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It’s a merry Gerry Christmas as Sinn Féin tops popularity poll

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No prizes for guessing which political partygoers would have been happiest at their Oireachtas Christmas bash this year, if Christmas parties were still a thing. Which they aren’t – unless you work for Boris Johnson, in which case all bets are off.

The Shinners are cock-a-hoop after the party’s showing in our opinion poll this week. A full 15 popularity points ahead of Fianna Fáil and the same margin between themselves and Fine Gael.

While there’s many a slip ’twixt cup and lip and the Coalition parties will be banking on Sinn Féin losing some of its lustre before the next election, the results of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll brought no festive cheer.

Besides the United Ireland jigsaw and the United Ireland Santa hats there are other gift ideas in Sinn Féin’s Dublin-based online shop

“Devastating,” was one senior Government TD’s verdict. There is more than a touch of “house private, no flowers” about the two parties formerly known as the “two main parties” this weekend.

On the other hand, former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams couldn’t be any more cock-a-hoop if his cock were a goose and his hoop made of gold.

His united Ireland elves have been busy making little video vignettes starring their Gerry. He is filmed in his Sinn Féin United Ireland Christmas jumper, plugging items on sale in the republican gift shop in the Sinn Féin building on the Falls Road. In another side-splitter expertly designed to give Southern rivals a fit of the vapours, he is a carol singer materialising on the doorstep to wish them a “Gerry little Christmas” before singing “Tiochfaidh ar lá, lá-lá-lá-lá.”

“Well, was it the carol singers?” the man of the house is asked when he returns.

“I can neither confirm nor deny it was carol singers,” he replies, before turning to the camera with a knowing wink. “They haven’t gone away you know.”

Besides the United Ireland jigsaw and the United Ireland Santa hats there are other gift ideas in Sinn Féin’s Dublin-based online shop. The Lark Store on the Falls Road lists Sinn Féin as a partner and sells all the merchandise available on the official party website, and more.

And they all stock the pamphlets in Gerry Adams’s Léargas series of musings about men and women he has known “along life’s journey”.

The latest is called Óglach Bobby Storey: A Life Well Lived – A tribute to Bob Mór, soldier, activist, comrade & patriot. It costs £7/€7.50 and has a lovely photo of Bobby on the front. “Seventeen sold in the last 10 hours,” according to the Lark Store online shop yesterday.

The previous pamphlet (part five) is Óglach Kevin McKenna: Leader, Freedom Fighter, Patriot – A tribute to Caoimhín MacCionnaith from friends and comrades. McKenna, who died in 2019, was IRA chief of staff during the 1980s and 90s.

Other gift solutions include Gerry Kelly’s newly published book of poetry, Inside & Out, selling for £10 from the Belfast store (19 sold in the last 18 hours).

The 40th anniversary Hunger Strike kids’ sports top at £25 seems very popular (21 sold in last 10 hours) but the commemorative Bobby Sands H Block bronze-effect statue is quite something. Priced at £50 (25 sold in last 22 hours).

The merchandise in the Falls Road gift shop is certainly doing a bomb – loads of items, many of them quite niche, but all selling by the bucketload. Perhaps there is a lot of money coming in from US buyers, which would make sense.

Honouring an old friend – and rival – at the Áras

With a Seanad byelection in the offing, recent sightings in Dublin and Galway of former senator Billy Lawless fuelled speculation that the Chicago-based businessman is preparing for a tilt at Ivana Bacik’s vacant seat on the Dublin University panel.

Billy was appointed senator for the diaspora in 2016 by Enda Kenny and he ran unsuccessfully in one of the two Seanad byelections held in April.

The latest one is expected in the spring, but Lawless won’t be on the ballot sheet. “I think I’ll give this one a rain check,” he said yesterday, hinting his Seanad days are over.

Did you ever, ever see a public servant sacked? Do you know what they do with them? They kind of reward them, put them into a bigger office just to get rid of them, so they do

He was back in Ireland to receive a Presidential Distinguished Service Award from Michael D Higgins at a scaled-back ceremony in the Áras last week. The awards were established a decade ago by the Government to recognise people living overseas who have given sustained and distinguished service to Ireland or Irish communities abroad, or who have been involved in a global or international issue of importance.

