Gasline go-ahead gets cautious reception
THE go-ahead for the biggest ever development bonanza for North Mayo, the Corrib gas project, has received a muted welcome across the county this week. Even the project promoters, Shell E&P Ireland, are remaining tight-lipped until they study the conditions attached to the An Bord Pleanala decision and assess their impact on the Corrib project. Local councillors, Tim Quinn (FF) and Gerry Coyle (FG) have both welcomed the decision but stressed the importance addressing concerns of local people, ensuring that the maximum economic return comes into the Erris region and that the Shell operation is subject to independent inspection. Also welcoming the An Bord Pleanala decision, the Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Eddie Staunton, stated that the council would actively ensure that all of the An Bord Pleanala conditions were implemented to ensure that everybody’s interests would be protected.
The second time round ABP have given planning permission for the gas treatment plant. The politicos debated it on CRCFM this morning too – and it seemed to me that they gave a broad welcome for the decision. Apart from some comments about 'blow-ins' protesting of course. A message posted last weekend on the Castlebar bulletin board immediately after the news broke complained bitterly about the timing of the announcement just before a Bank Holiday Weekend. The implication was that somehow ABP had been persuaded to release their decision at a time when it would not garner as much publicity - a big conspiracy in other words.
Controversy over GMIT cuts increases
As GMIT, Castlebar celebrates its 10-year anniversary this week, the campaign against the proposed course cuts at the college is gathering momentum. Cllr. Paddy McGuinness, who was one of the campaigners who led the 18-year battle for a third level college for Mayo, has reiterated that the proposed reduction in the number of courses would have catastrophic consequences for the future of the Castlebar institution and for third level education in Mayo If implemented. "Like Knock Airport, GMIT Castlebar was set up with great reluctance by Government and only in the face of massive public support from the people of Mayo," Cllr. McGuinness said this week. "It is very dear to the people and any attempt to downgrade it will cause a huge outburst of anger in the county."
I wrote about this last week when the initial information was leaked to the papers. Some of the staff were worried that this could damage student recruitment next year if they feel that the courses will not remain in Castlebar if they sign up and they might as well go to Galway to start with. The bad news seems to be firming up though in all the papers this week so it’s time to get out and make your voice heard. There was a timely article in the Sunday Business Post last weekend (24 Oct 2004) trying to get a handle on why large high-tech multinationals come to Ireland. They asked the question of the Jim Tolonen, the chief financial officer of the latest big major company to come to Ireland - the French Company, Business Objects, which has just announced 350 jobs – in Dublin of course. His answer was very clear – "It was partnership between government, business and universities. I was the cooperative spirit". Time and time again the CEOs stated quite clearly that, while corporate tax rates were important in some cases more than others, the main factor that attracts them to Ireland is the well-educated workforce and links with universities. While GMIT is not strictly speaking a university it is a third level institution that produces the kind of graduates required. As the knowledge and R&D economy takes off GMIT Castlebar Campus becomes ever more vital for the economic future of Mayo. To move courses to Galway will merely suck the economic life from Mayo. There may be ulterior motives too as by all accounts too the attrition rate in the Galway campus courses is incredibly high with perhaps only 25% of students sticking with a course. In Castlebar the retention rate is very significantly higher.
RoolaBoola festival a triumph
THE streets of Castlebar burst into life in a blaze of colour, light and noise last Friday night as the Linenhall Arts Centre’s RoolaBoola Grand Parade kicked off a fantastic weekend of events for young people and their families. Amazed and delighted bystanders watched the imaginative and energetic street pageant, which involved hundreds of young people from all over Mayo in a wonderful array of masks and costumes. Together with a range of superb large-scale floats, flares, lights, drumming and music, the result was a thrilling and unforgettable night-time spectacle that made its noisy, dynamic way around the streets of Castlebar.
I missed the actual parade this year. But the photos from Michael Donnelly and Green ‘n Red Forever on the Castlebar website during the week give a good feel for the manic energy of the annual RoolaBoola parade now in its 7th year. I felt like I was there in person as a result. Hundreds of local school kids got stuck in and shared in the fun. The Mayo Arts Squad and the Linenhall Arts Centre deserve all the kudos they receive for this kind of event. Long may it continue.