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Major ‘resented’ taoiseach’s criticism of his role

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The determination of the Orange Order to march down Garvaghy Road in Drumcree near Portadown, and the equal determination of people living there to stop them, provoked a serious spat between the taoiseach and the British prime minister in July 1996.

During a heated phone call, John Major threatened to end the conversation when John Bruton questioned whether the UK government was in charge of the situation around the Co Armagh town.

The context of the phone call was that on July 6th, RUC chief constable Hugh Annesley announced that Orangemen attending a service the next day at the local Church of Ireland church would not be permitted to leave the area by marching down the road, which was populated almost entirely by Catholic nationalists.

After the service on July 7th, the Orangemen, as they had been told, were blocked from going down the road and a stand-off ensued.

Over the following days numbers swelled to 10,000 people, many of them loyalist paramilitaries. As loyalists vented their anger, there was rioting around the area of the blockade and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

The RUC said that over four days, there were 758 attacks on them, resulting in 50 of their members being injured. Some 662 plastic bullets were fired in rioting, during which 90 civilians were injured. On July 7th, a Catholic taxi driver in Lurgan was murdered by loyalists.

Just before noon on July 11th, and with the prospect of up to 50,000 people massing to force their way down the road, Annesley reversed his decision.

As a result, 1,200 Orangeman walked through the area in triumph, to the dismay of local nationalist residents, who were not consulted about the decision.

Nationalists there and elsewhere reacted by rioting.

Dublin fury

The Irish government was furious, as evident from the opening salvo from Bruton when he spoke to Major by phone on the evening after Annesley’s noon decision, referencing in the first instance John Holmes, Major’s private secretary.

“John Holmes indicated to me that you would be available to take a call from me at 8 o’clock,” Bruton began. “I have been sitting here in the office for two hours. I am glad that you have eventually taken the call but I would have thought that you mightn’t have let me know that you would be available to take the call if you weren’t.”

Major replied: “I wasn’t aware that you wanted a call at 8 o’clock, John. I have…”

Bruton interrupted.

“John Holmes told me that specifically,” he said.

“I have been at a series of meetings,” Major continued, “and not least dealing with the problems of Northern Ireland and what is now happening in various parts of Northern Ireland all evening.”

“Yes, yes,” said Bruton. “Well I have been sitting here watching the television and watching the results of the decision that was taken by the chief constable this morning, which is very, very serious I have to tell you. I think it is showing force winning the day, and one of the things I have spent my time working with you was to demonstrate that there was another way forward apart from force.”

Bruton went on to assert that efforts at negotiating a resolution to the stand-off had been “just swept aside” by Annesley’s decision.

Major countered by saying that matters “were a bit more complex than that”.

The Garvaghy Road residents spokesman, Brendan McKenna, also known as Breandán Mac Cionnaith, had been convicted and jailed for six years in the early 1980s for his role in an IRA bombing in Portadown and as a result, Orangemen refused to talk to him.

“He served his sentence,” said Bruton.

“Nobody is going to talk to him,” Major replied.

“David Ervine was a terrorist too,” said Bruton, referring to the loyalist politician then engaged in multi-party talks taking place in Belfast.

Sunningdale comparison

Major went on to defend Annesley, saying the decision to let the marchers down the road was the chief constable’s alone but one that the prime minister understood.

Burton likened the climbdown to 1974, when the British gave in to loyalist threats, thereby collapsing the Sunningdale executive, the first cross-community powersharing government in Northern Ireland. Major said he didn’t want to squabble with him.

“I don’t believe that the British army is unable and the British forces are unable to protect people to that degree,” said the taoiseach. “It seems to me that starting off on the course of saying that you are going to block the road and then when the numbers get too large backing off does not convey a sense of resolution or a sense that your government is in charge.”

This clearly irritated Major.

“I resent that, John,” he snapped, “and if you are going to continue the conversation in that fashion you can continue it alone, because I am not going to.”

“No,” said Bruton as Major steered the conversation into the operational independence of the police and army, faced with an immediate situation on the ground.

Bruton said decisions of this nature were political.

“They are the essence of politics, in my view,” said Bruton.

“John,” said Major, “would you have instructed the Garda what to do?”

“Yes, if necessary,” said the Taoiseach, “Yes, not in terms of individual prosecutions or that sort of thing …”

“No, no,” interrupted Major, “in terms of control of a street problem.”

“Yes, I would accept responsibility that at the end of the day the first responsibility of government is to maintain order and if you …”

“That is not what I asked,” countered Major. “What I asked was whether you would actually instruct the Garda when they are actively in control of a street problem as to what to do and instruct them to act against their professional advice and against the advice of the army.”

“This was not a decision that was taken in a split second,” said Bruton. “This was a decision that was predictable over several days …”

IRA victory

The argument flowed back and forth – Bruton charging that force had won out and the decision was essentially political; Major suggesting it was not but that the police had, in effect, no choice.

“We can’t undo it now that its been taken,” said Bruton, “and I suppose we have just got to try and learn what we can from it.”

