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December 21st 2007

Indo group buys Sligo Champion

Independent News & Media has agreed to buy the Sligo Champion for a sum believed to be in excess of €20m. The Sligo Champion was founded in 1836 and has a circulation of about 13,000. It is owned by the Townsend family and is a market leader in Sligo. It is also popular in counties Leitrim, Donegal and Roscommon. It was understood that INM, the Irish Times, Johnston Press, Alpha Newspapers and Celtic Media had all expressed an interest in the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Independent News & Media's chief Anthony O'Reilly has been buying up more shares in the company. He bought another one million shares today, bringing his total shareholding to 26.5%.

A viewspaper not a news paper!
SligoHeritage regrets the change of the Sligo Champion from local ownership to just another bauble in 'Sir' Anthony O'Reilly's toybox. In a reaction recently to a comment by Tony Blair that 'The Independent' in London was ‘‘avowedly a viewspaper, not a newspaper’’ O'Reilly responded:
‘‘I took it to be a compliment, because we are a viewspaper. We’ve had to mutate; we’re not doing news any more. News is so instantly available that the analysis of the world is much more important for the nourishment of the mind.”
In the time of the bad old 'Commies' didn't we call that brainwashing? First the World and now Sligo! Be warned! Like 'Dr. No' of the Bond films and Batman's Nemesis 'The Joker' it seems that O'Reilly, on his way to world domination, will soon be telling Sligo people how to think.

Sligo-Dublin line gets new trains

PASSENGERS on the Sligo-Dublin rail line got an early Christmas present as the first of a €400 million 183 carriage intercity fleet of trains entered service.The new trains have a series of safety and comfort features, including automatic PA and information display systems, electronic seat reservation displays, electronic seat reservation displays for website bookings, full air-conditioning, internal and external CCTV systems, a return to the traditional 'table and seats' format, power points at each seating area for laptop use, improved accessibility for mobility-impaired customers, including wheelchair facilities.

The trains were ordered from Mitsui of Japan, in partnership with Rotem of the Republic of Korea and the Tokyu car corporation of Japan. From January 21st next a new timetable will be introduced increasing services from five to eight trains daily in each direction, with an 'early bird' service from Sligo to Dublin Monday to Friday at 5.45am and the first train leaving Connolly Station at 7.05am.

A Sligo Christmas tradition: gathering holly

Happy Holidays or Happy Christmas?
Faster and faster go the days of Advent leading up to Christmas. And faster and faster go the wheels of change and political correctness in the new 'multicultural' Ireland. In an article entitled 'Is there a War on Christmas' Shane Hegarty recently noted that an Irish chain of creches decided not to put on Nativity plays for fear of offending non-Christian parents. There was also the controversy over the removal by RTE of the word “crib” from the Veritas shops’ radio ads. If you tolerate this, he warns, Easter will be next. It has happened in the generic 'Happy Holiday' world of the US and England and now here. We must avoid mentioning the 'C' word and Ireland is the new frontier.
'As we are propelled into an Ireland that is increasingly secular and culturally diverse,' Hegarty notes, 'Christmas will increasingly be a battleground on which these issues will be scrapped over. Real or not, the War on Christmas will be fought.'

Land of 'saints and scholars' no more
Richer and richer we Irish have become as a nation and it is not at all unusual now for Irish shoppers to head for New York. It's amazing! According to TV reports Irish shoppers seem to know more about bargains in the Big Apple and on the Jersey shore than Americans do.
It's a world away from my younger days when the highlight of Christmas was 'a parcel from America'. Now, Cardinal Sean Brady has recently observed that the 'land of saints and scholars' has become the land of stocks and shares where horoscopes and astrology, palm reading and tarot cards are the new Irish superstition. The new Ireland has increasingly become a land of increasing stress and substance abuse: "The downside of the new wealth is an increase in alcohol and drug abuse; pressure to work and consume; pressure to look good and have the right image; an increase in suicide and violence and a constant worry about finance and future security."
Is it a case then of being cursed by being granted everything we wished for? Perhaps to some degree: yes. But there's a positive side: young Irish people don't have to emigrate anymore to make a life and a living for themselves. Parents are saved the heartbreak of separated families at Christmastime. So many Irish left these shores and never, ever returned. Such was the case with my Uncle Patrick Mc Gowan, Aunt Grace Feehily, Aunt Ellen O'Connor and tens of thousands like them.


Nollaig shona

So! At this Christmas time let's thank the Lord for the good things in life that we enjoy and for peace in Northern Ireland. Let us remember those for whom Christmas brings little: the hospitalised, those in jails, the alcoholics and drug addicts. Let's not forget either the plight of the prisoners in Guantanamo, and their jailers who are perhaps victims of the 'system', also the Palestinian refugees on the West Bank and Sinai and the Israeli victims of suicide bombings.

