Today with Sean O'Rourke

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    Today With Sean O Rourke Thursday 9 January 2014

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    Today with Sean O'Rourke

    The mid-morning current affairs magazine with the stories of the day, sharp analysis, sports coverage, in-depth features and consumer interest.

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    Judges Retiring

    This year will see the retirement of at least 5 Senior Judges. already, in the last few months the High Court has lost four experienced Senior Judges.   On top of all of this the Government will also have to fill ten vacancies on the Court of Appeal which is due to be up and running by the Autumn. So it looks like the highest courts in the land are facing an unprecedented and challenging period of transition in the months ahead .   Sean spoke to Dearbhail Mc Donald – Legal Affairs Editor of the Irish Independent.

     

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    Irish Water

    Water charges are due to be introduced later this year 2014 with the first bills issuing from January 2015, John Tierney has to make palatable much more than the taste of the water being supplied.

    He took up the post as managing director of Irish Water a year ago and he joined Sean in studio.

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    Concussion in Sport

    On the field of play, it’s not unusual for a clash of heads or a blow from an elbow or knee leading to a player needing attention from a physio or a doctor on the sideline.  Concussion in contact sport particularly rugby is a serious issue at the moment with many players getting knocks to the head and suffering concussion. While sometimes the magic sponge is enough in minor incidents, for more serious cases recurring symptoms can occur. The introduction of the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment protocols in the professional game and the extension in the return to play protocols in the amateur game should see more players with concussion or suspected concussion being removed from the field of play than before. Sean spoke to Bernard Jackman, former Leinster and Ireland player and now Head Coach at Grenoble, Professor Michael Molloy of University College Cork and Dr. Rod McLoughlin, Head of Medical Services with the IRFU.

      

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    Courts Poor Box

    There’s a phrase heard in the Irish courtroom that is unique to our justice system to “get the poor box” describes an order by a judge that a defendant make a donation to charity.

    Millions have been raised for various charitable organisations in this way but there are critics of the poor box system...amongst them Transport Minister Leo Varadkar who recently highlighted the number of road traffic defendants who escape penalty points through its application.

    Sean was joined in studio by  barrister, Paul Anthony McDermott on the origins of the poor box, how it operates and some of the problems with it,and Paddy O’Gorman who was at Longford District Court earlier this week and observed a number of people up for driving and other offences who avoided convictions and penalty points by agreeing to pay money to the court poor box.  

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    Personal Finance

    Ireland may officially be out of the bailout but, like the nation itself, many of us are worried about our own budget deficit.   Sean spoke to Conor Brophy has assembled 14 tips to help improve your personal finances in 2014.

    1 Have a strategy

    Make a financial plan and see whether your incomings and outgoings tally with your overall financial goals. Any financial advisor you speak to will begin at this point. Different people at different stages of life have different priorities. People also have very different attitudes to risk. At a much simpler level if you're looking for a resolution for 2014 make it the year in which you take an organized approach to managing your household budget. On that point do you even have a household budget set out in any written on online form?

    2 Get the best advice

    Don't assume that going it alone is always the best way to save money. Paid-for, independent financial advice may seem expensive but it's a lot cheaper than making an ill-judged savings or investment decision. Above all don't go to a financial services provider and expect them to give you impartial advice. They are product salespeople. A car salesman is never going to tell you that you don't need a new car!

    3 Manage your cash flow, don't let it manage you

    Look at your cashflow and see if you can improve it to ease the pressure on your household budget. For example - can you move bills around to different parts of the year or spread payments more efficiently?

    4 Join a credit union

    A no-brainer. Never hurts to have an alternative option for a personal loan for holiday, car or an unexpected expense. Interest rate may be higher but Credit Union invariably more accomodating.

    5 Switch and save

    Switch everything you can! Your electricity supplier, your current account, your mobile phone. Doing so will save you cash over the course of the year, no doubt about it. We spoke on the programme before about energy bills in particular and how once you've been with your supplier for 12 months you slip back off the preferential rate you get for switching back onto the default rate.

