From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Mayo News 14 July 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
18, Jul 2004 - 10:09

T.D. told to ‘leave local politics’

THE Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Cllr. Peter Flynn, has called on local vote-getter and Fine Gael party colleague, Michael Ring, T.D. to ‘stay away from local politics’, after accusing him of interfering in the local political process . Cllr. Flynn made his comments at the inaugural meeting of the new Westport Electoral Area Committee on Monday last after he failed to receive a nomination for the position of Cathaoirleach, despite having lobbied his two Fine Gael colleagues on the committee to vote for him. After failing to second the nomination of his Louisburgh colleague, Cllr. Austin O’Malley, Cllr. Flynn went on to abstain from a poll taken amongst the five members to elect the new Cathaoirleach. Because of his absention, the two Fine Gael and two Fianna Fail members levelled the votes at 2 each between the two candidates, Cllr. Austin O’Malley and Cllr. Margaret Adams. It was then decided that the new Cathaoirleach would be elected by lot and the two candidates names were placed in a Roses Chocolates tin, resulting in the election of Cllr. O’Malley as Chair.

‘Thank you very much’ isn’t that the slogan associated with Cadbury’s Roses? I love the idea of picking the names out of a chocolate box. They ended up with a raffle in Westport but in Castlebar they decided that it was not a dignified way to select a Mayor (I must say I still dislike the use of the term ‘Mayor’). I was surprised at the openness and bitterness of party in-fighting - that they would allow their dirty linen to be washed in public like this. But it’s much healthier (and more entertaining for the public) than bottling it all up!

Whatever about the dual mandate between town council and county council, the dual mandate between local and national was supposed to be a thing of the past with the recent local elections. Of course some gave up the fight to be both local and national sooner than others (not mentioning Michael Ring nor Beverley Flynn of course) hanging on to both their mandates until the bitter end. All this Westport business too occurred in the same week that a similar power struggle going on between Mayo County Council and Castlebar Town Council came to prominence. In Castlebar the battle was the old one over who can lay claim to the big industrial ratepayers in the country. So watch out for some peculiar kinks in the outline of the new Castlebar town boundary!

I notice that already there is some dissatisfaction among voters that elected politicians are not turning up to council meetings even immediately after the elections. I sense a rocky road ahead over the next five years for councillors who don’t turn up. Non attendance will be revealed very easily in what are increasingly accessible online minutes of the councils. We voters are coming to expect such online accountability from councils. And indeed voters are liable to get quite annoyed when minutes of meetings are not forthcoming on the council websites in a timely fashion. Ditto when they are not sufficiently detailed for anyone who wasn’t at the meeting to understand what transpired. Not everyone can attend in the public gallery. Not every meeting is controversial but it is nice to be able to read through the record of who said what and who supported what motion. Who spoke in debates? Who lived up to their election promises on specific issues? Who attended or not, who proposed or seconded section 140 motions, who did not withdraw from the chamber when there was an obvious conflict of interest, and so on. Transparency.


Ballina D.J. goes national

NIGHTTIME Irish radio has had a western twang of late, as a young Mayo man has become the youngest DJ on a national station. Ray Foley from Ballina town has been presenting ‘The Blast’ on Today FM since May of this year, occupying the 10p.m. to midnight slot from Monday to Thursday. It tops six years of radio experience for Ray, who has worked in a variety of stations around Dublin since moving to the capital in 1998. Journalism was an interest that took hold at a young age, as he explained to the Mayo News. "When I was a teenager journalism was all that I wanted to do. I read The Irish Times every day, and to work for that newspaper was my dream. When I was seventeen, I began to think about radio, because I entered the DJ for a Day competition on 2FM and got quite far in it. I became more interested in it after that, but I wouldn’t say it was my main focus at that stage".

It perhaps shows that good radio can come out of Mayo in spite of all the pessimism and complaining this last week on the bulletin board about CRCFM. Mayo has produced some great radio voices and acting talents. I can’t say I have ever listened to Ray Foley’s ‘The Blast’ on Today FM – I’d be more a Tom Dunne, Donal Dineen or John Kelly fan but even more likely to be listening to ‘Blue of the Night’ at that time of the evening. Well that’s apart from Vincent Browne’s tribunal specials of course. The readings from the transcripts are perhaps the most entertaining radio ever presented since Scrap Saturday – with the added piquancy that they are real transcripts not just fictional scripts. I’d love to hear the Padraic Flynn transcripts read on the evening of the tribunal rather than reading it in the paper the next day. Scrap Saturday writ large.

