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If you're planning a trip here next year, one of the best buys is the Duchas Heritage Card which gives you FREE ENTRY to over 65 fascinating heritage sites, such as the Rock of Cashel, Boyle Abbey, Trim Castle and a host of other interesting places. The card only costs £15 for an adult; Seniors £10, Student £6 or £36 for a family. It is valid for one year from issue.

Duchas, Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, 6, Upper Ely Place, Dublin, 2.
Telephone: +353 1 6472461;
fax: +353 1 6616764;
email: heritagecard@ealga.ie
www.heritageireland.ie

The Irish rate of births outside marriage is now over 30%.

A cable landing station has opened in Dublin that will connect Ireland with North America and Europe via a 12.200 km. undersea fibre optic cable. It will be able to handle up to 25 million simultaneous telephone calls to and from Ireland and it will enter commercial service early next year. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said that firms providing broad band services are vital to Ireland's economic prosperity and this network will enhance our position in competing for e-business.

Low-level letter boxes are now banned in the construction of new buildings. The ideal recommended height is 42" (1070mm). This follows complaints (and a legal action) from postmen who have found stooping to deliver the mail to the fashionable low-level boxes was causing them back problems.

The government has approved an increase in the national minimum wage from its current rate of £4.40 an hour to £5.00 an hour from October 2002.

The building boom in Ireland shows no sign of slackening as every little piece of land is now eyed by speculators hoping to cash in on our economic miracle. The output has doubled in over six years between 1994 and 1999 and we now lead the European Union in construction investment. By comparison to the other 15 EU member states Ireland now:

1. Invests the highest proportion (17%) of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in construction (EU average: 12%).
2. Invests more money per head of population (£3,100) in construction (EU average: £2,200);
3. We have the highest growth rate (12% in 1999) in the volume of construction output (EU average: 3%).

Our Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Noel Dempsey, has cautioned that "while these are impressive construction statistics, they reflect the fact that we are playing catch-up with most of the rest of Europe which already possesses modern infrastructure and an accumulated stock of dwellings to meet economic, environmental and social needs." For this reason, our government is committed to investing over £22 billion in construction projects under the National Development Plan 2000-2006.

The excellent costume museum at Springhill, near Moneymore in Northern Ireland received a major boost when a new curator, Helen McAneney, was appointed to document and promote the collection. This contains more than 3,000 items of clothing, footwear and accessories spanning a period from the 1760s up to the 1970s tracing changes in fashion and social conditions over a 200-year period. "The remarkable thing about costume," says Helen, "is that unlike many other historic objects it provides a real link with our ancestors and our social history, and it is able to show us the changing shape of the human body, linked to nutrition and living conditions, and the changing shape of clothing through the influence of fashion, foreign travel, climate and so on." (See our feature on Traditional Irish Dress in this issue).

Galway's Good Food Guide is a useful little booklet costing £1. It lists 30 restaurants, with colour photographs, and information about opening hours and menu prices for anybody intending to travel to this west of Ireland county. From Mocha Mania in the city serving Italian panini sandwiches and a selection of coffee flavours to The Old Schoolhouse Restaurant in Clarinbridge which offers lobster and oysters. To be perfectly honest, we don't know what standards you have to achieve to appear in this booklet, but contact www.GalwayFood.com for further information.

