Opening Bell: Bank of Ireland upgrading network, Bord na Móna, public sector pensions

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Bank of Ireland is planning a €10 million upgrade of its branches this year.

According to The Irish Times, this includes the installation of 90 new external lodgement and ATMs around the country, meaning that 80% of its branches will offer 24-hour lodgement and withdrawal capabilities.

A new branch in the developing Cherrywood area in south Dublin is also included in the plans – with approval granted by Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, it is set to open in September.

The University College Cork branch will be completely remodelled and branches in Blanchardstown, Castlebar, Cobh, Kilkenny and Terenure are all gaining enhanced internet facilities. Cork and Limerick branches will now offer workbenches which can be used, for free, by startups.

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The union representing workers at Bord na Móna has vowed to fight plans which could put more than 120 jobs at risk.

The company announced yesterday that it would close its peat briquette plant in Littleton, Tipperary, by next April.

Some 69 permanent jobs would be lost, with a further 56 harvesting jobs in the area being impacted. Another plant outside Birr in Offaly will remain open.

John Regan, Bord na Móna Group of Unions secretary and SIPTU organiser, said:

"Workers obviously wakening up this morning will be thinking about the end of an era for them. With regards to the Group of Unions, we'll be fighting to hold on to Littleton and making sure we overturn this decision."

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There are claims that tens of thousands of retired public servants could die without ever getting access to their full pensions.

The Alliance of Retired Public Servants wants pension restoration to be brought forward from the current projected date of 2021.

The group claims that if they have to wait until then, 40,000 people will have died while on reduced pensions.

Chairperson Brian Burke says, for many, time is running out:

"I've lost a few friends at this stage who were good public servants. One worked in health, one worked in local authorities and if you look at it from the humanity side of it, they never saw their pension be restored."

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There are more people approved for mortgages than there will be new houses for them to buy.

Around 20,000 first time buyers have been cleared for a mortgage this year – but only half of this number of new homes are for sale.

New data from the Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland shows that the value of mortgage drawdowns grew 40% year-on-year.

The high demand – and indeed, frustration – that exists in the buyers market is illustrated in the fact that approvals easily outstripped drawdowns, showing growth of 78% to €2 billion.

Goodbody chief economist Dermot O'Leary said:

"The biggest issue in terms of these approvals translating into drawdowns is the low level of new supply.

"Approvals for new entrants is substantially more than the amount of new properties coming to the market thus the obvious conclusion is that prices will continue to be bid up. Price inflation is likely to continue to accelerate from here."