Mixed reactions but majority of people ‘disgusted’

FIANNA Fáil members of Clare County Council mirrored the feelings of the rank and file of the soldiers of destiny when it emerged that the one-time popular general was to face a dishonourable discharge.

The majority said he had to go, more refused to comment publicly and more said he should remain, as he was not proven guilty of any crime in a court of law.

One of Clare’s most experienced county councillors, Cllr Bill Chambers (FF), said that nothing has been proven against the former Taoiseach yet. “If it is proved then fair enough, but all that there is is allegations.”

Describing the fallout of the Mahon Report as a media witch hunt against Bertie Ahern, the Cooraclare man said he “should be innocent until proven guilty”.

Prior to the former Fianna Fáil leader’s announcement that he was to resign from the party, Cllr Michael Hillery (FF) said, “If the information is correct and stands up with the DPP, he should be expelled. Anyone who has broken the law of the land should be expelled.”

For Cllr Pat Keane (FF), the decision was even more clear-cut: “He should (be expelled) when he has been found to lie to the tribunal. It is unbecoming of the party.”

“The leadership had to take a stand,” according to Cllr Pat Daly (FF).

For young councillor Cathal Crowe, who Bertie Ahern once described as the future of the party in Clare, there was no decision to be made – the former Taoiseach had to be removed from the party.

“It beholds someone in high elected office to be truthful to his job. We have to have high standards in office,” he said.

Cllr Pat McMahon said “absolutely” damage had been done and Bertie Ahern could no longer be a member of the Fianna Fáil party.

Cllr Tom McNamara (FF) was in agreement saying, “This type of politics is gone and it is no harm to see the back of it”. Councillors PJ Kelly (FF) and Michael Kelly (FF) were less forward with their opinions. Michael said he would not be commenting on the issue, while PJ had a slightly more colourful answer – “judge not and ye shall not be judged.” The Clare People was unable to make contact with councillors Richard Nagle and Pat Hayes (mayor) on the subject.

Almost all agreed the outcome of Mahon had a negative affect on the party in general, but Cllr Daly maintained that the outcome “had cleared the air. We can move on now”.

“It also damages the whole system. It shows corruption among officials, councillors and right up to Leinster House. Fianna Fáil damaged again. It is a setback for the party’s fight back,” said Cllr Crowe.

“We were damaged before this. Even though we were damaged, I think we can recover,” said a slightly more optimistic Cllr McNamara.

“There are a lot of good people in Fianna Fáil. The majority of people are disgusted. There is some shortterm damage to the party but the party will rise again,” said Cllr Keane.


‘Michéal Martin had no choice’ – Daly Clare FF membership still holds sway

CLARE will have a huge say on whether disgraced Fianna Fáil politicians will remain within the party following the findings of the Mahon tribunal, as three of the members of the party’s Special Ard Chomhairle hail from the Banner county.

Party Vice-President Timmy Dooley TD and Gareth Greene, one of the Committee of Twenty, said they would have voted to expel former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former minister Padraig Flynn had they not resigned, and will be supporting the motions to throw the other disgraced members out.

The third Clare man on the party’s national executive secretary of Clare’s Fianna Fáil Comhairle Dáil Cheantair Gerry Reidy said he would be follow- ing the direction of the leadership and the committee on the motions.

Of Mr Ahern, Mr Reidy said, “What he has done (in resigning) is a very honourable thing as it allows the party to move on without any divisions. He was very well received in Clare and did a lot for the county while he was Taoiseach.”

Mr Greene said that he feels his association with the party has tainted him after the findings of Mahon.

“It is that that informed our determination to put a clear distance between those people and ourselves,” he said, referring to those to come before the Ard Comhairle for expulsion. “There isn’t a doubt in the world that the reputation of the Fianna Fáil party has been prejudiced by a small number of people. There is a sense of hurt and pain to thousands of good and decent members who are struggling to man- age household budgets.”

