Saturday May 18th 2008

Plight of the Palestinians

Treasa Ní Ceannabhain with the Sidhe Gaoithe Strawboys

The Palestinian Benefit night advertised below raised €3,000.00 euro. A cheque for that amount was presented by the Sidhe Gaoithe Strawboys to Treasa Ní Ceannabhain. The plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and on the West Bank has many parallels to Irish history in famine and Cromwellian times.   One of the most unlikely and the most generous contributions to the effort to relieve Ireland's suffering was made by a group of American Indians.  In 1847, moved by news of starvation in Ireland, a group of Choctaws gathered in Scullyville, Okla., to raise a relief fund. Despite their meagre resources, they collected $170 and forwarded it to a U.S. famine relief organization to be forwarded to Ireland. It was with this magnanimous historical precedent in mind that the Co. Sligo Sidhe Gaoithe Strawboys decided to make the donation to the Palestinians.

Gaza under siege
In accepting the cheque Treasa explained that Gaza, a tiny coastal strip of land, has now been under siege for almost two years.  Electricity is turned off for up to 15 hours per day causing forty million litres of raw sewage to be washed into the Med. Sea daily. Due to lack of sanitation people are suffering from disease, children and old people being the worst affected.  Hospital equipment has fallen idle because replacement parts are not allowed in.  Hundreds have died as patients are not allowed to travel for operations to any country, including Israel.  Since last June the siege has been intensified with the result that due to a lack of raw materials all factories have ground to a halt.  More than 400 Palestinians have been killed on the streets and in their homes by bombing raids this year alone.

Barry’s Lounge in Grange , Co. Sligo will be the venue for a great night of music, song and dance on Friday May 16th 2008

Noted sean nós singers Treasa Ní Ceannabhain and her daughter Roisín Elsafty are travelling from Galway and will be joined on the night by two renowned musicians, flute player Seamus Tansey and accordionist P. J. Hernon. Also present on the night will be lots of local singers and dancers.
Treasa has been foremost in highlighting the plight of the suffering people of Gaza in Palestine and on the night, the County. Sligo Sidhe Gaoithe Strawboys will make a donation, through Treasa to the Jabalyia Refugee Camp and El Marifa Orphanage in Gaza. Any money raised on the night will be donated to the same cause

So come along and support this worthy cause – while at the same time having a good nights craic. Admission is free, but all donations will be gratefully accepted.

April 1st 2008

Sligo’s Cancer Care Debate intensifies

Despite bitterly cold weather a crowd of over 3,000 people took part in a silent vigil outside Sligo General Hospital on Good Friday night last to  protest the planned removal of cancer facilities from Sligo.  Another demonstration is planned for O’Connell Street on Saturday, April 26th as the ‘Save Our Cancer Services Sligo’ group keeps pressure on the Government to reverse a decision to drop cancer care facilities in Sligo.

Mr. Niall Farrell (brother of Mairead Farrell, shot dead by SAS in Gibraltar in 1988) speaking out against cancer care closures at the 1916 commemoration ceremony in Sligo on Easter Sunday. Cllr. Declan Bree presided at the event.

The campaign to retain cancer services and persuade the HSE
to make Sligo General Hospital one of the designated cancer “centres of excellence” suffered a setback recently when Professor Tom Keane declared that the debate on the locations of the centres of excellence was over.
Local councillors say it was a dictat, that there never was any debate.

Jimmy Devins playing to the gallery  
Clr. Imelda Henry, one of the campaign’s leading organisers, said she was delighted with the turn out of so many people on a very cold evening at the vigil. It was a clear reminder to the Government that the fight to retain cancer services at Sligo General Hospital was very much alive. Clr. Henry said the vigil had been attended by patients who had received chemotherapy that day and it was an indication of how strongly the people of the North West felt on the issue.

The event was attended by Junior Minister at the Department of Health, Dr. Jimmy Devins, but it is generaly felt that he was playing to the gallery, that he is the Taoiseach’s lapdog and has no real interest in promoting Sligo as a ‘centre of excellence’. Clr. Henry said it would be the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern and Health Minister, Mary Harney who would be the focus of the campaign in the weeks ahead. Deputy Devins was at the vigil but where was he a year ago when the decision was taken to reduce the number of centres of excellence from twelve to eight to the exclusion of Sligo?
“He needs to stand up in the Dail and state where he stands on this issue and inform Minister Harney that the people of the North West are not going to take this decision lying down."

And so say all of us, Cllr. Henry!

