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Readers respond to Coalition agenda

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Even with the world’s eyes on Cop26 and the promises of what nations can deliver to drive down global carbon emissions, the onus on personal responsibility remains strong. In Ireland, as the Government publishes sweeping plans to do its part, there is still room for the all important individual action.

From scraping together enough money for electric car upgrades to cladding our homes with modern insulation, we asked our readers what they might have to do or already have.

Here are some of the responses we received. Some entries have been edited for length.

“Never visiting the petrol station again is a relief to my pocket as well as my conscience.” – M McMahon

I have not taken a flight in over three years. I bought an electric car and find the high cost of purchase is offset against the very low running costs. I have changed my electricity supplier to 100 per cent renewable. I recycle and make my own compost. I plant pollinator friendly plants in my garden and use long-life energy bulbs and switch off as much as possible, leaving no pilot lights on. I buy very little meat, eating mostly plant-based foods and fish.

I am willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that this planet is handed to the following generations in a healthy state. I believe that the struggle against climate warming should be on a war footing, to focus minds on what needs to be done. The commitment and ingenuity of the next generation is a source of hope but leadership from their elders must come first.

“If we all start to make changes in our lives, soon companies will follow where consumers lead them.” – Susanna Dowling

Living in Sydney in 2019 I got a sense of what the future may hold for us. The crippling years-long drought followed by a devastating bush-fire season turned the country into a smouldering wasteland. We drove from Sydney to Melbourne at Christmas, driving through smoke for seven hours. The previously lush green landscape was dried and burned.

I looked at what I could do to play my part in doing less to contribute to climate change. The number one thing an individual can do is to eat less meat and dairy, so our family switched to a plant-based diet. Once we got over the initial adjustments we now find it easier and cheaper to eat this way. I had already started some zero-waste practices which I upped, doing more recycling, composting and donating and creating minimal landfill waste – our waste is now a quarter of what it used to be.

We made the decision to come back to Ireland so that we could reduce the flying involved with living on the other side of the world. Ultimately, I believe that we can have a smaller carbon footprint here. In the future our goal is to get all our energy and heating from renewable sources and the next car we buy will be electric. It’s going to take all of us to turn this ship around.

“For short journeys we use our bikes.” – Jean Swift

Over the years we have insulated the house on the interior, and later we had a complete external wrap. About 2015 we changed our boiler for a more modern gas boiler. In 2017 we had PVC panels installed and in 2018 we bought an electric car to replace a 14-year-old BMW.

We have done everything possible to minimise our carbon use in the house. I am very disappointed and indeed angry that the Government’s plan is so lacking in ambition. It is saying to the voter: don’t worry your head, we will do all the work and you won’t be inconvenienced and in any case it’s all for tomorrow. I am fed up listening to the Government saying there will be a shortfall in 2022 but we will make up for it in later years.

I propose a few simple starting points from next January: ban all private vehicles inside the canals in Dublin and tax private parking lots including those attached to business offices within city limits. These simple measures would call for leadership and courage, leadership we unfortunately lack.

“My retrofit was funded via savings, mortgage and SEAI grants.” – Pauline Conway 

Obviously governments and the private sector have to fulfil their major responsibilities in combating climate change and do the heavy lifting. In 2011-2012 I refitted my 1960 semi-detached house to NZEB, A3 BER standard.

It was the first Irish retrofit to meet the standards of the German Passive House Institute. I’m now planning to replace the small gas back-up boiler with a heat pump and to change my water heating solar panel to enable micro-generation. To achieve the Government’s Climate Action Plan targets, making private retrofits more affordable and accessible, and providing large scale retrofit funding for local authority, social and rental housing is essential.

“For several years I have been aware of the personal benefits of improving my home.” – Kieran Walsh

Having limited resources for what I thought would be a large task, I kept putting the idea on the (very) long finger. I have been assisting a family member putting external insulation on his house. I am impressed by the system used by the contractor and his efficiency. The benefits are already apparent, even before the contract is complete.

On the other hand I have a comprehensive description of an upgrade to a smallish house which included external insulation and the installation of an air-to-water heating system. I have serious doubts about the potential of the heating system and consider the total dependence on public service electricity and its ever-creeping costs to be an unproven concept. To receive the available grants, the householder had to remove all chimneys. That is very questionable. My research will continue, particularly in the light of upcoming Dáil proposals for grants and loans.

