No more cash: Wexford’s DoneDeal launches Stripe payments for all its buyers and sellers

Online marketplace DoneDeal has struck a deal with Stripe to make all sales and purchases on its site cashless and contact-free for the first time.

Until now, users of the Wexford-based DoneDeal site – particularly popular for car shoppers – could list goods for sale online. But the sales themselves often required face-to-face cash handovers or bank transfers.

“Before we added the Stripe feature, DoneDeal did not facilitate buyers paying sellers directly on our marketplace,” said Rob Hume, general manager of DoneDeal.

“Users would arrange payment for items outside the platform, often taking out cash to bring to a transaction.”

This made little sense in a Covid-19 era that places a premium on selling remotely and avoiding the physical handling of banknotes, he said.

“Cashless payments have become a more and more important part of our lives – especially in light of coronavirus,” he said. “DoneDeal wanted to offer an easy, instant, safe option for sellers to set up online payments through the platform. Stripe provided the perfect solution to this.

“Sellers who before may have been hesitant or unsure as to how to sell on DoneDeal without cash payment will now find it a lot easier to transact safely and 100pc online.”

As part of pilot trials, about 250 sellers on the site already have switched to taking payments by Stripe, the e-commerce platform founded in 2010 by Tipperary brothers Patrick and John Collison.

The billionaires’ firm specialises in helping clients like DoneDeal to build online billing and payment platforms into their own websites and apps.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with one of Ireland’s most prominent internet brands to enable their users to transact fully online,” said Eileen O’Mara, head of EMEA at Stripe. “This is a great example of a successful, scaled company adapting quickly to a rapidly changing environment.”

DoneDeal said users who found the Stripe option most effective during trials were firms selling gym equipment, garden furniture, machinery and tools, car parts and building materials.

DoneDeal was founded in Wexford in May 2005 by Fred and Geraldine Karlsson. Its site currently has about 380,000 live ads, including for 70,000 cars.

The firm says sellers can sign up to the Stripe platform via their MyDoneDeal accounts.

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EU needs to start enforcing data protection laws properly

After the European Court of Justice (CJEU) handed down another major judgement two weeks ago in the “Schrems 2.0” data protection case, discussion has focused primarily on its potential impact on the well-known companies that gather data and transfer it between the European Union and United States.

Top of the list is Facebook, the company at the centre of both of Max Schrems’ Irish-originating complaints that have now produced decisive and far-reaching judgements from Europe’s highest court.

But there’s a mostly-unseen, sub-universe of companies in the internet-pervasive adtech industry whose existing business model should lie in a smouldering heap after the Schrems ruling. And that’s a double-whammy for the whole structure of what author Shoshana Zuboff has called surveillance capitalism, a debilitating and surreptitious data harvesting structure that fuels the operations of so many companies.

All these pieces interlock. The CJEU ruling is a crowbar that starts to tear them apart. 

Last week, I argued that the true sweep and enormous global impact of this latest decision has yet to be fully recognised.

Much response, especially in the US, still centres on the court’s invalidation of the Privacy Shield transatlantic data transfer agreement, and if and how private data transfer contracts between parties might suffice. But the judgement makes clear that most data transfers to the US are invalid as long as the US maintains its security laws allowing security and law enforcement access to data.

It’s difficult to imagine the US, or the UK (soon to be in need of a post-Brexit EU data transfer agreement) modifying laws to ameliorate the pervasive surveillance programmes and policies revealed by Edward Snowden. Those disclosures, and the failure of the US to offer the greater transparency required in the EU, fundamentally shaped the judges’ response in both Schrems cases.

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Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage

Switching your mortgage could be one of the most financially savvy things you ever do.

The Association of Irish Mortgage Advisors says an estimated eight in 10 Irish homeowners on a standard variable rate could be paying more than they need, so switching to a fixed rate could save you money each month.

Switching to Ulster Bank could reduce your interest rate, and you could have more cash in your pocket each month.

Think switching is daunting?

Lorraine Costelloe, head of home buying and ownership at Ulster Bank, says there has never been a better time to switch to an Ulster Bank fixed rate.

