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Ireland’s toymakers confident they can deliver this Christmas despite global disruptions

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While global supply chain problems, Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have prompted retailers to warn of toy shortages this Christmas, local toymakers and inventors are confident that like Santa Claus, they will still be able to deliver for Ireland’s children this year.

“As seen on the Late Late Show,” is a phrase which resonates with all Irish people and rarely more so than in the immediate aftermath of the Toy Show, with the items that star on RTÉ’s annual extravaganza – the latest edition of which was broadcast on Friday night – most certainly in high demand.

John Dunne from Dublin knows first-hand the impact an appearance on the show can have, with his invention – effectively a 3-D version of noughts and crosses – once taking the world by storm after the briefest of appearances.

Speaking from his Rathfarnham home and toy factory, the 64-year-old first conceived of his toy when he was 18 and studying engineering. “I decided I was going to make a 3-D version and made a little frame and then played it with a friend and after winning all three games, I forgot all about it.”

The game ended up in his parents’ attic and only reappeared years later when his father was doing a clear out.

By that time, Dunne owned a small engineering factory and when he saw his game again, he and a colleague gave it another whirl.

“We played it every day for a month and thought it was a hell of a game. It was much deeper than noughts and crosses and trying to come up with ways to guarantee a win was impossible.”

Niamh Sherwin Barry, director of The Irish Fairy Door Company, alongside examples of her creation. Photograph: Andres Poveda
Niamh Sherwin Barry, director of The Irish Fairy Door Company, alongside examples of her creation. Photograph: Andres Poveda

It was 1990 and he decided to bring it to Hasbro’s Irish operation in Waterford. “The MD loved it and sent to his colleagues in England and they loved it. I was on a high but then they came back and said they were not going to run with it.”

Dunne was still convinced he was on to something so made the game himself. He managed to sell a batch to the Smyths Toys chain. “I was given a great space at the end of aisles but between October and November, we had hardly sold a unit there,” he says.

But because Smyths had taken it, the other toy shops as well as Tesco had placed orders. “Everyone kept asking me was it going to be on the Toy Show, so I contacted the show. I played the game with a researcher who loved it but said they weren’t going to go for it.”

He was not giving up. He hung around outside RTÉ and “bumped into” the then presenter Pat Kenny and gave the game to him, along with a note. “He took it, brought it home and played it with his children,” says Dunne.

The toy subsequently appeared on the Toy Show, albeit only for 30 seconds. It was enough. “The next day, my phone never stopped ringing everyone wanted to double their orders,” he says.

He sold 5,000 games that Christmas. Then Hasbro rang. They were back in the game. Hasbro then produced a version of the game, which sold two million units.

Dunne kept the rights to his original game and has been making it and selling it in small volumes ever since. “The product is made in Mullingar, we sell the game online and myself and my wife package them. I reckon we will sell 5,000 this Christmas.”

Niamh Sherwin Barry’s invention was a toy of chance too. She is the owner of the Irish Fairy Door Company and came up with the wildly successful idea while staying with her brother at his home in upstate New York eight years ago.

“Where he lived, there were shops selling loads of wooden stuff and we bought this little door that my son decided had a fairy living behind it,” she recalls. “He started writing to his fairy.”

When she got home, she made her son a fairy door and then the parent of one of his school friends called to house and asked for one too.“My husband was sitting on the couch with a glass of wine in his hand and he said immediately ‘we could make money out of this’,” she recalls.

They went into business with a couple they had been friendly with for years “and it took off. We were complete Celtic Tiger cubs and on our knees but this suddenly took off and grew wings.”

As well a fairy product might.

Since then, she says, she has “found over a million human homes for fairies. It has gone global. We have created something that will stay in the memory of children forever.

“Hopefully the children of today will pass it down to their children, it is something that will never leave their memory and that is something that we can be very proud of.”

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Amanda Holden puts her five bedroom Surrey home on the market for £5million

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Amanda Holden has put her Surrey mansion on the market for £5million after giving the luxurious property a showbiz makeover.

The Britain’s Got Talent judge, 51, is hoping to make a £1.5million profit having splashed out £3.5m on the five-bedroom home seven years ago.

The detached home boasts its own bar, huge 30ft by 27ft living room, stylish kitchen diner and a hot tub, where Amanda has posed for several bikini pictures she’s posted on her Instagram page.

Amanda Holden (pictured) has put one of her family homes on the market seven years after she bought it for £3.5million 

The star often posts pictures on Instagram of her beautiful home, which she has been given a fabulous renovation by the star

The star often posts pictures on Instagram of her beautiful home, which she has been given a fabulous renovation by the star

The huge open-plan living room also displays eye-catching artwork, including a giant painting of a female astronaut and a £30,000 drawing by the Connor Brothers of a sultry woman in a silver dress smoking a cigarette

 The huge open-plan living room also displays eye-catching artwork, including a giant painting of a female astronaut and a £30,000 drawing by the Connor Brothers of a sultry woman in a silver dress smoking a cigarette

A source said: ‘Amanda loves her family home and is really proud of the work she’s done on it.

