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McDonald’s Mountbatten comments mark a change of tone

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Mary Lou McDonald’s weekend comments on being “sorry” about the death of Lord Mountbatten were not quite the full-throated apology for IRA actions that many headlines, especially in the British press, would suggest. But they did represent a new tone from the Sinn Féin leader.

When asked on Times Radio if she would apologise to Prince Charles for the death of his uncle along with two boys and a woman when his boat was blown up off Co Sligo in 1979, McDonald said: “The army and armed forces associated with Prince Charles carried out many, many violent actions on our island. I can say of course I am sorry that happened. Of course, that is heartbreaking.”

You can read this either way. Sorry for the killing of Mountbatten, or sorry the whole conflict happened. The ambiguity is hardly unintentional.

Sinn Féin has never disavowed the IRA or its actions and is unlikely to start now

Asked on Monday if McDonald was apologising, Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said it was “an admission of regret and an acknowledgement of the suffering for the family involved”.

Pressed as to whether McDonald intended to go further than Sinn Féin has previously on the subject, Ó Broin replied, “I don’t know”.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed when the IRA blew up his fishing boat at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo. File photograph: PA/PA Wire
Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was killed when the IRA blew up his fishing boat at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo. File photograph: PA/PA Wire

McDonald is a canny enough media operator to have foreseen headlines about the “apology”. That – and the fact she chose the weekend of Prince Philip’s funeral to make the statement – suggests a deliberate attempt to move the dial.

Regret and sorrow

While expressing regret and sorrow for the suffering caused by the conflict in general, Sinn Féin has never disavowed the IRA or its actions and is unlikely to start now. This is part tactical, part theology. Once you start to address individual incidents, where do you stop?

But on a deeper level, it remains a fundamental tenet of republican thinking that the IRA campaign – while admitting individual mistakes and expressing regret for all deaths in the conflict – was morally and politically justified. That belief is ingrained in the party’s DNA.

This is not the sort of thing that Sinn Féin does on the spur of the moment

So McDonald is unlikely to rewrite that theology. But she does appear – and some party sources agree – to be trying to alter the tone, at least a bit.

Her comments on Mountbatten followed a tweet expressing sympathy with Queen Elizabeth on the death of her husband. Since McDonald does not expect the queen to be closely following her Twitter account, it is fair to assume the intended audience included those referenced in the second part of the post – “those of a British identity on our island, for whom his death will be felt as a great loss”.

It is unlikely, too, that she just dashed off a tweet when she heard the news. This is not the sort of thing that Sinn Féin does on the spur of the moment.

Against the background of a divided Northern Executive and increasing loyalist alienation, McDonald seems to be making conciliatory noises. It is an interesting departure.

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How a Dublin house sold for €13.25m but stayed under the radar

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It is often said that things get lost in translation. That’s the beauty of language, that it isn’t linear; but when it comes to illustrating the housing market, a data picture paints a thousand words.

Surveying the property price register, or PPR, is a national pasttime for many. While the Property Services Regulatory Authority has always pointed out that it isn’t a price index, most pedestrian users use it to see what certain homes sold for. Such curiosity gets the better of most of us. Neighbours will always want to know what Mary down the road got for her place. What Mary’s place sold for is in the public domain, if you can find it. And the amount it made might even prompt her neighbours to consider doing likewise.

The register isn’t perfect. Senior economist Siobhán Corcoran, associate director at Sherry FitzGerald, leads a team that spends days per quarter cleaning its data, eliminating the multiple private rental sector and social housing sales to get a clearer picture of the market. She downloads the listings, by either county or city, and has her team go through it to get a clearer picture.

The lists give the address of the property, what it sold for and the property type: a new dwelling house/apartment; second-hand dwelling house/apartment; or the lesser-spotted teach/árasán cónaithe atháimhe. Because the data is entered manually there is the risk of human error, meaning some are logged incorrectly.

It is every citizen’s personal choice to register the sale of their home in either Irish or English. Irish is our first language and has dual status.