    In banking terms current account fees can really rack up across the year. There are accounts out there that minimise the amount you’re shelling out in fees. Many of us avoid switching bank accounts because of perceived hassle of doing so but the figures don’t lie: it makes obvious financial sense.

    6 Put your money to work

    And make sure you're getting the best available return on your savings and your investments. Fees can substantially reduce your return on investment. It's often better to opt for a passive fund than to pay a fund manager for the privilege of underperforming the market.

    7 Make more careful use of your flexible friend

    First of all don't rack up any debt on your credit card if you can at all help it. Most of us know or should know by now that it's a really expensive form of borrowing. If, however, you do have a substantial credit card balance (and at this time of year many of us do) have a think about transferring it to another card. You can transfer balances to a new card (and then ideally cut it up and never use it) and get 0% interest for a number of months while you pay the card off. Then you can cancel it.

    8 Ensure you're not overpaying for what you insure

    Think carefully about your motor insurance. Can you go for a higher excess or drop to third-party cover rather than fully comprehensive? In a similar vein have you evaluated your health cover to make sure, for instance, you're not overpaying and that you are on the cheapest available plan to provide the level of cover you need?

    9 Get what's rightfully yours

    Fill in your forms and claim your tax refunds and medical expenses. It's your money yet for the sake of a bit of tedious administrative work many of us leave it unclaimed.

    10 Remember that convenience costs

    Bulk buy non-perishable items and track deals. The more you rely on buying as you go, the more you'll pay for your supermarket shop.

    11 Remember too that putting up with minor inconvenience can be cost effective!

    You expect to pay more if you want to book a hotel or take a break on a bank holiday weekend. If you can do a midweek break, on the other hand, you can really save. There's a reason flights are cheaper if you're happy to fly at awkward times and midweek. If you have flexibility around when you take your holidays and getaways, you can use it to your financial advantage.

    12 Work out how much it's costing you to work out

    Do you really need an annual gym membership or should you opt for pay as you go? How often are you using that well appointed exercise facility. Remember that you're still paying for it when you're on holidays or otherwise indisposed unless you choose not to.

    13 If you have a smartphone, be smart about how you use it

    Use wi-fi, don't send text messages, use VoIP services such as Skype where possible or applications such as whatsapp to send messages and keep those mobile bills down. There are also lots of apps available to help you save money when you're shopping from price comparison to deal-trackers. Make use of them.

    14 "Aggregate marginal gains"

    Dave Brailsford, the mastermind behind the success of British cyclists at the Olympics and at the Tour de France, credits his success to aggregating marginal gains. In other words seeking very small advantages in everything that you do but recognising that they all add up. Only boiling as much water as you need. Only heating the room that you're in. Switching off lights in empty rooms. Reducing your water usage or capturing rainwater (if you can). None of these in isolation will transform your personal finances but all those small gains add up and they add up big over the long term.

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    Housing Grants

    The Government intends to cut housing grants intended to help elderly and disabled people to continue living at home rather than go into residential care.

    The changes will affect eligibility for grants. In future people will have to be older to qualify for housing grants. And the income of all adult members of his or her household will affect an applicant’s eligibility.    

    Sean spoke to Martin Naughton a campaigner with the Disability Federation of Ireland.

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    Red C Poll

    To politics now. We have just received the findings of the first Red C poll of the new year and it suggests that the public favour enjoyed by the Government parties upon exiting the bailout has been short-lived with both Labour and Fine Gael slipping back slightly in these first days of 2014.

    The poll, commissioned by Paddy Power, also reveals a gain of ground for Sinn Féin, while it’s a case of steady as she goes for both Fianna Fail and the Independents.

    Sean was joined in studio by Brian Dowling of RTE’s Political Staff and also by Sean Donnelly, political analyst and pollster.

    If you require a CD copy of this programme please e-mail tapes@rte.ie or click here for RTÉ Archives sales form. Transfer fees and terms and conditions apply.

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