‘Back to school will add to woes’

MABS in Ennis has warned that money-lending in the county is a significant problem, a problem that is likely to multiply in the coming weeks.

Denis Corbet said that people seem to turn to moneylenders, the majority of them legal and licensed by the Financial Regulator, to cover the cost of returning to school, as they feel there is no alternative available to them.

“Back to school and the three Cs – Christmas, Communion and Confirmation – put families under the most pressure. As access to credit is a problem for people, money-lending from legal and illegal moneylenders is going to increase,” he said.

The finance advisor warned against people turning to “doorstep credit” at all costs. This form of credit sees the loan agreement made at the person’s home and the repayments collected at the door.

“They are usually high interest rates with short repayments,” he said.

Legally registered moneylenders, many who advertise on television and in newspapers, carry out the majority of these transactions, and they are forcing many people into even more debt, he explained.

“There are legal moneylenders out there but there is no cap on the interest they can charge,” he said.

“Say, for example, you borrow € 100 from a lender and you pay back € 30 at a time over six months. You borrow € 100 from the credit union and pay back € 2.50 over a period of time. Now multiply that into thousands and you get the picture.”

The comparison may seem extreme to make the point but there is no limit on the interest charged so any number can be plucked from thin air.

Mr Corbet said the issue is part of a national social debate that needs to take place.

“Cash loans on the doorstep is just one part of the issue, catalogues and credit sales are also a problem,” he added. “If someone needs money, where do they go?” he asked.

He suggested that people first turn to MABS for assistance.

He maintains that a lot of the issues can be dealt with through some financial education.

In the coming weeks, MABS in Ennis will be producing a campaign to help inform people about the dangers of money-lending.


Where eagles won’t be scared

FEARS and public concern have been allayed this week that a new tourism initiative on Lough Derg would be responsible for scaring away two rare white-tailed sea eagles that have made their home near Mountshannon.

Environmentalists in East Clare had voiced their concern that an air show due to take place in Mountshannon on September 9 next would threaten the rare eagles that are now breeding in Ireland for the first time in more than 100 years.

The eagles were driven to extinction a century ago; the last white- tailed sea eagles to breed here did so in remote coastal areas of Kerry and Mayo back in 1898.

This new breeding pair – a fouryear-old male and three-year-old female – were introduced to Ireland in 2008 and 2009 respectively from the island of Frøya off the west coast of Norway.

They were among 100 birds released in Killarney National Park as part of the reintroduction programme and early last year they made their home in Bushy Island, a thickly vegetated outcrop on Lough Derg, close to Mountshannon.

“People were afraid of what might happen to the eagles because of the air show,” revealed John Harvey of Mountshannon Community Council. “But Dr Alan Mee, who is in charge of the eagles, said he doesn’t think there will be any problem unless the planes fly over the island.

“We had a meeting to address those concerns on Friday night and everyone seems to be happy. We are going to meet with the pilots before the show, so we will know exactly where they will be flying over. Once they stay a kilometre away from the island, it will be okay. They will be flying at 1,500 feet, so we seem to think that everything will go ahead without any problems,” he added.

The air show is being organised by Harbour Flights, the company that has been given permission by Clare and Galway County Councils to operate a sea-plane service on Lough Derg that will include a floating pontoon and slipway at Mountshannon.

“The intention of putting on this activity is to attract people from all locations across Ireland to Lough Derg and introduce them to what we believe is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets,” says Rose Curtis of Harbour Flights.

“As Lough Derg is the second largest lake in Ireland, it is hoped the air show will attract a large amount of cruiser owners from as far away as the six counties,” she added.


Bullseye for darts teens

CLARE may be known for various sporting achievements but few would consider darts in the line-up.

However, four of the six members of the under-age darts team that has returned from a successful European championship are from the Banner county.

The Clare teenagers include Eoin Lahiff (14) and Brendan Casey (13) from Kilrush and Ennistymon’s Darragh Clancy (17) and James Youdell (12).

The Clare teens travelled with their teammates, two girls from Sligo and Galway, to Antwerp, Belgium last week.

Their entourage included their par- ents or guardians as the team was one of the youngest competing in the under 18 European Championship.

Proud mother to Eoin, Catherine Lahiff told The Clare People that the team did exceptionally well, finishing seventh in a competition where the majority of the competitors were significantly older.

The Irish team was successful in their group, but were beaten in the next stage by an experienced Dutch team who went on to win the competition.

However, seventh place was considered a significant achievement.

Success comes at a cost of dedication and commitment not just for the participants but their parents also.

Each week, the Clare teenagers train with the Ennistymon club and also travel to Clarecastle. The boys also play in adult competitions to keep their skills sharp.