Bishop Jones: Removal of services a ‘grave injustice’

Bishop Christy Jones has stepped into the fray and has called the planned removal of cancer services from Sligo General Hospital a “grave injustice”. Neither is he fooled by the spin doctor's term: 'centres of excellence'.
“I think a grave injustice is being done once again to

Bishop of Elphin, Reverend Christy Jones

the North-West of Ireland’ he said. “It is an injustice to deprive a population of such a size and such a vast area of services that are so essential in our day.”

The Bishop agrees with the logic that it is difficult to have specialist cancer services in every town in Ireland – but he could not understand why the North-West was being denied such a centre. “I think if a quarter of a million people is the figure mentioned to justify such a centre, then surely we have it in the North-West between Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon and Cavan.” Speaking on local radio he urged people “to use the only resource left to them” by turning in large numbers to protest at the removal of services from Sligo.

'Centres of Excellence'

Bishop Jones took issue with the term “centres of excellence” for the designated hospitals as this implied that the existing services at Sligo General were less than excellent: “It is tragic that this term is being used when I have never heard anything but superlatives being used in relation to the services in Sligo General.” The bishop saw the failure to include Sligo as one of the 'centres of excellence' as another example of the failure to improve the infrastructure in the region. As long as the mentality to only provide services or infrastructure to centres that are already developed or overdeveloped like Galway and Dublin prevails, then the North-West is going to remain totally underdeveloped.”

The eight “centres of excellence” are planned for Dublin (four centres), Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Road distances between Waterford and Cork, Cork and Limerick, and Limerick and Galway are each about 65 miles. So in those regional areas, no-one would be more than about one hour’s drive from a centre.

In the North-West, Sligo is over 90 miles from Galway, a drive of two and a half hours minimum. Services in Galway are overburdened even now with long queues and no parking facilities. So how on earth can this already overburdened hospital be a 'centre of excellence'.

More like a centre of tragedy thay will cost many lives.

March 20th 2008

Remembering Padraig Pearse and the men and women who took part in the Easter Rising April 1916

The Wayfarer (Padraig Pearse)

The beauty of the world hath made me sad,
This beauty that will pass;
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree,
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk,
Or little rabbits in a field at evening,
Lit by a slanting sun,
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven;
Or children with bare feet upon the sands
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets
Of little towns in Connacht,
Things young and happy.
And then my heart hath told me:
These will pass,
Will pass and change, will die and be no more,
Things bright and green, things young and happy;
And I have gone upon my way

Padraig Pearse reads the Proclamation Easter Monday 24th April 1916: 'Irishmen and Irishwomen; in the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old traditions of freedom, Ireland, through us summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom...'

'The Wayfare' poem above shows the gentler side of Pearse, a man perfectly in harmony with nature who, given any other alternative, would not have chosen armed rebellion. And yet:
"...On Monday 25th of April, a hot spring morning, Dubliners out for a stroll watched in amazement as Volunteers and Citizen Army took up battle positions.  War soon erupted in the streets of the capital!  Pearse and Connolly charged forward and took possession of the G.P.O.  Constance Markievicz, second in command to Micheal Mallin at Stephen’s Green, took charge of trench digging.  The blood sacrifice had begun!  But it was no matter to them.  They were only too well aware of the risks: ‘We are going out to be slaughtered,’ Connolly said matter of factly to a friend as he marched his men from Liberty Hall.’ 
  ‘It’s madness but a glorious madness and I am with you,’ the O’Rahilly had said to Constance, earlier in the day. 
  Heavy fire from snipers stationed in the Shelbourne Hotel was directed at the rebels in Stephen’s Green.  Constance, Commandant Mallin and their men returned fire from trenches they had dug.  On two occasions repeated fire from Constance’s weapons caused a cessation of fire from the enemy.  Mallin, considering the position too vulnerable, ordered his force to withdraw to the College of Surgeons.  Constance, unceremoniously shooting the lock off the door with her pistol, led her troops into the building.
  By the following Friday, Dublin was devastated and Sackville street reduced to rubble.  On Saturday morning Padraig Pearse, his HQ in the General Post Office bombed and burned out, handed his sword to the British General Lowe in an unconditional surrender.  James Connolly countersigned on behalf of the Irish Citizen Army.
  Although assaults on the College were heavy and continuous during the Rising Mallin’s band was still fully operational at the end of the week.  When ordered to surrender they were unbelieving, being strongly positioned to continue the fight.  Completely unaware of the havoc wrought by artillery in the centre of the city they knew nothing of the devastation wrought by artillery fire from the British gunboat ‘Helga’. 
  At one point a British soldier entered the College unaware that the garrison there had not yet surrendered.  One of Con’s men lifted his revolver to shoot him but Constance, preventing him said, ‘Don’t Joe.  It would be a great shame now.’ 
  Captain de Courcy Wheeler, Kings Royal Rifle Corps, who accepted Staff Lieutenant Markievicz’s surrender, was a relation by marriage of the Gore-Booths.  On surrendering her Mauser, Wheeler recalled later, Constance kissed it before handing it over and said: ‘I am ready’.  She and Commandant Mallin then marched off into captivity at the head of their men.  There was only one question now on everyone’s mind.  Death was inevitable.  But in what manner?  Were they going to be hanged, or were they going to be shot?..." (excerpt from Constance Markievicz: The People's Countess)