“Switching your mortgage may seem like a daunting experience, but in reality people could begin to make the move to Ulster Bank from the safety and comfort of their own home,” she says.

“We encourage anyone who may be thinking of switching their mortgage to consider Ulster Bank by logging on to our website, requesting a call back to see if they could save by switching to one of our low fixed rates and talking to us about how they can make the change.”

Our new Switch it Up series with Ulster Bank, to run bi-weekly, is designed to deliver helpful information and inspiration to help you get the most from your home.

To begin, Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank and Lorraine Costelloe, talk us through the need-to-knows to consider.

What are the incentives for switching?

“There could be savings on the monthly mortgage payment if you switch to an Ulster Bank fixed rate, and we offer you a €1,500 cash contribution to help with your legal fees. We also have free valuations on all new mortgages,” Kellaghan says.

Costelloe adds, “From an application perspective, Ulster Bank has made it more convenient to move, with an online Home Buying Platform which enables customers to upload and receive all required application forms with the help and guidance of one of our qualified mortgage managers over the telephone.”

Can I switch to Ulster Bank from any mortgage provider?

“You can switch from any financial institution as long as your original mortgage has existed for a minimum of six months with the other provider,” confirms Kellaghan.

What do I need to have to switch?

“Bank statements, identification, wage slips – it’s pretty much the same across all mortgage applications,” says Costelloe.

“If you have already applied for a mortgage elsewhere, you may have a lot of this documentation to hand already.”

What costs are involved?

Switching may incur a charge if you pay off your mortgage before the end of the term. This is called an early redemption fee or breakage cost and it may happen if you repay a fixed rate mortgage early, so speak to your current mortgage lender to understand the costs that could apply.

“Your home and life insurance will remain as is but your house will need to be valued. Ulster Bank offers free valuations on all new mortgages and we also provide €1,500 cash towards your legal fees to help offset or even cover any costs you may have,” says Costelloe.

How long does it take to switch?

“The process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think,” says Kellaghan. “It only takes 45 minutes to actually apply for a mortgage with Ulster Bank.

“Then we usually advise to allow a further two to four weeks.”

Anything else I should be mindful of?

“There is no such thing as a silly question – it might seem daunting, but let us do the work, help you through it and make it as easy as possible,” reassures Costelloe.

Are you ready to switch it up? To find out about switching your mortgage and to see if you could save, contact Ulster Bank to learn more.

Terms and Conditions

Maximum loan to value is 90%. Lending criteria, terms and conditions apply. Over 18s, residential mortgages only and mortgaged property must be in the Republic of Ireland. Product fees may apply. Security, buildings insurance and life cover are required.

Minimum mortgage amount is €40,000 and applications need to be submitted by 31 December 2020 to be eligible for €1,500 offer. Following mortgage drawdown, €1,500 cash will be transferred into the account from which the mortgage payment is made within two months. Ulster Bank reserves the right to withdraw this offer or vary the terms at any time prior to drawdown. Exclusions apply. Information correct at 26 May 2020.

Ulster Bank requires that a valuation of the property offered as security is carried out by a valuer acceptable to the Bank. This valuer will be instructed by Ulster Bank. Ulster Bank currently offer a free standard valuation on our new mortgages. Only one free valuation per customer applies. When payable, this fee applies when Ulster Bank instruct a valuer to prepare a Valuation Report over the mortgage property. The fee is €155.

Warning: your home is at risk if you do not keep up payments on a mortgage or any other loan secured on it.

Warning: if you do not meet the repayments on your loan, your account will go into arrears. This may affect your credit rating which may limit your ability to access credit in the future.

Warning: you may have to pay charges if you pay off a fixed-rate loan early.

Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland

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Interest rate war brews as new bank joins market

A Spanish banking giant is to enter the Irish mortgage market in a move sure to put massive pressure on existing lenders to slash their rates.

The move came as Permanent TSB cut its variable and fixed rates, and performed a U-turn by making the rates available to existing customers, not just new borrowers.

Mortgage rates in this market are among the highest in the eurozone, and are twice the average across the currency bloc. They had started to rise again in May.

