Clare momentum builds for the ‘Gathering’ of 2013

A NEW blueprint showing how Clare is set to play its part in the Government’s ‘Gathering’ initiative is set to be produced in the coming months and will become a key promotional and marketing tool for the county.

The recently established steering group for ‘The Gathering Clare’ has announced plans for a calendar of events for 2013 that is set to be distributed nationally and internationally to try and encourage more tourists to choose the county as a holiday destination.

The steering committee has challenged community groups across the county to organise events that can become part of ‘The Gathering’ and thereby piggyback the Government initiative to bring over 300,000 extra tourists into the country in 2013.

“We are asking all groups/individuals who are planning events next year to submit details, as a Calendar of Events for 2013 is currently being prepared,” said Monica Meehan, coordinator of Clare’s County Gathering steering group.

“We hope to focus on a number of headline events during the year and the steering group is continuing to work through all the suggestions that have been received to date. Our key task is to mobilise and drive The Gathering throughout the county by engaging, planning and coordinating community-based activity,” Ms Meehan added.

The inaugural Daniel O’Connell day is one high-profile event that’s already emerging as a key part of Clare’s commitment to the ‘Gathering’, with July 5, 2013, being the 175th anniversary of ‘The Liberator’s’ historic election as MP for Ennis.

Other events in the pipeline include the revival of the Festival of Finn in Corofin, while the Clare Roots Society is organising a conference, entitled ‘Gathering the Scattering’, which will take place in the Temple Gate Hotel on April 6, 2013, and will be preceded by a week-long programme of events.

Anyone organising a festival or event during 2013 or planning a specific event for ‘The Gathering 2013’ is asked to submit event details by Friday, September 14, to: Monica Meehan, Senior Executive Officer, Tourism & Community Development Department, Clare County Council, New Road, Ennis, or by email to


Trial for €100 Kilrush robbery

A MAN will stand trial for the alleged robbery of a 71-year-old woman in Kilrush earlier this year.

Kieran Hall, with a previous address at 15 Crawford Street, appeared at Ennis District Court on Monday. It is alleged that he did rob a woman on Moore Street Kilrush on May 15 (2012), taking a purse containing € 100 and bank cards.

Jurisdiction of the matter was refused in the District Court.

Inspector Tom Kennedy told the court that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had consented for the accused to be returned for trial to the next sitting of Ennis Circuit Criminal Court on October 16. Insp Kennedy made an application to have Mr Hall returned for trial.

Judge John O’Neill made the order returning the man for trial to the next sitting of Ennis Circuit Criminal Court. He delivered the alibi warning. Mr Hall was remanded in custody to appear again in Court on October 16.


Special remembrance for Constable Lahiffe

A CLAREMAN who holds a special and unfortunate place in the annals of the Easter Rising has finally been remembered through a special ceremony in Dublin that has honoured the nearly 600 policemen killed during the 1916-22 period. Tullycrine man Michael Lahiffe was singled out for special mention at the ceremony which took place in Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday for the estimated 563 Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Met- ropolitan Police (DMP) members killed in the 1916 rebellion and subsequent War of Independence.

Constable Lahiffe was a member of the DMP, having joined the force in 1910 aged 22 and was on duty at the entrance of St Stephen’s Green on Easter Monday, April 24.

When confronted by the Citizen Army, he was ordered to leave his post, but stood his ground and was shot three times and died from his injuries.

“He was an unarmed policeman, but was shot dead because he was doing his job,” said retired Garda, Gerry Lovett, who was one of the organisers of the wreath-laying ceremony along with other retired members of the Garda Siochána and Royal Ulster Constabulary.

“It is only right that Constable Lahiffe be remembered, because he was one of the first shot in 1916,” he added.

The ceremony came on the back of a local campaign in Clare mounted over a number of years by former detective sergeant, Michael Houlihan, who also hails from Tullycrine.

Growing up, Mr Houlihan knew Constable Lahiffe’s brother Tom and sister Nell, who lived in Tullycrine until their deaths in the early 1970s.

“They never talked about their brother,” revealed Mr Houlihan. “It just wasn’t something people talked about back then. A brother of Michael’s named John was in the RIC in Cork. There were eight of them in the family and they had a holding of about 30 acres in Tullycrine.

