O’Brien’s Tower still closed

ONE of Clare’s most historic structures has been closed to allow for essential repairs to take place over the winter. O’Brien’s Tower at the Cliffs of Moher was closed to the public last week and will remain closed until repairs to the roof and interior of the structure can be completed.

No target date has yet been given for the reopening of building, which is expected to play a central part of 1,000 year anniversary of Brian Boru next year.

Director of the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience, Katherine Webster, said every care is being taken to protect the listed building.

“We usually close the tower for internal maintenance work for a period during the winter. This year we are also doing some work on the roof to address water ingress to the tower through this area,” she said.

“O’Brien’s Tower is a very important historic structure and given the exposed location near the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher it is subject to the onslaught of extreme weather.

“This leads to substantial maintenance requirements. We are very conscious of our obligations to maintain and conserve what is a unique piece of cultural heritage. I don’t have a date for reopening at this stage.

“It is particularly important that O’Brien’s Tower is fully ready for the year ahead in 2014, which marks the 1000 year anniversary of the death of Brian Boru, the first High King of Ireland and founder of the influential O’Brien Clan.”


Willie to tweet for love birds

IRELAND’S last matchmaker, Willie Daly, is entering the modern age and will begin to use Twitter to bring lovers together from next week. The Lisdoonvarna love doctor, who will celebrate his 70th birthday next year, says he has completed a com- puter course and will start tweeting love tips to his followers as soon as he figures out how to work Twitter. A Twitter account at “TheLastMatchmaker” was created for Mr Daly last week and he says he will begin to Tweet messages to his followers as soon as possible. “I did a computer course before but my daughter was there helping me all along. I’m not very good with computers but I’m going to get some help with this [Twitter] and I should be up and running in about a week,” he said yesterday. “I’m sure I’ll have lots of things to say to people. I’ve think, over the last number of year, I have been missing out by not being involved [with the internet and social media]. Twitter seems to be the best way of talking to people – it seems to be better that Facebook from what I can see anyway. So I’m excited about doing it. Twitter seems to be the most modern one of them [social media sites]. So, if I’m going to get involved at this stage I might as well go for the most modern one. “Who knows the amount of unknown romances that I might be able to create for the people of the world on Twitter. I think I’ll also be able to get people into a more romantic mood and to help people in that way.” Willie Daly has been matchmaking at the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival for more then 50 years. Over the years he claims to have brought together thousands of couples and claims responsibility for hundreds of marriages.


Undercover garda sting sees two on heroin charges

THREE more people were sentenced in the district court this week, following a garda operation targeting the sale of drugs in Kilrush.

The District Court in Kilrush heard that a number of people sold controlled drugs to under cover Gardaí during the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013. Among them were Martin O’Brien (32) The Bungalow, Wood Road, Kilrush, who pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug – Diamorphine (heroin) for sale or supply at the Tesco car park, on the Ennis Road, Kilrush, at 6.45 pm on January 30, 2013.

He was also charged with having heroin for sale or supply at Woodroad, Kilrush at 5.30pm on January 11, 2013 and drugs for sale at 6pm on January 14, 2013, in the Tesco car park, Kilrush.

Mr O’Brien was on bail at the time of the offences, is currently serving a three-year sentence for assault and has 37 previous convictions.

Solicitor for the defence Darragh Hassett said it was no secret that Mr O’Brien had a drug problem.

“He would have started out life as being one of the people being sold the drugs,” he said.

Mr O’Brien’s wife Valerie Power, The Bungalow, Wood Road, Kilrush, was also charged with having heroin for sale or supply at the Tesco car park, Kilrush, on March 15, 2013. She was also charged with having heroin for sale at the supermarket car park on February 16 and again on March 1, this year.

The court heard she began selling Mr O’Brien’s remaining drugs after he was arrested. She was also on bail at the time of the offence.

Mr Hassett said Ms Power does not take drugs and has warned Mr O’Brien she will leave him if he uses drugs again.

