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‘The three ladies’ deliver girl power

NOT SINCE the arrival of the Spice Girl in 1994 has ‘girl power’ been so much in evidence around the streets of Ennis and the highways and byways of the rest of the county. After a General Election in Clare which promised to change so much but ultimately delivered little beyond the status quo, the arrival of “the three ladies”, as they became known, was a breath of fresh air for the election process in the county.

When Ann Cronin, Sarah Ferrigan and Madeleine McAleer put themselves forward as candidates in Clare for this year’s General Election, there were few among the established polit- ical hacks in the county who suffered sleepless nights.

Yet while none of the candidates ever emerged as a genuine contender to pull off a surprise on election day, their very presence on the ballot paper was a victory in itself and a small sign that democracy in its purest terms could still be possible in Clare.

It was a campaign that started in a whirlwind, with furious rushing around Ennis Courthouse as the deadline for nominations was about to close. While Ann and Sarah had their nominations sorted out early in the morning, there was a rush to the courthouse as friends of the three “balance the ballot” candidates raced in to provide the 30 signatures and correct addresses needed to formalise Madeline’s nomination.

“This is a move towards how a ballot paper should look in an open, fair and functioning democracy. Without us, there would not have been a woman on the ballot paper in County Clare. We could not allow that to happen in 21st-century Ireland. There are many serious issues in the community, health and business sectors locally and nationally that need to be addressed by a range of voices,” said McAleer.

After beginning the campaign as a femininist ticket, the candidates gradually started to broaden their scope and attempt to speak to, and for, all under-represented peoples in the county.

“People are frustrated, disillusioned, disempowered and I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to offer them something different. I know from a psychology point of view that, if you don’t see something, then after a while it starts not to exist. So if people go into the ballot box and see 12 faces that are all male, it normalises the idea for people that females are not part of the political system,” she says. “So the idea came to me that we should run 12 women in this election in Clare and balance the ballot paper. That was the epiphany. It’s important to say that while we are females, we don’t wish to speak for females.

“I took this upon myself and I was lucky to have two other wonderful women who agreed to stand with me so that I wouldn’t be thrown to the wolves on my own.

“The disillusionment that I hear from people on the streets about politics is that it is the same sort of people who are running. It may not be the same people but it is the same thing over and over. There is such a disjoint between the people they represent. We have lost our connection with our politicians and that is a real shame.”

With no resources, party organisa tion or election history to rely on, the three female candidates ultimately struggled to involve themselves in the shake-up at the business end of the poll.

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More than €100,000 spent on election campaigns

CANDIDATES from Clare who contested the General Election last February spent over € 100,000 in their efforts to get elected to the 31st Dáil Éireann, figures secured by The Clare People revealed in November.

Details of all the expenditure made by candidates in the Clare constituency are contained in the ‘Candidates Election Expenses Statements’ that have been released by the Standards in Public Office Commission.

These figures reveal that € 113,892.11 was spent by Clare election candidates – this total is drawn from the returns made to the Standards in Public Office Commission by 15 of the 16 election candidates who contest the Februay 25 poll, the largest number ever to contest a Dáil election in the county.

Six candidates spent over € 10,000 on their campaigns, while two of the candidates, independents Sarah Ferrigan and Anne Cronin, who contested the election on a ‘Balance the Ballot’ manifesto spent nothing on their respective campaigns. A limit of € 37,650 is put on spending per candidate in a four-seater constituency.

The biggest election spender was Fianna Fáil candidate, Dr John Hillery, who was attempting to win a Dáil seat that his father, the late former President of Ireland, Dr Paddy Hillery held for 22 years from 1951 to 1973.

Dr Hillery, who was drafted onto the Fianna Fáil election team in place of the retiring Minister for Defence, Tony Killeen, spent € 16,673.16 during his unsuccessful campaign for a Dáil seat, while his party colleague and Deputy Timmy Dooley, who retained his seat only spent € 9,574.35 in his campaign. The highest expense incurred by Dr Hillery during the campaign was for € 4,840.