Major said: “I have no doubt that Sinn Féin and the IRA are rubbing their hands in glee at the outcome.”

“Absolutely,” replied Bruton. “That’s right. That’s why I am beside myself … and that’s precisely why I am so deeply troubled by all of this because it is a victory in practice for the IRA. It is a victory for all the things you and I have stood against.” (File: 2021/98/10)

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Barings provides €72m loan for social housing portfolio (GB)

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Barings has provided a €71.9m (£62.9m), 15-year loan to finance the acquisition of a social housing portfolio in England by Domus Social Housing Ltd (Domus). Provided under its separate account with investor Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, it is Barings’ first real estate debt exposure to affordable housing in Europe. 

 

Domus and Fiera Infrastructure Inc, were advised by Excellion Capital on the milestone transaction in which Domus acquired the portfolio, consisting of 54 properties in London, the midlands and the northwest of England with more than 850 beds in the underlying units. The assets are let to UK housing providers that specialise in managing homes for residents with a range of needs, including those experiencing homelessness and domestic abuse. There are over 320,000 people estimated to be sleeping rough, in homeless shelters or in other temporary housing in the UK, according to analysis from Shelter in 2018.

 

Chris Bates, Head of Europe Real Estate Debt Origination at Barings, said: “Having been actively lending against UK and European residential property for some time now, we were keen to explore opportunities in the affordable housing sector and believe this portfolio is a substantially attractive one to launch us into the market. We are increasingly seeking out opportunities to invest in residential property, given that it provides a long-duration, reliable income that hedges against rising inflation, and are interested in a range of asset classes such as affordable housing, student accommodation, build-to-rent and the private rental sector.”

 

Sam Mellor, Managing Director and Head of Europe & Asia – Pacific Real Estate Debt at Barings, said: “Increasing our exposure in affordable housing is the right thing to do from both a social impact and a financial investment perspective, reflecting both Barings’ values as a company and our investors’ priorities. With a housing crisis in the UK, as across much of the world, the social case is crystal clear. Barings has significant expertise and experience in the affordable housing sector in the U.S., upon which we’ve drawn for this investment, and we’re eager to continue to combine our global research capabilities with our on-the-ground knowledge to seek to secure returns for our investors.”

 

Prabjot Mann, Head of Property at Phoenix Group, said: “Phoenix is delighted to have provided €71.9m (£62.9m) for Barings’ first loan supporting affordable housing projects in Europe. Phoenix Group is committed to investments that have a clear social benefit and this loan forms part of our growing portfolio of investments in affordable, supported and social housing. This funding will provide housing to those most in need, and is fully aligned with our approach to responsible investment.”

 

Alina Osorio, President of Fiera Infrastructure, said: “Domus is a new social infrastructure platform focused on providing critical shelter and support to the most vulnerable members of the community. The investment addresses the social housing supply imbalance in the UK by providing quality accommodations in the areas most at need. We plan to grow our footprint through additional acquisitions, which have been identified and secured in areas experiencing housing supply shortages. We are pleased to have worked with Barings on this milestone financing and look forward to witnessing its significant and measurable social impact on the individuals and communities in which Domus operates.”

 

Gareth Taylor, Director at Excellion Capital, said: “We are delighted to support Domus Social Housing with its acquisition by working with Barings to provide funding of socially responsible and much needed supported housing across the UK. These properties give the unhoused and most vulnerable individuals in our society the accommodation and the specialist care they require.”

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How to sell your home in 2023: Ten top tips

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Energy price worries, double-digit inflation, strikes, war and a new government — there’s a lot going on right now, and it’s all beginning to sap the confidence of sellers and buyers.

The market is still robust, with Halifax this month reporting that house prices are 11.5 per cent higher than a year ago, and the typical home now costs a record £294,260. 

But some potential sellers aren’t convinced and believe it’s better to wait until spring to see if buyer confidence returns.

Holding off: The housing market remains robust, but some potential sellers aren't convinced, and believe it's better to wait until spring to see if buyer confidence returns

Holding off: The housing market remains robust, but some potential sellers aren’t convinced, and believe it’s better to wait until spring to see if buyer confidence returns

Of course, the cuts to stamp duty that Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng have announced may change a few minds.

But research by savings website VoucherCodes suggests that rising costs have forced 11 per cent of all potential buyers to delay by at least a year.

And a separate study by Nationwide Building Society says seven in ten would-be first-time buyers are putting their plans on ice for some months at least.

So if you’re looking to sell and prevent your home from languishing on the market for months on end, it may be best to spend the next six months getting into pole position for the market in 2023. 

Here are our ten top tips…

1. Take top-quality photos

Choose your estate agent now and make sure they take photographs of your home as soon as possible, while the weather is still relatively good. 

Then it will look its best regardless of when you decide to list it — and you can choose to start marketing at short notice if the conditions are right.

2. Help your buyer

‘Create a pack including everything you can to reassure buyers and cut delays,’ says Clare Coode, an agent with Stacks Property Search, a buying agency.