“It was only after they were all gone that I started gathering the information about what happened to Michael.

“A cousin of mine bought the house in which the Lahiffes were brought up and it was there we found bits and pieces,” he added.

These included a photograph of Constable Lahiffe in his police uniform, a postcard home to his mother proclaiming his love and a pledge to write again soon and a mass card.

Constable Lahiffe is the only person buried in the Dublin Metropolitan Police plot who has an individual headstone, on which reads the following inscription:

“Sacred to the memory of Constable Michael Lahiffe, who died on the 24th of April, 1916, from wounds received whilst gallantly doing his duty as a member of Dublin Metropolitan Police. Erected by his sorrowing parents, brothers and sisters and by the members of the Irish Police and Constabulary Recognition Fund.”


Calls to keep Loophead Lighthouse open for sun

BUSINESS people from the West Clare peninsula are now hoping that the Loophead Lighthouse will remain open until the end of September. The landmark has proven a popular tourist attraction so far this year, with more than 12,500 people visiting between May 18 and August 13.

The historic lighthouse is scheduled to close its doors to the public on September 3, the end of the official tourism season, but Clare County Councillor Gabriel Keating (FG) said the promise of fine weather is prompting a local call for it to remain open until the end of the month.

“The business people are hoping the stakeholders will come together and keep it open for another month with the impending fine weather,” said Cllr Keating.

“It is a huge success. Today (Tuesday) up to 60 visitors from New York are coming to the lighthouse – that will give you an idea of the interest. It has created up to 35 parttime and spin-off jobs and is worth € 1.3 million to the local economy,” he said.

The lighthouse is proving popular among all age groups. Up to Monday August 13, 9,691 adults and 2,870 children had visited the historic West Clare landmark.

Clare County Council, along with Shannon Development, Loop Head Tourism and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), opened the 19thcentury lighthouse to the public for the second successive summer season in May. It is estimated that the 11-week trial opening scheme in 2011 was worth approximately € 400,000 to the local economy.


Festival time once more in Moyasta

FOR 10 years now, the posters for the Nell Galvin Festival have indicated the return of school for children around West Clare.

For adults, it has proven to be a recession-friendly festival and summer school that has brought the season to a positive close.

This year, the weekend events promise to be better than ever as the festival in honour of the Moyasta concertina-player celebrates its tenth anniversary.

This year, all of the music classes will be on site at Garihy’s Bar, as the publican has renovated the old shop to make way for new classrooms.

All classes are free, as are all the concerts and events, making it a purse-pleasing event for all visitors.

New committee secretary Tim Thompson said there would even be a free cup of tea and coffee and sand- wiches for those attending the festival beginning on Friday night.

The highlight of this year’s festival will be an outside stage, which was secured with some help from Leader.

“There will be music inside and outside at the same time, and if the weather is as good as promised, there will be a great atmosphere,” said Mr Thompson.

“There is also a huge line-up of music on Sunday night, with a major concert finale planned,” he added.

The secretary attributed the success of the festival to the many sponsors who have remained loyal over the decade. “We really have to thank the sponsors. In these tight times, they are still helping us out,” he said.

The festival is dedicated to Nell Galvin, who was born Ellen McCarthy in Ballydineen, Knocklough in 1887. In 1937, she became the first Clare woman to broadcast traditional Irish music on 2 RN, later to be called Radio Éireann.

During those years, she married Patrick Galvin from Moyasta and had three sons and two daughters. Nell and her late son Stephen later played as guests with the Kilfenora Céilí Band.

She played with some of the greats, including Willie Clancy, John Kelly, Dr Bill Loughnane, Mrs. Crotty and Sean Reid.

Ms Galvin died on September 5, 1961, aged 74 years.


Passenger jet forced to land at Shannon Airport after medical emergency

A PACKED passenger jet was forced to dump thousands of litres of aviation fuel over the North Atlantic and divert to Shannon Airport after a woman on board suffered a suspected heart attack.

Air Canada flight ACA-871 from Paris to Montreal in Canada was about 500 kilometres off the Irish west coast when the crew was forced to turn around and divert to the nearest suitable airport.

The Boeing 777-300 jet was carrying its maximum capacity of 350 passengers at the time. The flight had crossed over Ireland earlier at around 2pm and was about an hour into its oceanic crossing when the 55-year-old woman complained of chest pains.

