High-flying exec forced landing at Shannon

A NEW York marketing manager who threatened to headbutt an airline pilot and forced an emergency landing at Shannon Airport was ordered to pay € 3,367 in compensation to British Airways and a sum of € 1,000 to the court poor box at Ennis district Court yesterday (Friday).

Judge Patrick Durkin struck out the charges against Damian Kington with an address at 105 West, 29th Street, NY, 10001 taking into account a number of factors including the affect a new medication combined with alcohol had on the defendant at the time of the incident over the Atlantic.

On Wednesday, Mr Kington, an Australian native, was taken from BA Gunb flight 004 to Ennis District Court and charged with threatening, abusive and insulting behaviour contrary to Section 2A(3) and Section 2A(4) of the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1973 as inserted by Section 65 of the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998.

He was also charged with engaging in behaviour likely to cause serious offence or annoyance to any person on board the aircraft under the same Air Navigation and Transport act.

Garda Noel O’Rourke told the court he had arrested Mr Kington that morning at 9.15 after the flight from JFK New York to London City airport was diverted to Shannon.

At 7.30am the captain and commander of the flight Niall Jones told air traffic control that he had an unruly passenger on board and requested to land at theCounty Clare airport.

The court heard that when Mr Kington had boarded the 32-seater business class plane he was observed by the cabin crew to be in a sober state.

During the course of the flight, he was served four to five aircraft bottles of wine and in his luggage were found two different types of medication.

Two hours into the flight, the 35year-old got out of his seat and stood over two other male passengers across the isle, in what they said was a “threatening manner”.

He then referred to them as “c@*ts and paedophiles”. He started “F-ing and blinding at staff and other passengers”.

The frequent flyer was served with a verbal warning by the crew and then a written warning. A few minutes later, the captain was called again. As he came down the aisle, the defendant came towards him and pushed him.

“He pushed me and tried to head butt me,” the captain told gardaí in a statement.

As there was no marshal aboard, the crew then struggled to restrain and handcuff the defendant as they considered him “a serious risk to passengers on the flight.”

Later when Gda O’Rourke went on to the flight at Shannon they found the accused to be in a subdued and “dozy state”.

He was extremely pleasant to us,” he said. “There was a strong smell of alcohol and he was unsteady on his feet.”

Mr Kington works in New York as the head of marketing team in a very high profile company and was travelling to England for Christmas.

Solicitor for the Defence Úna Moylan said that her client was in a state of shock after the events aboard the plane.

She told the court that he had an ongoing depression condition and had taken one and a half Xanax and one anti-anxiety tablet coupled with the alcohol. She said he remembered nothing of the incident.

Yesterday (Friday) Mr Kington told the court that he was on a new medication at the time.

“It is fair to say I was and still am mortified by the accounts given by the witnesses. The fact I have no recollection is more frightening.”

He apologised to the airline, passengers, captain and crew and the gardaí. He said he would no longer be taking that form of medication or drinking on an aircraft.

Judge Durkin said that the charges against Mr Kington were very serious but he dismissed them and ordered him to pay € 3,367 to cover the costs of the landing charge in Shannon, the ground handling cost and the fuel cost and ordered him to pay a further € 1,000 to the court poor box.

The judge said he was taking into account that the Damian Kington onboard the flight was not the man reflected in his many references.

He also took into account his early guilty plea, describing the defendant as “a man of impeccable character.”

“I accept your responsibility was seriously diminished,” he said adding that he hoped Mr Kington would visit Ireland again under different circumstances.


Brave Megan loses her fight for life

BALLYALLA is in mourning today following the tragic death of fiveyear-old Megan Malone in a New York hospital on Thursday.

Megan, who will be laid to rest in County Cork later today, December 22, defied all the odds last year by recovering from a rare form of cancer. She was diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer called SPNET-Medullablastoma in October of 2010. However, following groundbreak- ing treatment at hospitals in New York and Boston last year, Megan made a miracle recovery and seemed to have put her illness behind her.

