New airport chief to target cargo

TARGETTING cargo traffic through Shannon is set to be a major plank of the new chief executive blueprint for Clare’s international airport, once he takes up his piovital post in early June.

That’s the view of a number of aviation commentators this week as Shannon celebrates what has been described as a “coup appointment” of Scottish-born Neil Pakey to the post of chief executive of the newly independent airport.

The potential of cargo services through Shannon, which could be developed as a European hub operation was highlighted in the Booz and Company consultants report on Ireland’s three state-run airports in 2011.

Now, Mr Pakey’s appointment is seen as a huge step forward in maximizing Shannon strategic location as a freight and cargo nerve centre, because of his track record in doing business with one of the major freight operators in Europe.

“While he was in Liverpool one of his major coups, not just with EasyJet and Ryanair, was to bring KLM in,” revealed aviation commentator Joe Downes.

“KLM are one of the world’s biggest cargo carriers.

“The Shannon board has said that that freight is one of the targets of the new airport – to turn it into a hub for freight cargo. Mr Pakey has the experience to do this,” he added.

The Booz report, which was published last year, said that “the viability of (Shannon) business cannot be justified through passenger growth only”.

“New sources of revenue should be explored including exploitation of land banks, exploration of cargo business potential and improved leverage and expansion of the US preclearance facilities to include cargo.

“Shannon Airport is widely viewed as having the opportunity to transform itself into a major cargo hub in Europe, particularly should the Irish Government negotiate cargo preclearance with the US,” the report added.

“My aim is to build the business and lead a team dedicated to achieving operational excellence, superior customer service, efficiency in all functions and with full support for our airlines, partners and stakeholders,” said Mr Pakey on his appointment.

From 2002 to 2010, Neil was managing director of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, one of Europe’s fastest growing airports, where he led the growth in passenger numbers from 867,000 passengers per year to 5.5 million passengers per year.

Since 2010 he has been the senior director network marketing of the Vantage Airports Group with responsibility for 18 airports worldwide, including airports in Canada, Cyprus, the Caribbean and the UK.

A native of Troon in Scotland, Mr Packey is aged 52 and initially joins Shannon on a three year contract.


NRA ‘giving the finger’ to Clare County Council?

THE National Roads Authority (NRA) were yesterday accused of “giving the finger” to Clare County Council and the people of North Clare because of its continued refusal to provide funding for a pedestrian crossing at Inagh.

The construction of the pedestrian crossing on the Miltown Malbay road in Inagh has been identified as the top local roads priority by Clare County Council in recent years but the NRA has not yet seen fit to provide funding for its construction.

The Miltown Malbay road currently divides the village of Inagh, with a large amount of community facilities – including a number of resources for young people – located at either sides of the roads.

“I am absolutely amazed the NRA cannot regard this pedestrian crossing as a priority. This is a national secondary route. There are huge volumes of traffic on this road and there and there is a massive numbers of people crossing that road every day,” said Cllr Richard Nagle (FG).

“Someone from the NRA needs to come down and have a look at this road.”

Lahinch-based Cllr Slattery (FG) pointed out that this issue has been raised by councillors on four separate occasions in recent years and on each occasions councillors received an identical response from the local authority.

“I received the reply I in January of 2012, Richard [Nagle] got in again in July 2012. We have received the same reply to this on four different occasions and that is not acceptable,” he said.

“People are coming to us with genuine issues regarding this road. What is the point of us putting in these motions and getting the standard response again and again. I know it’s not your fault [Clare County Council] but the National Roads Authority seem to be giving all of us the finger in relation to this road.”

In a response to the motion, local engineer Stephen Lahiff described the crossing as “vital” to the ongoing safety of people using the village.


Just 103 calls from Clare to Cancer Soc

THE Irish Cancer Society received just 103 enquiries from Clare last year – that is just .3 per cent of the 28,383 calls being taken nationally.

A spokesperson for the charity said it is hoped that with more awareness even more people with the disease will contact the organisation in the coming year if they need assistance.

With less than half a percent of the calls to the society coming from Clare it is one of the lowest in the country.

However local grown organisations, such as the West Clare Mini Marathon Centre, which is not affiliated with the Irish Cancer Society, is busy providing transport to an from hospital for patients and holistic and psychological support to patients and their families.

In the last month the Irish Cancer Society also announced that it would be providing transport for cancer patients in Clare to and from the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick for treatment.

Other Irish Cancer Society services available to Clare patients include the National Cancer Helpline, which is staffed by specialist cancer nurses; and the Society’s Night Nursing service, which provides care to cancer patients in their last days of life so they can stay at home with their families.

During 2012 the society’s night nurses cared for 1,818 patients, providing 7,350 nights of care. 167 nights of care were provided to cancer patients in Clare.

