Seven to fight it out for West ticket spots

IT IS likely to be a tale of two very different meetings when Fine Gael holds its Shannon and West Clare section conventions next week.

There are just two nominees for the Shannon Selection Convention to be held on Monday, with Clare county councillors John Crowe and Sean McLoughlin nominated to go before the members.

With just two candidates before the convention, it is likely they will be automatically added to the ticket to contest the 2014 Local Election in the six-seater constituency.

It is not clear as yet how many people if any will be added to the ticket after the convention, as the directive from the party headquarters has yet to be received.

West Clare is likely to be a livelier convention however with seven nominees to go before convention.

Clare county councillor Bill Slattery is the only candidate from the north of the constituency to be nominated, with the majority of candidates coming from the old Kilrush Electoral Area.

There are two nominees from the town of Kilrush in the form of Kilrush town councillors Marian McMahon Jones and Ian Lynch.

The other Fine Gael town councillor, Cllr Liam Williams, was not among the nominees.

West of Kilrush there are a further two nominees, as Clare county councillor Gabriel Keating and Kilkee town mayor Paddy Collins have been nominated.

No other Fine Gael member of the Kilkee Town Council is to contest the convention.

Cllr Oliver Garry from the Kildysert area has also been nominated to go before the delegates for selection on Friday night week, as has newcomer Johnny Pilkington.

From Cree, Johnny is a prominent member of young Fine Gael and is the son of former constituency chairman and director of elections for Fine Gael Dick Pilkington.

There are no indications how many candidates the party will run in the geographically expansive eightseater constituency that takes in the current Kilrush Electoral Area and a significant part of the Ennistymon Electoral Area.


Ennis FG nominate election candidates

DURING the Fine Gael selection convention for the Ennis Municipal Area at the Auburn Lodge Hotel, a councillor of almost three decades retired, leaving way on the ticket for the youngest local election candidate to date.

Five Fine Gael candidates in total were selected to contest the eightseater constituency in the 2014 Local Elections, with no decision yet if another candidate is to be added.

Former Deputy Mayor Cllr Sonny Scanlon announced his retirement from the council and withdrew his nomination at the convention, as three other sitting county council- lors were returned to contest the first ever election for the new look local authority.

Cllr Paul Murphy, Cllr Johnny Flynn, and Cllr Tony Mulqueen were nominated and selected, along with Ennis town councillor Mary Howard and newcomer to elected politics 23year-old Cillian Griffey.

The Michael Howard Ennis Branch of Fine Gael nominated Cllr Johnny Flynn, Cllr Tony Mulqueen and Cllr Mary Howard. Cllr Paul Murphy was nominated by the Clarecastle/Ballyea branch and election newcomer, Cillian Griffey was nominated by the Barefield and Quin Fine Gael Branches as well as the Clare Young Fine Gael branch.

There were no other nominations on the night. Fine Gael Party Headquarters had directed that five candidates would be selected for the Ennis area which meant no vote would have to take place and all five remaining nominees were selected to run in the new Ennis area.

The guest chairperson for the Ennis convention was Senator Hildegarde Naughton from Galway.


Young gun joins the Fine Gael ticket for 2014 race

CILLIAN Griffey is the youngest candidate in the country so far nominated to contest the local elections.

The Fine Gael young gun will run for the first time ever in the Ennis Municipal Area alongside four more seasoned campaigners.

Putting his name forward to seek a place on the Fine Gael ticket did not come easy for the 23 year-old from Ballymaley.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to make but I am passionate about the party and about the community I want to represent,” he said.

“Recent events have shown us all that we need to fight for our nation’s future. I, like you all, am angered and sickened by the plight of unemployment and emigration. My single resolve is to contribute to the re-energising of the values and passion for public service that our party stands for.

“I joined the party in 2005 when I thought we needed a change. The Government was getting stale. I felt there were not enough young people in politics. By me doing this I hope to encourage more young people,” he told The Clare People .

From a farming family he was instrumental in setting up the Ennis Macra na Feirme branch, as well as extending the Young Fine Gael East Clare Branch to include the whole county.

The business support manager at HR Locker in Lahinch has no illusions about how difficult it will be to complete in an election as the new kid on the block.

