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Vaccine debacle raises questions about credibility of Beacon chief

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The Beacon private hospital is at the centre of a storm for providing coronavirus vaccines to teachers at a private school attended by the children of Michael Cullen, the Beacon’s chief executive. Taoiseach Micheál Martin summed up the public mood on Monday by saying the move was “repugnant”.

Although Mr Cullen has survived the first onslaught of demands for his resignation, he now faces the prospect of a review of the debacle by Eugene McCague, a former managing partner of Arthur Cox solicitors and former member of the board of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

His conduct has already led to severe criticism of the south Dublin hospital, owned by businessman Denis O’Brien, after it supplied the excess vaccines to teachers at St Gerard’s school near Bray. With Covid-19 vaccines in short supply and the rate of infection with the virus still high, the sight of one private institution favouring another with a scarce public commodity was toxic.

“The vaccines belong to the people of Ireland and prioritisation to date has been give to the most vulnerable,” the Taoiseach said.

The Government has already suspended the operation of the vaccination centre at the Beacon as a result of the controversy. The hospital had vaccinated more than 9,000 frontline healthcare workers against Covid-19 to date, and was being run as a vaccination centre on behalf of the HSE.

Previous issues

This was not the first point of conflict with the Beacon over the response to the coronavirus pandemic. As a virulent new Covid-19 strain surged in January, the hospital’s initial refusal to provide additional capacity to the State was heavily criticised by Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE. “It wouldn’t have been a very popular position to have taken,” said one official of the Beacon’s stance, which it ultimately reversed.

The latest accounts for Beacon Medical Group Sandyford Ltd, operator of the hospital, show that it had annual revenues of €142.5 million in 2019 and €17.1 million in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, a key measure of underlying profit. The pretax profit was €1.8 million. The business had rapidly expanded before the pandemic struck a year ago, having grown revenues from €91.7 million in 2016.

The operating company describes the Beacon as “one of the most advanced hospitals in Europe” with “world-class acute care services” and more than 130,000 patient visits in 2019. But now the vaccination debacle has raised glaring questions over the credibility of the hospital’s top executive, Mr Cullen. He has apologised, but that did not deter calls for his removal in advance of a meeting on Monday of the hospital board.

“Upon completion of the [McCague] review, the non-executive members of the board will consider its findings and will at that time take any necessary actions required,” the Beacon said in a statement.

Mr O’Brien’s stance remains pivotal, although he is not himself on the board. But the directors would have to be conscious of his wishes over a question that has disgorged a cascade of negative publicity on the hospital.

Directors

The directors of Beacon Medical Group Sandyford are: Mr Cullen; Colm Doherty, formerly a top executive at AIB; Dermot Hayes, a close business associate of Mr O’Brien; and John Delaney, an accountant whose interests include a directorship with the Fallon & Byrne food retailer.

A subsidiary company – Beacon Hospital Sandyford Ltd – has a bigger board and its directors include Brian Cowen, the former taoiseach who served as minister for health earlier in his political career.

In addition to Mr Cullen, Mr Doherty and Mr Hayes, the other directors are: Barbara Cotter, a solicitor who was a partner with A&L Goodbody and is chairwoman of the State-owned Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland; Brian Fitzgerald, deputy hospital chief executive; Darragh Kavanagh, chief financial officer for the hospital; Niall Devereux, an associate of Mr O’Brien who formerly worked with his Topaz fuel business as well as with health insurer Bupa; Prof Mark Redmond, medical director of the hospital; and Suzanne Garvey, director of clinical hospital operations.

Yet the dominant figure is Mr O’Brien, who bought the hospital in 2014 after the departure of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, a US private hospital operator.

At the time the purchase was executed by Linkbey, a Jersey company controlled by Mr O’Brien. These days ownership of the hospital is vested in Mr O’Brien’s Isle of Man company Sayum Holdings Corporation, which owns 80 per cent of Beacon Medical Group Sandyford, according to filings. The remaining 20 per cent is held by Beacon Medical Holdings Ltd, whose shareholders include Mr Cullen and Prof Redmond. Other shareholders of this entity include Lucy Gaffney, a close business associate of Mr O’Brien for decades.

At the end of 2019, the Beacon group of hospital companies owed €131 million to Sayum and Beacon Medical Holdings. The group also rents various properties from Mr Cullen and Prof Redmond or their companies and car park spaces from an entity in which they are shareholders.

All eyes now are on Mr McCague.

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Barings and HBD secure planning for London logistics scheme (GB)

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Barings and HBD have secured detailed planning for a strategic logistics scheme in Rainham, London, transforming a 20-acre brownfield site. The new development, Momentum London, is being delivered by Barings and HBD in a joint venture partnership. It will create 381,814ft² of new logistics and industrial space across four units ranging from 41,000 -171,000ft².

 

The scheme will target Net Zero Carbon, BREEAM “Excellent” and an EPC “A+” rating. This is being achieved by dynamic design, careful consideration of materials, zero use of fossil fuels, maximizing photovoltaic solar panels, battery storage and intelligent building systems. The units will be 100% EV ready, including passive fleet charging to the yards.

 

The logistics park will be set in landscaped environment with picnic and public areas, as well as direct access onto the Thames Cycle Path, so that it brings further social benefits to the area. Positioned on the River Thames, with potential for jetty access, Momentum will offer an easy stepping stone into Central London and out via the A13, just minutes away.

 

Darren Hutchinson, Head of UK Real Estate Transactions and Managing Director at Barings, said: Momentum London will be a strategically located logistics scheme with strong environmental and social credentials, beneficial both to future occupiers and the communities around it. Logistics is one of Barings’ preferred investment sectors and Momentum London exemplifies the kind of developments we’re seeking, with a keen interest in exploring joint ventures like this one with HBD.”

