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Would Seán Lemass have wanted a monument?

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In marking the 50th anniversary of the death of Seán Lemass this week, the Taoiseach declared it a “shame” that there is no significant monument to him. Perhaps that is the wrong way to look at it; surely the absence of memorialisation is in keeping with Lemass’s character and his impatience with reverential piety, one version of the “practical republicanism” that the Taoiseach has often credited him with.

One of his biographers, Tom Garvin, suggests “Lemass was almost haunted by the pervasive personalism of Irish political culture and went out of his way to try and set a counter example by his own personal behaviour”. His gravestone makes no mention of his political career or status and he was wary of those who scrambled for the bones of the patriot dead. By the time of the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966, on the last lap of power, he displayed little appetite for mythology and preferred to focus on the present and future: “We have to forget the Ireland of the Sean Bhean Bhocht and think of the Ireland of the technological expert”.

That sense of a moderniser, impatient with outmoded thought and internationally minded, goes to the heart of multiple assessments of Lemass, but while there is much substance to such analyses, he did not float above his time. He shared many of the problematic impulses of his generation of politicians and could be quite authoritarian in his thinking; the Irish needed exceptionally strong central government, he averred, because of their “fissiparous tendencies”, a remarkably paternalistic attitude. He also lazily derided his left-wing critics as “crypto-reds”.

‘Calculating man of affairs’

He was no post-nationalist: in 1983, Brian Farrell argued that for Lemass “the starting point was a fervent nationalism, rarely expressed, masked by the image of the calculating man of affairs, but always central”. In relation to partition, the consensus is that Lemass threw overboard the irredentism of previous governments, but it was also the case that he banged the anti-partition drum when it suited him, either to appease grassroots or to gain leverage in Anglo-Irish trade talks. Yet, ultimately, his use of a more conciliatory language was significant. He wanted a definite shift in stance in relation to cross-border economic, social and political exchanges, discouraging use of the term “six counties” and also grudgingly conceding the legitimacy of the government of Northern Ireland while suggesting, unlike his predecessor, that “the solution to the partition problem is one to be found in Ireland by Irishmen”.

Shy, gruff, inpatient, immersed in policy detail and sometimes intimidating, Lemass internalised much, yet there were public assertions that marked him out as somewhat unusual among his contemporaries. In light of all that has been revealed in recent years, it is intriguing to think how different some things might have been if more had shared his view, articulated in 1925, that the “political power” of the Catholic Church “must be destroyed if our national victory is ever to be won”.

A slice of his legacy

At the same time, Lemass remained ideologically flexible and ambiguous enough for most in the modern era to be able to claim a slice of his legacy. In 1924, when he won a by-election for Sinn Féin, his election literature suggested a vote for him “was a vote for social justice”. In later years, as a senior Fianna Fáiler, he claimed that such was his party’s devotion to that agenda there was no need for the Labour party. But he did not tend to articulate a vision of his ideal society; sometimes he espoused the virtues of private enterprise, sometimes of state enterprise, but always of enterprise. In June 1967, after his retirement, Lemass said he thought the “social democratic appellation” which he had applied to himself was “no longer right” and that political leaders should generally be to the left of their more conservative party rank and file. After his death, his more conservative colleague Seán MacEntee suggested that despite the “strong bias in favour of the worker and organised labour” that he perceived in Lemass, he was a man who had been “as cynically realistic as an Elizabethan”.

Overall, Lemass’s balancing act worked well for him and his party, but his famous assertion in 1964 that “a rising tide lifts all the boats” was never vindicated; indeed, the year Lemass left office the Irish housing crisis was acute, with reports of couples living in caravans and despairing of ever being able to own a home and adults back in their parents’ houses while Dublin Corporation’s Housing Committee demanded more land and government funding. After retirement, Lemass acknowledged “there will never come a time when you can say there is nothing to be done in the area of housing”. The difficulties now for the keepers of Lemass’s flame are similar, but they are bereft of the political capital or space that enabled Lemass to successfully wear multiple hats.

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Hotel Indigo debuts in Austria

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Hotel Indigo opened its first hotel in Austria, Hotel Indigo Vienna – Naschmarkt. Located a short walk from the city’s historic center, the hotel offers 158 guest rooms, a rooftop garden resembling an urban jungle, a restaurant, and a lobby bar.

