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AG whose private case work thrust him into controversy

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When Paul Gallagher became Attorney General for the second time last year, he was one of the highest-paid barristers in the Four Courts with annual fee income estimated at €1.5 million-€2 million. Now his work on three private cases after he became the State’s chief law officer has thrust him into the Opposition’s unwelcome glare.

It is not Gallagher’s first brush with controversy in recent times: the August publication of his legal advice on outdoor gatherings after Katherine Zappone’s social event in the Merrion hotel led to claims that Ministers were “politicising” his role. The latest involves claims of a clash of interests between his public role as chief legal adviser to the Government and his private role advising clients professionally.

The Government has dismissed such claims in forthright terms. Gallagher, who attends Cabinet, received explicit backing this week from Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Coalition leaders, who admire him for his panoramic expertise and relentless work rate, had given him permission to continue working on some private cases.

“They think he is great,” says one person who has contact with Ministers every day about the Cabinet’s views on Gallagher. “Some of them are practically in awe of him.”

One person who has dealt with him and other attorneys speaks admiringly of his work rate, observing that he appears to get through twice as much work as anyone else they have seen.

Gallagher was the personal choice of the Taoiseach to do the job. Martin had been supremely impressed by Gallagher when he was attorney general in the last Fianna Fáil government, led by Brian Cowen, which had endured the financial crash and the bailout of 2008-2010.

But few outside the top echelon of Cabinet and the law were aware of it, and some legal colleagues believe he was unwise to continue representing former Independent News & Media directors after becoming Attorney General.

Big money

The affair has thrown a spotlight on Gallagher’s successful work in the world of big money business litigation, where one solicitor says he was regarded for many years as a senior counsel of choice “for anything which was really serious”. For example, he was paid €612,242 for his private work on the State’s successful challenge in the European courts to the Apple tax ruling. It was said at the time that the Department of Finance had sent him before judges with nothing less than Ireland’s economic model at stake.

Gallagher’s private work largely came to a halt when Martin asked him to return as Attorney General, a post he first held between 2007 and 2011 at the height of the financial crisis. He is said to have taken the post only reluctantly. His staff includes one special adviser, Liam O’Daly, a former director general of the Attorney General’s office who is known to carry Gallagher’s considerable authority in dealings with officials.

The annual salary for the attorney general post is €181,005 but the effective rate is 10 per cent lower after a Cabinet decision in July 2020 to reduce Government remuneration. Such pay is far below Gallagher’s previous income so his work as Attorney General comes at a big opportunity cost. “I would imagine that it doesn’t pay him at all to take this and that he probably does it out of a sense of public service,” said a senior legal figure. “Of the commercial senior counsel, in my view he would be the highest earner of the high earners. His practice is more like an industry than a practice because it is so high volume.”

Another legal figure said some lawyers may have been pleased to see him leave the Four Courts because it left a sizeable “Paul Gallagher-sized hole” to fill in the allocation of lucrative case work.

Gallagher was born in Tralee in 1955 and attended the Christian Brothers school in the town before going to Dublin for his secondary education, at Castleknock College. He is a graduate of UCD, the King’s Inns and Cambridge University, with degrees in law, history and economics. He is married to Dr Bláthna Ruane, a senior counsel and constitutional historian who was partner at solicitors McCann FitzGerald before being called to the bar. Wealthy he no doubt is, but he is not a man to flaunt it. “He’d never drive a new car, it’s always old and Kerry reg,” said an acquaintance, noting his penchant for second- or third-hand Mercedes. “He’s the most ordinary guy, a real Kerryman. You could imagine him in a mart.”

‘Amiable’ and ‘chatty’

At the age of 66, when many think of nothing but retirement, Gallagher is still a man in a hurry. “He’s an amiable, chatty character, but he doesn’t stop to chat because he’s so busy. He’d chat to you on the move,” the acquaintance added.

