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Irish teams for Olympics and Paralympics to receive Covid-19 vaccinations

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All Irish athletes and accredited support staff travelling to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer will be vaccinated in advance against Covid-19 following talks between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Pfizer BioNTech.

The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) and Paralympics Ireland have welcomed the agreement, which paves the way for the vaccinations in advance of the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on July 23rd, and the Tokyo Paralympics, which begin on August 24th.

The agreement will see vaccinations for all accredited Irish Olympic and Paralympic athletes and support teams expecting to travel to Tokyo, which numbers in the low hundreds, being made available directly by Pfizer BioNTech.

This deal is supplementary to any existing delivery agreements between Pfizer and the Irish Government, which through the EU allocation, has increased very significantly in recent weeks.

The development has understandably been welcomed given the very high levels of anxiety that a lack of vaccination was causing among the team: a positive diagnosis this close to the Games still has the potential to exclude athletes from competition.

OFI president Sarah Keane welcomed the decision, highlighting the increased level of safety it will ensure to all athletes and officials set to travel.

“I would like to thank the IOC and IPC on behalf of Team Ireland for this very significant breakthrough,” she said. “It provides the athletes and support staff who work so hard to represent us internationally with the appropriate level of care in advance of the Games.

“Over recent months we have been very conscious of the wider issues around us in society and were working intensely to advocate for vaccination of the team at the appropriate time when those most vulnerable in society had come first.

“This breakthrough is a major relief for all of us given the significant challenges that we were facing and the lack of time remaining to find a resolution. I take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to Pfizer BioNTech, the IOC and the IPC for helping to make this possible with the support of the Irish Government.”

During Games time, vaccination will be of crucial importance in providing protection for the team, and minimising, although not removing entirely, the risk of contagion and elimination from competition.

The news also alleviates the major duty of care dilemma that was being faced as a result of sending a team representing the country, into a known area of Covid-19 infection, particularly when many other teams, and the majority of those athletes expected in the Olympic village were expecting to be vaccinated through their own national agreements.

John Fulham, president of Paralympics Ireland, also welcomed the enhanced level of care for our athletes and staff: “Today’s announcement from the IOC in relation to vaccinations for the Paralympic and Olympic Teams travelling to Tokyo is very welcome and our sincere thanks goes out to Pfizer BioNTech, the IOC and IPC for the work they have done to make this possible.

“To be able to provide the necessary level of care for our athletes and staff, as they seek to perform at the highest level, has been our primary concern. We have been working tirelessly in seeking the best solutions, conscious of the broader societal pressures at this time, ensuring those most vulnerable took priority.

“We look forward to working with our athletes, support staff, Olympic Colleagues, while being supported by our Government so our teams can travel to Tokyo and be in the best and safest position to perform on the world stage. That is something for Ireland to look forward to.”

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These little-known towns and villages have become pandemic property hotspots

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Moving to the country became every city-dweller’s daydream during Covid, with some 700,000 people quitting London for the good life.

Cornwall, the most searched for place on Rightmove, was a favourite destination, while searches for the Cotswolds more than doubled. 

Yet it wasn’t just these two expensive destinations that saw their popularity soar.

Escape to the country: Llangollen on the River Dee in Denbighshire, North Wales, is popular with tourists

Escape to the country: Llangollen on the River Dee in Denbighshire, North Wales, is popular with tourists

Estate agents Hamptons discovered four relatively anonymous regions which, due to Covid, have become property hotspots, recording staggering price increases for 2020-2021.

In demand Daventry: Price growth 17 per cent

Although a pleasant market town, it’s unlikely anyone would describe Daventry, in West Northamptonshire, as a ‘beauty’. Could Hamptons have been mistaken when they named it the No 1 hotspot?

‘Absolutely not,’ says Natasha Cawsey, of Laurence Tremayne estate agents. ‘Our figures show growth of about 30 per cent in the past 18 months.

‘Daventry has good amenities, yet prices are well below those in neighbouring Oxfordshire and Warwickshire.’

The villages outside Daventry are also an attraction. Braunston, on the hill above the two canals, has a busy marina and Everdon is lovely.