Sean McMahon (24) with an address at 25 Nagles Terrace, Kilrush, pleaded guilty to having cannabis herb for sale or supply at Kilkee Road, Kilrush, on December 12, 2012, and again on the Kilkee Road, on December 4, 2012.

His solicitor Patrick Moynihan said Mr McMahon had now moved away from Kilrush and was living in Galway while attending GMIT.

He said he was a bright man that did something stupid. He was addicted to cannabis and “got the fright of his life from this”, he added.

Judge Patrick Durcan served Ms Power with the probation act and placed her on her own bond for two years.

He sentenced Mr McMahon to six months in prison and suspended it for two years.

“I am not satisfied Mr McMahon has ceased to be involved in drug sale. Mr O’Brien’s case was adjourned to Ennis District Court on Wednesday to allow he judge consider his jurisdiction on sentencing.

On Wednesday Judge Durcan said Mr O’Brien fell into a much more serious category of offender than his fellow accused.

He said he had engaged in the sale of heroin in three areas of Kilrush, activities the court heard, that cre- ated a “drug epidemic” in the West Clare town.

Judge Durcan said, “The defendant Martin O’Brien would appear to be one of the bigger players, in a local sense, in the filthy pool of drug dealing.”

He added that while he bears in mind Mr O’Brien’s circumstances and his plea of guilty, the aggravating factors in the case are “staggering”.

He imposed sentences totalling 18 months but suspended the final three months on condition Mr O’Brien be of good behaviour.

He granted an application to fix recognizances in the event of an appeal. Judge Durcan commended the work of gardaí who had undertaken the undercover operation in Kilrush.

He described the amount of damage being done by heroin to Kilrush as “horrific”.

He said that while heroin is causing difficulties to communities across the country, “it is a particular problem in Kilrush.”

Judge Durcan said he was struck by the “brashness, the sheer brashness of the offence”.

Warning that business owners to be vigilant of criminal activity on their premises, he said the open trade of heroin in broad daylight would not be tolerated.

He said a mini market for the sale of heroin had been in operation outside the Tesco’s shopping centre.

“I do find it quite amazing that in a supermarket car park there is as much commercial activity as inside,” he said in Kilrush on Tuesday.


Drumcliffe case will proceed against two, charges struck out against one

THE cases of two people charged in connection with an alleged violent incident at a graveyard in Ennis are to proceed in the Circuit Court.

Brothers David and Brian Joyce, both with addresses at Dun Na hInse, Ennis, appeared before Ennis District Court on Wednesday.

Brian Joyce (19) is charged with assault causing harm to a man and unlawful possession of a wooden handle arising out of an alleged incident at Drumcliffe graveyard on August 27 (2013).

Inspector Tom Kennedy told the court the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had directed the matter proceed to trial on indictment.

He said a book of evidence is being prepared in the case.

Mr Joyce was remanded on continuing bail to appear again at Ennis District Court on December 18 for service of the book of evidence.

Charges were struck out against David Joyce (24).

David Joyce had been charged with assault causing harm and unlawful possession of a three-foot iron bar arising out of the same alleged incident at Drumcliffe Graveyard on August 27.

Insp Kennedy said no evidence was being offered in respect of the charges.

Judge Patrick Durcan granted the application to strike out the charges.

Judge Durcan refused jurisdiction of the case of a 16-year-old boy charged in connection with the alleged incident at Druncliffe.

The teenager is charged with possession of a steak knife and production of a hockey stick contrary to the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act.

Previous charges against the boy were struck out.

Insp Tom Kennedy outlined the alleged facts of the case to allow Judge Durcan consider jurisdiction.

The court heard that gardaí received an anonymous phone call to respond to an incident at Drumcliffe on August 27.

Insp Kennedy said it would be alleged that the teenager was found in possession of a hockey stick and steak knife in the graveyard.

“There was a fight. Blood was spilled”, added Insp Kennedy.

He told the court the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had directed summary disposal of the case.

Judge Durcan refused jurisdiction, meaning the case will now proceed to the Circuit Court.

