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Green Party says activists may have posed as market researchers in ‘isolated incidents’

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The Green Party has said there may have been “isolated incidents” where it used party volunteers to carry out polling using a false company name.

It comes after Sinn Féin and Fianna Fail said party activists posed as market researchers to conduct polling, and Fine Gael said it had done something “similar”.

A Green Party spokesman said: “When we initially asked around internally yesterday it appeared that no-one in the party had ever engaged in using volunteers to carry out polling using a false company name.

“However, it later emerged that there may have been some isolated incidences of this taking place in some constituencies over a decade ago.“

“To be clear, this is not something that the present day party approves of or would ever engage in,” the spokesman said. On Wednesday the party said it had never engaged in such practices.

Political parties will have to reveal to the Data Protection Commissioner if they are processing personal data gathered during polling, where practices such as party activists posing as pollsters may have been used.

The DPC is already conducting a wide-ranging audit of parties’ treatment of personal data, with the watchdog indicating on Wednesday that each party should identify whether personal data was gathered during the polling and, if so, what was done with it.

Sinn Féin’s actions were first revealed in an article in Wednesday’s Irish Independent, which detailed how party activists were issued with ID badges bearing the name of a non-existent market research company, Irish Market Research Agency.

Initially, the DPC said it would write to Sinn Féin, but later said: “As part of the DPC’s ongoing audit of political parties that commenced recently, all political parties have been asked to account for the source of each field of personal data they process concerning electors/voters.”

Sinn Féin activists posed as pollsters when engaging with voters in 2015. Fianna Fáil confirmed party members had also done so, prior to 2007, while Leo Varadkar said Fine Gael had engaged in “similar” practices before 2016.

Data protection experts said a key issue would be whether any personal data was gleaned from voters by either party, and if so, how it was used.

“If you didn’t keep personally identifiable information, and just kept statistical information, that doesn’t raise data protection questions,” said Simon McGarr, a solicitor and expert in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

However, if personal data had been collected, parties could still be exposed even if the activity had been discontinued prior to the introduction of the GDPR in 2018.

Fred Logue, also a solicitor and GDPR expert, said pre-existing data protection laws created similar obligations. “There isn’t really much of a difference between the main obligations under data protection law today and as it was three years ago,” he said.

If personal data was collected, and was still being used by any party, that could create further GDPR obligations, Mr McGarr said.

On Wednesday, Sinn Féin said: “No identifiable private information or data is ever used, collected or stored. It is entirely anonymous – that is the whole point of it.”

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael did not respond to detailed questions on Wednesday night.

Trust

Damian Loscher, managing director of Ipsos-MRBI – which conducts polling for The Irish Times – said the practice was “not right” and “trust is undermined by behaviours like this”.

Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of not being transparent when originally questioned. She said there was a “latent culture” in some political parties “in which deception was not only tolerated, but encouraged”.

She said voters were “fed mistruths” and their information “gathered under false pretences”. The Social Democrats, the Green Party and Labour said on Wednesday they had not engaged in activities where individuals posed as researchers or pollsters.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, a spokeswoman for Fianna Fáil said the party has outsourced polling to private independent providers.

“Prior to 2007, we did on occasion use party members to undertake polling and on those occasions they did pose as market researchers. This was to supplement private providers also used. This practice was ended around 2007,” the spokeswoman said.

Earlier, Sinn Féin defended the polling carried out by party members purporting to be from a fake marketing company.

The party’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said the localised polling was no different to research carried out by other political parties. Given the expense of polling it was a “key way to level the playing field”, he told RTÉ radio.

Mr Ó Broin said the polling data was always anonymised. He said the party members had badges with their real names and photos with the name of the market research company.

“This is a common part of election practices,” he said.

Mr Ó Broin told Pat Kenny on Newstalk that he did not accept it was unethical. “It’s a standard practice in political party activity. I am aware of many instances in my own constituency where larger parties have done exactly the same thing, this is standard practice, if people knew how much a professional opinion poll costs,” he said.

He said that when people were calling to doors conducting these polls for the party that was “exactly what they were doing – anonymised polls for the purpose of collecting polling data and that data was used exactly the same way as if you were paying a professional company or you’re doing it [IN]some other manner – it’s exactly what it says on the tin”.

He said the polls were always done properly. “The accuracy of those polls was just as good as polls that you would pay thousands of euros for and we stand over that. The polls were done properly and ethically in my view,” he said.

He said professional pollsters do not identify who their client is.

Fine Gael

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said Fine Gael conducted “similar” polling to that done by Sinn Féin.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme on Wednesday evening, Mr Varadkar was asked if his party had engaged in any similar exercises.