Financial aid is also available to cancer patients suffering financial hardship as a result of their diagnosis. During 2012 financial aid to the value of € 1,047,461 was provided to 1,753 cancer patients across the country. € 24, 530 worth of financial aid was given to cancer patients in Clare.

The society thanked all those in Clare who supported Daffodil Day 2013, which helps to fund such services.

The charity said however that the bad weather impacted severely on fundraising this year, with funding down 50 per cent.

An emergency appeal was launched to re-coup the shortfall and appeal to those that could not donate as usual due to the weather. The appeal saw just fewer than 30,000 people donate following Daffodil Day, with donations being made online, by phone and by text. The response to the appeal saw the initial shortfall recover to within 20 per cent of the original target.

The society is now encouraging everyone who participated in this year’s Daffodil Day campaign to bank their funds as soon as possible.


Loophead awarded Best Place to Holiday in Ireland

IT MAY have been a ‘school night’ but that did not stop the people of Loophead partying last night (Monday), as they gathered in the Longdock Bar in Carrigaholt to celebrate Loop Head peninsula being named Best Place to Holiday in Ireland.

Kilbaha woman Ailish Connolly was one of the many excited people delighted to see this area of west Clare get national recognition.

“I really can’t believe it. I was out dolphin watching on Saturday and I got a call saying they [‘The Irish Times’ sponsor] wanted to take a photograph. I got all excited but then was told that they were taking photos of all five finalists. I just kept telling myself we didn’t win, but coming in the top five was great,” she laughed.

Kevin Heapes of Pure Camping based in Querrin had spent Sunday night checking the web to see if an announcement had been made.

A win would have been a huge endorsement of the work carried out to date by Loophead Tourism, a group of local private businesses who, with the support of the Clare Local Development Company (Leader) and Clare County Council, got together to market the peninsula for sustainable tourism.

Of the 90 businesses on Loophead, as many as 45 are part of Loophead Tourism. And all 45 are in some way involved in the tourism industry.

Maps and information is published locally on recycled paper, the plaques for each building are designed and produced locally and all marketing and design work is produced locally, feeding back into the local economy.

“None of this would be possible without Leader. We would not have been able to pull it all together and market it,” said Ms Connolly.

“There are five businesses that want to get started in the next 12 months on the Loop and that cannot happen without Leader support,” she added.

Meanwhile Cillian Murphy, Chairman of Loophead Tourism said that with the company’s support sig nificant work had been undertaken during the past four to five years in establishing a community-wide approach to tourism development across the Peninsula.

“As a result of this, we have seen many members of the community establish their own tourism-based initiatives that are complemented by the supports being made available by other established local businesses, the Loophead Tourism network, Clare County Council, Clare Local Development Company (CLDC) and Fáilte Ireland,” he said.

“Loophead excelled in this competition not only because it possesses a rich variety of visitor attractions and activities and one of some of Ireland’s most unique scenery, but also because it matched the competition criteria that were very much focused on community, sustainability and the quality of the tourism product on offer. This reflects a shift within the tourism sector to visitors looking for a genuine and organic holiday experience, which is something that Loophead offers in abundance.”


Local business digs out Old Ground

THE owner of the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis says he expects the business to be fully back in action by Wednesday evening. A temporary closure was needed on Thursday last when a pipe was cracked during refurbishment work. A limited food menu is still available at the Old Ground while bar and accommodation services are running as normal.

In a statement, the hotel said an issue was identified with part of the drainage system of the hotel following a recent refurbishment of the ladies bathrooms.

The statement added, “As a precau- tionary measure, the hotel has taken the decision to temporarily close our main kitchen and we are working in conjunction with our local health authorities towards a speedy resolution of the problem.”

The hotel also apologized to customers for any inconvenience caused. The Old Ground Hotel employs 126 people.

Speaking yesterday, hotel owner Allen Flynn thanked the community and local businesses for the “avalanche of support” given to the hotel in recent days.

Mr Flynn said, “The industry that we are in is in very difficult times at the minute and to have this problem occur just coming into summer isn’t easy. But I suppose if anything has come out of it, it is truly the support of the local community and businesses since the problem arose.

“Truly we have received an avalanche of support from what I would have called competitors – I now call them friends – The Temple Gate Hotel, the Madden Family, Dromoland and especially St Flannan’s College who were more than willing to provide us with kitchen facilities over the weekend.

“They said they were willing to help somebody who does an extra special job of creating as much local employment as possible. It’s great to see support like that coming back to the hotel.”

He added, “We were doing a refurbishment of our ladies bathroom here. We were trying to solve a water issue that we had, we actually ended up cracking pipes underneath and that caused a problem with our drainage. Our drainage experts are back in with us and we’re trying to get all that sorted.”

