FAI blasted for failing to support the mid-west

AN € 80 million bounty is being lost to Clare and the mid-west because of the Football Association of Ireland’s refusal to back the ambitious plans of an Ennis-born entrepreneur to bring the cream of European club soccer to the region.

Damien O’Brien, who hails from the Turnpike area of Ennis and is bringing Manchester City to Thomond Park this Sunday to take on Limerick FC, has blasted the FAI’s commitment to soccer outside Dublin over failing to sanction his plans for a multi-million euro soccer extravaganza in the mid-west.

“I was due to do a tournament in Thomond Park this year – the same weekend that Man City are coming, but the FAI refused the rights to bring four teams into Limerick,” revealed Mr O’Brien.

“It’s ridiculous what went on. It was a four-year deal that I was bringing to Limerick and it would be worth € 80 million into the economy, but the FAI in their own ignorance decided to stop it,” he added.

Thirty-eight-year-old O’Brien was the brainchild behind ‘Football’s Next Star’, the Sky TV programme that has been dubbed “football’s X-Factor” and syndicated to 103 countries around the world. He is the managing director of the Iconic sports agency that’s based in Manchester.

Having been thwarted in his bid to host a tournament in Thomond Park this weekend, he helped secure the services of Manchester City who will take on Limerick FC in a friendly game this Sunday evening at 7pm.

“Being refused for the tournament wasn’t going to deter me,” he revealed. “I had the support of Limerick in this and that’s why it’s happening. Limerick had to go to the High Court to get the right to hold this match. It’s shocking.

“It’s a great showcase for the region, the stadium and for the Limerick players. This is putting soccer in the region in the shop window. This match will air live in over 100 countries, so it’s fantastic for Limerick.

“Manchester City are bringing their full squad – it will be their full line-up and it’s their last pre-season friendly before the Community Shield and Premier League starts,” he added


GPs agree that sick cert system ‘is in need of an overhaul’

THE Chairman of the Clare Branch of the Irish College of General Practitioners has acknowledged that changes are required to the issuing of sick certificates.

Dr Fergus Glynn was speaking following comments made by Judge Patrick Durcan at Ennis District Court on Wednesday.

Judge Durcan has commented in recent weeks about the number of people in Clare who fail to show up for scheduled court appearances.

He has also remarked on the types of letters written by doctors in support of the medical reasons offered by people in explanation for their non-attendance.

On Wednesday, Judge Durcan read out the contents of a letter written by a doctor explaining why his patient could not attend court. Judge Durcan also named the doctor and the address of his practice.

Judge Durcan told the court that the letter stated, “This man has attended my surgery. He has problems with alcohol. He has been vomiting. He tells me he is not feeling well.”

Judge Durcan said, “I don’t want letters from doctors telling me what their patients think. I want letters with their (the doctor’s) opinions.”

Judge Durcan requested a copy of the letter, humorously remarking that he is collecting all doctors’ letters handed to him for inclusion in a book about the subject.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Glynn said, “The current system of sick certs is in need of an overhaul. We recognise that it is imperfect and it is open to abuse by patients.”

However, the Corofin-based doctor said GPs are often placed in “impossible positions” by patients seeking sick certificates.

He said there had been a lot of discussion recently around the issue of sick certificates.

Dr Glynn continued, “We are only acting in good faith on what the patient and client has told us. Very often, doctors are put in difficult if not impossible positions. It is an imperfect system, one that unscrupulous people will try to abuse.”


Calls for choppers

THERE have been calls for the Garda helicopter to be deployed in the skies over South East Clare to aid crime prevention in the area.

The suggestion was put forward by local councillor Cathal Crowe (FF) at yesterday’s meeting of the Clare Joint Policing Committee.

According to Cllr Crowe, the banks of the River Shannon are the setting for criminal acts including drinking, drug taking and some sexual activity. He also cited recent incidents of “disgusting” vandalism at a graveyard in southeast Clare.

He said the helicopter has already been deployed over parts of Limerick City “100 yards” from the border with Clare.