Tragedy struck again earlier this year, however, when the cancer returned and, despite emergency treatment in America, the brave five-year- old passed away in New York on Wednesday night.

Megan is survived by her father John Malone from Ballyalla, her mother Sheila, as well as her three brothers and sister. She’s also mourned by her grandparents Michael and Kay Malone from Ballyalla and a large number of relatives and friends from all around Clare.

“Our beautiful little princess, Megan, lost her brave fight for life last night. She battled her terrible disease for over 26 months and it finally got the better of her little body and soul,” said John Malone yesterday.

“We will never ever forget you Megan. We love you so, so much. No more suffering, no more pain. Poor, poor little darling Megan, may you rest in peace.”

Megan’s plight touched hearts in Clare, Ireland and the United States. A number of fundraisers took place across Clare to help fund her groundbreaking treatment in America.

Megan’s aunt, Aine Watts, said the timing of Megan’s death so close to Christmas was particularly cruel.

“We are all devastated by the news. The entire family and extended family are devastated by losing Megan who was so, so brave all through her illness. Megan will be sadly missed and we’ll miss her little face, beautiful smile and personality,” she said.

Megan will will be buried in Ballyvourney Cemetery following a 2pm funeral Mass today, December 22.


Families resorting to charity for food

A CLARE homeless charity has began donating food to hungry Ennis families – who are not homeless but are unable to feed themselves as a result of the recession and government cutbacks.

According to Josie O’Brien of Help the Homeless in Clare, the situation among poor Clare people is as bad as it has ever been. The group are expecting their largest ever turnout at the Christmas Day dinner this year – with more than 100 people likely to attend.

According to Ms O’Brien, the situation is now drastically worse than it was just 12 months ago.

“Besides the homeless, we’ve started helping other people who look for food. We’ve been helping some families around Ennis. Someone will contact me and say that they know of a family who don’t have any food and we provide the food. It’s not just people who are homeless – there are now families out there, living in houses and they don’t have food,” said Josie.

“It’s very sad. We’re talking about families with children – and they are hungry. It’s gotten worse this year a lot worse. It can be very difficult for families out the now. But the other side to that is that people are so generous. All I have to do is put up on facebook that food is needed and without fail someone makes a donation. The people of Ennis and of Clare are so so generous.

The Help the Homeless in Clare Christmas dinner will take place from 3pm to 7pm at Fahy Hall in Roslevan on Christmas Day.

“It’s not just for the homeless. Anyone can come – anyone who is on their own or needs a dinner,” she said.

“I normally cook for around 60 or 70 but I’ll be cooking for 100 or more this year because it looks like it is going to be busier.

“I’ve been doing this for eight years and I’d say that this is going to be the biggest year. So we are preparing lots and lots of food. That said – there will be no shortage of food. People have been very generous so we will have plenty of food.

“People are becoming way more aware of the problems that are out there. It’s not just homeless people anymore. Its a lot of different people. Some people just need food now,” she said.

A large number of Clare people and businesses donated food to Help the Homeless in Clare this year. To find our more search for “Help the Homeless in Clare” on Facebook.


No serious injuries following chemical accident in Shannon

EIGHT people were treated in hospital on Thursday following an incident at the Chemifloc plant in Smithfield in Shannon.

Seven people, five men and two women, were hospitalised directly following the incident on Thursday evening with an eighth person presenting to the Mid West Regional Hospital in Limerick on Friday morning.

It is understood that staff were attempting to load a batch of bleach at the Smithstown Industrial Estate when a chemical reaction took place.

The reaction sent a vapour cloud of chlorine into the air, which also filled the building.

Eight units of the fire brigade from Shannon and Ennis attended at the scene and quickly dealt with the situation.

According to the Clare County Fire and Rescue Service, the chemical incident was “quickly contained”.

Gardaí set up roadblocks at the entrance to the estate – allowing only emergency vehicles entry.

