Cars burnt out

SIX cars have been burned out on Clare County Council property in North Clare in recent weeks – while an attempt has also been reported made to set fire to a house in one of the traveller accommodation units in Ennistymon.

Lahinch based councillor Bill Slattery (FG) said that the situation at some of the councils traveller accommodations units in Ennistymon was become dangerous.

“I think the next thing that will happen is that a house will go up in flames. It has been tried before [in Ennistymon], or so I have been told. We will have another situation like the Ashline situation in Ennis,” said Cllr Slattery.

“A third car was burned out outside one halting site over the weekend, that makes six cars burned out between the Deerpark and the Kilfenora Road site in recent times.”

Speaking at yesterday’s North Clare Area meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Joe Arkins (FG), said:

“There may have been six cars recently but the real number is probably closer to 66.

“The only way to solve this type of situation is to attach fines to social welfare payments.

“These people are fined but they can’t pay the fine – they go down to prison, say hello to the guard on the way in and wave goodbye to him on the way out,” he said.

“But if they have to pay for their actions out of their social welfare payments, it won’t be long before they realise that they can’t keep doing what they are doing.”


Budget cuts means more potholes

RURAL roads in Clare are in danger of being littered with potholes in what will be the biggest crisis to affect the network around the county in over 30 years, Clare County Council has been warned this week.

A cash-crisis with rural roads has been sounded out following the revelation that the 2013 roadworks programme for the county has been slashed by 42.4 per cent over the past five years.

County Engineer Tom Tiernan outlined the scale of the roads budget reduction across a host of areas in the Roadworks Programme 2013 secured by The Clare People. In the report he has issued a stark warning that “the resources being made available to facilitate maintenance and restoration are falling significantly short of what is required to sustain the county’s network”.

For 2013, € 17.9m has been allocated for road infrastructure in the county – a drop of over € 13m from the figure of € 31.1m in 2008. The biggest decreases are set to be felt in rural roads: down 36.8 percent for restoration improvement; down 40 per cent in the Surface Dressing Programme; down 72 per cent for Specific Improvement Schemes and Overlay Projects down 69.1 per cent.

These figures, which were laid before the monthly meeting of Clare County Council on Friday, has led a number of councillors to voice their concerns about the county’s road network.

“Rural roads are in a horrendous state and roads in the county are crumbling away,” claimed Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) as he blasted the decision to spend € 1.3m of the council’s resources on the Limerick North Distributor Road, a project he said “that is very fictional and is pie in the sky and one that isn’t happening”.

“The alarm bells are out there – there has to be a readjustment of thinking within this council in relation to investment in county road structures going forward. People in rural Clare deserve a service and their road network has to be protected for many reasons,” said former Mayor of Clare, Cllr Christy Curtin (Ind)

“As far as I’m concerned, for us in rural areas, roads are back on the agenda. In my tenure (since 1979) on the council I’ve never had as many complaints about potholes. As far as I’m concerned we have to address it, we haven’t the manpower at present to do that,” he added.

A decision on whether to adopt the roadworks programme has been deferred until the April meeting of the council.


Cllrs call for action on illegal encampments

CLARE County Council have declined to conduct an audit of “black spots” in North Clare where illegal parking and encampments are endemic during the summer months.

According to councillors at yesterday’s North Clare Area Meeting of Clare County Council, antisocial behaviour is becoming a serious problem at certain illegal camping site in the Burren area – with the meeting told of a doorway of one home in the Tubber area being used as a toilet by illegal campers.

This follows a joint motion by Joe Arkins (FG) and Michael Kelly (FF), seeking that staking to protect black spot areas from illegal campers this summer.

“These people just want to flout the law. Many of these people are in rented property paid for my rent allowance, they have no need to be homeless, they decide to take to the roads for the summer months,” said Cllr Arkins.

“I think we need to look at possible areas that lend themselves to overnight camping and illegal encamp- ments.

“I think, rather than going to court to move people along, that we should where possible come up with an engineering solution to insure that this problem does not occur in the first place.