The Mother
by Padraic Pearse

I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho' I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow---And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.

Wear your Easter lily this Easter. Why? Go to: CONSTANCE MARKIEVICZ, EASTER RISING AND THE EASTER LILY and scroll down.

March 10th 2008

A Fireside Story of how St. Patrick Banished the last Serpent

This is the month when we celebrate the bringing of Christianity to Ireland by St. Patrick. For most people now it has little religious significance at all and indeed in many places, including Ireland, it is nothing more than a pagan bachanaal, or an instument by which we can coax more tourist dollars, or yen, or whatever you have in your pocket, to Ireland.

Let's go back to more innocent times then and find out how St. Patrick, having banished all the snakes out of Ireland, outwitted one last obdurate, wily old serpent. The story is ancient and was told around Sligo firesides up to the middle of the last century. A nice one to tell to your children:

Civility costs nothing!

"St. Patrick by the power of God drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Those that could not be driven out were allowed to stay but they had to submit to being turned into conger eels having all the poison washed out of them.
There was one big wise old snake of which St. Patrick could not get the better. He could neither lead, drive nor coax him and, mind you, he was in quite a pucker about it!
Following many sleepless nights Patrick hit on a plan. He got a big box, and with great ceremony placed it in front of his altar on top of Croagh Patrick mountain. The old snake was not far away and, half in and half out of his hole, kept an eye on the saint out of the corner of his eye. You see he didn't want to give Patrick the satisfaction of knowing that he was worried and so pretended not to notice what was going on. Still, after a while curiosity got the better of him and:
"What are you going to do with that box, Pat," says he.
You see by this time the two were on first name terms, or at least the old serpent thought they were. The two had been adversaries for a long time and the snake, while he would never admit it, had a sneaking regard for St. Patrick and his abilities
"That's my business", answered the saint abruptly.
"Civility costs nothing" replied the snake sharply, quite offended by Patrick's rebuff. "It's not much of a box anyway when all's said and done."
"It's big enough to hold you, you old bag of bones", said Patrick taunting his slithery opponent.
"That's a lie for you," said the snake taking the bait, "The half of me wouldn't fit into it.

A dangerous wager
The saint didn't bat an eye: "That's as it may be", he answered as mild as milk, "but I'll bet you a bottle of poteen it would hold you with no trouble at all!"
"Done with you", said the serpent, "but you're not to try any tricks with the crook of your staff if I come out of here!"
"Honour bright", said the saint and put the staff away behind a rock.
The serpent came out of his hole and began slithering into the box swelling himself to twice his natural size till the box was full. A good bit of the end of his tail was still sticking out and he was quite pleased with himself to have won the bet.
"There now for you Pat, I knew I would win, now what do you think of that."
With that St. Patrick slammed down the heavy lid of the box all of a sudden. The snake didn't have time to get out of the way or out of the box so he whipped his tail in afraid it would be snapped off. In two seconds flat the saint had the key turned in the lock, lifted the box to his shoulder and with a mighty heave flung it out into the Atlantic.

And that is how the last serpent in Ireland was outwitted by St. Patrick!"

Tobair Phadhraig, Corbeg, Sligo/Leitrim border 2007: St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in the ancient manner in some few places still.

Everyone knows about Winter Solstice events at Newgrange in the Boyne Valley, but there's a lot more such interesting illuminations going on at other times of the year in different parts of Ireland. To learn more go HERE

February 28th 2008

Ceolaras Coleman Concert
Oisín Mac Diarmada Of Teada musical group tells me that there's a concert this Saturday night (March 1st) in the Coleman Heritage Centre, Gurteen that "explores The Flight of the Earls through words and music and features flute-player/author of recent  book on The Flight of the Earls, Marcas O Murchu, and myself on fiddle."
This should be a good night! More information HERE

January 31st 2008

Cancer Care battle continues

Former Tanaiste and EU commissioner Ray MacSharry made a passionate plea for the retention of cancer care facilities in Sligo at his wife’s funeral recently. She passed away following a 7 month battle with cancer. Speaking in the strongest terms he said Sligo General is already a centre of excellence! “We could not, and my wife Elaine could not, say enough for the care and support and attention she was given in our hospital,” he said. “We have our centre of excellence here in Sligo as far as we are concerned, and please God, Elaine will help it stay there.”

