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The 9 at 9 Nine things to know this morning…

EVERY MORNING, brings you nine things you need to know before 9am…

1. #SICKIES: Sick leave in the public service is costing an estimated €550million a year. The health service accounts for more than half of this with a €290million bill, the Irish Times reports.

2. #COUNCILS: We know where our ministers are off to for St Patrick’s Day, but what about our humble councillors? At least ten councils are dispatching delegates on foreign trips – we’ve got full details of where they’re off to.

3. #FISCAL COMPACT: Labour MEP Nessa Childers has criticised the Fiscal Treaty, saying it is “not an EU treaty” and is “designed to satisfy the Germans.” But she told the Irish Daily Mail that she would still vote Yes in a referendum as it was “too dangerous” to reject it.

4. #ARDMORE: Irish film company Ardmore Studios is facing closure due to financial difficulties, according to the Irish Times. The Wicklow-based firm produced Braveheart and Excalibur, as well as being involved in hit series The Tudors.

5. #BBC: The BBC is examining a proposal to open up its vast archive of TV shows online in an iTunes-style store, according to PaidContent. The plans would see shows from across the broadcaster’s history available to download from £1.89 per programme.

6. #SYRIA: Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan is meeting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad today in an effort to stem the violence in the country, the Guardian reports. Meanwhile a number of high-ranking Syrian army officers have defected to rebel forces according to Reuters.

7. #IRISH SUN: The Irish Sun has announced it will launch a new website on Monday, becoming the first tabloid on the Irish market to publish its news content online. The move comes just weeks after the title launched its Sunday edition to replace the News of the World.

8. #GAY MARRIAGE: Pope Benedict XVI has denounced what he called the “powerful” gay marriage lobby in the US, and insisted that cohabitation outside wedlock is “damaging to the stability of society”, the Associated Press reports.

9. #APOCALYPSE: Good news – the world isn’t going to end after all. California radio preacher Harold Camping has promised never to predict the apocalypse again, after getting it wrong twice last year. “We must openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world,” he wrote on his website.

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