The boy was remanded on continuing bail to appear again at Ennis District Court on December 18 for service of the book of evidence.


Judge not for turning on compo

A MAN who set fire to a garden shed owned by a man who harassed his mother has been told to pay 100% compensation for the damage or go to jail.

Aaron Moylan (21) pleaded guilty in May to damaging two sheds in the Hawthorns, Limerick Road, Ennis on June 27, 2012.

The court heard Mr Moylan committed the offence at the house of a man who had previously pleaded guilty to harassing his mother.

At the time, Judge Patrick Durcan said that while Mr Moylan’s motivation was out of “loyalty and love for his mother”, it was a “very serious and dangerous offence to commit.”

Judge Durcan had adjourned the case to allow the accused pay compensation for the damage caused.

At Ennis District Court on Wednesday, defence solicitor Tara Godfrey said her client had paid € 300 compensation so far. The court heard the total amount of compensation due is € 1300.

Ms Godfrey explained the court had mistakenly been informed previously that all compensation had been paid.

She said Mr Moylan, with an address at Abbey Court, Ennis lost his job earlier this year after his employer read about his act of arson in a local paper.

Ms Godfrey said her client required time to save money.

She explained Mr Moylan is currently studying sports science but the course won’t be finished until September 2014.

Judge Patrick Durcan said the case had been “dribbling on” and he was going to deal with it in September. “It’s 100% compo (compensation) or jail,” he told Mr Moylan.

Paraphrasing an expression made famous by former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, Judge Durcan said, “The Judge is not for turning.”

The case was adjourned to September 24, 2014 for payment of compensation.


T ree month prison term for teenager who obstructed gardaí

A DISTRICT Court Judge said he was sending a message to the people of Kilrush and County Clare when he sentenced a 19-year-old to three months in prison.

Alan Clohessy, 9A Willow Green, Kilrush pleaded guilty to impeding or obstructing a member of Garda Síochana when he ran into his home and locked the door on June 26 of this year, as Gardaí attempted to serve a search warrant.

Judge Patrick Durcan dismissed a charge of drug possession under Section 27 of the Misuse of Drugs Act against Mr Clohessy, despite the defendant pleading guilty to the charge.

At the district court hearing in Kilrush on Tuesday last Mr Clohessy told the court, “I don’t smoke cannabis, that is the truth of it, but I am taking the blame for it. I am pleading guilty for it.”

In his summation Judge Durcan said he could not convict a man who admitted unopposed that he did not smoke the drug, stating he found “this the most bizarre case both in terms of the prosecution and of its defence.”

The judge convicted the defendant on the second charge relating to what he described as “a very ugly scene” as gardaí kicked down the door of Mr Clohessy’s home after they were refused entrance.

“I have no hesitation in saying this man should be penalised and penalised severely,” he said.

“The message has to go out to the people of Kilrush and the people of County Clare that if gardaí are obstructed while they are carrying out an order they will be penalised se- verely.” In his evidence to the court Garda Paul Madden described that he observed the defendant on a pedal bike as he went to serve the search warrant.

Mr Clohessy then cycled to his house, abandoned the bicycle in the drive and ran inside closing the door, he said.

The gardaí were refused entry to the house, so opened the door by force, namely kicking it.

They went up stairs and discovered four cannabis joints in a bedroom.

A garda at the back of the house also observed “something” being thrown from the window, that was not found by gardaí afterwards.

“He along with other members of the family were very uncooperative and had to be retired,” said the garda of the defendant.

Solicitor for the defence Michael Ryan said he understood it was the butts of the cigarettes that were found in the room rather than joints.

He said his client had no previous convictions, was unemployed and regretted the matter.

Mr Clohessy was sentenced to three months in prison and given right to appeal.


Solicitor requests defendant goes back to jail

A MAN with a crippling addiction to alcohol who was found in an Ennis pub “rummaging” for food has been sentenced to five months in prison.