Sligo General Hospital

Other experts agree and a leading oncology consultant at St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin has lashed out at comments made by Professor Tom Keane recently, that cancer patients should not mind travelling a long distance if they know they will be receiving top quality care. On a recent broadcast of Prime Time on RTE television, the Director of the Cancer Strategy, Professor Keane said cancer patients in the North West will not mind travelling to the centre of excellence in Galway for treatment as they will receive high quality care there. This morning on Ocean FM's North West Today programme, Professor John Crown at St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin said he feels it's unfair, that Professor Keane thinks there should be four centres in Dublin and thereby patients in Dublin will not have to travel a great distance and yet patients in the North West are expected to travel hours by road. He says he feels the location of the centres of excellence may eventually be down to nothing more than medical politics.

Ban on Brazilian beef
James Gilmartin, Chairman of North Sligo IFA has welcomed the announcement by the European Union of a full ban on Brazilian beef. This morning a significant reduction on beef from Brazil was mooted. However, following continued lobbying from farming groups, who say that Brazilian beef has not been meeting EU standards putting European consumers at risk, a full ban was imposed. It is understood that the ban will come into effect from this Friday.

Westlife's Shane Filan in trouble

Shane Filan

Last week the council granted approval to Shafin Developments Ltd to construct 61 apartments behind Lisroyan House at Knappagh Road, in two blocks ranging in height from two to four storeys. There will also be 120 car parking spaces with 115 of them at basement level. Shafin Developments involves Shane Filan and his brother Finbarr.
Residents on Sligo’s Strandhill Road have launched a strong attack on the borough council for approving plans for apartments put forward by this company. Rathedmond Residents Association say they are “astonished” that the council granted permission for a development that is four times the density of existing levels, and with floor levels significantly higher than adjoining properties which will result in serious overlooking and total loss of privacy.
In a statement they also say that residents are “equally dismayed that throughout the planning application period, no effort was made by either the developer or the council to engage with the local community to address matters of concern”.
The residents say that that the site is “totally unsuitable for high density development and any development must be within the limits of the existing infrastructure and be harmonious with existing density and amenity. “It is doubly disappointing that the principals of the development company are from Sligo and residents of the area would regard them as neighbours.”
Residents now plan to appeal to Bord Pleanala in the hope that they will see their point of view and prevent the development from going ahead

Housing slowdown
House completions, including apartments, in Sligo in 2007 have fallen sharply. In 2007 1,153 units were completed compared to 2,066 in 2006. This is a downturn of 44.2 per cent. The national downturn in house completions over the same period nationally is just 15.7 per cent. Hubert Fitzpatrick, director of the Irish Homebuilders Association, talking to an audience in Sligo last week said: “The tap on house building has been turned off until such time as the buyer comes back into the market. Right now there are a lot of Sligo people sitting on the fence and wondering when is a good time to buy.Well, if they want my advice then now is as good a time as you are going to get.” Mr Fitzpatrick listed the drop in prices, no stamp duty for first time buyers, a hike in interest rates looking less likely are as being all good reasons why now is the time to buy.

A pig's squeal
And lastly, on a lighter note, a SligoHeritage reader wrote in regarding the lecture 'Killing the Pig' noted below where I say 'the only thing wasted was the squeal'. Not so my correspondent writes: 'Do you not know this has been turned into rock music!'

And Politicians!
One can't turn on the news these days without being smothered with the latest on the American primaries. Seems to be a great spectator sport. Take your time Americans, I hope you do a better job in selecting a President this time than you did the last. It's the highest office in the land yet what qualifications do you need — in any country? A plumber, carpenter or electrician has to have a reasonable standard of education and serve an apprenticeship. An ability to fool most of the people most of the time seems to be the most important asset for an aspiring politician. Take Bertie, our Taoiseach:

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahearn

"I can't recall if I did say, but I did not say..."
Top man in Ireland that's our Taoiseach, Bertie Ahearn. He's under pressure, big time, to account for the sources of all his finances, much of which seem to come from dubious sources such as 'friends' looking for favours. How competent for the job is he? Well, take this from yesterday's Dail record in response to a reply about his tax compliance:
"It is not correct. If I said so, I wasn't correct, so I can't recall if I did say, but I did not say, or if I did say it, I didn't mean to say it, that these issues can't be dealt with until the end of the Mahon Tribunal. That is not what the Revenue said. What Revenue said, that they were in the part of the normal process with dealing with these issues and that in the meantime, under the law they and both the Public Offices Commission believe that there is, it is a similar in law, that you do not get a tax clearance cert, that they deal with the other process while the issue is ongoing, and hopefully these issues will be cleared up as soon as Revenue can do so."