“I think an audit should be done – we can no longer have two fingers held up to us.”

Cllr Michael Kelly also called for the National Roads Authority (NRA) to improve the fencing on excess land beside the Gort/Crusheen bypass.

“I think the legislation is far too week.

“We should be getting legislation to insure that this sort of think does not happen,” he said.

“We need the NRA to come up to their responsibility and insure that these areas are fenced off properly.

“I know of a situation of people who were parked in front of our local hurling field [in Tubber] and a person camped illegally walked down into the front of a house of a local woman and he urinated right in on top of the door.”

Responding to the motion, Senior Council Engineer Tom Tiernan, said that discouraging illegal camping on one area will increase it in others.

“There are many areas throughout North Clare which, theoretically, could accommodate authorised parking and encampments and therefore, to ensure that adequate provision is made to prevent authorised overnight encampment would involve considerable expenses and allocation of resources that haven’t been provided for,” he said.

“To cater for some of these areas would result in an increase of vulnerability in respect of areas that may now be regarded as least vulnerable.”


‘Only concern now for Council is price on tenders’

THE issue at the centre of the question over shadowed by allegations of corruption at this month’s adjourned meeting of the county council seemed to centre on a change in method of hiring local authority contractors.

In the public gallery were council workers frustrated at a new IT system that calculated tenders on a point system.

In his motion Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) asked the County Manager to provide comprehensive information concerning contractors employed by Clare County Council.

He specifically asked for a list of any of the council staff, elected mem- bers or members of their immediate family, provide goods or services either directly or indirectly to Clare County Council “in the interests of accountability and transparency in Local Government.”

The Shannon Councillor also inquired if contractors were compliant with working conditions set out by the Local Government Advisory Board such as rates of pay, pension fund, sick fund, and revenue.

He also asked for the terms of reference governing senior engineers granting contracts and if the council supplied a list of successful contractors to the trade unions.

Speaking on behalf of the council executive, Senior Executive Officer Corporate Services Michael McNa- mara said the council was not aware of any Contractor or Sub-Contractor that was incompliant with the various statutory requirements.

He also assured the councillor that a list of all successful contractors is forwarded to the unions.

“The Council’s purchasing procedures sets out levels of expenditure which staff at various levels have authority to approve subject to availability of budget.

“It is the responsibility of each approver to ensure compliance with the various statutory requirements,” he continued.

Furthermore Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001 provides for an Ethical Framework for the Local Government Service ensure that up to 137 employees and elected members complete a declaration of occupation, land ownership, shares, directorships annually and these are available for inspection.

Cllr Oliver Garry (FG) said that in his experience the tendering landscape has changed significantly in the last five years.

“I am a director of a company but I want to make it clear we do not tender for Clare County Council contracts.

“We do tender for other public contracts but not Clare County Council,” he said.

“Anything we tender for now is 100 per cent on price. Once it was on experience, or equipment or the engineer may even have had a say, but now the only concern is price.”


Flynn in hot water over ‘corruption claims’

ALLEGATIONS of council corruption led to an hour-long debate, that went round in circles in the council chamber on Friday evening last, and eventually ended up back where it started, albeit with a happier council membership and executive.

Elaborating on his questions into council contractors, how the contracts are awarded and if the contractors are compliant with employment law, Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind) quoted a paper “Political Corruption is not just about Brown Envelopes” and presented by Frank Flannery at the MacGill Summer School in Donegal last year.

“Among the public there is a belief that corrupt practices are endemic in political life,” said the councillor.

County Manager Tom Coughlan was quick to raise concerns about any accusations of corruption that may be contained in quoting an article that specifically referred to political corruption.

“Are you alleging corrupt practices yes or no please?” he asked the Shannon Councillor.

Cllr Flynn said he was merely quoting from Frank Flannery, adding he carefully worded his motion with council workers and union representatives.

The county manager said that none of the issues had been brought to his attention when he met with the union just “a couple of weeks ago”.

“The chamber is not the place for these issues to be raised,” he added.

