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‘I felt safe, everyone had a mask and the kids had a ball’

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There was only excitement and joy outside the Gaiety theatre in Dublin on Sunday afternoon, as children waited to watch the first showing of its annual pantomime.

The show, The Little Mermaid, began its six-week run in the 150-year-old venue much to the delight of ticket holders who were nervous about whether the show would go ahead.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) last week recommended to Government that children under 12 should avoid “indoor seasonal events” for the next two weeks due to a high level of Covid-19 in that age group.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was up to parents as to whether children could attend these events over the weekend, as the Government would make a formal decision on Tuesday.

While the Government considers the recommendations, those in attendance at the Gaiety panto on Sunday felt safe and excited that they could witness the festive showpiece.

Jennifer Rattigan and her three daughters – Evie (4), Jayda (5) and Callie Mae (7) – had tickets to the show for November 30th, but following the recent recommendations they bought a second set of tickets for Sunday in case the later date was cancelled.

“We decided to get tickets today in case we couldn’t go on the original date. It’s not fair on the kids, they’re after missing out on so much already with school, lessons and dancing,” she said.

“At the start of the lockdown, all of the emphasis was on the kids, people were moving out of your way, it was like they have the plague. I do think the kids are being punished unnecessarily.”

Ms Rattigan asked if children could go to school, matches could continue outdoors and adults could attend nightclubs, “then why can’t children go to a little show when all the precautions have been taken?”

Susanna O’Toole was in attendance with her sisters, nieces, nephews and daughters.

“The show was brilliant. It was lovely, the kids had a ball. I felt safe, everyone had their mask on and it was totally safe,” she said after seeing the production.

“We were glad we got to see it because we were planning on booking the Olympia panto on Stephen’s Day and then when we heard that thing about the under-12s, we said there’s no point in booking it now. You only go for the kids.”

Priscila Centenaro was attending with her seven-year-old daughter Haily, who had never attended a show before.

“This is a classic of Disney. That’s why I brought my little one, so she knows the story. I read to her so this time she can actually see it,” Ms Centenaro said.

Asked if recent advice about children being indoors made her nervous, Ms Centenaro said “not at all”.

“In winter normally everybody gets a cold. It’s just happy days and enjoyment.”

Friends, from left, Mia Sokolwski, Haily Gdowska and Julia Sokolwski from Portlaoise before the start of The Little Mermaid pantomime. Photograph: Tom Honan
Friends, from left, Mia Sokolwski, Haily Gdowska and Julia Sokolwski from Portlaoise before the start of The Little Mermaid pantomime. Photograph: Tom Honan

Peter Sokolwski who attended with his eight-year-old twin daughters said they were there for fun after a very challenging year and a half.

He said he was “absolutely not” nervous about being indoors with his children, despite recent advice from health officials and high daily case numbers.

“I have my vaccination so everything is alright,” he said.

“They’re kids. They’re supposed to be outside. They’re supposed to be playing. They’re supposed to have fun.”

Lynsey Feeney, from Dublin 2, attended with her two daughters, Penny (7) and Priya (5), and their cousins.

Sisters Penny and Priya Feeney before the start of the Gaiety pantomine. Photograph: Tom Honan
Sisters Penny and Priya Feeney before the start of the Gaiety pantomine. Photograph: Tom Honan

“It’s Christmas, we just said we would do something with them before they are locked back up,” she said.

Ms Feeney said she was fully vaccinated and felt she couldn’t keep telling her children they couldn’t do things.

“It is hard when you’re stuck. I live in an apartment and I’ve another baby at home, so the minute it goes dark we don’t move. And now we can’t go anywhere seeing Santa or anything like that,” she added.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin has announced that extra money will be found if necessary to support those staging pantomimes and other Christmas theatre events that might be affected by the Covid pandemic.

The new scheme, which has €2 million in funding, will open on Monday for venues and producers putting on pantomimes and other Christmas events.

Under this scheme commercial operators will be able to apply for up to 50 per cent of their costs back if the pandemic interrupts the production.

Asked if there has been any clarity on rules around pantomimes over the weekend, a Government spokeswoman said the Nphet advice had been communicated to the Minister and Government in the usual manner.

“Government will consider any recommendations arising at the next Cabinet meeting,” she added.