The story has often been told how Gallagher had two secretaries in private practice, as one alone could not keep up with his pace of work. It has been no different in his latest phase as Attorney General, even as civil servants worked from home in a succession of lockdowns. At an online video meeting one Sunday, officials logging on from home in weekend garb were astonished to see the Attorney General beaming in from his office dressed in suit and tie and ready for action. “He drives them hard,” said one observer. Another said he was known for his “omnivorous” legal curiosity, with a personality capable of extemporising at length and making a “deep impression” on international officials

Many in the Government regard him as the best and most efficient attorney general they have ever dealt with. In some accounts, certain Fine Gael Ministers want Gallagher to stay on when Varadkar is scheduled to return as taoiseach at the end of Martin’s term in December 2022. “Among the Fine Gael/Blueshirt wing, he’s very much respected,” said a person who is close to the party.

The esteem in which he is held in the Coalition – similar to the high regard in legal circles and indeed the judiciary – has helped to insulate Gallagher in the face of opposition attacks over his private work. There is no question of him being forced out, say Government insiders.

But that work has still raised hackles, not least because it continued right up until last Saturday week – September 25th – some 15 months after the Attorney General took office with permission to close out some prior litigation commitments.

Acting in a private capacity, Gallagher took part in a hearing that day before High Court inspectors who are examining the affairs of INM. He represented former INM directors – one of them a current director of its successor company, Mediahuis Ireland – at another hearing before the inspectors the previous Saturday. The inspection was sought by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the State authority responsible for enforcing business law, after an investigation into matters raised in protected disclosures by INM former chief executive Robert Pitt and former chief financial officer Ryan Preston.

‘Barrister by night’

Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, was quick to question the Attorney General’s involvement in a private capacity after it was first reported by The Irish Times four days after the latter hearing. “There is the obvious conflict of the Attorney General being involved in a case in which the State is on the other side,” she told the Dáil, asking whether Gallagher was Attorney General “by day and a more ordinary barrister by night”.

The Government insisted there was no conflict, saying the court inspectors and the corporate law enforcer were independent in their functions.

Shortall sent further questions to Varadkar, who replied by letter this week saying Gallagher’s involvement in the INM case “was scheduled to cease” on September 25th and “did cease on that date”. The case was one of three which the Attorney General “considered he had a personal obligation to discharge”, Varadkar said.

In addition to INM, Gallagher had represented Permanent TSB in a private capacity in a long-running case against the Minister for Finance over the bank’s nationalisation. Pete Skoczylas, a litigant in the proceedings, complained about Gallagher’s work for the bank to the Standards in Public Office Commission in April. The commission dismissed the complaint in June.

Gallagher also represented plaintiffs in an action by Russian chemical group TogliattiAzot, one of the world’s largest ammonia producers, against defendants including Dmitry Mazepin, a Moscow-based oligarch who is majority-owner of ammonia producer Uralchem, involving lots of companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and elsewhere.

“Having acted in these [three] matters in a private capacity, the Attorney General could never have acted for the State in these or any related matters,” the Tánaiste said.

Although the Government has said Gallagher’s private work was prolonged by court delays due to coronavirus, Shortall is not convinced. “It is wholly inappropriate for the AG to have continued with his private work for such a long period of time and it is worrying that Cabinet members have not acknowledged this,” she said.

‘Limited information’

“We have been provided with very limited information about the other two cases the AG was involved in and are still none the wiser as to whether there may have been other non-court legal work – mediations, settlements or arbitrations – that the AG engaged in. This needs to be clarified.”

Asked whether the Attorney General carried out any non-court private work, the Government replied: “Other than the three private litigation matters previously identified, the Attorney General has had no other private professional obligation to discharge following his appointment and did not engage in settlements, mediations or arbitrations.”

No barrister colleague has openly criticised Gallagher’s work on the INM case, although some have privately, saying there was an inconsistency and that the case was in a different category to other commercial litigation.

“The reason people say nothing is because his reputation is stellar and also the fact that he is such an ordinary guy. If he was some toffee-nosed, south Dublin politically correct-spouting guy, someone would take a turn against him but with Gallagher what you see is what you get,” said the retired solicitor.