Nollaig shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise gach duine and thank you for your support and emails during the year. A special 'Go raibh míle maith agaibh' (Thank you) to those who supported the site through purchase of books or CD during the year.

For information on the Winter Solstice at Newgrange go HERE The live stream is archived and began at 8.30 am on 21st and 22nd December 2007.

Translation of image left:

Ceangal an Ghradha (Bond of Love)

Embrace me in a bond of love, Jesus,
Day and night till the day of my death,
Don’t let me be ever separated from you
Bind my heart with your heart forever.
(Repro  1930s Brian O’Higgins card)

SligoHeritage will return in 2008

December 14th 2007

Broadband for North Sligo at last

Change comes dropping slow to rural areas and now at last broadband has come to North Sligo. Officially that is. Private contractors have been providing wireless broadband for some time. Thank God for competition! Following installation at Grange a few weeks ago as part of its nationwide broadband rollout programme, Eircom announced it has broadband enabled the exchange serving the residents of Cliffoney, Co. Sligo.
This comes as part of Eircom's commitment to enable over 400 exchanges across Ireland including a further 6 exchanges in the Sligo area. Last month, eircom broadband enabled the exchange serving the residents of Cashelgarron and surrounding areas.

Commenting on the launch of broadband in Cliffony, Michael Kennedy, Marketing Director, eircom said "eircom is delighted to announce the roll out of broadband to Cliffony. Eircom is one hundred percent committed to making broadband available to as many parts of the country as we can. The enablement of this exchange and the planned enablement of an additional six exchanges across Co. Sligo demonstrates we are delivering on our commitments. Between now and the end of the year we expect to have over an additional one hundred exchanges enabled nationwide". Now, Mr. Smith, this is 2007, you might have gained some kudos for this news a few years ago but this is not new technology anymore so keep your head down and keep going!
I was going to show you a photo of the mast but decided instead to show the much more interesting picture of Creevykeel Court Cairn. The broadband mast is located about 400 yards away.

Cancer Care debacle!
The row over cancer care in the North West continues and the Royal College of Physicians has pointed out that there will be no comprehensive cancer centre anywhere north of a line from Galway to Dublin. They say that care must be taken to ensure that patients are not denied access to cancer care centres as a result of their socio-economic situation:
"For example, elderly people living alone in remote areas with limited access to public or private transport will need specific support to help them access care. The need to provide these supports in parallel with the introduction of the cancer care centres must be seen as an integral part of the planning and resource process," the College points out in a statement.

Fianna Fail Junior Health Minister Jimmy Devins promised to defy government plans to close cancer services in Sligo General when he joined 250 demonstrators in a rally outside Dail Eireann in support of its retention. He was vociferous in his support to those from Sligo and Mayo who were demonstrating against the decision to leave the North West without cover yet he supported the Government in a motion of no confidence . The large crowd of vocal supporters from Sligo and surrounding counties turned up the political heat, delivering a loud and clear message of protest to Prof Tom Keane, the new National Director of Cancer Control who will ultimately decide the fate of the hospital's cancer unit.

Dr. Jimmy Devins: An ability to fool most of the people most of the time
The determined group, which includes cancer sufferers treated in Sligo, warned it would put unbearable hardship on people to travel for care to Galway if the unit was shut. Under pressure from his critics Mr Devins ruled out calls to resign from his post in order to allow him more freedom to support the protest. Speaking out of the two sides of his mouth as only politicians can: "We are totally committed to centres of excellence but we also want to retain cancer services for Sligo," he said.

Asked if as a doctor he could stand over quality of care at the hospital, which is not seeing the recommended minimum 150 newly-diagnosed cases of cancer a year, Mr Devins insisted he had already invited Prof Keane to visit Sligo to conduct an audit of standards of treatment for patients.
Prof Keane contradicted this saying he had no plans to visit Sligo, and that plans to exclude Sligo General Hospital from a list of eight proposed cancer “centres of excellence” would not be changed. His remit is to implement the strategy decided upon by the HSE, not to change it.
So who do you believe? Jimmy Devins seems to have an ability to 'fool most of the people most of the time'. Having had personal experience of the Minister I believe Prof. Keane!
And Keane's policy is a real tragedy for the people of the Northwest!

Can't think of something different to get your friends for Christmas? It's not too late! For a genuine Irish gift the perfect answer is HERE. We mail to anywhere on the planet. (Elsewhere in the solar system costs a bit more and takes a bit longer but ask us anyway!)

Go HERE for a glimpse of what Christmas was like in Ireland not so very long ago: a visit from the 'Mummers'.