But now new entrant Avantcard is to enter the Irish mortgage market in the autumn. Its parent company is Bankinter, the fifth largest bank in Spain, where it has a huge mortgage book. It is expected Avantcard, which will use the brand Avant Money, will offer fixed rates below 2pc. The average rate on a new mortgage across all lenders here is 2.87pc.

No lender currently offers a rate below 2pc in this market, according to mortgage broker Michael Dowling.

But Avantcard, which has operations in Carrick on Shannon and Dublin, says it will use its Iberian experience to bring more choice to the Irish mortgage market. 

The Permanent TSB rate cut was not expected – but it will provide a huge boost for borrowers.

The bank is cutting variable and fixed rates, and making all the new rates available to new and existing customers. Up to now the best rates were only available to new customers.

The bank is reducing its standard variable rate by 0.55pc.

It is also reducing its managed variable rates from between 0.10pc and 0.30pc.

And the bank will reduce fixed rates for all existing customers who are not already locked into a fixed-rate deal – to as low as 2.95pc for a three-year term.

Permanent TSB said more than 70,000 customers would benefit from reductions when the changes would came into effect between August 4 and early September.

New Permanent TSB boss Eamon Crowley said: “This move goes a long way to addressing the discrepancy which traditionally existed between our pricing for new and existing mortgage customers.”

Financial adviser Karl Deeter, of online brokerage, said there now was a mortgage rates war going on in the Irish market.

This was despite the fall-off in home-loan lending due to the pandemic.

“One of the ways you respond to the fact that mortgage lending is down is to have price drops to spur activity,” said Mr Deeter.

Mr Dowling, managing director of Dowling Financial, said the Permanent TSB rate reductions were welcome, but still left Permanent TSB behind the market leaders.

“In my opinion, the real competition is the launch of sub-2pc fixed rates from Avant Card (Avant Money) owned by a Spanish bank, Bankinter.

“Maybe at last we will see Irish mortgage holders get real value like our European neighbours,” he added.

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Retail bounced back in June as shoppers rushed out after lockdown

Customers rushing back into shops as the lockdown eased in June lifted the value of retail sales back to pre-Covid 19 levels.

Retail sales rose by a record 38.4pc in June compared to May, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO). More strikingly, on an annual basis retail volumes were 3.5pc higher in June 2020, compared to the same month last year – suggesting a so-called ‘V-shaped’ recovery where the pace of the economic crash as a result of the pandemic is followed by an equally swift recovery.

June 2020 was unique, however, because pent-up consumer demand was unleashed as ‘Phase Two’ of the Government’s Covid strategy began on June 8 with the reopening of many retail outlets for the first time in months.

As shoppers ventured back out of their homes, sales of furniture and lighting saw a huge 296.8pc increase in sales. Clothing, footwear and textiles rocketed by 284.2pc and books, newspapers and stationery rose by 252pc.

Of the main retail segments only car sales were down on June 2019.

The CSO said June saw the biggest monthly increase on Irish record, following a 32.5pc increase in May, even with many shops still closed and limited capacity in others.

Central Bank figures earlier this month had pointed the way to a potential recovery in consumer demand – with household savings deposits of €10.5bn in May far exceeding withdrawals, and much of that cash sitting in current accounts.

The Government’s July Stimulus is aimed in large part of coaxing those savers to continue to spend into the autumn and winter, including on holidays at home and entertainment.

June and the earlier May pick-up in sales followed a huge drop of 12.4pc in March and 35.8pc in April.

However, some sections have still not recovered. When compared with June 2019, bars have seen trade decrease by a huge 81.1pc, books, newspapers and stationery fell by 39.6pc, fuel by 8pc, department stores by 16.4pc, and clothing, footwear and textiles were down by 16.2pc.

June witnessed what the CSO termed an “extraordinary collapse in overseas travel to and from Ireland as the effects of the Covid-19 crisis continued”.

There were just 57,100 arrivals into the country in June and 73,900 departures according to CSO data.

In June 2019 two million people would have travelled into and out of Ireland, by comparison.

This has led to a 97.1pc drop in arrivals and 96.4pc fall in departures.

Of the 57,100 arriving into Ireland, 40,200 (70.4pc) arrived by air and 16,900 (29.6pc) travelled by sea.

