Opening Bell: Facebook lobbied Enda Kenny, Dublin hotels, economic confidence

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Facebook chief Sheryl Sandberg personally lobbied the Taoiseach about who should be appointed Ireland's next data protection commissioner, the Irish Independent reports.

The meetings with Enda Kenny took place in Davos and California in 2014 as Billy Hawkes prepared to step down from the position.

Documents released to the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act reveal how Sandberg used her privileged access to the Taoiseach to lobby him over 11 months on two issues of critical interest to Facebook: taxation and data protection.

The revelation comes as the social media giant faces an investigation under new Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon.

It's in relation to allegations it used its Irish HQ to transfer data of Facebook users in the EU to US spies under the Prism surveillance programme.

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Four in five people expect house prices to rise this year, while 70% of people think rents will also increase.

Bank of Ireland's latest Economic Pulse also shows that, while cosnumer confidence remains high, there are signs that business sentiment has weakened.

The index stood at 92.4 in May, lower than the previous month and the same period in 2016.

Bank of Ireland's group chief economist Dr Loretta O'Sullivan said:

"In terms of sentiment, we're seeing a mixed picture this month, with consumers holding steady but some softness on the business side weighing on the headline Economic Pulse."

Households have more positivity about the overall economic climate, while having uncertainty around their own finances.

Confidence is higher and rising in Dublin, and the weakest in Munster, Connacht and Ulster.

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Dublin's hotel capacity will increase 15% by 2020, with the addition of 3,000 rooms.

Savills research shows that developments currently in the pipeline will add new units in the aparthotel and budget sectors, which are currently under-represented in Dublin.

Rising prices at peak times for the roughly 19,000 bedrooms in the capital have provoked fears that a lack of supply will ultimately hurt tourism, according to the Irish Independent's Donal O'Donovan.

Some 55% of new bedrooms will come from new hotels next year, with the remainder coming from extensions. By 2019, Savills expects nearly 90% of new supply to come from new hotels.

Savills Hotels & Leisure director Tom Barrett said:

"Most Dublin hotels trade in both the leisure and corporate markets and hotel development is also targeted at both markets."

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Enterprise Ireland is offering up to €60 million for projects aimed at creating jobs outside Dublin.

The funding, provided by the Department of Jobs through Enterprise Ireland, aims to accelerate economic recovery throughout the country up until 2020.

The initiative will support non-profit organisations sponsored by the likes of higher education bodies, State companies, local enterprise development groups and councils.

It's now open for applications and will support major new initiatives, to ensure that regional Ireland gets its fair share of economic growth and investment.

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said:

"I want to see collaborative projects that will boost the regions by supporting enterprise and creating jobs."