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Call for citizen scientists to help map Rhododendron

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Citizens are being asked to play a part in mapping rhododendron to help control its spread.

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A new App, the National Biodiversity Data Centres, can be downloaded where members of the public can input data to help locate and treat the plant.

This ornamental plant, once prized for its beautiful flowers and usefulness as a hedge for creating shelter, was planted around Muckross in the 19th Century.

Since then it has spread to, or been planted in, many other locations and is a common sight in many areas. It is a species which originated from the Mediterranean and has done exceedingly well in our Irish climate, particularly here in Kerry.

Rhododendron has thrived at the expense of our own native habitats and species. The old oak woodlands, for which Killarney is renowned, are under serious threat from the invasion of this species, as are many of the peatland habitats such as the heath and bogs. Rhododendron can form dense thickets, blocking light, shading out native vegetation and preventing regeneration.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have been tackling the Rhododendron in Killarney National Park for many years. In parts of the MacGillycuddy Reeks, such as the Gap of Dunloe and the Black Valley, Rhododendron is also becoming well established. Local farmers regularly comment on the rate of spread over the last 10-15 years and until recently, no action had been taken to address the spread.

Over the last two years, The MacGillycuddy Reeks European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Project, a locally led agri-environmental project, led by South Kerry Development Partnership, funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 which aims to improve the sustainability and economic viability of the farming in the MacGillycuddy Reeks, has been working with local landowners in the area to manage Rhododendron ponticum and prevent the loss of protected heath and bog habitats and grazing lands to this species. Given the nature of invasive species, and the speed at which they spread, early intervention leads to more efficient and successful treatment. For many landowners the prospect of dealing with well-established populations on their own is an incredibly daunting task.

BEST PRACTICE

With the support of the EIP project team, a collective working group has been established to assist farmers and landowners in treating rhododendron on their land. It has facilitated mandatory training (Hand Held Pesticide Application, QQI Level 5) on the correct use of pesticides and on best practice methods for treating Rhododendron for all farmers and members of the collective group carrying out this work.

Concerns have been raised about the spread of this invasive species throughout the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and beyond where going unchecked it will have a significant impact on our native biodiversity. This year with funding from the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NPWS) and support from Kerry County Council and the Kerry Biosphere team in collaboration with the MacGillycuddy Reeks EIP Project have launched a campaign to raise awareness of this issue and begin the process of mapping the areas where this plant has spread to.

"We are asking citizens to play a part in mapping rhododendron ponticum throughout Kerry using the National Biodiversity Data Centres recording App so that the process of managing this invasive species can begin," Eleanor Turner, Biosphere Officer with the Kerry Biosphere Reserve, told the Killarney Advertiser.

"Later in the year demonstration events for treatment of rhododendron will be held for interested landowners, farmers and community groups."

Control of rhododendron is not a one-time treatment but must be carried out in several phases over a number of years. The Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve will be working over the next number of years to support landowners, farmers and communities in managing this problem.

For more information follow the Kerry UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on Facebook @kerrybiosphere or email kerrybiosphere@skdp.net, or watch a demonstration video for treating rhododendron on Youtube @kerrybiosphere.

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The Irish investment market is pathetic

By Michael O’Connor, theislandinvestor.com    I lived abroad for years, so all the investment strategies I created were typically outside of Irish tax considerations. But over the last few weeks I […]

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By Michael O’Connor, theislandinvestor.com   

I lived abroad for years, so all the investment strategies I created were typically outside of Irish tax considerations.

But over the last few weeks I have been putting together several investment strategies for Irish-domiciled clients. It has been eye-opening, to say the least.

In short, most of the Irish market appears to be dominated by a handful of life insurance companies that offer ‘wrapped’ Multi Asset Funds. This means they offer a basket of stocks, bonds, property etc., all within one investment.

Irish Life’s MAPs 4 multi-asset fund states a standard annual management charge of 1.15%. A bit on the higher side for my liking, but this is still manageable.

