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Education and training opportunities for learners who need extra support




By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

Have you or someone you support faced significant challenges which have impacted on your experience to access education and training opportunities?

If so, I highly recommend that you check out the services offered by the National Learning Network (NLN) centres nationwide? NLN provides education, training and specialist support to students and adults with extra support needs.

Over the years I have seen students who have faced big challenges personally, educationally and socially go on to develop their skills and self-confidence by completing courses which are suited to their interests at a pace which suits their learning needs. NLN offer courses which are designed to help build student’s confidence, knowledge, assertiveness, and to give them independent living skills. Most students progress onto further education or employment.

Who are these courses for?

NLN provides training and specialist support to young people and adults who, for a variety of reasons, may find it difficult to gain employment or need extra support before progressing in education. This includes young people who may not want to, or be equipped to, access traditional post-school pathways. Regardless of circumstances, be it long-term unemployment, physical or mental illness, disability or extra support needs, the NLN offers a welcoming and supportive environment for students from the age of 16 to 65.

NLN has 50 centres across Ireland which offer courses in a welcoming environment for participants. There are 70 programmes available at a mix of levels and are accredited by QQI, City and Guilds and other recognised awarding bodies. The courses vary from centre to centre but cover multiple options such as business, catering, computers, horticulture, art and design, wellness, employability skills and much more.
There really is something for everyone! The courses provide relevant practical experience gained in meaningful work placement and classroom-based learning.

You can check out the full list on -

Key aspects of the NLN education and training programmes include:

* Continuous enrolment (students can start any time)
* Small class sizes
* Personalised learning
* Free courses – all courses are funded by the HSE or the local ETB
* Students keep any social welfare payments they are entitled to
* Person-centred approach where every course is tailored to the student’s needs and delivered at their pace
* On-site psychologist to support student’s well-being and learning goals
* Course sampling – many students try a course out before committing
* Job-seeking skills – CV writing and interview techniques

NLN are running a national Open Day this Wednesday (August 24) from 11am to 1pm. Potential students, adults and parents are invited to drop into any of the their centres nationwide to chat to staff and see the wide range of diverse courses available. For more details on your local NLN centre and on how to apply check out, email and follow on @NLNireland on social media platforms. It will be the start of an exciting journey. National Learning Network Kerry are based in Clash Industrial Estate, Tralee and can be contacted on or 066 712 2533.

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant - See or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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The Irish investment market is pathetic

By Michael O’Connor,    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 […]




By Michael O’Connor,   

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.


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


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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 […]




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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