In reference to a query as to whether council staff, elected members or members of their immediate family, provide goods or services either directly or indirectly to Clare County Council the manager replied;

“It is a small county. A lot of people are related to a lot of people.

“You cannot expect me to carry out a witch hunt,” adding there was a contingency in place that put the onus on the contractor, employee or council members to reveal any such information.

“If any councillor considers there are any corrupt practices in this council let me know,” he said.

“You may not be aware but your members are aware that not all contractors are compliant,” said Cllr Flynn.

“You say you are aware. Will you give me that information?

“I don’t see how I can do something if I am not given the facts,” replied the county manager.

Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) told the chamber the issue could not be disbanded with until Cllr Flynn made it clear who he was accusing of corruption, stating a grey cloud now hung over the council.

Different members of the council called on the controversial Shannon councillor to make clear his accusation.

In an attempt to bring an end to the debate, Mayor Cllr Pat Daly (FF) “I do not think anyone is corrupt”, to which Cllr Flynn said “I didn’t say the manager or the executive was corrupt.”

“We take it from that it was the councillors that are corrupt,” said Cllr Patricia McCarthy (Ind).

“She’ll know next year when the elections are on I’ll give her a chance to come back,” retorted Cllr Flynn.

“I am the only female member here to say her is to suggest he is referring to me,” she replied angered.

“Are you corrupt?” said Cllr Flynn.

“Take that back,” Cllr McCarthy replied.

“Not for one minute did I state Cllr McCarthy or the manager is corrupt,” he conceded.

The manager then noted there were now not allegations of corruption at executive level.

Councillors then called on Cllr Flynn to name who he considered corrupt.

“Don’t start the innuendo and walk away from it and leave the mud on the rest of us,” said Cllr Joe Arkins (FG).

Eventually Cllr Flynn conceded somewhat – “not once did I say the council elected members or executive are corrupt. I was speaking in terms of speech from MacGill Summer School.”

This was enough for the council and we all got to go on with our lives – one hour later.


‘Fagin’ type character forcing teens to steal in Ennis

SOME teenagers in Ennis are being forced to commit crimes to pay off debts to a ‘Fagin’ type figure in the town.

The man was referred to during a sitting of Ennis District Court on Friday where a 17-year-old boy pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, trespass and the unauthorised taking of a vehicle.

His solicitor, John Casey, said there had been an element of force attached to the crimes.

He explained that a situation might arise whereby the man would offer to lend a young person money.

Mr Casey said, “You might never pay this back but he might say to you to do this or do that.”

“A vulnerable young man like this can never get out of it. His mother is genuinely disturbed by all of this.” he added.

The man, whom the court heard is known to gardaí, was compared at a previous court sitting to ‘Fagin’, the criminal mastermind from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

The court heard that the boy has now moved out of Ennis to a rural part of West Clare.

He has also removed the SIM card from his mobile phone so he could not be contacted by people in Ennis.

Addressing the court the teenager said; “Since I left the court the last day, I’ve done everything the court asked me to do.” Judge Patrick Durcan adjourned the case until May. SEPARATELY a different 17-yearold boy has pleaded guilty to multiple charges of theft and burglary at premises in Ennis and Kilfenora.

At Ennis District Court on Friday the boy pleaded guilty to handling a stolen Samsung Galaxy phone on Newbridge Road on October 31; handling a stolen Samsung phone in Considine’s Road, Cloughleigh, Ennis on January 20 (2013).

He also pleaded guilty to stealing a mobile phone on Watery Road, Ennis on February 4; theft of a black Apple iPod from Old Gort Road on February 8 and stealing a Nintendo DS and camcorder from Hermitage, Ennis on dates unknown between December 30 and 31.

He also pleaded guilty to entering Ennis Rugby Club as trespasser to commit the theft of a 32 inch television on dates unknown between December 1 and 25.