Fine Gael were the biggest election spenders in Clare – between them the three candidates, Deputies Pat Breen and Joe Carey, as well as Senator Tony Mulcahy spent nearly € 40,000 during the campaign.

Deputy Carey, who was the third candidate elected was the biggest spender with a total of € 14,535, followed closely by poll topper Deputy Breen who spent € 14,252. Meanwhile, Tony Mulcahy, who was added to the Fine Gael ticket by party headquarters spent € 10,661 on his unsuccessful bid, before embarking on another campaign immediately afterwards when he won election to Seanad Éireann.

Labour’s Michael McNamara, who was the third canidate elected was the fourth highest election spender with a figure of € 14,248.42, while the highest spender from the independent benches was James Breen who incurred € 11,686.99 in election expenses in his bid to win back the Dáil seat he held from 2002 to 2007.

Independent candidate Patrick Brassil was one of 23 candidates around the country referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for failing to furnish expenses statements to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

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Demand for beds in shelter ‘overwhelming’

MANAGEMENT at the Ennis homeless hostel say 2011 has been the busiest year since it opened almost three years ago with demand for places described as “overwhelming”.

The Hostel at Laurel Lodge on the Clare Road provides emergency accommodation and care for homeless men.

The-13 bed facility is operated by St Vincent de Paul with funding from Clare County Council and the Health Services Executive (HSE).

Speaking on Friday, Laurel Lodge Manager Patrick Cahill said there had been a 96 per cent occupancy rate at the hostel in 2011. “We are busy, this has been our busiest year. We’ve had a 96 per cent occupancy rate, which meant we were nearly full every night.”

Mr Cahill continued, “It got to a stage where we would fix someone up with a flat or a room somewhere, they would move out, and the next day the bed would be gone again.”

Mr Cahill said there had been “consistent” demand for places at Laurel Lodge throughout the year. “The demand is quite overwhelming,” he added.

Mr Cahill said the St Vincent de Paul have been amazed at the level generous support given to the hostel.

He explained, “The amount of support, not just financial, but people just helping out, has been amazing. Honestly, people have been great.”

According to its 2012 budget report, Clare County Council provides financial assistance to Laurel Lodge under Section 10 funding where 90 per cent is recouped. The council estimates that € 365,000 will be spent on homelessness services in 2012.

The report states, “The council also works in partnership with the HSE to deliver other homelessness services such as sourcing private rented ac- commodation, assisting with completion of rent supplement applications and seeking B&B accommodation. Approximately 700 applicants will have been assisted in 2011.”

The report continues, “A Regional Audit of Services to identify gaps in service provision to the homeless is now nearing completion. In 2012, regional and local actions plans will be developed to address the gaps identified in the audit. A Clare Homelessness Alliance, representative of bodies and agencies involved in the provision of services to the homeless, will be set up in early 2012 to assist this work.”

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Justice for life’s work of dead husband

SEEKING justice for her husband’s life’s work was behind the successful High Court action taken by Ballyvaughan woman Grace Daveron that saw her awarded almost € 1.6m last Wednesday.

Mr Justice Iarf hlaith Ó Neill awarded Ms Daveron € 1,591,957.70 in damages because of the loss of an expected inheritance of a 623-acre farm.

The Daverons also ran a 269-acre farm in Ballycahill, adjoining the Ballyalben farm.

The mother-of-four from The Barn, Ballyalben, Ballyvaughan claimed she lost out on the inheritance of her husband Michael’s family farm.

She had sued the HSE following the death of her husband Michael on August 31, 2003, at University College Hospital, Galway. The 47-year-old died as a result of negligence in his treatment for colitis at the hospital in 2003.

Ms Daveron successfully claimed in the High Court that because of her husband’s death at University College Hospital Galway, she and her children missed out on the inheritance of Michael Davoren family’s 623-acre farm in the Burren.