“The parents are on the road the whole time, as we drive them all over the country to competitions,” said Ms Lahiff.

But there are many advantages to darts, according to Ms Lahiff. Not only does it provide an interest and social interaction for young people, it also significantly improves their maths and arithmetic skills.


Miltown’s ‘Fast Eddie’ stars in his own documentary

A CLAREMAN’S obsession with rally driving is set to be showcased on the international stage in the next year, thanks to a documentary film that’s being shot about the Clare Stages Rally.

Miltown Malbay man Eddie Cogan is the subject of the documentary called ‘Fast Eddie’ that filmmaker Neil Hynes says “follows a man’s passion for the sport and a dream to win the Clare Stages Rally” – the flagship motor race in the county that takes place this coming September.

The idea was born when Hynes, who also hails from Miltown Malbay, discovered Cogan’s passion for the sport of rallying five years ago and made a short film about his preparations for an event.

“I decided to come back again and do a bigger production by following the adventures of a man, as he deals with life and prepares a car and himself for the Clare Stages competition.

“The film is not just about the motor sports; it’s an observation of the people involved in it and what makes them tick.

“The film follows Cogan’s pursuits in the run up to the event. His workplace and private life are all in the mix as we get to see a man wheel and deal, beg and borrow for a chance to try and finish first,” he added.

Hynes has put together an experience and varied production team for the documentary. His cameraman is Polish native Domink Koisci, who performed camera work on the Rubberbandits hit video ‘Horse Outside’.

Others involved are Miriam Garcia Mortell, who was production assistant on the Pat Shortt film ‘Mattie’ and Ronan Cassidy is on sound, having just produced a documentary on the rugby scene in Limerick that has aired both in Ireland and America.

“It’s heading for film festivals once it’s completed and we hope to secure distribution both here and abroad,” said Mr Hynes.


Public beach the focus of major row

A MAJOR row has er upted in Nor th Clare over plans by Clare Count y Council to excavate stones from a public beach just nor th of Lahinch.

A local woman has blasted what she has labelled “illegal” plans to privatise a section of Cregg Beach, while a local representative has tabled a motion before Clare County Council that the works be carried out “to allow public access to the beach”.

The stand-off sparked by the oneperson protest waged by Maura Lehane has resulted in work at the beach – which lies at the southern end of Lahinch on the Miltown Malbay road – being halted.

Excavation work began on Saturday, July 21 at Cregg Beach at the southern end of Lahinch village.

“I saw what was happening,” revealed Ms Lehane.

“The excavation of the sea stones was going on for a considerable length of time and I could see a visible difference.

“A machine driver was using a track machine to alter the course of the River Moy and, if this work continued, it would have resulted in the flow of the river running through the centre of the beach. I could see that if this work was allowed to continue, the southern part of Cregg Beach would be lost to the public – at least half the beach would be privatised,” she added

“It is a contentious issue,” admitted local councillor, Bill Slattery (FG) “and it is one that has to be resolved. What was being done was to provide access for the general public to the beach.

“The work has now been stopped and it is gone back to the county council and the engineers will deal with it.

“This work has to be done to allow the public have access to the beach and this has to be resolved,” added Cllr Slattery.

“That fact that there was no engineer or safety officer on site or any signs of warning of work on the beach shocked me, not to mention the untold damage they have done to our beautiful beach,”said Ms Lehane.

“I am aghast that our beautiful coastline would be touched to such a degree.

“It is imperative that this situation is rectified immediately and the beach returned to its natural state,” she added.


Kilfenora relishing ‘rare home gig’

THEY are the most famous ceilí band in the world but this Saturday night, the Kilfenora Ceilí Band are in their home county to play in a oneoff ceili at the West County Hotel in Ennis.

The gig, which will feature set dancing will start at 10pm and run for three hours, with the entire famed group in attendance.

The cast of talented musicians have been playing traditional music for over a century, but as band leader John Lynch explains, it’s always a pleasure for them to play in their home county:

“It’s where you’re from and where you grew up so you enjoy coming back (to play in Clare).”

Indeed, the attendance at the band’s ceilís and concerts within the county has been phenomenal over the past year as the band’s ‘gigging’ appearances in Clare can be rare.

Over 800 attended the sold out event at the West County last year while over 600 attended both ceilis during Willie Clancy Week.

The level of interest is something Lynch and the band “appreciate so much” and audiences have been huge at each of their five events in Clare so far this year.

Lynch enjoys playing at both concerts and ceilis but for different reasons:

“At ceilís, the audience are on the floor dancing sets and there is a great atmosphere and response from the crowd.

“On the other hand, we can arrange pieces and harmonies much more easily at concerts as the audience are in their seats listening.”

