Peat Row Rumbles on
The Front page of the Connaght suggest that the Mayo County Manager was ‘hurt’ by gas blast. While the headline reads like a report on a real gas explosion it refers of course to the ongoing fallout from the refusal by An Bord Pleanala for the Bellanaboy Gas Terminal. Des Mahon, County Manager, was obviously upset by the ruling. He has made it clear to Enterprise Energy Ireland that the council are available for pre-planning consultation should the company wish to reapply for planning permission. Cllr Tim Quinn said people were very emotional about the setback. Cllr Pat McHugh said it was important not to abandon hope. Pat Kilbane (FG) said "This disastrous and negative ruling has undermined the attractiveness of this county to industrialists". There was all party unanimity at a Leinster House meeting of West of Ireland Oireachtas members. Senator Paddy Burke made quite a telling comparison with Knock Airport where an equally large volume of peat had been moved during construction of the runway and airport buildings.
The view that the problem of storing the peat should have been made the subject of further conditions rather than outright refusal seems to be the generally accepted view. It is to be hoped that the end result of the whole debacle is not to bring An Bord Pleanala into disrepute. This is perhaps one of those make or break planning issues. The Bord rejected most of the inspector’s objections and plumped for one which on the face of it at least seems to be eminently ‘conditionable’ if that’s the correct term. We do, however, need An Bord Pleanala to keep some semblance of order on the chaotic planning rampage that is stomping across our beautiful countryside. Ribbons of houses between all our towns, ugly haciendas on every hill top, around every lake to catch the all elusive ‘VIEW’ but undermining any elses chance of ever seeing the VIEW in its pristine glory and with it there goes chance of sustainable tourism devloping in balance with the environment. Even in the County Council meeting, reported upon above, the councillors were using the Bellanaboy decision to beat the Bord over the head for other highly sensible refusals.
Walking festival hit by SARS threat
The Connaught reports that Elaine Devereaux, Director of the Castlebar Four Days Walks, has reported a substantial drop in the number of walkers registering for next July's walking festival. The Festival takes place from the 5th to 8th July this year. Fear of SARS was cited by a number of regular attendees, contacted by festival staff, as the reason why they were not going to come to Castlebar this year. In addition some regular visitors from foreign armies are not in a position to travel because of the war in Iraq. Elaine called for a greater than usual turn out from local walkers in order to swell the numbers. She reckoned that there will be less than 1000 walkers this year for the first time in 15 years.
The poor old Four Days Walks is really going through the wars over the past few years. Following the foot and mouth cancellation two years ago numbers picked up well last year. Then there are increasing restrictions due to difficulties in getting agreement from land owners. Now SARS and the Iraqi war. The turning away of Special Olympics athletes from SARS countries like China and Hong Kong too may be a straw in the wind. Now with two further large-scale Al Qaeda attacks in Saudi and Casablanca over the course of the last week – presumably revenge for the US/UK Iraqi invasion – we could be on the verge of a no-travel era. Large-scale tourism events like our Four Days Walks may become a thing of the past?
Anyone Remember the Corncrake?
A nice item in the Connaught reports on the first corncrake of the season – 21st April on Inishbofin – eight days earlier than last year’s first bird. Corncrakes have also been heard for the third year in a row at Valley, Achill. Birds also returned to Rossport and Tubberhill near Westport. If you hear a corncrake between May 20th and July 10th report it to the Corncrake Hotline 097-85990. Some 20 birds were heard last year in West Connacht. Farmers are offered grants to protect corncrakes – contact Tim Gordon on the hotline for details.
I remember corncrakes at Castlebar Airport in the mid 1980s and there was even one in the garden of what is now the Lonely Planet hostel next to the Moneen Roundabout. You could hear it even in the day time if you walked by Moneen. And at night the mechanical sound of corncrakes "creeeekking" would nearly drive you mad – what sounded like hundreds of them craking away all night long along the route of the now N5. I once saw one flying as a kid – flushed it up walking through a field – an unusual event. Of course their shyness was their downfall. Faced with a silage harvester working to the centre of a field in ever-decreasing circles the stupid/shy birds kept retreating instead of flying away from danger. To be chopped up into a fine mincemeat of feathers and flesh never to crake again. Eggs and nests chopped up neatly too. All in the name of progress. Now we are delighted to hear 20 birds in the whole of West Connacht – 20 birds perhaps in 20,000 square kilometres! So if you hear one enjoy the sound – your children are unlikely to hear it.