Cllr Pascal Fitzgerald (Lab) said that for the cost of deploying the helicopter, two more gardaí could probably be put on patrol in the area.

Chief Supt John Kerin said the helicopter is only deployed for “serious and specific” reasons. He said there is some merit in the proposal and that he would raise it with his colleagues in Limerick.

The issue of underage drinking in public places was also discussed at the meeting. Cllr Fitzgerald said drink bylaws must be enforced par ticularly in residential areas.

JPC Chairman, Clr Joe Arkins (FG) said people are making “regular deliveries” of alcohol are providing drink for profit to youngsters.

Cllr Oliver Garry (FG) said parents must take responsibility for their children.

He said, “A lot of them don’t know where their kids are, what they’re doing, what they’re drinking and what they’re smoking.”

Chief Supt John Kerin said there isn’t a massive problem with “bush drinking” in Clare.

In relation to drinking in public places, Chief Supt Kerin said, “There are many estates and villages where it is not illegal for people to drink in public.”


Traveller legal issues cost council €90,000

CLARE County Council spent a total of € 90,000 in two separate legal battles to remove illegal Traveller encampments from Barefield and Ennis.

The costs were disclosed yesterday by County Manager Tom Coughlan who said changes to primary legislation are urgently required to allow local authorities and the gardaí to deal more effectively and swiftly with illegal encampments.

He told the July meeting of the Clare Joint Policing Committee that it had cost the council € 40,000 to take out an injunction against a group of Travellers in Barefield.

He said the cost of pursuing a similar process against a group of Travellers parked on the Ennis bypass had come to € 50,000.

Mr Coughlan added, “We can’t continue to spend that type of money on moving Travellers on. We don’t have the money to keep doing this.

“Without changes to primary legislation, we will not be able to deal with a very unsatisfactory situation,” he said.

Chief Supt of the Clare Garda Division, John Kerin said gardaí could only move on encampments in certain circumstances.

He suggested that on-the-spot fines could be one way of dealing with the issues.

He added, “But if 30 or 40 caravans are in a place where they are in breach of the law, I don’t have the resources to deal with it. I don’t have a place for 30 caravans. I don’t have a way of bringing them away.”

JPC Chairman Cllr Joe Arkins (FG) said it is now commonly accepted that existing legislation is “deficient”.

He said the council had been forced to engage in a “very expensive game of cat and mouse”.

He added, “Unfortunately, there are a group of people in this country for whom there are no consequences, or that’s at least how it seems.”

Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) said communities in Barefield and Clarecastle are “burned out” from illegal encampments setting up on the side of the road.

Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) said similar problems had arisen in East Clare. He called for changes in legislation to allow for the issuing of on-thespot fines.

Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) said the council and the National Road Authority (NRA) need to pursue offenders. He said, “Not only is it illegal but they are a very serious traffic hazard.”

Cllr Pay Hayes (FF) said communities in Clare feel “under threat” from encampments.


‘Most of those involved in crime in Kilrush are in custody or behind bars’

THE vast majority of people currently engaged in serious criminal activity in Kilrush are either in custody or before the courts, a meeting has heard.

Chief Supt of the Clare Garda Division, John Kerin was speaking at yesterday’s meeting of the Clare Joint Policing Committee where he provided a detailed breakdown of the level of crime that has occurred in Kilrush for the first 29 days of July.

The figures show that were three burglaries, five incidents of criminal damage, 10 public order offences, one fraud offence, 31 thefts, three thefts from vehicles and one theft of a bike.

There were also two offences under the firearms and offensive weap- ons act relating to the seizure of an iron bar and a crossbow.

In addition, Chief Supt Kerin stated that 410 drugs seizures and 114 garda checkpoints were carried out in Kilrush in July.

Acknowledging that there is an issue with drugs in Kilrush, Chief Supt Kerin said these activities are largely restricted to a “hardcore group of 10 people”.

He continued, “Ninety-five per cent of the people involved in crime in Kilrush are either in custody or before the courts.”

He told the meeting that garda numbers in Kilrush had not fallen as much as those in other parts of the county.

