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Green Party says activists may have posed as market researchers in ‘isolated incidents’

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The Green Party has said there may have been “isolated incidents” where it used party volunteers to carry out polling using a false company name.

It comes after Sinn Féin and Fianna Fail said party activists posed as market researchers to conduct polling, and Fine Gael said it had done something “similar”.

A Green Party spokesman said: “When we initially asked around internally yesterday it appeared that no-one in the party had ever engaged in using volunteers to carry out polling using a false company name.

“However, it later emerged that there may have been some isolated incidences of this taking place in some constituencies over a decade ago.“

“To be clear, this is not something that the present day party approves of or would ever engage in,” the spokesman said. On Wednesday the party said it had never engaged in such practices.

Political parties will have to reveal to the Data Protection Commissioner if they are processing personal data gathered during polling, where practices such as party activists posing as pollsters may have been used.

The DPC is already conducting a wide-ranging audit of parties’ treatment of personal data, with the watchdog indicating on Wednesday that each party should identify whether personal data was gathered during the polling and, if so, what was done with it.

Sinn Féin’s actions were first revealed in an article in Wednesday’s Irish Independent, which detailed how party activists were issued with ID badges bearing the name of a non-existent market research company, Irish Market Research Agency.

Initially, the DPC said it would write to Sinn Féin, but later said: “As part of the DPC’s ongoing audit of political parties that commenced recently, all political parties have been asked to account for the source of each field of personal data they process concerning electors/voters.”

Sinn Féin activists posed as pollsters when engaging with voters in 2015. Fianna Fáil confirmed party members had also done so, prior to 2007, while Leo Varadkar said Fine Gael had engaged in “similar” practices before 2016.

Data protection experts said a key issue would be whether any personal data was gleaned from voters by either party, and if so, how it was used.

“If you didn’t keep personally identifiable information, and just kept statistical information, that doesn’t raise data protection questions,” said Simon McGarr, a solicitor and expert in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

However, if personal data had been collected, parties could still be exposed even if the activity had been discontinued prior to the introduction of the GDPR in 2018.

Fred Logue, also a solicitor and GDPR expert, said pre-existing data protection laws created similar obligations. “There isn’t really much of a difference between the main obligations under data protection law today and as it was three years ago,” he said.

If personal data was collected, and was still being used by any party, that could create further GDPR obligations, Mr McGarr said.

On Wednesday, Sinn Féin said: “No identifiable private information or data is ever used, collected or stored. It is entirely anonymous – that is the whole point of it.”

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael did not respond to detailed questions on Wednesday night.

Trust

Damian Loscher, managing director of Ipsos-MRBI – which conducts polling for The Irish Times – said the practice was “not right” and “trust is undermined by behaviours like this”.

Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, accused Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil of not being transparent when originally questioned. She said there was a “latent culture” in some political parties “in which deception was not only tolerated, but encouraged”.

She said voters were “fed mistruths” and their information “gathered under false pretences”. The Social Democrats, the Green Party and Labour said on Wednesday they had not engaged in activities where individuals posed as researchers or pollsters.

In a statement on Wednesday evening, a spokeswoman for Fianna Fáil said the party has outsourced polling to private independent providers.

“Prior to 2007, we did on occasion use party members to undertake polling and on those occasions they did pose as market researchers. This was to supplement private providers also used. This practice was ended around 2007,” the spokeswoman said.

Earlier, Sinn Féin defended the polling carried out by party members purporting to be from a fake marketing company.

The party’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said the localised polling was no different to research carried out by other political parties. Given the expense of polling it was a “key way to level the playing field”, he told RTÉ radio.

Mr Ó Broin said the polling data was always anonymised. He said the party members had badges with their real names and photos with the name of the market research company.

“This is a common part of election practices,” he said.

Mr Ó Broin told Pat Kenny on Newstalk that he did not accept it was unethical. “It’s a standard practice in political party activity. I am aware of many instances in my own constituency where larger parties have done exactly the same thing, this is standard practice, if people knew how much a professional opinion poll costs,” he said.

He said that when people were calling to doors conducting these polls for the party that was “exactly what they were doing – anonymised polls for the purpose of collecting polling data and that data was used exactly the same way as if you were paying a professional company or you’re doing it [IN]some other manner – it’s exactly what it says on the tin”.

He said the polls were always done properly. “The accuracy of those polls was just as good as polls that you would pay thousands of euros for and we stand over that. The polls were done properly and ethically in my view,” he said.

He said professional pollsters do not identify who their client is.

Fine Gael

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said Fine Gael conducted “similar” polling to that done by Sinn Féin.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme on Wednesday evening, Mr Varadkar was asked if his party had engaged in any similar exercises.

“Quite frankly yes,” he told the programme. He said that prior to 2016, “we would have done something similar, either volunteers would have been asked to do surveys door-to-door, or students would have been paid to do it, and it would have been done on a similar basis, anonymised for the purposes of polling”

He said the practice was discontinued, perhaps as early as 2014, and had not been done in the last five to seven years. Earlier on Wednesday, when he was asked about the practice, Mr Varadkar had said it was not done during his period as leader of the party.

“But I can’t swear blind about local arrangements that may have been done in the past, but not during my period as leader, we’ve only ever used companies that have been above board.”

A spokesman for the Labour Party said it has not engaged in similar activity and “our head office wouldn’t sanction such an approach”.

A spokeswoman for the Social Democrats said it has “never engaged in posing as independent market researchers or opinion poll companies to survey voters”.

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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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