And yet while it is our right to log the property in the Irish language, very few sales are actually are registered as Gaeilge.

“While many of the housing estates in Ireland have Irish names, the proportion of PPR entries logged with an Irish address in its entirety, including county in the address field is minute, zero point zero zero per cent over the last number of years,” Corcoran explains. “Properties on the register listed as the proportion of PPR entries logged as a ‘teach/árasán cónaithe atháimhe’ have been in single digits over the past number of years.”

When you download the CCV text file for the Dublin listings so far this year, just one abode – in Diswellstown, Baile Átha Cliath 15 – is described thus.

A sale that garnered a lot of attention was Lissadell, number 9 Shrewsbury Road in Dublin 4, which was described in this newspaper as having been purchased by Marlet chief Pat Crean last June, and yet to appear on the register but believed to have sold for in excess of €11 million.

In a letter to the editor of this newspaper on September 20th, Simon Twist helpfully pointed out that the transaction was listed as Uimhi [sic] a Naoi, Botha [sic] Sriusbaire, Dublin 4, and that it sold for €13.25 million on May 19th. The difference is some 17 per cent. (This is the highest price achieved in Dublin, according to the register; in June, Stripe co-founder John Collison paid about €20 million for the Abbey Leix estate, in Co Laois.)

As it is written, the address of Lissadell is near-impossible to find unless you know this exact spelling. It doesn’t come up when you simply search for properties listed in Ballsbridge, for example.

The classifications are often a confusing hybrid of English and Irish. Corcoran says that most of these properties with “full” Irish addresses have not been classified as a “teach/árasán cónaithe atháimhe” in the description field. While the Shrewsbury address “Uimhi a Naoi, Bótha Sriúsbaire” is logged in Irish, it is not classified as a “teach/árasán cónaithe atháimhe”.

Galway-city based conveyancying solicitor Mark Killilea has a suggestion for solving this difficulty. Just go to landdirect.ie, find the relevant folio where the property will be listed as registered. “It’s just another hurdle, but not an insurmountable one,” he says.

But should we have to jump through these hurdles at all? Cork-based software engineer Eddie Long believes it shouldn’t be up to the inputter to decide on what way the address is entered. “At present the freeform index allows whatever they like. Instead the inputter should have to choose from a dropdown menu of addresses, like that used to determine Eircode listings.”

Should these listings be in English or Irish? “Irish is an officially appointed language, so it should in both.”

Citizens are entitled just to list the address in Irish. But the process should be transparent. Ba mhaith linn trédhearcacht.

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Robbie Williams lists sprawling 72-acre country estate for £6.75 million

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Robbie WIlliams has listed his sprawling 72-acre country estate for £6.75 million.

The Take That crooner, 47, used the home as a rural retreat for his wife Ayda Field and their children, having purchased it in 2009 for £8.1 million.

The property is located close to the quaint village of Compton Bassett in Wiltshire about 85 miles from London

Take that! Robbie WIlliams has listed his sprawling 72-acre country estate for £6.75 million

Take that! Robbie WIlliams has listed his sprawling 72-acre country estate for £6.75 million

Ready to move on: The Take That crooner, 47, used the home as a rural retreat for his wife Ayda Field and their children, having purchased it in 2009 for £8.1 million

Big family: Robbie and Ayda, 42, share Theodora, eight, Charlton, six, two-year-old Colette and youngest son Beau, one

Ready to move on: The Take That crooner, 47, used the home as a rural retreat for his wife Ayda Field and their children, having purchased it in 2009 for £8.1 million. Robbie and Ayda, 42, share Theodora, eight, Charlton, six, two-year-old Colette and youngest son Beau, one

Robbie said, via the listing agent Knight Frank: ‘Compton Bassett House has been the perfect escape for our family. The gardens and trees have enchanted us with their magic, and on rainy days – of which there are many in England – we have played and splashed around the indoor pool, much to our delight.’ 

