Knocking on Cupid's door
IT’S at this time of year that people’s thoughts turn to love and romance and in keeping with tradition, Knock Marriage Bureau have released their annual results just in time for Valentine’s Day. For 36 years, Fr. Michael Keane has been playing cupid at the Knock Marriage Bureau and last year he was responsible for bringing 16 couples up the aisle. Despite this success, the marriage rate overall is falling. Just five years ago, the Bureau had a marriage rate of one a fortnight. Fr. Keane attributes this to the fact that people’s expectations have risen and women in particular want more out of marriage than they would have previously settled for. At 79 years of age, Fr. Keane describes setting up the Marriage Bureau as "one of the best things he’s ever done."
Fr. Keane got quite a bit of notoriety last week for his advocacy of the need for married priests in the Church. The marriage rate falling? I'm not sure that it is; but I guess it depends on when your baseline is set and where exactly you are talking about. In recent years, with a bit of prosperity I guess, the marriage rate in Ireland has been on the up and up. The marriage rate jumped from 4.3 per 1000 to 5.1 per 1000 people in the country between 1995 and 2002 according to the CSO. (The CSO website is a wonderful place to browse for interesting statistics and facts – lots of spreadsheets to download). The rate of house building and the setting up of new homes is rising too and of course nowadays not all couples actually walk down the aisle or approach a registry office - in fact about 8% of all couples cohabit. There are still a lot of lonely people scattered around the Mayo countryside though that need the kind of service that Fr Keane provides. The old bachelor farmer is not the kind of person who is likely to go online and browse for a Russian Bride or an Internet date. I suspect the progressive ageing and decline of the bachelor farmer is mainly responsible for the drop in marriages at the Knock Bureau.
WESTPORT’s Gary O’Malley will look back on his "You’re a Star" experience with only positive thoughts after he departed the show on Monday last safe in the knowledge that he had finished a highly commendable sixth. The popular show is now down to the final five but Mayo’s interest is still being maintained as James Kilbane from Achill finished fourth in last Sunday’s show and goes live again on Sunday night. Gary told The Mayo News on Tuesday that he wished to sincerely thank everyone who voted for him all through the series. "Thanks to everyone who made me finish in the final six in the country. I would never have believed that I could have got that far when I first auditioned in Dublin, sixth out of 5,000 contestant is not too bad. I feel proud of myself and I hope I have done the county proud."
I saw Gary’s car roaring up and down Main Street a few weeks back asking us to vote for him. If I had heard the phone number more clearly I just might have voted for him – he was doing a not-too-bad-at-all rendition of a U2 song if I remember rightly. Now I didn’t actually watch the programme so I’m just wondering did many people ring to vote without having seen the programme or heard him singing? Of course they did. Don’t we know that "A Nation Once Again" is Britain’s most popular song over the past century? Mayo with a population of only just over 110,000 is at a definite disadvantage, however, in these phone-in-polls. It’s just not fair that we have to compete against big counties like Cork and Dublin with perhaps 10 times the number of phone lines!
Water quality running clearer
THE quality of public water supplies in Mayo is high, but there is still a good deal of work to be done in improving the quality of supply in group water schemes throughout the county. That’s one of the findings of a report compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency. In terms of drinking water, the report reveals a continuing problem of contamination in small group water schemes countrywide, with one quarter of the schemes found to have some level of animal or human waste contamination. The National Federation of Group Water Schemes defended the work being done by its members throughout the country. The Federation’s chairman, Mr Brendan O’Mahony, who lives at Cross in South Mayo, said he accepted that the quality of drinking water in many group water schemes remained unacceptable.
I get a kick out of the fact that Mr O’Mahony is a senior IFA representative and at the same time he is on the Group Water Scheme Federation. His colleagues in the IFA are the main cause of the horrible quality of drinking water in our group water schemes! I heard the man from a Sligo group water scheme on the radio the day the report was issued. He was vigorously defending the quality of the drinking water from the scheme. Sure we "add the chloroform and it kills the anitbodies" he declared. I just hope he was not on of the operators of the scheme. I would much prefer if they added chlorine to disinfect the water and kill the bacteria. The small group schemes were so contaminated that they could only get better. If they had deteriorated any more people it was only a matter of time before we got a big outbreak of E Coli 0157 or Cryptosporidium or Campylobacter or any one of a number of really nasty bugs. Even chlorine doesn’t kill Cryptosporidium – water infected with this bug from slurry has to be boiled. In fact one of the big public supplies was hit by Cryptosporidium a couple of years back, making a whole lot of people very ill in Mullingar. It comes back to careless slurry spreading by Mr O’Mahony’s IFA colleagues. They will say that they don’t do this of course – but why so many viruses and bacteria originating from animals in our water? Farmers dumping slurry on land especially in wet conditions when the stuff quickly gets into streams that run into lakes or down into groundwater beneath us. Someone told me too that the group schemes are only part of the problem – there are another 100,000 private wells around the country and no one really knows anything about the quality of these on a day to day basis. What we do know that slurry has contaminated a large chunk of our groundwater too – over a third of all samples taken from groundwater sources by the EPA had nasty bugs in them. So the person with the well drawing from these aquifers should also be careful, as there is a high chance that it is also contaminated.