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Taoiseach’s family shaped by their working-class roots

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As a special needs assistant at Bunscoil Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross on the south side of Cork city, Mairéad Martin-Richmond is often asked how she manages financially.

Martin-Richmond, a 59-year-old separated mother of two grown-up children, is a sister of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and says her family’s working-class roots keep her grounded.

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Hines invests in industrial portfolio in Northern Italy

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Hines has reached a binding agreement for an off-market investment to acquire 20 logistics assets located between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy through the Italian fund HEVF II Italy managed by Prelios SGR on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2). The transaction involves the acquisition of the real estate portfolio from four different selling companies and the simultaneous 15-year lease of the same portfolio to Snatt Logistica Group, a leader in the third-party logistics (3PL) sector focusing exclusively on the fashion industry. The portfolio of 20 logistics assets provides a total of 200,000m² of logistics space around Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna. They are strategic, well-established logistic centres that enjoy effective, rapid connections with Italy’s main cities and the rest of Europe.

 

“We are pleased to start 2022 with an important investment in the logistics sector that consolidates our presence in the main intersections in Northern Italy. At Hines, we believe in the potential of the logistics sector in Italy and have set an investment target of around €1bn in 2022,” commented Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director & country head of Hines Italy. “We are proud to collaborate with Snatt Logistica Group, which is an international 3PL logistics leader in the luxury fashion industry, and we are certain that we will be able to develop a shared path for growth, guided by common values, including ESG, which is key to our DNA.”

 

Paul White, senior managing director and fund manager for HEVF 2 at Hines, said: “This is an attractive portfolio of assets with a strong, innovative tenant at the forefront of Italy’s fast-growing third-party logistics sector for the fashion industry. We believe that e-commerce will continue to drive long-term demand for high-quality logistics facilities in Italy’s northern cities, pushing the value of these investments forwards, while there is also a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability performance of existing assets here. This is aligned with our ESG objectives as recognised by GRESB, with HEVF 2 achieving the award of Overall Global Sector Leader in the Diversified Office/Retail category for sustainability performance in 2021.”

 

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Latest Coveney gaffe shows new knack of ‘making small problems big’

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“Don’t mind your press releases,” a Fine Gael source was told by a more experienced hand on their first day in Leinster House; “If you want something out there, just say it in the PP [parliamentary party meeting].”

It’s a truism of Irish politics that these meetings – especially those of the two larger Government parties – leak like the proverbial sieve. This got worse during Covid, when virtual meetings meant members were unencumbered by the need to even appear interested, and journalists were freely briefed in real time. The content of the meeting, coupled with the observations of parliamentarians – arch, knowing, and unfiltered – populated twitter streams and news copy.

So, when Simon Coveney’s remarks about his surprise at the meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland and the head of the defence forces were promptly headline news, it can’t have been too much of a shock. “He knows he’s speaking at the leakiest meeting in Leinster House,” observed a source present.

Still, some in the room thought when Michael Creed raised the issue, Coveney would just “warble on like you normally do”. Instead, after a gap of several minutes while other questions were fielded, the Minister for Defence bit down. He said he was “surprised to put it mildly”, several sources present said, and questioned the judgement of it.

Afterwards, sources close to Coveney quickly asserted the Minister meant the tweet from the Russians, and the accompanying picture, were the issue, not the meeting. But multiple sources at the parliamentary party interpreted it as referring to the meeting, and what’s more, as a direct rebuke to the chief of staff. “The tone I got was he was f***ing livid,” said one source.

Either way, the remark was leaked, it was controversial, and early the next morning, Coveney was mending fences in the Dáil, expressing confidence in Clancy and contrition for having brought him into the line of political fire.

A kind interpretation, offered by some at the meeting, is that he feels honour-bound to respond fully to questions from parliamentary colleagues. There is likely truth to that. But equally, many believe he would have known his comments would have been controversial, open to interpretation as a rebuke to the head of the Defence Forces, and that it was meant as a shot across the bows.

Others postulate that – perhaps more worryingly – he didn’t detect the political risk inherent in the remarks, which the Opposition would say had undermined the Chief of Staff . “Simon should have known this was going to result in public comment,” said another person there.

That, in truth is the bigger concern – that Coveney’s bad run of form is down to a blunted political dexterity. “You’d know by the way he said it he wasn’t trying to cause controversy,” one colleague said – adding that it was, however, evidence of Coveney’s new knack of “making small problems into big ones”.

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