Cuts forcing Clare Haven to turn women away

AS MANY as 420 women and children, who were victims of domestic abuse, or an average of three families every week, were turned away by Clare’s women’s refuge centre last year as there was no room to house them.

A total of 148 women and 272 children had to be relocated in other counties or housed with friends, as the service struggles under monetary cuts and a growing need.

While there are no official Garda or CSO figures to record the number of domestic crimes in the county, Clare Haven has come in contact with 466 families affected by domestic abuse last year alone, with many other families understood to be suffering in silence.

Clare Haven, which is working to capacity, is forced to assess the safety of the families presenting at the service and often times work with refuges in Limerick and Galway to find a place for those in immediate danger to stay.

Each year since 2008, more and more of the Government funding for the service has been cut, with the service now very reliant on charity fundraisers.

In his address to the Joint Oireachtais Committee overseeing legislation on domestic abuse, Clare Senator Tony Mulcahy (FG) said it is his belief that an immediate barring order should be issued to the instiga- tor of the abuse banning him or her from the family home.

“We need to take the criminal out of the house and then we would solve a lot of the housing problems,” he said.

As many as 99 families were homed by Clare Haven last year, including 184 children, while there was no room for 148 more families.

A further 219 women are being supported by Clare Haven’s outreach service in their own homes. Some of these women are still with their partners.

Clare Haven caters for women and children only, while male victims of domestic abuse are asked to contact the national organisation AMEN.

Despite the pressures on the Clare women’s refuge, ensuring the safety of the women and their families is paramount according to Clare Haven manager Denise Dunne.

“When someone rings us up, or through outreach as well, the first thing we do is assess the safety of them and their children. If it is something like they are high priority and they absolutely need refuge we would try to see if there are spaces in one of the other refuges such as Adapt in Limerick or Waterside in Galway. We work very, very closely with them. If the woman goes to Adapt or to Waterside when a room does become available we would take her back to Clare,” she said.

“If it is a thing she can stay with family members or friends and it is safe for her to do so, again we will say ring back in as day or two and we will see if we have a room available then.

“But part of the problem with the refuge been full all of the time it is very hard to move women on now. There is huge thresholds for rent allowance,” the manager explained.

“Also there are regulations around the housing list that is making it difficult for women to get on the housing list as well, and finance is huge as well,” she said.

“It is becoming very, very hard for us to keep the services running with the continuing cuts to funding as well. We were cut by 2.5 per cent by the Family Agency this year and that has been consistent with since 2008.”

In 2012 SAFE Ireland, the umbrella group for organisations that help victims of domestic violence, recorded that 8,449 women and 3,606 children received direct one-to-one services from specialist domestic violence support services in Ireland. In addition, in this same year domestic violence services answered 50,077 helpline calls across the country.


‘I don’t like biting or spitting’- Judge

A KILRUSH man described as having a serious heroin problem and held in “high regard” by a district court judge had a seven months sentence suspended for two years at Kilrush District Court on Tuesday.

Anthony Kelly (34), with an address at 5 Place de Plouzane, Burton Street, Kilrush, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and failing to stop for gardaí on the N68 on August 23, 2011.

He also pleaded to assaulting a Garda Sergeant in Kilrush on March 19, 2012.

The court heard that gardaí saw Mr Kelly driving erratically along the N68 towards Kilrush and was veering right and left across the road for no apparent reason. He then overtook two vehicles on a continuous line.

When gardaí indicated for him to stop he increased speed and passed two more cars.

In the townland of Clooneylissaun, Kilrush, Mr Kelly’s car met a woman and two young children walking along the road and they were forced to move in to avoid the car the court was told. The defendant refused to stop shortly afterwards again for gardaí at Burrane Upper.

In total Mr Kelly faced five charges of Dangerous Driving Section 53 (1) (as amended by Section 51 of the Road Traffic Act 1968) and 2 (b) (a amended by section 18 of the Road Traffic Act 2006) of the road traf- fic act 1961 at Darragh, Druinineen, Clooneylissaun, Parknamoney, and Ballymacurtain.