Mr Justice Ó Neill rejected an argument by the defendants that it was probably the falling out between Grace Davoren and her mother-inlaw that had caused them to lose out on the inheritance of the estate.

He said that even if the falling out was the cause of Maura Davoren changing her will, this was directly due a change in her state of mind caused by her son’s wrongful death.

He added that he was satisfied Michael Davoren’s dependents would have inherited the estate of Maura Davoren if it wasn’t for his wrongful death.

After the verdict, Ms Davoren said “the point of taking this case was to obtain justice for my husband Michael and recognition of his life’s work and also to provide for his four children as he would have wished”.

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‘Special Payments’ to victims of clerical child abuse in Killaloe Diocese increases

OVER € 2m has been paid out to victims of clerical child sex abuse in the Diocese of Killaloe, new figures secured by The Clare People this week have revealed.

Payments to victims of abuse at the hands of Catholic priests in the diocese have broken through the € 2m barrier, with the latest statement of accounts produced by Diocese of Killaloe confirming the extent of the payments.

Money given victims, which has been labelled as ‘Special Payments’ in the accounts amounted to € 195,799 in 2010, while the statement of the diocese’s financial affairs also reveal that € 232,363 was paid out in 2009.

The cumulative figure for 2009/2010 of € 428,262 brings to € 2.24m the amount in compensation payments to victims of abuse in the diocese since 2003.

These payments are understood to have been made to 55 complaints and involved 15 priests, all of which related to child abuse between 1955 and 1990.

Most of these payments have been made from a trust fund that was established by Bishop Willie Walsh in 2002 from the sale of land at Westbourne in Ennis for € 1.5m.

In a statement to The Clare People , a spokesperson for the diocese said the most recent payments were made “by way of assistance towards healing for survivors of abuse”.

Commenting on the figures, Bishop of Killaloe, Kieran O’Reilly said that the payment of € 195,799 was made in 2010 “towards healing and reconciliation”.

“With regard to the safeguarding of children, the diocese continues to insist that best practice is adopted, and state guidelines are adhered to, by all in our parish communities who work and interact with children and young people.

“A great deal of time and resources continues to be committed to dealing with the tragic result of sexual abuse by a small number of clergy in the past,” added Bishop O’Reilly.

These comments come on the back of renewed commitment and promise by the Diocese of Killaloe to publish the results of an audit into the child protection policy in the diocese which is currently being completed by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

This report was to have been completed last September, but delays have meant that it’s not now expected to be finished until the new year, at which time Bishop O’Reilly has pledged to publish the findings in full – even if the HSE decides against this route of action.

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Ennis to bid for Fleadh 2013

DESPITE narrowly losing out on the right to host the 2012 Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann, Ennis is expected to bid for the 2013 event.

Despite preparing a bid that was described as “exceptional and impressive” by the director of Comhaltas, Labhrás O Murchú, Ennis lost out on the right to stage to 2012 Fleadh to Cavan.

In doing so the town also lost out on a potential € 20 million windfall, which organisers say would have been generated by the festival.

Just one vote separated the rival bids with Cavan securing Ireland’s largest festival of traditional music and dance for a third successive year.

Despite that disappointment it is now thought that the Fleadh working group are renewing their efforts to bring the country’s largest festival of traditional, music, dance and song back to Ennis for the first time since 1977.

Town manager Ger Dollard said last week that it is understood that Ennis will bid for the Fleadh in 2013. Mr Dollard said a decision on the matter would be taken by the end of January.

If Ennis does enter the race then it will face stiff competition from Derry with organisers there hoping to capitalize on the city’s status as the 2013 City of Culture.

The Ennis bid was presented to Comhaltas officials at the headquarters of Clare County Council in April.

The presentation was backed by a network of organisations including local authorities, Shannon Development, the Vintner’s Federation of Ireland, local business groups, the GAA, the Gardaí and the emergency services.

