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Ecotourism a boost for Burren

THE Burren will be officially named as Ireland’s second ever ecotourism destination at a ceremony in Ballyvaughan next month.

This designation is the culmination of more then two years of work by the Burren Ecotourism Network – a host of local businesses and organisations in the area.

Ecotourism involved a move away from traditional mass-tourism and towards providing visitors with a more individual, more person tourist experience in Clare.

The classification of the Burren as an official ecotourism destination could become a major long-term driver for the local tourism industry. It is predicted that the ecotourism movement will become one of the primary drivers if tourism in Ireland in the coming years.

The Burren Ecotourism Network hope that this brand of tourism will encourage visitors to stay for longer in the county, spend more money in the area and cause less impact on the environmental and social make-up of the Burren.

Co-ordinated by the Burren Connect Project in Ennistymon, the network has seen a wide variety of north Clarebased businesses coming together for a series of mentoring days, local cleanups and education events designed to improve the tourism product offered in the Burren region. The group has been working to gain accreditation from Ecotourism Ireland and in piloting Ireland’s first ecotourism certification programme. A number of local businesses are due to receive their own individual accreditation from Ecotourism Ireland this month.

“The network is offering visitors opportunities to engage with the protected landscape of the Burren in a manner which is sustainable both in terms of the environment as well as the community,” said Edel Hayes of the Burren Connect Project.

“Accommodation, food, farming, outdoor activities, culture and heritage are all part of the network, which has woven together all the elements that make the area attractive to visitors looking for authentic tourism experiences. Tourism businesses involved in the network are committed to local produce, conservation and the community, as well as to continuing high standards in sustainability.”

The Burren Ecotourism Network elected its first committee last year with Joanna McInerney of the Burren Outdoor Education Centre elected as chairperson; Marie Neylon of Corofin Camping and Hostel elected as secretary and Orla Vaughan of Kilfenora Hostel and Chris O’Neill of Burren Painting Centre elected as joint treasurers. The network will be officially launched at Gregans Castle Hotel in Ballyvaughan on March 3.

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FG face off in poster row

THE war of the posters in Clare continued this week and this time within Fine Gael.

A directive was issued on February 11 from National Fine Gael director of elections Phil Hogan TD stating that canvassing in the Shannon Electoral area was to be left solely to local candidate and mayor of Shannon Cllr Tony Mulcahy.

However supporters of the mayor claim that his colleague Deputy Pat Breen (FG) continued to erect posters in the area well after the directive was given.

They pointed to a large poster declaring Deputy Breen’s support for the airport which they say was placed over a poster of the three Fine Gael Candidates in Clare – Deputy Breen, Deputy Joe Carey and Cllr Mulcahy. It also showed no preferences for the other candidates.

Speaking last night Deputy Breen said he took all of his posters out of the area after the directive was issued, and moved them to Ennis and the surrounding areas.

“We were told not to go into Shannon and I won’t go into Shannon,” he said.

Cllr Mulcahy said he was extremely disappointed by the issue.

“It wouldn’t be the Fine Gael way and it wouldn’t be my way. My reputation has always been as a team player within the party.”

When asked by The Clare People if he was canvassing the Shannon Electoral Area, Deputy Joe Carey (FG) said he did not want to comment.

In the 2007 General Elections Fine Gael returned two candidates in Clare having run four candidates.

The breakdown of the vote in the Shannon Electoral Area, which includes Kilkishen, Sixmilebridge and Meelick as well as Shannon town, saw Cllr Mulcahy taking the majority of the vote when the town of Shannon was included.

Eliminating the town however saw a vote of more than 700 for Deputy Breen, just under 600 for Deputy Carey, more than 400 for Cllr Mulcahy and 200 for fellow candidate Madeleine Taylor Quinn.

Posters have also proved problematic for two of Clare’s Independent candidates who were forced to take them back down from polls and lampposts around the county last month under the threat of a litter fine.

Both James Breen and Jim Connolly were told at the time that they were in breech of the litter act, as the election had not been officially called.

Last week Fianna Fáil candidates Timmy Dooley TD and Dr John Hillery reported to Gardaí that more than a thousand of their posters had been removed.

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Mullagh drama group set to wake up the west

MULLAGH Entire Drama Group is celebrating a decade of bringing fun, thought and entertainment to the people of west Clare.

The amateur dramatic society is marking its 10th anniversary by entering its latest play in competition for the very first time, when it takes part in the Doonbeg Drama Festival early next month.