He was also charged with two counts of refusing to stop for gardaí contrary to section 109(1) Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended by Section 6 Road Traffic Act 1968 and Section 012 Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended by Section 18 of the Road Traffic Act.

Jude Patrick Durcan said that as all charges related to the one incident he would have to deal with it as such.

He sentenced Mr Kelly, who had numerous previous road traffic convections, to four months in prison for what he regarded as the most serious incident of dangerous driving at Burrane Upper and struck out the other dangerous driving charges.

He fined him € 300 for failing to stop for gardaí at Burrane Upper and took the other charges into account.

The court also heard that on March 19, 2012, gardaí were called to a disturbance in Kilrush. They found Anthony Kelly kicking at a door and noticed a strong smell of alcohol from him.

Prosecuting Garda Inspector John O’Sullivan said the defendant was spitting and shouting obscenities at gardaí. Mr Kelly then left the area on the Gardaí’s request but returned.

“He came up to Sgt Lavin, put his face to Sgt Lavin’s face and then pushed him in the chest,” said the Inspector.

Mr Kelly pleaded guilty to Section 2 of Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

“There are two things I don’t like. I don’t like biting and I don’t like spitting. And I don’t like hearing Sgt Lavin was pushed around,” said Judge Durcan.

Judge Durcan sentenced the defendant to three months for the assault on Sgt Lavin to run consecutive on the four months sentence for dangerous driving.

He suspended the seven month sentence for two years and released Mr Kelly on his own bond of € 100.

“I feel both are matters for a prison sentence and I am baring that in mind,” the judge said.

“The offences before this court today are hugely serious and should you come before me again then you will serve a sentence,” he told Mr Kelly.

“To be fair to this man he has tried, he has fallen off the wagon and he is trying again,” said the District Court Judge.

He said he held the defendant in “high regard as a young man”, but that he would not have a situation where a senior member of the Gardaí was abused and where and innocent members and the public – a woman and children – were put in danger.

Solictor for Mr Kelly, Fiona Hehir said her client had a serious heroin addiction for years.

She said the father of three, with one on the way, had been making great progress in Galway and was now back in Kilrush and meeting with his GP and Sláinte regularly.

He was trying to get back on a methadone programme and was on a list for a rehabilitation facility in Cork.


Clare contingent to lead NY parade

CLARE will be the first Irish contingent up Fifth Avenue, New York, this St Patrick’s Day.

Led by the Tulla Pipe Band, which was invited specially to the world famous St Patrick’s Day parade, the Banner county will take prime position as this is the 125th anniversary of the Clare Association in New York.

In all, delegates and mayors from Ennis, Kilrush and Shannon Town Councils as well as from Clare County Council will travel at an estimated cost of € 17,000.

Mayor of Clare Councillor Joe Arkins (FG) will travel to Brooklyn and New York and take part in both parades.

County Manager Tom Coughlan, Director of Services Ger Dollard and the Shannon Town Manager will join them. As well as representing Clare at special events, the delegations will also meet with the IDA and tourist interests abroad. The cost of sending the delegation from Clare County Council is € 6,900 in total.

Meanwhile, for the last time ever a Shannon delegate will be represented at the Union County St Patrick’s Day parade in New Jersey.

Mayor of Shannon Cllr Greg Duff (Lab) and town clerk Liam O’Connor will travel first to New Jersey on the invitation of the Union County Emerald Society and then on to New York.

For the last two decades, since the parade began there has always been a Shannon representative in attendance, however, this will cease after this year with the dissolution of the town council. The cost of the Shannon delegation’s trip is € 3,000 in total.

For the last time ever a mayor from Kilrush will also travel to New York for the parade. The Mayor Cllr Paul Moroney (Ind) and town manager were invited to attend by the County Clare Patriotic, Benevolent and Social Association of New York City. As the town manager is unable to attend, Kilrush Town Council voted that the town clerk John Corry deputise for her. The all in estimated cost of the trip is € 4, 500.

Mayor of Ennis Cllr Mary Coote Ryan (FG) has also been invited to represent the county town in New York.

As she is unable to attend it is understood Cllr Brian Meaney (FF) will travel in her place.