Analysis of the June arrivals shows 32,300 (56.5pc) travelled via cross-channel routes, 18,300 (32.1pc) by continental routes, 3,800 (6.6pc) by transatlantic routes and 2,700 (4.8pc) by other routes.

32,300 people travelled from Britain to Ireland, 4,400 came from the Netherlands, and 3,900 from Germany.

For the year to date, 3,186,700 people arrived in Ireland and 3,173,300 left. Those figures represent drops of 65.9pc and 66.6pc respectively when compared to the year prior.

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Overview on latest update on consumer spend

An Overview Of The Latest Update on Consumer Spend

Revolut’s recent data on the economy shows an interesting trend in consumer spend on direct services.

Re-opening of the economy

Ireland is on Phase 3 in terms of re-opening the economy. As it allowed more businesses to resume operations, the demand for direct services went up. As a result, owners of personal grooming shops and dental care experienced positive sales post COVID-19 lockdown.

An increase in consumer spend

During the pandemic restrictions, consumer spend was low. But, with the restart of the economy, it increased by 52% on all business categories. This represents the average spend before COVID-19, again showing an improvement in retail sales on 1 July.

Business sectors performing well

It’s interesting to note that as the Irish government tightened restrictions, personal grooming services also experienced low demand. However, hairdressers and barbers realised a 72% jump in sales as they resumed their services during the easing of lockdown regulations. Not to be outdone, health and beauty shops such as spas also served a considerable number of clients during the same period.

On the other hand, the hospitality sector didn’t perform well compared to personal grooming retailers. Though it also served quite a number of customers, sales are still as down as the pre-pandemic levels. Overall, it’s still lagging behind in terms of sales performance.

Additionally, consumer spend on the taxi industry was much lower than it was before the government-imposed restrictions. 

As the Irish economy opened its doors to the public, consumer expenditure on hairdressers, barbers, dental care and spas increased significantly. But, the hospitality sector has, unfortunately, lagged behind in terms of sales. Read here for the latest trend on consumer spend.


Irish companies show impressive flexibility with diversification to Europe

One of the challenges we face in growing our economy is the limited size of our domestic market. Ireland’s entry into the then EEC in 1973, and subsequent adoption of the euro in 2002, opened the door to a large and developed marketplace. As the EU has progressed and expanded the four freedoms – goods, services, people and capital – the eurozone has effectively become an expanded domestic market of 340 million people.

Irish exporters have traditionally been heavily dependent on the UK and, to this end, for over a decade Enterprise Ireland has pursued a diversification strategy to alleviate this dependency – not by reducing exports to the UK, but by increasing exports faster to other markets.

In the last 10 years, this dependency has reduced from 42pc to 31pc of exports, with the eurozone being a key element of this diversification strategy, the need for which has been accelerated by Brexit.

Enterprise Ireland’s eurozone strategy focuses on our six largest markets in thecurrency bloc – The Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain. The strategy takes a two-pronged approach – increasing the number of new exporters to the eurozone (Eurozone Start) and increasing the scale of current exporters (Eurozone Scale).

The sheer scale of the eurozone market and Ireland’s relatively low level of exports to this market underline the untapped potential. In 2019, Enterprise Ireland client companies exported €7.9bn of products and services to the UK which has a market population of 66 million, and just €5.65bn to the eurozone.

If Irish companies were to export the same per head of population to the eurozone market of 340 million people as they do to the UK, exports would be in the order of €40bn – so this tells us the size of the potential.

But although they are currently at €5.65bn, exports to the eurozone have grown by 15pc and this now represent 22pc of Irish exports, up from 20pc in 2018. And since 2009, exports to the eurozone have more than doubled, increasing by €3bn, with
non-food exports performing particularly well in 2019 – growing by 25pc. The sectors which contributed most to this growth were: construction – which grew by an enormous 89pc, electronics – with 42pc growth, and digital technologies – which grew by 21pc.