Robbie and Ayda, 42, share Theodora, eight, Charlton, six, two-year-old Colette and youngest son Beau, one.

The property boasts its own parkland and woods, as well as a football pitch, on which soccer-mad Robbie will have no doubt enjoyed honing his ball skills.

Also outside in the grounds is a helicopter hangar, a walled garden with a pavilion, a tennis court, and paddocks for horses. 

Robbie said, via the listing agent: 'On rainy days - of which there are many in England - we have played and splashed around the indoor pool, much to our delight'

Robbie said, via the listing agent: ‘On rainy days – of which there are many in England – we have played and splashed around the indoor pool, much to our delight’

Sprawling: The floorplan shows the layout of the impressive three-storey mansion

Sprawling: The floorplan shows the layout of the impressive three-storey mansion

Serene: The property boasts a walled garden with a pavilion, a tennis court, and paddocks for horses

Serene: The property boasts a walled garden with a pavilion, a tennis court, and paddocks for horses

Chopper-ready: Also outside in the grounds is a helicopter hangar

Chopper-ready: Also outside in the grounds is a helicopter hangar

The mansion itself is spread across 19,913 square feet, boasting seven bedrooms, and eight bathrooms.

There are five reception rooms and an indoor pool, a gym, a steam room, and a billiards room.

The gourmet chef’s kitchen is an impressive feature of the home with a stunning blue wooden island and a sprawling dining space for large gatherings.

Robbie and American actress Ayda’s quirky tastes are evident throughout – with giant dog sculptures lined around the hardwood floored cooking space. 

Music mogul: Robbie shot to fame as one fifth of 90s boyband Take That [pictured in the early 1990s with Jason Orange, Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen]

At it alone: Robbie has become the only one of the band to carve out a particularly successful solo career, since going on to collaborate with stars such as Nicole Kidman [pictured  in 2001]

Music mogul: Having shot to fame as one fifth of 90s boyband Take That [pictured L in the early 1990s with Jason Orange, Howard Donald, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen] Robbie has become the only one of the band to carve out a particularly successful solo career, since going on to collaborate with stars such as Nicole Kidman [pictured R in 2001] 

Rural retreat: 'Compton Bassett House has been the perfect escape for our family. The gardens and trees have enchanted us with their magic,' Robbie said of the estate

Rural retreat: ‘Compton Bassett House has been the perfect escape for our family. The gardens and trees have enchanted us with their magic,’ Robbie said of the estate

Sweeping: The property is located close to the quaint village of Compton Bassett in Wiltshire

Sweeping: The property is located close to the quaint village of Compton Bassett in Wiltshire

Quirky: The gourmet chef's kitchen is an impressive feature of the home with a stunning blue wooden island and a sprawling dining space for large gatherings

Quirky: The gourmet chef’s kitchen is an impressive feature of the home with a stunning blue wooden island and a sprawling dining space for large gatherings

Extra space: There is also a detached cottage which joins two staff flats to provide extra accommodation for staff or guests

Extra space: There is also a detached cottage which joins two staff flats to provide extra accommodation for staff or guests

The property features modern classical architecture and several stone fireplaces.

There is also a detached cottage which joins two staff flats to provide extra accommodation for staff or guests.

The home features a long stony driveway, rolling up to the impressive 1929 home – previously owned by the famous architect Sir Norman Foster.

Other features include stone mullioned windows, a study and a hidden staircase to the floor above. 

Part-timer: Robbie still dips in and out of performing with Take That [pictured in 2018]

Part-timer: Robbie still dips in and out of performing with Take That [pictured in 2018]

Master suite: The mansion itself is spread across 19,913 square feet, boasting seven bedrooms

Master suite: The mansion itself is spread across 19,913 square feet, boasting seven bedrooms

Modern meets regal: The property features modern classical architecture and several stone fireplaces

Modern meets regal: The property features modern classical architecture and several stone fireplaces

Niche: The décor and accents are a clear nod to their eccentric owners

Niche: The décor and accents are a clear nod to their eccentric owners

‘Although our clients are sad to be leaving, they’re certain that the next owners will love it as much as they have,’ the listing agent said. ‘The house has the benefit of being on the edge of the village but also has beautiful gardens, and grounds surrounding it providing complete privacy and protection.’