Fish farm decision delayed until August

NO DECISION on the construction of a new multi-million fish farm off the Clare coast will be made until August of this year at the earliest.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney (FG), said that a final decision on granting a fish farm license is six months away and could even be delayed further because of the large number of submission made my members of the public in relation to the farm.

The proposed twin fish farm, which are proposed for adjacent sites eight kilometres off the Fanore and Doolin coasts, have already created a large amount of controversy with local anglers, fishermen and environmentalist coming out against the proposal.

According to Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), the Government agency who have applied for the license, the fish farms could create hundreds of jobs in the North Clare economy.

The other state fisheries agency, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) have come out against the proposed fish farm, saying it will damage local sea fisheries. There has been an ongoing war of words between the two organisation since the farms were first proposed in October of 2012, with each side providing contrary scientific studies on the potential effects of the farms, and the impact on sea lice numbers in wild salmon in particular.

Calls have been made in recent weeks for Minister Coveney to step back from the license decision, with many anti-fish farm campaigners ac- cusing him of being biased in favour of the development.

“There is always a strict separation between my Ministerial role as decision maker in respect of aquaculture licence applications and my Ministerial duty to promote the sustainable development of the industry. This separation of duties is strictly observed,” he said in the Dáil last week.

“The fullest consideration is being given to all submissions received as part of the statutory and public consultation stages of the process.”


Publicans peed off by toilet users

PUBLICANS in Ennistymon may soon be shutting their toilet doors to non-paying members of the public as frustration over the last of public toilets in the town reaches break point.

Clare County Council say that although it recognises the need for public toilets in the town – which caters for hundreds of thousands of tourists over the summer season – it does not currently have finances available to provide them.

While local publicans say they will continue to provide services for the public for the time being, many premises face significant water and electricity charges, all of which are being added to by tourists using their facilities.

“My toilets are at the back of the bar and I have people, young and old, coming through the bar every day to use them. It is unfair, and more then that it’s not good for the town. It is not encouraging anyone to stop and spend money in Ennistymon,” said Linda Youdell of Daly’s Bar.

“I have water charges here that are phenomenal. It costs money, I have to pay my council rates and other expenses. Here we are in 2014 and we cant even offer a basic facility to tourists.”

According to Joan Tierney of Cooley’s House in Ennistymon, some members of the public are rude to staff when they use their toilets for free. “I think that it is a absolute disgrace. In the summer time especially we get people walking in off the street every day. It doesn’t look good for the town,” she said.

“Water chargers are high and while I would never want to refuse someone access to the toilet, some people act as if it is their right [to use the toilet]. I know it sounds petty but people flush the toilet, the use the soap and the hand drier and it all costs money.”

The matter was raised at this months North Clare Area meeting of Clare County Council by local Cllr Bill Slattery (FG).

“The publicans are getting fed up of people coming into their premises and using it as a toilet. The cost of water is going up and it can be expensive in 10 or 20 people come in off the bus, use the facilities and then leave without paying for anything,” he said.

Public toilets were closed in Ennistymon more than 10 years ago because they were not wheelchair friendly. Local publicans approached Clare County Council in the past, offering to provide toilet facilities to the public in return for a contribution to running costs.

This proposal was turned down by the local authority.


No ‘blank cheque’ for storm damage repair in Clare

CLARE will not be given a “blank cheque” by the Government to complete repairs following unprecedented storm damage in the west and north of the county in recent months.

The is according to Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who was in Ennistymon for the opening of the annual Clare Tourism Conference on Friday.

According to Deputy Gilmore, the Government will respond to Clare County Council’s € 36 million storm damage bill soon but he would not give any details as to how much money would be allocated to the Banner County and where that money would come from.

“The recent extreme storms have taken a heavy toll on the infrastructure of key tourism destinations in this county.

“The picture of those enormous waves crashing over Lahinch has become in many ways a defining image of recent weather events,” he said.

“This Government has responded to the severe weather damage, making € 70 million available for a programme of repair and remediation works in the areas affected.

“This is in addition to the € 25 million announced for the Department of Social Protection’s Humanitarian Assistance Schemes.

“We are currently awaiting an assessment from Local Authorities of what is required to deal with damage from the latest storms to hit these shores.