Perfect Bertie, baffle them with bull---- that'll teach them to ask questions!

Your web host will be travelling with the Midwest Radio production of 'The Banshee of Crokey Hill' over the next two weeks so there will be no time to put up Newsround. As mentioned below, SligoHeritage, following a survey of readers, intends to drop this feature in favour of providing more Heritage and History features in future. The survey indicated that this is where the vast majority of readers primary interest lies.

'The Banshee of Crokey Hill'
will play in Birmingham in the South Birmingham College, Digbeth Campus, on Friday and Saturday, February 8th and 9th. In Manchester the performance will be in the Irish Heritage Centre on Thursday 14th February and Friday 15th February. All performances at 8pm. (Subject to change)
I look forward to meeting some SligoHeritage fans there!

January 25th 2008

The best laid schemes of Mice and Men

'Would that God the giftie gie us, to see oorsels as others see us'
Indeed so! Wouldn't it be great, and what a humbling experience I'm sure — and what's he going on about I hear you say?
Simple: It's the 248th anniversary of Robbie Burns birthday. In Sligo the event will be celebrated in Drumshambo and Rosses Point — and how many of us ordinary folks will be so remembered a quarter of a millennium from now? Well, possibly. All you have to do is to produce some memorable pieces like this from On Turning her up in her Nest with the Plough. That was in the good old days when poets could write so sublimely in verse! :

...But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.

Still thou art blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But, oh! I backward cast my e'e
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Or this lesser known piece: Then catch the moments as they fly, And use them as you ought man; Believe me happiness is shy, And comes not aye, when sought, man.

Now on to more mundane things:

Farmers refuse to pay 'exorbitant' water charges
Farmers are still angry about having to pay the newly introduced water charges. Meeting to mobilise opposition to metering and water levies are to be held in different parts of Sligo after threats were made to cut off water supplies if charges are not paid.
A spokesperson for the organisers said the action was being taken “in the wake of water cut off threats issued by Veolia, the French transnational corporation to which Sligo County Council has given control of the county’s water supply network”.There has been an ongoing row between farmers and Sligo County Council on the issue of water charges since Sligo was first selected as a pilot area for the introduction of water meters for all non-domestic water users.

New system fairer than the old
Farmers say they are not against paying for water but believe the metering system is unfair. They feel they should not have to pay a yearly cost for each meter and they feel the domestic allowance of 50,000 gallons a year is inadequate for a family. Sligo County Council have said that they had to introduce the system as it was being done nationally and that it was required under EU regulations. They have also argued that the new system was fairer than the old fixed charge because people were charged just for the water they used, and for many this would work out cheaper.

The sky's the limit in Sligo with advent of new wedding freedoms

A CHANGE in the law on wedding venues now allows couples to get married outside a registry office. Up until November last if you opted for a civil marriage you could only be married in a registry office. But now couples can opt for a different venue, such as the hotel or restaurant where they are going to have their reception. And you no longer need to be resident in the area in which you want to get married.
The change is followed by an influx of couples wanting to get married in Sligo. The registrar, Margaret Heffernan, who is based in Markievicz House in Sligo, is also responsible for Donegal and Leitrim and officiated at the first “outside” wedding in the region in Letterkenny a few weeks ago. “Before this there was a residency requirement but now if someone gives three months notice they are entitled to be married anywhere. Since the change in the law, and indeed since the change was announced, we have a lot of inquiries from people who are from outside of the area, from Scotland, Northern Ireland and particularly Dublin, who want to get married here.”
She believes that the beauty of Sligo and the other counties in the northwest is part of the reason why people want to come here. But there is also a practical consideration as to why people from Dublin are coming. Because of the huge numbers of people in such places not everyone can be accommodated on the dates they want to get married, so they are looking to less crowded places like Sligo.
However, those who fancied getting married on one of Sligo’s fabulous beaches, on the top of Knocknarea or a marquee at the back of their house are going to be disappointed. Marriages at the moment can only be held in fixed structures to which the public have open access. The public access is to allow for entry for people who may wish to object to a bride and groom being joined in matrimony.