Having shot to fame as one fifth of 90s boyband Take That, Robbie has become the only one of the band to carve out a particularly successful solo career.

Despite his wild child younger years, he has recently established himself firmly as a family man, marrying Los Angeles native Ayda in 2010. 

Style secrets: Robbie and American actress Ayda's quirky tastes are evident throughout - with giant dog sculptures lined around the hardwood floored home [pictured in 2018]

Style secrets: Robbie and American actress Ayda’s quirky tastes are evident throughout – with giant dog sculptures lined around the hardwood floored home [pictured in 2018]

Decadent: The home features a whopping eight bathrooms, some with freestanding tubs

Decadent: The home features a whopping eight bathrooms, some with freestanding tubs

Quirky: Robbie and American actress Ayda's quirky tastes are evident throughout - with one poster featuring a play on words from his Let Me Entertain You song - 'Let Me Excavate You'

Quirky: Robbie and American actress Ayda’s quirky tastes are evident throughout – with one poster featuring a play on words from his Let Me Entertain You song – ‘Let Me Excavate You’

60s meets modern: There are five reception rooms and an indoor pool, a gym, a steam room, and a billiards room

60s meets modern: There are five reception rooms and an indoor pool, a gym, a steam room, and a billiards room

Tranquil: The property boasts its own parkland and woods, as well as a football pitch, on which soccer-mad Robbie will have no doubt enjoyed honing his ball skills

Tranquil: The property boasts its own parkland and woods, as well as a football pitch, on which soccer-mad Robbie will have no doubt enjoyed honing his ball skills

Robbie quit Take That in 1995 but returned to the band between 2006-2011, on and off.

He still occasionally performs with them; the group continue on as a three-piece, with Gary Barlow, Howard Donald and Mark Owen. Fifth member Jason Orange quit in 2014.

Robbie’s solo career has seen him collaborate with the likes of Nicole Kidman and Kylie Minogue on tracks, and he has released 12 studio albums to date.

He is said to be worth £195 million, as reported by The Sunday Times in May 2021. 

Out in the sticks: The location is 85 miles away from London

Out in the sticks: The location is 85 miles away from London

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Property investors offended by ‘vulture funds’ label, conference hears

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People in Ireland need to stop calling property investment firms “vulture funds” and development and building rules need to stop changing if the housing crisis is to be solved, property and banking sector representatives have said.

Marie Hunt, executive director of research at real estate firm CBRE, told an Irish Council for Social Housing conference that the “fundamental problem” in the Irish housing market “is a lack of supply”.

She said bureaucracy and regularly changing public policy were also issues, noting the political discussion this week about potentially changing the link between rent and inflation because prices were rising.

Ms Hunt said investors were not going to come into a market where the rules kept changing halfway through the game.

She said that calling investors “vulture funds” was unhelpful and that name calling “in the media” should stop.

“We need that capital and we need that investment.”

She said investors who bought a nursing home or an office block were welcomed but that those who bought housing received very negative publicity “and they don’t need that”.

Take interest elsewhere

Pat O’Sullivan, head of real estate research at AIB, said policy changes were problematic and that the term “vulture fund” was offensive to investors, who could take their interest elsewhere.

He said Ireland isn’t the only economy that requires funding and “we have got to be very careful about the amount of changes we make to policy, how we describe the investment”.

Ms Hunt said that from a developer’s perspective, many housing schemes were not viable due to high construction and “input” costs and “because we have raised the bar so high in terms of the planning regime and design requirements”.

She instanced the judicial review process, which has been used to bring challenges to fast-track strategic planning developments, as another problem. Ms Hunt said “anecdotally” developers were hiring senior counsel and barristers ahead of planners and architects, such was the level of challenges.

The conference continues on Thursday.

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