“Quite frankly yes,” he told the programme. He said that prior to 2016, “we would have done something similar, either volunteers would have been asked to do surveys door-to-door, or students would have been paid to do it, and it would have been done on a similar basis, anonymised for the purposes of polling”

He said the practice was discontinued, perhaps as early as 2014, and had not been done in the last five to seven years. Earlier on Wednesday, when he was asked about the practice, Mr Varadkar had said it was not done during his period as leader of the party.

“But I can’t swear blind about local arrangements that may have been done in the past, but not during my period as leader, we’ve only ever used companies that have been above board.”

A spokesman for the Labour Party said it has not engaged in similar activity and “our head office wouldn’t sanction such an approach”.

A spokeswoman for the Social Democrats said it has “never engaged in posing as independent market researchers or opinion poll companies to survey voters”.

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Serravalle Designer Outlet unveils new state-of-the-art leisure facility (IT)

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McArthurGlen has officially launched the “Play Land”, a brand new 6,000m² leisure concept at Designer Outlet Serravalle. The €7m attraction introduces a new state-of-the-art experiential element to the centre that further enhances the shopping experience for guests of all ages. Part of the centre’s €40m investment programme, Play Land launches alongside six new stores that are home to renowned luxury and F&B brands, including Off WhiteValentinoZegna and Starbucks. The iconic names join recent international arrival Givenchy to further elevate the centre’s reputation as one of Europe’s premier luxury destinations. The enhancements have created around 100 new jobs and also delivered wider improvements to the centre’s hospitality offering, including to its VIP lounges, guest services, landscaping and car parks.

 

This latest investment signals McArthurGlen’s commitment to the region that welcomed it over 20 years ago. Situated in the heart of Alessandria, the centre was the first designer outlet to arrive in Italy in 2000, and today has more than 240 stores spread across over 50,000m² of GLA, making it the largest luxury outlet in Europe by retail space. 

 

“We firmly believe in the value of the physical retail experience and that has always been at the heart of McArthurGlen,” said Joan Jove, Co-CEO of McArthurGlen, addingTogether with our long-standing investor partners from the European Outlet Mall Fund, we are thrilled to bring this new experiential element to our customers at Serravalle and introduce a cutting-edge facility that can be of benefit to the whole community.”

 

Anchoring the facility is Lele’s Aqua Park, which is a brand new concept in the McArthurGlen portfolio. Featuring a bespoke design, the 3,500m² waterpark features a variety of activities, including slides, water cannons and a large waterfall, designed to maximise the fun for children and enhance the day-out experience for families. The Playground, inspired by the work of the famous Dutch artist M.C Escher, spans approximately 2,500m² and consists of platforms and hexagonal towers in a labyrinth of interconnected play spaces. The play village includes a structure inspired by the small villages set in the beautiful Piedmontese landscape, aiming to create a world in which children can immerse themselves in exploration and discovery, while at all times remaining inclusive for those with disabilities. Flora’s Baby park is a new service offered to families while they are shopping at the centre. It enables parents and guardians to leave their children to play among a range of adventure activities, including a small vertical maze, which are supervised and assisted at all times by experienced staff. Designed specifically for the whole family is the Picnic Area, which provides a welcoming space set up with comfortable tables and chairs. Guests can relax in this environment while taking advantage of the centre’s excellent mix of F&B operators. 

  

The investment enhances Serravalle Designer Outlet’s sustainability credentials with new green spaces, improved water consumption and solar panels, supporting McArthurGlen’s commitment to reducing its impact on the environment. A newly planted garden comprising perennial plants and flowers encircles the leisure complex, creating a protective green belt around the family area that connects to the centre’s surrounding landscape. An integrated irrigation system reuses the water from the swimming pool, while two photovoltaic systems installed on the roofs of the changing rooms and public toilets provide energy from renewable sources.  

 

McArthurGlen’s long-standing partner Hydea designed the masterplan for the Family Entertainment Area, with sector specialistsCarve creating the Playground and Baby Park, and Cemi designing the waterpark.

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British ex-pat, 67, is forced to DESTROY his Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

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A British ex-pat has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer.

But the situation for 67-year-old Gurney Davey, from Suffolk, could get worse because he is facing six months in prison after a mayor illegally gave him planning permission for the house.

‘I was distraught at first, my blood pressure was sky high and then I lost my wife,’ Mr Davey said this week as he was demolishing his home near Tolox, Malaga.

Gurney Davey, 67, has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

Gurney Davey, 67, has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

Despite Friday’s demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as ‘some sort of relief’ having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house he built in 2003. 

It was then that legal firm, Manzanares, informed him he would be getting a licence for an ‘almacen’ (or storeroom), which would allow him to build the house.

‘We thought we had done everything right. We got legal advice and went through a lawyer in order to get permission to build the home,’ Davey explained. 