The group will perform ‘A Wake in the West’ written by playwright Michael Joe Ginnelly.

Set in the 1960s in a rural village in the west of Ireland the play explores drink, relationships, the role of the clergy and poverty.

“It is a comedy with a twist,” explained actor Anthony Morrissey.

And while the group will be entering a competition for the first time, the area has a long tradition of drama and plays.

The people of Mullagh took to the stage long before this relatively new group was formed by the ICA a decade ago. Back then the first play was written and directed by Eilis Merriman. The drama group has expanded and developed since then, and now boasts up to 25 members.

“The goal has been to bring a play to Doonbeg and take the group to the next level,” said Mr Morrissey.

Those wishing for a sneak preview of the play before it enters it first competition can see it in Mullagh Hall on Friday next, February 25, or Sunday February 27. The play will also take to the stage in Mullagh on March 20. Doors will open at 7.30pm with curtin at 8.30pm.

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Consider yourself one of us

THERE’S a line of traffic up College Road towards the imposing old convent building that stands sentinel over what could be described as the leafy Ennis suburb just after you cross the Rhine into the Lifford are of Ennis.

Erasmus House dates from the 1770s and was originally a private residence before became a convent, but more recently housed both Maoin Cheoil and Chláir and the Ennis Language School.

In their own way both the Maoin Cheoil and language school hit at the source of all the activity. There’s both music and language, albeit it’s more England than Ennis, cockney not Clare.

Adults and children alike snake around the back of the building to a small church hall that’s hidden away. And, in a way it’s appropriate that this is the new rehearsal venue for the society – an old religious house for the society that came to Ennis thanks to the oldest established residents in Ennis, the Franciscans.

It was in 1953 that the society, then called the ‘Friary Choral’ under the direction of Fr Eunan had its maiden voyage with ‘The Country Girl’ in the New Hall on Station Road.

It was six more years before the society set sail again with the production of ‘Wild Violets’, but since then the Ennis Musical Society has become one of the staples of the performing arts in Ennis and wider Clare.

And the last 50-plus years reads like an eclectic what’s what of the genre – ‘Calamity Jane’, ‘My Fair Lady’, ‘La Belle Helene’, ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and many more.

This year it’s ‘Oliver’. Bill Sikes stomps on stage; the Dodger dances; Fagin figures his next move; Oliver sits at the workhouse table, takes his deepest breath and plucks up the courage from somewhere to say he wants more.

Anyone who saw Carol Reed’s film starring Ron Moody, Oliver Reed and Mark Lester – we all did as a rite of passage – knows the lines by heart, simply by opening the trapdoor of the mind.

‘Oliver, Oliver, never before has a boy wanted more…..’

Yes, Charles Dickens’ victorian classic has always been a winner with the crowds – makes it long over due another ride on the Ennis Musical Society’s carousel. “Oliver never loses its appeal,” says society chairman Jonathon Hopper, “and it’s great to put it on again,” he adds trawling through the online archives to when it was last brought to an Ennis stage.

It was 1990 when the Ennis Musical Society contended for the industry’s Oscars – the Association of Irish Musical Societies awards – when Cecil McDonagh was runner-up in the Best Actor category and Padraig O’Reilly was runner-up in the Supporting Actor role.

“This year we decided we wanted to have something that had children involved,” said musical society chairperson Jonathon Hopper. “The kids loved being involved in shows and ‘Oliver’ is just one of the classic shows that’s brilliant for children. The response we got was absolutely brilliant. We had 80 children audition. Beforehand we were slightly worried whether we’d have enough children turn up. We needed 20 but got 80. People want to see ‘Oliver’ and the kids want to be involved with it. It’s as popular as ever.”

The work on the 2011 production is almost done with now. The sets are built, costumes made, rehearsals ramped up in frequency over the last while as everyone involved close in on showtime in Glór from March 8 to 12.

“It’s a big undertaking every year,” says Hopper, “but a big budget needed to bring everything together, so there’s fundraising involved, people helping out with the sets and the background stuff. There are a lot of people involved and I’d say that the musical society is a family.

“I’m Australian and I decided to come to do the Europe thing for a year and I came to Ireland. I’ve been five years. I was around town, wondering what I’d get involved in and I had the idea ‘what about getting involved in musicals’.

“I had done some in high school. I was working in Shannon at the time and a friend was telling me he was involved in a musical and I said to myself ‘I can do that’. I just turned up and got involved and have been involved ever since.