December 5th 2007


"Before darkness lifted from the west coast of Ireland early on Saturday morning, four surfers left Mullaghmore harbour in County Sligo on jet-skis bound for the audible monstrous waves shaking the nearby reef. The scene was one of angry waters stretching to a black horizon that blurred into a fierce sky but the atmosphere among the surfers was one of calm anticipation as they left the safety of the harbour to attempt a death-defying challenge. To surf the biggest waves ever caught in British or Irish waters..." See the full report HERE also at and HERE

Muslim school proposed for Sligo

The New School Advisory Committee has proposed a Muslim school in Sligo. The committee, which considers proposals for new schools for the Department of Education, published for public consultation a

A practical 'Open for Irish Breakfast' sign outside 'Chinatown' Mullaghmore's first Chinese restaurant (Pic: Trudy Lomax)

list of proposed new primary schools for September 2008. Among those was five schools proposed by a body called the Islamic Board of Education who advocated a school for Sligo town. Three of the other Muslim schools proposed are in Dublin, with the another in Tralee.
wo Muslim schools already operate in Dublin. They teach the same primary curriculum as all schools, including Irish, but also teach Arabic through which religion is taught.

Unprecedented changes
This is another indicator of the unprecedented changes taking place in Ireland at the present time. In a recent address to Akidwa, the African womens network, and in a statement to the Irish Times, Minister of State Conor Lenihan admitted that there is a 'serious underestimate' of the number of foreign nationals living in Ireland. He agreed that the number of Polish nationals alone reported in the census of 62,495 is more like 200,000! The percentage of foreign nationals generally could be as hight as 15%, he said.
Akidwa's national director, Salome Mbugua, urged greater engagement with migrant communities. 'This engagement needs to be effective and meaningful rather than token as it is now', she stated.

November 30th 2007

'Cholera Field' bones dumped in a pit

At a function held in Sligo General Hospital last Monday Nov. 26th a bronze plaque was unveiled to the memory of the staff, nurses, doctors, patients and deceased of the Sligo Fever Hospital which was demolished in 1978 to make way for an addition to the present hospital. As far as we know, when the bones of the associated 'Cholera Field' were discovered during these excavations, they were removed to a pit the location of which is unknown.

A gathering to mark the occasion was addressed by famine committee chairman, Joe Mc Gowan and Hon. Sec. Lary Mullin. The meeting was addressed also by hospital administrator Sheila Smith and prayers said by hospital chaplain Father Carroll. Musician Sheila O'Dowd played musical selections on the violin and Joe McGowan read selected verses of 'Awake' a poem by deceased famine committee member Paula Burke-Reynolds. (reproduced below)

Famine committee members at the unveiling: l to r: Larry Mullin, Mae Neary, Larry Mc Gowan, Sheila Hanly, Joe Mc Gowan, John McTernan, Cllr. Declan Bree, Ursula Roest, Denis Feehily, Phelim McNeela.

Following is a press release by the famine committee:

The Fever Hospital

In summer 1977, to mark the 150th anniversary of Black 47, the Co. Sligo Famine Memorial Committee unveiled two monuments to commemorate victims of the Great Famine. The Committee also restored the famine graveyard beside St. John’s hospital (former workhouse) and honoured the many thousands who lay there unknown and unremembered.

Now, to remember this and the victims of an earlier disaster – the Cholera of 1832 – and the many who died in the fever hospital in those years, a plaque is being unveiled in Sligo General Hospital which stands on the site of the former Fever Hospital. This hospital was erected between 1817-1822 at the suggestion of and partly financed by Mr. Edward Synge Cooper, who was MP for the town at the time. It was built to accommodate 50 patients, 25 women and 25 men.

Memorial plaque (sculptor Niall Bruton)

The Cholera Epidemic
A cholera epidemic known as Cholera Asiatica or Cholera Morbus first broke out in India in 1826. It spread gradually to Europe and by May 1832 it had arrived in Ireland. Strenuous efforts were made by the Provost of Sligo, Mr. William Fausett, and the Board of Health to prevent the cholera from reaching the town. This was not possible. Saturday 11th August 1832 was fair day and market day in Sligo and the town was crowded with people from outlying areas. On that fateful day the first symptoms of cholera were identified.

It quickly raged throughout the town with an average of 50 a day succumbing to the disease. People were dying in the street and along the banks of the Garavogue. The bodies were wrapped in sheets smeared with pitch to prevent the spread of the disease. Some of the dead were buried at the Abbey, others in St. John’s churchyard, but the majority were

interred in ground at the rear of the Fever Hospital – an area subsequently known as The Cholera Field. The orthopaedic wing of the present General Hospital and part of the car park are now on that site.

1500 perished in one month
The fever raged throughout the month of August and during that time at least 1500 people and possibly more perished, among them a number of prominent citizens. These included Alexander Bolton, proprieter of The Sligo Journal and his son; Patrick O’Connor, merchant and brother of Peter O’Connor of Cairnsfoot;  William Middleton, grain merchant and shipowner; Baptist Minister the Reverend Wilson; Drs. Coyne, Beattie, Anderson and Surgeon William Bell. By the second week in September the epidemic had run its course and life gradually began to return to normality.

