Jobs loss fear for Xtra-vision’s staff

TWO retail chains in Clare under went major changes this week.

The Clare branch of the book shop chain Hughes and Hughes is to come under Eason’s umbrella next month, while video rental Xt ra-vision’s branches went into receivership, yesterday, Monday.

The jobs of t he staff at t he Ennis and Shannon branches hang i n t he balance as t he joint receivers attempts to find a buyer for the t roubled fil m and games rent al business.

Operations at the movie rent al chai n at both stores are expected to continue as normal.

In a st atement, Xt ra-vision confir med that all gift cards and customer credit balances remain unaffected and are ful ly redeemable.

It added t he company said that it has become unable to meet its debts as t hey fall due as a result of the wit hdrawal of t rade credit by a number of its key suppliers.

Xtra-vision has been negatively affected by the rise in online streaming of movies and digit al pi racy.

“Whi le the company’s ret ail business conti nues to grow, its movie rental business has declined more rapidly t han anticipated, most noticeably in areas with high speed broadband, which is linked to high levels of i llegal downloading,” the st atement said.

Meanwhile Hughes and Hughes in Ennis is one of three Hughes and Hughes shops to go under the Eason & Co franchise.

Eason reached agreement with Hughes and Hughes for its stores in Ennis, St Stephen’s Green and Sant r y to transfer and operate as Eason franchises from May 2013.

A franchise store will also open this year in Shannon.

Coupled with two new openings in Mallow and Kil lar ney, the Shan- non shop will be par t of t he new 35 jobs to be created.

Hughes & Hughes was founded in 1986. It was placed into receivership in early 2010, owing € 9 million to Ulster Bank, but Derek Hughes acqui red the rights to the name later that year and, with t he backing of Aidan Masterson and Pierce Molony of Bus Stop newsagents, he opened six shops under t he Hughes & Hughes name.

Mr Hughes said going the franchise route with Eason would reduce its dependence on book sales – they account for just 40 per cent of Eason’s revenues – and cut out cent ral overheads.


Killaloe man’s invention’s a dead cert

AN EAST Clare businessman could be on the verge of changing the way that people are buried forever. Killaloe-based inventor Bar ry Spearman has founded the company New Age Memorials – Europe’s first provider of fiberglass headstone.

According to Bar ry, his new headstone could save people thousands in cleaning and other costs when compared to traditions headstones. The idea for fiberglass headstones came to him about two years ago, when he was tr ying to clean one of his own family headstones.

“I was quoted € 250 for sandblasting and re-lettering which I thought was excessive. Then I bought various stone cleaning chemicals and none of them worked well,” he said.

“Up to that time, I had not thought about the ongoing costs involved in maintaining headstones and it was only when I mentioned it to other people I discovered that a whole industry of cleaning headstones had come into existence.

“I thought there must be a modern material, with similar properties to stone, but without the drawbacks, that could be used just as efficiently.”

Barr y had his Eureka moment while fishing on Lough Derg.

“Every few months, a bit of surface mould might grow where rain has lodged, but this is easily brushed off. This boat, li ke 90 per cent of all modern boats, is made from marine grade fibreglass. I had found my headstone material,” he said.

Spearman set up the company in May 2012, and has been working with a number of companies trying to perfect moulds, finishes, designs and the manufacturing process.

“I discovered that a design for a fibreglass headstone was patented in 1973 in the US. This patent has now lapsed and the design was totally different from mine,” he said.

“Now that the product has been perfected I hope to sell directly to the public in order to keep the purchase costs down. This would not happen if sold through under takers. I have just begun to advertise in the local papers and free sheets and also by putting posters up in shops and so on.”


Palace u-turn for Clare war hero

A CLARE war hero, who was refused a personal bi r thday card from Queen Elizabeth II, as he “could not prove he was British”, will instead receive a letter to mark his 100th bi r t hday today (Tuesday).

The U-tur n by Buckingham Palace, which fol lows a petition by 800 people, means Dr William Navin who is originally from Clarecastle, will now receive a message from the Queen.

Dr Navin was bor n in Clare on April 30, 1913, and his family still own and operate Navin’s Bar in Clarecastle village.

His late brother Fr Charles Navin ser ved most of his li fe as the parish priest in Tubber. His other brother Dr Cyril was a monsignor in America while Pat rick ran the publ ic house in Clarecastle.

Dr Navin left Ireland for Coven tr y in 1939, to work with the ear, nose and throat specialists at Walsgrave Hospital. This was not to be however and he ended up in general practice as the war broke out.

During World War II he was a medical officer and ser ved with the Home Guard, ear ning seven medals for ser vice.

The reti red GP car ries an Ir ish passpor t, even though he is also en- titled to a British one.

