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Robin Red Breast stands out in the snow in Kildare

Ireland's Eye: What's going on in the old sod

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Robin Red Breast stands out in the snow in Kildare

Gardai believe that the raiders were very familiar with the local area and knew exactly who they were targeting.
- Kildare Nationalist

Violent threats

A Laois man was forced to leave the country after having his life threatened by gangsters, it was claimed.

It’s understood several men in an unidentified Laois town were threatened that they would get “a bullet between the eyes” if they did not leave the country following an alleged fight with relatives of a criminal gang.

Making the claim, Portarlington councilor Paul Mitchell said Laois people should be aware of a growing “mafia influence” in the county.

“It happened outside a nightclub in a local town. Five or six local chaps got in a row. One young lad was beaten up. Some of the young lads had been contacted that if they didn’t leave the country immediately they would get a bullet between the eyes,” said Mitchell, who added that the man beaten up was a nephew of a well-known “crime baron” and some of the individuals had left the country after the alleged threats.

The Laois Nationalist, however, understands one individual has left Ireland and the alleged fracas took place sometime in October. Two others who were threatened are still in the town.

Rumors circulating around the town said the men were given an ultimatum to leave the country, come work with the gang or face death.

Superintendent Philip Lyons said he was aware of the situation, but believed the issue was more complex than had been described.

“There is more to this than the councilor may be aware. There is an issue of unpaid monies from some criminal activities,” said Lyons.
- Laois Nationalist

Healthy hotels

Despite consumer spending concerns, top-end Irish hotels are still busy with bookings and are defying the recession with innovative offers and ways to cut costs.

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) claims many of its four and five-star hotels are so far experiencing a similar amount of Christmas bookings to last year.  While many have taken measures to reduce costs, some hotels have also introduced loyalty cards and points systems to encourage repeat business.

Federation president Paul Gallagher explained, "It’s been a difficult two years for us. There’s a lot of pressure on prices. Those doing well at the top end are in good locations, have a good standard, service and value for money."

Many luxury hotels have been pulling in customers through facilities like spa treatments, golf breaks and other leisure activities on site, such as fishing, he said.

"Customers are wary about budgets. Christmas is challenging this year but the luxury hotels are seeing booking levels the same as last year,” he said.

The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt Hotel in Wicklow has already reported 50% of its bookings taken up for Christmas.  Over the last year, the five-star 200-room resort saw 8,000 guests from the U.S. stay at the historic estate, a figure similar to last year, said hotel manager Max Zanardi. While the luxury hotel has seen corporate bookings fall and reduced staff working hours, it started a loyalty card for customers last month. The hotel has just renovated its Gordon Ramsay restaurant and is set to open new rooms, with its award-winning spa offering midweek deals with lunch for €139.

But competition with other five-star hotels is stiff, added Zanardi.  "There’s a little cake out there and everybody wants a slice of it," he said. The industry as a whole has seen 34 hotels close up and not renew their licenses in November. Ireland’s Bluebook, which represents luxury manors, castles and hotels, said some of its locations opening for Christmas, including Dublin’s Merrion Hotel, were already almost fully booked up for the festive season. "They tend to have loyal guests who return each year," said group marketing manager Michelle Maguire.
- Irish Examiner

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