‘These gorgeous villages are 30 per cent cheaper than the Cotswolds,’ says property search agent Jonathan Harrington. ‘They have excellent communications, making them ideal for people who work from home.’

Desired Denbighshire: Price growth 15 per cent

The remarkable price growth in Denbighshire, a low-profile county in North Wales extending inland from the Irish Sea, is largely down to Covid.

‘Nearly all my buyers in the past 18 months have been southerners in search of open space,’ says Mark Gilbertson of Fine & Country. 

‘They can walk out of their doors here and meet nobody, which makes them feel safe.’ 

Ruthin has been described as ‘the most charming small town in Wales’ by National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins. 

Llangollen, with its colourful craft on the canal and River Dee, is popular with tourists.

Denbighshire has become so popular, according to Gilbertson, that some wealthy buyers hire helicopters in their rush to view homes like this.

Rutland rockets: Price growth 14 per cent

It may be England’s smallest county, tucked away in the East Midlands, but Rutland’s property prices have boomed since the lockdowns.

‘Lots of our buyers have looked first in the Cotswolds,’ says Jan von Draczek, of Fine & Country estate agents. 

‘Finding nothing suitable for sale they spread their nets wider and discover Rutland.’

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing. 

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing

Rutland Water, the largest reservoir in England, is a popular with bird watchers and used for watersports and fishing

Villages are speckled with stone cottages under roofs of collyweston slate.

Barrowden, with its Grade II-listed church, is charming while Exton with its green overlooked by the Fox & Hounds pub is pure chocolate box. 

Much of Rutland is within easy reach of Peterborough, 50 minutes from King’s Cross.

Vale of Glamorgan value: Price growth 14 per cent

Drive west along the M4 and you won’t find a signpost for the Vale of Glamorgan, yet this strip of land to the west of Cardiff has seen the most dramatic property price appreciation in Wales.

‘The Vale has always been home for businessmen based in Cardiff,’ says Robert Calcaterra, of HRT estate agents. ‘Now we are also getting incomers from London who snap up the £1 million-plus homes.’

Cowbridge — with its hotel, The Bear, where Tom Jones stops for a pint when he is home — oozes affluence and nearby you find pretty villages like Bonvilston, St Hilary and Llantwit Major before you hit the beautiful Heritage Coast. 

Be warned: 70 per cent of homes advertised are under offer in this booming market. 

On the market… and in demand 

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Leinster hoping lightning won’t strike twice for Connacht at the RDS

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Leinster v Connacht,  RDS, Friday, 7.45pm – Live TG4 and Premier Sports

Lightning, goes the saying, tends not to strike twice, and Leinster tend not to lose twice in a row. Although it did happen last April/May against Munster in the Rainbow Cup and then La Rochelle, it has never happened to them at the RDS.

In making 10 changes in personnel to an all-international XV following last week’s defeat by Ulster, as well as restoring Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter to the bench, Leinster have made their intentions clear. A week out from their December marquee fixture against Bath at the Aviva Stadium, they are pretty much as locked and loaded as they could be.

Jamison Gibson-Park came through training this week and should be available for next week. Johnny Sexton and Jack Conan might return the following week away to Montpellier.

As James Ryan is still adhering to World Rugby guidelines, which has included seeing an independent concussion consultant, there is no clear timeframe on his return.

Beaten here by Connacht last January, Leinster won’t lack for motivation. “The guys were pretty gutted afterwards last week because it only takes the smallest percentage to be off against a team that’s highly motivated, like Ulster were, and like we know Connacht will be this week, exactly the same,” said Leo Cullen on Thursday.

“It’s been a short week for us to prepare but we just need to get going now into this block and get excited about the challenge, and playing in front of a home crowd. There’s plenty of doom and gloom out there in the world at the moment, as we know, so it’s getting back and creating that connection with our supporters, and going out and doing great things on a rugby pitch, and that’s what the team wants to do. I’m sure that’s what the fans that turn up and pay good money to watch the team play, that’s what they want to see as well.”

Three changes

Connacht arrive on the back of sparkling bonus-point wins either side of the Autumn Series hiatus over Ulster and the Ospreys. Andy Friend has made three changes, promoting centre Peter Robb, lock Oisín Dowling and Eoghan Masterson, who replaces the injured Paul Boyle, with Jarrad Butler moving to eight.

