Opening Bell: Irish banks to "bail-in", America loves Irish whiskey, GamerCon controversy

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A Spanish construction company tied to a major political scandal in its home country is set to build the new National Forensic Hospital in North Dublin, according to the Irish Independent.

The HSE has selected OHL, which is active in 30 markets, to partner with Irish builder JJ Rhatigan in delivering the new Portrane hospital.

The contracts for the deal have yet to be signed but the HSE has confirmed the joint proposal from OHL and Rhatigan is the preferred bidder.

OHL was one of a number of construction companies named last year in an investigation into alleged illicit activity in how large government infrastructure projects were awarded.

The Gurtel case is aiming to identify who made payments to a slush fund run by Luis Bárcenas, former treasurer of Spain's ruling centre-right People's Party (PP).

Mr Bárcenas claimed that this money was used to pay senior party figures, including current prime minister Mariana Rajoy.

Francisco Correa, who allegedly acted as a go-between, testified that OHL had paid for his services to help secure major public projects.

OHL has denied these allegations and is taking legal action against Mr Correa.

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AIB and Bank of Ireland will be required to sell €15 billion of bonds that can be used to minimise taxpayer losses in the event of another banking crisis, according to a new CreditSights report.

The new European Union rules will be phased in over the next few years, with both banks saying last month that they will set up holding companies at the top of their corporate structures to meet the regulations.

The Irish Times reports that these would issue senior and junior debt in the future, where investors could face losses if banks run into difficulty. Deposits would be held bby the existing operating banks, which would offer greater protection.

CreditSights analyst Simon Adamson estimated that Bank of Ireland and AIB would each have to sell €7.5bn of debt to cover the minimum requirement for own funds and eligible liabilities (MREL) under the new rules.

The MREL targets have not yet been formally set by the European Central Bank’s supervisory arm.

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GamerCon organisers have defended the 45-minute queuing time to get into the National Convention Centre in Dublin at the weekend as to be expected with an event if its scale.

Ticket holders criticised the event after being left outside in the rain for hours because the venue was full.

In a statement, the organisers said that there were challenges with the queue on Saturday and they've refunded people who did not want to wait.

They also said issues inside the venue are the responsibility of the Convention Centre and outside of their control.

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Irish whiskey plays a major role in attracting tourism to the country, according to market analysts Nielsen CGA.

New figures show demand for Irish whiskey soared by 28% in the United States in the lead up to St Patrick's Day.

This jump comes as Irish whiskey enjoys a 14% year-on-year increase in the value of sales in the US on-trade market (bars, hotels, restaurants).

Some 3.8 million cases of Irish whiskey were sold in the US in 2016, compared to just 434,000 in 2002.

Meanwhile, one in four visitors to Irish distilleries are from the US.

Director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, Ross MacMathuna says tourists enjoy visiting Irish distilleries:

"Everybody who has a distillery, one of the parts that they're offering is to have a visitor centre. It's a real key part of that whole business model now... Because people want to come and experience the product being made.

"And we see all of the new distilleries around the country that are opening up are operating this sort of a model.
It replicates what we've seen in other countries and has worked really well."