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Private nature of Commissions of Investigation ‘problematic’, says McGrath

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Commissions of Investigations conducting their work in private is “problematic”, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath has said.

Mr McGrath said he would like them to hold hearings in public, questioning one of the main rationales behind this type of State inquiry.

The Commission of Investigation model was introduced in 2004 following widespread criticism of the enormous costs and inordinate length of Tribunals of Inquiry such as the Moriarty Tribunal and the Planning Tribunal which between them racked up hundreds of millions of euro in costs.

The brainchild of then minister for justice Michael McDowell, the thinking was a private enquiry would reduce the need for teams of lawyers for each witness and also obviate the need for lengthy cross-examination of witnesses. They would be less costly, speedier and more efficient.

However, it has not turned out that way with a number of investigations taking much longer than originally envisaged – and with substantial attendant costs – while little information filters through to the public because of their private nature.

Most of the ongoing Commissions – relating to the IBRC and Siteserv, NAMA’s Project Eagle, ‘Grace’ and convicted Waterford sex abuser Bill Kenneally – are going into their fourth or fifth years and have racked up substantial costs.

“The holding of Commissions of Investigations in private is problematic,” said the Fianna Fáil Minister.

“There is the facility to hold them in public but in very few instances is that the chosen method.

“It is fine to hold them in private in certain instances – Nyberg (the investigation into the banking collapse) was a good example.

“But the public do want to see key players being questioned and to see their answers,” he said.

The 2004 legislation provided commissions be conducted in private but under Section 11 it allowed evidence to be heard in public in certain circumstances. That section has not been invoked to date.

Critics claim the private nature of the proceedings have made them secretive, opaque and not open to scrutiny.

Personal testimony

Most recently, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission was criticised over the claim that personal testimony given by survivors to confidential committees was not used for the final report.

Commission members declined invitations to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to outline their approach.

Mr McGrath has contended that not only are the findings of an inquiry important but also the public hearing element.

“It is more efficient to do them in private but you do lose that element of transparency and public accountability. There is a balance to be struck.”

Referring back to the inquiry conducted by the Oireachtas into the collapse of the banking sector, he said: “One of the things about the banking inquiry is that we had public hearings everyday. Witnesses came in and answered questions or evaded questions. It was there for everybody to see.

“That is not accommodated within the current Commission structure.”

However, the Oireachtas banking inquiry report was itself severely criticised, something that Mr McGrath acknowledges. He says this form of inquiry is severely constrained by the defeat a decade ago of the Referendum to provide broader powers.

“You cannot reach conclusions that are adverse against people’s reputations. There are very few findings that are uncontested, and fewer of value that are uncontested.

“So you have to go in with your eyes wide open. The Court of public opinion is important. The fact that we got some of the main players to come before it in public… the public made up their own mind for good or ill based on what they heard.

“While we were limited in the conclusions we could reach, I believe the telling of the story and the holding of the inquiry in public session was of real value,” he said.

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Liverpool ONE welcomes Tessuti (GB)

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Grosvenor has announced that designer retailer, Tessuti, has opened its new global flagship store at Liverpool ONE, demonstrating the brand’s ongoing vote of confidence in the destination. The new location on Paradise Street follows Tessuti’s consistently strong performance at Liverpool ONE and spans two floors measuring 22,000ft². Boasting Tessuti’s biggest store to date, this is four times the size of the previous Liverpool ONE site. The store interiors have been styled with a subtle nod to classic Italian architecture whilst incorporating state-of-the-art technical features, combining classic design with an industrial-chic colour palette and cutting-edge digital screens. Working with local Liverpudlian digital and production agency Liquid, the new Tessuti store has exclusive instore stills and videos showcasing exciting campaigns; the first of which is rumoured to feature Liverpool stars Stephen Graham, Abbey Clancy, Miles Kane and Chelcee Grimes.

 

Aligning with Liverpool ONE’s community ethos, Tessuti’s new global flagship will also support the vibrant community in the heart of Liverpool, championing local businesses through collaborations, pop-ups, and in-store events.

 

Alison Clegg, Managing Director, Asset Management, Grosvenor, commented: “Tessuti’s commitment to Liverpool ONE, through its relocation within the destination and decision to make the new store its global flagship, strengthens our position as one of Europe’s leading retail and leisure destinations. The impressive growth trajectory of Tessuti within Liverpool is a great indication of the potential for success and expansion of other brands that join Liverpool ONE.”

 

Chris Rowan, Director of Brand & Customer Connection at Tessuti, added: “The opening of our global flagship at Liverpool ONE is a huge moment for us. Liverpool is an urban hub for international fashion retailers, so upsizing and relocating within the city’s leading retail and leisure destination was a natural next step. We feel confident that it is the ideal home for our flagship location, and are excited to offer Liverpool ONE’s visitors our most stylish project yet.”

