From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Mayo News 25 Aug 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
28, Aug 2004 - 13:30

Mayo General Hospital removed organs

AS more and more hospitals around the country come forward each day admitting they retained organs of deceased patients without consent, Mayo General Hospital is the latest to be added to the list. The Western Health Board have said that they regret if the practice of removing pituitary glands from bodies at Mayo General Hospital during the 70s and 80s for supply to a pharmaceutical company, caused any distress to parents or families. In a statement issued to The Mayo News last week, the Health Board confirmed that they collected pituitary glands from deceased adults and children at Mayo General Hospital for supply to a Danish pharmaceutical company for the production of a growth hormones to treat children of small stature. "This was common international practice at the time as the hormone was in extremely short supply," the Health Board has said. "No other source was available. The practice ceased in or about 1986 when artificially synthesised growth hormones became available."

I heard on the RTE local papers' roundup yesterday that not every local newspaper in the country takes the obvious line of wringing their hands and deploring this practice - there were one or two exceptions. In one way I am inclined to agree that the situation has been hyped out of all proportion. If you were the parent of a child who was destined to be three foot tall as an adult without growth hormone (which 20 years ago was only available from cadavers) you would have been very grateful to received growth hormone from this source. Of course the relatives should have been asked for permission - just as the donation of other organs is requested in Ireland at least. In other countries, of course, even today organ donation is assumed to be the default situation on the death of an individual in a car crash, for example. Unless you carry a do-not-donate card then your heart, lungs, kidneys etc, may be transplanted without further ado. Accepting this situation here would result in a lot fewer deaths on those long transplant queues.

In the 1970s and 1980s we lived in a different world to today. The rich dodged taxes – apparently with an implicit agreement from the tax collectors. Corruption in politics was epidemic – politicians were much more corrupt than they are today with tribunals and ethics legislation keeping them in line (we think/hope!). Child abuse by clergy was apparently rife and covered up by those who knew. In the context of the times the use of organs for the production of growth hormone is a misdemeanour.

I also think that many parents of dead children simply do not wish to be reminded of their lost child in such a dramatic hyped up manner during the annual silly-season when a reasonably important story is pumped as if on the newspaper equivalent of steroids – way out of proportion.

The list of politicians jumping onto this bandwagon too is extremely distasteful. Especially distasteful when it is in the same week when ex-health board members are grubbing around behind the scenes negotiating for an additional, compensatory, back-payment of expenses. This payment will apparently amount to the tune of a half a million euros – effectively to compensate them for being removed from the health boards. The very health boards that presided over and which they helped to run into the ground over the past number of decades. At the margins the sum of 500,000 euros is still a lot of additional beds, or operations, or equipment purchased that will have to be done without as a result of this payout to politicians. A much bigger scandal in my humble opinion as they say on all the best boards.

Annual pay-out confirmed

THE developer of the proposed Achill wind farm, Joe McNamara, has categorically confirmed that 500,000 euro will be paid annually into a trust to be used for the benefit of the local community, if the wind farm is developed, and has denied that it will be a one-off payment. The wind farm is proposed for the Knockmore commonage, which is farmed by 260 landowners. However, instead of renting lands from individual farmers, Mr. McNamara has undertaken, if the wind farm is developed, to establish a trust into which a half a million euro will be paid annually, and which will be administered by local people, for the local community.

One of the objections is devaluation of houses due to noise and aesthetics. On ‘holidays’ last week (hence no commentary for the 18th August editions of the local papers) I stood in a stiff breeze about a 500 metres from a group of windmills. I was surprised to be able to hear the swishing of the blades. Usually the noise of the wind itself will drown out any mechanical noise even when you are very close. At the same time no one complains about the noise of those waves crashing along the Atlantic coast and the sounds of swishing gravel and cobble as waves retreat along the beaches of Achill - but then I guess there wouldn't be much point would there? It's unlikely though that you would hear the blades of most windmills from inside even the nearest house as in the nature of windfarms they do tend to be in remote areas with few houses.

There are so many windfarms now all down the West Coast that they are obviously commercially successful. This offer of a half million euros to be paid into a local community demonstrates just how much money is being made from these large windfarms. At least they are producing carbon dioxide free electricity. Did you see the videos from Boscastle in Cornwall with all those cars being washed away out to sea? A really dramatic illustration of what carbon dioxide can do! On the one hand environmental destruction due to global warming and on the other hand potential noise and aesthetic impacts?

Cultural tourism for Achill

DOWN through the years Achill has benefited considerably from cultural tourism and it was a product that, if further enhanced and developed, could provide significant economic benefits for the popular holiday destination. This was one of the points made by Mr Richard O’Hara, Chairman of Ireland-West Tourism when he opened an exhibition of paintings by Tulla, Co Clare artist, Tom Maloney, at McDowell’s Hotel in Dugort. He said projects like Scoil Acla, Irish language colleges, the Achill Archaeological School and the island’s reputation as a haven for writers, and poets had all boosted the local economy. The challenge for local tourism interests was to maximise their potential for Achill. ‘Cultural tourism can play a huge role in the development of our tourism industry and many aspects of it are not weather-dependent," he said.

Another Achill story from the Mayo News that is not too distant from the windmill cash story. Will tourists come to see our Achill windmills? The environmental destruction wreaked on Achill Island over the past decades has been phenomenal. In the 1980s parts of Achill looked like a shantytown in Apartheid ridden South Africa with shacks gerry-built here, there and everywhere. Then the overgrazing devastation in the late 80s and 90s made short shrift of the heather (was Mayo really called the Heather County?). The local papers covered the damage when a road out towards Keem was undermined and washed away due to erosion resulting from lack of vegetation which in turn allowed the water to penetrate beneath the peat and to rip away the top soil and more. Now it looks like ribbon development is going to be unleashed by the county councillors with their very own revised or 'mutilated' (to quote one of the self-same councillors) county development plan.

Tourists will still come, however, for special interest holidays. I stayed in a big Donegal Hotel during the week and couldn’t believe the huge groups of French, Spanish and Italian visitors that were pouring through the doors on bus tours each day. I was also interested to pay only very sightly more in this luxurious hotel than I had in a bed and breakfast establishment the previous week. Cultural tourism of course pre-supposes genuine culture and/or interests as opposed to something just packaged together without any real roots in the area - Achill has this for sure. It's important to remember that the local environment is still paramount in that cultural or special interest holiday makers will still want to be surrounded by beautiful scenery not by one-off houses blocking off that view of the Atlantic sunset. Whether windmills dotted across the landscape will put them off or not - only time will tell.

© Copyright 2004 by Castlebar - County Mayo -