Pubs facing a permanent change

“THE traditional Irish pub as we know it will be extinct in the next few years.”

That was the fear expressed by the Clare representative on the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Charlie O’Meara as he explored the change in people’s attitudes, especially young people, to public houses.

“People get tired of hearing how difficult it is for the publican, but it is true. The rural pubs are suffering there is no doubt, but town pubs are struggling as well,” he said.

“The social scene has changed, so the next generation growing up has no allegiance to a pub,” he explained.

The Ennis publican said the new generation is drinking at home and then going straight to a late bar of nightclub.

The majority of pubs in Clare to- day are surviving by providing food also.

The operator of Moroney’s Bar in Ennis said most Irish pubs now have more in common with the traditional English pub.

He made the comments when asked about the number of licence holders in the county dropping again.

In 2005, there were 373 licensed premises in Clare according to official revenue figures.

Last year that figure had dropped to 306, a drop of just one in the last year.

Many of those licences accounted for however, refer to anyone who holds a seven day licence such as off licence, hotel or shop and do not reflect a full picture of the number of public houses forced to close due to lack of trade.

Many publicans that did call time for the last time transferred or sold their licences to businesses other than pubs.


Civil partnership numbers falling

THE number of Clare gay and lesbian couples choosing to become legal civil partners has dropped dramatically over the past year. According to figures obtained from the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), only nine Clare couples entered into a civil partnership in the 15 months from the beginning of October 2012 to the end of December 2013.

This is contrast to the rush of civil partnership granted to Clare couples in the wake of legislation for civil partnerships being introduced. Indeed, in October of 2012, Clare had the second highest rate of civil partnerships per capita in Ireland – with only Dublin boasting more partnership per head of populations.

There has been a slowing in the number of civil partnership across Ireland over the past year. Where there is no clear data on why a slowdown has taken place, it is though possible that a rush to obtain partnerships in the months after the legislation was introduced may be the cause.

It is also understood that the possiblity of full marriage being introduced by the current government is also preventing some gay and lesbian couples from undertaking civil partnerships.

Since the civil partnership legislation became law a total of 24 Clare couples have become legal civil partners. Only four civil ceremonies have taken place in Clare to date, an increase of two on the number from October 2012.

According to Kilrush man and Di- rector of GLEN, Brian Sheehan, the uptake in civil partnerships in Ireland will prove a stepping stone to full marriage for gay couples.

The figures recorded for civil partnerships in Ireland reflect which county the partners intend to live once they have been granted an official civil partnership. Because a large portion of gay and lesbian people from Clare traditionally move to Dublin, Limerick or Galway – the true number of Clare people involved in civil partnerships is likely to be far higher than the figures suggest.


Dusty dives deep during storm

FEARS have been expressed for the safety of Dusty the Dolphin following the stranding of a pilot whale in rough seas off Doolin over the weekend.

The 12-foot long whale was washed ashore on rocks close to Doolin Pier on Friday evening, in the early stages of the weekend storm surge. The whale, which was most likely already dead when it came ashore, was taken out to sea again by the storm on Saturday, before being re-stranded on rocks close to Fishers Street on Saturday evening.

Doolin’s most well-known resident, Dusty the Dolphin has not been spotted since January 10, when she came close to shore in the wake of the New Year storm.

According to Simon Berrow of the Clare based Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Dusty has most likely moved to deeper waters to avoid the worst effects of the recent storms and will return again when conditions improve.

“The storms might seem incredibly rough to us on the surface, but once you swim down 20 or 30 metres the effects would be minimal,” he said.

“I think it is unlikely that storms like we’ve had in recent weeks would affect Dusty. She is probably safe and well out in deeper waters. Prolonged bad weather, like what we’ve experienced in recent weeks, might make it difficult for Dusty to hunt and find food. That is a bigger concern than the rough seas themselves.”

Last year the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group recorded the largest number of whale and dolphin strandings on record in Ireland. At present, there is no obvious reason as to why so many whales and dolphins were washed ashore in 2013.

