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Happy house-hunters Leo and Matt go upwardly mobile

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After years of apartment living, Leo Varadkar is all set for a big move to a new house in Dublin 8 with his partner, Matt Barrett.

Leinster House thrives on gossip and in recent years rumour has abounded about the pair house-hunting around south Dublin. So much so that the Tánaiste can name the locations and cost of numerous million-euro-plus coastal properties they are supposed to have viewed and/or purchased.

This time, though, the rumours are true. Matt has bought a place on one of those nice tree-lined Victorian streets near the South Circular Road. They got the keys last week.

The gardaí are currently giving the road the once-over so they can put security in place. That should please the neighbours. Leo resumes as Taoiseach at the end of 2022 when he takes over from Micheál Martin in accordance with the Coalition deal with Fianna Fáil.

The house isn’t too far from where Dr Barrett works as a cardiologist in St Vincent’s University Hospital while the 42-year-old Tánaiste, who has an apartment in Carpenterstown, is clearly very excited about living somewhere with a garden which is close to where most of his friends live and from where he can walk to work.

He says he has always been a suburbanite so it will be nice to live close to town for a change and he will also be able to have more than four people over for dinner as the apartment only has a small galley kitchen.

The handsome villa-style house is in an area of old Dublin adjacent to the Liberties where house prices have shot up in recent years due to its popularity with the property industry’s beloved “young professionals”. With a mixture of elegant old housing and a dwindling stock of “doer-uppers” the district is a firm favourite with media and creative types.

And as this is Pride Week, it would be remiss of us not to to mention that Dublin 8 is also known to many in the city’s LGBTQ+ community as the “gaybourhood”.

On the thorny subject of housing, the Tánaiste might be interested to know he will be residing quite close to a thriving community area called the Tenters, location of the State’s first public housing scheme. The Tenters marks its 100th anniversary this year. Perhaps near-neighbour Leo will pop around to cut the cake.

He will also be moving into the FG-free zone of Dublin South Central, which has neither a TD nor a councillor from that party. The Fine Gael leader is hopeful that Senator Mary Seery-Kearney can reverse that.

Candidates pop into the chemist’s for photos

Bizarre Wars: the Phantom Menace.

Kate O’Connell continues to be the ghost at the Dublin Bay South feast, despite Fine Gael’s best efforts to exorcise the spirit of their former TD from their byelection campaign.

The party is getting out the numbers for their canvasses, with Ministers, TDs and Senators from all over the country reporting for duty with the local troops. It’s difficult to see what advantage is gained from presenting rural backbenchers on the doorsteps apart from chance “I know your people” encounters, but more bodies are always welcome.

Sources within rival camps are gleefully reporting that O’Connell’s highly publicised failure to get the party’s nomination to run for the seat vacated by former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy is coming up on the doors. Some Fine Gael canvassers are not privately denying this, while journalists on the trail have also reported that the Kate O’Connell saga is still of interest to voters around the leafier parts of DBS.

While the party is throwing everything at the drive to get James Geoghegan into the Dáil and avoid the unimaginable scenario of having no representative in this solid Fine Gael territory, it seems Kate’s pharmacy in Rathgar has become a pilgrimage site for the other candidates and their parties. Fianna Fáil was delighted to tweet a photograph of the ex-TD meeting Taoiseach Micheál Martin at her shop while he was canvassing for Deirdre Conroy.

And then who should pitch up in the pharmacy only Mary Lou McDonald with candidate Lynn Boylan in tow. Naturally pictures had to be taken and put up on social media.

Labour’s Ivana Bacik, apparently the only candidate who actually lives in the constituency, is a regular customer and she has been snapped having the chats with Kate.

No sign of James Geoghegan or the Fine Gael crew, though.

“It’s beginning to look like a rite of passage for all the parties to have their photograph taken with her,” remarked one miffed Fine Gaeler. “At the very best it’s attention-seeking.”

“She’s like a mutant Fine Gael variant with spike proteins that stick to non-blueshirt hosts,” sniggered an activist from a rival party who is clearly reading too much about Covid-19.

For her part, Kate O’Connell appears to be taking great pleasure in putting all the snaps up on her Instagram feed.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil seems out of the running, with Labour’s Ivana Bacik popular around the constituency and Sinn Féin making the sort of shapes a party make when they reckon they are in with a shot.

