NEW LENDER TO DEVELOPERS ENTERS MARKET TO FINANCE HOUSE BUILDING - A new fund that plans to lend to Irish property developers for the construction of new houses went live on Tuesday, and has set a target of financing the building of thousands of homes in Ireland within the next three years. 

Cullaun Capital is a joint venture between three property and financial services executives based in Ireland and TPG Sixth Street Partners (TSSP), a global credit investment firm with more than $20 billion (€17.3 billion) in assets under management. US-based TSSP owns a majority share of the new fund and will provide it with the capital it needs to lend to developers. Led by former Ulster Bank chief risk officer and board member Stephen Bell, the fund plans to offer developers up to 90% funding of their overall project costs, writes the Irish Times. Its initial focus is on projects in the greater Dublin area, Cork, Galway and Limerick. The non-bank lender wants to partner with "quality homebuilders" to provide finance for projects with a minimum value of €2 million. Mr Bell’s co-founders are head of Origination Daire McCarthy, who is a chartered surveyor and has more than 18 years of experience in banking and finance, including time with Bank of Ireland and Investec; and head of portfolio management Noel Ross, who has worked with loan providers in Ireland and the UK over the past 15 years.

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FÁILTE IRELAND WARNS VISITORS MAY NOT BE GETTING VALUE FOR MONEY - Fáilte Ireland, Ireland's National Tourism Development Authority, has warned that the country needs to continue to be seen as offering an excellent value-for-money experience. 

On the back of increasing visitor numbers to Ireland in the first four months of 2018, Paul Kelly, chief executive of Fáilte Ireland, said that its research is picking up a softening in Ireland's value-for-money ratings. Should this trend continue Ireland will be seen as an expensive destination for tourists, and the work of recent years by the sector will be undone, writes the Irish Independent. "It could take us years to reverse that perception," Mr Kelly said. Mr Kelly also used the publication of visitor numbers from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to call for increased investment from both the public and private sector in all areas of tourism, from accommodation to visitor attractions and infrastructure, in order to build the country's tourism capacity. Overall, Ireland welcomed 2.8 million visitors in the first four months of 2018, a 7.3% increase on the same period in 2017. The increase in visitor numbers was driven by North America, with visitors from this market up 13.6% year-on-year in the four-month period, according to figures from the CSO.

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FURTHER DELAY IN SETUP OF NATIONAL INSURANCE CLAIMS DATABASE - A national insurance claims database will not be up and running this year and is more likely a year away, according to the Financial Services and Insurance Minister. 

Michael D’Arcy told TDs and senators at the Oireachtas Finance Committee that the database - long mooted by insurance reform advocates as essential to tackling spiraling costs - would depend on legislation being introduced in the Dáil and Seanad this year, with a view to implementing it in 2019. Highlighting claim trends and patterns is seen as vital in analysing why insurance premiums in public and employers’ liability have gone up sharply in recent years, says the Irish Examiner. The committee last week heard how marts around the country faced closure because of increased insurance costs, while raised premiums had eaten up GAA club budgets, Men's Shed funds, and even children's charities' grant allocations. Mr D’Arcy said that he acknowledged that there was frustration at the perceived lack of progress in insurance reform, but that he was "not sure we could do it better if we do it faster". He said insurance companies were making a calculation that it was cheaper to settle claims than going through courts, even if there was suspicion that some claims were illegitimate. "As awards go up, so do premiums. If you have a high awards sector, you will have high premiums," he said.

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JOHNSON'S CYCLING PUSH WAS 'ILL-JUDGED' - Boris Johnson pushed through London's "Cycle Superhighways" scheme in an "ill-judged" rush, the head of Transport for London has said. 

Mike Brown, London's transport commissioner, said Mr Johnson, the current foreign secretary and former mayor of the capital, had carried out the plans for major cycle lanes too hastily, causing congestion problems for other vehicles.  At an event organised by LBC Radio, Mr Brown apologised for the way cycling lanes had been delivered, writes the Financial Times. "I think it was ill-judged, it was too fast and ill-thought-through in the speed in which it was done," he said. "Which I'm afraid is the main downside of living in a democracy, because people want to do things in their term." But the TFL chief added that he fully supported the cycle lanes, which he said had saved "many lives" and prevented injuries to "many, many" more. There were nine cycling fatalities in London in 2017, compared with 14 deaths in 2012. Just two people have died cycling in the capital so far this year.  The decline has come despite a sharp increase in the number of people cycling in the capital. There has been a 154% rise in the number of cyclists on the roads in London since 2000, according to TfL. As mayor, Mr Johnson first introduced the idea of cycle superhighways in 2013, and construction work began two years later.