“As well as dealing with the consequences of the recent weather, the OPW are looking at what is required for the future in the way of additional coastal defences – flood protection works and a national flood warning system.

“They will be reporting back to Government on this.

“Of course, the resilience that you have all shown in withstanding such extremity is a national trait that has been critical to our survival in general, especially in the face of the economic crisis of the past few years,” he added.


Calls to protect the future of post offices

THERE was a 31 per cent decline in the number of post offices operating in Clare in the last seven years, a meeting has heard.

A total 17 offices closed between 2006 and 2013 bringing the number of offices in Clare down from 54 to 37. According to the Irish Postmasters Union (IPU), closures took place in Liscannor, Kilnamona, Kilmaley, Crusheen, Bodyke, Dunsallagh, Kilmurry, Ennis, O’Callaghan’s Mills, Spanish Point, Maurice Mills, Mountshannon, Bellharbour, Ballynacally, Ruan, Connolly, Tubber and Flagmount.

The figures were revealed at a public meeting in the West County Hotel, Ennis on Thursday night.

The meeting was organised by the IPU who are urging Clare TDs to vote in favour of a bill aimed at protecting the future of the post office network in Ireland.

Clare residents in favour of the motion are expected to travel to Dublin on Wednesday to express their support. The motion calls on the Government to produce a comprehensive plan setting out measures to deliver on their commitment to sustain the network as contained in the Programme for Government.

Speaking at the meeting, Clare Postmaster Tom O’Callaghan said, “The Post Office network is under serious threat. The network as we know it will be wiped out unless we get Government action now.

“While An Post has retained the Social Welfare payments contract for a possible six-year term, this is only a temporary respite. We need a plan to ensure that Post Offices play a central role in the delivery of wel- fare payments and other Government services and we need that plan now.”

Mr O’Callaghan, a native of Kildysart added, “The Post Office network will be decimated if the income from the welfare payments contract is lost.”

There were a number of speakers on the night including West Clare councillor Pat Keane.

Cllr Keane (FF), whose wife runs a post office in Kilkee, urged An Post to show the same faith in rural Ireland as American businessman Donald Trump has.

“There is a post office in Doonbeg that they are fighting hard to retain. It’s ironic that an American is after spending € 15 million for an infrastructure in Doonbeg. That’s the kind of confidence he has in places like Doonbeg. Yet An Post hasn’t the confidence to keep post offices open,” he said in reference to Donald Trump’s recent purchase of Doonbeg golf club.

President of the IPU, Ciaran McEntee told the meeting that a list of TDs names who vote against the IPU motion in the Dáíl on Wednesday, will be put on the wall of every post office in the country.


‘I had a bad feeling immediately’

AN open verdict has been returned at the inquest of young Ennis man whose body was discovered following an extensive search in the town last summer.

Seamus Higgins went missing from his foster home in Dun Na hÍnse, Ennis on Saturday, August 10, 2013. He was last seen jumping a wall at the rear of the estate.

His disappearance sparked a major search operation involving family, friends, civil defence, local diving groups and gardaí.

His body was discovered five days later by search divers in the Claureen River. At Clare Coroner’s Court yes- terday, Dr Elizabeth Mulcahy stated the post mortem report concluded that the cause of death was asphyxia secondary to drowning.

Foster brother Jordan Whelan was one of the last people to see Seamus alive. He described Seamus as an artist and someone who loved to fix things with his hands.

Victor Moloney, a member of Clare Marine Search and Rescue, told the inquest he found Seamus’ body submerged in nine feet of water in a river at the rear of an astro-turf pitch in Cloughleigh.

In her deposition to the inquest, foster mother Tina Whelan said Seamus had returned to Ennis for a holiday. He was living with his father Danny in Southampton.

The inquest heard Seamus had been diagnosed with a stress disorder, psychosis and depression and had previously attempted suicide.

“In my opinion Seamus’ mental health was deteriorating”, she added.

Ms Whelan said that on the morning he went missing, Seamus was in good form, having spent time with his brothers and best friend Thomas Molloy.