“I am realistic. As I am not as well known I need a bit of a head start,” he said.

The Doora Barefield clubman is also secretary of the Ballyalla Lake Working Group and has volunteered with the Clarecare Homework Club.


ACC closure to affect Clare farmers

OLDER Clare farmers are facing fresh banking difficulty this winter with the news that ACC Bank is to close all its branches and switch to online-only banking.

The bank, which lends primarily to farmers and small businesses, said in a statement that its agri-division will continue to be a regulated entity and will support its customers in the farming sector.

With the average age of a Clare farmer now 55, fears have been expressed that many of the county’s farmers may not be technologyminded enough to access their accounts and may be forced to transfer loans to other lenders and a higher interest rate.

While many Clare farmers look to have dodged a second successive winter fodder shortage following the longer than expected summer, many farmers could still find themselves in need to credit to purchase feed if we get a repeat of this year’s poor spring in 2014.

Clare ICMSA chairman Martin McMahon said the announcement will cause “huge difficulties” for older Clare farmers and will also increase rural isolation.

“This is another example of rural life being eroded away. A lot of Clare farmers, especially the older ones, just won’t be able to switch to online banking. When your age profile of farmers in Clare this is going to create a lot of difficulty,” said the O’Callaghan’s Mills farmer.

“It’s okay for the younger generation. But the older farmers will have no choice but to move their accounts if they can. If they have loans, their interests rates will certainly go up. Some farmers might not be able to transfer their loans to other banks and I’m not sure what they will do,” he said.

“Thankfully the worst of the fodder crisis may be behind us. But if we have another late summer next year then farmers will be looking for credit with banks to buy feed. Who knows how this change with ACC Bank will affect this,” the chairman added.


Asylum seekers like ‘prisoners’

THE Irish asylum system treats emigrants like “prisoners” and is need of urgent reform. That is the opinion of North Clare Senator and Fine Gael spokesperson on Justice in the Seanad, Martin Conway, who visited two direct provision centres last week. Conway, who is also heading up Seanad group of reform of the Irish asylum system, believes that delays in the speed at which applications are processed is creating major difficulties for asylum seekers and increasing costs for the State. “I found that the management in the centres were doing their best to deal with problems as they arose and the residents said that they felt like they were in jail. There could be six residents in one room in these facilities and eventually, living like that, they become worn down,” he said. “Their big issue is that they don’t know the length of time they will spend in the facility. Some of them could be there waiting for 10 years before their cases to be heard and that is not acceptable.” The cost of providing direct provision centres for asylum seekers in Ireland is drastically higher than in it in many of our EU neighbours. The Portuguese system costs just over € 1 million to run each year compared to € 55 million in Ireland. “While the Portuguese system is not perfect, the big difference between here [Ireland] and Portugal is that the most a person will be kept is a centre over there is six to 12 months, while in Ireland people are kept for anything up to ten years before their case is heard. “We need to get our act together on this issue. Million of Irish people have emigrated over the years, some were treated appallingly and other were treated very well. As a country with this history we need to do the right thing for the people who come into this country, especially asylum seekers. “If the system worked better and quicker it would certainly be cheaper. No one seems to be happy with the system. There is a better way of managing this situation and I think we have a duty of care to people which is not being met in this system.”


Dean’s Award for student Medb

A NORTH Clare student, whose third-level education was put in jeopardy because of changes to the student grants system, received the Dean’s Award when she graduated from NUI Galway last week.

Ballyvaughan student, Medb McCarthy, was one of three students used by the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) to launch a judicial review into changes made in the qualification criteria for the Non-Adjacent Maintenance Grant last year.

The review, which has still to be ruled on by the Supreme Court, is based around an increase in the distance from a third-level institution that a student has to live before they are classified as “non-adjacent”.

It meant that even though Medb lived outside Ballyvaughan, with no realistic opportunity to commute to or from college in Galway, she was still considered an “adjacent” or local student when it came to her grants payments.

“It was very difficult in final year. I managed to find accommodation in Galway that wasn’t expensive but it certainly wasn’t easy getting by in that last year. If it wasn’t for my parents I would have been able to afford it. There is doubt about that,” she said.

