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From the Western People - 23 Feb 2005
By The Jaundiced Eye
Feb 26, 2005, 16:11

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Doctor’s rota facing Harney probe

TÁNAISTE and Health Minister Mary Harney is conducted her own enquiry into the rota used by medical practitioners in Castlebar during the Christmas period from December 24th to January 4th last. An official complaint was lodged with her department by local independent Councillor Michael Kilcoyne, chairman of the Consumers Association of Ireland, who claimed an agreement between the profession and the Western Health Board was breached. He pointed out that, in effect, 40,000 people were left depending on the skeleton medical service. In his letter, Councillor Kilcoyne said it was unacceptable that only one doctor was on call daily in the entire Castlebar area over the 11-day period in question.

It’s just another symptom of the incredible neglect of primary care in the Irish health system. Until full-scale primary care facilities are available clogged A&Es will be the norm especially in winter and during holidays. Even minor ailments end up in A&E which could easily be treated in a small primary care clinic.


House-to-house enquiries to locate mother - 7 lb. baby born last week

GARDAI began conducting house-to-house enquiries yesterday (Tuesday) in the Carrowtigue area of Erris in order to try and determine the identity of the mystery mother whose dead baby was found in a black bin liner partly buried on Sunday. Following a post mortem at Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar, conducted by the State Pathologist, Dr. Marie Cassidy, the senior Garda officer heading the investigation, Chief Supt. Tony McNamara said all the indications were that the birth had been an unassisted one. Chief Supt. McNamara repeated his concern for the health and wellbeing of the infant and renewed his appeal for her to come forward.

A heart-breaking story and incredible to think that we are now five years into the 21st Century. It is resonant with echoes from 1984 - the infamous Kerry babies case and the incredibly sad story of 15-year old Ann Lovett who died giving birth alone in Granard close to a grotto only a matter of months after the 1983 abortion referendum. Now over 20 years later young women (presuming that this Mayo baby was born to a young woman) still come under such incredible moral pressure to hide the fact that they are pregnant and leading to stories such as this. It is impossible to imagine the anguish that this child’s death must have engendered.

Holy mackerel

AN UNHOLY mess littered the outskirts of Knock, Mayo’s Marian Village, on Saturday after a lorry laden with fish went out of control, hit an embankment and overturned. The bizarre accident happened on the N 17 by pass near the village. The container lorry en route from Cork to Donegal spilled its load after tipping over and all traffic had to be diverted through the village.

Something fishy here – and a clever subhead from the WP. We know that the fish was the secret sign of the early Christians in Rome and we know that Knock is a holy place but Knock’s N17 carpeted by fish out of water?

Was the species involved in fact mackerel? I think mackerel is out of season in February? Perhaps not for the Atlantic Dawn – maybe they’re allowed a special quota of holy mackerel? No doubt they were on the way to become part of the contents of a packet of Donegal catch of the day? Watch out for the grey bits that Captain Birdseye warns about – they could be bits of Mayo road metal from the N17!

Catch your own food – at least you know where it’s been and what's in it. Go mackerel fishing in July and August when they come inshore in ravenous shoals snapping at feathers or even bare hooks dangled off the end of a pier. That's the way to fish and they're the easiest fish of all to catch when they are shoaling.

But generally though we have no control over what goes into our food or how long it travels to your plate. Incidents or accidents like the Knock’s holy fish do help to reveal how our food moves around the country. The lorry was bringing fish from Cork to Donegal – a coals to Newcastle sorta thing surely? But I guess Killybegs has a lot of fish processing factories and they’ve probably closed all the Cork fish factories to save costs and now they drive them to Donegal via Knock – fresh from Baltimore or Courtmacsherry or somewhere.

Remember that other revealing crash a few weeks back too when a diesel lorry crashed? The driver upped and absconded – he ran from the scene because he was driving an illegal cargo of washed diesel all laundered and ready to be pumped – and the tanker was even labelled falsely with a well-known brand name. Reminds me of the beef tribunal evidence – re-labelling of beef changing country of origin to cheat the system. I’ll look at that oil tanker in front of me on the road with new interest next time.

Another example was the foot and mouth scare, this time four years ago, which showed up vast number of movements of animals around the country here in Ireland. We beefeaters and milkdrinkers were not really aware of how well-travelled our beef and milk was nor of where our food had been before it arrived on our plate up to that point. Of course the foot and mouth outbreak itself was also caused by long-distance transport of ‘food’. In this case waste imported from Thailand and used as cheap pig swill. An incredible cost of over 12 billion euros was born in the UK just because one farm imported cheap pig swill from half way across the globe. What price cheap food now?

Most of the Irish movements of animals also seem to be unnecessary in the strict sense – just commercial buying and selling backwards and forwards across the country in search of the best price. This was not simply a farmer buying young animals that he wants to rear for a year or so before selling to the factory for beef. It was closer to the stories of Daisy the Cow in search of a quick buck moving back and forward across the NI/ROI border earning an EU subsidy every time she was exported or imported. The foot and mouth outbreak caught the boys up in the Cooley Peninsula red-handed too when the number of culled sheep came nowhere near the number they had claimed subsidies for!

The current Sudan Red 1 scare illustrates how food ingredients, or in this case a non-food ingredient can spread into the food chain so quickly. Sudan Red – now found in 350 separate food products at a shop near you! Luckily not quite so many products were affected here in Ireland. Have you ever eaten processed food like Pot Noodle? Even stranger incidents that reveal in scary detail how our food is really made.

In 2002 a growth hormone PMA ended up in sugar water that had been used to coat hormone pills here in Ireland – in a pharmaceutical factory! The contaminated waste was exported and then used to produce pig feed and sold right across Europe to unwitting pig farmers. Thousands of pigs were subsequently destroyed in order to prevent it getting into the human food chain.

The ugly face of globalisation perhaps? So from a fishy tale in Knock to the real price of so-called cheap food. Pot Noodle, Anyone? Sudan Red, Madam? One Lump or Two?

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

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