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From the Western People - 20 Oct 2004
By The Jaundiced eye
Oct 23, 2004, 20:36

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Council sets wheels in motion for Davitt centenary celebration
MAYO county council is to take the initiative, along with the government, in honouring the county’s most important historical figure, Michael Davitt. Davitt was the leading figure in the battle to rid Ireland of landlordism and restore the country’s tenant farmers to owner-ship of the land. He was a native of Straide and the year 2006 marks the centenary of his death.

I reckon Davitt would be horrified at the new landlordism that is rampant around Mayo today. Not just the ‘Keep Out’ signs where the former tenant farmers defend their land against all-comers. That land and the landscape no longer belongs to Irish people and you as an Irish person certainly have no right to walk across it. Nor do you have any right to enjoy an uninterrupted view of beautiful sights like Nephin or Croagh Patrick without a battery of ugly one-off houses perched on the top of every ‘view’ between you and the mountain top. Davitt would spin in his grave if he knew what petty landlords were doing especially to his own county. The new found ability to sell off pots of land – or should I say plots of land – for building houses anywhere and everywhere is not what he envisaged I’m certain. But our new landlords can now build wherever they like in the name of Davitt – regardless of safety, convenience, environmental concerns or any other peoples’ enjoyment of the Mayo landscape and regardless of the fundamental importance of the tourism industry to peripheral counties like Mayo. They are sinking the tourist industry in the name of ‘cheap’ housing. Cheap housing which puts a goodly few bucks in the pocket of the landlord who is selling off his plots. And a goodly sum too it must be said into the pockets of the auctioneering and building community. But in the long run this enterprise will cost the county and even those living in rural ribbon houses dearly from the environmental, health and safety aspects. Isolated rural houses built for long distance commuters and holidaymakers are the death knell of real communities. Of course they could concentrate on existing villages where there are churches, schools and shops but that somehow would not allow the new landlords to profit – if the landlords of Davitt’s time profited from the land why should our current generation of site-sellers not profit too? Let them not use Davitt to justify what they have done to our county!

County Council agrees preliminary report on Aughagower sewerage
THE preliminary report on the new village sewerage scheme for Aughagower has been adopted by Mayo county council. However members of the council expressed reservations about the extent of the proposal. It is hoped that the scheme, once approved by the Dept of the Environment, will be constructed by the council under their small capital schemes programme. The cost of the proposal is just under 1 million. At present the village is served by a series of septic tanks many of which do not operate satisfactorily. The village includes three pubs, a community centre/crèche and nineteen houses.

This story provides an example of the problems I refer to in the Davitt piece above. The council debate continued with councillors pleading on behalf of householders located further out from Aghagower. The penny is beginning to drop. It’s laughable that the councillors in the chamber at Áras and Chontae are now complaining because their constituents in ribbon houses and isolated one-off houses do not have proper sewage treatment! Surely the raison d’être of the last county council was to allow farmers, auctioneers and builders to profit by selling plots and building one-off houses – regardless of where the site is located? Maybe the new council is turning over a new leaf? The main item in the above debate seemed to be the need to extend the sewage treatment to the whole hinterland of Aghagower so that all those one-off houses would now have proper sewage instead of that smelly cesspool in the back garden!

Ah but wait there’s more to come folks. Wait until people start demanding cycle paths and footpaths in ribbon Ireland. Wait until they demand 30 mile speed limits and pedestrian crossings. Wait until they start to protest about low voltage electricity whenever their neighbour down the road switches on the kettle. Wait until they demand regular public transport. Wait until they demand ambulance services to bring an elderly an isolated population to clinics and hospitals. And what about the fury when they realise that they will never get high quality broadband access to the Internet and TV services? Chickens and roosting come to mind.

Drop-in event for newly arrived in Mayo
A DROP in morning will take place on Friday, 22 October between 11 - 1 in the Parish Centre, Castlebar (opposite the RC church). This event is open to everyone and it is hoped that a good mix of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds will attend. The drop-in / coffee morning is being organised by a newly established, non-denominational group for Mayo, which will work towards breaking down barriers and supporting newcomers to Mayo. Children are welcome.

The event is over as I write this but it’s the kind of gesture that makes all the difference to newcomers to town. And there are a lot of new faces in town - Castlebar now has a huge hinterland. They say Ireland is a very friendly place – cead mile failte and all that. And indeed it is and it can be – but sometimes I think it can be very difficult for people to fit in here when they arrive for the first time. Sometimes people fall between the cracks and miss out on the craic, so to speak. If you have kids going to a local school that provides an obvious avenue for making new contacts and new friendships. Work colleagues offer an avenue too but nowadays many of them will not be living in town or anywhere near you – you or they may be commuting 60 miles every day so socialising after work may not be a real possibility for many. Some of us are chasing our tails and working so hard that we simply don’t have the time or money to socialise or to welcome new neighbours. But undoubtedly the kind of welcome we offer will be crucial for the success of the proposed civil service decentralisation (if it ever happens at all that is) and also for the ultimate success of the upcoming Promoting the West campaign from the Western Development Commission. They aim to encourage new businesses to locate here and to encourage civil servants to relocate in order to build up the critical mass of industry and business in the West. We have all heard stories of Irish people who have lived in England for most of their working life and decide to retire to that idyllic house in the Mayo countryside. I discussed this once with a truck driver for a removal firm who specialised in moving households from England to Ireland. The interesting point was that it was a two-way traffic. There was quite a large number of people who moved back after a very short stay. They last about three or four months before they give up and head back to England to their friends and family having become so incredibly lonely here that they can’t bear it. The ideal of retiring to the ‘home place’ and the reality are two different things. Living in the isolated rural house it’s hard to make friends especially if you are not working and don’t have kids at school. Drop in mornings may make the difference for couples like this - so support these events and welcome newcomers to Mayo.

© Copyright 2006 by the author(s)/photographer(s) and

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