A number of premises in the vicinity of the plant were evacuated by gardaí while fire crews investigated the extent of the spill.

Fire crews wore special protective suits over their fire fighting clothing as well as breathing equipment before they could enter the building and deal with the spill.

Clare Chief Fire Officer, Adrian Kelly, on the advice of Chemifloc chemists, confirmed on Thursday night the gas emissions, which were caused by the chlorine reaction, do not pose a public health risk.

It is understood that none of the of the eight people hospitalised as a result of the incident are in a serious conditioned.

Most reported breathing difficulties are were retained at the hospital for treatment.

The seven people who were brought to the hospital on Thursday had to be decontaminated or washed down by fire personnel in a specially constructed tent outside the hospital, before they could be admitted and treated at the emergency department.

The company confirmed the workers were taken to hospital as a precaution, but that none had been seriously injured.

Chemifloc in Shannon are a water treatment chemical importer and manufacturer.

Products include aluminium sulphate, ferric sulphate, ferric chloride, and ferric nitrate.


Water charges – Clare is third highest

CLARE businesses pay the third highest water charges in the country – it was revealed at last Tuesday’s budget meeting of Clare County Council. The issue was raised by Cllr Brian Meaney (GP) – who questioned why businesses in the county were paying highest than elsewhere in the country.

According to Anne Haugh, Director of Service for Environment and Water Services at Clare County Council, the same system is used to calculate Clare’s water charges as every other local authority.

“If there is one area that Clare County Council has to improve on it is why we have one of the highest water charge per metre cubed of any local authority in the country,” said Cllr Meaney.

“I would like an understandable, repeatable explanation as to why we have such a situation – especially when compared us to neighbouring counties with a similar cost base and structures.”

According to Ms Haugh, the price difference is explained by the physical make-up of the county’s water system and other cost factors such as waste.

“I don’t have a lot of say on it really. The mechanism that we use to set the price of water is set our by the Government,” she said. “There are large variances between counties in relation to the charge of water and the main factor in this is the cost. This is mainly to do with the number of schemes and water system in place in one county as opposed to another.”

Current levels of water leakage in Clare now stands at roughly 38 per cent of the water produced.

Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) called for special exemption from water to be made for voluntary sports clubs.

“I would expect a concession for sporting bodies. We should make a clear distinction between commercial sporting bodies and those that are not,” he said.


Rates to remain the same for 2013

CLARE businesses will not receive any rates reduction from Clare County Council in 2013 – despite many businesses already facing an uphill struggle to pay of current rates arrears.

Clare County Council voted on Tuesday to approve the Draft Budget for 2013 – which included no change in the rates for the county. The local authority has seen intensive lobbying from members of the business community in recent month – who claim that the current rates burden could force a viable local businesses to close their doors.

According to the County Manager, Tom Coughlan, the Council is not in a position to reduce the rate for 2013 because of large cuts imposed on other parts of the local authority’s budget.

The money that Clare County Council receive under the Local Government General Fund has been cut from € 16.48 million in 2008 to a projected figure of just € 10.07 million for 2013 – a cut of almost € 6 million or 3 per cent.

Over the same period the council wage bill has been reduced by € 44.8 million to an estimated figure for 2013 of € 35.6 million – a projected cut of € 9.2 million.

“The preparation of the Draft Budget has become increasingly difficult in recent years. The ongoing reduction in income has driven ongoing reductions in expenditure which has resulted in the implementation of ongoing efficiencies,” said Mr Coughlan.

“It appears that that model of operation will continue for the foreseeable future.”

A number of councillors raised the issue of a possible rates cut but this was deemed not possible at this time – if levels of services offered by the council are to be maintained.

Mr Coughlan said that a proposed 10 per cent rates cut – which would yield € 3.6 million – would mean that € 3.6 million of saving would have to be cut from other parts of the budget.

“If we were able to introduce a € 3.6 million reduction in rates, over € 2m would go to 13 ratepayers. That is the impact. The 2,107 ratepayers left would share the € 1.6m,” he said.