Local lawyer and Fianna Fáil leadership hopeful Jim O’Callaghan (or the Milky Bar Kid as we heard him called in some quarters) is Deirdre Conroy’s director of elections. It’s not the most dynamic campaign, but then, there aren’t two seats for Fianna Fáil in this neck of the woods. An opposition spotter cycled around the Victorian redbricks of Rathmines and Rathgar this week, including the street where O’Callaghan lives.

“Ivana posters everywhere along with James Geoghegan and Mairead Toíbín of Aontú. Barely a sign of Deirdre.”

Iron men go to battle for their counties

Last week we told you about the Fianna Fáil Senator from Wexford who was running from the top to the bottom of his county in aid of motor neuron disease research. Malcolm Byrne completed his challenge in stages over a week.

Now we bring news of Fine Gael’s Ciarán Cannon, who went one better last Saturday by cycling from the top to the bottom of the country in a day. The TD for Galway East, who describes himself as an “ultracyclist”, pedalled from Mizen Head to Malin Head to raise money and awareness for Hand in Hand, a national charity which supports families affected by childhood cancer.

The former minister of state for education (he is also an accomplished musician and composer) cycled a whopping 575.55km, completing his epic journey in 23 hours and 23 minutes. Ironman Ciarán was part of a team of eight cyclists from Galway who took on the ride. He has set up a fundraising page, Ireland in a Day, and people can contribute a few bob on iDonate.ie.

On Friday, donations were at €18,000, nearly double his €10,000 target.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Byrne was still singing the delights of his county in the Seanad on Monday. Strawberry season is upon us, he informed the House, and Wexford has some of the finest strawberries in the country. Then he produced one from his pocket for the delectation of his colleagues. It was the size of a small turnip.

He said he had a few punnets out in the car and would bring some in for the Cathaoirleach. He also mentioned a young man from Wexford called Mark Kavanagh who has set up a business selling a new vodka liquor called Wexbury. If Malcolm had any of it in his boot he wasn’t offering to bring it in.

Not to be outdone, Fianna Fáil’s Garret Ahearn got in on the act.

“We’ve got apples in Tipperary: The Apple Farm – Con Traas, he does fantastic work. A fantastic local business, only a mile away from me at home. I would encourage anyone to go there to buy his apples. He does strawberries as well, but apples he’s famous for. And cider. Lovely cider.”

When Fine Gael’s Joe O’Reilly got his turn to speak, he couldn’t let the other two away with their free advertising.

“Just to let you know, Cathaoirleach and colleagues, that Co Cavan has free fishing on 365 lakes and then you can view the drumlins as well, the beautiful drumlins, after the day’s fishing.”

Wallace’s star rises in the east

Mick Wallace is big in China these days.

They’ll roll out the red carpet in Tiananmen Square for Mick (and his MEP colleague Clare Daly, presumably) should they ever wish to top their controversial visit to Iraq earlier this year with a trip to Beijing.

The China Daily, English language organ of the Communist Party, has been singing his praises of late. Former TD Wallace played a starring role in Monday’s editorial for his remarks in the European Parliament questioning the EU’s “aggressive” stance on China while being “led by the nose” by the Americans “who have a vested interest in challenging China at the moment”.

Wallace’s comments followed an EU decision to freeze a massive trade deal as relations soured amid concerns over human rights abuses in China, particularly against the Muslim minority in Xinjiang. The US has described Beijing’s crackdown against the Uighurs as genocide and imposed a trade embargo.

“Although Wallace has been outspoken in praising China’s performance in poverty reduction, infrastructure construction and climate change mitigation, it is the European Union’s interests that motivated his questioning of why the EU was choosing an aggressive position with China,” explained the writer. “He is right in pointing out that it is Washington’s anxiety about losing its financial supremacy to China that has prompted it to try to hype up the so-called China threats, and draw its allies to contain the rise of the country after failing to achieve that on its own under the previous Donald Trump administration.”

China Daily gave a number of reasons why Mick Wallace was right to condemn America.

“While the US has repeatedly invaded and meddled in the affairs of other countries and regions, China has been striving to lift its people out of poverty and seek breakthroughs in technology and contribute to the common development of the world” was one of them.

Not to mention “the simultaneous decay of Washington’s spirit of multilateralism and willingness to abide by rules and its deteriorated sense of responsibility”.

And China is way more sound on the coronavirus question than America.

The state-controlled newspaper concluded: “It is thus justified for Wallace to press the EU to be wary of relinquishing its independence of action and being led astray by the US.”