Deputy Dooley described the findings of Mahon as a “bitter pill to swallow”. He said, “While all the evidence was coming out, you always had a view there was something else there to mitigate against them.

“I am disappointed with the facts throughout all of this. I had assumed there would be an explanation but obviously the judge who heard all the evidence found Bertie Ahern untruthful.”

The Clare TD said there was no doubt that the former Taoiseach had to be expelled from the party.

He maintains, however, that while Fianna Fáil has been damaged by the revelations of the Mahon Report, history will provide a kinder report. He said he believes history will point to a lot of good the party has done, while mentioning the corruption.


No conviction recorded in ferry case

A DOOLIN ferry owner charged with passenger “overloading” has been told to pay a contribution to the Royal Lifeboat National Institution (RNLI).

The charges were brought against Bill O’Brien of Lickeen, Kilfenora, by the Department of Transport at Ennis District Court on Friday.

Mr O’Brien, who has operated a ferry business in Doolin since 1970, was charged in relation to two passenger vessels in his ownership, ‘The Queen of Aran’ and ‘Tranquility’.

The charges state that in failing to comply with the conditions and re- quirements of the Merchant Shipping Act, the owner did cause the vessel to contain a number of passengers exceeding the maximum number as required.

Captain Neil Forde, a nautical surveyor with the Department of Transport, told the court that a colleague had observed “overloading” on ‘The Queen of Aran’ and ‘Tranquility’ on August 18, 2011.

Capt Forde explained that 101 people were on a ship that had a maximum capacity of 96. In the other incident, Capt Forde explained, 103 passengers boarded a ship with a maximum capacity of 93. The court was told that Mr O’Brien has no pre- vious convictions.

The court was told that Mr O’Brien and his crew operated a clicker system to record the number of passengers that board ships. Under questioning from solicitor John Callinan, Capt Forde agreed that the overloading occurred as result of a breakdown in the clicker system.

The court heard that the business has now moved to a position of issuing individual boarding cards rather than group boarding cards.

Capt Forde told the court that both boats had sufficient lifesaving equipment and lifeboats on board. He explained that one of the dangers of overloading was that, in the event of an emergency at sea, rescue crews might not take into account extra passengers.

Mr Callinan said Mr O’Brien had operated a “very significant” familyrun business in West Clare for over 40 years.

Judge Patrick Durcan said that overloading could lead to a “tremendous tragedy”. Noting Mr O’Brien’s guilty plea, his good record and his prescience along with that of his crew in court, Judge Durcan ordered him to pay a sum of € 1, 500 to the RNLI. He also ordered him to pay costs to the Department of Transport, bringing the total to € 1,855. No conviction was recorded against Mr O’Brien.


Ryanair: Shannon must face up to mistakes

RYANAIR wanted to pay out just € 1 per passenger it brought into Shannon in return for maintaining a low-cost hub at Clare’s international airport, a leading travel agent has claimed ahead of this Friday’s visit to Shannon by Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar.

The claim was made by Tony Brazil of the Irish Travel Agents Association at an economic and policy meeting of Limerick City Council last week as he revealed how Shannon Airport chiefs refused to bow to Ryanair pressure on landing fees, despite the fact that the decision has resulted in a meltdown of traffic at the airport over the past four years.

“Ryanair did a deal with Shannon to land passengers for € 2 each when the norm was € 8 per passenger,” said Mr Brazil. “They landed 1.8m passengers when the deal was they should have landed two million. When the deal came up for renewal, they wanted this reduced to € 1, but they were only bringing in 400,000 passengers,” he added.

Ryanair spokesperson Stephen McNamara has said that the reason for the collapse of Shannon’s traffic of over 55 per cent from 3.6m passengers in 2007 to 1.6m last year was down to “the DAA’s refusal to extend Ryanair’s low cost base at Shannon, the Government travel tax and a 33 per cent increase in passenger fees at Shannon last November, even as the DAA’s traffic was collapsing”.