Cabin crew members quickly tended to the patient and informed the flight crew of the incident. While staff administered oxygen to the woman, the captain contacted air traffic controllers, reporting a passenger was suffering a heart attack and that he wished to divert immediately.

The pilot declared a medical emergency and requested that medical services be available for the flights arrival. The crew had to dump thousands of litres of aviation fuel to ensure the aircraft touched down within safe landing weight limits.

Airport crash crews were placed on standby and took up designated positions alongside Shannon’s 3.2km long runway ahead of the flights arrival at 4.15pm.

Emergency vehicles raced down the runway after the jet and accompanied the plane to its parking position.

Fire crews checked to ensure the jet’s brakes had not overheated during the emergency landing.

A HSE cardiac ambulance and local doctor were standing by at the terminal building and medics quickly boarded the jet to assess the patient.

The woman was stabilised on board the aircraft before being re moved and taken by ambulance to the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick for treatment. It’s understood the woman had a previous cardiac history.

The pilot also reported a possible technical issue as a result of having to jettison fuel.

He requested that engineers also be available to meet the aircraft and investigate the issue.


‘Drifting’ was the noise heard in Ennis

THE engine sounds that echoed through Ennis at the weekend and were met with curiosity, speculation and, in some cases, annoyance, were the result of one of Ireland’s most popular motorsports among the under-25s.

The drifting competition took place on the grounds of the mart, with the sounds vibrating around the area.

Drifting, which originated in Japan and then grew in popularity in America and Europe, is a regulated motorsport that is judged on the driver’s control of the car rather than speed.

The sporting event in Ennis was organised by Driftfest, with 38 participants coming from all over the country, including Clare.

Owner of Driftfest, Robert Roshu, said the sport is not just popular among young people, but has also received the approval of the gardaí as it has encouraged young men to take their fast cars off the road and onto an organised track.

“A lot of these lads are building their own cars, some on a very small budget.

“They are taking their fast cars off the road and using them for drifting and getting small diesel vans to use every day,” he explained.

Mr Roshu said the sport is governed by strict health and safety rules, with cars checked before the event begins, and ambulances and the fire service are on stand by during the event.

The recession has impacted on this motor sport in the last year, however.

“I was disappointed that the crowd was way down yesterday (Sunday), but no one got hurt so that is the most important thing,” said Driftfast owner.

The economic downturn has also meant there are fewer drivers as many have emigrated, with more opting to double drive – buy one car between two and enter it in two separate competitions.

He also said he “was disappointed that some people found it loud”.

“It was my first time in Ennis and I hope the next time to have more to offer,” he said.


Drill date just one year away

DEEP sea drilling at the Spanish Point oil and gas well will begin in September of next year, provided the Government gives a final green light for the project. Providence Resources have confirmed that work on creating an initial well, or “spud” work, is to start in the third quarter of next year, providing a rig is available to undertake the work and the Irish government gives its approval. The Spanish Point and Burren oil and gas wells are located in the Porcupine Basin, some 200 miles off the Clare coast. Tests have indicated a large deposit on oil and gas in the area with one early map estimating that the wells contain enough natural gas to meet Ireland’s entire gas need for more than 70 years. “We are delighted to confirm that the pre-drill activities for the Spanish Point appraisal well have commenced and that a spud date has been scheduled. Next year should prove to be pivotal in assessing the exploration and development potential of hydrocarbons in the Porcupine Basin, with drilling now planned at Spanish Point, as well as at the Dunquin exploration prospect to the south,” said Tony O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Providence Resources. “Similar to our recent success at Barryroe, we believe that the application of modern well completion technologies, driven by the state of the art 3D seismic data can unlock material value at Spanish Point. We look forward to finally returning to Spanish Point to turn the drill bit after a 30-year absence.” The deposits in the Porcupine Basic were discovered in 1981 but they were considered too removed at that time to be extracted. Providence Resources currently own a stake of the oil and gas in the basic alongside partners Sosina Exploration Ltd and Chrysaor E&P Ireland Ltd. The Department of Transport have confirmed that Chrysaor is due to commence vessel-based geotechnical and environmental survey work in the area this week.