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What you need to know about having a home swimming pool

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This summer, it’s not just sales of rosé wine and ice cream that have rocketed during the heatwave. Interest in swimming pools has also surged.

‘This sweltering summer has undoubtedly inspired people to install swimming pools,’ says Sallie Leslie-Golding of the Swimming Pool and Allied Trade Association (SPATA). 

‘There are now 270,000 in-ground pools in the UK, with about 65 per cent of them in the southern half of the country.’

There is something incredibly glamorous about a Hockney-blue pool. But how does the reality match up to the imagery?

Refreshing: Church House in Potterne, Wiltshire, is on sale for £1.95m. Interest in swimming pools has surged with the hot weather

Refreshing: Church House in Potterne, Wiltshire, is on sale for £1.95m. Interest in swimming pools has surged with the hot weather

‘It’s been wonderful to be able to take a swim at the end of a long day,’ says Felicity Cooper, 55, who in 2006 installed a 12m x 6m pool outside her country house in Potterne, near Devizes, Wiltshire. 

‘It has also been great for the children, Lily and Ryan, who learnt to swim here.’

Felicity stresses the importance of finding the right setting for a new pool. 

She ensured hers was west-facing to catch the evening sun; then she went to the trouble of digging out a mini-amphitheatre so that the displaced earth formed a windbreak around the pool itself.

‘The pool is the optimum distance from the house, being not so near that it detracts from the garden and not so far away that anyone in trouble would not be heard by those inside.

‘It is far from trees so few leaves blow into the water and, with the children in mind, it has a top quality safety cover. Felicity’s six-bedroom Jacobean stone house standing in 1.7 acres is for sale for £1.95 million.

Opinions vary as to whether an outdoor pool helps or hinders a house sale. Some think that the hassle of maintenance may be off-putting to buyers. However, the property buying agent, Jonathan Harington, disagrees.

‘I have had many clients come to me with a pool on their wishlist of luxuries,’ he says. ‘But I have never had anyone say they wouldn’t buy a house because of the pool. If they felt strongly they could easily fill it in anyway.’

Yet owning a swimming pool is an expensive hobby. An above-ground pool — like a giant paddling pool — costs from £1,500 to £15,000. These pools may not quite cut it in terms of glamour, but their lower water capacity means maintenance costs are more reasonable.

For those looking at a more substantial in-ground pool, one with a liner finish of PVC will cost about £75,000. A concrete pool, finished with mosaic tiles, marbled plaster or paint will be about £125,000.

Larger projects can easily cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

You may opt for an infinity pool — a pool designed with an edge that gives the illusion that the water is overflowing. 

Those who want to improve their fitness may have a counter current device installed; the equivalent of swimming on a treadmill.

Many pool owners are interested in sustainability and heating the pool with solar panels is popular, as are covers that help heat retention.

Maintaining an outdoor swimming pool is expensive. The cost of heating and chemicals has increased so buyers should budget for at least £8 to £10 a day, dependent on the weather, according to SPATA.

Anyone fancying a workout in their own home may be interested in Ivy Cottage, Grendon, Northamptonshire.

Outside, the four-bedroom cottage is a 10m x 5m pool neatly positioned in the north-west corner to catch the sun.

‘After swimming in the pool, you could go running, riding or cycling on the countless trails nearby,’ says Ian Denton, of Jackson Stops. ‘It’s a lifestyle amenity in your own garden.’ Ivy Cottage is for sale for £825,000.

On the market… splash out 

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Radisson launches new resort in Greece

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Radisson Hotel Group has launched its latest Greek resort in Skiathos. Skiathos, the westernmost of the Sporades islands, is known for its stunning coastline of more than 60 beaches with soft sand and clear blue waters, as well as sea caves, impressive rock formations, and hiking trails on the tree-covered hills along the north shore made famous as the location for the filming of Mamma Mia. The island’s Byzantine churches and monasteries, Venetian-style Bourtzi fortress, and Papadiamantis House with its typical architecture are important parts of the island’s rich history.

 

The resort’s 84 rooms and suites are decorated in a modern, minimalist style, and most of them offer views of the hotel pool or the sea. Private balconies or terraces are available in select rooms, and the resort’s biggest suites feature private whirlpools for ultimate privacy and relaxation. The resort is ideally suited for weddings with its own on-site orthodox chapel and versatile outdoor pool area that offers receptions with stunning views. The main all-day dining restaurant celebrates Greek and Mediterranean flavors on its lunch and dinner menus. The poolside bar offers breakfast treats and late-night snacks as well as a wide selection of drinks and an extensive wine list. For guests looking to keep up their fitness routine, a well-equipped gym is available.

 

“We are excited to offer our guests a fantastic resort experience on the beautiful island of Skiathos, as we continue to expand our Greek resort portfolio. Radisson Resort Plaza Skiathos allows guests to switch off and relax surrounded by stunning natural beauty,” said Yilmaz Yildirimlar, Area Senior Vice President at Radisson Hotel Group.

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