“If the Climate Action Plan is to succeed grant levels must be reviewed.” – Patrick O’Sullivan

We had planned a large retrofit but when we had our property examined we found prices were crazy. Even with SEAI grants the total was approximately €58,000 and our home is in good condition. The SEAI grant is approximately €6,100. Low-cost loans are not a benefit; it’s still an amount that has to be repaid.

“It is difficult to go beyond a certain level as an individual. It requires bigger steps to be taken at local and national government levels.” – Will

We have cut back on plastics and cut out single use items. We cycle more to avoid car use and take the train whenever possible. It is up the chain where changes are needed though. Plastic wrapping in supermarkets needs to be banned. Plastic bottles should all be returned and re used. Public transport needs to be made free (or for minimal charges) and car parks need to be built at train stations, and congestion charges in cities introduced.

“We have an area of our garden left to grow wild as an ‘ark’ though I do fear the neighbours think we’re just lazy!” – Susan

We are now a two-electric vehicle household. We have solar panels installed and got new windows and insulation on our home. We have cut back on our red meat intake hugely and eat vegetarian meals a couple of times each week. I’ve started shopping in a zero waste shop, buy all my fruit and veg in the greengrocers (no plastic waste) and we recycle as much as we can. I use palm-free soap rather than shower gels and try to avoid products with unnecessary packaging. I line dry most clothes and only use the tumble dryer for towels (or emergencies!).

“Holiday at home for the next five years so the domestic tourist market can develop and flourish.” – Tom McElligott

Even though I don’t believe individuals can mitigate much against climate change in the absence of industrial and government policy, we can change the mood music, particularly for our kids’ sake. First off only buy the food you will eat every week. Second, limit car journeys and cycle instead. Last but not least become a digital subscriber to every periodical that you read. There is simply no excuse for printed material that ends up in a recycling bin that most likely will cause even more carbon pollution when it can be read online.

“It seems to me the debate over climate has focused on getting everyone to ‘do their bit’ but the reality is that those who emit the most are doing the least.” – Mia Gallagher

I have been reducing plastic, meat, fish and petrol consumption steadily over the last four years. Appalled by David Attenborough’s documentary on ocean plastic, I started off buying as much loose food as possible, then began making my own cosmetics (ridiculously easy), and I now buy next to nothing in plastic wrapping. One thing led to another.

I reduced driving to one day a week max – sometimes on rare occasions twice – and now cycle pretty much everywhere. I am more conscious about heat and water consumption; I buy second-hand clothes and try to assess how much carbon has gone into a product if I’m considering buying it. I switch off the internet at night and try (not altogether successfully) to reduce my online usage.

These are partial strategies but they’ve enlightened me about the much bigger structural changes that need to happen if existing climate injustice and looming climate catastrophe is to be reversed. Citizens’ assemblies can result in pragmatic, joined-up, effective and often surprisingly simple solutions to what present as complex issues.

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Leinster’s accuracy proves key as they see off Munster in demolition derby

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Leinster 35 Munster 25

A breathtaking and, it has to be said, physically punishing game, which ebbed and flowed from first to last, ended with Leinster getting more than they needed and Munster coming up short of their targets. Well, to a point.

Munster went into the last game requiring at least two match points for a home quarter-final and a bonus point for the additional carrot of a potential home semi-final.

In the end, they came up with zero, which was perhaps preferable in that it earned them an away quarter-final against Ulster rather than against the Bulls. Even so, the winners of that Irish derby in a fortnight will be away in the semi-finals against the Stormers or Edinburgh.

In the other half of the draw Leinster will host Glasgow in the quarter-finals, and the winners of that tie will have home advantage in the semi-finals.

The mix of requirements made for a thrilling game. Leinster were ultimately the more accurate and pacier side, epitomised by the jet-heeled Jordan Larmour, who made everyone else look like they were being towed and his counterattacking and running led to two of Leinster’s four tries. It was a timely reminder of his abilities, and might well earn him a place on the bench in the Champions Cup final against La Rochelle, who themselves welcomed back Will Skelton off the bench against Stade Francais on Saturday.

