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It’s time to clean up the garden

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

This weekend was a happy time for many gardeners – I certainly heard a lot of lawnmowers on my walk!

Many lawns might be damaged, so it is a good time to take the opportunity to rake out thatch, apply mosskiller or lime and tidy up the edges. There are many feed and weed products available but if your moss is not a huge problem, I always advise going with a product which does not contain any iron (feric sulphate). This will cause your soil to become acidic, which in the long run promotes moss growth. However, if you have a thick layer of moss, using sulphate of iron will kill it - however it will turn black and it needs to be raked out.

Make a newspaper pot

Applying a good quantity of lime afterwards will counteract the acidity and prevent regrowth.
Glasshouses and polytunnels should be disinfected, and any pots and seedtrays cleaned and disinfected also, if not done yet! If you are wondering what to do on a wet afternoon with the kids you could make a stack of newspaper pots. These are simple to make, just cut the top off a 500ml plastic bottle. Take a sheet of newspaper, fold it in half, wrap it around the bottle and tuck the ends into the open end. Then you can slip it off the bottle and hey presto, a pot! Free and very handy! Ideal for sowing peas, sweet peas, beans, lupins and a host of other large seeds. The pots decompose so there is no transplanting involved, keeping the roots undisturbed.

If there are any water features in your garden, it is an ideal time to drain them and clean them. Ponds can also be cleaned out. I notice that a lot of my water plants and aerators died during the cold spell, so they do need to be taken out of the pond to avoid problems later on. When you remove them, just leave them at the side of the pond for a few hours, so any water creatures can crawl out and return to the water! You can use it directly as a mulch then, as it will be fairly rotten anyway. All pond plants can be cut back and tidied up, and water lillies can be repotted if necessary. Always use special pond baskets for pond plants and aquatic soil. Cover the top of the pot with gravel and lower gradually into the water to avoid everything drifting up and out.

I notice quite a lot of frogspawn already, so take care not to disturb it too much! Wait until the weather is warmer, around 12 to 15 degrees before replacing the aerator. Also, check pumps and clean out the filters, as they may have clogged up over the winter.

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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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