One of the objectives of Enterprise Ireland’s eurozone strategy was to exceed €1bn in exports to three markets by 2020 and this was achieved in 2019 when The Netherlands grew by a huge 35pc to €1.4bn, Germany grew by 16pc to €1.3bn and France, which grew by 3pc to €1bn. In addition, Spain delivered growth of 11pc, Italy 7pc and Belgium 4pc.ADVERTISEMENT  Learn more

This performance demonstrates the capability of Enterprise Ireland client companies to recognise and take advantage of opportunities and adapt their products and strategies to pivot into new markets.

Thanks to committed Irish companies, products and services from Ireland have a strong reputation across Europe. They are particularly recognised by their flexibility and ability to adapt to suit their customers as well as their high level of innovation.

Companies such as Cubic Telecom, a digital technology company which sells into the automotive industry, E+I Engineering, experts in global power distribution and Mercury, which builds and manage complex engineering projects, are just three of our 900 client companies who are exporting successfully to the eurozone.

Of course, Covid-19 and Brexit, have presented significant challenges for Irish businesses and the Irish economy. But as exporters, we need to engage with clients beyond the island of Ireland.

Never has it been more important to look to Europe as this represents a large, developed economy and a relatively stable political environment on our doorstep. And with the added benefits of a single currency, no tariffs, customs, or borders and increasing regulatory alignment, it is effectively an expansion of our domestic market. And thanks to our reputation, Europe has opened the
door wide.

So by delivering on eurozone growth, Irish companies are proving their ability to adapt and pivot towards new opportunities and this ability will stand them in good stead in working through the current crisis.

Now is the time to put our foot to the pedal and drive our exports into markets that are looking for ‘locally-made in the eurozone’ products and services. Anne Lanigan is Regional Director – Eurozone for Enterprise Ireland.

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Minister signals that couples with combined income of more than €75k will be eligible for affordable homes scheme

HOUSING Minister Darragh O’Brien has signalled that couples who have a gross combined income of more than €75,000 will be eligible for a new affordable homes scheme.

He also told the Dáil that he intends the guide price for such housing to be between €160,000 and €260,000 as he clashed with Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin on the issue.

It came after Mr Ó Broin asked him which of two models Mr O’Brien plans to use for the new scheme – providing homes at what it cost to build them or one involving shared equity.

Mr Ó Broin criticised the shared equity model saying it was used by Fianna Fáil before the last economic crash and left many people in mortgage arrears.

He said in instances where the guide price is €250,000 to €260,000 people would end up paying around €300,000 and that’s not “genuinely affordable”.

He said the “full cost recovery model” would allow for “genuinely affordable homes” to be delivered.

Mr O’Brien replied to Mr Ó Broin saying: “I know sometimes deputy you think you have all the answers on it but you don’t.

“There’s not just two mechanisms to deliver affordable homes”.ADVERTISEMENT   Learn more

He said his focus will be the delivering public homes on public land and delivering affordable homes and cost rental.

Mr O’Brien said :”it’s important we get it right” and he wouldn’t restrict himself to any particular scheme at this stage.

“My priority is making sure that couples and individuals here are going to be able to buy affordable homes that are truly affordable,” he said.

He also suggested there shouldn’t be a ‘salary cap’ of €75,000 for couples as has had been included in recent Sinn Féin proposals.

He said that couples in some urban areas including Dublin who have average incomes over that threshold should be included in an affordable homes scheme.

Mr Ó Broin accused Mr O’Brien of evading the question and again challenged him to say which model of delivery he favours.

He said: “the sooner the minister decides which of those models he is going to go with, the sooner hardworking families are going to know if this government is going to deliver genuinely affordable homes or like the last Fianna Fáil government homes that look affordable, but aren’t and get them into trouble at a later stage.”

Mr O’Brien attacked Sinn Féin
proposals on affordable housing which he claimed would bring in an
“inferior” and “unworkable” scheme.

He argued that it would have have left “over 40pc of those who need affordable housing out of the system on the basis of the arbitrary cap… of €75,000 for a couple.”

Mr Ó Broin attempted to interrupt Mr O’Brien and the minister told him “the public out there don’t want to see you, shouting at me or bickering with me.

“What they want to see is an affordable purchase scheme that delivers for them and that’s what this government intends to do.

“When I have that plan, I will publish it,” he added.

