Friary work near completion

WORK on a roof to protect some of Clare’s oldest architectural treasures at the 13th century Ennis Friary is due to be completed by the end of April, according to the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The purpose of this € 100,000 project is to provide protection for the collection of carved features which survive at Ennis Friary. The OPW also aims to improve visitor access at the site.

Authorities on medieval sculptures have highlighted the importance of this unique collection, which contain a complete set of panels representing the 12 apostles and stages of the passion of Christ. Also featured is the Ecce Homo, Madonna and Child, John the Baptist, St Francis and assorted carved fragments.

Since care of the Friary was vested in the Board of Works in the late 19th Century, concern has been expressed about the vulnerability of the collection and numerous interventions were undertaken.

In a statement, the OPW explained that a preliminary conservation report carried out in the 1980s confirmed that significant stone deterioration was taking place due primarily to weathering but also from the negative impact of the early repairs and vandalism.

An OPW spokesperson explained, “The damaged and decayed stonework was analysed by a stone conservation specialist and subsequently removed to a workshop for consolidation and repair. On completion of this work, the collection will be displayed in an appropriate manner on the site. It must be noted that the original setting of the panel figures and other features is uncertain.

She added, “The site of the 18th Century church, which was built within the walls of the medieval nave, was considered to be an appropriate location to provide a sheltered environment for the exhibition of these objects. The design of the modern roof reflects the original profile of the church and the consultant engineer confirms that its lightweight structure will have a minimal impact on the original walls.

Original features, such as windows will not be restored, while a wire mesh will be installed to provide se- curity for the display area and deter birds and wildlife.

Canon Bob Hanna, Rector of St Columba’s Church in Ennis, has welcomed the Friary project, saying he hopes the building can become the “centre of a new tourism hub for the town”.

Canon Hanna is part of a local group seeking to better promote the ecclesiastical treasures of Clare.

He explained, “What myself and a few others are doing is hoping to build on the excellent work done on the Clare Way and Burren Way. We think there is real potential there to make the landscape speak more powerfully than what it’s being allowed to do at the moment.”


Arkins describes new road signs as ‘absolute lunac y’

THE erection of a series of new signs with non-colloquial place names has been described “absolute lunacy” by a north Clare county councillor.

According to Cllr Joe Arkins (FG) the new signs use out of date an inaccurate names, which were first used by the British army in Ireland, ahead of the modern names which have been used officially and locally for more than 100 years.

“Are we supposed to go back to the spelling of 2,000 years ago and upset all the people and the tourist community in Ballyvaughan and across north Clare?

“We are really causing difficulty for people here and we need a serious meeting with the NRA to sort this out. This is a serious matter, it’s absolute lunacy,” said Cllr Arkins (FG). Most of this survey work used for these was done by the British Army who had different language from the people who lived in the area that they were working in.

“Just because some British officer put the wrong name in a map 150 years ago it doesn’t mean that we have to go along with this.

“This makes us looks like absolute fools. If you went to Greece in the morning you wouldn’t see something like this, and if you did you’d think that you had arrived in some sort of banana republic.”

According to Cllr Michael Kelly (FF), the new signs will lead to widespread confusion during the summer tourist season.

“We are talking about connecting people to the Burren area so we can’t be going around and confusing people like this,” he said.

“I remember at one time putting in a motion with Clare County Council about Bellharbour and I was told that there was no such place as Bellharbour – it was called something else instead. Can you imagine that?

“The people of north Clare are very upset about this. Once, back in the 1850s, Ballyvaughan was called Ballyvaghan and the people up there can’t understand why this has been thrust upon them now.”

Speaking at yesterday’s North Clare Area Meeting, Director of Services at Clare County Council David Timlin said that local authority will look into the matter.

“Clare County Council and the Post Offices have always used the local spellings and this [the signs] is not something that we have control over,” he said.

“I would suggest that the council would refer this to the ordinance survey organisation and to the NRA.”


TDs pledge support for Ennis iniatives

THE Queen of England, Michael Flatley and Barack Obama can play their part in Clare becoming the first county in Ireland to drag its way out of recession.

That was the message delivered by the Ennis Development Forum this Monday as it kickstarted its campaign for the county’s economic recovery by holding face-to-face talks with Clare’s newly elected TDs.