Another legal figure, who is familiar with the constraints of high office, said it was acceptable for an attorney general to tidy up some limited work while being mindful of the need to avoid any risk of a conflict. “Anybody who has to bring to a close what he or she is dealing with, should do so in a discreet way, and bring it to a conclusion.”

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Eco-friendly products for your home from bed throws to carpet runners

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Are your interiors green? Eco-friendly products for your home, from bed throws and carpet runners, to recycled from plastic bottles

  • We look at some eco-friendly homeware products made from recycled goods 
  • The products include soft carpet runners made out of plastic bottles










If you thought that having recycled homewares in your house meant accepting hand-me-downs, it is time to think again.

Homeware designers are increasingly looking to use recycled materials, shifting away from throwaway culture and getting involved in the circular economy to help the planet. 

We take a look at some of the latest homeware products available, from glass tumblers to bed throws – and even soft recycled carpet runners made out of yarn made from plastic bottles.

We take a look at some homeware products made from recycled goods such as this runner made out of plastic bottles (scroll down for more details)

We take a look at some homeware products made from recycled goods such as this runner made out of plastic bottles (scroll down for more details)

The products are made by companies such as Weaver Green, which works to turn some of the 135 billion plastic bottles that end up in the sea and landfill into practical and beautiful items for our homes.

Tasha Green, of Weaver Green, explained: ‘The key challenge has been to turn hard plastic into the lovely soft open fibres, so that the yarn genuinely has the look and feel of wool.

‘This process has taken over seven years to perfect, and we now have a robust, soft yarn that is machine washable, stain resistant, suitable for indoor and outdoor use and most importantly environmentally friendly.’

Recycled products for your home

1. Recycled carpet runners

Weaver Green produces this runner called Andalucia Zahara, which is available from £162

Weaver Green produces this runner called Andalucia Zahara, which is available from £162

Weaver Green produces a range of 100 per cent recycled items, including carpet runners made from recycled plastic bottles. 

Ms Green explained: ‘Runners allow you to instantly update and change the feel of a room. 

‘A statement runner can be the main design feature from which you complement other interior elements in your home. 

‘For example, a simple herringbone helps to create a classic timeless look from which you can add vibrant or strong patterns and prints with other accessories.’

The company produces a runner called Andalucia Zahara, which is available from £162.

2. Recycled planters 

The LSA Canopy Collection has shapes inspired by the Eden Projects iconic biomes

The LSA Canopy Collection has shapes inspired by the Eden Projects iconic biomes 

These recycled hanging planters are made from 100 per cent recycled glass bottles and jars.

They evolved from a collaboration between London-based design studio LSA International and the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Together, they created the Canopy Collection, with domed and curved shapes inspired by the Eden Projects iconic biomes.

These recycled hanging planters are made from 100 per cent recycled glass bottles
This plant hangers are a collaboration between LSA International and the Eden Project

These recycled hanging planters are made from 100 per cent recycled glass bottles and jars

A LSA spokesman for the project said: ‘Each piece is mouthblown from 100 per cent recycled glass, following the sustainable practice of turning discarded material into something useful.

‘A subtle green tint is produced, and air bubbles will occur as part of the recycled source material and handmade process.’

The canopy hanging planter is available via LSA International and costs £26.

3. Recycled glass tumblers 

LSA International also produces the Mia Collection, which includes these recycled glass tumblers

LSA International also produces the Mia Collection, which includes these recycled glass tumblers

LSA International is also behind the Mia Collection, which is also made from recycled materials.

This collection focuses on turning recycled glass into several items, including these tumblers. A set of four Mai Tall Highball tumblers cost £32.

4. Recycled bed throws 

Recycled materials can even appear on beds - such as in these throws that are made out of old plastic bottles

Recycled materials can even appear on beds – such as in these throws that are made out of old plastic bottles

Weaver Green has a range of such bed throws, which are made of yarn that has the look and feel of wool (pictured: its Darjeeling rainbow throw costing £65)

Weaver Green has a range of such bed throws, which are made of yarn that has the look and feel of wool (pictured: its Darjeeling rainbow throw costing £65)

Recycled materials can even appear on beds, such as in these throws – pictured above and below – that are made out of old plastic bottles.