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Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

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The killing on Saturday evening in the western town of Idar-Oberstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, is believed to be the first in Germany linked to the government’s coronavirus rules.

The row started when the cashier, a student, told the customer to put on a face mask, as required in all German shops. After a brief argument, the man left.

The suspect then returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he brought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off the mask and another discussion ensued.

“The perpetrator then pulled out a revolver and shot him straight in the head,” prosecutor Kai Fuhrmann told reporters on Monday.

The suspect, a 49-year-old German man, walked to a police station the following day to turn himself in. He was arrested and has confessed to the murder.

He told police he felt “cornered” by the coronavirus measures, which he perceived as an “ever-growing infringement on his rights” and he had seen “no other way out”, Fuhrmann said.

Idar-Oberstein mayor Frank Fruehauf called it “an unfathomable, terrible act”, and residents have laid flowers and candles outside the petrol station.

The murder comes just days before Germans head to the polls for a general election on September 26 that will see Chancellor Angela Merkel bow out of politics after 16 years.

Katrin Goering-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of the Green party, tweeted that she was “deeply shaken” by the killing, which she said was “the cruel result of hatred”.

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner from Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, who hails from the region, said the murder was “shocking”.

The Tagesspiegel newspaper said far-right chat groups on Telegram were applauding the murder, with one user writing “Here we go!!!” while others posted thumbs-up emojis.

Germany has seen repeated protests from anti-mask demonstrators throughout the pandemic, some of them attracting tens of thousands of people.

The Querdenker (Lateral Thinkers) movement has emerged as the loudest voice against the government’s coronavirus curbs and regulations. Its marches have drawn a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of Germany’s far-right AfD party.



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Remains found in Dublin adds intrigue to search for Robert Emmet’s grave

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Skeletal remains have been found at one of the locations identified as a possible last resting place of Robert Emmet who was executed on this day in 1803.

The remains were found during an excavation at the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter in Dublin.

The disappearance of the body of Robert Emmet is one of the great mysteries of Irish history.

Emmet was tried and then hanged for instigating the ill-fated 1803 rebellion. He became a symbol of Irish martyrdom for his speech from the dock in which he concluded: “Let them and me rest in obscurity and peace, and my name remain uninscribed, until other times and other men can do justice to my character. When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written.”

After he was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803, his head was displayed to the crowd by the hangman Thomas Galvin. The remains of Emmet’s body was taken to Bully’s Acre in the grounds of what is now the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and buried there.

When some of his friends went to reintern his remains from Bully’s Acre to St Michan’s Church in Church Street, a church associated with the United Irishmen, they found there was no body there, and so began a search which endures to this day.

Robert Emmet was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803.
Robert Emmet was publicly hanged outside St Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street on September 20th, 1803.

His great-nephew Dr Thomas Addis Emmet requested an archaeological dig at the family vault in St Peter’s Church in Aungier Street to mark the centenary of Emmet’s death in 1903, but that proved to be unsuccessful.

Speculation

St Paul’s Church is another contender in the saga of Emmet’s remains. It was the parish church of Kilmainham Gaol’s doctor and effective governor Dr Edward Trevor.

In his book In the Footsteps of Robert Emmet, JJ Reynolds speculated that Trevor removed Emmet’s body and put it in an unmarked grave in the grounds of St Paul’s Church. This was to ensure that his grave would not become a shrine for Irish nationalism.

The church, which was the venue for the consecration of the philosopher George Berkeley as Bishop of Cloyne in 1734, has been converted into the Spade Enterprise Centre, a not-for-profit social enterprise unit.

The land where the skeletal remains were found is being turned into a shared kitchen for small business enterprises in the area.

The yard at the the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter, Dublin where skeletal remains were found.
The yard at the the back of St Paul’s Church in Stoneybatter, Dublin where skeletal remains were found.

Archaeologist Franc Miles said burials in the grounds were from 1702 to the 1860s. A extant set of burial records remain, but Emmet, if he really is buried there, would have no record.

Previous exhumations were carried out when the graveyard was closed in 1860s to make way for a school on the site.

“With all the evacuations, we were left with bits and pieces of body. There weren’t many full skeletons,” he said.

Mr Miles said it all the gravemarkers and stones were removed in the 1860s “so all you are left with really are bones.”

Mr Miles said it would be difficult if not impossible to identify Emmet’s remains even if they are buried in the grounds of St Paul’s Church.

His own “educated guess” is that Emmet’s body is still buried somewhere in Bully’s Acre.