Sharp decrease in frontline criminal activities

THE war on crime is being won by the gardaí, or else the numbers of incidents of crime-related activity being reported to the force has decreased dramatically over the last 12 months.

These are the two contrasting scenarios that have emerged out of the publication of a Central Statistics Office report on crime figures in the county that give a detailed breakdown of offences/incidents reported and dealt with at 26 Garda stations around the county.

All because the CSO report carried out by the All-Island Research Observatory has shown that the county’s five primary towns, form the county capital of Ennis outwards to the main towns in West, North, South and East Clare have all shown a dramatic deccrease in the number of cases that were on the Garda books in 2011.

This drop is most pronounced in Ennis, the largest centre of Garda operations in Clare where the numbers of incidents under investigation by the force in 2011 plummetted by 14.4 per cent when compared with the previous year.

This slide has been mirrored in the West Clare capital of Kilrush, the second largest centre of population Shannon, the North Clare capital of Ennistymon and East Clare’s main town Killaloe.

In 2010 there were 2044 different crime related cases on the books of Ennis Garda station, but the drop of 294 to 1750 represents the biggest of any individual station in the county, a figure that has been brought about by a sharp decrease in a number of frontline crime activities such as drugs offences, assaults, weapons cases and burglaries.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the Ennis’ problem drug has significantly increased over the last number of years, with Class A substances like heroin and cocaine freely available in the county capital, but the CSO figures have painted a different picture where drug activity in the town is concerned as it relates to cases that were under investigation by the local gardaí.

Drugs offences in Ennis decreased from 215 in 2010 to 139 in 2011, a trend that was mirrored in Shannon, Ennistymon, Kilrush and Killaloe.

Elsewhere in Ennis, assaults and harrassments dropped from 152 to 120, while burglary and related offences declined to 108 as against 147 for the previous year. Weapons offences in Ennis also saw a sharp decline in the number of incidents, from 46 to 20 over the space of 12 months.

Shannon also experienced a dramatic decline in the numbers of offences, with the statistics again showing up a big drop in the number of drugs related incidents over 12 months, dropping by over 50 per cent from 62 to 28 as overall figures for all crime in the airport town were down by 220 from 754 to 534. Theft related offences, public order issues and damage to property was also down considerably in Shannon.

The overall crime figures for Kilrush saw a drop from 448 to 357, in Killaloe from 317 to 270, while the number of incidents in Ennistymon dropped by just over 50 per cent from 146 to 72.


‘Nothing more important than a Garda station’

RURAL communities in Clare are playing their part in preventing crime in their midst, but can’t be expected to do the work of the Garda Siochána who are being forced out of the countryside because of government cutbacks.

That’s the verdict that has been delivered by community leaders in Labasheeda this week as fears grow that garda services that were already cut back following the retirement of local garda, Michael Ryan, two years ago are to set to be scaled down even further.

“There is nothing more important in a rural community than a Garda Station,” community activist Mike Cassidy told The Clare People .

“We play our part in crime prevention and we take our role seriously, but we need the powers to play their part by having a presence on the ground. A garda is a vital part of the community.

“The idea of presence prevents things from happening – the fact that a person is there or the community knows that there’s someone there who can respond quickly,” he added.

Concerns about a further diminution of Garda services in the village have escalated this week on the back of the Crime and Victimisation Survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office.

In Labasheeda, only five offences came to light in 2011 – they were one threat/harassment, two burglary related offences, one drug offence and one case of damage to property.

“In a community like ours, the population has diminished over the years, but we have people here who live a good distance from the next house or the next farm. We’re on the edge of a peninsula and in place like this, I won’t say they’re in danger, but if someone was looking to do something it might be a prime place to do it if there was no garda presence,” said Mr Cassidy.

“We have a lot of older people in the community and I think the security of knowing that somebody is there – even if it’s only for a few hours or a few days – the presence is reasuring, and is prevention for anything that might happen.

“The analogy is with all the speed cameras. The beauty of that is people know that they’re there and it forces them to have the cameras on their mind and makes sure they obey the law.

“The physical presence prevents things from happening, but the prevention doesn’t get into the statistics, but is as real as the actual events themselves. It’s two parts of the process. Everything from Neighbourhood Watch to neighbours being more aware of anything unusual in the community, but we also need that garda presence,” he added.