While the scheme is open to all people living abroad, it is primarily aimed at Irish citizens, those entitled to Irish citizenship and persons of Irish descent.

Lawless, who runs a number of bars and restaurants in Chicago, was honoured for his work with the Irish immigrant community in the US.

The award ceremony didn’t take place in 2020 so two sets of winners were presented with awards by the President. There was to be a dinner afterwards at Farmleigh House, but that was scuppered by the pandemic.

The former senator and the President had plenty to talk about – the two men go back a long way. Billy’s political ambition was thwarted in 1991 when he failed to win a seat for Fine Gael on Galway City Council. But his friend and neighbour, the Labour candidate Michael D. Higgins, topped the poll.

Public servant power

Michael Ring’s mojo is back and he’s all riled up.

He informed the Dáil in a passionate contribution during a debate on the Planning and Development Bill: “I’m schstartin’ a campaign in the new year. I have the bite back in me again. I’m ready for FIGHT!”

And he had a message for the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien: “If you don’t take on the public servants I don’t know where this country is going to be. It’s time that a small bit of power came back to the elected representatives.”

The Ringer had strong support for his views on the planning process from rural TDs who were egging him on during the late-night debate.

Pointing to Green Party TD Stephen Matthews, he said he doesn’t blame the Minister for “what we have done in this country. I blame fellas like him and the Green Party. Fellas like that, who come down to Mayo and come down to Cork and come down to Kerry and they want to build a holiday home and the minute they build the holiday home they don’t want anyone beside them, and they’re objecting,” fulminated the Mayo TD.

“We had objections from Dún Laoghaire. We had objections from Wicklow. We had objections from Germany, to local people” trying to build homes and businesses.

The country is being run by a dictatorship. “Not a political dictatorship, but a public service dictatorship.” And it’s got to such a stage now they think they’re more powerful than you,” he told O’Brien.

When he was part of the last government he “preached it every time at the cabinet that these people were gone out of hand with the Dublin 4 media and RTÉ and all these media people” criticising deputies for representing the people who elect them.

“Did you ever, ever see a public servant sacked? Did you ever see a public servant disciplined? Do you know what they do with them? They kind of reward them, put them into an office and get them a bigger office just to get rid of them, so they do, if they’re causing trouble.”

He then veered off down a strange path.

“If we don’t bring power back to the people, the people will take the power off the politicians,” he thundered, before looking at his party colleague, Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd.

“You talked about the Ard Comhairle or Sinn Féin bringing them [people making planning submissions] to public meetings. Well, when the Army Council are on one corner and the public servants on the other corner, it’s going to be hard luck for this country, so it is.”

What was that all about?

Waylaid plans

That debate took place after midnight. Few would have been listening. But before Michael Ring let loose, Fergus O’Dowd had the floor. He told a curious story.

He said he received a complaint earlier this year from people who made a submission to the council when the latest Louth County Development Plan was being put together. They wanted some land rezoned to build a family home on it.

They were “invited” by “the Sinn Féin Party in Dundalk to attend a Sinn Féin meeting to discuss their planning application”, O’Dowd told the Dáil. “They had to go to a political party meeting, adjudicated by what they called a chairperson. Deputies and councillors may have been present.

The decision was then given to the applicants some days later by a gentleman from Sinn Féin, or some other organisation, knocking on their door and telling them whether or not it was backing them. That should not be happening. It is wrong and it is abuse.”

“Outrageous!” said Darragh O’Brien.

O’Dowd said he brought the matter to the attention of the Office of the Planning Regulator but he got nowhere. “There are many abuses of planning, but political planning, where people must attend the headquarters of Sinn Féin or any other party to make their case is absolutely unacceptable.”

“Hear! Hear!” cried the Minister.

“It is wrong and disgraceful and Sinn Féin Members of this House should come in here and tell the truth about what is going on up there,” added Fergus.

“We must not have political decision-making in any political party’s head office on a person’s county development plan submission. It’s wrong.”

We contacted the Louth TD, who says he absolutely stands by the story.