‘This should include, for example, a certificate for your wood burner, up-to-date electrical certificates, planning permissions, building regulation sign-offs, information about ownership of boundary walls and documents related to access and rights of way.’

3. Fix a mortgage deal

With interest rates rising, and likely to increase for another 18 months according to commentators, securing a competitive multi-year, fixed-rate mortgage in principle now makes sense. 

But many of these deals have to be acted upon within a few months, so ensure you’re in a position to buy before the deadline expires.

4. Boost energy efficiency

This is a key issue for buyers, even after Liz Truss introduced a financial package to ease the burden of increased energy costs.

‘Double glazing, improved insulation or a new boiler could be achieved in a few months, and would likely boost both the appeal and asking price of your home,’ says Location, Location, Location star Phil Spencer. 

‘There are also solar panels, but these won’t add enough value to recover their cost in the short term.’

5. Update the kitchen

Consumer group the HomeOwners Alliance says the kitchen is worth more per square foot than any other room in the house, so it’s worth making it look tip-top.

Spend autumn and winter refacing the cabinets and smartening up the walls and floor. 

But don’t fit a new kitchen — you won’t recover the cost if you sell soon and an installation hitch could derail plans.

6. Be competitive

Try not to pay too much attention to any one house price index, but look at the overall trend and be prepared to set a competitive asking price in the New Year.

Many estate agents say an asking price at the lower end of your expectations will encourage rival buyers to bid against each other — good news for any seller. 

And an overly ambitious price may see the home stuck on the market, especially during a cost of living crisis.

7. Try a neutral restyle

Declutter, of course — but do more than that. ‘If your interior is looking a little dated in style, then redecorate in line with current trends,’ says Alex Lyle, director of estate agency Antony Roberts, based in West London.

‘But try not to be too ‘out there’ as this may put off some potential buyers. Likewise, if carpets are looking a little tired, think about replacing them or switching to wooden flooring.’

8. Spruce up the garden

‘Assess how badly the garden suffered from the drought,’ says Josephine Ashby of John Bray Estates, an estate agent based in North Cornwall.

‘Something planted in the autumn should be thriving by spring. Outside space is important, so doing anything to spruce it up will be rewarded. 

Fresh gravel, a trellis to hide eyesores, dramatic pots and cleaned-up furniture with pretty cushions are all easy fixes.’

9. Remember the lights

‘Swap old halogen lights for LED fittings,’ says Emma Barkes of Stacks Property Search. ‘These use 80 per cent less energy to produce the same amount of light.

‘Make the change early so you can demonstrate lower winter bills and also to give you time to paint the ceilings, as the fittings will almost certainly be a different size.’

10. Finish old projects 

There’s no excuse for outstanding repairs if you have six months to deal with them, but remember that it can take longer than you think to get a tradesman in.

Maintenance firm HelpmeFix says it typically takes four weeks to get a bricklayer or roofer, and at least a week to get a plumber to do a routine boiler check.

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CBRE IM acquires two logistics assets in Madrid (ES)

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CBRE Investment Management has acquired two new logistics assets in Madrid, Spain, owned by DWS, with a total gross lettable area of 67,859m².

 

The first asset, located in Meco, was completed in Q2 2020 and offers 51,969m² of gross lettable space with a LEED Silver rating. The second, in Torrejon, was completed in Q4 2019 and provides 15,890m² of gross lettable space with a LEED Gold rating. Both properties are already leased under triple net leases to leading tenants including a German automotive component manufacturer, a national kitchen equipment distributor and an international sustainable energy company. They both also have EPC ratings of A.

 

Both assets boast excellent locations with easy access to the A-2 and R-2 highways, and good connection with the M-50, Madrid’s outermost ring road. A driving distance of just 30 minutes to Madrid’s city centre means the assets are well positioned to accommodate, amongst others, tenants with a last-mile approach. The assets have been delivered to high technical and environmental specifications, and also benefit from the increased penetration of e-commerce in Spain and the lack of grade A logistics properties in the area.

 

Antonio Roncero, Head of Transactions for Iberia at CBRE Investment Management, said: “This acquisition was a rare opportunity to secure an income-producing grade A logistics portfolio through an off-market process. The Madrid logistics sector is attractive due to the potential growth of occupier demand versus an acute shortage of supply. Despite current economic headwinds, well located, high-quality and sustainable assets such as these are well placed to take advantage of ongoing rental growth in the logistics sector.”

 

Manuel Ibanez, Head of Real Estate Iberia at DWS, pointed out: “In 2017 at DWS we bet on the logistics sector and structured a forward purchase agreement with ICC, which culminated in the purchase of the two newly developed warehouses in 2019 and 2020. Following the leasing of both assets, we decided to divest, closing the circle of this deal, which will be profitable for our investors and is part of DWS’s value add strategy. We will continue working to find investment opportunities in key locations and strategic sectors such as logistics, residential and offices, strengthening our presence in Spain”.

 

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