Retaining existing jobs, moulding Clare as a low-carbon county, revitalising the construction industry and cashing in on the county tourism potential emerged as the key tenets the forum’s policy going forward, with the county’s TDs pledging to play their part in the process.

“This is the start,” Aoife Madden of the Ennis Development Forum told The Clare People. “We believe that Ennis and Clare can come out of recession.

“Businesses can play their part in that, so can politicians and we are determined to make it happen.

“We have to look at a lot of things. There was general recognition of the need to support local businesses in order to support local jobs.

“Minister of State for Small Business John Perry has been briefed on our concerns and we want him down in Ennis for formal discussions on the financial and red-tape challenges being faced by small and medium enterprises.

“It was also recognised that Clare must exploit it’s tourism potential through expanding the demand for what we currently have to offer by fully utilising Shannon Airport as a facility and the development of Ennis as a National Centre of Welcome and the creation of a Triangle of Clare Tours.

“Clare could generate significant marketing spin-off from events like the Lord of the Dance at the Cliffs of Moher, the Royal Visit, the London 2012 Olympics and the visit of President Obama,” added Ms Madden.

Clare’s four TDs, Fine Gael’s Pat Breen and Joe Carey, Labour’s Michael McNamara and Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley have pledged to meeting with business representatives on a quarterly basis to discuss progress on these actions, with the next meeting scheduled for Monday, June 13.


Davis family urge you to carry donor card

MARY Davis is seven years on dialysis. Three nights a week the mother of four travels from her home in Ennistymon to Limerick for the life saving procedure, which cleans her blood and allows her some form of normality.

She also has to strictly monitor her lifestyle, diet and liquid intake, making her beloved cup of tea a rare treat rather than the norm.

But living with renal failure isn’t the biggest heartache for this north Clare woman, as she must also watch and care for three of her four children who face a similar fate.

Mary’s two younger sons, Garry and Stefan, as well as her daughter, Victoria, all share their mother’s condition – Alporte Syndrome.

This rare condition leads to renal failure, leaving the patient relying on dialysis and eventually the hope of a transplant.

For Garry the gift of a transplant has already become a reality.

His mother Mary is through most of her “work up tests” and will hopefully be put on a transplant list soon. It could take another year or two before she will receive a precious kidney, but the process gives her hope.

Her youngest son Stefan is now in the later stages of pre-dialysis, and is expected to begin dialysis as early as July.

For Victoria the wait will hopefully be longer as, although she has the condition that will eventually see her life also become reliant on dialysis and a transplant, it is hoped that is a few years away yet.

Despite the health difficulties facing her family Mary Davis is a very optimistic woman, looking to hope rather than despair.

Above all she remains grateful to a family that in a time of grief gave her son the gift of a kidney.

Garry was 18 years old when he received his transplant – six years after he was first diagnosed with the condition.

Now aged 25 he hasn’t looked back since, as his quality of life has improved and he acts as a catalyst of hope for his family.

Describing the donor family as “fantastic people” his mother said, “The morning Garry was called the first thing I thought was, while it was great joy for us, you think of the other family in their time of distress.

“You are very aware of the people who are grieving and think of them often and have a Mass said,” she added.

Making her way towards the transplant list seven years after dialysis and almost 20 years after she first became sick, Mary said she has hope.

”It gives you a new lease of life,” she said.

“The initial shock is awful when you are first diagnosed, but you get on with it. Your health improves with dialysis and if you do what you are told you can lead a reasonably good life.”

Mary first began to feel unwell after the birth of her last child 20 years ago. However shortly afterwards her second youngest child also began to complain of ear and kidney infections, and her priority became his well-being.

Doctors were mystified as to what was wrong with the little boy, and it was only when Stefan, her youngest, began to have similar problems at the age of seven, that both boys were diagnosed with Alporte Syndrome.

Mary was soon diagnosed with the condition as well, and after all of the family were tested, Victoria also got the news that she too had the rare condition.

This family would have to learn to live with renal failure and the harrowing fall out.

Garry who was 12 at the time of this news was the first and so far only member of the family to receive a transplant six and a half years later.