During the Great Famine (1845-47) the Fever Hospital was filled to over-flowing and a building for 50 patients accommodated three or four times that number. Those who couldn’t be sheltered in the hospital were left lying on wads of straw at the entrance where many of them died.

Sligo Fever Hospital and staff c1930

The Cholera returned briefly in 1849 and claimed about 200 victims. This was the last time the dreaded disease appeared in Sligo. There was a serious outbreak of Typhus in 1903 but this was successfully controlled by the doctors in charge, Drs. Murray and Quinn. The last doctor in charge of the Fever Hospital was Dr. Tom Murphy. The hospital was closed in 1958 and was finally demolished in 1978 to make way for the new orthopaedic unit that opened in 1982.

Cholera is ravaging Sligo to a frightful extent… The disease is more virulent there than elsewhere in the Kingdom… A pit was dug at the rear of the Fever Hospital, where sixteen corpses were dropped in together, without coffins or shrouds. The Town is quite deserted… Its thought there may be up to forty deaths a day… The cry of the widows and orphans in the streets is truly awful…:‘Ballyshannon Herald’ 18 Aug 1832

'...Into our hands the sacred rite of burial
We lift a spade, unearth the crime,
Behold the bones.
We light a candle, proclaim a vigil, gather a tribute.
Flickering flames against the dark —
“And the earth will give birth to those long dead.”

We scratched in stone, probed in sod, carved in clay,
Gouged from darkest memory a monument —

Limbs of bronze to honour creatures of flesh.
May they feel the warmth of a tear.
May they hear the pipers lament.
May they find peace in a replenished land
Anointed by their spirit —
“O dwellers in the dust awake and sing for joy.”
(from 'Awake' by Paula Burke-Reynolds)

November 23rd 2007

Sebastian Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena outside the Clarion Hotel, Sligo, celebrating their win with the traditional champagne

Following the North West’s successful staging of the final round of the World Rally Championship last week-end, in which Sligo played a pivotal role, all the indications are, according to chief executive David Marren, that the sport’s governing body will award the region another event in 2009.

The World Rally festival parade and fireworks in Sligo on Saturday night was watched by up to 20,000 people according to Gardai, who have been widely praised for the manner in which the traffic situation was managed over the entire week which saw Sligo I.T. hosting the service park, media centre and temporary heliport and the nearby Clarion Hotel being the rally headquarters.

Mullaghmore came under siege (estimated 40,000 people) for the last stage on Sunday causing severe traffic congestion after the rally ended but with such a large number of vehicles exiting, all at the same time, this was to be expected. It was the final stage and Frenchman Sebastian Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena came out on top continuing their complete dominance of Ireland's first ever World Rally Championship.

Sebastian Loeb driving his Citroen at the Rally

Monday November 26th at 11.00pm in the foyer of Sligo General Hospital
Unveiling of bronze plaque to memory of the doctors, nurses and patients of the Sligo Fever Hospital, also to those buried in the associated Cholera Field
All welcome

November 16th 2007

Strandhill airport controversy rumbles on

An Aer Arann ATR 72-500 coming in to land at Co. Sligo airport. More info?

In another case of progress and rights being incompatible bedfellows the proposed addition to the runway at the Co. Sligo airport is causing grave concern to environmentalists and residents of the area. In order to highlight their concerns members of Dorrin’s & Cummeen Strand Conservation Group are organising a walk to Coney Island via Dorrin’s Strand on Sunday November 25th, with a rally on Coney Island, returning to Strandhill by the same route.

The route chosen for the walk is the traditional Short Strand route, used since time immemorial to access the Island. Those unable to walk will drive, using the Long Strand route from Scarden, meeting on the island at noon. Both routes are threatened by the proposal to take over Dorrin’s Strand for the building of an extension to the runway at Strandhill airport.
Dorrin’s Strand is a Special Protected Area (SPA), subject to European legislation, its North-East facing orientation making it uniquely important as a safe habitat for wintering Brent geese. Its status, however, as a right of way to Coney Island is the specific reason why this walk has been organized.
Under section 73(10) of the Roads Act 1993, “It is the function of the planning authority to protect the right of the public to use rights of way in its administrative area.” Residents of the area will walk the strand, to highlight their demand to have their rights vindicated.

Disadvantages of proposed development
The proposed works associated with the runway extension would render Dorrin’s strand impassable, and derelict in any case, while at the same time seriously threatening the road from Scarden to Coney Island. The proposal to redirect the drainage channel, by building a nine hundred meter long stone channel, reinforced by rock armour, together with the building of an enormous stone platform across half of the strand, and navigation lights over the remainder, would render Dorrin’s Strand a no-go area for travelers to and from Coney Island and for walkers, bird watchers, fishermen and the many families who enjoy safe swimming there.
The freedom to walk around the peninsula, from Strandhill village to Killaspugbrone, and on by the shore to the Old Airport Road and back to the village, is one which has been taken for granted for so long that most people consider it a civil right, and would be horrified at the notion that this right would be taken away by a private company. They would be equally horrified at the laying waste of such an environmentally sensitive landscape.