O’Dowd claims he knows this happened on more than one occasion.

“He didn’t look to meet them. They looked to meet him. This is bringing people into a political domain through a third party.

The chair of the meeting wasn’t even a public representative. How is this allowed to go on?”

He’s put it on the Dáil record now.

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Girl who fell from ‘Santa train’ settles High Court action

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A girl who fell out of a miniature “Santa train” on her way to visit a festive grotto has settled her High Court action against the operators for €192,000.

Freya Moore, who was six at the time of the 2016 incident, fell out through a door gap over which a chain was placed as the train was going around a corner in the Donegal attraction, it was claimed.

Her jacket allegedly got caught in part of the train and she was dragged for a short distance with her leg getting caught under the train before the alarm was raised, it was further claimed.

Freya, now 11, suffered a soft tissue injury to her leg and later required plastic surgery.

Through her father, Chris Moore, Breton Road, Lisburn, Co Antrim, she sued the operator of the Santa Train, Gerry Robinson, trading as Difflin Light Railways, operating at Oakfield Park, Raphoe, Co Donegal.

The accident happened on December 17th, 2016, when she was on a visit to the Santa Train excursion which involved travelling from “Oakfield Park Station” to a Santa’s grotto.

Liability was not conceded and there was a full defence to the claim.

In the action, it was claimed the defendant was negligent on a number of grounds including a failure to provide a safe premises and to ensure the chain across the door was at a height suitable to ensure a child of her age would not fall out.

It was claimed she was left with a scar on her right lower leg and may require further plastic surgery in the future. Afterwards, she was worried about accidents and falling out of a car and was anxious when visiting fairgrounds.

Micheál Ó Scanaill SC, for Freya, told the court the case had been settled for €192,000.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna approved the settlement with a payout of €2,000 for Freya and the remainder to be lodged in court until she reaches 18. The judge wished her the best of luck.

Mr Robinson died in October 2021.

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Catella invests €15.5m in Portuguese student accommodation

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The Catella European Residential Fund (CER) has made its first venture into the emerging Portuguese institutional investment market for student housing with the acquisition of an asset in the municipality of Cascais, just to the west of Lisbon, for €15.5m. The vendor is Value One HoldingThe property is located close to the beach in the Lombos neighbourhood of Carcavelos within the Cascais municipality and is a 10-minute walk from Portugal’s most prestigious business school, the NOVA School of Business and Economics, which has a student population of over 3,500. The centre of Lisbon can be reached within 20 minutes via two train stations. The 6,622m² property was built in 2020 and comprises 192 spacious single rooms (20m² on average) with a gym, rooftop terrace, study, music and leisure rooms and parking. It is 99% occupied and has obtained LEED Gold sustainability certification for its construction.

 

European student accommodation provider MILESTONE operates the residence under a management contract. MILESTONE was founded in Vienna, is a member of the Value One Group, an international real estate Developer and student housing operator and brings extensive knowledge of the conception, design and successful management of student housing, combined with international expertise. MILESTONE currently has 4,627 beds of purpose-built student housing under management and in development across Austria, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Italy.

 

Eduardo Guardiola, Managing Partner of Catella AM Iberia, said: This is a milestone for CER marking the vehicle’s first investment in Portugal. It is also an important step for CRIM as it represents the investment manager’s entry into Portugal. For Catella AM Iberia it marks our third transaction as advisors on a student accommodation acquisition in the Iberian region. The Portuguese real estate market is becoming increasingly relevant across both the affordable rental and student housing markets – which although very different in maturity and size offer some excellent investment opportunities.”

 

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Kirstie and Phil’s Love It Or List It viewers slam father-of-two who ‘clearly wants a bachelor pad’

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Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed a father-of-two who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said he wanted a home where his children were ‘out the way.’

Sophie and Paul, from Aylesbury, who had spent the last eight years  in their home, had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years. 

The couple had allocated £90,000 to transform their house, but also had a £525,000 budget to look at new homes elsewhere. 

Following Kirstie’s advice on the show, they spent £80,000 converting their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension.

But many of those watching were unimpressed by Paul’s attitude after he said he liked their new playroom because it meant his children ‘couldn’t bug him’.