Weaver Green produces the bed throws, which are made of yarn that has the look and feel of wool.

Its Darjeeling rainbow throw costs £65, while its Madras pink and gold throws cost £55 each.

Weaver Green's Madras Check pink and gold bed throws are priced at £55 each

Weaver Green’s Madras Check pink and gold bed throws are priced at £55 each 

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do I know who I am anymore?’

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When the New Zealand government announced a nationwide lockdown in response to Covid-19 in March, 2020, newly-arrived Lolsy Byrne was desperately trying to find a flight back to Ireland.

Byrne, a stand-up comedian, had come to New Zealand in March to play a festival in Dunedin. Her plan was to stay for a few months, travelling and gigging, before heading back for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Not wanting to take a flight from a medical professional or someone who was in desperate need to get home, Byrne never got a flight home. Instead, she stayed with a relative in Auckland, where she now lives.

Lolsy Byrne
Lolsy Byrne

Luckily, Byrne became trapped in a country that quickly got a handle on the virus. But being in a brand new place in the midst of all the initial pandemic chaos was challenging. “It was really difficult. When you’re on your own, you struggle to make connections, but, luckily, I was able to get involved in the comedy scene over here and they kind of embraced me with open arms and were really really supportive,” she said. “The sense of humour in New Zealand is so like the Irish sense of humour, we all love telling stories and a lot of self-deprecating humour.”

Byrne regularly plays at a Scottish-Irish comedy night for expats in Auckland, run by a Scottish comedian, who also got stuck in New Zealand when Covid broke out. “You find yourself relaxing into your accent. I tend to put on my phone voice a lot when I’m on stage so people can hear me clearly. But then when we do these Scottish and Irish gigs, all these Irish-isms start flowing out of me.”

New Zealand pursued a hardline elimination strategy early on. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s government had closed the borders to non-citizens and introduced a nationwide lockdown by March 25th, 2020. Since then, Ardern has said on numerous occasions that she would “make no apologies” for implementing strict measures to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

This is the longest time since we’ve been back. We usually go back every 18 months

New Zealand has a similar population to Ireland’s, yet 35 people died with coronavirus while 5,609 people died with the virus in Ireland. For most of the pandemic, their strategy of sharp and strict lockdowns earned New Zealand a reputation as the little island that eliminated coronavirus. New Zealanders enjoyed freedoms that few other nations could.

Seeing Ireland struggling through long lockdowns was also challenging for Byrne. She said there was a sense of guilt about leading a normal life in New Zealand, while friends and family back home were doing it tough.

Elimination strategy

However, in August, 2021, a Delta outbreak sent the nation into lockdown. By early October, Ardern had abandoned her elimination strategy, focusing instead on living with coronavirus and controlling its spread through vaccinations. 82 per cent of New Zealand’s eligible population is now fully vaccinated.

Auckland has been in lockdown since August, with restrictions now beginning to ease. Byrne says she’s watching her friends in Dublin going out and performing again, while she’s in lockdown. Although she hadn’t planned to stay in New Zealand for so long, or to live through a pandemic there, she says she feels “ridiculously fortunate and lucky” and wouldn’t change her “strange position “ for the world.

At the moment, only citizens are allowed to travel in and out of New Zealand. Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) for seven days is necessary for any international arrivals.

Steve Doran, from Howth, Co Dublin, says the idea of visiting home now is much more appealing now that Ireland has opened up.

But the travel restrictions would still make it very difficult for his family of four to travel back.

Steve Doran and family
Steve Doran and family

Now, with Auckland in lockdown, Doran said he was jealous watching friends of his at the Aviva when Ireland beat the All Blacks in November. An avid rugby fan, he says he would have been there without a doubt, had the travel restrictions not been in place.

Lockdown in Auckland has taken a toll on Doran and his family, especially his seven-year-old, who misses his school friends, he says. Doran also works in retail, which has just recently reopened in Auckland after months in lockdown. But he worries about potentially losing some of his colleagues who are anti-vaccination if a mandate is brought in.