He adds that Saturday’s concert will include music from past and present:

“You have some people there who have listened to previous bands so we want to play some of the older music to please them.

“On the other hand, we want to show that we are progressing with new material. And of course we want to get people out dancing!”

A member of The Kilfenora Ceilí band for 20 years, Lynch, who plays the banjo, says that there is a “little bit of tension before an event” but as soon as you begin to play, “the music takes hold.”

There are still a few tickets remaining for Saturday night’s show in the West County (tickets are € 15 apiece), they can be purchased at reception.


‘Farming legend and proud Clareman’ – Paddy Lane

INTERNATIONAL rugby player, army officer, dairy farmer, president of the Irish Farmer’s Association, MEP and proud Clare man Paddy Lane passed away on Tuesday.

His death at the age of 77 brought to an end a busy life that impacted on many people and organisations.

Not only was the Parteen man the only Clare man to serve as national president of the IFA from 1976 to 1980, he also served as a Fianna Fáil MEP from 1989 to 1994.

Leading the tributes, IFA President John Bryan said Mr Lane led farmers at what was a difficult time economically, with high inflation and interest rates eroding farm incomes.

“Paddy Lane, who was a powerful voice for farmers, had a longstanding commitment to IFA and serving the farming community. He led a successful campaign of opposition to the then Minister for Finance George Colley’s notorious two per cent sales levy. Paddy Lane battled for better conditions and facilities for farmers, and a more receptive attitude in the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

As part of the farmers rights campaigns, he took part in the great march to Dublin in 1966. A year later, he and his neighbour John Doherty were sent to Limerick prison for a total of five weeks for civil disobedience, when they were singled out for following the then NFA’s advice on a go-slow campaign in paying rates.

“Earlier this year, the IFA conferred Honorary Life Membership on Paddy Lane at a meeting of the Clare IFA Executive, and I recall him being deeply honoured. On behalf of our membership, I want to extend our sympathies to his family.”

He also served as IFA Deputy President from 1974 to 1976.

The late Parteen man was also a member of the Fianna Fáil party and served Clare in Europe for five years.

Clare TD Timmy Dooley (FF) paid tribute to the East Clare man and sympathised with his family on behalf of the party.

Mr Lane was capped for the Irish rugby team in 1964 and had a distinguished rugby career with Old Crescent and Munster.

Paddy Lane was pre-deceased by his wife Carmel, and survived by his children Tommy, David and Liz.

He was laid to rest in Mount Saint Lawrence Cemetery on Friday, following Requiem Mass in Parteen Church.


Uproar in chamber as discussions heat up

THE summer sun finally reached the Banner county on Friday, but the heat from the long-awaited sunshine paled to insignificance next to the heat in the council chamber.

Members of Clare County Council had gathered to discuss the withholding of funds from the General Purpose Grant Allocation of the Local Government Fund for 2012.

While council were already irritated by the fact that Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, had with-held € 243,000 from the third quarterly payment to the council, it was a letter of apology from Clare TD Michael McNamara (Lab) that he could not attend that caused the greatest uproar.

Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) was critical of the letter claiming that it was “pedantic and arrogant”.

“There is no explanation as to why he can’t be here,” he said.

Cllr Patricia McCarthy (Ind) took exception to what the youngest member of the council said.

“Do not forget who invited in the troika. Do not forget the people who had to pick up the pieces of this country in the last few years, and do not forget now who are suffering for what was done,” she said. “So be mindful when you are casting aspersions across the chamber at people who are not here and who outlined the situation as it is.”

Cllr Crowe then shouted across the chamber, claiming Deputy McNamara was a party colleague of the independent councillor.

“No, he is not a party colleague of mine. This is where you are going wrong, Cllr Cathal Crowe,” said Cllr McCarthy.

“You wear a red rose when it suits you,” he interjected.

Mayor Pat Daly attempted to bring the meeting to order as Cllr McCarthy clarified, “I am not a member of the Labour Party, I have not been a member of the Labour Party since 1986. I support a certain deputy in this county,” she said.

In the course of a loud and heated “discussion”, Cllr Crowe said he found elements of Cllr McCarthy’s argument “hard to believe”.

She in turn asked for an apology for insinuating she was lying.

“I did not call her a liar,” he replied.

He concluded that he believed he was within his rights to condemn Deputy McNamara’s “arrogance” and said he did not think he was alone in that.

Deputy McNamara told The Clare People that in his letter he outlined his stance on the issue as he could not be in attendance.

He said he, like all of the Government and the Seanad, voted for the charge as it was outlined in the IMF bail-out document, a document he added to his letter so as to be helpful and support his point.

“It was pointing out the realities. You can’t have councillors speaking out of both sides of their mouths, saying no funds for local government and then not supporting raising the funds.”