But back to CRCFM it seems that some people want to ban it altogether because they don’t like some of the programming. Others appear to want wall to wall pop or juke box radio – but as someone pointed out there is no shortage of that on the airwaves generally. Another contributor seems to want CRCFM to go ethnic and provide a sort of BBC-World-Service-style of operation to tender for the needs of the wide range of ethnic communities now living in Castlebar. It’s a chicken and egg situation – resources are needed to provide the kind of programming and technological backup required to be all things to all men and women. You need a massive listenership to generate sufficient advertising revenue to generate the resources needed. But the BCI put very strict limits on what a community station especially can and can’t do. Their emphasis is very definitely not on the commercial side of things but at the same time on the emphasis is placed firmly on programmes that have the much more expensive speech, local interest and current affairs content.

Perhaps CRC should do a roadshow much as RTE itself did recently and go to all the local community organisations individually and ask them to get involved in putting their message or interests across. I know the sporting sector is very well catered for on CRC especially at the weekends but many more organisations than at present could get involved. Most of them don’t know how to get involved but if given the chance would be delighted. Video may have killed the radio star but the local voluntary organisations tend not to be the people that sit watching videos in the evenings – they are out doing things, attending meetings, exactly the kind of people you want to be involved in local radio too. So make an effort to talk to a wide range of community organisations and explain precisely how to get involved in making programmes on CRCFM. Make them feel welcome and a valuable part of the team. Many will fall by the wayside but there will be a core group who will stick with it once the initial trawl is completed. Then repeat the whole process to ensure a continuous supply of new ideas and new voices.


Oil firms face cartel charges

LEGAL proceedings have been instituted by the State against a number of home-heating oil companies in the West of Ireland for suspected participation in a price-fixing cartel which has been under investigation by the Competition Authority since 2000. The price-fixing ring allegedly involves 24 different defendants - companies and individuals - in counties Mayo, Galway, Roscommon and Clare. A number of these have been summoned before the local courts over the past number of weeks on criminal charges under the Competition Act. The cases have been adjourned for service of a Book of Evidence, after which they will be sent forward for trial at Galway Circuit Court. The criminal proceedings being taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions stem from a series of searches that were carried out by officers of the Competition Authority at a number of home heating oil companies in Galway and Mayo in 2002.

No names were mentioned in the papers but it will be very interesting to see the outcome – are the conspiracy theorists about oil companies correct? We lost the run of ourselves during the Celtic Tiger Era when money flowed through our hands like it was going out of style. Our price consciousness was more like a price-unconsciousness - as if we went to sleep van Winkle style for a few years as far as inflation was concerned. We were so unused to having a few bob that we lost the run of ourselves. Even if the Celtic Tiger is making a return it is to be hoped that we will become more price conscious even without the help of the Competition Authority. Whatever about home heating oil there certainly there is competition in the price of diesel with prices varying by over 10 cents per litre across the country. I’m sure the pumps at the cheaper end of the range are doing really well – and thankfully there are a few here in Castlebar. When buying diesel for your home heating, however, the prices are less obvious than they are outside a petrol station and the hassle of ringing around for prices is a chore – especially if the price tends to be the same no matter which company you ring? Of course online price comparisons should help make this less of a chore.


History awaits - again

IN terms of Connacht final victories there is no similarity. Roscommon’s nineteen victories pale in comparison to Mayo’s 39. The history of their rivalry bears no resemblance to the passion and tension and emotion which meetings between Mayo and Galway evoke. Yet, for sheer theatre nothing in this writer’s memory surpasses the drama of the battle for provincial honours which in 1989, between the combatants of next Sunday’s final, culminated in the winning goal coming off Jimmy Burke’s knee. On either side of that year significant encounters shaped the destiny of each county. In 1991 Derek Duggan denied Mayo their first ever Connacht final victory over Roscommon at McHale Park with a point from a free sixty yards out, earning the visitors a dramatic draw. Roscommon won the replay by a point at Hyde Park. Ten years later, Mayo were on course for their 40th title at Hyde Park when Gerry Lohan crashed home a goal in injury time to snatch victory, their first title since denying Mayo a decade earlier.

Couldn’t finish this week without a mention of the Mayo v Roscommon match. Of course there’s lots and lots of coverage in all the papers. Most likely by the time you read this the fate of Roscommon will have been decided. Mayo will have gone to victory number 40!

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