“A transplant is a wonderful gift of life, especially for younger people,” said Mary.

This is the very generous gift that Clare branch of the Irish Kidney Association is hoping more people will sign up to give during Organ Donation Week – beginning this Saturday.

Organ donor cards are available free by texting the word DONOR to 50050. Cards can also be acquired at doctor surgeries and pharmacies.


Era passes, another begins

ONE of east Clare’s legendary pubs saw the dawn of another era when the new publican became the first in five generations to have a name other than Vaughan.

But while Brid Kelleher might be the new kid on the block in the Broadford pub, she’s not new to the job.

Breda has been pulling pints behind the bar in Vaughan’s for 35 years – “my whole life,” she told The Clare People .

When the opportunity to take over the licence came up, barmaid Brid decided it was time for her to take the plunge.

“I’ve worked here all my life so I said ‘here goes’ we’ll give it a try. I’m looking forward to it. At least I know the job,” she said.

Brid will have plenty of support and practical help in the challenge ahead from hubby, Christy Kelleher, who jokes that he “knows the job very well from the other side of the bar. It will be a change”.

Vaughan’s has been in the family for four generations and was in its heyday one of the biggest attractions for miles around because of its ballroom of romance.

The pub and the dance hall can claim credit for scores of marriages in Clare and further afield.

“They came from all over to dance here and to hear the big bands. Sean Bolan, The Firesiders, Michael O’Mahony, The Vantones, The Boys in Blue – they all played here,” said Christy.

But the big band era drew to a close and Vaughan’s went back to being a quiet country ‘local’.

“But there’ll be music here again – there’s going to be a big monthly trad session and we’ll have lots of local musicians playing,” said Brid.

James Vaughan officially handed over the reins to Brid at the weekend at a celebration night of music and dancing at the pub.

But the Vaughan’s legacy won’t be forgotten with the Vaughan name remaining still over the door.


Clare schools under threat will strike

CLARE primary schools that could be threatened with closure over the next year will be prepared to take to the streets in their fight for their survival, The Clare People can reveal this week.

Taking the ultimate sanction of strike action will loom large on the teachers’ agenda, as early as this Easter as delegates from the county look set to attend the annual INTO Congress in Sligo in large numbers.

At that annual gathering, delegates representing the county’s 122 national schools will voice their concerns and anger over the controversial McCarthy Report recommendation calling for all primary schools with numbers of under 50 be closed.

Last week The Clare People revealed that the Department of Education are studying Colm McCarthy’s recommendations.

This week we publish the list of 44 across the county earmarked for closure under the contentious cutbacks – that second largest number of schools in the country under threat.

“We are talking about a preliminary being done by the department, but at local level, this is as if the Titanic was about to sink,” Clare INTO leader Sean McMahon told The Clare People. “People are standing up on their feet and they are seriously demanding that the INTO support them. The INTO will support these schools and are seriously demanding that their politicians support them.

“I organised the meeting in Spanish Point two weeks ago and out of those 44 schools, 37 attended. I organised another meeting in Nenagh and we had an enormous attendance, including schools from east Clare.

“I have been involved in the INTO for a good while and I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen the same level of participational involvement as there has been in relation to this issue.

“Yes it will be a huge issue. There will be a number of motions at Congress this year in Sligo. Of all the is- sues that have ever reached the stage, the issue of small schools will be absolutely dynamic,” added Mr McMahon, the INTO Central Executive Member for Clare.

The Mullagh NS principal pointed out that its not just teachers and their pupils that would be affected by any school closure, but the communities that they serve across the county.

“I have been getting feedback in the last week and I’m not just getting it from teachers. I’m getting if from a whole variety of rural organisations,” he said.

“The objections will be massive from teachers, but it will be just as massive from parents, from local shops and local community groups. Take the GAA for example.

“The GAA is organised on a parish basis and if you go down the road of closing schools, you may not have a school in a parish.

“Every school would see itself as the cement that holds the community together. The schools and the community they serve would certainly be very strong in demanding that their schools continue.

“If this doesn’t get buried you will have the same type of campaigns that you had in relation to Garda stations and post offices. If you go back west of Kilkee, if these proposals were implemented you’d have an entire peninsula where where there mightn’t be any school.