Travel restrictions and uncertainty around international flights also worries Will Ward from Milltown, outside of Mullingar, who moved to New Zealand 20 years ago. Ward hasn’t been home now for more than four years. “This is the longest time since we’ve been back. We usually go back every 18 months.”

Will Ward
Will Ward

When the case numbers started rising in Ireland back at the beginning of the pandemic, Ward said he would be glued to the Irish media, checking the numbers first thing every morning. “I was really concerned about family back home. I was fearful here in New Zealand, but not for New Zealand, more for family back home,” he said.

When lockdown ended in Auckland in 2020 and Ward started going on trips, camping or hiking, he would ask his family if they wanted photos or not. There was a sense of guilt; he didn’t want to rub his freedom in his family’s faces. “They were living in this vortex of despair and hopelessness and that was concerning because here in New Zealand we were living pretty a carefree existence.”

On a positive note, Ward says contact with his family has “exponentially jumped”.

“The contact with mum and dad has never been as regular or as positive…I think my relationship with my parents is at a deeper level than it’s ever been before.

“For two years, this mortality thing has been omnipresent: You need to say stuff now.”

Kilcastle’s a very small community and even though they’re not minding you, they are in a way. We were brought up as a community

But with travel restrictions still in place, he’s still unsure about when he’ll be able to get back to Ireland. “Not knowing now when I’m going to get back and give mum and dad a hug, that’s the key thing. People are getting older.”

Ward says he’s been reflecting on Ireland and his Irish identity a lot more in the past few years.

When he sees new generations of Irish people now, he’s struck by a “confidence, a self-assuredness” that he said didn’t really exist in his or his parents’ generation. “I started seeing almost like a non-acceptance of victimhood…just a proud nation to be Irish rather than necessarily a connection to struggle,” he said.

Identity

Anne Marie O’Neill, from Kilcastle, Co Clare, has been in New Zealand for nine years.

O’Neill says she lost her home, her job, and went through a divorce during the last recession in Ireland.

Ann Marie O’Neill
Ann Marie O’Neill

She rekindled a relationship with a man she’d known all her life and together they sold everything they had left and moved to Gisborne on the east coast of the North Island.

O’Neill left Ireland after her mother died and says she hasn’t had much desire to move back to Ireland since emigrating. “For me going home isn’t a big deal but what I’ve lost is that connection: do I know who I am anymore?”

O’Neill says she missed feeling comfortable in her surroundings and not having to constantly “tell her story.”

“Kilcastle’s a very small community and even though they’re not minding you, they are in a way. We were brought up as a community.”

In March, 2021, O’Neill’s brother, who she was extremely close with, died of cancer. In the months leading up to his death, O’Neill said he became uncomfortable with carers coming to his house during the pandemic and that he’d also become dependent on the pain medication he was on. She managed his care via WhatApp or Skype calls, calling for hours each morning and evening.

In his final weeks, O’Neill took time off work and “sat with him 24/7 on Skype… we just let it run.”

She said they prayed, played music, and organised his funeral together.

When he died, O’Neill couldn’t leave the country for the funeral. She watched it on a WhatsApp video call, although she said she just wanted to be home and to be immersed in the grieving process.

“It stopped me from embracing my brother’s final days and death with other people. I wanted to be there and I wanted to be proud to be his only sister walking behind the coffin. I couldn’t do that for him.”

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‘Colour drenching’ interiors trend sees walls, ceiling and woodwork painted the SAME colour

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Walls, ceiling and woodwork all painted in the same tone? It’s a bold approach, but the trend for ‘colour drenching’ is taking hold.

‘Softly, softly’ has largely been the approach to painted walls in recent years, but that’s about to change. 

Many of us who spent more time at home during the pandemic experienced a desire to express ourselves through our interiors, and paint colour is an easy way to inject personality.

