From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Mayo News 7 April 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
11, Apr 2004 - 15:30

Peat industry still flickers

A LAST ditch effort is under way to save the peat industry in North Mayo which is due to shut down at the end of this year with hundreds of job losses. An all-party drive by the five Mayo Dail deputies has been set in train calling for a cessation to all further bog rehabilitation works by Bord na Mona in advance of their pull-out this year, pending an independent survey of Bord na Mona’s peat reserves to establish the feasibility of a new power station for Bellacorick. Former Senator Myles Staunton, the driving force behind the renewed effort to save the peat industry in Mayo, has accused Bord na Mona of understating their peat reserves in North Mayo in order to concentrate on their Midlands operations. Following a meeting in Leinster House with Myles Staunton and Professor Seamus Caulfield, the Mayo deputies have called on the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Mr. Dermot Ahern to order an independent study of Bord na Mona’s reserves in North Mayo. Udaras na Gaeltachta has been suggested as a possible party to undertake this study. Myles Staunton claims that Bord na Mona’s reserves in North Mayo are far in excess of the 12 million tonnes required to power a new peat station, well above Bord na Mona’s stated reserves of 3-4 million tonnes. Speaking to the Mayo News this week in relation to the Staunton claim, Director of Peat and Allied Business with Bord na Mona, Sean Grogan, said: "It’s up to him to say where it is and what he has in mind. I don’t know where the 12 million tonnes are."

I’m afraid I can’t go along with the idea of exploiting small pockets of bog here and there in North Mayo. Most of the remaining intact bog has been designated for conservation purposes in order to protect a small relict of an important and, in European terms, a rare form of landscape. When you see Dutch people clubbing together in order to buy Irish bogs you realised that perhaps they have monetary value - even apart from their intrinsic worth and rarity value. They are trying to save some for posterity in order to helps us avoid digging them all out and making the same mistake the made in the Netherlands. There’s a project in Holland where they are spending many millions of euros just to recreate a small patch of bog – a couple of hectares or so. It’s going to take decades, if not centuries, but they think it’s worth it. We have more than a few hectares - but we still want to burn them up.

As tourist attractions they have enormous potential value. But bringing about sustainable long-term employment based on our intrinsic natural landscape and wealth needs intelligence and research, just as in every other sector of Ireland’s economy today. We have to put our past of burning our landscape and adding to our greenhouse gas emissions behind us. The new windmills on the cutaway bogs may make some amends for our profligate past. But wouldn’t it be so much better to have had a unique resource of literally thousands of square kilometres of pristine bogland with carefully designed research and tourists facilities. A national park that is really unique in Europe? We would have had sustainable jobs that would not have come to an end when the last tonne of peat went up the stack at Bellacorick in a puff of carbon dioxide.

Integrity vindicated

THE Director of Public Prosecutions has found ’‘no basis for a criminal prosecution’ into allegations of fraud involving officials of Mayo County Council, it has been revealed. Mayo County Manager, Des Mahon, has been informed by Chief Superintendent John Carey of Castlebar Garda Siochana that complaints by Castlebar Town Councillor, Frank Durcan, have been fully and thoroughly investigated by the Gardai in Castlebar, who sent a complete file with all papers and statements to the office of the DPP last December. On Wednesday last the Gardai at Castlebar were informed by the Director of Public Prosecutions that "there was no basis for a criminal prosecution". Mr. Mahon has stated that he is "very pleased that the integrity of the Mayo County Council staff has been vindicated". Mr Mahon is satisfied that there was never any basis for the allegations. He had previously refrained from commenting on the matter in order to avoid prejudicing or interfering with the investigation. Cllr Durcan, who supplied the Gardai with the controversial file, stated that he had not seen the report that the Gardai had sent to the DPP. "I want to go through that," he commented, "and I also want to see the reasons why the Director of Public Prosecutions didn’t take up the case and didn’t initiate a prosecution."

So the infamous file that supposedly outlining all sorts of nefarious deeds by officials of Mayo County Council turned out to be a damp squib. I must say that the whole thing succeeded admirably in diverting attention away from where the real conflict of interest lies in Mayo. We all know that over half of all Mayo County Councillors are either auctioneers, major land owners or developers. While they don’t all admit to ‘belonging’ to these occupations in their short bios published on the Mayo County Council website, the information is easily gleaned from Mr Google. At least 16 of the 31 elected last time were auctioneers, large land-owners, developers or significant others of major developers. In Dublin there was corruption on both sides of the fence – officials and councillors alike - George Redmond, Liam Lawlor, Ray Burke and evidently many more who took payments/donations from those trying to get planning permission. In Mayo this does not apply. In Mayo an interesting situation exists which indicates that corruption does not exist here. County Councillors in Mayo directly and legitimately involved in property and planning as part of their daily business activities actually form a majority of the elected council. The Mayo electorate put them there. They can legitimately decide what is taken out of the County Development Plan. They can legitimately decide as elected councillors whether we want one-off housing or not – whether this piece of land is rezoned or not. It’s all above board. These three occupations account for less than 1% of the normal working population – so the big question is how come they account for over 50% of our council?


Court of 'appeal'

THE finishing touches are being put to the newly refurbished Castlebar Court-house and court business is expected to resume there on April 20th. After almost two years, the multi-million euro development, originally built in the 1830’s, has been completely revamped by Galway-based contractors, the JSL Group, and a new extension has been added at the back. The new courthouse, will incorporate both the District and Circuit Court Offices. In addition to the four courtrooms, legal practitioners rooms, consultation rooms, family law rooms and media facilities, the new development also boasts video conferencing facilities, a loop induction PA system compatible with hearing aids and signage in braille. Castlebar District Court sittings have been taking place at the Castlebar Parish Centre on Chapel Street while the refurbishment has been underway, with Circuit Court sittings taking place at Westport courthouse. Court sittings in the new courthouse will be phased in over a number of weeks, with an official opening planned for the end of May, according to a spokesperson for the Court Service.

It certainly looks appealing from the Mall at the moment - it's almost there. As long as they don’t paint the pillars red again!

Court appearance

ASSAULT charges have been brought against the brother of Liam McDonnell who died following an altercation at the Rossmor estate in Castlebar last week. Frank McDonnell (33) of 30 Rossmor, Pontoon Road, Castlebar is due to appear at Castlebar District Court this morning. He was arrested in Ballinrobe at 3pm on Tuesday, March 30th after he was discharged from Merlin Park Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the incident which took place in the early hours of Sunday, March 28th, following which his brother died at Mayo General Hospital. Frank McDonnell was charged last Wednesday morning at Castlebar Garda Station under section four of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 for the offence of "causing serious harm." He appeared before a special sitting of Westport District Court on Wednesday last and was remanded in custody to Castlerea prison to appear before Castlebar District Court today. Section four of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act states that "a person who intentionally or recklessly causes serious harm to another shall be guilty of an offence" and liable on conviction on indictment to a sentence of up to life imprisonment.

As a follow-on to last week’s tragic events the papers this week report on the charging of the dead man’s brother. Truly, a dreadfully tragic situation for the McDonnell family as a whole.

© Copyright 2004 by Castlebar - County Mayo -