But he was later told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence of his own.

Mr Davey was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71.

‘Diana fought breast cancer for six years before bowel cancer – I am sure the stress brought it on.’ 

‘But thankfully it is now over,’ he explained. ‘It has been going on for so long now, I’ve finally come to terms with what needs to be done. 

‘Having it demolished was actually a relief,’ he added.

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it – just not in a house.

Despite Friday's demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as 'some sort of relief' having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house be built in 2003. Pictured: Mr Davey's home in Spain before it was demolished on Friday

Despite Friday’s demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as ‘some sort of relief’ having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house be built in 2003. Pictured: Mr Davey’s home in Spain before it was demolished on Friday

Mr Davey was told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence. Pictured: Mr Davey's home in Spain after it was demolished on Friday

Mr Davey was told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence. Pictured: Mr Davey’s home in Spain after it was demolished on Friday

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs still have the space to roam.

‘This land is my home, it is my life and these dogs are all I have left.’

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed.

The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house.

‘I went straight to Tolox town hall with it. They told me I shouldn’t have received it yet,’ he recalled. ‘They said they were going to be sending the notification to me once they had stamped it.’

He had never been told about the court case that followed on from a Guardia Civil denuncia for an ‘illegal build’, but Davey’s two-bed home should never have been built according to the Malaga court.

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs (pictured) still have the space to roam

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs (pictured) still have the space to roam

In 2016, and then again in 2017, Davey was ordered to knock down his house, but, in common with a neighbour, he waited for more details.

While his Spanish neighbour, Irene Millan, 29, did eventually hear from the court again, she was given six months to ‘legalise’ her property – an option Davey was never given.

However, his neighbour’s apparent good luck turned into a poisoned chalice.

Having spent €20,000 with the town hall to legalise the dwelling, the court finally refused to accept the new paperwork provided by the council.

Instead, demolition was ordered – which went ahead last week.

To add insult to injury Irene’s 54-year-old father, Manuel Millan, whose name was on the deeds, was also sentenced to six months jail and handed a fine of €6 a day for a year.

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed. The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour's house

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed. The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it - just not in a house. Pictured: Mr Davey, a former builder, uses a JCB digger to demolish his own home

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it – just not in a house. Pictured: Mr Davey, a former builder, uses a JCB digger to demolish his own home

The couple, originally from Suffolk in the UK, spent £130,000 building their property.

‘It came as a package – a plot with a new home on it.’

Davey admits he and his wife were perhaps naive to follow the advice of their lawyer.

The lawyer, from legal firm Manzanares, told them that planning permission would be applied for as an almacen – or ‘warehouse’.

Mr Davey (pictured) was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71

Mr Davey (pictured) was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71

This way it would come under the remit of Tolox town hall, which would give permission and later they could ‘legalise’ the property.

The language of one legal letter suggests this would be a mere formality, but the property never got legalised.

In fact, the Tolox mayor of the time, Juan Vera, has since been jailed and fined for his part in a scheme.

In most cases the mayor used the very same ‘lax’ procedure of applying to build an ‘almacen’ to try to keep the prying eyes of the Junta authorities away.

‘We thought that was the way things worked in Spain,’ said Davey, a retired builder. ‘We went to see a lawyer and got advice. It turns out that was not the smart thing to do.

‘Why would we deliberately try to build illegally? It makes no sense that we would sell up everything in the UK and risk it all.’

Mr Davey had earlier said that he was forced to ask the town hall for permission to knock his own property down.

‘I will do it myself. I will borrow a JCB from someone and flatten my home of the past 17 years. I will not let the town hall do it and charge me more money.’

It is not the first time British expats have had their homes demolished in Andalucia, with the Priors, in Almeria, the most famous victims.

They still live in the garage of their house today, over 10 years since the house was knocked down in Vera. 

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Two teenagers died after separate incidents in Dublin and Waterford

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Two teenagers have died after separate incidents in Dublin and Waterford on Wednesday.

Gardaí in Ballyfermot responded to a call at an equestrian centre at Tay Lane, Co Dublin, at about 2pm.

Dublin Fire Brigade and the National Ambulance Service attended the scene and provided medical assistance to a 15-year-old girl who was injured during an exercise event.

She was removed to Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin, where she later died.

Gardaí said the coroner has been notified. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has also been notified and will carry out an examination on Thursday.

Gardaí said investigations are ongoing. A file will be prepared for the Coroner’s Court.

Separately, gardaí and emergency services attended the scene of a workplace accident in Dungarvan, Co Waterford on Wednesday afternoon.

A boy was pronounced dead at the scene.

The HSA has been notified and will carry out an investigation. A file will be prepared for the coroner.

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