Munster’s game didn’t lack for ambition at all, and their similar mix featured classy performances by Thomas Ahern, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue and Conor Murray. But they weren’t as accurate or quite as pacey.

This hungry Leinster mix of young and experienced were not in a remotely charitable mood, and shot out of the traps. Harry Byrne’s perfect kick-off was reclaimed by the recalled Ryan Baird and inside 80 seconds Leinster had scored without Munster touching the ball.

Generating trademark quick ball, with Baird making one big carry and Scott Penny a couple, before Ciarán Frawley used an advantage to crosskick perfectly for Penny to gather and use his footwork to step Joey Carbery and finish in the corner.

Harry Byrne didn’t land the difficult conversion, but added a penalty before offloads by Kendellen and Ahern and a couple of nicely weighted grubbers to the edges by Murray and Carbery earned an attacking lineout. The first scrap followed too. Yep, derby on.

Attacking wide and through phases, Munster used an advantage when Carbery pulled the ball back as Keith Earls worked across from his wing and flung a peach of a left-hander for O’Donoghue to take Cormac Foley’s tackle and finish well in the corner.

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin on his way to scoring a try despite Keynan Knox and Mike Haley of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin on his way to scoring a try despite Keynan Knox and Mike Haley of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Next, after Frawley’s spillage, the recalled Andrew Conway chased Murray’s perfectly weighted kick to prevent Larmour gathering, Niall Scannell’s gallop earning another attacking lineout.

Again Munster engineered another free play, and after a strong carry by Kendellen from Murray’s pass behind his back, Mike Haley was sharply on hand to pick up and dive over under the posts.

The force was with Munster, all the more so after Conway cleanly reclaimed another box kick by Murray. But when Kendellen kicked through Larmour beat the flanker’s follow-up tackle and left a trail of four more forwards in his wake before being tackled by Murray. From the recycle, Jamie Osborne stepped and Frawley took a superb line on to his short pass for a clean break and had Foley in support. The 22-year-old showed the quickness from his formative years as a centre with St Gerard’s to complete his first Leinster try on his home debut, and some try too.

The game’s first scrums provided an almost welcome breather. Frawley, after his two sumptuous try assists, had to depart for one of several failed HIAs in the game, and didn’t return.

The lively Earls then countered with Haley, Carbery and Kendellen before Rob Russell’s deliberate knock-on prevented the ball reaching three unmarked players and earning him a yellow card. But Baird spoiled the Munster lineout to protect his side’s 15-12 lead until the interval.

But on the resumption Munster struck. Haley chased his own kick, preventing Osborne from gathering cleanly and Murray was sharply on to the loose ball to skip away from Foley’s tackle and score.

Harry Byrne brought it back to a one-point game after Foley’s high tackle on Josh Murphy, and although Munster were clearly now mindful of the chance for a fourth try when going to the corner, before accepting a tap over penalty to push them four points ahead.

Typical of this match, back came Leinster. First Foley executed a 50:22 and despite just changing their frontrow the maul was gathering speed when it collapsed and Frank Murphy adjudged it a penalty try and sinbinned Niall Scannell.

After Max Deegan’s covering tackle on the ever dangerous Chris Farrell into touch, a lovely launch play and a flatish pass by Foley for Joe McCarthy’s carry over the gainline, was the prelude to Leinster reloading right and another slaloming run by Larmour. An offload by McCarty and fine pass by Deegan created the space for Rory O’Loughlin to use a two-on-two and a mismatch with the covering Kenyan Knox to score.

Suddenly it was 32-22 to Leinster.

A spellbinding spell of offloading featuring Murray, Ahern, O’Donoghue and Kendellen ended with Earls finishing off O’Donoghue’s offload, but Murphy adjudged it forward. Instead, Munster had to opt for another Carbery penalty to complete the first task of getting to within one score before chasing a fourth try.

They became over exuberant and conceded penalties, and although Adam Byrne was brilliantly denied by Carbery and Haley, Harry Byrne’s penalty put them 10 ahead, and more relevantly left Munster without anything from the game and looking at a quarter-final away to Ulster.

They had eight minutes or so to do it. They conjured one punishing phased attack, Carbery’s one-handed pick-up and Murray deliberately knocking on with a penalty advantage and then quickly were two of the highlights, but when Carbery prematurely went wide with a looped pass to Jack Daly he was tackled into touch by Osborne.