Also listed was theft of a Playsta- tion at Doctor’s Hill, Kilfenora on dates unknown between December 25 and 27; entering 66 Westwood, Ennis as a trespasser to commit the theft of jewelry worth € 300 and a mobile phone on dates unknown between December 25 and 26; entering 8 Showgrounds View, Ennis, as a trespasser to commit theft of a Samsung TV, laptop computer and Playstation on dates unknown between December 26 and 27.

Judge Patrick Durcan said he was very concerned about the teenager. He sought a pre-sentence report from the Probation Services. The case was adjourned until April 17.


‘Plaque commemorating volunteers is safe’

THE MYSTERY of the missing plaque commemorating three Ennis Republican Volunteers shot during the Civil War has been solved, as Ennis Town Council confirmed to the Clare People that it is “safely with a local community group.”

Republican Sinn Fein Clare plans to call for the reinstallation of the plaque on New Jail Road after its Easter memorial service this week- end.

According to a council spokesperson a local community group, who feared it would be damaged during the work, took down the plaque during the construction of the new road.

“It is still in safe keeping,” he said.

The town council plans to erect new signage on the New Jail Road next month and said it was happy to reinstate the plaque at that time, if the group wish them to do so.

The plaque remembers Patrick Mahoney (25), Christopher Quinn (21) and William Shaughnessy (18) who were executed on Station Road at the old gaol in 1923.

The three men will also be remembered at a memorial service on Easter Monday at the Republican plot in Drumcliff Cemetery at 3pm organised by Clare Republican Sinn Fein.

The group will also remember James Glynn who died on May 2 1934.

Wreaths will be laid afterwards by RSF Clare and the James Connolly Cummann.


New procedures introduced following choking death

NEW procedures aimed at reducing the risk of residents choking on food have been implemented at Kilrush District Hospital, an inquest has heard.

A full review of supervision at the hospital took place following the sudden death of Bridget Griffin (86) at the hospital on November 17, 2012.

Ms Griffin, a resident of the hospital for two years, died after choking on a piece of chicken, an inquest into her death heard yesterday.

Originally from Labasheeda, Ms Griffin lived in Kildysart prior to becoming a resident of the hospital.

An autopsy found that cause of death was asphyxia due to choking. A verdict of death by misadventure was returned at Clare County Coroner’s Court.

The inquest heard that Ms Griffin was served a dinner of chicken, vegetables, soup and a glass of milk on the day.

Care assistant Singiata Kuckauskaik stated in a deposition that cut the chicken into pieces for Mr Griffin. She said that Ms Griffin declined an offer to cut the chicken into smaller pieces.

Another hospital witness told the inquest the chicken had been cut into “reasonable” pieces.

The inquest heard that Ms Griffin did not like gravy so staff always ensured she always had plenty to drink.

Ms Kuckauskaik returned to check on Ms Griffin at 12.55 and found her pale and unresponsive, the inquest heard.

The emergency services were called and nurses performed CPR for 45 minutes. A doctor pronounced Ms Griffin dead at the scene. Gardaí attended the hospital and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) were informed of the incident.

Person in Charge, Tricia Joy, told the inquest that Ms Griffin underwent a procedure to have a lesion removed on the day before her death.

She said Ms Griffin underwent a full choking assessment on her return to the hospital. She was found to have a low risk of choking, the in- quest heard.

Ms Joy stated that reducing the risk of choking had been on the hospital’s agenda for the monthly quality, risk management and safety meeting since May 2012.

Ms Joy stated, “Significant changes involving the reallocation of staff have occurred to ensure that every communal room is supervised by at least two members of staff. Provisions have been made to ensure that residents assessed as being medium or high risk of choking are facilitated to eat in their room if they wish, under direct supervision of staff.”

A number of recommendations were made and implemented at the hospital following Ms Griffin’s death, the inquest heard.

These included the replacement of chicken fillets for chicken stew; mashing of vegetables using an electric mixer; full menu analysis; and the inclusion of a full choking risk assessment in every resident’s care plan.

Nurses are no longer allowed to leave the floor they are assigned to until every resident has completed their meal.

