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.


‘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.


Clare priests ‘play their part’ by giving to diocese

CLARE’S priests have played their part in ensuring that the Diocese of Killaloe hasn’t gone into the red over the past three years, the latest set of diocesan accounts which were released last Thursday have shown.

The figures for 2009 and 2010 have revealed that priests throughout the diocese put their hands in their own pockets, contributing up to € 4,000 each from their own resources to ensure that the Killaloe catchment ended each year in a surplus situation.

The figures secured by


Rare footage of Beatles at Cliffs of Moher

PREVIOUSLY unknown footage of John Lennon at the Cliffs of Moher has been discovered by Lahinch Beatles expert Matthew Kelly.

The footage shows Lennon lying on his belly and peering over the historic Cliffs during his visit to the Banner County in 1964 with fellow ‘Fab Four’ member George Harrison.

The footage first came to Matthew’s attention when it appeared for a fraction of a second in the Martin Scorsese documentary film George Ha r r ison: Living in the Ma ter ia l World , which was released earlier this year.

After recognising the Cliffs of Moher from the film, Matthew set about tracking down the footage and eventually met with an American Beatles expert, Patti Noah, who was able to supply him with a 30-second-long clip of John Lennon at the world famous Cliffs.

“I could not believe it when I saw the Cliffs in the film. I decided to try and verify it so I went searching online to see what I would find out. I eventually found an American Beatles expert called Patti who not only confirmed that it was the Cliffs of Moher, she was also able to give me a longer piece of footage from the Cliffs,” said Matthew.

“I found out that a filmmaker called Dezider Hoffmann was following the Beatles during their time in Ireland and, at the moment, Patti is trying to find more footage of the Beatles in Clare from her collection.

“She has a massive collection of Beatles video and audio and she is confident that she had more unseen footage from The Beatles’ trip to Clare.”

This footage is the first documentary proof that The Beatles visited the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin in 1964. Many stories have been told about The Beatles in North Clare – one notable tale tells how John Lennon and George Harrison were about to play an impromptu gig in McHugh’s Bar in Doolin, only to be stopped by the man of the house, Josie McHugh, who said that it was too early in the day for the “tourists” to be singing. Matthew has a long-running connection with The Beatles. His father, Bill Kelly, was a garda sergeant in Ennistymon in 1964 when The Beatles visited. He was assigned to guard The Beatles during their time in Clare. Last year, Matthew also set up the world’s first Beatles dating agency,, which aims to match single Beatles fans from all over the world. “I’ve been obsessed with The Beatles for my whole life and I grew up on stories of their visit to Clare. My father was assigned to guard The Beatles when they were in Clare in 1964. “Whenever I asked him about them, he would call them hairy hippies and say that he wouldn’t cross the road to see them,” continued Matthew. “My dad also had to smuggle the wives and girlfriends of The Beatles out of Dromoland hotel in a laundry van because of the number of fans who were there. “It is also said that The Beatles bought a pair of boots in Walls Shop in Ennistymon – that is the shop belonging to the parents of Steve and Joe Wall from The Stunning.” Besides being a Beatles expert, Matthew has also written a book on the Cliffs of Moher which is available from www.cliffsofmoherbook. com.


Wave energy for Clare in five years?

IRELAND’S first ever commercial wave energy plants could be operational off the Clare coast in less than five years following an application by Australian company Carnegie Wave Energy for a foreshore license to begin construction works at Freagh Point, just outside Miltown Malbay.

CETO Wave Energy, which is the Irish subsidiary of Carnegie Wave Energy, have asked the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government for a lease covering an area of ocean between Freagh Point and Spanish Point.

While a number of prototype wave energy plant have been muted for construction in Ireland, the CETO project is the first concrete application for a commercial plant which has been received by the Department of the Environment.

According to Spanish Point resident and local councillor Michael Hillery (FF), the local people will have to be satisfied that the wave energy plant will not impact on the scenic area around Spanish Point and White Strand if they are to support any wave energy project.

“We really need to see the details before we can start to make up our mind on something like this. The local people will need to see exactly what is proposed and how that will fit into local area and the local seascape,” he told The Clare People .

