switch to another provider and if you are doing this before you make any more, contact your current provider to see where you are in a contract, that is if you are a bill-pay customer.
That’s because if you leave, say 20 months into a 24 month contract you’ll still have to pay the last 4 months worth of bills so do not make this mistake. Remember that if you call the provider you want to switch to first they will offer to switch you over without you doing anything, but regardless of this you must always check with your own provider about your contract first.
If you do have a way to go on your contract, write the renewal date on a calendar and then plan on doing your homework to find a better deal a month before this date, so you can give a month’s notice if you need to quit and switch.