“It is the high DAA monopoly costs at Shannon Airport that have ‘driven out’ these lusted-after “foreign carriers” from Shannon and it is these same high costs that keep them out of Shannon.

“Maybe Shannon should start this process by addressing their high costs, facing up to the mistakes they have made and looking forward for a solution to the traffic collapse at Shannon, instead of backwards with the sole purpose of trying to blame others for their failure,” he added.


Chamber aims for debt-free airport

MAKING the new Shannon Airport debt free is key to its future prosperity and growth, business interests in the region will tell Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, this Friday when he will be the keynote speaker at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in the Oakwood Arms Hotel.

The meeting comes just as Minister Varadkar prepares to act on the Booz & Company consultants report, which put forward a number of proposal with which to create a new model for Clare’s international airport.

Now, business interests in Shannon have been urged to have their say with Minister Varadkar as D-Day for the airport fast approaches, with Chamber of Commerce president, Damian Gleeson, saying “opinions only turn into action when they are heard, and by the decision makers”.

“This is possibly the last opportunity for engagement on a very pertinent issue for the mid-west region before the final decision is made.

“Shannon Airport is a vital piece of infrastructure which supports the economic development of the midwest. Every viable option to sustaining its future must be assessed for its ability to generate meaningful economic activity for the region. As we have stated in the past, any new structure should not be overburdened with debt but supported by solid business and financial plans,” continues Mr Gleeson.

In a presentation to the Minister earlier this year, Shannon Chamber made the case that Shannon Airport should be separated from its current structure but remain under some other form of State protection / ownership to ensure its survival as a key piece of national infrastructure, for the mid-west in particular.

“We emphasised that the airport should be run with a commercially driven ethos – which in conjunction with no debt, adequate working capital and an improvement of its cost structure would eventually allow it to be self-sustaining,” says Mr Gleeson.

“Of the two options now recommended by Booz & Company, the scenario whereby Shannon moves to a local concession model giving a role to the local authorities in Clare and Limerick, to local commercial interests and to Shannon Development in a holding company, offers the most potential for Shannon’s future development. It places decision making for the airport’s future at a local level.

“As long as this proposed autonomous structure comes without debt, Shannon could look forward to a new future, whereby every avenue for its development could be examined for its innovativeness and its ability to add value, traffic and revenue to Shannon. Harnessing the support of all stakeholders in the mid-west would lead to energised thinking and a new impetus for taking the airport in a new direction.

“We hope that the Minister, in addressing attendees on Friday, will elaborate on the findings of the Booz & Company report and be forthright is his views on how he feels a very strategic piece of infrastructure, such as Shannon Airport, can be re-energised to make its rightful contribution to the national economy,” adds Mr Gleeson.


Students bring out the bright side in memory of Ciara

A UNIQUE event has been organised by a group of Ennis teens to keep alive the spirit of one of their friends who lost her life to cancer.

The ‘C the Bright Side’ Masquerade Fundraiser will celebrate the positive outlook of the late Ciara Conroy while raising funds for the support group CanTeen Ireland.

The brave and inspiring 16-year-old passed away from cancer in 2010.

A young fashionista, Ciara kept a blog inspiring people to C the Bright Side.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, Ciara was supported by CanTeen, a nationwide support group for young people aged 12 to 25 years old who have or have had cancer.

CanTeen organise day and weekend outings throughout the year and provide a much needed supportive social network for teenage cancer patients and survivors.

A member of the organising committee said, “Ciara made many friends through CanTeen and this provided her with an unspoken support system that helped her flourish in times of difficulty and offered her strength.”

Now ten of her friends from Coláiste Mhuire and St Flannan’s College in Ennis have decided to raise awareness and support for this charity in memory of their good friend.

The masquerade fundraiser will take place on April 3, in the West County Hotel, Ennis.

The event will allow those attending to put their best dress or suit on, as it is a formal wear event. Those who don’t have their own masks can get some at the door on the night.

The event is strictly over 16s, with parents, teachers and older friends also invited to attend.

