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Catholic bishops to ‘reflect’ on Minister’s request for land for housing

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The Catholic Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has responded to a letter from Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien asking the church to identify property it owns that could potentially be used for housing.

He told the Minister he would “consider its content carefully and will, in consultation with his brother bishops, reflect on it during the autumn general meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in October”.

Mr O’Brien had said he was hopeful the church would provide land for the State to build homes in the future as he confirmed sending the letter last week.

The letter acknowledged the independence of the church in managing its property portfolio and noted that addressing the housing crisis was primarily the State’s duty, but asked the church to identify land or vacant buildings that could be considered as part of a wider solution to the problem.

It is understood the Minister had sent the letter to the Bishops’ Conference secretariat in Maynooth rather than to Archbishop Martin in Armagh. It had not been forwarded to him before its details were made public, prompting the archbishop to initially state that he had not received it.

Some figures in the church have privately queried the timing of the Minister’s letter, just a few days before the Government’s Housing for All strategy was published.

The Minister said the purpose of the letter was to “open up a discussion” with the church about it supporting the State in building housing.

“They have significant land holdings across the State,” the Minister said on Monday last week. “Some local authorities have been dealing with churches in different parishes, and land holdings have been freed up for housing.”

Separate entities

Ownership of church property is complicated by the fact that every parish is a separate legal entity in civil and canon law, as is each school in civil law. Religious congregations are also separate independent entities in civil and canon law and, generally, are responsible to superiors in Ireland rather than bishops.

It is also the case that many church properties are controlled by trusts, which limit their use to educational or healthcare uses.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Brien has said implementation of the housing plan will require an additional 27,000 workers in the construction sector.

“We need to work on that now on the apprenticeship side,” he said. “We’ve got to build a sustainable system. I think there will be people who will be coming back home. We have seen some of that. We lost about 8 per cent of the workforce … through Covid because some went to work in continental Europe or in Britain.”

He said some had already returned and the Government would look at campaigns to attract others.

“This isn’t a short-term fix in relation to skills. I have been on some sites where the average age of the sites could be in their 50s and you don’t see too many people coming up.”


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Tetchy Tánaiste stirs the Stormont pot

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Some of the most petulant reaction to the latest protocol row has come from Fine Gael, which may explain unwise comments on direct rule and a Border poll from Leo Varadkar.

Speaking at a Co-operation North event in Dublin on Tuesday night, the Tánaiste said direct rule was not a viable long-term alternative to devolution. If Stormont is not restored quickly other options must be considered, with the best forum to do so being the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) of the Belfast Agreement.

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Tiny one-room flat with BATH in the lounge and kitchen by the bed is up for rent at £1,000-a-month

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Tiny one-room flat with BATH in the lounge and kitchen just few feet away from the bed goes up for rent for £1,000-a-month in London

  • A cramped studio flat that is up for rent in south London is so small it has a bath located in the lounge
  • The property, that is in the ‘highly sought after’ Wimbledon area, has a bed only feet away from the kitchen
  • Renters will have to fork out over £1,000-a-month to live in the odd space, though bills are included

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A tiny studio flat has been mocked because it costs over £1,000-a-month to rent and the bath is located in the lounge.

While the bed is found only feet away from the kitchen area, with a giant telly on the wall.

The south London property is on the market to rent for an eye-watering amount considering its size.

The bath is right by the back door leading out to a small private area on a patio garden.

The listing states that it has been ‘designed to maximise the space available’ and adds that the bathroom has ‘been cleverly designed to be fully hidden from view’, but this appears just to be a shower curtain.

A compact studio flat in Wimbledon is charging more than £1,000 a month for the luxury of having a bath in the lounge (pictured)

A compact studio flat in Wimbledon is charging more than £1,000 a month for the luxury of having a bath in the lounge (pictured)

The property's bed is located just feet away from the 'Kitchenette area', which boasts a microwave and kettle

The property’s bed is located just feet away from the ‘Kitchenette area’, which boasts a microwave and kettle

The flat has a 'self contained pied-a-tierre' (pictured) with a small table and two chairs

The flat has a ‘self contained pied-a-tierre’ (pictured) with a small table and two chairs

The flat in upmarket Wimbledon Village will cost lodgers £1,150 per month – or £265 per week – to live in it.

Bills are included within the rental and there is a secure parking space available.

One home hunter fumed: ‘London cost of living is so disgusting that you pay £1,150 per month to rent a bath in a bed/kitchen as advertised on Rightmove today.

‘Living in a decent home is an essential and fundamental basic human right.