“We will need to see how this plant will connect to the grid onshore and what kind of disruption this might cause for the local people. This is a local beauty spot and we will have to be guaranteed that this will not be impacted on if this is to go ahead,” he said.

If granted, the foreshore license will allow CETO Wave Energy to conduct marine hydrographic surveys over the area, to conduct ecological and archaeological surveys including monitoring the local dolphin and porpoise populations and to construct a wave and current monitoring buoy in the waters off Freagh Point.

The company are believed to be looking at two areas in particular within the area and they hope that careful monitoring will help them to choose the exact best plane to construct the proposed power plant.

“Securing a foreshore license over the Clare site will provide Carnegie with the confidence to invest the time and resources to further develop the project,” said Carnegie executive director Kieran O’Brien last week.

If built the wave energy plant will have the capacity to produce 5MW of electricity.


Christmas Down Under for Davey

THERE will be no roast turkey for Miltown Malbay man Davey Rynne this Christmas Day. Instead, Davey will be barbecuing his dinner outside, in a pair of sandals, short trousers with a handful of ice cold beer.

Davey Rynne has been living in Wellington, New Zealand, for almost six years. Unlike his brother Declan, who will be making the long trek home this Christmas, Davey will be spending Christmas Day in New Zealand, enjoying the heat of a December Down Under.

“I have a Kiwi wife and a Kiwi mortgage so I am fairly settled over here now. I have been back for Christmas once or twice but I think you need to acclimatise here – you need to spend time here or there is no point living here,” he said. “The climate is just so different here at Christmas time. I’m looking out the window here now and it’s 9pm and the sun is just going down after a scorcher of a day.

“I think there is a different emphasis on Christmas over here – it just seems to creep up on you over here and then it is gone again, whereas at home they are building up for it for months beforehand and you’re talking about it for a month after. Coming from what we have at home it is just so different.

“It would be very rare to eat turkey over here at Christmas time – just because of the heat. It is physically too hot for a roast dinner, you actually just couldn’t eat it. Instead of hoping for a white Christmas, you are hoping for a fine day. We will be out in our shorts and sandals and a t-shirt and we will be going up my wife’s family farm to have a nice barbecue.”

While Davey is well settled in New Zealand, there are still things about the wet streets of Miltown Malbay that he misses once December 25 rolls around.

“I think the one thing that you do miss is sitting around the big family table at home and having the turkey and the ham. I actually miss the wet wintery day where you can sit inside and eat to your heart’s content and relax for the evening,” continued Davey.

“It is super easy to be in contact with people back at home now. I’m probably in better contact now with people in Clare than I was when I worked in Dublin. With Facebook and Skype, I know more of what is happening at home than some of the people at home themselves.

“We do have a good Irish crowd out here now, especially in the last year or so. I think it is because of the bad news that we keep hearing about the economy at home that more and more people from Clare are passing through Wellington and a lot of them are staying.”


From Korea to Corofin for Christmas Day

WHEN North Clare man MacconFionn McNamara touched down in Shannon Airport earlier this week, he returned to a land where Christmas is king. After spending his last festive season in South Korea, the Corofin native was looking forward to all the home comforts that he missed last year.

Maccon-Fionn has been living in the city of Daegu in South Korea for the past two years. For the workobsessed people of South Korea, Christmas is a very different kind of holiday than what he was used to at home.

“There are decorations put up but only in the major, built-up shopping districts. Culturally it is not seen as a big deal” he said. “It is almost a totally commercial thing over here. There is nothing like carolling or any of the traditions that you would associate with Christmas. I would seriously doubt that many people would even have a Christmas tree in their apartment. I think it is the little things that you expect to see around Christmas, they just aren’t there.

“This country is very work-oriented – they don’t get that much time off and they generally work around the clock. Christmas is only a one-day holiday over here so everyone will be back to work on Stephen’s Day.”

With a growing Irish population in South Korea, Maccon-Fionn was able to come together with some fellow Irish men and women and celebrate Christmas Day last year. He shared the holiday with fellow Clare people Aidan O’Donoghue from Ennis, Alex Whyatt from Ennis, Maura Crawford from Inagh as well as Stephen and Mark Milliken.

“There is a good-sized Irish population over here and we come together to have Christmas dinner. There was good camaraderie, everyone made a special effort because we were not with our families,” he continued.

