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The civil service financial management system is in danger of going over budget. Why are the staff so relaxed?

National Shared Services Office’s wellness focus; Sherry FitzGerald founder’s planning woes; spicy Limerick mayoral race; and Domhnall Gleeson’s Ranelagh home

The National Shared Services Office, the agency responsible for government HR and payroll administration, got a slap on the wrist by the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General last year. The State’s value-for-money watchdog pointed out how the implementation of a new financial management system for the entire civil service was behind schedule, less comprehensive than originally envisaged and in danger of going over budget.

Not that staff at the agency should have been overly stressed given all the wellbeing classes they have been having: it has spent almost €90,000 since 2021 on programmes to improve staff’s resilience, mental health and “wellness”.

Most recently wellness coach Donna Reilly gave a talk on kick-starting staff’s mental health at a cost of €2,606, while athlete David Gillick advised them on empowerment for a similar figure. Others who have addressed them for sums of €2,000-€3,000 over the past three years include comedian Rory O’Carroll of Rory’s Stories; former hurdler Dervla O’Rourke; Dublin footballer Kevin McManamon; founder of the Forager cosmetic brand Feebee Foran; beauty blogger Sinead Kavanagh; and cookbook author Sinéad Delahunty, who has given staff four cookery demonstrations in the last three years.

Staff have had talks on “being present”, having a “guilt-free December”, digital detoxes, decluttering their home offices, “sleep wellness” and “preparing for the return to school”.


Perhaps those holding the purse strings should have taken the talk by a financial planner about minding your money a little more to heart, though.

Who knew payroll was such fun?

Best-laid plans of former taoiseach’s son

Mark FitzGerald, son of former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, sold Sherry FitzGerald to entrepreneur Tommy Kelly in 2022 but he obviously hasn’t lost the property bug. The former estate agent, who owned about 55 per cent of the company when it was sold, is seeking planning permission along with his wife, Derval, to build a residence over a commercial unit on Sandycove Road in Dublin.

FitzGerald, who sold his family home on Oakley Road in Ranelagh for €4.935 million in 2019 and now spends much of his time near Lough Conn in Co Mayo, hasn’t quite brought the hammer down on the deal yet. While Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council granted permission, two neighbours have now appealed the plans to An Bord Pleanála, claiming their homes will be overlooked by the infill development.

The former auctioneer might find that it is easier to sell them than build them in south Dublin.

This means nothing to me

The Limerick mayoral race is getting spicy. Last week councillor Elisa O’Donovan was unveiled as the Social Democrats’ candidate. That’s the same Elisa O’Donovan who was previously called “unhinged” and accused of “craving fame” by Brian Leddin, the Limerick TD and the Green Party’s candidate for the city’s top job.

Leddin, who made the leaked comments in a Green Party WhatsApp group, later apologised to O’Donovan, saying his remarks had been “inappropriate”. Not that it was the end of the matter for O’Donovan, who described his apology as “weak”, saying it “meant nothing to me”.

Danny Healy-Rae addresses his boundary issues

Danny Healy-Rae has a fierce relaxed approach to planning altogether. Sunville Construction, a company owned by the Kerry TD, has been digging rock at Rossacroo Quarry near Kilgarvan since 2019. While the quarry has a licence, Healy-Rae has finally got around to seeking retention planning permission for the operation. His memory might have been jogged by planning enforcement actions initiated by the local council in 2020 for alleged noncompliance with its registration conditions, including purported blasting at the site. Another enforcement action began last year after it emerged the quarry, which is partly on land owned by the semi-State forestry company Coillte, was operating beyond its permitted boundaries.

The expensive art of transporting paintings

The most expensive acquisitions by the National Gallery of Ireland in recent years, Jack B Yeats’s Bachelors Walk, In Memory, and Paul Cezanne’s La Vie Des Champs both cost €1.5 million-€2 million. Which puts into perspective the cost of a recent request for tenders by the gallery from companies specialising in transporting artworks around Ireland and overseas. The indicative value of the contract is €7 million.

Domhnall Gleeson’s new Dublin pad

Ireland’s leading actors favour Dublin’s leafier squares when setting up home. Cillian Murphy lives on Belgrave Square in Monkstown, and Domhnall Gleeson recently bought on Dartmouth Square in Ranelagh, which has been home to several well-known figures from the arts over the years, including Luke Kelly, Micheál Mac Liammóir and Paul Durcan. Gleeson, who paid €2.35 million for the extended Victorian pile, is now getting the builders in for some cosmetic improvements, including new windows and repointing of the brick cladding.

Changing the locks at Ballynatray House

The new owner of the Ballynatray House estate in Co Waterford obviously doesn’t need any tax breaks. It is strongly rumoured to have been bought by the British billionaire inventor James Dyson and has been removed from the list of heritage properties open to the public this year in return for tax relief on restoration costs.

Also gone from the new list are Slane Castle, the Co Meath pile owned by Lord Henry Mountcharles, and former Labour TD Liz McManus’s home on Martello Terrace in Bray, where James Joyce once lived. Perhaps Mountcharles and McManus got fed up with cleaning up before the nosy parkers arrived. But the man with the vacuum empire has no such excuse.

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