The working group’s proposal document stated that 200,000 people would visit Ennis during the event.

The document identified 25 venues where events could be held while the working group said that Ennis town centre would be pedestrianised during the course of the week-long festival.

The working group also identified fifteen proposed camping sites in and around Ennis, which will facilitate over 800 tents and in excess of 250 camper vans.

New technology and all aspects of social media would be embraced under the bid to create the first iFleadh.

The decision to award the Fleadh to Cavan and Derry’s frontrunner status for 2013 provoked strong criticism from local politicians.

In October, the Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Michael Guilfoyle (Ind), cast doubts on Ennis’s prospects of staging the Fleadh in 2013 or 2014, claiming he had been told that “Derry had it” during a visit to this year’s festival in Cavan.

Last week, Cllr Christy Curtin (Ind), who was Mayor of Clare when the Ennis bid was launched, expressed his disappointment that the town had lost out.

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‘Men need to share troubles’

THE head of the Samaritans in Clare has warned that there are “darker times” ahead for the people of Clare but stressed that organisations like the Samaritans will always be there to help.

Gerry Dobbin, head of the Samaritans in Clare, has warned that he cannot foresee any improvement for many people in Clare in the short term but that people, especially men, need to be prepared to share their troubles.

“I think we are headed for darker times,” Mr Dobbin told The Clare People this week.

“I don’t see how we are going to see much of an improvement. I honestly believe that from talking to people and from looking at the overall picture,” Mr Dobbin added.

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Anxious wait for expats in Korea

THE growing Clare expat population in South Korea is waiting with baited breath to see will any military action take place as a result of the death of North Korea dictator Kim Jong-il. Corofin man Maccon-Fionn McNamara is one of more than a dozen Clare people who are currently living in the South Korean city of Daegu.

As South Korea’s third largest city and the site of both a South Korean and American military base, Daegu would be a centre of activity if any live conflict emerges as a result of the transfer of power in North Korea. Maccon-Fionn works as an English teacher in Daegu, alongside fellow Clare natives Aidan O’Donoghue from Ennis, Alex Whyatt from Ennis, Maura Crawford from Inagh and Stephen and Mark Milliken.

“The main fear here at the moment is the possible consequences of a power vacuum. It is a domestic thing with different sanctions who will be vying for the power in the coming weeks. The worst thing that could happen is that, in an effort to show some sort of unity behind Kim Jongun, they could make some threatening actions toward South Korea. It has happened before. They find a way to blame the South and in that way to unify the country,” he said.

“The military here has been put on full alert and the war council was convened and they are also monitoring against cyber attacks coming over from the North. A missile was test fired on the day that Kim Jong-il died but they are saying that that is unrelated.

“At this stage, it is really a case of wait and see. They have lived with the threat over here for 60 years and now it is almost like a fact of life. I think maybe the older people are more concerned. They have experienced open war before and they know what it is like to have their lives and their families torn apart – it is not the same for the younger people.”

As it happens, Maccon-Fionn was on a trip to the DMZ, the demilitarized zone which borders North and South Korea, when Kim Jong-il died.

“There is an airbase in Daegu and I have heard a lot more activity coming from that, whether it be training exercises or something else. There is a lot more military traffic in the air.

“There is also a US military base here called Camp Walker where a lot of US soldiers are based, but it seems like that is mostly as-youwere, with a lot of training exercises going on.

“I was actually in the DMZ last week around the time that he died, but that is a total coincidence, I swear,” he said.

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Landlord given three months to comply

CLARE County Council has brought legal proceedings against a 72-yearold woman arising out of “serious deficiencies” in relation to fire safety at a flats complex in Shannon.

The case was taken by Clare County Council against Maeve Lynch, of Drumgeely Hill, Shannon for failing to comply with a fire safety notice.

Defending solicitor Jenny Fitzgibbon told Ennis District Court on Thursday that her client was pleading guilty.