Mr Flynn said, “At the moment we have a limited menu for food but the bar and accommodation is still running as normal.

“It was wonderful to see again over the weekend the atmosphere that could only be created in a place like Ennis with the Fleadh, with setdancing in the lobby until the wee hours.”


Council to invest in Lahinch parking?

CARS are being continuously broken into and vandalised at Clare’s most popular tourist beach because of a lack of basic security measures at a local authority car park.

This is despite a historic commitment made by Clare County Council to invest all money raised from parking charges at Lahinch in the local area.

The local authority took in more than € 600,000 in parking charges in Lahinch between 2009 and 2011, and Cllr Bill Slattery (FG) yesterday accused the local authority of not investing the money in the local area – specifically the local authority car park on the Liscannor Road.

“There is rubbish been dumped there every night, cars and being vandalised, windows are being broken and items are being stolen from these cars. I think that this [proposed changing the car park] would actually make the council money – as more cars would be able to park there,” said Cllr Slattery.

“Between 2009 to 2011 we took in € 613,000 in car parks in Lahinch. I can’t understand where this money is going. There was an agreement that this funding would be ring fenced. I don’t think that this money is going back into Lahinch at all.”

Clare County Council yesterday indicated that they would consider the proposal to upgrade the Liscannor Road car park.

“The figure mentioned [€ 613,000] is a gross figure but there are costs and expenses to come out of that, but there is a net balance of fund [from the car park charges],” said Niall Moroney, Senior Engineer at Clare County Council.

“We can look at this in the context of a plan, which is currently being prepared for the car park. It would certainly be possible to source funding for a project like this. There is a question of quantums to be addressed- we need to figure out what this will actually cost.”


Star Wars turning to stone?

NORTH Clare is set to become the world’s biggest film set in 2014 with two massive Hollywood blockbusters – with a combined budget of more than € 200 million – likely to film in the Burren.

The team behind the new Star Wars film are currently in discussion with the Irish Film Board (IFB) about filming in Ireland with the Burren mentioned as a possible site while it was confirmed over the weekend that a € 80 million on the life of Brian Boru will be shot in-part at the Cliffs of Moher.

The biopic, which is based on the graphic novel ‘Freedom within the Heart’ confirmed that some battle scenes will be shot at the Cliffs – but no other location has yet been confirmed. The bulk of filming could take place at Brian Boru’s traditional stronghold at Killaloe.

Director of the Cliffs of Moher Experience, Katherine Webster, said that the film could be a major boost for the North Clare Tourism.

“We would love to see parts of the Boru movie shot at the Cliffs of Moher and we know from experience how movie locations can help promote a tourism destination,” she said.

“We see the positive effect from a promotional perspective of the Cliffs being a location for Hollywood movies like ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’ and ‘The Princess Bride’ as well as Irishmade movies like ‘Into the West’ and ‘Hear My Song’. Hopeful the Boru movie will be the next big blockbuster to be filmed in County Clare.”

Meanwhile, Star Wars director JJ Abrams is currently in negotiations with the Irish Film Board about bringing some filming for the new Star Wars film to Ireland.

Abrams, who wife Katie McGrath is of Irish descent, spend a holiday along the Irish coast in 2011. The couple spent time in North Clare, as well as Donegal and Sligo and it is understood that these three areas are in a possible short-list for filming.

“The Irish Film Board, working with Trina Vargo of the US-Ireland Alliance, has been in discussions with JJ Abrams and his team at Bad Robot about filming a number of projects on their slate in the Republic of Ireland,” said IFM chief executive, James Hickey.

“We have provided them with briefings about Ireland’s tax incentive Section 481, our accessible locations, world-class crew and production companies.”

It is understood that original Star Wars cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher will have roles in the new film.


Town council to vote on fracking

COUNCILLORS at Ennis Town Council will next month decide if they want to follow the lead set up Clare County Council last year and impose a ban on fracking or hydraulic fracturing.

A motion will be put to the local authority’s June meeting by Cllr Brian Meaney (FF). The former Green Party councillor is hopeful that a second local authority vote will put pressure on the Minister of Communications and Energy, Pat Rabbitte (LAB), not to grant a fracking license to Energi Oil – a UK-based company who are exploring fracking options in Doonbeg and the Clare Basin.

“We welcome any occasion at which the issue of fracking is raised. We welcome that people are made aware of the dangers of fracking, and we welcome particularly the fact that, if successfully passed this motion will be forwarded to the other town councils in Clare and nationally,” said a spokesperson from Fracking Free Clare.

