Gardaí urge vigilance during summer months

A GARDA campaign which is focused on preventing burglaries and thefts will get underway later this week. Thefts from cars in the tourist areas of Lahinch, Miltown Malbay, Spanish Point and Bunratty generally rise during the summer months and gardaí are advising car owners not to leave valuables in their vehicles.

The campaign gets underway on Wednesday and will continue until the bank holiday weekend. The aim is to engage with and raise awareness within communities of initiatives aimed at preventing crime. It is also geared towards promoting road safety during the summer months.

According to the Crime Prevention Officer in the Clare Garda Division, Sergeant Joe Downey, the primary focus will be on “burglaries, thefts from vehicles, theft of farm machinery, theft of pedal cycles and road safety”.

“Twenty-seven per cent of all burglaries occur through the front door. Thirty-two per cent of burglars enter your home through an unsecured door or window. 23.5 per cent of all burglaries take place between 12pm and 4pm. Thursdays and Fridays are the most likely days on which to be burgled,” said Sgt Downey.

Gardaí are making specific recommendations in relation to preventing burglaries. “Lock all your doors and windows, especially when the house is vacant. Never leave a window open for ventilation when the house is vacant. Use your alarm if you have one, no matter how short the period of absence,” advised Sgt Downey.

“Lock and secure all garages and sheds and secure away any property that could assist a burglar to commit crime,” he added.

He said that almost half of the re- ported thefts from cars last year took place between 12 noon and 9pm. Saturday was the most common day for this type of crime.

“Cash was taken in 27 per cent of incidents, mobile phones accounted for 15 per cent, handbags 14 per cent and sat. Navs. 13 per cent. There has been a 12 per cent increase in laptops stolen and an eight per cent increase in mobile phones stolen,” said Sgt Downey.

“Never leave valuables in the car or visible from the outside. Never leave property under the seat. Avoid parking in isolated areas and use well lit areas during the hours of darkness,” he added.

Gardaí are also advising farmers to take care of their machinery, as statistics show that more than 1,300 items of farm equipment have been stolen during the past year across the country. “Consider installing a CCTV system and an intruder alarm and consider joining a community alert group,” said Sgt Downey.

In relation to road safety, gardaí say that inappropriate speed is the single biggest factor in fatal and serious injury accidents and are advising drivers to slow down and avoid using mobile phones while driving.


Cahercalla’s ‘golden nugget’ honoured as a Hospice Hero

AN ENNIS woman has been honoured as an Irish Pride Hospice Hero for her work with Cahercalla Community Hospital and Hospice at a ceremony at the Mansion House in Dublin. The award was given at an event to mark the launch of Sunflower Days which takes place throughout Ireland on June 10 and 11.

Mary Guerin was chosen by the Clare Hospice at Cahercalla as their 2011 Hospice Hero as a representative of the entire Guerin family. Mary’s late husband Michael, who passed away in July 2010, was a leading figure back in 1985 when the very first hospice inpatient bed was provided at Cahercalla Community Hospital and Hospice.

Mary Moloney of Cahercalla Hospice paid tribute to Mary’s work. “It was mentioned several times last year, at the time of Michael’s passing, that there were many times when people were looked after by the Guerins when life and coping with its challenges were a struggle. Mary is the kind of person who never says no.”

She continued, “The entire family are stalwarts of the hospice. Mary Guerin is one of the faithful draw promoters and every week, quietly and without any fuss or fanfare, collects funds for our weekly draw. Mary also assists with Sunflower Day by selling merchandise in the family’s shops and by standing in the street at various locations during the two days in June. Any fundraising event that happens at Cahercalla will surely have some member of the Guerins assisting, be it the weekly draw, Sunflower Day or collection boxes.”

Describing her as a “golden nugget of love and compassion and caring”, Mary Moloney sent congratulations to Mary and family saying, “We are sure that Michael is looking on with pride as Mary receives this award.”

On Sunflower Days, the people of Clare will be able to support their local hospice service by buying a sunflower pin or sunflower seeds for € 2 each from collectors on the streets of cities, towns and villages around the country. Sunflower Days, which is sponsored by Irish Pride, is a major source of income for hospices and voluntary hospice groups countrywide. The IHF coordinates the event on behalf of the hospice movement but all of the funds raised locally stay locally.

There is an urgent need for volunteers to sell sunflower pins and anyone who has a few hours to spare on June 10 or 11 is asked to please contact Cahercalla Hospice.