Buckingham Palace said the Clare native did not qualify for the queen’s bi r thday message without a Br itish passpor t as proof of citizenship.

However t he petition by the people of Coventr y saw a change of hear t being the palace gates and t his man is to be sent a personal letter from the Queen instead of t he t raditional card.

The decision came after the LordLieutenant for the West Midlands, Paul Sabapathy CBE, cont acted the anniversaries office.

He said he had been informed t he Queen’s secretar y would now be sending a letter to Dr Navin on the Queen’s inst r uction.

Dr Navin’s family said they were ext remely disappoi nted when they received the letter from Buckingham Palace denying hi m t he card.

The letter stated, “Her Majesty only sends messages to people who are citizens of Her Realms or UK Overseas Ter ritor ies, and as your father was bor n in what is now the Republ ic of Ireland, I am afraid it is necessar y to see evidence of his Br itish citizenship.”

Dr Navin has t hree chi ldren, seven grandchildren and two greatgrandchildren, and lives on his own in Coventr y since his wife Molly died 23 years ago.


Homeless campaigner stole from pensioner

A CAMPAIGNER for the homeless is facing a possible prison sentence after being convicted of stealing almost € 27,000 from an 87 year resident of St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis. At Ennis Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, a jury convicted Josephine O’Brien (59) on nine of 10 counts of theft from the bank account of Stephen O’Halloran.

Ms O’Brien, with an address at 15 Bridgeview, Roslevan, was found guilty of stealing € 26, 503 on dates between July 2006 and October 2010. The pair first met when they were patients living in Ennis General Hospital. They subsequently lived together in rented accommodation.

The two-day trial heard that after Mr O’Halloran became a resident of St Joseph’s Hospital in December 2005, he gave Ms O’Brien his ATM card for the account that received his English pension.

The court heard that when enquiries were made to arrange for the pension to pay for Mr O’Halloran’s care in St Joseph’s, there was very little money left in the account.

Ms O’Brien admitted making the transactions over the period from January 2006 to October 2010, claiming she had consent to do so.

The court heard evidence from Mr O’Halloran who said she did not have the authority to make the withdrawals. The court heard that Mr O’Halloran said Ms O’Brien visited him for the first six months of his stay in St Joseph’s but that the visits stopped after June 2006.

This was disputed by Ms O’Brien. The court also heard evidence from Detective Garda Beatrice Ryan who investigated the theft.

In a Garda interview, Ms O’Brien said, “I know I shouldn’t have taken the money but I did.”

She told gardaí, “I am sorry. I want to pay it back.”Ms O’Brien told gardaí that she never spent the money on herself. She said she used it to pay rent and to fund a drop in centre for the homeless in Chapel Lane, Ennis.

Ms O’Brien is co-founder of the Homeless Education Learning Programme (HELP), an Ennis-based organisation that supports homeless people. In his closing speech, Counsel for the State, Stephen Coughlan said there had been a pattern of Ms O’Brien “clearing” out Mr O’Halloran’s bank account.

He said, “You don’t get a blanket authority to raid a person’s account.”

Counsel for Ms O’Brien Lorcan Connolly BL said, “She opened a drop in centre. Is that the profile of a dishonest person?”

It took the jury two hours to return a unanimous verdict of guilty in nine of the ten counts Ms O’Brien was charged with. They returned a verdict of not guilty for the count covering January 2006 to June 2006.


Fishermen gather to discuss planned fish farm

CLARE opposition to a massive organic fish farm planned for off the North Clare coast took shape following a mass meeting of local fishermen and women in New Quay.

The meeting, which was originally organised by Clare TD Michael McNamara (Lab) as a means of developing local coastal businesses, turned into a virtual campaign meeting to oppose the proposed fish farm – which locals claims is the biggest threat to indigenous local fish industries. The proposed twin fish farms will cover 500 acres of water off the Doolin and Fanore coast if it given the green lights by the Department of Agriculture. Government agency Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) have proposed that a licence be granted for a third party operator to build and manage the farm – which they claim will create 500 jobs.

These claims are being opposed by a number of groups, including Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFA) – a second government agency, who claim that the project will create far fewer jobs and will also destroy a large number of smaller local businesses.

Doolin local, Mattie Shannon, attended the meeting and said that the vast majority of local people are against the fish farm. “Everybody who attended the meeting and has anything to do with fishing or Doolin or the Aran Islands was against the proposed giant fish farm. BIM are proposing to build 10 of these off the west coast – from Mizen Head to Malin Head,” he said.

“There are a number of large fish farms like this in Canada but, under their own regulations, a farm of this size would no longer be allowed in Canada. It really is massive, it is half the size of Inis Oirr.

“They are dangling theses jobs in front of people. They started off talking about 300 jobs and then they upped it to 500 jobs. It is quite possible that there are a large number of jobs in it but whether these jobs are for local Clare people in another thing,” he said.