Judge Patrick Durcan told Mark Whelan that while he had some sympathy and regard for him, he couldn’t continue to make a “nuisance” of himself in Ennis.

Sentence was passed after the accused’s solicitor requested the court send her client to prison for his own benefit.

At Ennis District Court on Wednesday, Mr Whelan (39), with addresses at Laurel Lodge, Ennis and Kinocra Apartments, Shannon, pleaded guilty to trespass at the Cloister Bar, Abbey Street, Ennis on October 18.

He also pleaded guilty to public intoxication at the Old Ground Hotel, Ennis on October 21 and Finian Park, Shannon on October 28.

Inspector Tom Kennedy said the accused was found by staff in the kitchen area of the Closter Bar and Restaurant “rummaging” for food.

The court heard Mr Whelan was found lying on the ground at the rear of the Old Ground Hotel in a very intoxicated and unresponsive state.

On October 28, Insp Kennedy said, gardaí in Shannon received a report that Mr Whelan was in a very drunk state in the Finian Park area of the town. Insp Kennedy told the court the accused has 87 previous convictions, that consist mainly of public order, theft and trespass offences.

Defence solicitor Tara Godfrey said the court was very familiar with Mr Whelan and his background. She said her client was released from prison on October 18 but had been unable to access addiction treatment services.

“Mr Whelan has got to a point where alcohol has completely clouded his judgment”, she added.

Ms Godfrey urged the court to impose a custodial sentence similar in length to a residential treatment course for addiction.

Ms Godfrey said her client has come to accept that he must spend a period of time in prison before he is in a fit condition to receive treatment for his alcoholism.

Judge Patrick Durcan said he had the greatest sympathy for Mr Whelan and the difficulties he has experienced in his life.

However he said he also had sympathy for the businesses affected by the accused’s behaviour. He sentenced Mr Whelan to five months in prison and imposed fines totaling € 300.

Judge Durcan said the court had shown Mr Whelan leniency in the past and had a certain regard for him. “But I’m not going to have making a nuisance of yourself around the town,” he added.

Judge Durcan also directed Mr Whelan receive appropriate medical treatment in prison.

Judge Durcan refused Ms Godfrey’s application to backdate the sentence to cover time spent on remand in custody.


Taoiseach denies agreeing to meeting

CLONLARA woman Noreen Keane, says she is “shocked and disappointed” following comments made by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny (FG), in the Dáil last week. The Fine Gael leader denied ever agreeing to meet with Noreen, whose son Ronan suffers from down syndrome and whose discretionary medical card has been taken from him earlier this year.

Noreen and her son Ronan, staged a protest outside a Fine Gael event attended by the Taoiseach in Limerick last month. At that meeting Fine Gael officials told the Clonlara woman that she would be granted a meeting with Enda Kenny.

However, responding to questions from Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin in the Dáil last week, Deputy Kenny denied agreeing to a meeting. Both Noreen and Ronan took part in a protest walk in Dublin on Saturday to highlight the loss of Ronan’s medical card.

“You [Micheál Martin] mentioned that political gathering that the Fine Gael party had down in Limerick. Nobody told me that the person involved wanted to meet me. I spoke to several people on the way in there. That is not the issue. The issue is, you were right to ask a question about two children and a walk that is taking place about the loss of their discretionary medical card,” said An Taoiseach.

“There is no change in the policy. Nobody is entitled to a medical card automatically. Issues like income and discretion come in after that.”

Deputy Kenny was responding to a question raised by Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin regarding Clonlara boy Ronan Woodhouse and Cork girl Katie Connolly, who also took part in the walk.

“In relation to this specific case. They [Ronan and Noreen] were offered a long-term illness card but many of the conditions don’t qualify under a long-term illness card. If you, or someone else met these people you could sort this out,” said Deputy Martin.

“The reality is that there has been a change of policy. My people cant understand you getting up here every day and saying that there has not been a change of policy.”


Photographs from drug house could help others

A DISTRICT court judge told a young defendant before him at Kilrush District Court that he could assist others and society if he was willing to publicise photos of life in a house drug addicts use to shoot up and smoke.