“It is a puzzle and unfortunately at the moment we have more questions than answers. Last year was a record year for whale and dolphin strandings and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it,” continued Simon.

“Sometimes you can identify trends and establish reasons as to why there would be a spike of strandings at one time or another, but the reasons behind the figures for 2013 are a mystery.

“We are hoping to put together a research group to track these strandings and see if we can establish a trend but at the moment it is a puzzle.”

To report a stranded whale or dolphin email


Ringleaders have left the country

TWO drug barons targeted in a 25day undercover Garda operation in West Clare are understood to have fled the country.

Gardaí in Kilrush, in conjunction with the National Drugs Unit spent a total of 1,400 man-hours on the operation that spanned five-months from November 2012 through to the first quarter of 2013.

It emerged during the hearing of one of the minor “but essential cogs” in the drug sales operations, that the “principal players” were not before the court, as they are believed by gardaí to have fled the jurisdiction.

Superintendent Seamus Nolan told Kilrush District Court that Michael Burke with an address at 2 Fahy Road, Kilrush, “would not have been a principal player.”

The 27-year-old was pleading to charges relating to the under cover operation and other unrelated charges.

The court heard that he arranged the sale of € 100 of cannabis to undercover gardaí by phone before meeting them to carry out the sale at 80 Dun na Hinse, Ennis, on November 20, 2012.

He also sold a further € 50 worth of the drugs at the same address on November 22, 2012.

Garda Conor Flaherty said Mr Burke sourced the drugs and then handed them over.

“He was subsequently arrested and co-operated with gardaí,” said the Kilrush Garda.

On June 18, 2013 Mr Burke also admitted being in possession of 50 valium tablets for sale or supply contrary to Section 15 of Misuse of Drug Act 1977 and unlawfully impeding a Garda in the exercise of his duty.

In his evidence to the court Garda Flaherty said Mr Burke had the drugs concealed in a kitchen chair.

“He managed to get his hands on them and hid them,” said the garda adding that gardaí later found them on his person.

Solicitor for the defence Gearoid Williams said his client was detained to mend his ways. “He is trying to live a good life now,” he said.

In his summation Judge Patrick Durcan said; “The Garda authority decided a special target operation be set up in West Clare area to detect this illegal activity.”

Michael Burke became an essential cog in that very efficient machine the judge added.

“The drug barons are now living outside the country and have left a trail of destruction and addiction behind them,” he said.

“This would not operate unless there were retailers in the market who run the operation,” explained the judge, adding that Mr Burke fitted into the category.

Judge Durcan sentenced Mr Burke to three consecutive four-month sentences for the sale and supply of drugs and took a charge of drug possession into account.

He handed down a concurrent sentence of four months in prison for obstructing a garda.He suspended the year in prison for two years, telling the defendant “this is a belt and braces job.”

He also ordered that he be assisted by the probation services.


‘Untimely death of natural causes’

THE DEATH of former postman and electricity meter reader Tony McElroy who was found dead in the Ballynacally Community Centre car park on Saturday morning last was one of natural causes.

Gardaí said they are no longer treating his death as suspicious, as a post mortem carried out the University Hospital Limerick on Saturday afternoon showed he probably died from a heart attack.

Mr McElroy, who was 61 years old and from Knockatunna, Kilmaley, had been socialising in Daly’s Bar in Balynacally on Friday night.

His body was found the following morning last 9.45am beside his car.

Gardaí at Kilrush were called and began investigating the circumstances around the sudden death.

The scene was preserved and the Offices of the State Pathologist was contacted, while Mr McElroy’s remains were removed from the scene and brought to Limerick Regional Hospital where the post mortem took place.

It is understood that the results showed the West Clare man died as a result of a heart attack.

Local people paid tribute to the man they got to know well when he worked in the area as the meter reader for the ESB.

He was also recognised as a keen card player and a man who enjoyed music sessions.