Any ban on fracking imposed by Clare County Council or Ennis Town Council has little or no actual legal standing. The decision to grant or refuse permission to frack is a reserved function of the Department of Energy.

The department are currently awaiting a report on the possible impacts of fracking, which is being carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA report is not due until mid-2014 and any proposed fracking in Clare will not start until late 2014 at the earliest.

Fracking involves injecting large amount of water and other liquids into underground shale rock at high pressures. This action shatters, or fracks, the rocks which release trapped natural gas. The biggest environmental threat from fracking is that the water and other chemical will enter the ground water.


Loophead ghosthunters contact spirits

A TEAM of paranormal investigators have finalised the report into their findings at Loop Head Lighthouse, and maintain there are ghosts at the lighthouse and surrounding buildings.

Modern day ghost buster Anthony Kerrigan of GhostEire said that the team have learnt specific information about a number of the 24 spirits – 14 men and 10 women – they contacted during their experiments which included the use of a lazar board dial that could be manipulated by spirits and a ouija board.

A lot of the “activity was detected” in the modern day light keeper’s cottage.

Mr Kerrigan reported that in the mess room “the initials W.G. for a name questioned and the year of ‘21’” were picked up using the laser board.

“Only did we find out a couple of weeks afterwards that a William Gordon worked at the Lighthouse around 1830 and a William Gardener pre 1860, other names that came through were ‘JEF’,” he said.

Upstairs in the cottage Mr Kerrigan said the team made contact with the spirit of a body washed up on the shore line in the 1940s.

The body had no head or arms, just a tattoo.

The paranormal investigator claimed that the spirit was an agent or spy.

“He was very secretive. The only name we got was the nickname Faz,” said Mr Kerrigan.

He added that spirits by the name of Michael and Trayloch detected in the lighthouse might have existed even before the building.

Dates were also detected during the investigation he explained, including the date March 3, 1916.

Mr Kerrigan believes this is re- sidual energy that refers back to the week before the Easter Rising, during which Eamonn Fennell of the Clare eighth brigade got information about Bristish boats along the coast from his brother who worked at the lighthouse.

Asked how he answers those sceptical of his work and findings, the founder of GhostEire said that he looks at all findings with a sceptical eye and that the team do not always find spirits or ghosts.


New rules rob two beaches of Blue Flag

A NEW form of calculating beach water standards has muddied the waters to such a degree that beaches with safe bathing water such as Miltown Malbay and Lahinch are losing their prestigious Blue Flags.

The Blue Flag in an international symbol to visitors that the beach is safe and the water clear, yet a calculation anomaly is leaving some of the county’s cleanest beaches without the flag, according to Clare County Council.

The local authority was informed by An Taisce and the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) that the two County Clare beaches had lost their Blue Flags for 2013.

Environmental watchdog An Taisce admitted to The Clare People however that the water quality at both beaches is safe and clean, but said there was little that could be done to return the flags as an EU directive had to be followed.

Clare County Council has claimed a “mathematical anomaly” in a new system of evaluating the Republic of Ireland’s beaches this year has resulted in the Clare beaches losing their Blue Flag status.

Describing the bathing water quality at White Strand and Lahinch as “excellent”, Clare County Council suggested that the anomaly would have resulted in both locations retaining their Blue Flags had ‘greater levels of e-coli’ been discovered in the water at both locations.

According to Paul Moroney, Senior Engineer with Clare County Council, “Even by the newly-introduced Blue Flag standards, which are 2 to 2.5 times more stringent that the previous standards, both Lahinch and White Strand have excellent bathing water, as evidenced in the EPA report on Bathing Water Quality published earlier this month. However, a mathematical anomaly that arises when low single figure e-coli test results, generally signifying pristine water, are included in the calculations would now appear to have resulted in both bathing waters losing their Blue Flag status.

“The methodology for assessing water quality in determining eligibility for Blue Flag status is based on the EU Bathing Water Directive, which was transposed into Irish law in 2008. The directive has previously drawn criticism from international experts who claimed that in some circumstances application of the methodology to good results could actually result in failures, a scenario that has now presented itself in this year’s Blue Flag Awards in the case of some Clare bathing waters. Ultimately, Clare County Council believes that the new system of calculating the results which is currently utilised for the Blue Flag scheme is not adequately equipped to deal with clean waters and should be reviewed.”

A spokesperson from An Taisce told The Clare People “no one was saying anything negative about the water”. She said the watchdog had reported the issue to Blue Flag International, who in turn was reporting the issues to the EU.

“This is something we are aware of and are working on,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Blue Flag Awards have been retained by six other Clare bathing areas, namely Fanore, Kilkee, Cappa beach in Kilrush, White Strand (near Doonbeg), Ballycuggeran and Mountshannon.