But when you dig a little deeper, the KID documents (where all fees have to be fully disclosed as part of UCITS regulations) show the fee as 2.2%.

Double the quoted price

As an added bonus, they lock your money up for seven years, where an early encashment charge is waiting for those who wish to withdraw their money early. That’s right, they charge YOU for making your money inaccessible.

This lock-up period is a shrewd business tactic. An exit charge is an excellent way to ensure customers don’t leave when they realise how poor the performance is.

Too late, you’re trapped.

Performance

Fees become more digestible provided the performance is strong, but unfortunately, the misery continues.

The Irish Life MAPS 4 Portfolio has an annual return of 1.63% a year over the last five years. Granted, this was a challenging market climate to navigate, but falling below even the lowest expectations of inflation means that this fund has returned negative real returns after inflation over the last five years.

A similar 60/40 portfolio made up of passive index funds (S&P 500 and US T bonds) would have returned roughly 6.5% a year over the same period for a fee of roughly 0.1%.

We can go round and round in circles regarding the ‘risk adjusted’ approach and the added ‘diversification’ of the multi-asset fund versus the 60/40 portfolio I have shown. But the reality is much of this so-called diversification is over-engineering for an extra cost for many long term investors.

So, how can such pathetic offerings still exist in a system where low-cost operators such as De Giro are providing endless ETF options and commission-free trades that provide access to market returns at a fraction of the price?

Two reasons spring to mind

Firstly, the Irish retail investment scene is built on a financial broker commission system where unsuspecting customers are shoved into these products by ‘financial planners’ who receive kickbacks and commissions from these investment companies. You think you’re getting free investment advice; believe me, you’re not.

Second, the tax treatment of ETF structures is comical in Ireland, and US ETFs aren’t even an investment option. A 41% exit tax and an eight-year deemed disposal rule leaves investors stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Choose an overpriced, underperforming product that locks your money away for multiple years or choose the cheaper, better-performing product and suffer the tax consequences.

Bizarrely, investors are forced to make decisions based on preferential tax treatment rather than on the underlying investment’s merits.

I have gone into much more detail on the tax treatment and investment options in Ireland on my website. Just scan the QR code.

If you would like me to independently review your investment portfolio, just send me an email at mike@theislandinvestor.com.

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Rebel lights delight for Killarney star

By Con Dennehy The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball […]

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By Con Dennehy

The continued growth, development and participation of women’s handball in East Kerry was rewarded at the weekend when Cork hosted ‘She’s Ace’, the prestigious All Ladies Handball championships.

Attracting all the leading players in Ireland, it was Sarah Dineen, the Spa/Killarney player who shot out the Rebel lights in Conna with a phenomenal display of handball.

Competing in the highly competitive Ladies Challenger championship, the Killarney player, who took up the sport just 18 months ago, had the perfect start in the competition defeating the home town favourite Agnes Hurley from Conna on a 21-20 scoreline following an energy sapping and close encounter that hung in the balance to the final ace.

In her second game she took on the challenge of Nolwenn Even from St Brigids where her skill, superior fitness and movement on the court resulted in the 21-12 victory and a place in the prestigious final.

“The final was always going to be a difficult game not least playing local girl Kate O’Riordan from Conna. I concentrated on my serve and kill shots which ensured we shared the aces early in the game. It was a difficult game with the home supporters out in force to cheer on their local hero. However, I played well and secured a 21-11 victory. This was the second time this title came to Spa Killarney following the 2022 win by Aoife Walsh in Northern Ireland,” said Sarah, who is currently chairperson of the Killarney Camogie Club.

A native of Westmeath, Sarah (46) runs a jewellery business in Killarney and lives in Rathmore. No stranger to competitive sport she played camogie for Westmeath and Leinster and also won an Intermediate championship Gaelic football medal in Westmeath.

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