Jump into your new life together?
One small step indeed but how long will it be before the sky's the limit? A company in Ohio, USA advertises the following alongside the above photograph: ' Would you like to get married in an airplane and jump into your new life together ?  We have a minister on staff who is licensed by the state of Ohio to legally perform  your marriage. Ceremonies may be traditional or totally non-secular in nature. The choice is yours. Our Freefalling Friar will make your wedding day truly unforgettable for you and your entire wedding party. 
We have special rates for bachelor and bachelorette parties.  Bring your party here to jump and the bride or the groom  will jump for only $119.00 (minimum group of 5).  Our  facilities are available to you after the jump - 
call us at 1-800-726-3483 for more details
Change comes slowly to Ireland but come it will and you can be certain that if the US has it, it will only be a matter of time before it arrives here! Who will be the first?

Changes to 'Newsround'
In last weeks bulletin I asked for your opinion on SligoHeritage website and would like to thank all those who responded. For a majority of readers the most important aspect of this website are the 'History' and 'Heritage' pages. With this in mind I may soon drop this newsround page in favour of spending more time in putting up historical and heritage pieces. In any event there will be no Newsround in the first two weeks of February as your web host is travelling to Manchester and Birmingham in England with the play 'The Banshee of Crokey Hill'.

'Killing the Pig', an illustrated talk by Joe Mc Gowan at the Museum of Country Life, Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo on next Sunday January 27th at 2.30 pm. Learn why the pig was known as 'the gentleman that paid the rent' or why it was said of the preparation of the meat that 'the only thing wasted was the squeal'.

January 18th 2008

Westlife's Kian Egan to marry

Sligo's Westlife star Kian Egan is to marry his actress girlfriend Jodi Albert, the couple have announced. Egan, 27, made his surprise proposal to former Hollyoaks cast member Albert, 23, on Christmas Day. The couple have been dating for more than four years and although a date has yet to be set, the wedding is expected to take place next year. The Westlife singer follows in the footsteps of bandmates Shane Filan and Nicky Byrne, who married their long-term girlfriends in 2003. Mark Feehily is in a relationship with partner Kevin McDaid.

Egan has said recently that he wants a year off after the marriage. And, have a look at her, can you blame him! 'The worst thing I can imagine is to get married and then a month later head off on tour,' said Kian. 'No expense will be spared on the wedding, which is why I want to be in a postion to do it well.'
What position is that then Kian — every red-blooded male in Sligo wants to know!

'Money for Jam'
Lock up your dogs! If he barks at the postman it could be even worse than his bite and you could be handing over a heap of money if postie decides to sue. Following Garda Tom Donnelly's (see 'Barks worse than Bites, below) success in the courts yesterday we may expect a rash of lawsuits for bark induced deafness. Yes, some of you thought the article was facetious, but garda Donnelly is the one who is laughing following an award in the High Court of €15,000.00 on his claim — and he's still working with the dogs!

Recession bites in Sligo
Yes, that nasty word. The 'Celtic Tiger' is taking a licking at the moment and as a result unemployment is up 13 percent in Sligo in the one year period from December '06 to December '07. According to figures released recently by the Central Statistics office the number of unemployed in that period has increased from 1,859 to 2,136 (1,408 males and 728 females). The increase is mainly attributable to the slowdown in the construction sector.

Irish team conquer South Pole!
The first Irish team to conquer the South Pole — 'Beyond Endurance' they call themselves — received a rapturous reception when it touched down at Cork Airport yesterday fresh from their 'record-breaking' trip to the Antarctic where they became the first Irish expedition to reach the South Pole. Bad weather at the Pole forced the group to wait almost a week before flying off Antarctica. When the weather settled the team was flown to an airfield on the fringes of the Antarctic where a Russian aircraft brought them to Puntas Arenas in Chile.
Pat Falvey and Dr. Claire O'Leary 'received the praise of the nation' when they met President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin yesterday. O'Leary said the trip was pure torture and her nails an absolute mess. The team look set to receive the Freedom of Cork city over the coming months. And there's more visiting on the cards as it was confirmed yesterday that the team have been invited to Stormont by the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

(Whisper it! Has anyone told them that the Pole was conquered by Amundsen way back in 1911 when it really was an achievement, and Antarctica is practically a tourist destination now?)
'Any "endurance" would be self-inflicted', an article in the Irish Times read: 'So where is the heroism... the trip was more like 'Beyond Strolling' given the lovely weather and balmy conditions, oodles of provisions and full back-up support including TV cameras.'