‘She’s had a real hand in the makeover and has enjoyed seeing her ideas come to life.

‘It will be a sad day when she moves out but Amanda can take comfort in the number of memories she’s created there.’

Amanda lives in the property with record producer husband Chris Hughes and their two daughters Lexi, 16, and Hollie, 10. 

After buying the home in 2015, herself and Chris described the mansion as their ‘forever home’ and Amanda admitted ‘badgering’ its former owner to sell it to them for years until they finally relented.

The couple also own a holiday home in the Cotswolds, which they have been renovating over the past year.

Heart FM DJ Amanda has spoken of her love of interior design

Heart FM DJ Amanda has spoken of her love of interior design

Amanda recently added a glamorous outhouse to the Surrey property where another bar and the hot tub are located, set upon a large wooden decking area, close to a palm tree she planted in honour of Sir Captain Tom Moore.

The garden room also includes a log burner and comfy sofas, which Amanda says are perfect for a ‘sneaky afternoon disco nap.’

The Heart FM DJ renovated her bespoke Wilson Fink kitchen during lockdown, adding new cupboards and worktops, plus mirrored tiles on the walls.

She also has three disco ball-style lights, worth £850 each, hanging over her breakfast bar.

And her quirky taste is exemplified by pineapple-themed accessories dotted around the property, including dark navy and pineapple-print wallpaper and a £125 Graham and Green pineapple lamp.

The huge open-plan living room also displays eye-catching artwork, including a giant painting of a female astronaut and a £30,000 drawing by the Connor Brothers of a sultry woman in a silver dress smoking a cigarette under the caption ‘If you haven’t got anything nice to say come sit next to me.’

The mansion, which includes five bedrooms, three bathrooms and a study, is located behind two sets of private gates which lead onto a private road towards the house.

The driveway is big enough to hold several cars, which is convenient when Amanda hosts her showbiz parties.

Speaking about her home to House Beautiful, Amanda revealed it was important their Surrey property didn’t feel like ‘a show home’

She said: ‘We have two little girls and don’t want them feeling that they’re treading on eggshells.’

Amanda’s passion for interior design has led to her landing a new TV show with pal Alan Carr in which the pair be doing up a property in Italy.

The series will air on the BBC after she pitched the idea to the broadcaster.

Amanda admits herself and husband Chris have so many clothes, they turned a room into a walk-in wardrobe – inspired by her favourite TV show.

She says: ‘I’m a huge Sex And The City fan and Chris did a Mr Big and turned a whole room into my wardrobe.

‘Except, he didn’t leave a pair of Manolos at the end… but he arranged everything else. It’s something I’ve always dreamt of.

‘There’s a remote-controlled mirror that goes up and down and lights up – it’s amazing.’

The star has taken to Instagram and posted photos of her on dreamy summer evenings relaxing her garden which includes a hot tub set upon a large wooden decking area, close to a palm tree she planted in honour of Sir Captain Tom Moore

The star has taken to Instagram and posted photos of her on dreamy summer evenings relaxing her garden which includes a hot tub set upon a large wooden decking area, close to a palm tree she planted in honour of Sir Captain Tom Moore

Speaking about her efforts to lovingly renovate her home, house proud Amanda explained: 'I am house proud, but I've got two kids, two dogs and a cat, so it's a family house. Everything is washable and wipeable.'

Speaking about her efforts to lovingly renovate her home, house proud Amanda explained: ‘I am house proud, but I’ve got two kids, two dogs and a cat, so it’s a family house. Everything is washable and wipeable.’

The buyer lucky enough to be able to afford Amanda's sprawling home will be able to relax in this stunning stand alone bath

The buyer lucky enough to be able to afford Amanda’s sprawling home will be able to relax in this stunning stand alone bath

The en-suite bathroom is just off the master bedroom where Amanda has frequently posted enviable pictures on her socials

The en-suite bathroom is just off the master bedroom where Amanda has frequently posted enviable pictures on her socials

And the TV favourite also concedes she’s a clean freak, meaning every service on the ground floor can be wiped fresh.

Speaking to The Mirror, she explained: ‘I am house proud, but I’ve got two kids, two dogs and a cat, so it’s a family house. Everything is washable and wipeable.

‘It’s so open plan my littlest can cycle her bike around. ‘I don’t have carpets on the ground floor – and this is disgusting – but I was doing an interview a while ago and my puppy pooed on the floor during the chat.

‘But you don’t worry if you have wooden floors. Two words: wipe clean.’