“Rural schools, large or small, or indeed rural Ireland did not drive the financial madness that became the Celtic tiger. This was instead driven by the greed of banks and the self interest of large developers allied to the inaction of central government to regulate.

“We must not now allow our small, often isolated, rural communities to pay the price in terms of the educational opportunity of our children,” added McMahon.


Clonlara to double in size if plans go through

A NEW plan that would pave the way for a building boom in Clonlara and transform the east Clare village into semi-town status has been lodged with the planning section of Clare County Council.

If the plans of Keelgrove Construction Ltd are given the green light by the local authority, Clonlara’s population would be significantly increased as the planning application proposes the building of 38 new houses together with a town-centre development.

The application was lodged by Keelgrove last week, with the proposed town-centre development involving the “construction of commercial/retail centre comprising of doctor’s surgery, dentist surgery, pharmacy, shops, supermarket and offices”.

The application was submitted by Keelgrove as part of renewed attempts to get the ambitious project off the ground. The plans were originally submitted to the local authority last June, but objections were raised by a group representing Clonlara residents.

The Residents of Clonlara Village group deemed that the development plans would “obliterate” Clonlara and turn the rural village into a satellite of Limerick, without any proper public transport infrastructure being in place.

“We believe the development would obliterate the rural integrity of the village and turn it into a dormitory suburb of Limerick City,” said the residents group. “We note that the developer indicates a ‘Phase 2’ development of a further 27 houses. The two phases together would more than double the number of houses in the village, and it would triple the number of commercial units in Clonlara.

“This would generate much increased traffic in and around the village, with consequent risks to our security and safety. We ask that the council consider if such a scale of development is warranted and appropriate for the proper planning of the village, with regard to the National Spatial Strategy, the Clare County Development Plan, Clonlara Local Area Plan, and the projected demographic profile of the locality for the next ten years.”

In its submission to the planning authority, spokesperson for the Clare branch of An Taisce, Anny Wise said “we are concerned that this development has no demand for it and that there are empty dwellings within the village and this would only add to them”.

Clare County Council’s planning authority is expected to deliver a verdict on the application by in early April.


Newmarket public to meet on tourism

THE future of tourism in Newmarket -on-Fergus will be outline at a public meeting which will take place in the town this Thursday.

A feasibility study is currently being undertaken by Obair to determine what steps need to be taken to boost the tourism figures in the locality.

Members of the public have been invited to take part in this process, which could see a heritage centre, tourist office and budget accommo- dation being constructed in the area.

“We have nothing in Newmarket at the moment which promotes our heritage and our tourism product. We need a centre or an information point where people who come to the area can get the information they need about the locality and then get out for the day,” said organiser Tracey Mc Nulty.

“We will be looking for a suitable location for this centre and talking to all the community to find out what they want. One of the main points of this is to come up with a tourism plan for the area so that we can promote the area in an organised way.”

The project wants to publicise some of the lesser known tourist and herit age sites in the locality such as the great Newmarket gold find, the Hillfort at Mooghaun and a local tourist heritage trail.

“We want to find out exactly what the village needs and it is critical that the local people contribute to this process. We are talking about very simple things here, like the fact that Newmarket doesn’t have any budget accommodation,” continued Tracey.

“The town is missing a lot of little things which are needed to make it an attractive place for tourists to stop and visit. We need to identify what we need first of all and then come up with the ways of getting funding for these things.

“At this point it’s all about consulting as widely as possible and letting people have their say now, before anything is decided.”

The public meeting will take place at the Obair offices in Newmarket on Fergus, this Thursday, March 31, from 8pm.


Funding volunteers

THE Clare Volunteer Centre is in desperate need of funding in order to keep the organisation opening and operating to full capacity.

According to information revealed at last night’s meeting of Clare County Council, the Clare centre receives the lowest funding of any volunteers centre in the country.

“Clare is the lowest funded in Ireland and has a very small funding allocation compared to other counties,” said Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG).

“We have a history of getting extraordinary results for a much smaller sum of money in Clare. We are getting treated very badly by central government compared to other counties.”

These sentiments were echoes by Cllr PJ Ryan (Ind), who is also involved in the centre.