“At the same time this will destabilise jobs that are there already in smaller family operations all along Galway Bay. South west are the main winds in that area, so any contamination or spills or anything like that will wash in to us and effect all the small industries that are there already. I don’t know why we are talking about threatening jobs that are there already to create jobs for some multinational company.”


Has the Holy been dropped from Communion

RECEIVING your First Holy Communion used to be a traditional celebration of receiving a holy sacrement for the first time; nowadays parents are spending hundreds of euros on what has become somewhat of a competition.

Many fear that My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding has set a trend of vulumtuous dresses and extravagant parties that are costing parents up to € 600, according to a survey conducted by EBS; but is this true for our home town of Ennis and have we lost sight of Catholic practice and fallen into the trap of hypocrisy and mass delusion?

Despite the on-going economic crisis, the amount of money being spent on a child’s First Holy Communion has increased dramatically over the last few years.

It empties the already dwindling pay-packets of parents and, in fact, the earnings of a typical eight year old child making their First Holy Communion could pay for majority of the party.

The survey shows that in 2011 thousands of Irish children received monetary gifts to the value of nearly € 350. The survey further suggests that in 2013 their days makings will add up to nearly € 500 – almost enough to pay off the average party.

Barefield National School Principal, Mr John Burns said “Families are generally sensible and curtail the costs within their budgets. However, there are a minority of people who can be extravagant and can expend a considerable amount of money, which they may not have.

“In my time, we went home. The evening was spent at home with my family and relations. Today, families use hotels or organise caterers for home dining with the all important bouncing castle.

“It is a most exciting day as it involves the whole family being connected together in preparing for this wonderful sacrament. It is not meant to be a one day religious ceremony. It is for life”.

There is however, only so much that can be taught in our schools. Whilst our teachers prepare and educate our children for their big day in every way possible, home is their biggest influence. The home is the “domestic Church”, and also where the heart is.

When the public were asked their opinion on cost control during First Holy Communion time some felt that parents let their children get away with the fancy dress and extravagant parties. However, Emily McGrath believes that “it’s still under the con- trol of the parents and it’s up to the parents to make a stand and say how much they are prepared to say.

“There was much more family involvement when I made my first holy communion”, Ms McGrath continued, “there would have been a big reception, but there still would have been emphasis on the dress.

“I think people tend to forget that the obsession with fancy communion dresses goes back quite a long way, it’s not just today.

What is really important is realising that this is your child’s day to take “centre stage” and for their relationship with God to further grow and flourish.

Fr Ger Fitzgerald of the Killaloe Diocese believes that too much focus can sometimes be put on the aftershow and that some forget what is really important on the big day.

“I think it easy to sensationalise big dresses and hummers whilst missing the kernel of truth that shows us that there is real faith on display here, in the prayer of the children.

“It is I believe also easy to bemoan the fact that there are the presence of hummers and outlandish dresses”, he continued, “but, I think that we, as priests and Church, should try to educate a little more.

Fr Fitzgerald further stated that during “our teaching and preaching we should try to point out that maybe the First Holy Communion is perhaps not the place for these things as it can distract not only the adults but also the children from what has taken place.

“I think that if we highlight the “extras” we, the Church and media, should work together to highlight as well the absolutely necessary components, those being the joy with which the children come to receive and also the faith they display in their prayer and in their wonder and awe in the presence of something that is greater than all of us combined. They are a joy to us and many of us could learn from their example of simplicity, true humility and love of God”.

Ennis National School recieved their First Holy Communion two weeks ago and, according to Fr Fitzgerald, “they sat there, rapt in attention, hands joined, watchin. In their world, they knew something was happening, something special.

“As I looked on”, Fr Fitzgerald continued, “one could effortlessly see that they knew this was a special day and that Jesus, their friend, was coming to them in a new way. In the way they prayed, in the way they behaved, in the way they watched and paid attention and most specifically in the way they received, they demonstrated that they at that moment were close to Jesus and that is what communion is ultimately about, a relationship with the Lord”.


Law school recalls forgotten seamen

Andr e w Ha milt on a ha milt on@cla r e


FF nets €17k from Clare church gates

CLARE people are still opening their hearts, and their wallets, to the Fianna Fáil party – despite the party being blamed by many for helping to bring about the 2008 collapse of the Irish economy.

Fianna Fáil netted in excess of € 17,000 from church gate collections in Clare last year.

This means that Clare mass goers donated more to the Fianna Fáil party last year than any other county in Ireland.

Indeed, Clare alone contributed more than 9 per cent of the party’s entire € 185,000 take from the church gate collection in 2012.

This cash boost from the Banner county is a welcome tonic for the party who are currently working to reduce the large debt built up after the last general election. The part have already reduced the debt from an estimate € 2 million to just over € 1.2 million.

