From Castlebar - County Mayo -

Local Papers Commentary
From the Western People - 27 Oct 2004
By The Jaundiced Eye
31, Oct 2004 - 00:55

Project will ensure quality of Mayo’s natural water supply

A long term programme to ensure that all water in Mayo is of a "good quality" has been outlined to members of Mayo County Council. The Western River Basin District Project is part of a national policy agreed with the EU which will come into force by 2015. As the local water authority Mayo County Council will be responsible for ensuring the quality of water which includes all lakes, rivers, ground waters estuaries and coastal waters. The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is seen as the most comprehensive attempt ever by the EU to guarantee the quality of water and provides a new strengthened system for the protection and improvement of water quality and dependent ecosystems. The aim is to maintain the "high status" quality of water where that already exists and to bring all other water up to "good quality" by 2015.

The account of the debate in the council suggested that the councillors are living in cloud cuckoo land. "We have to get to the bottom of the problem of pollution of Lough Carra – what is causing it?" said one councillor. I would suggest that they start with the profligate disregard for proper planning and the environment and their disgraceful mutilation of the county development plan drafted by the professional planning staff of Mayo County Council.

I loved the quotes around the term ‘high status’ and ‘good quality’ which are to be achieved by the year 2015. Do the quotes suggest that we can make up our own idea of what constitutes high status and good quality? What if high status means that one-off housing with septic tanks has to stop? What if restoring waters to good quality actually means that pollution from septic tanks has to be stopped? What then?

Broadband access is a challenge to Mayo towns

BROADBAND communications is just as important as any of the other traditional forms of infrastructure such as roads, water and sewerage, Mr John Condon, county secretary, told a meeting of Mayo County council. He said it allowed high speed access to information and also facilitated video conferencing. The council had been involved in delivering broadband in the form of fibre optic cabling to Ballina and Kiltimagh and were now commencing a similar service to Claremorris and Knock. He said it was not feasible for the council to deliver fibre optic cables to smaller villages throughout the county but this could be achieve by other means such as wireless services. Group broad-band schemes were the way forward for smaller communities but the council did not have a role in the delivery of such schemes.

Mayo County Council has been very successful in winning funding from the Government scheme to fund an independent broadband infrastructure into regions that are not ‘economic’ from the point of view of the eircoms and esats of this world. I hear too that the Internet expertise that was built up in Castlebar as a result of the Information Age Town competition has been put to good use. Mayo County Council have drawn on some of that expertise in their successful bids in the preparation of the bids for funding of Mayo-Roscommon broadband.

There’s a strange link too between this item and the Bellanaboy Gas Terminal planning permission saga. The gas pipeline was the planned route for the main fibre optic cable for Castlebar – it was to be piggy-backed along the pipeline – and hopefully now this will come to pass. The government-funded broadband network infrastructure is being put in independently of eircom and the other telecom firms. The fibres may be leased to the telcos but the enhanced competition will hopefully drive town prices and improve the reliability of the networks. This has worked quite well in parts of California it seems. The delay with planning permission for the gas terminal has, however, meant that Castlebar has now fallen somewhat behind Ballina and other towns on the first round of broadband cabling. It seems a pity in view of the definite head-start that the Information Age Town project gave Castlebar.

Even today the fact that this article is being written and you are reading it is a direct result of the InfoAgeTown project. A wag on the Castlebar bulletin board (which was set up specifically for the Information Age Competition back in 1999, it seems, and is still going strong with over 100,000 individual posts) was pointing out the other day that the Ennis website finally has set up a bulletin board. This was only set up in 2004 - some seven years after the multi-million pound award to Ennis when they won the competition’s overall prize. In any case the board had just one solitary post after 5 months in existence! Quite a contrast to the 100,000+ posts so far on the Castlebar website bulletin board. The contrast got me to thinking as to who really did win that competition?

Someone should write the history of the Information Age Town Competition now that it’s all over. I have made some enquiries recently and it certainly should be written up more fully as it is a fascinating story about the interface between a corporate giant and a local voluntary group. Castlebar succeeded in spending the one million old punts that Castlebar won in the competition on some very innovative and beneficial projects – sometimes in spite of the very strict constraints that eircom imposed on how and where the money could be spent. The benefits to the town are, however, still evident many years after the competition. The million effectively acted as a kind of seed capital that helped to attract new business into town (including the impetus to build the Cedar building where Knxus is currently located), it also created a number of jobs and allowed those working on the project to acquire new Internet skills. Many of these people are now working in multinationals, local authority and private IT companies. A local commercial company, Modata, is running the webhosting business kick-started by the project here in Castlebar developing it into a highly competitive web-hosting service. The InfoAgeTown money also levered further funding from other sources (the Chamber of Commerce CAIT project) that provided additional employment opportunities and enabled the community access centre to be used as an online computer-training centre. The main aim of CAIT was to bridge the digital divide and to introduce new technology and information systems to those in our society who are unfamiliar with and who do not use the new technologies in their everyday lives. The community and educational aspects were crucial in the view of those managing the various projects. Funding was provided for ECDL training and subsidies were given for the purchase of home PCs., new business and above all else essential computer and Internet skills that were much scarcer six or seven years ago. We would not be logging on to this site on a daily basis if the competition prize had not been won by Castlebar back in 1997 – those dim distant pioneering days of the Internet. So it's over to those who were involved to write the full history of the project?


Unique blessing of pets

ON SUNDAY, October 17, throngs of caring pet-owners gathered in the carpark of St Muredech’s Cathedral in Ballina for the third annual ‘Blessing of Pets’ ceremony. The event, organised each year by the North-Western Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NWSPCA), gives pet-owners a chance to come along with their beloved cats and dogs to have them blessed.

Do cats and dogs have souls? What happens to them when they die? Should they be brought to church? This one got me to thinking about the report this week concerning the hominid skeleton found on the island of Flores in Indonesia – not fossilised remains but bones just a mere 18,000 years old that are fresh enough to allow for DNA analysis. There was even a suggestion that this species may actually turn up alive in the jungles of Indonesia. Imagine if Ms. Flores turned up in 2004. A three foot high human-like individual not of our species but a closely related species – one that co-existed with modern Homo sapiens as recently as 18,000 years ago – long after the Lascaux paintings were made in France, for instance. Could such a species be intelligent, self-aware? What would be the view of our various Churches and theologians if such a species – one that is definitely not human - were rediscovered alive today and found to be capable of intelligent communication with us? The question on the Castlebar front page poll – ‘Do you believe in evolution?’ brought an interesting debate about the origin of life. Intelligent life tends to evolve with complexity seemed to be the view from some contributors. So maybe it’s not so daft for cats and dogs to go to Mass in Ballina after all?



© Copyright 2004 by Castlebar - County Mayo -