“We managed to track down some pre-cooked turkey and we all made a real effort to make it like home – I think we made a pretty good fist of it. But the atmosphere outside just wasn’t the same. We were making a bit of noise and having a little fun and some of the locals called the police on us and complained about the noise. They really don’t do the boisterous celebration that we would be used to. A lot of drink was flowing on the day, which we thought was perfectly normal, but the locals didn’t know what to make of us.”

Last Christmas was also Maccon- Fionn’s first Christmas spent away from his family in North Clare.

“Of course I missed my family on Christmas Day, but not as much as you would think. It’s the era of Skype and so on so I was able to call them and see them and talk to them. That was nice. We were all in the same boat over here as well, it was a shared experience and that was a help. Some people were feeling bad about it but I think when you’ve spent 24 or 25 Christmasses at home that something like this is just a new experience. The reason I wanted to come home this year was to have that coming-homefor-Christmas experience. If I wasn’t able to come home this year for some reason, I don’t think I would have been devastated by it.”


It’s a very jetset Christmas for Siobhan

ENNIS WOMAN Siobhan Keane is spending Christmas in Dubai, having moved there 12 years ago. Siobhan is enjoying the festive season with her Dublin-born husband Karl, having fulfilled her dream to move overseas.

“I always wanted to travel, I remember one time when I was around 10 years old showing my sister a photograph in the world book encyclopedia of Cairo city centre, saying, ‘I’m gonna live there someday’……Little did I know it was going to be somewhere very near there,” recalled Siobhan.

“I suppose the writing was on the wall when I won a set of suitcases a year later. I asked my parents after I left college would it be okay to head off to Australia for a year. The reply was a very firm ‘No’. Anyway, when you have an itch it has to be scratched and a few years later, when sitting in my office in NUI Galway in the Accountancy and Finance Department, I heard Colm McLoughlin from Dubai on the radio talking about Dubai,” she said. “Now this took my interest. I had always seen the ads in the glossy magazines at the hairdressers talking about Dubai, the most cosmopolitan city in the Arabian Gulf, so I listened in. To cut a long story short, within the week I had been in contact with Colm and had arranged jobs for my friend Patricia Walsh and I at ‘The Irish Village’ in Dubai. Tickets were booked, visas arranged and the itinerary sent over. I was extremely excited, but this was only my short-term plan… Once over there I wanted to go for an interview with Emirates Airline and start air hostessing and travelling all over the world,” she said.

Despite some anxiety at home, particularly from Siobhán’s parents, she headed to Shannon Airport on August 21, 1999, and her trip took off.

“For all of about two minutes I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I applied for Emirates and got accepted and started flying in June of 2000. It has been an amazing experience and I have been travelling the world since, from places as far afield as Christchurch, New Zealand, at one end of the world and Sao Paulo in Brazil at the other end.

“The friends I have made have been amazing and the experiences invaluable to me. Along the way I have met many Irish people and with them many Clare people also. At the Irish village there was Brian O’Dwyer from Bodyke and Dermot Geoghegan from Mountshannon. I met Helen McCarthy from Ballyvaughan in Emirates and we became friends almost straight away. Herself and Dermot got married and they are settled in Ennis now with two beautiful daughters. There is a guy here called Will Moroney from Corofin and I met him through his fiance Fiona Devlin, who is from Perth and also Emirates Cabin Crew,” she said.

Six years ago, when Siobhan was considering moving home, she met Karl Tilson from Donnybrook in Dublin in the Dubliner Irish pub in Dubai. “I joke that he ruined my plans to go home but we both couldn’t be happier. We had our wedding in the Cathedral in Ennis and the Temple Gate Hotel in June 2009 with 30 guests flying over from Dubai to see our beautiful country,” she said.

Although Siobhan will spend Christmas in her adopted country, her family will be very much in her thoughts.

“This year I arrive back from London Gatwick on Christmas Eve morning… We haven’t had an Irish Christmas in six years so we really hope to be at home for it next year, as it is never the same when you are not at home. Having said that, if I didn’t have Karl here with me it would be much more difficult. New Year’s Eve we will go to Abu Dhabi to see Coldplay and the new year isn’t starting out too bad for me as I get to take the first ever flight out of Dublin Airport with Emirates on January 9, so I’m very excited about that. You can’t beat the Irish Christmas with family and friends, but please God in the future when we come back home we will have many more Irish Christmases to come,” she said.