Traveller repair bill ten times average

THE head of Clare County Council’s Special Policy Committee for housing has recommended that no further money be spent on repairing Traveller accommodation until “underlying situation” concerning these houses are resolved.

Cllr Patricia McCarthy (Ind) said that it was a recommendation that she “had not come to easily” but one that she felt was necessary given the cost of repairs to Traveller accommodation in 2012.

According to figures released at last Tuesday’s budget meeting of Clare County Council, repair payments for each house designated as Traveller accommodation was more than 10 times higher than the cost of the nonTraveller housing accommodation.

The average cost of repairs to the council’s 63 Traveller accomodation units was € 6,700 per house in 2012. This compares to a cost of just € 616 per house in the council’s non-Traveller stock over the same time period.

“I would recommend that no further money be made available to Traveller accomodation until the underlying situation can be resolved,” she said.

“The council cannot be expected to repair units only to have them damaged again and again while other people are waiting to get accommodation.”

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Brian Meaney (GP), who is also a member of the Housing SPC who described the money being spent on repairing Traveller accomodation as a “matter of considerable concern”.

The council also heard that € 156,000 was spent in 2012 on security for the Beachpark Traveller Accommodation in Ennis.

A new CCTV facility is put in place on this site, and at a second Traveller accommodation site in the county, at a combined cost of around € 250,000.

Once this system of CCTV is up and running, the € 156,000 security contract for the Beachpark Estate will finish.

The council also incurred legal costs of € 118,000 in defending legal actions in relation to traveller accommodation in 2012.

Director of Service for housing, Bernadette Kinsella, said the costs had been awarded to the council in relation to some of these cases but that these costs had yet to be paid.

Cllr Tommy Brennan (Ind) also suggested that the Beachpark Estate be reallocated to the settled community as a result of damage which has been done to the property in recent months.

“We’ve seen this down through the years. It is more than 30 years ago that I said ‘they’ll never settle’. A problem like this will not be fixed by throwing money at it,” he said.


Millions frozen in Ennis bank a/c

PERMANENT TSB in Ennis is unwittingly in the middle of a tug of love between an American woman and a Kilmaley native over an account in its bank that holds more than € 1.6m, which has now been frozen as a result of court action taken this week.

A 60-year-old American woman has claimed she was defrauded of millions by her younger Irish lover, who she claims had been leading a double life, the High Court heard this week.

The woman also claimed the man, her fiance, a Thomas Queally, de- scribed in court as being a native of Lahaknock, Kilmaley was also engaged to another woman at the same time.

New York-based Elisa Rodino claims Thomas J Queally, who is in his mid forties and who had been engaged to her, has stolen approximately US$4m of her money – a large portion of which was lodged by him into a bank in the Permanent TSB bank in Ennis.

Solicitors acting on her behalf secured a number of temporary freezing orders against Mr Queally.

They prevent him reducing, dissipating or transferring funds below a value of € 1.6m held in a bank ac- count at Permanent TSB in Ennis.

Seeking the orders, Ross Gorman acting for Ms Rodino, said his client was a vulnerable and wealthy woman who had been taken advantage of by Mr Queally.

Last August she agreed to put his name down on one of her bank accounts he said. It was a deposit account that contained US$5m.

Last October Mr Queally was due to meet up with Ms Rodino in Spain, but never showed up. When she arrived back in the US she discovered that money had been transferred to the bank in Ennis and to a US bank account.

Counsel said that his client did not know exactly where Mr Queally is at present and had not seen him for some months.

She has brought a legal action against him in New York as well as in Ireland, and fears that he will dissipate the funds held in the Irish bank account.

Counsel added it has been difficult to track Mr Queally down, but both Ms Rodino’s Irish solicitors Lyons Kenny Solicitors and her US lawyers were taking steps to find him,

The freezing orders were granted on an ex parte (one-side only) basis by Mr Justice Roderick Murphy. The judge made the matter returnable to early January.


iTunes is sweet music for Siobhán

AN unsigned Clare singer/songwriter is celebrating her very own Christmas miracle this week as she will be the iTunes featured artist of the week over the Christmas period.

