Torpey’s hurley business heats up

THERE is good news on the horizon for one Clare company as – after making himself Ireland’s foremost hurley maker – O’Callaghan’s Mills businessman John Torpey is about to take on the production of renewable fuels.

Torpey Hurleys have almost doubled the workforce at its Sixmilebridge factory over the last two years and now employs seven full-time people and a number of part-time workers.

The company began producing briquettes from the ash left over from making the hurleys last year and they are currently seeking funding under the LEADER Programme to roll out this product on a large scale.

“I have been able to take on a few people in the last few weeks and that brings it up to seven full-time employees and a few part-time. I’d say we now make between 60,000 and 70,000 hurleys a year now so there is a big demand for it right now.

“It’s about giving the customer what he wants. My father gave me a saying one time – he said ‘make quality and you’ll never be out of the job’. So that is what I have done. You will only sell a poor-quality product once and that is a fact,” said John.

“I have started into briquette-making using the waste from the hurleys. The briquettes are now selling in a number of shops in Ennis and they are selling well.

“These briquettes are made from material that would otherwise be going to a landfill. I have been in contact with LEADER and I am hoping that they can help me expand the Belvoir Briquette product.

“The lads are making hurleys flat out at the moment and, because of the mild spring, there probably won’t be as large a demand for the briquettes as there might be in other years. The briquettes will be great for the business.

“I have an ongoing supply of waste from the hurleys that is the raw material for the briquettes. At the moment, I have an acre of ground taken up with these pieces of ash because I have no place to put them. So the briquettes will be great for the business and great for the environment locally if I can expand this.”

John was brought to the attention of the world last week when he supplied hurleys and a lesson in the game to the Chinese president elect, Xi Jinping, on his official state visit to Ireland.


‘Judge’s sympathy over van’

A DISTRICT court judge has noted the potential risk to consumers posed by buying goods over the internet.

Judge Aeneas McCarthy said consumers “had to be very careful these days”, particularly when making purchases online.

Judge McCarthy was speaking last week as he ordered that a stolen van purchased for close to € 10,000 in good faith by a Newmarket-on-Fergus man be returned to an English-based insurance company.

Judge McCarthy granted a request for a four-week stay to be placed on the order, pending a possible appeal.

At Ennis District Court last Wednesday, Gary Howard, of Drumline Newmarket-on-Fergus, applied to have a 2006 sprinter Mercedes Van, seized by the Gardaí last February, returned to him.

During the case, it was accepted by gardaí and Judge McCarthy that Mr Howard was the bona fide purchaser of the van and had bought the vehicle in good faith, not knowing it was stolen.

Mr Howard, who runs a Shannonbased haulier business, told the court that he bought the van in Tuam, County Galway, in January 2010, after seeing an ad in Done Deal.

Mr Howard told the court that he paid € 7,250 for the van and spent a further € 2,500 on repairs. He ex plained that he obtained a loan from the credit union to fund the purchase.

“I thought I was getting a good deal but I knew I had to put a bit of work into it,” he added.

He said an online check of the van’s history had not shown it was stolen. His solicitor, Daragh Hassett, told the court that his client had also asked the gardaí to check the history of the van. Mr Hassett said, “He rang his local gardaí and the got the two thumbs up. There’s no more this man could have done.”

The court was told that the van had been stolen in the United Kingdom, falsely registered in the Republic of Ireland and subsequently identified as part of Operation Swallow – an investigation involving the gardaí, Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Scottish and English Police.

Detective Garda David Magee of the Stolen Car Unit told the court that gardaí had issued a warning for falsely registered vehicles. Insp Tom Kennedy said that while Mr Howard was the “bona fide owner” of the van, this was a case of “buyer beware”.

Solicitor John Casey, representing NFU Mutual Insurance, said the company had paid out a £10,000 claim on the van, making them the beneficial owner. Mr Casey added, “They never relinquished ownership, even though it was in the possession of other people.”

Judge McCarthy said evidence had been given that the van was stolen by a professional criminal gang and exported to Ireland. He added, “I have no doubt that Mr Howard is the bona fide purchaser who bought in good faith.”

He said the insurance company had paid out a claim. Ordering that the van be returned to FNU Mutual, Judge McCarthy said, “I have great sympathy with Mr Howard.”


Man pleads guilty to drug induced crime spree

AN Ennis man who stole a handbag containing € 3,000 from a woman as she was shopping has received an 18-month prison sentence. At Ennis District Court last Wednesday, Robbie Nestor (31) was also convicted on other charges of theft and of having heroin for sale or supply.

Nestor, with an address at 142 Hermitage, Ennis, pleaded guilty to eight offences committed between July 2011 and February 2012. Details of the offences were read out in court by Insp Tom Kennedy. He said that Nestor had been seen by gardaí selling a € 25 wrap of heroin to a woman in the Hermitage area of Ennis on Decem ber 1, 2011. The accused admitted selling the drugs, the court heard.