Siobhan extends Christmas greetings to her family; her parents Stephanie and Francie on the Golf Links Road in Ennis, her sisters Shauna and Ashling and brothers Ronan and Barry.


2020 project questioned

QUESTIONS have been raised over the influence a community research project might have on the future development of Ennis. The first phase of ‘Ennis 2020 – People, Place, Potential’ was launched in Ennis in November. The community visioning exercise is the product of a joint initiative between Ennis Town Council and University of Limerick. The main objective of the project is to support the development of a participatory plan for Ennis as a hub town in line with the National Spatial Strategy. The opinions of over 300 people were canvassed including those of 30 young people.

The project’s report presents perspectives on what local people think Ennis will look and feel like in 2020; the strengths and assets on which it can build; how the image of Ennis might be improved and how Ennis might be developed further as an inclusive town.

In a report presented at the council’s annual budget meeting, town manager Ger Dollard states, “Further work has been done on this project and three working groups have been established to assess the outcome of the consultation process and distill information and ideas generated down to an overall strategy for Ennis as a hub town.”

Speaking at last week’s meeting, councillor Peter Considine (FF) asked how the project was being funded. He said the project’s approach appeared to be a “very broad brush” for the future planning of Ennis. He said he would not like to see an advisory group determining Council policy.

Town clerk Leonard Cleary said three working groups had been established through the Ennis Municipal Policy Committee. The meeting heard that the groups do not have a budget.

Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Michael Guilfoyle (Ind) said the group operated on an advisory basis and potential decisions would have to be “rubber stamped” by the council. Mr Dollard also announced a reduction in the council’s budget for twinning initiatives from € 9,000 in 2011 to € 5,000 in 2012.

He added, “Invitations have been ex tended to Ennis’ sister town in Phoenix, Arizona, through Ennis Phoenix Twinning Board for a formal visit to Ennis in 2013. Arrangements are also being made through the Twinning Board to have participation of a band from Phoenix in the Ennis St Patrick’s Day Parade 2013.


Town sculpture initiative to slow down for 2012

ENNIS Town Council has announced a reduction in spending on the town’s sculpture initiative saying it is not possible to fund new pieces next year.

The measure was announced as part of Ennis Town Council’s budget for 2012, which was adopted last week.

In his annual report, town manager Ger Dollard stated that three major sculpture initiatives were progressed during 2011.

He explained, “The relocation of Icarus to the Rocky Road roundabout; the installation of the Information Age Town Sculpture at Clon Road Park and the commencement of preparatory work for a major piece at the market roundabout were also advanced.”

Mr Dollard continued, “The completion of these three projects is a very significant addition to the over- all Ennis Sculpture Trail. The budget provision for 2012 does not provide for any new pieces. The provision made will assist in maintaining the extensive sculpture trail that is now in place.”

Mr Dollard told the meeting that it is not possible to provide funding for new or additional pieces.

Councillor Johnny Flynn (FG) said the council had significantly invested in public art initiatives such as the Wallcandy project.

He said Ennis is one of the bestserved towns per square kilometre for sculpture in Ireland.

He said the council made a huge commitment to cultural and community-based initiatives. Mr Dollard told the meeting that the council would increase its provision for priming grants next year.

He explained, “The council reviewed its Priming Grants Scheme during 2011 and introduced funding bands for different sized estates. The council met all applications received as it is vitally important that such partnership arrangements are encouraged and maintained so that the town can be presented to the best possible standard for residents and visitors alike.”

He added, “I have increased the provision for the priming grants scheme in 2012 to € 18,000 to assist community groups undertaking valuable works in maintaining and improving their estates. Contributions are again provided in the draft budget for Ennis Brass Band, Ennis Book Club Festival, Ennis Trad Music Festival, Ennis Fashion Week and Promote Ennis.”

Cllr Mary Coote Ryan (FG) said it had been a “wonderful year” and that at a time of recession, the council had made a number of significant achievements.

“Even though things are tough, we keep motoring on for next year,” she added.