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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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Census 2022 – what difference does it make?

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Next Sunday, April 3rd, is Census night. Millions of people in homes countrywide will fill in page after page of questions, some of which are deeply personal and many of which might be unfamiliar.

But what it is it all about?

At a basic level, Census 2022 will be used to inform planning of public policy and services in the years ahead, according to the Central Statistics Office.

The questions will cover a range of environmental, employment and lifestyle issues, including the use of renewable energy sources in homes.

The questions will help inform policy development in the areas of energy and climate action, and the prevalence of internet access, to understand the availability of and need for internet connections and range of devices used to access the internet.

Questions also focus on changes in work patterns and will include the trend of working from home and childcare issues, while questions are also asked about the times individuals usually leave work, education or childcare, to help identify and plan for transport pattern needs locally and nationally.

Other topics covered include volunteering and the type of organisations volunteers choose to support, tobacco usage and the prevalence of smoke alarms in the home.

And of course there is a time capsule – the chance to write something which will be sealed for the next 100 years.

In this episode of In The News, the head of census administration Eileen Murphy and statistician Kevin Cunningham about what it all means for us.

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Oscars 2022: Will Smith makes Oscar history after slapping Chris Rock over joke about wife Jada Pinkett Smith | Culture

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Will Smith took the Oscar for Best Actor at last night’s 94th Academy Awards, but he also became the protagonist of the ceremony for other reasons. The night was following the script, until Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock on the stage after the latter made a joke about the shaved head of the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock had quipped that he was “looking forward to GI Jane 2,” in reference to her look. Pinkett Smith has revealed publicly that she has alopecia. It looked as if the moment had been planned, until Smith went back to his seat and shouted: “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth.”

The moment, which immediately became Oscar history but for all the wrong reasons, left the attendees with frozen smiles, and asking themselves whether it was possible that a veteran such as Smith could have lost his cool in front of tens of millions of people. After taking the prize for Best Actor, the superstar actor made a tearful apology, saying that he hoped the Academy “will invite me back.” Later on, actor Anthony Hopkins called for “peace and love,” but it was already too late. The incident overshadowed the success of CODA, which took the Oscar for Best Picture. Just like the time when Warren Beatty mistakenly named La La Land as the big winner of the night, no one will speak about anything else from last night’s awards.

At first sight, Smith’s actions looked as if they were scripted. When he first heard Rock’s joke, he laughed. But his wife was seen on camera rolling her eyes, and it was then that the actor got up onto the stage and hit Rock. When he returned to his seat he raised his voice twice to shout “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth,” sending a wave of unease and shock through the attending audience. The fact that he used the f-word, which is prohibited on US television, set alarm bells ringing that this was real and not a planned moment. In fact, the curse word was censored by the broadcaster, ABC, in the United States.

During a break, Smith’s PR manager approached him to speak. In the press room, which the actor skipped after collecting his prize, instructions were given to the journalists not to ask questions about the incident, Luis Pablo Beauregard reports. The next presenter, Sean “Diddy” Combs, tried to calm the situation. “Will and Chris, we’re going to solve this – but right now we’re moving on with love,” the rapper said.

When Smith took to the stage to collect his Best Actor award for his role as Richard Williams – the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena – in King Richard, he referred to the character as “a fierce defender of his family.” He continued: “I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people. I know to do what we do you’ve got to be able to take abuse, and have people talk crazy about you and have people disrespecting you and you’ve got to smile and pretend it’s OK.”

He explained that fellow actor Denzel Washington, who also spoke to Smith during a break, had told him: “At your highest moment, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you.”

“I want to be a vessel for love,” Smith continued. “I want to be an ambassador of that kind of love and care and concern. I want to apologize to the Academy and all my fellow nominees. […] I look like the crazy father just like they said about Richard Williams, but love will make you do crazy things,” he said. He then joked about his mother, who had not wanted to come to the ceremony because she had a date with her crochet group.

The Los Angeles Police Department released a statement last night saying that Chris Rock would not be filing any charges for assault against Smith. “LAPD investigative entities are aware of an incident between two individuals during the Academy Awards program,” the statement read. “The incident involved one individual slapping another. The individual involved has declined to file a police report. If the involved party desires a police report at a later date, LAPD will be available to complete an investigative report.”

On December 28, Pinkett Smith spoke on social media about her problems with alopecia. She stated that she would be keeping her head shaved and would be dealing with the condition with humor. “Me and this alopecia are going to be friends… Period!” she wrote on Instagram.



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House-price inflation set to stay double digit for much of 2022

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House-price inflation is expected to remain at double-digit levels for much of 2022 as the mismatch between what is for sale and what buyers want continues.

Two new reports on the housing market paint a picture of a sector under strain due to a lack of supply and increased demand driven by Covid-related factors such as remote working.

The two quarterly reports, one each from rival property websites myhome.ie and daft.ie, suggest asking prices accelerated again in the first quarter of 2022 as the stock of homes available for sale slumped to a new record low.

Myhome, which is owned by The Irish Times, said annual asking-price inflation was now running at 12.3 per cent.

Price

This put the median or typical asking price for a home nationally at €295,000, and at €385,000 in Dublin.

MyHome said the number of available properties for sale on its website fell to a record low of 11,200 in March, down from a pre-pandemic level of 19,000. The squeeze on supply, it said, was most acute outside Dublin, with the number of properties listed for sale down almost 50 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels.

It said impaired supply and robust demand meant double-digit inflation is likely until at least mid-2022.

“Housing market conditions have continued to tighten,” said author of the myhome report, Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille.

“The broad picture of the market in early 2022 remains similar to last year: impaired supply coupled with robust demand due to Ireland’s strong labour market,” he said.

Soure: MyHome.ie

“One chink of light is that new instructions to sell of 7,500 in the first 11 weeks of 2022 are well up from 4,800 in 2021, albeit still below the 9,250 in 2019. The flow of new properties therefore remains impaired,” said Mr Mac Coille.

“Whatever new supply is emerging is being met by more than ample demand. Hence, transaction volumes in January and February were up 13 per cent on the year but pushed the market into ever tighter territory,” he said.

He said Davy was now predicting property-price inflation to average 7 per cent this year, up from a previous forecast of 4.5 per cent, buoyed strong employment growth.

Homes

Daft, meanwhile, said house asking prices indicated the average listed price nationwide in the first quarter of 2022 was €299,093, up 8.4 per cent on the same period in 2021 and and just 19 per cent below the Celtic Tiger peak, while noting increases remain smaller in urban areas, compared to rural.

Just 10,000 homes were listed for sale on its website as of March 1st, an all-time low. In Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, prices in the first quarter of 2022 were roughly 4 per cent higher on average than a year previously, while in Limerick and Waterford cities the increases were 7.6 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report’s author, Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, said: “Inflation in housing prices remains stubbornly high – with Covid-19 disturbing an equilibrium of sorts that had emerged, with prices largely stable in 2019 but increasing since.

“As has been the case consistently over the last decade, increasing prices – initially in Dublin and then elsewhere – reflect a combination of strong demand and very weak supply.”


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