....and Georgina Campbell who is a writer on all aspects of Irish cuisine and hospitality has compiled the Jameson Dublin Guide, detailing "Dublin's finest places to eat, drink and stay." This costs £6.99, runs to 130 pages and is far more substantial than The Galway Guide, but there are no illustrations. The listings are alphabetical and include markets and specialist shops, restaurants, accommodations and places where traditional and contemporary Irish cooking may be found. The independently assessed recommendations are made solely on merit and its contents are arranged by district with map references. There are also maps for Dublin city centre and suburbs. It's well laid out and pocket-size and the sort of useful booklet that wouldn't be out of place on the shelf of a native of our capital city. According to the OECD Irish exports grew by an annual average of 15.9% between 1994 and 1999. Already for the period January to June this year the value of our exports are £30.9 billion, an increase of 26% over the same period in 1999 and more than the value of the entire exports for 1996. About 70% of Irish manufacturing output is exported and our trade surplus in 1999 amounted to approximately £18 billion. The European Union accounted for 60.5% of Ireland’s exports, the Eurozone 36% and the United States for 18.7%.When you hear these figures you realise the reasons that the World Trade Organisation ranked Ireland as the third largest exporter in the world on a per capita basis in 1998, after Singapore and Belgium/Luxembourg.

Cures for all sorts of ailments were used by our grandparents who rarely, if ever, resorted to prescription drugs unless it was absolutely necessary. And we are still fortunate enough to have pharmacists who mix their own potions and lotions for coughs and sneezes! Dock leaves soothed nettle stings, herbal infusions calmed frayed nerves and if you were unlucky enough to have warts on your skin the following remedy was popular: Gather and boil the white flowers of the elder bush, but keep the windows open because the smell is unpleasant. Mix the residue with white vaseline to make an ointment. This was then applied to warts (making the sign of the cross on each wart until such time as the wart disappeared). My granny swore by this and I do recall it being successful in getting rid of a cluster of these warts which my father had on his leg!

A big investment in scientific research - Science Foundation Ireland - has been announced by our Minister for Science, Technology and Commerce where researchers from home and abroad are being invited to compete for funding under the £560 million Technology Foresight Fund which this foundation will administer. Areas such as Biotechnology and Information & Communications Technologies (ICT) will be involved and researchers from Ireland and the global research community will be invited to submit proposals. The aim is to make Ireland recognised internationally as a centre for research excellence.

County Kildare is horsey territory where many of our famous racers are bred and trained. It borders Dublin and now, with the capital stretching ever wider, Kildare is almost a suburb because it's well served by a good transport network of trains, buses and roads. So the Kildare Community Network has been formed and is developing a comprehensive tourist guide and listing for the county with extensive information about accommodations, things to do, restaurants, attractions etc. Their website is subdivided into ten main sections and is updated daily. Do get in touch with them at www.kildare.ie/tourism and tell them you read about this in INSIDE IRELAND.

...not to be outdone, Galway Rural Development has a website up and running at www.galway-leader.com Here you can choose any of the 50 towns and villages listed to get information on population, history and attractions. The area of south east Galway has its own website (www.galway-southeast-tourism.ie) which provides a source of information and contacts for this area - the south west midlands. If you plan a driving holiday through the Republic of Ireland (and only those unfamiliar with our newly acquired traffic jams and speeding lawbreakers would!) then you should check out the website of our Automobile Association, or A.A. aaireland.ie offers useful information about motoring here, and will let you know of their excellent maps and guide books and breakdown service. They can advise on places to stay and eat, petrol prices, motoring costs and lots more.

We now have over 1.6 million people in employment - an increase of over 500,000 since 1988 Even since April 1997 270,000 more people are in work and the number of long term unemployed has fallen to under 30,000. Non-EU nationals with certain skills are now being encouraged to come and work here under the new Working Visa scheme. Your local Irish Consulate has details of this. Inside Ireland will be publishing information about these as the department releases it.

Clonakilty, Co. Cork has won not only the Irish Tidy Towns competition, but also the European Entente Florale contest. Started 25 years ago, the Entente Florale is a prestigious international competition which attracts entrants from all over Europe. The aim is to encourage the development of an improved environment for urban dwellers through respect for nature and enhanced planting and landscaping. So see what you think of Clonakilty if you're touring in that direction.

O’Maille’s of the High Street, Galway is the place if you are looking for hand-knitted garments. They have been featured on Oprah Winfrey’s web-site ‘Women’s Hands.’ They have their own website at www.iol.ie/omaille/

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