Assistant fire officer Ger Fallon told the court that he carried out an inspection at Elm House, Drumgeely, Shannon, on January 18 last. He said that there are 21 flats; 20 of which are owned by the defendant. The building is 40 years old, he said.

He said there were “serious deficiencies” in relation to fire safety to exits on the premises namely inadequate means of escape, no working fire alarm and inadequate escape lighting.

Mr Fallon said he served a fire safety notice on February 14 last, which indicated a three-month time frame to carry out works.

He said that another inspection took place on September 28. On that date, some of the works had been completed, but other works were not.

He said that three of the apartments were occupied at the time.

Mr Fallon said that all of the works have now been completed as an inspection was carried out last week. He said that the three main tenants have been moved to ground floor flats.

“I am seeking an undertaking that no other flat will be leased without my approval,” he said.

Ms Fitzgibbon said that this undertaking was given by her client to the assistant fire officer the previous day and he accepted this.

The woman gave this undertaking in court, at the request of the judge.

Mr Fallon told Judge Aeneas McCarthy that he was satisfied for the safety of the current tenants.

Ms Fitzgibbon explained that her client, aged 72, operated a “family orientated business” and that tenants have resided there for more than 15 years.

“They are long standing tenants and regard this as their home,” she said.

“She (Ms Lynch) lives across from Elm House,” said the solicitor.

She said that damage had been caused last year by frozen pipes. “There is extensive water damage in the flats. Electrical works couldn’t be done until the flats were dried out,” she said.

She said this work has now been completed and is fully compliant.

“This has been done at great personal expense. They are up to their neck in debt arising from getting the apartment block compliant,” she said.

“It won’t be finalised by the insurance company for some time,” she added.

“The apartment block would have thrived as a place for people to live over the years,” she said.

Solicitor for Clare County Council Rachael Leahy said the maximum fine is € 3,000, while the council’s costs were € 1,638.

Judge McCarthy said he was satisfied with the undertaking given in court by the defendant and that tenants were not in danger.

He imposed a fine of € 500 and ordered that costs be paid. He gave the defendant three months to pay.

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Campaign for Clare Gaeltacht status launched

A NEWcampaign to secure Gaeltacht status for Clare has been launched ten years after breac-Gaeltacht designation was taken away from many parts of the western seaboard.\.

The newly formed Clare Gaeltacht Committee is spearheading this drive as part of what it has called a campaign “to revitalize and strengthen further Irish in county Clare”.

Kilmihil-based Seosamh Mac Ionnrachtaigh is one of the main drivers of the initiative, which earlier this year saw him make a submission to the Draft County Development Plan 2011-2017, which called on Clare County Council to play its part in promoting the language.

Now, the new language revival campaign has bee cranked up with the announcement of a four-month consultation process between now and the end of April has been flagged by the Clare Gaeltacht Committee.

“In the context of language planning, the people of Clare and the general public are invited to send electronic or written submissions for Plean na Gaeilge 2012-2017 in Clare that will identify what needs to be done for Irish in the county,” said Mr Mac Ionnrachtaigh.

“We intend seeking Gaeltacht sta tus for the people of County Clare in the near future. To that end a new language plan for the county is going to be formed as part of revitalizing the language in the county and getting back the Gaeltacht status that was taken away many years ago,” he added.

In his submission to the county development plan, Mr Mac Ionnrachtaigh said “the future of the Irish language in the county is important in economic, social, infrastructural, cultural and environmental terms”. He also said “the establishment of Gaeltacht status should be recognised in the Draft County Development Plan”.

“In relation to establishing a Gaeltacht in the county, this is not within the remit of the County De- velopment Plan,” responded county manager, Tom Coughlan. “The responsibility for establishing new Gaeltachtaí lies with the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and not with the local authority.”

Clare enjoyed breac-Gaeltacht status from 1929 to 2001, with the biggest Irish-speaking districts being near Ballyvaughan, Doolin, Kilkee and Carrigaholt were the Irish College operated by Macdara Tóibín is located.