And that was effectively that.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 2 mins: Penny try 5-0; 9: Byrne pen 8-0; 12: O’Donoghue try 8-5; 17: Haley try, Carbery con 8-12; 23: Foley try, Byrne con 15-12; (half-time 15-12); 41: Murray try, Carbery con 15-19; 46: Byrne pen 18-19; 49: mins Carbery pen 18-22; 51: penalty try 25-22; 54: O’Loughlin try, Byrne con 32-22; 61: Carbery pen 32-25; 71: Byrne pen 35-25.

LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Rob Russell, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Rory O’Loughlin; Harry Byrne, Cormac Foley; Ed Byrne (capt), Seán Cronin, Thomas Clarkson; Joe McCarthy, Josh Murphy; Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Replacements: Adam Byrne for Frawley (27 mins), John McKee for Cronin, Peter Dooley for Byrne, Cian Healy for Clarkson (all 49), Devin Toner for J Murphy (55), Ben Murphy for Foley (58), Alex Soroka for McCarthy (66), David Hawkshaw for H Byrne (76).

Sinbinned: Russell (37-47 mins).

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Thomas Ahern; Fineen Wycherley, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue (capt).

Replacements: Jason Jenkins for Kleyn (49 mins), Keynan Knox for Ryan (54), Jeremy Loughman for J Wycherley, Rory Scannell for Goggin (both 55), Diarmuid Barron for Kendellen (58-61), for Scannell (61), Jack Daly for Ahern, Ben Healy for Carbery (both 64), N Scannell for Kendellen (65), Ahern for Daly, Patrick Patterson for Murray (both 76).

Sinbinned: N Scannell (51-61 mins).

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU).

URC quarter-finals (Fri, Jun 3rd & Sat, Jun 4th)
1 Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
2 DHL Stormers v Edinburgh
3 Ulster v Munster
4 Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks
 
Semi-finals (Fri, June 10th and Sat Jun 11th)
Leinster or Glasgow v Bulls or Sharks
Stormers or Edinburgh v Ulster or Munster.
 
Shield winners 2021/22:
Irish Shield:
Leinster
South African Shield: DHL Stormers
Welsh Shield: Ospreys
Scottish & Italian Shield: Edinburgh
 

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Aparto debuts in Spain

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Aparto has unveiled its first student residence in Spain to open in September 2022. Aparto Barcelona Pallars, owned by Commerz Real, is located in the 22@, the city’s innovation district, and accommodates 743 beds covering 26,000m². The cutting-edge facilities at aparto Barcelona Pallars include an external circa 45-metre length infinity pool, a 900 square metre rooftop terrace, 2,500m² of gardens including the Butterfly Garden (named because of the type of plants that attract butterflies), the Smell Garden (due to the mixture of aromatic plants), 1,400m² of amenity space including a gym with a weight, cardio, and yoga studios, two cinema rooms, leisure areas, and a bar offering both food and drink services.

 

In addition, a central feature of aparto’s offering is its first-class experience with a focus on the arts including an initiative in which street artists will design some of the paintings on the building, and a mental health programme available to all students all year around, strengthened by aparto employees receiving mental health training to identify anyone who may need help. 

 

aparto Barcelona Pallars has been designed by the Catalonian architecture studio Battle i Roig, a pioneer in landscape architecture, interweaving structures with natural spaces like gardens. Upon construction completion, the building will receive the LEED Gold and WELL Platinum Certifications for sustainability. 

 

aparto offers students a unique safe study experience and flexible model offering medium and long-term stays, from a few months to a full year, with all-inclusive rates including cleaning, Wi-Fi connection, linen services, and some additional features related to sports and wellness sessions, cocktail and cooking classes, and a series of entertainment evenings including movie nights, sports matches and tournaments. Aparto’s focus is to create places where students feel at home living within a strong community.

  

Tom Rix, director of operations at aparto, UK, commented: “With Aparto Barcelona Pallars, Hines is introducing first-class student housing in Spain. Pallars mirrors what today’s students want in terms of facilities, amenities, community engagement, and wellbeing programmes. We have already successfully demonstrated that this innovative model is in high demand in Italy, Ireland, and the UK and we anticipate the same success here in Spain and can’t wait to welcome students to Barcelona.”