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil's Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who 'clearly wanted a bachelor pad' after he said a home where his children were 'out the way'

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said a home where his children were ‘out the way’

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage 

One wrote: ‘He doesn’t like his in-laws, his kids or his house. Think he wishes he was still a bachelor.’

Another wrote: ‘The partner is just gross, he just keeps going on about not being a bachelor anymore and how he doesn’t want the kids to bug him.

‘I get the sense he still likes to think of himself as a bachelor, I can just imagine him on a night out without her.’ 

Appearing on the programme last night, Sophie and Paul had been together for eight years and had two children, seven-year-old Finley and three-year-old Georgia. 

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years 

Following Kirstie's advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

Following Kirstie’s advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

But when Paul bought their three bedroom house 13 years ago, a family home was not the objective. 

He explained: ‘This was my bachelor pad. I’m team List It, I want something fresh and new for Sophie and the kids.’

Meanwhile Sophie said: ‘I’m definitely a home bird and I love being here.’

She said they relied on her parents ‘a lot’ because they lived at the bottom of the road.   

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were 'always on top of each other'

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were ‘always on top of each other’ 

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property's conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn't fit for purpose for their children

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property’s conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn’t fit for purpose for their children 

But Paul said: ‘My pet hates include the location, the small bedroom upstairs is a tiny box-room. 

‘The playroom downstairs isn’t fit for purpose, the kitchen needs overhauling and the garage is a mess.

‘The most important thing for me in a house is having the divide between adult space and children space and I think that’s important especially as they grow up.’ 

Sophie added: ‘We’ve been in a limbo now for three years where nothing has been done.’  

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured)

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured) 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner)

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner) 

While Sophie said the bedrooms were 'nice' (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was 'a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk'

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’ (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk’

She told Kirstie and Phil she wanted to extend their home, while Paul said: ‘I’ve fallen out of love with the property. We’re all on top of each other here.’ 

But Sophie admitted she was unwilling to move further than a 15 minute drive from her parent’s home. 

Kirstie warned they would have to go to the top of their budget to fix the home’s problems, suggesting extending the kitchen diner into the area where the current conservatory is.

Meanwhile she said they could also convert the garage into a new living room, creating space for a new hallway. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured)

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured) 

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it's playroom, adding it would 'keep the children out the way' (pictured)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it’s playroom, adding it would ‘keep the children out the way’ (pictured) 

Upstairs, the extension would give space for four bedrooms and a master suite.

Meanwhile the first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was. 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden.

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’, Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk.’  

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured)

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured) 

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom 

However the couple ultimately decided the downstairs living space wasn’t large enough for their family. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000. 

The detached home had been on the market a while, and Phil hoped that a deal could be done.

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen.   

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple's changes to their property and were blown away

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple’s changes to their property and were blown away 

Commenting on the couple's decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they 'wouldn't come through to bug us'

Commenting on the couple’s decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they ‘wouldn’t come through to bug us’

Paul commented: ‘Good playroom at the front…keep them out the way. Eventually this could be my main cave.’ 

And the final property in their search was in the quaint village of Stoke, with Paul saying: ‘I like the outside and it’s in a good location.’

The four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000, with a large kitchen diner and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom.

Outside, there was a double length garage which could be used for storage space. 

Fifteen months after the couple started the renovations on their home, Kirstie and Phil returned to find the property had been completely transformed. 

However despite Sophie and Paul's joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

They were blown away by the extension the couple had added to their home, with even Sophie admitting it was ‘bigger than they expected it to be.’

Meanwhile Paul added: ‘It’s definitely not a bachelor pad now.’

And commenting on the decision to build a separate  play room, he said: ‘The children can turn right [to the playroom] as opposed to coming all the way through here and bugging us.’ 

Overall the couple spent £80,000 and the property value has increased by £150,0000.

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitude. 

One wrote: ‘I think this guy just doesn’t want to live in the same house as his kids.’

Another added: ‘The guy on this obviously wants away from her parents and somewhere to shove the kids out of the way…he wants a bachelor pad…just come out and say it!’

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