An ancestral route
The organising committree point out that the 'foreshore has been inherited from our ancestors, to be kept in trust for future generations. In the meantime, ownership is vested in the State, who may choose, on our behalf, to allow certain activities take place there, under licence. Logically this means, that the public has the right to participate in the decision-making process, and is therefore entitled to have that right vindicated. The citizen wishing to continue to walk the shore has a vested interest in seeing that his/her access to the foreshore is not impeded by security fencing, or any other structure which renders the foreshore impassable.
If we do not want our beaches handed over to private developers, we have a right to see our wish respected. If we do not wish to have car parks, airports, industrial estates or housing developments on our beaches, we have the right to demand that it does not happen. The only circumstances in which development may take place in a Special Protected Area (SPA) is when it can be proven that there are “imperative reasons of overriding public interest” and if it is proven that there is ”no alternative”  to the proposed plan. In the case of the proposal to build a runway on Dorrin’s Strand, neither condition is satisfied.
If the principle of building airports on beaches is to be established in Sligo, is that a proud record to hand on to our grandchildren?'

November 9th 2007

Health Service in a Sligo Mess

As the news broke that eight women and possibly more are victims of cancer misdiagnosis, Sligo man and chief Health Service Executive (HSE), Professor Brendan Drumm, has criticised health protest marches such as that held recently in Sligo town. Commenting on seven women being wrongly given the all-clear for breast cancer in Portlaoise last week, he said the HSE had tried to reform systems that do not provide quality care but were constantly obstructed.
“We’ve pointed out that the cancer systems do not provide quality care. The system in Portlaoise is totally unfair to the women who’ve used it, it’s even unfair to the doctors who are actually asked to provide it.”

Section of Sligo Rally

Around 3,000 protesters from all over the North-West took part in the march from IT Sligo to Sligo General Hospital two weeks ago. Four separate motions in relation to the breast care unit at Sligo General Hospital were tabled for last Monday’s meeting of Sligo County Council, while there was another relating to radiotherapy services.

Councillors call for retention of Services
On RTE radio Prof. Drumm said : “The irony for me is that last week we had marches on the street in local communities saying we dare not touch their cancer services as part of the transformation programme, and this week we face into a Portlaoise situation where we are being blamed for not having changed it.” He blamed the latest crisis in breast cancer services on an inherited fragmented system of care, which he said he intends to consolidate.
Fianna Fail councillors Patsy Barry and Aidan Collery, who are both members of the HSE West regional body, have called on the HSE to ensure the retention of cancer surgical and diagnostic services at Sligo General. Fine Gael councillor Michael Fleming proposed that the HSE not only retain the services already there but also that Sligo be included as one of the proposed centres of excellence.

"Cancer patients reduced to beggars as Bertie becomes world’s best paid leader" runs the heading in the Sligo Champion. In relation to the current health scandals commentators have noted that to understand the inability of the Health Service Executive to get to grips with the services it runs, one should take a look at the report of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration. It considers pay levels for managers in the HSE and points out the 'standing army' of national directors, assistant national directors, hospital network managers, directors of regional health offices and managers of local health offices. And it says, in effect, that the review body had a hard time working out what they should be paid because it couldn't quite figure out what precisely many of them do. Welcome to Ireland, Mr Kafka, or another case of 'too many chiefs and not enough Indians!'

'A battery farm of bureaucracy'
Almost three years after the HSE was established the Review Body on Higher Remuneration still can't quite get a fix on what many of its highly-paid managers actually do. 'The HSE has become a battery farm of bureaucracy. It just can't help creating more and more middle managers, whose numbers have grown by 37 per cent, from 521 to 713 between late 2005 and June 2007, even while front-line services are being cut.'

World Rally Championships for Sligo

MOTORISTS in Sligo are concerned about a 'nightmare scenario' for traffic when the World Rally Championship comes to town unless O’Connell Street is opened to vehicles. Chairman of the Sligo Taxi Association Aubrey Meville said that even with O’Connell Street open Sligo will struggle to cope with the traffic over the weekend of November 17 and 18. “There is no way as it stands at the moment that Sligo can handle 50,000 people coming in each day for this rally. The only way that I see it working is by opening up O’Connell Street completely for the week that the rally is on.”