‘It shouldn’t be a privileged novelty.’

The letting agent said it would be ideal for someone to rent for the Wimbledon tennis tournament which starts next month.

The All England Tennis Club, where the grass championship is hosted, is just half a mile away.

A Twitter user bashed the listing, calling the price of the studio flat 'disgusting'

A Twitter user bashed the listing, calling the price of the studio flat ‘disgusting’

The listing says the flat is 'finished to an exceptional standard' and is available for short term rent

The listing says the flat is ‘finished to an exceptional standard’ and is available for short term rent

The toilet is found opposite to the bath and appears to have more than a curtain separating it from the lounge, unlike the bath

The toilet is found opposite to the bath and appears to have more than a curtain separating it from the lounge, unlike the bath

It is being let by CHK Mountford and advertised via Rightmove, the property listing reads: ‘Set on the ground floor of a wonderful detached private residence in the heart of Wimbledon Village is this self-contained pied a tierre.

‘The property has been immaculately refurbished to a very high standard and has been cleverly designed to maximise the space available.

‘To the front of the property is a small private patio.

‘The room is fully furnished and there is a small kitchenette area complete with sink, microwave and fridge.

‘There is a separate WC and a bath which has been cleverly designed to be fully hidden from view if required plus a generous storage cupboard/wardrobe.

‘One parking space is available and is set behind the properties private gates offering complete secure parking.

‘This property would be ideal for a working professional looking for a weekday base and who is looking for something which is centrally located and finished to a high standard.

‘All bills are included within the monthly rental.

‘Available on a short or long term basis, please note that for a short term rental the cost would be on a weekly basis.

‘And would be at a higher rental amount than for a long term tenancy – please contact the office directly for verification of the weekly rental.

‘The property is available for rental during Wimbledon Tennis event and is the perfect base for those wanting to be close to the site and have secure parking in addition.’

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Truss made ‘turnips in truck’ Brexit remark about Ireland, former diplomat says

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UK foreign secretary Liz Truss told a US audience three years ago that the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Ireland would only “affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks,” a former UK diplomat said.

Alexandra Hall Hall, a former Brexit counsellor at the UK embassy in the US, disclosed on Twitter on Tuesday night that Ms Truss made the remarks to a US audience three years ago.

The former career diplomat revealed in an article she wrote in a US academic journal last year that a UK government minister made the remarks but she did not identify the minister at the time.

Last night Ms Hall Hall retweeted a tweet by Ms Truss in which the foreign secretary said the UK government’s “first priority is to uphold the Belfast Agreement” – the 1998 deal that underpins the Northern Ireland peace process. Ms Truss shared a link to her House of Commons speech in which she set out plans to introduce legislation to override the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Retweeting the message, Ms Hall Hall said: “So pleased to see Liz Truss become a genuine expert on Irish matters. She was, after all, the minister who told a US audience three years ago that Brexit would not have any serious impact in Ireland . . . it would merely ‘affect a few farmers with turnips in the back of their trucks.’”

‘Under strain’

Ms Truss told the UK parliament that the protocol had put the Belfast Agreement “under strain” because of opposition by Unionist parties, citing this as a reason to plan to introduce new legislation in the coming weeks to scrap parts of the Northern Ireland Brexit deal.

Ms Hall Hall wrote in the Texas National Security Review journal last year that during her time as a diplomat in Washington, DC that Boris Johnson’s government damagingly played down the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s peace process in statements intended for US audiences.

She resigned from her job in late 2019 because she said she was unwilling to “peddle half-truths on behalf of a government I do not trust,” she said in her resignation letter.

In her article last autumn, she described the “turnip” remarks – without naming Ms Truss at the time – as a “low point” of her time in Washington when the UK minister “openly and offensively” in front of a US audience dismissed the impact of a no-deal Brexit on Irish businesses.

Ms Truss, then the UK secretary of state for international trade, was visiting Washington at the time to meet the then US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, both members of US president Donald Trump’s administration, and other politicians.

In the academic article, she said he had become “increasingly dismayed by the way in which our political leaders have tried to deliver Brexit, with reluctance to address honestly, even with our own citizens, the challenges and trade-offs which Brexit involves.”

She took issue in the article – entitled: “Should I stay or should I go? The dilemma of a conflicted civil service – with the UK government’s “use of misleading or disingenuous arguments about the implications of the various options” with Brexit.

Ms Hall joined the UK foreign office in 1986 and served in various roles around the world, including in Bangkok, New Delhi and Bogota before serving as British ambassador in Georgia.

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