County Cororner Isobel O’Dea said she was happy that all safety procedures were carried as best as possible on the day. She returned a verdict of death by misadventure and expressed sympathy with the Griffin family. Insp John Galvin expressed sympathy on behalf of the gardaí to the family.


Bail for two in alleged arson attack at garda station

TWO East Clare men alleged to have committed offences at Scariff Garda Station last week are due to make their second appearance in court tomorrow tomorrow.

Brian Moloney (34) and Neil Kelly (38) appeared before a sitting of Ennis District Court on Thursday having been charged in connection with offences allegedly committed in the hours between March 18 and March 19 at Scariff Garda Station.

It is alleged that Mr Moloney, with an address at Bohatch, Mountshannon, did cause criminal damage to two windows of Scariff Garda Sta- tion on March 18. Mr Kelly, also with an address at Bohatch Mounthshannon (separate residence), is charged with arson of a car owned by a female garda at Scariff Garda Station on March 19.

Garda Bernard Casey of Shannon Garda Station gave evidence of arrest charge and caution in respect of Mr Kelly.

He said Mr Kelly made no reply to charge after caution. Detective Garda John Mulvihill gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution in respect of Mr Moloney.

Det Mulvihill said the accused said he had “nothing to say” in response to charge after caution.

Inspector John O’Sullivan said the State strongly objected to bail in respect of both accused. He said that while the charges are different, the State would allege that the circumstances of the offence are the same.

He said it would be alleged that this alleged offence was a direct attempt to intimidate a young member of the gardaí from doing her job.

Insp O’Sullivan said the State opposed bail on two grounds: the nature of the alleged offence and the strength of the alleged evidence.

Defence solicitor for Mr Kelly, Eileen Whelan said her client would be willing to abide by strenuous bail conditions Mr Moloney was represented by solicitor Turlough Herbert. Mr Herbert said his client would also abide by any bail conditions set down by the Court.

Judge Patrick Durcan approved bail subject to a number of conditions.

Judge Durcan said the Court required an independent surety of € 3000 for each accused.

Both men were ordered to reside at named addresses, to sign on at garda stations in East Clare, be law abiding and to surrender their passports.

Judge Durcan directed that a letter be written to the Department of Foreign Affairs advising that both accused had surrendered their passports. Both men were remanded in custody with consent to bail to appear again at Ennis District Court on March 27.


Mysterious light in West Clare sky was meteorite

WAS it a flair, was it a light aircraft, no, it was a meteorite that fell from the West Clare skies on Tuesday afternoon last and resulted in a massive land, air and sea search.

Around midday, a number of callers reported a “red flare” or a “fire ball” on the sky and making its way inland from Cappa towards Kilrush town.

Another caller later reported seeing what they believed to be a light aircraft on fire.

The Kilrush RNLI was one of the rescue services called to the scene of the mystery light and searched the area from Querrin Point to Cappa village.

“The information that was relayed was that people on the coast saw what looked like a small aircraft, which approaching turned into what seemed a ball of flame.

“At this time the same sightings were reported in the Shannon region,” explained Kilrush RNLI PRO Pauline Dunleavy.

The lifeboat was supported in the search by the Shannon helicopter, and crews from the Kilkee and Mallow Coast Guard, who at this time were involved with another incident in Ballybunnion and crossed the waters and joined in the search following the reports.

At about 2.30pm the search was called off as there was no sight of the mystery-flying object.

“After two and a half hours the search was stood down as the Aviation Department stated there were no aircrafts in the region and the conclusion was that it was perhaps a meteorite landing,” explained Ms Dunleavy.

The mysterious meteorite was just the first call out for a buy RNLI that day.

Just before 9.30pm Valentia Coast Guard again paged the lifeboat crew as a member of the public saw flares in the Kilrush area.

“We launched and after an hour we were stood down as there was no evidence along the shore from Cappa to the Moneypoint area.

“The unit of the Kilkee Coast Guard also carried out an intense shore search,” said a busy Ms Dunleavy.

She praised the members of the public that called in both possible emergencies, and urged anyone who does see anything suspicious out on the water to dial 999 without delay.