“It has had a huge impact on myself. I would say that almost everyone I know in Ennis is someone I know through the musical society. To be honest it’s one of the reasons why I ended up staying in the country. It’s a huge part of my life.”

The society itself has been a huge part of Ennis life for countless generations of performers.

Expected Glór to be play to full houses between March 8 and 12.

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Construction delay puts job creation in slow lane

THE CREATION of hundreds of jobs in the north Clare and south Galway area have been put on hold following the news that construction work on the € 300 million Gort to Tuam motorway is to be delayed.

Work on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) was due to commence earlier this month but the National Roads Authority (NRA) have confirmed this the project has experienced difficulties due to problems obtaining funding from supporting banks.

This is the second delay which has struck the motorway, which will be used by hundreds of Clare commuters each day when completed, following a four month delay in signing contracts with the projects main contractors, the the BAM/Balfour Beatty Consortium, last September.

This delay in signing the contracts caused the construction start-time for the motorway to be put back from November of 2010 to January of 2011.

In October of 2010 a spokesperson from the NRA confirmed to the Clare People that “despite rumours to the contrary” construction work on the motorway would begin in early 2011. Despite these reassurances NRA spokesperson, Sean O’Neill, confirmed over the weekend that construction work would be delayed on the project. Mr O’Neill also said that the NRA was still committed to the 57-kilometre project and hoped that that matter would be resolved soon.

“This delay has arisen due to concerns on the part of the funding banks relating to the sovereign debt situation in Ireland, and these concerns have impacted on the timing of progressing to financial close,” he said.

It had been expected that work on the project, which would complete the Ennis to Galway motorway, will be completed by 2014 however, it is not clear when construction work on the motorway will now be able to begin.

The delay comes as a blow to the business community in north Clare and south Galway with a number of local companies expected to act as suppliers and sub contractors to the main development team.

It is also expected that the influx of workers would give a boost to the local economy.

Once completed the motorway will connect the Gort/Crusheen bypass to the M6 motorway east of Oranmore – bypassing Ardrahan, Kilcolgan and Clarinbridge. It is expected to reduce the commute time between Ennis and Galway by 15 minutes.

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Clare swept up in new ‘Spring Tide’

A NEW ‘Spring Tide’ can sweep Clare’s Labour Party election candidate Michael McNamara into the 31st Dáil, the former leader of the party and two-time Tánaiste Dick Spring has claimed this week.

In taking a timeout from his nephew Arthur Spring’s Dáil bid in North Kerry and turning his attention to the Clare campaign, Spring told The Clare People, “We will have Labour TDs on both sides of the mouth of the Shannon on February 26 and thus make some history.”

Spring, who served as a TD from 1981 to 2002, has claimed that the groundswell of support for McNamara’s election campaign represents a throwback to Dr Moosajeé Bhamjeé’s famous election win in 1992 when the Tralee man led Labour to their historic hight of 33 Dáil seats.

“Dr Bhamjee’e victory was the sensation of the ‘92 election. As the ‘Spring Tide’ was gathering towards the end of the campaign I was asked by Party HQ to do one final day’s canvassing in Donegal NE, Cavan/ Monaghan and Clare.

“By the time I got to Shannon the pilot said if I wasn’t back on the plane in 25 minutes he would have to leave as he was running out of flying hours.

I had a 20 minute

press conference with

Bhamjeé and there

was a feeling that he

was going well but

we did not see that we

would break through

the Dev culture in

Clare. But the people

of Clare in their wis

dom came out and

supported Bhamjeé.

Dr Bhamjeé to quote

his own words did

‘bring some colour to Dáil Éireann’.

“Given the breaking of traditional political moulds that is going on at present I believe that Michael McNamara can win a Labour seat in Clare. Ireland and Irish politics will be in a very different place after this election. With the Labour Party on course to achieve 24/25 per cent of the national vote that should suffice to bring Michael across the line,” he added.

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‘Immense pressure’ leading to long delays in Limerick

CLARE FINE Gael TD Joe Carey is the latest candidate to claim reconfiguration of hospitals services has failed miserably, and he points to the largest hospital in the mid-west as proof.

He said that shocking statistics emerging from the Mid West Regional Hospital Limerick highlights the extent to which health services in the mid-west are not working.

In recent weeks, studies show that one in five patients at the Dooradoyle hospital had to wait 24 hours to be seen by a doctor, while one in four patients had a wait of between six and 12 hours.