“He was very much loved and is missed very much by everybody” Ms Whelan told the inquest.

Blood and urine analysis revealed trace or very small levels of alcohol and anti-depressant drugs, the inquest heard. County Cororner Isobel O’Dea said the appropriate verdict was an open verdict.

Ms O’Dea explained no note had been left by the deceased.

“No absolute intention has been displayed to me that he intended to take his life”, she added.

Ms O’Dea extended her sympathies to Seamus’ family and friends.

Insp John O’Sullivan extended his sympathies on behalf of the gardaí.

The deceased’s father Danny Higgins said his son, a former student, had every intention of returning to Southampton.

“I had a bad feeling immediately,” said Mr Higgins of the moment he received a call from Tina Whelan to say Seamus was missing.


Council taking advice on possible fracking ban

AN explicit ban on hydraulic fracturing or fracking has not been written into the Clare County Development Plan – more than two year after councilors voted unanimously for its introduction.

A spokesperson from Clare County Council say yesterday that the local authority has taken legal advice on the matter and says that it cannot introduce a ban until the national position on fracking has been made clear.

Fracking Free Clare yesterday urged Clare County Council to move on a fracking ban – saying that both Donegal and Leitrim local authorities have placed a ban on fracking.

“Leitrim and Donegal have managed to amend their County Development Plans so we don’t see what the issue is in Clare,” said Lorraine Hughes of Fracking Free Clare.

“Fracking Free Clare would love to see a similar amendment here in Clare and will keep this issue on the table until there is a complete ban on fracking in Clare and the whole of Ireland.”

A spokesperson from Clare County Council said the County Development plan is “adequate” to deal with the current situation regarding hydraulic fracturing.

“The elected members of Clare County Council unanimously adopted a resolution some time ago to introduce a ban on fracking in the County Development Plan. We have taken legal advice on how best the decision of the Elected Members could be given effect within the planning laws,” said the spokesperson.

“We are also aware that the EPA has been required by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte to undertake a detailed study and research on fracking.

“Until there is a national position on fracking there is little progress that can be made locally. We are also confident that the existing environmental objectives and safeguards in the County Development Plan as it stands are adequate to deal with any issues that arise at present.”


‘The Donald here in a month’

DONALD Trump (Snr) is due to play his first game of golf on his newlyowned golf links – Doonbeg – within the month.

Representative from the Trump Organisation are to sign the final contract later today (Tuesday) in Doonbeg, for the Greg Norman-designed golf course which is reported to have cost them € 15 million.

Executive Vice President Eric Trump said he was excited to be signing the final papers, but it would appear he is not as excited as his billionaire father about his latest acquisition. Mr Trump asks about the course and its development at least five times a day.

“He will be very excited to play it. He will be very excited to get out here and obviously we speak no less than five times a day, and he is always asking how it is, he couldn’t be more excited,” said Eric.

“He is the one that came across this property. We have all so many friends who have played this prop- erty and who are members here, so he is truly, truly excited.”

While an exact figure is not yet available on how much will be further invested in the property, Eric Trump who is in Doonbeg today for the signing of the contract said it would be in the millions.

“We will spend what ever is needed to make it the best,” he said, stating that any work and labour will be provided locally.

“Just about everything will be local. If you just look at the operational team that we have already on the ground it is phenomenal. The number one hotel in Europe, you don’t just get that award by not having the best, and the team is incredible and Joe Russell is incredible. It is his team, and they are true professionals. Quiet frankly not always do you walk into a property that has such an amazing team. We plan on making very few changes in that regard. And in terms of labour as we move in to executing our plans it will all be local,” he told The Clare People .

He said the company has already received some permission from Clare County Council to carry out coastal erosion works and will continue to work with the council in that regard.

The whole process taking Doonbeg Lodge and Golf Links to Trump International Golf Links, Ireland has been completed in record time.

“It has been exceptionally quick. I think to be able to effectively find, go hard and then close on a deal like this in two and a half weeks is certainly unheard of, and it is how we like to work. We like to move very quickly. We have that ability as a private company and when we find something we like and we find something we love and something that has this kind of potential, we hop on it very quickly and we get it done,” said Mr Trump.