Local Papers Commentary
Angry farmers reject charges of hostility
FARMERS who are opposed to hill walkers using their lands for their outdoor treks have been accused of putting the economy of rural Ireland at risk by one of the country’s leading walks organisers.
Clifden-based archaeologist Michael Gibbons, was commenting on the support given by the IFA to Sligo’s ‘The Bull’ McSharry who was given a custodial sentence for non-payment of a fine imposed for abusive behaviour towards hill-walkers on his lands. "I was disgusted at the way in which John Dillon, President of the Irish Farmers Association, came out in support of ‘The Bull’ McSharry. His sense of values seems to have become so twisted that he has lent the support of his august and honourable organisation to the perpetrator of threatening and abusive behaviour, for which he was justifiably convicted," stated Mr Gibbons who added the action taken by ‘The Bull’ McSharry against the hill walkers was the type of incident that was causing massive damage to the good name of Irish farms and farming, both in Ireland and in markets abroad. "Farmers’ leaders should hold their heads in shame for giving support to such thuggish behaviour," he said.
Michael Gibbons has hit the nail on the head. I heard an item on the Saturday morning farming news about this one too. Eamon O’Cuiv pointed out that at a few euros per head (apparently the kind of money that the farmers want to earn from individual hillwalkers) you are talking peanuts basically. Some 200,000 walkers used to come here every year but divide the money out between all the farmers who want a piece of the action and it’s a pittance – it wouldn’t pay for the 'keep out' signs. The number of hillwalkers is now declining dramatically because of these, increasingly common, unwelcoming signs and because of stories of nastiness like this one which are giving Ireland a most unfriendly name. Who needs aggro on holidays? They’ll just go somewhere else.
A little story - unfortunately all too true - illustrates the point. We used to walk out to the mouth of Killary Harbour along the beach at Uggool. We had done this every year for 20 years or so –always careful to walk along the beach and to access it by crossing along the rocks. We would keep below the high water mark taking our shoes off to wade the channel and never cross a fence – i.e. being good neighbours. After the beach walk, before driving back to Castlebar, we would go to Durkins on the Weir and have a meal or drop into the local shops and buy a few bits and pieces. Nothing major, but the local economy got something out of it. In Durkins we may even have eaten roast lamb or Irish stew that was produced on the sides of Mweelrea.
But a few years ago this all ended. It ended because we were subjected to the spectacle of seeing a friend on holidays from the States being physically attacked by ‘angry farmer’ as we approached Uggool. We were walking on the rocks at the ocean’s edge - below the high water mark - and careful also to be outside of the fence which encloses angry man’s property. So imagine how I felt when I saw my friend being physically swung around the place by this yobbo? Imagine how his wife and children following behind felt when they saw their husband and father being subjected to this kind of Mayo welcome? Children crying, raised voices, angry, angry, the foreshore act being discussed loudly, nasty, nasty, stuff. That was the last time he came to Mayo on holidays from the USA. And how many people have heard their tale of woe since about this famous battle of Uggool beach?
Castlebar’s biggest tourism event in the year is our walking festival. I know there are very careful negotiations with local landowners before each year’s event and the Sligo or Uggool type of scenario does not occur. But inevitably, the bad publicity emanating from the West of Ireland generally is going to cause collateral damage – many of the visiting walkers are simply going to strike Castlebar off their list of walking venues as a result of all this.
Mayo General Hospital affected by water mismanagement
A farcical situation in Castlebar which resulted in large areas of the town being left without water on Thursday last has been roundly condemned by Cllr. Blackie Gavin. Notices were sent out by Mayo County Council to residents in the Pontoon Road area that water would be off on Wednesday. However, it wasn’t until Thursday that the water was actually turned off. Except it wasn’t just off for the householders notified, but houses and businesses in areas throughout Castlebar. Among those left without water who received no notification included the Town Foreman, as well as Mayo General Hospital, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers in the town.
So that’s why our water went off last Thursday. When we rang they said Oh? You’re off too? We thought it was only the Turlough Road. It took a long time to get up to pressure again.
Unregistered landlords costing council 50,000 euro
THE town of Castlebar is losing out on over 50,000 euro a year due to errant landlords who fail to register their rental properties with the Town Council. Under the Housing (Registration of Rented Housing) Regulations 1996, all rental properties (except holiday lettings) must be registered with the local authorities for a fee of 45 euro annually, which is tax deductible. Director of Services with Castlebar Town Council, Mr. Ray Norton told the town council’s budget meeting last week that a concerted effort was made last summer to crack down on the problem. Council staff trawled through the local papers for accommodation listings and thousands of letters were sent out reminding landlords of their obligations to register. However, the council’s efforts were largely ignored. Town Clerk, Ms. Marie Crowley, said that until the council start prosecuting the situation won’t change much.
If you are living in a rented property do you pay cash? Do you get a receipt? Is there a rent book, do you have a lease, etc., etc. Now that Castlebar has a third level technical institute there are a lot more students renting in Castlebar. We hear all the stories about poor standards of accommodation in Dublin and Galway each year when the rush back to college starts. Are we now going to hear similar stories from Castlebar? Let’s hope not. One of the big attractions of Castlebar is that accommodation is reasonable by comparison with Dublin and Galway. Whether student or working it is a big plus not to have to pay exorbitant rents. Let’s hope that this situation will continue even when all the land lords are registered with the town council.
© Copyright 2006 by the author(s)/photographer(s) and www.castlebar.ie
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