Mountshannon’s seaplane service aims sky high

THE NEW seaplane service, which is about to begin in Mountshannon, aims to bring 100,000 visitors into Clare in the first three years of operation. Having undergone inspections with the Irish Aviation Authority, Harbour Flights Ireland is waiting for approval for the green light to go operational.

It’s envisaged that seaplane flights will be landing on Lough Derg before the high tourism season begins and company Chief Executive, Emelyn Heapes says it is his ambition to see tourist numbers in the area climb from a predicted 10,000 in the first year to a massive 100,000 in three years time.

“That is the potential of this service. We’re talking about bringing a level of business in that would change the face of tourism in this area,” Mr Heapes told The Clare People .

“To bring 100,000 people tourists into East Clare is our mission statement,” he said.

Harbour Flights has been in the process of building a number of links for the seaplane service around the country for the last eighteen months.

It’s understood that the company has so far invested € 1 million in the start-up of the business, which will fly visitors directly into Mountshannon and the Lough Derg area.

The company is also awaiting a decision from Clare County Enterprise Board on a funding application.

It is envisaged that, when fully operational, the company will run daily flights from and to Mountshannon, Galway, Aran Island Inis Mór, and Limerick.

The Harbour Flights Ireland boss said the company intends to start operations with two Cessna aircraft and upgrade them when Dublin, Cork and Waterford become operational.

The only other city in Europe hosting seaplane flights is Glasgow.

“Our mission is to change tourism by being able to offer, for the first time in the history of the state, a seaplane operation linked to existing accommodation and attractions based around Ireland,” Mr Heapes said.

It is intended that the seaplanes will be based in Mountshannon and all operations will start from there on a daily basis.


Slattery to be unopposed

BILL SLATTERY is set to fill the Clare County Council vacancy in the North Clare electoral, while there will be a two-way contest between Sean McLoughlin and Marinella Rafferty for the county council seat in the Shannon electoral area.

The closing date for nominations for the two county council positions was last Thursday and The Clare People has learned that Slattery, who stood for election in the 1985 and 1999 county council elections, will be unopposed for the council vacancy in North Clare, as he was the only candidate nominated for the position.

“I’m steeped in Fine Gael politics and have been a member of the party since 1977,” Mr Slattery told The Clare People this week.

He continued, “While my grandfather, Bill Murphy, was a member of the county council and a TD for 16 years between 1951 and 1967, I would be honoured to serve on Clare County Council.”

The north Clare vacancy was created by the election of Fine Gael’s Martin Conway to Seanad Éireann last month, which meant he had resign his council seat under the dual mandate rule.

A host of possible candidates were mooted for the council seat in the wake of Senator Conway’s election to the upper house of the Oireachtas on April 28 last.

These included the national president of Young Fine Gael, Eric Keane, local party activist Peter Davenport and David Quinn, son of former TD, Senator and Mayor of Clare, Madeleine Taylor Quinn.

However, Mr Slattery was the only name submitted to Clare Fine Gael Constituency secretary Sean Chambers by last Thursday’s 5pm deadline.

He will be confirmed in his new council role after a meeting of Fine Gael members of the North Clare electoral area on June 9th and his election will then be ratified by the national organisation.

It will represent fourth time lucky for the Lahinch man – he first stood for election in 1985 when he polled 645 first preferences, while in 1999 he polled 573 votes.

In 1995, he was the Fine Gael candidate for the vacancy caused by the death of party colleague Frank Henchy, but was election was blocked by Fianna Fáil who used their then council majority to elect Tom Burke instead.

Meanwhile, this Thursday a tight vote is expected in the race to succeed former Mayor of Clare, Tony Mulcahy as a member of the council for the Shannon Electoral area.


Enjoying the experience of giving

TOM Howard from Ennis thought he was going to Kenya with the Building of Hope to do something for other, less fortunate people. But he came back knowing, in his own words, that he had done himself a favour.

“I think those 10 days were 10 of the best in my life,” he told The Clare People .

Tom had previously supported friends who were going on similar missions, but had not considered going out himself. The boss of his own conservation building company, he had felt the best role for him was a supportive one.

“Then I went to a fundraiser for the Building of Hope volunteers in The Old Ground and there was such an amazing atmosphere, I signed on there and then. I thought I was doing something good for others but what actually happened was that I had one of the most amazing experiences. It was great to see how the little bit you do can make such a difference to people’s lives,” he said.

Now Tom is heading back to Kenya after seeing the plight of the children in the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the courage of the people living in Migombani.