The studies looked at 29 hospitals and found that the Mid West Regional Hospital ranked one of the worst in terms of waiting times and patient safety.

“I think it will come as no surprise to anybody in this region that the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick has ranked so low in that staff working there have to deal with severe over-crowding and bed shortages on a daily basis.

“Anyone who has had to spend time in that hospital will tell you about the conditions.

“In this region, many of us warned the Government that the hospital was unable to cope and local Fianna Fáil TDs and HSE managers accused us of scare mongering.

“Now the facts speak for themselves. The reconfiguration process has placed unfair and immense pressure on staff working in Limerick’s Mid-West Regional Hospital.

“There was an attempt by the Government to fool the population into believing that Limerick was prepared for added demands placed on it. I never supported this policy and always felt it was misguided and under resourced,” he said.

“As well as consistently falling behind the majority of hospitals in the State in terms of waiting times, the statistics from Limerick in relation to staff shortages and sick days are very high. Staff there are under immense pressure.

“Months ago, I called in Dáil Éireann for an independent HIQA review of hospital reconfiguration in this region. I have contacted the Department for Health several times to insist that any further reconfiguration of services be suspended until a new Government is formed.”

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Ennis students in currach challenge

STUDENTS from Ennis Community College will set sail on the River Fergus in April after taking a lead role in a new currach-building project.

Working alongside members of the Fergus Rowing Club, James Madigan and Richard O’Donohue of the West Clare Currach Club, 11 first and second year students have spent the past week building a currach.

The pinnacle of the project will be the official launch of the boat as it embarks from the River Fergus in Clarecastle and makes its maiden voyage west of the Shannon.

Teacher Vivien Arthur-Grogan explained, “The project is cross-cur- ricular in nature and the benefits are admirable. Students who normally would have no hands-on knowledge or no previous point of reference to such a craft are responding excitedly.

The 11 students involved are Jordan Slattery, James Slattery, Ethan McNevin, Shaun Brody, Eoghan McInerney, Michael Daly, Brendan Molloy, Roisín Peoples, Toheeb Tolulope, Sylvia Kielak and Corey Hayes.

Vivien added, “The project provides an ideal forum to engage students from a multitude of nationalities and cultures to engage in team building exercises, benefiting them in countless ways.” I a m Ge r r y Wa ls he , a n e le c t r ic ia n b y t r a d e a nd for m e r c ont r a c t or who e m p loye d 7 m e n. I a m a s king for your num b e r 1 vot e or 2 nd p r e fe r e nc e if you ha ve a lr e a d y d e c id e d on your 1 s t p r e fe r e nc e . In t he p a s t I ha ve c a m p a ig ne d t o ke e p Ennis Ge ne r a l Hos p it a l op e n wit h full s e r vic e s , a nd c a m p a ig ne d a g a ins t t he b a il out wit h NAMA a nd Lis b on r e fe r e nd um , I a m a ls o a g a ins t t he c ur r e nt b a il out of p r iva t e b a nk d e b t . I d e c id e d t o r un a s a c a nd id a t e in t he Ge ne r a l Ele c t ion b e c a us e I a m d is g us t e d wit h t he c or r up t ion wit hin t he p olit ic a l s ys t e m . If e le c t e d I will b r ing hone s t y a nd a c c ount a b ilit y t o t he Dá il a nd will b e a s t r ong fig ht e r for t he p e op le of Cla r e a nd t he ir ne e d s . I will fig ht t o ke e p Ennis A & E a c ut e s e r vic e op e n a nd c a m p a ig n for t he Links Ca r g o hub a nd d e ve lop m e nt of t he Sha nnon r e g ion wit h a r a il link t o t he a ir p or t . I will a ls o d e ve lop a loa n s c he m e t o a s s is t our Fa r m e r s , s e lf-e m p loye d a nd s m a ll b us ine s s e s , not for g e t t ing our fis he r m e n. I found e d a n a nt i-c or r up t ion or g a nis a t ion wit h t he we b s it e www. s p ir it -of-t r ut h. or g whe r e I p ub lis he d a ud io a nd d oc um e nt e d e vid e nc e t o s how a c onne c t ion b e t we e n Ir is h s old ie r s a nd t he b uying of a r m s on t he b la c k-m a r ke t . I wa s t he m a in wit ne s s who e xp os e d t he s e ir r e g ula r it ie s a nd wis he d t o c onfr ont De fe nc e Minis t e r Tony Kille e n a s t o why he r e le a s e d a m ilit a r y r e p or t wit hout int e r vie wing m e t he m a in wit ne s s wit h e vid e nc e . I a ls o p ub lic ly c r it ic iz e d t he c ove r up of c hild a b us e wit hin t he Polit ic a l a nd St a t e b od ie s a nd p ub lic ly r e a d c or r e s p ond e nc e fr om a s e nior Ga r d a whe r e he c la im e d he c ould not look in his offic ia l file s r e la t ing t o t he s e m a t t e r s b e c a us e he wa s not in Cla r e in 2 0 0 8 . If e le c t e d t o t he Dá il I will b e a wa t c h d og for t his Count y a nd Count r y a nd will c onfr ont t he c or r up t p olit ic ia ns , b a nke r s a nd wha t e ve r d a r k s e c r e t s t his c or r up t s ys t e m ha s b ur ie d . I ur g e you t he p e op le of Cla r e , if you wa nt r e a l c ha ng e t o s t op vot ing for t he s a m e old c r onie s a nd g ive m e a nd ot he r ne w Ind e p e nd e nt s your Vot e s o we c a n he lp b uild a Ne w Ir e la nd .