One of the organisers, Doria Orfali, who is Ciara’s cousin, said that there would be a bar sectioned off and available to the adults only on the night.

“Entertainment for both adults and young adults will be provided separately to ensure everyone will enjoy the evening,” she said.

Tickets for the event cost € 25 and are on sale at the Irish Music Shop and the West County Hotel reception.

Special guests and entertainment include popular and upcoming band Hermitage Green, talented singer Clodagh Lawler and Spin South West DJ Eoghain Fitz.

There will also be a casino table as part of the adult entertainment on the night.

Those planning the event are hoping for a night of colour, fashion, fun and laughter – a reflection of the courageous Ciara Conroy.


Vandeleur Gardens to grow in 2012

PLANS are in place to extend one of West Clare’s tourist and family attractions. Clare County Council is considering ambitious plans to add a museum and craft units to the Vandeleur Walled Gardens.

Under the blueprint for the future of the historical garden, the old stable block on-site is to be re-developed along with a maritime-themed museum and a small number of craft units. It is also proposed to enhance the entrance to the garden and provide an entrance from the main top car park.

All of these ambitious plans will be carried out subject to funding.

“It is expected that these works, if approved, will begin towards the end of the year,” said marketing manager for Kilrush, Siobhan Garvey.

Meanwhile, the Board of Kilrush Amenity Trust Ltd this week made the decision to extend the offer of free entry to the Vandeleur Walled Gardens for the remainder of 2012. Following the success of the free entry trial in August 2011, it was decided to offer free entry again from October 11 to April 12. However, the Board has now agreed to extend this offer further to include all of 2012.

As it is, the Vandeleur Centre complex currently includes a coffee shop selling home-baked treats, breakfast and lunch from 10am to 5pm daily.

The Vandeleur Walled Garden offers a complete range of plants for sale and advice is available at all times from the head gardener and his staff.

Children can follow the ‘butterfly trail’ and play within the live willow structure and garden maze and, for bigger children, there is a life-size chess game on the lawn.

If the plans to extend the facility go ahead, there will be even more to attract families to the tranquil gardens on the outskirts of Kilrush town.

The garden will host an open day on Sunday, April 22 from 1pm to 5pm. This will include a local craft fair, and the head gardener will be on hand to give advice on planting, with special offers on plants sold on the day.

of Rathflynn, Maurice’s Mills. Funeral mass onTuesday at 11 o’clock at Inagh Church with burial after in adjoining cemetery. May she rest in peace.

of Ballanacragga, Newmarket-on-Fergus. Late of Carolville, SteelesTerrace, Ennis. Funeral Mass today,Tuesday, at 12 noon in Milford. Burial afterwards in Lemenagh Cemetery, Newmarket-OnFergus. No flowers please. Donations, if desired, to Milford Hospice, Limerick. May he rest in peace.

Ellen MORRISSEY (née Walsh)
of St. Patrick’sTerrace, Kilrush. Formerly of Ballynakea, Quilty,. Laid to rest in Mullagh. Donations, if desired, to Regina House, Kilrush. May she rest in peace.

Patrick (Paddy) CULLIGAN
of Lissycasey. Formerly of Ballycorane, Knock and Brooklyn, NewYork. Laid to rest in Burrane Cemetery. May he rest in peace.

William (Willie) MacNAMARA
of Inagh, Ennis. Laid to rest in Inagh. May he rest in peace.


‘Siphon pump was hidden under bonnet’

THE widespread targeting of oil for the purposes of theft has been described by a judge as “despicable” and “appalling”.

Judge Patrick Durcan was speaking at Ennis District Court last Wednesday at the case of a Limerick man.

Thomas Kiely (18), with an address at Barnakyle, Patrickswell, Limerick, pleaded guilty to being in possession of a fuel-siphoning pump in Sixmilebridge last year.