Ulster won here with a restricted if well-executed game plan, playing territory and retaining possession, before upping their line speed in forcing errors from their misfiring hosts.

But true to Friend’s mantra of fast/relentless/adaptable, Connacht are committed to their ambitious ball-in-hand brand of rugby. Jack Carty, one of five internationals in Connacht’s side, has a liking for this venue, having scored 39 points on his last two visits here. In December 2018 he contributed handsomely to a 29-12 lead with 12 minutes remaining before Porter completed Leinster’s late three-try salvo in overtime after 41 phases, while last time Carty scored 25 points in their 35-24 win.

Yet to put last January’s win in context, it is Connacht’s only victory in the last six clashes between the two; it was sandwiched by Leinster twice running up a half century against them, and it was their only win on Leinster soil since September 2002.

Accordingly, Paddy Power makes Leinster 1-10 favourites, with Connacht 6-1 to spring another surprise.

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; H Byrne, L McGrath (capt); C Healy, D Sheehan, M Ala’alatoa; R Baird, D Toner; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher, A Porter, V Abdaladze, J Murphy, M Deegan, N McCarthy, R Byrne, TO’Brien.

CONNACHT: O McNulty; A Wootton, S Arnold, P Robb, M Hansen; J Carty (capt), K Marmion; M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham; O Dowling, U Dillane; E Masterson, C Oliver, J Butler.

Replacements: S Delahunt, J Duggan, J Aungier, L Fifita, C Prendergast, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Farrell.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

Forecast: Leinster to win.

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‘I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish’

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“For the first time in my lifetime my two cultures were intertwined in the most beautiful way … I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish.”

Doreen McPaul was speaking as she received a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2021. President Higgins granted the awards to 11 people at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on December 2nd.

McPaul, of Irish and Navajo heritage, is attorney general for the Navajo Nation. Her award, under the category of charitable works, is in recognition of her fundraising for the Navajo, who experienced extreme hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her efforts led to a collaboration with the Irish Cultural Centre and McClelland Library in Phoenix, Arizona, which gathered more than $30,000 worth of donated supplies to assist the Navajo Nation at the peak of the pandemic.

“The Navajo Nation was so devastated by Covid-19, as a culture and as a community. [It] was really tragic and stressful, and we worked literally non-stop. The highlight of this was talking to people from all over the world …. Specifically with Ireland, we had this huge outpouring of support, and that was really overwhelming because of my own dual heritage and growing up as a half-Navajo half-Irish girl,” she told The Irish Times.

“As soon as people learned that the Navajo Nation attorney general was part-Irish, people reached out to me and claimed me as their own and invited me to all these things and celebrated my dual heritage in a way I’ve never experienced before. Literally they put me on the highest pedestal and that’s what this award signifies to me.”

A graduate of Princeton University, Doreen McPaul has worked as a tribal attorney for 20 years and has spent two years serving as attorney general. “I didn’t know I was nominated for the award first of all. So when the Irish council called to let me know I would be receiving a notice of the award, I literally cried.”

In all, 11 people received awards on Thursday, in a variety of fields. They were: Arts, Culture and Sport: Susan Feldman (USA), Roy Foster (Britain) and Br Colm O’Connell (Kenya). Business and Education: Sr Orla Treacy (South Sudan). Charitable Works: Doreen Nanibaa McPaul (USA), Phyllis Morgan-Fann and Jim O’Hara (Britain). Irish Community Support: Adrian Flannelly and Billy Lawless (USA). Peace, Reconciliation & Development: Bridget Brownlow (Canada). Science, Technology & Innovation: Susan Hopkins (Britain).

Colm Brophy, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora said: “As Minister of State for the Diaspora I am aware of the profound impact our global family has had around the world in a variety of fields. There were 107 nominations for these awards this year, and the level and breadth of the achievements of the people nominated are, by any measure, remarkable.

The contribution of the Irish abroad has been immense, and the diversity of their achievements in their many walks of life, can be seen in this year’s 11 awardees.”

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