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Meaney in line for leadership role in GP

CLARE General Election candidate Brian Meaney (GP) says his primary focus will remain local issues, even if he is asked to take up a senior position within the Green Party following the elections.

Cllr Meaney will be the most senior party member in the country should the Greens, as predicted, lose all of their Dáil seats in the upcoming election. Cllr Meaney has already been touted in some quarter as a possible party leader following next week’s vote.

“I will probably be the most senior elected Green in the country [after the election] and that is not something that I would relish. What will happen will happen but the party will not go away. The party will need to be rebuilt, and they’re not going to be rebuilt from the ashes because the possibility is there that there won’t be any ashes,” he told The Clare People . “But that said, on a good day we could get four seats; we could even get eight seats. There is no way of predicting this.”

Should the Green Party lose all of their Dáil seats, they will need to retain at least two per cent of the overall national vote to retain funding for national party office in Dublin. Even if they don’t achieve this, Cllr Meaney is confident that the party will survive.

“In many ways we are still a campaigning party and no matter what happens we will remain a campaigning party and many of the issues that we are campaigning on have become main stream issues. The issues have not gone away and the need for a Green Party has not gone away,” he said.

“It wouldn’t bother me [if he started to get responsibility within the party] but I would concentrate on my main job which is a councillor representing the people of Ennis West. The electorate of Ennis West, the electorate of Ennis Town Council and the various other positions that I have as a result of these, they are my primary function and responsibility.”

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No upturn in passenger numbers until April

SHANNON Airport passenger figures are poised to continue to decline until the end of March. That’s the prediction of a spokesperson for the airport, which is anticipating growth after the end of the first quarter of the year. The reduced figures were released last week, after Ryanair’s decision to reduce its services from the mid-west airport took effect in January.

Figures published by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) showed that commercial terminal flights through Shannon were down by almost 25 per cent in January. “The performance at Shannon Airport is a cause for concern,” stated a spokesperson for the IAA.

According to the figures, air traffic through Irish airspace increased by 5.1 per cent last month, compared with January 2010. Dublin and Cork figures were more promising than those for Shannon. Commercial terminal flights at Dublin increased by 0.7 per cent, while they were down by almost seven per cent at Cork.

North Atlantic flights between Europe and USA increased by four per cent last month, compared with January 2010.

Responding to the figures, a Shannon Airport spokesperson said: “Shannon Airport monthly passenger figures will continue to show a decline for the first quarter of 2011, at the end of which they will stabilize and return to growth.

“The drop is largely attributable to the ending of a five-year agreement with Ryanair, which had four aircraft based at the airport and operated 18 services twelve months ago compared to one aircraft and ten services this January. Shannon Airport was unable to accede to the airline’s demands for a new agreement that would have involved unsustainable passenger charges and significantly reduced traffic volumes. The ending of the agreement accounts for 90 per cent of the decline in passenger numbers at Shannon since.

“However, from May of this year we expect that both passenger and air traffic movement data will show a marked improvement at Shannon, arising from the airport’s strong recovery in the latter half of 2010 and its move towards a more sustainable network of services. This has already yielded positive results, with the announcement of a range of new services in the latter half of the year, an upswing that has been maintained into 2011,” added the spokesperson.

Among the newer services include the establishment of Aer Lingus services to Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Bristol (last summer) and the commencement in December of a new Aer Lingus Paris service.