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Hugo Boss falls foul of Dublin City Council

Ex-NIB boss gets OBE; the Irish and the Barclay brothers; Keith Wood’s cafe; NUJ at RTÉ staff meeting; log tables row

It’s not often that the luxury brand Hugo Boss is taken to task over the quality of its materials. The German fashion group has fallen foul of the planning department in Dublin City Council, however, which has refused to approve a sign over its Grafton Street store. Hugo Boss had applied for retention permission to keep the sign – which has the lettering ‘BOSS’ internally illuminated, finished in a white acrylic glass logo, and inserted on to a black matt metal fascia.

“The scale and proportions of the proposed signage is considered appropriate to the location. However, there are concerns regarding the quality of the materials for the letters and shopfront, particularly the use of an internally illuminated white acrylic lettering,” a report by the planning officer found. “Ideally any such lettering to this shopfront should be pin-mounted brushed steel, or equivalent high-quality material, and any illumination of the lettering should be subtly back-lit.”

Noting that the Boss store is within the Grafton Street architectural conservation area, the planning official said the sign – because of its design, lighting and materials – would be injurious to the character of the building and the wider streetscape. Keeping it would “set a precedent for similar type undesirable development and would therefore be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

Hugo Boss can now either appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála, or go back to the drawing board and refashion a new sign. A company spokeswoman said it would be “complying with all local planning requirements.”

Gong for ex-National Irish Bank boss

Not many bankers from the Celtic Tiger era have been given gongs, so how heartwarming to see Andrew Healy, a former boss of National Irish Bank, being awarded an MBE. Healy, who was at the helm of NIB from 2005 to 2012, is among the honorary British awards to foreign nationals approved by King Charles. He joins jockey Rachel Blackmore, and former rugby international Hugo MacNeill, who got an honorary OBE in recognition of his work as chair of the British-Irish Association.

After Healy left NIB it was rebranded as Danske Bank, before withdrawing from personal and retail banking altogether. In 2014, the UCD graduate got a glamorous new job as chief executive of the Bank of Maldives. A newspaper report at the time quoted a source close to him saying: “Andrew is a proud Irishman and, while he loves Ireland, the opportunity to wear the Irish jersey abroad is something he found difficult to resist.”

In 2018 he was appointed chief executive of Leek United Building Society, based in Staffordshire, and it is “for services to the local community” in that role that he has been given the gong.

Irish feature heavily in Barclay brothers biography

Several Irish businessmen get a shout-out in You May Never See Us Again, a new book from Penguin about the Barclay family, owners of the Telegraph Media Group and one of the Channel Islands. The author, British journalist Jane Martinson, introduces the Irish cast with considerable colour. For example there’s a reference to Paddy McKillen being photographed coming out of a club “with his fellow Irish wheeler-and-dealer Denis O’Brien”.

Derek Quinlan, the former tax inspector turned property developer, is referred to as both an “Irish Midas” and an “Irish Tiger”. Martinson writes: “A tall man with a large girth and healthy appetite that earned him the nickname ‘Two Dinners’, the red-haired Quinlan seemed a strange bedfellow for the small, slim abstemious [Barclay] twins obsessed with their health.”

Quinlan eventually ended up in debt and in Nama, despite having a golden share in several top hotels in London, including Claridge’s. Or as Martinson puts it: “Despite his golden share, he started to go under, like a moneyed Augustus Gloop. The once proud tiger had turned prey.”

Keith Wood’s Killaloe application

In a graphic illustration of the difficulties facing the tourism sector, particularly along the west coast, an application has been filed with Clare County Council to return a restaurant on Main Street in Killaloe to its previous use as a dwelling house. The application has been filed on behalf of Keith Wood, the former Ireland international rugby player.

Just over five years ago Wood also opened a restaurant in his native town with business partner Malcolm Bell. Overlooking Lough Derg, Wood & Bell got several positive reviews during its short life. It closed four years ago, and Keith tells me there are no plans to reopen. When hospitality outlets cannot survive on the main street of a tourist town, it doesn’t say much for the prospects of the sector as a whole.

NUJ boss at RTÉ staff meeting

Kevin Bakhurst, the RTÉ director general, faced questions from an unexpected source at last week’s “town hall” meeting with staff in Montrose, because in attendance was Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, though he is not on the RTÉ payroll. Some staff were unhappy at Dooley posing questions, since there are regular management-union meetings at Montrose. Indeed, there had been one that very morning, attended by Cearbhall Ó Síocháin, secretary of the RTÉ Trade Union Group and Emma O Kelly, chair of the broadcasting branch, a meeting Dooley missed due to traffic congestion caused by bad weather.

Dooley tells me that RTÉ’s director of HR informed union representatives that full-time officials would be welcome at the town-hall briefing by the DG. However, when Dooley posed his question, Bakhurst responded that it was a staff forum, and the issue could be dealt with elsewhere. As a source at the station said later: “A staff briefing is a staff briefing.”

Dooley points out that he and Karen O’Loughlin of Siptu attended the last RTÉ town hall hosted by Dee Forbes, “and both of us asked questions”. He added: “Only one member of staff approached me [last Wednesday] after the meeting. She said she was not a union member and felt I should not have been there. I advised her that my attendance was in line with past practice.”

Secondary school staple’s publishing row

The best-selling title at the Government Publications Office is the booklet of Formulae and Tables used by maths students in secondary schools. Yet even this creates a loss for the Exchequer, according to a spokeswoman for the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is in charge of the publications unit. While the publishing costs of the Log Tables are paid by the State Exams Commission, there’s still the expense of warehousing, delivery and packaging.

Following a recent internal audit of the Government Publications Office, which we have obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, it was decided that a trade discount of 35 per cent should be reduced to 25 per cent and that postal charges, which had been suspended, would be reintroduced, though not at the full rate. “In the case of large orders, such as those to booksellers, a charge of €10 per box is passed to the customer,” the OPW spokeswoman said. “This is less than we pay our courier company.”

Maybe so, but booksellers aren’t happy. Bookselling Ireland, their trade body, has written to the Government to complain. “Over 50 per cent of our members sell schoolbooks, either solely or as part of a wider offering,” it said, adding that most schoolbook publishers offer free delivery on wholesale orders.

The trade body points out that the Government Publication Sales Office on Molesworth Street closed in 2012 so there is no option to buy in person.Booksellers are already facing a challenging year with the introduction of the Free Primary School Books scheme and these extra charges are putting more pressure on already struggling small businesses,” it said.

The OPW counter-argues that reducing the trade discount by 10 per cent and asking for a “minimal contribution” towards delivery only “mitigates the loss” it is suffering. Surely there’s a mathematical formula in the Log Tables that would resolve this to the satisfaction of both sides?