“There are a lot of good, young gardaí in Kilrush. It might take a bit of time for them to get the experience but there are definitely more gardaí living in West Clare now than there was when I came here first.”

Referring to recent reports and comments made about crime in Kilrush, Chief Supt Kerin said, “Sometimes we have to be careful about comments we are making. They can impact on tourism and they don’t do justice to the situation on the ground.”

Fine Gael TD for Clare, Deputy Pat Breen told the meeting he was glad that the situation in Kilrush had been clarified.

He said, “Obviously there are incidents from time to time. It’s not nice for someone to find an intruder in their home. But it is confined to a small number of people.”

He praised the work of Supt Gerry Wall and all gardaí in Kilrush.

West Clare councillor Oliver Garry (FG) said crime could not be solved without the input of the local community.


Fears grow as E.coli infection spreads

THE number of cases of a potentially life-threatening infection has trebled in the region in the last year.

Figures from the HSE show that a 200 per cent increase in the number of VTEC E.coli infections notified in Ireland during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. This increase comes on top of continual increased incidence rates since 2005.

In the Mid West region alone Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary – the number of cases reported during the first six months of this year had reached 40.

Concern relating to the increase in infection, especially in rural areas, has resulted in the HSE forming a multi-agency expert group to deal with the outbreak.

The agency is made up of the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Food, the HSE, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, safefood, Teagasc, the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities and will look at both short term and medium term actions to deal with this problem. Actions will include the roll out of awareness campaigns for the public, farming communities and childcare facilities as well as on-going liaison with these groups.

Dr Patrick O’Sullivan, Director of Public Health, HSE Mid-West explained, “VTEC is a germ that can cause infection if swallowed and usually causes a mild illness. Most people recover completely without any problems.

“However, VTEC produces a toxin that may damage the bowel wall causing severe bloody diarrhoea. In about five to eight per cent of cases, the infection causes a life-threatening complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS).

“In HUS, the red blood cells are destroyed and kidney failure occurs. Up to nine per cent of people who develop HUS following VTEC infection die. HUS is more likely to occur in children aged under five and the elderly.

“Part of this year’s increase is explained by improved sensitivity of laboratory testing methods and most cases have occurred in rural areas,” he said.

More than half the cases of VTEC are in children under the age of five, while 13 cases of VTEC associated HUS.

The public can help prevent the spread of VTEC by carefully washing hands, ensuring well water supplies are chlorinated or ultraviolet treated before using for drinking, preparing food and brushing teeth.

VTEC is killed by heat so meat should be fully cooked.


West Clare to lose two AIB branches

TWO branches of AIB in Clare will close in October.

Ironically, both branches will close in West Clare, the homeland of Head of Branch Banking, Denis O’Callaghan.

Late last week, the bank announced that it was closing its branches in Kilkee and Kildysart as it reorganises its branch network.

The Kilkee branch was opened five days a week, servicing the tour- ist town.

It was manned by two staff members from the Kilrush branch compliment, who will now be absorbed again by the main branch.

The Kildysart branch was opened just three days a week and its two staff members will return to work in the main Ennis branch of the bank.

Mary Arthur from AIB Kilkee explained that the changes would come into affect from October 26, when the Kilkee branch will locate to Frances Street in Kilrush.

“I know that you (the customer) may be disappointed to see your branch closing but I want to assure you that we will be making every effort to minimise any disruption and inconvenience to you.

“Staff from your branch will move to Kilrush, transferring all account records, so from your point of view; you will not have to change anything.

All your account numbers, cheque books, direct debits, standing orders, ATM/debit cards and any credit facilities and terms on these facilities will remain exactly the same.

“If you have any questions, just ask one of the team, we will be happy to help,” she said.

Margaret Burns, AIB Kildysart, said that the Kildysart branch would move to Ennis.

Customers’ details will also transfer automatically to Ennis.

“All customers will receive a letter from us.

“If you are a business customer, one of our SME Specialists will be available to help you with all your business banking arrangements,” she said.