“We met a woman who was HIV positive whose husband had left. She got up at 5am every morning to go and try to find work so that she could put food on the table and send her children to school, to give them a chance of a better future. However hard things are here for us, they’re a hundred times worse there. You have to feel what parents there feel, knowing what is in store for their children. If you think about how it would feel if you didn’t have the money to feed your own children or bring them to the doctor when they get sick, you can feel the pain of those parents,” said Tom.

But the impression Tom left with was one of a welcoming people struggling to make a life.

‘It was just the most fantatstic experience to actually be there and get involved. I’m a builder but I ended up tiling because that was what was needed when we were there. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and did what had to be done and it was fantatstic. I can’t wait to go back. And I would urge everyone to support the fundraisers that are being held. This project is going to make such a difference to the lives of those children but it can’t be done without funds.”


Shannon girl up for Miss Universe title

EIGHTEEN-year-old Alanagh Hunt was the toast of Shannon at the weekend when she scooped the coveted Miss Clare title.

Alanagh was chosen as the winner, amid competition from 12 other hopefuls, at a function in the Queen’s Hotel in Ennis on Friday night.

Alanagh, who was cheered on by her family and friends from Shannon, is no stranger to success, having previously won the Miss UL competition at the University of Limerick, where she is currently studying for an Arts Degree.

Alanagh will now go on to represent Clare in the Miss Universe finals in Dublin on June 10, after the adjudicators – DJ Johnny Hammond, dancer Michael Donnellan, events co-ordinator Dave Shelly and last year’s winner Sinead O’Leary – deemed her to be the winner.

Comedian Danny Dowling compered the event, in front of a huge crowd on the night.

“The night was a great success. There was stiff competition,” said organiser Charlotte Casey.

“Alanagh is an amazing girl. We have no doubt she will do well and do County Clare proud. She has a fabulous personality. She is very bubbly and she is exactly what we are looking for,” she added.

The prizes Alanagh received on the night included clothes and jewellery.

All contestants had their make-up done by Susan Fox, while their hair was done by Ken Bradley on the night.


Sex charge sentencing

A SIXTY-year-old Clare school teacher who pleaded guilty to 14 sexual offences against a teenage girl will be sentenced in July.

In court in January, the defendant admitted 10 charges of the sexual exploitation of a child and four charges of the defilement of a teenage girl between September and November 2009.

The majority of the charges relate to alleged offences at a school in the county. The alleged victim was aged 15 and turned 16 during the period of time in question.

The case was adjourned to yesterday. At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, Counsel for the State Stephen Coughlan said, “It’s a sensitive matter. The evidence will be lengthy.”

He suggested that the case be adjourned to the week of July 5 next, for sentencing. However, defence counsel Michael Collins BL said this would cause difficulty for him and he sought an alternative date.

The date of July 18 was fixed for the sentencing, which, the court heard, will take an hour.

The accused was initially brought before the district court in June of last year and was returned for trial to the circuit court, following a lengthy garda investigation.


Jewellery theft was ‘well planned’

GARDAÍ investigating the theft of thousands of Euro worth of jewellery from a business in Kilrush say the break-in was “well-planned”.

Around € 150,000 worth of jewellery was stolen in the raid at Hartmann’s jewellers on Moore Street last Monday.

According to gardaí, homemade ladders were used to climb a wall at the back of the premises.

Entry was then gained via a small pane of glass by using cutting equipment. Several presentation trays of jewellery, including diamond rings, bracelets, watches and pendants, were stolen in the raid.

“It was well planned. They knew what they were doing. They had to have some knowledge of it. They would have had to know the premises,” said Kilrush Superintendent Gerry Wall.

“We are following a number of lines of enquiry,” he added.

Gardaí say they have not yet ascertained how many people were involved in the break-in to the longstanding business.

Gardaí have appealed to anyone with information to come forward, particularly anyone aware of jewellery being sold.

“We are hoping that the public will come forward, especially if the jewellery is being sold on. The local community may see some of this being sold,” said Supt Wall.

Businesswoman Maria Hartmann, of Hartmann’s jewellery, said she and her husband Michael were shocked to discover the break-in.

“This is a nightmare. It is the worst possible nightmare you could ever wake up to; your livelihood destroyed,” she told Clare FM’s Morn- ing Focus on Friday.

She appealed to anyone with information on the break-in to contact the gardaí.

“Somebody knows something and I’m begging you to do the right thing,” she said.

“This is horrific. This is what we built up over a lifetime,” she said.

Meanwhile, gardaí in Kilrush are also investigating a break-in to a pub in the town last Wednesday. A small sum of cash was taken in the breakin to the premises. Gardaí say they are not ruling out the possibility that both incidents are linked.