Mr McElroy’s funeral Mass will take place today (Tuesday) at 11am in Kilmaley Church followed by burial in Mount Temple Cemetery, Kilmaley.


FF look at scrapping church collections

THE traditional Fianna Fáil church gate collection could soon be a thing of the past with a proposal to ban the collection to be discussed at the next meeting of the party’s Financial Committee.

Over the last number of years grass roots members in Clare have contributed more through the church gate collection than members in any other county in Ireland. Indeed the party netted in excess of € 17,000 from church gate collections in Clare in 2012, compared to just € 20 collected in Dublin and € 185,000 collected in Ireland as a whole.

Church gate collections have become a divisive subject in the Fianna Fáil party in recent years with urban members viewing them as old fashioned and outdated while members from more rural constituencies view them as a good source of revenue.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson confirmed to The Clare People yesterday that the party’s high brass would examine scrapping the collection in the coming weeks.

“The matter hasn’t yet been referred to the Finance Committee. The committee meets every quarter and it will come up at the next meeting of the committee,” he said yesterday.

The spokesperson also described the proposal to ban church gate col- lections as a complex issue and declined to give a figure for the total raised by the party in Clare in 2013.

County Clare contributed almost 10 per cent of the total raised by Fianna Fáil from church gate collections in 2012.

This was an increase on the € 16, 536 raised by the party in 2011, but represent a significant drop on the amount raised in Clare while the party was still in government.

Clare has been a consistent cashcow for Fianna Fáil with € 21,727 being raised in 2010 and € 23,594 in 2009.

A complete ban on all church gate collections in Clare received cross party support when it was suggested by Ennis Cllr Tony Mulqueen (FG) late last year.

“All of the main political parties are now funded by the State. If the State is contributing millions towards the operations of political parties, I don’t see why they need to hold collections in front of churches anymore,” said Cllr Mulqueen.

“We seem to have an industry in collecting money in this country. As it stands at the moment, political parties receive State funding based on the number of seats that they win in elections.

“It seems a fair system and I received support from all parties when I suggested a ban on collections – including Fianna Fáil.” TODAY Th a n kfu lly a d ry day, su n n y b u t bre e zy a n d c h illy, ta m ps 7c .


Building a sustainable future for the Burren

THE Burren and the Cliffs of Moher have been shortlisted for the world’s most prestigious award for developing sustainable tourism.

Over the weekend the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark project was shortlisted for the prestigious Tourism for Tomorrow Award – alongside 17 other destinations from around the world.

The award, which is operated by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), saw scores of entries from more then 56. The winners and finalists will be recognised during the WTTC Global Summit, which will take place in Hainan in China this April.

The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark has been shortlisted alongside Bonito in Brazil and Temes SA – Costa Navarino in Greece in the Destination Award, which recognised the development of sustainable tourism.

“Since 2008, Clare County Council has been working in the Burren to develop a truly sustainable tourism destination that gives direct benefits to the local community, promotes and celebrates local culture and produce, preserves the environment and provides a great experience for our visitors,” said Carol Gleeson of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark.

“This has been achieved with great support and partnership from local communities and businesses and agencies responsible for tourism and conservation and local development.

“This work includes establishing the Burren Ecotourism Network as far back as 2008, achieving UNESCO recognised Global Geopark status in 2011 and providing environmental and business training, developing a destination brand, promoting certification, and importantly linking high responsible tourism standards with economic benefit to the area.”


Funds allocated to Clare roads down €2m

THERE was mixed feelings towards the € 13 million allocated for the upkeep, improvements and general works on Clare’s regional and local roads this year.

The Government approved fund to Clare County Council, Kilrush Town Council and Ennis Town Council was down by € 2 million on last year, which is ultimately bad news for rural roads impacted upon by the storms and heavy rain of recent months.

Clare County Council is to receive just under € 12 million with the Ennis authority to receive € 339,200 and Kilrush to be allocated € 115,000.

Members of Clare County Council have criticised the funding reduction claiming it has “drastically reduced” the council’s ability to carry out basic road maintenance work such as road surfacing, hedge cutting, and road drainage clearing.