Amanda, who designed a homeware range for shopping network QVC, is so into interior design she believes it could eventually become a day job – if she ever loses her looks.

She added: ‘I want this to be a legacy. When my face falls off and all the telly work dries up, this is actually where I want to be.’ 

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Russian TV host refuses to apologise for report on mock nuclear attack on Ireland

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The Russian state television host who broadcast a graphic of a simulated nuclear attack destroying Ireland has rejected a request from Taoiseach Micheál Martin to apologise for the programme.

In a follow-up report broadcast on state-owned television channel Russia-1 on Sunday night, television host Dmitry Kiselyov refused to apologise for the animated graphic broadcast earlier this month showing a nuclear strike off the Irish coast erasing Ireland and Britain from the map.

On Sunday’s programme, Kiselyov, a Kremlin supporter and state propagandist, described Ireland as “collateral damage” in a potential nuclear attack by Russia on the UK in any escalation of tensions between the countries over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

While distinguishing between Ireland, a neutral country, and the UK, Kiselyov repeated the assertion in the original report that “the whole British archipelago was basically a sinkable island” and that Russia has “every capability for such a nuclear retaliation”.

Referring to Irish political and public reaction to the original report broadcast at the start of this month, the Russian TV host said: “Ireland literally flew into a rage. Of course as a neutral country, it wasn’t nice for Ireland to become collateral damage in Britain’s clash with Russia.”

The news report, according to a translation tweeted by the BBC digital journalist Francis Scarr who monitors Russian state television, quoted the Taoiseach describing the Russian media report as “very sinister, intimidatory tactics by the Russian Federation”.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be intimidated by it. I think it reflects a mindset that is worrying and not in touch with reality. I think there should be an apology forthcoming,” the Taoiseach was quoted as saying on the Russian programme against a photograph of Mr Martin.

Kiselyov said he completely agreed that an apology should be forthcoming but that it should come from British prime minister Boris Johnson, falsely claiming that the UK leader had made a “groundless threat to strike Russia” that had led to the original report and simulated attack.

“But we’re not intimidating anyone. Talking about capabilities has an anti-war modality. As they say, let’s not start. It will end badly. It’s better to live in peace,” said Kiselyov.

Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South Billy Kelleher said the Russian state-owned station still owed an apology to the Taoiseach and the Irish people over the report and mock attack.

He described the Russia presenter as “a mouthpiece” for Russian leader Vladimir Putin and that “anything said by him were effectively the official views from the Kremlin”.

“It shows how delusional their foreign policy is. It shows how removed they are from understanding what neutral countries are,” he said.

“It is indicative of Russia’s view of the world and how they believe they can obliterate a nation if they feel that is necessary to protect themselves even if there is no threat coming from Ireland.”

The reports on the Russian national broadcaster were “outrageous”, “completely unacceptable” and “indicative of the delusional state of the entire Putin regime,” he said.

“We simply cannot have what are official media outlets relaying huge threats to wipe Ireland off the face of the earth, a neutral country that has never once threatened Russia,” he said.

Labour Party foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Howlin TD described the host’s comments as “both delusional and menacing on a number of fronts”, including how the television station was conflating Ireland and Britain.

“Ireland is a neutral country but as the people of Ireland have very ably demonstrated in the last two months, we are not neutral in relation to the illegal and immoral assault on the people of Ukraine by Putin,” he said.

“We will not be intimidated by grandiose, farcical threats emanating from Russia. This is not a comic book; this is a painful reality for millions of Ukrainians.”



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Sirius Real Estate sells London business park for €18.8m (GB)

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Sirius Real Estate has agreed to the sale of an asset in Camberwell, London, for €18.8m (£16m), representing a NIY of circa 2%. The property formed part of the portfolio Sirius acquired in November 2021 with its purchase of BizSpace, the leading provider of regional light industrial, workshop, studio and out of town office units across the UK. The sale price represents a 94% premium to the valuation at the time of Sirius’ acquisition of BizSpace.

 

The multi-tenanted business park, which comprises approximately 34,700ft² of industrial and office space is 91% occupied following a series of asset management measures delivered through the BizSpace platform. The sale is expected to complete in July 2022.

 

Commenting on the transaction, Andrew Coombs, Chief Executive Officer of Sirius Real Estate, said: “This disposal is further proof of the latent value in the BizSpace portfolio we acquired late last year, the price being significantly ahead of last September’s valuation on which our purchase was based, and the attractive sale follows our recent announcement that we had since improved like-for-like rental income across the portfolio by 7.5%. The sale will allow us to invest in new opportunities for BizSpace in the UK as we continue to build our acquisition pipeline. Bringing together the Sirius and BizSpace platforms, with a strengthened management team at BizSpace, is already delivering strong results and operational synergies that will enhance our UK portfolio.”

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