How embarrassing!

Your call!
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January 11th 2008

David Lynch shot dead

The New Year has started in Sligo with a sordid spate of shootings muggings and bad news. A few days ago 39 year old father of four and notorious criminal David Lynch was shot dead in Colleary Drive, Cranmore.

David Lynch

The victim had just returned with friends having been out ‘lamping’ rabbits when his attacker struck. The lone gunman, who had emerged from a nearby alleyway, fired several shots at Mr. Lynch as he alighted from a van shortly after midnight on Saturday last. Emergency services were quickly on the scene and Mr. Lynch was taken to Sligo General Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. A 12 year old boy and a 44 years old man who had been with Mr. Lynch were lucky to escape serious injury in the incident as bullets flew in all directions. The young boy in particular had a miraculous escape. One of the bullets struck his left elbow and also grazed his stomach.
The gunman calmly walked from the scene, escaping along the same alleyway he had come from. Mr. Lynch is the fourth person to be killed in violent circumstances in Sligo in less than three years. Three of the incidents have occurred in Cranmore housing estate.

Lynch had a violent criminal record and previously served a number of prison terms including an eight year stretch. Six years ago he turned up in Manorhamilton Court with his own excrement smeared all over his face.

Young couple mugged
A young couple's night out turned to a nightmare when the couple began the new year bruised and battered in Sligo General Hospital - the victims of a vicious town centre attack. Angie, 22, suffered a fractured bone above her eye, and her engagement ring went missing. Ryan, 20, a trainee electrician, suffered multiple bruises including kick marks on his chest and loosened teeth.
“They started on Ryan" Angie said, "and as I tried to pull one of them off he turned around and hit me and knocked me to the ground, and came down on top of me. The other two were kicking my boyfriend in the head. I was screaming in pain on the ground.“One of the men stepped on my hand and my engagement ring disappeared”
Gardai and an ambulance were called and the couple were taken to Sligo General Hospital. Angie said she didn’t want to see her ring even if it was recovered. “My engagement night was spoiled. I don’t want to remember it.” The couple plan to get another ring and Ryan has promised he will propose again.

Sligo: the dirtiest town

As if all that is'nt bad enough, according to the final results of the 2007 Irish Business Against Litter survey, Sligo came bottom of the litter league table and had the highest number of litter blackspots in the country. The Mayor, however, said this morning that he did not accept the findings which stated that Sligo had 'scored very badly' and was the poorest of the fifty towns and cities surveyed on behalf of I.B.A.L. by An Taisce.
Sligo was designated 'litter free' in 2006 so the Council are quite annoyed about all this saying it's difficult to understand how Sligo's position would have deteriorated to such an extent, "given the continued commitment of all concerned to keeping Sligo litter free."
The I.B.A.L. however are holding firm and say that litter on both the approach roads and the town centre brought about Sligo's lowly ranking, with fast food wrappings and alcohol-related litter evident in several sites. Literally rubing our noses in it: "The worst sites were not only heavily littered, but were very poorly maintained," they say.

Good News

I'll try to do better next week and bring you some good news! Meanwhile, John Wrafter, a Sligo expatriate who lives in Vancouver Island, Canada, and a regular correspondent of SligoHeritage, enjoyed the 'Barks worse than bites' story last week so just to cheer you up here's another true courtroom story from recent times that I call:

The Worm Turns!
A man charged with assaulting his wife told a court in Tuam that after 30 years of marriage his wife was trying to boss him and he would not have anyone stepping over him, the Connacht Tribune reported.

‘It’s not my fault’, said the defendant, ‘I tell the truth.  I get the blame for everything.’
‘The trick is not to let her annoy you,’ Judge John Garavan advised, to which the defendant replied: ‘If she leaves me alone I’ll leave her alone.’
‘There is not a man who is not being bossed by his wife.  The general rule of mankind is for husbands to be bossed by their wives’ said the judge.
‘It’s alright for you.  You’re the boss up there,’ retorted the defendant.
‘I am,’ said the judge, ‘until I go home!’
The defendants wife told the court that she did not boss her husband and Garda Tom Moyles said the defendant’s wife had learned to stand up for her rights and that this had not gone down well with her husband.
Judge Garavan fined the defendant €100.00 and warned him that, ‘if he featured before him again on similar charges it would be serious for him.’

