Andrea Corr

Andrea Corr. Copyright c/o Mostly Irish News (2008)
Andrea Corr. Copyright c/o Mostly Irish News (2008)

 

IN HER outsized shades and large-peaked baseball cap, the bikini-clad beauty could have been any well-heeled tourist lapping up the rays on a luxurious Caribbean Christmas break.

There was one little giveaway, however, that the svelte brunette might be someone a little out of the ordinary, even in such elite company.

For even by the standards of one of the world’s most exclusive resorts, the €70,000 sparkler she sported on her ring finger was a whopper.

Let’s face it, it would have been hard to miss the massive chunk of ice on Andrea Corr’s left hand even if the bright Barbadian sun hadn’t kept catching the huge diamond every time she moved.

Treading the golden sands of exclusive Sandy Lane Bay beach in Barbados, the coy singer seemed to spend most of the time avoiding the sun and sticking close to her new fiancé, Brett Desmond.

The Dundalk lass could have been forgiven for feeling proprietorial on the Sandy Lane Hotel’s exclusive beach. After all, Brett is the son of the resort’s co-owner, financier Dermot.

Instead, she did her best to keep a low profile – albeit somewhat hampered by the diamond as big as the Ritz.

Young Desmond popped the question over a candlelit dinner at the tropical getaway where the stars flock all year round.

And Andrea spent the next day on the beach with Brett, taking the occasional dip in a skimpy, tie-side bikini.

The only time she took off the enormous engagement ring was when the couple – who first appeared as an item at club owner Robbie Fox’s 50th birthday in February 2007 – went canoeing together in the bay’s turquoise waters.

They are said to have checked into one of the hotel’s €8,400-a-night luxury Ocean Rooms just before Christmas Day.

Should their stay – bearing in mind that minimum bookings in December are supposed to be no fewer than 14 nights – last the full two weeks and they start making tracks to Ireland tomorrow, accommodation alone will have cost an astonishing €117,600.

A regular Sandy Lane beach-goer told the Irish Mail on Sunday last night: ‘The couple have actually been keeping a low profile.

‘There was an almighty bash at the Sandy Lane Golf Club on New Year’s Eve and that may have been the engagement party but, for most of their stay, they have either stayed indoors, or sat quietly reading in shaded sun loungers.

‘They have spent a few hours mucking around in the hotel’s canoes but she doesn’t seem to like the sun too much. If she is seen out, she always wears a baseball cap over her face, doesn’t sunbathe at all and tends to avoid spending too much time in the heat.’

She added: ‘He is very doting and attentive. He is always by her side when she gets in or out of the canoe.

‘Whenever he goes for a swim, it is always for a very brief dip, and then he runs back to be by her side. However, when she goes for a swim, they stay in longer, mostly as long as half an hour.

‘They are a very unassuming couple. From the way they carry themselves, you would never think they were anything other than a loving young couple enjoying themselves on the beach.’

The most public thing Andrea did on her last visit to the resort – in January 2008 – was to sing a karaoke duet with Love Actually star Martine McCutcheon.

The former EastEnders actress had been staying at a nearby club but had met the Corrs singer after dinner in the hotel.

Andrea has said little about her affection for Desmond, although she did once describe in 2007 how she woke up in the middle of the night asking herself: ‘Is this it? This is it! At last! It’s finally happening to me!’

The cautious 33-year-old beauty said in the early stages of her relationship with Brett: ‘I have a boyfriend but, obviously, I am not married and haven’t got babies yet. I’m definitely not in any rush. We’re very happy but we’re taking it bit by bit.’

But now it looks very much like Andrea’s days of paddling her own canoe are well and truly over.

Legal battle looming over science centre.

CONTROVERSIAL plans for Ireland’s first science museum – drawn up by a charitable trust fronted by U2 singer Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson – are set for a bitter European court battle.

It could lead to the Irish Government being heavily fined over the way its departments – including the Office of Public Works – handled the 20-year-old project.

This comes as it emerges that the final cost of the interactive centre could be an astonishing €100m, compared with an initial estimate of little more than €10m. The so-called Exploration Station isn’t due to open its doors until 2010, but the Irish Children’s Museum Ltd (ICM) – which is tasked with running it on a 4.5-acre site at Heuston Gate, in Dublin’s Kilmainham – has received funding of around €800,000 over eight years.

Of this, more than €600,000 has been spent on annual ‘administrative expenses’ which have rocketed 3000pc since 1999 and more than doubled from €139,345 in 2005 to €298,569 in 2006. Interestingly, despite the money spent so far on ‘promotion’ and ‘project management’ – the interactive science project doesn’t have its own working website.

Discovery, a registered charity also known as the Dublin Interactive Science Centre, which was set up to establish a national science museum, has raised concerns about how the Heuston Gate science project was awarded to the ICM. Discovery’s directors, who tried to open a science museum on a Dublin Docklands site, have lodged a variety of Freedom of Information requests.

One is due to be investigated by the information commissioner early next year, while aspects of another have already been referred to the attorney general.

A request for a European Commission investigation into whether public procurement legislation was breached is to be lodged after advice from a firm of Dublin lawyers acting for Discovery.

If the European Commission decides there is a case against the way various governmental departments awarded the contract, the matter could end up in the European Court of Justice.

Discovery believes that the Irish Children’s Museum – whose directors also include Late Late Show presenter Pat Kenny’s wife, Kathy – benefited from a ‘sweetheart deal’ that was agreed with no public consultation.

Almost all its requests for details explaining how the deal – involving the Office of Public Works and the Office of Science and Technology – was drawn up with the ICM board have proved fruitless.

Rose Kevany, co-founder and director of Discovery, said last night: ‘Our bid for a stand-alone science museum is effectively dead.

‘We accept that. What we cannot walk away from is the manner in which our project was killed off, nor can we ignore the level of secrecy surrounding the dealings which led to the Government backing the Irish Children’s Museum for the project.

‘The Government should be open to scrutiny when so much taxpayers’ money is being tied up in a project that not only could have been up and running by now but would have been largely self-financing had it been located – as was originally intended – in an existing Docklands building.’

Discovery’s initial bid to create Ireland’s first national science museum was launched in 1987 and based around a commitment by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) in its founding Master Project Agreement to establish a museum in the e120m CHQ building – formerly the Stack A building – in the Irish Financial Services Centre.

The late Charles Haughey and tycoon Dermot Desmond were behind the introduction of a levy that IFSC businesses would pay once a museum opened.

Around half the CHQ building was to have been provided to house the museum rent free. It could have been ready to open between 1995 and 1997.

But the building – restored by taxpayers’ money – is now occupied by a number of private businesses which located there after a string of failed business deals between DDDA officials and private companies.