Ennis West Councillor Tom McNamara (FF) said the council was fighting a losing battle. “Rather than being financed sufficiently to maintain local and regional roads they have to focus maintenance on the most travelled roads only,” he said.

It wasn’t all bad news from his point of view however with € 50,000 allocated to Connolly.

There was also some good news for motorists using the R474 between Ennis and Miltown Malbay and the much-publicised Kilkee to Loop Head Road.

The maintenance of the later is essential to the Wild Atlantic Way route to begin later this year.

Meanwhile in East Clare there was unease that a project that is not scheduled to begin for at least another decade was again awarded funding from the council coffers.

“It is very frustrating that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have again made a substantial fund allocation to the Limerick Northern Distributor Road (LNDR) project,” said Cllr Cathal Crowe.

“The € 140,000 allocated towards the advancement of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road is, in my view, a shameful waste of taxpayer’s money at a time when funding to our county’s existing roads network has been savagely cut.”

In 2013 € 300,000 was allocated from the fund to the project that is meeting with resistance locally.

“If precedence is followed the € 140,000 allocated last week will be channelled into the surveying of the route line and volumes of paperwork which, to date, the public have been denied access to,” said the local councillor.


Staff shortages add to flood woes

WHILE the local authority tackles one of the largest flood relief projects in the county town of Ennis, a new form of flooding has taken hold in other parts of the county.

During the last number of years, rural roads in Clare, which previously went unaffected by heavy rainfall, are now subjected to significant flooding.

The reason for the floods, according to the council, is blocked drains and ultimately a staff shortage, which has continued since a Government moratorium and a major early retirement scheme in the public service.

Tom Tiernan, Senior Engineer with Clare County Council, confirmed, “Blocked drains and subsequent flooding has increasingly become a problem around the county in recent years.

“Clare County Council is unable to carry out drainage clearing work as regularly as it would like to due to curtailed resources,” he said.

Frustrated local county councillors have been inundated with calls relating to the issue.

Cllr Tom McNamara said, the finances simply are not there to regularly undertake even the most basic of road maintenance works.

This has led to the deterioration of our roads, particularly in rural areas.

“For example, in recent weeks I have seen flooding occur on sections of the R474 between Ennis and Miltown Malbay as well as smaller regional and local roads where flooding has not occurred before, such as that experienced recently on the Bushypark Road. This flooding is the result of roadside drains not being maintained and becoming filled with debris. The blocked drains simply cannot cope with the volume of rainwater,” he said.


‘Drivers avoiding dangerous parts of M-18’

A NUMBER of local drivers in Crusheen have stopped using a section of the M18 because of fears about that safety on part of the M18, north of Crusheen.

That is according to Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) who has written to the National Roads Authority (NRA) requesting that they conduct a safety audit of the road and reduce speed limits to 100 kph in the area.

This following a recent spate of accidents in a section of the M-18 north of Crusheen over the Christmas period. For the last three week the NRA has displayed a sign warning motorists top exercise “extreme caution” on this section of road.

“There is a genuine concern amongst local people regarding this stretch. Most local are now reducing their speed when they come to this section of the road and I know of some people who are avoiding the road altogether,” said Cllr Hayes.

“The difficulty then comes for people who are not used to driving on the road; they don’t know of the particular dangers that seem to exist there. I think the fact that the NRA have put up this sign on the road shows there there is some sort of issue here.”

A spokesperson from the NRA yesterday confirmed that the NRA place the a sign, with what he described as “strong language” on the M18. The signs was put in place follow a request from the Gardaí in the wake of a number of recent accidents.

At the time of going to press the NRA spokesperson could not confirm if the roads organisations plans to conduct safety audit on a stretch of the M18, north of Crusheen.

It was also confirmed that this section of the M18, which was closed on two separate occasion on the same day following a series of traffic accident over the Christmas period, was gritted on three separate occasion on the day of the spate of accidents.