The World Rally Championships event will involve;
• 150,000 spectators
• 92 competitors from 10 teams
• 55 support helicopters
• 2,000 stewards
• 24 camera crews
• 50 million TV viewers worldwide
• 5.5 hours live TV coverage

Rally route in Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo

• Ceremonial start at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast
• Super Special Stage through the grounds of the estate with live television broadcast
• Restart - Sligo
• Three stages in Counties Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo
• Return to the Service Park in Sligo
• Repeat the 3 stages from the morning
• Back to the Service Park in Sligo

• Two different stages in Counties Leitrim and Sligo
• Final service and overnight halt in Sligo
• 5.00pm Boyle Rally Festival
• Restart - Sligo
• Three stages in Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh
• Midday service in Sligo
• Repeat the 3 stages in Counties Tyrone and Fermanagh
• Final service and overnight halt in Sligo
• 7pm Rally Street Carnival, Sligo City
• Restart – Sligo
• Two stages in County Tyrone (Clogher Valley)
• Stage in County Donegal (Donegal Bay)
• Stage in Mullaghmore, County Sligo live on television
• Presentation of prizes in Mullaghmore
• Ceremonial finish – Clarion Hotel, Sligo

November 2nd 2007

Potato Republic no more

It's official!
We have just graduated from Potato Republic to Banana Republic. The German ambassador caused a furore a short while ago when he as much as said so at a meeting of German businessmen. We all know it's true but it took an outsider to say it out loud. Hospital waiting lists are chaotic, he said. Everyone drives ‘06 and ‘07 cars on overloaded and dangerous roads. Ireland has become a coarser place. Limerick no longer has an exclusive title to Stab City. Binge-drinking has coarsened society with loutish behaviour and linked up with a rampant drug culture that is over-whelming health and safety resources. Doctors who were offered salaries of €200,000 a year had described it as “Mickey Mouse money”. Irish Ministers of State earn more than the German chancellor.

Mary O'Rourke: laughing all the way to the bank (remember the Eircom debacle?)

Bertie Ahearn Highest paid leader
Did we raise a collective blush at the ambassador's remarks? Not a bit of it! Au contraire! Bertie, our Taoiseach, just awarded himself another €38,000 euro per year just to rub salt in it. What does he care! Elections are out of the way for another five years so there is no accountability. Brown paper bags are under close scrutiny so the money has to come from somewhere. After starting out on a grand €133,000 10 years ago, Bertie has burst through the €300,000 mark to arrive at €310,000. Tanaiste Brian Cowen is heading for €270,000, after picking up an extra €36,000. By comparison, President George W. Bush is paid a modest $400,000 (€280,000) while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown receives £187,000 (€268,000). The increases were accepted by the Cabinet earlier this week. (Well they would, wouldn't they!) Ministers' salaries will rise between €25,000 and €38,000.

Bertie: Let 'em eat cake

Overall 1,600 top-level figures in the public sector covered by the report will see their salaries increase by an average of 7.3 per cent. The increases, which will be introduced in three phases up to March 2009, will cost the exchequer about €16 million.

Belt tightening
Not a single minister or spokesman was available to come out and defend this latest series of extraordinary pay rises. Brian Cowen tells us there's a tough Budget coming up, to live within our means and tighten our belts. The only belt tightening he and other Cabinet members will be doing will be to ensure their trousers don't fall down with the weight of extra cash in their pockets.

Justice at last for Frank McBrearty family

A Donegal publican, who has been awarded €5.5m in damages and court costs arising from garda misconduct, yesterday said he had received justice at last. Frank McBrearty was speaking on the steps of the High Court in Castlebar after a settlement was reached in respect of his second claim for personal damages.

Frank McBrearty

He said that he and his wife Rosalind had received justice 11 years after the gardai tried to frame him and his family for crimes that had never happened."Having failed to frame us and put us in prison for crimes which never took place, the gardai tried to destroy our business by prosecuting me and my family and staff with 160 charges in the District Court. "We have spent over €1m in defending our family against the abuse of An Garda Siochana and at long last we have received justice," he said. Yesterday, he was awarded €2m in personal damages for unlawful arrest, libel, malicious prosecution and wrongful imprisonment by gardai.
Last week, the Donegal publican was awarded €2,475,047 in respect of damages to his business caused by garda harassment. Mr McBrearty was also awarded €1m in District Court costs arising from 157 charges taken against him by gardai. Mr McBrearty, who was suing the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Ireland and the Attorney General, was further awarded his full High Court costs.
An emotional Mr McBrearty rose in the court and thanked Mr Justice Paul Gilligan.The settlement came on the second day of Mr McBrearty's case for personal damages and after the State had indicated that it would be fighting the case. All claims arose from garda attention on the McBrearty family following the death of local Raphoe man, Richie Barron, as a result of a hit-and-run in October 1996. It was initially treated as an accident but quickly became a murder investigation with Frank McBrearty's son Frank and nephew Mark McConnell treated as the main suspects. Frank Senior was also arrested in December 1996 and held for a two-week period during which he was hospitalised suffering from high blood pressure and possible symptoms of imminent heart attack or stroke. Immediately after his release a campaign of garda harassment began.
For more on this and the Sligo connection visit HERE and HERE and scroll down.