As many of his supporters have said over the last two centuries: “Do not look for him. His grave is Ireland.”

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How the cost of renting an apartment in Copenhagen compares to other cities in Denmark

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With the arguable exception of second city Aarhus, Copenhagen is significantly more expensive to rent housing than anywhere else in Denmark.

But the extra cost in the capital depends on where else in Denmark you compare with, as well as the type of housing you rent.

Private or general housing?

First, it is important to note the difference between the two main types of rental housing in Denmark: private rentals and almene boliger (literally, ‘general housing’), a form of subsidised housing.

For almene boliger, local municipalities put up 10 percent of building costs and in return have the right to decide who is allocated one in four available apartments, enabling them to provide housing to municipal residents who need it. The housing therefore plays a role in the social housing provision.

This type of housing is normally managed by a boligforening or housing association. Rent goes towards costs of running the housing and to pay off the housing association’s loans, which means property owners aren’t profiting from rents and prices are controlled.

Aside from housing assigned by the municipality, almene boliger are open for anyone. However, to get one, you must get to the top of a waiting list, which you join by signing up with associations which operate housing in the city where you live (or want to live).

In Copenhagen or Aarhus, it can take years to get to the top of these lists, while in smaller cities you might get an offer in weeks or even days.

As such, many newcomers to Denmark must turn to the private rental market if they are living in one of the main cities.

READ ALSO: Deposits, complaints and registration: Five key things to know about renting in Denmark

Private housing: Copenhagen clearly pricier 

A study conducted by housing research centre Bolius in November 2020 found the cost of a 56 square-metre apartment in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district to be 8,536 kroner per month.

The study, which was based on data from 2019 and 2020 from rental platforms boliga.dk and boligportal.dk, shows the average monthly cost of non-limited private apartments on Nørrebro, compared with 16 other locations in Denmark.

The cost takes into account the cost of a deposit (normally three months’ rent) and adds it to the average cost of renting the housing for five years (thereby assuming none of the deposit is returned to the tenant).

In comparison to the price in Nørrebro, the study found rent in Hillerød north of Copenhagen to be slightly less (8,218 kroner) for a slightly larger apartment (65 square metres).

Moving further out from Copenhagen, costs begin to drop even more.

In Kalundborg on the west coast of Zealand, you can rent a 71-square-metre flat for 5,167 kroner per month. Næstved, a commuter town between Copenhagen and the Great Belt Bridge, comes in at 6,039 kroner for an apartment at 72 square metres.

The cheaper rents are consistent further to the west, exemplified in Jutland cities Aalborg (5,544 kroner for 62 square metres), Vejle (6.696 kroner for 84 square metres) and Esbjerg (4,399 kroner for 54 square metres).

Although Aarhus is not included in the study, third-largest city Odense is. Here, there is still a significant saving on Copenhagen, with 8,488 kroner, a similar rent to that in Nørrebro, getting you an apartment over 50 percent bigger at 82 square metres.

General (almene) housing: closer, but still higher in Greater Copenhagen

Rent prices for almene or subsidised housing were most recently analysed in a 2020 report by Landsbyggefonden (National Building Foundation), a support institution for the social housing sector.

According to that report, the rent for family housing (meaning housing not reserved for students or seniors) is “on average, approximately 100-200 kroner per square metre higher [per year, ed.] east of the Great Belt Bridge than west of it”.

Of the five administrative regions, average rent for family subsidised housing is highest in Greater Copenhagen at 906 kroner per square metre for a year’s rent.

The lowest rents can be found in South Denmark, where the yearly cost is 722 kroner per square metre.

Zealand is the region that comes closest to Copenhagen on the costs for this type of regular housing. Here, tenants can expect to pay 859 kroner per square metre in a year. The equivalent costs in Central Jutland and North Jutland and 778 kroner and 747 kroner respectively.

The study also places Greater Copenhagen as the most expensive region when rents are presented as the median monthly rent for family housing.

Here, the median values are split into five categories based on apartment size, with Copenhagen coming out as the most expensive region for each category.

For example, the median monthly rents for apartments between 50-60 square metres are as follows: 5,039 kroner (Greater Copenhagen); 4,913 kroner (Zealand); 4,541 kroner (Central Jutland); 4,388 kroner (North Jutland); 4,236 kroner (South Denmark). The national average is 4,667 kroner.

Sources: Domea, Bolius, Landsbyggefonden



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