“I didn’t work [outside of college] in my final year. I knew a lot of people who worked in their final year and it really effected their results and I didn’t want that to happen to me.”

Medb was awarded the the Dean’s Award, which goes to this highest achieving student in each course, jointly with Eric Brockie. The pair received the award in the subject of Information Technology, after they designed an educational children’s computer game based on Homer’s Odyssey.

“We wanted to make a game for kids. I have a niece and nephew who are three and six years old and I know that age group well. I also studied Classics and for that reason I decided to loosely base the game on the Odyssey,” continued Medb.

“Eric, who made the game with me, studied Spanish so we also made a Spanish language version of the game. It was a lot of work but great fun too.”


Bonfires cost the taxpayer €12,000

HALLOWEEN bonfires should not be seen as a novel way of disposing of waste, and Clare’s local authorities have warned that unauthorized bonfires are illegal.

Clare County Fire and Rescue Service said that last year it attended 10 bonfires at a cost of € 11,826 to the taxpayer.

Substantial costs are incurred each Halloween in responding to bonfirerelated incidents, as well as cleaning up after bonfires have taken place.

In the run up to this Halloween, Clare Local Authorities incorporating Clare County Council, Ennis Town Council, Kilrush Town Council, Kilkee Town Council and Shan- non Town Council are urging members of the public not to supply any waste material to persons who do not hold a valid waste collection permit.

The Environment Section of Clare County Council has warned that uncontrolled burning of waste, particularly in bonfires, is illegal under the Air Pollution Act, 1987, and The Waste Management Act, 1996, as amended.

A spokesperson said the burning of waste also releases toxic pollutants into the air which are known to be damaging to public health and the environment.

Anne Haugh, Director of Services, Clare County Council, appealed to the public to work with council staff during the forthcoming festivities.

“I wish to remind the public that there are significant risks arising from bonfires, including the illegal nature of the activity, the adverse effects on the local community and the negative impact on the general environment.”

“Bonfires are an illegal, dangerous and costly tradition,” added Adrian Kelly, Clare Chief Fire Officer.

“Bonfires are often built close to houses and other property presenting risks to personal safety and property. Halloween is one the busiest times of the year for the fire services and responding to bonfire call outs creates a strain on existing resources. I would like people to be aware of the fire safety hazards that arise from illegal bonfires, where the burning of highly combustible materials may lead to serious injuries or death,” ex- plained the fire chief.

Meanwhile, the Fire Service is also advising members of public not to buy, use or supply fireworks.

Mr Kelly noted that illegal fireworks may be manufactured without safety standards and can cause serious damage to users, particularly children.

“Parents should monitor their children and ensure they do not play with fireworks. Throughout the country, every year children end up tragically injured and often scarred for life, after using illegal fireworks.

“In the period before and during Halloween, Clare County Fire and Rescue Service will be assisted by an Garda Síochána to closely monitor the situation around the county,” Mr Kelly said.


Shannon smell blamed on businesses

LOCAL representatives are blaming companies in Shannon for causing the foul smell which has been present in the town for the last four weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which have been testing in Shannon for the last three weeks, briefed local representatives last Wednesday and concluded that the Shannon sewage treatment and local sewage system was the source of the odour. The sewage plant, which will cost in excess of € 20 million to upgrade, services local residences as well as a number of large businesses in the Shannon area. A number of local representatives, including Fine Gael councillor Sean McLoughlin, believe that the run off from some local businesses may be to blame. “The Shannon treatment plant is similar to treatment plants in towns of a similar size all around Ireland and they don’t have a problem like this smell,” he told The Clare People yesterday. “The EPA are saying that the treat ment plant is not up to scratch, but what a number of us are questioning is the different materials which are going into the treatment system. The people of Shannon produce as much waste as the people any where else in the country so you have to look at the common denominator, which is the industries in Shannon.” Cllr McLoughlin said that the smell has been like receiving as “punch in the nose” each morning. “The smell has been very bad in Shannon for the past four weeks but it has been an ongoing problem for a long time. People describe in in different ways but to me it is like a very intense sulfur smell. I walked out of my house one morning last week and it was like getting a punch in the nose,” he said. “It will cost a lot of money to upgrade the treatment plant but something has to be done. The people of Shannon cannot continue to live with this smell.” The Environmental Protection Agency were called into investigate the odour in early October. The agency have concluded that while the smell is of public annoyance, it does not at present poise any immediate threat to people’s well being.