“This would be a serious loss to Clare if we would lose this centre. They do incredible work and we get great value for every bit of money spent on the centre,” Cllr Ryan added.

“We need to take action on this and not allow for this facility to be lost to us because of a lack of money. Volunteers do great work and we need to support everything that they do especially at this time of economic difficulty.”

Meanwhile, Clare County Council will write to the Department of Agriculture asking them not to renege on a promise to provide information points at marts for farmers. This follows to motion put forward at yesterday’s meeting by Cllr Michael Hillery (FF), who said it was the least that could be done following the closure of the departments facility in Clare last year.

“There are more than 5,000 herd owners in Clare. The Minister of Agriculture need to set up facilities at the various marts around Clare so that farmers can get the information they need,” he said.


Icarus moving to Rocky Road

ONE of Ennis’ best known pieces of sculpture, ‘Icarus’, should be unveiled at its new home on the Rocky Road roundabout in June, according to Ennis Town Council.

The 11-tonne statue had occupied a place on a roundabout at the heart of the market area of the town prior to its removal in December 2006.

The statue, which is currently been stored on the grounds of the council office’s at Waterpark House, is due to be moved to another roundabout on a section of the N85 Western Relief Road.

Speaking last week, town clerk Eddie Power explained, “The size and weight of the statue is fairly significant so an appropriate base to hold the statue at the roundabout has to be designed. That design work is almost complete and then we will prepare a schedule for tenders to carry out the work.”

Mr Power added that he “expected Icarus to be in place on the Rocky Road roundabout, roughly by the end of June”. The statue was designed by the renowned Irish sculptor John Behan.

It was gifted to Ennis Town Council by the former Shannon-based company Guinness Peat Aviation in 1990, to mark the town’s 750 year anniversary. Behan titled his work Daedalus though it became known locally as Icarus.

Former Irish Ambassador to the USA and Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Sean Donlon, welcomed the news that Icarus would return and told The Clare People , just how the piece was commissioned by the late Tony Ryan.

“In 1990, Ennis was celebrating 750 years since its foundation – and asked GPA to make a contribution to the celebrations. The late Tony Ryan, GPA’s founder and then its chief executive, decided that we would do something and after some internal discussions hit on the idea of commissioning Ireland’s leading sculptor, John Behan, to do a piece which would be publicly displayed in the town. Behan was by now well established. Behan was fussy about where his works would be displayed and Tony Ryan was equally fussy about how GPA’s money would be spent. On a wet Saturday afternoon in 1990, Tony, John and I walked the streets of Ennis looking for an appropriate site. I had grown up on Bindon Street (no. 11, now Michael Houlihan’s law offices) and thought a site there would be good but Tony thought this was too elitist. Eventually, we settled on the Market Square site and, happily, the council accepted this site. The piece was put in place and, on behalf of GPA, where I was executive vice-president, I unveiled it. There was a reception afterwards in the Old Ground Hotel. For me it was an emotional return to Ennis where my brother Tomas had been killed in the Carmody Hotel collapse in 1958. It was also the last time my father, a former school inspector for County Clare, visited Ennis,” recalled Sean.

Icarus’ place in the market will be taken by a new piece by local sculp- tor Barry Wrafter. The piece will be installed in the market area of Ennis and will be the latest addition to the town’s ever-growing sculpture trail.

The statue, which shows two farmers and cow, is inspired by Ennis’ market tradition.

The sculpture is a joint initiative between Ennis Tidy Towns and the Ennis Sculpture Initiative. Mr Power explained, “It’s appropriate in terms of its depiction of the Ennis area. The pieces involved should be in place by June. As in the case of Icarus, it’s significant in terms of its size and weight.”

The new statue had been welcomed by local businesses. Donie Neylon, whose men’s clothes shop business has operated in the market since the 1950s, said a statue should be located in the area. “It’s a very big space [the roundabout]. There should be something on it.”

On hearing that Icarus would soon be on public display again Sean Donlon promised a ‘second relaunch’.

“It would be great to see it restored. Tony Ryan deserves it, John Behan deserves it – incidentally, he has gone on to many great honours at home and abroad – and most of all the people of Ennis deserve it. To mark the second coming, my former GPA colleagues and I will have another reception in the Old Ground Hotel!” said Sean.