X-Factor's Shayne Ward visits Sligo

Pop star Shayne Ward was in Sligo town yesterday to officially open the new Virgin Megastore in Johnston Court at 11am. Shayne's claim to fame is that he won the X-Factor two years ago and was making his first visit to Sligo. There were teeny boppers (is that term still in fashion?) all over the place screaming their heads off with excitement. Some had queued in front of the building from 7 a.m. in the morning.

Heart throb Shayne Ward

September 26th 2007

PJ Kelly's million euro divining gift

Diviner with forked stick searching for minerals (from Agricola's De re Metallica 1556)


In England it is known as 'dowsing', in North America as 'water witching', in Ireland we call it 'divining'. When a populous countryside depended on hand dug spring wells, and we didn't have such an excess of money as we have now for buying bottled water in the shops, the water diviner was a respected and much sought after member of the community. So much importance was attached to these wells that they were mapped and given names: Tobar Geall, Tobar Watcha, Tobar Bui and so on. Bottled water may not be all it's cracked up to be, and why go the shop when you can get it in a natural spring well, so I still get my drinking water at the Buiscín spring well in nearby Creevykeel close by the 5,000 year old Creevykeel Court Cairn. It is indeed quite possible that the communities of the time, the builders of this great megalith, drew their water from the same well!

Buiscín spring well

Finding water with a forked hazel stick
Divining is practised worldwide. The art has been around for about 8,000 years, the age given to a wall painting discovered in the Tassili Caves in the Atlas mountains in North Africa where a diviner is depicted at work using a forked twig and surrounded by curious onlookers. Dan Kelly was our water diviner when I was growing up. He walked slowly and intently along the field holding a
forked hazel rod aloft. It twisted and spun itself to shreds in his hand when he walked over a spring. In later years in a further perfection of the science, he performed with a complicated set of spools, pegs and strings, to determine at what depth the water could be found. Being a local man, the axiom of a prophet 'never having honour in his own land' applied and Dan had his share of doubters.

Hocus Pocus?
So is divining just more of the hocus pocus, fairies and outdated beliefs, cures and customs of the old Ireland that we have left behind? Well, no. A twisted metal coat hanger costing 50c has helped produce a €4m windfall for a small village.

Water diviner P.J. Kelly

Four million euro find
Water diviner PJ Kelly, confirmed recently that his search for water springs in an area 6km from Lissycasey with the aid of the metal hanger has found "three major top-quality water springs".As a result, a local company, Clare Spring Ltd, has lodged plans for a €4m plant to bottle the water. It will employ up to 10 people, while 12 more will be involved in the construction of the facility. Mr Kelly said yesterday: "It is a boost for the area. It is an environmentally friendly industry."

He explained that his water divining is carried out through holding a twisted metal coat hanger in his hand until he receives an electric current when water is detected. People laugh at it, but he is 100pc successful at finding subterranean activity. 'It gives you a lot of satisfaction when finding new water springs'. Mr Kelly said that he discovered his talent 40 years ago when he took a pair of tongs in his hands and he jumped with the shock. His talents also run to locating injuries in animals such as horses and dogs.

Recent Irish Times cartoon depicting the irony of George "Rendition" Bush criticizing human rights in Cuba

Friday Oct 19th

Vernacular Man and Paddy Duffy

Paddy setting potatoes



Ireland, misty isle of crossroad Ceilis and thatched cottages, once beloved of American visitors, has now become nothing much more than a memory. 'Vernacular architecture' the academics call those whitewashed 'two rooms and a kitchen' buildings that are now so very rare. We had Neanderthal Man, Stone Age man, Piltdown man, the Missing Link, so can we call those who were born under thatch, myself included, Vernacular Man? Yes, why not, and don't forget you heard it here first!

The men and women who were born in those simple dwellings and lived a subsistence lifestyle are going, going and in a moment gone. The men and women who lived in those buildings, close to God and close to nature and the primal elements, are one by one passing on. Not many left now! A whole way of life has vanished in our time.

Paddy Duffy is one of those country wise men who feature prominently in books I have written. I attended his funeral last week and silently reflected on our trips to the sea fishing for ballan wrasse, our visits to Leac na Meala pulling sleabhac in the Springtime, our many deals done over boxes of pollack in my commercial fishing days, his devotion to the hens, ducks and cattle that he reared and his frustration at the foxes depradations. His was one of the few places left where the cock's crow could still be heard in the morning, a blessing on the new day. Paddy was a true Character, the last of many in North Sligo; Mittyesque in a sense, his vivid imagination and penchant for storytelling mixing truth with fantasy were well known.