87 Aer Lingus jobs at risk in Shannon

FIFTY five years after Aer Lingus first launched its transatlantic service from Shannon, 87 jobs are to be axed at Clare’s international airport. The refusal of cabin staff based in Shanon to fly new transatlantic routes using smaller planes with lower staffing levels has been held up by Aer Lingus management as the reason for the axe falling on the jobs.

The airline wrote to staff explaining that the base is no longer viable after failing to reach agreement with the Impact union, but there will be no reduction to the Shannon schedule or fleet.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Aer Lingus confirmed that it was entering into a 30-day consultation period with union representatives to explore the options which may be available for the affected staff.

The announcement came on the same day that Ryanair announced eight new routes out of Shannon beginning next year that will boost its passenger numbers by 300,000 from its current level of 450,000 to 750,00.

It is understood Aer Lingus staff will be offered the options of redeployment to Dublin or Cork, voluntary severance, or possibly redundancy.

Last July, Aer Lingus announced it was increasing its transatlantic services from Shannon and was leasing planes from ASL Aviation/Air Contractors Limited.

Serving Aer Lingus pilots agreed to fly the new smaller planes, but the cabin crew union Impact said it would not operate the flights with the four-member staff complement sought by the company.

Aer Lingus warned unions in recent weeks that if they did not accept the new staffing levels, they would instruct ACL to recruit the staff themselves and operate the services, which commence in January.

The company had said that if the new staffing levels were accepted, they would create 40 jobs.

Impact has condemned the move and described it as an act of “wanton destruction” on the livelihoods of loyal workers.

The union said its members will fight the decision and said the action of Aer Lingus management was entirely unnecessary.

It said cabin crew are balloting for industrial action, with the ballot due to be completed on October 30. In a memo to staff, Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said that it was not a commercially viable option to retain a single short-haul crew base in Shannon.


Judge orders electric fences removed from West Clare farm land

A WEST Clare farmer facing animal cruelty charges has been ordered to remove electric fences from his land and provide adequate feed to cattle after the Department of Agriculture expressed concern for the animals’ welfare.

Patrick Shannon (59) was ordered to comply with all directions of the Department of Agriculture after details of a recent inspection of his farm at Carnaculla, Kilrush were heard at Ennis District Court on Tuesday.

Supt Seamus Nolan of Kilrush Garda Station said while he did not want to prejudice the case against the accused, the court should hear from the Department as gardaí had ongoing concerns.

Veterinary Inspector Vincent Lambert told the court he found cattle confined behind electric fences on bare ground with no supplementary feed, when he visited the farm on Friday, October 18.

Mr Lambert said some cattle were on their knees trying to eat grass outside the fence.

The court heard in some cases the animals’ water trough was left outside the electric fence.

Mr Shannon, with an address at Carnaculla, Kilrush, has between 75 and 77 bovine dry and dairy stock, the court heard.

Mr Lambert said the Department had concerns for the animal’s welfare.

He requested Mr Shannon provide his stock with continuous access to food, water and shelter.

He said the Department was also seeking the removal of all electric fences from the land.

Solicitor for Mr Shannon, John Casey, said these terms were acceptable to his client.

Judge Patrick Durcan granted liberty to the Department of Agriculture liberty to inspect the farm at 24 hours notice.

“I want these fences removed today”, added Judge Durcan. Mr Shannon told the court he would remove the fences.

Judge Durcan told Supt Seamus Nolan the charges could be re-entered in any court on any day of the week, if the directions are not complied with.

Mr Shannon appeared in court charged with cruelly, ill-treating animals by failing to provide adequate feed, water and shelter to bovines on his lands and farmyard at Carnaculla, Kilrush on three dates – November 1 (2012); November 2 (2012) and December 11 (2012).

The alleged offences are contrary to the Protection of Animals Act as amended.

Judge Patrick Durcan said while he totally abhors cruelty to animals, Mr Shannon remains an innocent man.

The case was adjourned to November 12 to Kilrush District Court.