Mitchell Walsh, 20 St Patrick’s Terrace, Kilrush, pleaded guilty to 15 charges following a “crime spree” dating from March to mid October.

The court heard that the 19 year-old who did not have a criminal record prior to 2013, “had physical and mental inflictions” and began to self medicate by turning to drugs, eventually ending up on the streets before being rescued by his family.

The father of the defendant Martin Walsh said his son needed to be taken into hand. “He was going to die and that was the truth of it,” he said.

Mr Walsh Snr said the family were devastated by what had happened, and had attempted to pay for all the damage to the cars of the people of the town where they live.

“You just can’t leave someone like that behind especially when it is your own son. I think a lot of this was because Mitchell could not manage his surgery,” he said referring to a colostomy bag the young man had fitted following stomach surgery.

The concerned father said his son went to the street to get “medication”.

Mr Walsh (Snr) then presented two photos to Judge Patrick Durcan, depicting family life with Mitchell before addiction and life on the streets.

“There is a place not far from here where they go in and smoke heroin and shoot up and we went in there and took photos to show you,” he said. “There are a lot more in there than Mitchell.”

The father told the court that the situation was tough on all his family.

“There was times when I had to go and rub blood off this child because he self harmed,” he said.

Mr Walsh (Jnr) pleaded guilty to all charges including using threatening and abusive behaviour in Francis Street Kilrush on June 3, 2013, being in possession of a knife at Hector Street Kilrush on June 28 and being intoxicated in a public place on August 15, 2013.

Earlier that month on August 2, he was again arrested and charged for breaching the peace in Moyasta Kilrush, and on March 31 he was arrested for driving unaccompanied under a learners permit.

He also pleaded guilty to slashing the tires on five different vehicles parked on Toler Street, Kilrush, on the night of June 27 to June 28, 2013. One tyre in two vehicles were damaged and two tyres each on three vehicles.

At an unknown date from October 11, 2013, to October 12, 2013, Mr Walsh again slashed a tyre on five cars on Wood Road, Kilrush. He also pleaded guilty to slashing six tyres on three different cars on St Senan’s Terace on October 12, 2013. Continued on page 8


Crowds turn out to support Ronan

A LARGE crowd turned out in Dublin on Saturday to support eight-yearold Clonlara boy Ronan Woodhouse in his protest walk from Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) offices on Finglas to the Dáil.

Ronan, who has down syndrome as well as 13 other related illnesses, lost his discretionary medical card earlier this year and despite a review of his case, the HSE has refused to grant his card.

Ronan’s mother, Noreen Keane, handed in letters of protest at the PCRS offices and at the Dáil, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny (FG), had no representative at the Dáil on Saturday to receive the letter.

According to Noreen, the cost of medication, therapy and doctor visits for Ronan costs an average of € 2,300 per month. She says that the removal of her son’s medical card is putting his life at risk.

“Ronan walked about four miles of the protest himself, which was great going. I had contacted all the members of the Oireachtas an the Taoiseach but no one was there to meet us,” said Noreen.

“We have another meeting with the HSE on Friday and we will see what comes out of that. Whatever happens, I won’t be giving up this campaign – I can’t afford to do it. It’s not just Ronan either, we were joined by a number of parents in the same position on Saturday whose cards have also been taken.

“I’m only meeting the HSE on Friday on the condition that the medical card is up for discussion. They have paid so much lip service to this – the HSE and the Government – there is no point in them meeting us if the medical card is not up for discussion.”

Following the walk on Saturday both the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) and the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) have released statement supporting people who have lost their discretionary medical card.

“I have to keep going with this campaign, the only way that seems to get their attention is to embarrass them into listening. So that’s what I’m going to have to do. I’m going to shame them into it,” said Noreen.

“It is astounding that I have to exploit my child and my child’s illness to get them to listen. Something is wrong with that. That is not something that I do comfortable but how else am I going to make them listen.”