Blended: A dining room drenched in shades of blue. It's a bold approach but the trend for 'colour drenching' is taking hold, according to interiors experts

Blended: A dining room drenched in shades of blue. It’s a bold approach but the trend for ‘colour drenching’ is taking hold, according to interiors experts

‘We’re seeing a more liberal use of a single colour in our recent projects,’ says Rosie Ward, creative director at Ward & Co. 

‘Known as ‘colour drenching’, the concept might seem daunting at first, but when executed thoughtfully, it can give a home a wonderful sense of cohesion, character and flow as well as creating a surprisingly calming atmosphere.’

Select a shade 

Whether you choose a soothing mid-tone or a bold, all-enveloping colour, the idea is to drench your space in one hue — or tonal variations of it — from walls and ceiling to woodwork, the inside of doorways, window frames and even radiators.

‘Using a single shade in this way adds a feeling of grandeur as well as providing a chic, minimalist base,’ says Benjamin Moore’s Helen Shaw.

‘Varying levels of saturation can be a great way to take your home from bland to bold, as well as instantly shifting a room’s dimensions.’

 If your home lacks features, colour drenching is a great way to add impact.’

Roby Baldan, interior designer 

Colour drenching can work with any colour, but it does require thought and a full-on rather than half-hearted approach. Deep shades of blue or green can work beautifully in kitchens; blood-red can be enlivening in studies, cloakrooms and cosy living spaces — especially those that face north. 

For a subtle approach, a dusty pink drench works beautifully in sitting rooms and hallways, and pairs naturally with aged brass or gold fittings.

‘Using the same shade throughout helps flatten less appealing features, like radiators, making them disappear into the background,’ says interior designer Roby Baldan. 

‘A single shade makes the perimeter of the room recede and everything else stand out. In period homes, you can use a different tone to highlight architectural elements for a look that’s both modern and dramatic.

‘If your home lacks features, colour drenching is a great way to add impact.’

Work it like a pro

There are a few things to bear in mind to make this look a success.

First, choose the right tone. ‘Bold, saturated jewel greens and teals work very well,’ says Crown’s Justyna Korczynska. ‘Dark greys to near black and deep navy shades are also good choices. But avoid super-brights, as they can be overpowering.’

If you are a little hesitant, start with a small space such as a cloakroom.

‘Select three variations of your chosen colour, ranging from pale to deep,’ advises Roby. ‘Look at the amount of natural light available. Some rooms are suited to pale colours, while others need deep shades.

‘If the room gets plenty of light, select the palest shade as the primary wall colour, choosing darker tones for features. If the room is dark, use the darker shades as the main colour and the palest for the trim.’

How to coordinate 

A fashion-forward option is to complement colour drenched walls with furniture for bold cohesion. This is a look that works in kitchens too — deVol’s new Heirloom range looks great in a deep burgundy finish against pale pink walls.

Sometimes, picking out a colour from a key piece of artwork is all it takes to kickstart your scheme.

Furniture, curtains, cushions, lamps, rugs, accessories and even flowers can be used to intensify the look, but stick to no more than a couple of different colours to avoid visual overload. 

This is a statement trend that’s all about sticking to your guns — commit to the look fully and you won’t go wrong.

What your home needs is a… festive table runner 

Detail: The Nathalie Lete Table Runner costs £58 (anthropologie.com)

Detail: The Nathalie Lete Table Runner costs £58 (anthropologie.com)

Some people refuse to step into Christmas until the last minute. Others deck the halls at the earliest opportunity. 

If you prefer the festive middle ground, but still want to bring cheer to your interior before you break out the baubles, your home needs a Christmas table runner.

If you like an understated Yuletide style, the £14.95 Not On The High Street beige linen runner decorated with snowflakes should suit.

H&M Home’s £6 plain red runner would serve as a base for greenery, colourful napkins and candlesticks. 

If you want more adornment, options include the £58 Nathalie Lete Table Runner. Wayfair has a £13.99 runner with a grey stag’s head.

But there are also opportunities to go over the top. At Lakeland, you can find a £14.99 gold glitter runner while Marks & Spencer can supply a £25 runner with sequins in red or white, or another, in red and grey and also costing £25, with lights operated by batteries. Ho, ho, ho.

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