The court heard that Garda Francis Brennan carried out a search of 142 Hermitage on December 2, 2011. Insp Kennedy said 16 wraps of heroin valued at € 480 and € 460 cash were found during the search. He said Nestor admitted to having the drugs for sale or supply. He told gardaí that the money had been obtained from selling drugs.

On July 30, 2011, the court heard, Nestor was seen on CCTV taking a suitcase from a bus parked at En nis bus station. The case, which belonged to a student on her way to Galway, contained a laptop computer valued at € 500 and other items. Insp Kennedy said Nestor, who has 31 previous convictions, admitted the theft and told gardaí that he sold the laptop for € 100.

The court heard that at some time between September 16 and 17, 2011, Nestor took € 50 from an apartment in Barretts Lane, Ennis.

Insp Kennedy told the court that on January 31, 2012, the accused stole a handbag containing a mobile phone and € 100 cash from a woman in Tesco, Ennis. The phone was subsequently recovered. The court heard that the next day Nestor took a handbag containing € 3,830 from a trolley in Dunnes Stores, Ennis. Insp Kennedy described it as “opportunistic crime” and said the money was not recovered.

Solicitor Tara Godfrey said her client has suffered from a “very bad heroin addiction”. Ms Godfrey said her client, a single, unmarried man, had made full admissions regarding all of the offences.

She asked that the court consider adjourning any custodial sentence to allow Nestor receive residential treatment. Judge Aeneas McCarthy said he was not “doing that”. He imposed three separate six-month sentences to be served consecutively. He imposed a further four-month sentence to be served concurrent to the 18-month term. Recognances were fixed in the event of an appeal.


Calls to donate to ‘fighting fund’

BUSINESSES and residents have been urged to dig deep to fund a € 10,000 “fighting fund” for the next phase of the campaign against a planned retail park on the outskirts of Ennis.

A public meeting in Ennis last night heard that € 3,000 had been spent by business groups so far against plans by Michael Lynch Ltd to build a 70,000 foot retail park.

The developers have appealed Ennis Town Council’s decision to refuse planning permission to the proposed development at Tobertascáin / Clare Road to An Bord Pleanála.

Local businessman and former En- nis Chamber President, John Dillane said towns such as Naas and Tralee had been “completely decimated” by out-of-town retail parks

“We are not afraid and we do not object to competition but we’re afraid of our town being destroyed,” he added.

He called on street leaders to appeal to businesses to donate money to the “fighting fund”.

He told the meeting that Tesco, the anchor tenant for the proposed development, would operate a “mini town under one roof” which would have disastrous consequences for jobs in Ennis. He added, “It should be a matter of pride that we’re not going to be steamrolled by them.”

Architect and planner Michael Leahy, who prepared Ennis Chamber’s submissions against the proposed development and planned changes to the Ennis Development Plan, told the meeting that An Bord Pleanála would likely deal with the appeal through an oral hearing.

He explained that the council re fused permission pending the upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant at Clareabbey and pending the implementation of the Ennis South Flood Relief Scheme. He said it was “quite likely” that the Board would accept the developer’s suggestions to deal with wastewater treatment.

He said an oral hearing would allow specialist evidence to be given on flooding and wastewater issues. Mr Leahy said the likely cost of the appeal process would be € 10,000.

The purpose of the meeting on Monday evening was to inform the business community and others of the appeal process to An Bord Pleanála, which has a closing date of Friday, March 2, for acceptance of submission.

The meeting in the Old Ground Hotel also heard calls for a more community-orientated form of protest. One Ennis resident said businesses should be “cultivating” customers to adopt the same position as them.

A spokesperson for the Ennis Development Forum said that in a recent meeting, all of Clare’s four Dáil TDs had backed the business community’s position on the proposed development.


Protest spirit is alive and well in Clare

ORGANISERS say there was a high turnout at a protest against new Government taxes and charges in Ennis on Saturday.

An estimated crowd of 200 people attended a protest march, according to the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes (CAHWT).

The rally was organised as part of a national day of protest. Recent meetings held around Clare have highlighted growing public opposition to the new charges

CAHWT organiser Chris Quinn explained, “Protest marches were planned to go off all over the country at 2pm, which is why we planned the same start time.

“It was initially my idea to gather at the O’Connell monument and go from there, with the organising committee assembling earlier to pass out a few leaflets and pass out protest posters/placards. Just before 2pm, I got a phone call from the Limerick organisers wishing us well and letting me know they had roughly 450 at their march.”

He added, “My colleague Pamela Rochford first addressed those assembled, followed by Brian O’Coillin as the rest of us distributed the 70 or so placards we had.