Killaloe’s Siobhan O’Brien will be one of six musicians to feature on the iTunes Store during the busiest week of the year for music downloads. While the full lineup of artists is not yet known, these positions are usually reserved for multi-million Euro record artists – with major industry backing behind them.

This opportunity was offered to Siobhan after a senior iTunes executive happened to hear her singing live at a gig in West Clare.

“This means that every time that someone logs onto the iTunes Store, I will be one of the featured artists that scrolls across the top of the screen. It is incredible profile for me – this means that I’m going to be subjected to a much wider audience than I ever thought possible,” said Siobhan.

“I suppose this came about through a combination of perseverance and luck. I was singing live in Doonbeg and a major iTunes executive heard me. I don’t want to mention his name but he loved my voice and he said that he wanted to help me out. I couldn’t believe it.”

Everyone who logs into the iTunes Store over the Christmas period will be given a link to downloading Siobhan’s self titled “Siobhán O’Brien”. As a result of being featured by iTunes, Siobhan has also decided to relaunch the album on March 8, 2013, at Dolan’s in Limerick.

“The album came out last year and it was well received and got some very favourable reviews but U just didn’t have the profile to push it properly at that time,” said Siobhan.

“I’m also now in a position to tour in America so I’m going to tour the West Coast of America in January and then I’ll go back to tour the East Coast in March, after the album launch. So it’s exciting times.

“It is really great to get this kickstart [from iTunes]. It is very hard to get promotion as a musician and to get your foot in the door. It can be a luck thing as much as anything else and hopefully this is my time to get lucky.”

The album is produced by Siobhan’s long time friend and collaborator Eamon Hehir. Eamon has also co-written three of the songs on the album alongside Siobhan.

For more about Siobhan’s music visit


Sweating Santas in NZ

DAVE ‘Lockie’ O’Loughlin, 27, is peeling off the layers and getting ready to spend his second Christmas in New Zealand.

The carpenter from Ennistymon learned his trade in the early 2000s, during the boom years. However, when the construction industry collapsed, young newly qualified tradespeople like Dave were the first to be let go.

At first, Dave loved his newfound freedom. He got by with an odd job here and there and gigging with different pub bands. It felt like he finally had the chance to participate in the sort of college lifestyle he missed out on during his apprenticeship.

Bur over time, with no jobs on the horizon, the novelty wore off. He decided, like many others before him, to pack his bags and seek his fortune Down Under. He set his sights on Christchurch, New Zealand.

The reports were that the major earthquake which rocked the city in February 2011 and the subsequent aftershocks had left large swathes of the city in rubble. Rebuilding work was underway and qualified builders were in demand.

Dave arrived in November and found work almost immediately. “Here is like what it was back in the boom in Ireland; everyone happy out with a few quid to spend,” he says.

Now a senior man on his site, he is shouldering the responsibilities and perks which come with the role. He drives a company van and gives directions to those working with him.

He also plays with a new band called Smashbox, with whom he has had bigger gigs than ever before.

Dave finds the warm weather at Christmas strange. He shares an anecdote about Santa arriving at a shopping centre, fully geared up in his winter robes, with the sun beating down on him and sweat pouring down his beard.

He finds it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. “Christmas to me is snow, frost, cold, the Christmas swim, home with the family. You need all those ingredients,” he explains. “I can’t see having Christmas again unless I’m back in Ireland.”

Overall, he says, “I think I’m happy. I totally love my job.” But he adds that he misses having a network of family and friends around him, especially at times like Christmas when there are holidays from work.”

When asked about returning home, Dave was skeptical. He admits he couldn’t imagine not working and “wouldn’t risk going back to try find a job”.

Finally he adds, “I can’t see myself, for the next couple of years, ever coming home for a long period of time.”