Later in response to a question on affordable housing from another deputy Mr O’Brien said: “We won’t exclude couples that earn over €75,000 unlike other parties.”

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Savings levels hit highest level since last economic crash

HOUSEHOLD savings have hit their highest level since the last financial crisis.

People spent less in the first three months of the year which meant that they put more money aside.

The savings level was higher than any time in the last six years, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) said.

“Household saving increased in the first quarter of 2020, as employee pay went up, while consumer spending decreased,” the statisticians said.

This means the savings ratio hit 16.4pc, its highest level since 2009.

What is called the derived saving ratio measures the relationship between saving and income.

The CSO found that the gross income in the State was up in the first quarter when compared with the last three months of 2019.

This was despite large numbers of people being laid off and forced to depend on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, with others supported by the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

The CSO said gross disposable income rose from €30.19bn in the last three months of last year to €30.604bn in the first quarter.

Gross spending in the economy fell from €26.13bn in the last quarter of last year to €25.6bn in the January to March period of this year.

This meant the savings ratio was up.

Senior statistician with the CSO Michael Connolly said the figures were showing a rise in income despite the disruption to employment caused by the pandemic.

The CSO now uses Revenue’s new PAYE Modernisation real time data on incomes. This was introduced this year and is more robust than the previous methods for capturing incomes, he said.

The latest CSO data comes after Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf said households have had no choice but to cut their spending during the pandemic.

This applies especially to those who have not had a loss of income, he wrote in his latest blog.

“They have been unable to consume goods and services as they normally would as a result of the restrictions imposed for health reasons,” he wrote.

He said consumers may also willingly be spending less due to the high degree of uncertainty around both their incomes and potential risks to their own health.

Governor Makhlouf noted that household deposits have increased sharply since the crisis started.

He said what he called the exceptional increase may be linked to limited spending opportunities and stable income due to Covid-related supports.

But the growth in deposits has been evident since mid-2018, for both Irish and Euro area households, he noted in his blog.

This rise was due to precautionary saving.

The Central Bank boss said economic uncertainty has increased in recent years, due to the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and rising geopolitical trade disputes.

Given these uncertainties, households may have been saving to provide protection against potential shocks.

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Consumer index stalling but firms’ confidence comes back, study says

Consumer sentiment continues to lag behind business confidence, fresh data from Bank of Ireland suggests.

Bank of Ireland’s regular ‘Economic Pulse’ combines business and consumer elements to track sentiment in the economy month to month.

The index was up 5.5 on last month but down 21.0 compared with a year ago.

Business confidence has risen but the consumer pulse stood at 55.5 in July, down 2.5 on last month.

Concerns included worries about the weak economy amid an uptick in Covid-19 cases and a shaky start for the new Government. Despite the negativity, the share of households saying that they are holding out on spending eased to 55pc, from 61pc at the height of the coronavirus crisis.

In addition, one in three households said they are likely to spend a large sum of money on home improvements over the coming year.

This figure was higher than normal and may reflect savings due to a lack of foreign travel and the need to improve home-working set-ups.

Dr Loretta O’Sullivan, chief economist for Bank of Ireland, said: “Consumer sentiment for the US, the euro area and the UK show a similar pausing in July and clearly illustrate that the process of rebooting economies across the world will not be perfectly smooth.”

The stimulus package just announced by the Government “should help”, Dr O’Sullivan added.

Meanwhile, the business pulse rose for a third consecutive month in July to 63.4, as the economy began to reopen.

The increase suggests companies are more confident about the future, with firms in all four sectors surveyed reporting an improvement in trading conditions.

Firms operating in the construction sector were most positive but retailers and firms in industry and services were more downbeat about the prospects for business activity over the next three months.

On the back of this, businesses in the services sector – which includes a range of industries from bars and hotels to banking, and is the country’s most important – are scaling back hiring plans for the time being.

Bank of Ireland’s Economic Pulse survey is conducted in conjunction with the European Commission, with the data feeding into the commission’s Joint Harmonised EU Programme of Business and Consumer Surveys. The surveys are conducted by Ipsos MRBI with 1,000 households and about 2,000 businesses.

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