“As more people gathered, we were asked to briefly delay our start time as more people were making their way to join us. Finally, we felt we could delay no longer, and set off from our start point at 2.15pm. We had, by my estimation, more than 200 with us at this stage, of all ages. As we headed up O’Connell Street, more joined our march.”

Chris explained, “After swinging through the Market Square and then up Parnell Street, we returned to our start point. I, along with the others at the head of the march, began to place our posters around the plinth, and others followed suit. By my estimation, we had at least 325 to 350 likeminded people with us.”

Chris believes the protest spirit is alive and well in Clare. He hopes that Saturday’s march can be the spark to organise other protest movements around the county.

He added, “I thanked all the marchers and asked for a round of applause for themselves, which was thunderous. Any and all people that wanted to volunteer were invited to present themselves to us so we can begin to organise in as many areas of the county as possible.”


Belfast man on drugs charge

A MAN is due to appear in court again today in connection with a seizure of drugs near Ennis last week.

Trevor Gargan (31) with an address at 179 Cregayn Street, Belfast, Antrim, Bt6 8NI, was brought before Ennis District Court on Friday.

Detective Garda Seamus McMahon gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution. He told the court that he arrested Gargan in Ennis on Thursday February 23. He said the accused made no reply after caution.

According to court documents, it is alleged that Gargan was in possession of cannabis for the purposes of selling or otherwise supply to another at Ballymaconna, Barefield on Wednesday, February 22.

Gargan is also charged with the unlawful possession of a controlled drug, to wit, cannabis, at Ballymaconna, Barefield on Wednesday February 22. An estimated value of the drugs was not given in court or outlined in court documents. Solicitor John Casey told the court that he had no questions at the moment. An application for legal aid for Gargan was approved.

Judge Aeneas McCarthy remanded the accused to appear again at Ennis District Court on February 28.

Asked by Judge McCarthy if was going to make a bail application, Mr Casey said he was not. Mr Casey explained, “Hopefully we’ll be in a position to make a bail application” at the next court appearance.


Chimney back on top

CONSERVATION work on a section of what is believed to be Ireland’s oldest house is nearing completion in Ennis. Scaffolding was taken down from Ms Irene Clune’s house (better known as McParlands) last week to reveal the building’s historic triple diamond stone Jacobean chimney for full viewing for the first time in three years.

The building’s triple diamond stone Jacobean chimney has been an icon of medieval Ennis for centuries. The house has undergone necessary structural repair work in recent months. It has been estimated that the works will cost € 170,000 to complete.

Conservation and repair work at the site has revealed that the building’s timber frame interior dates back to the 1500s.

Conservation officer Dick Cronin explained that work on the building’s exterior is almost complete. He said, “We believe it’s the only half-timber frame house left in Ireland. We have to do dendrochronological analysis of the timber. Once it is tested, we will be able to trace it back to the exact year when the tree was cut down.”

Mr Cronin added, “They are doing work on the shopfront which dates back to the 1800s and that is almost finished.”

It has been suggested that the building could be used as a museum but, according to Town Manager, Ger Dollard, the building will be returned to its former use as a home. He explained, “Our priority is to complete the works under the Dangerous Structures legislation and allow Ms Clune go back to her home as soon as possible. There are no other plans for the use of the building other than returning it to its former use as a dwelling.”

During October 2011, the gable and chimney were carefully taken down and stored. The Conservation Contractor, Tom Howard, claims it was “the most dangerous and precarious job I have ever undertaken as a builder but thankfully everything went to plan”.


Faceless people provide a potential stumbling block

FACELESS landlords from national corporations have emerged as a potential stumbling block to ensuring that some of the biggest vacant building in the heart of Ennis are made available to promoters of the Ennis Access to Space Initiative (EASI).

This warning has been sounded out by a leading estate agent in Ennis, who told last week’s public meeting that launched the new project that appealing to the “civic responsibility” of banking institutions that have left town was key to opening some prime locations to EASI.

“One of the biggest problems that we have is that some of the properties are not occupied by the owners,” said Paddy Darmody, of Sherry Fitzgerald McMahon in Ennis.

“We have three properties in the centre of town – the banks. They’re owned by people who don’t have possession of them. The banks are not trading there anymore but are still the tenants. They can’t get out of the lease that they’re in and can’t sub-let it because the rents are much lower than they were paying in the past.

“The problem with the three biggest properties in the centre of town with the biggest floor areas is that you’re dealing with faceless people and trying to get to people who make the decisions and take the responsibility.

“You might have to appeal to the civic responsibility and duties of national corporations who came into town and set up businesses and then up and left and are leaving us with these vacant properties. How we get to those I don’t know,” added Mr Darmody, who represented the longest standing estate agent in the county at the meeting.

However, while outlining these fears, Mr Darmody also pledged “support any initiative that would enhance our town” and pointed out that “everyone would like to work with such an initiative to get it off the ground”.