 

Taking inspiration from a famed local architect, Otto Wagner, a key member of the Secessionist movement, guests will find touches of gold used throughout the fixtures in the bathrooms as well as intricate patterns, made famous by Otto, woven into the carpet design in the hallway, and the tiles behind reception. Otto’s love for gold, Art Nouveau design, and ornate patterns can also be seen at famous local buildings such as the Majolikahaus, a short walk from the hotel. From ground level, the building looks innocuous, but as guests look skywards, they will see the top floors are decorated with exquisitely sumptuous floral motifs in brightly colored porcelain and gold leaf, a hallmark of the new style.

 

Stefanie Augustin, General Manager, Hotel Indigo Vienna – Naschmarkt, commented: “We are pleased to open our doors and accept our first guests into the first Hotel Indigo in Austria. We sit in the heart of the surrounding neighbourhood and strive to make all the locals proud, by helping to bring a bit of that external story in so guests can truly experience what Vienna has to offer.”

 

 

 

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Tolent secures Newcastle resi project (GB)

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Tolent will put up 135 ‘ultra-modern’ system-build homes, with designs selected from an architectural competition. Sunderland’s new Vaux neighborhood, being built on the site of an old brewery, will eventually have 1,000 homes, according to the plans, as part of a drive to double the number of people living in the city centre. The homes will stand alongside The Beam and City Hall – the latest development to rise from the ground at Riverside Sunderland. Construction work on the scheme is expected to start within weeks, forming the first of the new distinct neighbourhoods that will create city centre housing for up to 2,500 residents.

 

The properties are based on the winning designs in the Homes of 2030 competition, which was launched in March 2020, and managed by the Royal Institute of British Architects, to encourage the design of environmentally-friendly homes that support people in leading independent, fulfilling lives as society ages.? Construction work on the development is due to start this summer and the first tranche of homes should be completed by the end of 2023.

 

Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to have taken this final step to get work started on our flagship residential scheme at Riverside Sunderland. The housing developments on Riverside Sunderland will be world-class, and Tolent is an ideal partner to deliver them, based locally and capable of building these aspirational homes.”

 

Tolent chief executive Paul Webster said: “Vaux neighbourhood is an amazing project that showcases the strides being taken in Sunderland to modernise the city centre. The world-class houses being built will provide a community fit for the future and an archetype for sustainable housing. As a truly local business, we are proud to be involved in the project and to showcase our ability to meet and exceed the capabilities of national contractors on a local level. The project will complement a number of local landmarks that we have constructed including The Beam, Beacon of Light and Echo Building. We have been working closely with the entire team since being appointed preferred bidder back in September and we can’t wait to get started.”

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BlackRock acquires Dagenham urban logistics development (GB)

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A joint venture (JV) between Chancerygatea fund managed by Credit Suisse Asset Management, and Hines has forward sold a 172,000ft² urban logistics development in Dagenham to a fund managed by BlackRock for an undisclosed sum. Dagenham Council has approved plans to speculatively build 15 Grade A urban logistics and industrial units at the development which is called Zephyr Park. The units range from 5,490ft² to 34,670ft² and are available leasehold and freehold. Construction is due to commence in August this year. The six-acre site was previously owned by wholesale electrical distributor Rexel UKSituated on Rainham Road between the A12 and A13, Zephyr Park is located less than half a mile from Hackman Capital Partners and Dagenham Council’s proposed €348.5m (£300m) film and TV studios.

 

Chancerygate managing director, Richard Bains, said: “Zephyr Park will be an outstanding urban logistics development which will generate continued investment and job creation for Dagenham. Forward selling Zephyr Park to BlackRock shows the strength in urban logistics as an asset class. It is also a testament to the high specification, a sustainable product we build as it attracts businesses to locate to our developments ensuring they are best placed to continue to grow. We look forward to working with Hines and BlackRock to deliver Zephyr Park and expect to achieve practical completion in summer 2023.”

 

Greg Cooper, Hines managing director, industrial and logistics, added: “We are pleased to have executed this opportunity to recycle this asset, with the value generated illustrating the unabating demand for high-quality logistics developments. It is an asset class which remains a key focus for Hines in the UK, and we are continuing to explore opportunities to grow our portfolio of both big box and urban facilities.”

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