Paddy with a fine ballan wrasse

The old ways have gone.  Like spring snow we saw them, now glistening white; in the blinking of an eye silently and swiftly vanished.  As the writer and scholar Robin Flower once remarked: ‘The world has turned to another way of life, and no passion of regret can revive a dying memory.’  Rest in peace Paddy Duffy. Your likes will never be seen again.



On Yer Bike Garda Horgan

Or to be accurate, off yer bike! Yesterday's Irish Times reports a story about a garda (cop to Americans) who apparently didn't have his trainer wheels on. He injured himself when he fell over the handlebars of a bicycle during a training exercise. Aw! Too bad I hear you say. Not at all! The High Court awarded him €37,000 euro!! Sasha Gayer, counsel for Garda Keith Horgan, told Judge Terence O'Sullivan that the accident happened during a bicycle handling course at the Garda Depot in the Phoenix Park, Dublin in May 2001. Nice one! So if you're going to fall off yer bike and ye look down and yer not wearing a blue suit don't bother because not alone will ye not get any money you won't even get sympathy! Falling off yer bike indeed!! Don't let him loose on the public, Mr. Conroy, keep him behind a desk, on a low chair.

I'll bet President Bush wasn't so well rewarded when he fell off his bike back in 2004 while riding around his ranch. (Was that before or after he fell off the couch while eating a pretzel and watching television?) Luckily, the Pres landed on his head and avoided injuring any organs he puts to good use.

Rally Ireland
The beautiful north-western counties of Ireland, will be home to Rally Ireland WRC. Rally Headquarters and the Service Park for the event will be located in Sligo city. The Headquarters will be in the Clarion Hotel and Service Park right next to it in the campus of Sligo Institute of Technology. The Media Centre will be located inside the Service Park.

Rally Ireland is round 15 of the 2007 FIA World Rally Championships and will take place from 15th-18th November 2007. The event will open with a Super Special Stage in Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Parliament Buildings, on Thursday evening. The event route includes eight counties, both north and south of Ireland, and the rally will conclude on Sunday with a Special Stage at Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

Friday October 12th

Alan Wynne: A Pilot at 16 years old!

Alan Wynne has become the youngest aircraft pilot in Ireland. On his 16th birthday, Alan, a student in Coola Post Primary School, completed his first solo flight and made several take-offs and landings alone in the aircraft. Alan is a member of Sligo Aero Club and was given command of a Cessna 152 aircraft at Sligo Airport by the chief flying instructor of Sligo Aero Club, John Curran. John Curran said: “While Alan was well capable of flying the aircraft for some time, the lowest legal age at which a pilot can be given full command of an aircraft is 16 years.”

Alan, a Leaving Certificate student, is the son of Michael and Bridie Wynne of Sliganagh, Dromahair and he plans to study Aeronautical Engineering after secondary school. Sligo Aero Club has been training pilots for more than 30 years having been founded in 1975 near Coolaney and moved to the present location at Sligo Airport, Strandhill in 1978.

Gleneagles pull out of Glasshouse Hotel

'The Glasshouse' while under construction


The well known Killarney Gleneagles Hotel Group have pulled their stake in the Glasshouse Hotel at Swan Point in Sligo. A spokesperson for the Glasshouse Hotel recently announced that it was an amicable decision taken mutually by both groups and that the Glasshouse hotel will now be run independently. The Gleneagles Hotel Group has had interests in the Sligo hotel for almost a year.

Glasshouse owners and local businessmen Michael O'Hehir and Ronnie Greaney say the hotel will remain open and that jobs of management and staff will not be affected.

Meanwhile Riverside Hotel on the other side of town is closed and due to be converted into apartments.

Material Wealth and Poverty of Spirit or The Rat Race comes to Ireland

Irish people aspired to the wealth and lifestyle of developed countries such as America. The term 'rat race' meant nothing to us. Now we have it and are coming to the realisation that there's much more to life than material wealth — well most of us are anyway. Broken homes were often the result of the pursuit of wealth in the USA. Parents lavished material gifts on their children and realised too late that the gift of time was the most important of all and one they could not or would not give. Can we learn these lessons before it is too late?

We're too busy today

Bishop Christy Jones


Now our Bishop Christy Jones has remarked on this aspect of Irish life at a special ceremony on last Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of St. Brigid's Church in Highwood near Lough Arrow. We are 'all too busy today' he noted. 'We have got to find time for our relationships with God, our families and our friends. Our greatest happiness will come from these relationships. Our greatest pain and suffering will come from broken and betrayed relationships. Yet we invest all our time, our energy and our efforts in our jobs, our houses, our cars and our hobbies and take relationships for granted...'
'Let us pray that we will all stand back, identify our priorities and invest as much time and energy in our relationships with God and with each other as we do in our jobs, our houses, our cars or our hobbies.'






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