“The big thing for us is that our job is to let the property, so that whatever would happen, that it’s important from the owner’s perspective that the property is still clearly available to let.

“We would have properties that belong to local landlords and they are probably the easiest people to deal with as they are here and see the properties and would like to see them maintained and kept. For people not in town it’s as easy for them not to engage, because it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind,” added Mr Darmody.


Ennis Chamber open to ideas

ENNIS Chamber of Commerce are in negotiations with a number of landlords about allowing their vacant properties to be used by artists as exhibition and studio spaces, the business group’s new president has revealed.

Meanwhile, while Ennis Town Council has pledged to negotiate with landlords wishing to be part of Ennis Access to Space Initiative (EASI) when it comes to striking a different rate for use of unoccupied buildings under the new scheme.

This twin-track approach to bringing the ground-breaking project into being on the streets of Ennis emerged after a number of artists present at the launch in the Temple Gate Hotel pressed the promoters for specifics.

“Are there shops willing to take part,” asked Ennis-based artist Carmel Doherty. “Have you talked to owners who have said they are willing to give over their shop window or premises to a venture like this.

“We are in negotiations at the moment,” revealed Ennis Chamber of Commerce president Brian O’Neill (right), “and negotiations are positive and we are hoping to access some (buildings) in the near future.

“It will be about twinning artists and units, not just letting everyone go willy-nilly everywhere. It will be about twinning certain artists with certain units. That would be my feeling on it at the moment. The feed back from the landlords is positive.

“The overall point is that we need some property owners to take the leadership and take that risk and be the first one to lead, so that others will follow. Certainly we would expect an announcement from one or two property owners and something concrete,” he added.

“In relation to the question of rates,” said Town Clerk, Leonard Cleary, “what we’d ask is that individual property owners would come and discuss with the local authority, sit down on a one-to-one basis and discuss concerns in that area. There’s no blanket solution, but obviously there’s practical approach being taken so that individual owners would come and discuss it directly.

“What we’re asking is that artists and craftworkers would liaise through Siobhan Mulcahy as the Arts Office for a co-ordination point and we will ensure then that the business community and the local authority is linking in through one co-ordination point.

“If you are a property owner, if you would contact the local authority (Ennis Town Council) or the Arts Officer and then we would to try and create a situation where we would engage both parties in the process,” he added.

“We live in a big town in Ennis and I think it is very sad for this number of years that we have no studio places,” said artist, Shelagh Honan.

“I am a working artist from Ennis and travel to a studio in Tulla to work as an artist. There are also great studios in Ennistymon and it is a great pity that we don’t have those facilities in Ennis. This is a way to do it,” she added.


Pop-up shops or artists studios for vacant spaces?

THE Ennis Access to Space Initiative (EASI) should be about paving the way for new businesses to come into Ennis, rather than using vacant building in the county capital as a vehicle for promoting and cultivating artistic endeavour.

Calls for this business-led approach to the EASI project that was launched at a public meeting in Ennis was championed by a spokesperson for Limerick City Council that has pioneered the ‘Occupy Limerick Space’ initiative for artists.

“We are looking at evolving our scheme more into pop-up-shop type scenarios where people would sell arts and crafts,” Mary Grace revealed.

“It would allow people to go in and test the market with low overheads and they may potentially become a rent paying tenant of that landlord down the road.

“That’s where this scheme needs to go if we want to keep our towns and cities vibrant. The requirement is for a business-led focus. We have to be looking at creating sustainable business models.

“It’s fine having a place that’s tem- porarily active in the current climate, but we need to get business models in there that can sustain themselves in the future.

“We need someone with a business mind who’s saying ‘can I set up a business out of this in a couple of months time’. ‘Can I be a future tenant for this landlord’. ‘Am I in a position to pay him a rent if I can make a go out of this’,” added Ms Grace in outlining her vision of what the longterm goals of the Ennis initiative should be.

In backing EASI, Ms Grace said it was up to landlords to see “potential in their vacant properties” rather than looking on them as a problem. “We had to decide to be innovative and come up with a solution,” she said, “and we were very lucky to get one landlord, who was a huge fan of the scheme.

“He promoted it to everybody else. He went to talk to his fellow landlords to get them on board. If you can get someone like that, that’s an asset.

“If you can get estate agents who are committed to it, that’s another major asset because we did find that there was one particular firm in Limerick – Rooney Auctioneers who were very good at selling and very good at encouraging landlords to come on board with the scheme.

“The next challenge is finding suitable vacant properties. All properties out there aren’t immediately suitable. Some of them need work to be done to them. Just because properties are vacant doesn’t mean you can take it straight away.

“Creatives need to be reminded of their duties: active occupancy – to keep the place clean and tidy. It’s always important that people remember their responsibilities.

“The responsibility in all cases is to the landlord. We have to ensure that their asset is protected,” she added.