Daylight attack in Ennis Town Centre

A PRISON sentence has been handed down to a man for his role in a “frenzied’ and “out of control attack” that took place in Ennis town centre last year.

Patrick McDonagh (32) with an address at O’Brien Street, Tullamore, Offaly had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of assault causing serious harm to Bernard McDonagh at Marketplace, Ennis on May 18, 2010.

At Ennis Circuit Court yesterday, Sgt Michael Moloney described details of an assault that led to Bernard McDonagh losing half of his right ring finger. He said that, on the day in question, Bernard McDonagh had driven to Ennis National School at 3pm to collect his children.

He said that the accused had been one of three men traveling in a black Toyota Avensis who had followed Bernard McDonagh to the school. He said the accused and another man launched an assault on the injured party while the car was stopped outside the school.

The court heard how Bernard McDonagh drove “furiously” away from the front of the school and ended up driving the wrong way into the market area of the town, coming to halt in heavy traffic and “very narrowly avoiding a collision”.

Mr McDonagh’s 14-year-old son, five-year-old daughter and baby granddaughter were in the car throughout the course of the incident.

Sgt Moloney said the incident was captured on CCTV. He said that the accused had got out of the Avensis, wielding an iron bar along with another man who was holding a machete. The court heard that a third man was also involved in the assault. Sgt Moloney said the men engaged in “frenzied” assault that lasted “26-27 seconds”, damaging the car and causing serious injuries to Bernard McDonagh.

The court was told that the injured man’s 14-year-old son then drove his father to Ennis General Hospital.

Bernard McDonagh suffered multiple injuries including the loss of half of his right ring finger.

Sgt Moloney said the accused was arrested a week after the incident occurred. He said the assault had arisen as a result of a feud between two Traveller families who were closely related. He said the feud was no longer an issue in Ennis as the accused man’s family had since moved to Tullamore.

Counsel for Patrick McDonagh, David Sutton said the accused was a father of three, who had worked parttime in a local garage. He said Patrick McDonagh had made himself available for arrest shortly after the incident, the only one of the three men to do so.

Mr Sutton said the man had since moved to Tullamore and had not been involved in any trouble since then. He said Patrick McDonagh had been “dragged into a family feud”.

Judge Carroll Moran said the accused man’s plea of guilty entitled him to a considerable discount on his sentence.

He added that the accused had not been the “prime mover” in the assault and had been the only one to come forward to “face the music”.

He described the assault as a “fairly savage, frenzied and out of control attack”. He said the presence of three children in the car had not acted as “restraining factor” on the accused and the other two men.

He imposed a five-year sentence with the last two years suspended.


District and circuit courts combined

ENNIS is one of three locations nationwide chosen to take part in a pilot initiative combining the county’s court offices.

The district and circuit court offices for Clare have been combined into one, as part of the Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement.

Ennis, together the Monaghan and Naas, has been chosen for this project, which is expected to eventually be rolled out nationally.

Essentially it means that both court offices will work together, rather than be separated, as is currently the case. The aim is that the combination of smaller offices will provide opportunities for the improvement and enhancement of the offices to ensure the better use of staff time and resources in maintaining frontline services.

Josephine Tone, who has been the manager of the district court offices in Ennis, has been appointed office manager of the combined offices.

Brid O’Dea, Paul O’Gara, Tara Hayes and Brid Curtin will deal with crime lists in both the district and circuit courts. Brian Caden, Susan Dermody, Mary Greene, Ann McMahon and Noreen Cahill-O’Keeffe will work together on the civil and family law lists in both courts.

As part of the changes, the county registrar Pat Wallace’s role will change from that of office manager to one where he will make legal decisions. Mr Wallace is also manager of the Tipperary office at the moment, after the position became vacant recently.

Spokesman for the Courts Service Brendan McDonald told The Clare People the measure “is an efficient way of optimising the limited resources we have, to provide the same care”.

“Ennis and Naas were picked because Naas is a large office and En- nis would be smaller. We needed one in the region. There is a mixture of challenges,” he said.

“Our business has gone up by more than 28 per cent since 2008 nationally and staff numbers have gone down by 12 per cent and are likely to go down even more,” said Mr McDonald.

“It’s about sharing resources and sharing information. It is about sharing knowledge by pooling our resources. We will be able to provide for family friendly measures for staff (in terms of working hours).

“When the customer comes in there is now one public office,” he said.

“This is the biggest change we have had since 1922 in the courts system. The offices have always been separate,” he said.

The initiative will be reviewed after a few months.