During the meeting, the County Manager Tom Coughlan was also less than impressed when it was implied that the executive had been dragging its heels when it came to paying the charge at the council offices.

Cllr Joe Arkins (FG) said that in the run up to the original deadline for the payment, there were issues with council officials stating that they could not take postal payments and later letters without stamps.

“I don’t think they were overly helpful in assisting the Local Government Management Agency. We were behaving like an organisation scorned. I don’t think we had our shoulder to the wheel,” he said.

Jumping to the defence of his employees, Mr Coughlan said they had made every effort to facilitate the payment of the charge, so much so that Clare had one of the highest compliance rates in the country.

After almost an hour of councillors airing their grievances on the issue, West Clare County Councillor Pat Keane (FF) left the council chamber in anger. The councillor was frustrated at the way the meeting was progressing, with some councillors getting to speak on a number of occasions while others, he felt, were over looked.

Later in the meeting, Mayor Daly apologised to Cllr Keane, stating that he was up to speak at that point but was no longer in the chamber.


Council ‘wages’ war on defiant councillors

NOT all members of Clare County Council have paid the € 100 household charge – a charge the Government says is to support local services. Some of their colleagues believe they should not benefit from the council coffers until they pay up.

In the last week, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Phil Hogan, withheld almost a quarter of a million euro of funds owed to Clare County Council as just 62 per cent of the county’s householders have registered for the controversial charge.

One of the 28 per cent who have not yet paid in Clare is Shannon’s Cllr Gerry Flynn (Ind).

Cllr James Breen (Ind) is also firmly against the charge but would not say yesterday (Monday) if he had paid the charge.

“I believe this is a very penal tax. People are not able to pay for food and they are being asked to pay € 100. There are people living on € 15 a week when all the bills are paid, “ he said.

The former TD was adamant, however, that he had not encouraged people to avoid the tax. He said he told his supporters to make up their own minds on the issue.

“At this point and time, I am not saying whether I paid it or not. For now all I am saying is that it is a personal matter between me and my wife,” he added. “I will represent people who have paid and people who have not paid it equally and impartially as I have done for the last 25 years in politics,” he said.

Cllr Flynn, however, has made a conscious decision not to pay the charge. The Shannon councillor said he sat down with his family and supporters and made a conscious decision not to pay.

“I had information that the € 100 fee is for data collection for the minister that will then be sent on to revenue for home tax,” he said. “The € 100 was never meant to be a tax. This is my own free choice. It is not that I could not pay. I do not encourage or discourage anyone to pay,” he told


Mid-year cuts made to council spending

CLARE’S Fine Gael TDs gave assurances that the county council will be reimbursed all of its Local Government funding, but only if it brings its household tax compliance to above “70 or 75 per cent”.

County Clare has the third most compliant taxpayers in the country when it comes to the household charge, yet last week when the county manager went to the council’s bank account he noticed it was almost a quarter of a million euros short.

The Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Phil Hogan had withheld € 243,000 of the General Purpose Grant Allocation of the Local Government Fund for the third quarter of the year.

The council also learnt that its over stretched staff will be taking over the collection of the household charge for this year, a role that is expected to be passed on to Revenue in 2013.

Clare County Manager, Tom Coughlan said that the local authority had not received any database to date from the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) so the authority does not know who has paid or has yet to pay the € 100- plus fines now incurred.

Mr Coughlan explained that when the council balanced its budget for this year, it did not make provision for this unexpected cut to its fund. Cuts had already been made to council spending at the beginning of the year so that it could balance the books, and there is very little “discretionary spending” left, he explained.On Friday last, councillors agreed at a hastily convened meeting that they would continue to spend as per the agreed budget.

They were critical of the minister for taking money out of its annual budget seven months into the year, and argued that any cuts should wait until 2013.

Cllr Christy Curtin (Ind) said, “I do not support any reduction in services. I do not support any financial cutback at this stage of the year. If the minister wants to make changes, he can tell us what he wants us to do in 2013 and we will deal with it then. But to force a reduction in the middle of 2012 when we have our budget passed and we are halfway through the financial year is certainly not acceptable.”

In his address to councillors, Deputy Pat Breen (FG) said the lost € 243,000 would be returned to the council’s coffers. “You will get back what is owed to you before the end of the year. I don’t think the council should worry about that,” he said.

“The money is not being cut, it is being with-held,” added Deputy Carey (FG). “We don’t have to face the cuts if we get the allocation up to 70 to 75 per cent. I got that assurance from Phil Hogan,” he added.

Deputy Breen said the whole purpose was to encourage local authorities to give one last push to get the money. “This money is not a cutback. It is an initiative to collect finances.” he said.

This is an initiative the council must currently face without any direction as to who has paid and who has not.