Bank closures ‘another obstacle’

THE loss of two branches of AIB in West Clare will have a devastating affect on local businesses. Kilkee businessman John Nolan said that the closure of the Kilkee branch is another impediment to businesses in the town. As a result of the bank’s closure, business people who carry out their business with AIB will now have to travel to Kilrush every day to lodge cash. He said that there is too much of a risk in leaving money on the premises overnight so they will have to make the 28-kilometre drive daily. A mobile unit muted for the town would not work as different businesses need to lodge cash at different times of the day, he explained. “Personally, I think it is very bad for the town at the moment to see the bank go at a time when other businesses are struggling,” he said. Mr Nolan now fears that the town’s only remaining bank – Bank Of Ireland – will close its branch too, leaving the seaside town without a banking institution. Meanwhile, business people in Kildysart will face a 63kilometre round-trip for their business transactions. Eddie Michaels, owner of Centra, said the town’s people are not very happy about the loss of the bank. “It is a very important service, especially to older people. People feel this is another service taken away. People are generally not happy,” he said. The business man added that he did not believe the mobile bank would be adequate for businesses trying to lodge cash, so business owners would have to travel to Ennis for their banking. “This is another obstacle that we have to get over, and we will have to,” he said optimistically.


Young mums face homelessness due to cuts

YOUNG mothers in the county are facing homelessness as cuts to their rental accommodation supplement means they can no longer pay their rent.

In Ennis, a young mother, who recently lost her husband, said that she has to move house as she can no longer pay the rent.

Her rental support has been significantly cut and she cannot make up the difference and meet all her bills.

She told The Clare People that the landlord is not able to reduce the rent cost so she must move.

Finding a new home for her young family on her budget is proving difficult, however.

Making rental payments is not just an issue in the county town.

Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) from Shannon said he has been approached by a number of people in a similar situation.

“One was a young mother that just didn’t know what to do.

“The average cost of a three-bedroom house in Shannon is between € 500 and € 550 per week but, in the last number of months, people have been told that they must ask their landlords to bring the rent down to between € 450 and € 475,” he said.

“The landlords cannot bring down the cost because they have mortgages and other charges to pay.”

He said he was approached by a number of people who will not be able to afford their rent and fear homelessness.

The town and county councillor said the housing issue was further compounded as the local authority and HSE is now “totally reliant on the private sector to provide homes as our (the council’s) capital funding was removed.”

He said, “Clare County Council will take house clusters as part of the Rental Accommodation Scheme, but it seems reluctant to take just one house.”


‘Back to school will add to woes’

MABS in Ennis has warned that money-lending in the county is a significant problem, a problem that is likely to multiply in the coming weeks.

Denis Corbet said that people seem to turn to moneylenders, the majority of them legal and licensed by the Financial Regulator, to cover the cost of returning to school, as they feel there is no alternative available to them.

“Back to school and the three Cs – Christmas, Communion and Confirmation – put families under the most pressure. As access to credit is a problem for people, money-lending from legal and illegal moneylenders is going to increase,” he said.

The finance advisor warned against people turning to “doorstep credit” at all costs. This form of credit sees the loan agreement made at the person’s home and the repayments collected at the door.

“They are usually high interest rates with short repayments,” he said.

Legally registered moneylenders, many who advertise on television and in newspapers, carry out the majority of these transactions, and they are forcing many people into even more debt, he explained.

“There are legal moneylenders out there but there is no cap on the interest they can charge,” he said.

“Say, for example, you borrow € 100 from a lender and you pay back € 30 at a time over six months. You borrow € 100 from the credit union and pay back € 2.50 over a period of time. Now multiply that into thousands and you get the picture.”

The comparison may seem extreme to make the point but there is no limit on the interest charged so any number can be plucked from thin air.

Mr Corbet said the issue is part of a national social debate that needs to take place.

“Cash loans on the doorstep is just one part of the issue, catalogues and credit sales are also a problem,” he added. “If someone needs money, where do they go?” he asked.

He suggested that people first turn to MABS for assistance.

He maintains that a lot of the issues can be dealt with through some financial education.

In the coming weeks, MABS in Ennis will be producing a campaign to help inform people about the dangers of money-lending.