The € 17,000 raised in Clare last year was an improvement on party’s performance in the county in 2011 which brought in a total of € 16, 536. Fianna Fáil has been a consistent hit at the church door in Clare with previous collections netting the part € 23,594 in 2009 and € 21,727 in 2010.

Indeed, last year performance at the church gate marks an important turning point in the party’s financial fortunes in Clare as the amount of money collected has increase for the first time since the start of the recession.

A motion calling for an end of the practice of church gate collections was effectively defeated at this weekend party ard f heis.

The collection has become a divisive subject with party circles and threaten to create an urban/rural divide in Fianna Fáil.

The church gate collection netted the party just € 20 in Dublin last year – which prompted some urban based party delegated to support a motion to scrap the process.

This motion was, however, amended referred back to the party’s finance committee for further discussion.


Serving priests accused of abuse

ALMOST five percent of the priests currently service in the Diocese of Galway and Kilfenora have had official abuse claims levelled against them. The diocese, which includes the Clare parishes of Ballyvaughan, Carron, New Quay, Ennistymon, Kilfenora, Liscannor, Moymore, Lisdoonvarna and Kilshanny, has recorded of a total of 38 allegations made against 14 priests or members of religious orders since 1975.

According to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, the Church’s own internal watch-dog body, 27 of these allegations were reported to the gardaí.

The report indicated that three of the 63 priests currently serving in the diocese have had claims made against them. No individual priests were named in the report nor was any indication given as to what part of the diocese the priests are currently serving.

Speaking after the publication of the report, Bishop Martin Drennan said that the concerns expressed were “not of a sufficient nature” to warrant their removal from active ministry.

The report also recommends that a review of any cases of allegation which were made against living priests who are no longer in active service or are on administrative leave should be carried out.

Minister Drennan said that the results of the review were good news for the diocese.

“Last week’s report shows that we have at last turned the corner. It offers encouragement in many forms, safeguarding practice is reported as good in the diocese, complaints are dealt with promptly,” said Bishop Drennan.

“There is ongoing help available for victims of abuse. Counselling is offered to complainants and their families.

“The diocese works closely with the HSE and with the Garda Siochana in an effort to make sure that children participating in Church-related activities are safe. To date three hundred and fifty five people have been given training so that their work as safeguarding representatives may be as effective as possible.”


Plan calls for radical overhaul of Kilkee

KILKEE is badly in need of a radical overhaul if it hopes to face up to the demands of being a 21st century town, a new blueprint being put in place for the next five years has warned.

‘Towards a Better Kilkee – Kilkee Town Improvement and Economic Development Strategy 2013-2020’ that has been put in place by Clare County Council and Kilkee Town Council has highlighted a huge number of infrastructral deficiencies that have contributed to the town’s decline.

These include the quality of tourism provision and the lack of an industrial base on the back of decline in tourism related business and an acceptance of the fact that the town’s only industrial units have reached the end of their lifespan.

“While there is great loyalty and affection for Kilkee among regular visitors, the economic benefit to the town from tourism is declining,” warns the draft report that has been circulated to members of both Kilkee Town Council and Kilrush area county councillors.

“In order to reverse this trend, the reasons for decline need to be addressed. A telling number of rented houses reported unacceptable standards of cleanliness on arrival. The absence of a comprehensive online database of available accommodation for Kilkee also presents difficulty for those wishing to book accommodation.

“The restaurants were praised by many but an equal number found fault with the service. In order for the town to benefit from what are essentially free amenities like the beach and cliff walks, significant improvements need to occur to services available to people who come, or who may be encouraged, to visit Kilkee in order to generate economic return from the town.

“The current lack of provision of adequate convenience shopping floorspace and the absence of petrol supply also impacts on the town’s profile. The town also lacks provision for touring tourists caravans and campers,” the report adds.

In relation to the signature landmark of the Marine Parade Bandstand (below), the draft report warns that its condition “has deteriorated and renewal of many elements is now urgent”. There are now 32 vacant building in the town, among them the industrial units on the Carrigaholt Road that are now deemed to be an eyesore.

“Kilkee has many vacant buildings, residential and commercial,” the report warns. “Buildings or sites in a town which are vacant, under untilised or derelict take from the attractiveness and undermine economic confidence. Vacant premises generally reflect weak economic activity and poor demand for space, unless dealt with they can facilitate further decay in adjacent areas.

The enterprise units have been vacant for many year. The condition of the building fabric and services need to be realistically assessed. A feasibility study of options for viable new used needs to be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

“In the interim the site needs a thorough overhaul as in the current condition it conveys a negative image of Kilkee. The buildings are an important asset, notwithstanding that they are rundown and appear to have reached the end of their lifespan without substantial development,” it adds.