New Year's Day 2008

Celebrating an Irish Christmas — now
In December's issue of The Word, theologian Fr Vincent Twomey SVD warns that while “Christmas is a time of joy and good cheer”, many, nonetheless dread it. Instead the Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at Maynooth urges people to “take another look at how we prepare for, and how we celebrate, the great Feast of the Birth of Our Lord.” Fr Twomey says: “For many, Christmas comes as something of an anti-climax after all the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas round of parties, shopping, and carols. Some even dread the family tensions that might break out during the one day in the year when we should be happy... Advent, he said, should be a time of fasting and prayer, like Lent, but not so rigorous, so that people can truly break into festive joy on Christmas night and the following twelve days which today in Ireland are marked mostly by Sales.

Celebrating an Irish Christmas — then
Writing in the 1940s, Mairead Kerins of Derelehan, Co. Sligo recorded that: ‘People kept the 24th of December as a fast day, very little dinner was eaten.  At night, about six or seven o’clock they had a great supper, tea with all nice currant bread, butter and jam and potato cake.  The bottle was opened and a little taken with the supper, it was then kept to treat the neighbours.  Christmas dinner on the 25th was a goose or some fowl.’ 
 ‘A currant cake, milk, butter and sometimes a portion of bacon was given to poorer neighbours.  Members of families did not give presents to one another although any member out earning might bring presents home.  Children usually got something new, a pinafore or dress.  Young girls usually got a new hat.  People always remained home on Christmas day and night, chatted around the fire and told stories. 

The Christmas Candle
One of the most eloquent and traditional symbols of Christmas in Ireland was the placing of a lighted candle in the window on Christmas Eve, its purpose to guide the Holy Family who wander again on Christmas Eve looking for shelter as on that first Nativity. The lighted candle, gentle flame, is also a token of welcome to deceased members of the family believed to return to their home at this time of year. 
Until recently emigration was an accepted, if undesirable, facet of Irish family life. In these days of instant communication and a shrinking globe it’s difficult to visualise the vast gulf that, not so long ago, separated the emigrant from their family. 
Travel was expensive and unaffordable well into the second half of the 1900’s so visits were infrequent.  Communication was difficult as there were no phones in the vast majority of  houses.  An  emigrant’s ticket to America was one way; most would never return to see their homes and relations again. The American ‘wake’ of the departing son or daughter was appropriately named.  Just as with a death this was a crossing over from which for many there was no return.  The candle was a token of welcome for absent sons and daughter, fathers and mothers as hearts went out across the miles at this special time of the year.








Christmas Candle no more
Today charged with artificial sound and light we lose sight of the starbright Winter sky.  The Milky Way, the Plough, the North Star, their magic is lost to us.  The soft welcoming light of candle and paraffin lamp are no more. The gentle Christmas flame, symbol of welcome and hope, is overcome by a brash new electrically charged Celtic Tiger Ireland. 'Progress' drives us to adopt new fashions and drop our association with the traditions of an old-fashioned past.
Somewhere lies the balance, the harmony.  It is the plea of the soul.

The Sligo Champion
In other news, changes have already begun to take place at the Sligo Champion newspaper as feared. For the first time since its inception, over 150 years ago, it will be printed outside the county, in Northern Ireland. The new owners, Tony O'Reilly's Independent News and Media, have two options as they have a facility in Belfast which already prints the Kerryman newspaper, while another printing press will be coming on stream in Newry, Co. Down. As is the fashion with takeovers profits come first and up to 20 printing jobs at the Champion are expected to go in the new structure.

Barks worse than Bites?

Garda Thomas Donnelly

On a lighter plane a garda dog handler has sued the State for alleged hearing loss because of exposure to loud barking by dogs under his control.
Garda Thomas Donnelly told the High Court that the dogs barked most of the time during routine daily patrols in garda transit vans around Dublin city. He said the dogs would bark at each other and at people walking in front of and at the back of the van when stopped at traffic lights and pedestrian crossings.
Witness for the complainant, Dr. Blaney, said his assessment indicated that the hearing loss was greater than normal in a 50-year-old but could not say whether noise was a big or small part of it. Another expert, Mr Lydon, concluded after tests that there was potential for Garda Donnelly to be exposed to noise levels over the 1999 regulation limits and ear protection should have been worn. In reply to a question Mr Lydon said that in his experience dogs tended to bark at about the same level. He also told the court he doubted "if dogs bark in a whisper".
Under cross-examination by Jack Fitzgerald for the State, Mr Lydon declined to comment on remarks made by a consulting engineer for the State, Carl Searson, during their joint testing of the vehicles, that one of the dogs might be trying to sabotage the testing by wagging his tail against the microphone being used in the procedure!
Garda Donnelly on duty go HERE and scroll down

For Newsround items previously featured go to Archive and click on, or scroll down to, Newsround.







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