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Crossrail house price boom: Reading, Maidenhead and Slough set to become property hotspots

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Crossrail may be billions of pounds over budget and three-and-a-half years late but it’s finally ready to roll.

This extraordinary feat of engineering is due to be put into service on Tuesday, when it will adopt its correct title of the Elizabeth Line. 

The Queen made a surprise visit to Paddington station this week and officially opened the line.

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

Linking Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east with Heathrow and Reading to the west of the capital, it will bind together existing commuter railways, accelerating cross-city travel and relieving overcrowding on the London Underground — particularly the often hellish Central Line.

Commuters’ journey times will be slashed; Reading to London Liverpool Street, for example, will take under an hour.

When fully operational it will increase London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, making it the largest single expansion of the city’s transport network in more than 70 years.

There are still a few glitches to be ironed out. Initially passengers travelling from Reading in the west to Abbey Wood and beyond will have to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street mainline stations. 

Also Bond Street is three months behind schedule. Trains will not call there until later in the year. Yet these delays pale into insignificance when you consider how the Elizabeth Line will transform rail travel in the capital.

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

The new station at Paddington, for example, is the size of three Wembley football pitches, with natural light as far as the platform entry from a nearly 400ft-long glass canopy.

More than £1 billion has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks. Spacious tunnels will lead to airy 600 ft platforms, with glass screens at the edge of the tracks, making it impossible to fall under a train. 

Step-free access from street to train will make the service accessible to wheelchairs. 

The nine-car, air-conditioned trains will have colourful bench seats and open interiors with full-width walk-through connections between cars. It will be a world away from today’s cramped, cluttered carriages.

Few engineering projects change the way we live but The Elizabeth Line promises to do just that. People are already flocking to the new stations.

Research from Savills last year found that, over the past five years, homes within 0.6 mile of about half of the stations on the line have increased in price by 25 per cent or more.

It follows that when the sleek and airy new trains come into service, delivering people to their workplaces in double quick time, we can expect a migration to the west of London.

Here are the hotspots:

Reading revival

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Not so long ago Reading was best known for its brewery and its biscuit factory — not any more. 

International companies, including Amazon UK, Virgin Media and KPMG have moved there and with reasonably priced homes, compared to London, the town is already popular with commuters.

‘I recently dealt with a young woman who sold her 750 sq ft flat in London for £600,000 and bought a 1,750 ft duplex in Reading for £650,000,’ says James Hathaway, of Winkworth estate agents.

The town has lots of green space, riverside walks, the Grade II-listed Thames Lido and great shopping, notably in Broad Street and the Oracle centre. The average price of a home sold in Reading was £384,000 last year.

Compare that to the £512,000 average price in, say, East London and you will see why an exodus from the capital is forecast when the Elizabeth Line makes commuting a doddle.

Maidenhead marches on

This Berkshire town is keen to attract the City bankers who had previously been put off living there by having to trek across the capital’s underground system to get to work.

‘The Elizabeth Line changes all that and buyer enquiries have already started booming,’ says Dawn Carritt at Jackson-Stops estate agents.

‘The prospect of living near the river in Maidenhead or in nearby villages such as Sonning and Bray is appealing.’

Maidenhead (with Theresa May as its MP) is on the cusp of a revival. Its 1960s shopping centre is to be transformed into The Nicholson Quarter, a swish mixed-use centre.

The area by the river is being developed and trendy cocktail bars and restaurants such as Coppa Club are thriving — a sure sign of a town on the up.

Slough expansion

Ricky Gervais did Slough no favours when he set The Office there. Yet the town has a lot going for it. It is well located for travel, nestling between the M4 and the M40 and within easy reach of the M25 and Heathrow airport.

First-time buyer portal Share to Buy claims that Slough has been one of the UK’s top ten property hotspots over the past decade with a 73 per cent increase in house prices. 

The Berkeley Group is redeveloping the former Horlicks factory and site to create 1,300 homes.

A small flat sells for £150,000 and a three-bed terrace house for £350,000. The centre is being improved and with the coming of the Elizabeth Line, things can only get better.

On the market… the hotspots 

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