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GOOD MORNING

The 9 at 9 Good morning! Here’s the nine things you need to know as you kick off your weekend.

EVERY MORNING, TheJournal.ie brings you the nine stories you need to know as you kick off your day.

1. #BUDGET 2013: The Department of Finance has published its estimates of government income and expenditure for next year – and revealed that Ireland’s tax take for this year is likely to be slightly less than expected, down by €210 million. The documents reveal a likely hike in income tax on Wednesday’s Budget – with income tax receipts expected to be up by 4.5 per cent on last year.

The Irish Independent this morning says the rollout of the new property tax could offer some relief based on the cost of home improvements, while the Irish Times also says mortgage holders could be allowed to defer their monthly payments if their loan payments are at certain levels. Meanwhile, here’s our guide to this year’s Budget kite-flying so far.

2. #SEVERANCE: Former junior minister Roisin Shortall has waived her entitlement to severance pay of some €33,100 after quitting her ministerial post two months ago. Shortall told TheJournal.ie that while she had asked her staff to return any severance payments made to her. Shortall is entitled to severance pay because her tenure did not exceed two years – so she does not get a ministerial pension.

3. #AMBASSADOR?: Bill and Hillary Clinton could be among the next people to take up residence in the Phoenix Park. Having previously joked about the possibility of running for the Irish presidency, Bill Clinton is now being tipped as a possible US ambassador to Ireland, according to the Chicago Sun Times – meaning he’d be moving into the residence across the road from Michael D Higgins. The paper says the job could offer Bill the chance to catch up on golf, and Hillary – who is to step down as Secretary of State for Barack Obama’s second term – a chance to take some downtime before a possible Presidential run in 2016.

4. #CONVENTION: The long-awaited Constitutional Convention finally kicks off in Dublin today. The 100-member body, two-thirds of which is made up of ‘civilians’ identified by a polling company, will consider matters like same-sex marriage, votes for Irish people living abroad, and reducing the Presidential term of office.

5. #FRACKING: The debate over the viability and safety of gas extraction by ‘fracking’ is likely to come to Co Clare, after a British exploration firm announced the discovery of at least 5.5 trillion cubic feet of gas in the west of the county. The discovery could dwarf the size of the Corrib offshore gas field which has prompted controversy in Co Mayo.

6. #DOWNGRADED: The Eurozone’s new bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, has lost its AAA rating. Moody’s has downgraded the fund to AA1 – a move which had been expected since France, one of the main contributors, also lost its Triple-A status. The EFSF, which co-ordinates loans for Ireland’s bailout package, also went down to AA1, which could mean slightly more expensive bailout loans for us in future.

7. #NORTH KOREA: North Korea has said it will launch a long-range rocket this month – almost directly clashing with a presidential election in South Korea in just over a fortnight. Pyongyang says it will test between December 10 and December 22 – just as South Koreans go to the polls, and marking the anniversary of the death of Northern leader Kim Jong-Il.

8. #AUSTRALIA: A law banning designed cigarette packaging, and replacing it with generic boxes including graphic images of tobacco-related diseases, has come into effect in Australia. Cigarettes in the country will now only be sold in olive green boxes including photographs of various body parts with the ill-effects of tobacco use.

9. #LUCK OF THE IRISH: A couple who took half of the largest lottery jackpot in US history have claimed Irish roots, and say they’re going to spend some of the money visiting Ireland. Mark and Cindy Hill, who took half of the $587 million (€451 million) jackpot, said they would spend some of the money travelling – and that Ireland would be top of their list. And just in time for the Budget! How handy…

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