 

Simon Quine, Senior Development Surveyor at HBD, said: “Industrial and logistics space remains in very limited supply across London, particularly larger distribution units. Momentum will plug that gap within the M25 and provide modern, sustainable logistics and distribution space to serve London and the wider South East market. Landscaping and wellness have been thoroughly considered, with careful design considerations and enhancements to the Thames Foot and Cycle path, which we hope will help occupiers to attract and retain staff.”

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Mirrored furniture trend can create the illusion of space in your home

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Mirrored furniture provokes strong emotions. Some see it as the epitome of bad taste, flashy and bling. Others know that mirrors have magic powers.

A mirrored table or cabinet makes a room or a hallway appear more swish and spacious. It’s a trick that bars and restaurants employ to ensure their establishments appear roomier and more inviting — and they can add lustre to your home, too.

Choosing a piece of mirrored furniture also sends out a sign that you are aware of one of the year’s trends — the return of Art Deco, the influential style that emerged in the 1920s. 

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

Reflections: A mirrored bedside table. The power of the mirror to create an impression has been recognised for centuries

It blended forms that celebrated modern machinery with decorative elements drawn from Greco-Roman culture and nature. 

The mirror was a favourite material, used on the surfaces of furniture and walls to supply a shimmering silver and gold effect.

Probably the most famous piece of Art Deco architecture is New York’s Chrysler Building. Completed in 1930, its sunburst-patterned stainless steel spire remains one of the key elements of the Manhattan skyline.

Art Deco console tables, drinks trolleys and other items from the era of the building’s construction sell for thousands on auction sites such as 1stdibs underlining the growing appeal of this aesthetic. 

Jamie Watkins, the co-founder of fabric and wallpaper company Divine Savages, explains Art Deco’s allure for a new audience.

‘Art Deco, with its bold geometrical patterns was such an iconic period for design: it’s synonymous with glamour and luxury.’

The resurgent popularity of Art Deco is also based on its practicality: a mirrored piece works with almost any interior, adding interest and depth.

The power of the mirror to create a wow impression has been recognised for centuries. 

Examples of this technique include the round mirror on the wall behind the bride and groom in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 Arnolfini Portrait in the National Gallery. It sends out the message that the couple are discerning — and wealthy.

Cheers: B&M's £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

Cheers: B&M’s £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves

The hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles was designed to be a place of beauty, but also to display the financial resources of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Mirrors were a luxury item until an inexpensive manufacturing process was invented in the 1830s.

In 2022, it is possible to pick up mirrored pieces for under £100. B&M has a £25 oval drinks trolley with two mirrored shelves that would lend an air of Thirties elegance to any gathering. The £94.99 Ellison serving cart (a U.S. term for drinks trolley) from Wayfair has a similar vibe.

If you believe that the right mirrored trolley would save you money on trips to bars, the larger £144.95 gold oval mirrored trolley from Melody Maison could be the thing.

A mirrored cocktail cabinet will dazzle guests. The £1,200 Primrose & Plum champagne and gold cabinet has a Jazz-Age feel.

The £299 Venetian sideboard from Furniture Market, meanwhile, is a more modestly priced way to conjure up the party spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The show flats of apartment blocks are often equipped with mirrored cocktail cabinets containing bottles of spirits and crystal glasses. This makes buyers dream of dinner parties, with a prelude of aperitifs, but also serves to make the apartment appear even roomier.

A console table in the hall also creates an illusion of space which can be amplified by the addition of a lamp. HomesDirect365 has a range in the style of almost every era including Art Deco, Regency, the 1960s and the 1970s. Prices start at £233.

The bedroom is often the most cramped room in either a house or flat which is why this can be the best place to experiment with mirrored furniture. 

The desire to preserve family harmony is another reason. The other members of your household may prefer the kitchen and living room to be slick and understated, seeing anything mirrored as excessive.

In the bedroom, however, you can indulge your decor fantasies. Habitat has the one-drawer Hepburn bedside table for £76.

Next offers the antique effect Fleur bedside table which costs £225 for the one-drawer version and £275 for the two-drawer version. 

The Fleur is also available as a six-drawer chest for £599 or a £1,150 double wardrobe if you seek to waft around your bedroom channelling your inner 1930s Hollywood screen siren. 

Dunelm’s Venetian mirrored dressing table also offers a chance to live out your dream of silver screen stardom (£449).

If mirrored furniture has brought out your party animal, kindling a passion for Art Deco in every guise, Divine Savages offers Deco Martini wallpaper whose design is based on the geometric forms, with a hidden Martini glass within the print (£150 per roll).

Some of your guests may not be too busy checking out their reflections on the doors of the mirrored cabinet to notice this subtle and witty detail in the wallpaper.

Savings of the week! water jugs… Up to 52% off 

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is half-price at £22

Sitting outside on a sunny afternoon is already delightful. But it is even more enjoyable if you are sipping on a cool drink or an iced coffee from a generously sized jug, or maybe even a Pimm’s. The arrival of the July sales means bargains abound.

If you prioritise practicality, Ocado’s textured lustre plastic picnic jug has 33 per cent off at £8.

The price of the pleasingly geometric plastic smoky-grey Prism jug from Wayfair is 16 per cent off at £10.10. 

If you would like to feel as if you are in the south of France, John Lewis has the plain glass Arles wicker-wrapped jug. It is reduced from £25 to £12, down 52 per cent.

Wanting something more elegant that you can also use for flowers? The Sandvig hammered-glass jug from made.com is also half-price at £22.

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VGP acquires French logistics development

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VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.

 

On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.

 

Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”

 

Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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