THE vigilance of a Westport post office official has saved a local tourism operator from falling into a sophisticated internet trap. Brian Spicer sensed all was not right when a customer attempted to send 23,250 by Western Union to an address in Nigeria. "I just had a gut feeling that there was something dodgy about the transaction," explained Spicer, "and I felt duty bound to say something, even though realistically the woman could have turned around and said mind your own business." The Westport tourism provider, who does not wish to be identified, believed that a business man based in the United States and Holland, with a wife and two young children, was going to lease her holiday cottage for a period from April 1 to June 30. She had advertised this cottage-to-rent on the internet and after a number of email exchanges with a Daniel O’Sullivan (the business man’s nom de plume) she had received a bank draft from an "associate" of O’Sullivan’s. In the Westport branch of the Permanent/TSB, the lady cashed the bank draft, valued at 25,250, and deducted 22,000 due for the first two months of O’Sullivan’s rent. She duly crossed the street to Westport Post Office to forward the remaining 23,250 to O’Sullivan’s travel agent at an address in Nigeria. Following Mr. Spicer’s interven-tion in the post office, the lady returned to the Permanent/TSB where a manager confirmed that the bank draft was a fraud after it was re-examined. He also informed her that she would have had to bear the financial brunt of the scam, rather than the bank, if she had wired the cash to Nigeria.
This one seems to have been a bit more sophisticated than the usual send me your bank account and I will give you a million dollars. This one appears to be above board at first sight. But surely the idea that someone that you have never met would trust you with over 20,000 euros should have set the alarm bells ringing. And the idea that it should be sent to Nigeria of all places the scam capital of the world!
Durcan to retire
HE was never going to go quietly. When Cllr. Frank Durcan took to his feet midway through last Thursday’s Castlebar Town Council meeting in Lough Lannagh Holiday Village, another dose of his usual, straight talking, no holds barred contributions was expected. Having thanked his fellow councillors for supporting his motion to have lands rezoned at Saleen, one of the longest serving local politicians in the country shocked all and sundry with the announcement that he would not be seeking re-election to the Town Council. His recently announced "anti-corruption" campaign for Mayo County Council was also being nipped in the bud, he was removing himself from local politics for good. 37 years is a long time in any man’s language but Cllr. Durcan has never been more vocal, more critical, more controversial than he has been during this term of the Castlebar Town Council. Age was given as one of the reasons for his stepping down but the real reason seemed to be his disillusionment with politics in general, trying as he was to expose what he saw as corruption and injustice in the county, but running down blind alleys.
Perhaps it was the failure of the DPP to support Mr Durcan’s infamous ‘corruption’ file and the disgraceful row and shouting match at the Town Council Meeting held recently in GMIT that were the final straws that broke the camel’s back? One outcome is there is now one less auctioneer-councillor involved in the planning process in Mayo! (Unless of course we elect another auctioneer to replace him!) It will add an interesting twist to the Town Council election as presumably Frank Durcan would have been a shoe-in.
THE national rail transport pressure group, Platform II, has been accused of ‘a terrible act of sabotage’ following its stated opposition to the re-opening of the Western Rail Corridor, linking Sligo with Galway and Limerick. Fr. Micheál McGréil, who has campaigned for the re-opening of the Sligo-Limerick line for almost twenty years, said he was saddened and disappointed by the opposition of Platform II to the project. ‘I understand the group is made up of about five people and their stance is divisive and narrow-minded. It feeds into the centralist mind set which queries everything that is planned for outside Dublin’ he said. Platform II maintains that the estimated 300 million euro it would cost to reopen and upgrade the link along a mostly disused line could be better spent on other rail projects, such as the Cork-Midleton, Dublin-Navan and Athlone-Mullingar lines. The group’s spokesman, Mr. Derek Wheeler, said 300 million euro would go a long way towards securing the future of existing regional rail routes such as the Limerick-Waterford line. Mr. Wheeler said that Dublin remained the only capital city in the EU still without a rail link of any kind to its airport.
It’s disturbing when two lobby groups both interested in trains being to steam off in opposite directions. For sure this dispute will damage the case for the western rail corridor. From the Dublin commuters’ point of view the western rail corridor is irrelevant – sure it doesn’t even go to Dublin! But if resources are limited and the argument is a narrow economic one, then the Dublin-centric argument will hold sway. With the current government’s approach to economics, I think the Western Rail Corridor group may as well just pack up and go home - snowballs and hell come to mind regardless of all the upbeat coverage with Seamus Brennan last week. Remember folks there is an election in the offing so tune up those BS detectors whenever a politician grabs a mic.