The court heard that Kiely and another man were found in possession of a pump, a funnel and four, fivegallon plastic drums that could be used in the cause of or in connection with a theft. Inspector Tom Kennedy said a car was stopped at in the Cappa Lodge area of Sixmilebridge on December 15, 2011. He said the siphon pump was found concealed under the bonnet of the car.

Insp Kennedy explained that Kiely was subsequently arrested and admitted to Gardaí that he was in the process of surveying areas where he might find diesel to siphon.

The court heard that Kiely has no previous convictions.

Solicitor Michael O’Donnell said his client came from a good family and is currently working. Mr O’Donnell said his client had been placed under curfew by his father. “He accepts he was wrong”, he added.

Judge Patrick Durcan noted that the targeting of oil tanks had become “all too common”. He described it as the “most appalling, most mean, despicable type of offence.”

Judge Durcan said the message must go out “loud and clear that you cannot go around with a siphon concealed in the bonnet of a car”.

Judge Durcan added, “He has brought shame on his family for generations to come”.

Noting the accused’s previous good record and his appearance in court, Judge Durcan ordered that Kiely carry out 150 hours of community service in lieu of three months in prison.

He said, “This community work should be served in the rural community that he attempted the defraud.”

Judge Durcan added, “It’s a despicable offence and one that has become much too prevalent”. He adjourned the matter until April 25 for the preparation of a report by the Probation and Welfare Services.


No doorstep challenge for charges

CLARE County Council has no plans to send its staff to doorsteps around the county demanding the household charge. According to a spokesperson for the local authority, there are no plans at present to send council staff to collect the controversial tax, as there has been no communication from the Department of Environment and Local Government. It is also unknown how many Clare people have paid or registered to pay the € 100. “There is no figure for the amount paid by the council, other than to say the vast majority of household charge payments made are done online or via the postal system,” the spokesperson said. However, the local authority is giving every chance to the majority of the county’s householders who have yet to pay to meet the March 31 deadline by opening the council offices – Aras Contae and Chláir on Saturday. All owners of residential property in Ireland are liable for the household charge on each residential property they own from January. This includes those properties that are liable for the € 200 charge on Non-Principal Private Residences (NPPR). Owners of Irish residential properties who live outside Ireland are also required to register for and pay the household charge. Householders have until Saturday to pay the € 100 charge, after which financial penalties apply on an increasing basis. The late payment fee to apply in the case of a household charge paid within six months of the due date is 10 per cent or € 10. Later than six months and not later than 12 months after the due date, it rises to 20 per cent of the amount due. With just five days to go, an estimated 1.2 million householders nationally have yet to pay.


Calls for GPS co-ordinates

THERE have been calls for homes in Ennis to be provided with their GPS co-ordinates to avoid delays and confusion with the emergency services.

In a motion submitted to yesterday’s meeting of councillors in the Ennis West Electoral Area, Cllr Brian Meaney (GP) stated, “In the absence of a digital post I request that assessment is undertaken of resources required and / or methodology available to every house in the Ennis West Area with their GPS coordinates.”

Cllr Meaney told the meeting that Ireland is one of the few developed countries that does not operate a digital postcode system.

He said that at time when calls to the emergency services pass through call centres, a digital postcode would lessen the chance of confusion on call outs.

Cllr Meaney explained that people handling the calls are not familiar with townlands and address in many rural areas.

Speaking from personal experi ence, Cllr James Breen (Ind) told the meeting that had ambulance services made it the home of his late brother in law on the main Ennis to Ennistymon road, then “it might have made a difference”.

In response to Cllr Meaney’s motion, Town Clerk Leonard Cleary stated, “There is merit in this proposal. However there are some challenges in responding to it in the current economic climate. At present Clare Local Authorities is experiencing the impact of 200 vacant staff positions and multi-million budget income reductions. The impact is greatest in the effort to sustain existing even at a tailored back level.”

Mr Cleary said the views of the Council could be conveyed to An Post “or other stakeholders who may be in a better position to contribute to the solution.”

Cllr Meaney added, “If a means could be found to do this on a resource neutral basis, it would certainly help.”